Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Will the creation/evolution be fair?

As a commenter on the previous post about tonight's mock trial at Northern Kentucky University has pointed out, those who have doubts about Darwinism shouldn't necessarily be pleased with the debate from a practical standpoint. According to Art (who is a UK Professor of science, I believe), the gentleman who is cast in the role of the defense's chief witness is "an honest-to-goodness nut case, a charlatan whose ideas wander way, way beyond the bounds of earnest intellectual discourse."

Of course, sometimes I get the impression that Art might consider anyone who doesn't accept Darwinian theory as a nut case and a charlatan, but I'm perfectly willing to take that back if he has more specific criteria (which he's welcome to mention here).

Here is the press copy on the man in question:
Scott's chief witness will be the real-life Dr. Ben Scripture, who received his Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Notre Dame in1998. Dr. Scripture has earned degrees from the University of California at Berkeley (a A.B. in zoology) and Grace Theological Seminary (M.Div.). Dr. Scripture has published articles in the Journal of Biological Chemistry and the Journal of Molecular Biology. He hosts weekly radio programs, "Scripture on Creation" and "That's What Scripture Says" on radio stations in Fort Wayne, Ind., and Indianapolis, and on the Good News Network stations covering the southeastern region of the U.S.
On the one hand, he's apparently credentialed, but on the other, he is apparently at the far right end of the spectrum on the issue, believing in a literal six-day creation. I don't happen to share that view, but I also don't think someone is a nut case for believing it.

It would be interesting to know what person Art considers to be the least nutty non-charlatan representative of the creationist side.

But Art's main point has to do with the question of whether the creationist side will be adequately represented. I have been around long enough to know that when such "debates" take place under the auspices of institutions that are hostile to those views, often the worst representatives are chosen to give the unpopular view. Art is right about that. If you doubt it, just go back and watch PBS's "Judgment Day".

Whether this is one of those cases remains to be seen I suppose. But, as I mention on the other post, there are two questions here: the first is the question of free and open discussion if important issues, and the second is the question of whether that discussion is done in a fair and representative way.

We already know where the pro-evolution side is on the question of free and open discussion in our educational institutions: they're against it. Whether the institution now promoting the free and open discussion does it fairly is something we'll have to see about.

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

Scientific facts and interpretations are not determined by popular debate. Scientists also don't waste much time debating spiritualists, mediums, and ufo'ologists, etc. Does that mean MC subscribes to these concepts as well?

jah

Art said...

Martin, did you check out the link I gave in the other thread?

Here it is: http://www.petrifiedhumanbrain.com/

I don't think it leaves any doubt as to the, um, cranky nature of Dr. Scripture.

As for non-nutty antievolutionists, I would nominate Paul Nelson.

Finally, Martin, you keep harping on the matter of free and open discussion. I'm willing to bet that you, or our handlers at the DI, are not willing to have an ev/cre discussion that is grounded in reference to controlled and repeatable experiment (this is the gold standard of "free and open" in science).

What say ye?

Anonymous said...

MC: often the worst representatives are chosen to give the unpopular view.

And what is worst about the gentleman chosen?

jah

Anonymous said...

art: I'm willing to bet that you, or our handlers at the DI, are not willing to have an ev/cre discussion that is grounded in reference to controlled and repeatable experiment (this is the gold standard of "free and open" in science).

You're proving MC's point. How can there be a "free and open" discussion when you insist on holding the opposition to your own values? Why require others to subscribe to scientific standards? It's the opinion of the common man, Joe six pack the plumber and his winky mate Sarah, who should be the final arbiters of fact.


jah

Lee said...

> I'm willing to bet that you, or our handlers at the DI, are not willing to have an ev/cre discussion that is grounded in reference to controlled and repeatable experiment (this is the gold standard of "free and open" in science).

What repeatable experiment proved that all life evolved from a single cell?

Anonymous said...

lee: What repeatable experiment proved that all life evolved from a single cell?

None (at best it would show it could have happened). But this question raises two more issues.

1) Why start with a single cell? Is that lee's definition of the minimum of what life can be? There is no sharp border between life and nonlife; or will someone here propose how to distinguish the two? I've posted before a reference to a book which discusses what little we know about how life may have arisen from chemicals.

2) Given that lee apparently realizes scientists know little about the conditions of early earth and what chemical reactions may have occurred, how can he claimed that probability suggests life needed a guiding hand? Calculating probabilities requires a lot of information; much more than merely demonstrating that something can occur. For example, consider a river. If I swim across it, then I have demonstrated that it can be dome. If I ask lee to calculate the probability of my getting to the other side, his answer will require much more information. So unless the formation of life violates some known natural law, how can anyone reliably calculate the probability of the natural origin of life?


jah

Lee said...

>> lee: What repeatable experiment proved that all life evolved from a single cell?

> None (at best it would show it could have happened).

Art suggested that Creationists be held to a standard that their arguments be based on "controlled and repeatable experiment." So, now you have admitted that the concept that all of life has a common ancestry is itself not (yet anyway) controllable and repeatable.

And if you can't control it and you can't repeat, how can you claim you can show "it could have happened"?

Why does this concept get taught in the schools, then? Why do we demand of the Creationists a level of proof not yet met by the evolutionists? Why are there two sets of rules?

> ) Why start with a single cell? Is that lee's definition of the minimum of what life can be?

How would I know? Pick any viable organic form that you like, which fits the definition of life.

> There is no sharp border between life and nonlife; or will someone here propose how to distinguish the two?

You may propose a definition, if you like. If not, I'm satisfied with Wiki's.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life
it could have happened)....

Lee said...

> 2) Given that lee apparently realizes scientists know little about the conditions of early earth and what chemical reactions may have occurred, how can he claimed that probability suggests life needed a guiding hand?

But doesn't that gate swing both ways? If scientists know little about the conditions of early earth, by what method do they suggest that life has a naturalistic explanation?

> Calculating probabilities requires a lot of information;

But positing that it must have happened naturalistically takes no information?

> ...much more than merely demonstrating that something can occur.

No kidding? The burden of proof is on the people who question whether something happened, not on the ones who insist that it did happen?

> Calculating probabilities requires a lot of information; much more than merely demonstrating that something can occur.

Fine, but wouldn't it be a start if we were to begin assembling a reasonable list of variables?

> If I swim across it, then I have demonstrated that it can be dome. If I ask lee to calculate the probability of my getting to the other side, his answer will require much more information.

Bad example, because if you swim across the river, then we have something that was observable and testable, which is not the case with the notion that all life evolved from a single living organism.

Anonymous said...

lee: So, now you have admitted that the concept that all of life has a common ancestry is itself not (yet anyway) controllable and repeatable.

Nothing in science is strictly "controllable and repeatable", as I have pointed out before - so my repeating such a statement now is no shocking new revelation. If anyone disagrees, please give an example of such an experiment.

lee: And if you can't control it and you can't repeat, how can you claim you can show "it could have happened"?

Example: Heyerdahl rode a raft 8000 km across the Pacific, from South America to Polynesia. It shows early man may have done so, but does not prove any did.

lee: Why does this concept get taught in the schools, then?

Because schools almost always teach, and science often uses, simple approximations. The Bohr orbit model of the atom was known to be faulty from its inception, but it has been and still is a useful model.

lee: Why do we demand of the Creationists a level of proof not yet met by the evolutionists? Why are there two sets of rules?

I don't think there are. I don't think Creationists/ID'ers/whatevers have met the common standards applicable to science. Part of the problem is that extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence. The claims of Creationists/ID'ers/whatevers are at such odds with accepted science that more convincing evidence is needed. If I tell someone it is sunny here at noon, they will most likely take my word; it I tell them it is sunny at midnight, they will most likely demand more evidence.





> There is no sharp border between life and nonlife; or will someone here propose how to distinguish the two?

lee: You may propose a definition, if you like. If not, I'm satisfied with Wiki's.

Then lee agrees with me? From his source, "There is no universal definition of life. To define life in unequivocal terms is still a challenge for scientists."


jah

Lee said...

> Nothing in science is strictly "controllable and repeatable", as I have pointed out before - so my repeating such a statement now is no shocking new revelation. If anyone disagrees, please give an example of such an experiment.

Of course, I agree. I'm just wondering why so many evolutionists insist that this is the standard for ID or Creationism, when it is not a standard that evolution meets.

> Example: Heyerdahl rode a raft 8000 km across the Pacific, from South America to Polynesia. It shows early man may have done so, but does not prove any did.

So what experiment proves that all life could have evolved from a single cell?

> Because schools almost always teach, and science often uses, simple approximations.

It is not a simple approximation to teach that all life has a common ancestry, if we don't know for a fact that that happened at all, and cannot repeat any experiment to show it did. It is more like an extrapolation, at best, or a wild leap at worst. I'm just trying to figure out why the evolutionists are the only ones allowed to draw inferences, while evolution's critics must have repeatable, observable experiments.

> The claims of Creationists/ID'ers/whatevers are at such odds with accepted science that more convincing evidence is needed.

You're so dismissive, but what "accepted science" mechanism proved that evolution must have happened naturalistically? That's simply an assumption. Why is it unscientific to question such assumptions? And how else would you do it without some attempt to collect and categorize the variables, and try to work out the odds?

You aren't saying there is anything unscientific about mathematical probability, are you?

And if we don't know enough about conditions on the planet early in its history, as you suggested, what's the matter with hypothesizing? Isn't that what evolutionists do?

And what's the matter with looking for more information, in the hope that some day we will have enough? Isn't that what evolutionists do?

> Part of the problem is that extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence.

I think the proposition that all life descended from a common ancestor is an extraordinary claim. I think the proposition that it must have happened naturalistically is an extraordinary claim.

> If I tell someone it is sunny here at noon, they will most likely take my word; it I tell them it is sunny at midnight, they will most likely demand more evidence.

If someone tells me a 2008 Honda Accord spontaneously assembled from an explosion in a cave, I would question how something that has all the appearances of design could have happened without a designer. Even Dawkins admits that the human body has all the appearances of design, and it's certainly far more complicated than a Honda Accord. So why is the design hypothesis so outlandish? Maybe it appears to be designed because it is designed. What's so unscientific about trying to assess whether that is so? Why is it scientific to assume a priori that it is not?

> Then lee agrees with me? From his source, "There is no universal definition of life. To define life in unequivocal terms is still a challenge for scientists."

No, I just take the simple approach that if you can argue the case for evolution without first laying down a rigorous definition of life, I can question evolution without first doing so. You didn't set down a definition of life yourself before you started questioning my argument, and then started handwaving because I hadn't. If it's important to my argument, it's important to yours too.

onein6billion said...

"I also don't think someone is a nut case for believing it"

You're a nut case. Oops. I just violated rule #1.

"And what is worst about the gentleman chosen?"

He was a non-scientist atheist who was not properly prepared for this "debate".

"What repeatable experiment proved that all life evolved from a single cell?"

You are an idiot.

"The burden of proof is on the people who question whether something happened, not on the ones who insist that it did happen?"

Do you suggest that a scientist must "prove" that God didn't do it???

"You're so dismissive, but what "accepted science" mechanism proved that evolution must have happened naturalistically?"

What "accepted science" mechanism proves that "God did it"?

Can you "prove" that it did not happen naturalistically?

"If someone tells me a 2008 Honda Accord..."

Strawman false analogy.

"So why is the design hypothesis so outlandish?"

It's not science. It's a "science stopper". If God did anything or everything, how can we ever know what is true cause and effect and what is God's meddling?

The fundamental assumption of science is that God is not meddling. If he did and science could detect it, he wouldn't be God. Contradiction. If he did and science couldn't detect it, we would never know. So take your religious nonsense and go away and stop trying to screw up science.

"argue the case for evolution without first laying down a rigorous definition of life"

Some things need help reproducing, so they are on the borderline of "life". But if it can reproduce with "mutations", it can evolve. So obviously all "life" evolves. And some "borderline life" also evolves. So a rigorous definition of life is not necessary.

Anonymous said...

Major point addressed at end.


lee: If scientists know little about the conditions of early earth, by what method do they suggest that life has a naturalistic explanation?

Because there is currently no credible reason to think otherwise. Covered again below.


lee: But positing that it must have happened naturalistically takes no information?

A lot less information than claiming that no natural pathway is possible.

lee: The burden of proof is on the people who question whether something happened, not on the ones who insist that it did happen?

It is clear life started; I hope we can agree on this. The disagreement isn't over whether it happened, but how it happened - naturally or supernaturally.


lee: Fine, but wouldn't it be a start if we were to begin assembling a reasonable list of variables?

Perfect. I would love to see an outline of how the probability of life occurring naturally is estimated.

lee: Bad example, because if you swim across the river, then we have something that was observable and testable, which is not the case with the notion that all life evolved from a single living organism.

We need to specify the disagreement a bit more. Is it that life started naturally (I have been assuming this) and/or that different species were specially created (I hadn't been considering this).

But the example is not that bad.
1) If someone can create life by setting up conditions which could occur naturally (extremely unlikely any time soon), such an experiment would disprove that a supernatural influence is necessary for the creation of life.
2) This is pushing the analogy too far. However, we can assume for the purposes of argument that I cannot attempt to cross the river now - it is in a foreign country and due to the economy I can't afford a ticket which doesn't matter since I don't have a passport which doesn't matter since the US doesn't allow citizens to travel there and anyhow travelling at all is difficult if I am in a body cast. So the experiment can't be done.






lee: So what experiment proves that all life could have evolved from a single cell?

There is nothing scientific presently known which forbids it.


lee: It is not a simple approximation to teach that all life has a common ancestry, if we don't know for a fact that that happened at all, and cannot repeat any experiment to show it did. It is more like an extrapolation, at best, or a wild leap at worst.

Here we are talking common descent, which is a different question. The fossil, DNA and other biochemical, etc evidence all strongly support this, as 1in6billion has pointed out.

lee: I'm just trying to figure out why the evolutionists are the only ones allowed to draw inferences, while evolution's critics must have repeatable, observable experiments.

Because many natural processes have been studied and explained and evolution fits these whereas there is no scientific evidence for ID.


lee: You're so dismissive, but what "accepted science" mechanism proved that evolution must have happened naturalistically? That's simply an assumption. Why is it unscientific to question such assumptions? And how else would you do it without some attempt to collect and categorize the variables, and try to work out the odds?

Since it is virtually impossible to show supernatural influence, the only way to disprove a natural origin for life is to show that it would violate some well-established principle. This has not yet been done.

lee: You aren't saying there is anything unscientific about mathematical probability, are you?

[Only that math isn't science :-)] It's not the application of mathematical probability that is the difficulty here, it is determining the possible ways life may have formed and assigning probabilities to them. A coin tossing experiment is simple: we assume a coin has two sides and the only possible outcomes are heads and tails which each have an equal likelihood. This underlies every subsequent coin tossing question. What are the possible natural mechanisms for the origin of life and what are their relative likelihoods? This is what is hard - all possibilities must be included yet we do not know enough chemistry and early earth conditions to do this.




lee: And if we don't know enough about conditions on the planet early in its history, as you suggested, what's the matter with hypothesizing?

Nothing. But hypotheses must fit currently accepted physical laws.

lee: And what's the matter with looking for more information, in the hope that some day we will have enough?

That what some scientists are doing.


lee: I think the proposition that all life descended from a common ancestor is an extraordinary claim. I think the proposition that it must have happened naturalistically is an extraordinary claim.

Why? What about naturalistic common descent is inconsistent enough with current knowledge to deem it extraordinary?





lee: If someone tells me a 2008 Honda Accord spontaneously assembled from an explosion in a cave, I would question how something that has all the appearances of design could have happened without a designer.

Part of the problem here is the nature of design. We can tell an Accord or a watch is designed because we can recognize features of them that do not occur in nature - shape, chemical compounds, etc. We have reference materials which are not designed by humans - rocks, trees, etc - and reference materials and known capabilities for humans. We do not have reference materials for the universe or life.




lee: No, I just take the simple approach that if you can argue the case for evolution without first laying down a rigorous definition of life, I can question evolution without first doing so.

Again as 1in6billion has pointed out, not so fast. Scientists don't have to have a strict definition for life because they believe the origin to have occurred naturally. If anyone wants to propose an alternate naturalistic origin of life, they also shouldn't need a strict definition. But anyone who wants to argue that life could not have originated spontaneously will need to at least define something about life which needs supernatural intervention. That something then is a property all life must have and so serves as a partial definition. Natural science needs no such characteristic.


lee: I'm sorry: I cannot imagine why probabilities are not relevant in this issue. If one side claims that all the diversity of life can be explained by naturalistic evolution that had a couple of billion years to do its thing, it is perfectly reasonable to ask, was that enough time? If the odds say yes, congratulations.

Yes, it is perfectly reasonable to ask. But to calculate the odds, someone would have to know a lot about the processes involved. It is not merely enough to enumerate all possible outcomes and give them equal chances of occurring. I haven't seen any such calculations.
[Part of this argument has occurred before. Lord Kelvin's calculation of the age of the earth based on heat flow did not allow the time needed by biologists. It turned out that he neglected the heat contribution of radioactive decay, as radioactivity was unknown at the time.]






lee: But Behe modestly suggests that the odds look favorable for the existence of a designer, and how does everyone just know that he cannot possibly be correct?

Because they don't believe his calculation of the odds. He makes claims which other scientists do not feel are supported. By the way, Behe may believe in a designer, but he also believes in common descent "Although those other explanations may be true, I think that common descent, guided by an intelligent agent, is sufficient to explain the data. It has the great advantage of being easily compatible with apparent genetic “mistakes” shared by organisms, such as the pseudo-hemoglobin genes I wrote of in The Edge of Evolution. "http://www.ideacenter.org/contentmgr/showdetails.php/id/1449



lee: If there are no scientific articles that claim as much, as you suggest, then why all the popular articles and TV documentaries by prominent scientists that claim that naturalistic explanation is sufficient?

Scientists study the natural world. It turns out that many phenomena can be understood by simpler models. Experiments show that there there seems to be an underlying structure and consistency to nature. Why that is is unknown. So far scientists have explained a lot of phenomena without resorting to supernatural explanations. This shows the scientific method works in many cases. However past success is no indicator that all events can be explained scientifically. For example, consider a math problem. Several orders of polynomials were shown to be solvable by equations involving the coefficients and numerous instances of higher order polynomials could be solved. It would seem reasonable to conclude that it was only a matter of time before formulas were developed for all orders. Yet it turns out that some polynomials can not be solved this way (see Abel). Likewise, some physical phenomena may not be explainable by natural means. But this also has to be shown. Claims of violations of the second law won't do it. Irreducible and specified complexity have won very few converts. A more convincing argument is necessary.

It is also important to consider what kind of supernatural intervention is postulated. Some people claim the universe was created with light already in progress from stars. Others have countered that the universe was created last Wednesday with the appearance of age. Neither of these cases can be shown scientifically. In both cases the scientific model is equivalent to that of a genuinely old universe.

It is possible to envisage universes for which there is no scientific consistency. Consider the world of cartoons. It is impossible to develop a scientific model for most cartoons which does not require constant supernatural influence. But that doesn't seem to be the case for our existence.

Many scientists are atheists. But certainly not all. The assumption that all events have natural explanations has worked very well so far. But when should scientists give up on attempting to find natural explanations?

I'm getting tired and this is very rambling.


jah

Lee said...

>> Lee: "What repeatable experiment proved that all life evolved from a single cell?"

> Onein6Billion: "You are an idiot."

And apparently, you believe that name-calling is an argument. Assuming you are correct about me, then that would make at least two of us who qualify for the honorific.

>> Lee: "The burden of proof is on the people who question whether something happened, not on the ones who insist that it did happen?"

> OneinaBillion: "Do you suggest that a scientist must 'prove' that God didn't do it???"

Absolutely not. I've only been pointing out that Darwinists assume God did *not* do it. When they insist that everything is explainable through natural causes, they have taken sides on that issue, when in fact there is no way for them to know.

>> Lee: "You're so dismissive, but what "accepted science" mechanism proved that evolution must have happened naturalistically?"

> OI6B: "What 'accepted science' mechanism proves that 'God did it'"?

I did not propose such a mechanism. I'm simply open to arguments that purport to show that there may have been one, or that there probably was on.

> "Can you 'prove' that it did not happen naturalistically?"

Certainly not. There are those, however, who do not believe that to ask such questions is beyond the realm of science.

>> "If someone tells me a 2008 Honda Accord..."

> Strawman false analogy.

You omitted the explanation why this is so. If there is such a thing as "design", then there must be a specification for it. There is something about a 2008 Honda Accord that suggests design; nobody would challenge the proposition that it was a product of design. Very well, what is it about a Honda Accord that suggests it was designed, and did not result from the random behavior of metal, glass, and plastic molecules?

If we can adequately define the essence of design, then perhaps it is not so far-fetched to see whether that specification applies to life, to the diversity of life, to anything else in nature.

Anyhow, I'm open to the idea.

>> Lee: "So why is the design hypothesis so outlandish?"

> OI6B: "It's not science. It's a "science stopper". If God did anything or everything, how can we ever know what is true cause and effect and what is God's meddling?"

There either was, or is, a supreme being of some sort who created the universe, or there was not. If there was, then what is so unscientific about looking for clues that this was so? What you are saying, in effect, is that no such clues could possibly have been left for us to find. Is it science's job to figure out what happened presuming God had no input, or to figure out what happened?

> OI6B: "The fundamental assumption of science is that God is not meddling."

I don't believe that to be true. I believe that scientists should proceed as if things in general have a physical cause, yes, but they should not presume that nothing can have a supernatural cause.

> "If he did and science could detect it, he wouldn't be God."

I don't understand why you think that is so.

> "Contradiction. If he did and science couldn't detect it, we would never know."

It depends on what you mean by science. If you mean we can't show up in Heaven with a Geiger counter and a micrometer, you're probably right. If it means, on the other hand, that we can't specify what 'design' means and see if it applies to the universe around us via the process of inference, I don't agree.

> OI6B: "So take your religious nonsense and go away and stop trying to screw up science."

You are not required to respond to any of my posts, to the best of my knowledge, even as I am not required to point out that you have added question-begging epithets to your repertoire, which already includes name-calling. I don't do it because I have to. I do it because I like to.

> OI6B: "So obviously all "life" evolves. And some "borderline life" also evolves. So a rigorous definition of life is not necessary."

So don't tell me, tell jah. He's the one who brought it up. Gotta pay attention, son.

Anonymous said...

lee: Absolutely not. I've only been pointing out that Darwinists assume God did *not* do it. When they insist that everything is explainable through natural causes, they have taken sides on that issue, when in fact there is no way for them to know.



Can you please explain this?
1) By God do you specifically mean the Christian God of the Bible, or any supernatural force, either other gods or hitherto unknown beings?
2) What does "God did it" mean? If God set everything into motion according to natural laws, then how does one infer His action? If "God did it" means God violated some natural law, could you give an example of how this might happen?



lee: If there is such a thing as "design", then there must be a specification for it. There is something about a 2008 Honda Accord that suggests design; nobody would challenge the proposition that it was a product of design. Very well, what is it about a Honda Accord that suggests it was designed, and did not result from the random behavior of metal, glass, and plastic molecules?

Huh? I know a Honda was designed without even seeing it. I do not look at a Honda and question whether it was designed; I already know the answer. The important question is how would one apply a design test to some unfamiliar object? It seems that it is up to those hypothesizing ID to come up with definitions and tests for design. I have asked for these before but gotten no reply. Why should anyone take design arguments seriously if those making them can't come up with a test for design?

lee: If we can adequately define the essence of design, then perhaps it is not so far-fetched to see whether that specification applies to life, to the diversity of life, to anything else in nature.

Sure. Where are such attempts? And the essence of design had better not be human-specific. We can judge whether something was designed by humans because we have some knowledge of what humans are capable of and some knowledge of what natural objects are like. We know a lot about "the random behavior of metal, glass, and plastic molecules", but what do we know about the random behavior of elements in the supernatural realm? How do we acquire such knowledge about anything in supernature - do we know what capabilities supernatural designers have? What raw materials are available and what limitations (if any) govern their actions?




lee: There either was, or is, a supreme being of some sort who created the universe, or there was not. If there was, then what is so unscientific about looking for clues that this was so?

Nothing in general. It is only when specific approaches are tried, such as 2nd law violations, irreducible complexity, etc that criticisms arise.

> OI6B: "The fundamental assumption of science is that God is not meddling."

lee: I don't believe that to be true.

But it is a statement of the fundamental assumption of science. Science assumes that there is a set of underlying rules which govern material interactions. If this were not true, say a God who constantly meddles and violates natural laws, then there would be no observable consistency. So far, this assumption of underlying laws has worked quite well.


lee: If it means, on the other hand, that we can't specify what 'design' means and see if it applies to the universe around us via the process of inference, I don't agree.

Great. Then specify what design is and how to detect it.

lee: So don't tell me, tell jah. He's the one who brought it up. Gotta pay attention, son.

Gotta pay attention, son. 1in6b has already responded to this. So have I. Scientists do not require a rigorous definition of life. But if lee or other ID'ers claim that life is intrinsically different from non-life and could not have arisen naturally, then they must, if not define life, at least specify some characteristic(s) which only life possesses so that their claim of requisite supernatural meddling can be evaluated.


It would be a lot easier to comment on lee's ideas if he would be more specific and give examples of what he does and doesn't mean rather than sweeping generalizations.

jah

Anonymous said...

Mr Cothran raised the question "Will the creation/evolution be fair?" Well, the event has come and gone. No followup here?

jah

Lee said...

> "Can you please explain this?
1) By God do you specifically mean the Christian God of the Bible, or any supernatural force, either other gods or hitherto unknown beings?"

Because I'm a Christian, I tend to refer to "the Designer" of ID construction as God. That's my fault, not Michael Behe's or Phillip Johnson's. The ID case does not depend on a Christian viewpoint.

Quite often, Darwinists conflate Creationism and ID folks, though I think they do it on purpose in order to set ID up as a straw man.

A Creationist is someone who believes in a literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis. They start with that as their assumption of truth, and work from that assumption.

An ID proponent believes that life and its diversity has had a guiding hand. They do not necessarily question the timeline of the Darwinists, nor do they necessarily challenge the notion that all of life's diversity originated from a common ancestor. The only part of Darwinism they would necessarily challenge is the part that holds that a blind mechanism was responsible.

So, in short:

1. Evolutionists and ID proponents share a belief in evolution of some sort.

2. ID proponents and Creationists share a belief in a Designer.

> "2) What does "God did it" mean? If God set everything into motion according to natural laws, then how does one infer His action? If "God did it" means God violated some natural law, could you give an example of how this might happen?

Not really, no. Christians believe Jesus rose from the dead. That would have been contrary to what we think of as natural law, but I don't think there is any theologian who knows what mechanism was employed.

> "Huh? I know a Honda was designed without even seeing it. I do not look at a Honda and question whether it was designed; I already know the answer."

Then imagine a future civilization, long after anyone who knows what a car is has disappeared, discovering the well-preserved remains of a Honda Accord. They never saw a car, maybe they never saw a human being. By what logic would they conclude it had been designed? Or would they conclude that at all?

> It seems that it is up to those hypothesizing ID to come up with definitions and tests for design.

Fair enough.

> I have asked for these before but gotten no reply. Why should anyone take design arguments seriously if those making them can't come up with a test for design?

I think some of them are doing just that.

> Sure. Where are such attempts? And the essence of design had better not be human-specific.

Don't the SETI folks already do something very much like that? They seem to think they will know a designed signal when they find one. How? Shouldn't you or some other Darwinist be telling them to forget about it, it can't be done?

> We can judge whether something was designed by humans because we have some knowledge of what humans are capable of and some knowledge of what natural objects are like.

So then, there is no way to specify design, per se?

> "We know a lot about "the random behavior of metal, glass, and plastic molecules", but what do we know about the random behavior of elements in the supernatural realm?"

At the risk of providing TMI, I had a peculiar infection some years back. It was finally diagnosed and I was successfully treated for it, but it took most of a year to do that. The doctor told me that it was a diagnosis that resulted more or less from the process of elimination, because it was hard to detect and measure. They had to rule out the other known possibilities, and then decided what it was.

I think discovering design in nature may very well work along such lines. There are basically two possibilities:

1. Life evolved from random happenstance. That is, there was no designer. The universe sprang into existence, and a combination of physical laws and biological mutation occuring at random and unpredictable ways drove life's diversity.

2. Life evolved by design.

We don't know a lot about the physics of God, so finding a direct explanation may not be feasible. However, determining the likelihood of design doing all this may depend on the unlikelihood of random happenstance.

Anyhow, as I understand it, that's the basic approach. If you show that one possibility is unlikely, then the other possibility, even if we know very little about the specifics, is more likely.

> How do we acquire such knowledge about anything in supernature - do we know what capabilities supernatural designers have?

As I have pointed out, it may not be necessary to figure all that out, in order to figure out something supernatural probably occurred.

> What raw materials are available and what limitations (if any) govern their actions?

As Leo Durocher poignantly asked, "Whom knows?"

>> lee: There either was, or is, a supreme being of some sort who created the universe, or there was not. If there was, then what is so unscientific about looking for clues that this was so?

> Nothing in general.

I don't think so, either.

> It is only when specific approaches are tried, such as 2nd law violations, irreducible complexity, etc that criticisms arise.

I like the argument from irreducible complexity. In any event, it, or something like it, would be part of showing the unlikelihood that randomness accomplished what it was supposed to have accomplished.

> But it is a statement of the fundamental assumption of science. Science assumes that there is a set of underlying rules which govern material interactions.

Only if one is a materialist. I do not understand why science must assume the supernatural does not exist or that it cannot interact with the physical world. In any event, it is merely an assumption, nothing more.

> If this were not true, say a God who constantly meddles and violates natural laws, then there would be no observable consistency.

If God created natural law, I don't think it's fair to say He "violates" it somehow when He "meddles". If God exists, it's His universe, after all, He can do whatever He wants with it. Intervention is a better word, don't you think? I would say, simply, it's like saying Stan Lee "meddles" in Spider-Man's life when he erases one story line and pencils in another one.

But maybe you have identified the reason God does not intervene in what we perceive as "natural laws" very often. You can read most of the Old Testament, and most of the New, and be struck really by how seldom God performs miracles. Certainly, Moses saw quite a few. Jesus performed a few, and ultimately was resurrected. Some of the prophets occasionally were involved in miracles. The real miracles occur when He works on our own hearts and minds.

> So far, this assumption of underlying laws has worked quite well.

I don't think there are many Christians who would argue that we should ignore what we've learned about the natural world. You don't have to believe in a godless world to believe the universe has physical laws that seem to apply most if not quite all of the time.

> Great. Then specify what design is and how to detect it.

Only if you turn the Final Jeopardy music on and give me thirty seconds. Come on. If you're interested, go to their web site.

> Scientists do not require a rigorous definition of life. But if lee or other ID'ers claim that life is intrinsically different from non-life and could not have arisen naturally, then they must, if not define life, at least specify some characteristic(s) which only life possesses so that their claim of requisite supernatural meddling can be evaluated.

Really? So if you claim that all life descended from a common ancestor, even though you can't observe or test that proposition, that's science. But if I question that claim, I need to bring more to the table than you do?

> It would be a lot easier to comment on lee's ideas if he would be more specific and give examples of what he does and doesn't mean rather than sweeping generalizations.

Isn't the claim of common ancestry of life the most sweeping generalization of all?

onein6billion said...

"may depend on the unlikelihood of random happenstance."

And I said there is no way to "compute" this (depending on exactly which "happenstance" you are referring to). So Axe says it could never happen and biologists say his assumptions are wrong and it obviously did.

"So if you claim that all life descended from a common ancestor, even though you can't observe or test that proposition, that's science."

Yes, because it's supported by all of the scientific evidence. So it is "tested" and "observed", but not in your "limited" fashion. Rather in an "inductive" fashion. If life came from a common ancestor, then all life will be "related" and all life can be placed into the proper place in the "tree of life". And it is and can.

"But if I question that claim, I need to bring more to the table than you do?"

Yes, you would need some scientific evidence - but you have none. And you never will - since you are proposing a non-scientific explanation.

"Isn't the claim of common ancestry of life the most sweeping generalization of all?"

Sure. But since it's supported by the evidence, it is recognized as true by biologists, geneticists, paleontologists, etc.

Lee said...

>> Lee: "...may depend on the unlikelihood of random happenstance."

> OI6B: "And I said there is no way to "compute" this (depending on exactly which "happenstance" you are referring to).

So we shouldn't even worry about anything as trifling about odds, right? That ought to come as good news for a lot of sciences, such as criminology and sociology, where they obviously spend way too much of their time concerned about such minor details.

"Is no way" isn't the same as "never will be a way". Right? Should we stop scientific inquiry on the subject because you don't think it's a valid direction to be heading?

And isn't stopping scientific inquiry the big reason you and jah have been giving me to quit talking about the supernatural?

Why is it wrong for me to say things you think may stifle scientific inquiry, but then suggest that I am wrong to want to consider what are the odds of a randomness triumphant over design?

> OI6B: "So Axe says it could never happen and biologists say his assumptions are wrong and it obviously did."

It depends on what you mean by "obvious". Whatever happened, it is most certainly not obvious that a divine hand was not involved. If that's a matter of faith, all it means is that you don't have it. If it's a matter of scientific discussion, all it means is that you're begging the question.

>> Lee: "So if you claim that all life descended from a common ancestor, even though you can't observe or test that proposition, that's science."

> OI6B: "Yes, because it's supported by all of the scientific evidence."

What kind of scientific evidence can't be observed or tested?

> OI6B: "So it is "tested" and "observed", but not in your "limited" fashion."

It might help if you were to specify what parts of my fashion are limited.

> OI6B: "Rather in an "inductive" fashion. If life came from a common ancestor, then all life will be "related" and all life can be placed into the proper place in the "tree of life". And it is and can."

So then you believe in evolution because it makes pretty charts? It provides a "proper" explanation? I will take that to mean a plausible explanation. Well, fine, but something isn't true or scientific just because it supports a "proper" narrative. The next time you watch a wildlife documentary on Discovery Channel, bear in mind that every time the narrator says, "This animal evolved the ability to..." do something, simply substitute, "This animal was designed to be able to..." do something.

I'm glad, though, that you have acknowledged that deductive reasoning is not the only approach. I have tried to make that point numerous times in this discussion. But what I have noticed is that, while evolutionists are free to use inductive reasoning all they like and then some, ID proponents are blistered unless they keep everything observable and testable.

I think the same rules should apply to both sides of the controversy. So then, if evolutionists can build an inductive case for common ancestry, then ID proponents ought to be allowed to build an inductive case against the tyranny of random naturalistic happenstance, if they can impeach the odds.

>> Lee: "But if I question that claim, I need to bring more to the table than you do?"

> OI6B: "Yes, you would need some scientific evidence..."

Observable and testable evidence, no doubt.

> OI6B: " - but you have none."

And that's the twuth. sPlffft!

> OI6B: "And you never will - since you are proposing a non-scientific explanation."

It's wonderful that all you have to do is label my argument, and you win. I usually have to do a lot of hard work to win an argument. Like, for example, make an argument.

>> Lee: "Isn't the claim of common ancestry of life the most sweeping generalization of all?"

> OI6B: "Sure. But since it's supported by the evidence, it is recognized as true by biologists, geneticists, paleontologists, etc."

So then, you believe science says common ancestry is true because it has "evidence" that was not directly observed and is not directly testable, but which is evidence nevertheless. Can you name a single specific? Did crustaceans and arachnids descend from trilobytes? Why? Or why not? Is there a DNA trail? Do we happen to know which mutations happened, and which were decisive? Did amphibians descend from fish? Do we know the exact path taken from one DNA to the other? Did we see it happen?

We've been watching generations of fruit flies in the laboratories for more than a hundred years. A generation of them takes a day or two to make another generation of them. Has it ever been recorded that a fruit fly has given birth to something that is not a fruit fly?

To use Behe's example, do we know what steps were required to make a flagellum from nothing? We agree that it is a relatively simple mechanism from a biochemical perspective. If evolution is true, it would have to be conceded that once it didn't exist, and then one day it did. Has anyone figured out how? If random, stepwise evolution happens because of the survivability feedback provided, i.e., natural selection, then there must have been an interim structure that provided some function, else it would not have been selected for. Do we know what it was?

The late Colin Paterson of the British Museum of Natural History got into a lot of hot water once with his colleagues for admitting that we don't know any "facts" about evolution -- his words, "Not a single one." If Paterson is right, then evolution is not mostly theory, with some facts. It's all theory.

Now, maybe that's great, if we're going to build it all on inductive reasoning. But then you can't very well get on your high horse about it when ID folks use the same logical tools and forms of reasoning.

onein6billion said...

"Whatever happened, it is most certainly not obvious that a divine hand was not involved."

That's a "negative" statement about a supernatural entity. There can never be any scientific evidence one way or the other. You are free to assume that's the correct explanation and I am free to assume that there really are scientific explanations. If your explanation is correct, so what? How would we "act" on that "knowledge". If the scientific explanation is correct, we would continue to make further scientific observations in order to understand this real world.

"It might help if you were to specify what parts of my fashion are limited."

You demand that we replicate "experiments" that took millions of years to take place under what are currently rather unknown circumstances. That's an impossible burden of proof. Your goalposts are out of sight. But you refuse to allow what I call proper inference. You reject (or limit) what inferences can be made.

"ID proponents are blistered unless they keep everything observable and testable."

Nope. But they must make scientific inferences. When their inferences are shown to be non-scientific, those inferences are rejected. So ID wishes to make a "design inference". But if it's not scientific, it's rejected.

"ID proponents ought to be allowed to build an inductive case against the tyranny of random naturalistic happenstance, if they can impeach the odds."

Then we are back to the probabilistic argument and I continue to claim that no one has enough information to make that argument either way. Can the anti-evolutionists "impeach the odds"? They have tried this tactic in some ways and the scientists have rejected their arguments. Do you wish to discuss a particular case?

"Did amphibians descend from fish? Do we know the exact path taken from one DNA to the other? Did we see it happen?"

First you ask a specific question that can be answered "yes". Then you move the goalposts to beyond Pluto. So you are rejecting the correct answer that has been agreed upon by scientists. And apparently due to "moving the goalposts".

"Has anyone figured out how?"

Your ignorance is showing. A lot of this flagellum evolutionary sequence has been discovered and documented in the scientific literature.

"Do we know what it was?"

Yes, we do.

"But then you can't very well get on your high horse about it when ID folks use the same logical tools and forms of reasoning."

But since they don't, then we certainly can reject their illogical "tools" and "forms of reasoning". Do you wish to discuss a specific case?

Lee said...

> That's a "negative" statement about a supernatural entity. There can never be any scientific evidence one way or the other.

But that's the question we're debating. Why beg it? You and others insist that a supernatural God could not possibly have left any clues at all in His creation. And if we are forced to stick to what can be directly observed, tested, and deduced, you're probably right unless somehow the Heavens open up to our probes. But if we can specify design and attempt calculate the odds through the inductive method you were just touting a couple of posts earlier, why can't we at least rule out the obviousness of the proposition, that the diversity of life happened by accident?

Why should ID be limited to direct observation and testing, while evolution, as you pointed out, is not?

onein6billion said...

"But if we can specify design"

But you can't.

"and attempt calculate the odds"

But you can't - insufficient data.

"through the inductive method you were just touting"

Design - fail, odds - can't use inductive.

"why can't we at least rule out the obviousness of the proposition, that the diversity of life happened by accident?"

Since the "if" part of this fails, this conclusion cannot be drawn.

"Why should ID be limited to direct observation and testing, while evolution, as you pointed out, is not?"

Be more specific - How would "intelligent design" be either observed or deduced or determined by induction? You need to attempt to make an argument before it can be accepted or refuted.

Lee said...

>> "But if we can specify design"

> But you can't.

Says who?

>> "and attempt calculate the odds"

> But you can't - insufficient data.

But we have sufficient data to know that life has common ancestry? And what's the matter with looking for more data?

Besides, we already know quite a bit. Probability theory is pretty well developed. We know now that life is essentially chemistry; I don't think that Darwin did, and even if he did, he didn't know any of the specifics. We know the requirements for life. We know a little something at least about how life is constructed. And we have a time constraint: that we had to have gone from zero to human being in at most about 5 billion years.

So it is perfectly fair to ask the question: was there enough time for the development of life as we know it to have happened randomly? Such calculations are made all the time. If you're winning jackpot after jackpot on a slot machine, sooner or later someone is going to question whether you are playing the slot machine fairly (random), or are designing the outcome (cheating). There is certainly no desperate need to bring up the "design/cheating" hypothesis: why, 1 in 49 billion odds can be overcome honestly. It's possible. It just isn't probable.

> Design - fail, odds - can't use inductive.

Any reason why? Or just can't? Are you proud to be arguing like this?

> Since the "if" part of this fails, this conclusion cannot be drawn.

You don't argue. You assert. Not even an attempt to show why the IF fails.

>> "Why should ID be limited to direct observation and testing, while evolution, as you pointed out, is not?"

> Be more specific - How would "intelligent design" be either observed or deduced or determined by induction?

As I have already suggested: the same way any other case is made through inductive reasoning. A successful case for ID would show that an intelligence was behind the diversity of life by showing that the odds of it having happened by accident are too slim. Such a case would require no belief in the supernatural. Naturally, as a Christian, that's where I think it would point. But it is not necessary.

As with any inductive case, it is not foolproof. But as you pointed out, evolutionists rely on such cases too. Criminologists rely on them. Sociologists and economists rely on them.

> You need to attempt to make an argument before it can be accepted or refuted.

I'm not trying to prove Intelligent Design. I am pointing out the flimsyness of the reasoning behind denying that it's worth hearing them out.

Anyhow, here's an article which at least broaches the subject of a specification for design:

http://www.origins.org/articles/dembski_scienceanddesign.html

onein6billion said...

"Such calculations are made all the time."

Be specific. Give me a link to "such calculations".

"Are you proud to be arguing like this?"

Are you? You have nothing except hand waving. For every statement I have made, you could find a proper article explaining the exact reasoning. Do you need me to be more specific?

"A successful case for ID would show that an intelligence was behind the diversity of life"

Riiiight.

"by showing that the odds of it having happened by accident are too slim."

OK. Go to it. Compute those odds. State your assumptions carefully. Show your work.

Use 10 to the 30th for the number of molecules available. Use 10 seconds for a "reaction time". Use 1 billion years. Now show that the odds are worse than 10 to the 45th power or so. And just what does that mean? That no "self-replicating" molecule could have formed in that time? I'm waiting.

"denying that it's worth hearing them out."

We have "heard them out" for 10 or 20 years and they have never produced anything even mildly interesting. Have they? Be specific.

Dembski article from 10 years ago:

"There now exists a rigorous criterion—complexity-specification—for distinguishing intelligently caused objects from unintelligently caused ones."

The problem is - it's not true. He made his assertion, but in 10 years he has never "backed it up". There are several refutations on the web. Because, of course, it's not really rigorous and "specified complexity" is never properly defined such that it could be useful.

Lee said...

>> Lee: "Such calculations are made all the time."

> OI6B: Be specific. Give me a link to "such calculations".

There was an entire paragraph surrounding my remark.

> Lee: "So it is perfectly fair to ask the question: was there enough time for the development of life as we know it to have happened randomly? Such calculations are made all the time. If you're winning jackpot after jackpot on a slot machine, sooner or later someone is going to question whether you are playing the slot machine fairly (random), or are designing the outcome (cheating). There is certainly no desperate need to bring up the "design/cheating" hypothesis: why, 1 in 49 billion odds can be overcome honestly. It's possible. It just isn't probable."

By "such calculation," I was referring to the use of probability to determine whether something happened by accident or by design. The example I gave was the problem of determining whether cheating has occurred in a gambling establishment.

As I said, such calculations happen all the time.

Gotta pay attention, son.

>> Lee: "Are you proud to be arguing like this?"

> OI6B: "Are you?"

I don't think I'm doing too badly, given my modest goal in this discussion, which is to impeach the out-of-hand dismissal of Intelligent Design.

> OI6B: "You have nothing except hand waving."

Mois?

> OI6B: "For every statement I have made, you could find a proper article explaining the exact reasoning."

Now, that is some very excellent handwaving.

> OI6B: "Do you need me to be more specific?"

That's what I've been asking for, big guy. Show me the article that demonstrates how we know the species have common ancestry. I don't mean any of the many articles that assume common ancestry and show how it makes beautiful sense. I mean the article that puts down a solid case without assuming it to be true before the arguing even starts.

Then, if that can be done, find the article that shows the assumption that evolution must have happened through strictly naturalistic means is more than an assumption.

A final lagniappe, if you can swing it, would be finding a case that shows, even if we can't at this time isolate all the odds against life having evolved at random from a common ancestor, how the odds aren't even a player.

These are the central points I've been addressing.

onein6billion said...

"that assume common ancestry and show how it makes beautiful sense"

Do you have something else that makes beautiful sense?

"through strictly naturalistic means is more than an assumption"

Do you want to assume the opposite - that a supernatural entity was involved?

"These are the central points I've been addressing."

None of which make any sense in this real world. The fundamental assumption is that "physics" is correct and sufficient - that is "naturalism". If physics is correct and chemistry follows from physics and biology follows from chemistry, then evolution is obvious.

Now if you assume there is an unreal world and physics doesn't always work and chemistry doesn't always work and biology doesn't always work, then go live in your unreal world.