Archive for the ‘Intelligent Design’ Category

Last week I saw the UK premier of the controversial American film ‘Expelled -no intelligence allowed’ featuring Ben Stein and concerning the freedom of enquiry within Science .Specifically the freedom to infer an intelligent cause in the origin of life and its diversity.

This film was shown by premier radio ,with Justin Brierly as host, at Imperial college London, right next door to the natural Science Museum.

The Intelligent design inference ,like the naturalistic material inference which is the current default position for Science have metaphysical implications -it is these implications that make the subject of intelligent design and Evolution such a hot baked potato.

After the screening of the film there was a panel of 4 people, 2 on each side of the argument debating the film and its implications followed by a Q&A session.

On the panel was Dr Steve Fuller and Dr Alistar Nobel support ID, opposing them was Dr Keith Fox and Dr Susan Blackmore .

Dr Fox presented the argument that Intellegent design was a show stopper for Science; paraprhasing he said : all we can say is God did it ..then what , where does the research go then ?

In reply to this a few thoughts come to mind -:

1.Science largely arose from a Theistic perspective for 2 reasons:

a.Man was sinful therefore his faculties were suspect -he had an epistemological crisis-to over come ,which the scientific method provided via evidence and experimentation.

b.The universe is rational therefore a rational mind can comprehend it.

2.Science should follow where the evidence leads even if it leads towards design rather than blind chance,ascribing chance to a phenomena instead of design may be the show stopper -particularly if the phenomena in question was actually designed.

For further arguments go here http://www.ideacenter.org/contentmgr/showdetails.php/id/1181

Dr Alistair Nobel quiet rightly kept bringing up the specified information content found within DNA  in the cell was not unlike  computer code,which needs an intelligence source to write it .  The similarities betweeen code and DNA were used to imply Intelliegnt design as a reasonable inference .

Stephen Meyer:

‘Thus, oddly, at nearly the same time that computer scientists were beginning to develop machine languages, molecular biologists were discovering that living cells has been using something akin to machine code or software all along.To quote the information scientist Hubert Yockley again “The genetic code is constructed to confront and solve problems of communication and recording by the same principles found…in modern communication and computer codes.” Like software, the coding regions of DNA direct operations within a complex material system via highly variable and improbable, yet also precisely specified, sequences of chemical characters. How did these digitally encoded and specifically sequenced instructions in DNA arise? And how did they arise within a channel for transmitting information?

How indeed ?

Information is separate from the medium or substrate that carries it:

George Willams (Evolutionary Biologist) “evolutionary biologists have failed to realize that they work with two more or less incommensurable domains:that of information and that of matter…The gene is a package of information, not an object.The pattern of base pairs in a DNA molecule specifies the gene.But the DNA is the medium not the message”

-no chance event has ever produced specified information yet there is a presupposition towards chance as the bringer of complexity that can not only produce a code and give meaning to the code but can also produce the means of transcribing and translating that code -Chicken and egg come to mind.There is much more to  the film including the a link between Natural selection and the Nazi regime.

A great day out thanks Premier radio for the event .

ewigejude

Forget global warming, the recession, the Taliban,over population,rising crime,
Run screamming into the streets!
Protect your children… I’m  coming to get them …here I come …who’s that knocking at the door ?…those heavy footsteps upon the stair are they the boots of the evolutionist deniers ?…apparently yes according to Richard Dawkins latest article in the Times!
Isn’t it  great that this debate can be painted by Dawkins in such  broad  simplistic strokes; there are  the good guys (the evolutionists of course )  there are  the bad guys ( the creationists) …thats it!
To  foster that simplistic approach nowhere in the article is the theory of evolution or the term creationists defined, perhapse the choir know the words to this song already ?
Nowhere in this article is a single scientific fact regarding evolution expounded upon, thats  ok though as this isn’t a scientific article.
What there is plenty of from Dawkins is the use of the argument from authority (argumentum ad verecundium) should I take note  of senior clergy -sadly with the state of the authorised version of the church I think not.
The arugment from authority like his other favoured method of attack, the ad hominem argument against the character of his oponents; apart from providing an echo chamber for the Dawkins faithfull proves exactly nothing and contains no scientific arguments.

Equating evolution with historical facts such as the holocaust elevates evolution from a theory to a fact that cannot be challenged unless your one of those nasty Islamic fundies or one of the uninformed Christian laiety on a par with holocaust deniers- who should be pitied,patted on the head and told to go away.
Equating those who question a purely naturalistic approach to evolution with holocaust deniers -history deniers  will do wonders for encourgaing scientific discourse… thats the way to create healthy debate !Way to go Richard!Science is served -I think not!

Richard continues his name calling :

‘Evolution is a fact. Beyond reasonable doubt, beyond serious doubt, beyond sane, informed, intelligent doubt, beyond doubt evolution is a fact. The evidence for evolution is at least as strong as the evidence for the Holocaust, even allowing for eye witnesses to the Holocaust. It is the plain truth that we are cousins of chimpanzees, somewhat more distant cousins of monkeys, more distant cousins still of aardvarks and manatees, yet more distant cousins of bananas and turnips . . . continue the list as long as desired. That didn’t have to be true. It is not self-evidently, tautologically, obviously true, and there was a time when most people, even educated people, thought it wasn’t. It didn’t have to be true, but it is. We know this because a rising flood of evidence supports it. Evolution is a fact, and [my] book will demonstrate it. No reputable scientist disputes it, and no unbiased reader will close the book doubting it. ‘

Intelligent design theory is very catholic in that  it encompasses both those who believe in a metaphysical reality and those who don’t.
The theory is defined as :

‘The theory of intelligent design (ID) holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause rather than an undirected process such as natural selection. ID is thus a scientific disagreement with the core claim of evolutionary theory that the apparent design of living systems is an illusion.’

Intelligent design proponents, which, despite Dawkins efforts still exist (that is a fact in the same sense as it is a fact that Paris is in the northern hemisphere) allow for evolution but not for a completely closed universe where all the complexity and funconatlity we see in nature  was caused by unguided accidents.
As a broad church, Id proponents some of which have no issue with common descent for instance  -all agree however that the complexity and functionality  found in the cell are beyond the power of  multiple accidents to produce.
What remains to  be proven is that the breathtaking complexity that the cell for instance  is unfolding before us -was  caused by purely naturalistic process.
Still we can stifle that discussion by name calling and demonising.Here I come Muhahahaaaa!!!

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As a response to the problem of a universe that looks increasing fine tuned for life (see here ), the multi verse (many universe’s) theory has been brought forward to answer the teleologists claim of apparent design.

Roger Penrose of Oxford University has calculated that the odds of our universe’s current low entropy condition being obtained by chance alone, are on the order of 1:1010 -I wouldn’t bet my worldview on those odds, but many people are willing to; in order to escape the teleological implications of a fine tuned universe just right for intelligent life.

Even if we have a multi verse situation, the chances of us being able to observe our universe are infinitesimally small -leading to the inference that this theory is a case of the cart leading the horse, -that is the metaphysical presuppositions of the theory maker demand another theory other than the accepted one,based , not on evidence but on a priori prejudice.

 

I found this interesting quote by Physicist Brian Greene on Peter Williams excellent blog ‘ID.plus‘:

 

‘If true, the idea of a multiverse would be a Copernican Revolution realized on a cosmic scale. It would be a rich and astounding upheaval, but one with potentially hazardous consequences. Beyond the inherent difficulty in assessing its validity, when should we allow the multiverse framework to be invoked in lieu of a more traditional scientific explanation? Had this idea surfaced a hundred years ago, might researchers have chalked up various mysteries to how things just happen to be in our corner of the multiverse and not pressed on to discover all the wondrous science of the last century? …The danger, if the multiverse idea takes root, is that researchers may too quickly give up the search for underlying explanations. When faced with seemingly inexplicable observations, researchers may invoke the framework of the multiverse prematurely – proclaiming some phenomenon or other to merely reflect conditions in our own bubble universe and thereby failing to discover the deeper understanding that awaits us. ‘

 

William Lane Craig says:

 

‘if our universe is but one member of a multiverse, then we ought to be observing highly extraordinary events, like horses’ popping into and out of existence by random collisions, or perpetual motion machines, since these are vastly more probable than all of nature’s constants and quantities’ falling by chance into the virtually infinitesimal life-permitting range.’

 

 

Bridge that gap

Posted: January 5, 2008 in Intelligent Design
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Using my new Nano iPod (thank you Santa) I was listening to the podcast of Intelligent design the future –get yours here.

In the current podcast Dr Ralph Seelke is interviewed, he is involved in experimental evolution and has been looking at the capabilities and limitations of evolution.Currently he is looking at genetic changes in a population of bacteria over many generations, currently at 2000 generations and climbing- check out the podcast for more details.

He has an interesting brief definition of micro and macro evolution; Microevolution he defines as having the characteristic of having been observed; where as Macroevolution has never been seen –but is inferred from the fossil record etc.

The inferred bridge between Micro and Macro evolution is  stepwise beneficial  change, the problem comes  when many things need to change all at the same time, much like Behe’s edge of evolution argument.

Dr Seelke  looks  at what evolution can do –the point I find interesting  is that so few scientist have asked and designed experiments that tackle the question of what evolution can and cannot do –it is just assumed that’s the issue is settled.Dr Seelke:‘There hasn’t been an intense effort by scientist to find the limits of evolution in the evolutionary community; because they are convinced it is true.’ There are different levels of certainty within science, some phenomena, for instance are singularities and so cannot be observed and as such remain as inferences only, whereas other phenomena can be observed again and again and so the relationship between cause and effect is more certain.  

The bridge between the observed microevolution and the unobserved macroevolution looks to be flimsy and may need some empirical  shoring up if it is to manage the weight of one species turning into another using microevolution over many generations.For instance at some point some changes are required that are major –can a cell go from a single celled fully functioning organism to a multi-celled single organism in stepwise fashion? That is in one step?

With the advent of multicellular organisms comes the question of the origin of distinctive cellular function, multicelled organism have cells that are distinctive in function if not in form, the origin of intra cellular communication to name a few challenges to a exclusively stepwise walk across the bridge from micro to macro evolution.    

Bradfords Hammer

Posted: December 30, 2007 in Intelligent Design

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Bradford over at Telic thoughts wields the hammer and hits the nails squarely on the head:

He says :

‘He mentioned how struck he was by the reaction of biologists to the genetic code. They (and others) act as if this were an ordinary biological feature. It is far from it. The Big Bang and quantum physics get the attention of philosophers while the genetic code flies under philosophical radar. A symbolic molecular coding system is presumed to be a consequence of unobserved chemical reactions. But why? Because we find parallel results in chemistry? No, that’s not it. There are vague references to complexity arising. But the type of complexity cited (crystals for example) is of a different nature. All of this leads me to believe a philosophical predilection underlies which lens we choose to view data through. If the lens orients one to a telic perspective it is not likely to see the light of day.

When Darwinians challenge IDers to come up with some empirical results that strikes me as a strange demand. The empirical data is being churned out every day in labs all across the world.

Excellent point. Data is neutral with respect to where it comes from. Whether researchers believe in ID or oppose it the data remains the same.’

I am in complete agreement with the above statement,the data is there -there are no exclusively naturalistic empirical driven scenarios for how we got to the complexity of structure and function including the systems we see in place for maintaining fidelity of the message; that we find in the genome. Just as there are no exclusively naturalistic empirically driven scenarios for the cause of Hoyle’s distasteful ‘Big bang’ , that is why the field is wide open for interpretation.

History teaches that a consensus is not to be trusted, another bus will be along shortly. I read again and again that Intelligent design is dead ,yet not one piece of evidence is brought to the table to demonstrate its demise,while the big elephant in the room everyone is ignoring remains to be explained,where did this complexity and diversity we have recently and unexpectedly uncovered originate ?

Is it naive to expect the data to always lead and our ideas to meekly follow ?Are we unsullied by metaphysics and so free to see the data as it is ? The big invisible elephant suggests otherwise.

 

Imagine

Posted: October 18, 2007 in Intelligent Design, Theo/Philo

 

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(late night ramblings)

 

Imagine a barren landscape where nothing grows ,a salt lake, Mare Tranquillitatis,a rock orbiting a neutron star bombarded with radiation or my back garden after the dog has been out there.

Life’s origin, it seems, is a singularity,its ubiquity is not apparent, but not shown to be false.

Science assumes a closed universe,the method both dictates that assumption, and is limited to making only that assumption. A case of the media dictating the message ?

In which case the instigation of life on our barren rock, quite possibly a singular event, was non teleological and could only be the product of chance or contingency.

Imagine that salt lake, mare tranquillitatis or the rock orbiting a neutron star, on that sterile barren landscape imagine atoms in chaos finding there thermodynamic equilibrium, from this imagine some means of self assembly of these atoms into complex machines that are characterised by having not just one initial function, but many, all critical to survival and necessary from the outset.

The commonest of these functions our newly assembled machines have, is to be able to reproduce other self assembling machines. Spontaneous generation by chance or by contingency?

If these are the only options we have, then a problem arises, if life is written into the make up of every atom and into natural law, then where are the Klingon’s ?

The Chance of life’s self assembly, our other option, is widely considered to be so small as to off the scale for anyone to seriously consider.

So what are we left with? Well I guess we can but imagine.