Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Academic freedom: having it both ways

Apparently you can openly attack religion in class but not teach intelligent design.

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

But, but...

I thought ID had nothing to do with religion... Hm, I guess we've long since dropped that strategy, huh?

Steven Carr said...

You literally can't teach intelligent design.

There are no textbooks to teach from.

John Richardson said...

How is suggesting not to take Adam and Eve too literally an "attack"? Do you believe every single word that every religious scripture says? I hope not. Furthermore, when is the mythology of Genesis considered a central tenet to any religion, be it Judaism, Islam, or Christianity?

In all honesty I think ID should be taught in university classrooms. Perhaps people will come to realize the self-correcting process of the academic system the moment students take a look at the ID textbooks (to be written). The only question is, what department would it be taught in? The majority of ID supporters are theologians, philosophers, and lawyers - basically those who are gifted in doublespeak (speaking as a student of philosophy and ex-theologian myself) and with little concern with such mundane scientific requirements as "labs," "tests," and "scientific method."

Granted, ID hasn't been given much of a chance in the academy, but as the founders of the scientific endeavour, such as Copernicus and Galileo, showed - the truth gets out no matter the obstacle. The problem is, the boys (and some girls) over at the Discovery Institute have had no shortage of funding and yet continue to focus on everything except the science. Instead they manufacture court cases, make big stinks about academic freedom, and write books that cater to those completely ignorant of science.

T'sinadree said...

Suggesting not to take Adam and Eve too literally was, according to the student (and class), not the issue per se. Instead, it was the manner in which he said it. Although Professor Bitterman claimed that his intentions were simply to spark debate (a la Dawkins), telling this student to "pop a Prozac" is quite demeaning. While saying something outrageous may initiate a discussion, there is a difference between hyperbole and insult. Furthermore, even if this student believes something that many do not agree with, I would hope that she be treated with the respect she deserves. Indeed, many of the Dawkins persuasion do not differentiate between the intrinsic value of people and what beliefs they hold, resulting in the endless denigration of anyone who entertains contrary positions. My intentions in stating this are not to promote a form of relativism, but to simply state that those who viciously denounce people such as this girl are just as ossified and supercilious regarding their own positions as those of whom they oppose.

Doctor Logic said...

Evolution is settled fact. It's ridiculous that we're even discussing ID in light of the overwhelming evidence against it.

Adam and Eve are not settled fact. They are mythical characters. Like the Minotaur.

It's very frustrating to find that people are so impervious to reality.

There are vastly more ways (at least trillions) for life to be designed than there are ways for life to be evolved through common descent. Yet the data is consistent only with that teeny tiny sliver of possible worlds of natural evolution. That means it is irrational to believe the world was designed. Maybe it was designed, but it would be irrational to believe that it was. Please, people, just think about it!

Can ID ever catch up with neo-Darwinian evolution? Sure. But ID needs to make a prediction as powerful as common descent. How powerful are we talking about? Well, ID needs to make a prediction about evolved stuff that's really peculiar. A prediction that must be the case for the ID theory but which only one in a trillion naturally evolved worlds would be consistent with. Since ID refuses to say anything about the designer or utility, it fails to make any predictions, let alone powerful ones.

---

Notwithstanding, T'sinadree's point is well-taken.

Anonymous said...

Doctor Logic, may I politely suggest you change your nickname?

Firstly, I don't know how you can claim that there are many more ways that life could have been designed than it could have evolved. It seems to me quite obvious that, if were speaking in terms of possible worlds semantics (as you for some reason chose to do) that for every possible world in which creature X was designed, there is a possible world in which that same creature X evolved. Unless you're arguing that it's LOGICALLY IMPOSSIBLE that certain traits in animals could be attained by evolution. If that's the case, I'd ask you to list the attributes that you believe cannot be evolved IN ANY POSSIBLE WORLD.

It should be obvious, then, that the challenge you set for ID is absurd, construed in possible world semantics. For every organism, there are an infinite number of possible worlds in which that organism evolved, and there are an infinite number of possible worlds in which that creature was designed. So how could ID be expected to produce examples of properties that are only compatible with "one in a trillion" possible worlds? Certainly, some traits could be represented in higher orders of infinity than other traits, but I have no idea how you would go about discovering that scientifically.

This demonstrates the ridiculousness of dragging possible world semantics kicking and screaming into the process of the justification of scientific theories.

Doctor Logic said...

Anonymous,

Evolution predicts common descent. Design does not. For every species, design allows for discontinuity of every kind (architecture, composition, lifecycle, etc.). Evolution is severely limited in comparison.

At every juncture in evolutionary history, there may have been multiple directions evolution could have taken. However, none of these directions was discontinuous in terms of composition or architecture. A rabbit isn't going to give birth to a silicon-based dragon with three heads, no DNA, and that can only survive by eating Kit Kat bars. But a designer can do all this and supply the Kit Kat bars too. A designer doesn't need common descent, doesn't need ecosystems, doesn't need gestation (it can use manufacturing instead), or genetics and so on. Moreover, we design things for a purpose. The only perceivable purpose to life on this planet is survival. Which happens to be the one purpose predicted by evolution.

Any clearer?

It seems to me quite obvious that, if were speaking in terms of possible worlds semantics (as you for some reason chose to do) that for every possible world in which creature X was designed, there is a possible world in which that same creature X evolved.

Your statement is wrong. If we find a nuclear-powered, electronic, robot dragon living in the wilds of Borneo, we'll have good evidence for design. Because such a creature X could not have evolved for it has no common ancestor with other species.

So your statement only makes sense to you when you substitute evolved, commonly descended creatures for X. Put a howler monkey in for X, and it makes sense to you that the howler might have been evolved or designed from similar ancestors. But where are the nuclear-powered dragons?

Suppose we go out to the Amazon and look for a new species of monkey. (I bet there is one.) This is a new X, right? Are you saying that a designer has only as many ways to make this new monkey as evolution has to evolve it? That would be incorrect. Evolution can't give the monkey 6 hearts, 12 eyes, 4 brains, and a nuclear reactor. Not unless there are ancestor monkeys between it and all other monkeys we have seen. In contrast, a designer can make any kind of bizarro monkey she wants. In fact, for any possible evolutionary variation from the monkey's ancestor, a designer can make countless augmentations that could not have evolved, and countless more versions of this monkey that have nothing in common with its ancestors apart from outward appearance.

So there are easily trillions more ways to design the life we see than there are ways to evolve it. As soon as we find that all species evolved from common ancestors, are made of the same stuff, live in ecosystems, etc., we've ruled out all but the tiniest possibility that the tree of life was designed.

Anonymous said...

"Any clearer?"

No. Firstly, you assume that an organism's traits are unlimited simply by virtue of being designed. Of course, given that the design inference is an analogy drawn from the example of human design, that's quite obviously false. Designers are limited by their resources, their competence, etc. So your conclusion would only be plausible if we were dealing with an omnipotent designer. And the first thing to note is that many strains of ID do not necessarily advocate or take any position as to whether or not the designer is omnipotent.

But I would argue that ven an omnipotent designer would be constrained by its intent and purposes. If, as most ID proponents propose, the Designer's intent was for a self-sustaining, balanced ecosystem which was consistent enough to be understood by the rational members of that ecosystem, then his options would be severely constrained.

For my part, I can't see how it's any more implausible that a Kit-Kat-eating, silcon-based, no-DNA-having dragon coming from a rabbit is anymore implausible for evolution to produce than consciousness. I grant the trivial point that design could do this in a single generation (or less) whereas evolution could not. But that wasn't your original point. Your original point was that there were traits an organism could have which were logically impossible for it to have obtained via evolution. (Which is, if I may say, an odd point for an evolutionist to make.) I see no reason to believe, given significant time and the right selective pressures, that it's logically impossible for Kit-Kat-eating, silicon-based, no-DNA-having dragon to evolve.

You don't understand, I think, what you are referring to when you refer to possible worlds. There is a possible world where the robot dragon evolved. It just wasn't this world. You confuse nomological possibility with modal possibility, and that's where your argument goes off the rails. Yes, it's highly unlikely that, given our scientific laws and the evidence we have at hand, that a robot dragon evolved. But to ask whether there is a POSSIBLE WORLD where a robot dragon evolved is a very different question. When you ask whether there is a possible world where the robot dragon evolved, you're asking whether or not the concept of an evolved robot dragon is SELF-CONTRADICTORY. You're asking whether an evolved robot dragon is like a square-circle or a man who is taller than himself. And it's just not. Capice?

To cut this short, you just shouldn't bring up possible worlds in scientific theory justification. That would rank pretty high on a historical list of bad ideas.

Anyway, you rightly assume that God could have created any world he wanted. And that's true. But what's also true is, Nature's laws could have taken any form. There is no logical necessity to scientific law. Therefore, I see no reason why there couldn't have been possible world in which there was a planet, lets affectionately call it Cybertron, where the laws of that possible world and the conditions on Cybertron made it completely possible to evolve nuclear robot dragons.

So I see no reason so far to support your assertion that there are far more possible designed entities than there are evolved entities. I think it's quite obvious that if we're talking about modal possibilities there's exactly an equal number of designed and evolved beings.

Doctor Logic said...

Anonymous,

Designers are limited by their resources, their competence, etc. So your conclusion would only be plausible if we were dealing with an omnipotent designer. And the first thing to note is that many strains of ID do not necessarily advocate or take any position as to whether or not the designer is omnipotent.

Well, what are the limitations of the designer? If you devise a theory with severe limitations, you can select out a very tiny space of evolved worlds compatible with your theory. If you're not willing to speculate about the designer (as ID theorists refuse to do), then you can't make predictions.

But I would argue that ven an omnipotent designer would be constrained by its intent and purposes. If, as most ID proponents propose, the Designer's intent was for a self-sustaining, balanced ecosystem which was consistent enough to be understood by the rational members of that ecosystem, then his options would be severely constrained.

This is fine-tuning and it's exactly my point. A designer would be severely constrained if he wanted the world to look naturally evolved. There are countless alternatives open to a designer.

I grant the trivial point that design could do this in a single generation (or less) whereas evolution could not. But that wasn't your original point. Your original point was that there were traits an organism could have which were logically impossible for it to have obtained via evolution.

No, this was not my point at all. My point is that evolution requires common descent. Rabbits don't give birth to robot dragons in a common descent model. Robot dragons might be offspring from robot reptiles in a common descent model (e.g., on Cybertron), but I think it's clear I wasn't talking about that.

I wasn't talking about modal or logical possibility. You brought that up.

Look at it this way. Suppose there are two kids in kindergarten. The kindergarten has 1000 different kits of building blocks, e.g., Legos, Sticklebricks, wooden bricks, Mechano, etc. Kid #1 is told he can construct 50 things out of any kits he wants and in any fashion he wants, including hybrid constructions from multiple kits. Kid #2 is also told he can construct 50 things. However, Kid#2 has to rely exclusively on one set of building blocks, and once he starts building, he can't start again, but must copy from his past designs. How many permutations are open to Kid #1 versus Kid #2?

As you said, Kid #2 is SEVERELY constrained (just like you said about your fine-tuned designer would be). If each constructed item has as few as 10 components, the space of constructions open to Kid #1 is many orders of magnitude larger.

And this doesn't even touch the issue of utility in design. If Kid #2 is ordered to construct things only to a very narrow utility, he's even more constrained than Kid #1.

Of course, it's possible for Kid #1 to choose only to use one kit and only build according to the restrictions imposed on Kid #2. But if you walk into the kindergarten after the kids have left and find all the constructions have the limitations imposed on Kid #2, do you think it's rational to believe it likely that Kid #1 built them?

Anonymous said...

If the ID theorists aren't willing to say anything about the designer, then you aren't justified in your presumption that the designer's resources are unlimited. If the designer were Plato's Demiurge, for example, he may not have the luxury of making silicon-based dragons who have no DNA. So unless the ID theorists stipulates the designer's resources are unlimited, your objection makes no sense. Certainly, as a designer, I am free to make a car anyway I want to... but if I want the car to actually run, my design choices are suddenly extremely limited. Similarly, if I want to build hereditary creatures, I might not HAVE to use DNA, but DNA might be the best tool at my disposal. It simply does not follow that because I am designing something that I can therefore use any design I want to AND HAVE THE DESIGN FUNCTION. Thus, your objection is simply misplaced unless the ID theorists SPECIFICALLY STIPULATE that the designer has unlimited resources and is not bound by the laws of physics.

You perhaps didn't mean to invoke modal logic, but when you use the term "possible worlds" on a philosophy blog, the readers will generally interpret your comments as a comment on modality.

What you said was that in order for ID to prove itself, it had to point to a creature or to a trait of a creature that could not have evolved. Or, to put it in your exact words, a trait that MUST follow from evolution but which is only compatible with one in a trillion naturally evolved worlds. What I'm saying to you is, firstly, that no scientific theory could pass such a test. (Generously assuming that such a test, a test in which we could asses how many out of a trillion different "worlds" would be compatible with a theory, is possible or indeed coherent.) Secondly, I'd say that many ID theorists have pointed to several such traits, principally consciousness, as a trait that couldn't have evolved. I don't necessarily agree but the point hasn't been anything like decisively refuted. And lastly, it seems obvious to me that there is no such trait or organism.

Your building block example stacks the deck in favor of your position. What I'm saying is, just as there are nothing but LOGICAL constraints on a designer (assuming for the sake of argument the designer is omnipotent), there are likewise nothing but LOGICAL constraints on the possible laws of nature. Thus there's no such thing as a trait or organism that could not have evolved in some universe or other. Now, this may not have been the point you intended to make when you said "the data is consistent only with that teeny tiny sliver of possible worlds of natural evolution", but that's the literal meaning of the words you used. If by "possible worlds of natural evolution" you mean "any world where evolution occurs in accordance with the natural laws of that world, WHATEVER THEY MAY BE" then of course there's not a tiny sliver of possible worlds of natural evolution, there's an infinite number of them and all possible organisms and traits exist in those possible worlds. And if you meant something else, you should have said something else.

But the basic point is, agreeing that evolution would be limited by its resources, and given that, as you say, ID theorists make very few stipulations about the designer, why would you assume the designer is not similarly limited by its resources? And, even assuming the designer is unlimited in his resources, what makes you think the designer wouldn't be limited by his intentions and purposes? You say that life's purpose seems to only be to survive. I obviously disagree, but assuming that's the case, wouldn't that already rule out an infinite number of non-functioning designs? Now say the Designer wanted to make rational creatures who could survive in an environment without his direct intervention. Well, in that case, your freedom of creativity is severely curbed.

So it's all well and good to say, little boy, build anything you want. Sure, that boy's got free reign. But if you say to the boy, build anything you want, but it has to still be functioning 15 billion years from now without your direct, constant intervention? Well, then that boy might not be able to get the chocolate eating dragons he wanted.

However, my fundamental disagreement with you is about criteria for theory choice, which we should perhaps transition the discussion to. It's simply not true that, for a theory to be the most rational one to adopt, it has to be impossible or nearly impossible for an opposing theory to be true. It doesn't have to be the case that its main opposing theory, in your words, has only 1 in a trillion chance of being true. All that ID needs to show in order for it to be a rational theory is that it's the best explanation of the data. It doesn't have to show that it has a 999,999,9999,999,999 chance out of a trillion of being true. No scientific theory can claim that. All it has to do is show that its chances of being true are better than 50-50.

Doctor Logic said...

Anonymous,

If the ID theorists aren't willing to say anything about the designer, then you aren't justified in your presumption that the designer's resources are unlimited.

And you're not justified in your presumption that the designer's resources are limited. If you're not going to say anything about the designer, then you have to integrate over all the possible designers you can imagine.

To do less is to engage in fine-tuning. Fine-tuning is okay as long as it enables you to make correspondingly detailed predictions. This is not the case with ID. ID wants to severely fine-tune the designer, making the designer create a world that looks naturally evolved, but then they can't predict a thing. It's a fraud.

Similarly, if I want to build hereditary creatures, I might not HAVE to use DNA, but DNA might be the best tool at my disposal. It simply does not follow that because I am designing something that I can therefore use any design I want to AND HAVE THE DESIGN FUNCTION.

This is just more fine-tuning. You're saying, maybe the designer WANTED, for whatever unknown reason, to design stuff as if it evolved.

The thing is, even if this were legitimate, it would still leave ID way behind. 500 years ago, people did not know about ecosystems, DNA, shared architecture, etc. But the evidence unfolded showing that all species are made of the same stuff, and all part of a single tree of life. It didn't have to be that way. Gazelles could have been designed independently of lions and the rest of the tree. They weren't.

To see what constitutes valid fine-tuning, look at quantum electrodynamics. In QED, there are constants that are fine-tuned. However, once these constants are fine-tuned, we get the best, most precise predictions ever. That's why QED is accepted as a proven fact. There may be better theories than QED in the future, but QED is verified, and QED won't give you worse results next year than it gives you today.

But with ID, you do a bunch of fine-tuning with no payoff. ID says God (to give up the pretense) decided that species on Earth would be a single tree of common descent (SEVERELY limiting his options), that this tree would evolve over billions of years (instead of millions or thousands of years or milliseconds), all be made out of DNA (instead of a hybrid of countless other materials). Massive fine-tuning. Now what's the payoff? Can ID predict the species? The discontinuities? What? ID can predict precisely nothing. ID has no model of the fine-tuning that's predictive. It picks out a trillionth of the space of designers, and can't predict anything in return.

In contrast, naturalistic evolution made its prediction: common descent. That prediction picks out trillionth (or whatever) of the worlds open to a generic designer. Experimental result: common descent. There are thousands of experiments that could have gone differently had naturalistic evolution been false. This is overwhelming confirmation for naturalistic evolution.

Secondly, I'd say that many ID theorists have pointed to several such traits, principally consciousness, as a trait that couldn't have evolved.

They haven't shown this. ID theorists have said that they don't know how it could have evolved. But then they don't know how it could have been designed either. Consciousness isn't predicted more in their model than in the naturalistic model. So it's not evidence in their favor.

Your building block example stacks the deck in favor of your position. What I'm saying is, just as there are nothing but LOGICAL constraints on a designer (assuming for the sake of argument the designer is omnipotent), there are likewise nothing but LOGICAL constraints on the possible laws of nature.

This doesn't help. Change the laws of physics if you like. That doesn't change the basics of neo-Darwinian evolution. You still get limited to common descent with naturalism, while getting free reign with design. Cybertron may exist in an alternate universe, but Cybertron still has common descent. Statistically, intelligently designed Cybertron looks very different from naturally evolved Cybertron.

But the basic point is, agreeing that evolution would be limited by its resources, and given that, as you say, ID theorists make very few stipulations about the designer, why would you assume the designer is not similarly limited by its resources?

It's not a question of being limited by resources.

First, time is a resource. If your designer can wait 4 billion years, time is a resource he's got plenty of. So you would have to assume your designer has immense life span and time resources.

Second, even given the same natural resources, the designer is not limited by common descent or common composition. There are still immensely more options for speciation given design versus evolution.

Now say the Designer wanted to make rational creatures who could survive in an environment without his direct intervention. Well, in that case, your freedom of creativity is severely curbed.

Again, this is more fine-tuning. What is your model for this designer decision? If you have no predictive model, then you're fine-tuning without a payoff.

Just imagine us doing this with the roles reversed. Take a system where design is overwhelmingly confirmed: cave paintings. Let's suppose we establish that it's trillions to one in favor of design versus generic natural unguided cause. Now suppose I suggest that the cave paintings are a natural unguided occurrence. I don't give you a model of this natural system. I merely argue that whatever this natural cause was, it was severely constrained for some unknown reason to produce markings that look like human cave paintings. Is my natural unguided theory of cave paintings now on a par with the design theory? Just by me saying it was mysteriously constrained? Of course not. To get to par, I must have a model that makes predictions that are a trillion to one in my own theory's favor.

One simply cannot explain something by referencing a theory one does not have. I can't explain an exploding galaxy by saying it is explained by a Theory of Everything I haven't yet formulated. Sure, it would be explained by the theory if I had the theory, but I don't have it, so I don't have an explanation.

Well, the ID folk are playing this very game. Their ID theory would be explanatory if they knew the purpose, the limitations, the methods of the designer in enough detail to make predictions. (and predictions strong enough to bring them back from deficit.) But they don't have that. They have only a name for a theory they would like to have one day.

It's simply not true that, for a theory to be the most rational one to adopt, it has to be impossible or nearly impossible for an opposing theory to be true.

This wasn't my argument. At least not in a vacuum. My argument was that design is already ruled out by many many orders of magnitude by the evidence, and so you'll need evidence of comparable strength before you can call ID the best explanation. ID has orders of magnitude of catching up to do before it can be a best explanation. (In fact, it needs to be predictive before it can be explanatory at all.)

Anonymous said...

As near as I can tell, you aren't making any sense. At least, you're using non-standard language and that's making it hard to see what your point is. What do you mean when you say "to do less is to engage in fine-tuning"? You're speaking your own private language. And people usually do that to hide the fact that even they have no idea what they are saying. On the one hand you say ID theorists refuse to say anything about the designer. Then, on the other hand you say that ID theorists "fine-tune" the designer, a phrase which, on the dubious assumption it means anything at all, seems to mean that they say too much about the designer. Well, which is it?

You then move on to chide ID for not being able to do things that evolution can't do. Sure, ID can't predict species or discontinuities. Fun fact: evolution can't either. So what kind of prediction, exactly, are you requiring of ID? More to the point, why are you requiring, in this instance at least, more from it than you require from evolution?

Additionally, you continue to behave as if evidence for evolution is evidence for NATURALISTIC evolution, when it's not. The EVIDENCE can't pick out naturalistic evolution from theistic evolution. It may be that God is considered an extraneous hypothesis, but that's a philosophical choice, one based on a commitment to principles such as (possibly) parsimony. But this would be a choice and not an experimental result. If you disagree then I challenge you to propose an empirical test which could distinguish theistic evolution from naturalistic evolution. So it's illicit for you to claim some experimental result confirms naturalistic common descent when all it confirms is common descent.

Consciousness isn't predicted in the ID model? ID is committed, at it's very foundation, to the existence of at least one conscious being: the designer. So consciousness is not just predicted by ID, it's presupposed. And the more "fine-tuned" models, i.e. the more expressly religious ones, obviously propose a being whose very purpose in creating was to bring into being organisms with which it could engage in relationship, and thus which would have to be conscious. ID very much predicts consciousness. Evolution does not. I'd go further and say that consciousness is purely mysterious in naturalistic, evolved world. In such a world it's neither predicted, nor explained, and some would say it's downright unexplainable.

What on earth do you mean when you say that all natural worlds are bound by common descent whereas all designed worlds are free reign? First off, many worlds where organisms are designed are natural. In a thousand or so years I'd imagine human beings will have the technology to build organisms from the ground up using materials not derived from common descent, but rather of our own making. Beyond that, if the natural laws of a possible world could be anything whatsoever, it takes very little imagination to realize that all such worlds would not be governed by common descent. For instance, take the world of the panpsychism. In such a world, every particle is conscious and could arrange itself with other particles in whatever way it liked. That would be a completely natural world which wouldn't be limited to common descent.

And again, unless we're talking about an omnipotent designer, the claim that designers have free reign is ludicrous. As a human being who has handled countless designoids in his (or her) life, it should be very clear to you that designers do not have free reign simply by virtue of being designers. It's just bizarre to me that you're still expecting someone to buy that assertion.

That a designer wants his design to still be functioning in 4 billion years doesn't in the least indicate that the designer himself is 4 billion years old. Beyond that, it's impossible to stipulate in a vaccum what a designer's limitations would or would not be. The designer of DNA may have only had the nucleotide bases of that molecule to work with. I don't know what it will take for you to drop this silly assertion. You simply can't assume that a designer has unlimited resources unless that is specifically stipulated by the design theorist. And you can't use their refusal to stipulate as an excuse for you to insert your own stipulation, and then expect people to buy your argument.

You never, ever have to get theories to a trillion to one stage for them to be reasonable to accept. That's not how theory choice works. If you get a theory that explains ONE THING better than the current theory, and doesn't lose anything the current theory predicts, then it's rational to switch theories. And you don't have to count the number of confirmations of the previous theory, then say that the current theory has to make a prediction that has odds against it equal to the number of confirmations of the previous theory. If the previous theory had 600 confirmations, you don't need to come up with an experiment that predicts a result that only has a 1 in 600 chance of being confirmed by the previous theory in order to be justified in choosing a new theory. I have no idea how one would even go about establishing such a probability. The whole idea is just nonsense.

If your theory of naturalistic cave-painting "saved the data" and explained one thing about cave paintings that a design theory of cave paintings could not, then it would be rational for one to adopt the naturalistic theory. Why do you think a lot of people firmly support string theory when it doesn't have a single piece of experimentally confirmed data in its favor? If it's true, it would explain the properties of some subatomic particle which no other theory could explain. And that's enough for people to rationally choose to pursue it and teach it and work with it.

You don't need to know the purposes, intentions, or limitations of a designer to make a legitimate design inference. Del Ratszch uses this example. Suppose human astronauts were to land on a distant planet, only to find a 1000 foot sign waiting for them, carved in diamond, that read "Welcome Delicious Earthlings!". Ratszch argues, and I agree, that a design inference would be justified here, despite the fact that the astronauts would have no idea what the designer of the sign's intentions, methods, or purposes. Certain arrangements of information just naturally suggest design. Language is generally agreed to be one of these arrangements, and DNA happens to appear to many people to itself be a language which is copied, translated, read, and obeyed by other molecules and proteins in the body.

I think you're just wrong on what constitutes a best explanation. And I think this will be obvious if instead of considering ID in a vacuum you look into what exactly is the criteria which pushes some theories into scientific acceptability. Scientists thought the aether was massively confirmed for decades. It only took one experiment failing to record an aether drag, and Einstein's theory, which didn't yet have any experimental verification, only the ability to save the data while presupposing that there was no aether, to make scientists drop the idea of aether existing. Einstein didn't need to massively confirm special relativity with experiment, he just needed to save the data while explaining things the previous theory did not.

Anonymous said...

“On the one hand you say ID theorists refuse to say anything about the designer. Then, on the other hand you say that ID theorists "fine-tune" the designer, a phrase which, on the dubious assumption it means anything at all, seems to mean that they say too much about the designer. Well, which is it?”

You are blaming doctor logic for the sins of the ID folks. They do refuse, typically, to say anything about the designer. However, they are stuck with all this empirical evidence that indicates the designer would have had to be interested in fine-tuning life.



“Additionally, you continue to behave as if evidence for evolution is evidence for NATURALISTIC evolution, when it's not. The EVIDENCE can't pick out naturalistic evolution from theistic evolution. It may be that God is considered an extraneous hypothesis, but that's a philosophical choice, one based on a commitment to principles such as (possibly) parsimony. But this would be a choice and not an experimental result. If you disagree then I challenge you to propose an empirical test which could distinguish theistic evolution from naturalistic evolution. So it's illicit for you to claim some experimental result confirms naturalistic common descent when all it confirms is common descent.”

Nice point. Also illustrates why the ID attempt to discredit evolutionary theory is so bogus. It (ID) is horrible science; it is really an attempt to promulgate their belief in a particular type of God. The teaching of the current theory of evolution is no more threat to the possibility of religious belief than is say the theory of gravity. After all there could be such a thing as theistic gravity.


“You then move on to chide ID for not being able to do things that evolution can't do. Sure, ID can't predict species or discontinuities. Fun fact: evolution can't either. So what kind of prediction, exactly, are you requiring of ID? More to the point, why are you requiring, in this instance at least, more from it than you require from evolution?”

ID can’t predict anything. It can’t even predict common descent, which evolutionary theory does.

“I think you're just wrong on what constitutes a best explanation.”

I think doctor logic has a better grasp than you do of what counts as a good scientific explanation. You seem to be confusing philosophy with science here.
A good scientific explanation does require predictive power. So maybe you can list some things that ID predicts regarding the origin of species?

Bill

Anonymous said...

I don't understand this constant refrain that ID hasn't made any predictions. ID makes many predictions. It predicts that a function will be found for vestigal organs. It predicts that purposes will be found for junk DNA. It predicts that all species will appear suddenly in the fossil record with no record of transitional fossils preceding it. Behe's irreducible complexity predicts that there will be objects found in the cell that are irreducibly complex, i.e., that have no plausible Darwinian, gradualist path towards their construction. There are many others. If you just google "intelligent design predictions" you'll find a boatload of them. Why do so many of you seem to think that such predictions don't exist?

Doctor Logic said...

Anonymous,

I'll try to explain fine-tuning for you. It requires some Bayesian analysis. You can look it up on Wikipedia.

Suppose I have two theories, T1 and T2, and we propose an experimental test. X refers to a positive result in the experiment. The probability of finding X given T1 and given T2 is different. (That is why X is a test of the two theories.)

Suppose the probability of finding X given T1 is 1000 times higher than the probability of finding X given T2. In other words,

P(X|T1) / P(X|T2) = 1000.

If we find X is true, then our confidence in T2 should be reduced by a factor of 1000 or so.

If the two probabilities are non-zero, then the test does not make T2 impossible. It means (roughly) that in a hypothetical ensemble of systems in which T2 holds, a tiny minority of those systems would be consistent with result X. (I'm skipping over the frequentism vs. Bayesianism stuff.)

What this means is that either T1 is true, or a fine-tuned version of T2 is true.

Obviously, it would be irrational for the scientist to fail to alter his confidence in T1 and T2 on the basis of X. He may irrationally prefer to believe, without justification, that T2 remains true despite T2 failing the test. That is, he believes that our particular system is one of those few systems of T2's ensemble which looks more like T1 in experiment X. This is what I mean by fine-tuning in this context. The parameters of T2 are fine-tuned by the scientist to match the results in experiment X.

In certain cases, fine-tuning relative to an experiment can be justified. Bayesian probability theory relies on prior probabilities. If experiment X ought to reduce the ratio of confidences in the theories (i.e., P(T2)/P(T1)) by a factor of 1000, T2 can still win if prior confidence in T2 was initially more than 1000 times bigger than prior confidence in T1. Alternatively, if there is another experiment, Y, in which T2 is shown to be favored by a factor of 1000 or more, then experiment X and Y cancel each other out.

[There is another kind of fine-tuning which physicists often refer to. This kind of fine-tuning is when a theory has dimensionless parameters that are naively assumed to be independent, but which are of vastly different orders of magnitude. This is an aesthetic problem, and in some cases it has been solved when we find that the two parameters are not independent. Hence, fine-tuning in physics is suggestive of undiscovered relationships between apparently independent parameters.]

Now this is precisely the situation with unguided evolution versus design. P(common descent|design) is FAPP infinitesimal, whereas P(common descent|evolution) = 1. If you want to rescue design, you need a prediction that's as powerful a discriminator as common descent.

I'll leave it there for now. Let me know if I'm not making myself clear.

Anonymous said...

I think the confusion comes from you using the term "fine-tuning" in a discussion about ID. That's bound to cause some people (like me) to think you're referring to the so-called fine-tuning argument.

I'd grant that, if we're limiting ourselves to just the design of species (and leaving out the origin of the universe, the physical laws of the universe, and the origin of life - things often included in some ID arguments) that there are more "worlds" where design doesn't include common descent than where it does. This makes sense expressed probabilistically, but it didn't make sense to me when it seemed like you were expressing it modally.

I'm from the "garbage in, garbage out" school as regards Bayesian analysis. I'm dubious that you could give the probability of common descent given evolution a number. ID opponents will set it arbitrarily low (i.e. "one in a trillion")and ID proponents will set it arbitrarily high. What I'd grant is that common descent is less likely given design than it is given evolution. But when you start with the nonsense about it being trillions of times less likely, my BS detector goes berserk.

I also have an issue with the notion that there is actually such a thing as belief "units", that we have enough control over those units to (you'll excuse the expression) "fine-tune" our beliefs precisely in accordance with the deliverances of Bayes Theorem. I'm pretty sure we don't have enough control over our beliefs to "reduce our confidence in theory x by a factor of a thousand" on command.

That's leaving out that there's far, far, far more to scientific theory choice than Bayesian analysis. There's all kinds of factors that are arguably more important in scientific theory choice: parsimony, explanatory scope, fruitfulness in guiding future research, explanatory adequacy, predictive accuracy, etc. And contrary to the tone of some of your previous remarks, there's no "rules", certainly no easily expressible mathematical rules such that one can punch numbers into a calculator and get a neat, universally-agreed upon number that will tell us if the theory is likely true or not.

Let's take Galileo's heliocentrism vs Ptolemy's geocentrism. At the time Galielo's theory was proposed, there was no reliable physical evidence that supported his theory over Ptolemy's. In fact, at the time, geocentrism, once complicated a great deal with epicycles and retrograde motions and the like, was more accurate predictively than Galileo's theory. But a lot of people jumped ship from Ptomely's theory to Galileo's simply on the basis of parsimony.

So it's simply not true that, in order for ID to supersede evolutionary theory, it needs to have physical evidence in its favor that would only be true in one in a trillion evolved worlds. (Again, on the dubious assumption that we'd have any way of finding out that there's common descent only in precisely one out of a trillion designed worlds.)

If ID were to somehow save the appearances of common descent, but have a wider explanatory scope (as it clearly does in the versions that use ID to explain the origin of life, the order of the universe, etc.), or if it could save the appearances with a much simpler theory, then it could be rational to hold to it even if the evidential situation remained unchanged. And this isn't just an opinion on my part. In the history of science, there's been far more revolutions waged (to use Kuhnian terms) on the basis of simplicity than there have been on the basis of Bayesian analysis or even experimental confirmation.

Anonymous said...

And I can't let you get away with claiming the probability of common descent given evolution is 1. It's mathematically impossible that the probability of common descent given design is non-zero, and the probability of common descent given evolution is 1.

It's rank abuse of Bayes Theorem to give any prior probability a value of 0 or 1, since that would make evidence irrelevant to the discussion. If any theory has a prior probability of 1, this probability can't be lowered, regardless of the evidence. This is kind of my point about "garbage in, garbage out."

Anonymous said...

"I don't understand this constant refrain that ID hasn't made any predictions. ID makes many predictions. It predicts that a function will be found for vestigal organs. It predicts that purposes will be found for junk DNA. It predicts that all species will appear suddenly in the fossil record with no record of transitional fossils preceding it. Behe's irreducible complexity predicts that there will be objects found in the cell that are irreducibly complex, i.e., that have no plausible Darwinian, gradualist path towards their construction. There are many others. If you just google "intelligent design predictions" you'll find a boatload of them. Why do so many of you seem to think that such predictions don't exist?"

Maybe because none of those "predictions" really follow from ID theory. The designer could, for example, have made vestigial organs that serve no biological function. Maybe they just look pretty to Her.
In other words, no amount of empirical evidence could overturn the belief in a Designer. If any particular "prediction" turns out to be wrong, the ID theorist can simply say that he misunderstood the motives and plans of the Designer and that the new evidence really supports his theory now that he understands better the Designer's motives. It's kind of like the excuses believers make when God doesn't answer their prayers: they still believe in the power of prayer. ID is horrible science.
And Behe's ideas have been well refuted by evolutionary scientists. It is amazing the ID supporters keep citing him as some kind of authority.

Doctor Logic said...

Anonymous,

Before I go too much further, I wanted to clarify something.

The "probability of common descent given evolution" refers to the probability in unguided evolutionary models of finding common descent. I have never seen (and can't imagine) a model of unguided evolution that doesn't have common descent. That's why that probability is 1. It's what the model says.

Maybe my use of the term evolution as synonymous with unguided evolution threw you.

The probability of common descent given design is very small. None of our designs use common descent, apart from a handful of genetic algorithms. (Livestock doesn't count because we didn't invent the common descent in that case. Even in the case of agriculture we would bypass the common descent restriction if we could.)

When we make airplanes, we don't make them using common descent, nor would we want to. Common descent is a huge restriction that serves no purpose. Again, the hallmark of design is utility. Even with SETI, there is the assumption that the aliens have limited energy, so we do a narrowband search. Narrowband is useful to species with limited energy.

You cannot talk about design without talking about utility.

I'm pretty sure we don't have enough control over our beliefs to "reduce our confidence in theory x by a factor of a thousand" on command.

But we ought to. Saying that we're sometimes irrational doesn't mean that the irrationality is somehow rationally normative. We should all be using Bayesian reasoning if we want to be rational about the world. We need to know when an experience is a test of a theory, and when it isn't.

Indeed, that's the primary flaw in superstition. The superstitious put themselves in a box where they think certain experiences confirm a theory. But they are deluding themselves because those experiences are no such test. They could just as easily have placed themselves in a box in which the opposite theory is true. This is the case with prayer. You can support the opposite claim (e.g., that God acts to do the opposite of your desire) with equal support from the evidence. (Wishes come true out of chance or when the God doesn't act.)

I'm not giving the superstitious a free pass just because people have traditionally been superstitious.

Let's take Galileo's heliocentrism vs Ptolemy's geocentrism.

Neither side consciously understood relativity, but the issue is really about simplicity of orbits, not about which object is motionless. Lacking a theory of gravity, all they could do was create a model of the motion, not the forces.

I could recast our modern understanding of celestial mechanics so that Earth is motionless in my coordinate system. Of course, the orbits of everything else would be horrendously complex, even if it predicted the same results as in a normal coordinate system.

So the debate isn't about whether the Sun or the Earth is at the center of the solar system, but which model produces the simplest orbits. If you allow for crazy orbits, then you can place any object (e.g., Mercury) at the center of your coordinate system.

That's why epicycles doomed the Ptolemaic approach. Meanwhile, it was obvious that the Copernican system would explain epicycles without adding complexity to the orbits.

It's neither true nor false that the Sun is at the center of the solar system. It's only true that the Sun is at the center in the simplest models. When simplicity is the criteria, Bayesian reasoning dooms the Ptolemaic system on the basis of epicycles.

Anonymous said...

Well, there's chemical evolution of the kind naturalists hope will explain the origin of life. That's an evolutionary process which brings life into being without there being (yet) common descent. It's easy for me to imagine a scenario where life comes into being through such a process yet for whatever reason never procreates. Viola. Living beings which weren't designed and also weren't the result of common descent. And it hardly took much imagination. I see no reason to believe that there couldn't be universes with laws and initial conditions very much unlike ours where even beings as complex as ourselves could evolve straight from our chemical precursors with no design or common descent.

This would probably be rare within the universes consistent with evolution, but given it a likelihood of zede seems to be stacking the deck a bit too much.

I think there are a lot more cases in which humans do use common descent in our designs than you let on. Lots of computer viruses use them. I tend to think though that this is technological limit rather than something intrinsic in design. We haven't used common descent because we don't know how to do it yet. Are you saying that if we had the technical savvy to make useful machines which could replicate themselves to become even more useful over time, that there's something intrinsic about the nature of design which would prevent us doing it? That's a desperate stretch. If I could design a phone that could, without my direct input, give birth to a more useful phone, of course I would do it.

And I think the purpose common descent would serve is that it would allow the things we designed to continue to function without us needing to look after it personally all the time. I mean, say we were interested in seeding a planet with life, and we hoped that life to continue on long after we packed up our space ships and left for greener pastures. Is there a better design plan for having the lie forms survive without our constant care than enabling them to reproduce varied versions of themselves?

Rationality does not = Bayesian analysis. Parsimony is easily a more important condition. The reason is the very fine-tuning problem you state. It is always possible to endlessly and arbitrarily complicate a theory to improve its Bayesian credentials. Therefore, there have to be other rational adjudicators of truth other than Bayes Theorem. Whether you realize it or not, when you complain about fine-tuning you are admitting that parsimony is more important than Bayesian analysis.

It's not superstitious to realize that Bayesian analysis is not the end all be all of rationality. It's important to be able to adjust our beliefs according to empirical evidence rationally, but it's equally important that we be able to adjust our beliefs to non-empirical but equally rational factors in a warranted way.

Say theory X is .80 probable on Bayes. And theory Y is .70 probable.

Now, say theory X is endlessly complicated, taking dozens of reams of paper and scores of variables to express in its simplest form. Say it explains only one small fact in our domain of interest, and casts no light on the remainder. Say it's a dead end in terms of guiding future research; it doesn't suggest anything beyond itself. Say it also contradicts a lot of other well-established scientific theories, such that accepting it would mean abandoning many other settled parts of our scientific worldview.

Say by contrast, that theory Y, despite being 10% less probable than X on a purely Bayesian analysis, nonetheless is elegantly simple, it explains a wide swath of otherwise unrelated data, it opens up many lines of promising future research, and it's fully agreeable with other scientific theories that cross its domain.

Are you saying that rationality demands that all these other considerations be ignored in favor of a strictly Bayesian approach?

If you're just talking about relativity of motion, and not Einstein's theory, you're historically wrong. Galileo wrote about relativity of motion extensively, and understood it very well.

The rest of your comments just prove my point. In the beginning, people signed on with Galileo not because of Bayesian analysis or because of predictive accuracy or because of overwhelming amounts of diverse experimental verification. They all jumped on board because Galileo's theory was simpler. And they were rational to do so because simplicity is AT LEAST as valuable a commodity in theories as any other epistemic value.

Doctor Logic said...

Anonymous,

Well, there's chemical evolution of the kind naturalists hope will explain the origin of life.

Evolution is not a theory about the origin of life, but about speciation. You're changing the subject.

This would probably be rare within the universes consistent with evolution, but given it a likelihood of zede seems to be stacking the deck a bit too much.

I'm happy to concede that there could be universes in which multiple different species pop into existence. As you say the odds would be extraordinarily low, and the odds of bringing forth antelope and lions infinitesimal. It doesn't really matter. The probability of common descent given evolution is of order 1. Make it 0.8 if you like.

I mean, say we were interested in seeding a planet with life, and we hoped that life to continue on long after we packed up our space ships and left for greener pastures. Is there a better design plan for having the life forms survive without our constant care than enabling them to reproduce varied versions of themselves?

Why would we do this? Just because we can? There are lots of things we can do. An infinite number of things we can do, in fact. And God could do even more. It costs God nothing to intervene and tweak the world continuously. So the argument that an evolved world is more efficient for a designer goes out the window if the designer is God. Nothing is more or less efficient for God.

Again, evolution is basically the only thing nature can do without intelligent foresight.

As I've always said, ID can redeem itself by creating a predictive model of the designer. If it fails to do that, you have to integrate over every utility of the designer, and every way that a designer could design the life that we see.

If a designer wanted to create the species we observe, he would not need evolution or huge time spans. Moreover, he would be creating these species for a purpose. There is no purpose apart from survival, and you seem to be acknowledging that with that last quote.

Rationality does not = Bayesian analysis.

Bayesian analysis is not a replacement for all of rationality. However, it is the only way to rationally arrive at conclusions based on tests of theories.

The geo-helio(centrism) debate does not help your argument because its a special case. The question is not "Which body is at the center of the solar system?" The question there is "What system results in the SIMPLEST orbits?" If you apply Bayesian reasoning to a question about what theory is simplest, it's no wonder that the simplest theory wins.

Say it also contradicts a lot of other well-established scientific theories, such that accepting it would mean abandoning many other settled parts of our scientific worldview.
...
Say by contrast, that theory Y, despite being 10% less probable than X on a purely Bayesian analysis, nonetheless is elegantly simple, it explains a wide swath of otherwise unrelated data, it opens up many lines of promising future research, and it's fully agreeable with other scientific theories that cross its domain.


But this would contradict Bayesian approach also. The Bayesian approach is not restricted to looking at only one test at a time. For example, the exclusive ability of Y to predict in other domains is still a Bayesian test of Y versus X.

Are you saying that rationality demands that all these other considerations be ignored in favor of a strictly Bayesian approach?

Absolutely. Bayesian theory is a means to estimate the likelihood of a given condition or a given outcome (i.e., what is). It cannot tell you what you want to do, only what actions are most likely to get you what you want.

It is often rational to act in favor of unlikely possibilities, because root desires are not rational. For example, I can rationally jump out of a fifth storey window to avoid a fire (even if I think my survival chances are far better in the fire), simply because I prefer force trauma to burn trauma. However, I would be irrational if my desire to avoid burn trauma led me to believe that my survival odds are better in jumping.

Finally, there's a Bayesian explanation for Ockham's Razor. If I introduce an unnecessary element into my model, there are generally many ways to incorporate that element, only a few of which lead to the observation in question. http://quasar.as.utexas.edu/papers/ockham.pdf

Anonymous said...

I'm not changing the subject to the origin of life. If you view design and evolution broadly as mutually exclusive jointly exhausted propositions, then origin of life via chemical evolution would fall under evolution. The practical import of the question is, whether species could emerge without design and without common descent. And, if naturalism is correct, this happened here with the first life forms. I see no reason why things couldn't have stopped there, and then OUR universe would have been one with (assuming naturalism) living beings that weren't designed or the product of common descent.

Again, garbage in, garbage out. You want to say the probability of common descent on evolution is .08. I say it's just as reasonable to assume that life, being as precious as it is, almost never gets past the first chemically evolved organism. So I put the probability at .008. And who can prove me wrong?

You again illicitly assume the designer is God to avoid the force of the argument. The fact is, common descent would be the MOST efficient way for a designer to seed worlds with life that would go on without needing its constant care. And I'd argue that the fact that it is the most efficient would be a good reason to create this way even for God. (I actually think there are tons of good reasons for God to create this way, most of which are completely independent of evolutionary theory, but you'll just accuse me of "fine-tuning" if I list them.)

The heliocentrism/geocentrism debate wasn't about what is at the center of the planetary system? I guess the Church locked up Galileo for nothing then, since there was (obviously) no controversy over which theory was the simplest. The controversy was over Galileo (and others) insistence that the heliocentric model was true. And most people were convinced that it was true because it was simple.

Bayesian analysis won't capture all scientific values, though. What's the relationship between the truth of theory X and the fruitfulness of theory X? What's the relationship between the truth of theory X and the testability of theory X? There may be no relation in either case, yet clearly theories are often considered superior to their rivals because they are more fruitful or testable.

If you think that all properly normative values can be accurately given a numerical percentage and then plugged into Bayes theorem, then I guess it would make sense to you to say that all cognitive values should be laid at the altar of Bayes. But I don't think that Bayes Theorem is capable of meaningfully analyzing everything we value in a scientific theory, much less in rationality per se.

I'm sure you can explain parsimony (which is not quite the same as Ockham's Razor, IMO) via Bayesian analysis. The point is there are values that affect theory choice that can't be meaningfully analyzed via Bayes. We don't know that testable theories are more likely to be true, but we still prefer them. But my biggest reason for rejecting Bayesian primacy is the garbage in, garbage out problem. Popper may say the theory x's probability given it's externally consistent is .8. Kuhn may say that theory x's probability given it's externally consistent is .5. How do we know who's right? We can't, so we shouldn't pretend.

Doctor Logic said...

Anonymous,

Again, garbage in, garbage out. You want to say the probability of common descent on evolution is .08. I say it's just as reasonable to assume that life, being as precious as it is, almost never gets past the first chemically evolved organism. So I put the probability at .008. And who can prove me wrong?

You're changing the issue again. Let's try to keep the issues separate.

Issue #1: whether life on Earth evolved or was designed. This is not a question of whether evolution is likely in an absolute sense. The issue is whether, given many species (like we see on Earth), those species developed by design or by evolution. Evolution predicts the species will be related by common descent, and that there will be many extinctions throughout history. It does so with a probability that is approximately 1. It's not 0.08 or 0.008.

Design does NOT predict this. It doesn't predict common descent, nor does it predict extinctions. Design can get by just fine with a single, advanced life form. There's no need for species to be part of an ecosystem. People used to think God made their meals possible by introducing more rabbits. And that's not unreasonable in the design model. So there's no need nor likelihood for different species to be related by descent in the case of design.

This is why there are theistic evolutionists. They know the evidence for evolution is overwhelming. They know that guided design has many many alternative paths, and so evolution of species was unguided. So theistic evolutionists argue that God designed the universe such that evolution would occur. (They probably believe God isn't the kind of trickster to make it look like we evolved when we didn't.)

Issue #2: Was the unguided evolution of life on Earth planned? Do the theistic evolutionists have a case?

Under naturalistic models, speciation was not planned. So life and speciation occurred the only way it can under naturalism: through evolution.

But under design, you don't need evolution to create species. You just build species. Evolution has only one purpose: survival. Generally, intelligent agents have no need to go around creating biospheres that do nothing but survive.

You have tried to argue that evolving life on a planet for no purpose but the survival of life on that planet is somehow efficient or desirable. You gave an example in an earlier comment about developing a phone by evolution. You said it would be efficient if the phone just got better and better by itself. The idea of my phone getting better and better sounds like a good thing because phones are useful to me. But your idea is broken in three ways.

1) Alien biospheres are not useful to me. What use are we to our designer? Is this use compatible with the 4 billion year gap between us and the designer's invention?

2) In the analogy, we're not actually talking about my phone getting better and better. We're talking about a large population of phones, some of which are better than others. There are huge problems with this. How efficient will it be when phones evolve to kill other phones? Or when the population of phones gets out of hand?

3) You need a fitness function. In order for me to improve my phone, i have to talk on all the phones, the good and the bad, and then reward the good ones, and kill the bad ones. How is that efficient for me? If I know what I want in a phone, why don't I just build a phone to those specs?

And I'd argue that the fact that it is the most efficient would be a good reason to create this way even for God.

Please explain. What is your efficiency function? What is being maximized? What is the cost paid by God? How can there be a cost when you have an infinite amount of something?

What would be the most efficient use of water if water was completely free? To answer that, you need to look at what isn't free. Like time, or carrying capacity, etc.

The controversy was over Galileo (and others) insistence that the heliocentric model was true. And most people were convinced that it was true because it was simple.

But you just got through telling me that all the parties involved were aware of relativity!! Now you're saying that the body at the center is what the debate was about.

Look at it this way. Suppose I take the modern heliocentric model, and switch to a coordinate system in which Earth does not move, but stays at the origin. In that new coordinate system, the Sun will move around the Earth. This new geocentric model will provide exactly the same predictions as the standard heliocentric model (all I did was a variable substitution). Alas, the orbits of the other bodies will be horrendously complex.

This change of coordinate systems doesn't make a new model, even though it transforms a heliocentric view into a geocentric one. Physicists would recognize the two models as being different formulations of the very same model. So heliocentrism and geocentrism have little meaning unless we're speaking about the simplicity of the orbits of the other bodies. Heliocentrism gives you the simplest mathematical description. It doesn't give you better predictions. So the debate between the two is about simplicity itself, not about accuracy. That's why Bayesian theory lines up with Galileo.

What's the relationship between the truth of theory X and the fruitfulness of theory X? What's the relationship between the truth of theory X and the testability of theory X?

In Bayesian theory, nothing ventured, nothing gained. A theory that makes no predictions, cannot gain any ground. So a theory that is testable and fruitful gains more confidence than a theory that has neither.

Popper may say the theory x's probability given it's externally consistent is .8. Kuhn may say that theory x's probability given it's externally consistent is .5. How do we know who's right? We can't, so we shouldn't pretend.

Sure, when the probabilities are both of the same order, and the difference in probabilities is well within the error bars, there's lots of room for debate.

But when one probability is orders of magnitude smaller than the other, you can't get away with supporting crazy fine-tuned theories without justification.

There are massively more ways of designing the species we see without common descent than there are ways of evolving it with common descent. There are a massive number of reasons a designer might create life, and very few of these reasons involve lead a designer to take 4 billion years of unguided evolution to create life on this planet.

Suppose a plague wipes out everyone but me. I want someone to socialize with, so I create a cell that may, after 4 billion years, evolve into lifeforms with a 50 year lifespan and the comparative IQ of a gnat. Does that make sense? Why wouldn't I clone myself? Or clone someone else? Or build robots? Or robot gnats?

In fact the only reason I can see for a designer to design evolving life on this planet is to play a practical joke on us. And it takes a special personality, I think, to want to play a practical joke on primitive intelligences that haven't even evolved yet.

Anonymous said...

You're not asking about Earth, you're asking about any non-designed biosphere that contains many species. You're saying that the probability that such a biosphere developed via common descent is 1. And that's just an argument from ignorance: you can't think of any other way for there to be many non-designed species, and that's the ONLY justification you have for setting the probability at 1. That's just shameless.

Here's my problem with you. You want to suggest that generic design makes no predictions, and so ID theorists must specify the properties and intentions of the designer. And when the ID theorists specify the designer, you accuse them of illicit "fine-tuning".

Here's an argument independant of evolutionary theory for why God would create via common descent.

Suppose, as most Ariminian Christians do, that God is interested in creating rational creatures capable of accepting or rejecting Him out of their own free will. God knows that if His presence and power and glory were very evident at all times, this would make the universe in effect a police state, where people were so vividly aware of the eternal consequences of their actions. Such a cognitive atmosphere, where God's existence were very evident, would be coercive. So God is interested in creating a cognitive distance between these creatures and Himself, such that those creatures have access to Him should they desire, choose, and pursue it, but would not be constantly reminded by every facet of their lives that an all-powerful being was always watching their every move.

Suppose you start with that theological conception of God. What predictions would that generate?

And here's the thing. If you say there are an unlimited amount of ways for God to hide his tracks while creating other than common descent, then all those same ways are available for life to evolve naturally without common descent. Because, under the Ariminain assumption, any way God creates is going to LOOK natural.

I can't believe you are actually trying to suggest that need is a restriction on design. Intelligent beings don't need videogames, or poetry, or high heel shoes, or throw pillows. So all of those things must have evolved, right?

Are you seriously suggesting that if humans develop the technology to build species and ecosystems from the ground up, they won't do that because they don't need to? Intelligent beings do things for their own fulfillment. Intelligent people are also often motivated to build things to commemorate themselves for posterity. Think of the time and expense many leaders throughout history have put towards building monuments that will long outlive them. Generally speaking, the whole point of pyramids and statues and Great Walls and beautiful works of art is that it will outlive its creator. So the analogy to human design clearly and strongly holds here.

Phones evolve to kill other phones? Is this supposed to be a real objection? We can safely assume that phones, like organisms, have a limited capacity to evolve. Their morphology will be somewhat restricted, and their variation will be in things like wi-fi range, size, etc. Just like there's no real danger of pigs evolving a functioning digital TV tuner, I think we can rule out phones ( particularly ones that are designed to evolve) from becoming self-aware killing machines. But thanks for playing.

Utility in this case would be a fitness function, but I deny that everyone knows exactly what they want in a phone. It's certainly possible a phone will develop a useful function that no one predicted. At any rate, such an evolutionary process would go on at no expense to me, presumably. It wouldn't preclude me from designing features I wanted if I chose to do so. Your objection only works if the designer would have reason to avoid making devices that could, eventually, make themselves more efficient. That doesn't seem reasonable.

If I could make clothes that would make varied copies of themselves, such that I was presented with a new wardrobe every morning to pick through, why wouldn't I do it?

The argument since medieval times has been that God creates in a way that is maximally excellent for his purposes. This, actually, was the original justification of parsimony (it's still, in my view, the only reasonable justification for it). A perfect God would not create inefficiently. A perfect mind would create with perfect efficiency. One could also argue that wanton, purposeless wastefulness is morally imperfect, even given unlimited resources.

Yes, the heliocentrism debate was about what is at the center of planetary motion. I'm sorry if this is news to you. It certainly was not about which model was simplest, because EVERYONE, EVEN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH, AGREED GALILEO'S MODEL WAS SIMPLER.

Heliocentrism does make novel predictions that geocentrism doesn't make. It predicts that our sun is a star, for one thing, and that stars are not holes in the firmament but bodies like our sun, billions of miles away. It also predicts a potentially much larger universe than the geocentric model, in which all visible objects orbit the Earth from a relatively small distance (and thus, none can be too big). It also predicted that Venus and Mars would have phases, I believe, which geocentrism does not.

Now, it's true that at the time none of these predictions could be tested, but it's just not true that geocentrism and heliocentrism are different models of the same theory. They are, in Kuhn's words, incommensurable. In one system, stars are tiny objects a short distance away. In the other, they're bigger than the sun and they are untold trillions of miles away. The term "stars" has a different meaning in the two systems.

Anyway, I forget how this is even relevant.

Sure, people will believe more in a theory that is testable, but there's no justification for including this belief in a prior probability, and thus there's no legitimate way to plug that belief into Bayes. So theory choice obviously can't reduce to Bayesian analysis, since issues like testability often play a big role.

In regards to your last few paragraphs, I gave you a few really good reasons why a designer would want to create something that would outlast him, and I gave you one good reason why God would want to design something that takes a long time to (seemingly) independently develop.

Doctor Logic said...

Anonymous,

You're saying that the probability that such a biosphere developed via common descent is 1. And that's just an argument from ignorance: you can't think of any other way for there to be many non-designed species, and that's the ONLY justification you have for setting the probability at 1.

I didn't set the probability at 1. I set it near 1. And there probably aren't any other likely, unguided ways to create multiple species.

There has to be a feedback mechanism between the life form and the environment in which it survives. In design, that mechanism is generally the mind of the designer. In evolution, it is natural selection. Any naturalistic mechanism has to have the environment impose restrictions on the species.

The only alternative to common descent in an unguided scheme is for complex, fully-developed species to pop into existence before being weeded out by selection. We certainly don't know much about abiogenesis, but it's clear that rabbits don't just spring fully formed out of test tubes. I don't think I need to elaborate on this. So while we might imagine multiple simple species (e.g., simple cells or simple metabolic structures) appearing without common descent, complex species will always appear through common descent (even if there were multiple trees).

Besides, I think it's tough for you to argue that the odds of abiogenesis are significant in order to defeat the common descent argument.

You want to suggest that generic design makes no predictions, and so ID theorists must specify the properties and intentions of the designer. And when the ID theorists specify the designer, you accuse them of illicit "fine-tuning".

Go back and read what I said. Fine-tuning is fine as long as your fine-tuning makes predictions that enable your theory to catch up with and overtake the competition. Evolution predicted common descent, which design does NOT predict, despite your protestations. That's why unguided evolution is broadly confirmed by experiment. You can rescue design by showing that, even though design in general is strongly disfavored, a particular theory of design is strongly favored.

You attempted to offer such a rescue here with your story about God. It's an old, familiar story, and one that's transparently designed as a rationalization for keeping a designer myth alive. And if it made detailed, verifiable predictions, it would have a chance of making up for the vulgar fine-tuning built into it. But it makes no predictions that you can verify. It's a "just so" story with no predictions.

If we do an experiment, and the result looks like unguided evolution, you'll just fine-tune your theory more and say that God only wants it to look unguided. Or if we find things that might have been designed better, you'll say the designer intended that the design should be imperfect in the right measure (the right measure meaning as imperfect as it is, whatever it is). On the other hand, if the experiment goes your way, you'll want to count that as evidence in your favor. Well, that's the recipe for self-delusion. There has to be a way for you to discredit your theory, or else it's a self-fulfilling delusion, a superstition. As you've stated it, your theory is just such a delusion. No matter what you see, you'll always count the evidence for unguided design as neutral to your thesis.

You have to make a stand. Make a prediction. If the data doesn't go your way, reduce your confidence in your theory. But Christians aren't committed to the truth. They're committed to what they want to believe. They're committed to their own biases. That's why they claim you'll only "see" Jesus if you bias yourself to God's existence, and that you ought to do whatever you can to bolster that bias.

Suppose you start with that theological conception of God. What predictions would that generate?

Well? Go right ahead. Please don't say "the Bible," since the Bible was written by the same men making the same old fine-tuning rationalizations.

Tell me specifically what it predicts about nature.

How about this: it predicts that scientific evidence for ID won't be found because that would mean God was no longer hidden.

Are you seriously suggesting that if humans develop the technology to build species and ecosystems from the ground up, they won't do that because they don't need to?

No. I am suggesting that the whimsical creation of something that looks like it evolved is just one of countless options open to a designer. It's not that the designer couldn't do it, but that there are so many alternatives open to the designer. Sort of like one of us breaking up a piece of shale, and scattering it carefully on the floor of a canyon, to make it appear the shale fell from one of the walls of the canyon. Sure, we could do that. But there are plenty of other things we could do. This is why broken shale at the bottom of a canyon is not considered "designed".

Generally speaking, the whole point of pyramids and statues and Great Walls and beautiful works of art is that it will outlive its creator. So the analogy to human design clearly and strongly holds here.

None of these examples evolve unguided. None of these things look like systems that formed unguided. Suppose we discover a swamp in Italy. Should we think that an unnamed Roman emperor created this swamp so that some part of him would live on? Or better still, that a Roman emperor wanted us to believe in him without evidence, so he created the swamp and made it look completely natural?

Phones evolve to kill other phones? Is this supposed to be a real objection? We can safely assume that phones, like organisms, have a limited capacity to evolve.

Of course it's a real objection. If phones cannot evolve new features, what's the point? In a genetic algorithm, success is statistical. Big population = success. A phone that jams its competitors will be more successful. And as I said, you would need a large population of phones in general (the good and the bad) for the algorithm to work.

Intelligent designers and evolution both create new ideas. The main difference is that intelligent designers simulate new ideas, and implements only the ones it thinks will reach some goal. Evolution has to implement every idea, then let the ideas fight it out under selective pressure.

I deny that everyone knows exactly what they want in a phone. It's certainly possible a phone will develop a useful function that no one predicted. At any rate, such an evolutionary process would go on at no expense to me, presumably.

How does the phone know what you want versus what you don't want at no expense to you?

How about a phone that doesn't get hot when in use? That's good, right? How about a phone that gets very hot? Or gets very cold? How do you select out the overheating and over-cooling populations of phones? That takes continual effort and expense on your part.

And for how many generations of phones are you going to wait until the temperature issue settles? And what of all the useless phones created in the process? Again, you have to be the selective pressure on the populations. You cannot sit it out.

If I could make clothes that would make varied copies of themselves, such that I was presented with a new wardrobe every morning to pick through, why wouldn't I do it?

At least two reasons. First, your wardrobe would be the size of a planet. Second, you would soon look like an indecent clown because the system has no feedback to say what's stylish or what parts of your anatomy ought to be covered up.

In fact, what you are describing (to the extent it would work) is essentially the free market for clothing. Clothes that look good to you are selected by you when you purchase them. Clothing designs that no one buys die because no one buys it and their manufacturer dies. The cost to you in production is reflected in the price of the item, etc. The free market would not work if there was no selective pressure imposed by consumers. Indeed, it takes human regulatory bodies to ensure that The Gap doesn't dynamite your local JCPenney.

BTW, a lot of people confuse neo-Darwinian biology (a process) with social Darwinism (a designed moral strategy). A social Darwinist is a person who deliberately establishes a Darwinian regime for thinking animals.

Heliocentrism does make novel predictions that geocentrism doesn't make. It predicts that our sun is a star, for one thing, and that stars are not holes in the firmament but bodies like our sun, billions of miles away. It also predicts a potentially much larger universe than the geocentric model, in which all visible objects orbit the Earth from a relatively small distance (and thus, none can be too big). It also predicted that Venus and Mars would have phases, I believe, which geocentrism does not.

The planets will have phases either way. Stars need be neither small nor close nor holes in the firmament. And if the Earth is at the center of the universe, why can't it be orbited by the rest of the Milky Way (or the Andromeda galaxy)? Why can't distant stars have a wobble to counter parallax?

Here's an interesting quote from the Wikipedia article on Heliocentrism:

It is interesting to note that Ptolemy, himself, in his Almagest points out that any model for describing the motions of the planets is merely a mathematical device, and, since there is no actual way to know which is true, the simplest model that gets the right numbers should be used...

There you have it. The issue is simplicity. The issue only gets hairy when you have a theory of forces or fields to predict the motion. There was no such theory until Newton.

Anonymous said...

So, when you express your point that way, it's just a long-winded argument from ignorance. That's the long and the short of it. Your only argument for setting the probability "near 1" is that you can't think of any other way for it to happen. Not good enough to give it that high of a prior probability. (I'm assuming by "near 1" you mean .9999999 ad infinitum. If by "near 1" you just mean ".9", then I'd say that was more reasonable. But I don't see how you could argue with a man giving it a .8 or .7, or even .5. I think it's a reasonable argument to say that we just don't know that there aren't many ways of self-organization out there that wouldn't require common descent to create something as complex as a rabbit.)

The story I told wasn't "transparently designed to keep the designer myth alive". It arguably dates back, in some form, to Augustine.

I don't know why you object to my "just so" theory with no predictions when evolution ABOUNDS with "just so" stories that make no predictions. The evolution of the eye, the evolution of the bacterial flagellum, the evolution of other molecular machines, are all covered in evolutionary theory with "just so" stories that make no predictions. Evolutionary psychology is a whole field that does nothing but tell such stories and make no predictions.

My theory would actually not predict that no evidence would ever be found for ID. What it would predict is that not enough evidence would be found for ID to compel assent to ID on pains of irrationality. IOW it would predict that the evidence for ID might well exceed the "reasonable" threshold but would never reach the "rationally compulsory" threshold. God's purpose in such a scenario, after all, would not be to prevent belief but to make belief freely available for those who would chose it.

All scientific experiments often interpret results in a way that best accommodates existing theory. So I'm not sure a little (or even a lot) of that is so illegal as you pretend. It happens all the time, it's only when ID theorists do it that people like yourself call foul. In any case, as I said, this particular view of God dates back to Augustine's time, in the 400's or so, a good 1400 years before Darwin was so much as a mischievous gleam in his father's eye. So this is a case of the facts fitting the theory, not fitting a theory to the facts. Besides, design and evolution are relatively wide categories. So of course, when one version of the category has been ruled out, others should still be considered. The death of Lemarckism (sp?) wasn't the death of evolutionary theory, nor should it have been. And the (in my view) obvious inadequacies of Young Earth Creationism shouldn't prevent intelligent people from exploring whether some other version of design more plausibly fits the facts. I don't understand your notion that this is illegal or intellectually dishonest.

You seem to have in your head that all ID theorists are in one big camp, and that they move as a unit from one version of the design story to another as their previous versions become less and less plausible. I think the actual story is that there were pre-existing rival accounts of Creation from both within and certainly without the Christian community. And it is not a case of one group constantly shifting their theory to fit the evidence, it's a case of many groups falling under the same general category, some of whom have theories that do better on the evidence than others. It's silly to think that because you rule out a Fundamentalist Christian account of design, that Deists or Muslims or Jainist or Zoroastrians or Hindus or Native Americans are cheating by still pursuing their accounts of design.

I'm glad to see you backed away from the "need" argument you were clearly promoting in your previous responses. As I said, it seems eminently reasonable to me that intelligent beings might want to seed other planets with primitive life. Francis Crick offered this very theory for an explanation of the origin of life. He called it "directed panspermia".

I don't know how many ways I can tell you that your persistent assumption that a designer could always do things differently is wrong-headed. Obviously, since the design argument is an analogy to human design, a designer cannot always do things differently. It depends on what kind of designer is posited. The designer posited by Crick was limited by its technology and the volatile early atmosphere of earth to only seeding the planet with organisms tiny enough and reproductive enough to survive. A rabbit in that environment would be fried in an instant. An extremophile would have a decent chance of surviving. The lesson that you refuse to learn is, the simple fact of design does not imply limitless choice. I look forward to repeating this point when you again assume the opposite without argument in your next response.

It doesn't matter that pyramids don't look designed. The point is, designers quite often design things for posterity. Designers often design things for no purpose at all other than the pleasure of designing. So it's no use saying that a designer wouldn't use a process that would take 4 billion years to develop.

The point isn't to believe anything about a Roman emperor. The point is for you to realize it's reasonable, working from the analogy of human design, that a designer might create something that would not be of any direct benefit to him at all, other than the pleasure of designing. Or that, in Francis Crick's case, the designer might not have had any choice other than to seed the planet with an organism that would take 4 billion years to develop intelligent creatures (on the assumption that Crick's designers ever intended intelligent creatures). Or we can assume, in the case of the Arminian God, that the Designer had a good reason to hide his work, and so took his time in creating.

The point is that a 4 billion year process rules out some design theories, but is perfectly consistent with many others. You still seem under the impression that design must mean a super-powered genie snapping his fingers and bringing everything into being in a second, and that anything that deviates from that is in some way "cheating".

Of course the phone would evolve new features, but the point was that phones have a morphology which would reasonably prevent it from becoming a self-aware killing machine. Again, we are operating under the assumption that the phones would be designed to evolve. So while we'd certainly run into a few surprises now and again, we could set a pretty decent limit on how much it could vary from generation to generation, and in what respects. A phone that jams other phones would soon be discarded, because it would be a phone that one was not allowed to take most places. A phone that amplified the signals of other phones would be more likely to survive.

Dude, if you WANT a cooler phone you can design one. You don't HAVE to wait it out. But why would ANY REASONABLE PERSON not WANT a phone which might ON ITS OWN develop a new, useful, cool feature? If the phones progeny don't produce useful features you can just throw those phones away, or recycle them.

The shirt analogy might be better. When the shirt makes me clothes I don't like, I throw away the shirts that are developing in way that is inconsistent with my tastes, or I sell them to people who have tests in that direction. If I throw away most of the white clothes because I like black, then my clothes will get blacker and blacker in their color scheme. And if my closet is developing too fast, I could design the shirts to only reproduce themselves when I told them to. The benefits in such a scenario would be that I get lots of varied clothes all in the styles and colors I like, all of which would be totally original - no one else in the world would have those particular clothes. Who wouldn't take that for the "drawback" of occasionally having to throw away or sell off excess clothes? Be serious.

I don't think it's true that the planets will have phases either way. In any event, I'm confident from my historical readings that there are experimental confirmations of heliocentrism that aren't predicted in geocentrism, but that data was only just becoming testable in Galileo's time (through use of the telescope).

It's interesting that Ptolemy thought the issue should be settled on simplicity (assuming the accuracy of the wikipedia quote). Doesn't change the historical fact that the Catholic Church knew Galileo's theory was simpler, and allowed and even advocated its pragmatic use on that score. Only it forbade Galileo from espousing the theory as "true". Had Galileo refrained from insisting the theory was literally true, the Church wouldn't have bothered him. They never bothered Copernicus when he promoted the same theory a generation before, because Copernicus never said heliocentrism was true, only that it was simpler. This is not a scientific question, it's a historical one. And the historical facts are clear. The debate was about the truth of the heliocentrism theory, because no one in the conversation thought that Ptolemy's system was simpler.

Again, I don't even remember how this is relevant. I only know that there are experimentally verifiable tests that distinguish heliocentrism from geocentrism, and that the controversy was over not which model was simplest but which model was true. (Actually, the argument was really about who had the authority to interpret the Bible, and about whether a scientific discovery could force the Catholic Church into a reinterpretation of Scripture, but that's a longer story.)

Doctor Logic said...

Anonymous,

If by "near 1" you just mean ".9", then I'd say that was more reasonable. But I don't see how you could argue with a man giving it a .8 or .7, or even .5. I think it's a reasonable argument to say that we just don't know that there aren't many ways of self-organization out there that wouldn't require common descent to create something as complex as a rabbit.)

My original statement was that 0.8 was fine for my purposes. And while there might be places elsewhere in the universe where rabbits can spring into existence fully-formed, our part of the universe is not such a place.

The story I told wasn't "transparently designed to keep the designer myth alive". It arguably dates back, in some form, to Augustine.

Oh, I'm not giving you credit/blame here. Augustine can have it.

I don't know why you object to my "just so" theory with no predictions when evolution ABOUNDS with "just so" stories that make no predictions.

Evolution has been proven by experiment in the same way that a suspect is convicted by DNA and fingerprint forensic evidence. When we find the suspect's material on the victim and the victim's material on the suspect, we can generally convict the suspect. It's possible that the evidence was faked or that the suspect has a clone out there or something bizarre like that. However, we don't overturn the conviction unless we have superior evidence for the conspiracy theory, or unless the suspect has an alibi in which we are more certain than the evidence.

Common descent (and many other verified predictions, see http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CA/CA210.html) have convicted evolution to a high degree of certainty.

ID attempts to show that evolutionary biology was framed by a conspiracy theory on the part of scientists, and that structures like the bacterial flagellum are alibis, rendering evolution "innocent". In particular, Behe formerly claimed that irreducibly complex (IC) structures could not evolve. His thesis was soundly refuted. We know that it is possible to evolve IC structures through co-option. Reeling, the IC crowd now argues that the case against evolution should be thrown out on grounds that we don't know EVERY step that evolution took. This is like letting off the suspect because the prosecution can't yet determine what mode of transport the suspect used to get to the crime scene. This is very different from an alibi. An alibi would show that it was impossible for the suspect to get to the crime scene. Not knowing the method of transportation is not the same as showing it impossible, or even unlikely.

In any case, as I said, this particular view of God dates back to Augustine's time, in the 400's or so, a good 1400 years before Darwin was so much as a mischievous gleam in his father's eye. So this is a case of the facts fitting the theory, not fitting a theory to the facts.

I don't see the consistency. Belief in God was far higher in past centuries. There was no theory of evolutionary biology with ability to explain life on Earth. So either belief in God was rationally compelled at that time, and dubious now, or else it was dubious then and rationally counter-compelled now.

It seems to me that the Augustine argument would have worked better in his age. Theology is a bundle of contradictions, but God was somewhat compelling given the existence of life. Now you have a bundle of contradictions and overwhelming evidence that life was not designed.

The lesson that you refuse to learn is, the simple fact of design does not imply limitless choice. I look forward to repeating this point when you again assume the opposite without argument in your next response.

Well, I'm glad you were looking forward to this! It's easy for you to play this game, and dart from one contradictory scheme to another when you refuse to be pinned down on the attributes of the designer. One minute the designer is lowly and technologically limited, and the next minute, the designer is all powerful. Each of these options comes with consequences, and you're not free to match the limited choice of a limited designer with the limitless lifespan and omniscience of a god (or the unlimited options of a god with the poor tech of a limited designer).

If the designer is a god, the choices are limitless. It's also true that in that case, the theology is horribly broken. Our monkey brains are not going to be diverting to such a god, and libertarian free will is logically incoherent. And then there's the problem of evil, and the fact that a "god of the flies" can't be a loving god.

If the designer is limited in ability, how did he cross space? It's a very long way to go for a work of alternative art. Also, if the limited designer had space travel technology, there are far quicker and more effective ways to colonize a planet. So we ought to see a bunch of superior civilizations around, which we don't.

You just can't mix and match attributes of these radically different designers and come up with a coherent story.

Again, we are operating under the assumption that the phones would be designed to evolve. So while we'd certainly run into a few surprises now and again, we could set a pretty decent limit on how much it could vary from generation to generation, and in what respects.

This contradicts your original claims that evolution is easier for the designer. If you have to police the evolving system, it's not free. Your model requires continuous intervention by the designer to keep the system from doing anything the designer finds unpleasant. And if the designer knew what was unpleasant ahead of time, then it would make the evolution approach pointless.

Your comments about phones and shirts make this point for me. You spend the whole time throwing out (=killing) the bad phones/shirts, so that only the preferred ones survive. Now recall that the changes per generation are relatively small. That's a massive number of phones and shirts to destroy on your way to getting something better. Not only this, but the differences within a generation are only statistical significant. You would need to, say, preferentially keep the shirts with thread count 204 while killing the shirts with thread count 198. Doesn't sound to me like an intelligent way to get a better shirt.

Had Galileo refrained from insisting the theory was literally true, the Church wouldn't have bothered him. They never bothered Copernicus when he promoted the same theory a generation before, because Copernicus never said heliocentrism was true, only that it was simpler.

First, who made the church the arbiter of what is true? I don't understand why the church is forgiven for being a torturing, corrupt, authoritarian dictatorship that interfered in scientific study (and that's after outright halting it for about 1000 years).

Second, they didn't bother Copernicus because he was too afraid to publish his work while he had any life left in him. And even then it was published with ridiculous accommodations to the church in its preface.

Geocentrism can be supported with equally good predictions as long as you are willing to make your orbits arbitrarily complex. If you try to keep the orbits simple as Ptolemy did, then you will run into experimental trouble. Again, the question was about simplicity from the get go.

It's not until you get into inertia and gravitational fields that geocentrism starts to look completely wrong (as opposed to just clumsy and complex).

Your original point about the geo/helio debate was that the debate contradicted Bayesian reasoning, and relied on simplicity instead. I showed that if all you care about is which object is at the center of your coordinate system, Bayesian thinking can't tell you anything. You can improve accuracy by making your system more complex. But if accuracy is all you care about, then there's no difference between the two models. The reason that heliocentrism wins is that it is the answer to the question "which system results in the simplest orbits?" And if that's the question, then Bayesian reasoning moves in the same direction as simplicity.

Anonymous said...

How could Augustine be motivated to keep the designer myth alive in the 400's? There was no alternative to the designer myth in his time. Perhaps he was motivated by a search for the truth? But this is surely too much for you to concede to people who have the audacity disagree with you.

I readily admit that there is much unassailable evidence for evolutionary theory. I'm only pointing out that you are perfectly willing to accept the just-so stories with no evidence that support evolution. It is worth noting that evolution has far more just-so stories with no evidence than any other contemporary theory of similar status.

I'm not aware that Behe's thesis was soundly refuted. Was it not "refuted" by the very just-so stories that make no predictions that you were just objecting to? Can you give an account of the evolutionary development of the flagellum that makes testable predictions, or can you just tell a pretty story about how it may, for all we know, have happened?

You're stretching the criminal justice analogy to the breaking point if you are suggesting that an opponent of a theory has to show that the theory's accounting for a datum is impossible. If you're familiar with the concept of the underdetermination of theories, you know this is impossible. Surely, showing that it is unlikely (on the assumption of the truth of the theory) is sufficient.

I've mislead you a bit. Augustine's argument wasn't that God partially hides to provide for free will. Augustine's argument was (though this is hotly debated) that God created in somewhat of an evolutionary fashion. Augustine argued that God created using "seminal principles". He created things in seed form that then developed later without his direct input. I don't know that the idea that this is done explicitly to provide space for freedom was considered by him. I don't know the exact date of that. You seemed to be saying that anything like theistic evolution could only be a retreat on the part of Christians to the advance of evolutionary theory. I pointed out Augustine to show this isn't the case. (I'm sure Augustine had theological reasons for assuming God created in this way, but I don't know what they were.)

As I said, God's purposes in this scenario would simply be to keep disbelief a viable option. There were plenty of atheists prior to evolutionary theory, so obviously this balance was kept. Also, there's lots of things at God's disposal to keep belief in Him from being rationally compulsory. Arguably, evil disconfirms God, and arguably, people in antiquity were exposed to more evil than at least modern day Westerners are. So on balance, the evidential situation vis a vis God has probably always been on about equal for nearly all human beings at nearly all times. (At least, as concerns a generic Higher Power).

The point is that, in all ways that God works, He will never make belief compulsory or impossible. It will always require a free, conscious, moral choice.

Of course theology is a bundle of contradictions. What would you expect? There are as many theologians as there are people. The only thing that matters is that there are as few contradictions within any individual or institution's theology. It's not that big of a deal if my theology contradicts a Calvinists or a Muslims. I should be very worried if it didn't.

And I think there's still pretty good evidence that the universe was designed. In fact, it seems to fit the theory I advanced that as scientific evidence for the design of species waned, scientific evidence for the design of the cosmos (the big bang, fine tuning, etc.) emerged to keep things somewhat balanced. Talk of God is all the rage in popular physics books these days.

I don't understand all your theology is broken comments. Our monkey brains quite obviously can desire and serve God. I don't think libertarian free will is any worse off than any other account of free will, and, to badly paraphrase Plantinga (I think) I'm much more convinced that my experience of free will is veridical than I am that any of the premises in anti-libertarian arguments are true. I don't think the problem of evil is that big of a problem, in fact, as I mentioned in this thread, I think evil is actually predicted by Christianity and is (presently at least) part of God's plan. I'm not literary enough to get exactly what you're referring to with the Lord of the Flies reference. Never read the book.

Point being, I gave you a reason that God would have to create like He did. It's certainly a viable option for you to then try to disprove this by showing that this conception of God doesn't exist. Good luck. Just know that should you fail, then that reason stands.

I haven't tried to mix and match designers to create a coherent story. You are the one conflating all design concepts into the "magic genie" concept. I think I was about as explicit as I could be in my last post that, far from advocating one hodge-podge creation account, I was reminding you that there were scores of them.

I don't know how the designers crossed the universe. Maybe they were on a nearby planet or body and went extinct, or left the solar system. At any rate, none of these are alibis, to use your words. In fact, not only do these objections not show that directed panspermia is impossible, it doesn't even show that it's unlikely. The universe, to put it mildly, is a very big place. It's not a reasonable prediction to generate from the mere fact of panspermia that advanced civilizations should be ubiquitous within our sphere of observation. These objections, you'll forgive me, just look like desperate nonsense. It should be clear to anyone reading that none of the scenarios I presented are impossible or unlikely based on what we know. There's no evidence that things happened this way, but there's no good objection to ignoring the possibility that they could have happened in this way. Anyone, like yourself, who insists on discounting the possibility beforehand is motivated by ideology.

It might be true that getting new shirts aren't strictly free. But it's not necessary that it be completely free, only that it's well worth whatever effort it takes to the designer. It would certainly be worth it to me to get a handful of new, clean clothes a day if the only cost were throwing a way a few clothes I didn't like. This is so OBVIOUSLY true, I can't understand why you're debating it. If I offered you a shirt that, over the course of the next year, would create for you 100 more shirts that you liked, and the only "cost" to you would be having to throw out or give away 2 shirts a day, would you take that shirt? Who WOULDN'T take that shirt?

Again, assuming we're DESIGNING an evolutionary process, then I could make the shirts vary to whatever degree I wanted.

The church hated science? That's pretty far off. I'm not going to chase that particular rabbit. I agree the Church has no legitimate authority to decide all truth. The Church thought that it did, though, and so they intervened.

Lots of people openly advocated heliocentrism as a model and were completely unharrassed by the Catholic Church. In fact, the Church didn't bother Galileo until he published a pamphlet making fun of the Pope, who, far from hating science, was an ACTIVE FINANCIAL PATRON and protector of Galileo until he felt he was betrayed by him. And I also doubt that they would have bothered Galileo were it not for this little thing called The Reformation going on at the time.

"I showed that if all you care about is which object is at the center of your coordinate system, Bayesian thinking can't tell you anything."

Exactly. And that's what the debate was about.

Anonymous said...

"I'm not aware that Behe's thesis was soundly refuted. Was it not "refuted" by the very just-so stories that make no predictions that you were just objecting to?"

That seems to be your main problem here: you really are rather ignorant (unaware) of the current state of evolutionary science.

"As I said, God's purposes in this scenario would simply be to keep disbelief a viable option. There were plenty of atheists prior to evolutionary theory, so obviously this balance was kept. "

This is so weird: you want to try and incorporate God into a scientific theory (ID) and yet you also want to make it impossible for scientists to really prove God designnd anything in order to give people the freedom to reject God.

Doctor Logic said...

Anonymous,

I readily admit that there is much unassailable evidence for evolutionary theory. I'm only pointing out that you are perfectly willing to accept the just-so stories with no evidence that support evolution.

Sure I am, for the very reasons I pointed out in my last comment. Evolution has been convicted with high probability by unassailable evidence. The trivia of the case is assumed to go along with the conviction unless firm alibis come to light.

I'm not aware that Behe's thesis was soundly refuted. Was it not "refuted" by the very just-so stories that make no predictions that you were just objecting to?

It was soundly refuted. Behe's claim only worked if it was impossible (super-improbable) for evolution to produce IC structures. Co-option disproved his claim. Without that robust claim, he's just saying that we haven't totally explained the evolution of certain IC structures yet. Many of the structures like the flagellum and blood clotting show indications of co-option. So it's not a valid objection to the overall theory to say that some of the co-options have yet to be explained. (It's even possible some will have been erased by history.)

Similarly, if we had overwhelming evidence for design, it would not stand as much of an objection to the overall theory that we didn't know what a particular design was for. However, we have no evidence for design. Design has made no predictions that have been verified. Indeed, evolution is overwhelmingly counter to design, which is why you have to propose a designer who wants to look invisible. A conspiracy theory. And I don't have to accept just-so stories from conspiracy theories because conspiracy theories like ID aren't overwhelmingly confirmed.

You're stretching the criminal justice analogy to the breaking point if you are suggesting that an opponent of a theory has to show that the theory's accounting for a datum is impossible... Surely, showing that it is unlikely (on the assumption of the truth of the theory) is sufficient.

If I am 99% certain in the theory, I need to be at least 99% certain in the new alibi before it breaks the theory.

But the ID crowd has not a single example where evolution is unlikely. All they can point to is ignorance. In the case of the flagellum they ask "how do you completely explain this?" Well, that's not evidence against the theory. And it's not a rational reason to doubt unguided evolutionary biology.


There were plenty of atheists before evolutionary biology? There were a handful. It's not until the 20th century that we see atheism start to take hold (especially in Europe).

Arguably, evil disconfirms God, and arguably, people in antiquity were exposed to more evil than at least modern day Westerners are. So on balance, the evidential situation vis a vis God has probably always been on about equal for nearly all human beings at nearly all times.

So there has been a lot of moral progress, right? Glad to see you agree on that point. Nevertheless, I don't buy your claim about the evidential situation being constant.

It's no longer rational to believe in a designer. Unguided evolution is overwhelmingly confirmed. The problem of evil is only a problem for good gods, not evil ones. The presence of evolutionary biology plagues both equally.

In fact, it seems to fit the theory I advanced that as scientific evidence for the design of species waned, scientific evidence for the design of the cosmos (the big bang, fine tuning, etc.) emerged to keep things somewhat balanced. Talk of God is all the rage in popular physics books these days.

The argument for anthropomorphic fine-tuning is not compelling to physicists who understand the details. First, the physical constants are not all independent parameters. Second, sensitivity to one parameter does not mean that you can't vary two (or more) parameters and end up with a hospitable universe. So we really have no idea how much of the parameter space is friendly to life of some description.

More importantly, if you do a Bayesian analysis, you'll find that the probability of life forming in a given universe simply drops out of the equation. The analysis relies on factors like the probability of life given the probability of having certain physical constants, C. When you do the math, you find that the probability of finding life as a function of C drops out of the equation. That means that we cannot rationally conclude that the universe is fine-tuned for life based on our observations. It may be fine-tuned in the sense of having parameter values that are very different, but that's not a terribly interesting fact.


While you may think libertarian free will is alive, philosophers have pretty much dropped it like a hot potato. It's logically incoherent. Plantinga's argument is compelling only to Christian apologists because it begs the question and because it betrays a lack of understanding of evolutionary biology.

Point being, I gave you a reason that God would have to create like He did. It's certainly a viable option for you to then try to disprove this by showing that this conception of God doesn't exist.

Here again, you keep suggesting that the mere possibility of design, no matter how small, places design on an equal footing with unguided evolution. That's just nonsense. Yes, we can all conceive of conspiracy theories that would leave the door open to the possibility that a conviction, though based on solid evidence, was incorrect. You want me to disprove your conspiracy theory. Well, it's not my job. Nor is it science's job. It is YOUR burden to prove your conspiracy theory to be true.

There's apparently nothing you could ever see that would change your mind because you reject evidence against God as part of God's plan. It's like believing that JFK was murdered by Martians, and taking all evidence that he wasn't as part of a conspiracy on the part of the Martians.

One more comment about theology. In Christianity, God is hidden, and the only way to prove God's existence to oneself is to amplify one's bias towards God. Believe in God they say, and you'll start to see God everywhere. That's the recipe for a self-reinforcing delusion. Just like the Martian conspiracy theory.

I don't know how the designers crossed the universe. Maybe they were on a nearby planet or body and went extinct, or left the solar system. At any rate, none of these are alibis, to use your words.

Again, unguided evolution has been convicted with unassailable evidence. Design has not been convicted because there's zero evidence. And there will always be zero evidence until someone comes up with a theory of the designer, makes a verifiable prediction from it, and then does the experiment to confirm the theory. It's not good enough for there to be the mere remote possibility of design.

It might be true that getting new shirts aren't strictly free. But it's not necessary that it be completely free, only that it's well worth whatever effort it takes to the designer. It would certainly be worth it to me to get a handful of new, clean clothes a day if the only cost were throwing a way a few clothes I didn't like.

I've been over this before and explained that the cost is more than just "throwing away a few clothes". Evolution isn't magic. It's an algorithm that requires continual reference to a fitness function. You have to either define the fitness function ahead of time and encode it into the machinery of the algorithm, or else you have to try out each member of the species for personal taste.

In the case of shirts, the fitness function is YOU! You would have to go through thousands of shirts at immense materials cost, and then select which shirts are good for you at immense personal cost in time and effort. Alternatively, you would have to clone yourself, and have your clones do the selecting for you. If you could write down the spec for a good shirt, you would simply manufacture it for yourself.

Yes, if evolution was magical, and you could just have pretty shirts drop into your lap, it would be great. But there's no such thing as a free lunch.

Ironically, the usual ID argument against genetic algorithms is that GA's don't prove anything because the fitness function is established by the programmer to get the desired goal. Of course, this argument is stupid because the initial programmer of an artificial system is only defining the attributes of a good solution, not designing the solution itself. Here, you're arguing the other extreme: that GA's are highly effective without the need for the designer to specify a fitness function in advance.

Back to our argument... life on this planet evolves for survival and survival alone. That's what the evidence shows. Well, if GA's work, and the fitness function is survival, then there's no need for guidance from a designer. That's why no god is required.

So if you want to evolve shirts to wear, you need thousands of shirt-wearers with your own tastes in shirts. If there's only one of you, you'll have to wear the shirts your self, or else design them instead of evolve them.

And if you can design the evolutionary process to produce the shirts you will want then you can just design and manufacture the shirt. It's easier.

The church hated science?

Um, I said "halted". The scientific advances of the Greeks came to a halt around 450, and were only pieced back together in the 16th century.

Lots of people openly advocated heliocentrism as a model and were completely unharrassed by the Catholic Church.

Never heard that. Is "as a model" a kind of code word?

"I showed that if all you care about is which object is at the center of your coordinate system, Bayesian thinking can't tell you anything."

Exactly. And that's what the debate was about.


No, it wasn't. Bayesian thinking tells you heliocentrism is the simplest solution, because simplicity was the original question. Even Ptolemy knew this.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it's unreasonable to accept just-so stories within a theory just because other parts of a theory are highly-confirmed. Newton's theory was probably more highly-confirmed than evolution, but that doesn't mean we should accept Newton's conjecture that God nudges the planets. If your just-so theory can't make a prediction, then accepting it without question is just preventing you from coming up with a theory that could make a testable prediction. It's anti-science to accept any unevidenced just-so story.

But isn't any specific incidence of co-option itself highly improbable? How many unassailable, well-evidenced examples of cooption do we have? If you have a highly improbable event, you can't make that event probable by conjecturing it could have been caused by another equally improbable event. If I'm defending a claim that a coin I flipped landed on its side, it's no good for me to try to convince people it's possible by explaining that the coin was hit by lightning in mid-flip. Improbable + Improbable = Improbable.

Besides all that, it's just bad form to insist that every structure that defies explanation in evolutionary terms can just be claimed to be the result of cooption without strong evidence. Particularly when strong arguments have been produced against every just-so, un-evidenced, cooption story, like the one here:

http://www.idthink.net/biot/flag1/

First, I want to remind you that there are dozens of design theories, so you couldn't possibly know that none of them have ever made a verified testable prediction. You continue to refer to some magical, ethereal, undefined, generic "design theory" that doesn't exist. I gave you a list of several predictions design made that have been verified, and you didn't respond to any of them. Specific design theories predicted that a purpose would be found for junk DNA, and it has. It predicted that a function would be found for vestigal organs, and in some cases, they have. Now, does this put it in the same evidential sphere as evolution? Of course not, I would never claim so. But it does show that design theories (note the plural) can make testable predictions, and does have an evidentiary base from which to launch objections.

If you're 99% certain of a theory A, you only need to be 50% certain of theory B before your adherence
to theory A becomes unwarranted.

Suppose I'm 99% sure that I was robbed by the notorious mugger Tom. I am sure because I've seen Tom's picture on TV, and recognized him as he was holding me up. Now suppose I learn that Tom has an identical twin, Ron, who is just as notorious a mugger and who was also in the area at the time. Should I still cling to the theory I was robbed by Tom?

There were millions of atheists before evolutionary theory. Buddhists are arguably atheists. So are Confucionists. You could, in fact, argue that most of Asia (not including India) had no concept of anything like the traditional God, and didn't really worship the gods they did recognize. I'm of the opinion that there have always been loads of atheists. Particularly with the evangelization of Asia, I don't think there are any more atheists today than there ever have been. I just think the current environment is more conducive for admitting atheism than it was a hundred or two hundred years ago. At any rate, as there is no reliable data on the subject, both of us are just guessing.

The claim of moral progress confirms theism, not naturalism, if you didn't know. First, on naturalism, there is arguably no real "good" for morals to progress to. The concept of goodness is just a biological adaptation, and whatever notion of goodness allows for survival is perfectly fine, and so the question of "progress" is meaningless, unless you mean "progressively more survival-enhancing". Furthermore, how would it be an argument against God's existence that people have become progressively more moral over its existence? Wouldn't this be a more natural prediction emerging from theism than from naturalism?

Design arguments aren't compelling to physicists who understand the data? Then I assume you claim a superior scientific knowledge of the subject than the following physicists: Paul Davies, John Polkinghorne, Christopher Isham,
Michal Heller, Hugh Ross, Allan Sandage, Stanley Jaki, Ian Barbour, Charles Townes, C. F. von Weizs├Ącker,etc. Obviously, your bluster contradicts what several Nobel prize winning scientists believe.

I confess that your arguments against the design of the universe make absolutely no sense to me. I probably just don't understand your terminology. I don't know what you mean by "falling out of the equation" in reference to your Bayesian analysis. What we do know is that most of the anthropic coincidences have nothing in common with each other except that, were they slightly different, life couldn't exist. I don't understand how this could not be strong evidence that life is what is being selected for.

At any rate, sure, not all parameters are independent. But we know of many of them that are, and a seriously compelling design argument could be made just sticking to those cases. I'm not sure how citing that some are dependent on each other helps the situation. Let's grant that every anthropic coincidence is explained by a single, elegant, theory of everything. This theory would still not be self-explaining. Surely, there are uncountably many more non-life-permitting ways for a universe to be than there are life-permitting. So we could still construct a compelling design argument that asked why the universe is guided by this life-permitting theory rather than any other (or, indeed, none at all).

IOW, the best a naturalist can do here is trade several dozen massively improbable coincidences for a single GARGANTUANLY improbable coincidence. Which is why most opt for a multiverse explanation rather than simply claim that the whole matter will be resolved by a theory of everything.

I'm aware that libertarianism is a minority view, but IMO it's been nobly defended by folks like Robert Kane, Peter Van Inwagen, and others. I'll leave your uninformed slander of Plantinga uncommented on, since you didn't bother to defend your spurious charges.

You make several shameful, naked attempts to shift the goal posts in this response.

First, I never, ever claimed, nor would I claim, that any individual biological design theory, nor (if such were possible) a conglomeration of the non-contradictory parts of the various design theories, is anything like being CLOSE to equal evidential footing to evolution. I believe I've said this explicitly before, and if I haven't, I'll say so again: evolution is by far the most scientifically, evidentially confirmed theory regarding the origin of species.

What I've been trying to do is not prove that intelligent design is evidentially equal to evolution. I've been trying to show that your objections which are meant to discount the very possibility of intelligent design, or the initial improbability of intelligent design, are way off base. You've been arguing that ID has prior probability issues that should keep it from even being considered, and I've simply been arguing that this isn't the case.

Let's take a close look at your shameful argumentative tactics. You claimed that the very age of life was evidence that it was not designed, since you thought no designer would have a reason to create in a way that took so long. I pointed out several scenarios under several design theories under which a designer would have a need to design life in a way that took that long.

And in response, you offer the non-sequitor that in showing your objections don't hold water, I'm claiming that evolution and ID are on equal footing!

But your attempts at goal-post shifting do not end there, unfortunately.

The subject of the evolved shirts was not about whether the scenario of the evolved shirt exactly replicated evolutionary theory. The subject of evolved shirts was about your claim that human designers would never design ANYTHING that evolved, EVEN IF THEY COULD.

So sure, I'm doing the selecting. How does that alter the point that I'd design a shirt that evolved if I could? Since were discussing a shirt that's DESIGNED TO EVOLVE, I don't have to mimic actual evolutionary theory! How could anything be more obvious! So, if I could design a shirt that evolved along parameters that were useful to me and my lifestyle (which I obviously would), why wouldn't I do that? Sure, I know I like black clothes, and I could design a single black outfit I liked. But I'm not a fashion designer, it's not even something that remotely interests me, and thus I find the time I'd have to spend picking out randomnly differentiated clothes more valuable than the larger time it would take me to design or shop for clothes I like.

Thus, you haven't disproved what the analogy was meant to prove. You haven't PROVED that all designers have good reasons NOT TO DESIGN THINGS THAT EVOLVE, which was your original claim. You claimed that the very idea of common descent was something so problematic or inefficient that all rational designers would avoid it, and I used the shirt analogy to show that wasn't true.

That answers the question of why a generic designer would design something that evolved in some generic, unspecified way. The question would still remain why a designer would design things in a way identical to current evolutionary theory. I've also given you several reasons why a designer would do that. All this is about is challenging your a priori assumptions about what a designer would do or wouldn't do. None of them hold water.

I'll grant that scientific advance hit a slow spot in the middle ages (though not as slow as you think, probably). What's your evidence that the Church caused this, particularly when science was revived mostly by committed Christians with the Church's blessing? There are lots of other culprits: the collapse of the Roman Empire, the lack of middle class income that provided for the leisure for performing abstract experiments, the influence of the work of Aristotle (which penetrated even theology - much work was done to make Scripture line up with Aristotle's writings), etc.

"As a model" is code for "not literally true". That's all the Church wanted Galileo to do. They didn't want him to stop his research, they just wanted him to stop telling people that the sun was, actually and truthfully, at the center of the universe. Look it up, for the love of Pete. This is all meticulously documented historically.

Wow, on that last line. You really are a fan of the "when your argument is refuted, repeat it" approach. Find me a quote from a single historian who will agree with you that the heliocentrism controversy was about the fact that the Church thought that Ptolemy's version was simpler, while Galileo thought that heliocentrism was. You'll search in vain. I can, on the other hand, literally drown you with entire books on the subject that show clearly that the issue at hand was much more political, social, and religious. Galileo stood up in the middle of the reformation, as the Catholic Church was losing its hold over Europe, and declaring that any scientist could force a reinterpretation of Scripture based on their discoveries. The Church wanted sole possession of the ability to interpret scripture, and so did not allow Galileo to teach his theories as true, since their prior interpretation of certain passages of Scripture held that the sun orbited the earth. Contrary to popular belief, that particular doctrine was no big deal to the Catholics. There's no central Christian doctrine that depends on geocentrism. What is a big deal is that they reserve the right to dictate the interpretation of Scripture.

That is absolutely what the DEBATE was about. That's what the controversy was about. It's a historical fact. If you ignore this in your next post, I'm going to assume that, on this particular subject, you've just committed yourself to remain willfully ignorant, and let the matter lie. Because this is a factual matter, and the facts just aren't on your side.

Doctor Logic said...

Anonymous,

I don't think it's unreasonable to accept just-so stories within a theory just because other parts of a theory are highly-confirmed.

But I'm not accepting just so stories.

Behe claimed that evolving IC was impossible. Some co-option stories may be just-so, but they refute the impossibility claim. I don't have to accept any particular just-so story, when any just-so story defeats the strong claim that evolution doesn't work.

Just to get the technical aspects correct... If the evolution constructs an IC system via a direct route, then it would have to involve the simultaneous mutations needed for all (or most) of the components of the system. This is far too improbable, and was Behe's ariginal argument.

However, if there is co-option, then this IC-related probability barrier goes away. The components can evolve for other purposes at no penalty because generational simultaneity is no longer a requirement. So the IC objection is destroyed.

Your suggestion that co-option is improbable is unwarranted. For example, co-option is believed to have occurred for feathers in birds (originally they were insulation). You don't know the probability of evolving feathers from scales, nor the probability of evolving flight feathers from insulating feathers.

Once the strong IC argument goes away, all you're left with is an argument from ignorance. You (or Mike Gene) can say "you don't know how X evolved," but that's not a proof that it could not have evolved or even that it was unlikely to have evolved. It's just the fact that it remains unexplained as of today.

And, by the way, ID fails to offer an alternative explanation. Sure, it's possible that X was designed, but is it any less improbable that it was designed than that it evolved? Design theorists are silent because they refuse to discuss the designer.

Meanwhile, the fundamental conclusion from common descent is that stuff evolved in a way compatible with unguided evolution. This puts design at a massive disadvantage.

Specific design theories predicted that a purpose would be found for junk DNA, and it has. It predicted that a function would be found for vestigal organs, and in some cases, they have.

I challenge you to produce a well-formulated version of such a theory.

What are the assumptions about the designer and the design? The assumption is that the designer is God, and that God is a perfect designer, and a perfect designer wouldn't make mistakes. But this doesn't predict a lack of junk DNA in your theology because this world isn't supposed to be flawless. It's supposed only to be as perfect as it turns out to be (because we're fallen to some unspecified degree). So our junk DNA and our vestigial organs are perfect for creating just the right amount of disharmony and human suffering, etc.

This typical of the sloppy work of ID "theorists". What is the prediction, and how does the prediction follow from the premises?

Suppose I'm 99% sure that I was robbed by the notorious mugger Tom. I am sure because I've seen Tom's picture on TV, and recognized him as he was holding me up. Now suppose I learn that Tom has an identical twin, Ron, who is just as notorious a mugger and who was also in the area at the time. Should I still cling to the theory I was robbed by Tom?

That's not analogous to the situation. You don't know there's a twin mugger. ID theorists claim there is. And they claim it based on the fact that you don't know how Tom got to you to rob you. If you convict Tom in a court of law, his alibi cannot be "MAYBE I have a twin brother who is also a mugger." That would be a fine-tuned version of the innocence theory without the evidence. The odds of having a twin brother are small, and the odds of having a twin mugger still more remote. Sheesh. This shouldn't be this difficult.

What we do know is that most of the anthropic coincidences have nothing in common with each other except that, were they slightly different, life couldn't exist.

No, you don't know that at all. All you know is that varying one parameter at a time leads to universes in which animals like us cannot exist. A very different proposition.

I don't understand how this could not be strong evidence that life is what is being selected for.

Here's a thought experiment.

Suppose there are two possibilities: there is one phone booth with a person in it, or there are 100 phone booths, the first 5 of which have people in them.

Now, you want to test which possibility is the more likely. Suppose there is a phone number you can dial that connects you with a phone booth at random. Suppose that you're also allowed only one call.

If a person in the phone booth answers, then you ought to be far more confident that scenario #1 is the case, i.e., that there is a single, occupied phone booth. Why? Because while it's possible you called one of the 5 occupied booths in scenario #2, it's unlikely. Whereas in scenario #1, the odds are 100% that someone will answer.

So far so good.

But suppose that the test phone number you dial always calls the first phone booth. Or always calls an occupied phone booth. How should that change your confidence in either theory? Answer: it doesn't change.

So it is in the case of the universe. Imagine countless universes, each with different physical parameters. What is our sample? Only our own universe. It's as if we can only phone worlds in which life (us) exists.

Again, the hallmark of design is utility to a designer. Life, in general, is not a utility. Least of all to universe builders.

I've been trying to show that your objections which are meant to discount the very possibility of intelligent design, or the initial improbability of intelligent design, are way off base. You've been arguing that ID has prior probability issues that should keep it from even being considered, and I've simply been arguing that this isn't the case.

ID most certainly does have prior probability handicaps. There are countless design possibilities, and only an infinitesimal subset of them look like evolution. Clearly, ID needs fine-tuning to overcome this, but until that fine-tuning can be backed up with predictive evidence, ID is going nowhere. If I take your advice, I open the door to every kooky conspiracy theory in existence.

You talk about "shameful argumentative tactics"?!

Give me an ID theory that's not contradictory. Tell me who the designer is, what their needs or desires are, and what predictions follow from your fine-tuning assumptions. I don't even need for you to have verified predictions.

Until then, this is just another ID shell game based on no evidence.

The subject of evolved shirts was about your claim that human designers would never design ANYTHING that evolved, EVEN IF THEY COULD.

Come on, that's just nonsense. Humans have evolved circuits (among other things) using genetic algorithms. Clearly humans do use GA's to solve real world problems.

The point is that evolution is far more expensive an algorithm than design if design is an alternative. We don't use GA's to design computer circuits because we know what we want from computer circuits, and we know how to get it. We use design for computer circuits because we are assured of robust results in predictable time frames. We use GA's to design circuits in when design is not a viable alternative. Analogue circuits are far harder to predict. In fact, some analogue circuits designed by GA's are mysterious to humans.

Your original claim was that a super-sophisticated designer would design the world using evolution. That's the exact opposite scenario to human design. It also suggests that your designer doesn't know what he wants in the first place (in the same way you don't know what you want in a shirt). Again, you're picking and choosing aspects of different designers, and blending each contradictory choice where it fits.

Is the designer of evolution super sophisticated? Does he know what he wants in advance? What does he want (if anything)? Does it cost the designer anything to intervene continuously? Get a story and stick to it.

Bottom line, most designs are not evolutionary because GA's are inefficient when you know what you want. Most designs happen as the result of knowing what one wants.