Friday, July 28, 2006

Designer or No Designer? by Nicholas Trevor

Designer or No Designer? Or Why I Will Not Accept ID


You could call this discussion a 'back to basics' one…if we strip the evolution-ID debate of all the details, then we are ultimately left with one basic question: was there a designer/were there designers involved in the evolutionary process (I don't think there is a debate whether evolution did actually occur, it is about whether the evolutionary mechanisms involved are sufficient to account for the entire process, as we know it), whether from scratch, sometime in between, or even at present. Let's leave the nature of the 'designers' aside for a minute: what needs to be considered here is that they were 'intelligent' and they 'consciously' made actions that resulted in these processes (I am using 'intelligence' and 'consciously' as terms that we generally accept). The other option obviously would be whether the myriad of biological mechanisms observed are capable, by themselves, for resulting in a process that ultimately resulted in the diversity of life forms present today.

Of course, the notion that we were 'designed' in that sense is nothing new. After all, folklore in most cultures was that humans were created by God/s in some way or the other. That was the generally accepted worldview, which continues even to this day. For many people, the thought that the complexity of the biological world, with its interconnections can never be accounted for by the so-called 'blind' or 'unintelligent' natural processes. Darwin's ideas were thus revolutionary in the sense that he made observations that showed a chain of events that linked different species over time. He had no understanding of genetics, which would later show how much genetic material we share, in spite of morphological differences with other animals. Over a hundred years down the line, his ideas persist, and are still as controversial as the day they were born.

That the scientific theory of evolution is 'godless' and 'morally unacceptable' is a commonly held notion from Darwin's days. I personally think that most people, who argue for the 'designers' to be present, are bound by this conviction, and are not genuinely trying to advance scientific understanding. Such people try to put up a scientific fa├žade for their 'designer' argument, and this is extremely dishonest. These include the majority of the DI stable. I think the people who genuinely try and make scientific arguments (by scientific, I mean testable hypotheses) are far and few, and they realize that they can never win the argument when it comes to who or what the designer was. After all, how many ID'ers sincerely argue the option that the designer would have been an advanced race of aliens? The oft asked question is that why does the designer have to be a Christian god? Why not others? (I see religion as a social construction and since this is not a debate about religion, so I will leave at these comments) It is an open secret that many of the people in the ID movement carry a negative assumption about evolutionary theory because it stands at odds with their religious beliefs. Thus they try to prove it wrong in many ways: whether through outright denial or through more nuanced arguments, where they try to flesh out the cracks. (The 'god of the gaps' argument). Unfortunately, religion and science do cross paths when people feel that the beliefs espoused by either of the two are at odds with each other. It is easy to say that they should be kept separate, but is more difficult in practice.

For these people, problems in the understanding of the evolutionary theory are seized upon as the evidence for an ID 'theory'. This is the reason why, I would never accept Behe's arguments for ID. Using the example of a bacterial flagellum as an example is a wonderful case of intellectual laziness. If our current level of knowledge is insufficient to definitively account for all the aspects surrounding its evolution, would we rather try and find other possible natural mechanisms, or just assume that they are designed?

On the other hand, if we were designed, how would we know? In my opinion, and in this particular case -- not until the designers explicitly reveal themselves to us. We can argue all we want (in the current situation) that X is the sign of the designer or that Y shows proof of a designer, but then none of these can scientifically hold water. I am confident that our understanding of these gaps will continue to improve. I make this argument without the assumption that science can take a know-it-all attitude, or that science can make decisions about the moral implications of certain findings. Contrary to this, I think people need to make informed judgments about the moral and ethical consequences. And these need not come from religion. People can see an image of Jesus wherever they want to, but are these definitive proofs that he is giving us a sign?

I think we are scratching the surface of our understanding as how life has evolved on this planet. I also think knowledge is slowly converging from various disciplines. Take Stephen Wolfram, for example. Although I am not fond of quoting him, he hammers home a single important point in his book A New Kind of Science: complexity can arise from the use of very simple rules. This is overwhelmingly seen in computer simulations (interestingly Wolfram emphasizes that the diversity of species we see today can be better explained by self-organizing processes rather than natural selection, however, he is trained as a physicist and not a biologist. Personally, I think self-organization has a much larger role to play in evolutionary biology, and we are only beginning to discover this). One can use this model to see, for example, how complex biological structures may 'emerge', without being entirely 'programmed' (for the lack of a better word). I think that there are many mysteries in the evolutionary process, and they will not be solved for a long time to come. To embrace ID would be to underscore our weaknesses in accepting the evolutionary challenge.

50 comments:

Nicholas Trevor said...

Thanks, Alan. Have you been reading the "evolutionanddesign" blog of late? IMO, PvM's arguments have provided the best knowledge about providing rebuttals to ID claims that I have read so far. No wonder they seem to be all riled up about him.

JohnADavison said...

Pim van Meurs is totally without any sembalnce of decency. He is an egomaniacal atheist ultraDarwinian mystic who never did an experiment in his life. He has been banned from all decent forums. His history is legendary as an obstructionist troublemaker. I am amazed you would put any credence on anything the man has ever said.

To deny a past Intelli8gence far beyond our power to comprehend is unthinkable. We will never be able to undertand the creation and subsequent evolution of life on the basis of known natural phenomena. Both ontogeny and phylogeny have proceeded independently of the environment in which they took place, driven entirely from within by predetermined information which had been front-loaded into the evolving forms long ago by an unkown number of programmers at unknown sites and at unknown times.

While it is true that there is no evidence that such Creators now exist there is no question that they once did. That must not be denied just as Grasse claimed:

"However that may be, the existence of internal factors affecting evolution has to be accepted by any objective mind..."
Evolution of Living Organisms, page 209.

So much for the objectivity of the Darwinian mind. Absolutely nothing in the Darwinian fairy tale ever had anything to do with evolution, not natural selection, not allelic mutation, not sexual reproduction and not population genetics. They are now and always were nothing but figments of an overactive and highly predisposed, "prescribed" atheist imagination.

"A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable."
John A. Davison

i love it so!

Biogeer said...

Is JAD for real? Or is there just a Salty-bot that assembles posts out of a random combination of the same (small) set of ad hominem arguments, arguments from authority, random quotations and unsupported assertions? There is certianly no sign that any form of autonomous intelligence is producing this repetitive dreck.

JohnADavison said...

biogeer

I am not only real I am actually a published scientist which is why I can use my real name. I don't even know who you are and don't care to.

Biogeer said...

I didn't ask if you were real, I asked if you were for real. Your emptyheaded squawking, moron-by-numbers posting habits and grade-school argumentation leave much doubt.

Jeannot said...

There is certianly no sign that any form of autonomous intelligence is producing this repetitive dreck

I agree. JAD dispoves ID by himself.

Alan Fox said...

I see religion as a social construction and since this is not a debate about religion, so I will leave at these comments

I totally agree that religion is a social construct, and we can have a separate thread if anyone else is interested.

Nicholas Trevor said...

John: I have no idea about what PvM's past history is. I have been reading his arguments for the first time at the evolutionanddesign blog, and I thought they were thoughtful posts.

We are far from knowing the exact details of the evolutionary processes in many cases, and I think we will never find entire fossil records to trace exact lineages. But
I also think that there is enough experimental and empirical evidence to prove the influence of the mechanisms of natural selection. There has been a lot of work done in the form of computer simulations which prove that complex features can arise without being predetermined in the organisms. This was shown by biologist Tom Ray's Tierra project and more recently, by Christoph Adami's Avida software.

JohnADavison said...

nicholas trevor.

No computer simulation can ever produce more than what was originally programmed into it. I believe with Leo Berg that there is and was no room for chance in either ontogeny or phylogeny. That is what led to the Prescribed Evolutionary Hypothesis to which I am firmly committed and will be until it is proven to be inadequate. So far it is in concert with everything we really know about the great mystery of organic evolution. There is absolutely nothing in the Darwinian model that ever had anything to do with creative evolution beyond the formation of varieties.

"A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable."
John A. Davison

Biogeer said...

The long and the short of it is: there is absolutely no evidence of any designer(s), past or present. Natural selection and natural genetic variation are both necessary and sufficient to explain the variety of past and present life we have observed. The ID movement is comprised uniformly of the deluded and the dishonest.

JohnADavison said...

biogeer

I'm afraid you are dead wrong but you sure are not alone. The world is crawling with those who can't
hear Einstein's "music of the spheres." There is strength in numbers don't you know.

"Never in the history of mankind have so many owed so little to so many."
after Winston Churchill

I love it so!

Biogeer said...

No worries, John: you're squarely in the deluded column.

Nicholas Trevor said...

"No computer simulation can ever produce more than what was originally programmed into it" Agreed, but not in all cases. But when you can have a computer simulation produce unanticipated results, especially those which show complex, higher-level behavior that is not inherent in the lower-level rules which defined the starting point, then it speaks volumes for how (relatively) easy it is for complex structures to arise in the natural world. This becomes important in the light of Behe's claims that many biological structures are 'irreducibly complex' and could not possibly have been created without a designer.

JohnADavison said...

Nonsense, pure and simple.

Sorry.

Nicholas Trevor said...

With all due respect John, there is nothing nonsense here. Obviously, you dont want to know.

JohnADavison said...

I don't have to know anythimg more than what several of my predecessors also knew. There was never a role for chance in creative evolution. That was all that I needed in order to put together their views with mine in the form of a new hypothesis for organic evolution - "A Prescribed Evolutionary Hypothesis."

"A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable."
John A. Davison

Alan Fox said...

John,

You are using "know" when you should be using "believe".

The only certainty is that no-one knows anything for certain.

anonymous said...

Is that what you believe, or do you know that, Alan Fox?

JohnADavison said...

Nonsense.

The truth is absolute and needs only to be revealed. That is what science is all about. I thought everybody knew that.

Alan Fox said...

@anonymous

It is my firm belief, but of course I don't know for certain.

Alan Fox said...

The truth is absolute and needs only to be revealed. That is what science is all about.

Absolutely, John. But we can never know the absolute truth; we can only theorise from what we observe. Scientific "facts" are only current theories, improved or discarded as research proceeds.

As you said in a previous comment "I believe with Leo Berg that there is and was no room for chance in either ontogeny or phylogeny."

Your belief is not evidence. Your certainty is not convincing, no matter how often you repeat your mantras.

PS, to stop Springer messing up your blog, you should change it to members only. This would prevent anyone except whowever you wish to invite from commenting there. (Snide comment about how many people this would involve edited out)

JohnADavison said...

I don't need a blog which is why I just recently handed the whole damn thing over to Spravid Dinger.

I recommend all visit what used to be my blog to witness the degeneration that he is now so freely presenting. Frankly I am convinced he is heading for either a rubber room or a straight jacket.

He has just been joined by jujuquisp, another malcontent pervert, which is very fitting. Since they both hate one another it is fitting they should share joint ownership.

It just doesn't get any better than this if you know what I mean.

It is hard to believe isn't it?

Needless to say -

I love it so!

"A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable."
John A. Davison

Alan Fox said...

I find jujuquisp's postings rather inconsistent. Not a charge I could level at you, John.

DaveScot seems to have reversed his former admiration for you, but that doesn't excuse his behaviour on your(?) blog.

But, as I remarked before, you reap what you sow. The sheer volume of gratituous insults you have heaped on people, apparently just for being sceptical of your ideas, does not encourage your being given any respect. Plus denigrating the alleged content of deleted comments, making it impossible for your claims to be verified is a poor way to maintain any credibility.

JohnADavison said...

Stifle yourself dingbat' I delete things that don't relate to the subject of my blog. Got that? Write tht down. Just beause you are too stupid to delete me doesn't mean I suffer from the same problem. Besides my blog isn't even mine any more. It is a gift to jujuquisp and Spravid Dinger. They don;t even thank me. Bye now.

Christian said...

Alan, JAD does have a twisted point, when he states "Just beause (sic) you are too stupid to delete me doesn't mean I suffer from the same problem." You are being kind to allow him to post unfettered here in some ways, but in other ways you are simply allowing him to put himself up for ridicule.

Ah well, the fool is the last one to understand his true nature.

Alan Fox said...

Perhaps you're right, Christian. John does not see his posts as others might see them. One point was to see if that would change over time. It does not seem to have happened.

The blog has slowed right down now and I had thought of closing comments and just leaving the experiment standing.

PS were you suggesting JAD or me as the fool (or perhaps both?) ;)

JohnADavison said...

This fool may have found a publisher for his collected papers. I'll let you know how it works out.

Bye now.

Christian said...

Alan, actually, the major fool is JAD, since he cannot see how simplistic his posts and logic have become.

You can be considered a minor fool for letting him post unabated, but in your case it is forgivable. From what I understand, JAD used to be a professional, and now is no longer a force in science. A bit of sympathy on your part for him simply means you have a soft spot for fallen ones.

JohnADavison said...

I underdtand christian is an anonymous coward.

JohnADavison said...

Falan Ox is obsessed with me because he knows damn well I am right. Why else would he have all these threads dedicated just to me?

I love it so!

JohnADavison said...

Falan Ox

It looks like your gallant experiment is running out of gas. Wrap it up.

I love it so!

Alan Fox said...

This fool may have found a publisher for his collected papers.

Is this publisher respectable, John? Are they putting your papers through any sort of peer review?

Although I suppose this would not be possible as you are without peer, and certainly do not appear to fit neatly into any peer group (other than cranks) that I am aware of.

I'll let you know how it works out.

Please do John, and I look forward to the reaction to your forthcoming event.

JohnADavison said...

Why don't you mouth off over at Uncommon Descent or have you been banned there as you already have been at "brainstorms?" I am holding forth at both forums these days now that Spravid Dinger has disposed of himself. I repeat, you shabby little twerp, wrap it up. Fold your pathetic tent. You are through. This is the most poorly conceived blog I have ever seen.

"A past evolution is undeniable, a present evoution undemonstrable."
John A. Davison

I love it so!

JohnADavison said...

Your blog is finished Falan. Close your shop.

Alan Fox said...

Your blog is finished Falan.

Then why post here, John? Leave the dying in peace.

JohnADavison said...

If you would shut up about me at PT I might be willing to do just that. Until you do you are fair game.

Alan Fox said...

If you would shut up about me at PT...

I can't recall posting anything at all at Panda's Thumb for months. I don't think I have mentioned you much at AtBC other than to relay Springer's allegation that a drink problem was the cause of your being relieved of teaching duties at the University of Vermont.

At any rate, John, I was just suggesting it was not worth your effort posting on a moribund blog. You are very welcome to continue as you wish (within the bounds of language that would not offend my mother).

BTW, I thought it both very forthright and hypocritical that you should complain about post deletions at Uncommon Descent, considering your own rather individual way of deleting posts at your own "blog".

JohnADavison said...

Falan Ox

The last tie I tried to post here I couldn't. Naturally I assumed I had been banned. Also do not try to communncate with me at my new blog as it is reserved for serious discussion and I will not acknowledge messages that do not addreess the subject of the blog. I have no respect for you whatsoever. Got that? Write that down.

Alan Fox said...

John, you are priceless.

When have you entered into a serious discussion in any web forum? You only respond to sycophancy and ignore or insult critics.

JohnADavison said...

I only insult mindless uneducated twerps like yourself. It gves me great pleasure don't you know.

Biogeer said...

Actually, JAD, all you are doing is highlighting what a sad, useless creature you've become. I expect that doesn't bother you since you were "prescribed" to become a laughingstock.

JohnADavison said...

Hey Alan
Why don't you get the boys at Panda's Thumb to readmit me there so I can really get after the swine at Uncommon Descent, especially the biggest bully in cyberspace, Sergeant David Springer USMC. God but that would be fun. Give it some serious consideration and please post this at After The Bar Closes for me will you? If you do that for me I wil be nice to you for a change I promise.

Alan Fox said...

I thought you had a paper to write. You must know there is not a snowball's chance in hell of you being reinstated at AtBC. I can't relay your comment but I'll post a link. That's the best I can do.

LarryFarfarafararman said...

John, you have your own blog. You can't figure out how to use it, but you have your own.

There is not the least chance your crazy coot ramblings will be readmitted to PT or AtBC.

JohnADavison said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Alan Fox said...

John

Comment again if you wish but omit masturbatory references.

JohnADavison said...

Faan Ox

I don't even know what you are mumbling about. If you are going to delete my comments you can kiss my ass you shabby little uneducated twerp. Take me on over at brainstorms before I get banned again by the big bad Sergeant Springer. He apparently is running that show too. Frankly I think he is certifiable. Either that or Dembski is telling him what to say, confident he can get away with anything in Dembski's back yard.

"A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable."
John A. Davison

Alan Fox said...

Take me on over at brainstorms

You need to ask Micah to allow me to re-register, then, John. His email is micah.sparacio@iscid.org.

JohnADavison said...

uppau2

Alan Fox said...

Is that a typo, John?