Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Professor: God Would Not Create the Giraffe’s Recurrent Laryngeal Nerve

One thing evolutionists agree on is that evolution is not only a theory, it is also a scientific fact. It is a curious point of consensus given that, of all the many, many evolutionary claims, it is the one that is most obviously and undeniably false. It is not that evolutionists fail to prove evolution to be a fact. They most definitely have done so, many times over. But their proofs are not scientific.

Evolution may or may not be true, but it is not a scientific fact. No one knows for certain whether evolution is true or not, but we certainly do know what is the state of our knowledge. The claim that evolution is a scientific fact is a claim about the state of our knowledge. And while there is uncertainty about evolution, there is no uncertainty about our knowledge.

We all know what the state of our knowledge is and, from a scientific perspective, that knowledge does not indicate evolution to be a scientific fact. Not even close.

We do not know evolution to be an obvious, compelling explanation of the data—beyond any shadow of a doubt. Yet this is precisely what evolutionists claim.

This simply is not the case. In fact, truth be told, there are tremendous scientific problems with the theory of evolution. We can argue about just how badly evolution fares on the evidence, but the evolutionary claim that it is a scientific fact is an obvious misrepresentation of the science.

But of course the evolutionist’s claims do not stem from science in the first place. For centuries evolutionists have presented a metaphysical—not scientific—certainty. You can find this in the seventeenth century literature, you can find it in today’s literature, and you can find it anywhere in between. Here, for example, is what one professor recently wrote to me:

An omnipotent god could do anything (we guess), but one who is omnipotent, serious, and thoughtful (at least as serious and thoughtful as an exemplary human) would not route wiring from giraffe’s larynx around its aorta

Such truth claims are standard amongst evolutionists. They rush in where wise men fear to tread. They do not hesitate to make claims that no one can demonstrate to be true or false. Such claims are metaphysical, and they are unfalsifiable.

How does the professor know that an omnipotent, serious, and thoughtful god would not route wiring from the giraffe’s larynx around its aorta?

What does the professor know about omnipotent, serious, and thoughtful gods? And what does the professor know about creating giraffes? Precious little, I’m afraid, in both cases.

Evolutionary thought is the height of hubris. It would be difficult to imagine a more anti intellectual tradition within the history of thought.

Of course evolutionists do not know that the many ultimate truth claims they make, which motivate and justify their thinking, are true. Obviously for them evolution must be a no-brainer—their theology demands it. Given such metaphysical axioms then, yes, evolution is a fact. But evolution is not a scientific fact, and that is a fact.

123 comments:

  1. Cornelius Hunter:

    "How does the professor know that an omnipotent, serious, and thoughtful god would not route wiring from the giraffe’s larynx around its aorta?"
    ======

    Excellent question and one which would be answered by an evolutionist with more bolded answers made up on the fly or simply a glaring condescending statement that "You clearly do not understand Evolution". Such soap boxing and side stepping relieves the evolutionist of the responsibility to explain just exactly how they came to know the mind of God better than a believer or even God himself knows himself.

    More and more many of the nature programs allude to many similiar statements. Often they don't necessarily have to bring up the subject of God or evolution in doing so. For example this morning, a Discovery Channel program was going on about the inefficiency of the way a reptile(crocodile, Komoto Dragon) bites off large chunks and gulps down swallowing an entire leg without chewing and what a disadvantage this was. It compare the way a lion eats by smaller bites and chewing it.

    Yet it's funny, the reptiles supposedly have been successful for billions of years doing this. Such human perceived inefficiency doesn't seem to have ever bothered them. Nor has the Giraffe's wiring bothered them since they've been around a long time and appear happy with life. Never under estimate the power of preaching to what are perceived as the ignorant masses who need them to explain life's meanings.

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  2. Cornelius Hunter:

    "What does the professor know about omnipotent, serious, and thoughtful gods?"
    =====

    Very little I'm afraid, though he may not admit it. Here's what the Bible(evolutionist main target) has to say on the ability to do so.

    Isaiah 55:8-9 (Young's Literal Translation)

    8 "For not My thoughts [are] your thoughts, Nor your ways My ways, -- an affirmation of Jehovah,

    9 "For high have the heavens been above the earth, So high have been My ways above your ways, And My thoughts above your thoughts."

    And Job chapter 38 explains the impossiblity for anyone(including a believer) of knowing just for sure how the creative works were done in a detailed step by step manner to satisfy even the faintest materialistic demands or curiosity. Of course this will never stop a materialist from bolded faith-based statement making.

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  3. "What does the professor know about omnipotent, serious, and thoughtful gods?"

    What does the professor need to know about gods, omnipotent or otherwise? RELIGION says God did it. SCIENCE is just trying to figure out if it was an Intelligent Designer or an Unintelligent Process, such as Darwinian evolution that did it.

    Science asks, "Is the routing of the recurrent laryngeal nerve intelligent or unintelligent?" That's a pretty easy question to answer. The routing we see in the giraffe makes the nerve at least ten times longer than a direct route, which requires more material to make the nerve and makes the nerve impulses take at least ten times longer to reach their target. It also exposes ten times more nerve to damage. The giraffe routing is not only unintelligent, it's spectacularly unintelligent!

    The scientist can also ask if there's a reason why an unintelligent process would route it in such a way and there is: in organisms without necks, the RLN is OBSERVED to take a direct path from the brain to the larynx, which happens to pass on one side of the aortal arch.

    When organisms grow necks, the nerve has no way of getting to the other side of that arch, so it goes down, around and then back up to the larynx. It's a little inefficient, but workable.

    When the neck gets really really long, as in the giraffe, the nerve is still trapped on the wrong side of the aorta so the nerve has to go EXTREMELY far down, around the aortal arch and then EXTREMELY far up to get to the larynx.

    That's inefficient in materials, slows nerve responses unnecessarily and exposes much more nerve to danger, but it (barely) works and it's the best an UNINTELLIGENT process can't do. An INTELLIGENT designer, on the other hand, would just re-route the nerve and save all the trouble.

    RELIGION claims that a specific, incredibly unlikely Intelligent Designer that they call God is responsible for the RLN. SCIENCE says it doesn't look like ANY kind of Intelligent Designer did it, but it's just the kind of thing we should expect from an UNintelligent process working with what it had at hand.

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  4. Hunter:

    We all know what the state of our knowledge is and, from a scientific perspective, that knowledge does not indicate evolution to be a scientific fact. Not even close.

    On the contrary, some people have a better understanding of the state of knowledge in one or another field. For example, population geneticists as group generally have a better grasp of epidemics than plumbers do. Hunter is entitled to his uninformed and biased opinion, but it’s only an opinion.

    We do not know evolution to be an obvious, compelling explanation of the data—beyond any shadow of a doubt. Yet this is precisely what evolutionists claim.

    Here’s the grand rhetorical flourish: “Beyond a shadow of a doubt” implies dogmatic adherence to a belief, but that is not a scientifically tenable position, since new evidence can always turn up that would call a putative fact into question. So scientists, unlike ideologues, must maintain open minds.

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  5. The Professor:

    " An omnipotent god could do anything (we guess), but one who is omnipotent, serious, and thoughtful (at least as serious and thoughtful as an exemplary human) would not route wiring from giraffe’s larynx around its aorta"
    =====

    Romans 11:33 (Amplified Bible)

    33 "Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unfathomable (inscrutable, unsearchable) are His judgments (His decisions)! And how untraceable (mysterious, undiscoverable) are His ways (His methods, His paths)!"

    The professor evidently has possession of a free pass that even someone who believes in a creator does not possess.

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  6. Pedant:

    "Hunter is entitled to his uninformed and biased opinion, but it’s only an opinion."
    ======

    As do you "Pot to Kettle"
    ------

    Pedant:

    "So scientists, unlike ideologues, must maintain open minds."
    ======

    Unfortunately this is NOT what the world gets and that is the point behind most of Cornelius' articles. The deluge of biased material examples of Scientists who insert their ideology is overwhelming.

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  7. Hunter:

    How does the professor know that an omnipotent, serious, and thoughtful god would not route wiring from the giraffe’s larynx around its aorta?

    How does Hunter know the attributes of his God of the Gaps? For all he knows, that God is a tinkerer.

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  8. Dave Mullenix:

    "SCIENCE is just trying to figure out if it was an Intelligent Designer or an Unintelligent Process, such as Darwinian evolution that did it."
    =====

    Wow, so scientists are actually honestly trying to prove the existance of God as opposed to disproving God exists ???
    -----

    Dave Mullenix:

    "The giraffe routing is not only unintelligent, it's spectacularly unintelligent!"
    =====

    And you know this because you've been involved in an indepth study of the subject and know what any type of a creator would or wouldn't do and if he did he was an idiot in YOUR OWN OPINION ???

    The rest of your post was just too rediculous to even attempt to address since in your thinking the idiocy and stupidity of the way Nature just happen to work out proves evolution is indeed a fact.

    *WOOOOOOOOWWWW*

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  9. The matter of sub-optimal design is an interesting one. I don't have an explananation of the route of the recurrent laryngeal nerve in giraffes or of various other examples, but I do find it an odd approach for those attacking the design argument to take.

    This argument makes huge assumptions - in its pure form the design argument makes no statement as to the nature, motives (if any) and intent of the source of the design information. So arguments based on what their conception of a particular possible designer would or would not have done are irrelevant to whether or not something shows evidence of design.

    I'm sure the patent registers of the world contain many examples of truly awful designs, but no sane person would deny they were invented (designed) just because they are less than optimum.

    If I encounter an apparent example of poor design in everyday life, I consider the following possible options:
    (1) there are constraints operating on the design that I am unaware of;
    (2) the designer had some objective of which I am unaware;
    (3) the item is not as the designer intended, possibly because there was a problem in the manufacturing process, or the object has been damaged after manufacture;
    (4) the designer isn't very good.
    All of the above would be considered, but if something shows the hallmarks of design, then it's apparently being poorly designed would not undermine that.

    There are many examples where designs in engineering and software could have been improved on, but where there were constraints operating that meant that the overall most effective design was one that was less than optimal in operation.

    I also keep seeing the claim that human designers "go back to the drawing board" when designing something new, whereas nature has to make do with existing organisms to modify and therefore the natural world carries the baggage of its history, whereas the world of human design does not. Really? Every field of human inventive endeavour is littered with the baggage of its history - take the QWERTY keyboard I am keying on now - based on baggage.

    Obviously what I am saying here relates to the idea that sub-optimal design somehow disproves design - it does remain true that those who believe that an omnipotent deity personally designed a world that could not be improved upon in any way, have some explaining to do.

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  10. Pedant:

    "How does Hunter know the attributes of his God of the Gaps?"
    ======

    He has the bible to explain the attributes of the God he believes in. Beyond that as for specific details with regards the step by step construction of say this Giraffe's neck, had he written a book specifically on the subject and made bold statements without evidence, then you could rightly criticize him. But he didn't. The Professor however did and should be criticized for not expounding on his assertions/assumptions he pushes as FACTS and just how he acquired such indepth knowledge of just how the mind of God really works, a God who he doesn't even believe exists in the first place.
    ------

    Pedant:

    "For all he knows, that God is a tinkerer."
    ======

    You left out "cobbler". We're all still waiting on the information of how unintelligence tinkers and cobbles all sorts of brilliance and wonders of Nature.

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  11. Corax: "This argument makes huge assumptions - in its pure form the design argument makes no statement as to the nature, motives (if any) and intent of the source of the design information."

    False. You're talking about an INTELLIGENT designer. That is a statement about the nature of the source of the design information: it's supposed to be INTELLIGENT. The design of the RLN's path is UNintelligent.

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  12. Cornelius Hunter: One thing evolutionists agree on is that their theory is also a scientific fact.

    Whoever these "evolutionists" are, they are confused. Theories are explanatory frameworks, a number of interrelated assertions that are consistent with the known facts and lead to new empirical predictions. The term "evolution" can refer to both the fact of evolution and the Theory of Evolution, but they are not the same thing.

    Hmm. Reading on, it seems Cornelius Hunter must be an "evolutionist", because he keeps conflating fact and theory.

    Cornelius Hunter: Evolution may or may not be true, but it is not a scientific fact.

    Of course evolution is a fact. It is directly observed. If you mean Common Descent or adaptation, then you should say so.

    Cornelius Hunter: And while there is uncertainty about evolution, there is no uncertainty about our knowledge.

    There is always some uncertainty in scientific knowledge. Even determination of facts can be theory laden, so it can be difficult to untangle in some cases. The factual existence of atoms was determined long before they were directly observed.

    Cornelius Hunter: In fact, truth be told, there are tremendous scientific problems with the theory of evolution.

    That's the sign of a healthy scientific enterprise. The Theory of Evolution is under constant revision, and there are always a number of open questions concerning its various facets.

    A workable theory generates new hypotheses. A good theory leads to new discoveries and new insights. A great theory, like the Theory of Evolution, spawns entire new fields of study. ID, on the other hand, is scientifically sterile.

    Hmm. Reading ahead, you go and conflate evolution the fact with evolution the theory again, so it's really hard to make sense of the claims of these "evolutionists". Perhaps you should just drop the word "evolution" and try to substitute more precise terminology.

    Cornelius Hunter: For centuries evolutionists have presented a metaphysical—not scientific—certainty.

    So you're definitely not talking about the Theory of Evolution. which was proposed by Darwin in 1858, and modified many times since then.

    Cornelius Hunter: Of course evolutionists do not know that the many ultimate truth claims they make, which motivate and justify their thinking, are true.

    Then, Cornelius Hunter, you should stop being an "evolutionist", whatever that is.

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  13. Cornelius said:

    “How does the professor know that an omnipotent, serious, and thoughtful god would not route wiring from the giraffe’s larynx around its aorta?”

    Well, there is a dilemma here, but it is Cornelius who is trapped on it.

    1. Either there is no prediction of what an omnipotent, designer would do,

    2. ... or there is a prediction.

    In the former case it is then clear that there is no prediction, the assumption of such a Designer makes no predictions about anything, and if so this hypothesis is not science.

    In the latter case, there is a prediction and the giraffe's recurrent laryngeal nerve is evidence against it.

    We've been over this ground here many times. Cornelius has never explained what, if any predictions the hypothesis of Design makes.

    The problem is that opponents of evolutionary biology want to have it both ways. In other cases they try to make predictions that an ominpotent Designer would not make certain kinds of designs. The simplest example is junk DNA. People who argue that there is evidence for Intelligent Design often say that it does make a prediction -- that there will not be junk DNA. They never, ever, say where in their theory this prediction comes from, because to do so would be to admit that its origin is in theology. An intelligent, benign Designer would just not do it that way, they are arguing.

    Cornelius continues to be caught on this dilemma and continues to try to
    argue that there is no prediction from Design, but continues to try to maintain that Design is science. He's stuck. We've been over this ground many times here, and he is still stuck. He can get unstuck by disavowing the junk DNA prediction, but then he's ultimately going to have to admit that his Design hypothesis is not science.

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  14. Cornelius,

    You failed to link to my comment and left out supporting and qualifying statements. So the El Dorado of a creationist whose favorite hobbies don't include quote mining remains elusive. You could have at least finished off the paragraph:

    "one who is omnipotent, serious, and thoughtful (at least as serious and thoughtful as an exemplary human) would not route wiring from giraffe's larynx around its aorta or forget to put gills on the sperm whale. Logical arguments of this type cannot rule out the existence of all gods, but it does rule out certain types of anthropomorphic gods that some people carry around in their brains."

    Notice that I did not cite the inferred nature of gods as evidence that evolution is "true". Common descent stands or falls based on evidence from the natural world. But we can use that knowledge, if we choose, to philosophize about the nature of our existence and what lies beyond our sensory inputs (as humans have done for many millenia). Many theists' views of the supernatural involves a creative god who is "like a human, but better" and that they are corrupted copies of same. Philosophically, we can use the seemingly unconscious "designs" of nature to rule out this one small subset of possible supersensory phenomena.

    It's informative that you cut off the quote before getting to the gill-less sperm whale. This is a more glaringly obvious example that I think high school students would be able to grasp. Evolutionary theory provides good explanation for this. ID? Not so much.

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  15. Cornelius -

    Others have pulled you up in the past on your use of the word 'evolution'. Technically the word simply means 'change'. So when we ask 'Has life on Earth evolved over time?' what we are technically asking is 'Has life on Earth changed over time?' And it IS pretty undeniable that it has, in fact changed.

    I hope that you agree on this point at least - that life on Earth has, at least, changed - to some degree, for whatever reason and by whatever mechanisms.

    This is the 'evolution' referred to when people say 'evolution is a fact'. It is a scientific fact that life on Earth has CHANGED. How? Why? When? Immaterial. Life on Earth has changed. That is the scientific FACT of the matter.

    'Evolution' is also used as a short-hand for the Theory of Evolution via Natural Selection. This is, I suspect, the sense in which you meant 'evolution' in your OP. But you really need to be clear on this. Otherwise it's so easy for people to misunderstand exactly what it is you are or aren't saying.

    This is NOT the 'evolution' referred to when people say 'evolution is a fact' because this is, self-evidently, a theory. And facts and theories are different things. Any scientist knows this.

    It is so important not to confuse the two. Yet you routinely do this. Presumably to portray scientists presenting 'theories' as 'facts'. Whether this is an honest confusion in your own mind or a dishonest attempt to deceive, I cannot say.

    Secondly, neither the fact nor fiction of evolution hinge on what an imaginary God would or would not do. The Theory of Evolution via Natural Selection proposes a mechanism by which evolution can take place - natural selection. This is a workable, testable SCIENTIFIC mechanism. And it accounts for what we observe in nature, whilst still being highly falsifiable.

    For that reason, it is the cornerstone theory of biology.

    Now the VAST majority of those who oppose the Theory of Evolution via Natural Selection do so to promote Intelligent Design, or the idea of some creative/tinkering deity by default. The point about the giraffe's layrngeal nerve is to show examples in nature of apparent inefficient 'design'. Of which there are many, I might add, but this one seems to have become something of a popular meme. It does not PROVE that God would not have made the giraffe's neck, true, but it does act as counter-evidence. It is so apparently inefficient, wasteful and pointless that it requires an explanation of its own - and examples like this are especially problematic for propositions such as Intelligent Design which has no solid evidence of its own and flourishes almost entirely on "Nature SEEMS designed - it is so complex and well put-together." When this is practically your entire argument, examples of apparent inefficient design are problematic indeed.

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  16. Cornelius Hunter: What does the professor know about omnipotent, serious, and thoughtful gods?

    This didn't seem to hold back the authors of the world's holy books, including that from which your worldview derives.

    And what does the professor know about creating giraffes? Precious little, I’m afraid, in both cases.

    As much as the ID crowd, and this never seems to stop them either.

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  17. Cornelius Hunter: Evolutionary thought is the height of hubris.

    Project much? For the Biblical creationist, the whole of the Universe was created for the benefit of their particular primate troop.

    The scientist merely proposes that we can obtain knowledge of the Universe by obtaining data and developing hypotheses and bodies of theory to explain those data. If this is hubris, then guilty as charged.

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  18. The argument from the giraffe's laryngeal nerve does indeed make assumptions, for example:
    (1) The designer is reasonably competent
    (2) The designer has the power to design the giraffe so the nerve takes a different route
    (3) The designer wants giraffes to live for a long time and replicate effectively
    If you accept these three assumptions then it is a matter of biological expertise as to whether the current arrangement is a good one for helping giraffes live a long time and replicate efficiently.
    I suggest that assumptions (1) and (2) are covered by "omnipotent, serious, and thoughtful". So the professor did make those assumptions explicit. Assumption (3) is one we all make when discussing life. But it is true that none of them are matters of biological expertise. And the professor may be wrong about all three. Maybe the designer was limited, frivolous and had a poor attention span. Maybe the designer wanted to limit how long giraffes lived. I wonder if Cornelius is happy to accept any of these assumptions?

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  19. Joe Felsenstein:

    "but then he's ultimately going to have to admit that his Design hypothesis is not science."


    Where does he promote a design hypothesis for science? I've never seen one.

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  20. Dave Mullenix,

    I think your mistaken in this. I referred to the 'design argument', no use of the word 'intelligent' in my comment. I guess you could say that the use of the concept of design implies intelligence, but that is a different matter. I am not even sure we are using the word 'intelligence' to mean the same thing. Intelligent people can using their intellect get it wrong and turn out bad designs - so a design being less than optimum proves little. If I were to use the word 'intelligence' here (and I still choose not to) it would only be in the sense of a choosing between available options that is not based on chance or the simple application of physical laws.

    Based purely on the information available to me now the design of the RLN does seem to be sub-optimal, but your comment that "it (barely) works" is a gross overstating of the matter (watch the animals - this apparent sub-optimal design seems to make no apparent difference to them, indeed if it did I guess naural selection would have selected against the trait).

    Please don't confuse whether a design is optimum or not with whether or not something was designed. Just because an invention is poor doesn't mean it's not designed.

    Designed things can also bare evidence of their history. Technology is littered with examples of features that served a purpose becoming embedded long past the purpose they served. Reuse of subunits, in software development and in engineering commonly result in features being different to how they would have been if optimal operation were the main concern. Modification of designs often results in sub-optimal situations (for example car conversions, such as from manual to automatic and from lefthand to righthand drive). But these may nonetheless have been valid design decisions at the time.

    I mentioned the QWERTY keyboard - allegedly designed to slow down typists when old mechanical typewriters were in use (to prevent the arms get tangled up - if you have used an old typewriter you'll know what I mean). There is no mechanical or technological reason to stick with QWERTY keyboards for computers, I'm told DVORAK keyboards are much faster. But people were used to QWERTY, didn't want to change, so we are stuck with what is operationally a suboptimal design. (Obviously this applies to English language keyboards, other languages will use different layouts).

    The point is the modern keyboard retains a design feature which in its current context is sub-optimal for historic reasons. Is the same true for the giraffe's RPN? I don't know, but I do know that its apparently wacky routing does not in any way preclude design.

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  21. Cornelius' repetitive line of argument misses a central point, one emphasized by Gould in his original "Panda's Thumb" essay.

    The point of that essay is that structures such as the panda's thumb display strong evidence of having originated over a contingent evolutionary history in which developmental constraints resulted in evolutionary constraints as well. This hypothesis stand as a unified and empirically fruitful explanation of a wide variety of phenomena independent of any characterization of the alternatives (e.g. what god would or would not do).

    We reject your alternative not because we presume to know the mind of God but rather because it is scientifically barren, offering the same ad hoc explanation of everything observed, an explanation that is otherwise utterly barren of empirically meaningful predictions.

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  22. Corax -

    In principle much of what you say is correct. But the fact is that we are treading more on arguments for and against Intelligent Design here than we are evolution...

    Even utilising your definition of 'intelligent' (as more towards conscious/deliberate rather than optimal/perfect), virtually the whole argument in favour of Intelligent Design is that nature SEEMS designed. Life is often intricate, precisely put together, and though it may not be perfect, it works.

    The issue here is that if things which SEEM well-designed can be evidence for Intelligent Design, then surely things which SEEM badly-designed can be evidence against it?

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  23. In short, if you want to hold to 'Just because it is a bad construct, doesn't mean it wasn't designed', then the same logic must apply in reverse: 'Just because it is a good construct, doesn't mean it WAS designed'.

    And when this simple truth has been admitted, Intelligent Design has virtually nothing left to go on. I'm mean, it's not like it's got any empirical evidence or testable hypotheses, like any scientific hypotheses should...

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  24. Anaxyrus said,
    You failed to link to my comment and left out supporting and qualifying statements. So the El Dorado of a creationist whose favorite hobbies don't include quote mining remains elusive. You could have at least finished off the paragraph:

    "one who is omnipotent, serious, and thoughtful (at least as serious and thoughtful as an exemplary human) would not route wiring from giraffe's larynx around its aorta or forget to put gills on the sperm whale.

    I'll do some purported "quote mining" too, though no creationist. Here is the pertinent part of earlier post by Anaxyrus,

    Study of the genetics and fossil record of vertebrates tells us that whales had terrestrial ancestors for hundreds of millions of years, but that whale sharks did not. Thus, we get an explanation as to why sperm whales, which spend most of their life at great depths, possess lungs but lack gills and why whale sharks, which cruise the shallows to feed, possess gills but no lungs.

    I can see why CH didn't bother to address that. You seem to say that "whales didn't evolve gills (because cows or wolves or whatever land based ancestor of whales had had lungs)". And you contrast that with whale sharks which ancestors you say had always had gills. But that won't wash in evolutionary terms. You see humans "have gill slits" we are told. Surely, whale's also "have gills slits". And since whales today (and their cow/wolf/whatever ancestors) also had gill slits, then way on back in their "fishy ancestor" genome there are gills just waiting to be released and re-engaged via the wonders of evolution. I notice that CDawkins bemoans this in one of his recent epics THE GREATEST SHOW. He appears to be crestfallen that evolution has failed to simply re-active the gills (which all of us used-to-be-fish creatures have) in the case of "whale evolution", instead of all those highly specialized designs and lungs. I think I'll take this opportunity to slam "God's Design" in the case of the whale. It shows very poor Design indeed for God to have made whales with lungs, when He could much more easily have "turned back on" those embedded gill genes that evolution tells us we all have. If I didn't know better, I might have thought CDawkins was citing whales (mode of respiration) as a failure of evolution in action.

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  25. Cornelius Hunter said...

    One thing evolutionists agree on is that their theory is also a scientific fact.


    Must be the holiday slow season - CH just mails it in with one of his standard oft-repeated lies.

    The scientific community is smart enough to know the difference between the observed fact of evolution and the theory of evolution which explains the observed fact. No one says the theory itself is a fact.

    CH knows this too, but he just loves this little pet lie so much he chants it like a mantra.

    Keep making Jesus proud there CH! Lying in his name will get you lots of get-into-heaven points.

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  26. Zach: "Of course evolution is a fact. It is directly observed. If you mean Common Descent or adaptation, then you should say so."

    Can you give an example of observed Common Descent?

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  27. Rhod said...

    If I didn't know better, I might have thought CDawkins was citing whales (mode of respiration) as a failure of evolution in action.


    You apparently don't know much of anything about actual evolutionary theory. The little bits you do read from popular press books you get wrong. Have you ever read a college level text on the subject, or read any of the primary literature?

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  28. To the material naturalists - your critique of God's design, irrespective of the damage to the Designer's work via the universal impact of sin, is mere foolishness until you can literally demonstrate a better one in all instances.

    Until then, you are a mite disparaging the Master Builder.

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  29. Rhod,

    My statements are correct concerning evolutionary understanding. Yes, prior to the fully terrestrial (amniote/mammal) phase of whale ancestry, there was a "fish" (osteichthyan/elpistostegalian) phase in which ancestors possessed gills as well as lungs (like the living lungfishes). I assumed everyone would know that. But whales do possess a terrestrial phase in their ancestry that whale sharks lack.

    There is no guarantee that a trait possessed by very ancient ancestors, but lost by more recent ancestors, can be regained in its orginal state. In fact, we find the opposite to be true so often that we accord the this general rule of irreversibility the status of law ("Dollo's law"), not unbreakable but a rule. And when broken, it's not after an absence of 300 million years. Evolution is not so wonderful. Natural selection yields viability and adaptation but is constrained by history as well as materials.

    Population genetics continued to change as amphibian-like early tetrapods evolved into the amniotes, and the genes that once produced gills now produce parathyroid glands In fact the parathyroid glands are likely our vestigial gills. But they are now enclosed, and in no position to be remodified into true gills.

    http://www.pnas.org/content/101/51/17716.full

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  30. Rhod,

    It would help if you tried to be much clearer.

    You seem to be fixated in your "example" on the idea, proven false, that these gill slits are actual gills. They are not. They are called so because they look like gills, but one of such slits, for instance, develops into the mandible, et cetera.

    Then you seem to think that evolution demands unused genes to stay there forever as a backup. No such thing. Given that such genes would not be under selection, they can mutate into oblivion. Thus, unless the route to gills depended on just changing one little piece in how development occurs, I doubt they can be "re-engaged."

    Evolution is "guided" by the environment, and limited by the genetic background of a population. This genetic background depends on the actual history of the population. There is also the little detail that evolution acts only as far as successful reproduction. This is why cancer, for instance, is so prevalent at a later age. Organisms suffering cancer before reproduction-age die without descendants (this does not mean that the young can have no cancer, careful there). Apply this to whales and dolphins and such, and note that they are successful at reproducing despite not having gills. So it seems like natural selection alone would not lead back to gills. I don't see why CDawkins, whomever that is, would "bemoan" that evolution has not "re-engaged" gills.

    So there you have it. More than just one reason why whales, having evolved from land-dwelling animals do not evolve into gill-bearing animals.

    Have a great day.

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  31. Joe Felenstein

    "We've been over this ground here many times. Cornelius has never explained what, if any predictions the hypothesis of Design makes."

    Cornelius is an empiricist. He only analyzes the evidence for evolution. He does not advocate an ID position.

    In a court room the burden of proof is less exact than in science. For example, it can rely on eye witness testimony that is less reliable than photographic evidence. Even when using this lower level of evidence the courts recognizes that you need to be able to cross examine the witness in order for the evidence to have credibility.

    Evolutionist feel free not to be constrained to this minimum standard. I guess if you control the writing and publishing of evolutionary text books then you can do what ever you like. Cornelius' earlier posts about a text book is a good example.

    Evolutionists should adhere to a standard no less rigorous than the courts in supplying evidence. They should not speculate about processes of God since they have no way of verifying them. Science has a reputation for the very highest standards of the pursuit of intellectual knowledge. Evolutionists are bringing disrepute the science.

    Cornelius is quite correct to criticize these scientists for there unprofessional conduct. Anyone who loves science should do the same.

    .

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  32. Blas said...

    Zach: "Of course evolution is a fact. It is directly observed. If you mean Common Descent or adaptation, then you should say so."

    Can you give an example of observed Common Descent?


    The Lenski long term E coli experiment is an example of observed common descent. From a single initial population there have evolved multiple strains with quantifiable genetic differences, including the famous citrate-ingesting one.

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  33. Peter Wadeck said...

    Cornelius is an empiricist. He only analyzes the evidence for evolution. He does not advocate an ID position.


    No, what CH does is cherry pick little snippets he can misrepresent or flat out lie about, then attacks those strawmen. He thinks that somehow his Biblical creationism will then win by default.

    Cornelius is quite correct to criticize these scientists for there unprofessional conduct. Anyone who loves science should do the same.

    Peter Wadeck, it is quite correct to criticize you for your despicable conduct in abusing animals. Anyone who loves pets should do the same.

    What's that you say? The charge of you abusing animals is an unsubstantiated allegation? Then maybe you should consider that every one of CH's charges of professional misconduct by the scientific community is equally unsubstantiated, not to mention borderline libelous.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Hmmm, disappearing posts again...

    ReplyDelete
  35. I've come to the somewhat paradoxical conclusion that this blog is actually a kind of genetic algorithm being used by CH to perfect his rhetoric against "Darwinists". He continually uses the same arguments over and over again, but with various slight differences that are then tested against the commenters. Arguments that take more effort to refute (for example by requiring that a flawed assumption be addressed first) are restated in a later post with differences of their own in the hope that they will be harder still to refute. He doesn't ignore valid arguments against his own position because he is stupid (clearly he is not), or even to preserve his own ego. They are simply beside the point. He genuinely doesn't care if either side makes any actual sense at all. His aim is simply to maximize the amount of effort required to refute his own statements, whatever they may be.

    Basically he's trying to evolve a better Gish Gallop!

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  36. Joe Felsenstein: "but then he's ultimately going to have to admit that his Design hypothesis is not science."


    Joseph: Where does he promote a design hypothesis for science? I've never seen one.


    I have yet to see CH promote any kind of scientific hypothesis whatsoever (I thought that's what scientists do?). Only some vague stuff that natural theories are insufficient, but he has yet to even sketch what he thinks a non-natural hypothesis would look like, or how one might be developed. So naturally it's not surprising that many of us he think that he's rather disingenuous in his approach when he talks about "bad science", particularly since he has yet to offer any alternative science whatsoever.

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  37. Zachriel:

    ===
    The term "evolution" can refer to both the fact of evolution and the Theory of Evolution, but they are not the same thing.
    ===

    Fixed.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Ritchie Hmmm, disappearing posts again...

    Try leaving out embedded links and just posting URLs as plain text.

    ReplyDelete
  39. Isn't there a kind of bizarre double standard going on here? In the previous post CH talks about the amazing nature of the brain: The human brain is, as one science writer put it, “truly awesome" and So the evolutionary narrative, as usual, must believe that the biological world underwent radical, unheard of levels of change, though mysteriously today such change is not tolerated. All the while luckily creating an astonishing world of biological wonders.

    I believe the implication of course is that a natural process could not have begotten such incredible complexity in so short a time.

    Yet, when somebody brings up a feature of the biological world that seems somewhat less than "awesome", the reaction is rather different.

    So apparently CH is permitted to use examples of biology to demonstrate "awesome-ness" but others who point out less-than-awesome examples that suggest a more natural and ordinary process at work, are not. Curious.

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  40. If poor design is considered evidence against design, then superb design should be considered evidence fro design.

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  41. natschuster said: "If poor design is considered evidence against design, then superb design should be considered evidence fro design."

    That't the point nat; poor design isn't considered evidence against design by IDers. 'Good design' is always met with "See?" and 'bad design' is always met with "How do we know God didn't mean to create it that way?"

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  42. natschuster: "if poor design is considered evidence against design, then superb design should be considered evidence fro design."

    I think at best it's evidence for highly inconsistent design. Which does suggest that it is not the work of an omnipotent highly intelligent agent (and after all CH believes the designer is the Christian God so I think the omnipotent characteristic is appropriate).

    Perhaps instead we are the product of an alien being's high school science project?

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  43. "Perhaps instead we are the product of an alien being's high school science project?"

    So you support ID? Albeit by an alien.

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  44. Derick:

    IMHO, poor design is considered evidence against design. This is why ID's address the problem of things like vestigal organs and the laryngial nerve. The standard answer is that there is there may be a reason, but we don't know what it is yet.

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  45. Thorton said:"The Lenski long term E coli experiment is an example of observed common descent. From a single initial population there have evolved multiple strains with quantifiable genetic differences, including the famous citrate-ingesting one."

    Cit+ E Coli is descent from Cit- E Coli, and if you left this Cit+ E Coli in nature revert to Cit - E Coli. So what we observe here is that E Coli common descent of E Coli. And the relation with Evolution is ...

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  46. Corax said...

    There are many examples where designs in engineering and software could have been improved on, but where there were constraints operating that meant that the overall most effective design was one that was less than optimal in operation

    =======================

    A good example of that would be,"Windows Vista"!

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  47. Blas said...

    Thorton said:"The Lenski long term E coli experiment is an example of observed common descent. From a single initial population there have evolved multiple strains with quantifiable genetic differences, including the famous citrate-ingesting one."

    Cit+ E Coli is descent from Cit- E Coli, and if you left this Cit+ E Coli in nature revert to Cit - E Coli. So what we observe here is that E Coli common descent of E Coli.


    We have different strains of E coli descending with modification from a single initial population. That's common descent by definition.

    And the relation with Evolution is ...

    It's an observed instance of common descent, which is exactly what you asked for.

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  48. natschuster said...

    IMHO, poor design is considered evidence against design.


    Wrong. Poor design is considered evidence against an omnipotent, all powerful, all knowing designer, attributes claimed for the Christian God. It's not evidence against a bumbling, incompetent designer, or one who for mysterious reasons chose to make the design look exactly like evolution.

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  49. Darren: "So you support ID? Albeit by an alien."

    Let's say on a plausibility scale from 1 to 10 (where 10 is the most plausible), the Christian God would be a 1, then aliens would be..well, let's think....1.2?

    So yes I think the alien hypothesis is slightly more plausible than believing in an invisible sky-god invented by war faring bronze age tribes who were completely ignorant about science, but interwove supernatural agents into their cultural beliefs. Although we can ponder over whether aliens exist (it's possible in Universe with 100+ billion galaxies, whether they were able to visit is of course another matter, given the sheer immense distances involved.

    In other words, the evidence for either option doesn't exist but one is perhaps slightly more plausible than the other.

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  50. Professor Joe Felsenstein writes:

    "In the former case it is then clear that there is no prediction, the assumption of such a Designer makes no predictions about anything, and if so this hypothesis is not science."

    Design theorists or Darwin skeptics never argued against evolution by saying "God would have designed this this way or that way", rather it is the evolutionists who argued against design by saying "God would not have designed x this way". When design theorists argue against evolution they argue that it is highly improbable for evolution to explain x because x is such a small target that needs to be found in a universe of space. Calculations are made to show and explain the improbabilities.

    Joe then speaks about ID theorists who want to have both ways, when it is the evolutionists like Dawkins who says "just because science can currently not give a satisfactory answer for the origin of life, this doesn't mean that science never will". But we are suppose to accept that science is complete when an evolutionist cannot figure out why the wiring of the laryngeal nerve is optimal design?

    To borrow the words from Dawkins, just because science can for now not explain why this is optimal design, this doesn't mean that science will never be able to explain it.

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  51. Corax wrote:

    The point is the modern keyboard retains a design feature which in its current context is sub-optimal for historic reasons. Is the same true for the giraffe's RPN? I don't know, but I do know that its apparently wacky routing does not in any way preclude design.

    We're not suggesting an abstract designer precludes some kind of abstract design. We're noting the lack of an explanation for this particular concrete design by an abstract designer or an omnipotent and omniscient designer.

    For example, we have not changed keyboard layouts because QWERTY keyboards became widely adapted and accepted by users. This was due to the fact that QWERTY keyboards were widely manufactured by keyboard suppliers. QWERTY keyboards continue to dominate the market due to wide user demand. In other words, the explanation of historical reasons reflect the fact that keyboard layout designers cannot make people choose to use different keyboards or force manufactures to build different keyboards despite low user demand.

    On the other hand, ID suggests the concrete biological complexity we observe is the result of an independent, external system. Nor is an abstract or omnipotent and omniscient designer necessarily limited by supply or demand, biological adaptation or any particular rate of change. The designer need not convince hawks to utilize eyes that see better or motivate the cells in offspring to self-assemble them. Instead, the designer uses the same supposed ability which would be necessary to implement earlier designs.

    However, if ID were to move to more specific claims about the designer, such as a committee of designers with limited roles and abilities, the failure to adopt QWERTY keyboards might be a more valid analogy.

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  52. Corax: "However, if ID were to move to more specific claims about the designer, such as a committee of designers with limited roles and abilities, the failure to adopt QWERTY keyboards might be a more valid analogy."

    Perhaps God utilized committees of angels and archangels (the project managers) to do the design. Perhaps the giraffe was only supposed to have a short neck, but somebody transposed some digits in the design specification and by the time they had caught it, the design was already in manufacturing so they had to jury-rig the laryngeal nerve. I bet that's it.

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  53. Thorton:

    An omnipotent Being, by definition, has the ability to choose to make something that is inferior. So poor desing is only an arguement against a designer who chooses to consistantly make good design.

    ReplyDelete
  54. natschuster said: "An omnipotent Being, by definition, has the ability to choose to make something that is inferior. So poor desing is only an arguement against a designer who chooses to consistantly make good design."

    Sure, and that designer could choose to make things in such a way that it looks like they evolved. Or looks like everything popped into existence last thursday.

    Nat, seriously, think about what you just said. Any conceivable evidence could be dismissed with "That's just the way the designer wanted to make it."

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  55. natschuster: "An omnipotent Being, by definition, has the ability to choose to make something that is inferior. So poor desing is only an arguement against a designer who chooses to consistantly make good design"

    Omnipotent beings can do the heck whatever they want, which is always very convenient in theology.


    But my Bible says this (Genesis 1:31)

    And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good

    Or do you have the version that says this:

    And God saw everything was a bit of a kludge, although he liked the way the peacocks feathers turned out, but still couldn't quite figure out what to do about the giraffe, but He was tired and needed a break.

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  56. janfeld
    ---
    Perhaps God utilized committees of angels and archangels (the project managers) to do the design. Perhaps the giraffe was only supposed to have a short neck, but somebody transposed some digits in the design specification and by the time they had caught it, the design was already in manufacturing so they had to jury-rig the laryngeal nerve. I bet that's it.

    ---
    (real) LOL

    Maybe they are runnng MS Vista somebody mentioned before.

    ReplyDelete
  57. I wrote:

    "However, if ID were to move to more specific claims about the designer, such as a committee of designers with limited roles and abilities, the failure to adopt QWERTY keyboards might be a more valid analogy."

    Of course, this is unlikely to occur for obvious reasons.

    ID's designer must remain abstract. This leaves a hole big enough to drive through their personal designer of choice: God.

    ReplyDelete
  58. Ritchie, You make an interesting point. You summarise it by saying: "In short, if you want to hold to 'Just because it is a bad construct, doesn't mean it wasn't designed', then the same logic must apply in reverse: 'Just because it is a good construct, doesn't mean it WAS designed'."

    I agree – though it very much depends what you mean by construct. For example a crystal may be an excellent construct, but it demonstrates organisation, not design. It is the product of the action of physical laws not an act of design. (There is of course the question of whether or not the physical laws were designed, but this is a very different matter).

    I think though that we may be talking at cross purposes. CH quoted some unnamed professor as saying: “An omnipotent god could do anything (we guess), but one who is omnipotent, serious, and thoughtful (at least as serious and thoughtful as an exemplary human) would not route wiring from giraffe’s larynx around its aorta”

    I have read, and heard, similar comments made elsewhere. The intention seems to be that sub-optimal design is not design. This is fundamentally flawed, as we can demonstrate numerous examples of unambiguously designed objects that are sub-optimal.

    Strangely all the ‘poor design = no design’ argument actually tells us is that the person stating it has certain ideas about a god (which they often don’t believe really exists) which includes the concept that this god would make everything the absolute best it could be. This may provide fascinating insight on how personal background and culture shape our ideas and thinking, even about things we don’t believe in - but it does not add anything useful to the actual question at hand.

    I think we all agree that there is much about the physical and natural world that (to paraphrase Dawkins) appears designed. The question we are interested in is, is that appearance real or illusory. Does the appearance of design only result from actual acts of design, or is there some other mechanism that can give rise to the appearance of design?

    My point merely touches on one aspect of this - it is simply that how good a design is has no bearing on whether or not it is design. It is largely irrelevant. I.e. if something meets the criteria of being designed, then its being a poor design doesn't change that, though it may raise questions about the competence of the designer.

    I don't think anyone has suggested that the giraffe's RPN doesn't look designed (i.e. that it looks like the simple result of chance or the action of physical laws) - the comments are all that it looks like a bad design. Maybe that’s true, it certainly appears a less than optimal design, but poor design doesn’t mean no design.

    The real issue is how do we determine whether or not something is actually designed?

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  59. Scott, you mention “a committee of designers with limited roles and abilities”, and Janfeld, you say: “Perhaps God utilized committees of angels and archangels (the project managers) to do the design.” – maybe, lol.

    At least in saying this (even if somewhat tongue in cheek) you are 'acknowledging' the point that the design argument is completely neutral as to who/what the designer is. Of course many who accept the design argument will have their own ideas as to who/what the designer is (many though by no means all are either christian or muslim), but they will have arrived at those conclusions for reasons unrelated to the design argument itself.

    My purpose here was not to address the big questions such as the truth or otherwise of evolution / creation / design theory, or of whether or not the apparent design in nature is real or illusion. It is much more limited. I was merely trying to address the idea that poor design is somehow evidence that something is not designed. To me this forces the question just how good does design have to be for it to be ‘design’? Would something 99% optimal qualify? Or 90%? What about 80%? … clearly this is a futile question; really the question is not how good is the design?, but rather is there a means by which we can determine what is designed? What is merely apparent design, from what is real design? The effectiveness of a design, how optimal it is, does not do this.

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  60. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  61. CH: "What does the professor know about omnipotent, serious, and thoughtful gods? And what does the professor know about creating giraffes? Precious little, I’m afraid, in both cases"

    Well it's fairly easy to find out about the Christian form of God. We can discern a lot about the character of this deity by reading both the OT and NT (and of course we could easily add to the list of characteristics listed above, but most of them would be fairly unpleasant...). Now we can all debate as the veracity of the Genesis stories, but I think one overriding theme that comes out is that God is a perfect God. So indeed one is left wondering why would a perfect God who presumably is a perfect designer, create something that on the surface (to us human beings made by a perfect God) seem very suboptimal and inefficient? You don't need a PhD in zoology to see this.

    Or is the laryngeal nerve the way it is because of the Fall?

    Or is that God's ways and the design of giraffe's laryngeal nerves are not mans ways and mere mortals such as ourselves have no right to question such heavenly matters?

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  62. It's pretty easy to argue against evolutionists when you put words in their mouths and pick out a single quote to represent all of them.

    I have always regarded evolution to be a theory; but in science, a theory means far more than an idea, it means a collection of phenomena that can reasonably be attributed to a collection of causes, held together by a vast sea of evidence and clear of any clear objections. That's what evolution is. And though evolution is not a fact, most scientific principles we accept as truths and valid assumptions aren't facts either.

    So, I agree with you that evolution cannot yet be called a fact, but say that your argument is against a certain explanation of evolution, not evolution itself.

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  63. Janfeld

    ----
    So indeed one is left wondering why would a perfect God who presumably is a perfect designer, create something that on the surface (to us human beings made by a perfect God) seem very suboptimal and inefficient?
    ----

    Imagine totally perfect world.

    Janfeld how was your dinner? Perfect, thanks for asking.

    Janfeld how was your coffee? Perfect,thanks for asking.

    Eugen how is your wife ? Perfect,thanks for asking.



    I think it would be total (bleep).Maybe He knows we need some action,something to do. We quickly get pretty bored don't you think?

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  64. Eugen said: "I think it would be total (bleep).Maybe He knows we need some action,something to do. We quickly get pretty bored don't you think?"

    Yeah, the world would be a pretty boring place without cancer, AIDS, the flu, polio, earthquakes, malaria, smallpox, tsunamis, famines, autism, tornados, leprosy, SIDS, hurricanes, viruses, large predators....

    Eugen, I think that is the single worst defense of the theistic explanation of suffering I've ever heard. And that's saying a lot, because I've heard some truly idiotic ones.

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  65. Eugen - Looks like Derick beat me too it - his answer is just about what I would have said too.

    Eugen: How was your day?
    Janfeld: I have sickle-cell anemia because God wanted me to have some "action" in my life and I have a tremendous amount of suffering everyday.

    In other words, there are plenty of ways to provide some "action" than making people unnecessarily suffer through bad design (you know, you really want to find another word for it other than "action" I think...)

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  66. Janfeld:

    Maybe "very good" means that it functions as intended. A giraffe does function as intended. In the original Hebrew the wording is "Tov Meod," very good. The Bible uses a different word for perfect, "Ta'am." Modern Hebrew uses the term, "Mitzoyan" for outstanding.

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  67. Corax -

    This 'unnamed professor' Cornelius Hunter was quoting in his OP is a commenter on this very site - anaxyrus, who made this comment on a previous blog. Bizarre as it seems for a blogger to quote-mine a respondant on his own blog, that seems to be exactly what Cornelius has done. See the 14th post down on this thread for anaxyrus's opinions on being thus quote-mined.

    Suffice it to say that Cornelius gives the impression in the OP that the theory of evolution via natural selection is based on such reasoning. In fact it is not. It is based on observed facts and hypothesis testing, just like ever good scientific theory should be.

    The point about the giraffe's laryngeal nerve only comes up when biologists (I won't use the term 'evolutionists' since it should be implied from 'biologists') debate with proponents of ID. The example of the giraffe's neck being poor design is a common counter-argument to ID proponents. It is not an example of the facts the theory of evolution is built on, no matter how repeatedly or insistently Cornelius says otherwise.

    You do however raise a very good question at the end of your post: "The real issue is how do we determine whether or not something is actually designed?"

    Well yes, quite. If someone came up with an answer to that, and then discovered examples of such in nature, ID might have a case. But until then...

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  68. Derick, Derick...

    Janfeld,Janfeld...

    First it was meant as half joke half truth.Specially part about wife .Get it?

    I'm not defending any theistic explanations here.

    Our reality is not perfect,of course. It is amazing nevertheless. Read wilczek.

    Now go and create yourself perfect little bubble,make sure you have DSL and world is your oyster(I mean bubble).

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  69. DC:

    We aren't talking abotu whether something looks like it evolved or not. We are talking about whether something that looks like a poor design was or was nto designed. Evolutionists are saying that the giraffes laryngial nerve must have evolved because no one would design it that way if he could help it.

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  70. natschuster: "Maybe "very good" means that it functions as intended. A giraffe does function as intended. In the original Hebrew the wording is "Tov Meod," very good. The Bible uses a different word for perfect, "Ta'am." Modern Hebrew uses the term, "Mitzoyan" for outstanding."

    Maybe God did His best "Ta'am" work on another planet. Perhaps we're just a mediocre D-List planet, only worthy of "Tov Meod".

    And of course, maybe many thousands of years ago, somebody was sitting around the fire one night, smoking the ancient equivalent of weed, and came up with a nice story of how the world came to be, just to amuse the kids. Stranger things have happened.

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  71. Eugen: "Now go and create yourself perfect little bubble,make sure you have DSL and world is your oyster(I mean bubble)"

    Got it. Glad to see there is humor on both sides here. Rather than making a little bubble, I think I will pour something that has intelligently designed bubbles already in it. And after consuming said bubbles, none of this will seem to matter too much anymore...

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  72. natschuster said...

    An omnipotent Being, by definition, has the ability to choose to make something that is inferior.


    That's right. That's why the Creationist argument "An OMNIPOTENT GAWD did this" is both unfalsifiable and unscientific.

    We aren't talking abotu whether something looks like it evolved or not. We are talking about whether something that looks like a poor design was or was nto designed. Evolutionists are saying that the giraffes laryngial nerve must have evolved because no one would design it that way if he could help it.

    Still wrong. Not even counting the other evidence it did evolve (like homologous structures in other mammals), there's no logical reason for an omnipotent GAWD to screw up that way. Not that GAWD couldn't deliberately screw it up, but that there's no logical reason or evidence that GAWD would.

    Since both sides agree that structures we see in nature are often sub-optimal, then you're back to 1) the bumbling incompetent designer, or 2) the Loki trickster designer who made things look like they evolved. Which do you prefer?

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  73. Thorton:

    The nerve does not look like it evolved. It is considerably more complex than the cables connecting my computer. It actually looks like it was designed. The evidence, aside from the fact that it loops under the aorta, that it evolved comes from looking at other things.

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  74. natschuster said...

    Thorton:

    The nerve does not look like it evolved. It is considerably more complex than the cables connecting my computer. It actually looks like it was designed.


    It looks like it evolved to me. It looks like it evolved to scientists who have actually studied it in detail. Your personal opinion of what 'looks' designed really doesn't matter to anyone except you.

    The evidence, aside from the fact that it loops under the aorta, that it evolved comes from looking at other things.

    That's exactly what I just told you above. Glad you agree.

    T: "the other evidence it did evolve (like homologous structures in other mammals)"

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  75. Janfeld
    ---

    Got it. Glad to see there is humor on both sides here. Rather than making a little bubble, I think I will pour something that has intelligently designed bubbles already in it. And after consuming said bubbles, none of this will seem to matter too much anymore...
    ---

    I’m in. I bet Thorton is in,too.

    I’m Catholic,we are allowed to drink. You see if you ever want to switch to religion you might as well pick us. First thing is we can drink. Its actually requirement. After that:no restriction on food,no need to donate to church much because Vatican is rich,you can go to church only on Christmas and Easter ,nobody will ostracize you. If you steal something just go and confess. When you plop you go to heaven (maybe). Fantastic!

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  76. Eugen:I’m Catholic,we are allowed to drink. You see if you ever want to switch to religion you might as well pick us. First thing is we can drink. Its actually requirement. After that:no restriction on food,no need to donate to church much because Vatican is rich,you can go to church only on Christmas and Easter ,nobody will ostracize you. If you steal something just go and confess. When you plop you go to heaven (maybe). Fantastic"

    Well Eugen never has anybody made Catholicism sound so alluring!! Sounds like one big booze-up! Just as long as they don't take all that God stuff too seriously (and it's time they let a woman wear the fancy frock and hat in that big palace of theirs in Rome).

    You would probably like this if you haven't seen it already:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Father_Ted

    Not everybody's cup of tea, but I think you would be game.

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  77. johan said (in response to my comment):

    Design theorists or Darwin skeptics never argued against evolution by saying "God would have designed this this way or that way", rather it is the evolutionists who argued against design by saying "God would not have designed x this way".

    I gave the example of Design advocates arguing that the Designer would not have made junk DNA. Furthermore, although we are discussing the good/bad design argument, essentially all of the objections to the statements of William Dembski and of Michael Behe are objections that do not raise the issue of good/bad design.

    When design theorists argue against evolution they argue that it is highly improbable for evolution to explain x because x is such a small target that needs to be found in a universe of space. Calculations are made to show and explain the improbabilities.

    William Dembski's arguments are that he (thinks he) has theorems that make it impossible for natural selection to result in sufficiently more fit organisms. I have a careful argument that he is wrong (in Reports of the National Center for Science Education, 2007, just search for “Felsenstein Dembski” to find it on line). Dembski has not made any reply. Do you have one?

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  78. Thorton:"It's an observed instance of common descent, which is exactly what you asked for."

    No that is not an observed common descent. Observing a common descent should be a fish becoming something that can breath air, a horse with a neck six times longer, a lizzard with wings. Thats are observations that matches the pretensions of common descent theory, what you showed is less than a labrador becaming a beagle.

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  79. Blas said...

    Thorton:"It's an observed instance of common descent, which is exactly what you asked for."

    No that is not an observed common descent. Observing a common descent should be a fish becoming something that can breath air, a horse with a neck six times longer, a lizzard with wings. Thats are observations that matches the pretensions of common descent theory, what you showed is less than a labrador becaming a beagle.


    Sorry, but if you're going to make up your own silly definition of 'common descent' different than the one the scientific community uses I can't help you.

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  80. Blas: Observing a common descent should be a fish becoming something that can breath air, a horse with a neck six times longer, a lizzard with wings.

    There are fish that can breathe air and lizards with wings. Horses are highly derived, but there are other mammals with very long necks.

    What you seem to be asking for is direct observation of evolutionary adaptations that are posited to have occurred millions of years ago over long periods of time. Of course, that's a silly request. It is possible, however, to find evidence of the history evolutionary adaptation, starting with the nested hierarchy, and including many fossil transitions.

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  81. Zach said:"What you seem to be asking for is direct observation of evolutionary adaptations that are posited to have occurred millions of years ago over long periods of time. Of course, that's a silly request. It is possible, however, to find evidence of the history evolutionary adaptation, starting with the nested hierarchy, and including many fossil transitions."

    You said that Common descent is "directly observed", but you only can "infer" it from observations.

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  82. Blas said...

    Zach said:"What you seem to be asking for is direct observation of evolutionary adaptations that are posited to have occurred millions of years ago over long periods of time. Of course, that's a silly request. It is possible, however, to find evidence of the history evolutionary adaptation, starting with the nested hierarchy, and including many fossil transitions."

    You said that Common descent is "directly observed", but you only can "infer" it from observations.


    I already gave you an example of where the process of common descent was directly observed. Not our problem you're too stupid to understand the concept and demand to directly observe the same process in action over millions of years.

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  83. Thorton:"I already gave you an example of where the process of common descent was directly observed. Not our problem you're too stupid to understand the concept and demand to directly observe the same process in action over millions of years."

    Maybe I´m not the only stupid here, that do not realize that E Coli was living in this world over millions of years and is still E Coli, may be Cit+ or Cit- like in the experiment, but there is no evidence that this bacteria has descents different than E Coli. Like there is no evidence that any of the living species is evolving something different that what they are.
    There is no direct or infered evidence of the evolution of one species in another in the las 10M of years. Zach is wrong Common descent is only theory infered from obseervtion of the past.

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  84. Blas: You said that Common descent is "directly observed", but you only can "infer" it from observations.

    This is the exchange.

    Zachriel: Of course evolution is a fact. It is directly observed. If you mean Common Descent or adaptation, then you should say so.

    We made a distinction between evolution, Common Descent and adaptation. Then you asked for an observed instance of common descent. Thorton provided a simple example, but that probably wasn't what you meant. You seem to be referring to historical transitions, which are inferred from a variety of evidence. But you are still confusing the terms, otherwise you wouldn't have misquoted our comments.

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  85. Blas said...

    Thorton:"I already gave you an example of where the process of common descent was directly observed. Not our problem you're too stupid to understand the concept and demand to directly observe the same process in action over millions of years."

    Maybe I´m not the only stupid here, that do not realize that E Coli was living in this world over millions of years and is still E Coli, may be Cit+ or Cit- like in the experiment, but there is no evidence that this bacteria has descents different than E Coli. Like there is no evidence that any of the living species is evolving something different that what they are.
    There is no direct or infered evidence of the evolution of one species in another in the las 10M of years. Zach is wrong Common descent is only theory infered from obseervtion of the past.


    The term common descent only means that two groups of animals shared a common ancestor sometime in the past. It doesn't say anything about how much or how little the two groups have diverged, or how recent the common ancestor was.

    The different strains of E coli that evolved from a single common ancestor in Lenski's experiment qualify. The resulting strains are related by common descent by definition.

    Again, that you're too slow to grasp such a simple concept is your problem. Maybe you should try reading a basic biology book.

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  86. Thorton:

    If you looked a neuron, and didn't know that there were animals with homologous structures, would you ever say that it evolved?

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  87. natschuster said...

    Thorton:

    If you looked a neuron, and didn't know that there were animals with homologous structures, would you ever say that it evolved?


    That's a nonsensical question, because science is not limited to looking at individual pieces of evidence in a vacuum. The power of evolutionary theory is that it combines the patterns from multiple independent observations into one consilient and coherent explanation.

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  88. But a neuron looks like it was designed. So the Creator was not being deceptive when He created it.

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  89. natschuster said...

    But a neuron looks like it was designed. So the Creator was not being deceptive when He created it.


    "Looks like it was designed" isn't an objective criteria. It doesn't look designed to me, or to scientists who have actually studied it in detail. Your personal opinion of what 'looks' designed still doesn't matter to anyone except you.

    That's why science always considers supporting evidence too. It looks for patterns of homologies and for patterns in evolutionary development.

    You can't look at each piece of evidence independently and make any kind of fair judgment. You have to consider all the evidence in total.

    Am I going to have to repeat that twenty times before it sinks in?

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  90. Ritchie:

    ===
    Suffice it to say that Cornelius gives the impression in the OP that the theory of evolution via natural selection is based on such reasoning. In fact it is not.
    ===

    For a journalist you seem to have a remarkable inability to grasp what your source is saying. Since we've already gone over this I won't hope for change, but for the readers, I will explain once again that at issue here is not the theory of evolution, per se, but rather the claim that evolution is a fact. It is not controversial that evolutionists rely on contrastive thinking. It is not the evidence for evolution that carries the day, but the failure of the alternatives.

    ===
    The point about the giraffe's laryngeal nerve only comes up when biologists (I won't use the term 'evolutionists' since it should be implied from 'biologists') debate with proponents of ID.
    ===

    No, that is your false version of events. The RLN, and myriad other examples of designs we don't like, were proof texts before ID was on the radar. These arguments were proof texts before Paley or Hume were on the scene. But then again, I've already explained that many times.

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  91. Ritchie:

    ===
    Others have pulled you up in the past on your use of the word 'evolution'. Technically the word simply means 'change'. So when we ask 'Has life on Earth evolved over time?' what we are technically asking is 'Has life on Earth changed over time?' And it IS pretty undeniable that it has, in fact changed.

    I hope that you agree on this point at least - that life on Earth has, at least, changed - to some degree, for whatever reason and by whatever mechanisms.

    This is the 'evolution' referred to when people say 'evolution is a fact'. It is a scientific fact that life on Earth has CHANGED. How? Why? When? Immaterial. Life on Earth has changed. That is the scientific FACT of the matter.
    ===

    This is an incredible equivocation.

    ===
    'Evolution' is also used as a short-hand for the Theory of Evolution via Natural Selection. This is, I suspect, the sense in which you meant 'evolution' in your OP. But you really need to be clear on this. Otherwise it's so easy for people to misunderstand exactly what it is you are or aren't saying.

    This is NOT the 'evolution' referred to when people say 'evolution is a fact' because this is, self-evidently, a theory. And facts and theories are different things. Any scientist knows this.
    ===

    Yes, it IS the 'evolution' referred to when people say 'evolution is a fact'. Unfortunately, this equivocation is not limited to Ritchie. It is a standard response of many (not all) evolutionists. It is remarkable how evolutionists respond when you repeat back to them what they say.

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  92. Cornelius -

    "... issue here is not the theory of evolution, per se, but rather the claim that evolution is a fact."

    No-one is claiming the THEORY of Evolution via Natural Selection is a fact. It is a theory.

    Evolution itself is a fact. Evolution just means change. It is a scientific fact that life on Earth has changed, whatever your beliefs on how or why.

    For a scientist you have a remarkable inability to distinguish between a fact and a theory. It's like you're you saying 'Evolutionists claim evolution is a fact! It isn't a fact - it's a theory!' But it is not evolutionists who are confused on this distinction - it is you.

    "It is not controversial that evolutionists rely on contrastive thinking. It is not the evidence for evolution that carries the day, but the failure of the alternatives."

    Utter nonsense. The strength of the Theory of Evolution via Natural Selection comes from the truly vast amount of evidence gleaned from critically testing hypotheses deriving from its proposed premise. It is not based on contrastive thinking or failures of alternatives. In fact, ID is a far more deserving target for these criticisms.

    "No, that is your false version of events."

    See, this is the point where you just put your fingers in your ears and insist you are right. How can you be blind to the convergence of evidence from genetics, DNA sequencing, the fossil record, geology, species distribution and comparative biology - evidence which is not contrastive - which supports the Theory of Evolution via Natural Selection? THIS is the evidence the theory rests on. Not observations of apparent 'bad design'.

    "The RLN, and myriad other examples of designs we don't like, were proof texts before ID was on the radar. These arguments were proof texts before Paley or Hume were on the scene."

    Perhaps I should have said 'creationism' rather than 'ID'. The two blur rather in my head, since ID is basically a recent incarnation of badly-disguised creationism. And creationism, boiled down to the basic assumption that the world/universe/life was specially and deliberately created, has been around for thousands of years. The giraffe's laryngeal nerve argument does not precede that.

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  93. "Yes, it IS the 'evolution' referred to when people say 'evolution is a fact'. Unfortunately, this equivocation is not limited to Ritchie. It is a standard response of many (not all) evolutionists."

    Perhaps it is a standard response because IT IS TRUE!?

    Have you ever even CONSIDERED the possibility you are wrong here?

    Evolution means change. That this happens is a fact.

    The Theory of Evolution via Natural Selection proposes a mechanism for evolution to have taken place. This is the theory.

    This theory also happens to be viable, testable and massively well-evidenced. So it is taken as an established theory - as well established, in fact, as any in science.

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  94. Hunter:

    No, that is your false version of events. The RLN, and myriad other examples of designs we don't like, were proof texts before ID was on the radar. These arguments were proof texts before Paley or Hume were on the scene. But then again, I've already explained that many times.

    That's an interesting claim. Do you have a scholarly source for the specific claim that the recurrent laryngeal nerve [presumably] of the giraffe was used as an for argument evolution by someone before the times of Paley or Hume?

    And will you cite references pre- Paley or Hume relating to "myriad other examples of designs we don't like"?

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  95. Hunter, to Ritchie, on the fact of evolution:

    This is an incredible equivocation.
    .....
    Yes, it IS the 'evolution' referred to when people say 'evolution is a fact'. Unfortunately, this equivocation is not limited to Ritchie. It is a standard response of many (not all) evolutionists. It is remarkable how evolutionists respond when you repeat back to them what they say.


    Equivocation is a risk whenever an ambiguous word like “fact” comes into play. Look up the word in any dictionary and you’ll see a range of meanings, from a thing known to be true to a thing supposed or alleged to be true. And this in turn hinges on the ambiguous word know, which can range from absolute certainty through various degrees of confidence.

    So when Hunter says:

    We do not know evolution to be an obvious, compelling explanation of the data—beyond any shadow of a doubt. Yet this is precisely what evolutionists claim.

    He is – for rhetorical purposes - equivocating, conflating absolute certainty (which no scientist should claim to posses) with a high degree of confidence (which is a proper scientific stance).

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  96. natschuster: But a neuron looks like it was designed.

    Thorton: "Looks like it was designed" isn't an objective criteria.

    Humans can and have attributed design or consciousness to just about everything. A common primitive belief is that mountains, crystals, rivers, weather, are designed or conscious. Fates conspire. Fortune shows mercy.

    Science depends on objective evidence. Maybe the mountain is wise and the river all-knowing, but those are not scientific statements.

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  97. The cables in my computer were designed. I know this because I see the purposful integration of parts for a specific function. I know that this couldn't have come about through anything other than design. A giraffes neuron displays purposeful integration of parts, and is a lot more complex than a computer cable. All those synapses, neurotrasmitters, calcium channels, etc. That's why I say that it looks like it was designed. Darwinism is an attempt to explain all this. It is an attempt to provide a mechanism for the appearance of design.

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  98. @ Professor Felsenstein

    You write:

    "William Dembski's arguments are that he (thinks he) has theorems that make it impossible for natural selection to result in sufficiently more fit organisms. I have a careful argument that he is wrong (in Reports of the National Center for Science Education, 2007, just search for “Felsenstein Dembski” to find it on line). Dembski has not made any reply. Do you have one?"

    a)Notice that you just moved the goal post now? Whether William Dembski is right or wrong is actually not the point we were arguing.

    b)Having said that, Dr Dembski has never said anything is impossible because Dembski knows that there is no way of proving that(regardless if this was impossible). He doesn't even think it's impossible for sand storms and erosion to explain the patterns on Mount rushmore, he thinks there is always a logical possibility that this can happen however it's highly improbable that this could happen. Dr Dembski has never tried to argue that it's impossible for IC systems to have evolved via Darwinian processes, rather he argues that it is highly unlikely given what we understand about such systems and what we currently understand Darwinian processes can do.

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  99. @ Professor Felsenstein

    You write:

    "I gave the example of Design advocates arguing that the Designer would not have made junk DNA."

    The junk DNA argument was used against ID to borrow a phrase from Miller "From a design point of view, pseudogenes are indeed mistakes. So why are they there? Intelligent design cannot explain the presence of a nonfunctional pseudogene, unless it is willing to allow that the designer made serious errors, wasting millions of bases of DNA on a blueprint full of junk and scribbles. Evolution, however, can explain them easily. Pseudogenes are nothing more than chance experiments in gene duplication that have failed, and they persist in the genome as evolutionary remnants of the past history of the b -globin genes"

    From a design perspective we can expect as much functionality as possible in the genome, therefore the more functional the genome the more likely it is the product of design. The more functions we discover for non-protein coding DNA the more probable design and the more improbable for blind material processes. It's not that we think "God would have made no junk DNA", it's just, the more sophisticated and integrated the genome's functions become, the less likely it becomes that it's the result of blind material processes. The argument is not based on a theological argument about what God would do or what God wouldn't do, it is the evolutionists here who were guilty of using our ignorance as evidence for evolution because "God would not have made so many errors"

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  100. natschuster: "The cables in my computer were designed. I know this because I see the purposful integration of parts for a specific function."

    No, you know it for many more reasons than this. You have both a plausible agent, (human designers) and a plausible mechanism. (factories & machines that make wires) The agent is plausible because it is your experience that humans can design and manufacture complex electronics. (Many products are labeled with both the designer and manufacturer) The mechanism is plausible because it is your experience that other complex electronics also come from factories and machines. The agent is verifiable; you can directly converse with the engineers who designed it, or at least with engineers that design similar things. The mechanism is verifiable; you can visit the factory, even with a film crew if you wish.

    You also don't have a plausible alternative explanation as to how the cables came to be. Computers don't reproduce with random variation, and they aren't filtered by differential reproductive success.

    natschuster: "That's why I say that it looks like it was designed. Darwinism is an attempt to explain all this. It is an attempt to provide a mechanism for the appearance of design."

    Erastothenes attempted to explain the fact that the earth 'appears' flat, yet the Earth's shadow on the moon is round. He did quite well.

    Copernicus and Galileo attempted to explain the the fact that the sun 'appears' to orbit the earth. They did quite well.

    And yes, Darwin attempted to explain the fact that organisms 'appear' designed. He did quite well. His theory has held up to over a century of scrutinizing and rigorous testing.

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  101. natschuster: The cables in my computer were designed. I know this because I see the purposful integration of parts for a specific function.

    Just like people of the past, you compare neurons to familiar objects.

    The classical planets have specific functions regulating the cycles of life, such as the cycle of day and night, or the cycle of seasons, all to ultimately demonstrate the beneficience of the Creator. The most complex artifact of its day, the astrolabe, shows how complex the motions of the planets are. The cosmos is obviously a grand astrolabe, built by God, and regulated by His angels.

    And let's not get started on the whimsical nature of ├ćolus.

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  102. Corax wrote:

    At least in saying this (even if somewhat tongue in cheek) you are 'acknowledging' the point that the design argument is completely neutral as to who/what the designer is.

    Which is precisely the problem with the design argument as presented. We can't get there from here given an abstract designer.

    On one hand, the argument which ID attempts to present as science is limited to an abstract designer. However, on the other hand, it claims this abstract designer was responsible for at least some of the concrete biological complexity we observe. What we need is an explanation which gets us from from the abstract to the concrete. But this explanation is missing from the theory which ID attempts to present as science. It's a catch 22 situation.

    Theists want ID taught in schools as science to open the door for their specific theological beliefs. But they know this can only occur if they posit an abstract designer. But in retreating to this position in their "official" theory, they they also retreat from the particular theistic belief that provides an explanation for why the designer would design any of the concrete biological complexity we observe.

    We need this explanation because, as an agent, an abstract designer (which has no limits) could intentionally choose to design things to look exactly as if they evolved via a natural and undirected process. And an omnipotent and omniscient designer could do so in a way that perfectly hid his involvement. Or it could have the ability to design a natural process that apparels to our sense of design, but only on the surface, and exhibits a wide range of freedom in regards to the specific outcomes.

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  103. Corax wrote:

    ...really the question is not how good is the design?, but rather is there a means by which we can determine what is designed?

    We do it the same way and to the same degree as we do in other domains: with scientific theories. And what are scientific theories? They are unseen explanations about the seen (observed phenomena)

    What you've described is essentially Hume's problem of induction, which had a significant impact on science. We didn't really solve the problem of induction, we changed the definition of scientific knowledge. Just as we cannot know for certain if phenomena of falling apples and moving planets are actually caused by a single, natural force, we cannot know if anything is actually designed or not.

    The best we can do is posit a concrete explanation for the phenomena in question via conjecture, then see if concrete observations collaborate the explanation in the form of predictions. While Cornelius appears OK with this method in other domains, he objects in the case of Evolution, which also likely conflicts with aspects of his theological position.

    This is why the design of a Giraffe's Laryngeal nerve is relevant. We need an explanation as to why a designer would design that particular concrete design. But ID fails to provide one. That just what the designer must have wanted. Evolution, on the other hand, does have an explanation. As a natural process, evolution does not exhibit foresight and only forms good-enough solutions.

    In the case of an intelligent agent, we must consider means, motive and opportunity. However, in the case of an omnipotent and omniscient agent, means an opportunity become irrelevant. At best you have motivation. But an abstract designer has no motives. In fact, and abstract designer need not actually choose to design anything as it merely represents the potential for design.

    Again, we need an explanation that gets us from an abstract logical possibility of abstract design, to having actually having designed any of the concrete biological complexity we observe. However, this explanation is absent from the official theory that ID attempts to present as science.

    It's likely that theists smuggle in this motivation from their own theological beliefs.

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  104. @Scott

    "Theists want ID taught in schools as science to open the door for their specific theological beliefs. But they know this can only occur if they posit an abstract designer."

    This is false, William Dembski explains

    "Design theorists do not bring up God for the simple reason that design-theoretic reasoning does not warrant bringing up God. Design-theoretic reasoning tells us that certain patterns exhibited in nature reliably point us to adesigning intelligence. But there’s no inferential chain that leads from such finite design conducing patterns in nature to the infinite personal transcendent creator God of the world’s major theistic faiths."

    “ID’s metaphysical openness about the nature of nature entails a parallel openness about the nature of the designer. Is the designer an intelligent alien, a computional simulator (a la THE MATRIX), a Platonic demiurge, a Stoic seminal reason, an impersonal telic process, …, or the infinite personal transcendent creator God of Christianity? The empirical data of nature simply can’t decide."

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  105. Scott,

    Not sure I can agree with some of your points.

    If we stick to the water of the topic of the original blog entry, i.e. the comment that "God Would Not Create the Giraffe’s Recurrent Laryngeal Nerve". You state that: "This is why the design of a Giraffe's Laryngeal nerve is relevant. We need an explanation as to why a designer would design that particular concrete design. But ID fails to provide one. That just what the designer must have wanted. Evolution, on the other hand, does have an explanation."

    Why do you need an explanation of the reason why a designer designed it that way in order to know it was designed or not? While that information may be very interesting, it is not relevant to the question.

    When the issue of imperfect or sub-optimal design is raised it is to undermine the design argument - i.e. if the design is not optimal, then the feature concerned can be taken to have arisen by some means other than design. Dawkins in the giraffe episode of Inside Natures Giants, having referred to the RLN stated that while evolution can produce 'designs' that are "almost perfect" it can also account for imperfect design, regarding which he stated "imperfection which no designer would ever have perpetrated".

    As I have pointed out already this is fundamentally flawed. The panoply of human invention includes both good and bad designs. Design doesn't have to be optimal to be design. In arguing that 'imperfect' or sub-optimal design = not designed, Dawkins is simply absolutely wrong.

    Returning to your point that "We need an explanation as to why a designer" designed in a particular way - one of the ways in which the design argument differs from others is that a designer may have had a purpose/motive, whereas chance and physical laws clearly can't (note may, not must have). Knowing what that purpose or motive was, is not necessary in deciding if something was designed, any more than knowing why a person chose what they did from a menu is required to know if a meal was eaten.

    A building on the campus where I work was refurbished a few years ago. The double doors throughout the building were replaced - the new doors consisted of an asymmetric pair (i.e. one of the pair was significantly wider than the other). This not only looked a little odd, it also is not easy to open the smaller doors (basic physics, principle of moments and levers, essentially the door handle is too close to the hinge to be mechanically efficient). My initial thought was that some arty architect, who would fail GCSE physics, had come up with a lousy design. I didn't need to know his reason for doing it to know that it had been designed, but it was clearly a bad design. Or so I thought - it turned out that health and safety had required that a wheel chair must be able to pass through with one of the door pair open, and the building structure didn't allow the whole doorway to be widened to accommodate two doors at the larger size. This illustrates two points (1) you don't need to know the reasons a design is the way it is to recognise design, (2) don't jump to conclusions about designs being poor.

    If it seems that the design argument tries to have it both ways (i.e. good design supports the case, and poor design is still design),what I am actually saying design is design, poor or excellent – how good it is may be relevant to some other discussion, but it is not relevant to the question ‘is it designed?’. It is also worth pointing out that Dawkins could also be accused of trying to have it both ways when he stated that 'Intelligent design' can account for perfect designs, but only evolution can account for both the perfect and imperfect design.

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  106. In my last post "If we stick to the water of", should have read "If we stick to the matter of"

    Not sure why that happened, too easy to plame the spell checker, more likely just a mistake on my part.

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  107. "Too easy to PLAME the spell checker"?

    ;)

    Just teasing...

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  108. johan, when I pointed out that Dembski's arguments had been refuted, said

    a)Notice that you just moved the goal post now? Whether William Dembski is right or wrong is actually not the point we were arguing.


    It's relevant because Dembski's Design Detector detects design (allegedly, not actually) by looking for Complex Specified Information. The relevant specification is fitness, and CSI then translates to highly fit (i.e. good) design.

    b)Having said that, Dr Dembski has never said anything is impossible because Dembski knows that there is no way of proving that(regardless if this was impossible). ... Dr Dembski has never tried to argue that it's impossible for IC systems to have evolved via Darwinian processes, rather he argues that it is highly unlikely given what we understand about such systems and what we currently understand Darwinian processes can do.

    I stand corrected: he didn't say it was impossible, he said (in effect) it was astronomically improbable. OK, with that emendation (let's call it “essentially impossible” -- that's the phrase I used in my article), what do you think is wrong with my article's argument? If nothing is wrong, Dembski's design detection is dead.

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  109. johan said (when I pointed out that advocates of Design who argue that most putative junk DNA must really be functional are making a Good Design argument):

    From a design perspective we can expect as much functionality as possible in the genome, therefore the more functional the genome the more likely it is the product of design. The more functions we discover for non-protein coding DNA the more probable design and the more improbable for blind material processes. It's not that we think "God would have made no junk DNA", it's just, the more sophisticated and integrated the genome's functions become, the less likely it becomes that it's the result of blind material processes. The argument is not based on a theological argument about what God would do or what God wouldn't do, it is the evolutionists here who were guilty of using our ignorance as evidence for evolution because "God would not have made so many errors"

    This is strange. If we see functional sequences in the DNA they can be there because of natural selection, they need not be evidence of Design. (William Dembski thinks his theorems say otherwise but his argument fails). So seeing some more function in the DNA is not evidence of Design, as there is a good conventional explanation.

    But Design advocates really do (in spite of your assertions) make a Good Design argument. See Stephen Meyer's recent book, chapter 18, pp. 406-407: where he says:

    ID theorists do not deny that mutational processes might have degraded or “broken” some previously functional DNA, but we predict that the functional DNA (the signal) should dwarf the nonfunctional DNA (the noise) and not the reverse.

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  110. @ Prof Felsenstein

    You write:

    "It's relevant because Dembski's Design Detector detects design (allegedly, not actually) by looking for Complex Specified Information. The relevant specification is fitness, and CSI then translates to highly fit (i.e. good) design."

    You were first accusing ID theorists of using theological arguments for ID, and now you are arguing that ID-theoretic concepts have been refuted.

    This is a different matter altogether, I was merely pointing out that ID arguments are not based on knowledge about "what God would have done or wouldn't have done".

    Also, I don't see how you have refuted anything, you say CSI translates to highly fit designs, how does this make it any easier for evolution to explain complexity? Yes fitness might be good for the organism, and if a good design helps an organism survive, natural selection would be sure to preserve such designs no argument, but this doesn't make it any easier for random mutations or any other blind search to stumble upon such designs.

    //what do you think is wrong with my article's argument?//

    I've just looked at your article now, and I see you write:

    "biologists would regard them[digital information embedded in DNA] as the outcome of natural selection. To see them as evidence of ID, one would need an argument that showed that they could only have arisen by purposeful action (ID), and not by selection."

    Natural selection doesn't help explain the origin of functional information or worse the origin of informatio necessary for the first life, because one first needs digital information before one could even have self-replication. In the paper "The Capabilities of
    Chaos and Complexity" David Abel writes ".. natural selection never works at the decision node programming level [10].Evolution works only on already-programmed, already-living, already-fittest phenotypic organisms"

    At the end of the day evolutionists are forced to put their money on self-organizational forces to explain the origin of information so that natural selection could have something to act on. In the paper "Life's irreducible structure" the chemisty and philosopher of science Michael Polanyi wrote:

    "In the light of the current theory of evolution, the codelike structure of DNA must be assumed to have come about by a sequence of chance variations established by natural selection. But this evolutionary aspect is irrelevant here; whatever may be the origin of a DNA configuration, it can function as a code only if its order is not due to the forces of potential energy. It must be as physically indeterminate as the sequence of words is on a printed page. As the arrangement[information] of a printed page is extraneous[irreducible] to the chemistry of the printed page, so is the base sequence[information] in a DNA molecule extraneous[irreducible]to the chemical forces at work in the DNA molecule."

    Evolutionists have a real problem on their hands because self-organization does not explain the origin of information, and natural selection can do nothing to explain the origin of information which need to first exist before natural selection can come into play.

    Johan

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  111. @ Prof Felsenstein

    You write:

    "It's relevant because Dembski's Design Detector detects design (allegedly, not actually) by looking for Complex Specified Information. The relevant specification is fitness, and CSI then translates to highly fit (i.e. good) design."

    You were first accusing ID theorists of using theological arguments for ID, and now you are arguing that ID-theoretic concepts have been refuted.

    This is a different matter altogether, I was merely pointing out that ID arguments are not based on knowledge about "what God would have done or wouldn't have done".

    Also, I don't see how you have refuted anything, you say CSI translates to highly fit designs, how does this make it any easier for evolution to explain complexity? Yes fitness might be good for the organism, and if a good design helps an organism survive, natural selection would be sure to preserve such designs no argument, but this doesn't make it any easier for random mutations or any other blind search to stumble upon such designs.

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  112. @Prof Felsenstein

    //what do you think is wrong with my article's argument?//

    I've just looked at your article now, and I see you write:

    "biologists would regard them[digital information embedded in DNA] as the outcome of natural selection. To see them as evidence of ID, one would need an argument that showed that they could only have arisen by purposeful action (ID), and not by selection."

    Natural selection doesn't help explain the origin of functional information or worse the origin of informatio necessary for the first life, because one first needs digital information before one could even have self-replication. In the paper "The Capabilities of
    Chaos and Complexity" David Abel writes ".. natural selection never works at the decision node programming level [10].Evolution works only on already-programmed, already-living, already-fittest phenotypic organisms"

    At the end of the day evolutionists are forced to put their money on self-organizational forces to explain the origin of information so that natural selection could have something to act on. In the paper "Life's irreducible structure" the chemisty and philosopher of science Michael Polanyi wrote:

    "In the light of the current theory of evolution, the codelike structure of DNA must be assumed to have come about by a sequence of chance variations established by natural selection. But this evolutionary aspect is irrelevant here; whatever may be the origin of a DNA configuration, it can function as a code only if its order is not due to the forces of potential energy. It must be as physically indeterminate as the sequence of words is on a printed page. As the arrangement[information] of a printed page is extraneous[irreducible] to the chemistry of the printed page, so is the base sequence[information] in a DNA molecule extraneous[irreducible]to the chemical forces at work in the DNA molecule."

    Evolutionists have a real problem on their hands because self-organization does not explain the origin of information, and natural selection can do nothing to explain the origin of information which need to first exist before natural selection can come into play.

    Johan

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  113. Richie,

    Others have pulled you up in the past on your use of the word 'evolution'. Technically the word simply means 'change'. So when we ask 'Has life on Earth evolved over time?' what we are technically asking is 'Has life on Earth changed over time?' And it IS pretty undeniable that it has, in fact changed.

    I hope that you agree on this point at least - that life on Earth has, at least, changed - to some degree, for whatever reason and by whatever mechanisms.

    This is the 'evolution' referred to when people say 'evolution is a fact'. It is a scientific fact that life on Earth has CHANGED. How? Why? When? Immaterial. Life on Earth has changed. That is the scientific FACT of the matter.
    ===

    Hunter,

    "This is an incredible equivocation."

    ''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''

    I agree with this. I'm surprised though that no other evolution commentor here corrected this statement unless this would be the same universal view by the supporters. I believe what evolution is and the definition given by Ritchie seems more of heartfelt emotional passion for expressing a belief while not totally understanding that belief. At least that belief's original meaning at the beginning when it was created.

    There does seem to be alot more of politicing and philosophy injection, maybe by both sides and that is ashame because you have to wonder what both sides could be really missing when it comes to discovery.
    ''''''''''''''''''''''''

    Janfeld:

    "I have yet to see CH promote any kind of scientific hypothesis whatsoever (I thought that's what scientists do?)."

    "So naturally it's not surprising that many of us he think that he's rather disingenuous in his approach when he talks about "bad science", particularly since he has yet to offer any alternative science whatsoever."
    ''''''''''''''''''''''

    For once and in fairness and I think it would be beneficial if he could show where the other sides {Id - Creationism} fail in the assuming department. Since he claims he wants neutral naturalistic explanations only science, and that creationism and ID are not his cup of tea either, I'd love to see examples of where creationists and IDers do exactly what he says evolutionists do. But i haven't noticed any examples in any of his writings.

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  114. johan: Natural selection doesn't help explain the origin of functional information or worse the origin of informatio necessary for the first life, because one first needs digital information before one could even have self-replication. In the paper "The Capabilities of
    Chaos and Complexity" David Abel writes ".. natural selection never works at the decision node programming level [10]. Evolution works only on already-programmed, already-living, already-fittest phenotypic organisms"


    As silly as Abel's paper is, it still should be represented accurately. He's not referring to the origin of life, but that natural selection only selects whole individuals and not individual traits ("decision node programming level).

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  115. johan said (after looking at my article that refutes Dembski)::

    You were first accusing ID theorists of using theological arguments for ID, and now you are arguing that ID-theoretic concepts have been refuted.

    Yes. But the very opening sentences of that article make clear my position: the positive arguments about what ID predicts are not science, but the negative arguments about what evolution cannot explain are science. So no self-contradiction.

    Also, I don't see how you have refuted anything, you say CSI translates to highly fit designs, how does this make it any easier for evolution to explain complexity? Yes fitness might be good for the organism, and if a good design helps an organism survive, natural selection would be sure to preserve such designs no argument, but this doesn't make it any easier for random mutations or any other blind search to stumble upon such designs.

    Dembski's argument is an impossibility (well, OK, astronomically extreme improbability) argument that claims that natural selection cannot create Specified Information, which in the fitness case translates to higher fitness. I show that his theorems don't prove this. I even give a simple case with four different bases at one site in a piece of DNA where one can see that the equations of population genetics predict that the more fit base will increase in frequency, and thus some Speciified Information is put into the DNA. You have simply repeated his conclusion that specified information cannot be put into DNA, without defending his rationale. He has an argument, his Law of Conservation of Complex Specified Information, that purports to show that, and in my article I demonstrate that it shows no such thing.

    I've just looked at your article now, and I see you write:

    "biologists would regard them[digital information embedded in DNA] as the outcome of natural selection. To see them as evidence of ID, one would need an argument that showed that they could only have arisen by purposeful action (ID), and not by selection."

    Natural selection doesn't help explain the origin of functional information or worse the origin of informatio necessary for the first life, because one first needs digital information before one could even have self-replication.


    Let's not go whizzing off to the Origin Of Life. Dembski's argument is that, long after that and even today, his LCCSI prevents essentially all adaptation by natural selection.

    In the paper "The Capabilities of
    Chaos and Complexity" David Abel writes


    I am not Abel. I was asking whether the argument in my article made sense. So far you have repeated Dembski's claim without dealing with what I said about

    (1) Dembski's LCCSI being irrelevant because it changes the specification in mid-stream, and

    (2) Specified information being able to be put into the genome by natural selection (the simple four-bases argument).

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  116. Prof Felsenstein,

    Before we go on, I have a bone to pick with you with regards to something else you wrote in your piece. You write:

    "According to Dembski's argument we would not need to worry: bacteria infecting a patient could not evolve antibiotic resistance. Human immunodeficiency viruses (HIV) would not become resistant to drugs. Insects would not evolve resistance to insecticides."

    But this is false, for example when bacteria obtain the ability to resist bacteria via mutations this is usually by what Behe would consider "loss of function" mutations, this does not violate anything Dembski has argued. Micro biologist Kevin Anderson writes about mutations that lead to anti biotic resistance:

    "..These mutations result in the loss of pre-existing cellular systems/activities, such as porins and other transport systems, regulatory systems, enzyme activity, and protein binding. Antibiotic resistance may also impart some decrease of “relative fitness” (severe in a few cases), although for many mutants this is compensated by reversion. The real biological cost, though, is loss of pre-existing systems and activities"

    Lee Spetner writes:

    "This change in the surface of the microorganism's ribosome prevents the streptomycin molecule from attaching and carrying out its antibiotic function. It turns out that this degradation is a loss of specificity and therefore a loss of information. The main point is that Evolution… cannot be achieved by mutations of this sort, no matter how many of them there are"

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  117. @Prof Felsenstein

    You write:

    //long after that and even today, his LCCSI prevents essentially all adaptation by natural selection.//

    Dembski's conservation theorems is not against natural selection or adaptation per se, it's against the idea that one can somehow find small targets while one has no knowledge about where to look. As natural selection cannot guide mutations, it cannot tell evolution where to look, natural selection must patiently wait for random mutations to stumble upon the sequences that happen to lead to fitness. Only after these sequences have been found (by blind search if Darwinian evolution was true) and only after these have caused the organism to have a functional advantage over other organisms in the population does this become visible to natural selection.

    Johan

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  118. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  119. johan said about my refutation of Dembski's argument:

    Prof Felsenstein,

    Before we go on, I have a bone to pick with you with regards to something else you wrote in your piece. You write:

    "According to Dembski's argument we would not need to worry: bacteria infecting a patient could not evolve antibiotic resistance. Human immunodeficiency viruses (HIV) would not become resistant to drugs. Insects would not evolve resistance to insecticides."

    But this is false, for example when bacteria obtain the ability to resist bacteria via mutations this is usually by what Behe would consider "loss of function" mutations, this does not violate anything Dembski has argued.


    Dembski's argument is that he has ruled out any gain of Complex Specified Information, and if the specification is fitness, that argument (his original LCCSI and the Design Detector) rules out any change that is a gain in fitness (that is big enough). It says nothing about whether this change is loss of function versus gain of function. That is a later add-on by others. Show me where in Dembski's detailed presentation of the LCCSI or the Design Detector he raises the issue of loss versus gain.

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  120. Corax wrote:

    Why do you need an explanation of the reason why a designer designed it that way in order to know it was designed or not?

    We have specific examples of buildings that are known to be designed from which we can make detailed comparisons with the specific building in question. And it exhibits a large number of features that correlate with a relatively specific set of goals, needs and limitations of a specific cause which is known to exist: human beings.

    However, unlike the building in your analogy, we lack examples of planets populated with known designed biological complexity, from which we can make reasonable comparisons to that found on our own. Nor could we have any features or indicators to to correlate to the goals, needs or limitations of an abstract designer.

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  121. Corax,

    I'm in agreement that what we might consider 'poor' design is insufficient to exclude design.

    My point is that ID's claim of design in regards to the concrete biological complexity we observe is an implicit a claim that the designer in question actually *would* design that complexity. Otherwise, the theory would be limited to some kind of abstract outcomes. However, this is not the case. ID is clearly referring to the concrete biological complexity we observe. How do we get there from a being that could have designed anything or absolutely nothing?

    Again, we need an explanation why this, rather than something else. Given the problem of induction, that's the best we can do.

    The routing of the Giraffe's laryngeal nerve is relevant because it represents an example of a concrete design. Unless ID is going to exempt Giraffes from its theory, it's implicitly claiming that a designer *would* actually design it's nerve as we observe it. But ID fails to provide a reason for this specific design, rather than some other possible design. That's just what the designer must have wanted.

    In contrast, the concrete routing of the Giraffe's laryngeal nerve is better explained by evolutionary theory.

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  122. johan wrote:

    Prof Felsenstein

    You write:

    //long after that and even today, his LCCSI prevents essentially all adaptation by natural selection.//

    Dembski's conservation theorems is not against natural selection or adaptation per se, it's against the idea that one can somehow find small targets while one has no knowledge about where to look. As natural selection cannot guide mutations, it cannot tell evolution where to look, natural selection must patiently wait for random mutations to stumble upon the sequences that happen to lead to fitness. Only after these sequences have been found (by blind search if Darwinian evolution was true) and only after these have caused the organism to have a functional advantage over other organisms in the population does this become visible to natural selection.


    Dembski's argument is that the specification (and I argue that fitness is the valid specification to consider) cannot increase by more than a certain amount (the amount that leads it to be considered by him Complex, about 500 bits). If all the appropriate mutations have occurred, his argument seems to rule out having natural selection cause them to rise in frequency and fix in the population, at least by enough to carry us out into the upper tail of the fitness distribution and be in its upper (1/2)^500. It is thus not an argument about unavailability of beneficial mutations. You misunderstand his argument.

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  123. Joseph -

    " I believe what evolution is and the definition given by Ritchie seems more of heartfelt emotional passion for expressing a belief while not totally understanding that belief. At least that belief's original meaning at the beginning when it was created."

    How so, exactly?

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