Sunday, May 9, 2010

#8: Douglas Axe


Axe is a zealous creationist associated with the Discovery Institute (he is the director at their “Biologic Institute"). Axe is a molecular biologist, and thus actually knows some science. He uses this knowledge to write mundane papers, at least two of which have been published in low-tier, although genuine, journals - despite being uninteresting and mundane. Axe’s work is hailed by the Discovery Institute as evidence for their views. Of course, there is no actual support of intelligent design in these published papers, and Axe himself admits as much: http://pandasthumb.org/archives/2007/01/92-second-st-fa.html

Insofar as Axe is a creationist with real scientific publications to his name, Axe’s work is one of the main contributions to a sheen of legitimacy for the ID movement. But given that his publications do not at all support or even touch on their views (but are willfully interpreted as such by other ID-proponents without Axe complaining) he is an important contributor to erecting the framework of dishonesty that is the ID movement.

Diagnosis: Dishonest wingnut who might pose a genuine if minor threat to science and rationality as a creationist with actually published (though unrelated) material.

21 comments:

  1. And he shows himself to be extremely fond of the standard Creationist false dichotomy: If just evolution were shown to be false then creationism would be correct. He seems nevertheless to be dimly aware of the problem with this assumption, and he makes some rather feeble attempts at goalpost-moving his way around them.

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  2. And no; despite being touted as the scientist of the DiscoTute, he doesn't have the most tenuous grasp of biology, as evidenced by this feeble and profound misunderstanding of basic notions.

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  3. Gotta love how evolutionist loons can't admit that there are smart, educated people who believe that God created life. Apparently some guy who holds a PhD from Caltech and did postdoctoral work at Cambridge "knows some science." If he "knows some science" then you...? The immediate response to such nonsense would be to ask you to produce your resume and see whether you're one of the few people on the planet with a stronger one, but on second thought, comparing resumes doesn't mean as much as we would like - after all, Albert Einstein developed special relativity while basically unemployed (working in a patent office since he couldn't get a job as a physics professor).

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    1. I have no idea what you are talking about. There are smart, educated people who believe that God created life, and that has nothing to do with evolution. There are even a few people, such as Axe, who have his credentials in order, yet who continues to reject the cumulative efforts of all the rest of science. It has nothing really to do with Axe's credentials, except that denialists appear to love showing off the few serious scientists who are also denialists there are (compare the ridiculous lists thrown off by the Discovery Institute, CMI, the Oregon Institute and so on (to which Project Steve is a brilliant response)).

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  4. Douglas Axe is an outstanding scientist. Maxwell, Max Plank, Boyle, Borh, Mendel, Faraday, Newton and many other great scientist of all times use to believe in God to.

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  5. Either Axe's claims are true or they are not

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  6. The argument for ID is either true or it is false. To determine which of the dichotomous truth value options best describes the veridicality of the argument, one must first evaluate the fidelity of all assumed and evidenced premises, then ascertain each premises' truth bearing property and whether it has been transmitted by way of appropriately selected rational patterns of inference toward establishing the likely truth of the conclusion thus derived. Pursuing the truth of this matter employing some other less intellectually rigorous approach will inevitably bring to bear one or more of several cognitive distortions that, in turn, perturb the proper deployment of good logical reasoning thus predisposing individuals to erroneously reject the propositions (i.e. starting premises) contained within the argument in which they are meant to count in favour of the trustworthiness of the argument's conclusion - such flawed reckoning will include informal logical fallacies such as: appeal to credentials, appeal to tradition, appeal to disgust, appeal to motive, appeal to consequences, appeal to the majority, etc.

    My analysis of ID shows the theory to be a strong and sound inductive argument that is based on probabilistically true premises that satisfy the vera causa principle often necessary in rationally substantiating claims pertaining to a historical scientific account that is logically impossible to experimentally repeat (standing in contradistinction to on-going occurrences of natural phenomena amenable to research techniques that inhere to operative science). Moreover, eliminative inductive method - described as argument to the best explanation - seems apt because Darwinism was and continues to be predicted on this same mode of inference.

    My conclusion is that Intelligent Design offers a more intellectually satisfying account of the origin of DNA and by logical extension of the origin of all life. The current neo-Darwinian account of macro-evolution has failed to retain any credulity in light of the scientific discoveries made over the last 150 years, especially in the area molecular biochemistry/genomics. Certain obvious metaphysical implications emerge when considering the actual existence of an unfathomably intelligent and powerful agent, so let's remain civil and earnestly contend with these entailments - just as every human society has done likewise in the past.

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    1. First of all, it would be advantageous if you learned to use the terminology right. *Arguments* are not true or false, but strong or weak, valid or invalid. *Claims*, on the other hand, are true or false. Furthermore, phrases such as "probabilistically true premises" are literally meaningless.

      After that, I recommend that you teach yourself something about scientific methods and avoid creationist stupidity such as "historical scientific account that is logically impossible to experimentally repeat".

      Let me try to give you a brief idea (not that I harbor any beliefs that you'll get it). The basic, guiding notion behind scientific investigations is that of confirmation (or falsification) through observation. You dream up a hypothesis and figure out what observations that hypothesis entails (ideally deductively). Then you test whether those predictions are correct. If the predicted observations happen, your hypothesis is confirmed; if they don't, your hypothesis is falsified. With me thus far?

      Good. And just from that description, you should easily see why the creationist distinction between "historical" and "observational" sciences is amazing bullshit. Take evolution. Evolution yields a range of predictions *observable today*. For instance, it predicts that certain fossils will be found in certain geological strata and not others. That's a prediction that can be confirmed or falsified by observations. If you find the fossils where you predict, the hypothesis is confirmed; if the fossils show up elsewhere, your hypothesis is falsified. And evolution has yielded an enormous range of successful predictions.

      And of course those observations are repeatable! The point about repeatability is that your observations should be independently verified by other scientists. And the fossil record certainly is. Just send *someone else out there to check that the fossils are where they are supposed to be. That's all there is to repeatability.

      And the range of observational tests that evolution has passed is amazing. The most significant is probably the discovery of the gene (remember that evolution was formulated long before the discovery of the gene). If common descent was correct it would obviously have all sorts of implications for what one should observe in the genome. And those predictions have all come out confirming common descent, and nothing yet falsifying it (think of it: unless common descent was correct we would have no reason to think that humans and cats would exhibit any particular similarities in genetic makeup).

      By contrast, intelligent design is not a scientific theory. Intelligent design does not yield any predictions whatsoever. To derive testable predictions you would have to make conjectures about the nature and intentions of the designer, something ID proponents of course refuse to do. Would the gene be a test for Intelligent Design? Not at all. Intelligent Design gives us no reason to think that the human genome should have any similarities to the cat genome. It doesn't give us any reasons to think it should be particularly different either. It doesn't give us any reason to expect anything in particular whatsoever. So genes cannot be used as a test to confirm or falsify Intelligent Design. And they haven't come up with anything else either.

      The overall point is this: You talk about "inference to the best explanation". But evolution is *not* justified by inference to the best explanation. Inference to the best explanation was used to formulate *the original hypothesis*. But when that one was formed it had to be tested through observation. And evolution is, as I have pointed out, justified *by those observations*. Intelligent Design, on the other hand, is not an explanation for anything, nor does it have any observational support. It's bunk.

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    2. G.D., you'll agree with me that an argument is simply a set of propositions (i.e. declarative sentences wherein the predicate concept asserts some property or set of characteristic belonging to the subject concept) in which one proposition serves as the conclusion and the remaining propositions function as premises arranged in a logical pattern such that the application of an appropriately selected mode of inference transmits the inherent truth contained within the premises to the argument's conclusion with high fidelity. Stated otherwise, an argument is a proposition supported by other logically manipulated propositions that count in favour of the truth of the argument's proposition of principal interest (i.e. the conclusion). In stating that arguments are either true or not true, I implicitly assume, usually quite safely, my audience understands that I am referring to the conclusion derived from the argument I have referenced. Obviously, occasions exist when it is wiser for me to avoid certain assumptions since they may not be necessarily recognized by certain discussants - in the future I will, in good faith, attempt to make these entailments explicit to avoid unnecessary confusion in order to better facilitate civil and productive discussions, especially for debates some of whose participants display a predilection toward expressing their views with excessive emotionality.

      Now allow me to re-jig my original statement: "The conclusions of the Intelligent Design argument are either true or they are false." The conclusions themselves or neither strong nor valid, these terms describe the logical form that an argument takes, additionally, "strong" might be employed as an evaluative term referring to either, or both, an inductive argument's logical form and/or the evidence supporting the truth of its premises.

      G.D., I suspect that you are confusing epistemological truth with ontological reality. Propositions, such as those derived from I.D. arguments (the forenamed conclusions of I.D. arguments), do or do not accurately represent a state of affairs or lawful regularity somewhere in the universe, one currently operating or one that did so at some point in the past. Arguments yield a proposition and the latter must necessarily be true or false, whether or not we possess any insight into its reality.

      For example, the following proposition must be true in reality or not true at the same time and in the same sense: There truly exists an agent having the properties of both ineffable power and intelligence and from whom issue the material, formal, efficient, and final causes required in undertaking the task of creating the complex and specified information that inheres to DNA. This proposition is true or it is not true, moreover the agent thus proposed exists (or did so at some time in the past) or does not exist (and never has). I contend that I.D. arguments offer well articulated and very strong evidence justifying their premises from which highly probable conclusions have been drawn using appropriate modes of inference. The probability that these inductive arguments have yielded false conclusions is so low that any reasonably set threshold for impelling belief in the truth of something has been met, therefore I must necessarily embrace the ontological reality of such an intelligent agent and this agent's immediate workings within the material universe as the ultimate origin of information, its encipherment into digital code instantiated by genomic DNA and epigenetic code(s) involved in regulating genomic activity.

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    3. There seems to be pervasive though misbegotten ideas with respect to the concept of historical science. As a generality, apart from mathematics, scientific inquiry, whether attempting to investigate and explain natural phenomena whose effects are historically constrained (e.g. the natural nuclear fission reaction identified in Gabon, West Africa) or those that perpetually occur (Darwinian micro-evolution), is an enterprise predicated on the gainful exploitation of the current repository of knowledge to pursue an agenda whose aim is to further elaborate and expand on this knowledge base for reasons that are both practical (e.g. recognizing potential medical applications) and purely aesthetic (i.e. satisfying our innate curiosity). There are myriad methods and techniques to achieve these goals all of which are said to comply with the scientific method. Of course it is illusory to believe in a single correct scientific method as some commentators are inclined to do. On some matter of scientific interest, modern science employs a host of methods each designed to suitably investigate, explain and propose new directions for further research.

      Promulgators of both I.D. theory and the theory of macro-evolution by means of neo-Darwinian processes claim to satisfy the vera causa principle and in which arguably the most influential natural scientists of in the modern era, Charles Darwin and Charles Lyell, pivot their theories and rightly so for there does not exist any other known principle that better comports with scientific rigour in attempts to explicate the origins of any current or previously extant natural phenomenon (e.g. the origin of life, modern human beings, or the Andes mountain range). Investigation into processes, either those that participated in creating geologic formations such as the Andes or those that account for the sudden appearance of the impressive array of basic body plans observed in the early Cambrian fossil record simply do not lend themselves to traditional experimental techniques frequently put to use in the laboratory because the latter is designed and dedicated to test ideas and hypotheses pertaining to operational science not those related to matters of historical science - these require a different, unique set of methodological implements and modes of inquiry, the very ones I have previously mentioned (e.g. vera causa principle, eliminative induction, in addition to more conventional methods).

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    4. I don't dispatch your comments regarding how one ought to pursue or recognize legitimate science, though I find them somewhat naïve. Your conflation of various aspects of theories espoused by numerous philosophers of science (Popper, Kuhn, Lakatos, etc.) of the 20th century is not without merit and generally reflects the consensus view. While other philosophies exist, I am arguing that the key elements belonging to your farrago philosophy of science can be and have been in large measure satisfied by I.D theory. As one example, evolutionist Francis Collins (previous director of the government funded side of the Human Genome Project and current director of the NIH) whose book "The Language of God (2006)" purports Darwinian macro-evolution theory to predict that the vast majority of human DNA sequences will be completely useless, demonstrating no functional value and therefore "junk". A contemporaneous prediction based on I.D. theory was proffered by Stephen Meyers (of the Discovery Institute): that all DNA sequences will be demonstrated as providing functionally meaningful genomic activity. Fast-forward a few years to the near present, a time during which the ENCODE project has validated the predictive value of I.D. theory and, once again, the lack of any such value possessed by the prevailing iteration of macro-evolution theory (here is another I.D. based prediction you can look foreword to being proved: the vitamin C "pseudogene" will demonstrate indisputable functional utility).

      G.D., we obviously disagree with the other's position on the origin of life and likely many others issues besides but statements of the kind: "Let me try to give you a brief idea (not that I harbor any beliefs that you'll get it).", are conversation stoppers as well as unmeritorious ad hominem attacks. Oftentimes these cheap shots are deployed, perhaps on a subconscious level, as red herrings steering discussants away from what otherwise might be a productive conversation. As it stands, you have demonstrated an unyielding commitment to materialism, one that is both unnecessary and irrational in light of the countervailing evidence strongly supporting the existence of an intelligent and powerful agent - the one whose mind is at once capable of designing the most impressively sophisticated, complex digital code responsible for the exquisitely specific, exactingly precise instructions for engineering the colossal variety of life-forms, AND to cause it to be. Once you are able to appreciate, even if only vaguely, the reality of this mind, its sublimity will strike you silent, and then you will be ready to discuss the more important issue, the metaphysical implications of an extant ineffably intelligent and powerful mind.

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    5. A few quit rebuttals to some of your comments:

      Darwinistic evolution makes certain predictions about patterns that ought to be present in the fossil record and these patterns have actually been repeatedly observed.
      -----Every evolutionist who has ever lived has taken the fossil record as proof of evolution, including Darwin, though he pointing out the lack of transitional fossil forms necessary to sustain his theory (whether or not they were aware of this is another matter, but there can be no doubt that in the absence of a fossil record embedded in a geological column adjudged to span millions of years, no sane person would ever dream of even privately whispering to themselves a kooky concept such as evolution). Now you claim that evolution makes predictions about the fossil record? Question begging - you can't have it both ways, the fossil record must either be a proof for evolution OR be something about which evolution makes vindicating predictions. Fallacy aside, what, since Darwin's day, has the fossil record yielded in support of evolution? Evolutionists claim that the record is rife with transitional forms (e.g. the horse lineage, Tiktaalik, Archaeopteryx, etc.) so why does it continue dog evolutionists? Because these purported transitional life forms are the product of imaginative confirmation-biased minds. Indeed, the fossilized life forms exist but arguing that they represent transitional species between two or more other highly morphologically divergent species is, well, inventive. Furthermore, if the fossil record supports evolution why do evolutionists special plead with exceptive notions such as punctuated equilibrium and wax plaintively about the infrequent and unreliable fossilization process. I am to believe that the alleged plenitude of transitional fossil forms supports evolution but their absence does not refute it. As Popper once remarked, "Irrefutability is not a virtue of a theory (as people often think) but a vice."

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    6. That dogs and cats share genes in common is a prediction of evolution.
      -----How about the genes that are not shared by both? Surely this disproves evolution. Apparently it doesn't, both shared and unshared genes among dogs and cats are vindicatory predictions supporting evolution. Popper has something to say about this sort of logic. By the way, I.D. and plain common sense do make the very same prediction because dogs and cats are very similar in many traits and dissimilar in others, so why would anyone not expect the genetic code to reflect this reality?

      I.D. theory doesn't explain anything, offers no prospect for empirical research, makes no predictions, etc.
      -----I.D. does indeed explain much and helps us to more effectively grapple with certain hitherto unknown aspects of our universe. Specifically, the theory is an argument (please don't rejoin with a comment like "you don't even recognize the difference between a theory and an argument" since nobody does - philosophers and scientists define all sorts of terms and concepts such as question/thought/idea/hypothesis/test/experiment/theory/argument/ explanation/model in very different ways, some even prefer to make no distinction at all, say between theory/model/paradigm) whose principal conclusion is that our uniform and repeated experience of complex and specified information enciphered into digital code can always be traced back to a single common imminently recognizable origin - a mind, an agency with an intelligent mind that designs or writes code in a manner identical in form (though far less magnificent) to what we observe in genomic DNA sequences. I.D. theory does and has put forward predictions as mentioned earlier. For more information on this and other science-bearing properties inherent to I.D. theory I recommend you pick up a copy of either one of Stephen Meyers books on the topic (and actually read it): "Signature in the Cell" and "Darwin's Doubt." For a secular humanist's account in support of I.D. I refer you to Steve Fuller's "Dissent over Descent." Finally, "Evolution: A Theory in Crisis", though somewhat dated, is an excellent critique of neo-Darwinian macro-evolution written by a non-theist, Michael Denton.

      "There is no such thing as philosophy-free science; there is only science whose philosophical baggage is taken on board without examination."

      —Daniel Dennett, Darwin's Dangerous Idea, 1995

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    7. “G.D., I suspect that you are confusing epistemological truth with ontological reality.”

      That accusation would have been more forceful if you had actually given any evidence suggesting that I did.

      Of course, either a designer exists or it doesn’t. That’s hardly a very profound insight. But when you claim that I.D. arguments have conferred a high probability on the proposition that such an agent exists … well, you haven’t offered any reasons. Whether you can offer any depends on one of the points under debate. I have claimed that I.D. doesn’t offer any testable predictions that can be used to confirm or disconfirm the hypothesis. If that is correct, then it follows that no observation will be evidence for (or against) the existence of a designer either (i.e. to have empirical evidence, you need a falsifiable hypothesis – but this should be a relatively familiar point). And without empirical evidence, you have no grounds for assigning any probability to the hypothesis either. (I doubt that apriori measures, e.g. a principle of maximum enthropy would give you anything)

      “Of course it is illusory to believe in a single correct scientific method … modern science employs a host of methods each designed to suitably investigate, explain and propose new directions for further research”

      Oh, please. You were the one who suggested that evolution was, in some sense, non-scientific by drawing a distinction in kind between the methods used to test evolution and the methods used in, say, chemistry. I pointed out that the fundamental method used is the same; evolution is supported through prediction and observation, just like chemistry and medicine, not by historical speculation (and from that perspective there is indeed one correct scientific method: prediction and observation of whether the prediction holds)

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    8. “… simply do not lend themselves to traditional experimental techniques frequently put to use in the laboratory because the latter is designed and dedicated to test ideas and hypotheses pertaining to operational science not those related to matters of historical science - these require a different, unique set of methodological implements and modes of inquiry, the very ones I have previously mentioned (e.g. vera causa principle, eliminative induction, in addition to more conventional methods).”

      No, that’s simply not correct. Both in evolution and in chemistry, you start by forming a hypothesis. From that hypothesis you derive certain observations. Then you see whether your predictions are correct. That’s the method that defines a scientific inquiry, that’s the way a hypothesis in chemistry is tested, and that’s how evolution is tested. Whether you do it in a room with a “laboratory” label on the door or with a shovel is utterly irrelevant when it comes to determining whether one is a scientific test of predictions or not – different tools are relevant for different types of data gathering; microscopes for medicine, telescopes for astronomers, shovels for evolutionary biologists, but how on earth does that make one less scientific than others? Of course hypotheses about Cambrian organisms don’t lend themselves to testing by instruments specifically designed to test hypotheses in chemistry. Neither do hypotheses in medicine or astronomy. But the methodology – the inference procedures, quantification of data and reasoning principles involved – is precisely the same. That’s what make all these disciplines scientific.

      You seem still to be under the delusion that evolution applies a different set of principles for inquiry than chemistry. It doesn’t. You still seem to think that a) there is a relevant distinction between “operational science” and “historical science”, and b) that evolution belongs to the latter. And that’s a creationist myth. Evolutionary biology, astronomy, chemistry and medicine are all tested by observations of how things are now, observations that are eminently repeatable and quantifiable. You do mention some principles e.g. (“vera causa principle, eliminative induction”) that you seem to think make a difference between how observations are managed in evolutionary biology and, say, chemistry. You utterly fail to tell us how – instead, what you seem to be engaged in is a desperate attempt to argue that evolution is, somehow, more philosophical or a metaphysical thesis than theories in chemistry or astronomy. But that’s false. It may have different philosophical implications, but it is science in precisely the same way chemistry or medicine is science, and justified on precisely as scientific grounds – predictions and observations, and the same basic methods.
      “Your conflation of various aspects of theories espoused by numerous philosophers of science (Popper, Kuhn, Lakatos, etc.) of the 20th century is not without merit and generally reflects the consensus view.”

      You throw the names out there. These are names I know well. Please tell me what you think I am conflating.

      “.. the ENCODE project has validated the predictive value of I.D. theory”

      No. False. 80% of our genome is junk. The ENCODE project did not even suggest otherwise, though a lot of people who don’t know anything about the issue seem to think otherwise, because of the exasperatingly silly hype by the ENCODE leaders (e.g. here: http://thefinchandpea.com/2012/09/06/encode-media-fail/).

      Furthermore, I fail to see that whether our genome is mostly junk or not is a test for I.D. Tell me: Does I.D. predict that our genome is mostly functional? Why?

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    9. “you have demonstrated an unyielding commitment to materialism,”

      No, I have not. I am committed to the evidence. Materialism is not a presupposition or commitment of science, though currently we have been given no reason to accept any non-materialist explanations for anything. If you or anyone else could come up with a non-materialist hypothesis that yielded predictions that better fit with the data, then I would be on board. Thus far, no such hypothesis has been forwarded. One reason, of course, is that no one has even the remotest understanding of what a “non-material” process or substance would be, and before you have that it will be incredibly hard to construct any testable hypothesis.

      “the countervailing evidence strongly supporting the existence of an intelligent and powerful agent”

      You have offered no such evidence, perhaps with the exception of a brief reference to the ENCODE project, which definitely does not show what you apparently think it shows (heck, even the ENCODE themselves leaders agree: http://sandwalk.blogspot.com/2014/05/what-did-encode-consortium-say-in-2012.html)

      “Now you claim that evolution makes predictions about the fossil record? Question begging - you can't have it both ways, the fossil record must either be a proof for evolution OR be something about which evolution makes vindicating predictions.”

      I have tried to read this several times, and the only way I can make sense of this claim is to attribute to you a serious misunderstanding of science. Astronomers use their hypotheses to predict the orbits or even existence of planets. When planets are observed where the hypotheses predict them to be, that confirms the hypotheses. Same thing with evolution and the fossil record. Evolution predicts that we should see certain things in the fossil record; when we do, that’s evidence for evolution. There is no circularity here. Of course, when astronomers predict the existence of planets, it isn’t evidence for the hypotheses before those planets have been independently observed. For evolution, conjectures about the fossil record isn’t evidence; but observed fossils are.

      Of course, then you go on to deny the fossil record. At that point I won’t bother to engage you; the fossil record is pretty remarkable (and you should be careful about talking about “confirmation bias”, Simpson). But I will engage with one point:

      “I am to believe that the alleged plenitude of transitional fossil forms supports evolution but their absence does not refute it. As Popper once remarked, "Irrefutability is not a virtue of a theory (as people often think) but a vice.”"

      The plenitude of transitional fossil forms support evolution. Of course, we fossilization is exceedingly rare, and we don’t expect to find all missing links. The absence of such fossils does not refute evolutionary theory. But that does not make the theory in any way unfalsifiable: what would falsify evolution would be to find the “wrong” fossils – to find mammals in Precambrian rock layers, for instance. A Precambrian rabbit fossil would instantly falsify evolution. You see, evolution predicts not that we will find certain fossils (fossils are too rare for that), but if we find them, evolution predicts where they will be, and if they are in the wrong places, then that falsifies the theory. Of course things are messy, and the predictions are rough (a mammal 10 million years out of place would not refute evolution but force adjustment of certain derived hypothesis; a mammal 100 million years out of place would refute evolution); but that is the case for all of science, and things are certainly no more messy in evolutionary biology than in astronomy.

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    10. “That dogs and cats share genes in common is a prediction of evolution.
-----How about the genes that are not shared by both? Surely this disproves evolution.”

      You don’t even try, do you? Evolution predicts similarities in the genome. It also predicts that we will find certain differences according to how distantly related the species are. Right? The point is that there is, for instance, a multitude of ways to code for certain proteins, yet we find that it is done the same way among creatures that are evolutionarily close. Absent common descent we really would have no reason to think so, nor that we would find the same curious remnants of earlier features and weird solutions.

      “I.D. and plain common sense do make the very same prediction because dogs and cats are very similar in many traits and dissimilar in others,”

      I.D. simply doesn’t predict these genetic similarities. There are multiple ways ways of coding for the same phenotypes and features and absent common descent there really is no reason why the genome should reflect such commonalities at all (why not use some insect tricks when designing cats, for instance? Or some fish tricks when designing dolphins?). In fact, on I.D. there really is no reason why there should be animals that share a lot similarities at all. Why would a designer create a lot of mammals resembling each other a lot, and no photosynthetic animals or six-legged furry, flying beasts? I.D. cannot even explain this. Common descent can.

      From your conclusion you conclude that ID is some sort of metaphysical commitment. That’s fine. Evolution is science, and backed up by observations and evidence. You have yet to give me a single testable prediction of ID (apart, again, from the ENCODE one, which is wrong).

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    11. Actually, the main challenge to I.D. can be summed up relatively easily:

      First, even if evolution was shown to be false, that itself would be absolutely no evidence for I.D. To be a viable scientific contender, I.D. would have to establish its own predictions and explanations. And it hasn't.

      People in ancient times may have tried to offer "Zeus did it" as an explanation for lightning. The main problem is, of course, that it doesn't explain anything; what we require of an explanation is an answer to "how is it done" and "what can we expect to see in the future", and just saying "Zeus did it" offers nothing of the sort.

      Similarly for I.D. To offer any predictions whatsoever, one would have to make some claims about the nature of the designer; what resources the designer has access to, and why the designer is designing what he or she or they are designing. I.D. proponents tend to want to avoid doing that, and by the same token they are also unable to generate any predictions about what we are going to see, at least any predictions that evolution isn't already making. (For instance, you cannot even assume that the genome should be mostly functional without attributing some specific properties to the designer). And there is a good reason for why one wants to avoid attributing such precise goals or properties to the designer: that makes the theory falsifiable - if you attribute certain goals to the designer precise enough to predict that there should be no junk DNA, you will have an attribute that entails a lot of *other* predictions as well, predictions that may very well falsify your initial hypothesis.

      And that is why I hold that I.D. proponents are fundamentally either horribly confused or blatantly dishonest. Either they see what is required to make their theory testable but deliberately avoid doing so in fear of what would happen, or they don't even realize what is required.

      Young Earth creationists are more honest. Young Earth creationism makes plenty of testable predictions, e.g. that the Earth is 6000 years old. That makes the theory falsifiable; unfortunately for them, since the Earth is demonstrably not 6000 years old, it also demonstrates that their hypothesis is false.

      But from your comments I suspect that you don't really care that much about I.D. You care about God. Evolution makes no predictions about the existence or not of God. And unless some precise attributes are made to God, this remains an empirically unfalsifiable, metaphysical thesis. Accept it or not, it has nothing to do with the science. Evolution does.

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    12. G.D. said: "Why would a designer create a lot of mammals resembling each other a lot, and no photosynthetic animals or six-legged furry, flying beasts? I.D. cannot even explain this. Common descent can."

      The answer to this testable question - a hallmark of the "scientific method" - requires us to begin with the observation that intelligent agents produce complex and specified information (CSI). Design theorists hypothesize that if a natural object was designed, it will contain high levels of CSI. I will briefly show that computer programmers take advantage of a process, referred to as "recursion", whereby certain functions are defined through the repeated application of algorithms. This example satisfies both the agency and CSI conditions necessary to prove intelligent design (I recognize the principal weakness of what follows is the concept of CSI but you will recognize that I am not about to give a dissertation on it either, for now I will refer you to the many references on this topic available on the web, especially under William Dembski's name - a name no doubt located elsewhere in this encyclopedia).

      One definition of this elegantly simple and practicable concept of "recursion" can be as follows, a statement abstracted from Wikipedia:

      "Recursion in computer programming is exemplified when a function is defined in terms of simpler, often smaller versions of itself. The solution to the problem is then devised by combining the solutions obtained from the simpler versions of the problem. One example application of recursion is in parsers for programming languages. The great advantage of recursion is that an infinite set of possible sentences, designs or other data can be defined, parsed or produced by a finite computer program."

      These smaller, simplified functions are like little mini-programs (i.e. "conserved genes") embedded within a larger macro-program (e.g. in evolutionist terminology, mammaliaformes) in commonly occurring contexts (i.e. a set of similar environmental conditions) to which the macro-program will be reiteratively directed in order to solve common frequently occurring problems (e.g. warm-blooded thermoregulation). Recursion of genomic elements within a group of similar life-forms is analogous to the recursion to mini-programs embedded within larger, similar software macro-programs - all such recursive elements intentionally designed by a an intelligent mind.

      I believe most truly honest skeptics will recognize recursion as a brilliantly conceived strategy designed by an intelligent agent. This strategy is present and operating all throughout the universe, implemented in ways extending well beyond the biosphere. Attraction between mass-bodies, quarks themselves, the constant speed of light (simultaneously a real measure of precise, definite displacement of photons over a precise, definite elapsed time and a constant precisely and definitely relating energy to matter), the ratio of a circle's circumference and diameter, yet another finely tuned universal constant, and so on and so forth.

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    13. Chomsky, among others, recognized recursion as the critical component inherent to all languages that is necessary for both the observed "universalized" grammar and its capacity to generate an infinite number of novel sentences. The recursive property of language can be readily appreciated through a very simple analysis of a stripped down, simplified noun phrase, the first component of a similarly rudimentary sentence (in modern English) consisting of a single independent clause. We get the following "re-write rule":

      S--> {NP VP}, where the rewrite rule for the NP--> {(Det) N-bar, PN, Pro}, where the rewrite rule for the N-bar--> {(AP) N-bar (PP), N}, where the rewrite rule for the PP--> {(spec) P {NP, PP}};

      (S=sentence, NP=noun phrase, VP=verb phrase, Det=determiner, PN=proper name, Pro=pronoun, N-bar=noun-with a bar on top of it distinguishing this syntactic "constituent" from a basic noun, AP=adjective phrase, , N=noun, spec=specified, P=preposition, PP=preposition phrase).

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    14. In summary, I.D. offers a vastly superior account for the redundancies in mammalian genomes without having to resort to the use of highly imaginative "just so" confabulations. G.D., even you must chuckle at times after reading some of the fables published in "scientific peer-reviewed journals." Whole sub-disciplines dedicated to the neo-Darwinian campaign, like evolutionary psychology and evolutionary ethics as two examples, float along on these silly stories, the one half contradicting the other. I can't leave without mentioning my favourite of these stories (there are so many from which to choose nowadays I'm not sure I can pin it down to just one of these "just so" stories) - "kin-selection" whose exponents will have us believe that G.I. Joe flops on a hand grenade thrown into a crowd of soldiers thereby sacrificing his life to preserve those of his comrades because G.I. Joe, the actor, "causes genes to increase in frequency when the genetic relatedness of a recipient to an actor multiplied by the benefit to the recipient is greater than the reproductive cost to the actor." There's even an equation!!

      rB>C
      where
      r = the genetic relatedness of the recipient to the actor, often defined as the probability that a gene picked randomly from each at the same locus is identical by descent.
      B = the additional reproductive benefit gained by the recipient of the altruistic act,
      C = the reproductive cost to the individual performing the act.

      Ok then!! Apparently, "By focusing on adoption in an asocial species, our study provides a clear test of Hamilton's rule that explains the persistence of occasional altruism in a natural mammal population." I'm wrong. Or am I? The study provides a "clear test of Hamilton's rule", but does the study prove it? Well, I suggest you read the paper for yourself and let me know whether or not this single experiment confirms the above equation (a.k.a. Hamilton's rule), much less anything at all. I would also like to know how it is possible that rB>C, contrived in 1964, has been assigned the moniker of "rule" in spite of the complete lack of supportive empirical evidence until the very recent and only "confirmatory" study, published in 2010 a full 46 years after the "rule" began to firmly emblazoned itself into the collective consciousness of the evolutionists and their students, many of whom became high school teachers who further promulgated Darwinism to their students, who mature and enter university...then they have children who are taught evolution during their high school science classes, then...(you can see how a society can become indoctrinated with pernicious ideology within a couple of generations, especially if the ideology can be mathematized)? Rules are a plenty in evolutionary science and, to my mind, they seem to be about as useful and trustworthy as the most famous of such rules, the discredited biogenetic "rule" or was that a "law?"

      See: Nature Communications 1, Article number: 22 doi:10.1038/ncomms1022

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