Andrea Bottaro posted Entry 2114 on March 14, 2006 11:07 PM.
Trackback URL: http://www.pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.fcgi/2109

Mars channels JPG.JPGIn an almost comical display of lack of self-awareness, Jonathan Witt of the Discovery Institute has recently taken inspiration from Google’s homage to Percival Lowell, the 19th century astronomer who argued for the existence of a system of engineered channels on the surface of Mars, to extract from this glorious scientific blunder the lesson that science moves, at times, “backwards”, i.e. rejects apparently established theories for more traditional, often religiously inspired views (something that Witt clearly wishes would happen far more often).

In addition to Lowell’s channels-on-Mars theory, Witt mentions in his article the idea of a Universal Beginning and opposition to spontaneous generation as other instances in which ideas originally found in the Judeo-Christian tradition have at some point worked their way back into the scientific mainstream. I’ll just pass on discussing Witt’s rather simplistic ideas about modern cosmology and abiogenesis, not to mention the history of science, since his arguments are just a rehash of well-known ID and Creationist talking points that have been abundantly critiqued before. I want instead to point to another obvious, and far more topical lesson that Witt could have taken from Lowell, but, alas, didn’t.

The most striking aspect of Lowell’s argument for the artificiality of Mars’s “channels” is, in fact, its uncanny resemblance to modern arguments for the intelligent design of biological structures. Luckily for the interested reader, Lowell’s first book on the subject, titled simply Mars, seems to be the object of some sort of cult following, and can be found online in its entirety (chapters 4 and 5 are the most relevant to the discussion here). For any ID connoisseur, reading Lowell’s original arguments is an exercise in dèjá vu (eat this French, Berlinski!), since they are an almost perfect example of design inference as currently practiced by ID advocates.

Essentially every fallacy of modern ID inferences can be found in Lowell’s book. You will find confident claims about the manifestly non-natural basis of the observed structures:

… the aspect of the lines is enough to put to rest all the theories of purely natural causation that have so far been advanced to account for them. This negation is to be found in the supernaturally regular appearance of the system, upon three distinct counts: first, the straightness of the lines; second, their individually uniform width; and, third, their systematic radiation from special points.

Physical processes never, so far as we know, end in producing perfectly regular results, that is, results in which irregularity is not also discernible. Disagreement amid conformity is the inevitable outcome of the many factors simultaneously at work.

That the lines form a system; that, instead of running anywhither, they join certain points to certain others, making thus, not a simple network, but one whose meshes connect centres directly with one another,–is striking at first sight, and loses none of its peculiarity on second thought. For the intrinsic improbability of such a state of things arising from purely natural causes becomes evident on a moment’s consideration.

Their very aspect is such as to defy natural explanation, and to hint that in them we are regarding something other than the outcome of purely natural causes.

You will find references to diagnostic features of basic human design, and analogies with known designed structures:

That the lines should follow arcs of great circles, whatever their direction, is as unnatural from a natural standpoint as it would be natural from an artificial one; for the arc of a great circle is the shortest distance from one point upon the surface of a sphere to another.

In fact, it is by the very presence of uniformity and precision that we suspect things of artificiality. It was the mathematical shape of the Ohio mounds that suggested mound-builders; and so with the thousand objects of every-day life.

(I can almost hear Behe arguing about Mt. Rushmore!)

Specious mathematical/probabilistic arguments and analogies are there too:

Simple crossings of two lines will of course be common in proportion to the sum of an arithmetical progression; but that any three lines should contrive to cross at the same point would be a coincidence whose improbability only a mathematician can properly appreciate, so very great is it.

Of course all such evidence of design may be purely fortuitous, with about as much probability, as it has happily been put, as that a chance collection of numbers should take the form of the multiplication table.

Strikingly, you will even find claims that the “overhelming impression of design” is prima facie evidence of actual design:

Their very aspect is such as to defy natural explanation, and to hint that in them we are regarding something other than the outcome of purely natural causes. Indeed, such is the first impression upon getting a good view of them. How instant this inference is becomes patent from the way in which drawings of the canals are received by incredulously disposed persons. The straightness of the lines is unhesitatingly attributed to the draughtsman. Now this is a very telling point. For it is a case of the double-edged sword. Accusation of design, if it prove not to be due to the draughtsman, devolves ipso facto upon the canals.

Finally, Lowell knew he could not formulate a convincing argument for design without tackling the fundamental issue underlying design of any kind, that is, its purpose. Just like ID advocates who, in order to support their design inference, find themselves forced to conflate function with purpose, so did Lowell have to justify the existence of this elaborate channel system with some sort of anthropomorphic goal. He thus claimed that, since Mars is clearly a dry planet, the existence of channels was entirely justified as part of an irrigation system (indeed, he went as far as describing the existence of putative “oases” at the intersection points of the channels).

Now, Lowell’s argument about the “purpose” of the Mars canals was clearly more far-fetched than most of the equivalent arguments of modern ID advocates about the “purpose” of biological structures, but one should keep in mind that Lowell, unlike Behe, Dembski, etc, didn’t have the benefit of actual science providing convenient, empirically tested functional explanations for his supposedly designed structures. In fact, when faced with structures whose functional properties are unknown, ID advocates do not fare much better than Lowell: for instance, Jonathan Wells has claimed that since centrioles (which are sub-cellular structures of unclear function that participate in the cell division process) look superficially like man-made turbines, they must be, and he built around this spurious assumption a whole fanciful model of what teeny-weeny turbines could actually be doing in the context of eukaryotic cell division.

Finally, if you are wondering how Witt could have missed the obvious parallels between modern ID advocacy and Lowell’s “martian” design inference, let me point to Witt’s vitae page on the Discovery Institute site, where Witt proudly claims to have discovered the fallaciousness of “Darwinism” after getting over all those pesky “arcane scientific data” and “jargon”:

They claimed to rest their arguments on a wealth of arcane scientific data, but once I dug past the jargon, I found that their arguments were always built on a foundation of question begging definitions, either/or fallacies, bogus appeals to consensus, and quasi-theological claims that ‘an intelligent designer wouldn’t have done it that way.

Still wondering?

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Comment #86455

Posted by Bruce Thompson GQ on March 15, 2006 12:09 AM (e)

Excellent post, Witt handed that to you on a platter. When I first read Witt’s piece I thought the same thing, I couldn’t believe he was using Percival Lowell’s observations and conjectures. Kudos on finding Lowell’s book, the quotes could have been written by Dembski himself.

Delta Pi Gamma (Scientia et Fermentum)

Comment #86464

Posted by Andrew McClure on March 15, 2006 12:40 AM (e)

I’m still baffled as to what exactly Mr. Witt’s article is meant to demonstrate. So he shows us that sometimes people who are scientists say things which are inaccurate…. all right, and what has he gained by pointing this out?

Comment #86466

Posted by KiwiInOz on March 15, 2006 12:44 AM (e)

Why do I hear Dembski singing ‘The chances of anything coming from Mars are a million to one …’?

Comment #86467

Posted by Jaime Headden on March 15, 2006 12:44 AM (e)

The wonderful irony is of the argumentation, is that Witt doesn’t realize Lowell’s arguments were disproved by the scientific community that doubted him, and that the lines were figments of his imagination and desire to see design.

Comment #86479

Posted by Carol Clouser on March 15, 2006 1:54 AM (e)

Andrea Bottaro wrote:

“Finally, Lowell knew he could not formulate a convincing argument for design without tackling the fundamental issue underlying design of any kind, that is, its purpose.”

This misses the point. “Purpose” is what makes human activity “artificial” and “not purely natural”. Otherwise why is human activity any less “natural” than all other physical processes. Humans are just as much a part of nature as wind, rain, storms and all other so-called “purely physical processes” that might be responsible for discernable channels on Mars. The key difference is that humans act with purpose, calculation and goal-driven considerations. Other physical processes do not. Or at least we don’t think that they do.

Deep down the real issue is whether the channels are comprable to the watch found in the forest. That watch is recognized as intelligently designed not because of its complexity (other things in the forest are also complex, yet we would not even give them a second thought) but due to the fact that we can compare it to other human made products. Lowell thought he was looking at a pattern that reminded him of human made irrigation systems on Earth. He turned out to be wrong about the partuculars that rendered it so.

None of this has any significance to the issue of whether life was designed. We certainly cannot claim that in looking at a living organism we recognize the handiwork of an agent or designer whose work pattern is familiar to us. No one has seen this before or somewhere else. So the question reduces to whether the sheer complexity dictates that it must be designed. It is asking the question regarding the trees and leaves in the forest, instead of the watch. The channels on Mars, on the other hand, ask the question regarding the watch. Big difference.

Comment #86480

Posted by Mark VandeWettering on March 15, 2006 1:56 AM (e)

I noticed the same thing, and blogged about it earlier this week. It seems almost comical that Lowell would use the appearance of design to conclude actual design, and that Witt would then critique Lowell and by extension all science for drawing this conclusion. In my blog post, I quote a paper from the same time period by Evans and Maunder detailing their experiments in gauging the effectiveness of observers in detecting small image features. Their conclusion?

Our conclusion from the entire experiment is that the canals of Mars may in some cases be, as Mr. Green suggested, the boundaries of tones or shadings, but that in the majority of cases they are simply the integration by the eye of minute details too small to be separately and distinctly defined. It would not therefore be in the least correct to say that the numerous observers who have drawn canals on Mars during the last twenty-five years have draw what they did not see. On the contrary they have drawn, and drawn truthfully, that which they saw; yet, fior all that, the canals which they have draw have no more objective existence than those which our Greenwish boys imagined they saw on the drawings submitted to them.

It seems a thousand pities that all those magnificent theories of human habitation, canal construction, planetary crystallisation, and the like are based upon lnes which our experiments to compel us to declare non-existent; but with the planet Mars still left, and the imagination unimpaired, there remains hope that a new theory no less attractive may yet be developed, and on a basis more solid than “mere seeming”.

I thought it was oddly appropriate.

Comment #86490

Posted by Ed Darrell on March 15, 2006 4:04 AM (e)

Do I recall correctly that someone within the past 20 years wrote a paper suggesting that what Lowell had mapped were the blood vessels in his own eye, reflected in the telescope? In short, he made great arguments for artificiality for patterns that are entirely natural …

Does anybody else recollect that one?

Comment #86493

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 15, 2006 4:13 AM (e)

This doesn’t strike me as a very good argument. Had Lowell reported seeing buildings on Mars, no one would be questioning that the reports supported a claim of intentional design. The characteristics that Lowell reported were not that definitive, but they were still strong indications of intentional design, and those who believed that features such as parallel lines and seasonal color changes were visible generally accepted the claim that Schiaparelli’s “canali” really were canals, signs of a Martian civilization, and they weren’t irrational to do so.

The problem was not that Lowell and others inferred intentional design from the reported observations, but that the observations were just plain wrong, a severe case of selective perception and observer bias, helped along by flaws in their instruments. Significantly, we do not find anything in the biological world like Lowell’s “perfectly regular results, that is, results in which irregularity is not also discernible” – quite the opposite. Lowell’s claims were falsifiable – his canals disappeared under more accurate (as well as more honest) observation. Had Lowell admitted that Martian topography was in fact quite irregular but then insisted that the very complexity of that topography was itself evidence of civilization, then he would have been making an IDiotic argument.

Comment #86495

Posted by Ed Darrell on March 15, 2006 4:17 AM (e)

Ah, faulty memory! It was Lowell’s maps of Venus that mirrored his eyeball, not Mars!

Lowell maintained that Venus sported a network of massive, mostly radial spokes–more canali–emanating from a central hub. The spokes he saw remained a puzzle until quite recently, when a retired optometrist named Sherman Schultz, from Saint Paul, Minnesota, wrote a letter in response to an article on the spokes by William Sheehan and Thomas Dobbins in the July 2002 issue of Sky and Telescope magazine.

Schultz pointed out that the optical setup Lowell preferred for viewing the Venutian surface was similar to the gizmo used to examine the interior of patients’ eyes. After seeking a couple of second opinions, the article’s authors established that what Lowell seemed to see on Venus was instead the network of shadows cast on Lowell’s own retina by his own ocular blood vessels. When you compare Lowell’s diagram of the spokes with a diagram of the eye, the two match up, canal for blood vessel. And when you combine the unfortunate fact that Lowell suffered from hypertension–which often shows up in the vessels of the eyeballs–with his will to believe, it’s no surprise that he had Venus as well as Mars teeming with intelligent, technologically capable inhabitants.

(Neil de Grasse Tyson, writing in Natural History in May 2004: http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1134/is_4_113/ai_n6026415

I wonder if anyone at Discovery Institute suffers from hypertension – anyone know or want to confess?

Comment #86496

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 15, 2006 4:18 AM (e)

Do I recall correctly that someone within the past 20 years wrote a paper suggesting that what Lowell had mapped were the blood vessels in his own eye, reflected in the telescope? In short, he made great arguments for artificiality for patterns that are entirely natural …

Lowell’s descriptions are not descriptions of blood vessels. Whether he was seeing blood vessels or topographic features of Mars or flaws in his telescope, he misreported what he saw. In short, he did not make great arguments for artificiality for patterns that are entirely natural, he reported artificial patterns that he did not, in fact, see.

Comment #86498

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 15, 2006 4:28 AM (e)

google yields this page on Lowell’s venus canals/blood vessels:

http://www.bautforum.com/showthread.php?t=2097

with this comment:

Lowell’s large refracting telescope, set at 144X magnification and with an aperture narrowed down that far, they figured, had a focal ratio of at least f/120.

In simple terms, this meant that the setup was the equivalent of placing a card with a pinhole in front of Lowell’s eye and shining a bright light through it.

The discerning readers concluded that the telescope was actually mimicking an ophthalmoscope, an instrument used to examine the interior of the eye

It also states that the reason he had the aperture set so small was because Venus was so bright.

Mars, on the other hand, would not need that, because it’s a much dimmer object.

So we still don’t know for sure what he was seeing when he saw lines on Mars. Could it be the same effect? Maybe, but it doesn’t seem like it. For one thing, the Martian canals weren’t always the same, unlike his Venus observations. Maybe we’ll never know.

Comment #86506

Posted by GT(N)T on March 15, 2006 7:41 AM (e)

Fascinating!

I have to disagree with one statement though, “Now, Lowell’s argument was clearly more far-fetched than most of those of modern ID advocates,….”

Lowell wasn’t making an argument for supernatural explanation. He proposed a biological origin of the ‘canals’. More important, Lowell’s hypothesis was testable. One could, and presumably will someday, visit Mars and see if Martian features do provide evidence of intelligent design.

Lowell’s descriptions of Mars were scientific, albeit flawed; descriptions of ‘intelligent design’ of the bacterial flaggellum are non-scientific, invoking a supernatural agent.

Comment #86508

Posted by the pro from dover on March 15, 2006 7:51 AM (e)

I’m interested in the line about evolutionists up to and following Darwin believing in spontaneous generation. To my knowledge the only 2 individuals who postulated spontaneous generation as an essential feature of what they called “evolution” were Lamarck and Charles Bonnet (whose evolutionary scheme included angels, archangels, and the whole heavenly host all the way up to the Grand Old Designer himself!). For Lamarck, the whole purpose of “evolution” was to avoid that sticky problem of “extinction” that got his chief rival, Cuvier into such hot water with the French religious authority and had nothing to do with promoting a naturalistic world view.I have extensively read Darwin and I can’t remember him saying anything about spontaneous generation beyond the “small warm pond” but he also wrote about “the creator breathing life into one or a few forms” as well. Which significant evolutionary biologists in the last 150 years has postulated spontaneous generation? And anyway what does evolution have to do with origin of life?

Comment #86512

Posted by Andrea Bottaro on March 15, 2006 8:43 AM (e)

Carol:
I am not sure what you mean. My argument was that purpose is probably the single unifying characteristic of design (although sometimes purpose can be hard to discern), so both Lowell and the ID advocates have to come up with suitable explanations of why purpose is detectable in the objects they perceive as designed. Lowell did it by conjecturing Martians fighting planetary drought, and modern ID advocates by mistaking purpose with function.

Popper’s Ghost:
In my opinion, both Lowell’s and the ID advocates’ design inferences are based on clearly insufficient evidence (even assuming that all Lowell’s astronomical observations were genuine), speciously bolstered by very similar arguments about probability, analogy, intuition and made-up “purpose”, and by discounting alternative non design-based explanations.

Pro from Dover:
The position among post-Darwin evolutionists about spontaneous generation/abiogenesis was quite varied, and much more nuanced than Witt’s representation would make one think. Some, most notably Bastian, were strongly in favor of spontaneous generation, both for philosophical and scientific reasons. Others, like Tyndall and (a little later) Huxley, were quite vocally opposed to it, also mostly for scientific reasons (see Huxley’s address to the BAAS, Biogenesis and Abiogenesis). Darwin himself seemed to be quite comfortable accepting Pasteur’s evidence as conclusive. All evolutionists at the time, of course, already recognized that the fact that there is no ongoing spontaneous generation has no bearing on the possibility that abiogenesis occurred at least once in the distant past.

Where Witt gets science and his philosophical preferences mixed up, of course, is when he says that “we now know” that “the demarcation between [non-life and life] involves a quantum and discontinuous leap”, since we know nothing of the sort. Compare that with Huxley’s more rigorous scientific perspective on abiogenesis:

And looking back through the prodigious vista of the past, I find no record of the commencement of life, and therefore I am devoid of any means of forming a definite conclusion as to the conditions of its appearance. Belief, in the scientific sense of the word, is a serious matter, and needs strong foundations. To say, therefore, in the admitted absence of evidence, that I have any belief as to the mode in which the existing forms of life have originated, would be using words in a wrong sense. But expectation is permissible where belief is not; and if it were given me to look beyond the abyss of geologically recorded time to the still more remote period when the earth was passing through physical and chemical conditions, which it can no more see again than a man can recall his infancy, I should expect to be a witness of the evolution of living protoplasm from not living matter. I should expect to see it appear under [257] forms of great simplicity, endowed, like existing fungi, with the power of determining the formation of new protoplasm from such matters as ammonium carbonates, oxalates and tartrates, alkaline and earthy phosphates, and water, without the aid of light. That is the expectation to which analogical reasoning leads me; but I beg you once more to recollect that I have no right to call my opinion anything but an act of philosophical faith.
(From Biogenesis and Abiogenesis)

Comment #86523

Posted by PaulC on March 15, 2006 9:48 AM (e)

Maybe his commentary is a pre-emptive attempt to frame any future discussion on Lowell.

As soon I saw Lowell referenced in this context, the first thing that popped into my head was that his case is a classic example of an “argument from design” failing catastrophically. Witt may have noticed this himself and realized that if he didn’t say something about Lowell–and fast–that comparisons to Lowell’s discredited Mars canals would become a standard talking point against ID.

Witt is not a logical thinker, but give him some credit as a rhetorician. It’s a serious lapse if nobody on our side thought of bringing Lowell into the discussion, equating ID with “Lowell’s fallacy” and so on. Has anyone? Comparisons to Lowell are more pertinent than comparisons to Paley, since Lowell was claiming to do science, not theology, and clearly demonstrated the inadequacy of ID-like arguments.

Comment #86527

Posted by PaulC on March 15, 2006 10:06 AM (e)

This comment from Lowell struck me as especially funny. Warning: the following may be humor that “only a computational geometer can appreciate”.

Simple crossings of two lines will of course be common in proportion to the sum of an arithmetical progression; but that any three lines should contrive to cross at the same point would be a coincidence whose improbability only a mathematician can properly appreciate, so very great is it.

I’m not sure what he means by “improbability only a mathematician can properly appreciate” but the probability of three statistically uncorrelated lines intersecting at one point is zero, which I imagine any can appreciate. The probability of them appearing to do so, on the other hand, is fairly high depending on the precision of your observation. E.g., take a needle of a certain length and drop it on graph paper of a certain cell width and record the resulting line segment. Keep doing this. How long does it take on average before three of these lines pass through the same mesh cell. It depends on the length of the needle proportional to the cell width, but given enough needle drops, approximate co-intersection is a high probability event.

In fact, according to a common definition of “geometric duality”, the case of three lines sharing an intersection point can be considered equivalent to the case of three points being collinear. Did Lowell also believe that Orion’s belt was the product of design?

Comment #86539

Posted by Rieux on March 15, 2006 10:38 AM (e)

GT(N)T wrote:

I have to disagree with one statement though, “Now, Lowell’s argument was clearly more far-fetched than most of those of modern ID advocates,….”

Lowell wasn’t making an argument for supernatural explanation. He proposed a biological origin of the ‘canals’. More important, Lowell’s hypothesis was testable. One could, and presumably will someday, visit Mars and see if Martian features do provide evidence of intelligent design.

Yeah–gotta agree. Lowell was just claiming (as it happens, on inadequate and indeed mostly nonexistent evidence) that an Unidentified Entity had pushed some dirt and water around on Mars. IDers claim that a (cough) Unidentified Entity has created our planet’s entire biosphere from scratch.

Of the two, Lowell’s claim sure doesn’t seem to me to be the more “far-fetched.”

Comment #86542

Posted by Larry Gilman on March 15, 2006 10:51 AM (e)

While the parallelisms pointed out here are fascinating, and I affirm that the I.D. reasoning is fallacious, we should perhaps ask whether Lowell was wrong because his canals didn’t exist, not because he reasoned poorly about them. If they did exist and did have all the features that he ascribed to them, would not intelligence be a strong explanatory contender? For planetary-scale geological features are not, presumably, subject to natural selection and so cannot evolve the kinds of complexity that I.D. supporters fallaciously insist can be only be explained by intelligent design. I am not a geologist, but it seems to me that a planetary network of great-circle following, perfectly straight, nodally connected channels having beds graded so as to convey water from point to point, if it did exist, might be a devil of a thing to explain by nonintelligent causes. Civil engineering would certainly be an explanatory contender, wouldn’t it?

I am open to instruction on this point, but at the moment the distinction between evolvable systems subject to selection and large-scale geological features strikes me as important. Was Lowell’s reasoning really so bad? Or only his data?

Regards,

Larry

Comment #86543

Posted by Flint on March 15, 2006 11:05 AM (e)

I don’t know the subsequent history here. Did Lowell ever reconsider his position as the quality of observations improved and the canals vanished? Yes, we can see that Lowell combined a desire to see what wasn’t there, with data inadequate to make this obvious. The part about these nonexistent canals being of uniform width, which even Lowell could have calculated weren’t within the resolving power of his telescope, is especially projective.

But the real test, at least in my mind, is whether Lowell was subsequently capable of changing his position in the light of superior (and conflicting) data. If he changed his mind, then his canals can be dismissed as the sort of wishful thinking anyone might do when there’s no way to know better. If he did NOT change his mind, then we have a much better approximation of creationist thought.

Comment #86550

Posted by steve s on March 15, 2006 11:33 AM (e)

Comment #86542

Posted by Larry Gilman on March 15, 2006 10:51 AM (e)

While the parallelisms pointed out here are fascinating, and I affirm that the I.D. reasoning is fallacious, we should perhaps ask whether Lowell was wrong because his canals didn’t exist, not because he reasoned poorly about them. If they did exist and did have all the features that he ascribed to them, would not intelligence be a strong explanatory contender? For planetary-scale geological features are not, presumably, subject to natural selection and so cannot evolve the kinds of complexity that I.D. supporters fallaciously insist can be only be explained by intelligent design. I am not a geologist, but it seems to me that a planetary network of great-circle following, perfectly straight, nodally connected channels having beds graded so as to convey water from point to point, if it did exist, might be a devil of a thing to explain by nonintelligent causes. Civil engineering would certainly be an explanatory contender, wouldn’t it?

There are all kinds of possible evidences for Intelligent Design, my favorite being the code-rewrite bunny rabbit. But these things are not found by IDers. IDers do the same thing Lowell did with the canals: squint and then say, “that sure looks designed.”

Comment #86551

Posted by Dave Gill on March 15, 2006 11:37 AM (e)

Lowell died in 1916 before it was proven that the canals were figments of his own perception. He continued to believe in his Martian worldview.

“Planets and Perception” by William Sheehan is an excellent study of the canal issue.

Comment #86556

Posted by JAllen on March 15, 2006 11:58 AM (e)

Demski mentions a similar mistaken design detection:

Dembski wrote:

For design to be a fruitful scientific concept, scientists have to be sure that they can reliably determine whether something is designed. Johannes Kepler thought the craters on the moon were intelligently designed by moon dwellers. We now know that the craters were formed by blind natural forces.

It is this fear of falsely attributing something to design only to have it overturned later that has prevented design from entering the natural sciences. With precise methods for discriminating intelligently from unintelligently caused objects, it is now possible to formulate a theory of intelligent design that successfully avoids Kepler’s mistake and reliably locates design in biological systems.

Can anyone explain what “precise methods” Kepler could have used to avoid his mistake?

Comment #86559

Posted by Carol Clouser on March 15, 2006 12:14 PM (e)

Andrea wrote:

“I am not sure what you mean…… both Lowell and the ID advocates have to come up with suitable explanations of why purpose is detectable in the objects they perceive as designed.”

I do not agree, and I don’t think the ID folks are ready to concede, that “design” MUST be predicated on “purpose”. Atheistic evolutionists can accept that the evolution of life is “designed” by the forces of nature, so long as the “random” mutations aspect of evolution keep the process purposeless. The key difference between them and the ID proponents is not in the “design” aspect but in the “intelligent” aspect of the process that led to the present life forms. “Intelligent design theory” should be more precisely labeled “purposeful design theory”.

Lowell was not arguing just complexity, his point was that he saw “recognizable complexity”. He claimed to recognize the complexity he saw on Mars as typical of human endeavors, such as when building irrigation systems.

Comment #86560

Posted by Peter Henderson on March 15, 2006 12:21 PM (e)

I suppose the one thing Lovell may have been right about was that liquid water is necessary in order for life to exist, even on planets in the habitable zone around our star.

It will be interesting to see what is found on Europa, which although being well outside the habitable zone could have liquid water due to tidal heating. Did I hear on the news recently that one of the larger satellites of Saturn seems to have signs of liquid water as well ? Another candidate for possible life maybe.(I can’t remember the satellite’s name)

One of the recent “Sky at night “ programmes about Mars suggests that the surface long ago may have been acidic. Thinking that there must be Calcium Carbonate (they were wondering where all the Carbon was. On the Earth a lot of Carbon in the Carbon cycle is contained in Calcium Carbonate or limestone) on the surface of Mars they instead found Calcium Sulphate, which meant that there must have been sulphuric acid there at one time. I think the more we find out about mars the less it seems to resemble the Earth, and certainly Lovell’s perception of the planet.

I think the discovery of even microbial life elsewhere in the solar system, whether on Mars or Europa, will be a major breakthrough, and it will be interesting to see the reaction of young Earth creationists/Iders if and when it ever happens.

Comment #86563

Posted by Andrea Bottaro on March 15, 2006 12:39 PM (e)

CT(N)T and Rieux:
The “far-fetchedness” I was referring to was specifically that of the respective arguments for “purpose” (I will update the original post to make it more clear). To me it does seem more far fetched to postulate Martians fighting the encroaching desert with huge irrigation systems, than to conjure purpose for biological system like the flagellum or the complement cascade as ID advocates do.

As I said, though, this is simply because ID advocates can usually play the simple trick of conflating function and purpose, resting on decades of functional biological research. When they have to come up with “purpose” from scratch, ID advocates do not do much better than Lowell, as in the case of Wells and his teensy-weensy turbines, or Gonzalez and his idea of a benevolent deity who makes up a whole, immense Universe so that a small number of geeks on a tiny planet can “discover” stuff.

Larry Gilman:
I guess, like all analogies, one shouldn’t expect to perfectly match every aspect of this one. That said, in my opinion the basic issue here is that Lowell, like the IDists, argued from insufficient evidence, and summarily dismissed contrary evidence that didn’t fit his model. He really saw what looked to him like channels and interpreted them as such, and since he could not have better direct evidence, he bolstered his conclusion with the specious arguments discussed above. Similarly, ID advocates really think they see teleologically-built machines inside cells, interpret them as such, dismiss contrary arguments, and in the absence of better evidence for design bolster their conclusions with claims very similar to Lowell’s.

I don’t know enough about geology to say whether a system like the purported Martian channels, if it corresponded to real planetary structures, could be explained by known models - I guess it would depend on the level of resolution and the amount of evidence. Ultimately, however, I don’t think that this is very relevant in evaluating Lowell’s claims as they were.

Flint:
A little more on Lowell’s story is here. It would seem that he too, like ID advocates, had a tendency to just reject scientifically-based criticism. Certainly, his claims didn’t seem to have much traction in the scientific community.

Mark VandeWettering:
I just read the Evans and Maunder paper you linked to - great find! This really is why I love PT.

Finally,

Carol Clouser wrote:
I do not agree, and I don’t think the ID folks are ready to concede, that “design” MUST be predicated on “purpose”. Atheistic evolutionists can accept that the evolution of life is “designed” by the forces of nature, so long as the “random” mutations aspect of evolution keep the process purposeless. The key difference between them and the ID proponents is not in the “design” aspect but in the “intelligent” aspect of the process that led to the present life forms. “Intelligent design theory” should be more precisely labeled “purposeful design theory”.

Perhaps we are not understanding each other, because I pretty much agree with what you say here, and I thought I had tried to say more or less the same. I am not claiming that design (intended as intelligent design, since that what we are talking about here) MUST be predicated on purpose, if by that you mean that design can only be inferred when purpose is known. I am saying that a design inference is much STRONGER (and therefore more convincing) when a purpose is identified, precisely because purpose is arguably the single common feature underlying all of intelligent design (even if that purpose is, say, whimsical entertainement).

Comment #86564

Posted by Moses on March 15, 2006 12:41 PM (e)

Brilliant piece of exposed unintentional irony.

Comment #86565

Posted by Moses on March 15, 2006 12:42 PM (e)

Comment #86479

Posted by Carol Clouser on March 15, 2006 01:54 AM (e)

Some days it just doesn’t pay to get out of bed…

Comment #86566

Posted by J. Biggs on March 15, 2006 12:47 PM (e)

Why do I hear Dembski singing ‘The chances of anything coming from Mars are a million to one …’?

I like the one that some IDers and creationists quote as the chance that molecules to man evolution occurred is 10450; As if there were a scientifically reliable way to come up with this ridiculous number.

Comment #86569

Posted by J. Biggs on March 15, 2006 12:57 PM (e)

Carol wrote:

I do not agree, and I don’t think the ID folks are ready to concede, that “design” MUST be predicated on “purpose”.

and then concluded

“Intelligent design theory” should be more precisely labeled “purposeful design theory”.

The former statement seems to contradict the latter.

Comment #86583

Posted by AC on March 15, 2006 1:39 PM (e)

Carol wrote:

Atheistic evolutionists can accept that the evolution of life is “designed” by the forces of nature, so long as the “random” mutations aspect of evolution keep the process purposeless.

The randomness of genetic mutation is not a condition for scientific acceptance of evolution; it simply describes observed phenomena. If you prefer to call it “apparently random” in order to make room for a god, that’s fine - but not scientific.

Comment #86584

Posted by Flint on March 15, 2006 1:52 PM (e)

To the best of my knowledge, the current wealth of images showing the “face on Mars” at Cydonia to be an utterly ordinary rock have not deterred Tom van Flandern, who instead now claims that the surrounding ordinary rocks are ALSO artificial. Perhaps this is an illustration of what Kuhn was talking about - that when evidence becomes available overwhelmingly refuting a staked-out position, those married to such a position rarely admit any error at all. Instead, their mistakes fail to spread, and die with them.

Comment #86589

Posted by Ethel Meganser on March 15, 2006 2:08 PM (e)

I’d like to add to the points made by Larry Gilman, Popper’s Ghost and others - Lowell’s main problem was with his mistaken observations. If the observations were accurate then, since straight lines don’t often appear in Nature, his inference of design is at least reasonable even if it turned out to be wrong. If, e.g., the MRO spots a Shell gas station on Mars then I suspect we’d assume design as well.

Where Lowell differs from the ID-ers is that he recognized that, in essence, since straight lines don’t appear in Nature a plethora of them at least suggests intentional design as a possibility. I’d imagine that aliens observing the Earth might imply intelligent life based, e.g., on the visibility of the US-Canada border from space. What ID-ers have done is a weird contortion of this perfectly reasonable interpretation; they claim that structures that do appear in Nature must have been designed because, well…. really, because such structures “don’t appear in Nature.” Shell gas stations don’t appear in Nature and so the observation of such a station implies design. However, precisely because structures such as eyes, cilia, etc do appear in Nature they cannot be used to infer design.

I’m defining Nature to exclude man-made things.

Comment #86592

Posted by AR on March 15, 2006 2:12 PM (e)

Surely Witt’s surname, either with one or two “t’s” at the end hardly fits in with the piffle Dr. Bottaro quotes from the screeds of that rather typical representative of the Disco center for(anti)Science and Culture.

Comment #86594

Posted by jonboy on March 15, 2006 2:17 PM (e)

Carol Clouser Wrote:

“ I don’t think the ID folks are ready to concede, that “design” MUST be predicated on “purpose”. Wrong Carol,here is a direct quote from Bill Dembski
. Rather, intelligent design’s strength consists in starting with nature, exploring nature’s limitations, and therewith determining where design and PURPOSE fit in the scheme of nature” “The cornerstone of the scientific method is the postulate that nature is objective. In other words, the systematic denial that ‘true’ knowledge can be got at by interpreting phenomena in terms of final causes–that is to say, of ‘PURPOSE’.”Whence the removal of PURPOSE and therewith design from nature?
You also said ““Intelligent design theory” should be more precisely labeled “purposeful design theory”.
Then what would ,you, postulate is the actual purpose behind the design? To glorify God perhaps “Psalm 19:1”
Intelligent Design should be more precisely labeled Increasingly Disingenuous.

Comment #86596

Posted by Henry J on March 15, 2006 2:32 PM (e)

Re “I’d imagine that aliens observing the Earth might imply intelligent life based, e.g., on the visibility of the US-Canada border from space. “

Say what? When did political borders become visible when they aren’t following rivers or something like that?

Comment #86598

Posted by FastEddie on March 15, 2006 2:44 PM (e)

This reminds me of Carl Sagan’s line in Cosmos about the Lowell episode. Paraphrasing, “There is no doubt that the Mars canals of Percival Lowell were of intelligent origin. The only question is which side of the telescope the intelligence was on.”

Comment #86601

Posted by J. Biggs on March 15, 2006 2:53 PM (e)

Atheistic evolutionists can accept that the evolution of life is “designed” by the forces of nature, so long as the “random” mutations aspect of evolution keep the process purposeless.

The randomness of genetic mutation is not a condition for scientific acceptance of evolution; it simply describes observed phenomena. If you prefer to call it “apparently random” in order to make room for a god, that’s fine - but not scientific.

Agreed, evolution is the most predictive scientific theory available. The fact that it has held up to approximately 150 yrs of scientific scrutiny is evidence of this. ID is philosophy rather than science. Not only that, but ID is a philosophy which could well be in accordance with evolutionary theory. IDers could infer that abiogenisis and evolution were the mechanisms used by “the designer” to design self replicating biological machines. They could further speculate that “the designer” influenced the conditions on earth to influence evolutionary outcomes. None of those speculations affect the way evolution works to the human observer. The fact that IDers insist that ID is a “scientific alternative” to “atheistic” evolution rather than just a philosophy that could just as well support evolution than not leads me to conclude that ID is just good old fashioned “creationist” religious apologetics.

Comment #86605

Posted by argystokes on March 15, 2006 3:02 PM (e)

Lowell was not arguing just complexity, his point was that he saw “recognizable complexity”.

Or as more recently formulated, “specified complexity.” As wrong now as it was over a century ago.

Comment #86606

Posted by Jason on March 15, 2006 3:04 PM (e)

Witt wrote:

Discoveries by Edwin Hubble and Arno Penzias among others put an end to this view, returning us to an older position consistent with the Judeo-Christian view that the universe had a beginning.

Um, why is this just the Judeo-Christian view? It’s not. It’s also the Muslim, Hindu, Rastafarian, Roman, Greek, Mithric, Australian Aboriginal, etc etc view.

Most of the world’s religions with few exceptions think of the universe as having a beginning.

Comment #86607

Posted by Larry Gilman on March 15, 2006 3:05 PM (e)

Andrea Bottaro wrote:

[I]n my opinion the basic issue here is that Lowell, like the IDists, argued from insufficient evidence, and summarily dismissed contrary evidence that didn’t fit his model. He really saw what looked to him like channels and interpreted them as such, and since he could not have better direct evidence, he bolstered his conclusion with the specious arguments discussed above. Similarly, ID advocates really think they see teleologically-built machines inside cells, interpret them as such, dismiss contrary arguments, and in the absence of better evidence for design bolster their conclusions with claims very similar to Lowell’s.

Good points. Lowell, like the ID people, was not a good reasoner, but a relentless partisan of what he wanted to be true. But the sense in which Lowell “really saw what looked to him like channels” is not the same as that in which ID advocates “really think they see teleologically-built machines inside cells.” Lowell’s “really saw” was an error of data collection, however self-inflicted: he believed he had data that, if it really been accurate, should have occasioned serious consideration of the hypothesis of intelligent life on Mars. The ID advocates’ “really think they see,” on the other hand, is interpretive: Behe sees the same molecular structures in the cell as other biologists–there is little or no dispute about which molecules are there and which aren’t–but insists that the only way to interpret these facts is teleological (indeed, theological). Lowell founded his blatant partisanship on wishfully massaged observations: the ID people found theirs entirely on bad logic.

I’m not saying you are wrong to bring in Lowell. On the contrary, it’s fascinating and apropos comparison. We can learn even more from it if we tilt the light so that the differences show up as clearly as the similarities.

Regards,

Larry Gilman

Comment #86609

Posted by Ethel Meganser on March 15, 2006 3:10 PM (e)

Henry J,

Different land uses on either side of the border make some parts of it visible from low Earth orbit. Form that one could speculate that it is man made. I once saw a photograph but can lo longer remember where. Here’s a link;

http://www.windows.ucar.edu/tour/link=/headline_universe/andyletter.html

Of course, by the time the aliens got that close they would have seen other evidence but the point remains the same.

Comment #86613

Posted by Steviepinhead on March 15, 2006 3:43 PM (e)

Ethel:

I’d imagine that aliens observing the Earth might imply intelligent life based, e.g., on the visibility of the US-Canada border from space.

Henry J:

Say what? When did political borders become visible when they aren’t following rivers or something like that?

Actually, at least in our neck of the woods, parts of the border probably are visible from space, even though they don’t follow waterways. When the Boundary Commission surveyors were doing their work, they basically logged some long narrow lanes in the forests of the North Cascades. These have, in some cases, been maintained over the years by Border Patrol, who use the clearcuts to install fences, roads, and to plant cameras and motion detectors and the like, in an effort to deter drug runners and illegal immigrants, etc.

So you do have these long, narrow, linear, more-or-less even-width “canals” slicing through the forests for tens of miles. I can certainly see similar powerline clearcuts from high above when looking down from mountain tops, so it wouldn’t surprise me if Ethel’s right on this one–at least as to the visibility, if not as to what an alien observer might or might not conclude.

Comment #86616

Posted by Steviepinhead on March 15, 2006 3:57 PM (e)

Ah, Ethel’s making an even simpler point, about different land uses on opposite sides of the border.

Certainly there are going to be places where, for example, on one side of the border you have a pristine forest, but on the other you have a clearcut, or grazing land, or a subdivision. And enough of these differential uses should start to make a dotted line, even if most of the disparate uses are themselves rather local and discontinuous.

Comment #86617

Posted by Henry J on March 15, 2006 3:59 PM (e)

Ah. Yeah, a sharp different in land usage could well be visible from way up, and might (or might not) correspond to a political border.

Comment #86618

Posted by Scott de B. on March 15, 2006 4:01 PM (e)

It’s worth quoting Carl Sagan here: “The canals on Mars were indisputably proof of intelligent life. The only question was: which side of the telescope was the intelligence on?”

Comment #86619

Posted by Steviepinhead on March 15, 2006 4:06 PM (e)

Fast Eddie (Comment #86598 above) would certainly agree with you, Scott!

Comment #86625

Posted by Bruce Thompson GQ on March 15, 2006 4:39 PM (e)

Quotemined from Dembski in comment 86556: “For design to be a fruitful scientific concept, scientists have to be sure that they can reliably determine whether something is designed.”

The veins in an oak leaf and the map of The Amazing Maze Cave both have the same characteristics as Lowells canal system, a well established false positive. All 3 should yield the same results in a Dembski style analysis.

This seems a straightforward exercise for a control experiment.

Comment #86626

Posted by shenda on March 15, 2006 4:43 PM (e)

I am a little confused here.

Is Witt actually arguing that because science has previously shown apparent design is not actually design, then this supports ID because it shows scientists are fallible? Is he also arguing that every time science takes what he calls a step back, that this step back supports creationism???

Or am I just reading this wrong?

Comment #86632

Posted by Mark Perakh on March 15, 2006 5:49 PM (e)

In comment 86606 Jason quotes Witt as follows:

Discoveries by Edwin Hubble and Arno Penzias among others put an end to this view, returning us to an older position consistent with the Judeo-Christian view that the universe had a beginning.

Jason disagrees with Witt, saying:

Um, why is this just the Judeo-Christian view? It’s not. It’s also the Muslim, Hindu, Rastafarian, Roman, Greek, Mithric, Australian Aboriginal, etc etc view.

In fact, both Witt and Jason are not exactly right. There is no single “Judeo-Christian” view. The prevalent Christian view indeed holds that the universe (which is unique as there are no other universes) had a beginning. With the Judaic view (or rather views, since there are more than one opinion on that matter) the matter is more complicated. In particular, in the early rabbinical commentaries on the Torah, reflected in several tractates in the Talmud, a view is held that before creating our universe, the Creator created many other universes which he destroyed one by one until he became satisfied with his creation. How many such earlier worlds existed, AFAIK the Talmud does not say directly, but some of the rabbinical authorities held that their number could have been infinite.

Comment #86637

Posted by Steviepinhead on March 15, 2006 6:33 PM (e)

As long as “we” are quoting Carl Sagan, a nod in the direction of Paul Simon’s “The Boxer” may also be appropriate:

Still a man sees what he wants to see and disregards the rest.

(The original, of course, has “hears” and “hear” where I have substituted “sees” and “see,” but the principle remains.)

Comment #86661

Posted by Carol Clouser on March 15, 2006 8:49 PM (e)

Mark Perakh wrote:

“the early rabbinical commentaries on the Torah, reflected in several tractates in the Talmud, a view is held that before creating our universe, the Creator created many other universes which he destroyed one by one until he became satisfied with his creation.”

The matter is not as simple as all that. You are quoting a piece of AGADA or MIDRASH, catagories of learning that frequently are not meant to be taken literally but homelitically and parablitically. It is also not clear that this AGADA refers to the creation of “universes”, a loaded word in this context. A perfectly correct translation of OLAMOT is “worlds”. What exactly that refers to is anyone’s guess but it need not be universes.

The vast majority of rabbinic interpretation of Genesis considers the word BARA (created), as opposed to VAYA-AS (made) or VAYATZER (formed), as implying creation ex nihilo, a true beginning. So much so, that Maimonides, who was generally very supportive of Aristotelian philosophy, was forced to reject Aristotle’s antiquity of the universe due to BARA. Although, in his MORAH NEVOCHIM, Guide of the perplexed, he conceeds that if the antiquity of the universe can be proven, he will re-interpret Genesis. The singular major exception to this view of BARA is the view of Ibn Ezra.

I do find it intriguing, although it proves very little, that for thousands of years philosophers found it very satisfying to support the eternal universe and for many decades that was the prevailing view in the scientific community, yet the dominant view in Judaism all along was that the Bible asserts a true beginning to the universe. And the religious view turned out to be correct, at least it seems so today.

Comment #86665

Posted by Carol Clouser on March 15, 2006 9:00 PM (e)

Jonboy and J. Biggs,

The ID folks ASSERT “intelligent design” on the basis of, they claim, the evidence, such as IC. They then SPECULATE as to purpose and what that might consist of. But they will be first to admit, I think, that there is no evidence for proposed or claimed particular purposes, just conjecture. Lowell, on the other hand, recognized human activity in the channels and claimed to know the purposes on the basis of the evidence. That’s why these cannot be compared.

Comment #86672

Posted by Jim Harrison on March 15, 2006 9:12 PM (e)

Oy! So why exactly do we care what some rabbis in Babylon thought about the eternity of the world?

Even Medieval scholastics who came down on the side of the creation of the world usually recognized that creation was a matter of revelation and could not be proven by reason–that was the position of Aquinas, for example. I personally think Kant was right. Reason can neither establish the eternity of the world or it’s creation in time. But I would add that revelation is also worthless as a source of answers. It may well be that there are other alternatives besides creation or eternity that we’re just not up to wrapping our semi-simian brains around.

The cosmological notion of the Big Bang hardly solved the issue, for over and beyond the obvious consideration that it is just another scientific theory and therefore subject to overturn, most versions of the Big Bang don’t rule out the possibility that it was just a vicissitude in a much longer history.

Comment #86693

Posted by Andrea Bottaro on March 15, 2006 10:45 PM (e)

The ID folks ASSERT “intelligent design” on the basis of, they claim, the evidence, such as IC. They then SPECULATE as to purpose and what that might consist of. But they will be first to admit, I think, that there is no evidence for proposed or claimed particular purposes, just conjecture. Lowell, on the other hand, recognized human activity in the channels and claimed to know the purposes on the basis of the evidence. That’s why these cannot be compared.

Quite the contrary: Behe has made it explicitly clear that the “inductive argument for design”, the single positive statement underlying the “theory”, is based on the “purposeful arrangement of parts”. Without recognizable purpose, he knows ID is only a weak, negative claim based on improbability, and/or an argument from personal disbelief.

Comment #86697

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 15, 2006 11:05 PM (e)

In my opinion, both Lowell’s and the ID advocates’ design inferences are based on clearly insufficient evidence (even assuming that all Lowell’s astronomical observations were genuine), speciously bolstered by very similar arguments about probability, analogy, intuition and made-up “purpose”, and by discounting alternative non design-based explanations.

Yes, I realize that’s your opinion but, as I said, it doesn’t strike me as a good argument, for the reasons that I, GT(N)T, Rieux, and others have articulated. I think the problem is illustrated by this comment by steve s:

IDers do the same thing Lowell did with the canals: squint and then say, “that sure looks designed.”

But that’s not what Lowell did; he did not squint at the canals, because there are no canals. What he did instead was (wrongly) identify features that, had they been present, would have been indicative of intentional design. The IDiots, OTOH, wave their hands at a vague attribute, “complexity”, that is clearly not indicative of intentional design, as it is demonstrably a result of natural processes (Chaos Theory explores this in depth, and Gregory Chaitin has shown that complexity is inherent property of mathematics) – in fact, human designs are marked by their information-theoretical simplicity. And whereas ID involves a denial of an overwhelming body of scientific evidence and theory, nothing of the sort was the case with Lowell; the whole scientific world was struggling to get clear on just what the evidence was and how best to interpret it.

If he did NOT change his mind, then we have a much better approximation of creationist thought.

Certainly Lowell was ideologically wedded to his interpretation, and “approximated creationist thought” in his intellectual dishonesty, but that’s a very broad characterization that encompasses far more people than creationists.

Comment #86701

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 15, 2006 11:22 PM (e)

To me it does seem more far fetched to postulate Martians fighting the encroaching desert with huge irrigation systems, than to conjure purpose for biological system like the flagellum or the complement cascade as ID advocates do.

But the former is far more plausible than the latter.

As I said, though, this is simply because ID advocates can usually play the simple trick of conflating function and purpose,

But you are the one that’s saying that it’s relatively non-far-fetched to imagine intent behind a flagellum vs. an irrigation system. Conflation of function and purpose has nothing to do with it – the question is, is it plausible that the flagellum resulted from an intentional process. Go to the Erie Canal and scoop up some water, and put the water under the microscope. Which is more plausible – that the organisms under the microscope were intentionally designed, or that the canal was intentionally designed? Surely the latter. Lowell’s problem was his misinterpretation of his observations as being of canals, not his inference that canals are intentional artifacts.

Comment #86706

Posted by steve s on March 15, 2006 11:36 PM (e)

But that’s not what Lowell did; he did not squint at the canals, because there are no canals.

Unless you can provide notarized proof he didn’t squint, you’re outta here. -ds

Comment #86708

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 15, 2006 11:43 PM (e)

The ID folks ASSERT “intelligent design” on the basis of, they claim, the evidence, such as IC. They then SPECULATE as to purpose and what that might consist of. But they will be first to admit, I think, that there is no evidence for proposed or claimed particular purposes, just conjecture. Lowell, on the other hand, recognized human activity in the channels and claimed to know the purposes on the basis of the evidence. That’s why these cannot be compared.

Quite the contrary: Behe has made it explicitly clear that the “inductive argument for design”, the single positive statement underlying the “theory”, is based on the “purposeful arrangement of parts”. Without recognizable purpose, he knows ID is only a weak, negative claim based on improbability, and/or an argument from personal disbelief.

Utter nonsense. It’s not “quite the contrary”; the quoted statement is quite correct, and you haven’t countered it. Behe’s “purposeful arrangement” does not assert any specific purpose – it refers to appearance of intent, not appearance of an intent. Paley’s argument would be unchanged by replacing the watch with a similar piece of machinery of unknown purpose. As Judge Jones notes (my emphasis noted):

Professor Behe summarized the argument as follows: We infer design when we see
parts that appear to be arranged for a purpose. The strength of the inference is
quantitative
; the more parts that are arranged, the more intricately they interact, the
stronger is our confidence in design. The appearance of design in aspects of
biology is overwhelming. Since nothing other than an intelligent cause has been
demonstrated to be able to yield such a strong appearance of design, Darwinian
claims notwithstanding, the conclusion that the design seen in life is real design is
rationally justified.

It’s all about “arrangement” and intricacy of interaction, not about detecting a purpose and then arguing from that to design.

Comment #86710

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 15, 2006 11:47 PM (e)

Unless you can provide notarized proof he didn’t squint, you’re outta here. -ds

Aside from the other pathetically stupid aspects of your comment, I didn’t say he didn’t squint.

Comment #86712

Posted by steve s on March 15, 2006 11:51 PM (e)

Is this a creationist using a regular’s name again? I don’t recall Popper’s Ghost being so rude.

Comment #86713

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 15, 2006 11:54 PM (e)

Is this a creationist using a regular’s name again? I don’t recall Popper’s Ghost being so rude.

Rude? What other response is deserved when you (or “ds” – are you using an alias?) write, in bold type, that I’m “outta here” if I don’t meet some ridiculous requirement that has nothing to do with what I wrote?

Comment #86718

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 16, 2006 12:09 AM (e)

P.S. It’s bizarre that you would see a creationist in my comments. What I am arguing is that the IDiots are far far worse than Lowell. Witt wants to give ID a gloss of scientific respectability by likening it to past scientific disputes, but it won’t wash. Man-made canals are familiar to us, and finding canals elsewhere leads to a reasonable suspicion that they are the creations of culture. But what of biological mechanisms? Are man-made biological mechanisms familiar to us? Is there any basis for saying that biological mechanisms are intentionally designed by analogy to other biological mechanisms that are known to be intentionally designed? No, of course not; the “design inference” is IDiotic through and through. Lowell’s inference (and it wasn’t just Lowell) was not idiotic, regardless of how delusional he was about seeing canals where there were none, or whether they were a result of his squinting.

Comment #86719

Posted by GvlGeologist, FCD on March 16, 2006 12:10 AM (e)

I know I’m a lurker here most of the time, but… um…

Isn’t Steve S’s comment (“Unless you can provide notarized proof he didn’t squint, you’re outta here. -ds”) sarcastic and mocking of the original “DS” (I’m assuming DaveScot) here? Let’s have a sense of humor here, I think. We don’t need to start a civil war.

Just my effort at being a peacemaker.

Comment #86721

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 16, 2006 12:16 AM (e)

Just my effort at being a peacemaker

Thanks, I totally missed that. I don’t waste my time at UD, else I might have caught the “ds” reference. And I’m rather under the weather, making me more edgy and literal-minded than usual.

Sorry, steve s. Peace.

Comment #86722

Posted by Torbjorn Larsson on March 16, 2006 12:29 AM (e)

Ahh, yes, Lowell’s channels-on-Mars theory could be a nice analog to ID, and perhaps a way to successfully frame the discussion. ID is indeed a Lowell type of false design identification.

Another new nice framing is presented on http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2006/03/heres_a_way_to_frame_the_confl.php : “Raskin replied: “Senator, when you took your oath of office, you placed your hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution. You did not place your hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible.” “

Several commenters loved that, and are speculating about t-shirt and bumpersticker designs. :-)

I also noticed that Witt argues against the principle of mediocrity, and one of the arguments is that “moving from non-life to life is anything but simple, and that the demarcation between the two involves a quantum and discontinuous leap”.

This isn’t what his references says, but he doesn’t mention that.

His first link references the book “Rare Earth: Why Complex Life Is Uncommon in the Universe” which for some reason concludes complex life is uncommon, but also that “life in the form of microbes or their equivalents is very common in the universe” (pp xviii in the excerpt).

Even his second link which is a DI note refers to these ideas, but doesn’t follow up on the apparent conflict with DI usual preachings…

Comment #86723

Posted by Andrea Bottaro on March 16, 2006 12:31 AM (e)

Ghost of Paley:
Utter nonsense. It’s not “quite the contrary”; the quoted statement is quite correct, and you haven’t countered it. Behe’s “purposeful arrangement” does not assert any specific purpose — it refers to appearance of intent, not appearance of an intent. Paley’s argument would be unchanged by replacing the watch with a similar piece of machinery of unknown purpose. As Judge Jones notes (my emphasis noted):

Professor Behe summarized the argument as follows: We infer design when we see
parts that appear to be arranged for a purpose. The strength of the inference is
quantitative
; the more parts that are arranged, the more intricately they interact, the
stronger is our confidence in design. The appearance of design in aspects of
biology is overwhelming. Since nothing other than an intelligent cause has been
demonstrated to be able to yield such a strong appearance of design, Darwinian
claims notwithstanding, the conclusion that the design seen in life is real design is
rationally justified.

It’s all about “arrangement” and intricacy of interaction, not about detecting a purpose and then arguing from that to design.

I am not even sure who you are arguing against here: I didn’t say it was “about detecting a purpose and then arguing from that to design”, but that Behe knows, and has explicitly argued, that a convincing design inference must include a recognition of purpose (which he erroneously conflates with function). This is for instance what he had to say in Dover:

I said that intelligent design is perceived as the purposeful arrangement of parts, yes. So when we not only see different parts, but we also see that they are ordered to perform some function, yes, that is how we perceived design.
[and]
We can, from our inductive understanding of whenever we see something that has a large number of parts, which interacts to fulfill some function, when we see a purposeful arrangement of parts, we have always found that to be design.

Not just the parts, but a purpose (function) for their arrangement.

Comment #86724

Posted by Andrea Bottaro on March 16, 2006 12:33 AM (e)

Sorry, I meant Popper’s Ghost, not Ghost of Paley in the main quote above.

Comment #86727

Posted by Torbjorn Larsson on March 16, 2006 12:45 AM (e)

“the dominant view in Judaism all along was that the Bible asserts a true beginning to the universe. And the religious view turned out to be correct, at least it seems so today.”

That is completely uninformed and wrong.

There has been a philosopical/theological idea of ‘a first cause’. Newer cosmology theories uses other mechanisms, starting from the random quantum fluctuation cosmology, I believe, through Hawking et al ‘no boundary’ proposals, multiverse/endless inflation scenarios, string brane cosmologies, Carroll et al symmetrical time scenario and doubtless many others. The later ideas embeds big bang in infinite time universes/multiverses without any ‘first cause’.

It turns out that when physicists come up with physical explanations for cosmology, a ‘first cause’, or (signs of) gods, isn’t usable as part of a theory of cosmology.

So there are no creationist “origins” or “true beginning” here. It’s all empty and useless statements.

Comment #86736

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 16, 2006 1:03 AM (e)

I am not even sure who you are arguing against here: I didn’t say it was “about detecting a purpose and then arguing from that to design”

Carol wrote “But they will be first to admit, I think, that there is no evidence for proposed or claimed particular purposes” and you wrote “Quite the contrary … Without recognizable purpose, …”. Carol is correct (I am reluctant to acknowledge such a thing, but it happens sometimes) that the IDiots do not assert “evidence for proposed or claimed particular purposes”, and your talk of “recognizable purpose” is mistaken. There is no “recognizable purpose” in Behe’s formulation, only inference of some purpose from arrangements that strike him as “purposeful” – intentional – due to the degree of intricate interaction.

Not just the parts, but a purpose (function) for their arrangement.

No, Behe does not claim “a purpose”, he claims “purposefulness”. As I noted, Paley could have referred to a machine made much like a watch but without a discernible purpose, and he still would have inferred intentional design. It has nothing to do with “a purpose” or function, but with the appearance of intent. That is what Behe means by “purposeful arrangement”. And he says it’s “quantifiable”. He’s not talking about counting purposes or functions, but intricate interactions. Remember, it has to do with “complexity”; Behe sees intent in complexity. He’s wrong to do so, however; as I noted, real intent is marked by information-theoretical simplicity.

An speaking of complexity, this statement by Carol

Lowell was not arguing just complexity, his point was that he saw “recognizable complexity”.

is quite wrong; Lowell didn’t argue complexity at all, he argued “perfectly regular results, that is, results in which irregularity is not also discernible”. Regularity is information-theoretical simplicity.

Comment #86743

Posted by Carol Clouser on March 16, 2006 1:26 AM (e)

Andrea,

There is some confusion of terminology going on here. The statement you quote from Behe meant to assert “deliberate design”, meaning “intentional”, but not necessarily purposeful. Certainly Behe makes no claim for evidence-based knowledge of particular purpose, only speculation. Lowell, on the other hand, recognized the “watch in the forest” so to speak and claimed to identify its purpose and derive a powerful inference for design therefrom.

Popper,

It seems that you and I see eye to eye on quite a few issues. Only you express the arguments far better than I do.

Torbjorn,

All the theories you mention are fine and well and I am quite familiar with them. I even worked many years ago as a physics grad students with one of the key developers of the Quantum Fluctuation Theory (Edward Tryon). But alas all of these are not supported by direct observation. The evidence and data does clearly establish, however, that there occured the big bang which increasingly looks like a true beginning for the space-time and mass-energy of the only universe we have evidence for its existence.

Comment #86745

Posted by Torbjorn Larsson on March 16, 2006 1:28 AM (e)

“Lowell didn’t argue complexity at all, he argued “perfectly regular results, that is, results in which irregularity is not also discernible”. Regularity is information-theoretical simplicity.”

That’s an interesting observation. I wonder that would have happened if Behe and Dembski had been better at science and made the right assumption from the start? It is relatively easy to get that part right.

They could have had some correct applications by measurements on manmade designs, like the rival multiple design theory (MDT) toy theory comparisons. They could have gotten one or two real peer-reviewed papers out on neutral subjects like their theory foundations and applications on technological designs. In biology they would only get results that support evolution, of course. Perhaps they simply choose to reverse their measures to avoid that and still get money out of DI?

They and their followers aren’t scientists; they will never change that now. Mostly because they would loose too much face in front of the followers.

Comment #86750

Posted by fnxtr on March 16, 2006 1:47 AM (e)

Re “I’d imagine that aliens observing the Earth might imply intelligent life based, e.g., on the visibility of the US-Canada border from space. “

Say what? When did political borders become visible when they aren’t following rivers or something like that?

(comment about land use also in here)

With the appropriate resolution, an orbiting observer can also see the several-meters-wide border slash clearing, at least along the western provinces/states delimiter.

Comment #86752

Posted by Torbjorn Larsson on March 16, 2006 1:53 AM (e)

“But alas all of these are not supported by direct observation.”

The point is that they don’t need to be to make you wrong, or to make a ‘first cause’ wrong. These explanations exist and contradicts the religious view, contrary to what you said. Furthermore it has turned out with our improved knowledge that a ‘first cause’ isn’t usable as part of a theory of cosmology because it doesn’t work as a physics principle. Instead, various other mechanisms have been invented.

So a ‘first cause’ is not, and will never again become, part of a cosmology. You compound your error here by saying that bigbang “increasingly” looks like a ‘true beginning’, which again is uninformed and wrong. Bigbang is increasingly confirmed, that is true, but not as a ‘true beginning’. As I said, it’s nowadays imbedded in infinite time universes/multiverses by various mechanisms, when you look at cosmology.

None of these cosmologies are taken completely out of air (like gods or ID), but are compatible with known physics, and many of them have falsifiable parts. It’s very hard to predict if and when we will know more and start to falsify them. (Only one can be correct. :-) But we know already that a ‘first cause’ is a dead concept.

Comment #86773

Posted by Bob Schubring on March 16, 2006 4:14 AM (e)

Larsson comments:
“Bigbang is increasingly confirmed, that is true, but not as a ‘true beginning’. As I said, it’s nowadays imbedded in infinite time universes/multiverses by various mechanisms, when you look at cosmology. None of these cosmologies are taken completely out of air (like gods or ID), but are compatible with known physics, and many of them have falsifiable parts. It’s very hard to predict if and when we will know more and start to falsify them. (Only one can be correct. :-).”

The scientific method requires that a theory be subjected to experiment, and rejected when it predicts contrarily to observations. No one, as of this writing, has arrived at a reliable means of detecting radiant energy from outer space that originates at a temperature below 4 K. As a result, the postulated “infinite time universes/multiverses” are as impossible to prove or disprove by observation, as is Galileo’s First Cause.

Unfortunately for materialists, the entire structure of dialectical materialism is as arguably pulled out of thin air as are “infinite universes/multiverses”, and “gods and ID”. In fact, Hegel’s very first prediction, made from his Theory of Paradigms, “proved” that the planet Uranus could not exist…which prediction Hegel published a month before Uranus was discovered by Herschel, using a telescope.

The simple fact is that religion (including dialectical materialism, which is simply religion in drag) seeks to explain events that happen once and are not repeated. Honest religion calls these events “miracles”, and religion-in-drag calls these events accidents when unimportant to its argument, or gives them a pseudo-scientific name when used to advance an argument. Genuine science has to withhold judgment on things that it cannot prove, as the only truthful answer one can make to an unanswerable question is that no answer can be had.

Science is about things that can be proven, repeatably, to be true. It is absolutely true that biological change has taken place through human selection (both by selective breeding of crop and livestock species, and more recently, by genetic engineering methods). To argue that other selective processes can not have operated is to ascribe to the human species a unique talent for breeding organisms to fit a desired result…without proof. To believe that the God of Abraham could create all the existing plant and animal species in 48 hours but could not modify, tweak, or redesign species by evolutionary means, is to place a prior restraint of human beliefs upon an unrestrainable and admittedly infinite being.

The faith that underlies all scientific study is the belief that things which are repeatably demonstrable by experiment can be assumed to be true.

Percival Lowell’s work was not science. By his own admission, the lines he observed on Mars were not always in the same places. By his own admission, photographs of Mars failed to reveal the lines he observed. By way of explanation, Lowell argued that the image of Mars in the telescope tended to be blurry and shimmer, and that he could see and draw the lines even though a camera revealed nothing of the kind. Much like the alleged “Mars rock” that allegedly found its way onto an Antarctic glacier, allegedly proving that it had an internal pore structure similar to terrestrial rocks that were colonized by bacteria, allegedly proving thereby that Mars harbored bacterial life forms, Lowell’s lines began with a desired pattern and fleshed it in with supposition to arrive at the appearance of a scientific theory. Likewise, many of the arguments advanced by ID backers are not scientific in the sense of being demonstrable by experiment…as are the arguments of evangelical atheists who seek to convert people to atheism by arguing that evolution is a complete theory that requres no further improvement.

Comment #86782

Posted by Peter Henderson on March 16, 2006 5:40 AM (e)

I know this is a bit off topic but since we’re talking about Mars (which has experienced many impact events like the moon and as we now know the Earth also) and also astronomy I thought the folks here might like to know the latest creationist thinking on cratering:

url :http://www.answersingenesis.org/tj/v14/i1/cratering.asp

I always thought that heavy cratering gave the appearance of age, and in fact lunar craters can be used as a chronometer but I think this article is just laughable. How on Earth can cratering theory be biblically-based ? I wonder what Eugene and Carolyn Shoemaker would make of this.Maybe a subject for a separate topic perhaps ?I suppose if it had been left to the creationists all craters would still be volcanic in origin.

At least the article is a little less ridicules than Henry Morris’s theory that impact craters were the result of a battle between the archangel Gabriel and Satin !

They are even arguing among themselves on this one.

Comment #86798

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on March 16, 2006 7:53 AM (e)

Unfortunately for materialists, the entire structure of dialectical materialism is as arguably pulled out of thin air as are “infinite universes/multiverses”, and “gods and ID”. In fact, Hegel’s very first prediction

Um, Hegel wasn’t a materialist.

Please don’t babble incoherently about topics that you don’t understand and don’t know anything about. Thanks.

Comment #86800

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on March 16, 2006 7:55 AM (e)

The simple fact is that religion (including dialectical materialism, which is simply religion in drag) seeks to explain events that happen once and are not repeated.

That’s nice. Does ID therefore have something to do with religion …. ?

Comment #86801

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on March 16, 2006 7:56 AM (e)

dialectical materialism

You, uh, have no idea what this means, do you.

Comment #86806

Posted by Andrea Bottaro on March 16, 2006 8:14 AM (e)

I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree. Carol originally claimed:

The ID folks ASSERT “intelligent design” on the basis of, they claim, the evidence, such as IC. They then SPECULATE as to purpose and what that might consist of.

and that is wrong, in my opinion. Behe has made it clear at Dover that IC, as a negative argument against evolution, is not sufficient to infer design. For him, the positive argument for design, the one on which the inductive argument for design can be made with confidence, is based on the purposeful arrangement of parts, by which he generally intends an identifiable (which doesn’t mean certain or definitive, but it’s not just a post-hoc speculation) function, especially for biological systems.

For instance, my interpretation is that if Behe did not know about flagella and their normal function, and observed a mutant, immotile flagellum with all its components but incapable of propelling a bacterium, he might well say he suspects design, but wouldn’t claim to have made a definitive design inference based on his “inductive argument”.

But again, that’s just my take.

Comment #86812

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 16, 2006 8:38 AM (e)

by which he generally intends an identifiable (which doesn’t mean certain or definitive, but it’s not just a post-hoc speculation) function, especially for biological systems

No, he does not, and I have given the quotes and reasoning that show what he does intend. Your “agreement to disagree” is just refusal to accept a clear rebuttal – it’s bad faith.

For instance, my interpretation is that if Behe did not know about flagella and their normal function, and observed a mutant, immotile flagellum with all its components but incapable of propelling a bacterium, he might well say he suspects design, but wouldn’t claim to have made a definitive design inference based on his “inductive argument”.

Again, Behe says that the inference is quantitative, that it is the result of an accumulation of observations of “arrangements” and “intricate interactions”, and that the only known source of such arrangements and interactions is intentional design. Your “interpretation” and your “take” has nothing to do with the facts.

Comment #86814

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 16, 2006 8:45 AM (e)

Much like the alleged “Mars rock” that allegedly found its way onto an Antarctic glacier

It’s not “alleged”; see http://www.lpi.usra.edu/lpi/meteorites/The_Meteorite.html

the arguments of evangelical atheists who seek to convert people to atheism by arguing that evolution is a complete theory that requres no further improvement.

The theory of evolution, complete or not, does not imply atheism. Nor does any atheist, or any other proponent of the ToE, argue that it requires no further improvement.

Science is about things that can be proven, repeatably, to be true.

Uh, no, it’s not. Science isn’t about proof, or even truth, it’s about building predictive models.

Comment #86816

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 16, 2006 9:08 AM (e)

P.S.

Judge Jones had no trouble understanding Behe’s argument (emphasis added):

It is readily apparent to the Court that the only attribute of design that biological systems appear to share with human artifacts is their complex appearance, i.e. if it looks complex or designed, it must have been designed. (23:73 (Behe)). This inference to design based upon the appearance of a “purposeful arrangement of parts” is a completely subjective proposition, determined in the eye of each beholder and his/her viewpoint concerning the complexity of a system. Although both Professors Behe and Minnich assert that there is a quantitative aspect to the inference, on cross-examination they admitted that there is no quantitative criteria for determining the degree of complexity or number of parts that bespeak design, rather than a natural process. (23:50 (Behe); 38:59 (Minnich)). As Plaintiffs aptly submit to the Court, throughout the entire trial only one piece of evidence generated by Defendants addressed the strength of the ID inference: the argument is less plausible to those for whom God’s existence is in question, and is much less plausible for those who deny God’s existence. (P-718 at 705). Accordingly, the purported positive argument for ID does not satisfy the ground rules of science which require testable hypotheses based upon natural explanations. (3:101-03 (Miller)). ID is reliant upon forces acting outside of the natural world, forces that we cannot see, replicate, control or test, which have produced changes in this world. While we take no position on whether such forces exist, they are simply not testable by scientific means and therefore cannot qualify as part of the scientific process or as a scientific theory. (3:101-02 (Miller)).

There’s nothing in there about claiming that the flagellum is intentionally designed because it has an apparent purpose (or function) – that simply isn’t the argument that Behe makes, at Dover or elsewhere, even if it may play some role in his thinking. The phrase “purposive arrangement” simply does not imply that a purpose has been discerned; if you think that, then you are misinterpreting the English language. “purposive arrangement” refers to the sort of thing we see at Stonehenge, where the stones appear to have been arranged intentionally, even though we don’t know what the intent is.

Comment #86829

Posted by Flint on March 16, 2006 9:54 AM (e)

No, he does not, and I have given the quotes and reasoning that show what he does intend. Your “agreement to disagree” is just refusal to accept a clear rebuttal — it’s bad faith.

Nope, disagreeing with you isn’t bad faith, convinced as you may be of the correctness of your analysis.

I’m personally more persuaded by Andrea’s arguments. Behe sees purpose because biological forms DO something. They were arranged that way on purpose, in order to do whatever it is they do. We can tell the flagellum is designed because it serves a motility purpose.

I also don’t agree with the claim that if Paley had happened upon a whole bunch of things that looked unnatural but he had no clue what any of them were FOR, his assessment of their origin would depend entirely on whether he could dream up some possible purpose. He’d have a lot of false positives and false negatives, and his hit rate would be well under 100%. He knew the watch was designed because he knew what a watch was and what it was for.

Now imagine Paley walking into a place he’d never been, with unfamiliar geology, and discovering a bunch of modern ICs sitting around. Not just one, but hundreds. Would he conclude they were artificial without any idea what they do?

People have the same problem with rocks - some were shaped for, or used for, different purposes by primitive people. They were knives, hammers, grinders, weapons, etc. But some rocks serve these purposes without any shaping at all. Unless we know their purpose, we can’t distinguish.

Behe “knows” life forms were designed because by observation they DO something useful for the organism. If Behe couldn’t identify any purpose, he couldn’t identify design. This is the same reason Dembski has always refused to apply his Filter to any real-world object – if he does not already know what it’s for, his Filter can’t determine design.

Comment #86837

Posted by AC on March 16, 2006 10:30 AM (e)

Bob Schubring wrote:

The simple fact is that religion…seeks to explaininvent events that happen once and are not repeated, in order to dazzle the credulous.

Fixed that for you.

Comment #86844

Posted by William E Emba on March 16, 2006 11:44 AM (e)

Popper's Ghost wrote:

Gregory Chaitin has shown that complexity is an inherent property of mathematics.

Chaitin claims to have shown this. More accurately, he has added an infinitesimally small and overwhelmingly insignificant jot to the work of the large community of mathematicians who have been showing that complexity is inherent in mathematics for the better part of a century now. That, and he writes about himself and his work a good deal.

Comment #86857

Posted by Scott W. Somerville on March 16, 2006 12:55 PM (e)

Maybe I’m missing your point… but I thought Lowell’s reasoning was pretty good, if you actually think there are canals on Mars.

Comment #86859

Posted by Andrea Bottaro on March 16, 2006 12:59 PM (e)

No, he does not, and I have given the quotes and reasoning that show what he does intend. Your “agreement to disagree” is just refusal to accept a clear rebuttal — it’s bad faith.

Popper’s Ghost:
first, I would kindly request that you maintain a civil tone and do not gratuitously attack other people’s “bad faith”.

Second, you may be entirely convinced (in good faith, to boot) of your argument, but that doesn’t mean that others, like myself, find it convincing. In particular, I note that you have not shown any quote from Behe stating what you think “he does intend”, but only derivative quotes from Judge Jones. Now, Judge Jones got an earful about ID at the trial, but his goal there is not to discuss the argument in toto, but to deconstruct it and critique it. For instance, of course complexity is supposed to play a role in design inferences, and of course Jones is right to point out that ID advocates, despite their claims to the contrary, have not provided any reliable quantitative way to objectively assess such complexity. However, as I think Behe’s quotes above relating to function/purpose determination in design inferences make clear, complexity is only part of the design inference process, and not sufficient for a cogent argument for design (and I am not even going into Dembski’s complexity-specification criterion thing).

Now, to be completely clear, even the basic determination of IC depends on an identifiable function, a function that must be affected by loss of one of the system’s components.

A single system composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function of the system, wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning.
(Behe, DBB)

Note that this is not just “purposive arrangement” or somesuch, because Behe is very clear that what matters is the specific function of the complex (for instance, if a subset of the purported IC system components have a different function, Behe still claims that the IC determination related to the “original” function of the system isn’t affected - e.g. the flagellum vs the Type 3 Secretion System). It follows that a structure of flagellum-like complexity but unknown function (e.g. a ball-like structure composed of as many proteins as the flagellum, with specific interactions and defined stoichiometry) cannot - by definition - be considered IC, because it can’t be functionally tested by removal of parts. (It doesn’t mean that one can’t say that such a structure “looks designed”, but I think Behe would argue that this is a weak design inference in the absence of some fucntional determination. Or, to paraphrase myself from the original post, to which Carol objected: one cannot “formulate a convincing argument for design without tackling the fundamental issue underlying design of any kind, that is, its purpose”.)

Now, I am entirely willing to concede that ID advocates themselves are ambiguous, confusing and perhaps even sometimes contradictory on the subject, but to say that they absolutely state that all which matters for an ID inference is the quantitative analysis of complexity, with function/purpose relegated as a mere post-hoc “speculation”, to use Carol’s word, is - from my perhaps modest understanding of ID - mistaken.

Comment #86869

Posted by k.e. on March 16, 2006 1:31 PM (e)

Examining the entrails of Creationism disguised as Incredulous Deductions all over again makes Judge Jones’ summary all the more impressive. He manages to disentangle the religiously motivated obscurantism and produce a readable and extremely lucid judgment that even a plumber could understand.
For that he earns my highest respect. I value lucidity, eloquence and economy of language above all. Why say something with a thousand words when the same thing can be expressed with just a few.

But equally it makes Behe’s nonsense use of language to promote his (purely) subjective religious views coupled with the sophistry of his argument to generate hundreds of pages of circular reasoning and then foisted as a grand hoax, as “peer reviewed” “verifiable facts” on the great unwashed PROOF INDEED THAT PEOPLE WANT TO BE MISLED.

He admitted on the stand, to his credit, that science fiction was not science, it would seem he was one of the few people in the court who did quite grasp the irony that his own work was science fiction.

Now here is my main point.

When an artist creates a work, and each viewer/reader/consumer receives a message/concept, it simply amplifies the creators world view.
Great Art has this rather delicious property, as some may know, the receiver sees themselves or their OWN thoughts amplified and reflected, their own world view in other words, with all that entails, joy… or perhaps even disgust, the Ah Ha! moment.

The case of each person subjectively reading into the (human) creation their own worldview says nothing about the creation (except it’s creators genius), but indeed, says something about the readers horizons and cultural background….that which he cannot see, simply because it is over his horizon.
Where Behe and his fellow travelers fail is not their interpretation but the simple fact that they give up trying to go beyond their own horizons and are useless in terms of furthering knowledge.
Behe once he had found to his own satisfaction that the g-word had created the flagellum out of thin air, decided that was as far as he had to go, and no further investigation was necessary.
Now I am going to credit Behe with a little disingenuous here, it would seem reasonable that he did a rudimentary search of the literature to make sure he was not going to be discredited overnight.
Behe makes up a suitably expedient story to support his worldview and goes to press thus committing the very unchristian sins of pride, avarice and idolatry.
Judge Jones did not have to make those sort of subjective religious judgments however “breath taking inanity” I suspect was the thing that got up the noses most of all at the DI… a delicious irony.

Lenny on Bob the drive by “dialectical materialism” guy kind of reminds me of the the MD who posted a rant on tautology and used the word no less than 13 times in 3 paragraphs. Hilarious.

Comment #86870

Posted by k.e. on March 16, 2006 1:35 PM (e)

bah replace disingenuous with disingenuousness

Comment #86871

Posted by Carol Clouser on March 16, 2006 1:40 PM (e)

Flint wrote:

“Behe sees purpose because biological forms DO something. They were arranged that way on purpose, in order to do whatever it is they do. We can tell the flagellum is designed because it serves a motility purpose….Behe “knows” life forms were designed because by observation they DO something useful for the organism. If Behe couldn’t identify any purpose, he couldn’t identify design.”

If that were Behe’s argument, why all the talk about complexity eminating from his mouth? That argument is strikingly similar to Paley’s very old “watch in the forest” argument. So what is new in Behe’s offering?

The key point you and Andrea are missing is that Behe’s argument is NOT Paley’s argument. Nor is it Lowell’s.

Comment #86872

Posted by k.e. on March 16, 2006 1:45 PM (e)

D’oh Speaking of lucidity :(
it would seem he (Behe) was one of the few people in the court who did NOT quite grasp the irony that his own work was science fiction.

No wonder Jones took weeks to ‘get it right’ I wonder if he has a proof reader.

Comment #86873

Posted by Steviepinhead on March 16, 2006 1:49 PM (e)

Oh, Carol:

eminating

Yet another word that requires Landa’s book to correctly translate?

Comment #86874

Posted by k.e. on March 16, 2006 1:52 PM (e)

Ah Carol as soon as Behe started talking about the statues on Easter Island and how they looked designed he invoked Paley’s (And the Creationist’s) day dream.
He added the rather obvious negative deduction argument which is no different to saying that time is negative and we proceed through it backwards.

Comment #86879

Posted by Flint on March 16, 2006 2:14 PM (e)

Carol:

If that were Behe’s argument, why all the talk about complexity eminating from his mouth?

Behe can’t believe that life happened by accident, or that functional forms occur through an undirected feedback process. Since he can’t believe this, it must be false. All else follows from this conclusion. At the trial, Rothschild kept asking Behe what the mechanism was, and all Behe could do was state his conclusions - that he SEES purpose, therefore an intelligence must be involved. Jones saw the problem here immediately - Behe had no mechanisms, couldn’t even speculate about them, and saw no reason to do so, since he already had the answer. No reason to do research, no reason to read the literature. Why bother? Jones didn’t need to be a scientists to see that this is a purely religious, entirely anti-science approach.

That argument is strikingly similar to Paley’s very old “watch in the forest” argument. So what is new in Behe’s offering?

Nothing. Behe is rephrasing Paley, quite transparently. And that’s because, once again, they start with the same basic assumption: there is a creator at work. They KNOW this. They also know what the creator DID, on faith. So they look at what they know the creator did, and discover that sure enough, the creator did it. At least Behe was honest enough to admit that unless you believe the creator did it, you can’t see the creation buried in the evidence.

The key point you and Andrea are missing is that Behe’s argument is NOT Paley’s argument.

Yes it is. There is no difference.

Nor is it Lowell’s.

Here, I agree with you. Lowell’s data were inadequate, to be sure. And his desire to find Martian activity caused him to embellish inadequate data in congenial ways. But IF better telescopes had ratified Lowell’s canals, his speculations would remain forceful. He would have identified very human engineering projects performed to achieve very human purposes according to a very human design.

And this is really the distinction between Behe/Paley and Lowell. No faith in a supernatural creator is required to see design in engineering projects. And Lowell’s design speculations would remain subject to reconsideration. If modern Mars expeditions were to discover that something unique about the planetary geology caused a network of straight crevices, the previously-responsible Martians would be discarded in favor of more compelling geological evidence. Whereas NO amount of evidence about the flagellum can possibly dislodge Behe’s faith.

Comment #86899

Posted by Carol Clouser on March 16, 2006 2:55 PM (e)

Flint,

I notice that you have not addressed the question: Why bother with all that aggravation pertaining to complexity when purpose quite adequately leads to the design inference?

I think your blind faith in the bankruptcy of any view based on a creator is leading you to seriously under-estimate the intellectual potency of the authors of the ID position. They are not imbeciles and idiots (no pun intended). Behe’s point is entirely based on complexity. He sees a functioning entity composed of many parts that could not function in the absence of any of those parts. Random and accidental processes, he reasons, are highly unlikely to have put these parts together into a functioning whole. So it must have been put together deliberately. That is the key word - deliberate, intentional.

Yes, Behe does resort to function and refers to it as “purpose”. But he really means to say “deliberate” as opposed to “accident”.

Paley and Lowell, on the other hand, made primarily “recognizable purpose” arguments, not based on complexity. As a matter of fact, Popper is right in that Lowell actually saw simplicity in the channels on Mars, yet still concluded design.

You do yourself and the side you purport to speak for a disservice by understimating and misunderstanding your opponent.

Comment #86908

Posted by k.e. on March 16, 2006 3:17 PM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'kwickxml'

Comment #86923

Posted by Flint on March 16, 2006 4:11 PM (e)

Carol:

The problem I’m trying to point out is the direction the analysis takes - either FROM the evidence TO the conclusions, or FROM the conclusions TO the evidence.

Behe uses the latter. He knows the creator did it. If it’s simple, simplicity is the mark of design. If it’s complex, complexity is the mark of design. Knowledge of design came first, rationalizations came afterwards. I despair of you ever seeing this.

But once more for good luck. Behe knows life was created. He KNOWS this. Now, what do we see about life. Well, it’s purposive. That shows the creator did it. It’s complex. That must also show the creator did it. If you stack the deck just so (by disallowing exaptation, scaffolding, change of lifestyle, co-opting, repurposing, discarding, etc. etc.) then you can argue that [whatever is left] must have been designed.

I think your blind faith in the bankruptcy of any view based on a creator is leading you to seriously under-estimate the intellectual potency of the authors of the ID position. They are not imbeciles and idiots (no pun intended).

No, they are intelligent, creative, and often very knowledgeable. This only emphasizes the true insidiousness of a religious viewpoint. Already starting with the Truth, they are endlessly imaginative in rationalizing whatever they observe to fit what they know is the answer a priori. This isn’t the mark of imbecility, it’s the mark of Morton’s Demon.

Behe’s point is entirely based on complexity.

Nope. Behe’s point is entirely based on preconception. He is similar to Lowell in that both saw what they desired and expected to see. He is different from Lowell in that better data might (for all we know) have changed Lowell’s mind. Behe’s convictions are not amenable to change from mere evidence - not when the evidence flows from the conclusions.

Random and accidental processes, he reasons, are highly unlikely to have put these parts together into a functioning whole. So it must have been put together deliberately. That is the key word - deliberate, intentional.

You’re close, I think. Behe is “reasoning” backwards. He knows he is the intent of his creator. The challenge isn’t to determine whether or not this is the case, it IS the case. The challenge is to justify it. Since he was created on purpose (a matter of faith), it becomes necessary to show that natural processes could not have done the job. Now, how can this be done? Well, if we misrepresent the process, misuse statistical reasoning, decree by fiat requirements natural processes need not follow, and other tricks, we can FORCE the evidence to fit the conclusions.

As a matter of fact, Popper is right in that Lowell actually saw simplicity in the channels on Mars, yet still concluded design.

Once again for even more good luck. Lowell wanted to see purpose, just like Behe. Lowell wanted to find purpose in something simple, so he used simplicity as the measure of purpose. Behe wants to find purpose in something complex, so he uses complexity as the measure of purpose.

Where Paley and Lowell are similar is, both used knowledge of HUMAN purpose to find design. Behe quite clearly uses his personal notion of God’s Will to the same effect. I admit I don’t understand why you can’t see the importance of Behe’s concession that Design can ONLY be seen through the eyes of faith. Without that faith, the design isn’t there. WITH that faith, the design is incontrovertible.

You do yourself and the side you purport to speak for a disservice by understimating and misunderstanding your opponent.

Not being crippled by faith, I must recognize that my ability to understand those who are is itself crippled. Still, I do my best to understand. As an outsider, I see what they do and why. But also as an outsider, I have no idea what an article of such faith must LOOK like to them. Clearly, they take their conclusions for granted. But creativity in justifying foregone conclusions, while admirable, isn’t the path to the kind of truth I’m most comfortable with - i.e. the tentative, conditional sort.

Comment #86926

Posted by Glen Davidson on March 16, 2006 4:36 PM (e)

Why bother with all that aggravation pertaining to complexity when purpose quite adequately leads to the design inference?

There is a reason, and it ought to occur to you Carol. Purpose is not obvious in life, while complexity is. If one can change the basis of the discussion away from real design elements, and pre-suppose that complexity has to be designed, then one has won through the manipulation of language. This is the problem we confront with IDists.

Are we supposed to believe that Behe honestly and without prejudice came to his ideas?

I think your blind faith in the bankruptcy of any view based on a creator is leading you to seriously under-estimate the intellectual potency of the authors of the ID position.

What potency? Is there anything new about the complexity problem? Does it in the least point to a Creator? And are we supposed to take your word for it that there is some potency (other than for PR) in ID?

They are not imbeciles and idiots (no pun intended).

What has this to do with what they write and say about ID? We’d need for them to say something intelligent and relevant in order to care what Behe writes outside of chemistry, and we have yet to see anything worthwhile from Behe.

Behe’s point is entirely based on complexity. He sees a functioning entity composed of many parts that could not function in the absence of any of those parts.

No, his point is entirely based on a false dichotomy, the assumption that if evolution isn’t responsible, then “poof”. And there is absolutely nothing new to the concern about the dependence of parts on other parts.

Random and accidental processes, he reasons, are highly unlikely to have put these parts together into a functioning whole.

Yes, that is about how he reasons, since he apparently knows very little about evolution and selection. What’s your point, that he really is an idiot?

So it must have been put together deliberately.

By whom? Monkeys, humans? Can you theists ever point to a case in which intelligence has made life as it is? If not, where is the “reasoning” (that is, reasoning from sound premises)?

That is the key word - deliberate, intentional.

Yes, and you, like Behe, fail to demonstrate any such thing. The a priori default under which IDists operate kicks in at the point where problems arise. What is missing, of course, is any basis for supposing this default in the first place.

Btw, why does the creator produce deliberately and intentionally the patterns expected from RM + NS? That is to say, since when does deliberate and intentional imply “survival of the fittest”? That is what we see, in the main, in the biological realm, and unfortunately it is the antithesis of what we expect from design. Indeed, we run into difficulties with engineered organisms which we create, because natural selection tends to select against the less-fit phenotypes which we have produced.

That’s what shows design, of course, purposeful arrangement which goes against what “nature selects”.

Yes, Behe does resort to function and refers to it as “purpose”. But he really means to say “deliberate” as opposed to “accident”.

Which makes no difference. Like Paley, he has to rely on “it looks designed” in order to make a positive claim for his idea. Which shows how bankrupt his ideas are.

Paley and Lowell, on the other hand, made primarily “recognizable purpose” arguments, not based on complexity.

Yes, but that’s because they weren’t arguing against evolution. Behe can’t really argue purpose straightforwardly, and he can’t argue simplicity due to the fact that organisms are complex. So he has to argue that the expected complexity coming out of evolution is in fact “design”.

I know that he had to be even less convincing that Paley, since Paley has been essentially falsified. Using complexity to show “design” is highly unconvincing in biological context, but he doesn’t have much choice but to pretend that since complex machines are made purposefully by humans, then biological machines must be as well. It’s different in its way, but it still resorts to claiming purpose where there is none. Dembski quite deliberately claims to be bringing back Aristotle’s “final end”.

As a matter of fact, Popper is right in that Lowell actually saw simplicity in the channels on Mars, yet still concluded design.

So does Dembski. In fact he calls simplicity “complexity” based solely on the likelihood of its appearing “accidentally”. Thus he might very well make the same claim as Lowell. I’m not sure what Behe would do with it all, however the IDists generally make a point of not disagreeing, therefore it is not unlikely that Behe largely agrees with Dembski’s mis-identifications of “complexity” in simplicity.

As a matter of fact, Popper is right in that Lowell actually saw simplicity in the channels on Mars, yet still concluded design.

Since Lowell’s canals would be highly unlikely to appear “naturally” on Mars, Dembski and Behe would count them as intelligently designed (as would most of us). Behe would probably point to an integrated complexity in the overall design of the “canals”, and Dembski would declare it to be CSI. Purpose would be inferred from the unlikelihood of their appearing without “design”, as well as from their supposed use.

They’re coming at “purpose” or “deliberation” the only way they think that they can, though they still depend upon a false dichotomy to do this. In fact, the theological ends of Behe and of Dembski demand that telos be discovered in the “natural world”, and this appears to be the primary impetus behind their search for “purpose” in the “design of organisms”. The fact that purpose cannot really be found in organisms that we haven’t engineered does not deter them from creating incomplete and incorrect arguments in favor of purpose through the misuse of the complexity we see.

Glen D
http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

Comment #86931

Posted by Andrea Bottaro on March 16, 2006 5:32 PM (e)

Carol Clouser wrote:
Behe’s point is entirely based on complexity. He sees a functioning entity composed of many parts that could not function in the absence of any of those parts. Random and accidental processes, he reasons, are highly unlikely to have put these parts together into a functioning whole. So it must have been put together deliberately.
(emphasis mine)

I can’t believe you don’t see you contradict yourself within the space of a paragraph.

Try to repeat Behe’s argument entirely basing it on “complexity”, without regard to function, and see if it looks anything like Behe’s argument. It would look something like this:
He sees a complex entity composed of many parts that would be slightly less complex in the absence of any of those parts. Random and accidental processes, he reasons, are highly unlikely to have put these parts together into a complex whole. So it must have been put together deliberately.

As I said, one cannot even make an IC determination without a functional assessment (as you correctly point out in the quote above), let alone make a cogent inference of design.

Setting aside any discussion about ID inferences etc, I would also point out that, while certainly many designed items are indeed very complex, many are not (including some iconical design products like flint stone tools, screws, the paper clip, etc). On the other hand, all design products have a purpose. It’s really no contest as to what the most fundamental property of designed objects is.

Comment #86944

Posted by AC on March 16, 2006 6:44 PM (e)

Glen Davidson wrote:

Indeed, we run into difficulties with engineered organisms which we create, because natural selection tends to select against the less-fit phenotypes which we have produced.

Our non-biological technology is also designed with a narrow focus - even the things we consider versatile and long-lasting. Fortunately, the artificial selection forces and environmental stresses they face aren’t as harsh as life’s struggle to survive. We usually have a decent degree of control over them.

Andrea Bottaro wrote:

while certainly many designed items are indeed very complex, many are not (including some iconical design products like flint stone tools, screws, the paper clip, etc). On the other hand, all design products have a purpose. It’s really no contest as to what the most fundamental property of designed objects is.

And some human designs can be very simple or relatively complex, such as wheels, pulleys, springs, and levers.

Comment #86956

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 16, 2006 7:24 PM (e)

Try to repeat Behe’s argument entirely basing it on “complexity”, without regard to function, and see if it looks anything like Behe’s argument. It would look something like this:
He sees a complex entity composed of many parts that would be slightly less complex in the absence of any of those parts. Random and accidental processes, he reasons, are highly unlikely to have put these parts together into a complex whole. So it must have been put together deliberately.

Well, of course, when you deliberately offer a bad argument, it will look bad. But let’s consider Behe’s actual argument, from his Dover testimony, an argument for which I previously posted Judge Jones’ paraphrase, which you dismissed:

The first point is that, we infer design when we see that parts appear to be arranged for a purpose. The second point is that the strength of the inference, how confident we are in it, is quantitative. The more parts that are arranged, and the more intricately they interact, the stronger is our confidence in design. The third point is that the appearance of design in aspects of biology is overwhelming. The fourth point then is that, since nothing other than an intelligent cause has been demonstrated to be able to yield such a strong appearance of design, Darwinian claims notwithstanding, the conclusion that the design seen in life is real design is rationally justified.

There’s no mention there of “function”. Since his use of the word “purpose” seems to confuse you, try the argument without that word:

The first point is that, we infer design when we see that parts appear to be intentionally arranged. The second point is that the strength of the inference, how confident we are in it, is quantitative. The more parts that are arranged, and the more intricately they interact, the stronger is our confidence in design. The third point is that the appearance of design in aspects of biology is overwhelming. The fourth point then is that, since nothing other than an intelligent cause has been demonstrated to be able to yield such a strong appearance of design, Darwinian claims notwithstanding, the conclusion that the design seen in life is real design is rationally justified.

That is Behe’s argument based entirely on complexity: a large number of systems of large numbers of intricately interacting parts provides the appearance of design, which implies actual design, because nothing other than intelligent cause has been shown to produce such an appearance. Behe’s testimony about the meaning of his book title further illustrates this:

In science, [“black box” is] used sometimes to indicate some system or some structure or some machine that does something interesting, but you don’t know how it works. You don’t know how it works because you can’t see inside the black box and, therefore, can’t figure it out….It turns out that in Darwin’s day, the contents of the cell were unknown. People could see it do interesting things. It could move. It could reproduce and so on. But how it could do that was utterly unknown. And many people at the time, many scientists at this time such as Ernst Haeckel and others, Thomas Huxley thought that, in fact, the basis of life, the cell, would be very simple, that it would turn out to just be a glob of protoplasms, something akin to a microscopic piece of Jell-O.

But in the meantime, in the past 150 some odd years, science has advanced considerably and has determined that the cell is, in fact, full of very, very complex machinery. And so the Black Box of the title is the cell. To Darwin and scientists of his time, the cell was a black box.

In Behe’s mind, the only possible source of “very, very complex machinery” is intelligent cause.

Comment #86966

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on March 16, 2006 7:37 PM (e)

So what is new in Behe’s offering?

Nothing. Nothing at all. Everything in ID “theory” – absolutely everything – is just a rehashed version of forty-year old creation ‘science’ boilerplate.

Comment #86970

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on March 16, 2006 7:41 PM (e)

I notice that you have not addressed the question: Why bother with all that aggravation pertaining to complexity when purpose quite adequately leads to the design inference?

Carol, the answer to that is so crushingly simple that I’m rather surprised you don’t see it …

Behe CAN’T talk about “purpose”, because if he did, he
d be acknolwedging the religious basis of ID “theory”, and thus ending any chance of getting his crap into a science classroom.

Behe MUST instead pretend that ID is science and therefore deals with something measurable and, presumably, non-religious – such as “complexity”.

Behe, of course, was BSing. As the judge rightly concluded.

Comment #86973

Posted by J. Biggs on March 16, 2006 7:51 PM (e)

Carol wrote:

Random and accidental processes, he reasons, are highly unlikely to have put these parts together into a functioning whole. So it must have been put together deliberately. That is the key word - deliberate, intentional.

Why is Behe’s “reasoning” suddenly science. How can he back his reasoning up. Certainly hand waving won’t get it done. ID can’t be taken seriously as science unless there is some way to test this “reasoning”. I am fine with ID as a philosophy, but it is lacking in any type of observable evidence other than the reasoning you speak of. “Random and accidental” processes are so labeled by you and other creationists because these buzz words are associated with an unguided “atheistic” process. Whether or not evolution is unguided is not really important to science. The fact that evolution fits the evidence so well and can predict a great many things about what we expect to see when comparing organisms is what makes it far superior to ID. You can say “Goddidit” all you want but it won’t affect the observable evidence.

Comment #86977

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 16, 2006 7:59 PM (e)

On the other hand, all design products have a purpose. It’s really no contest as to what the most fundamental property of designed objects is.

But this is irrelevant (it also isn’t entirely true – artists have designed machines that expressly have no purpose (other than the purpose of amusing, stimulating thought, etc., but those are meta-purposes)). The question is, does Behe offer an argument that, because something has a purpose, it must be designed? Of course not, because by your own formulation, that would be a trivial argument. Ok, so does he offer an argument that, because something has a function, it must be designed? That is your claim – that he is conflating purpose and function, and this leads him to see purposeful intelligent design where there is only purposeless functional unintelligent pseudo-design. But the fact is that this is not the argument Behe makes – or at least you haven’t provided any evidence that he makes it. You mention identified function as being essential to IC, but that doesn’t indicate that Behe argues from function to design – the IC argument isn’t that sort of argument, it’s a negative argument against evolution as a possible explanation of the appearance of complex interactions that Behe takes to be an indicator of design.

Also, you mention that many human designs are simple – but this is an argument against Behe’s inference from complexity, an argument I made previously in pointing out that human designs are information-theoretically simple. It’s not just some human designs, it’s all human designs, which are information-theoretically simpler than, say, a chunk of Martian landscape. Simplicity is a hallmark of good design.

Comment #86980

Posted by Steviepinhead on March 16, 2006 8:03 PM (e)

Matinee Idol Lenny:

Carol, the answer to that is so crushingly simple that I’m rather surprised you don’t see it …

Actually, Lenny, I doubt you’re surprised even one little bit.

What would be surprising, if she were not so clueless, is Carol’s popping her head up at all on a thread that’s all about the things we don’t see when we’re wearing blinkers. But, given her well-known blinkeredness, Carol’s appearance here doesn’t even deserve to be called ironic.

Comment #86981

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 16, 2006 8:04 PM (e)

Why is Behe’s “reasoning” suddenly science.

Uh, no one is saying that Behe’s “reasoning” is suddenly science. As Judge Jones wrote:

As Plaintiffs aptly submit to the Court, throughout the entire trial only one piece of evidence generated by Defendants addressed the strength of the ID inference: the argument is less plausible to those for whom God’s existence is in question, and is much less plausible for those who deny God’s existence. (P-718 at 705). Accordingly, the purported positive argument for ID does not satisfy the ground rules of science which require testable hypotheses based upon natural explanations. (3:101-03 (Miller)). ID is reliant upon forces acting outside of the natural world, forces that we cannot see, replicate, control or test, which have produced changes in this world. While we take no position on whether such forces exist, they are simply not testable by scientific means and therefore cannot qualify as part of the scientific process or as a scientific theory. (3:101-02 (Miller)).

Comment #86983

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 16, 2006 8:08 PM (e)

Behe CAN’T talk about “purpose”, because if he did, he
d be acknolwedging the religious basis of ID “theory”, and thus ending any chance of getting his crap into a science classroom.

Behe MUST instead pretend that ID is science and therefore deals with something measurable and, presumably, non-religious — such as “complexity”.

Yes, well, if this is so, then it supports Carol’s (and my) position and challenges Andrea’s, since the question is about what sort of argument Behe makes, not what he holds in his heart. But in fact Behe does talk about “purpose”, “purposefulness”, etc., so Andrea’s argument isn’t that easily undermined.

steviepinhead, you should know better.

Comment #86986

Posted by Steviepinhead on March 16, 2006 8:35 PM (e)

Popper’s Ghost:

steviepinhead, you should know better.

No problem. Send me better‘s address, and I’ll take it from there. Anti-social, I’m not.

(Over-eager to presume Carol is wrong once again, just because she’s been wrong on every previous occasion, I guess I could be…).

Comment #86988

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 16, 2006 8:40 PM (e)

(Over-eager to presume Carol is wrong once again, just because she’s been wrong on every previous occasion, I guess I could be…).

As I wrote above, “Carol is correct (I am reluctant to acknowledge such a thing, but it happens sometimes)”

But it’s not your judgment of Carol that I was referring to.

Comment #86992

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on March 16, 2006 8:48 PM (e)

Yes, well, if this is so, then it supports Carol’s (and my) position and challenges Andrea’s

Behe is BS’ing us.

With all due respect, I don’t give a flying fig whose position that supports or doesn’t. (shrug)

Comment #86994

Posted by Steviepinhead on March 16, 2006 8:50 PM (e)

Antisocial I may not be, but capable of working my neurons back up more than one conceptual step at a time, I’m also not.

Help a poor old pinhead out: what are we talking about, then?

Comment #86996

Posted by Steviepinhead on March 16, 2006 8:52 PM (e)

And while we’re at it, why suddenly like Yoda am I now talking?

Comment #87001

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 16, 2006 9:23 PM (e)

Help a poor old pinhead out: what are we talking about, then?

I’m talking about giving credence to the pronouncements of someone who has made it clear that he has little patience for involved discussion. It is simply false that Behe can’t talk about “purpose” – much of the debate here is about the meaning of his phrase “purposeful arrangement of parts”. Interestingly, Judge Jones called Behe’s BS precisely on the basis that Lenny has most effectively argued: let the creationists talk long enough, and they will hang themselves:

throughout the entire trial only one piece of evidence generated by Defendants addressed the strength of the ID inference: the argument is less plausible to those for whom God’s existence is in question, and is much less plausible for those who deny God’s existence

Comment #87003

Posted by Steviepinhead on March 16, 2006 9:30 PM (e)

Well, that solved the mystery, but left the conundrum to unravel some other time.

Hate to be antisocial, but it’s dinnertime, and my old buddies morbius and ts are slapping the BBQ on the grill…but they didn’t promise to save me any if I was running late.

(What we really need around here is a Spare Rib Delivery Guy…)

Comment #87020

Posted by Carol Clouser on March 16, 2006 10:31 PM (e)

Lenny,

Behe should have no problem talking about “purpose” if the purpose is the function, as Andrea argues.

Flint,

Believe me, I get your point and even agree with it (about going from conclusions to evidence and what the implications of that are) although I am quite certain that if Behe were standing in front of us he would vociferously claim that you distort his approach and that it is YOU who is(perhaps unknowingly) starting from certain (unwarranted from his point view)assumptions and working your way backward.

But this is all irrelevant. I really don’t care what Behe or any other ID advocate thinks or says. And neither should you. The issue is, does the ID argument, putt ting its best foot forward, have merit? Does this dog hunt? The ID argument is strongest when based on complexity, not purpose. There exists no evidence, only conjecture, pertaining to the possible purposes of a designer in this context. And function is not purpose (hear this Andrea?) because entities may function without having been purposely designed to do so. But if many components have come together and function as a unit and the probability of that happening by accident is very small, then we have a good argument for deliberate (not purposeful) design. If this in not Be he’s argument, it ought to be.

Think of the following. You walk into a room and see ten thousand nickels spread out on the table all “heads up”. Since the odds of that occurring by accident (someone tossed the coins on the table) is VERY small, we have a powerful argument for deliberateness (the coins were laid out carefully heads up) but not necessarily for purpose.

The real problem with the ID argument is that they are wrong about the probabilities. But that is another matter.

And again, this is not the argument of Paley (watch in forest) and Lowell (canals on Mars). These folks RECOGNIZE PURPOSEFUL HUMAN ACTIVITY in the watch and canals, respectively. Their argument is based on purpose, not complexity. As Popper points out, their argument is actually based on simplicity. And this is why I though Andrea’s comparison missed the point (#86479).

Comment #87025

Posted by Torbjorn Larsson on March 16, 2006 11:09 PM (e)

Bob,

As Lenny says your commentary is incoherent, so it’s hard to answer all parts of it. I will try to answer some of the main points, as I see them.

You have a discussion about the scientific method, which is basically wrong.

It’s not ‘dialectical materialism’; it’s methodological naturalism, see for example http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naturalism_%28philosophy%29 .

It’s not about proving truths; its about testing theories “beyond reasonable suspicion”, see for example http://www.stnews.org/Commentary-2680.htm . “It is by eliminating the false theories that we make progress.”

“No one, as of this writing, has arrived at a reliable means of detecting radiant energy from outer space that originates at a temperature below 4 K. As a result, the postulated “infinite time universes/multiverses” are as impossible to prove or disprove by observation, as is Galileo’s First Cause.”

There is no link between your first sentence and the next, so this makes no sense at all. No “infinite time universes/multiverses” predicts the first sentence. Bigbang explains the current CMB radiation.

The latest WMAP measurements are discussed at http://cosmicvariance.com/2006/03/16/wmap-results-cosmology-makes-sense/ where one of the expert commentators discusses which cosmologies are falsified or restricted, and remarks that “Eternal inflation seems to still fit the bill perfectly in naturalness”.

Eternal inflation produces multiverses, and to make it tested beyond reasonable suspicion presumably one needs to continue falsify the contenders and study its basic mechanism spontaneous inflation more. String theory promises to eventually do the later.

Comment #87042

Posted by Andrea Bottaro on March 17, 2006 12:33 AM (e)

But let’s consider Behe’s actual argument, from his Dover testimony, an argument for which I previously posted Judge Jones’ paraphrase, which you dismissed:

The first point is that, we infer design when we see that parts appear to be arranged for a purpose. The second point is that the strength of the inference, how confident we are in it, is quantitative. The more parts that are arranged, and the more intricately they interact, the stronger is our confidence in design. The third point is that the appearance of design in aspects of biology is overwhelming. The fourth point then is that, since nothing other than an intelligent cause has been demonstrated to be able to yield such a strong appearance of design, Darwinian claims notwithstanding, the conclusion that the design seen in life is real design is rationally justified.

So, because purpose is point 1, you argue that purpose is unimportant?

The question is, does Behe offer an argument that, because something has a purpose, it must be designed? Of course not, because by your own formulation, that would be a trivial argument. Ok, so does he offer an argument that, because something has a function, it must be designed? That is your claim — that he is conflating purpose and function, and this leads him to see purposeful intelligent design where there is only purposeless functional unintelligent pseudo-design. But the fact is that this is not the argument Behe makes — or at least you haven’t provided any evidence that he makes it.

Other than quotes in which Behe states that parts have to be arranged for a purpose in order to make a convincing infernce for design, like those I quoted above and the one you yourself provided? Also, I never said that Behe claims one can infer design only based on purpose, but only that finding purpose significantly strengthens the design inference. (Carol, on the other hand, has said multiple times in this thread that Behe claims one can make a design inference based only on complexity, and that purpose is irrelevant and only a speculation.

Anyway, I think this horse has been beaten long enough, so you and/or Carol are welcome to the last word if you want it. However, and with all the good faith in the worls, I still think Carol is just wrong about what she says about Behe, and I am not sure I even understand your argument about “intentional arrangement” being anything other that “arrangement for a purpose”.

It would probably help to understand the various positions and conclude this argument if you tried to address my example before of whether Behe would consider the observation of an inert protein ball (or complex of any shape) with the same complexity of a flagellum sufficient to make as strong an inference of design as he makes for the actual flagellum. If complexity is the only criterion, as claimed by Carol, the answer is yes, if purpose/function significantly strengthens a design inference, as I claim, the answer is no. That ought to clarify things.

Comment #87055

Posted by Carol Clouser on March 17, 2006 2:11 AM (e)

Andrea wrote:

“It would probably help to understand the various positions and conclude this argument if you tried to address my example before of whether Behe would consider the observation of an inert protein ball (or complex of any shape) with the same complexity of a flagellum sufficient to make as strong an inference of design as he makes for the actual flagellum. If complexity is the only criterion, as claimed by Carol, the answer is yes, if purpose/function significantly strengthens a design inference, as I claim, the answer is no. That ought to clarify things.”

Well, let us try and clarify. An inert protein ball wherein the constituient proteins are not related to each at all, would not constitute much of an argument for design because the probability of such a mass forming goes up dramatically. A ball wherein the components are somehow related to each other, such as by function, reduces the probability of formation (in the ID advocates view) and increases the potency of the argument. And as Behe says, it depends on quantity too.

The point is, you do not need to identify a particular purpose to make the argument for design. It just needs to appear deliberately put together, as opposed to an accidental process. Now obviously any deliberate act raises the distinct possibility that the act was purposeful. But that is a mere possibility that Behe can speculate or conjecture about.

But Paley and and Lowell DID identify a particular purpose. That increases the potency of the argument by a couple of orders of magnitude and it remains in effect even in the absence of complexity. A very different situation, don’t you think?

Comment #87129

Posted by Andrea Bottaro on March 17, 2006 7:43 AM (e)

Carol, you are skirting the question by reintroducing purpose/function.

Let me be more precise: imagine a ball-like complex of interacting proteins, with the same number and size of components as the flagellum, interacting with each other through protein-protein specific interactions like the flagellum, but with no known or readily detectable function. It just sits there, for all you can tell. This thing has the same “complexity” (by whatever metric you want to measure it) as the flagellum.

Would you be less inclined to make an inference of design for this thing than for the flagellum, or do you think both warrant a design inference of the same strength?

Comment #87155

Posted by Flint on March 17, 2006 9:27 AM (e)

Carol:

Well, one more try. Lowell saw ID NOT on the basis of complexity, but on the basis of simplicity. Popper’s Ghost raised the example of Stonehenge. We can only speculate what it was used for, but its very simplicity makes its intelligent design beyond any question. By and large, the case for ID (outside biology) is based on a combination of simplicity and purpose. Asking which of these is more important is like asking if it’s colder in the North or in the Winter.

But when it comes to biology, suddenly complexity becomes the touchstone of design, rather than simplicity. Yet very long technical discussions here have convinced me that “complexity” is what nature always produces. Natural feedback processes have so many different variables that the results are so commonly complex that when a result looks simple (like, say, frost circles) our first suspicion is that someone engineered it.

And function is not purpose (hear this Andrea?) because entities may function without having been purposely designed to do so.

You may have missed the point here. Agreed, function is not purpose. Function is improperly equated to purpose by those who *require* that the Designer have done His thing for a reason.

But if many components have come together and function as a unit and the probability of that happening by accident is very small, then we have a good argument for deliberate (not purposeful) design. If this in not Be he’s argument, it ought to be.

But it is still a terrible argument. Consider something like a watershed. It has many components, all of which must work seamlessly together. It clearly performs a function - to drain rainwater from a territory. So is the probability of a watershed small? On the contrary, *everywhere* is part of a watershed. Do we believe watersheds are designed, on the grounds that they are complex, have many parts, serve an obvious purpose, etc?

Well, no, what we observe is that natural feedback processes are pretty well guaranteed to form watersheds, no two alike. And similarly, natural feedback processes are guaranteed to create species, no two alike. These natural processes *can’t help* but create new species. Claiming that the probability of the inevitable happening by accident is very small, is misunderstanding the process in a very fundamental way.

Another example: You drop a glass vase on a concrete floor, and it shatters explosively, shards go everywhere. What is the probability of all those shards stopping exactly where they did by accident? Basically, infinitesimal. Did you witness a supernatural miracle? Or did you see the inevitable result of what natural forces DO? Is the pattern of shards an illustration of purposeful design, because it’s complicated and vanishingly unlikely?

Now, imagine if the shards instead fell so as to form themselves into a vase of another shape. THIS would be a very very compelling argument for Design. Why? Because the result is SIMPLE! And serves a known purpose, of course.

Think of the following. You walk into a room and see ten thousand nickels spread out on the table all “heads up”. Since the odds of that occurring by accident (someone tossed the coins on the table) is VERY small, we have a powerful argument for deliberateness (the coins were laid out carefully heads up) but not necessarily for purpose.

Again, you have become confused. You figure this is deliberate because it’s very simple, and I agree. Simplicity, NOT complexity, implies design. But surely you (and I) would both wonder WHY someone had chosen to do this. People do things for purposes. I doubt anyone has ever designed anything without some goal in mind (even if the goal is the artist’s abstract goal).

I think it’s legitimate, albeit confusing, to talk about the “designs” that natural processes create - the pattern of glass shards, or biological organisms, or rock shapes resulting from wind and water. But we do NOT think of these as “intelligent designs” for only one reason: We see no purpose to them. Intelligence implies purpose. Always. Behe surely wouldn’t say that a watershed was unlikely, or a purposeful arrangement of parts, but it meets all the requirements the flagellum meets. Now, guess which one Behe’s God “cares about”?

So, no, the ID argument as put forth has no scientific merit. As Judge Jones said, it MIGHT be true, but it cannot be tested in any way. And that makes it vacuous. I can claim that indetectable fairies make the flowers grow. Prove me wrong! Does my dog hunt simply because you can’t prove me wrong? It MIGHT be correct! But nonetheless, it lacks the sort of merit I consider valuable. You are free to believe whatever makes you feel good.

Comment #87161

Posted by FL on March 17, 2006 9:44 AM (e)

Excellent post, Witt handed that to you on a platter.

In case nobody’s mentioned it yet, there are a few more items on that platter.

Finger-lickin’ good rebuttal, hot off the stove.
Bon Appetit!

“Martians, Darwinists, and Intelligent Design”
http://www.idthefuture.com/index.html

FL

Comment #87169

Posted by Moses on March 17, 2006 10:03 AM (e)

In all this arguing about canals, there’s one underlying assumption that hasn’t been challenged - that canals are “simple.” They are not simple, they are very complex, both in construction and in maintenance and operation even on our much more modest earthly scales.

The actual construction would be of such a magnitude that’d it make most anything we’ve ever done in the civil engineering realm look like a group of kids playing with Legos and a plastic shovel in the sandbox during a kindergarten recess. Once constructed, the workforce, maintenance and repair would take a significant portion of the martian population both directly and indirectly.

The scope of such an endeavor would be breath taking. And the process horribly complex.

Comment #87184

Posted by Flint on March 17, 2006 10:36 AM (e)

Moses:

Nobody missed it; nobody considered it relevant. If you really wish to draw a distinction between geometric simplicity and administrative simplicity, go ahead. I’m not convinced that geometrically complex canals of that magnitude designed to mimic normal fractal landscapes would somehow be less difficult to build and operate.

Comment #87214

Posted by Carol Clouser on March 17, 2006 11:57 AM (e)

Andrea,

You are oversimplifying the concept of complexity. It is not just a matter of counting components and measuring size. The number and quality of the interactions must be reckoned with, among other considerations. Are the interactions sequential? Do they complement each other? Do they form loops? The functioning protein ball will, upon careful examination, turn out to be more complex than the inert ball, reducing the odds of accidental arrangement and increasing the inference of deliberateness (design).

In other words, your scenario ought not occur.

It is Ok with me that you have the last word on this.

Flint,

I think you misunderstand the essence of Lowell’s (and Paley’s) argument. It is not the sheer simplicity that leads them to their design inference. It is the recognition of the simplicity they found (in the canals and watch, respectively) as the human-made simplicity they are familiar with that drives their arguments.

RECOGNITION vs. COMPLEXITY, that is the difference between Lowell/Paley and ID/Behe, as I have been saying all along.

Comment #87223

Posted by Flint on March 17, 2006 12:21 PM (e)

Carol:

I think you misunderstand the essence of Lowell’s (and Paley’s) argument. It is not the sheer simplicity that leads them to their design inference. It is the recognition of the simplicity they found (in the canals and watch, respectively) as the human-made simplicity they are familiar with that drives their arguments.

And I think you missed it. Multiple factors are involved here: Human engineering is nearly always distinctly different from natural formations. It is nearly always simpler. It is ALWAYS done for some purpose. These all work together.

But in the case of biology, the purpose is unclear (what “purpose” does life serve anyway?). The simplicity of human engineering is also absent, and in fact not only the complexity of biological organisms but the nature of that complexity shouts “product of natural processes” quite loudly.

So if life is what natural processes would be expected to produce, AND it’s complex whereas intelligent designs as we know them are simple, AND we have no idea (other than sheer survival) what the purpose is, why “discover” ID lurking in biology?

And so we’re back to the direction of analysis. Life has a purpose because FAITH REQUIRES THIS. Knowing there’s a purpose, we project one and believe we see it. Having seen it, we produce a justification. ANY justification will do. So design is simple and life is complex? So what? Since life was created for a purpose, complexity must mean design. When the “knowledge” of design comes first, the characteristics of the object being examined really do not matter. They indicate design by definition, because doctrine requires it.

Imagine you’re an explorer landing on a planet utterly foreign to all your experiences. So you have no mental database for comparison. You see and hear incomprenensible shapes, motions, sounds. Which of these are natural (if any), and which are artificial (if any)? How could you possibly know? What do you use as a yardstick?

I agree, Lowell and Paley used their knowledge of human engineering for human purposes as their yardstick. I think they’re entirely reasonable in doing so. Behe is using an arbitrary a priori conviction, sheer faith, as his yardstick. He concludes design on one and only one basis: because his god, in his mind, created this stuff.

And so I agree there’s a distinction here. I would presume that Paley and Lowell, if they could actually witness unquestionably natural processes acting in unguided ways and producing canals and watches as side effects, would concede that their assessment of intelligent design was a false positive. But Behe has made himself immune from admitting a false positive, because there is no possible evidence-based refutation. Life is designed, for Behe, because it is designed. Period. Make it complex, it’s designed. Make it simple, it’s designed. Watch a natural process produce it, you’re watching the Designer at work. Change life in any way you can possibly imagine, and it doesn’t matter. The evidence of design flows from the conclusion, so any evidence becomes irrelevant.

Comment #87233

Posted by Glen Davidson on March 17, 2006 12:43 PM (e)

But this is all irrelevant. I really don’t care what Behe or any other ID advocate thinks or says.

Obviously you do care, or you wouldn’t be trying to beautify Behe’s sow.

And neither should you. The issue is, does the ID argument, putt ting its best foot forward, have merit?

You haven’t even begun to show that it’s worthy of consideration. And the lack of merit of ID has been shown in so many ways already, that it’s hardly an issue at all, except to dogged theists.

Does this dog hunt? The ID argument is strongest when based on complexity, not purpose.

It’s obscured better when it is “based on complexity”. No one has show that it is stronger, rather you prefer to restate ad nauseum claims that you can’t back up.

There exists no evidence, only conjecture, pertaining to the possible purposes of a designer in this context.

If there’s no purpose, where is the evidence for design (I’m not saying purpose has to be known, though I’m underwhelmed by PG’s claims that art is “purposeless”–ornamentation and representation have long been considered to be purposeful)? You constantly fail to connect complexity to design in any coherent manner, though you as constantly reassert your opinion, much as you do about Biblical matters. Why don’t you for once make a reasonable case, instead of trying to gain through repetition what you fail to do via evidence and reasoning?

And function is not purpose (hear this Andrea?) because entities may function without having been purposely designed to do so.

This is true. But of course the function vs. purpose contrast favors evolution, because where we see function, the IDists proclaim purpose. Whether you like it or not, at least many do claim purpose, over and over again. Why is that? Are we really supposed to think that Dembski resurrects “final causes” in a way totally unrelated to the rest of the ID project?

But if many components have come together and function as a unit and the probability of that happening by accident is very small, then we have a good argument for deliberate (not purposeful) design.

Again, mere assertion to obscure the fact that you don’t have an argument, simply a false dichotomy. In fact, you’re making the extremely elementary mistake of leaving out natural selection, implying that evolution occurs by accident. The falseness of your line of “argument” is stunning.

If this in not Behe’s argument, it ought to be.

That is his assertion, not an argument (though he inextricably ties this argument with purpose as well). And it doesn’t become any more intelligent through your constant repetition of it.

And again, this is not the argument of Paley (watch in forest) and Lowell (canals on Mars).

Oh please. Paley no doubt picked a watch for his example because of its complexity. It’s more obvious when integrated complexity is designed than when simple objects are designed.

Lowell did pick up on less complex forms, however it’s not really especially true that the canals Lowell thought he saw are simple. The entire complex of canals is not simple (slightly larger picture than the one in the article):

http://www.nasm.si.edu/research/ceps/etp/mars/marsimg/EP0001.jpg

One line might be thought to be a particularly straight faultline (San Andreas is very straight in many places), or perhaps even an unusually straight erosion channel. Integrated canals spreading out from (or converging to) putative population centers are rather more complex, though not as complex as a cell. The non-regularities in the canal map increase complexity, and would be thought to relate to contingency and purpose. Just like Behe said:

I said that intelligent design is perceived as the purposeful arrangement of parts, yes. So when we not only see different parts, but wwe also see that they are ordered to perform some function, yes, that is how we perceived design.

That’s from the Dover testimony, as related here (took me less than a couple minutes to find):

http://tinyurl.com/otmfu

If we can’t accept Behe’s version of ID as “standard”, then what is ID?

These folks RECOGNIZE PURPOSEFUL HUMAN ACTIVITY in the watch and canals, respectively. Their argument is based on purpose, not complexity.

No, Lowell did not recognize purposeful human activity in the canals. And purpose was gathered at least in part from apparently non-accidental complexity in each case, much as Behe argues.

Btw, as long as we’re discussing canali, etc., I would like to point out that, despite the overall complexity of the canal map, I would not be so quick to believe that the canals by themselves necessarily indicate design. One of the arguments Lowells used was that these canals link up with the shrinking polar caps, which again moves us back to the issue of apparent purpose.

So even though I am arguing that there is a fair amount of complexity to the canal map, I do not think that by itself it necessarily indicates design. We don’t know what sorts of processes might create complex patterns on another planet, which is what I expect was one of the arguments put forth by canal skeptics. It is a legitimate objection, I believe.

As Popper points out, their argument is actually based on simplicity.

The watch is certainly not simple. And while the canal connections aren’t as complex as a watch, it is partly the overall complexity which might (along with other factors) at least suggest intelligence behind them.

And this is why I though Andrea’s comparison missed the point

That may be, but as I’ve shown, Behe deliberately conflates function and purpose.

Glen D
http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

Comment #87248

Posted by k.e. on March 17, 2006 1:18 PM (e)

On Nature:
The beauty of the human condition- the luxury of considering where we came from and why we are here…yawn.

Function; The forceful desire by an organism to reproduce and thus pass on genes as the consequence of successful previous generations whose resultant conglomeration (called design by pseudo scientists -pseudo designers?) succeeded its own ancestors.

Purpose; The forceful desire by an organism to reproduce and thus pass on genes as the consequence of successful previous generations whose resultant conglomeration (called design by pseudo scientists-pseudo designers?) ) succeeded its own ancestors.

Nothing holy about it.

Comment #87258

Posted by Bruce Thompson GQ on March 17, 2006 1:47 PM (e)

“Martians, Darwinists, and Intelligent Design”

Witt argues “Design theorists have expressed confidence in their design inferences. Lowell’s confidence was misplaced.” In hindsight this is correct, and that is the point. This was a historical test of ID inference where design was inferred from observations. Further scientific study (using equipment available at that time) was unable to replicate Lowell’s claims demonstrating that the canal system did not exist and modern telescopes confirmed Mars is not crisscrossed by a canal system. In contrast, Witt argues that Dembski is more rigorous than Lowell and therefore ID is a possibility. ID would filter the canal system (canal filters?) then calculate the probability of occurrence and then look for additional support for design. Valid unaddressed arguments exist for the filter and no methodology has been proposed for calculating the probability of design. There is nothing quantitative and the “looks like a duck” argument is still heard. While Lowell’s canals would have eventually been proven false as technology advanced (whatever ones world view and independent of evolutionary theory), the acceptance of design in the intervening period would have wasted time and energy trying to support an other worldly intelligence as the origin of the canal system.

Anyway, Mars was the site of the largest flood in the solar system and the canal system was not for irrigation but flood control. Like Katrina, the canal system failed flooding the planet and wiping out the Martians. This predicts that the highest concentration of Martian remains should be found around the highest mountain, Olympus Mons, as they tried to escape this catastrophic flood (no snickering Lenny).

Delta Pi Gamma (Scientia et Fermentum)

Comment #87268

Posted by k.e. on March 17, 2006 2:25 PM (e)

Bruce don’t forget Olympus Mons the ark remains and that Noah was actually a LGM and that the tower of Babel did not refer to languages here on Terra Firma but the difficulty that *g*o*d* had actually learning Martian…after all he only knew Aramaic or Sumerian or neolithic or some-such.

Comment #87298

Posted by Moses on March 17, 2006 3:35 PM (e)

Comment #87184

Posted by Flint on March 17, 2006 10:36 AM (e)

Moses:

Nobody missed it; nobody considered it relevant. If you really wish to draw a distinction between geometric simplicity and administrative simplicity, go ahead. I’m not convinced that geometrically complex canals of that magnitude designed to mimic normal fractal landscapes would somehow be less difficult to build and operate.

I didn’t say they were simple. I said they were, in fact, complex. Most people see a canal and think it’s a glorified ditch. They are not and they must meet a lot of challenges, even in the most ideal situations.

I was pointing this out because people were arguing from their own particular brand of ignorance. Not everyone comes from a back-ground like mine and can appreciate the incredible complexity of what appear to be simple structures. There’s just a lot more to that kind of a canal structure than just digging a ditch.

Comment #87341

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on March 17, 2006 6:54 PM (e)

The ID argument is strongest when based on complexity, not purpose.

“If that’s your best, your best won’t do”. – Dee Snider

Comment #87363

Posted by Bruce Thompson GQ on March 17, 2006 7:59 PM (e)

Noah was actually a LGM …..difficulty that *g*o*d* had actually learning Martian

I thought LGM communicated nonverbally.

Delta Pi Gamma (Scientia et Fermentum)

Comment #87413

Posted by Torbjorn Larsson on March 17, 2006 10:19 PM (e)

“I was pointing this out because people were arguing from their own particular brand of ignorance. Not everyone comes from a back-ground like mine and can appreciate the incredible complexity of what appear to be simple structures.”

As Flint said, nobody considered it relevant. The observations that Lowell thought he did was simple structures, as a channel would look like at a distance.

What you are discussing is not about these observations, but about your imagined structures, stemming from your ignorance about the discussion.

Comment #88841

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 24, 2006 6:52 AM (e)

I’m underwhelmed by PG’s claims that art is “purposeless”

And I’m underwhelmed by your total lack of reading comprehension. I claimed no such thing. What I did claim is something completely and utterly different:

artists have designed machines that expressly have no purpose ([other than artistic metapurposes])

I must admit that it completely baffles me that an apparently educated and intelligent person can take the former as a restatement of the latter. Just as it baffles me that Andrea can write

I am not sure I even understand your argument about “intentional arrangement” being anything other that “arrangement for a purpose”

when I have explained over and over that the distinction is between appearance of purpose and identification of purpose. Stonehenge, and Carol’s 10,000 heads up coins, appear to be arranged purposefully, independent of what that purpose is or our ability to identify one. And Behe claims that we can infer intent from such appearance, and that the strength of the inference we can make is a function of a quantified measurement of this purposeful appearance. That’s the argument that Behe actually makes, particularly in regard to the cell. It’s pointless to debate whether Behe would make this argument when faced with a system without an identifiable function, since the argument is completely bogus regardless; complexity is negatively correlated with design, but positively correlated with natural processes, as Flint notes. And he writes:

I agree, Lowell and Paley used their knowledge of human engineering for human purposes as their yardstick. I think they’re entirely reasonable in doing so.

I disagree about Paley, who made an erroneous analogy between human engineering and living systems (and yet somehow failed to notice that the field upon which his watch lay was teeming with living systems). But Lowell is a different matter altogether; he characterized his imagined canals as directly having the characteristics of human-engineered systems. As I noted in my first post here:

This doesn’t strike me as a very good argument. Had Lowell reported seeing buildings on Mars, no one would be questioning that the reports supported a claim of intentional design.

Lowell (thought he) saw canals on Mars, and canals not only are known objects of human engineering, but they have characteristics that are commonly found in human systems but not commonly found in known natural processes. Under the assumption that his observations were veridical, his inference of design was “entirely reasonable”, just as it would be entirely reasonable to make the same inference upon finding a black rectangular monolith on the moon. OTOH, Paley did not see watches in nature, he saw natural biological systems, which of course have characteristics that are commonly found in natural systems, even if Paley didn’t understand how nature could produce such characteristics. His inference that these systems are designed was not “entirely reasonable”, rather it was pure question begging, as is Behe’s argument, which really is the same as Paley’s – the cell contains “very, very, complex machinery”, and Behe concludes that only intentional design can produce such machines, a claim that is entirely unwarranted, especially when we now, unlike in Paley’s time, have a scientific theory that explains how such machines can result from unintentional processes.

Comment #88861

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 24, 2006 7:28 AM (e)

Moses wrote:

Flint wrote:

Nobody missed it; nobody considered it relevant. If you really wish to draw a distinction between geometric simplicity and administrative simplicity, go ahead. I’m not convinced that geometrically complex canals of that magnitude designed to mimic normal fractal landscapes would somehow be less difficult to build and operate.

I didn’t say they were simple. I said they were, in fact, complex.

How bizarre. Do you see the word “simple” anywhere in what you quoted? And what “they”? Flint’s “geometrically complex canals of that magnitude designed to mimic normal fractal landscapes” aren’t the sorts of things you were talking about. And he said that he’s not convinced that they would be less difficult to build – i.e., he suspects that they would be difficult/complex to build.

Sometimes it seems pointless to bother writing anything when people have such poor reading comprehension.

Not everyone comes from a back-ground like mine and can appreciate the incredible complexity of what appear to be simple structures. There’s just a lot more to that kind of a canal structure than just digging a ditch.

Do you really think that people here don’t know this? But consider Flint’s words, which you ignored the first time around. What is the relative complexity of man-made canals to “normal fractal landscapes”? Or, how about building a river? Be sure to get all the banking right, and the silting, and the erosion resistant plants, and the oxygenation to support fish and other fauna – it has to be indistinguishable from a natural river, but you have a lot less time to create one.