On Evolution News, Casey Luskin claims that the work by Wired Science to detect the names in the Venter genome sequence is an example of applying a design inference. Indeed, their application of a scientific design inference contrasts strongly with ID’s failed attempts to extend the design inference to include areas of our ignorance.
As is self evident, the example is nothing more than a pattern matching and has no relevance to the design inference approach as proposed by Intelligent Design Creationists which involves eliminating any and all known (and unknown) regularity and/or chance pathways.
It seems that the day when we can detect human intelligent design in biology has come much sooner than expected. But what if there are other sources of intelligent design in biology as well?
Luskin repeats here what Wilkins and Elsberry already argued in their paper “The advantages of theft over toil: the design inference and arguing from ignorance”:
Intelligent design theorist William Dembski has proposed an “explanatory filter” for distinguishing between events due to chance, lawful regularity or design. We show that if Dembski’s filter were adopted as a scientific heuristic, some classical developments in science would not be rational, and that Dembski’s assertion that the filter reliably identifies rarefied design requires ignoring the state of background knowledge. If background information changes even slightly, the filter’s conclusion will vary wildly. Dembski fails to overcome Hume’s objections to arguments from design
Ian Musgrave presented a challenge to ID proponents to show how their design inference approach could be applied successfully to the Venter genome. Not surprisingly no successful design inference based on ID concepts was submitted.
As the example by T. Ryan Gregory shows, finding ‘design’ in the genome is hardly trivial. Somewhat ironically, the word was found in the Plasmodium genome (remember Behe’s arguments about malaria?).
That settles it, in true Luskin fashion, we have seen how design can be found anywhere and everywhere.
As Wilkins et al point out
So now there appears to be two kinds of design - the ordinary kind based on a knowledge of the behavior of designers, and a “rarefied” design, based on an inference from ignorance, both of the possible causes of regularities and of the nature of the designer.6
In other words, there is design which can be scientifically detected and is based on positive knowledge and there is rarefied design, which is the kind of design ID claims to be able to detect although it has failed to provide any successful applications of its concepts and ideas. The latter kind of design is based on an inference from ignorance.
The example cited by Luskin shows how we need to understand motives and other relevant aspects of the designer before we can make a reliable design inference.
Informed by the Venter that the genome contained “coded messages”, the approach was simple and did not involve any of the proposed methods of detecting design proposed by ID Creationists. That by itself should be quite telling but Luskin’s example shows that science does not reject design a-priori, undermining thus one of the many criticisms raised by ID creationists.
It surprises me that ID creationists are still conflating these two very different methods of inferring design. But given the failure of ID to provide any examples of a successful application of their filter, it does not surprise me. After all, ID claims that it can fully incorporate science, the problem is that they have failed to show that they can do anything more than that. In other words, Intelligent Design remains a scientifically vacuous concept at best.
Perhaps Luskin would like to attempt applying the ID design inference methodology to the Venter genome?