Creationism

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Re: Creationism

Postby Jackpot » Thu Jul 31, 2008 9:20 am UTC

Here to make a two cent deposit.

I can punch someone in the face, and you can measure how hard I hit him, how many places his jaw broke, etc etc.

But you cannot measure why I punched him in the face.

Hi. I believe in both creationism and evolution. I believe we can measure how we came to be using science, and I agree with whatever scientific evidence we find. (big bang, evolution, etc). I am also a diest (sp??) and a creationist, but my view on this end is more viewed as a creative force that caused the big bang etc.

Middle grounds are fun.

Also - Big bang and creationism have their place in schools. In different classes. Big bang is for science, creationism for Religious education/studies or philosophy class.
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Re: Creationism

Postby Varsil » Thu Jul 31, 2008 9:37 am UTC

Undersiege:

Can I get you to toss out some evidence that specifically points to an intelligent designer, as opposed to merely evidence that you think points away from evolution? Mere complexity doesn't indicate design to me, in that complexity exists everywhere, and pointing to complexity as evidence of design is like pointing to a shuffled deck of cards (and the incredible improbability of that particular arrangement of cards) as example that it was deliberately arranged.

In other words: If I were to agree with you that evolution is crap, how do I get from there to believing in intelligent design? Double points if you can get me from that position of "I don't know" up to evidence for the specific designer you believe in.

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Re: Creationism

Postby Izawwlgood » Thu Jul 31, 2008 12:54 pm UTC

seladore wrote:But it should hold water. If ID wants to be treated as a science, then it has to admit that it is making scientific claims.

A prediction of Creationism is that organisms should exhibit perfection, being designed by a perfect designer. This is a testable hypothesis, which is found to be untrue. Which, treating creationism as a scientific subject, counts against it.


I don't believe ID is claiming that organisms are perfect, just that the designers whims are unbeknown to us.
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Re: Creationism

Postby EmptySet » Thu Jul 31, 2008 2:18 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:I don't think the argument "This creature is wacky! Would a designer design a wacky creature?" holds much water against (or even for!) ID, as ID does not suppose to understand the whims of the designer. The designer designed things according to whatever whims it pleases, the primate eye being inefficient compared to the feline eye, or deviant lifestyle of the hermaphroditic anemone's. It is not up to us to criticize the designer, only to recognize that everything we see was created at it's behest.


I'm not sure that's true. Remember that ID stands for "intelligent design". Now, what constitutes design? If I just slap paint across a canvas randomly, I'm certainly creating something. And I'm pretty sure I'm still intelligent. But am I designing it? I don't think so. Design, to me, implies some systematic process. If the creator is incomprehensible, can really assert that the creation was "designed"? Moreover, the creator is supposed to be intelligent. This implies a certain way of going about things. For one thing, I think we have to assume that an intelligent entity will attempt to act in a rational way and that their actions generally have some reason behind them. It's difficult to see what reason there could be for giving people apparently unnecessary organs like the appendix, though I suppose it could be excused if you allowed that the creator is either sadistic (appendicitis, anyone?) or incompetent. The argument about design and whimsy also comes in here - if the creator's whims are incomprehensible, how can you be sure they're intelligent?

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Re: Creationism

Postby Izawwlgood » Thu Jul 31, 2008 2:32 pm UTC

I'm no ID-er, so I really can't speak for the philosophy, and am inclined to believe we ought to just wait for an ID-er to chime in, but I was under the impression that life in it's myriad diversity is the way it is because the designer wants it that way, and we as humans can't really understand the whims of the creator. Perfection in the plan perhaps, not in the form of each creature?

But again, I'm not an ID-er, so this could all be incorrect.
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Re: Creationism

Postby oxoiron » Thu Jul 31, 2008 3:04 pm UTC

EmptySet wrote:I'm not sure that's true. Remember that ID stands for "intelligent design". Now, what constitutes design? If I just slap paint across a canvas randomly, I'm certainly creating something. And I'm pretty sure I'm still intelligent. But am I designing it? I don't think so.
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Re: Creationism

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Jul 31, 2008 4:06 pm UTC

I haven't read anything by him, but I have read some of John Cage's stuff about music, which was pretty adamant about the benefits of *not* designing the works he produced.
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Re: Creationism

Postby Undersiege » Sun Aug 03, 2008 12:34 pm UTC

hey, Internet still down: this sent from iPhone.

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Re: Creationism

Postby cooldude76 » Tue Aug 05, 2008 1:06 pm UTC

Creationism is a religion, religion is NOT science. Except for all those secret government sleeper controlling Math based religions.. um.. *cough*

Regardless it is CERTAINLY not science. Any school that teaches it as a science should take a look at the constitution.




But seriously, a math based religion would be freakin' awesome!
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Re: Creationism

Postby iop » Tue Aug 05, 2008 4:11 pm UTC

EmptySet wrote:I'm not sure that's true. Remember that ID stands for "intelligent design". Now, what constitutes design?

Specified complexity.

If something is unlikely to have arisen by chance, and if it has a function, then it is likely to be designed (note that design that is specifically meant to look random may not be picked up by this approach).

Measuring the probability of the evolution of a certain genomic region is not that impossible. Remember that evolution follows certain rules, and that mutation rates can be estimated. Thus, if the process of evolution is well understood (which is what evolutionists claim), one can start calculating probabilities. Of course, to an evolutionist, a significantly low probability indicates that the theory has a problem, while an IDist will have found evidence for design - and this is why ID is not science.
Function is more difficult to define, but on the genomic level, something can be said to have a function if its elimination reduces the fitness of the organism (e.g. you knock out the gene, the mouse dies. Ergo, the gene was important).

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Re: Creationism

Postby schmiggen » Tue Aug 05, 2008 4:36 pm UTC

It seems pretty commonly accepted ('cause it's obvious!) that low chance =/= no chance.

So, granting that we can measure the probability, from whatever starting point, of an organism having evolved as it is, what is the basis for judging whether or not that probability is too low to have occurred "by chance" (i.e. under the rules for which we have assigned probabilities)? Have we had some number of universes to observe wherein the conditions were the same, but the evolution of that organism did not occur, and are we somehow able to note that these universes are more numerous than the one we observe?

It seems to me that whatever anthropic-principle or likewise "too-unlikely" or "fine-tuning" argument comes up always relies on an obviously subjective judgement, in the end. How can you come up with an objective standard by which to evaluate the probability of something occurring by chance if you have no similar cases to compare it to?
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Re: Creationism

Postby iop » Tue Aug 05, 2008 4:55 pm UTC

schmiggen wrote:It seems pretty commonly accepted ('cause it's obvious!) that low chance =/= no chance.

If you look at something that has happened a posteriori, and you ask yourself whether it was possible that it occurred, then yeah, your argument holds.

However, when you ask yourself whether it was possible that it occurred by a specific mechanism, then probabilities make sense, especially when you want to compare the strength of two competing explanations.

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Re: Creationism

Postby Naurgul » Tue Aug 05, 2008 5:13 pm UTC

iop wrote:
EmptySet wrote:I'm not sure that's true. Remember that ID stands for "intelligent design". Now, what constitutes design?

Specified complexity.

If something is unlikely to have arisen by chance, and if it has a function, then it is likely to be designed (note that design that is specifically meant to look random may not be picked up by this approach).


I'm sorry, but the anthropic principle would make this classifier almost completely useless.
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Re: Creationism

Postby iop » Tue Aug 05, 2008 8:36 pm UTC

Naurgul wrote:
iop wrote:
EmptySet wrote:I'm not sure that's true. Remember that ID stands for "intelligent design". Now, what constitutes design?

Specified complexity.

If something is unlikely to have arisen by chance, and if it has a function, then it is likely to be designed (note that design that is specifically meant to look random may not be picked up by this approach).


I'm sorry, but the anthropic principle would make this classifier almost completely useless.


Let's assume for the sake of the argument that we find the exact genomic locations responsible for the difference in intelligence between humans and the common ancestor with other apes, and that it turns out that these locations have changed so drastically that the probability of these changes arising through evolutionary mechanisms is very small, while other differences between humans and apes are explained very well. This would be an instance of specified complexity.
In my opinion, pulling the "anthropic principle" card there would be about as unscientific as you can get. "Whee, we have found something that doesn't fit the theory! Let's just ignore it!"


/Aside: In order to find instances of specified complexity, you have to be either very careless (lots of features seem to be unlikely, as long as you don't bother to study them in detail), or you have to be a cutting-edge evolutionist. Sadly, most of the proponents of ID are the former.
Interestingly, if they belonged to the latter group, and did find an instance of specified complexity, they could still not be sure whether they may just have missed something that would be a good explanation. Thus, ID becomes the question of "when do you stop searching for natural explanations and invoke the designer". Of course, in case there was indeed design, the scientists will keep searching, turning up nothing - so: when should a scientist call it quits, because there is no natural explanation?

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Re: Creationism

Postby recurve boy » Wed Aug 06, 2008 12:34 am UTC

iop wrote:
schmiggen wrote:It seems pretty commonly accepted ('cause it's obvious!) that low chance =/= no chance.

If you look at something that has happened a posteriori, and you ask yourself whether it was possible that it occurred, then yeah, your argument holds.

However, when you ask yourself whether it was possible that it occurred by a specific mechanism, then probabilities make sense, especially when you want to compare the strength of two competing explanations.


Key word: "explanation"

ID has exactly 0 explanatory power. It's not even a reasonable hypothesis. It's merely the modern day equivalent of "God did it"/Creationism. So it makes no sense to consider ID.

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Re: Creationism

Postby qetzal » Wed Aug 06, 2008 12:39 am UTC

iop wrote:
Naurgul wrote:
iop wrote:
EmptySet wrote:I'm not sure that's true. Remember that ID stands for "intelligent design". Now, what constitutes design?

Specified complexity.

If something is unlikely to have arisen by chance, and if it has a function, then it is likely to be designed (note that design that is specifically meant to look random may not be picked up by this approach).


I'm sorry, but the anthropic principle would make this classifier almost completely useless.


Let's assume for the sake of the argument that we find the exact genomic locations responsible for the difference in intelligence between humans and the common ancestor with other apes, and that it turns out that these locations have changed so drastically that the probability of these changes arising through evolutionary mechanisms is very small, while other differences between humans and apes are explained very well. This would be an instance of specified complexity.
In my opinion, pulling the "anthropic principle" card there would be about as unscientific as you can get. "Whee, we have found something that doesn't fit the theory! Let's just ignore it!"


/Aside: In order to find instances of specified complexity, you have to be either very careless (lots of features seem to be unlikely, as long as you don't bother to study them in detail), or you have to be a cutting-edge evolutionist. Sadly, most of the proponents of ID are the former.
Interestingly, if they belonged to the latter group, and did find an instance of specified complexity, they could still not be sure whether they may just have missed something that would be a good explanation. Thus, ID becomes the question of "when do you stop searching for natural explanations and invoke the designer". Of course, in case there was indeed design, the scientists will keep searching, turning up nothing - so: when should a scientist call it quits, because there is no natural explanation?


Of course, all of the above would only mean that known mechanisms were inadequate to explain a given feature. None of it would be evidence specifically in favor of ID. The only way to ever generate scientific evidence in favor of ID is to for ID to develop testable predictions. (Real predictions, of course, not the bogus "Evolution will never explain X" baloney that's usually offered.)

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Re: Creationism

Postby iop » Wed Aug 06, 2008 1:15 am UTC

qetzal wrote:Of course, all of the above would only mean that known mechanisms were inadequate to explain a given feature. None of it would be evidence specifically in favor of ID. The only way to ever generate scientific evidence in favor of ID is to for ID to develop testable predictions.

The problem is that by definition the only prediction made by ID is "there are evolutionary steps that cannot be explained", because this is the only evidence we could find that there has been an outside influence.

I still wonder: Assuming there was outside influence (and thus steps that indeed cannot be explained): Would you ever give up pursuing a scientific explanation, even if you just cannot find one? How tortured and far-fetched an explanation would you be willing to accept as sufficient?

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Re: Creationism

Postby Jahoclave » Wed Aug 06, 2008 1:23 am UTC

iop wrote:
I still wonder: Assuming there was outside influence (and thus steps that indeed cannot be explained): Would you ever give up pursuing a scientific explanation, even if you just cannot find one? How tortured and far-fetched an explanation would you be willing to accept as sufficient?

Find me the aliens that did it. I'll include them in my science. Of course, then you have to explain how they were created. The problem isn't that it isn't that the idea of a manipulative alien entity is discredited from the possibilities, it's that we don't have any evidence to suggest this to be true. And if this is what Intelligent Design was about then I don't think science would have so much a problem with the idea. However, an ethereal all powerful ever-present designer isn't going to fly.

The idea of outside manipulation isn't exactly rejected, even Dawkins has admitted it into the possibilities. There is evidence that there is a remote chance. We're an advanced species that has made it into space and manipulated biology. So there is that chance of another species out there. However, do we have any evidence at all of this species? No.

ID says absolutely everything in the Universe was designed and contradicts scientifically known facts.

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Re: Creationism

Postby EmptySet » Wed Aug 06, 2008 2:49 am UTC

iop wrote:
EmptySet wrote:I'm not sure that's true. Remember that ID stands for "intelligent design". Now, what constitutes design?

Specified complexity.

If something is unlikely to have arisen by chance, and if it has a function, then it is likely to be designed (note that design that is specifically meant to look random may not be picked up by this approach).


That's a terrible approach.

For instance, the likelihood of me being born with my precise genome is very small. There are six billion people in the world and chances are that none of them have exactly the same DNA as me. My DNA clearly has a function, as it determines in large part my appearance and aptitudes. The only logical conclusion can be that I am the result of a secret government breeding program. After all, it's just so unlikely that it could come about by chance.

And people who win the lottery! It's blindingly unlikely that any given person will win the $20 million jackpot. Therefore, the only logical conclusion is that if a given person does win, it was the result of some sinister conspiracy, not random chance.

People with rare diseases and/or deformities? Extremely unlikely. Must be the Wrath of God, right?


The other major problem with this approach is that humans are poor at determining how an unknown structure works, let alone how likely it is to have developed from chance. Witness this article, which describes the evolution of an electrical circuit using genetic algorithms. The circuit breaches several rules of human-designed circuits, not least that several parts which are entirely disconnected from the rest of the circuit are apparently crucial to its operation. Those who ran the experiment had no idea how the resulting device actually worked. And this is something we know was produced by evolutionary mechanisms. I think this casts considerable doubt on our ability to determine whether something is "too complex" to have arisen by chance, at least at this point in time. This article about genetic algorithms outperforming designed alternatives in a number of areas is also interesting. Of particular note is that GAs tend to perform well at tasks which are too complex for a human engineer (the evolved antennae are a good example).


Of course, as others have pointed out, there's also the fact that problems with evolution aren't really evidence for ID, as such. You need to actually go and find evidence that a suitable designer not only existed, but was responsible for the design of Earth creatures. If we find an alien research base on Mars with records of their genetic experimentation, then you can claim you've got evidence for ID.

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Re: Creationism

Postby ThreeLawsSafe » Wed Aug 06, 2008 2:59 am UTC

I'm going to be a freshman in college in about two weeks and I just spoke to my roommate yesterday for about an hour. He seems really cool but he's a creationist :-/ It's a little ironic considering he's going biology/pre-med. He told me that he wasn't going to try to make me convert of anything, but it's still going to be a bit awkward even if we do get a long really well.
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Re: Creationism

Postby Anpheus » Wed Aug 06, 2008 4:36 am UTC

That silicon evolution article reminds me of an FPGA that, I believe calculated a Fourier transform without actually having a connection between the input and the output. And when the students scaled it down, it stopped working.

Unfortunately, I can't find it, because searching for fourier transform in Google with any combination of evolution, genetic algorithm, etc, results in a quarter million research papers on implementations of fast fourier transforms on FPGAs.
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Re: Creationism

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Aug 06, 2008 1:45 pm UTC

When discussing the difference between intelligent design and evolution, the focus should be on the intelligent part, not the design part. Because by most functional definitions of design, living things sure as hell have a lot of it. But that's fine. Evolution is trillions upon trillions of tiny bits of completely dumb design. There is design, just no intelligent designer.
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Re: Creationism

Postby iop » Wed Aug 06, 2008 4:10 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:When discussing the difference between intelligent design and evolution, the focus should be on the intelligent part, not the design part.

Sure, that is the strategy if your goal is to make fun of IDists.

EmptySet wrote:For instance, the likelihood of me being born with my precise genome is very small. There are six billion people in the world and chances are that none of them have exactly the same DNA as me. My DNA clearly has a function, as it determines in large part my appearance and aptitudes. The only logical conclusion can be that I am the result of a secret government breeding program. After all, it's just so unlikely that it could come about by chance.

And people who win the lottery! It's blindingly unlikely that any given person will win the $20 million jackpot. Therefore, the only logical conclusion is that if a given person does win, it was the result of some sinister conspiracy, not random chance.

People with rare diseases and/or deformities? Extremely unlikely. Must be the Wrath of God, right?


That's so not how it works.

For example, you can calculate the probability that, given a number of players and the specific rules, someone is going to win the lottery. If you think that this is so totally impossible that it's never going to happen, I can guarantee that your lottery business is going down real fast.


The other major problem with this approach is that humans are poor at determining how an unknown structure works, let alone how likely it is to have developed from chance.


Well, in that case, why have NIH spend all that money on basic research in biology, if they are anyway not going to be able to find out how things work and how they developed?
Also, complexity is actually being measured. Look at Hazen et al. in this supplement to PNAS, which is a very nice collection of texts about evolution.


Of course, as others have pointed out, there's also the fact that problems with evolution aren't really evidence for ID, as such. You need to actually go and find evidence that a suitable designer not only existed, but was responsible for the design of Earth creatures. If we find an alien research base on Mars with records of their genetic experimentation, then you can claim you've got evidence for ID.

Sure, if we find the aliens, everything is easy. However, in case SETI keeps looking the wrong way, parts that evolution can never explain are an indication that there must have been something else going on.
The question I asked above and that everyone was afraid to answer is this: Could there ever be a point at which you would concede that there was an outside influence, or are you so in love with the idea that there must be a natural cause for everything that you would keep searching even if there was nothing to be found?
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Re: Creationism

Postby qetzal » Wed Aug 06, 2008 4:11 pm UTC

iop wrote:The problem is that by definition the only prediction made by ID is "there are evolutionary steps that cannot be explained", because this is the only evidence we could find that there has been an outside influence.


By that definition, ID is simply 'God of the gaps' (or 'Intelligent Designer of the gaps' if you prefer).

If there are unexplained steps, all we can conclude scientifically is that they're unexplained. That doesn't support a scientific conclusion of outside influence. There will always be steps that are unexplained, simply due to our inherently finite knowledge. We don't need to postulate an otherwise undetectable designer for that.

I still wonder: Assuming there was outside influence (and thus steps that indeed cannot be explained): Would you ever give up pursuing a scientific explanation, even if you just cannot find one? How tortured and far-fetched an explanation would you be willing to accept as sufficient?


I accept scientific explanations that have demonstrable predictive power. They are sufficient to the degree that they make more accurate predictions than other explanations. ID fails spectacularly in that respect. (Proponents like Behe & Dembski claim otherwise, but I've never seen anything from them except hand-waving, misuse of statistics, and general BS.)

I am always happy to say "We don't know" when there is no scientific explanation. I would never say we should give up trying to know.

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Re: Creationism

Postby Anpheus » Wed Aug 06, 2008 4:47 pm UTC

To iop: No no, no, no... I kill the bus ...

Sorry. Try that again: No. No, no no. No, no. No.

No.

You said that Intelligent Design is a valid theory because it predicts gaps in evolution. Congratulations: evolution predicts gaps in evolution. It's a non-prediction, actually. Evolution, per se, doesn't say "This theory will have gaps" because that's not a valid theory (see: discussion on positivism that has spanned a million pages on this forum by now.) No, science says that "all theories have gaps." Those gaps are the limits of our ability to observe and test the world around us. Those gaps are innate, they are not something you can solve with better theories or better telescopes, there are simply put, some things that science admits it may never be able to find precisely. For example, we may never know the exact moment in time when a particular mutation occurred, that is a gap of knowledge. While we may narrow it down and find more precise answers, we may never have the exact answer. Likewise, we know there is a gravitational constant, but it is currently far beyond our ability to precisely know it (if it exists as an computable number.)

So no, you cannot say your idea (because ID isn't a theory) is valid because it thinks there will be gaps in the information used to substantiate another theory. That's a given. Science assumes that all theories will have gaps because we don't have perfect knowledge of the world around us, and so all theories must make do with imperfect information. A valid theory is one that makes testable predictions, an invalid theory is one whose predictions have been shown to be false. ID makes no predictions. Everything ID deals with is a priori assumed to be in confirmation of ID. Every facet of nature is assumed by an IDer to be in confirmation of the idea. It is not a theory, it is a religion, a belief you hold without logic, with "faith" if you will.


Now, if you disagree, and feel that ID is a theory, tell me what testable predictions it makes. Until you do that, it isn't a theory, it has no substance, it is merely a hand-wavy method of getting creationism into classrooms.
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Re: Creationism

Postby iop » Wed Aug 06, 2008 9:02 pm UTC

Anpheus wrote:You said that Intelligent Design is a valid theory because it predicts gaps in evolution.

Really?

iop wrote:Of course, to an evolutionist, a significantly low probability indicates that the theory has a problem, while an IDist will have found evidence for design - and this is why ID is not science.

No, I think it should be fairly clear that I do not think ID is science. But it's impressive how quickly decided that I was full of BS.

qetzal wrote:
iop wrote:The problem is that by definition the only prediction made by ID is "there are evolutionary steps that cannot be explained", because this is the only evidence we could find that there has been an outside influence.


By that definition, ID is simply 'God of the gaps' (or 'Intelligent Designer of the gaps' if you prefer).

Yes, that is my main argument against ID. The reason why it looked like I was arguing in favor of ID is that I think "designer of the gaps" is one of the very few valid arguments against ID, and that there are quite a few arguments that may be well-meant but are totally wrong. For example
EmptySet wrote: The other major problem with this approach is that humans are poor at determining how an unknown structure works, let alone how likely it is to have developed from chance.
claims that biologists are really just wasting their time.


qetzal wrote:If there are unexplained steps, all we can conclude scientifically is that they're unexplained. That doesn't support a scientific conclusion of outside influence. There will always be steps that are unexplained, simply due to our inherently finite knowledge. We don't need to postulate an otherwise undetectable designer for that.

It does support the hypothesis that e.g. a specific instance of evolution happened through an as-of-yet unknown mechanism.
However, since scientists assume a priori that there must be a natural explanation, they will by definition never be able to realize that there must have been an outside influence - even if there had been one. In other words, it's not that a scientist doesn't need to postulate a designer, it's that a scientist can't postulate a designer.
Assuming there was a designer: In an ideal world (as much as it can be ideal under the assumption) scientists would just say "I don't know". Of course, in reality they will come up with far-fetched explanations that will satisfy only to the degree that one can say "I cannot say for sure, but...".

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Re: Creationism

Postby Anpheus » Wed Aug 06, 2008 9:46 pm UTC

Disregard my post then, I apologize for the misunderstanding of your position. I thought that you were not playing devil's advocate in your later posts but instead, advocating ID as a theory to explain gaps or improbabilities in evolution.
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Re: Creationism

Postby qetzal » Thu Aug 07, 2008 12:06 am UTC

iop wrote:
qetzal wrote:If there are unexplained steps, all we can conclude scientifically is that they're unexplained. That doesn't support a scientific conclusion of outside influence. There will always be steps that are unexplained, simply due to our inherently finite knowledge. We don't need to postulate an otherwise undetectable designer for that.

It does support the hypothesis that e.g. a specific instance of evolution happened through an as-of-yet unknown mechanism.
However, since scientists assume a priori that there must be a natural explanation, they will by definition never be able to realize that there must have been an outside influence - even if there had been one. In other words, it's not that a scientist doesn't need to postulate a designer, it's that a scientist can't postulate a designer.

I disagree in several respects.

First, I think it's misleading to say that scientists assume only natural explanations. Scientists look for explanations that are testable. A testable explanation is one that predicts some situation where we should observe A if the explanation is true, and not-A if the explanation is false. Explanations that make true predictions increase our understanding of how the universe works. This is obviously quite valuable.

Explanations that aren't testable aren't really even explanations. They make no predictions about what we expect to observe in any given situation. In other words, whether they are true or false makes no difference in what we observe. This is obviously useless in understanding the observable universe.

If supernatural explanations are allowed to be testable, then science does not rule them out a priori. Telekinesis is one possible example of this. But if you define supernatural to be equivalent to untestable, then yes, scientists assume only natural, testable explanations, for the very good reason that only testable explanations tell us how the universe does and does not work.

Second, science can easily postulate designers when appropriate. If I sequence a bacterium and find a stretch of DNA that translates to “Craig Venter was here” in triplet code, I can postulate that Craig Venter designed that sequence. That’s perfectly acceptable from a scientific standpoint, because my hypothesis is testable. It makes specific predictions about the DNA sequence, who made it, how it was made, how it got into the bacterium I sequenced, etc.

It's not the claim of a designer that gets ID in trouble, it's that the claim is untestable. ID postulates that some things were designed by an intelligence, but claims that the only feature they have in common is that they can’t be explained by other evolutionary mechanisms. That makes it untestable.

Consider all the features that aren’t explained by currently known mechanisms. We can be virtually certain that some of them will be explained in the future by mechanisms we haven't yet discovered. How do we distinguish between those that can be explained in the future and those that cannot? If ID claims there’s no way to do so, then it’s untestable, useless, and ultimately meaningless.

OTOH, if ID made positive predictions about supposedly designed features, we could test them and possibly generate scientific evidence in support of ID. The risk, of course, is that any testable version of ID is also potentially refutable. Some ID proponents seem determined to avoid that possibility at all costs.

Assuming there was a designer: In an ideal world (as much as it can be ideal under the assumption) scientists would just say "I don't know". Of course, in reality they will come up with far-fetched explanations that will satisfy only to the degree that one can say "I cannot say for sure, but...".


I disagree here as well. On the whole, science attempts to generate testable explanations for any given phenomenon, and they test them. Explanations that mostly pass the tests are generally considered to be on the right track, and scientists try to improve them to eliminate remaining discrepancies. Explanations that mostly fail the tests are generally discarded. Of course, individual scientists are human, and are more likely to cling to their own pet hypotheses, but that’s another matter.

Consider origin of life research. There are a lot of competing explanations for how life on Earth may have arisen: RNA first, protein first, metabolism first, seeding from space, etc. None of them are really compelling at this point. But I don’t see anyone in the field saying we should simply accept the RNA World hypothesis because it’s the best we’ve got.

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Re: Creationism

Postby EmptySet » Thu Aug 07, 2008 2:25 am UTC

iop wrote:That's so not how it works.

For example, you can calculate the probability that, given a number of players and the specific rules, someone is going to win the lottery. If you think that this is so totally impossible that it's never going to happen, I can guarantee that your lottery business is going down real fast.


I saw "unlikely", not "totally impossible". That's quite a big difference. Indeed, the point I was trying to make is that "unlikely" is a long way from "impossible" - holding that an event which was unlikely nevertheless occurred is certainly not an untenable position.


iop wrote:
The other major problem with this approach is that humans are poor at determining how an unknown structure works, let alone how likely it is to have developed from chance.


Well, in that case, why have NIH spend all that money on basic research in biology, if they are anyway not going to be able to find out how things work and how they developed?
Also, complexity is actually being measured. Look at Hazen et al. in this supplement to PNAS, which is a very nice collection of texts about evolution.


I think you misunderstand me. Poor is not the same as incapable. Measuring complexity and defining limits on the degree of complexity which could arise through evolution is - hah - a complex task. The point here is that we can't simply look at a structure, make a few calculations, and say "Oh, no, definitely too complex to have evolved." We can say "we haven't yet found a mechanism by which this could have evolved", but that's not quite the same thing - as others have pointed out, it seems likely that at some time in the future we will be able to explain many things which are currently unexplained. After all, taking a look at history shows that this has happened over and over. Things which were said to be impossible have become ordinary. Given that, I think any claim that it's "impossible" for something to have evolved will need more stringent proof than "It seems too complex". It needs to be shown that for this thing to evolve, it would have to breach the laws of physics, or at least for research into evolution and biology to stall for decades because it runs into this wall of stuff which we are told can't be explained. As long as we keep making progress the field, which I believe we currently are, there is a substantial chance that we will one day explain things which are now unexplained.

In other words, what qetzal said - it's expected that there will be gaps and problems because our knowledge is finite. The mere fact that they exist isn't enough to prove that they are inexplicable or that the problems are unsolvable.


iop wrote:
Of course, as others have pointed out, there's also the fact that problems with evolution aren't really evidence for ID, as such. You need to actually go and find evidence that a suitable designer not only existed, but was responsible for the design of Earth creatures. If we find an alien research base on Mars with records of their genetic experimentation, then you can claim you've got evidence for ID.

Sure, if we find the aliens, everything is easy. However, in case SETI keeps looking the wrong way, parts that evolution can never explain are an indication that there must have been something else going on.
The question I asked above and that everyone was afraid to answer is this: Could there ever be a point at which you would concede that there was an outside influence, or are you so in love with the idea that there must be a natural cause for everything that you would keep searching even if there was nothing to be found?


Yes, there is a point where I would concede that there was an outside influence: the point where I was shown sufficient evidence that an outside influence actually exists. ID and evolution are not the only possible explanations, nor are they mutually exclusive (see the Catholic Church's stance on "guided" evolution, for example). If evolution is false, that does not imply that ID is true; and if ID is false, that does not imply that evolution is true. I would prefer to admit that we don't know than assert something is true without adequate evidence that it is so.

I've seen this question asked a lot in creationism debates, and I think it's also important to ask the converse: if you're a creationist, could there ever be a point where you would concede there was no outside influence and that natural causes were doing a fine job of explaining things?

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Re: Creationism

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Aug 07, 2008 4:38 am UTC

iop wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:When discussing the difference between intelligent design and evolution, the focus should be on the intelligent part, not the design part.

Sure, that is the strategy if your goal is to make fun of IDists.

You didn't read the rest of my post, did you?

I'm talking about the intelligence of said design, not the intelligence of people who believe in a Creator.

The point is that evolved structures can be said to have design without requiring a specific designer, and without requiring any intelligence or volition to be involved at any step of the process. In this way, we can take at face value IDer claims to have found "design" in organisms, without for any reason concluding from this that they therefore must have been designed by some intelligence.
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Re: Creationism

Postby Jahoclave » Thu Aug 07, 2008 4:56 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
iop wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:When discussing the difference between intelligent design and evolution, the focus should be on the intelligent part, not the design part.

Sure, that is the strategy if your goal is to make fun of IDists.

You didn't read the rest of my post, did you?

I'm talking about the intelligence of said design, not the intelligence of people who believe in a Creator.

The point is that evolved structures can be said to have design without requiring a specific designer, and without requiring any intelligence or volition to be involved at any step of the process. In this way, we can take at face value IDer claims to have found "design" in organisms, without for any reason concluding from this that they therefore must have been designed by some intelligence.

Well, if you take they they claim to be made in the image of said designer it leads to a nice, if you want me to believe in intelligent design then you might want to make me stop believing that God might be a redneck joke. I've actually been working on a stand up bit about the very fact that for being intelligently designed things seem pretty stupid.

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Re: Creationism

Postby Atre » Thu Aug 07, 2008 10:12 am UTC

A very important point for those who want to talk about "Gaps in evolution".

We look at long-term evolution by investigating the fossil record. Now, fossilising ANYTHING is really fucking hard work - the vast majority of animals are not fossilised when they die, being fossilised is in fact nearly impossible when you look at the odds (millions to one).

Considering how long "intermediate" species are likely to last, it is hardly surprising that we don't find direct evidence of them very often [as an intermediate species for wings/eyes/any ID favourite feature it is likely that further mutation will be beneficial and therefore the creature changes rapidly till it reaches a point where mutations are no longer favourable].

Apologies for simplifying things to the point of sounding ridiculous, if anyone wants to poke holes in my rant I'll be happy to expand on any point.

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Re: Creationism

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Aug 07, 2008 2:10 pm UTC

Intermediate eyes most definitely did exist, though, as many intermediate forms still exist in living organisms today.

Same with lungfish and mudskippers that even today seem to retain a form intermediate between fish and amphibians.
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Re: Creationism

Postby Mancho » Fri Aug 08, 2008 10:05 pm UTC

EmptySet wrote:I've seen this question asked a lot in creationism debates, and I think it's also important to ask the converse: if you're a creationist, could there ever be a point where you would concede there was no outside influence and that natural causes were doing a fine job of explaining things?


I don't think it's possible to answer the question in either direction. I, for one, would say that God (or the designer, if you like) is the 'natural' cause. No true scientist would expalain anything by saying "I don't know, God must've done it." They would keep testing to the point where we don't (yet) have the ability to test further. A creationist, at least an 'evolutionary' creationist, would see that science found a way to explain something, and say "Wow! Isn't God amazing to have done such a thing."

ID is a load of crap. You can't just say "science can't explain it, so it must've been God," and call that alternate scientific theory.

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Re: Creationism

Postby iop » Mon Aug 11, 2008 1:27 am UTC

qetzal wrote:How do we distinguish between those that can be explained in the future and those that cannot? If ID claims there’s no way to do so, then it’s untestable, useless, and ultimately meaningless.

There is a lot to nitpick in your post (not all science is testable, for example), and we misunderstood each other about the designer that science cannot postulate. However, I do agree with the thrust of your overall arguments; I should have spent a bit more time elaborating.


gmalivuk wrote:
iop wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:When discussing the difference between intelligent design and evolution, the focus should be on the intelligent part, not the design part.

Sure, that is the strategy if your goal is to make fun of IDists.

You didn't read the rest of my post, did you?

I'm talking about the intelligence of said design, not the intelligence of people who believe in a Creator.

The point is that evolved structures can be said to have design without requiring a specific designer, and without requiring any intelligence or volition to be involved at any step of the process. In this way, we can take at face value IDer claims to have found "design" in organisms, without for any reason concluding from this that they therefore must have been designed by some intelligence.

I didn't quite get your argument the last time - I somehow assumed you were arguing along the lines of Jahoclave ("if you want me to believe in intelligent design then you might want to make me stop believing that God might be a redneck joke"). Now I think I understand, and I apologize. However, a smart IDer will concede that there is plenty that looks designed but isn't - and that the only way to detect design by some outside intelligence is to find instances that cannot be explained without postulating outside interference (though a smart IDer will formulate it differently).


Atre wrote:Considering how long "intermediate" species are likely to last, it is hardly surprising that we don't find direct evidence of them very often [as an intermediate species for wings/eyes/any ID favourite feature it is likely that further mutation will be beneficial and therefore the creature changes rapidly till it reaches a point where mutations are no longer favourable].

Fortunately, we have e.g. some 20'000 fossils of trilobites (if I recall correctly; Current Biology recently had a mini-review on them), that have all kinds of intermediary steps between them, and everything that's alive is still evolving. One nice model system is the stickleback, another one are nematodes, where the comparative study of closely related species reveals all kinds of evolutionary processes. Thus, there is evidence for intermediary species, we just don't have intermediary fossils for every single creature that ever existed. Therefore, people who don't want to believe in evolution will always be able to claim that not everything is completely known, and thus there will be gaps to hide the designer.


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