ID Falling Apart?

William Dembski has an article on his weblog about what to do if the courts rule against intelligent design.

But first, allow me to laugh out loud at this part:

Don’t be distracted by the “thousands” of articles being published in the research journals that purport to support evolutionary theory — this is an artifact of overfunding an underachieving theory.

He then continues:

I therefore offer the following proposal if ID gets outlawed from our public schools: retitle it Intelligent Evolution (IE).

Yup. That’s pretty much it. He apparently thinks that the main problem with ID is the word “design” in the name. Never mind the flawed arguments, the nonexistent supporting data, the evasiveness of its proponents when pressed for details, the fact that the IDists are either lying to school boards when they say ID isn’t religious, or lying to their base when they say it is. No, the problem is obviously the name. How about hiring an advertising agency to come up with a catchy name, logo, and slogan?

First, it was “teach Genesis” (Scopes), then “Scientific Creationism” and “equal time” (Edwards v. Aguillard), which morphed into “Intelligent Design”, which has cool-sounding buzzwords like “irreducible complexity” and “complex specified information”. Then, when push came to shove in Ohio and Pennsylvania, they had to admit that they didn’t have an actual lesson plan or anything that could be taught, and had to fall back on “teach the controversy.” Let’s just keep polishing that turd, shall we?
(Update, Jan. 9, 2006: Tom Toles has a cartoon about this.)

The comments are also enlightening. eswrite writes:

Rather than engaging in cute semantic games, I suggest we add some predictive power to ID, the sort that can be validated through empirical observation and/or experimentation. An ID test to distinguish random (pseudo) from actual (functional) DNA sequences (treating them as information streams) would do the trick. An ID test to distinguish coding and structurally significant portions of a genome from (allegedly) non-functional sections of the same would be huge. Give me the equations and sketched algorithm, and I’ll code it up. How does that sound?

Y’know, I think that’s a smashing idea! And it has immediate applications in biology. It’s fairly easy to sequence DNA (I believe a lot of labs treat it as scut-work to be relegated to grad students, though I think there are machines that’ll do it automatically). The hard work comes later, in trying to figure out which parts code for what. Being able to distinguish coding from non-coding DNA would be a boon to experimental biology.

But for some reason, no one seems to have taken eswrite up on his offer. I wonder why that is. Maybe Michael Behe, who made the term “irreducible complexity” popular in his 1996 book Darwin’s Black Box, might have some suggestions based on the research he’s done since then. Then again, he doesn’t seem to have done any such research, so maybe not. What’s with all the crickets?

Next, we have neurode’s comment:

If ID is rejected, it will be time for the ID movement to consider committing itself to a particular model. This, of course, may have political and financial repurcussions; the Wedge itself would be split, and this would leave some of its more intransigent supporters standing “outside the tent?????¦e.g., YEC proponents

This, to me, constitutes a clear admission that ID isn’t about searching for the truth, but rather about finding something–anything–wrong with mainstream science. If there really are mountains of evidence for ID (as Dembski claims elsewhere, why don’t IDists commit themselves to the model that this evidence points to?

Finally, we have Dembski’s comment

I’m convinced ID will succeed, and I believe the monicker ID will stick. The question is what to do in the short-term if the courts beat it down in the public schools. I hate seeing our youth dying on the vine, being indoctrinated into a materialistic worldview in the name of science. IE (intelligent evolution) may prove to be a useful stop-gap during the time that ID, let us hope not, gets trashed by the courts but, as now is looking ever more promising, succeeds scientifically.

Ah, I see now. It doesn’t matter whether ID is right or wrong. What matters is that the kids are being indoctrinated into materialism! We can’t have that! Won’t somebody think of the children?!

12 thoughts on “ID Falling Apart?”

  1. eswrite’s offer can’t be taken up the way it’s written

    CSI requires that a specified pattern first be characterized in a target space then the chance of the probabilistic resources hitting that target are calculated. If the probability falls outside the rejection space then it’s CSI.

    See http://www.designinference.com/documents/2005.06.Specification.pdf

    On a similar note I often wonder if the human genome were encoded on a radio signal that SETI monitors if it would be flagged as intelligence.

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  2. CSI requires that a specified pattern first be characterized in a target space then the chance of the probabilistic resources hitting that target are calculated.

    Does this mean that before you can draw the target, you first need to see where the arrow landed?

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  3. Does this mean that before you can draw the target, you first need to see where the arrow landed?

    No. What it means is you can’t know the probability of a blindfolded archer hitting a target with a random arrow if you don’t know the size of the target in relation to all places outside the target.

    Say the target is a barn. The odds of hitting it are 100% if the archer is inside the barn. The odds go down considerably if the archer is outside the barn and continue to decline as his distance from the barn increases. Odds are better for a larger barn and worse for a smaller barn.

    Probabilistic resources are how many arrows the archer may use in the attempt and/or whether there is anything that helps him choose a more probable direction to try. Perhaps he can hear an ocean in one direction and knows that barns aren’t constructed on water so he doesn’t aim in that direction thus increasing his chances of success.

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  4. What it means is you can’t know the probability of a blindfolded archer hitting a target with a random arrow if you don’t know the size of the target in relation to all places outside the target.

    Okay, fair enough. So how does this apply to eswrite’s proposal? I can think of two ways, at present, to tell whether a particular stretch of DNA is coding or not:

    The genetic code for a particular species is known. So when you examine a stretch of DNA, you can tell which sequence of amino acids that corresponds to. So you can take blood and tissue samples from the organism and see whether you find a protein with that amino acid sequence. If yes, then (simplifying a bit) that stretch of DNA is expressed. If not, then either you missed something or else it isn’t expressed.
    Cut out the stretch of DNA under consideration from a fertilized egg, then llet it grow to maturity. If the resulting organism differs from the norm, you cut out something important; if the organism is normal, then the part that you cut out was unneeded.

    (And yes, I know that there are a bunch of complicating factors.)

    Does ID provide, at least in theory, a way of telling coding DNA from non-coding, or useful DNA from useless, just from the sequence, without having to actually do the lab work? If so, that would be a big deal, and very useful. How would you go about doing this?

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  5. I can’t think of way for ID to discriminate between an expressed gene and an unexpressed gene by examining codon sequences alone.

    Of course in eukaryotes the job is complicated by editing (introns and extrons) during transcription. The human genome contains only around 15,000 genes yet produces something like 45,000 unique proteins via editing during transcription – cutting and pasting disparate sequences together during transcription.

    ID is design detection but it is teleological and must have a target with a known purpose or function before it can go about its job of discriminating between chance and design.

    Here’s a potential application for ID: it’s known that a point mutation in a blood protein causes sickle cell anemia and this confers a survival advantage in the form of resistance to malaria. Its cost for homozygousness is reduced reproductive lifespan in the absence of malaria. The allele frequency varies as predicted as malaria incidence varies in a given population.

    But the question might be asked was the mutation a shot in the dark (random) that happened to get lucky in that it found a useful target (resistance to malaria) or was it a directed response (perhaps an undiscovered Lamarckian mechanism). ID would claim to be able to discriminate with some degree of confidence between chance and direction. For instance prokaryotes have identified pathways that selectively regulate mutation rates triggered by environmental stress.

    Here’s a good example:

    http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/medicalnews.php?newsid=24716

    If prokaryotes can do this I see no reason why eukaryotes and metazoans would be denied similar regulatory pathways. ID might serve to point out when those kind of pathways are in operation or not in the production of any given mutation.

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  6. Is natural selection falling apart?

    According to evolutionary biologists William Provine and Lynn Margulis it is and they said exactly that when they were keynote speakers at the 2005 World Summit on Evolution.

    http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?articleID=00020722-64FD-12BC-A0E483414B7FFE87&pageNumber=9&catID=4

    Michod’s talk was the perfect lead-in for the penultimate lecture of the conference by the acknowledged star of the weekend, Lynn Margulis, famous for her pioneering research on symbiogenesis. Margulis began graciously by acknowledging the conference hosts and saying, “This is the most wonderful conference I’ve ever been to, and I’ve been to a lot of conferences.” She then got to work, pronouncing the death of neo-Darwinism. Echoing Darwin, she said “It was like confessing a murder when I discovered I was not a neo-Darwinist.” But, she quickly added, “I am definitely a Darwinist though. I think we are missing important information about the origins of variation. I differ from the neo-Darwinian bullies on this point.”

    The major steps in evolution involved symbiogenesis, which Margulis described succinctly as “the inheritance of acquired genomes” and more formally in its relationship to symbiosis, “the long-term physical association between members of different types (species).” The problem with neo-Darwinism, Margulis concluded, is that “Random changes in DNA alone do not lead to speciation. Symbiogenesis–the appearance of new behaviors, tissues, organs, organ systems, physiologies, or species as a result of symbiont interaction–is the major source of evolutionary novelty in eukaryotes–animals, plants, and fungi.”

    I could hardly believe she almost echoed the sound-byte I made up months ago and infuriated Panda’s Thumb contributors by repeating more often than they liked hearing… so furious that they banned me from commenting there.

    Me @ http://www.uncommondescent.com/index.php/archives/42

    The bottom line remains that that the mechanism of mutation/selection has never been observed or demonstrated to have the power to create novel cell types, tissue types, organs, and body plans. Its creative power remains a huge extrapolation of microevolutionary changes that occur only within the same variety of organisms.

    Margulis and Provine are on the right track. They recognize the elephant in the room which is of course the lameness of rm+ns.

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  7. DaveScot wrote:

    I can’t think of way for ID to discriminate between an expressed gene and an unexpressed gene by examining codon sequences alone.

    First you said that eswrite’s proposal couldn’t be taken up as stated. Now you appear to be saying that it can’t be taken up because that’s not the way ID works. Why didn’t you correct him on this point in Uncommon Descent?

    Here’s a potential application for ID: it’s known that a point mutation in a blood protein causes sickle cell anemia and this confers a survival advantage in the form of resistance to malaria. […]

    But the question might be asked was the mutation a shot in the dark (random) that happened to get lucky in that it found a useful target (resistance to malaria) or was it a directed response (perhaps an undiscovered Lamarckian mechanism). ID would claim to be able to discriminate with some degree of confidence between chance and direction.

    Sounds very interesting. Could you please show me how you’d do this?

    Presumably you’d use some variant of the Luria-Delbruck experiment, a standard demonstration of natural selection and of the absence of Lamarckian mechanisms.

    Oh, and here’s a relevant data point: the sickle gene was first reported in Papua New Guinea in 2002. Upon questioning, it turned out that the patient’s grandmother was African. If you postulate that there is a mechanism that caused the sickle mutation to appear in response to environmental pressure in Africa, then you must also explain why it failed to appear in Papua New Guinea.

    ID is design detection but it is teleological and must have a target with a known purpose or function before it can go about its job of discriminating between chance and design.

    If you have a target with a known purpose, doesn’t that presuppose someone who had that purpose in mind (an intelligent archer, to use Dembski’s analogy). In other words, if you say that some feature (eyes, flagella, blood-clotting systems, or whatever) has a purpose, aren’t you assuming your conclusion? (The word “function” doesn’t seem to have this problem.)

    But at any rate, no one claims that interesting features like eyes or spleens arose by chance. So a more interesting question is, can ID distinguish between design and natural causes?

    For instance prokaryotes have identified pathways that selectively regulate mutation rates triggered by environmental stress.

    Yes, this is a well-known phenomenon. But as far as I know, while the mutation rate goes up, the mutations themselves are still random with respect to the needs of the organism. So it’s not that the environment causes beneficial changes to occur; rather, the population “tries” all sorts of changes in “hopes” that one of them will work. (Scare quotes added to avoid suggesting that this is intentional or purposeful.)

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  8. That whole ‘arrow into the barn’ metaphor leaves me cold. For one thing, it ignores that fact that the archer (the existing population) is sitting on a target (a viable hillock on the fitness landscape) while it’s shooting. IF an arrow misses the barn, no big deal: the population is still sitting on its viable hillock.

    Further, the archer doesn’t have to hit the barn to allow evolution to occur; he just has to hit a part of the fitness landscape that is as high or higher than the part he’s standing on. If there’s a gradient in the high-dimensioned fitness space that happens to have a barn sitting on it somewhere, sooner or later the trail of arrows sticking in the landscape will lead to it. The metaphor has limited applicability only if the fitness landscape is a flat plain with occasional widely separated barns sticking up on it. But of course, that’s the irreducible complexity argument that fails on several grounds.

    RBH

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  9. RBH writes:

    That whole â??˜arrow into the barn’ metaphor leaves me cold[…].

    Okay, I’ll buy that.

    The metaphor has limited applicability only if the fitness landscape is a flat plain with occasional widely separated barns sticking up on it.

    I don’t know about Dembski, but Sean Pitman, on t.o, has made this claim: that between useful proteins, there are vast tracts of unviable fitness space. As far as I know, he’s never tried to support this claim with a rational argument or valid calculation.

    Part of the reason people believe this, I think, is because they think, “an eagle’s wing is very good at flying. Therefore, a wing is for flight”, and ignore the fact that in the real world, many things can be used for all sorts of purposes.

    In the movie Cast Away, Tom Hanks’s character finds himself stranded on a desert island after his FedEx plane crashes. When some packages wash up on shore, he hopes that they contain something useful: food, rope, a knife, etc. Instead, the packages turn out to contain the sorts of things people actually send: legal documents, videotapes, a sexy neglig???e, etc. Then follows a scene where Hanks’s character weaves rope out of videotape, uses the lingerie to make a fishing net, etc. I like that scene because it illustrates that what matters is not what something was made for, but what you can do with it.

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  10. Following are facts extreme evolutionists don’t want the public to know.

    I am a recently retired public middle school mathematics teacher in West Virginia with over 30 years experience as an educator including administration.

    For the last five years of my full-time career, with the full knowledge of State, County, and ACLU officials, I demonstrated to my students that mathematics proves beyond the shadow of doubt that evolutionism is nonsense. The students saw that the evidence clearly shows that every item associated with humans, animals and plants are Intelligent Designs and Intelligent Design is science because it is observable by billions of people trillions of times, always has been, always will be. I always let them figure it out for themselves and allowed them to believe what they chose, but at least they were exposed to the scientific facts that extremists want to censor from the minds of public school students. After the lesson a student from an atheist family said, “Evolution is silly.”

    Currently, as a substitute teacher, I have contact with more public school students than ever and take advantage of every opportunity to provide them with the facts described above.
    Evolutionists are bluffing when they say their beliefs are scientific. Be sure to look at the list of evolutionists who refuse the debate challenge from my friend Dr. Joseph Mastropaolo. See the list at http://www.csulb.edu/~jmastrop/. Click on the Life Science Prize at the bottom.

    Sincerely,

    Karl Priest

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  11. the evidence clearly shows that every item associated with humans, animals and plants are Intelligent Designs and Intelligent Design is science

    Are your lecture notes online anywhere? May we see this evidence that you claim to have?

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