Reviewing a Review

I’ve been minding my own business for some time, but over at the Amazon page for The Design Matrix, there is a new lengthy review that is extremely negative. So I suppose I should offer up a response. In the following response, my words are in unquoted plain text, the reviewers words are in italics, and excerpts from The Design Matrix are in quoted blue text.

CHAPTER 1

The reviewer begins as follows:

The example of the Face on Mars is used to show that we can detect design without detecting or identifying a designer. Sadly, this “Face on Mars” argument is pathetic. He argues that we can detect design without any knowledge of the designer. Left unsaid in this example is the FACT that the design detected is a HUMAN FACE. We suspect design in this instance because we are familiar with HUMANS AS DESIGNERS. This unspoken assumption applies to every ID “design detection” scheme ever formulated.

Put another way, if there were a Face on Mars that resembled the face of a Martian, and Martians resembled nothing we have ever seen before, what methods would we use to detect design? What would be the clues, consilient or otherwise?

The point is that design detection implicitly includes assumptions about the designer. Saying that we can detect design without considering the designer is disingenuous at best, and feeble always.

First of all, it would not need to be a HUMAN face, only something recognizable as a face. Second, yes we are familiar with humans as designers and this is important. As it stands, our only experience with designers is our own subjective experience as designers and objective experience with the designs of other humans. We extrapolate for or against design from there. From chapter 7:

To more effectively infer design, in an empirical, investigative sense, we will restrain our hypothesis to invoking a human-like intelligence. If the intelligent cause is completely unlike human intelligence, how would an investigation recognize the signposts of its intervention? If the intelligence is completely unlike us, it would not think or design as we do. As long as the hypothesized agency is human-like, we can more safely extrapolate from our own experience with our own intelligence and design. And such extrapolations make it possible to formulate testable hypotheses.

So we do need to make some minimal assumptions about the designer – that they would design something that human beings might recognize as a design. Other than this, it is unclear what other information about HUMANS AS DESIGNERS that the reviewer thinks is crucial to inferring design from a high resolution Face on Mars.

showme

The reviewer never actually conveys the argument in the book. If there was a indeed high resolution photo of a Face on Mars, most of us would infer design.

face

But why?

To infer design from a Face on Mars, two criteria would be inherently employed. The first criterion is that of familiarity. The Face appears humanoid. If a non-humanoid face was carved into the surface of Mars, it is unlikely we would recognize it and speculate about its origin. If the alien face had thirteen eyes, five noses, and three mouths arranged in an asymmetric fashion, the carving, as seen in a low resolution picture, would probably not catch our attention. Something could be designed but go unnoticed, meaning that our ability to detect design is limited to that which is familiar in some fashion.

But the Face on Mars is also familiar in a deeper sense: as a carved face in the same category as the faces on Mount Rushmore. This deeper sense of familiarity allows us to employ reasoning by analogy. In other words, we would argue that since all known carved faces originate from design, this new carved face likewise originated from design. Such analogous reasoning is at the heart of all attempts to detect design.

This leads us to the second criterion of design inference— discontinuity. Not only does a carved face fit nicely into the category of faces that have been designed, it is “out-of-place” if we consider only the various rocky structures that have not been designed.

Now let’s go back and consider the reviewers points in light of my writing:

When the reviewer writes,“We suspect design in this instance because we are familiar with HUMANS AS DESIGNERS. This unspoken assumption applies to every ID “design detection” scheme ever formulated,” I argue the familiarity is with other artifacts (rather than the designers themselves) which leads to an argument from analogy. The only significance of ‘HUMANS AS DESIGNERS” is that it allows us to extrapolate, by analogy, from known intelligent cause/effect to another similar effect. The reviewer also fails to convey that I acknowledge, “Such analogous reasoning is at the heart of all attempts to detect design.”

What’s even more odd is the reviewer’s second point, which effectively copies from me without acknowledging that I made the same point.

Put another way, if there were a Face on Mars that resembled the face of a Martian, and Martians resembled nothing we have ever seen before, what methods would we use to detect design? What would be the clues, consilient or otherwise?

The Design Matrix: If a non-humanoid face was carved into the surface of Mars, it is unlikely we would recognize it and speculate about its origin. If the alien face had thirteen eyes, five noses, and three mouths arranged in an asymmetric fashion, the carving, as seen in a low resolution picture, would probably not catch our attention. Something could be designed but go unnoticed, meaning that our ability to detect design is limited to that which is familiar in some fashion.

In other words, the reviewer raised the same argument I wrote and then asked a question without giving his readers any indication I had answered it in the book.

His question: if there were a Face on Mars that resembled the face of a Martian, and Martians resembled nothing we have ever seen before, what methods would we use to detect design?

Answer from The Design Matrix: Something could be designed but go unnoticed, meaning that our ability to detect design is limited to that which is familiar in some fashion.

Finally, the reviewer’s last point:The point is that design detection implicitly includes assumptions about the designer. Saying that we can detect design without considering the designer is disingenuous at best, and feeble always.

There is nothing disingenuous here. What’s more, with this point, the reviewer fails to grapple with the last point in that section on the Face.

We can either acknowledge that non-human design could be detected vis-à-vis the Face on Mars therefore rejecting the notion that independent knowledge about designers is absolutely and always required to detect designs. Or we could adhere to the view that independent knowledge about designers is necessary to detect designs and thus argue that the discovery of a Face on Mars could never be attributed to design without knowledge of the designers.

The reviewer seems to think we need to consider “the designer” of the Face on Mars before we could ever detect design as a consequence of obtaining a high resolution photo. In other words, he seems to be saying that even if we had obtained a high resolution photo, we could not infer design because we had not considered “the designer” of the Face. If NASA had recovered a high resolution photo that looked even more like a Face than the original, I think it safe to conclude that the reviewer would be in a very small minority of skeptics demanding information about the designers before inferring design.

The cell is more complex than Paley and Darwin imagined; hence it might have been designed. Like all of Gene’s arguments, this floats outside the realm of useful inquiry. Yes, this COULD be the case, but where is the evidence beyond this tentative conclusion?

Here I should point out that I never wrote “The cell is more complex than Paley and Darwin imagined; hence it might have been designed.”

After offering the obligatory introduction to Paley’s argument, I note there are two ways to respond to it. The first is Darwin’s way. I note we shall discuss this later in the book, but for now, it is simply good enough to point out that Darwin does not refute Paley – he provides an alternative explanation for the same phenomena – the appearance of design. So after setting Darwin aside, I turn to David Hume, who does attempt to refute Paley by arguing that life does NOT appear designed.

What I then do is draw from the Face on Mars argument from earlier in the chapter. The original Face looked designed (albeit weakly), but the higher resolution photo took away this appearance and replaced it with something that did not look designed – a mountain.

So I ask would this same lesson apply to biology? Would a higher resolution analysis of life, made possible by the discoveries of molecular biology, erase the appearance of design? I briefly survey scientific opinions about the cell from 30 years ago (“the cell as a viscous fluid or gel surrounded by a membrane, much like a balloon filled with molasses”) and argue that those views have not born out. I conclude as follows:

Hume’s objection to Paley’s argument could have been seriously strengthened by scientific discovery. The perception of the cell as “an amorphous vessel housing a homogeneous solution of proteins” could have been verified. The perception of the cell as “a viscous fluid or gel surrounded by a membrane, much like a balloon filled with molasses” could have been confirmed.

Amorphous vessels and balloons filled with molasses would not arouse suspicions of design. But this is not what science has discovered. Modern science teaches us that “the cell is understood to be highly organized, with specialized areas for diff erent functions and molecular motors shuttling components around.” Hume’s objection to Paley’s argument certainly has not been strengthened by scientific discovery.

The reviewer completely missed the point. Nowhere did I claim The cell is more complex than Paley and Darwin imagined. And it’s not about claiming that design could have happened. It’s that the long-noted appearance of design could have been erased with the discoveries of molecular biology. It wasn’t. In other words, life did not go the way of the Face on Mars. Hume’s argument could have been vastly strengthened by science. It just wasn’t. Since the high resolution analysis of life has failed to refute design, we’re still left with that appearance of design.


Further reading: Face Lessons More Face Lessons


CHAPTER 2

Chapter 2 – Debates between teleologists and non-teleologists have been going on for centuries, dating back to Epicurus and Aristotle. The point of this seems to be that these arguments are not inherently religious, so as to deflect the current criticisms of ID as the stealth son of creationism. This approach ignores the reality that current criticisms ARE religious in nature (Democritus is rarely excoriated from the pulpit nowadays).

First of all, I am not trying to deflect any criticism of the ID movement. I simply know, from experience, that most people cannot process this topic without the stereotypes that have become entrenched because of the ID movement. So I better make at least some modest effort to deal with these entrenched views.

The religious nature of current criticisms is irrelevant to my point. I am simply pointing out a historical fact – design arguments long, long predate the ID movement which, by definition, means we can legitimately explore design claims/arguments separately from the ID movement. Of course, this may depend on readers have thinking levels that are sufficiently sophisticated and nuanced. But I had to make some effort to encourage people to move beyond the level of talking points.

It ignores the fact that the majority of current philosophers of science reject the teleological approach.

The objective of Chapter 2 was not to take a head-count of philosophers of science and their views about the teleological approach. The objective here is to remind the reader of the historical fact that the teleological approach is not the product of the ID movement.

Finally, it ignores the reality that the teleological arguments have not been buttressed by modern science, but rather have progressed more and more toward a situation where natural laws and natural processes CAN explain what we observe.

Whether or not the teleological arguments have been “buttressed by modern science” is not the subject of Chapter 2. What is significant here is that the reviewer portrays “teleological arguments” and “natural processes” as if they are mutually exclusive. After all, I propose that natural processes can be used to serve the objectives of a teleological cause.

So this chapter, while interesting and readable, is basically a straw man argument writ large.

It is interesting that the reviewer casts Chapter 2 as a “straw man argument” when he argues, as if it is significant to my argument, that science has shown “more and more toward a situation where natural laws and natural processes CAN explain what we observe.” That the reviewer thinks this is significant tells me he is viewing everything from the Traditional Template, something I define and discuss in the very chapter he is reviewing here. It’s not about what natural processes “CAN explain,” as that would entail we need to find something natural processes CANNOT explain (the Traditional Template).

As for the topic of straw man arguments, the chapter chops down two common straw man arguments: 1) the design argument is an American idea invented back in the 1990s by sneaky creationists with a socio-political agenda ; 2) evolution and design cannot co-exist, such that evidence of evolution rules out design.

Despite the pronouncements of the radical fringes (Provine vs. standard Christian creationists), evolution and design are not necessarily incompatible. This is weak wine, and again evidence-free. Yes, teleology is a possibility. Those who maintain that it is a genuine possibility, approaching the edges of being a useful approach to science, still fail to provide evidence. Hunches are not hypotheses; clues are not data.

The reviewer continues to miss the arguments of this chapter. The objective here was simply to make it crystal clear that design and evolution can co-exist since so many on both sides seem to think this is a debate of evolution vs. design.

An “Explanatory Continuum” can be used to address questions or disputes (e.g. solve murder cases). Again, so what? This sort of analysis, like the Face on Mars, includes an assumption that the causal agent was a human being.

Not even Face on Mars enthusiasts claim that Face on Mars was designed by human beings. But again, the reviewer has failed to grapple with the actual argument from Chapter 2. Not only does the reviewer completely ignore the discussion of the Traditional Template and its influence on the manner in which this inquiry is approached, he doesn’t appear to understand the Explanatory Continuum is proposed as an alternative to the Traditional Template. Complaints that are rooted in designer-centrism are simply off-topic.

We know the agent from experience; we KNOW nothing about the designer. The EC is useless in detecting design or intentionality if we exclude the assumptions that include some knowledge about the agent, the tools available to that agent, the time-frame, and the techniques available to the agent. Why is this not mentioned?

Why is this not mentioned? First, because it doesn’t fit the context of Chapter 2. Second, because it was already addressed in Chapter 1:

In this hypothetical example, it is important to note what information we would not need to draw our conclusion. If an actual carving of a Face on Mars had been discovered in reality, we would have concluded the presence of design without having any knowledge of the designers. Likewise, we would not need to know exactly how the Face on Mars was made, nor would we need to know when it was made. These are all interesting questions that would be asked after we detected such a design, but the answers to these questions would not be required in order to detect the design. The Face itself would be enough. This is important because it is often asserted that we need to know a lot about the designer before we can detect design.

Third, because it will be discussed in more detail later in Chapter 8. But what is the reviewer’s answer to his own question?

Perhaps because the implicit assumption of Christian denialists of evolution is that they are made in the designer’s image.

After a good bit of Chapter 2 explains that evolution and design are not incompatible, and after explaining thatEvolution has been scientifically established. Evidence from various fields strongly support a historical, genetic relationship between species. It is a scientific fact that random mutations generate variability and natural selection culls this pool of variability to produce the fittest state,” the reviewer labels me as a “denialist of evolution.” While the reviewer complained my point about evolution and design not being necessarily incompatible was “weak wine,” we can see this is some weak wine he can’t seem to digest.

Admitting that we KNOW nothing objectively about the designer would deflate all of these arguments to the hot air that they are revealed to be.

I have no problem admitting that we KNOW nothing objectively about the designer and no deflation has occurred. That’s one of the main points of The Design Matrix. While the reviewer seems to be under the impression that we must KNOW a lot of information about the designer to reasonably infer design, the whole point of The Design Matrix is to explore possible ways of evaluating a design inference without the luxury of this knowledge. Shall we throw in the towel and hope that some day someone might stumble over the designer, or shall we roll up our sleeves and explore methods to get around this problem?


Further reading: Evidence and Suspicion


CHAPTER 3

Chapter 3 – Cells are really really really complex, and this is a “clue” that they were designed, because all the complex things we know about were designed.

Chapter 3 does not argue that “Cells are really really really complex, and this is a “clue” that they were designed, because all the complex things we know about were designed.” After all, the title of the Chapter is Echoes of Technology, not Echoes of Complexity.

The term ‘complex’ is used only 20 times in Chapter 3 and is almost always used as a noun rather than adjective. Here are a couple of representative examples:

The F1- ATP synthase is a protein complex found in bacteria and mitochondria that works to synthesize ATP.

For example, DNA polymerase is a complex of proteins that functions to form polymers of nucleotides.

I would think it is obvious to any reasonable person that when I offer the mainstream description of the ATP synthase or DNA polymerase as a protein complex that I am not arguing Cells are really really really complex, and this is a “clue” that they were designed, because all the complex things we know about were designed.

The reviewer adds:

Another conclusion masquerading as hypothesis, without the intervening step (experimentation and testing) that defines the scientific method as it should be practiced.

This complaint fails to engage the actual arguments being presented in The Design Matrix. TDM does not strive to be a science article nor pretends to have experiments as part of the scientific method. And neither are we dealing with conclusions here (thus no masquerade). Let’s consider more of the context that the reviewer has failed to either notice or mention.

In the very beginning of the book, I clearly state:

I do not argue that design deserves to be known as science. At best, Intelligent Design may only be a nascent proto-science and thus does not belong in the public school curriculum.

So why is the reviewer complaining that experiments and testing are missing? That’s like complaining that no one else is wearing a suit at the beach.

suits-on-beach

The reviewer also failed to notice or mention what I note as the inspiration for the book, a quote from Francois Jacob:

To produce a valuable observation, one has first to have an idea of what to observe, a preconception of what is possible. Scientific advances often come from uncovering a hitherto unseen aspect of things as a result, not so much of using new instruments, but rather of looking at objects from a different angle. This look is necessarily guided by a certain idea of what this so-called reality might be. It always involves a certain conception about the unknown, that is, about what lies beyond that which one has logical or experimental reasons to believe.

The Design Matrix is about “looking at objects from a different angle” and “a certain conception about the unknown, that is, about what lies beyond that which one has logical or experimental reasons to believe.” The “lack of experiment” claim would be a valid criticism only if I thought and offered TDM as science.

Chapter 3 kicks off a new section of the book entitled, ‘The Clues’ and the end of Chapter 2 sets the stage as follows:

Miraculous signs and proofs of the impossible are shortcuts through the Explanatory Continuum, but as investigators, we must be willing to take the long road. To do this, we must have a starting place from which we can roll up our sleeves and begin sifting through the data in a search for more clues. We need to know what kind of things would even suggest design before we can proceed. In the next three chapters, I will cite some of the data that cause me to suspect design behind life’s origin. We can then further consider whether there are ways to strengthen those suspicions to continue on through the Explanatory Continuum.

Early on in the Introduction I warned, “In Part II, “The Clues,” I outline features of biology that can fuel our new approach as they point toward design. It will be crucial to remember that I offer such features only as clues and not proofs.” That the reviewer thinks Chapter 3 is about “conclusion masquerading as hypothesis” simply means he ignored this warning and is missing the whole point.

But then it gets even worse. The reviewer writes:

Metaphors of agency abound in this section (e.g. “How does the cell know…?”). This section ignores the reality that metaphors and analogies are traditional human pathways to understanding, but are often wrong. The sun does not travel around the earth, despite the analogy to Apollo’s fiery chariot. Thunder is not the action of an angry deity, despite the metaphor of Thor. And physics at the molecular level is not at all similar to the physics of the machines used as metaphors here, nor are computer programs at all analogous to the central dogma (DNA makes RNA makes Protein).

While the reviewer claims that I ignored the problems with the use of metaphors, I addressed such problems. Consider what I wrote in Chapter 3:

If I told my three-year-old daughter that she was the apple of my eye, she would giggle while telling me there was no apple in my eye. Her laughter would come from misunderstanding the use of metaphor. Merriam-Webster defines a metaphor as “a figure of speech in which a word or phrase literally denoting one kind of object or idea is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them.” Metaphors are just communication shortcuts that are not meant to be taken literally.

It is important to be careful when discussing metaphors. For example, a chemist might talk of oily molecules as those that do not “like” water, with the more technical term for such molecules being “hydrophobic” (literally meaning “water-fearing”). Surely molecules do not have the ability to actually dislike or fear water. Another metaphor would involve discussion of the energetic “cost” of the hydrophobic molecules in relation to a watery phase. But we do not mean that molecules really calculate energetic costs before performing a function. The human mind has a well-known tendency to project teleological metaphors onto the world. Yet nature does not really “abhor” a vacuum, the earth does not actually “groan,” skies are not really “angry,” and the weather is not truly “furious.” Might biologists simply be using their metaphors similarly, as convenient ways to clarify and communicate difficult concepts? If so, it would be a serious mistake to read too much into these metaphors. After all, would anyone think we have evidence that oily molecules have feelings because chemists talk about them as if they have a phobia?

While we cannot rule out the possibility that the use of design language and concepts in biology is simply an elaborate maze of metaphors, there are four reasons for thinking there is a core, literal truth to such descriptions.

I then go on to write many pages that explain these four reasons.

Why in the world did the reviewer assert that I ignored the problem of using metaphors when a large portion of this very chapter addresses the problem of using metaphors?

The reviewer then asserts:

Analogies are not clues; they are simply analogies.

Nonsense. ‘An analogy is simply an analogy’ is an empty claim. Clearly, people do not use analogy simply to use analogy. Analogies serve an intellectual purpose. And among them is the use of analogy as part of an investigation. Consider the definition of a clue: “anything that serves to guide or direct in the solution of a problem, mystery, etc.” An analogy, which is built around previous experience and knowledge, can indeed function as something that serves to guide or direct in the solution of a problem or mystery. It can function as a clue.

Where are the data that make support a teleological conclusion?

Wrong question. Chapter 3 is not reaching any conclusion; it is outlining one reason to suspect. The appropriate question to ask is “What are the data that lead to the suspicion of a teleological cause?” Or, “What data would cause you to suspect a teleological cause?” Or, “What data would you count as support for a teleological cause?”

There are none, only “clues” derived from a Judeo-Christian notion of a god who made us in his own image.

Once again, the reviewer fails to engage the arguments in the book. From Chapter 3:

If living processes are the products of design, it comes as no surprise that so much of biology is more akin to the study of engineering than to chemistry or physics. Furthermore, it would make sense that as our understanding of the cell advances, that teleological concepts, including the very concept of design, would proliferate in the biological literature.

The clue is not derived from the notion of God, but from experience and new knowledge that makes it possible to view life as carbon-based nanotechnology.


Further reading:

What is Life? Cybernetic Evolution

Molecular Biology and Engineering Concepts


CHAPTER 4

Chapter 4 – A standard explication of basic molecular biology, with a few over-generalizations and lots of teleology tossed in. For instance, on p. 70 we read “When I first learned about the genetic code I was totally struck by the fact that biologists behaved as if they had discovered something ordinary. In philosophy and other areas of science, people would comment on the uncanny implications of the Big Bang or quantum physics. But that life is encoded raised no one’s eyebrows.” Perhaps the author does not recall that multiple Nobel Prizes were awarded to the folks who discovered the genetic code, broke the genetic code, and unraveled the mechanisms by which DNA is transcribed and mRNAs are translated. I don’t know what he means by “raised no one’s eyebrows”, but that seminal work in the 1950’s and 1960’s was followed breathlessly by the biological science community. Clearly his surprise lies in the fact that there is an information-storing and –processing basis for life, but that fact had to be true if the observations about heredity, both ancient and modern, were true. Why be surprised at the elucidation of the mechanisms of something that had to be true? That seems rather naïve. It should indeed raise eyebrows if a conclusion that had to be true turned out to be unbased in reality.

When I first learned about the code, it raised my eyebrows because a teleological concept – code- was deeply embedded in something that was supposed to be thoroughly non-teleological – life. Yet one has to wonder if the reviewer’s “had to be true” argument exists only in retrospect. It would be more convincing if he could point to biologists who deduced and predicted the genetic code would exist as a consequence of learning about Mendelian genetics. Prior to that seminal work, biologists had thought proteins were the genetic material. As such, they thought of heredity in terms of molds and templates, not codes.

The concept of the “code” was imported into biology, as I mention on the bottom of page 70:

In the 1940s and 50s, engineers and physicists, using the newly developed fields of cybernetics and information theory, began to speculate about a code inherent to life.

Then, on page 71, I quote Brian Hayes:

Imagine that in 1957 a clairvoyant biologist offered as a hypothesis the exact genetic code and mechanism of protein synthesis understood today. How would the proposal have been received? My guess is that Nature would have rejected the paper. “This notion of the ribosome ratcheting along the messenger RNA three bases at a time—it sounds like a computer reading a data tape. Biological systems do not work that way. In biochemistry we have templates, where all the reactants come together simultaneously, not assembly lines where machines are built step by step.”

I should have gone into this all in more detail. Nevertheless, if the reviewer is correct in noting that there “had to be” a code at the heart of life because of heredity, this would be another rather special property to life to consider when pondering abiogenesis. But that would be another topic.

Then he launches into the standard ID notion that “The fact that DNA contains encoded information in the form of a one-dimensional linear string of symbols is very suggestive positive evidence for Intelligent Design behind the fabric of life. If we set aside life for the moment, then every other example of a sequence of characters representing convention is because of Intelligent Design.”

No, the standard ID notion is that natural causes cannot possible explain encoded information. I simply raise it as a suggestive, positive clue, which is different. Yet the ability to detect this difference depends on the reader having the ability to follow a nuanced argument.

Again, no experiment, just analogy. Conjecture becomes conclusion – it resembles a designed thing; thus it must be designed. This unscientific approach only serves to mask the underlying argument from incredulity.

First, the reviewer continues to complain that no one else is wearing a suit at the beach. Yes, it is just analogy as analogy suffices as a clue. Remember folks, we are in Section 2, where I am raising clues that lead me to suspect life was designed.

Second, nowhere do I claim a conjecture becomes a conclusion. The conjecture remains a conjecture in the context of the Explanatory Continuum.

Third, the reviewer misrepresents my position as “it resembles a designed thing; thus it must be designed.” Nowhere do I make such an argument.

Fourth, there is no “argument from incredulity.” That is something that typically originates from those who rely on the Traditional Template and from the reviewer’s faulty perception that I am insisting “it must be designed.” What I instead offer is a reason to suspect.

But then it gets worse.

Gene at al. don’t know of any information-encoding system that didn’t come from someone who thinks like they do, so they conclude that this information-encoding system MUST come from someone who thinks like they do.

Notice the reviewer places emphasis on the word ‘must.’ No where do I claim “this information-encoding system MUST come from someone who thinks like they do.” He attributes a conclusion to me that is not found in the book. In fact, you will find that the reviewer has not been able to quote me anywhere from the book where I argue something MUST (or must) come from a designer.

itmustbedesigned1

It certainly might be true, but an analogy is not a substitute for an experiment.

Of course an analogy is not a substitute for an experiment. I never claimed otherwise. A clue, or reasons to suspect, doesn’t have to be an experiment.

They also ignore the failures of the analogy. Stop codons don’t encode for an amino acid; thus allowing an IDist to argue that this is a good design, because it allows proteins to end with any one of the standard 20 amino acids. But if that is a good design, how does the IDist explain the start codon, which does code for an amino acid, and thus constrains all proteins to start with the same amino acid? Is that also a “good design”?

It’s interesting to note that the reviewer takes issue with an argument I did not raise rather than the arguments I did raise. Nevertheless, let’s address it. Is it also a good design? I don’t know. But it doesn’t seem to be a good idea to judge how well something is designed based only on there being a different strategy with stop and start codons given the two ends are not truly symmetrical.

I do know that previous arguments about bad design (the code as frozen accident, the use of cytosine, and the use of three stop codons) have failed. I also know that the N-terminal residue is very important in two ways. First, it sets the reading frame for the rest of the translated sequence. Second, the N-degron rule, which tells us that the protein’s half-life is affected by the N-terminal residue, shows us that methionine (the N-term residue) is a stabilizing residue. This means that if the cell is to remove a protein by using the proteasome (in eukaryotes) or ClpP (in bacteria), the protein must be processed at its N-terminal end. This amounts to a new layer of control. Does this tell us the start codon strategy is “good design?” No, but these factors may be relevant in an open-ended investigation while taking a closer look.

How do we recognize design if these two diametrically opposed strategies are able to be labeled as “good design”?

Look more closely – a higher resolution analysis.

It’s important to remember that the mere existence of “two diametrically opposed strategies” is not itself evidence of bad design. On the contrary, it may often be a hallmark of good design. For example, the use of two diametrically opposed strategies makes proofreading possible. DNA polymerase can not only add nucleotides to a chain, but it removes the last one that was added. The use of “two diametrically opposed strategies” is what also makes homeostasis possible. For example, bone homeostasis and adaptability depends on two diametrically opposed strategies – osteoblasts make bone matrix and another cell, osteoclasts, destroy it.

This is a conundrum for the IDist, because the standard rejoinder of the previous generation of evolution-deniers (creationists) was that we can’t understand the mind of God, we just have to accept that God does things differently than we would. The IDist is denied this weaseling strategy because their whole premise rests on detecting design, and in order to detect it, we have to assume that it looks “well-designed” by our standards as well as those of the designer. Epic fail.

There is no conundrum or epic fail here. What we have are interesting questions and the first sign of success. The sign of success comes in the form of the reviewer actually beginning to think in terms of The Design Matrix. For example, his challenge about the code is just that – a challenge, and a challenge that can stimulate thought and perhaps uncover more clues. It is not a refutation. And despite the reviewer insisting on experiments up to this point, the reviewer’s challenge is not rooted in any experiment that indicates the coding of an amino acid at the N-terminus is a bad design because stop codons don’t code for amino acids.

Gene then launches into another canard, this time using language directly borrowed from creationism. He quotes actual scientists who concluded that the genetic code seems to be optimal, with regard to avoiding the most lethal types of coding errors. His conclusion? “Chance alone would not be expected to produce a code that was better than any other million randomly generated codes when it comes to protecting against harmful mutations.” But “chance alone” is a strawman; natural selection winnows the possibilities, and the “chance alone” strawman disintegrates.

The only one borrowing from creationist tactics here is the reviewer, as he quote-mines in order to erect a straw man. Shall we consider the context of his quote-mining:

Chance alone would not be expected to produce a code that was better than any other million randomly generated codes when it comes to protecting against harmful mutations. If the code is too optimal to be attributed to chance and too conventional to be attributed to chemical law, then it was selected, meaning that its origin can only be explained either as design by natural selection or design by an intelligent agent. Since many biologists are constrained by a non-teleological outlook, they attribute these non-random aspects of the code to mutation and natural selection, where simpler and sloppier codes once existed and were then fine tuned over millions of years. However, there is another aspect of the code that works against this thesis— the universality of the genetic code.(emphasis added)

As you can clearly see, there was no “chance alone” strawman as I clearly acknowledged its origin could be explained by natural selection. The “chance alone” conclusion simply gets us to the inference that some form of selection, natural and/or intelligent, was at work.

He continues with a nonsensical argument that the universality of the genetic code makes it difficult to consider natural selection as an agent here, calling this an ad hoc argument. It is, unfortunately for him, no more ad hoc than invoking a creator/designer who can do anything!

Beginning with a simple self-replicating molecule, would anyone really predict that a universal code would emerge from a process that culls myopically? If the code was not universal, would this somehow work against natural selection? Of course not. I’ll have to post more about this.

But none of this is all that important at this level. I am simply laying out a clue and all clues are open to reinterpretation. The key here is that a universal code counts as a clue. As I note in TDM,

Both the universality and the optimality of the genetic code fit well with the hypothesis of Intelligent Design. The code is optimized to resist potentially deleterious mutations as a consequence of intelligent foresight. It is universal because this single, optimal solution was implemented by the designer. These are the type of data we would expect from Intelligent Design. After all, what if the code was thoroughly sub-optimal? Would this not be a popular argument against Intelligent Design (and rightly so)?

The next argument from incredulity comes when he invokes the existence of “proof-reading” (aka DNA repair pathways, tRNA charging enzymes) as something that “underscores our intuitive suspicion of Intelligent Design”. Never mind that this is exactly what one would expect if selection worked on traits that had to be transmitted faithfully from generation to generation. Gene sees this with a teleological eye, yet still he has no experiments to propose, nor new observations to offer. Paleyism is clearly still with us, even if the data supporting it today are no more extensive than they were in the 19th century.

There is no “argument from incredulity” here either. An argument from incredulity occurs when someone argues that a feature could not have possibly evolved because they cannot imagine a way it could have evolved. That was not my argument:

Molecular proofreading underscores our intuitive suspicion of Intelligent Design. The process of proofreading is well-known in teleological endeavors, but quite out of place in non-teleological realties, much like a stone Face on Mars. Computer programs and term papers are proofread, while mountain and rain formation are not. Proofreading also constitutes prima facie evidence of specificity, since proofreading material is not necessary unless specific information is required.

Gene relates an anecdote that, according to him, shows that ID inferences are not scientific dead ends; they can act as a “research guide”. This is his “prediction” that proofreading also occurs during transcription. He predicted it from a teleological standpoint, and it turned out to be experimentally verifiable. Of course, in the spirit of ID researchers everywhere, he did not do any of the hard work; he merely hunted through the literature published by real scientists.

Doing the hard work is not relevant here as I am simply raising this for proof of concept purposes where I lay out the logic behind the prediction.

Nevertheless, that does not stop him from exclaiming Voila! Design can predict stuff!

Again, the reviewer stuffs words into my mouth. Despite the erroneous claim that I am exclaiming anything, I never exclaimed or wrote this. Here is what I wrote:

With this hypothesis in hand, I could go into a lab and design experiments to discover whether proofreading does indeed occur during transcription. If I had, in fact, performed these experiments, my prediction would have been borne out. A literature search I performed after coming up with this hypothesis provided support that there is good evidence that RNA polymerase can proofread. Thus, the suspicion of design was able to direct a line of thinking that not only could generate research, but could also uncover truths and further understanding of our biological world.

Note that the end point is not a demonstration of design, but in using a teleological approach to uncover truths and further understanding of our biological world.

Unfortunately he overlooks an important fact. Proofreading at multiple levels makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint as well.If design is going to supplant evolutionary theory in the scientific marketplace of ideas, not only will it have to be predictive, it will have to predict things that are the opposite of what evolutionary theory predicts, AND ID researchers will have to do some real work to generate these novel and paradigm-shifting observations.

The reviewer is back to the evolution vs. design mindset. He falsely projects extreme views and lofty ambitions upon me that I do not have. No where do I attempt to use design to “supplant evolutionary theory in the scientific marketplace of ideas” as that was never my objective. Did the reviewer forget that I acknowledged my views are not science? Did he forget that I explained that evolution and design can co-exist? Did he forget I am only outlining clues that lead me to suspect life was designed? Did he forget about the Explanatory Continuum and how such a prediction might fit within it? And as he gets further into the book, he will find out that I adopt a both/and approach to this question rather than the either/or approach that stems from the Traditional Template. But will he notice it?

Gene attempts to address this problem, claiming that “Darwinian logic was used to explain” why transcriptional proofreading did not occur. One would like to read the papers where this “Darwinian logic” was invoked, but the only footnote for this assertion invokes an idthink.net article by Mike Gene, and idthink.net, his own website, is no longer to be found on the web. How convenient.

Actually, it is quite inconvenient to have one’s web site hacked into oblivion. The logic stemmed from the belief that mistakes in transcription would not be serious enough to be pruned away by natural selection given that transcription, unlike DNA replication, was not part of heredity. As one Genetics textbook explained:

P. 267, #2 Given that RNA polymerase does not proofread, do you expect high or low levels of error in transcription as compared with DNA replication? Why is it more important for DNA polymerase to proofread compared with RNA polymerase?

You would expect high levels of error in transcription as compared to DNA replication. Proofreading is important in DNA replication because mistakes in DNA replication will be passed to offspring (either as daughter cells or through gametes) as mutations. However, RNA’s are short lived in the cytoplasm and thus mistakes are not permanent. It is better to not proofread and thus speed up transcription.

Conveniently, my essay was archived:

Here


Further reading:

Special Stop Codons in the Exceptional Code

An Exceptional Code


CHAPTER 5

Chapter 5 – Molecular machines! Cells are full of tiny machines! It must be design, because only designers make machinesThis basically summarizes the chapter. One long argument from analogy, complete with even more incredulity

The reviewer continues to knock down straw man arguments, as no where do I argue that cells must be designed because of machines. In fact, I do NOT think that the machinery in cells means life MUST be designed. And this explains why I never made that claim and why this “basic summary” is fundamentally flawed.

What I do argue is this:

Since our experience links the existence of machines with intelligence, that life is machine-dependent further supports the suspicion of Intelligent Design.

The machines, when viewed in the context of our experience, constitute yet another clue that leads me to suspect life was designed.

That is, a higher resolution analysis (the lesson of Chapter 1) shows us something that looks like carbon-based nanotechnology. And remember, this was not something that was expected from the non-telic perspective.

Sure, the chapter could indeed be viewed as “one long argument from analogy,” for remember that I explicitly noted in Chapter 1 that “Such analogous reasoning is at the heart of all attempts to detect design.” No problem here.

Chapter 5 is not “complete with even more incredulity.”

The reviewer’s straw man completely fails to capture the essence of Chapter 5, which addresses common arguments against any attempt to connect biotic machines to design by claiming the term ‘machine’ is only a metaphor.

In contrast to the reviewer’s portrayal of me exclaiming “It MUST being designed!”, consider the manner in which I close Chapter 5 (and thus the section on “The Clues”):

While none of these considerations may establish the reality of design behind life, and may in fact fail to persuade most skeptics of teleological explanations, it would seem to this author that a rather robust foundation has been laid down, upon which to base a healthy and serious hunch or suspicion. We have enough to start up the Explanatory Continuum and determine if further data add an increasing level of plausibility to our design suspicions. But in order to do this, we are going to have to come to terms with the reality of evolution and natural selection and the challenge they pose to any design inference.

[As an aside, note the evolution that has occurred throughout the review:

Chapter 1 – The cell is more complex than Paley and Darwin imagined; hence it might have been designed.

Chapter 3 – Cells are really really really complex, and this is a “clue” that they were designed, because all the complex things we know about were designed.

Chapter 5 – Molecular machines! Cells are full of tiny machines! It must be design, because only designers make machines!

Might have been designed evolved into were designed evolved into must be designed.

Yet this evolution does not exist in the book. It exists only in the mind of the reviewer.]


Further reading: The Analogy Continues to Hold Up


CHAPTER 6

Chapter 6 – Evolved things can resemble designed things, and vice versa. People can be fooled by their preconceptions. Still no evidence, still not a whiff of a testable hypothesis. I only marvel at the author’s ability to get so many words from such trite aphorisms.

The reviewer again fails to convey the central arguments of the book. In this case, I can simply highlight one of the reviewer’s complaints – “Still no evidence.”

Consider a small excerpt from Chapter 6:

In many ways, it is perception that is at the heart of the whole debate between design and non-teleological evolution. Regardless of their point of view on the subject, many people discuss and argue about “the evidence” as if this is all that matters. But what is evidence?

Chapter 6 is a very important part of the book that steps back from the “Where’s the evidence?” demand and explores a more fundamental question and how it shapes this issue – “What is evidence?” The reviewer simply ignores this and proceeds as if it is business as usual.

rabbit-fire-1951-2


Further reading: Naive Realism


CHAPTER 7

Chapter 7 – What if the first cells were designed, and evolution took over after that? A lovely notion, but still untestable, although the author tries to convince us otherwise.

Not quite. What I note is that evolution inevitably follows from life, thus, if life was designed, a good designer would factor for this and could even recruit evolution to carry out design objectives. The logic of this idea is spelled out in this chapter.

Evolutionary theory posits that mutations are random with regard to fitness. Gene says that design/teleology would posit some foresight in the mutations and thus in the variation in a population. Note again that this is pulling a rabbit out of a hat, there is no a priori reason to expect any particular behavior from a non-human super-intelligent designer. But if that ad hoc assumption is true, where does it leave us? Front-loading!

I clearly embrace the notion that mutations are random with regard to fitness. The reviewer makes it sound like I disagree with this and argue that mutations are the product of foresight. What I do argue, instead, is how one might employ foresight to guide evolution despite the fact that mutations are random with regard to fitness. The fact that mutations are random with regard to fitness is not an insurmountable obstacle to front-loading.

The earliest cells were programmed by the designer to evolve splendidly into (what a coincidence!) the sort of cells and organisms we see today! Pure speculative baloney, begging the question, and (yet again) not a whiff of a testable hypothesis..

I do not argue that the original cells were programmed to evolve into what we see today. This is what I argued:

Front-loading is the investment of a significant amount of information at the initial stage of evolution (the first life forms) whereby this information shapes and constrains subsequent evolution through its dissipation. This is not to say that every aspect of evolution is pre-programmed and determined. It merely means that life was built to evolve with tendencies as a consequence of carefully chosen initial states in combination with the way evolution works.

Front-loading does not allow for a prediction of specific outcomes, at a specific time and place, but does allow that specified outcomes can be made much more likely.

Furthermore, on pp. 147-148, I explicitly state “The possible outcomes of the originally front-loaded states are many” and provide a small list of possibilities. Front-loading is not about programming the appearance of extant creatures as deterministic outcomes.

Gene does attempt to show that the recent demonstration of genes which are related to but not identical in lower invertebrates and humans is evidence of front-loading. Unfortunately for this prediction, not only is this observation consistent with common descent and evolution, he misleads the reader into thinking that the lower invertebrates have functional forms of all genes found in humans. This is simply not true; they have proteins with related structures and different functions. Related proteins can have different functions; this is no surprise, and is also easily accommodated within evolutionary theory.

At this point, I am not sure what the reviewer is arguing against in the book. I’m guessing this has something to do with a section in Chapter 7 entitled, “Unpredictably Predictable,” where I note:

Front-loading is plausible because, across all forms of life, cells share the same basic architecture and components.

Note that I am not claiming “evidence of front-loading” but rather explaining the new concept and arguing for its plausibility. In this section, I do note:

It is not just the striking similarity in the sequences of these genes that is remarkable, but we also have a plentiful supply of laboratory experiments demonstrating that the components from human cells, for example, are interchangeable with their homologs in yeast.

Perhaps I should have written “some components from human cells” instead of “the components from human cells,” but then again, I didn’t write, “all the components from human cells” (as the reviewer seems to be accusing me of). On the contrary, I provide a list of examples that help to demonstrate this phenomenon.

The basic point of this section of the chapter is that the diversity of life is skin-deep:

Even though evolution is supposed to be inherently unpredictable, as we can see, it has occurred within a very predictable biological matrix.

In fact, there is nothing terribly controversial about such a claim anymore given the rising prominence of Evo-Devo. Sean Carroll, a leading scientist in this field, himself has noted:

When you think about all of the diversity of forms out there, we first believed this would involve all sorts of novel creations, starting from scratch, again and again and again. We now understand that, no, that evolution works with packets of information and uses them in a new and different ways, and new and different combinations, without necessarily having to invent anything fundamentally new, but new combinations.

So in the end, the reviewer’s criticism does not apply to my actual position, although, in this case, I may be responsible for some of the confusion that could have been avoided with some better editing of one of the sentences.

He also ignores the wealth of evidence against front-loading, e.g. the vast stretches of useless derelict chunks of DNA from ancient retroviruses. Why would a designer frontload garbage into the genome?

Since front-loading does not predict that genomes would be free of junk, it is not clear why this is supposed to be evidence against front-loading. What’s more significant is that the reviewer seems to be abandoning his demand for knowledge about the designers. If evidence for design requires independent knowledge of the designers (as he maintained in his review of earlier chapters), how did he come up with evidence against design without also having this knowledge?


Further reading: Front-loading


CHAPTER 8

Chapter 8 – We can detect design without knowing anything about the designer. Unfortunately his example (pp. 194-5) does not help his case. The detection of transit lightcurve signatures for planetary objects might allow us to detect intelligences at great distances in space precisely because these would be distinguishable from those signatures left by a normal planetary transit. Deviation from natural laws would allow us to detect design, just as deviation from common descent (unrelated genes inserted into an organisms genome) allows us to detect human-designed organisms. What deviations from natural laws are found in cellular life? Exactly none, to date. So where is the evidence for design from these observations? Nonexistent, per usual.

At this point, the reviewer has contradicted himself and completely undercuts one of his main objections. In reviewing earlier chapters, you’ll recall the reviewer insisted on having previous knowledge about the designers

Consider what he asserts when reviewing chapter 1:

The point is that design detection implicitly includes assumptions about the designer. Saying that we can detect design without considering the designer is disingenuous at best, and feeble always.

And his review of chapter 2:

We know the agent from experience; we KNOW nothing about the designer. The EC is useless in detecting design or intentionality if we exclude the assumptions that include some knowledge about the agent, the tools available to that agent, the time-frame, and the techniques available to the agent.

But now notice his argument when he reviews chapter 8:

The detection of transit lightcurve signatures for planetary objects might allow us to detect intelligences at great distances in space precisely because these would be distinguishable from those signatures left by a normal planetary transit. Deviation from natural laws would allow us to detect design

It is quite telling that he agrees with what I wrote in Chapter 8:

Arnold’s only justification for detecting design is to find transits that are distinguishable from a simple planetary transit; to find shapes not explainable by currently-understood natural law.

and now disagrees with his earlier demands forknowledge about the agent, the tools available to that agent, the time-frame, and the techniques available to the agent.”

Other aspects of this chapter are equally unrewarding. Gene argues that arguments from analogy might be suspect in this arena because the original such argument, Paley’s watch, was an attempt to prove the existence of God. Proving a designer is not the same, he would have us think. Sadly, this ruse fails. The designer of all of these Christian ID theorists is, unequivocally, the Christian God.

While the personal beliefs of “Christian ID theorists” may be of interest from a sociological perspective, it does not, in any way, undercut the logic of my position as laid out in Chapter 8:

It is quite an ambitious endeavor to set out to convince all rational people that they must accept the existence of God because an eye is somewhat similar to a watch! There is no need to be so ambitious. Rather than trying to prove anything, an analogy may simply function as a signpost, pointing us in a particular direction. And instead of trying to uncover the identity of the designer, and insisting it is God, we pay tribute to the philosophers who have criticized such effort and simply settle for an intelligent being. Rather than use analogy to prove a particular metaphysical position, the investigator can use it to explore the plausibility that something was intelligently designed.

This argument from analogy would not require us to assume or conclude the designer is God, regardless of the personal beliefs of “all of these Christian ID theorists.”

Arguments from analogy, including this latest variation on Paley, are still bogus. Behe’s irreducible complexity (IC) argument is invoked, although it is not clear which version of IC he argues for, since Behe has moved those goalposts quite a few times recently.

I’m not sure why this is so unclear to the reviewer since I quote the definition on page 215 of Chapter 8 and then devote the next 20 pages exploring the problems and utility of this concept. In other words, I don’t simply “invoke” the IC argument.

The summary for this chapter says everything you need to know about this book. From p.235 – “The suspicion of Intelligent Design can be strengthened in two ways. First, the proposed analogy between a biological feature and something known to be designed can be explored. If, for example, designed biological features known to be designed are compared with advanced versions of our own technology, we would expect that analogy between them to deepen over time. If a biological feature is designed, yet there are differences between the feature and our own products of design, we would predict that the biological feature, when properly understood, exhibits aspects of superior design.” If someone would point out to me anywhere in that passage where it is possible to tease out a testable hypothesis and do an experiment, I’d appreciate it.

No one claimed this passage has a hypothesis or experiment embedded in it. To get such things, we would need to focus on specific examples. The quote provided by the reviewer is only the first half of one paragraph that is part of a three paragraph summary that outlines the significance of coupling analogy with discontinuity. .

Suspicions are not hypotheses, analogies are not arguments, and conclusions are not justified without positive outcomes from testable hypotheses.

Suspicions are usually needed to generate a hypothesis. An analogy can be both an argument and clue. There is no conclusion of design here.

Finally, this argument falls down in millions of cases where it can be demonstrated that a biological feature, e.g. the recurrent laryngeal nerve of the giraffe, is woefully designed. How do you explain that, using this paradigm?

It’s explained in Chapter 9.


Further reading: Designer-Centrism Open-end vs. closed-ended approaches


CHAPTER 9

Chapter 9 – In which our intrepid author makes more arguments from analogy, engages in wishful thinking about observations which may border on becoming candidates for suspicions, but again fails to outline a single testable design-based hypothesis which could yield results supportive of teleology and incapable of being accommodated within evolutionary theory. Move along, nothing to see here.

It is unfortunate to see the reviewer encourages people to skip over this chapter given that it answers his question about the recurrent laryngeal nerve of the giraffe. The answer is simple – this is evidence against design. Of course, if there can be evidence against design, it stands to reason there can be evidence for design. So what would it look like? What Chapter 9 does is focus on the differences between a blind watchmaker and an intelligent watchmaker in order to determine what type of data would count for and against design. The reviewer fails to engage or refute any of these arguments.


Further reading: The Rational Essence of Proteins and DNA


CHAPTER 10

Chapter 10 – Finally, what we have all been waiting for, and hoping that it would make reading all those ignorant arguments worthwhile. Sadly, we are disappointed yet again. The “Design Matrix”, like the Explanatory Filter before it, fails because its assumptions are faulty. The assumption is that we can detect design by analogy with human designs; the intelligently designed feature should be superior. Yet some human designs (e.g., the wheel) are far superior to anything found in nature, and other biological features (e.g. the aforementioned recurrent laryngeal nerve of the giraffe) are wretched designs that even a kindergarten-aged engineer could readily improve. We can detect human design using this matrix; it is simply useless for its alleged purpose of detecting the intelligent designs of a superintelligent telic entity.

From this review, it again is not clear whether the reviewer comprehends the arguments. The “Design Matrix” is not an argument about whether there is evidence of superior design – that is simply one consideration that is part of one metric used when assessing a design inference. Furthermore, the ‘Design Matrix’ is not a method for detecting the intelligent designs of a superintelligent telic entity.” It is an approach that will help us assess any inference for or against design. In this case, the reviewer is arguing that giraffes are not designed because they have legs instead of wheels and have a recurrent laryngeal nerve. The reviewer should have taken the next step and assign numerical scores to these positions.

Furthermore, the assumptions of the “Design Matrix” are all sound. If they are not, then every argument AGAINST design has been premised on faulty assumptions, including the reviewer’s constant invocation of ‘bad design’ arguments.

The entire book is an argument from analogy, in which the author tries to elevate his hopeful “suspicions” to the rank of hypothesis.

Yes, it is an argument from analogy. As I wrote way back in Chapter 1,Such analogous reasoning is at the heart of all attempts to detect design. As for my suspicions, they are not “hopeful,” they simply exist because of what we have learned about life. They may be wrong, but at least I have laid them on the table for others to evaluate. As far as the reviewer is concerned, we know that he wants independent evidence of the designers, thinks bad design counts against design, and demands experiments, but we have no idea as to what type data would cause him to merely suspect design. And as I explained in Chapter 2, a suspicion plays a key role in any investigation.

Suspicions are not hypotheses, analogies are not arguments, and conclusions are not justified without positive outcomes from testable hypotheses.

Suspicions are usually needed to generate a hypothesis. An analogy can be both an argument and clue. There is no conclusion of design here.

When the ID community generates and tests a design-based hypothesis where the results are consistent with teleology and incompatible with evolutionary theory, science will pay attention. Until then, hand-waving arguments like this book, consisting of words that cannot (or at least have not) been translated into hypotheses and observations, cannot be taken seriously by scientists.

And with this summary statement, we can see why it is this reviewer failed to engage the actual arguments in The Design Matrix. Two factors seem to be in play:

1. By demanding something that would be incompatible with evolutionary theory, the reviewer is engaged in god-of-the-gaps thinking. That is, he read the book through the filters of the Traditional Template even though I explained in Chapter 2 that I would be walking down a different road. Ironically, this type of reaction was not unexpected, as I wrote the following in Chapter 10:

If you, the reader, still find yourself wanting independent evidence of a designer and needing some part of evolution to be disproved, you will have been disappointed. We have no way of finding and interviewing life’s designer. And proving the impossible has always been a very tricky endeavor….

The reviewer’s disappointment was thus predicted.

2. By expecting me to be concerned as to whether science will pay attention, the reviewer hasn’t come to terms with the fact that I acknowledge my arguments are not “science.” In fact, as the reviewer himself effectively argued early on, without independent evidence of the putative designers, science cannot process the hypothesis that life was designed.

The Design Matrix represents a reasoned approach to these issues that, while not rising to the level of science, is a vast improvement over the state of arguments that commonly and currently exist in the public arena. If the reviewer, or anyone else, has a better non-scientific approach, they have yet to offer it for critical analysis.


Further reading: Ways to Approach a Design Inference


In summary, this was not a good review of The Design Matrix, as it failed to convey any of the basic arguments of the book while setting up numerous straw man positions to be knocked down. You could never get a feel for what the book was about by reading this review.

Bunny Votes 2 Ears Down

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47 responses to “Reviewing a Review

  1. Hi thanks for a great post. I’ll be back 🙂

  2. That’s nice. Clearly I hit some nerves.

    Just starting from the beginning, and assuming that the face on Mars needs to be “only something recognizable as a face”, can you tell us what a Martian face looks like?

    No?

    Carry on.

  3. Hi Dave,

    That’s nice. Clearly I hit some nerves.

    Not at all. To hit a nerve, you would have to hit an argument, not some straw man version of the argument.

    Just starting from the beginning, and assuming that the face on Mars needs to be “only something recognizable as a face”, can you tell us what a Martian face looks like?
    No?
    Carry on.

    If a Martian face was not recognizable as a face, we would not recognize it, and thus something designed could go undetected.
    But what if the Mars Global Surveyor has returned a high resolution photo that looked even more like a face than the original Viking picture? Wouldn’t you count this as evidence of design?

  4. Let’s try to focus on the argument, rather than your red herring.

    1) You claim that it is possible to detect design in the biological world, based ENTIRELY on the auxiliary assumption that such designs from non-human telic entities would be analogous to human designs, which you easily recognize, since you are human.

    2) If this auxiliary assumption is false, you cannot detect design.

    3) You have no evidence that the auxiliary assumption is true, and, in fact, give us an argument that demonstrates the implications if it is false (a non-human face on Mars would not be recognized as design).

    Ergo, you cannot detect the design that you claim to be able to detect.

    Please prove that your auxiliary assumption (telic entities design things like a human would) is true.

    Then we can have a argument about the scientific implications of your notions. Until then, we can only have theological discussions.

  5. Tipsy McStagger

    Hi Dave,

    Do you hold SETI to a similar standard?
    In their case they don’t look for complexity and they have no independent information about the sender, simply artificiality in the message they receive (or hope to receive).

  6. Well said, Mike.

    Of course, the only place I disagree is in that I see evolution itself as evidence of design and that ID is indeed scientific, but no problem. You make many excellent and much needed points which cut through all the straw-men and obfuscatory tactics out there. We do need more people with your mind-set on the issue (approaching the subject as an investigator in a non-cut-and-dried kind of way). Unfortunately, that is not the place for me as my view is slightly more cut-and-dry. I guess although I see both the duck and rabbit within the picture, I see a meta-picture that is purely rabbit.

    I actually think that one can be a Darwinist (strictly — life came about through RM and NS) and be an ID proponent at the same time. As long as “Darwinism” doesn’t inherently mean “non-teleological,” then no problem. The proof is in the investigation and evidence, not in the semantics. It seems that this is where we may be in agreement — or quite close.

    Tell me, though, is there a serious review out there which actually attempts to grapple with your arguments as laid out in the DM?

  7. Tipsy McStagger

    Let’s try to focus on the argument, rather than your red herring.

    Dave,
    He’s addressing your incorrect assessment of the face on Mars.
    It’s not a red herring if he’s trying to help you better understand the point he was making, since you were the one misunderstanding it. So in attempts to maintain a civil conversation why don’t you at least try not to quickly shift the focus of a point after your position has been shown to be incorrect.

    based ENTIRELY on the auxiliary assumption that such designs from non-human telic entities would be analogous to human designs, which you easily recognize, since you are human.

    Again, you misunderstand. It’s not only necessary to show that the “design” is analogous to human designs, but using the SETI criterion… it would also suffice to show that the “design” has a similar hallmark to the artificiality that SETI looks for.

  8. Dave:
    “Please prove that your auxiliary assumption (telic entities design things like a human would) is true.”

    Of course, Mike can speak for himself and Tipsy above has asked an extremely relevant question which, depending on how you answer, will either show that you are truly interested in the investigation or are merely being an inconsistent (selective) hyper-skeptic — choosing to apply your skepticism only to things that you don’t personally like.

    Now, back to the question. Why don’t you ask SETI that same question. Are they not purported to be a scientific organization? How can they detect an intelligent source? Have they ever answered a question such as the one which you pose?

    Of course your question does have significance, but we only ask that its significance be evenly weighed and non-arbitrarily applied across the board.

    The only premises necessary to answer your question are:

    1. Telic entities are different than non-telic entities in some way.

    2. All telic entities will share a commonality that links them all as telic entities. If this were not the case, we couldn’t refer to telic entities vs. non-telic entities.

    3. If humans are telic entities, then they share this commonality (as per #2) with all telic entities.

    … that was extremely simple logic. I am surprised I had to spell it out for you.

    Now we can argue that if a telic entity can be detected based on certain effects (as per SETI) then the effects (designs) of telic entities are the commonality that runs between telic humans and other telic entities.

    Thus, there will be a commonality between human designs and other telic designs. If this were not true, we would never be able to recognize non-human designs and SETI would be doomed to failure. Yet the scientific establishment sees them as scientific last I checked (especially since there are occasionally articles in scientific papers about the work of SETI and I don’t hear of any scientists up in arms about it).

    I must point out though, that whether one wishes to label it “scientific” or not, many people see it — the detection of intelligence based on its designs — as a valid investigation. SETI is a case in point. You have not yet made any significant point to the contrary.

  9. Heh heh, it appears Dave R didn’t even bother to read OP. He’s just repeating the same straw arguments from the Amazon review.

    “Why don’t they have their suits on?”

    Heh heh.

  10. Mike Gene: “But what if the Mars Global Surveyor has returned a high resolution photo that looked even more like a face than the original Viking picture? Wouldn’t you count this as evidence of design?”

    I wonder why Dave avoided answering this?

    I also wonder why Dave calls this a “red herring” even though it it is taken directly from Chapter 1 of the book Dave just reviewed.

    Just wondering… 🙂

  11. Tipsy

    SETI is also a red herring. Try to focus. This is the central flaw in DM; all the rest of Mike’s “arguments” are dependent on this one auxiliary.

    An auxiliary (but always unstated) assumption for ID (not SETI) is that the designer will design things like a human being. Otherwise a human cannot recognize them.

    There is no objective evidence that this auxiliary assumption is correct. If it is not correct, humans cannot detect those designs.

    So please answer this question, which so far you are all avoiding in your self-congratulatory comments.

    Please prove that your auxiliary assumption (telic entities design things like a human would) is true.

  12. Dave R: Let’s try to focus on the argument, rather than your red herring.

    It is you who have introduced a red herring having the following postulates:
    1. Human intelligence is unique.
    2. That uniqueness makes the application of inductive reasoning to infer general properties of intelligence implausible.

    Both points are unacknowledged assumptions on your part.

    1) You claim that it is possible to detect design in the biological world, based ENTIRELY on the auxiliary assumption that such designs from non-human telic entities would be analogous to human designs, which you easily recognize, since you are human.

    A highly detailed image of a face on another planet would be recognizable based on a capacity to reason. An intellligent analyst would assess the likelihood that erosion brought about the result as compared to the option of a designer. You do not have to have human intelligence to do this although advanced cognitive facilities would be necessary. You do not even have to assume that human-like faces could not be found elsewhere in the universe. Same laws of organic chemistry and physics would apply. Similar evolutionary pathways are possible.

  13. Hi Dave,

    Let’s try to focus on the argument, rather than your red herring.

    1) You claim that it is possible to detect design in the biological world, based ENTIRELY on the auxiliary assumption that such designs from non-human telic entities would be analogous to human designs, which you easily recognize, since you are human.

    2) If this auxiliary assumption is false, you cannot detect design.

    3) You have no evidence that the auxiliary assumption is true, and, in fact, give us an argument that demonstrates the implications if it is false (a non-human face on Mars would not be recognized as design).

    Ergo, you cannot detect the design that you claim to be able to detect.

    Please prove that your auxiliary assumption (telic entities design things like a human would) is true.

    Okay, so it sounds like your argument is this:

    I refuse to acknowledge and address Mike’s question because he has not proved that non-human telic entities would ever design something humans might be able to recognize as design.

    This sounds like a rationalization for evading the question to me.

    So, as you wish, let’s focus.

    1) You claim that it is possible to detect design in the biological world, based ENTIRELY on the auxiliary assumption that such designs from non-human telic entities would be analogous to human designs, which you easily recognize, since you are human.

    Not quite. First, “to detect” sounds far too final and objective. It would be better to say it is possible to reasonably suspect and surmise. Yes, I know, I’ve used the word “detect.” That’s my bad, as I’m realizing this word sends the connotation of finality and objectivity.

    Secondly, I don’t assume that designs from non-human telic entities would be analogous to human designs, because it is clearly possible that designs from non-human telic entities might not be analogous to human designs. My position is that only if designs from non-human telic entities were in some fashion familiar to us because of our subjective and objective experience with human designers (artificiality, rationality, foresight), then we have a chance of recognizing non-human design.

    Third, it’s not about something that we “easily recognize.” On the contrary, one may have to look very closely and carefully to recognize something as a design. (Beware – we are in non-scientific and subjective territory here).

    2) If this auxiliary assumption is false, you cannot detect design.

    In other words, as I write in the book, “If a non-humanoid face was carved into the surface of Mars, it is unlikely we would recognize it and speculate about its origin. If the alien face had thirteen eyes, five noses, and three mouths arranged in an asymmetric fashion, the carving, as seen in a low resolution picture, would probably not catch our attention. Something could be designed but go unnoticed, meaning that our ability to detect design is limited to that which is familiar in some fashion.” You failed to mention that I wrote this in your review. Why did you ignore it?

    3) You have no evidence that the auxiliary assumption is true, and, in fact, give us an argument that demonstrates the implications if it is false (a non-human face on Mars would not be recognized as design).

    In other words, only established truth, not assumptions, are allowed in an investigation. I don’t agree.

    It does not seem unreasonable to me to assume that other agents with human-like intelligence could exist (after all, this is the assumption behind SETI). All you are saying is that you are unwilling to make this assumption because you first need independent evidence that such beings could or do exist. In other words, you won’t entertain it as a working assumption. Okay, so how would you go about acquiring your needed evidence – evidence that such designs from non-human telic entities would be analogous to human designs? In fact, what would count as evidence for non-human design?

    Ergo, you cannot detect the design that you claim to be able to detect.

    No, you would have to demonstrate that human design is completely unique and that it would be impossible for a non-human telic entity to design something like humans do for this conclusion to follow.

    What you are offering is another version of designer-centrism. That is a reasonable and cautious position to stake out, and you are certainly free to embrace it, but it terminates in agnosticism (so you would need to drop the evidence against design arguments) and there is no compelling reason to impose it on others. You clearly are within you epistemic rights to note that these design arguments are not science (as I agree), but you err in demanding that everyone else adopt your way of thinking –designer-centrism as the one and only way to think about these issues.

    Anyway, let’s return to the questions you don’t want to address.

    What if the Mars Global Surveyor had returned a high resolution photo that looked even more like a face than the original Viking picture? Wouldn’t you count this as evidence of design?

    It seems to me that your position is one that even if we found such a high resolution picture of a Face on Mars, it could NOT count as evidence for design because no one has ever proven that a non-human telic entity would ever make such a structure. This looks like hyper-skepticism and disconfirmation bias to me.

    My book already pointed out this impasse:

    We can either acknowledge that non-human design could be detected vis-à-vis the Face on Mars therefore rejecting the notion that independent knowledge about designers is absolutely and always required to detect designs. Or we could adhere to the view that independent knowledge about designers is necessary to detect designs and thus argue that the discovery of a Face on Mars could never be attributed to design without knowledge of the designers.

    Anyway, thanks for the review, as it helped generate a significant up tick in interest for my blog today.

  14. Looks like the cavalry has arrived, and immediately they deploy the standard ID accusations that I have not read this or that appropriate special pleadings.

    Yes, there are lots of unstated assumptions in every position. But I am trying to get somebody to focus on THIS one, for YOUR position. Furthermore I did not say, nor did I assume, that “human intelligence is unique”, so please set that strawman aside. Whether the design aesthetic of a telic entity is unique or non-unique is irrelevant, I am merely pointing out that it is almost certainly DIFFERENT from the human one. Are you disputing that? If so, you need to provide evidence for that bald-faced assertion as well.

    It is interesting to me that none of you is willing to admit your unstated auxiliary assumption, even once it has been pointed out to me. None of you have any evidence for this auxiliary assumption, or at least none that you have managed to bring to this forum. Can you try to do that, or will I have to endure yet more comments where you fail to face the fact that this auxiliary assumption is very questionable?

    Step back from the Face on Mars example and look at the bigger picture, please. Is it, or is it not, an auxiliary assumption for your position that the telic entity will produce designs that humans can recognize as designs? If it is an auxiliary, what is the evidence for that assumption? If it isn’t, how do you think you can ever detect designs that may or may not appear designed from the human perspective? What objective parameters can be used if “design” can include lots of things outside the human recognition patterns?

    PS to chunky – the reason I didn’t answer the question is, as I stated, it is a red herring. The answer is obvious: “Yes, that additional high-resolution imagery would be consistent with the suspicion that (human-like) entities were responsible”. So what? Where does that lead us? Away from the real question (red herring), which remains unaddressed, i.e., your unstated (and likely untrue) auxiliary assumption. Please take a logic course so that you understand the terms “red herring” and “auxiliary assumption”.

  15. Tipsy McStagger

    SETI is also a red herring. Try to focus. This is the central flaw in DM; all the rest of Mike’s “arguments” are dependent on this one auxiliary.

    It’s not a red herring because it’s very relevant to the topic addressed in Mike’s book.
    You feel it to be a red herring because you know if you hold SETI to a different standard than the one you hold the Design Matrix to that you’ll come across as hypocritical.

    And because it levels your argument. This way you don’t have to fret over the concern of knowing how humans design but not how X, Y, Z design… because it will shift the focus to artificiality of the supposed design in question.

    An auxiliary (but always unstated) assumption for ID (not SETI) is that the designer will design things like a human being. Otherwise a human cannot recognize them.

    Not necessarily… the designer will, if the designer wishes, to design things that can’t be account for by the forces of nature (artificiality). Back to the SETI example.

    So please answer this question, which so far you are all avoiding in your self-congratulatory comments.

    You talking about avoiding topics Dave. Thanks for the chuckle.

    Please prove that your auxiliary assumption (telic entities design things like a human would) is true

    Prove? Weird choice of words when talking about matters scientific. Again, back to the issue of artificiality.

  16. Mike

    Thanks for the long response; it appeared while I was composing my last comment.

    Yes, you do admit that if the telic entity creates designs unlike human designs, it will be impossible to detect design. Yet throughout the book you proceed as if your auxiliary assumption is true; telic entity designs will be human-like. I understand why that is done; a book where that assumption is false would be a very short book, and would not sell well to the folks who are convinced (on the basis of no evidence at all) that the designer thinks like them, or vice versa. We both understand the power of reading things that reinforce one’s unspoken assumptions, I’m sure.

    So where does that leave us. It apparently leaves you, and your cavalry, with a batch of suspicions that are based on an assumption for which you have no evidence. That’s fine; everybody is entitled to their own fantasies. As for me, it leaves me wondering when, or if, this will ever get beyond this level of verbal wankery. How do “suspicions” get translated into something useful (i.e. hypotheses, new observations, published papers) beyond just making folks feel better about their religious or philosophical views? I don’t know, and I found nothing in your book that would help me figure that out.

    So if you, or one of the minions, can generate a telic-based hypothesis, test it, get results that are consistent with that hypothesis and inconsistent with the competing theories, publish those results in a peer-reviewed journal under your own names, I’ll start to get my own “suspicions” that you have a point. Until then, you’ve only got words. Walk the walk, and then we can talk further.

    And PLEASE don’t start in on how IDists can’t work in labs or publish papers for fear of retribution. It just ain’t true. I work in a biology department that has housed, over the years, at least two creationists that I was aware of. One is now retired, but he had a long and productive career. The other left science to work in the medical/missionary field. Neither of them was denied anything that they needed to do their work; both of them published lots of papers, got lots of grants, etc. Their work was judged on the basis of the evidence, not on the basis of their religion or philosophy. They had no evidence for special creation, so they didn’t bother to put that stuff in their manuscripts. I’m sure that if they had some, they would have shared it in normal scientific venues.

    Data talks. Get some and people in the sciences will start to pay attention to you. The longer you guys go on with just words and books rather than evidence and peer-reviewed papers, the longer people will ignore you. And the more “suspicious” we will be that this is based on a false auxiliary assumption.

    Enjoy your spring.

  17. Hello Dave,

    Yes, you do admit that if the telic entity creates designs unlike human designs, it will be impossible to detect design.

    Yep.

    Yet throughout the book you proceed as if your auxiliary assumption is true; telic entity designs will be human-like.

    It’s called a working assumption. I’ve answered your complaints above and outlined the nature of our impasse, so there is no need to rehash this.

    You might want to consider that you have staked out a remarkably extreme position that amounts to this – If the Mars Global Surveyor had returned a high resolution photo that looked even more like a face than the original Viking picture, you would insist that no one should count this as evidence of design because we don’t have independent proof of any agents who would make this structure.

    I understand why that is done; a book where that assumption is false would be a very short book, and would not sell well to the folks who are convinced (on the basis of no evidence at all) that the designer thinks like them, or vice versa. We both understand the power of reading things that reinforce one’s unspoken assumptions, I’m sure.

    Actually, you don’t understand. I genuinely perceive a mysterious and ambiguous reality. My book encourages people to think critically and open-mindedly about these issues.

    As for the rest of your complaints, you’re still sitting on the beach expecting others to wear a suit like you. You need to come to terms with the fact that my book and approach are not science. In fact, if life was indeed designed, there is no evidence that science is capable of discovering this. You ought to consider that this may be an issue that science cannot resolve (in fact, this is exactly what your designer-centrism entails).

    So where does that leave us.

    Read my review. I tell you where it leaves us at the end:

    The Design Matrix represents a reasoned approach to these issues that, while not rising to the level of science, is a vast improvement over the state of arguments that commonly and currently exist in the public arena. If the reviewer, or anyone else, has a better non-scientific approach, they have yet to offer it for critical analysis.

    Given that you were unable to offer any suggestions about how one would you go about acquiring your needed evidence – evidence that designs from non-human telic entities might be analogous to human designs, or what would count as evidence for non-human design, you don’t seem to have a better approach.

    I understand your need to see published results in a peer-reviewed journal, as you seem to think that science is the authority on this issue. This is understandable since so many in the ID movement insist ID is science and you are probably accustomed to that position. But according to your very own position, even you acknowledge that without independent evidence of the designers, science cannot address or resolve this issue. So your complaint ends with the following claim –it’s not science – a point of agreement from which my book begins.

    Just keep in mind that you sought me out and not the other way around. I did not come knocking on your office door, insisting that I had a new scientific theory that I expected you to embrace. I wrote a book, in my spare time, that encourages people to take this whole issue of design outside of science, while helping teleologists to see there is no need to engage in anti-evolutionism. And this apparently bothered you greatly. It’s as if you think anything outside of science must be nonsense and that evolution is supposed to lead to a rejection of a teleological perspective.

    I work in a biology department….Data talks. Get some and people in the sciences will start to pay attention to you.

    Again, I did not seek out your attention; you sought out mine. Don’t you recognize the self-contradictory nature of your claim? Someone, who works in a biology department, clearly paid a lot of attention to me – enough to write up a lengthy negative review, post it on Amazon.com, and now spend time on my book blog. You felt the need to debunk me (I understand the dynamics of this debate). And I enjoyed the opportunity to respond.

    Enjoy your spring.

    You too! It’s been a hard winter, and I am oh so looking forward to sun, birds, and flowers. And of course, bunnahs! 🙂

  18. Mike wrote: You might want to consider that you have staked out a remarkably extreme position that amounts to this – If the Mars Global Surveyor had returned a high resolution photo that looked even more like a face than the original Viking picture, you would insist that no one should count this as evidence of design because we don’t have independent proof of any agents who would make this structure.

    Which seems to be remarkably at odds with what I wrote above, to wit:

    “Yes, that additional high-resolution imagery would be consistent with the suspicion that (human-like) entities were responsible”.

    Perhaps I am not the only person whom the minions can accuse of not reading the material…

    Then there’s this gem from Mike – “Given that you were unable to offer any suggestions about how one would you go about acquiring your needed evidence – evidence that designs from non-human telic entities might be analogous to human designs, or what would count as evidence for non-human design, you don’t seem to have a better approach.”

    Here’s a clue-by-four. You are the one with the proposition that telic entities were/are responsible for the design of biological structures that we see around us. I don’t have to offer suggestions. Although you claim to understand science, it seems that you need a reminder about how science works. Those who have the maverick notions need to generate hypotheses, test them, publish them, and let other people test the ramifications of same. You haven’t done any of that. Fail. So please don’t try to pin your failures on me. I’m just pointing them out. Furthermore, part of my position is that it is impossible, due to the falsity of your auxiliary assumption, to produce any objective evidence for this proposition. The best way to shut me up is to produce that objective evidence. Nice try.

    And please, I’d hope you can avoid the seemingly ubiquitous ID paradigm of putting words in the mouths of others. I do not think that “anything outside of science must be nonsense.” Do you? I do not think that evolution is “supposed to lead to a rejection of a teleological perspective.” Do you? Furthermore, I didn’t say those things here, but you assume them anyway. For the record, here’s what I did say.

    Your position is based on an auxiliary assumption for which you have no evidence. You admit that it is based on that assumption; you have consistently failed to provide the evidence that would bring me (and others) around to a position where we can respect your position. Any other assumptions about what I might think would be irrelevant. Deal with that, please.

    As for me “seeking you out”, here’s the history. It’s a tad less about you than you might imagine, sorry. A person whom I respect, jjs (who writes the evolutionengineered blog) suggested that I read your book, and that he would read an actual science book like Sean Carroll’s “Endless Forms Most Beautiful”. I got your book via interlibrary loan and read it. Since I am not only a scientist and an educator, but also in the habit of reviewing books, I posted my review, originally written on his blog, to Amazon. One of your minions, commenting on my reivew there, alerted me to your response here. I didn’t “seek you out”.

    What’s my motive? Not to pay attention to you, sorry. But as a scientist and an educator I feel an urge to call out pseudoscientific bullshit whenever I get a chance. And without evidence for your auxiliary assumption, it still looks like that to me.

  19. Hi Dave,

    You wrote:

    Yes, that additional high-resolution imagery would be consistent with the suspicion that (human-like) entities were responsible.

    So would that count as evidence for design?

    Here’s a clue-by-four. You are the one with the proposition that telic entities were/are responsible for the design of biological structures that we see around us. I don’t have to offer suggestions.

    No, here is what I wrote:

    While none of these considerations may establish the reality of design behind life, and may in fact fail to persuade most skeptics of teleological explanations, it would seem to this author that a rather robust foundation has been laid down, upon which to base a healthy and serious hunch or suspicion. We have enough to start up the Explanatory Continuum and determine if further data add an increasing level of plausibility to our design suspicions.

    You are the one who insists the only way to investigate this issue is to uncover evidence that designs from non-human telic entities might be analogous to human designs. If you insist on steering the investigation in this manner, then it is your burden to spell out what would count as evidence for non-human design, along with how one might plausibly obtain evidence (or was it proof?) that designs from non-human telic entities might be analogous to human designs. If you are unable to provide useful suggestions, then it would seem you are trying to direct the investigation down a blind alley.

    Although you claim to understand science, it seems that you need a reminder about how science works. Those who have the maverick notions need to generate hypotheses, test them, publish them, and let other people test the ramifications of same. You haven’t done any of that. Fail.

    As I wrote in my book, in my review, and in the comments here, we agree that we’re not dealing with science here. Your judgment of failure is only valid if I was insisting my views were science. But since I am not, you criticism is not valid. Not all forms of inquiry must be science.

    So please don’t try to pin your failures on me. I’m just pointing them out. Furthermore, part of my position is that it is impossible, due to the falsity of your auxiliary assumption, to produce any objective evidence for this proposition. The best way to shut me up is to produce that objective evidence. Nice try.

    You are merely assuming that my “auxillary assumption” is false. To show that it is false, you would have to demonstrate that human design is completely unique and that it would be impossible for a non-human telic entity to design something like humans do. My position is that only if designs from non-human telic entities were in some fashion familiar to us because of our subjective and objective experience with human designers (artificiality, rationality, foresight), then we have a chance of recognizing non-human design.

    And please, I’d hope you can avoid the seemingly ubiquitous ID paradigm of putting words in the mouths of others.

    You are projecting here. I have not put words in your mouth; you have put words in my mouth (see the OP for multiple examples).

    I do not think that “anything outside of science must be nonsense.” Do you? I do not think that evolution is “supposed to lead to a rejection of a teleological perspective Do you?”

    I don’t (as should be clear from my book). But I am trying to understand your hostility and refusal to acknowledge my position as it is. As I wrote, “I wrote a book, in my spare time, that encourages people to take this whole issue of design outside of science, while helping teleologists to see there is no need to engage in anti-evolutionism. And this apparently bothered you greatly. It’s as if you think anything outside of science must be nonsense and that evolution is supposed to lead to a rejection of a teleological perspective.”

    Let’s focus. Your main argument (aside from the designer-centrism) is that I am supposed to be doing science with this issue. But why is that? If I was claiming that my views were science, that would be a valid criticism. But we agree that I am not doing this. So why I am supposed to be doing science with this issue? If you believed that every form of inquiry outside of science was nonsense, then your demand would make sense. So that’s why I said, ‘It’s as if…”

    Put simply, your criticism appears incoherent to me. You acknowledge that other forms of non-scientific inquiry need not be nonsense, but then you turn around and insist that we must all use science to determine if there is anything of substance to a suspicion of design. But then it gets worse, as you have no idea how anyone would be able to use science to address such a suspicion.

    If I was claiming my views were science, your criticism would make sense. If you thought that anything outside of science was nonsense, your criticism would make sense. But since I don’t claim my views are science, and you say that you don’t view everything outside of science as nonsense, then your criticism does not make sense. Like I said, it’s like complaining no one else is wearing a suit at the beach.

    However, I am glad to hear you agree that acceptance of evolution does not entail a rejection of a teleological viewpoint. There are many people, on the both sides of the aisle, who would disagree.

    Your position is based on an auxiliary assumption for which you have no evidence.

    In other words, working assumptions are not allowed in an investigation. It does not seem unreasonable to me to assume that other agents with human-like intelligence could exist (after all, this is the assumption behind SETI). All you are saying is that you are unwilling to make this assumption because you first need independent evidence that such beings could or do exist.

    You admit that it is based on that assumption; you have consistently failed to provide the evidence that would bring me (and others) around to a position where we can respect your position. Any other assumptions about what I might think would be irrelevant. Deal with that, please.

    I understand your need to posture as someone who sits in judgment. Dime-a-dozen stuff to me. What I am focused on is the simple fact that you have no useful suggestions for an investigation. As I noted, The Design Matrix represents a reasoned approach to these issues that, while not rising to the level of science, is a vast improvement over the state of arguments that commonly and currently exist in the public arena. If the reviewer, or anyone else, has a better non-scientific approach, they have yet to offer it for critical analysis.

    As for me “seeking you out”, here’s the history. It’s a tad less about you than you might imagine, sorry. A person whom I respect, jjs (who writes the evolutionengineered blog) suggested that I read your book, and that he would read an actual science book like Sean Carroll’s “Endless Forms Most Beautiful”. I got your book via interlibrary loan and read it. Since I am not only a scientist and an educator, but also in the habit of reviewing books, I posted my review, originally written on his blog, to Amazon. One of your minions, commenting on my reivew there, alerted me to your response here. I didn’t “seek you out”.

    That you transplanted your review to Amazon (where your habit translates as a grand total of 3 previous reviews) tells me you were seeking my attention. 😉

    BTW, it is not polite to insult other people as my “minions.” Many of these people do not agree with all my points, but they simply enjoy thinking about these issues a different way.

  20. Mike

    Re the face on Mars question, which seems important to you and is a red herring in my case, I think I answered the question. Why do you persist in running down that path? Yes, if aliens looked and designed like humans, you could detect their designs. If they don’t look or think like humans, you can’t. Focus on that last sentence rather than on the penultimate one, please.

    As for what I “insist” upon, you are again putting words in my mouth. Here it is again. If you have an auxiliary assumption for which there is no evidence (and you have failed again in your latest comment to provide that requested evidence), I can logically maintain that your main hypothesis is likely to be wrong. As noted before, the easiest way to rebut my position is to provide the evidence, rather than continue to spout bafflegab and hope that nobody notices the continued lack of evidence. I don’t have to show you what would count as evidence of non-human design. You do have to show me evidence FOR your assumption that non-human designs will resemble human designs enough to be recognized. You haven’t done that. You have used a lot of words, but you haven’t done that, so it is still likely, in my mind, that your proposition is wrong, since it is based on an evidence-free auxiliary assumption.

    As for your protestation that you are not a failure since you don’t claim that your approach is scientific, that is remarkably disingenuous. Your book uses science terms throughout. It has a chapter on molecular biology, and lots of sciency-sounding language. If, at the end, you want to claim that it is merely a way to approach your theological suspicions, and you have no way to get from suspicion to hypothesis because your auxiliary assumption is false, you have failed. It might as well be a book about your suspicions re unicorns of orbiting teapots. Much ado about nothing.

    And it is as if you have read nothing I wrote. Your latest post contains these words: “Let’s focus. Your main argument (aside from the designer-centrism) is that I am supposed to be doing science with this issue.” None of that is true. My main argument is a philosophical one, straight from an introductory book on logic. Your auxiliary assumption, on which your entire argument depends, is evidence-free. I am asking for evidence that would make me more optimistic that the auxiliary assumption might be correct. That’s not science, that’s logic. That’s not designer-centrism, that’s a request for you to think more seriously about the fact that your entire proposition is very likely to be wrong. Read this paragraph over several times before you reply; I’ve said it a number of times but you still chase those red herrings.

    Furthermore I am not arguing that “working assumptions are not allowed in an investigation.” More words in my mouth. I AM arguing that fruitful investigations are much more likely if there is ANY evidence that the working assumption might be correct. You have no such evidence, and you consistently refuse to address that problem by providing even a scrap of evidence for your auxiliary assumption.

    I’ll leave without comment your accusations of posturing and your comments about minions. But FYI, Amazon is not the only place where book reviews are published! That’s another assumption that is incorrect. I also publish reviews in the review journal of the American Library Association, Choice. The fact that I have four reviews at Amazon, and that one of them is about your book, is merely a reflection of where I chose to publish. Reviews in Choice have to be 200 characters or less; my long review would not fit into their parameters, so it went to Amazon. Pretty simple, and yet it has nothing to do with seeking your attention at all.

    It’s amusing that your internet-centric perspective about what constitutes a body of work would lead you to ignore other traditional published venues. So, despite the fact that your ego (and perhaps your Amazon sales rating) would benefit if I was “seeking your attention”, that’s not the case. Sorry.

  21. Hi Dave,

    Re the face on Mars question, which seems important to you and is a red herring in my case, I think I answered the question.

    But you still won’t tell us whether or not a high resolution image of the face would constitute evidence of design.

    Why do you persist in running down that path?

    Because it brings clarity to the dispute: “We can either acknowledge that non-human design could be detected vis-à-vis the Face on Mars therefore rejecting the notion that independent knowledge about designers is absolutely and always required to detect designs. Or we could adhere to the view that independent knowledge about designers is necessary to detect designs and thus argue that the discovery of a Face on Mars could never be attributed to design without knowledge of the designers.”

    Yes, if aliens looked and designed like humans, you could detect their designs. If they don’t look or think like humans, you can’t. Focus on that last sentence rather than on the penultimate one, please.

    I have long focused on that last sentence, even to the point of writing it in my book before you ever read it or brought it up: “To infer design from a Face on Mars, two criteria would be inherently employed. The first criterion is that of familiarity. The Face appears humanoid. If a non-humanoid face was carved into the surface of Mars, it is unlikely we would recognize it and speculate about its origin. If the alien face had thirteen eyes, five noses, and three mouths arranged in an asymmetric fashion, the carving, as seen in a low resolution picture, would probably not catch our attention. Something could be designed but go unnoticed, meaning that our ability to detect design is limited to that which is familiar in some fashion.”

    As for what I “insist” upon, you are again putting words in my mouth. Here it is again. If you have an auxiliary assumption for which there is no evidence (and you have failed again in your latest comment to provide that requested evidence), I can logically maintain that your main hypothesis is likely to be wrong.

    Aha. I think I have spotted the main point of our miscommunication here. Remember, that you misread the book on several levels, including where you insist that I am making “Another conclusion masquerading as hypothesis.” In your mind, I am reaching conclusions, even to the point where you misrepresent me as declaring it “MUST have been designed!” Your criticisms are rooted in this misunderstanding. I’m not trying to score any point here; I’m telling you that is how I genuinely see it.

    As I clearly explained in the book, and in my review above, I am talking about suspicions at the front-edge of an investigation (not conclusions at the back end of an investigation):

    The Design Matrix is about “looking at objects from a different angle” and “a certain conception about the unknown, that is, about what lies beyond that which one has logical or experimental reasons to believe.”

    and

    Miraculous signs and proofs of the impossible are shortcuts through the Explanatory Continuum, but as investigators, we must be willing to take the long road. To do this, we must have a starting place from which we can roll up our sleeves and begin sifting through the data in a search for more clues. We need to know what kind of things would even suggest design before we can proceed. In the next three chapters, I will cite some of the data that cause me to suspect design behind life’s origin.

    Etc, etc (this is a theme I repeatedly made in the book).

    I’m talking about reasons to suspect, clues, and suggestive evidence, and what one might do if they find themselves with such a suspicion.

    So, of course, since I am only at the level of suspicions, clues, and suggestive evidence, then yes, my hypothesis could very well be wrong. That’s the whole purpose of the Explanatory Continuum and Design Matrix. That’s the whole purpose of trying to develop a positive approach.

    Y’see, we both agree there is a very good chance that my hypothesis could be wrong. So how do we proceed from there? Your designer-centric approach appears to be a blind alley and leaves us stranded at this position. I develop an open-ended approach that will allow me, and others, to assess things to move beyond this level – either to increase or decrease their confidence in this suspicion. You don’t have to join in, because you have no suspicion. In your mind, there is NO evidence for design. Period. So no one is demanding that you join in.

    You simply don’t need objective evidence of the “auxillary hypothesis” to have a reasonable suspicion.

    As noted before, the easiest way to rebut my position is to provide the evidence, rather than continue to spout bafflegab and hope that nobody notices the continued lack of evidence. I don’t have to show you what would count as evidence of non-human design.

    If you want to participate in the investigation, yes you do. If you are advocating this approach, then you need to tell us what would count as evidence and how one might obtain such evidence. After all, that’s what I do. If you are just nit-picking and nay-saying, and as I wrote in the book:

    The type of data that can spark a hunch is not the same as the type of data that might be needed to convince a skeptic.

    Sure, it would be very easy is we had the luxury of independent evidence about the designers. We might even be able to transform these speculations into real science. With ease. But the easiest way is not always available, and it is not always entailed by the truth of a hypothesis. After all, the easiest way to rebut a creationist position would be to invent a time machine and take him back to the Jurassic to look for humans. But that way is neither available nor entailed by the truth of evolution.
    Again, that you think I need to “rebut” your position is because you misread my position as one of declaring conclusions. In your mind, I’m shouting “Life is designed! Admit it people!” (just see your review). You missed the whole point of The Design Matrix because you read the book through the filters of your previous experience with creationists and the ID movement (recall that Chapter 6 even explores how people tend to see what they expect to see.)

    As for your protestation that you are not a failure since you don’t claim that your approach is scientific, that is remarkably disingenuous.

    Wrong. It would be disingenuous if I had failed to clarify, from the start, that I do not consider this issue to be science. Chapter 2 makes it clear I am modeling my approach after a detective investigation. This is example was also originally in the book, but the editor felt it was redundant and we decided to cut it out:

    https://designmatrix.wordpress.com/2009/03/09/evidence-and-suspicion/

    Your book uses science terms throughout. It has a chapter on molecular biology, and lots of sciency-sounding language.

    I see. So any book that uses science terms and concepts must be science? I think not. Science has delivered a tremendous amount of knowledge and information into the public domain and there is nothing wrong with exploring and incorporating its knowledge and insights into a non-scientific investigation – Sifting through the data in a search for more clues.

    If, at the end, you want to claim that it is merely a way to approach your theological suspicions, and you have no way to get from suspicion to hypothesis because your auxiliary assumption is false, you have failed. It might as well be a book about your suspicions re unicorns of orbiting teapots. Much ado about nothing.

    Look, I realize you read the book only because you were challenged to do it and you then felt obligated to respond. But when you read the first page of the book, you should have realized that you were not among the target audience:

    It is my belief that there are people in the world like me—people who are tired of the heated debates, name-calling, innuendo, and political fights. Such people might find themselves in the middle ground and would rather focus on the hypotheses, the arguments, and the evidence. We might not be completely convinced that life was designed, yet we find the hypothesis to be tremendously intriguing. Rather than belaboring the concern as to whether the study of Intelligent Design should be labeled science, metaphysics, or religion, it is my belief that there are people who would rather just ponder the issues that are raised by design and evolution.
    The most important reason for writing this book is that I, like most authors, believe I have something to say. If we push aside all the politics, rhetoric, and concerns about what we should and should not do with the concept of Intelligent Design, I remain intrigued by the concept and evidences and continue to ponder the topic. I do not come to you as one with a preconceived belief that life was, indeed, designed. I come to you with nagging suspicions that there may really be something solid behind the hypothesis that life was designed. These suspicions are like ‘splinters in my mind’ that will not go away if left unattended.

    And you will notice that I was able to anticipate your disappointment. From Chapter 10:

    If you, the reader, still find yourself wanting independent evidence of a designer and needing some part of evolution to be disproved, you will have been disappointed. We have no way of finding and interviewing life’s designer. And proving the impossible has always been a very tricky endeavor….

    The book will not appeal to people, on both sides of the aisles, who want to see conclusions and powerful evidence for those conclusions. It was written for people who share my sincere, nagging suspicion and are looking for intellectually honest ways to proceed from there. We may be a small group (see my Amazon ratings! LOL), but we do exist.

    Perhaps some day in the future you’ll be able to sit back and revisit this issue without the personal ego investments that naturally come from these arguments, and without feeling the need to debunk or discredit. If so, maybe, just maybe, you’ll be able to read my review and quietly realize that you fundamentally misread and misunderstood the basic intent and objective of the book.

  22. Mike

    One of us is remarkably thick.

    But you still won’t tell us whether or not a high resolution image of the face would constitute evidence of design.

    Why do you persist in running down that path?

    Because it brings clarity to the dispute: “We can either acknowledge that non-human design could be detected vis-à-vis the Face on Mars therefore rejecting the notion that independent knowledge about designers is absolutely and always required to detect designs. Or we could adhere to the view that independent knowledge about designers is necessary to detect designs and thus argue that the discovery of a Face on Mars could never be attributed to design without knowledge of the designers.”

    I answered the question multiple times; perhaps you cannot recognize the answer because you are not the ‘target audience”. So here it is again.

    If the face on Mars resembled a human face, you could indeed infer design GENERATED BY A DESIGNER WHO LOOKS LIKE A HUMAN. Thus, your statement that your position rejects the “notion that independent knowledge about designers is absolutely and always required to detect designs” is incorrect.

    You have made, as I noted a few dozen times before, an auxiliary assumption that the designer designs as a human would. That is, sadly for your position, “independent knowledge” about the designers. It may be an unstated assumption, you and your telic thinkers may not want to state it, but it is absolutely required for this inference of design.

    I’ll ignore the rest of your post, despite many tempting red herrings in that word salad, to see if you can understand this central and oft-repeated point.

    An auxiliary assumption, that the designers are human-like in some or all attributes, is necessary for your inference about the Face on Mars, and necessary for any inference about designs in cells or other biological structures.

    Do you agree or disagree with that statement? Yes or no. If no, why do you disagree?

    This auxiliary assumption includes some “independent knowledge” about the designers, i.e. they are human-like in some or all attributes.

    Do you agree or disagree with that statement? Yes or no. If no, why do you disagree?

  23. “One of us is remarkably thick.”

    And it is you.

    This is an amazing exchange.

    Thanks Mike for taking the time to engage this.

  24. Dave R: “An auxiliary assumption, that the designers are human-like in some or all attributes, is necessary for your inference about the Face on Mars, and necessary for any inference about designs in cells or other biological structures…Do you agree or disagree with that statement? Yes or no. If no, why do you disagree?”

    Mike already answered that:

    Mike: “So we do need to make some minimal assumptions about the designer – that they would design something that human beings might recognize as a design. Other than this, it is unclear what other information about HUMANS AS DESIGNERS that the reviewer thinks is crucial to inferring design from a high resolution Face on Mars.”

    What about that do you not understand?

  25. Dave, your question re: assuming commonality between designers was answered above:

    https://designmatrix.wordpress.com/2009/03/11/reviewing-a-review/#comment-205

    I suggest you read through it again and maybe provide an answer to it this time.

    Now, some statements re: your last comment.

    Dave, you stated:
    “If the face on Mars resembled a human face, you could indeed infer design GENERATED BY A DESIGNER WHO LOOKS LIKE A HUMAN.”

    That is not the only option. You could infer that the design was generated by a telic being (designer) who has seen a human form. This does not give us anymore information about if the designer was indeed human (from earth, sharing a common ancestor with us humans) or if he is ET. Minimally, we would have detected an intelligent being who either shares some physical properties with humans or who has seen a human. What’s your point? So far Mike is right in his assessment and you have yet to provide an adequate rebuttal much less sound critic of Mike Gene’s “The Design Matrix.”

    Dave:
    “You have made, as I noted a few dozen times before, an auxiliary assumption that the designer designs as a human would. That is, sadly for your position, “independent knowledge” about the designers. It may be an unstated assumption, you and your telic thinkers may not want to state it, but it is absolutely required for this inference of design.”

    I have explained the logic behind that assumption through the link I provided above.

    The only premise necessary is that all intelligence has a commonality that would allow them to create similar types of designs, whether that be a code, certain type of radio wave as a result of similar radio technology, functional machinery, etc.

    Dave:
    “An auxiliary assumption, that the designers are human-like in some or all attributes, is necessary for your inference about the Face on Mars, and necessary for any inference about designs in cells or other biological structures.”

    That’s what we have all been saying the whole time, just in different ways. The commonality shared between all intelligence would be exactly those elements of rationality, foresight, etc. as laid out by Mike in the DM.

    So, it would make no difference to say that designers are “human-like” or “alien-like” or “god-like” or just plain “intelligent-like” as long as it is understood that the minimal necessary assumption is that they all possess those elements of rationality, foresight, etc. as laid out by Mike in the Design Matrix.

    Thus, it is obvious that you are offering a critic on material you either have not read or just have refused to understand. I would suggest that the next comment by you would be the asking of questions to clarify that which you don’t understand instead of exposing your misconceptions further.

    Now answer Tipsey and my question:

    “How is SETI able to distinguish design from non-design and detect previous intelligence as a source if it does not assume some commonality among human design and alien design? How would it recognize design if there were no commonality between all telic beings?”

    You aren’t the only one with questions here. Nor are your questions and assumptions immune to critique.

    In your answer to the above question, you will show if you are merely an inconsistent (selective) hyper-skeptic, who reserves your skepticism for things you don’t personally like. Or are you open to a two way discussion?

  26. Dave,

    One of us is remarkably thick.

    But you still won’t tell us whether or not a high resolution image of the face would constitute evidence of design.
    Why do you persist in running down that path?

    Because it brings clarity to the dispute: “We can either acknowledge that non-human design could be detected vis-à-vis the Face on Mars therefore rejecting the notion that independent knowledge about designers is absolutely and always required to detect designs. Or we could adhere to the view that independent knowledge about designers is necessary to detect designs and thus argue that the discovery of a Face on Mars could never be attributed to design without knowledge of the designers.”

    I answered the question multiple times; perhaps you cannot recognize the answer because you are not the ‘target audience”. So here it is again.

    If the face on Mars resembled a human face, you could indeed infer design GENERATED BY A DESIGNER WHO LOOKS LIKE A HUMAN. Thus, your statement that your position rejects the “notion that independent knowledge about designers is absolutely and always required to detect designs” is incorrect.

    Wrong. First of all, to reach that conclusion, you would need to show that designers only carve images of themselves. But if we draw from our experience with human designers, we know this is simply not true. The Face on Mars would not allow us to conclude what the designers looked like (although that would be one plausible hypothesis). Secondly, this would not be independent knowledge. Independent knowledge would exist apart from the designed-thing in question.

    You have made, as I noted a few dozen times before, an auxiliary assumption that the designer designs as a human would. That is, sadly for your position, “independent knowledge” about the designers.

    So your criticism is not only rooted in misunderstanding of my position, but, sadly for your criticism, we now see that you confuse assumptions with knowledge.

    It may be an unstated assumption, you and your telic thinkers may not want to state it, but it is absolutely required for this inference of design.

    It was a stated assumption.

    I’ll ignore the rest of your post, despite many tempting red herrings in that word salad, to see if you can understand this central and oft-repeated point.

    Yes, you have a habit of ignoring arguments and spinning them as red herrings.

    An auxiliary assumption, that the designers are human-like in some or all attributes, is necessary for your inference about the Face on Mars, and necessary for any inference about designs in cells or other biological structures.

    Do you agree or disagree with that statement? Yes or no. If no, why do you disagree?

    The answer was ‘yes’ in the book:

    To more effectively infer design, in an empirical, investigative sense, we will restrain our hypothesis to invoking a human-like intelligence. If the intelligent cause is completely unlike human intelligence, how would an investigation recognize the signposts of its intervention? If the intelligence is completely unlike us, it would not think or design as we do. As long as the hypothesized agency is human-like, we can more safely extrapolate from our own experience with our own intelligence and design.

    ‘yes’ in my review:

    So we do need to make some minimal assumptions about the designer – that they would design something that human beings might recognize as a design.

    and ‘yes’ in the comments section:

    My position is that only if designs from non-human telic entities were in some fashion familiar to us because of our subjective and objective experience with human designers (artificiality, rationality, foresight), then we have a chance of recognizing non-human design.

    What part is ‘yes’ is hard for you to understand? That you need to ask the question at this point is evidence that you are not making a serious effort to understand the position you are seeking to discredit.

    This auxiliary assumption includes some “independent knowledge” about the designers, i.e. they are human-like in some or all attributes.
    Do you agree or disagree with that statement? Yes or no. If no, why do you disagree?

    No. I disagree with this claim because I understand the difference between an assumption and knowledge. If I had that independent knowledge, I would not need to make that assumption.

    Notice I have answered your “yes or no” questions. The question remains as to whether you are capable of reciprocating.

    If the Mars Global Surveyor had returned a high resolution photo that looked even more like a face than the original Viking picture, would you count this as evidence of design? Yes or no.

  27. Mike

    In a comment above you stated

    My position is that only if designs from non-human telic entities were in some fashion familiar to us because of our subjective and objective experience with human designers (artificiality, rationality, foresight), then we have a chance of recognizing non-human design.

    Are you backing off from that statement now?

    Let’s not get lost in the fog of your words. If you still accept that an auxiliary assumption for your position is that “designs from non-human telic entities were in some fashion familiar to us”, you can’t backpedal now and say otherwise.

    I suspected that your response would be semantic, asserting that assumptions are not knowledge. You did not disappoint me. But there is no confusion between assumptions and knowledge in this instance. They are equivalent for the purposes of our discussion. Here’s why.

    As you assert above and as I also assert, you can’t detect design unless you assume that “designs from non-human telic entities were in some fashion familiar to us”. That is an assumption, but since you assume it to be true, it is also knowledge. You also cannot detect design without this knowledge about the designers. This is a distinction without a difference.

    Furthermore, even kornbelt points out this flaw, although inadvertently, when quoting you (my bolding) – “So we do need to make some minimal assumptions about the designer – that they would design something that human beings might recognize as a design. Other than this, it is unclear what other information about HUMANS AS DESIGNERS that the reviewer thinks is crucial to inferring design from a high resolution Face on Mars.”

    Information = knowledge. Yes or no? (rhetorical question)

    Notice I have answered your “yes or no” questions. The question remains as to whether you are capable of reciprocating.

    If the Mars Global Surveyor had returned a high resolution photo that looked even more like a face than the original Viking picture, would you count this as evidence of design? Yes or no.

    The astute reader will notice that your response went well past “yes” or “no” in terms of word count. It trust that you will accord me the same latitude.

    And, as noted several times before, this is my answer. If the face on Mars resembled a human face, you could indeed infer design if you accept the auxiliary assumption that the designer was human-like in some or all attributes.

    Indeed, as you and CJYman point out, the designer does not have to LOOK like a human. But you have to assume that he/she/it has some or all attributes that are human-like in order for the designs to be “familiar” to us. That is information, assumed or otherwise, and information is knowledge.

    I do understand, as do you, the corner you have painted yourself into when you demur “I disagree with this claim because I understand the difference between an assumption and knowledge.” Unfortunately for you, your own words above show that you do understand that accepting an assumption as being true is equivalent to information.

  28. Dave R:

    As you assert above and as I also assert, you can’t detect design unless you assume that “designs from non-human telic entities were in some fashion familiar to us”.

    A very reasonable assumption given the measuring standard provided by intelligent humans. Making the inductive inference that any advanced intelligent source would share some familiar intellectual properties does not require a great leap in logic.

    That is an assumption, but since you assume it to be true, it is also knowledge. You also cannot detect design without this knowledge about the designers. This is a distinction without a difference.

    The assumption that x is true is an operative tool enabling us to make inferences about y and z. Data acrues from investigating the logical relationship. Coherent data generates knowledge. You can show that in all instances m an intelligent source is implicated in the design. You can implicate a blind watchmaker by the same logic. You can draw inductive inferences and test to find whether or not a physical system conforms to a prediction based on an inference.

  29. Hi Dave,

    Let’s not get lost in the fog of your words. If you still accept that an auxiliary assumption for your position is that “designs from non-human telic entities were in some fashion familiar to us”, you can’t backpedal now and say otherwise.

    I suspected that your response would be semantic, asserting that assumptions are not knowledge. You did not disappoint me. But there is no confusion between assumptions and knowledge in this instance. They are equivalent for the purposes of our discussion. Here’s why.
    As you assert above and as I also assert, you can’t detect design unless you assume that “designs from non-human telic entities were in some fashion familiar to us”. That is an assumption, but since you assume it to be true, it is also knowledge. You also cannot detect design without this knowledge about the designers. This is a distinction without a difference.

    Ah, your criticism is semantic. I’m using the words ‘assumption’ and ‘knowledge’ as they are commonly understood while you are invoking a special instance – assumption and knowledge is the same. But you miss the point – it would be the Face itself that turned the assumption into knowledge. The assumption does not become knowledge simply because the assumption is made. For example, since the Face did not exist, our assumption of the existence of non-human telic entities (SETI) is not knowledge, it remains an assumption.

    The question remains as to whether we would need previous knowledge of the existence of non-human telic entities in order to infer design from a high resolution photo of The Face on Mars. I say ‘no.’ An high resolution photo would allow us to infer design and transform an assumption of the existence of non-human telic entities into knowledge that someone really is out there.

    Furthermore, even kornbelt points out this flaw, although inadvertently, when quoting you (my bolding) – “So we do need to make some minimal assumptions about the designer – that they would design something that human beings might recognize as a design. Other than this, it is unclear what other information about HUMANS AS DESIGNERS that the reviewer thinks is crucial to inferring design from a high resolution Face on Mars.”
    Information = knowledge. Yes or no? (rhetorical question)

    OK, I see. That was sloppy wording on my part. Let’s re-quote with different words bolded this time to see this:

    “So we do need to make some minimal assumptions about the designer – that they would design something that human beings might recognize as a design. Other than this, it is unclear what other information about HUMANS AS DESIGNERS that the reviewer thinks is crucial to inferring design from a high resolution Face on Mars.”

    I can see how the phrase “other information” was connected with the phrase of “minimal assumption” leading to the mistaken view that assumptions about the world are information (knowledge) about the world. So let me clean it up with a very small change:

    “So we do need to make a minimal assumption about the designer – that they would design something that human beings might recognize as a design. Other than this, it is unclear what other assumption about HUMANS AS DESIGNERS that the reviewer thinks is crucial to inferring design from a high resolution Face on Mars.”

    Or, it could also be rephrased as follows:

    “So we do need to make a minimal assumption about the designer – that they would design something that human beings might recognize as a design. Other than this, it is unclear what information about HUMANS AS DESIGNERS that the reviewer thinks is crucial to inferring design from a high resolution Face on Mars.”

    The astute reader will notice that your response went well past “yes” or “no” in terms of word count. It trust that you will accord me the same latitude.

    Sure, but the astute read will also notice that, unlike me, you refuse to type either the word ‘yes’ or the word ‘no.’

    And, as noted several times before, this is my answer. If the face on Mars resembled a human face, you could indeed infer design if you accept the auxiliary assumption that the designer was human-like in some or all attributes.

    So the answer ‘yes’ is dependent on this condition: if you accept the auxiliary assumption that the designer was human-like in some or all attributes.

    Yet you have made it quite clear that you are unwilling to accept this auxiliary hypothesis as you need evidence and proof that it is true. That’s your entire sticking point. Since the ‘yes’ answer is dependent on an assumption you are unwilling to make (sans evidence or proof of the assumption), your answer is ‘no.’ The answer ‘no’ is entailed in the logic of your answer, when viewed in the context of your auxiliary demands.

    So this just takes us back to my earlier observation:

    It seems to me that your position is one that even if we found such a high resolution picture of a Face on Mars, it could NOT count as evidence for design because no one has ever proven that a non-human telic entity would ever make such a structure.

    And

    If the Mars Global Surveyor had returned a high resolution photo that looked even more like a face than the original Viking picture, you would insist that no one should count this as evidence of design because we don’t have independent proof of any agents who would make this structure.

    So let’s sit back and consider where we are.

    We have a fundamental point of disagreement.

    If the Mars Global Surveyor had returned a high resolution photo that looked even more like a face than the original Viking picture, I would consider that evidence of design. If the Mars Global Surveyor had returned a high resolution photo that looked even more like a face than the original Viking picture, you would not consider that evidence of design.

    Yet we also have three significant points of agreement:

    1. We both agree that my approach does not rise to the level of science.

    2. We both agree we need to make a minimal assumption about the designer – that they would design something that human beings might recognize as a design. This would entail that we are assuming the existence of a human-like intelligence.

    3. We both agree that my position, which amounts only to a suspicion that is supported by perceived clues, is shaky (at best) and could very well be wrong.

    So where do we go from here? You apparently insist on the following:

    To move forward, we must obtain evidence of the designer(s).

    Is this correct?

  30. Dave R.,

    “The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is at all comprehensible.”

    Albert Einstein

    This is the crux of the issue. What tugs at great minds, the most learned, best trained minds in our world. And even the simplest, uneducated minds ponder our being.

    Mike gave ample explanation in the Design Matrix about non-human intelligence.

    OTOH, you mistakenly or intentionally mislead readers that Mike did not consider the obvious point about non-humanoids.

    Did you updated your review to reflect this truth? That Mike addressed directly your concern?

    “It trust that you will accord me the same latitude.”

    You want something in return for petulant remarks and snark? Of mind-reading and projection? From every comment you made, including your review, you are the authority. Since when does authority need any latitude?

    Your decision and assumptions are unquestionable.

    OTOH, Why should anyone grant you anything but a low score in reading comprehension skills as latitude? And I’m not saying this to be mean, but to make a salient point.

    Otherwise, we’d have to assume your review was intentionally misleading and dishonest.

    Maybe there is one other option. In haste to prove your points and align yourself with the Dawkins of the world, you overlooked all the content Mike covered and quickly fired off a review before double checking your arguments. Maybe this scores points with colleagues and thus led to a hurried review of the book. So you are smart, intelligent and not dishonest, just in a big hurry to be with the in-crowd.

    Thus the straw man arguments and quote mining were a reflection of speedy consensus thinking and not of careful reading.

    Whatever option you select, your review still misrepresents the book, quotes Mike out of context, and you also wrote scathing commentary against your own straw man arguments.

    Your intent is hostile from the start. Thats fine, but at least be honest about what is in the book – now. You completely blew the review one way or another. Any honest person can see this.

    You can disagree to your hearts content, just stop pretending you represent the high ground. Your review of The Design Matrix is about as informative as comedian talk show host interviewing Barney Frank on the economy.

    Mocking a position you disagree with may bring kudos at the pre-biotic grey goo fountain in your little biology club, but as Mike’s review of your review has shown. In the light of day, it amounts to nothing more than snide remarks, quote-mining and straw man. Yet now you satirically demand latitude after your mugging. Its like a criminal demanding the victim join him in prison and split the jail time for his crime.

    It appears your whole world disintigrates if someone openly and honestly looks at our existence and ask reasonable questions.

    In the end, he is not inserting anymore assumptions into information than you are.

    In the end, he is not stating anything more than Einstein relates to us about the universe. Something is going on and that something is incredible, beautiful, awe inspiring, improbable and at the same time – comprehensible.

    Why?

    If it is comprehensible, the next step in ascertaining an answer requires a search for clues. And when looking for clues of a comprehensible existence, do we then turn around and a priori</i? rule out teleological influence?

    Ruling out such a possibility may have misled scientist and medicine for decades in regards to vestigial organs and JUNK DNA. The assumption was meaningless, undirected evolution. This assumption led scientist to believe in inefficient systems that would include leftover junk and even organs that no longer serve any purpose or have functions.

    It has also led to such fallacious statements as humans and chimps are only different by 2%.

    It could be argued that the consequences of a priori ruling out possible design, led to these bad predictions and years of blindness in areas of rich research that may shed even more light today on the incomprehensible comprehensive world that we live in today.

    All The Design Matrix does is open a discussion. That you take such offense to it speaks more about you, than his questions and search for clues.

  31. Bradford and Mike

    Here’s my (hopefully briefer) summary.

    1) The basic premise of ID is that one can detect design without any information about the designer.

    2) An auxiliary assumption for this premise is that the designer must have some or all attributes that are human-like, so that the designs seem “familiar” to us.

    3) This auxiliary assumption, if assumed to be true, means that you DO have some information about the designer. Mike has admitted this in his own words; it is also glaringly obvious to the objective observer.

    4) If you assume that the auxiliary assumption is false, you cannot detect design.

    Ergo, by assuming it to be true, you have negated the basic premise of ID, and by assuming it to be false, you have negated the basic premise of ID. On epistemological grounds alone, the basic premise of ID is false.

    The icing on the cake is that there is no evidence that the auxiliary assumption is true; again, an objective observer would readily conclude that it is likely to be false. Why would we expect an entity capable of designing an ATPase to be anything like us?

    The rest of the book is moot, albeit entertaining.

    So yes, as science has been telling you all along, to move forward, you need some knowledge (who, when, that, where, how, why) about the designer. This has been a logical exercise to prove that to you, despite the “suspicion” that you will never believe it. I don’t “insist” on it; I don’t personally care one way or another if you make progress. But I have shown you WHY it is necessary if you are going to make progress.

    The best way to move forward is to generate experiments based on your teleological hypothesis, show that the results of those experiments support that hypothesis and cannot be accommodated by competing theories, publish the results under your own names, and let the crucible of scientific peer review and replication refine the hypothesis. The above logical exercise says that you will never be able to do that. If you really believe that there is a flaw in this logic, you will do exactly that. If you understand, deep down, that this logic is correct, you will continue to put your energy into PR rather than lab work, and you will continue to publish books rather than papers.

  32. Hi Bradford,

    A very reasonable assumption given the measuring standard provided by intelligent humans. Making the inductive inference that any advanced intelligent source would share some familiar intellectual properties does not require a great leap in logic.

    Of course not. Consider SETI. As an investigation, it is built on this very working hypothesis. For example:
    http://www.space.com/seti/

    First, we have to assume that humans are similar to the life forms on other planets, not exotic as many people might believe.

    Or consider this from a CalTech astronomy lecture:
    http://web.ipac.caltech.edu/staff/skane/teaching/ast2037/A2037_Lect40.pdf

    SETI Assumptions
    • “mediocrity” – humanity is typical

    Does Dave demand that SETI first come up with objective evidence or proof for this auxiliary hypothesis? In other words, is, as CYMan asks, SETI doomed to failure because they have not first proven this assumption?

    There is another interesting slide in that lecture.

    Fermi Paradox:
    Advanced Civilizations (ACs) :
    […]
    Where are they? Absence implies there are no ACs.
    But …
    Have we really searched the Solar system for artifacts?

    How could one ever hope to recognize such as artifact if, as Dave claims, we need to first prove and describe the existence of the makers of those artifacts?

  33. I see you have retreated to discussing your well-practiced shibboleths (SETI, etc.) amongst yourselves, without addressing the fatal logical flaw in the argument regarding design. As you do that, perhaps you can think about the auxiliary assumptions underlying SETI (aliens have technology that is familiar to us, e.g. radio). Perhaps then you can understand why SETI helps your case no more than does the Face on Mars example.

    Just for the record, what part of this four-part logical sequence do you disagree with?

    1) The basic premise of ID is that one can detect design without any information about the designer.

    2) An auxiliary assumption for this premise is that the designer must have some or all attributes that are human-like, so that the designs seem “familiar” to us.

    3) This auxiliary assumption, if assumed to be true, means that you DO need some information about the designer.

    4) If you assume that the auxiliary assumption is false, you cannot detect design.

    If you don’t want to answer the question, that’s fine. I think my work here is done.

  34. Dave,

    I see you have retreated to discussing your well-practiced shibboleths (SETI, etc.) amongst yourselves, without addressing the fatal logical flaw in the argument regarding design.

    I understand that you are clamoring for my attention, but I wrote my reply to Bradford last night and posted it when I woke up. I’ll respond to that “fatal logical flaw” either later tonight or in the morning.

  35. Mike

    “Clamoring for your attention” is just about the last thing on my mind. Spring break started today, I have a new and interesting book to review for Choice (Owen’s Ape and Darwin’s Bulldog, C. Cosans, Indiana University Press, 2009), and a bunch of student grant proposals to read. Commenting here is entertaining (“pre-biotic grey goo fountain” is quite an image!), but hardly the focus of my existence.

    But hey, if it makes you feel better about your book and your theology, go ahead and pretend that someone is clamoring for your attention. It can’t hurt anything!

  36. Dave R: “3) This auxiliary assumption, if assumed to be true, means that you DO need some information about the designer.”

    What “information” is required beyond the assumption itself to continue the investigation?

  37. Dave R:

    1) The basic premise of ID is that one can detect design without any information about the designer.

    Not quite. We have information about designed processes which allow inductive inferences based on testable assumptions.

    2) An auxiliary assumption for this premise is that the designer must have some or all attributes that are human-like, so that the designs seem “familiar” to us.

    The some part is a reasonable expectation with respect to an ability to reason.

    3) This auxiliary assumption, if assumed to be true, means that you DO have some information about the designer. Mike has admitted this in his own words; it is also glaringly obvious to the objective observer.

    Dave, do you suddenly dispense with logical methodology when contemplating matters pertinent to ID? An assumption is a tentative belief useful for assessing logical arguments. It can be revised with further data. An assumption therefore does not imply the possession of information but rather a basis for testing the validity of information.

    4) If you assume that the auxiliary assumption is false, you cannot detect design.

    Ah, but we are not in the business of excluding assumptions at the outset. Rather only after gathering contradictory data. This is curious though. An assumption that an entity with an ability to reason but, having nothing in common with human capabilities with regard to the same, would look precisely like what in cognitive terms?

  38. Dave R:

    As you do that, perhaps you can think about the auxiliary assumptions underlying SETI (aliens have technology that is familiar to us, e.g. radio). Perhaps then you can understand why SETI helps your case no more than does the Face on Mars example.

    Yes and a radio emits electromagnetic waves which need a coding convention for deciphering- the real ID inference.

  39. Hi Dave,

    1) The basic premise of ID is that one can detect design without any information about the designer.
    2) An auxiliary assumption for this premise is that the designer must have some or all attributes that are human-like, so that the designs seem “familiar” to us.
    3) This auxiliary assumption, if assumed to be true, means that you DO have some information about the designer. Mike has admitted this in his own words; it is also glaringly obvious to the objective observer.
    4) If you assume that the auxiliary assumption is false, you cannot detect design.
    Ergo, by assuming it to be true, you have negated the basic premise of ID, and by assuming it to be false, you have negated the basic premise of ID. On epistemological grounds alone, the basic premise of ID is false.

    Nice try. You seemed to be involved in a “gotcha” approach, but we need to think about these issues beyond that level. Yes, as my book explained, I accept premise 2) and 4) (you accusation that these were unstated assumptions has been discredited). No, premise 3) is wrong. You don’t establish its truth by citing an example of sloppy wording on my part. An assumption is not knowledge, Dave. Assumptions mean that we assume something about the designer; they do not mean that we have true knowledge about the designer. If we had such knowledge, we would not be assuming.

    So let’s go back to 1). The basic premise of my approach is that true knowledge about the non-human designer(s) is not required to investigate from a teleological perspective. The knowledge about the designer that is not needed would be: independent of the designed thing in question – knowledge about their motivations, their technology, their history, their identity, etc. The Face on Mars example teaches us that such true knowledge about the designers is not required to reasonably infer design.

    I should also point out that you are confusing my views with the views of mainstream ID. As I understand it, mainstream ID does not embrace and build on premise 2). It is focused solely on finding something natural processes cannot possibly explain.

    The icing on the cake is that there is no evidence that the auxiliary assumption is true; again, an objective observer would readily conclude that it is likely to be false. Why would we expect an entity capable of designing an ATPase to be anything like us?

    And it is this icing on the cake which forces you into the extreme position of denying that a high resolution photo of the Face on Mars would be evidence of design.

    It has already been explained that, for investigative purposes, it is not unreasonable to assume that human beings are not completely unique. In fact, the “no evidence” this is true claim doesn’t mean the assumption is “likely to be false.” We simply don’t know if it is more likely to be true or false. But because it is an assumption, it is important to make it a minimal assumption, thus the overlap I assume is merely the ability to reason, the ability to have foresight, and the ability to develop technology. These would be rather generic assumptions that come from assuming another human-like intelligence. In would seem rather arrogant to me to insist we are the only beings who could have these abilities.

    The rest of the book is moot, albeit entertaining.
    So yes, as science has been telling you all along, to move forward, you need some knowledge (who, when, that, where, how, why) about the designer. This has been a logical exercise to prove that to you, despite the “suspicion” that you will never believe it. I don’t “insist” on it; I don’t personally care one way or another if you make progress. But I have shown you WHY it is necessary if you are going to make progress.
    The best way to move forward is to generate experiments based on your teleological hypothesis, show that the results of those experiments support that hypothesis and cannot be accommodated by competing theories, publish the results under your own names, and let the crucible of scientific peer review and replication refine the hypothesis. The above logical exercise says that you will never be able to do that. If you really believe that there is a flaw in this logic, you will do exactly that. If you understand, deep down, that this logic is correct, you will continue to put your energy into PR rather than lab work, and you will continue to publish books rather than papers.

    As I explained before, I would be more that happy to move forward along these lines if that option was available. But since that option requires that we obtain knowledge about the putative designers, and we have no such knowledge, the option is unavailable. Recall that when I asked you what such evidence of these designers would look like, and how we could go about obtaining it, you were stumped and punted. Thus, your claim: “If you really believe that there is a flaw in this logic, you will do exactly that” is false. Our shared inability to find and study designers beyond this planet have nothing to do with your flawed argument.

    So where do we go from there?

    I say take these design arguments out of science and let science be science. After all, as we agree, there are ways of investigating and exploring outside of science that are not nonsensical.

  40. Hi Dave,

    “Clamoring for your attention” is just about the last thing on my mind. Spring break started today, I have a new and interesting book to review for Choice (Owen’s Ape and Darwin’s Bulldog, C. Cosans, Indiana University Press, 2009), and a bunch of student grant proposals to read. Commenting here is entertaining (”pre-biotic grey goo fountain” is quite an image!), but hardly the focus of my existence.
    But hey, if it makes you feel better about your book and your theology, go ahead and pretend that someone is clamoring for your attention. It can’t hurt anything!

    LOL. It’s not about feeling better, Dave; it’s the evidence in front of our faces. You were upset that I paid attention to Bradford instead of you. It simply fits the pattern of attention-seeking behavior that you have been engaged in.

  41. Dave:

    As you do that, perhaps you can think about the auxiliary assumptions underlying SETI (aliens have technology that is familiar to us, e.g. radio). Perhaps then you can understand why SETI helps your case no more than does the Face on Mars example.

    SETI assumes that the designer must have some or all attributes that are human-like, so that the designs seem “familiar” to us.

    SETI had no objective evidence or proof for this assumption.

  42. Hi Dave,

    Nice try. You seemed to be involved in a “gotcha” approach, but we need to think about these issues beyond that level. Yes, as my book explained, I accept premise 2) and 4) (you accusation that these were unstated assumptions has been discredited). No, premise 3) is wrong. You don’t establish its truth by citing an example of sloppy wording on my part. An assumption is not knowledge, Dave. Assumptions mean that we assume something about the designer; they do not mean that we have true knowledge about the designer. If we had such knowledge, we would not be assuming.

    What is the functional difference between these two statements?

    1) I assume that the designer has human-like properties.

    2) I assume that I know the designer has human-like properties.

    Yes, as I noted before (thanks for ignoring that), assumptions are not knowledge. But in this instance, the overlap is so large that the distinction is meaningless. If you do not assume that you know this about the designer, you can’t proceed. Spin it however you like, but that statement, coupled with the fact that you have no evidence for the assumption, is true. You can’t claim that no knowledge is needed and then assume some knowledge in order to proceed. Why is that so hard to understand. Functionally, you treat your assumption as information in this instance. You have to, or you have nowhere to go.

    So let’s go back to 1). The basic premise of my approach is that true knowledge about the non-human designer(s) is not required to investigate from a teleological perspective. The knowledge about the designer that is not needed would be: independent of the designed thing in question – knowledge about their motivations, their technology, their history, their identity, etc. The Face on Mars example teaches us that such true knowledge about the designers is not required to reasonably infer design.

    As noted a few dozen times before, your interpretation of the Face on Mars example is built on an auxiliary assumption that assumes knowledge about the designer. Without that assumption, you admit you can’t infer design. With that assumption, you admit that you NEED information about the designer. Knowledge about the designer is needed, even if you won’t admit it.

    I should also point out that you are confusing my views with the views of mainstream ID. As I understand it, mainstream ID does not embrace and build on premise 2). It is focused solely on finding something natural processes cannot possibly explain.

    Since I am arguing that your version of this charade includes premise 2, this statement seems like nonsense to me. I am arguing against your version, not mainstream ID. I would have thought that was clear, but apparently I shouldn’t assume that…

    The icing on the cake is that there is no evidence that the auxiliary assumption is true; again, an objective observer would readily conclude that it is likely to be false. Why would we expect an entity capable of designing an ATPase to be anything like us?

    And it is this icing on the cake which forces you into the extreme position of denying that a high resolution photo of the Face on Mars would be evidence of design.

    Wrong again. I don’t deny it, I just make sure that you are clear about the auxiliary assumption each time. Show me where I deny it in any comment above. Repeating a lie does not make it any more true, you know.

    It has already been explained that, for investigative purposes, it is not unreasonable to assume that human beings are not completely unique. In fact, the “no evidence” this is true claim doesn’t mean the assumption is “likely to be false.” We simply don’t know if it is more likely to be true or false. But because it is an assumption, it is important to make it a minimal assumption, thus the overlap I assume is merely the ability to reason, the ability to have foresight, and the ability to develop technology. These would be rather generic assumptions that come from assuming another human-like intelligence. In would seem rather arrogant to me to insist we are the only beings who could have these abilities.

    As I explained here, yes, auxiliary assumptions can be treated as working assumptions in many productive lines of investigations. In all cases there is at least some evidence in favor of the working assumption. You have no evidence. Big difference, even if you can’t see it.

    Arrogance has nothing to so with it. This is logic. You made an auxiliary assumption that is required for your premise. You have no evidence, other than faith, for that auxiliary assumption. That engenders skepticism in most objective observers. You would like to label this as hyper-skepticism, for rhetorical reasons, but in the realm of logic (not faith), it is remarkably mainstream.

    As I explained before, I would be more that happy to move forward along these lines if that option was available. But since that option requires that we obtain knowledge about the putative designers, and we have no such knowledge, the option is unavailable. Recall that when I asked you what such evidence of these designers would look like, and how we could go about obtaining it, you were stumped and punted. Thus, your claim: “If you really believe that there is a flaw in this logic, you will do exactly that” is false. Our shared inability to find and study designers beyond this planet have nothing to do with your flawed argument.

    I am “stumped” because like you, I don’t have evidence for your assumption. Get some, and then nobody will be able to point out that it is you who “punted”. As I said before, it is YOUR assumption, and YOUR premise. It is not MY responsibility, when I engage you in an argument, to provide evidence for YOUR position. What a remarkable twist that would be!

    So where do we go from there?

    I say take these design arguments out of science and let science be science. After all, as we agree, there are ways of investigating and exploring outside of science that are not nonsensical.

    I already indicated where I will be going from here. I will remain unconvinced that this is a useful investigatory approach until it actually produces something useful. If this is truly a way of “investigating and exploring”, it should still produce something useful someday, don’t you agree? If it does not, perhaps that means that I am right about the problem with having an evidence-free assumption as a basis for an investigatory approach. If it does, you’ll be the first to get a retraction from me. I hope we both live that long…

    PS – re your statement about SETI:

    SETI had no objective evidence or proof for this assumption.

    And, like ID, SETI has no results yet. But there are important differences between your quest and SETI. One is that you are making a claim about the design of objects right in front of us, cells and organelles and organisms that should be much easier to investigate than aliens in distant galaxies. The lack of results in this instance is much more damning than the lack of SETI results. Furthermore, just above, you claim that your investigations are “outside” of science. I don’t think you would find a SETI investigator who would make that claim. This is just another example of your disingenuousness. You want and need your acolytes to think that this is science, you use all kinds of sciencey language and science examples, yet, when it is rhetorically convenient to do so, you take this approach outside of science. You can’t have it both ways, at least with people who have the ability to understand that you are trying to do exactly that.

    I’m done here. If you can’t understand that there is a contradiction between claiming that no prior information is needed to proceed , and then proceeding under an assumption of prior information, I’m wasting my time here. Email me when you publish a paper based on this non-scientific yet oh-so-close-to-science approach. You can have the last word to reassure the acolytes that you still win. But reality will still be otherwise.

  43. Dave,

    What is the functional difference between these two statements?
    1) I assume that the designer has human-like properties.
    2) I assume that I know the designer has human-like properties.

    1) is an assumption about the outside world and 2) is an assumption about myself – “I know”. 2) is actually a silly rhetorical move on your part. I don’t assume that “I know.” On the contrary, as assumption is a tacit admission that I do not know. That’s why I have to assume. As for functional differences, I’ll get to that in a moment.

    Yes, as I noted before (thanks for ignoring that), assumptions are not knowledge.

    Very good. And thus, contrary to your assertion, you have failed to demonstrate any “fatal flaw” in my approach.

    But in this instance, the overlap is so large that the distinction is meaningless.

    No it is not. Those who insist on designer-centrism demand that we have independent previously existing knowledge of the designers in order to reasonably infer design. This position is discredited by my approach which invokes a minimal assumption, not independent knowledge. That is functionally significant. Independent knowledge about the designers is a requirement for science, meaning that science cannot reasonably infer (for or against) design. That is functionally significant. Yet reasonable people also understand that we all can make reasonable inferences outside of science. Of course, I am assuming the reader has a level of intellectual sophistication to recognize this nuance.

    If you do not assume that you know this about the designer, you can’t proceed.

    I don’t have to make assumptions about myself, as I already know that I do not know this about the designer. The assumption is about the world around me and of course I can proceed from there. The Design Matrix shows one way.

    Spin it however you like, but that statement, coupled with the fact that you have no evidence for the assumption, is true.

    I never claimed to have evidence for the assumption. I’ve simply pointed out that not only is the assumption reasonable and minimal, but it is also shared by SETI.

    You can’t claim that no knowledge is needed and then assume some knowledge in order to proceed.

    Assuming something is not knowledge. You seem to think that when someone assumes something about the world, they claim knowledge about the world.

    Why is that so hard to understand. Functionally, you treat your assumption as information in this instance. You have to, or you have nowhere to go.

    It’s called a working assumption. They are not knowledge, but nevertheless, important in investigations.

    I wrote:

    So let’s go back to 1). The basic premise of my approach is that true knowledge about the non-human designer(s) is not required to investigate from a teleological perspective. The knowledge about the designer that is not needed would be: independent of the designed thing in question – knowledge about their motivations, their technology, their history, their identity, etc. The Face on Mars example teaches us that such true knowledge about the designers is not required to reasonably infer design.

    You replied:

    As noted a few dozen times before, your interpretation of the Face on Mars example is built on an auxiliary assumption that assumes knowledge about the designer. Without that assumption, you admit you can’t infer design. With that assumption, you admit that you NEED information about the designer. Knowledge about the designer is needed, even if you won’t admit it.

    Assumptions are not the same as knowledge. Your attempt to twist words to score some misguided point ignores the context of this whole argument. As I explain in both Chapters 1 and 8, it is said that we must first have independent knowledge about the designers to reasonably infer design (designer-centrism). Making an assumption about the designers is not the same as have previous, independent knowledge of the designers. Designer-centrism is simply one way to approach these issues, not the only and only necessary way.

    I wrote: And it is this icing on the cake which forces you into the extreme position of denying that a high resolution photo of the Face on Mars would be evidence of design.

    You replied:

    Wrong again. I don’t deny it, I just make sure that you are clear about the auxiliary assumption each time. Show me where I deny it in any comment above. Repeating a lie does not make it any more true, you know.

    LOL. It was only a matter of time before you started accusing me of lying. The problem, Dave, is that you have a pattern of ignoring the arguments in front you. As you said, “I’ll ignore the rest of your post…” This explains why your review was so deeply misguided. It explains why you need to keep asking questions that I, and others, have answered. And this allows me to simply re-post an argument/explanation that was ignored –

    Sure, but the astute read will also notice that, unlike me, you refuse to type either the word ‘yes’ or the word ‘no.’

    And, as noted several times before, this is my answer. If the face on Mars resembled a human face, you could indeed infer design if you accept the auxiliary assumption that the designer was human-like in some or all attributes.

    So the answer ‘yes’ is dependent on this condition: if you accept the auxiliary assumption that the designer was human-like in some or all attributes.

    Yet you have made it quite clear that you are unwilling to accept this auxiliary hypothesis as you need evidence and proof that it is true. That’s your entire sticking point. Since the ‘yes’ answer is dependent on an assumption you are unwilling to make (sans evidence or proof of the assumption), your answer is ‘no.’ The answer ‘no’ is entailed in the logic of your answer, when viewed in the context of your auxiliary demands.

    So this just takes us back to my earlier observation:

    “It seems to me that your position is one that even if we found such a high resolution picture of a Face on Mars, it could NOT count as evidence for design because no one has ever proven that a non-human telic entity would ever make such a structure.”

    And

    “If the Mars Global Surveyor had returned a high resolution photo that looked even more like a face than the original Viking picture, you would insist that no one should count this as evidence of design because we don’t have independent proof of any agents who would make this structure.”

    It’s not a “lie,” Dave. It’s the very answer that is entailed in your position.

    As I explained here, yes, auxiliary assumptions can be treated as working assumptions in many productive lines of investigations. In all cases there is at least some evidence in favor of the working assumption. You have no evidence. Big difference, even if you can’t see it.

    I understand the difference. If we had independent evidence about the designer(s), we could probably move this investigation into the realm of science.

    Arrogance has nothing to so with it. This is logic. You made an auxiliary assumption that is required for your premise. You have no evidence, other than faith, for that auxiliary assumption. That engenders skepticism in most objective observers. You would like to label this as hyper-skepticism, for rhetorical reasons, but in the realm of logic (not faith), it is remarkably mainstream.

    I have no problem with your skepticism, Dave. I myself have acknowledged that my views could very well be wrong. But did you forget you were not the target audience for the book? Did you forget that you read the book only because you were challenged to do so by someone else? Did you forget that you pre-judged the book as bullshit? Did you forget that I did not seek you out, you sought me out? What makes your skepticism hyper-skepticism and disconfirmation bias is your reliance on stereotypes, you insulting tone, your need to posture as if I am dishonest, your attention-seeking behavior, and your inability to understand the position(s) your criticize and condemn.

    I am “stumped” because like you, I don’t have evidence for your assumption. Get some, and then nobody will be able to point out that it is you who “punted”. As I said before, it is YOUR assumption, and YOUR premise. It is not MY responsibility, when I engage you in an argument, to provide evidence for YOUR position. What a remarkable twist that would be!

    You are the one who insists the only way to move this issue forward is to uncover evidence that designs from non-human telic entities might be analogous to human designs. If you insist on steering the investigation in this manner, then it is your burden to spell out what would count as evidence for non-human design, along with how one might plausibly obtain evidence (or was it proof?) that designs from non-human telic entities might be analogous to human designs. If you are unable to provide useful suggestions, then it would seem you are trying to direct the investigation down a blind alley.

    I already indicated where I will be going from here. I will remain unconvinced that this is a useful investigatory approach until it actually produces something useful. If this is truly a way of “investigating and exploring”, it should still produce something useful someday, don’t you agree? If it does not, perhaps that means that I am right about the problem with having an evidence-free assumption as a basis for an investigatory approach. If it does, you’ll be the first to get a retraction from me. I hope we both live that long…

    It depends on what you mean by useful. If you think, that to be useful, my approach must terminate in finding something that evolution cannot explain or finding the designers, then of course I don’t think it will be useful. But my approach points in a different direction – a higher resolution focus on analogy, discontinuity, rationality, and foresight as applied to biotic systems. Utility would be measured not so much in convincing others of design, but in the manner in which these criteria generate greater understanding about the biotic world (regardless of whether the researchers themselves are design theorists or explicitly using the DM). And additionally, I have thus far been very encouraged by the developments that have enhanced the plausibility of the hypothesis of front-loading, as documented on this blog.

    The Design Matrix represents a reasoned approach to these issues that, while not rising to the level of science, is a vast improvement over the state of arguments that commonly and currently exist in the public arena. If the reviewer, or anyone else, has a better non-scientific approach, they have yet to offer it for critical analysis.

    PS – re your statement about SETI:
    And, like ID, SETI has no results yet. But there are important differences between your quest and SETI. One is that you are making a claim about the design of objects right in front of us, cells and organelles and organisms that should be much easier to investigate than aliens in distant galaxies. The lack of results in this instance is much more damning than the lack of SETI results.

    You have completely side-stepped the fact that SETI relies on the same auxiliary hypothesis as the DM. Your complaint about the DM is also a complaint about SETI and it won’t help you to hand-wave this away as a “well-practiced shibboleth” or looking for other points of difference.

    As for the objects in front of us, yes, you are right about them being easier to investigate. And what has science found over the last few decades? Something that increasingly looks like carbon-based nanotechnology. Science talks about life borrowing heavily from the design/teleological lexicon, where we find molecular machines, codes, programs, toolkits, feedback systems, signals, circuits, messages, information, preadaptation, etc. Nothing there, people, move along. Right?

    But there is another difference between SETI and my quest. SETI does not have to contend with a designer-mimic.

    Furthermore, just above, you claim that your investigations are “outside” of science. I don’t think you would find a SETI investigator who would make that claim. This is just another example of your disingenuousness.

    No. You are simply engaged in your confirmation bias here when labeling me as disingenuous. That’s a perception and belief you had before reading the book and coming here and remember from Chapter 6, people tend to see what they expect to see. Thus, you are sensitized to cherry pick anything that might serve to “confirm” this negative preconception.

    As you should know, there are many who don’t think SETI rises to the level of science and I am among them. The question is what you believe? Do you think SETI is science?

    You want and need your acolytes to think that this is science, you use all kinds of sciencey language and science examples, yet, when it is rhetorically convenient to do so, you take this approach outside of science. You can’t have it both ways, at least with people who have the ability to understand that you are trying to do exactly that.

    Nonsense.

    First, the folks here are neither acolytes nor minions. They are simply intelligent people who don’t agree with everything I say, but are interested in this issue and the various positions people take. And they probably have a mind that is more open than yours.

    Second, I am, and have always been, very up front about acknowledging my views are outside of science. I even started this blog with a series of essays on that issue. It has nothing to do with rhetorical convenience – it is a basic premise of my approach.

    Third, science has delivered a tremendous amount of information about life and evolution. It is absurd to insist that we are not allowed to view that information from a teleological perspective, to re-interpret any of it from a teleological perspective, or use that information in a tentative teleological investigation. All that’s required to do so is to simply be up front about this approach not being science and I have been up front about that.

    I’m done here. If you can’t understand that there is a contradiction between claiming that no prior information is needed to proceed , and then proceeding under an assumption of prior information, I’m wasting my time here. Email me when you publish a paper based on this non-scientific yet oh-so-close-to-science approach. You can have the last word to reassure the acolytes that you still win. But reality will still be otherwise.

    No contradiction. Prior information would be objective knowledge about the world and an assumption does not qualify.

    Sounds good. Thank you for letting me have the last word.

  44. Unfortunately, the only thing I’ve learned from this little debate here is that Dave doesn’t know the difference between a premise (in this case, a working and reasonable minimal assumption) and a conclusion (potential knowledge).

    Oh, well …

  45. Dave:
    “Indeed, as you and CJYman point out, the designer does not have to LOOK like a human. But you have to assume that he/she/it has some or all attributes that are human-like in order for the designs to be “familiar” to us. That is information, assumed or otherwise, and information is knowledge.”

    I see the semantic game being played here to win points, so for the sake of argument I’m going to give Dave the benefit of the doubt and say that he is right that we do need *one minimal assumption* which I will label “knowledge” for the purpose of giving Dave the benefit of the doubt.

    However, before I continue, I must remind Dave that what is being debated is not knowledge but the difference between “independent knowledge” and “dependent knowledge” based on the study of a design.

    …thus the absolute minimal assumptions (“knowledge”) are as follows (as I’ve already posted):

    1. Telic entities are different than non-telic entities in some way.

    2. All telic entities will share a commonality that links them all as telic entities. If this were not the case, we couldn’t refer to telic entities vs. non-telic entities.

    3. If humans are telic entities, then they share this commonality (as per #2) with all telic entities.

    … that was extremely simple logic. I am surprised I had to spell it out for you.

    Now we can argue that if a telic entity can be detected based on certain effects (as per SETI) then the effects (designs) of telic entities are the commonality that runs between telic humans and other telic entities.

    Thus, there will be a commonality between human designs and other telic designs. If this were not true, we would never be able to recognize non-human designs and SETI would be doomed to failure. Yet the scientific establishment sees them as scientific last I checked (especially since there are occasionally articles in scientific papers about the work of SETI and I don’t hear of any scientists up in arms about it).

    I must point out though, that whether one wishes to label it “scientific” or not, many people see it — the detection of intelligence based on its designs — as a valid investigation. SETI is a case in point. You have not yet made any significant point to the contrary.

    So, it would make no difference to say that designers are “human-like” or “alien-like” or “god-like” or just plain “intelligent-like” as long as it is understood that the minimal necessary assumption is that they all possess those elements of rationality, foresight, etc. as laid out by Mike in the Design Matrix.

    Now answer *our* question:
    “How is SETI able to distinguish design from non-design and detect previous intelligence as a source if it does not assume some commonality among human design and alien design? How would it recognize design if there were no commonality between all telic beings?”

    You aren’t the only one with questions here. Nor are your questions and assumptions immune to critique.

    In your answer to the above question, you will show if you are merely an inconsistent (selective) hyper-skeptic, who reserves your skepticism for things you don’t personally like. Or are you open to a two way discussion?

    So, in conclusion, I have given Dave the benefit of the doubt and for the sake of argument admited that you were right that we don’t need any independent knowledge about the designer *other* than that he/she/it is indeed a designer by definition possessing telic abilities such as foresight, rationality, etc (as laid out by Mike in the DM).

    Of course, in reality, you should see by now why that is not “independent knowledge” of the designer. The knowledge that the cause of the design does indeed have telic abilities is completely dependent on the design, since we know that designers produce such designs and designers by definition possess telic abilities. Independent knowledge would be any further knowledge about the designer besides that knowledge — that the cause indeed has telic abilities and is thus a designer — gleaned from observing the design itself.

    Continuing on, either way no matter the definitions, you will see that this in no way saves your “review.” Now what do you have to say for yourself and your “review.”

  46. Following links back here I see Dave R., was hooked by one of my baited statements, so I’ll respond.

    Dave R. said,
    “Commenting here is entertaining (”pre-biotic grey goo fountain” is quite an image!), but hardly the focus of my existence.

    Instead of appropriately updating his erroneous review where he misleads possible readers, Dave R. dismisses with snide remark his entire focus in life of materialistic absurdity. Quite “entertaining” indeed.

    He claims rationality in his arguments and accusations against DM author Mike Gene, while insisting he evolved from inorganic life, by an unguided process, with a purposeless existence where intelligence emerges from what…

    Vents? Pond Scum? Meteorites? All… “possible” materialist story telling adventures for Discovery Channel that are quite “entertaining,” but unproven conjecture allowed in textbooks since the 1960s. All possible, yes… proven? No.

    Blaise Pascal’s Law of Biogenesis still holds up after 340 years of experimentation. Miller-Urey experiments were actual failures, not proof of spontaneous life. And organic molecules are oxidized by Oxygen. RNA world is falling apart. Materialist are reduced to crystal worship as possible abiogenesis miracles.

    So who really is being disingenuous?

    The snarky reviewer who omits the informational truth of the book in his review? Or Mike Gene, that covered succinctly the area disputed by the reviewer in agreement with the actual reviewers concerns? LOL…

    An open-minded person gives Dave R. some leniency for mistakes. He may simply forgot that Michael covered the information in the book. Therefore, it was an oversight by Dave R.

    But when pressed, when shown the actual information he refuses to accept he was wrong. And refuses to update the review.

    CJYMan is correct. Dave R. sidetracks the issue with semantics to cover for his erroneous review.

    He then appeals to his own “authority” in project assignments as if position gives him the right to mislead people by omitting information from the book. Information he now disingenuously claims the author does not address. He has been informed fully now. There is no excuse for his behavior.

    Deception is deception… be ye fisherman, arrogant academic or President of America. Dave is talking out both sides of his mouth. He wants to hold Michael to standards he himself does not attain and in fact falls way short… now to the point of outright deception.

    It does not take much “logic” to understand that truth.

  47. BTW, even Richard Dawkins admits a scenario of higher intelligence creating life…

    “…you might find a signature of some sort of designer”
    Richard Dawkins, Expelled, Interviewed by Ben Stein.

    search 1:20 mark.

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