Where is the “I”?

Over at the First Things blog, a standard “ID vs. Evolution” fight broke out involving some major players.  Unfortunately, I arrived late (as usual), but I decided to add my two cents to the kerfuffle anyway:

Over the years I have discovered a primary reason there is so much heated argument about this issue is that people employ numerous personal definitions for the concepts “intelligent design,” “evolution,” and “science.” Thus, I appreciate that Stephen Barr spells out his definition of ID: “The ID claim is that certain biological phenomena lie outside the ordinary course of nature.” If that is ID, then I would disagree. But ID can also mean something more modest, where one simply infers some form of intelligent influence on biological phenomenon, including evolution itself. For example, life itself could have been designed to shape subsequent evolution, thereby imparting some form of direction to evolution. This form of ID would not require evolution to fail or evolutionary mechanisms to be inadequate. On the contrary (!), this form of ID would more likely marvel at the success of evolution and try to develop a deeper understanding of why evolution succeeded.

I also added:

a clever designer could actually recruit and exploit the processes of random mutations and natural selection to carry out some purpose. After all, a common belief shared by both the ID people and their critics is that random mutations and natural selection are antithetical to purpose. I think that common belief is simply an assumption (or reflex response) that has become entrenched for historical and cultural reasons.

And:

design and evolution are not mutually exclusive. There may be ways to make intelligent use of randomness and natural selection such that they can carry out an objective. For example, scientists already make use of randomness when designing new proteins.

In response, someone proposed the following questions to me:

Can you (at least) provide a useful essential hint of how “intelligent use of randomness and natural selection … can carry out an objective”? What would INTELLIGENT mean, in such context?

This person hit on something very important.

Did you ever notice that the Intelligent Design movement has failed to explore and explain the intelligent dimension behind Intelligent Design?  Standard ID arguments effectively ignore this dimension and simply use it to plug in the gaps that supposedly cannot be explained by chance and law.  Given this approach, couldn’t the ID movement easily change its name from Intelligent Design to Sentient Design or Agent Design without any change in any of their arguments?

Anyway, to answer the questions, let my first point out that I think intelligence means the ability to understand and the ability to use this understanding to accomplish an objective/problem solve.  Others would recognize that intelligence was in play in reaching for the objective if they can independently tap into the same understanding to appreciate the rationality and foresight than might be embedded in a design.

When it comes to life’s origin, it would seem reasonable to suppose that another intelligent agent, proposed as the designer of life, would have a good understanding of mutations and natural selection (better than us!).  The intelligent dimension would then come into play when we posit and consider possible methods by which this intelligent designer could make use of mutations and natural selection to reach a goal.  In other words, gently guide the Blind Watchmaker.

Look at it this way.  Say we have Designer A and Designer B.  Designer A looks at mutations, notes they are random with regard to fitness, throws in the towel and declares, “We cannot use this process as part of a design strategy!”  Designer B looks at mutations, notes they are random with regard to fitness, rolls up his sleeves, and figures out ways to exploit this process as part of a design strategy.  Which of these designers is more intelligent?

I vote B, as a truly intelligent designer turns an obstacle into an opportunity.

Advertisements

70 responses to “Where is the “I”?

  1. Ah yes, the Stephen Barr thread. I predict that posting a comment there will become a sign of status:

    “Who was that guy?”

    “Don’t you know? Why he’s posted twice at the Stephen Barr thread.”

    “You don’t say. Could you introduce me?”

    There will be waiting lines, as wannabe commenters will be screened for credentials, and scandalous rumors of screeners taking bribes will surface.
    A generation from now old geezers will be telling their grandchildren about the time they first posted on the Stephen Barr thread, way back when it had under a hundred comments.

    Oh yeah, Mike. Nice comments.

  2. Mike, I notice that MdS wants to know about your successful track record. I hope you reply. Then I can tell my grandchildren about the time I encouraged Mike Gene to ….

  3. “Did you ever notice that the Intelligent Design movement has failed to explore and explain the intelligent dimension behind Intelligent Design?”

    Well, I also notice that ID opposition also spouts off about “non-intelligent” and “mindless” operations in nature, without justifying or defending this viewpoint either. And note that they don’t simply leave the question at ‘Intelligent? Unintelligent? Who’s to say? How can we even test that? Things go as they go, for whatever reason they do.’

    There’s no way to demand a standard for ‘intelligent’ without also demanding a standard for ‘non-intelligent’. Not without blatant hypocrisy anyway. And if ID forces scientists to admit “Look, we can’t identify an ID or a non-ID scenario. Those questions are beyond science – we test something vastly more limited than that”, then ID has been a boon and asset to science and culture, even indirectly.

  4. I thought the thread was fascinating. It is very rare for dialogue of any sort to take place anywhere these days on intelligent design with so many wishing to control the agenda using, for example, selective moderation.

    Hard not to conclude from many of the posts that ID is primarily a concept fuelled by religious motives.

  5. After all, a common belief shared by both the ID people and their critics is that random mutations and natural selection are antithetical to purpose.

    I am sure that most that don’t hold to ID as a useful concept do regard mutations as random in the sense of being unpredictable and but most would dispute that selection is a random process.

  6. Hi Bilbo,

    LOL. Yep, the grandkids will one day hear about The Day I commented on the The Stephen Barr Thread.

  7. Hi Nullasalus,

    Yes, you are correct about the non-teleologists. Consider the recent example of Myers effort to “blow away” teleology by citing preadaptations. His main conclusion: “Even the brains of which we are so proud are byblows of more fundamental functions, like homeostasis, feeding, and locomotion.” Yet there is nothing in his entire essay that justifies the description of the brain as a “byblow.” That’s nothing more than an editorial comment derived solely from his own metaphysical agenda.

    As for demanding a standard for ‘intelligent’ and ‘non-intelligent’, the DM takes steps in that direction. High scores for Analogy, Rationality, and Foresight point towards intelligence, while low scores point toward non-intelligence.

  8. Hi Alan,

    I’m always happy to have a dialog. I’m just bored by criticisms rooted in superficial understanding that are informed by stereotypes driven by agenda.

    You write:

    I am sure that most that don’t hold to ID as a useful concept do regard mutations as random in the sense of being unpredictable and but most would dispute that selection is a random process.

    Agreed. But that doesn’t detract from my point.

  9. Mike,

    I think many IDist would agree with your choice of B as well. Creationist are much less inclined and adhere strictly to variation within Kinds. And some Unguided Evolutionist today have moved towards a Creationist perspective when they speculate on a “forest of trees” instead of one single TOL. Though they’d never admit it, or abhor the idea that they moved closer to a Creationist perspective.

    There seems to be overlapping thoughts in both camps with regards to the evidence, with only a philosophical difference of opinion on how it all started.

    Evolution: guided or unguided.
    To many errors would be to costly to any system. To little “errors” result in rigidity and extinction as well. This applies to both philosophical views.

    So this really is about starting points? And your point that a designer can utilize random mutations or variation is valid.

    What I personally still do not see is evidence of multiple small transitions in a gradual accumulation of information. I think the honest, Unguided Evoutionist these days is admitting this with their own observations, leading to new hypotheses for a forest of life, or plurality of life, not a tree of life starting point. A common shared bond of information, conserved along multiple starting points.

    A designer of life can do either and is not limited by our own philosophical views of what we think today.

  10. I have a question. I was going to address to Alan, but will open up to all for discussion and would like feedback or answers.

    What is a “random mutation” defined as these days?

    A Flamingo has pink feathers due to the food it eats. Is this a “mutation” or merely a variation? Can this “feature” or “mutation” be described the same by both camps? Guided and Unguided evolution?

    Is part of the perception problem, the use of the word “mutation”? A leftover relic from 20th century understanding?

  11. Designer A isn’t a designer at all, having thrown in the towel, given up on design. Designer B is on the right track, but if he “figures out ways to exploit this process as part of a [successful] design strategy” then the variations in the process he is exploiting would not be random wrt fitness.

    What about Designer C? Designer C has a different perspective. Designer C looks at fitness and notes it is random with regard to mutation. (Is that too radical a shift in perspective?) Designer C recognizes a basic fact of design: No design is determined “fit” solely by criteria provided by the designer, but must also fit conditions given independently. (Designer A is clueless in that respect, and Designer B seems to think he can change that fact. He can’t.)

    From the perspective of Designer C there is uncertainty wrt the evaluation of the fitness of the design. From his perspective it’s the evaluations (tests of fitness) that are “random,” regardless of any randomness or lack thereof in his design.
    Now, how can Designer C, similarly to Designer B, exploit that fact as part of a successful design strategy?

    I leave it as an exercise in your own imagination. LOL

    Sorry, didn’t mean to get all “designer-centric” on ya, Mike Gene.

  12. @ DATCG

    Here is Allen MacNeill’s list of sources of variation. Random is generally taken to mean unpredictable WRT mutations.

    I get the impression that neither Mike Gene nor Mike Behe disagree radically ( or perhaps at all) with common descent and the process of natural selection. Whether randomly generated variation in the gene pool is sufficient to provide the material for selection seems to be the point of issue.

    I have pointed out before the fallacy that hitting on just the right DNA sequence presupposes that the bulk of sequences and thus the bulk of amino acid sequences do not have function. There are nine hundred billion possible peptides of nine residue length. Nobody has any idea what proportion of these possible molecules has biological activity.

  13. I have had discussions with those who vehemently claim that ID is a creationist invention to lure others to creationist doctorines. Is there any truth behind this?

  14. “I have had discussions with those who vehemently claim that ID is a creationist invention to lure others to creationist doctorines. Is there any truth behind this?”

    Yes.

    http://ncse.com/creationism/legal/cdesign-proponentsists

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wedge_strategy

  15. Hi Rock, we have bacteria that are able to adapt to a very wide range of environments, thanks largely to mechanisms that they may have had in their original design. If so, then it looks like Designer C solved your problem.

    Hi Rich, do you think Mike Gene is trying to “lure” people to creationist doctrines?

  16. Alan, thanks I’m aware of Allen’s list.

    What covers the Flamingo coloration by food?

  17. Or, we can recognize the fact that Unguided Evolution in its modern form today – Modern Synthesis is in great trouble. Recognized by those who are ardent supporters of evolution…

    See following link discussing Koonin’s paper…
    http://www.arn.org/blogs/index.php/literature/2009/11/18/not_to_mince_words_the_modern_synthesis

    Also, Mike has covered Koonin’s research as well.

  18. Hi Rock,

    Good to hear from ya.

    Concerning Design C, you seem to be saying that no designer can be completely sure that his/her design will succeed. That is, since human-like designers are not omniscient, they cannot fully anticipate all the contingencies that might impact on their implemented design. Am I correct?

    And no need to worry, as you did not get all ‘designer-centric’ on me. If you were taking a designer-centric position, you would dismiss designers A, B, and C as fantasies and demand that we first find and characterize the designer before beginning to contemplate design.

  19. Hi Alan,

    I get the impression that neither Mike Gene nor Mike Behe disagree radically ( or perhaps at all) with common descent and the process of natural selection.

    So you are finally starting to get that impression, eh?

    Whether randomly generated variation in the gene pool is sufficient to provide the material for selection seems to be the point of issue.

    Not for me. I assume that randomly generated variation in the gene pool is sufficient to provide the material for selection. The point of issue, for me, has always been the non-teleological vs. teleological perspective. Y’know – Rabbit? Duck?

    I have pointed out before the fallacy that hitting on just the right DNA sequence presupposes that the bulk of sequences and thus the bulk of amino acid sequences do not have function. There are nine hundred billion possible peptides of nine residue length. Nobody has any idea what proportion of these possible molecules has biological activity.

    I agree with this point. So instead of building on what we don’t know, let’s build on what we do know. And one thing we do know is that evolution doesn’t work by searching through “nine hundred billion possible peptides of nine residue length.” On the contrary, the most common mechanism of finding new functions is facilitated by a sophisticated process known as gene duplication. It is a very clever strategy.

  20. Mike: “Concerning Design C, you seem to be saying that no designer can be completely sure that his/her design will succeed. That is, since human-like designers are not omniscient, they cannot fully anticipate all the contingencies that might impact on their implemented design. Am I correct?

    That’s how I understood his comments.

    Alan: : “Whether randomly generated variation in the gene pool is sufficient to provide the material for selection seems to be the point of issue.

    This would be Behe’s point of issue, not Mike Gene’s.

  21. MG:

    Look at it this way. Say we have Designer A and Designer B. Designer A looks at mutations, notes they are random with regard to fitness, throws in the towel and declares, “We cannot use this process as part of a design strategy!” Designer B looks at mutations, notes they are random with regard to fitness, rolls up his sleeves, and figures out ways to exploit this process as part of a design strategy. Which of these designers is more intelligent?

    I vote B, as a truly intelligent designer turns an obstacle into an opportunity.

    Designer B must understand the value of random mutations in a targeted search.

  22. I like what Mike Gene wrote about designers imbuing aspects of their own nature, such as “rationality” and “foresight,” into their designs.

    But what I wanted to do was shift the perspective to rationality and foresight from “imbued” to purposefully designed.

    Specifically, purposefully designed means to the end of solving Designer C’s problem. (Which also solves Designer B’s problem.)

    The means being an end in itself. Not?

  23. “Hi Rich, do you think Mike Gene is trying to “lure” people to creationist doctrines?”

    No, I don’t. He seems a fairly straight shooter in that regard. But without wanting to diminish his contribution, he’s not the vanguard of ID.

  24. Rock,

    Ouch. Now you are making my brain hurt.

  25. What covers the Flamingo coloration by food?

    I am sure the process by which flamingos store pigments in their skin is under selective pressure. This is self-evident from the simple fact that different species of flamingo show differences in level and distribution of pigmentation. If you are asking “why” rather than “how”, speculating wildly, I suggest that there is a strong element of sexual selection by mate choice. I am sure judicious use of Google Scholar will lead you to some primary research.

  26. . And one thing we do know is that evolution doesn’t work by searching through “nine hundred billion possible peptides of nine residue length.”

    Selection takes what turns up and tests it against the current standard. There is no search; I agree.

    Not for me. I assume that randomly generated variation in the gene pool is sufficient to provide the material for selection.

    So where does “front loading” come in?

    The point of issue, for me, has always been the non-teleological vs. teleological perspective.

    I take this to mean that something or nothing directs evolutionary processes. For me this is not a scientific issue. Scientific endeavour assumes no teleology and proceeds accordingly Gould’s NOMA, philosophy and apologetics take care of teleological issues.

    Y’know – Rabbit? Duck?

    I suspect you are so familiar with your own analogy that you assume others are being deliberately obtuse when they say they don’t get it. I honestly don’t make sense of this.

  27. Bilbo:

    This would be Behe’s point of issue, not Mike Gene’s.

    Maybe you could point out, then, where teleology comes in to Mike’s theory. Maybe, you could take me in baby steps through the rabbit/duck analogy?

  28. Hi Alan,

    You write,

    So where does “front loading” come in?

    I’ve answered this many times and in many places. I suppose I can do so again, but something caught my eye.

    You seem perplexed by the fact that I do assume that randomly generated variation in the gene pool is sufficient to provide the material for selection. It’s as if you think front-loading would only come in if randomly generated variation in the gene pool was insufficient to provide the material for selection. So I am wondering. Do you think front-loading only comes in if we first identify a gap?

    I take this to mean that something or nothing directs evolutionary processes. For me this is not a scientific issue.

    Evolution is either a process that “just happens” or it has, in some way, been guided. And yes, I agree this is not a scientific issue.

    Scientific endeavour assumes no teleology and proceeds accordingly.

    Exactly. Science does not find non-teleology. It assumes it as part of being science. Thus, if life was designed and evolution was indeed front-loaded, science could not determine this. This is why it is irrational to insist that science itself judge the dispute between teleology and non-teleology. If we want to address those issues, we must all, teleologists and non-teleologists, step outside of science.

    Science works by delivering the best possible non-teleological interpretation of the data it finds. Let’s let science be science. But this does not mean it is impossible to take the very same data and re-interpret it, outside of science, from a teleological perspective. If that is done, it simply means the reinterpretation is not science. It doesn’t mean the reinterpretation is wrong or flawed. Heck, the reinterpretation could even be closer to the truth.

    Gould’s NOMA, philosophy and apologetics take care of teleological issues.

    Yes, we can still investigate, with critical thinking skills in hand, outside of science.

    I suspect you are so familiar with your own analogy that you assume others are being deliberately obtuse when they say they don’t get it. I honestly don’t make sense of this.

    No, I don’t assume anyone is being deliberately obtuse when they say they don’t get it. On the contrary, I have learned, from experience, that most critics are not genuinely interested in my views. To “get” something, you need to be intellectually curious enough about that thing to seek it out and grasp what is being said. Learning is active, not passive. And I suspect that level of curiosity does not exist in you. That’s okay with me, but I honestly don’t have the desire to spoon-feed, as I would rather use the little time I have to explore introns.

    Recall Alan, that earlier you wanted me to post a summary of the Rabbit/Duck. That was after I posted this:

    https://designmatrix.wordpress.com/2009/09/14/the-central-metaphor/

  29. Yeh, I give myself a headache, too.

    I apologize for not even attempting to be topical, but I was interested in what you thought about the recent papers Dembski & Marks had published in the IEEE.

    Did they argue, in so many words (and all those doodles mathematicians like to draw) that biological evolution would only work if it was facilitated by design?

  30. …I have learned, from experience, that most critics are not genuinely interested in my views.

    Remember Einstein’s remark, on hearing that the Nazis had issued a pamphlet entitled 100 Authors against Einstein. “”Why 100 authors? If I were wrong, then one would have been enough!” I am having trouble seeing why you are regarded as allied to the”Intelligent Design” movement. That said, I am less clear about what you propose that differs from or adds to current scientific consensus on evolution. If you accept common descent with modification, random mutation (including gene duplication) and selection and also put teleology outside scientific scrutiny, I wonder “where’s the beef”?

    I reread your post on Duck/Rabbit. Is your point that perception is not infallible or evidence can be interpreted differently by different investigators? If so, fine, but it seems a trivial point; one that the scientific method and
    repeatability are intended to avoid. If there’s more to it, maybe Bilbo will explain.

  31. Do you think front-loading only comes in if we first identify a gap?

    Briefly, I think “front loading” falls by Occam’s razor. If the environment does the designing, it follows that organisms fit their niche. How does front loading achieve this observed fact?

  32. Rich: “…he’s [Mike Gene] not the vanguard of ID.

    I agree, though I think he’s doing the best research.

    Alan: “Maybe you could point out, then, where teleology comes in to Mike’s theory.

    Mike’s theory is (or at least I thought it was until he talked about the RNA world a little while ago), that the first living cells were designed and front-loaded with content and processes that would take advantage of natural evolutionary processes (the Blind Watchmaker), to make metazoan life a more probable outcome, and perhaps even make intelligent life a more probable outcome.

    After his comments on the RNA world, I think he would be willing to consider the RNA world as designed to take advantage of evolutionary processes.

  33. Mike, could you change “content and processes” to “content and mechanisms”?

  34. If the environment does the designing, it follows that organisms fit their niche.

    There isn’t any evidence that demonstrates the environment does any designing.

    And that is the issue.

  35. Alan: “Briefly, I think “front loading” falls by Occam’s razor. If the environment does the designing, it follows that organisms fit their niche. How does front loading achieve this observed fact?

    Mike will probably answser this question better than I do, but I will give it a shot.

    First, we will find that what probably existed in the original life forms look like they were rationally designed for survival, reproduction, and adaptation. We won’t find stupid design.

    Second, if the front-loading hypothesis is correct, then we will find that many components essential to metazoan life probably existed in original life. The more components we find, the more it strengthens the hypothesis.

    Third, the ancient components will be optimal for the roles they play in metazoan life.

    Fourth, if there are certain mechanisms needed to facilitate the evolution that resulted in metazoan life, then we will find that they also probably existed in original life.

  36. Hi Alan,

    Briefly, I think “front loading” falls by Occam’s razor.

    In other words, you need a gap. I have long noted that ID critics are proponents of the god-of-the-gaps approach, which is ironic, given that the they ridicule the ID proponents for using…..the god-of-the-gaps approach. Go figure.

    I am having trouble seeing why you are regarded as allied to the”Intelligent Design” movement.

    What makes you think that?

    That said, I am less clear about what you propose that differs from or adds to current scientific consensus on evolution.

    What’s added is a different perspective that places different emphasis on various data. Remember that current scientific consensus on evolution will necessarily be non-teleological, for as you accurately noted above, “Scientific endeavour assumes no teleology and proceeds accordingly.”

    If you accept common descent with modification, random mutation (including gene duplication) and selection and also put teleology outside scientific scrutiny, I wonder “where’s the beef”?

    Read the original essay above – most people, on both sides, assume that once we accept common descent with modification, random mutation (including gene duplication) and selection, a non-teleological perspective is supposed to follow. But that is superficial thinking.

    Also, teleology is “put outside scientific scrutiny” as a consequence of the necessity of non-teleological assumptions in science. In other words, without some independent evidence of the designers, science is incapable of assessing teleology.

    I reread your post on Duck/Rabbit. Is your point that perception is not infallible or evidence can be interpreted differently by different investigators? If so, fine, but it seems a trivial point; one that the scientific method and repeatability are intended to avoid.

    Ah, but the scientific method and repeatability won’t fulfill that intent on this question. The job of science is to flesh out the Duck. Science cannot step back and determine whether or not there is also a Rabbit.

    The Duck/Rabbit doesn’t make much sense to you (or seems trivial) because your mind only sees the Duck. That’s why you think playing the ‘scientific’ card is such a powerful move. For you, there is no ambiguity, only crystal clarity. Science has shown you the truth and you are enlightened. You see it all so clearly. Of course, the funny thing about ambiguous figures is that when people are first shown them, their mind usually finds one image, but not the other. Once one image has been identified, the “problem” is solved and the mind is ready to move on. To get that mind to see the other picture, that mind must be told there is another image, and often must be verbally guided.

    So again, you see the Duck and only the Duck. That’s why you need a gap. You need me to effectively erase its bill before your mind will consider the possibility that it is a different image. But since I don’t deny the image of the Duck, you are befuddled by my existence.

    Like you, I see the Duck, but unlike you, I can also see the Rabbit. What’s more, I have a high tolerance for ambiguity. It’s just part of my nature. And what I see is that as science has fleshed out a more detailed image of the Duck, the Rabbit likewise becomes more clear.

  37. Hi Rock,

    I have not read the papers by Dembski and Marks, so I can’t really comment on them. Do you think they argued that biological evolution would only work if it was facilitated by design?

  38. Yes.

    Trying to be topical now, and “designer-centric,” I wouldn’t consider a designer all that “intelligent” if he failed to recognize that randomness is a virtually limitless resource for design and if he was incapable of effectively tapping this resource for his own purposes.

  39. Thanks Bilbo and Mike for responses. I think you both deserve detailed replies but I have to make an unscheduled trip to UK (my mother is ill) so bear with me a few days.

  40. Hi Alan,

    No problem, as it’s only a blog. Take care of the important things in life first. I hope you mother gets well. And you be well likewise.

  41. Hi Rock,

    I fully agree with you. In fact, I’m going to go post an excerpt from my book about this now.

  42. I don’t even fully agree with myself. Mike Gene. LOL

    I should also note that introducing random variations into a design is a common test of the robustness of the system.

    Obviously, life forms are quite robust in that respect—having survived for billions of years of sdometimes quite literally earth-shaking random variations in the conditions of existence.

  43. Haha. Okay, I partially agree with ya. As for the places where I disagree, I can’t quite put my finger on it. Yet. But y’better watch out, as some of my thinking on this has been inspired by……..you. You didn’t waste all your time at ARN.

  44. See Uncle Rock,

    If your cheap lawyers had only bought a copy of Mike’s book, you could be sitting on half the royalties, probably worth millions by now.

    Alan, I hope your mother gets well.

  45. My lawyers ain’t cheap, but they are vicious. They say I have no legal claim to any of Mike Gene’s royalties.

    They say that some evolutionary game theorists may have a legal claim against us though–since we obviously stole our ideas from them.

    I explained to them that stealing other people’s ideas is standard practice in science. Darwin did it and never got sued, so you can stop drooling–You didn’t smell blood in the water.

    Vicious SOB’s. See how easily they turn!

  46. Rock: “Vicious SOB’s. See how easily they turn!

    If you get sued by some evolutionary game theorists, you never heard of me. Got that?

  47. Bilbo:

    Alan, I hope your mother gets well.

    Thanks, Bilbo, though there is no ultimate cure against growing old! I was much reassured by my visit.

  48. Bilbo:

    First, we will find that what probably existed in the original life forms look like they were rationally designed for survival, reproduction, and adaptation. We won’t find stupid design.

    If we are talking dawn of life, I agree (if this is your point) that science has hardly scratched the surface of coming up with a detailed plausible hypothesis for abiogenesis.

    Second, if the front-loading hypothesis is correct, then we will find that many components essential to metazoan life probably existed in original life. The more components we find, the more it strengthens the hypothesis.

    Well, there is no hypothesis that comes anywhere near explaining abiogenesis, front-loaded or otherwise.

    Third, the ancient components will be optimal for the roles they play in metazoan life.

    This is also predicted by the theory of natural selection.

    Fourth, if there are certain mechanisms needed to facilitate the evolution that resulted in metazoan life, then we will find that they also probably existed in original life.

    I found a PDF of a couple of papers on the evolution of multicellularity. Quite a bit to digest!

  49. Mike:

    No problem, as it’s only a blog. Take care of the important things in life first. I hope you mother gets well. And you be well likewise.

    Thanks, Mike.

    I’ll try to avoid ending up like this!

  50. Oops forgot to close tag.

  51. Mike:

    In other words, you need a gap. I have long noted that ID critics are proponents of the god-of-the-gaps approach, which is ironic, given that the they ridicule the ID proponents for using…..the god-of-the-gaps approach. Go figure.

    Not sure why you think I’m looking for a gap, particularly. I certainly acknowledge there are many gaps in our knowledge about precise evolutionary pathways. I mean by Occam’s razor that ToE is a more parsimonious explanation than an alternative such as front loading, because natural selection predicts design by the environment resulting in matching organism to niche. FLE, unless I misunderstand, does not explain the lockstep of organism and niche. This is certainly the weakness of John Davison’s semimeotic hypothesis.
    AF:

    I am having trouble seeing why you are regarded as allied to the “Intelligent Design” movement.

    Mike:

    What makes you think that?

    Probably the fact that many posters friendly to your ideas also post at UD.
    Mike:

    Read the original essay above

    OK I vote designer B, too, because I think natural selection does “exploit this process as part of a design strategy”!
    Mike:

    – most people, on both sides, assume that once we accept common descent with modification, random mutation (including gene duplication) and selection, a non-teleological perspective is supposed to follow. But that is superficial thinking. Also, teleology is “put outside scientific scrutiny” as a consequence of the necessity of non-teleological assumptions in science. In other words, without some independent evidence of the designers, science is incapable of assessing teleology.

    This is why I am still puzzled over your taking exception to my claim that scientific study is limited to the real world. Nose-blowing is capable of being scientifically studied. 🙂 I agree that evidence of designers (other than the environment – which of course could have been designed to produce the designs we see. Why couldn’t God have done it this way? Don’t theists such as Ken Miller consider the Big Bang and the resultant planet Earth and its lifeforms as God’s creation?)
    Mike:

    The Duck/Rabbit doesn’t make much sense to you (or seems trivial) because your mind only sees the Duck. That’s why you think playing the ‘scientific’ card is such a powerful move. For you, there is no ambiguity, only crystal clarity. Science has shown you the truth and you are enlightened. You see it all so clearly. Of course, the funny thing about ambiguous figures is that when people are first shown them, their mind usually finds one image, but not the other. Once one image has been identified, the “problem” is solved and the mind is ready to move on. To get that mind to see the other picture, that mind must be told there is another image, and often must be verbally guided.

    You mischaracterize me. I don’t think science has all the answers. I do think the scientific approach has been extremely successful within the limits of reality. The ambiguous image is interesting at the level of questioning how the human brain functions and how it developed through evolution (The Mating Mind by Geoffrey Miller has an interesting take on the subject). But why only a duck or a rabbit? Why the dichotomy? IDers regularly argue ToE is wrong about X so ID wins without having to have any sort of explanatory power scientifically.

  52. Hi Alan,

    Not sure why you think I’m looking for a gap, particularly.

    Because you never answered my question, “Do you think front-loading only comes in if we first identify a gap?” A yes or no would have helped. Instead, you sought to reframe it about parsimony. Well, I interpret that to mean that unless we find something that the ToE cannot explain (a Gap), it is more parsimonious to go with the non-telological perspective of the ToE.

    As far as parsimony goes, it’s trickier than it looks and such judgments depend on the information that is laid on the table. For example, the ToE did not predict evolution would be so indebted to deep homology. On the contrary, this was a surprise to mainstream scientists relying on the ToE. But front-loading does predict that deep homology would be common. Or if you prefer, take the topic I am currently exploring – introns. According to conventional thinking, introns are relics from the RNA world, yet I suggest that introns exist to facilitate the emergence of complex, metazoan life. I’m not sure parsimony helps anyone get to the bottom of this, as it’s most about degrees of emphasis.

    FLE incorporates natural selection and does not deny its ability to mimic a designer and craft adaptations. The question is not whether natural selection is true; the question is whether natural selection can be employed as part of an objective.

    Probably the fact that many posters friendly to your ideas also post at UD.

    Who? If they are so friendly to my ideas, why don’t they comment here?

    Nevertheless, your logic is faulty. You argue that I am “allied” with the IDM and this is because many posters (?) friendly to my ideas also post at UD. Well, there are many animal rights terrorists who are friendly with Richard Dawkins ideas. Does that mean Dawkins is allied with the animal rights terrorists?

    This is why I am still puzzled over your taking exception to my claim that scientific study is limited to the real world.

    I have never taken exception with that point. I disagree with the notion that if something is part of the real world, then it follows that science can study it. Science can only study a subset of the real world, as it is limited by its instruments, its conceptions, and its rules. Speaking of rules, if evolution was teleological, it would be against the rules of science to explore this hypothesis. Thus, any investigation guided by teleology must occur outside of science.

    But why only a duck or a rabbit? Why the dichotomy?

    If you see a third image, by all means, spell it out. Although, teleology vs. non-teleology would seem to exhaust the possibilities to me. Either there is purpose or there is not.

    IDers regularly argue ToE is wrong about X so ID wins without having to have any sort of explanatory power scientifically.

    That’s not my approach.

  53. Bilbo: First, we will find that what probably existed in the original life forms look like they were rationally designed for survival, reproduction, and adaptation. We won’t find stupid design.

    Alan: If we are talking dawn of life, I agree (if this is your point) that science has hardly scratched the surface of coming up with a detailed plausible hypothesis for abiogenesis.

    But I was making a prediction for FLE: The first cells will look like they were rationally designed. Abiogenesis doesn’t predict that.

    Bilbo: Second, if the front-loading hypothesis is correct, then we will find that many components essential to metazoan life probably existed in original life. The more components we find, the more it strengthens the hypothesis.

    Alan: Well, there is no hypothesis that comes anywhere near explaining abiogenesis, front-loaded or otherwise.

    Again, FLE makes a prediction: components essential to metazoan life would be part of the original design. Abiogenesis makes no such prediction.

    Bilbo: Third, the ancient components will be optimal for the roles they play in metazoan life.

    Alan: This is also predicted by the theory of natural selection.

    No, natural selection just uses whatever is available, regardless of its optimality.

    Bilbo: Fourth, if there are certain mechanisms needed to facilitate the evolution that resulted in metazoan life, then we will find that they also probably existed in original life.

    Alan: I found a PDF of a couple of papers on the evolution of multicellularity. Quite a bit to digest!

    Let me know if you find anything relevant.

  54. For example, the ToE did not predict evolution would be so indebted to deep homology. On the contrary, this was a surprise to mainstream scientists relying on the ToE.

    Well, I am not sure if anyone predicted the (almost complete) universality of the genetic code beforehand, but a stronger indicator of common ancestry is hard to imagine! Evidence for deep homology certainly did not create any problem for the theory of evolution.

    But front-loading does predict that deep homology would be common.

    Beforehand? I would be mightily impressed to read this prediction. Where might I find it?

  55. Nevertheless, your logic is faulty. You argue that I am “allied” with the IDM and this is because many posters (?) friendly to my ideas also post at UD.

    Posters=people who comment. I just see a few familiar names. I also am aware that you are not on good terms with Bill Dembski. I concede any point on this that you think I was making; it hardly matters.

  56. Ah, I was going to respond to your comment about the dichotomy of non-teleology versus teleology and I can’t see it now. Perhaps you thought my response (which would have been on the lines of “what about the unknown option?”) was obvious.

  57. Bilbo:

    But I was making a prediction for FLE: The first cells will look like they were rationally designed. Abiogenesis doesn’t predict that.

    There are various hypotheses attempting to explain abiogenesis. As it happens, I doubt this problem will be cracked any time soon, as the postulated events took place so long ago no evidence remains. Evidence elsewhere in the universe would dramatically change the perspective. How would you spot a rationally designed cell bearing in mind that natural selection is a design process producing cells that appear suitable for their particular niche. You must have seen Zach’s comments at TT on Lenski

  58. Again, FLE makes a prediction: components essential to metazoan life would be part of the original design. Abiogenesis makes no such prediction.

    Again, there is no satisfactory hypothesis for abiogenesis. I am not sure that your statement is much more than wishful thinking. What does “part of the original design” mean? Are you suggesting that the designer created cells at the time that evidence suggests unicellular life first appeared equipped with genomic information ready for later requirements? If, like Mike, you don’t claim this as a scientific hypothesis, but just a nice idea, then fine.

  59. Oops, forgot to close blockquote tag. Last paragraph is me.

  60. Bilbo:

    No, natural selection just uses whatever is available, regardless of its optimality.

    Natural selection is a process whereby variation in a population of organisms is sifted by the environment and may produce optimal solutions with available material. We don’t know what better solutions may have been possible had those variations popped up in the gene pool. Currently, we have no way of estimating the functionality of a new genetic sequence except by observing the resultant phenotype. (Sorry for repetition, Mike!) Consider the hormone, oxytocin> Nine amino acid residues mean there are nine^20 -1 other possible molecules of the same length. Nobody has any idea of the potential functionality of these other molecules. Ditto for any other sequence length.

  61. Hi Alan,

    Well, I am not sure if anyone predicted the (almost complete) universality of the genetic code beforehand, but a stronger indicator of common ancestry is hard to imagine! Evidence for deep homology certainly did not create any problem for the theory of evolution.

    There’s the need for the gap – “Evidence for deep homology certainly did not create any problem for the theory of evolution.” But I keep telling ya that front-loading is not about looking for something that creates a problem for the theory of evolution. It goes deeper than this. Nothing on this blog, or my book, is about creating “a problem for the theory of evolution.” That would be the negative, god-of-the-gaps approach, and I do not employ that. This blog, and my book, is about viewing the theory of evolution from a teleological perspective. That’s a positive approach that leads to new, and testable, ideas. What’s more, it means the conventional, non-teleological, perspective is unnecessary. If people want to view evolution from a non-teleological prism, fine, that is their choice. But there is no compelling reason to insist we all look through the same prism, unless we want to confer the ‘science’ label upon our inquiry (thems the rules).

    Beforehand? I would be mightily impressed to read this prediction. Where might I find it?

    First, I’m using the word ‘predict’ because you brought it up as part of your point about parsimony – “natural selection predicts design by the environment resulting in matching organism to niche.” I’m showing you that using the Razor is more complicated than you state.

    Second, I’m not talking about psychic predictions. These are predictions that follow from the logic of the hypothesis. You seem to recognize this with your comment about universality. Even if no one predicted it “beforehand,” it remains the case that “a stronger indicator of common ancestry is hard to imagine!” Why? Because it follows from the logic of common ancestry. Well, the same point holds with front-loading and deep homology.

    Third, did Darwin really predict “design by the environment resulting in matching organism to niche?” It would be one thing if he thought this up beforehand and then explored the world to find his prediction correct. But as it was, he explored the world first and then, as a consequence of seeing all the adaptations in different locations, he came up with a logical explanation that fit the data.

    Ah, I was going to respond to your comment about the dichotomy of non-teleology versus teleology and I can’t see it now. Perhaps you thought my response (which would have been on the lines of “what about the unknown option?”) was obvious.

    All your posts have come through.

    If your third option is the unknown, the Rabbit/Duck already incorporate that. That’s why it is an ambiguous figure. The Rabbit is the teleological perspective; the Duck is the non-teleological perspective; the perspective of the unknown is then, “Hey, it could be either one!” Thus, those who see only the Duck or Rabbit view the world in one-dimension. Those of us who see the Rabbit/Duck see in three-dimensions. 🙂

  62. Mike:

    All your posts have come through.

    I know! In fact I should have said thanks for dropping pre-moderation. It was the last part of your comment that wasn’t there. Strangely it is now! It might be due to the fact that I was fixing a problem on a friend’s computer and my response was posted from there.

  63. Mike:

    If you see a third image, by all means, spell it out. Although, teleology vs. non-teleology would seem to exhaust the possibilities to me. Either there is purpose or there is not.

    It all depends on what you mean by purpose! If you mean there is an ultimate purposeful goal set for the known universe, for example, I would wonder how would one know and who could have set it and why.

    I accept that one can believe in an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent being that transcends the limits of the real universe and that their creation and design resulted in how things are. It’s a non-disprovable belief. I happen to think human beings have a variable tendency to believe such things. Maybe that idea is testable.

    We certainly, as human beings are limited by our powers of perception and comprehension, and likely limited to by only existing in a four dimensional spacetime continuum. What exists beyond our powers of perception and comprehension is open for speculation.

    But science justs gets on with what it can do, regardless.

  64. <blockquote<Thus, those who see only the Duck or Rabbit view the world in one-dimension. Those of us who see the Rabbit/Duck see in three-dimensions.I happened to see a researcher on vision arguing recently that we see in only two dimensions. The retina is effectively only recording a flat image and the brain reinvents depth and perspective, not invariably correctly!

  65. Arrgh!

    Obvious tag error! With the small comment window and no preview or edit, I do find it very easy to mess up.

  66. Hi Alan,

    “It all depends on what you mean by purpose! If you mean there is an ultimate purposeful goal set for the known universe, for example, I would wonder how would one know and who could have set it and why.”

    I’m more interested in exploring the possibility that evolution could be a design strategy for reaching an objective.

    “But science justs gets on with what it can do, regardless.”

    Agreed. Like I said, let science be science. I just happen to also realize that if life and/or evolution was designed, science would not be able to detect this as it must, in order to remain science, tell a non-teleological story.

  67. Well let’s part on a note of agreement (at least to agree to disagree) though I hope you don’t mind if I pop in occasionally as the mood and opportunity arise.

    Regards
    Alan

  68. That’s fine with me, Alan.

  69. Sorry, Alan, I just saw your replies.

    How would you spot a rationally designed cell bearing in mind that natural selection is a design process producing cells that appear suitable for their particular niche.

    The same way we spot rational design in other things: the quality of the material and technology employed.

    Are you suggesting that the designer created cells at the time that evidence suggests unicellular life first appeared equipped with genomic information ready for later requirements?

    If by “genomic information” you mean information that wasn’t being used, then I would say no. If by information you mean information that was being used, but would have an essential use for multicellular life, then yes, that is my prediction.

    Natural selection is a process whereby variation in a population of organisms is sifted by the environment and may produce optimal solutions with available material.

    Right. It may or it may not.

    We don’t know what better solutions may have been possible had those variations popped up in the gene pool.

    My prediction is that we won’t find better solutions.

  70. Pingback: Why the Rule? «

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s