Front-loading and preadaptations

Cooption, the process by which traits switch function, is something we predict to be important from the hypothesis of front-loading evolution. The Design Matrix lays out a step-by-step case for the logic of front-loading that leads to the realization that cooption is entailed by front-loading. Functional shifts are the very strategy that would work in an attempt to design the future through the present. This is a subtle, but important, point to grasp. Cooption is not some add-on to the front-loading perspective. Cooption is a prediction given that front-loading would not work without it.

Yet there is a simpler way to help people understand that cooption is, at the very least, a process that fits very comfortably within a teleological framework. It is the simple fact that cooption is tightly linked to preadaptation. Stephen Jay Gould sought to replace the word ‘preadaptation’ with the word ‘exaptation,’ where an exaptation is a character that retains its ancestral form while taking on a new function. And the process by which the trait switches function is called cooption.

The concept of preadaptation has been recognized by many to possess distinct teleological connotations, which is why non-teleologists have sought to replace it. This point is easily established:

Mechanism aside, there is a glaring problem with the word “preadaptation” itself. It is teleological; that is, it implies there is a direction or purpose to evolution (to make the trait adaptive), when in fact it is impossible to predict with any degree of accuracy the future of a biological character based on its current state. Evolution does not solve future problems. – McLennan, D. The Concept of Co-option: Why Evolution Often Looks Miraculous Evo Edu Outreach 1:247–258.

exaptation v. (formerly preadaptation) adoption of a character that had one use in an ancestral form into a new, different use in a descendant form.

http://www.dinosauria.com/dml/diction.htm

 

Some biologists dislike the term ‘preadaptation’ as it could imply an intentional plan, which is contrary to the nature of evolution. Some alternative terms that have been suggested include “co-option” and exaptation.

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

 

pre-adaptation Adaptation evolved in one adaptive zone which, quite by chance, proves especially advantageous in an adjacent zone and so allows the organism to radiate into it. No selection for a future environment is implied. The concept is very similar to exaptation, but is often thought to have teleological implications.

http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O8-preadaptation.html

 

preadaptation implies teleology

http://www.jstor.org/pss/186450

 

Gould and Vrba (1982) offered a terminological scheme through which they asserted that one can clarify differences between adaptations due to natural selection for their current role, and various aspects of such features that were not built by selection for their current role, but became useful for it after their inception. These authors argued that this was partly an effort to replace “preadaptation”, a concept they considered teleological.

http://palaeo-electronica.org/2000_2/darwin/biolog.htm

 

So, as you can see, preadaptation is a concept with teleological implications. To see why it is that front-loading predicts cooption, simply consider front-loading as a state where the original cells were endowed with a set of preadaptations that would channel and guide subsequent evolution.

The hypothesis of front-loading evolution would thus predict that significant transitions in evolution would depend on preadaptation.

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32 responses to “Front-loading and preadaptations

  1. I doubt very much that the evolutionary biologists who used the word “preadaptation” before Gould invented “exaptation” *meant* to imply anything teleological. It was just somewhat sloppy terminology (and good rhetoric on Gould’s part to promote his new term to by pointing out this weakness in the old term). So in the sense of “what people meant by the term”, your use of “preadaptation” is a misuse or novel redefinition of “preadaptation.”

  2. I can’t read the mind of every biologist who has used or does use the word ‘preadaptation.’ But that’s not important, as I am not somehow claiming those who have or do use the word advocate for teleology. The important point is simply that the word does indeed carry a teleological connotation, which is precisely why Gould and others have championed its abandonment. Me? I have no reason to abandon it because it carries a teleological connotation. After all, the word ‘preadaptation’ nicely communicates the essence of front-loading.

    So it is good that scientists are abandoning the word, as it will help to communicate the difference between the hypothesis I raise and that of the non-teleologists. Duck. Rabbit.

  3. If the concept of “pre-adaptation” has “distinct teleological connotations,” then what about its root, adaptation?

    About eighty years ago, Ronald Fisher criticized his peers for neglecting the subject of adaptation, because the very notion had teleological connotations for them.

    Who’da thunk it! An “anti-teleological” stance is a science-stopper!

    Biologists have never presented a consistent or even logically coherent argument against “teleology.”

    The “anti-teleological” stance, apparently dictated by philosophers who don’t know the difference between philosophizin’ and bowdlerizin’, has been an institutional embarrassment for biologists ever since Darwin.

    (Why did Darwin have to be such a damned teleologist!)

  4. Mike: “…consider front-loading as a state where the original cells were endowed with a set of preadaptations that would channel and guide subsequent evolution. ”

    Okay. That sounds like a good way to describe your hypothesis to people.

  5. Darwin was indeed the old teleologist. No Platonic one though, more in line with Aristotle’s formal and functional teleology.
    Read the exchanges between Lennox and Ghiselin as a start.
    http://www.springerlink.com/content/t37v15681w76p151/
    http://www.springerlink.com/content/l1324662n645244w/
    http://www.springerlink.com/content/pt2jk1t512116222/

    Also read “Functions: new essays in the philosophy of psychology and biology By André Ariew, Robert Cummins, Mark Perlman”, especially Ariew’s “Platonic and Aistotelian Roots of Teleological arguments” as well as DM Walsh’s “Brentano’s chestnuts.

    http://books.google.co.za/books?id=o23-SrWDAL0C&printsec=frontcover&dq=Functions:+new+essays+in+the+philosophy+of+psychology+and+biology&source=bl&ots=27ZEifYSMg&sig=kr1YQMA1DOnZmrIZ3cu9UZ8eHLU&hl=en&ei=ya_VTJPHM4bwsgbUvezmCA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CBsQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q&f=false

    Read Natural Selection, Teleology, and the Logos: From Darwin to the Oxford Neo-Darwinists, 1859-1909.
    And a new paper that might interest you: Darwin teleologist? Design in the Orchids

  6. Mike writes:

    The Design Matrix lays out a step-by-step case for the logic of front-loading that leads to the realization that cooption is entailed by front-loading

    On reading your book, I failed to notice this section. Could you supply a page number or reference as to where this step-by-step case is laid out?

  7. It was called “Chapter 7.”

    Now that you mention it, if you will recall, I asked you:

    Alan, when you post your review on Amazon, would you be willing to include a link to my response to your review? You can link to this blog in the review and go back an edit it to link to my response after I post it.

    You replied:

    Of course! I wouldn’t want anyone to be unaware of my confirmation bias.

    You lied. Your review never provided a link to this blog.

    Why did you lie to me?

  8. I included a link. Live links were removed by Amazon, so I added the link in the comment. I am not in the habit of lying, Mike.

  9. No you didn’t. Your original review included the url link to my ‘Shadow to Light’ blog (you later edited that out), which is mostly dormant and completely irrelevant to the book. You didn’t include a similar link to this blog, which would be relevant and when you said you would.

    So why did you link to the Shadow to Light blog and not this blog?

  10. Mike sees it this way:

    To see why it is that front-loading predicts cooption, simply consider front-loading as a state where the original cells were endowed with a set of preadaptations that would channel and guide subsequent evolution.

    I see it as follows:

    To see why it is that front-loading predicts cooption, simply consider front-loading as a state where the original cells were endowed with a set of programs that would channel and guide subsequent evolution.

  11. Let’s try baby steps.

    1. I wrote the review in a wordpress blog as the formatting at Amazon is cranky.

    2. I included a live link to this blog ‘as well as to your “Shadow to Light” blog.

    3. I copied and pasted to Amazon.

    4. There is a delay while reviews are approved before publishing.

    5. I checked a few days later and saw the review was published without the links.

    6. I suspected Amazon have a policy of not permitting live links in reviews.

    7. I posted the URL to this site in the comment immediately following the review. I didn’t bother to repost the link to “Shadow to Light”.

    Clear now?

  12. 2. I included a live link to this blog ‘as well as to your “Shadow to Light” blog.

    No, your review never included a link to this blog. Neither did it include the url to this blog. Nor did it even include a reference to this blog. Your review did include this:

    Mike’s stated reason for writing and publishing this book is that he was intrigued by Michael Behe’s take on ID as expressed in Darwin’s Black Box (repeated ten years later in Edge of Evolution) though, considering Mike also authors the blog – http://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/ – I wonder if the possibility that “Intelligent Designer” is God may be an additional consideration.

    Even if we ignore the url, note the reference to the Shadow blog. Where in the review is the reference to this blog?

    Oh, several days later, you went back and edited your review. You added this at the end:

    ETA;

    I have had some exchanges with Mike Gene at his blog […] where he indicated he may wish to respond to this review there. So anyone interested may wish to follow the link.

    But that was not the only edit you made at the time. When you edited the review, you also stripped out the url to the other blog (that’s when the url to the Shadow blog vanished). Then, over a week later, you crept back in and added the url to this blog in the comments section.

    Simple fact – your review never included a link to this blog. Of course, the clincher is your own stalker blog! Your amazon review was posted July 5, the same day you posted your review that sits on your stalker blog. That’s because they are the same reviews:

    desgnmatrixcritique.wordpress.com/2010/07/05/my-review-of-the-design-matrix/

    There it is! As people can see, No ETA. Shadow to Light url intact. NO REFERENCE OR LINK TO THIS BLOG. Did the Amazon gremlins come to your stalker blog and strip out that link too?

  13. I refer you you my previous comment. The facts are as stated. I put live links into my review. Amazon removed them.

  14. So chapter seven is pivotal, eh?

    On p138 you write:

    We will… …propose a single act of intelligent intervention-the design of the first cells that inhabited our planet.

    That’s it? Just the one act of creation of life? no tinkering?

  15. And I refer you to my response to your previous comment. On Jul 5, 2010, you came here to inform me that you posted your review on Amazon and set up your stalker blog. The Amazon review is posted July 5, as is the review that is sitting on your stalker blog. The exact review that sits on your blog is the one that you posted to Amazon. And as we can see, it contains the url to the Shadow blog, does not have any ETA, and contains no link or reference to this blog. You never posted any link or url to this blog and your own stalker blog shows this. Did the Amazon gremlins come to your stalker blog and strip out that link too?

    Now, you claim Amazon removed your link to this blog. Do you have any evidence to support this claim? When did Amazon supposedly remove the link?

  16. I see.

    You call me a liar and I have to provide the evidence to refute the baseless allegation. Fair enough. I am waiting for Amazon to confirm what happened about the links and I will post the result along with a previous exchange that is relevant.as soon as I have everything plus a moment to collate it.

  17. It’s not a baseless accusation. On Jul 5, 2010, you came here to inform me that you posted your review on Amazon and set up your stalker blog. The Amazon review is posted July 5, as is the review that is sitting on your stalker blog. When I read the Amazon review, it was the exact same review that sits on your blog. And the review on your blog contains the url to the Shadow blog, does not have any ETA, and contains no link or reference to this blog.

    Perhaps it would help if you explained what happened to the link/reference in the copy of the review that sits on your blog?

  18. Perhaps it would help if you explained what happened to the link/reference in the copy of the review that sits on your blog?

    You are mistaken. It is not a copy. I wrote the review using the text editor in WordPress blogs. The blog shows the original review. I copied and pasted it to Amazon. After pasting it, I remembered about the link I promised to include and added it in edit (hence the ETA). I set up the blog originally merely as a convenient medium to write the review.

  19. You are mistaken. It is not a copy. I wrote the review using the text editor in WordPress blogs. The blog shows the original review. I copied and pasted it to Amazon.

    Very good. So I was right in noting that the review that sits on your stalker blog is the one that you posted to Amazon. Your review included the url link to my ‘Shadow to Light’ blog, which is mostly dormant and completely irrelevant to the book. You didn’t include a similar link to this blog, which would be relevant and when you said you would.

    Keep in mind that on July 5, your review on Amazon did include the url link to the Shadow blog. It read exactly as it reads on your blog, except it was not a live link.

    After pasting it, I remembered about the link I promised to include and added it in edit (hence the ETA).

    Yet you omitted this from your list of “baby steps” above. Where does this editing fit into your ‘baby steps?’

    So you do acknowledge that what currently sits on Amazon is something you went back and edited. So did you also erase the Shadow to Light url or are you saying someone from Amazon went into your review and erased that?

  20. Me:
    You are mistaken. It is not a copy. I wrote the review using the text editor in WordPress blogs. The blog shows the original review. I copied and pasted it to Amazon.
    MG:
    Very good. So I was right in noting that the review that sits on your stalker blog is the one that you posted to Amazon.

    Well, of course. Why would they be different? I used WordPress as a convenient text editor. I told you in passing four months ago when my comment linked back to the blog without my realising. I see from my dashboard that this is a feature, not a bug, and is the default setting.

    Your review included the url link to my ‘Shadow to Light’ blog, which is mostly dormant and completely irrelevant to the book.

    I beg to differ on “completely irrelevant”.

    You didn’t include a similar link to this blog, which would be relevant and when you said you would.

    I did indeed include the link in my Amazon review. I added it in edit (hence the ETA) after pasting the review from my WordPress editor. I do not recall now (four months later) whether I initially forgot to include it and remembered on reading the pasted result but I certainly did include it without any prompting from anyone.

    Me:
    You are again mistaken. I wrote my review using the WordPress text editor, pasted it to Amazon, remembered about the link I promised to include (without any prompting) and added it to the reviex
    Keep in mind that on July 5, your review on Amazon did include the url link to the Shadow blog. It read exactly as it reads on your blog, except it was not a live link.

    I don’t need reminding; this is what I have been telling you!

    Me:
    After pasting it, I remembered about the link I promised to include and added it in edit (hence the ETA).
    MG:
    Yet you omitted this from your list of “baby steps” above. Where does this editing fit into your ‘baby steps?’

    Why do you think I put ETA in front of the addition? Do try and keep up!

    So you do acknowledge that what currently sits on Amazon is something you went back and edited.

    “went back”, “snuck back in”??? I added it as soon as I remembered, I suspect as soon as I glanced through the pasted result. Four months on I can’t recall to the second. I do wonder why you waited four months to raise this red herring?

    So did you also erase the Shadow to Light url or are you saying someone from Amazon went into your review and erased that?

    I suspect the root of the problem may be that HTML is either not supported or restricted in review entries. There is also a “moderation” delay of a couple of days. Incidentally I also had access problems over this period as I forgot I was already registered with Amazon, re-registered and ended up with two accounts. This took a while to resolve. Anyway, when I manage to clarify with Amazon what exactly happens if a review contains HTML code for a live link, I will get round to writing this little saga up as a post on the shadow stalker blog for your delectation.

  21. So chapter seven is pivotal, eh?

    On p138 you write:

    We will… …propose a single act of intelligent intervention-the design of the first cells that inhabited our planet.

    That’s it? Just the one act of creation of life? no tinkering?

  22. Well, of course. Why would they be different?

    Exactly. You wrote a review that did not include a link to this blog, copied, and pasted it to Amazon. But you were sure to include a link to the other blog that is not relevant.

    I did indeed include the link in my Amazon review. I added it in edit (hence the ETA) after pasting the review from my WordPress editor.

    No, you later appended a mention. But “[……]” does not qualify as a link. Since the url address to the Shadow blog did appear in the review that appeared on Amazon, as you now admit, and you were able to put the url address in the comments section, what prevented you from doing this in the review? There are lots of reviews that have the urls for web pages in them.

    Besides, why did you need to edit it in the first place? You said you would include a link in your review. Why didn’t you just add it when you wrote it up? After all, that was your original story:

    1. I wrote the review in a wordpress blog as the formatting at Amazon is cranky.
    2. I included a live link to this blog ‘as well as to your “Shadow to Light” blog.
    3. I copied and pasted to Amazon.

    See? According to your original story, the link was part of the review that was copied and pasted to Amazon. But now we learn otherwise.

    Me: Keep in mind that on July 5, your review on Amazon did include the url link to the Shadow blog. It read exactly as it reads on your blog, except it was not a live link.

    Alan: I don’t need reminding; this is what I have been telling you!

    Then you need to deal with the fact that Amazon allowed the url link to the Shadow blog to be posted. According to you, someone at Amazon took it out.

    Me: Yet you omitted this from your list of “baby steps” above. Where does this editing fit into your ‘baby steps?’

    Alan: Why do you think I put ETA in front of the addition? Do try and keep up!

    I am keeping up – you didn’t answer my question. According to your original story broken down into “baby steps”, step 2 + 3 are not true – you did NOT copy and paste a review that included a link to the DM blog. You went back to edit something that was previously copied and pasted.

    If you are going to write ‘baby steps,’ how do you omit something as significant as going back to edit your review?

    Also, if you later wrote the ETA using WordPress, why didn’t you save it and update your own stalker blog?

    Me: So you do acknowledge that what currently sits on Amazon is something you went back and edited.

    Alan: “went back”, “snuck back in”???

    You never came here to tell me about Amazon allegedly editing out your links or you changing the review you posted. Why not?

    I added it as soon as I remembered, I suspect as soon as I glanced through the pasted result.

    According to your original story, you added the url in the comments section after you saw the pasted result. Now you are changing your story.

    Me: So did you also erase the Shadow to Light url or are you saying someone from Amazon went into your review and erased that?

    Alan: I suspect the root of the problem may be that HTML is either not supported or restricted in review entries.

    But the Shadow to Light url was originally in the review posted on Amazon. As you admit above, your stalker blog reads exactly as what was posted on Amazon, except for the fact that the Shadow to Light link was not a live link. So your supposed “root” is a Red Herring. Does Amazon have a program that converts the text “- http://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/ -“ into “- […] –“?

    There is also a “moderation” delay of a couple of days. Incidentally I also had access problems over this period as I forgot I was already registered with Amazon, re-registered and ended up with two accounts. This took a while to resolve. Anyway, when I manage to clarify with Amazon what exactly happens if a review contains HTML code for a live link, I will get round to writing this little saga up as a post on the shadow stalker blog for your delectation.

    That’s it? This doesn’t resolve anything. It doesn’t explain why the url to the Shadow blog was originally in your review that was posted on Amazon. It doesn’t explain why that url was taken out of the review several days later (keeping in mind that several days later, you admit to editing your review). And it doesn’t explain why you could not type in the url into the text of your review (as you did in the comments). And it doesn’t explain why you didn’t include any link to this blog that you copied and pasted to Amazon in the first place (something you claimed in your original story). And it doesn’t explain why you didn’t inform me about all of this until you were pressed about it.

  23. No, you later appended a mention. But “[……]” does not qualify as a link.

    No indeed. And it wasn’t me that typed […]. That is what appeared when the review was published after approval. Notice also that the italics disappeared too. I would have assumed that even if HTML is not supported, the raw code would appear, as happens with comments.

    Since the url address to the Shadow blog did appear in the review that appeared on Amazon, as you now admit, and you were able to put the url address in the comments section, what prevented you from doing this in the review? There are lots of reviews that have the urls for web pages in them.

    You are doubly mistaken. The URL address for “Shadow to Light” did not appear in the Amazon review, nor does it now, and nowhere have I said that it did. Why the raw code appeared as […] for both links, I am still trying to establish with Amazon definitively. As you say, there is apparently no problem with entering the web address.

    AF:

    1. I wrote the review in a wordpress blog as the formatting at Amazon is cranky.
    2. I included a live link to this blog ‘as well as to your “Shadow to Light” blog.
    3. I copied and pasted to Amazon.

    MG:

    See? According to your original story, the link was part of the review that was copied and pasted to Amazon. But now we learn otherwise.>/blockquote>

    You are indeed correct. I did not add the link until after posting the bulk of the review. I apologise for this grossly misleading error.

    Then you need to deal with the fact that Amazon allowed the url link to the Shadow blog to be posted. According to you, someone at Amazon took it out.

    As I keep saying, the live links appeared as you see them […]. I wonder if I noticed the “Shadow to Light” error. I can’t have thought it important to try and edit it back in. Where have you got the idea that there was a difference in how the two links appeared after being approved for publishing by Amazon?

    Anyway, cutting to the chase. I really wonder why you waited four months to complain about this if it is such a big deal. Your concerns about integrity seem somewhat selective. I have no problem with including a link to your blog at Amazon. I shall ask them if I can append it to the review. The time limit for editing has long expired so I need somebody at Amazon to to it for me.

  24. Sorry about tag error. I am sure you can still follow it.

  25. You are doubly mistaken. The URL address for “Shadow to Light” did not appear in the Amazon review, nor does it now, and nowhere have I said that it did.

    Well, there is a core disagreement here. Yes, the url address for “Shadow to Light” did originally appear in the Amazon review. When you informed me about the review, I read it on Amazon and was struck by the fact that you included a mention and url to the Shadow blog but neither for this blog. I even copied it from Amazon and pasted it and the link is in my copy that I saved on July 6. That’s why I told you 5 days ago:

    “Keep in mind that on July 5, your review on Amazon did include the url link to the Shadow blog. It read exactly as it reads on your blog, except it was not a live link.”

    And you replied: “I don’t need reminding; this is what I have been telling you!”

    You keep changing your story on me.

    Anyway, cutting to the chase. I really wonder why you waited four months to complain about this if it is such a big deal.

    You do? I asked you about this after you popped in here on Nov 7 (up above) feigning some interest in my arguments. Prior to that, the last time you showed up was on August 21 to try to send a message aimed at Bilbo and not me. Prior to that the last time you were here was July 5 to inform me about your review and your stalker blog.

    It’s been how it has always been – you seek me out; I don’t seek you out. And it’s been about four months since you last sought me out here.

  26. I am assuming you didn’t follow the link in the previous comment; where Amazon have replied to my email thusly:

    We don’t allow the posting of URLs in our Customer Reviews. Your review was edited by a member of our staff to remove the URL. The changes are marked with brackets.

  27. That’s odd. As I noted, your review originally included the url to the Shadow blog. And it’s also not hard to find reviews that contain urls to web sites. For example, it took me less than five minutes to find this one:

    You seem to promote an argument similar to this web site: http://www.ScienceAgainstEvolution.org, which asserts that most Darwinian type change is degenerative and negative rather than producing a net increase in sophisticated complexity.

    Check it out – that’s from the September 30, 2010 review of Behe’s EoE.

    Okay, so I’ll trust that your email from Amazon is legit. How does this all stack up? I originally accused you of lying for promising to post a link and not following through on your promise. You then accused me of making a baseless accusation. In the end, it looks like the truth is in the middle.

    Step back and consider.

    You wrote and posted your review that did not include a link or mention to my blog; it read exactly as your blog except the link to the Shadow blog was not a live link. How is that supposed to look to me?

    The next time I see your review on Amazon, it has been changed to include the ETA without url and the Shadow url has disappeared. How is that supposed to look to me?

    When I asked you why there was no link, you originally claimed that you wrote a review with both links, copied and pasted it to Amazon. But that was not true, as you admit that account was a “grossly misleading error.” How is that supposed to look to me?

    On Nov 25, you agreed that the url to the Shadow blog was posted on the Amazon review and then denied this on Nov 29. How is that supposed to look to me?

    You never informed me about all these difficulties until I asked you about the missing link. How is that supposed to look to me?

    So as you can see, my accusation was never “baseless.” It was firmly rooted in sound reasoning.

    But as it turns out, someone from Amazon has confirmed your story that they removed the links. So it turns out that I was indeed wrong and you were not lying.

    So here is how it probably went down.

    1. You posted your review without a link to this blog, but with a url link to the Shadow blog. It slipped through, as other url links do exist in other Amazon reviews, as they probably do not have the manpower to catch them all.

    2. It would have stayed that way, but days later, you went back to edit. The act of editing probably caught the attention of someone at Amazon and they then removed both links.

    3. Days later, you went back and noticed neither link was present, so added the url to the comments.

    4. Four months later, you came here to discuss the book, and our dispute began.

    In other words, you were not lying. But neither was my accusation/distrust unreasonable or baseless.

    Agreed?

  28. I’m still a little miffed but I’ll get over it. Let’s move on to chapter 7!

    Agreed?

  29. Sure. But don’t expect speedy replies (or read anything into delays), as there are too many other things on my plate, especially with the holidays approaching.

    Your review of chapter 7 asserts:

    Chapter 7, designing evolution, continues with the “Sherlock Holmes” argument (…when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. – A. Conan Doyle).

    As the author of Chapter 7, I found this assertion to be quite perplexing given that I did not rely or invoke any “Sherlock Holmes” argument. Can you point me to the page where you think I make the “Sherlock Holmes” argument?

  30. Sure. But don’t expect speedy replies (or read anything into delays), as there are too many other things on my plate, especially with the holidays approaching.

    Likewise. Like Bilbo, I have to control my internet addiction plus I will be holidaying back in UK for Christmas and New Year though I may get the odd opportunity to log on at my brother-in-law’s.

    What I mean by a Sherlock Holmes argument is arriving at a conclusion by eliminating alternatives. For instance on page 138, you seem to eliminate God and alien intelligent designers as design candidates and also exclude the possibility of multiple design events which leads you to your own hypothesis. I don’t see the justification.

  31. What I mean by a Sherlock Holmes argument is arriving at a conclusion by eliminating alternatives. For instance on page 138, you seem to eliminate God and alien intelligent designers as design candidates and also exclude the possibility of multiple design events which leads you to your own hypothesis.

    Then you have entirely misread the argument. Those are not conclusions that follow from some process of elimination. Those are working assumptions that function as methodological constraints in an investigation.

    I list two modest working assumptions and justify both.

    Assumption 1(with justification): Since we have no independent experience with a designer that is both omniscient and omnipotent, the effects from such a cause are not easily investigated. 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.

    Assumption 2: If we are to build on our Intelligent Design suspicion, it is necessary to do so modestly. We will therefore add another methodological constraint and propose a single act of intelligent intervention—the design of the first cells that inhabited our planet. There are several reasons for proposing this constraint.

    I don’t see the justification.

    “There are several reasons for proposing this constraint.” – page 138

    The justification for Assumption 2 begins on the bottom of page 138 and goes to the top of page 140. I list and explain five reasons that converge on this working assumption.

    you seem to….exclude the possibility of multiple design events

    No, on page 140, I write:

    While these reasons constitute a methodological constraint on our design inference, they should not be mistaken for a dogmatic rule. If, for example, evidence merits the inference for a further intelligent intervention, we should feel free to follow through on it. The key is the need for further evidence.

    None of this is a “Sherlock Holmes” argument as most people would understand a “Sherlock Holmes” argument.

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