Re: "Design up to Scratch?"

From: Josh Bembenek (
Date: Mon Jun 23 2003 - 01:08:26 EDT

  • Next message: Glenn Morton: "moving my web pages"

    Regarding Howard's questions regarding double speak earlier from this

    I do not find any direct use of this "ignorance trump" to fortress your
    argument against criticism in the December PCSF article, however I do not
    agree with your vehement opposition to ID. Firstly, perhaps it would help
    to have a catalogue or reference list of all bold "proof" claims IDers make
    such that the rest of us can be more familiar with the exact arguments that
    are detestable. For myself, I cannot think of when Dembski went around
    "asserting that he has empirically demonstrated that to be the case" wrt a
    "right stuff universe." In the works of his that I am familiar with, he has
    not done any specific calculations that could demonstrate such a thing, but
    laid out a technique that would allow us to make rigorous conclusions about
    probabilities/possibilities instead of guessing whether or not event X is
    possible. I see nothing wrong with this mathematical approach, although I
    haven't seen any application of it to date.

    You repeatedly suggest that IDers should frankly spell out that their
    hypothesis is simply an informed judgment, and that nobody really KNOWS.
    But a hypothesis = educated guess, and my impressions from Dembski and Behe
    are that they are offering a hypothesis, not formalizing a proof. Behe
    states in the Black Box that when empirical evidence disproves his
    perspective on biochemical structures, that his concepts will quickly die.
    This sounds more like a hypothesis than a proof claim. Also, find me a
    textbook, mainstream media outlet, or evolutionist or AAAS statement who
    does this (besides yourself.) I see little problem with stating their
    hypothesis in a manner that says "because we find structures that evade
    evolutionary explanations, we believe this indicates that a designer must
    have been responsible, and here is a mathematical analytical tool that can
    determine what threshold must be reached before such an inference can be
    reasonably made." I haven't seen where they say, "this data analysis that
    we have performed is proof," especially since no specific calculations have
    been made.

    I would say that you do appeal to ignorance toward the end of the article
    when you suggest that the filter fails to tell us anything if it cannot
    compute whether or not All of Life occurring on planet Earth is either
    caused by design or chance. But you state clearly that nobody could
    possibly know this and that you would need a God-like omniscience to answer
    such a question. Perhaps then, we should throw evolution out the window
    just as quickly, since it cannot make any definitive statements about this
    particular question. Demanding that the "first node" of demonstrated
    utility for the explanatory filter be in answering an unanswerable question
    with an infinitely large set of unknown variables (in theory), is ludicrous
    to me. I believe the filter can answer quite well some questions about a
    smaller, more contained system, such as bacterial propulsion, or maybe just
    isolating on the flagellum. Why should someone address unanswerable
    questions before testing the possibilities for bacterial motility? To
    demonstrate that entropy always increases within a contained system, must we
    prove it for an entire galaxy or solar system or universe before we can
    accept the results we might obtain from a carefully controlled experiment?
    I think not, and if it can be demonstrated that the flagellum is a structure
    that cannot be derived with any reasonable probability using known physical
    processes, we can conclude that there are either additional unknown physical
    processes to be discovered, or that features found in biology bear the
    hallmarks of design.

    This leads me to something you stated in your dialogue with Dembski found on
    the AAAS website:

    "Given these considerations, I remain fully justified in saying that, as a
    general rule, Dembski?s computations of P(X|n)?because they include the
    positive contributions of only a partial list of the natural processes that
    may have contributed to the natural formation of X?will generally constitute
    an underestimation of P(X|N) and thereby open the door to numerous false
    positive indications of a need for non-natural action to accomplish the
    formation of some biotic system X. The whole point of that portion of my
    essay was simply to point out that this vulnerability to false positive
    indications of the need for extra-natural assembly must be candidly
    acknowledged by advocates of ID and that unqualified claims of having proved
    the incompleteness of natural processes and the consequent need for
    supplemental designer action are completely out of place. Dembski has done
    nothing to preclude the possibility of false positive indications."

    While false positives are important to think about, this argument jumps the
    gun entirely. Show me where any evolutionist who has made bold sweeping
    claims about the feasibility of evolutionary processes to derive any
    structure has detailed any calculations whatsoever on the P(X/N)! If
    Dembski performs such calculations, it will be an advance for science all in
    itself, whether or not he then moves forward to inferences that may or may
    not be false positives. Generating these P(X/N) calculations will move the
    evolution debate out of the dark ages in my opinion. I'd love to get away
    from "this evolved, because hand waving explanation X clearly is reasonable
    and believable, plus I'm a scientist and you should believe me because I
    have a PhD with the concensus of the ENTIRE scientific community backing me,
    and you don't." Even if evolution is ultimately true, it would be much more
    satisfying to hear that structure X evolved because of natural processes Y
    and Z with given probability of such and such percent. This way, garbage
    like chapter 6 of Dawkins' Blind Watchmaker will be eradicated. With the
    advance of the genome era and computational biology, this shouldn't be out
    of reach. When the discussion actually proceeds to this stage, perhaps it
    would be reasonable to speak of false positives. In my opinion, we
    shouldn't even be thinking about that, but rather be devoted toward
    computing rigorous analytical arguments that give more credence to our
    particular view of the accessibility of biological structures to derivation
    by evolutionary processes.

    STOP MORE SPAM with the new MSN 8 and get 2 months FREE*

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Mon Jun 23 2003 - 01:08:48 EDT