From: Howard J. Van Till (
Date: Sat Sep 27 2003 - 09:43:20 EDT

  • Next message: Sarah Berel-Harrop: "Re: RFEP & ID"

    Hi Jack,

    Thanks for the sample. I find it fascinating for what it presumes to be
    territory owned by ID. I'll insert a bit of commentary at a few points

    > From: "Jack Haas" <>

    > I insert below a section from a new book by a recent addition to the ID
    > group. He offers some ideas related to the question of ID fruitfulness.

    > From: Cornelius G. Hunter, Darwin's Proof: The Triumph of Religion over
    > Science (2003): 122-123.
    > "... technical journals are full of research that is based on the design
    > premise.

    What Hunter takes to be "the design premise" is not stated in this excerpt.
    We will have to figure it out by context.

    > The design perspective opens up a wide range of research areas and
    > predictions in the life sciences. One such area is design topology. For
    > example, very different amino acid sequences can make for the same protein.
    > Hemoglobin, for instance, can be produced from sequences that have
    > practically no more similarity than would be expected from two random
    > sequences. And within the family of all globin proteins, there is a great
    > variety of sequences. These sequences form clusters. What sort of region is
    > defined by the set of all globin sequences? Is there a large, single region
    > in sequence space that contains all these sequences and more?
    > Alternatively, are these clusters connected by narrow bridges such that the
    > known clusters constitute the majority of the region? Or do the clusters
    > form isolated islands? Recent experiments and analysis argue against the
    > large region model, but there is much more to learn, and the results will
    > be relevant to protein design and the biotechnology industry.

    The content of "the design premise" is not at all clear to me here, but I'll
    give it a try. Hunter is talking here about "design topology" as it relates
    to amino acid sequences in proteins. It would appear that ID researchers
    have an inside track on what sort of distribution of functional proteins in
    sequence space would be characteristic of the Intelligent Designer's style.
    Perhaps an ID advocate could clarify this for the list. Where would I go to
    find the Intelligent Designer's "style manual"?

    > A related area of research involves the question of why those different
    > sequences are used. Evolutionists typically view them as the result of
    > random changes.

    Note how the camps are defined and named: there's the ID camp, and there's
    the Evolutionist camp. Either/or.

    > In other words, there is no functional reason for the
    > differences. This is typical for evolutionary theory. Rather than search
    > for a function, evolutionary theory quickly concludes that a design is
    > vestigial or perhaps the result of neutral evolution. In this way
    > evolutionary theory, not ID, stifles research.

    Here it would seem that the ID camp owns the idea of "function." Those
    "evolutionists" are not interested in finding function, but IDers are. Would
    an evolutionist care to defend the idea that looking for biological function
    is a stupid, non-evolutionist thing to do?

    > The result is an "evolution
    > of the gaps" theory. Gaps in our knowledge are explained as the result of
    > evolution. If we have no knowledge of a function, then the unguided process
    > of evolution created it. But this explanation is steadily pushed into the
    > corner as our knowledge increases and we continue to find new functions. As
    > we saw in chapter 4, for example, Robert Wiedersheim claimed in 1895 that
    > eighty-six organs in the human body were vestigial, but twentieth-century
    > biomedical research has found functions for practically all of them.

    And was that biomedical research done by the ID camp? That would have to be
    the case if the ID camp is going to take credit for, or ownership of, the
    idea of placing value on biological function, contrary to what those silly
    evolutionists do.

    > ID will encourage the search for function at the morphological as well as
    > the molecular level. In our globin example, the question is why all those
    > different sequences are used. This is not an easy question, for it will
    > require an understanding of the workings of the entire organism, or at
    > least an entire cell. At the molecular level it appears that very different
    > sequences could be freely substituted, but at the cellular level it could
    > be that the sequence differences are there for a reason. This research will
    > help us understand the molecular-to -morphological connection, a key to a
    > deeper understanding of biology.

    Clearly, the ID camp still owns the idea that knowledge of biological
    function is valuable. Shame on those evolutionists for overlooking such a
    basic idea.

    > Designs that are repeated in otherwise different species are not a problem
    > for design-based research. There are plenty of such examples in biology,
    > and evolution must liberally make use of convergent evolution as an
    > explanatory device, An outstanding example is the marsupial -placental
    > convergence in mammals that we saw in chapter 4. Evolution must explain the
    > unlikely set of duplicated designs as evolution repeating itself.

    Terminology check: The term "duplicated designs" here seems to dente some
    set of structural and/or functional similarities, right?

    > On different continents and over millions of years, the blind forces of
    > evolution. are supposed to have found practically identical solutions over
    > and over.

    I assume that "blind" means "not actively manipulated by some unidentified,
    unembodied, choice-making agent using non-natural means," right?

    > These repeated designs are naturally explained by ID, without
    > having to resort to just-so stories. At last we will have a framework that
    > allows searchers to explore function and design without having to force-fit
    > results into an unlikely scheme.

    And what is that "framework"? It must be something like, "We know that an
    unidentified, unembodied Intelligent Designer would, by non-natural
    form-imposing intervention, insert biotic machines/systems having similar
    structural/functional similarities in locations that differed greatly in
    time and geographical site. Isn't it wonderful to know what that Intelligent
    Designer's style is even when you claim that you can't even identify who
    that Intelligent Designer is? (The "we don't know who it is" line commonly
    found in ID literature is used to avoid the charge of sneaking religion into
    a scientific discussion.)

    > Similarly, design -based research can readily accommodate small-scale
    > evolution. Instead of having to imagine that small-scale change must
    > somehow extrapolate to massive amounts of large-scale change (in spite the
    > empirical evidence), we will now be able to see it for what it is.
    > Small-scale change can be viewed as a mechanism for adaptation and
    > preservation. And it also can be seen as a great opportunity. Scientists can
    > research and implement small-scale change for the good of humanity. Higher
    > crop yields, freeze- and pest-resistant crop varieties, ecological control
    > and habitat recovery, vaccines and healthier livestock are a few examples
    > of what can result when our research focuses on the productive uses of
    > small-scale change.

    It looks like the ID folk once again have privileged information about the
    Intelligent Designer's style (even without knowledge of the Designer's
    identity). The Intelligent Designer likes small-scale evolution (the kind
    that just happens to be easier to study empirically) but not large-scale
    evolution (the kind that just happens to be more difficult to model with
    causally specific explanations). That's good, because knowledge of
    small-scale evolution can be used for the good of humankind and credited to
    design-based research. Amazing! Absolutely amazing!

    > Indeed, much of today's life science research work focuses on design and
    > function. Because Darwin's theory of evolution is dominant, the work into
    > this paradigm, but this is not the natural paradigm. [some words seem to be
    > missing from the last sentence.] Much of our current
    > life science work fits better into the design paradigm. Though [it] does not
    > reject the evolutionary process, there are substantial difference between
    > the two paradigms. Where evolution will accept and even accept for
    > nonfunction, ID will look for function. Where evolution will explain away
    > the obvious designs in nature as chance products of natural selection, ID
    > will simply model the design as design."

    And remember, this is possible because ID theorists have inside knowledge on
    how the unidentified, unembodied, choice-making Intelligent Designer (who is
    not necessarily God, by the way) would go about the business of inserting
    functional biotic structures and systems. Those stupid evolutionist, on the
    other hand, are stuck with trying to answer all questions by appeal only to
    non-functional things being the "chance products of natural selection." (I
    thought that natural selection depended on differential functional success,
    but I must have that all wrong.)

    Howard Van Till

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