Re: Nature article on ID

From: Iain Strachan <>
Date: Sat Apr 30 2005 - 13:45:10 EDT

Michael asked for comments.

I think the key phrase in the article is that the ID notion is that
God guided the process of evolution. And the problem with that
statement is how to interpret it. It seems to me that there is less
gap betwen TE and ID that one might suppose, though I take Michael's
point that they are a bit coy about the age of the earth, thus
potentially allowing creationists into the camp (ID is creationism in
a cheap tuxedo).

However, my own reading of Behe's book (which introduced me to
Intelligent Design) and was the first thing that made me stop and
think about my previous unquestioning acceptance of evolution, was
that Behe is quite up front about the process of descent from a common
ancestor, and the geological time-scale. I've seen forum postings
where it's argued that Behe is a Theistic Evolutionist.

The key point is how God is supposed to have shaped the process of
evolution. If one argues for little miracles from time to time to
help things over the difficult bits, then I think this is dangerous to
faith, and smacks of "God of the Gaps". As the article says, we can't
see now how the bacterial flagellum came about, but maybe we will in
the future with more and more sequencing of genomes, and that becomes
another gap that disappears that was formerly occupied by God.

But if God shaped evolution by designing the universe and its laws so
that the inevitable outcome was the appearance of humans "made in his
own image", then I don't have a problem with that, and I sense many
people on this list won't have such a problem. Pivotal for me was the
discussion thread that I started on the Sierpinski gasket. I was
objecting to this "proof of evolution" because there was a pre-defined
outcome that would inevitably arise during the randomizing process.
However, at least one poster (Jim Armstrong I think) said they thought
this is what evolution was like. There was intent and purpose (I
guess you could say that is "design"), behind it.

I think the objections to evolution raised by the ID community are
still valid problems, (Irreducible Complexity, etc). However, I'm
aware, having done work in genetic algorithms (and more generally in
optimization and non-linear equation solving), that it is possible to
design the algorithm in a way to circumvent the "cliffs" that are
presented by IC. In an earlier post, I mentioned the example of a
"Gray code", where a binary string is translated to integers in a way
that all successive integers always differ by 1 bit, as opposed to the
"Hamming cliff" of binary representation (e.g. 01111 -> 10000 for 15
to 16). What is an irreducibly complex "cliff" for an evolutionary
algorithm in the binary representation becomes an easy transition in
the Gray code space.

So it's possible to get round a lot of the problems if one designs the
algorithm at the outset.

Now, it turns out that GA's are in general rather poor at solving
mathematical equations and optimizations, even after gray codes are
adopted. But a common feature is that for every successful GA
application, there is an immense amount of design input at the start,
in order to guarantee success. Often this design can be seen in terms
of information input. An example here is Fogelmann's Checker playing
neural network (Anaconda). This was a neural net that performed
positional evaluation of a checkers position as part of a program.
The neural net was evolved from a succession of all-play-all
tournaments. But if one looks at the way the topology
(interconnections) of the neural net were chosen, you see that a lot
of knowledge was put in at the start, based on sensible deductions
from the game of checkers. For examples, specific connections were
hard-wired into it that would automatically calculate the material
difference (how many pieces each side had), clearly an important
concept in the value of a position. Also certain "neurons" were wired
up to look at localised 3x3, 4x4 and 5x5 regions of the board. The
"non-local" squares were not connected up to these neurons. In this
way the topology-space of all possible neural networks was actually
reduced to one fixed topology that had been intelligently designed to
make a good checkers player. So because it was started in a good
place in fitness space, the evolutionary process was able to succeed.

It's my contention that God must have similarly "intelligently
designed" the algorithm of life so that humans would eventually emerge
though the process of evolution. This is a truly awesome piece of
design, and to my mind much more satisfying and majestic to behold
than continually meddling with an imperfect creation. (Or as Ed put
it "pulling rabbits out of the hat").

Expanding on this last thought, it's worth making the point that all
sides of this debate, including YEC's accept that evolution in some
form has occurs. As I understand it, YEC requires immensely rapid
evolution and speciation of the animals after coming out of the ark.
I guess "progressive creationists" have periods of evolution then
little miracles along the way. I prefer the idea of a big miracle
right at the start.

So I think I would agree with the statement that God shaped the
process of evolution, but did so by getting the design right at the
start. (Just as by choosing a Gray code one shapes the error surface
to avoid "cliffs"). Hence the term "ID Evolutionist".


On 4/30/05, Hofmann, Jim <> wrote:
> Nature has put this article online, along with a box containing a
> shorter piece.
> Jim Hofmann
> -----Original Message-----
> From: on behalf of Iain Strachan
> Sent: Sat 4/30/2005 1:42 AM
> To: Michael Roberts
> Cc: ASA
> Subject: Re: Nature article on ID
> I'd be glad to comment ... is there a link to the site.
> But these days I consider myself an ID Evolutionist rather than an ID
> Creationist...
> Iain.
> On 4/29/05, Michael Roberts <> wrote:
> > Any comments from Denyse and Iain in particular as it is rather hostile to
> > ID. Is it fair or not?
> >
> > Michael
> > ----- Original Message -----
> > From: "bivalve" <>
> > To: "ASA" <>
> > Sent: Thursday, April 28, 2005 7:21 PM
> > Subject: Nature article on ID
> >
> > > The latest Nature has a commentary article on ID. It includes quotes from
> > > some ASA list members and a photo of one member!
> > >
> > > Dr. David Campbell
> > > Old Seashells
> > > University of Alabama
> > > Biodiversity & Systematics
> > > Dept. Biological Sciences
> > > Box 870345
> > > Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0345 USA
> > >
> > >
> > > That is Uncle Joe, taken in the masonic regalia of a Grand Exalted
> > > Periwinkle of the Mystic Order of Whelks-P.G. Wodehouse, Romance at
> > > Droitgate Spa
> > >
> > >
> >
> >
> --
> -----------
> There are 3 types of people in the world.
> Those who can count and those who can't.
> -----------

There are 3 types of people in the world.
Those who can count and those who can't.
Received on Sat Apr 30 13:48:36 2005

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