Re: DNA sequence space

From: Cornelius Hunter <>
Date: Thu Sep 29 2005 - 23:55:01 EDT

Pim, JimA, Randy and Terry:

Pim, your wrote:

>> Actually, the idea that the full design space need not be searched is
>> weak, and the idea that the search is not random is non evolutionary.
> Huh, the search is non random in the sense that selection guides it.

Ah, need to be careful. Again, NS guides nothing, all it does is kill off
the bad designs. At any given point, variation must be unguided, so it must
land on a functional nearby point. There is no such thing as "selection
pressure," though this metaphor is commonly used. NS does not encourage or
draw out the variation in any way. In fact, every little bit of variation
that is supposed to occur over time (such as via mutation) must occur on its
own. The bat, cheetah and human all were created soley by a series of
unguided variations. If you believe that I have some property in Florida
you'll be interested in.

JimA, you wrote:

>> So random, unguided biological changes must find and then follow these
>> pathways. NS does not help these random changes to occur.
> No, it causes them.
> Or so it seemeth to me. JimA

This is the myth of "selection pressure."


>>For instance, if TE is not breaking the link between God and creation, and
>>God can accomplish his will via the evolutionary process, then why must
>>the detection of divine action be out of bounds?
> A "breaking the link" model would be closer to a "deistic evolution" view
> if there is such a thing. From past posts, I would think most TE's on
> this list would not support that but would insist on a continuing close
> linkage between the Creator and his creation. By "out of bounds" I presume
> you mean "not part of the scientific endeavor?" This is an extremely
> important point in the whole ID discussion and perhaps you can enlighten
> us. It moves us beyond a critique of evolution. It's the whole issue of
> how can we detect divine action.

Note that there are now and have been for several centuries powerful
theological arguments for naturalistic explanations. I repeat this fact
because these traditions very much make claims about divine action (eg, God
wouldn't create evil, God wouldn't use detectable means because this would
mean he goes against his own creation or because it would be beneath him,
theology of the cross, etc).

> There are two types of possibilities:
> 1) A singularity or discontinuity in nature. Examples: the Big Bang.
> Miracles--resurrection of Lazarus, resurrection of Jesus. As Glenn often
> points out, our faith depends on a connection between the Bible and
> reality. At the very least, the resurrection of Jesus is a critical
> singularity which is, in principle, detectable. Its meaning depends on
> revelation. Are there discontinuities in the origin of life? origin of
> species? origin of humans? That's part of what you've been debating with
> others on this list.

However, I'm not debating there were discontinuities, though I don't rule
them out either. For me, the question of means / mechanism as pretty
underdetermined and unproductive to speculate about.

> 2) Lack of a singularity or discontinuity in nature. Our ability to
> describe mathematically or by fundamental principles such a vast
> preponderance of nature. The incredible fine-tuning of the physical
> constants. The beauty of self-consistency in nature. All of this is seen
> as the result of a Designer who created the world in a way that we can
> describe.

Your two characterizations seem like good categories for discussion.

> It seems that TE folks tend to see the second type as evidence of
> intelligent design

I'm not familiar with such TE arguments. Can you suggest an author or book?
On the other hand, some ID folks fit this description. I too like this as
one approach.

> while ID folks see the first type as evidence of design.

But this is only one aspect of ID.

> (A skeptic could say that if both are true, then there is nothing that
> could possibly indicate the lack of a designer. The premise is therefore
> self-fulfilling and a tautology.) TE folks are concerned that ID requires
> a singularity to see evidence of God

Right, and this needs to be corrected. #1 is not required by ID, but often
seems to be indicated by the evidence. It may be true that some IDs are
particularly attracted to #1, but I don't think this particularly
characterizes ID, in general. I think what would be a more meaningful
characterization on this count is that #1 is not ruled out, a priori.

> while ID folks are concerned that TE seems to deny the possibility of a
> singularity outside of the core miracles of the Christian faith.


>>And why is evoluiton a fact? I would be delighted if this were merely a
>>misunderstanding, and if I am guilty of imposing a particular view of what
>>"evolution" means.
> Evolution as a substitute for God's divine action or as a code word for
> nature being unguided and without purpose is not a fact. Evolution as a
> description of the development of species through common descent from an
> original living organism is considered by most scientists to be a fact.
> I'll leave it to you to continue the debate with others about the extent
> to which it is valid. For this post, I'm concerned about why it matters.
> Let's do the gedanken experiment with evolution defined in the latter
> sense..

> a) If it is a fact, what does that mean? If you believe you can only
> detect divine action through singularities and discontinuities, would you
> conclude there is no creator? Or at least that we have no basis for
> believing in one? That is the impression the ID community is giving.

I didn't know that. I'm unaware of any IDs saying this, and I'm aware of IDs
specifically not saying this.

 If however you are
> in type 2 and you detect divine action through coherence in nature, then
> you'll find God despite the appearance of randomness.

One of the points I make is that ID does not = natural theology. ID is not
trying to prove God. It is about doing better science.

> b) On the other hand, what happens if evolution is false? That would not
> rule out the possibility of another natural explanation. Even if one
> isn't forthcoming, there would be no reason to believe one couldn't be
> found in the future. The TE community would have a lot of egg on their
> faces but it probably wouldn't shake their faith in a creator since the
> type 2 detection of divine activity doesn't depend on our knowing the full
> description of nature, just a belief that natural explanations are
> possible as a result of a Creator. The ID community would still need to
> demonstrate that a natural explanation isn't possible.

I don't see it this way. In fact, unlike evolution and special creation, I
think ID is not primarily concerned with the historical sciences. It is
looking at the design of things, without reference to the particular history
behind them (which is anathema according to both evolution and special
creation). So it is not a big deal for ID to say that it now appears that
secondary causes is more important in the history of creation.

But to avoid the God of the gaps pitfall, David
> Snokes encourages me to look on the positive rather than the negative of
> ID. He says nature clearly "looks designed" and appears to have the
> characteristics of a personal designer. I heartily agree but it begs the
> question as to whether the "looks designed" features and the
> characteristics of a personal designer are embodied in natural
> explanations or not. And we're back to whether we see God in type 1 or
> type 2

Yes, good point. But again, I don't think God of the gaps is an issue for


> Terry, you wrote:
> --------------
> If so, then what does such divine action look like empirically? In
> the fossil record, in the genetic record, etc?
> --------------
> How about a code?
> A bit cryptic there. Are you talking about the genetic code?

Yes, sorry.

> So, are you saying that the genetic code is not evolvable?

That is what the empirical evidence is pointing to. Experiments to change it
show it resists change. See, for example:

Doring V, Marliere P., "Reassigning cysteine in the genetic code of
Escherichia coli," Genetics. 1998 Oct;150(2):543-51.

And that its existence
> undermines all the other arguments for common ancestry

Not sure what you mean. What other arguments make evolution compelling?

(that's what I mean
> by evolution, in case it's not clear)? And is this "simply" a negative
> argument? I can't explain the origin of the code so therefore it's
> "special" divine action.

What's wrong with negative evidence?

Or do you have a positive argument based on the existence of
> the code?

One if by land, and two if by sea (hope that isn't too cryptic ... 8^).
Point is we have examples that intelligent agents create codes.

We know somehow that codes come about only by intelligent agents.
> Etc.
> For what it's worth, since the genetic code is more or less identical
> across all organism (see my discussion of exceptions in the chapter in
> Perspectives on an Evolving Creation), this doesn't seem to get you very
> far.

I don't see why.

Suppose I'm
> willing to say that God "specially created" the genetic code at the outset
> of life. Don't forget, I fully believe that divine action is always at
> work. (Although I have to say that I'm not sure I can tell the difference
> between "ordinary" divine action and "extraordinary" divine action,
> miracle, or whatever you want to call it, when it comes to things like the
> origin of the genetic code.)

Let me add another possibility:

1. Suppose I'm willing to say that God "specially created" the genetic code
at the outset of life.

2. Suppose I'm willing to say that regardless of *how* God created the
genetic code at the outset of life (eg, secondary or primary causes), the
result (ie, the DNA code) can in principle be used to infer such. For
instance, God could have used secondary causes, but the causes and / or
initial conditions could perhaps be shown to be so finely tuned or otherwise
suspicious that a design inference can be fairly made.

Notice that #2 is not the front-loading hypothesis discussed by some TEs,
because in this case the front-loading is inferred from the evidence. Also,
the inference is not a fact. Just a reasonable, and perhaps best, inference.

If a person is willing to say #1 or #2 then he is not a traditional

> What other sorts of special, "non-natural" divine action can you point to?

Well I'm more interested in studying nature free of presuppositional
shackles about natural history, and allowing for design ideas to be included
in the study. For instance, one can do classification without requiring the
relationships to fit an evolutionary tree.

> TG

Received on Thu Sep 29 23:59:53 2005

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Thu Sep 29 2005 - 23:59:53 EDT