Re: Directed evolution: evidence for teleology?

From: Dr. David Campbell <>
Date: Mon Oct 17 2005 - 13:11:36 EDT

> Front loading is not excluded by ID.<

As popularly understood (e.g., Johnson, proposed school curricula,
etc.), ID rejects the possibility that evolution was front loaded.
Dembski and Behe have accepted that as a possibility, but that message
not getting anywhere.
> My understanding of the distinction between TE and ID is over the
> design inference. For TE, there must be no scientific or objective
> design inference possible. The only inference to God from nature must
> be via subjective or intuitive means, such as beaty and order as you
> mention above.

Must is perhaps overly strong. There are good reasons to not expect
any scientific design inference, both from the limits to what science
can really address and from theological considerations. However, there
is also the issue that the proposed methods of scientific inference of
design proposed by ID advocates do not work, regardless of the
theoretical possibility of design detection. In considering the
natural and artificial objects in this room, the difference is that I
know some occur naturally and others don't. Identification of
artifacts versus natural objects is more often a case of higher
simplicity rather than increased complexity. E.g., an actual arrowhead
is symmetric and shaped to be aerodynamic and sharp; a random chunk of
rock is lumpy in all sorts of irregular ways and would require more
mathematical detail to describe its shape. The fish and snails and
algae in the aquarium are probably more complex than any of the
electronics or books, yet as individuals they certainly have natural

Also, one might accept TE while thinking that the level of front
loading is sufficient to produce a scientific inference of design. I'd
be more inclined to identify it as inference of design from the failure
of scientific explanations rather than as a scientific inference, but
that's just my semantic distinction. I'm moderately sympathetic to the
claim that the laws of the universe are exceptionally well suited for
our existence but also aware that there is no statistical basis for
assessing the claim (no way to measure "average" nor "undesigned"
natural laws for comparison).
> ID, on the other hand, allows for making an objective, quantifiable,
> scientific design inference. It may fail, it may succeed, but it
> ought not be excluded (IDs of course are confident it can succeed).

I agree that there is no scientific reason to exclude the possibility
of scientific design inference. ID advocates are correct to claim that
an a priori rejection of such a possibility is putting a limit on
science. However, in practice, ID relies heavily on the assertion that
a particular thing cannot be explained by known science and must be
explained by invoking a designer. This puts a limit on science in the
opposite direction, as ID opponents frequently complain.

> > However, common mechanism does not negate common descent.
> Yes, of course.

But you were arguing that common mechanism invalidates claims of common

In fact, common mechanism is itself an expectation of common descent.
The evolutionary expectation is for some convergence to occur as well
as for extensive patterns to reflect common descent, because the
mechanisms themselves have common ancestry and are thus expected to hit
on the same result independently some portion of the time.

The ability to distinguish between significant and randomly generated
patterns is critical to ID arguments, so claiming that one cannot sort
out noise from evolutionary signal is not a good ID argument.

Dr. David Campbell
425 Scientific Collections Building
Department of Biological Sciences
Biodiversity and Systematics
University of Alabama, Box 870345
Tuscaloosa AL 35487-0345  USA
Received on Mon Oct 17 13:13:02 2005

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