Re: [asa] Ignorance in all around I see...

From: Don Nield <>
Date: Sun Jul 06 2008 - 18:15:02 EDT

In response to what Pim, Rich and Murray have been saying on this and
The Myth of the Rejected ID Paper (science stoppers and OOL) thread, I
agree with Murray that one can concede to the DI ID proponents that
their form of ID is not a science stopper. Having said that, it seems to
me that DI ID (as distinct form i.d. based on fine tuning arguments) has
to date been a science retarder. As George said, whether the ID paradigm
will eventually lead to a stoppage is something that lies in the future.
As I see it, DI ID stands or falls with whether Dembski and Behe are
correct about complex specified information and irreducible complexity.
However it seems to me that Ken Miller has demolished Behe's argument
based on IC , while Dembski's design filter based on CSI has two
fundamental flaws (which are to some extent related). First, the
arguments about small probabilities are based on the assumption that the
events are independent. Only then can one multiply small probabilities
to get very small probabilities. While Dembski's filter may be fine as a
piece of pure mathematics, it fails as applied mathematics when it is
applied to biology. In biology one does not have independent events.
Second, in order for Dembski's filter to work he needs to establish
specified complexity in a biological system, and in order to do this he
needs to know the values of the probabilities for *all* the possible
alternative Darwinian explanations. Since he will never have this
knowledge, he cannot establish specified complexity in a biological
system. One can concede to the DI ID proponents that their argument is
not a God of the gaps argument of the usual kind, but nevertheless at a
deeper level it is indeed based on ignorance. For Christian apologetics
DI ID may lead to some short-term gains but it seems inevitable that it
will lead to a long term loss.

Murray Hogg wrote:
> Hi Pim,
> It doesn't matter much what ID theorists claim, one only has to look
> at their output to determine whether they are content with a simple
> claim of ignorance.
> Indeed, the quotations you cite from Nelson and Johnson are sufficient
> to prove the point: whether one agrees with the science or not,
> working out a "fully fledged theory of biological design" would
> require the same level of effort as a fully fledged theory of
> biological evolution.
> The issue with Dembski (and other design theorists) is NOT whether
> they have succeeded in demonstrating improbability, the issue is
> whether they have ATTEMPTED to go past it. Which they have.
> As for the question, "what has Dembski contributed to our
> understanding of the bacterial flagellum?"...
> You might recall the old story about Edison who, having failed for the
> umpteenth time to find the right "formula" for a lightbulb, was asked
> if he was discouraged. His response, "No, I've found one more way how
> NOT to do it".
> Ask yourself: up to that point, what did Edison's experiments
> contribute to our understanding of the lightbulb?
> Science is done by, and advances through, even those whose efforts fail.
> Blessings,
> Murray Hogg
> Pastor, East Camberwell Baptist Church, Victoria, Australia
> Post-Grad Student (MTh), Australian College of Theology
> PvM wrote:
>> Since ID is an argument from ignorance, the fact that some IDers have
>> attempted to claim that it isn't should not be seen as a rejection or
>> disproof of the simple fact.
>> The foundation of ID is based on an eliminative approach which is
>> unable to compete with 'we don't know'. ID may claim that it has
>> attempted to go beyond this position of ignorance but until they are
>> willing to constrain the designer, no progress will be made.
>> It should not come as too much of a surprise that even amongst IDers
>> there exists a certain level of disappointment with the lack of much
>> progress
>> Paul Nelson admitted
>> "Easily the biggest challenge facing the ID community is to develop a
>> full-fledged theory of biological design. We don't have such a theory
>> right now, and that's a problem. Without a theory, it's very hard to
>> know where to direct your research focus. Right now, we've got a bag
>> of powerful intuitions, and a handful of notions such as 'irreducible
>> complexity' and 'specified complexity'-but, as yet, no general theory
>> of biological design. "
>> Philip Johnson admitted
>> "I also don't think that there is really a theory of intelligent
>> design at the present time to propose as a comparable alternative to
>> the Darwinian theory, which is, whatever errors it might contain, a
>> fully worked out scheme. There is no intelligent design theory that's
>> comparable. Working out a positive theory is the job of the scientific
>> people that we have affiliated with the movement. Some of them are
>> quite convinced that it's doable, but that's for them to prove…No
>> product is ready for competition in the educational world. "
>> In other words, even though there may be some ID proponents who
>> believe that ID can be developed into a 'theory' or even a non vacuous
>> 'hypothesis' does not mean that this makes ID less vacuous as a
>> science or less of an argument from ignorance. As to ID being a
>> science killer, ask yourself, what has ID contributed to our knowledge
>> about the bacterial flagellum. It were hard working scientists who
>> have started to unravel the origin and evolution of this once
>> 'irreducibly complex' system.
>> Dembski's mathematical analysis of design is nothing more that a
>> carefully reworded argument from improbability where Dembski attempts
>> to circumvent the inherent problems of such an argument with the
>> concept of specification. Ask yourself, what has Dembski contributed
>> to actual scientific understanding? Have you read his 'analysis' of
>> protein formation and how he applies 'mathematics' to further his
>> 'argument'? The problem with ID is that, like its cousin YEC, it has
>> to ignore scientific progress, downplay scientific understanding and
>> undermine science education. None of these can really be seen as
>> contributing to science, science education or scientific
>> understanding.
>> Now, there always exists the possibility that ID could become a
>> scientifically relevant contributor to science but there appears to be
>> no attempts from most ID proponents to take ID down that path. After
>> all ID has served its purpose:
>> ""Our strategy has been to change the subject a bit so that we can get
>> the issue of intelligent design, which really means the reality of
>> God, before the academic world and into the schools."" Philip Johnson
>> (American Family Radio, Jan 10, 2003 broadcast, in which Johnson
>> "discusses his book The Right Questions, encouraging Christians to
>> actively debate issues of eternal value.")
>> ID is scientifically speaking bankrupt and I doubt it can successfully
>> file for chapter 11 and return in a scientifically more relevant
>> manner. That instead the ID movement is attempting to spread the
>> ignorance to australia via its DVDs shows that ID may be less
>> interested in science and faith than it is in pursuing its
>> religio-political asperations. Scary...
>> On Sat, Jul 5, 2008 at 4:31 PM, Murray Hogg <>
>> wrote:
>>> Hi Rich,
>>> At the end of the day I personally think that an objection to ID as an
>>> argument from ignorance should be retired as manifestly false and
>>> positively
>>> harmful. False because ID theorists HAVE attempted to show that the
>>> issue
>>> ISN'T merely ignorance. Harmful, because it perpetuates the myth (?) of
>>> persecution. Instead I think that it should be argued that - just as
>>> Johnson
>>> and Nelson have acknowledged - even when taken on its own terms ID
>>> theory
>>> seems not to have successfully demonstrated its case.
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Received on Sun Jul 6 18:15:27 2008

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