Re: [asa] Molecular Biology and Design

From: Nucacids <nucacids@wowway.com>
Date: Wed Dec 31 2008 - 14:53:47 EST

Dave,

 

“The problem is there is no reliable metric pro or con. So one cannot get a positive or a negative indication of design.”

 

Actually, we can’t be certain if we have a positive or negative indication of design. We could get one without knowing that we have one.

“This doesn't stop folks from alleging that design is impossible. But when they do that they aren't doing it on the basis of having a metric and having found negative results. They do it on the basis of some other argument.”

 

Indeed. And one can take the very arguments used to make the anti-ID case and use these as open-ended criteria to assess a design inference.

“The search for a reliable measure seems to be forbidden because it would settle the question. Thats politics at work. Not science. Science would seek a reliable metric and then go out and look at nature. And draw a tentative conclusion based on evidence.”

 

Without access to a robust data base about the designers, I don’t think science is capable of coming up with a reliable metric. This is probably because the ability to detect design depends on a necessary subjective element. And this is one reason why Science does not speak with authority on the plausibility of life’s design.

 

-Mike

  Mike,
  You said:
>So I would not expect everyone to agree that a true indicator of design is in play.

  The problem is there is no reliable metric pro or con. So one cannot get a positive or a negative indication of design.

  This doesn't stop folks from alleging that design is impossible. But when they do that they aren't doing it on the basis of having a metric and having found negative results.
  They do it on the basis of some other argument.

  The search for a reliable measure seems to be forbidden because it would settle the question. Thats politics at work. Not science. Science would seek a reliable metric and then go out and look at nature. And draw a tentative conclusion based on evidence.

  Cheers,
  Dave

    Hi Randy,

    You write:

    "Mike, I'm not sure you intended to say this but it seems that you may be implying that the successful use of concepts derived from engineering and the information sciences in understanding protein synthesis is an indicator that life is designed.

    I think we should be careful about such a conclusion. In general, the use of equivalent concepts for analysis of two different systems does not logically lead to the equivalence of the systems. Let me illustrate with two examples from my own field of expertise."

    I think is a very good point, as I would go further and say that we should be very careful and very tentative about such a conclusion. In fact, I don't actually reach a conclusion based on this. As an indicator, this would be a starting place, not an end point.

    Let's go back to the word 'indicator." The dictionary defines it as a pointing or directing device. So I view it as a pointer. Perhaps a medical analogy will help expand on this, as symptoms are indicators/pointers.

    Imagine that someone develops an abnormal stomach pain that persists. At that point, it would be rational for the person to become anxious and suspect they have stomach cancer. However, it would not be rational for the person to conclude he has stomach cancer and quit his job to spend his remaining time with his family. The rational course of action would neither be to ignore the pain or over-react to it, but to seek out better methods to dispel or confirm the suspicion – a trip to the doctors and perhaps a biopsy.

    In an investigation, the job of the indicator/pointer is to direct attention and focus, not to reach a firm conclusion. The indicator becomes a cause for suspicion, not belief.

    So when you write, "Similarly, the use of concepts derived from engineering and information science to understand protein synthesis is very helpful and useful but does not help us conclude or even give us a hint as to whether or not life is, in fact, information from an intelligent cause, or is designed."

    I would mostly agree but rephrase it as, "Similarly, the use of concepts derived from engineering and information science to understand protein synthesis is very helpful and useful but does not allow us to conclude as to whether or not life is, in fact, information from an intelligent cause, or is designed."

    If I turn to your examples, I suspect we could argue that those can be viewed as hints, but, and this is important, we would add, "but we know they are not because……."

    In other words, returning to the medical example, the doctor could say to his anxious patient, "Yes, stomach pain is a symptom of stomach cancer, but we know it is not in this case, because the pain you experience is actually the result of you having gastritis."

    So going back to my engineering example, for me to ignore the indicators/pointers, someone would have to make the argument, "yes, the breadth and width of the successful extrapolation of engineering concepts is an indicator that life was designed, but we know they are not in this case because……"

    Of course, if someone comes up with a "because", its persuasive power will probably be dependent on perspective. So I would not expect everyone to agree that a true indicator of design is in play. However, it would help if someone would come up with a better alternative. In other words, if such shared successful useful of concepts is NOT reason to suspect design, then what WOULD constitute reason to suspect design?

    - Mike

      Mike Gene wrote:
      "...All of these concepts play key roles in molecular biology's understanding of protein synthesis and these are all concepts derived from engineering and the information sciences.
      ...If engineering concepts have helped to shape molecular biology, it is worth noting that molecular biology has been shaping developmental biology for some time. And developmental biology has been rewriting our understanding of evolution that renders front-loading more plausible. People sometimes ask me what science would look like if life was designed. I say it would look a lot like it looks right now."

      Mike, I'm not sure you intended to say this but it seems that you may be implying that the successful use of concepts derived from engineering and the information sciences in understanding protein synthesis is an indicator that life is designed.

      I think we should be careful about such a conclusion. In general, the use of equivalent concepts for analysis of two different systems does not logically lead to the equivalence of the systems. Let me illustrate with two examples from my own field of expertise.

      Firstly, in semiconductor physics we use the concepts and tools for understanding electrons to describe and analyze holes. We talk of an effective mass, an effective velocity, energy, etc. even though we know that the hole is merely the absence of an electron and has no independent existence of its own. Usually we omit the adjective "effective" since it is well understood. The point is that the same concepts are used to describe holes and electrons, but one cannot conclude that holes have a similar type of existence as electrons.

      Secondly, in my thesis on understanding dislocation motion in superconductors, I used my advisor's innovation of using concepts derived from the equations of motion for ordinary string to analyze dislocations. The string model (not to be confused with string theory!) turned out to be superb for understanding dislocations. The latter could be described as having tension, mass, damping forces, pinnors, vibrational modes, etc. in the same way as strings. The same second order equations of motion could be used. But even though I used concepts derived from strings to understand dislocations, I could not conclude that dislocations have the same type of existence as strings.

      Similarly, the use of concepts derived from engineering and information science to understand protein synthesis is very helpful and useful but does not help us conclude or even give us a hint as to whether or not life is, in fact, information from an intelligent cause, or is designed. It just means that the same analytical concepts can be used in the two fields. I recall that a number of months ago, someone cited a paper published in a peer-reviewed journal on molecular biology about Shannon's theorems being useful to understand DNA. That may well be true but it doesn't provide evidence that DNA is therefore information of the same type as Shannon was describing. It just means the same concepts can be useful.

      Randy

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Received on Wed Dec 31 14:54:07 2008

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