Re: [asa] ID/Miracles/Design

From: D. F. Siemens, Jr. <>
Date: Thu Apr 23 2009 - 23:09:23 EDT

Your first paragraph requires that information cannot be generated by
impersonal forces. This is bunk. I have encountered numerous reports of
new information generated by "natural law." See my "News and Views,"
PSCF, 58:3:239.

Your third paragraph speaks of junk. That was a consequence of the nearly
universal belief of "one gene, one protein." What did not code for a
protein was thus not viewed as having relevance. Now we understand that
some of the genes code for more than one protein and some coding is for
control, among other uses. But some of it seems to be there to show
descent. An obvious case is the presence of all the enzymes required to
synthesize ascorbic acid in the human genome except for one that is
"damaged" and hence eliminates one step in the synthesis. This holds also
for apes, but most mammals do not need to get their vitamin C from food.
The May /Scientific American/ has an interesting article on the 1% of the
genome that we do not share with /Pan troglodytes/. Part has to do with
brain development, part with an opposable thumb. It fits best with a
naturalistic pattern of development.
Dave (ASA)

On Thu, 23 Apr 2009 06:33:53 -0400 "Cameron Wybrow"
<> writes:
Hello, Dave!

The content to ID is that life possesses informational properties that
cannot be accidental. Thus, Darwin was wrong. (Not necessarily about
the fact of evolution, but about its mechanism.) To say that Darwin is
wrong is not trivial, and a theory which purports to show that Darwin is
wrong is not "essentially empty". Maybe incorrect, but certainly not

The validity of front-loading is a separate question. My point was that,
logically speaking, ID is as compatible with naturalistic front-loading
as it is with miraculous interventions. Thus, intelligent design,
properly formulated, has no special theoretical association with
"miracles". If you want to argue that front-loading is not feasible,
well, that is an argument that should be had between you and the
front-loaders. It will necessarily get into nitty-gritty details of
genetics and so on. I am neither a geneticist nor a molecular biologist.
 Perhaps you are; I don't know your background.

I am told by experts that life science does not as yet know what the vast
majority of the DNA is there for. At one point many biologists swore on
their grandmother's graves that it was mostly "junk", since large amounts
of "junk" were a logical prediction on Darwinian premises. The discovery
of uses for some of the "junk" led to great embarrassment, and many
biologists have repented in sackcloth and ashes for jumping to that
premature conclusion. So we have to be careful not to utter decrees
about what all of the apparently excess DNA is doing there. It is at
least possible that the excess was initially set aside, as it were, for
future use. And it is possible that the original excess contained all
the information necessary to augment or diminish itself in size, in the
appropriate contexts.

I consider front-loading to be an unproved speculative possibility rather
than a scientific theory proper, compatible with the facts of science as
we have them but nowhere near proved by science, and not yet at the stage
where it can be tested. But in this it's no different from Darwinism,
which is compatible with the fossil record but nowhere near being able to
explain any major change in detail. The Darwinian grand narrative
remains speculative, and has been accepted (despite its imprecision and
vagueness and lack of quantification regarding detailed steps) purely
because Darwinism, up to now, has been the only naturalistic narrative
available. But the emergence of front-loading has provided a competitive
naturalistic narrative, a narrative of necessity as opposed to a
narrative of chance. Which narrative will win out in secular science
remains to be seen. My money is on the narrative of necessity.


----- Original Message -----
From: D. F. Siemens, Jr.
Sent: Wednesday, April 22, 2009 11:26 PM
Subject: Re: [asa] ID/Miracles/Design

As I read this, I gathered that there is no content to ID, for it is
equally compatible with natural development, direct intervention and
front loading. But this renders it essentially empty.

Design involves a pattern which requires implementation. The structure
could be brought about by front loading. Then the original creature or
creatures would have to contain all the genes necessary for later
implementations, which would proceed by shedding genes over time. This
does not fit the billions of years of microbes before the supposed
Cambrian explosion. The individual cells are too small to carry that many
genes. Further, unless the majority of Cambrian creatures disappeared
without a trace, there aren't enough of them to carry the vast load of
essential genes into later ages. Thus we are forced to implement new
designs by later interventions. We then have a choice: the interventions
were by creatures vastly smarter than we by natural means we do not
understand, or they were by the Creator by means other than what we
understand as natural. This last is what I would call a miracle. It fits
the biblical term /dunamis/. This may be obfuscated, of course, but I've
tried to boil things down to essentials.
Dave (ASA)

On Wed, 22 Apr 2009 21:14:34 -0400 "Cameron Wybrow"
<> writes:
Thanks for your reply on Biblical miracles, George. I found it somewhat
clarifying, and will get back to you on the subject later. For now,
however, I will restrict myself to replying to just one point in your
post. You wrote:

"But even more relevant to the ID context you’ve noted is that the
fundamental claim of the ID program is that some phenomena (bacterial
flagellum, blood clotting cascade) must be miraculous. Of course that
isn’t the language ID proponents use, but when they say that those
phenomena cannot be explained in terms of natural processes, & when one
recognizes that the Intelligent Designer is a rather transparent disguise
for God, then what is being spoken about is a classic definition of
miracle. And when ordinary Christians believe these arguments, use them
to support their faith and resist scientific arguments that those
phenomena can be explained in terms of natural processes, we have a
situation not unlike that in the Marcan text."

This criticism of ID would be understandable a few years ago, when the ID
people weren't being 100% clear about a number of things. I think the
lowest point of ID fortunes in this area was the Dover trial, where some
ID proponents gave, to my mind, some confusing testimony about naturalism
and natural causes, which would justify the sort of criticism you offer
here. (Of course, to be fair, it is hard to think straight in a
courtroom situation where lawyers, who are interested in victory rather
than truth, are controlling the line of questioning in an aggressive way.
 But nonetheless, some damage was done.)

However, in recent years, ID has been correcting and refining itself, and
I think your criticism is no longer applicable (as I think Keith Miller's
criticism, made the other day, and to which I responded, is no longer
applicable). I think that the whole business about "intelligent vs.
natural" and "supernatural vs. natural" and "designed vs. natural" has
become much better formulated now, as can be seen in Dembski's *No Free
Lunch* and in Behe's second book, and in the work of non-DI people like
Denton who think in design terms.

In the new, polished formulation, ID is not a theory of historical
origins but a theory of design detection. The argument from the
flagellum is not an argument that one or more miracles must have
historically intervened (between natural steps on either side) in order
to create the flagellum; it is an argument that the flagellum is
designed, rather than a product of chance, so that whatever the
efficient-cause explanation of its production, its existence is an
argument for a higher intelligence of some kind.

So, for strict naturalists, the historical cause, i.e, the efficient
cause of the flagellum, could be some form of front-loaded evolution, in
which there is obviously some sort of intelligence at work, but no
"miracles" in the sense of "interventions". On the other hand, for those
who believe in divine interventions, the efficient cause of the flagellum
might have been a blast of mysterious energy from God, that transformed a
bacterium without a flagellum into one with a flagellum. There may be
other possibilities as well. ID theory can't distinguish between the
various historical possibilities, because it's powerless to detect
anything but the design itself. So ID theory is compatible both with
traditional notions of divine intervention and with modern notions of
seamless naturalism. That leaves the field wide open for evolutionary
biologists to try to explain the flagellum in terms of stepwise natural
modifications, if they can. (Though so far they've come up with only one
possible intermediate stage, which is nowhere near an adequate

So it's now clear that ID does not rule out naturalism per se, but of
course there are different kinds of naturalism. Denton's necessitarian
naturalism is explicitly different from Darwin's naturalism of chance.
ID refutes, or purports to refute, the naturalism of chance. If ID is
right, Darwin misconceived how nature works, but "evolution" is not
thereby falsified or rejected.


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Received on Thu Apr 23 23:39:46 2009

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