Re: [asa] ID/Miracles/Design (Behe vs. Behe)

From: Randy Isaac <randyisaac@comcast.net>
Date: Sat May 23 2009 - 15:37:54 EDT

We're getting close. But a few issues remain. You say, for example,
> We are familiar with intelligence. Our experience indicates that
> intelligence
> can produce specified complexity. Indeed, it appears (if you reject that
> paradigm failure has occurred -- the assumption of the filter) that
> intelligence
> is the only thing that can produce the required specified complexity.

I don't believe that this has been showed or that it is necessarily correct.

> Additionally, you indicate that the explanatory filter only concludes that
> the
> cause is not (law and chance), which does not logically entail design.
> Lacking a specific alternative, you argue that all we can say is that "we
> don't
> know." More carefully, and more importantly, the correct conclusion is
> that
> the cause is not (law and chance). Hence, negatively we don't know what
> the
> cause might be (as you indicate), but positively we know it is not (law
> and chance).
> Hence, positively, we must look for something else.

No, we cannot say that "positively we know it is not..." Humility in science
is important and the most probable conclusion is that we don't understand
the system well enough to properly calculate the probabilities or know how
the system developed. We cannot conclude that it definitely was not law and
chance. For anyone to imply that they understand living organisms to such a
level of detail that they can make such a claim, is arrogance indeed.

You restated your question as
> So, specifically, the question is what is the utility of presuming either
> 1) that life/cell and speciation arose "accident" (i.e., neo-Darwinism),
> or
> 2) that life/cell and speciation did not arise by "accident"
 I'm not sure there's any utility in either one. It's not a relevant
presumption. A lot depends on whether you say "accident" metaphyiscally or
phyiscally. Physically, the term "accident" means that the causes of the
variability in the genetic structure are determined by factors unrelated to
its ultimate influence on the organism. Ironically, recent research of
epigenetic factors and their role in development and inheritance suggests
that there might be hints of environmental influence on epigenetic
mutations. It will be interesting to see how that research plays out.

Randy

----- Original Message -----
From: "wjp" <wjp@swcp.com>
To: "Randy Isaac" <randyisaac@comcast.net>
Cc: <asa@calvin.edu>
Sent: Friday, May 22, 2009 10:42 AM
Subject: Re: [asa] ID/Miracles/Design (Behe vs. Behe)

> Randy:
>
> I agree, it seems, with much of your assessment of ID.
>
> I agree that ID represents something of a methodology for detecting
> paradigm failure. But I think the argument for inferring design is
> stronger than you make it out to be.
>
> The argument runs along the lines of all our scientific (and other)
> thinking.
> The mechanical analogy was adopted because we are familiar with it.
> So too the argument for design might proceed as follows.
>
> We are familiar with intelligence. Our experience indicates that
> intelligence
> can produce specified complexity. Indeed, it appears (if you reject that
> paradigm failure has occurred -- the assumption of the filter) that
> intelligence
> is the only thing that can produce the required specified complexity.
>
> The same kind of thinking has produced all our understandings of the
> natural
> world. The immediate rejection, of course, is that the cause is not
> "mechanical."
> Indeed, it arises the old boggy man of entelechy and all the organic
> analogies
> that have long been rejected. That, of course, is just the point of ID:
> the neo-mechanical model has failed.
>
> Additionally, you indicate that the explanatory filter only concludes that
> the
> cause is not (law and chance), which does not logically entail design.
> Lacking a specific alternative, you argue that all we can say is that "we
> don't
> know." More carefully, and more importantly, the correct conclusion is
> that
> the cause is not (law and chance). Hence, negatively we don't know what
> the
> cause might be (as you indicate), but positively we know it is not (law
> and chance).
> Hence, positively, we must look for something else.
>
> Finally, I don't think I quite communicated the nature of my question.
>
> What I'm asking is an essential scientific question.
> We have two perspectives (the ones suggested by the explanatory filter).
> I'm asking what is the utility of either.
> Here utility can be taken as their value regarding expectations,
> a guide to research, or our understanding.
>
> So, specifically, the question is what is the utility of presuming either
> 1) that life/cell and speciation arose "accident" (i.e., neo-Darwinism),
> or
> 2) that life/cell and speciation did not arise by "accident"
>
> I'm being intentionally vague on purpose. (2) is meant to be the denial
> of (1).
> But you could replace (2) with (2'), wherein the possibility is something
> like design.
>
> It is not obvious to me that (1), (2), or (2') carries any scientific
> weight.
> In what ways do any of them narrow our expectations?
> I think little, for reasons I've given.
> In what ways do any guide our research? ETC.
>
> They may illumine our understanding, our sense of saying, "I know how it
> happened."
> So the differences relate to causation. In what ways are the various
> presumptive pictures of utility.
>
> Thanks,
>
> bill
>
> On Thu, 21 May 2009 10:28:40 -0400, "Randy Isaac" <randyisaac@comcast.net>
> wrote:
>> Bill wrote:
>>
>>> You appear to argue below that there is no analogy between computers and
>>> the human cell. The argument put forward by ID is that there is a
>> measure
>>> of design. That measure is constituted by what Dembski calls specified
>>> complexity. Whatever we take this to exactly mean, the notion is that
>>> such a measure exists. If it exists, it would seem to imply that ID
>> does
>>> not rest on an argument by analogy.
>>
>> I would suggest that the explanatory filter, of which specified
>> complexity
>> is the third stage, is not so much a measure of design as it is a measure
>> of
>> our lack of ability to account for the system in question. I think the
>> filter is, or can be, quite useful. Unfortunately, it is hard to apply
>> quantitatively and there's no compelling logic for a conclusion of design
>> if
>> something passes the filter. Where we can supplement that information
>> with
>> independent knowledge of the agent or of methodology, then design may
>> well
>> be the conclusion. In the absence of these elements, we can only
>> conclude,
>> "we don't know."
>>
>>
>>> It appears to me that we cling steadfastly to the incredible, one might
>>> even say marvelous, belief that the cell did arise by "accident" chiefly
>>> because we have no alternative that we will seriously consider.
>>
>> Yes, it is an incredible and even marvelous belief, but so is the belief
>> in
>> an unknown intelligent agent.
>>
>>> Here is my last question: in what ways does it matter that the cell
>> arose
>>> by a sequence of "accidents"? I believe that it does matter. I hear
>>> people saying things like, "since the cell arose by accident, and
>>> different species of cells likewise, then we expect blah, blah, blah."
>>>
>>> What if we believed the cell did not arise by a sequence of "accidents"?
>>> Then we might say, "since the cell did not arise only by accident, and
>>> likewise the species of cells, then we expect to find blah, blah, blah."
>>>
>>> Your task, should you accept it, is to fill in the "blah, blah, blahs."
>> I
>>> suspect, frankly, that the two series of blahs are not going to be
>>> especially different. In the one case, because randomness and vast
>>> uncertainty can do almost anything if evolution is true, and in the
>> second
>>> because we don't really know what this non-accidental aspect can do and
>>> would do. Hence, almost all the blah, blah, blahs are ad hoc. That's
>> my
>>> guess.
>>
>> I'm not sure why this is my task. You're free to speculate. I think the
>> implications are philosophical and theological, not scientific. A lot
>> depends on what you mean by "...only an accident..." If you mean with or
>> without God's providence, then it is directly contrary to any Christian
>> perspective that the world could exist without God. We cannot imagine
>> such
>> a
>> world. If you mean "without a discernible scientific purpose" then that's
>> a
>> very different matter. What scientists imply in evolution with "accident"
>> or
>> "chance" or "randomness" is not at all a mathematical pure randomness or
>> an
>> unconstrained event. Rather it is a set of events (mutations) that are
>> decoupled from the outcome (survival). Or, more accurately, the feedback
>> of
>> the system is on a timescale long compared to the initiating event and
>> consists of differential reproductive success. I don't know how to
>> speculate
>> what might happen if this didn't exist and I don't know what it would add
>> to
>> the discussion.
>>
>> Randy
>>
>>
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Received on Sat May 23 15:38:26 2009

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