Signature in the Cell 6 – The Best Explanation? (RJS)

Stephen C. Meyer has published a (very long, but readable) book, Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design, outlining his argument in favor of intelligent design. Chapter 15 is where we finally get to the point. The groundwork has been laid, and Meyer explains why he thinks that intelligent design is the best explanation for the origin of life – and more specifically, the origin of the specified information required for life. Today we will look at Meyer’s argument, on his terms, and ask a simple question:

Is Meyer’s case for Intelligent Design convincing? Does he achieve his goal?

Meyer wishes to establish the causal adequacy of Intelligent Design for the information content in DNA, to demonstrate that inference to best explanation leads to an intelligent designer.

I knew that in order to establish a cause as the best explanation, the historical scientist must do more than establish that a proposed cause could have produced the effect in question. He must also provide “evidence that his candidate [cause] was present.” and show via “a thorough search” that there is an “absence of evidence” of “other possible causes”. In other words, in addition to meeting a “causal adequacy” condition, a best explanation must also meet a “causal existence” an/or “causal uniqueness” condition. (p. 329)

He also claims that “in practice, meeting the third condition (causal uniqueness) effectively ensures that the second condition (causal existence) will also be met.” (p. 329)

Meyers puts forth the argument that (1) there is no other possible cause for the information content of the cell and (2) that the unique cause for specified information is intelligence. Because intelligence is a unique cause, he does not need to prove causal existence – the existence of a designer. The existence of information proves the existence of a designer.

How does Meyer construct the argument?

Reason 1: No Other Causally Adequate Explanation

The previous few chapters of Meyer’s book set up his argument on this point – that there is no “natural” causally adequate explanation for the origin of life, specifically for the origin of the specified information required for life. The discussion of the RNA world hypothesis and other potential scenarios for the origin of life are essential for this point.

Meyer suggests that:

(1) … self-organizational laws or processes of necessity cannot generate – as opposed to merely transmit – new information. (p. 331)

(2) “[Theories based on chance] fail because of an inherent limitation in the probabilistic resources of the universe itself.” (p. 331)

(3) Theories that combine chance and necessity fare no better:

Since natural selection “selects” for functional advantage, and since functional advantage ensues only after the result of a successful random search for functional information, combination models invariably rely upon chance rather than selection to produce new information. Yet these theories face formidable probabilistic hurdles, just as pure chance-based models do. (p. 331)

I think that Meyer’s argument fails on the third point – it is possible to envision and construct theories based on chance and necessity, that lead inevitably from lower complexity (less information) to greater complexity (more information). These models do not run into essential (i.e. unavoidable) probabilistic hurdles, although the kind of probabilistic arguments discussed in our earlier post (Signature in the Cell 4) place limits on reasonable explanations. Meyer has a response for such models though:

Every attempt to explain the origin of biological information either failed because it transferred the problem elsewhere or “succeeded” only by presupposing unexplained sources of information. The displacement problem was particularly evident in computer simulations where positive results depend so obviously on the input of information from intelligent programmers … (p. 332)

This leads to Meyer’s second reason for suggesting that an intelligent designer is the best explanation.

Reason 2: Experimental Evidence Confirms Causal Adequacy of ID

Intelligence can produce life (or at least elements of life). According to Meyer his investigation into origin of life research, and particularly what he calls “the DNA enigma” led to positive experimental evidence for intelligent design.

This evidence did not come from weird attempts to detect the paranormal or supernatural. Instead the evidence came from experiments that pointed to a normal, at least to us, causal power – in particular the power of our own minds. The experiments inadvertently demonstrated not only the power of mind over matter, but also the necessity of a mind to arrange matter into structures relevant to life. (p. 333)

Meyer argues that all of the experiments in origin of life research from Miller’s original prebiotic simulation experiments to produce amino acids, to computer simulation experiment testing evolutionary algorithms, to the ribozyme engineering experiments of Szostak and others, demonstrate the key role played by a designer in the origin of life. Life will only originate if the correct conditions are engineered and this can be achieved by intelligence (intelligence is causally adequate).

Beyond a statement of the adequacy of intelligence, this appears to be an argument about primary cause versus secondary cause. Meyer argues that experiments that elucidate secondary causes only relocate the primary cause. The intelligence required to engineer investigations of secondary cause provides evidence that the primary cause is an intelligence. This is an argument that many Christians may agree with, although likely disputing some of the points Meyer makes in trying to demonstrate it.

Reason 3: ID is the only known cause of specified information

Undirected materialistic causes have not demonstrated the capacity to generate significant amounts of specified information. At the same time, conscious intelligence has repeatedly shown itself capable of producing that information. (p. 341)

Meyers notes that arguing from effect to single known cause is a common form of reasoning. The presence of volcanic ash demonstrates past volcanic activity, evidence of erosion on Mars is taken to demonstrate that Mars once has significant amounts of water on the surface. Taking this one step further:

Archaeologists assume that a scribe produced the inscriptions on the Rosetta Stone. Evolutionary anthropologists establish the intelligence of early hominids from chipped flints that are too improbably specified in form to have been produced by natural causes. NASA’s search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) presupposes that any specified information embedded in electromagnetic signals coming from space would indicate an intelligent source. As yet, radio astronomers have not found any such information-bearing signals. But closer to home molecular biologists have identified information-rich sequences and systems in the cell, suggesting, by the same logic, the past existence of an intelligent cause for those effects. (p. 344)

With this argument Meyer brings his argument of intelligence as primary cause one step further. I interpret his argument here to state that intelligence must be the primary cause of the complexity of specified information in the cell – the primary intelligence did not use secondary cause to create the information.  An intelligence constructed the information content recorded on the Rosetta Stone, an intelligence constructed the information content in cave paintings found in Lascaux France (ca. 16000 years old) and the information content in the 30000 – 40000 year old Aurignacian figurines found in Germany.  Meyer suggests that the evidence indicates that in the same way an intelligence constructed the information content contained in the DNA of the first cell.

Where does this leave us?

I put forth the following and then we start a conversation.

Meyer has not demonstrated that intelligence as direct primary cause is responsible for the information content of the cell.

He fails on causal uniqueness. His arguments against the plausibility of “natural” mechanisms are not convincing. At most he has provided an argument for a primary cause behind the secondary causes that lead to the information content of the cell. His arguments against information in DNA or RNA as accident remembered (pp. 277-279 and p. 312-317) essentially concede this point (although he does not admit it). The intelligence is displaced to something in the design of the environment within which the specific information grows. This is a position with which many Christians are comfortable – including at some level Simon Conway Morris (Life’s Solution), Owen Gingerich (God’s Universe), Alister McGrath (A Fine-Tuned Universe), John Polkinghorne (Quarks, Chaos & Christianity), Francis Collins (The Language of God), and Tim Keller (The Reason for God).

Meyer may also fail on causal adequacy because he has not even suggested, much less presented evidence supporting, a plausible mechanism for the transfer of information from immaterial intelligence to a material system – say the DNA of the first cell. If we argue by analogy with human experience, as Meyer proposes, transfer of information from the mind of the scribe to the Rosetta Stone required arms, hands, and tools. The intelligence of early hominids used muscles, hands, and tools to produce chipped flints.  How does an immaterial intelligence produce information in a material system?

What do you think? Did Meyer make his case on causal adequacy or causal  uniqueness?

If you wish to contact me, you may do so at rjs4mail[at]att.net

  • pds

    RJS,
    You said,

    The intelligence is displaced to something in the design of the environment within which the specific information grows.

    You are a design proponent! Welcome to the family! Francis Collins, Tim Keller welcome you in.
    Whether the intelligence created life directly or created something in the “design of the environment” that led to the creation of life does not matter for Meyer’s argument. Some kind of intelligent design (somehow, sometime) is the best explanation.
    Your last paragraph does not defeat Meyer’s argument either. Detailed knowledge of the mechanics of how the intelligence did it is not a reason to reject a design inference. You yourself advocated for the acceptance of a step by step growth in knowledge. This is an area for further exploration. Do we know exactly what tools and mechanisms were used to make the Rosetta Stone? Do we let that stop an inference of intelligent creation?

  • pds

    The Design Spectrum
    One more thought. Your second to last paragraph seems to push the design of the origin of life back to part of the fine-tuning of the universe. That’s fine with me. All agree that the fine-tuning of the universe is also necessary to the origin of life. Tim Keller draws that connection in the quote from Reason for God that I posted.

  • RJS

    pds,
    You’ve read much of what I’ve written here – and I have never, ever, claimed otherwise.
    But Meyer does not claim that design is in the form of creation. His claim is much more specific and direct. He claims that like the letters on the Rosetta stone record specific information created in a mind – so the DNA in the cell records specific information created in a mind. In fact, he says that an intelligence is the unique cause of such information.
    This analogy and argument does not hold up, scientifically or in the context of the information he has presented in his book.

  • Hrafn

    Unreason #0: Best explanation?
    Before I start on Meyer’s ‘unreasons’, I would like to enquire what any of this spurious argumentation has to do with the work of the likes of Lipton on ‘Inference to the Best Explanation’. I can see little or no resemblance, and strongly suspect that Meyer has simply appropriated the phrase, without engaging the content of the pre-existing work on the subject.

  • Hrafn

    Unreason #1: Failure to evaluate ALL possible ‘other’ potential explanations:
    The set of all potential alternative explanations is infinite. Therefore, even if one accepts Meyer’s claim to have ruled out all KNOWN alternative potential explanations (which neither I, nor the scientific community, accept), this still leaves an infinite number of currently-uninvestigated potential explanations. As these have not (and until they are researched cannot) been ruled out, any attempt to draw a POSITIVE conclusion about ID from this NEGATIVE claim is a false dilemma fallacy.

  • RJS

    Hrafn (#4),
    Meyer discusses Lipton at length in Ch. 7 (even has a picture on p. 155). But one can ask whether he uses the ideas in a fashion consistent with Lipton’s, or other’s, thinking. He met him at Cambridge while finishing his Ph.D.

  • Dan

    RJS wrote: “Meyer may also fail on causal adequacy because he has not even suggested, much less presented evidence supporting, a plausible mechanism for the transfer of information from immaterial intelligence to a material system”. That emphasis on “mechanism” to me only confirms what I have believed to be the case all along, that there is a commitment here to “the uniformity of natural causes in a closed system”, which is a valid assumption for a non-theist, but seems to be a very inconsistent starting point for a theist.
    First, why is the understanding of the mechanism necessary? Would we ask the folks at SETI listening for intelligent life to hold themselves to that standard? If they found a language embedded in a radio signal, should they decide it is naturally occurring because they do not know what sort of transmitter produced it?
    Second, if the question being asked is whether natural processes alone can account for all that exists, to insist on a mechanism is to assume the answer. Whether the designer is God or some alien being from another dimension, the possibility exists that a cause may come from beyond nature as we know it. ID simply suggests that nature as we know it is not sufficient in and of itself, and intelligence is a compelling inference from the evidence at hand. ID is rejected largely because of the commitment to naturalism which looks for natural causes, only natural causes and nothing but natural causes.
    I just find that an odd position for any theist to take.

  • Hrafn

    Unreason #2: Experimental Evidence Confirms no such thing:
    1) By Meyer’s argument NO experiment can demonstrate purely natural forces, as any experiment (even one designed purely to mimic natural forces) requires the intervention of an intelligent experimenter. Whilst this viewpoint may be consonant with the IDM’s efforts to overturn Methodological Naturalism, the ‘nothing is natural’ conclusion would appear to be problematical for scientific progress.
    2) It ascribes actions that humans are (as yet) unable to fully replicate to an era when no intelligence (not even a merely human one) was known to exist. As well to ascribe these actions to serendipity, the Tao or some other hypothesised, but non-demonstrable, agent as to an ‘intelligent designer’.

  • Hrafn

    RJS (6):
    Then how does Meyer relate his own claims (that you have detailed above) to Lipton’s work? It’s all very well to ‘discuss Lipton at length’, but if he doesn’t ground his own claims in that discussion, the discussion becomes little more than a non sequitor.

  • Hrafn

    Unreason #3: no reason to accept that ‘specified information’ exists:
    (The following is an expansion of what I’ve said on other threads.)
    1) Neither Meyer nor Dembski have proffered a definition of ‘specified information’ that is sufficiently formal to be accepted by the Information Theory community. Further, they have not even attempted to submit their claims to peer review by this community.
    2) Neither has made any serious attempt to measure this nebulous quantity, and there are serious questions over whether a methodologically sound method for measuring it is even possible.
    3) No evidence has been presented that “undirected materialistic causes” CANNOT produce SI — it has merely been asserted that it cannot.
    4) No evidence has been presented that SI is essential for life — it has merely been asserted that it is.
    Can anybody tell me how the SI claim differs from the hypothetical one below:
    Prof Tink R. Bell of Neverneverland University has made the startling claim that a, previously unknown, and undetectable, substance she calls ‘fairydust’ (aka ‘pixiedust’) exists, can only be created by fairies and is essential for all life.

  • Hrafn

    Dan (7):
    1) SETI in fact uses “understanding of the mechanism(s)” that create radio sources to target their search for extraterrestrial life. This search bears to resemblance to Dembski’s ‘specified information’ claims.
    2) As I pointed out in the previous thread, part of what Lipton suggested makes for the “best explanation” is “precision” or “information about underlying mechanisms”.
    3) Science limits itself to “natural causes”, because only natural causes are amenable to discovery through scientific methods. It is impossible (both literally and figuratively) to ‘put a miracle under a microscope’, so science does not even attempt to do so. Theists who follow the scientific method are not saying that miracles don’t exist — merely that science does not, and cannot, measure or assign mechanisms to them. This leads to the pragmatic methodological assumption of working as though miracles don’t exist — because there’s nothing that science can do about them if they do. I would further note that doing things the ‘ID way’ does not give any additional benefit — as it does not tell us anything about the nature of the claimed miracle, only that (via the fallacy of a false dichotomy) it claims that an unspecified miracle occured.

  • dopderbeck

    RJS said: I interpret his argument here to state that intelligence must be the primary cause of the complexity of specified information in the cell – the primary intelligence did not use secondary cause to create the information.
    I respond: This seems to be the crux of the problem. If all he’s trying to do is suggest that, all things considered, the most satisfying and coherent explanation of the universe involves God as primary cause, then great. But if what he’s really trying to do is to show that the “information content” of the cell was inscribed directly by God in a manner similar to how we imagine the writing of the Ten Commandments, this seems both scientifically suspect and theologically unnecessary if not also theologically suspect.

  • pds

    The Design Spectrum
    RJS #3,
    You said,

    But Meyer does not claim that design is in the form of creation. His claim is much more specific and direct.

    Do you have a citation? I don’t think Meyer says one way or another.
    What you and others seem to suggest is something akin to “computer-aided design.” If the intelligence used front-loaded fine-tuning aided design to create life, I think Meyer would say that is consistent with his design inference. I would call that refining the design inference.
    Do you think that there is evidence to support “front-loaded fine-tuning aided design” as a superior inference to some kind of more direct design? Isn’t this a bit like asking if origin of life looks more like “Snow White” or “Toy Story”?

  • http://ingles.homeunix.net/ Ray Ingles

    Life will only originate if the correct conditions are engineered and this can be achieved by intelligence (intelligence is causally adequate).

    But this doesn’t mean what Meyer thinks it means. We took our kids to a science museum last summer, and in the lobby they have a ‘tornado generator’. It’s engineered to produce a vortex on demand. Does that mean that all tornadoes are specifically, proximately engineered by an intelligence?
    What does this principle of Meyer’s, plus the existence of earthquake simulators, imply about the disaster in Haiti?

  • Hrafn

    Ray (14):
    That was exactly the point I was attempting to make in my first point of #8 — but you make a considerably clearer articulation of it.

  • pds

    The Design Spectrum
    dop #12,
    “All he’s trying to do” is more than your first characterization and less than your second.
    He is trying to show that intelligent design is the best explanation for the origin of life.
    You seem to want to spin it into something less (no big deal) or something more (ha, ha, of course not). Why?

  • Hrafn

    PDS (16):
    I would argue that he is “trying to show” no such thing.
    Please demonstrate how Meyer’s argumentation even addresses, let alone meets, Lipton’s criteria for “best explanation”.

  • dopderbeck

    pds — haven’t read the book, which is why I said “if.” I don’t “want” to “spin” it one way or the other. I think arguments about coherence and primary-secondary causes are helpful and sound, while arguments that get more specific tend to be detrimental and theologically unsound. That’s all.

  • RJS

    Dan (#7),
    If you note – I said he “may also fail”, I didn’t say that this was the major problem. I brought it up because Meyer’s argument hinges on two things – absence of “natural” mechanism and analogy with human produced information. His analogy with human produced information is imperfect because he doesn’t include any mechanism for translating that information from mind to matter.
    What is the mechanism – is it as in Daniel 5 “suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall, near the lampstand in the royal palace … almost a Mary Poppinsesque “snap the job’s a game?” Or is it perhaps what we perceive as “natural” mechanism including “accident” remembered?

  • RJS

    pds,
    Do you have Meyer’s book? Read Ch. 16 and respond.
    On one level Meyer argues that “undirected” secondary cause cannot produce the information content of DNA. Now if the “direction” includes the fine-tuning of the universe … then I agree with him. As dopderbeck put it … If all he’s trying to do is suggest that, all things considered, the most satisfying and coherent explanation of the universe involves God as primary cause, then great.
    But I think that Meyer would be (very) reluctant to stop there. Ch. 16 makes a much more specific claim. I provided quotes above to try to do justice to his argument. I don’t want to debunk a straw man – but neither do I want to allow poor arguments to go unchallenged. The argument by analogy to demonstrate unique cause, the inference that all experiments demonstrate design because the are designed, and the argument against the DNA/RNA code as accident remembered are by far the weakest part of his book to this point. They are so weak that they lead to the conclusion that he has not proven his case.

  • pds

    The Design Spectrum
    RJS #19,
    What is the mechanism? None of us knows, of course. But that is no reason to say Meyer’s argument fails.
    I don’t think you answered Dan’s questions in #7. (Or mine in #13)
    Another interesting question is: Where is the edge of the design inference in biology? How deep into the history of life on earth does design-as-the-best-explanation go?

  • pds

    The Design Spectrum
    RJS #20,
    I don’t have the book with me at the moment.
    You said,

    They are so weak that they lead to the conclusion that he has not proven his case.

    Unless you or someone else gives a “better” explanation and demonstrates why it is better, then Meyer’s “best explanation” is still the best explanation and he has done all he needs to. You can repeat “not good enough” all you want, but you seem to me to be rejecting the best explanation– not on the basis of evidence, but on the basis of personal wishfulness.

  • Your Name

    Hrafn (#5)
    I agree that this is really the key fallacy: the current absence of other explanations can never prove anything. As soon as we fall into the trap of connecting God with the unexplained, the smaller that space becomes with every new discovery.
    Are there enough data to make a good case for a high probability of intelligent design? Absolutely! But let’s call it “footprints’ rather than trying to convince the scientific community that there’s just no other way!

  • RJS

    pds,
    No – by Meyer’s own ground rules he needs to show (1) absence of evidence for other possible causes for the “specified information content of DNA” and (2) either existence or uniqueness of his proposed cause for the “specified information content of DNA”.
    On #1 – absence of evidence for other possible cause – he does not demonstrate the absence of evidence for other possible cause. This is one place where the discussion turns to science.
    On #2 – he knows that he cannot prove the existence of the intelligence except through design, so he turns to uniqueness not existence. All of his arguments for uniqueness rely on analogy with human experience. This is a weak argument on many different levels.
    First: analogy to common human experience is a poor test for a scientific theory. Quantum mechanics (my specialty) is a good example here. Appeal to human intuition gets everything wrong. Relativity … standard model … the counter examples abound.
    Second: Information increase by accident remembered is a good alternative mechanism to build up the specified complexity of DNA/RNA. Meyer can not dismiss this by ridicule (his tactic in the book), he actually has to prove that it is not possible – and he does not even come close.

  • pds

    The Design Spectrum
    RJS #24,
    That is not how I read Meyer, and I am only interested in the best explanation.
    You seem intent on stacking all the ground rules to rule out a design inference. Your choice. I do not find it convincing.

  • BradK

    Does Meyer put forth a scientific argument? Does he propose a single testable, scientific hypothesis at all or am I just missing it?

  • Dan

    Hrafn 8 wrote:
    “the ‘nothing is natural’ conclusion would appear to be problematical for scientific progress.”
    Straw man. Theists who were scientists in earlier generations believed in nature, natural processes and their detectibility. Modern science, many argue, arose because of a belief that the order of the universe was the result of creation by an intelligent being. “Thinking God’s thoughts after Him” was the birth of modern science, and it was once legitimate to study natural cause and effect without assuming nature is the only thing that exists or the only thing that can be known.
    Hrafn 11 also wrote:
    “Science limits itself to “natural causes”, because only natural causes are amenable to discovery through scientific methods. It is impossible (both literally and figuratively) to ‘put a miracle under a microscope’”
    Saying science can only study that which is natural is something everyone would agree with. Saying that because science can only study natural mechanisms if follows that any suggestion of a cause that is beyond nature cannot be true is something I would strongly object to and seems to be the height of hubris. That is the problem I keep trying to address, but it seems to be an intractible dilemma.
    RJS asks again in #19 for a mechanism.
    Insisting that we detect a mechanism that is within nature is to insist that any causes beyond nature are a practical impossibility, which is fine for an atheist to suggest, but seems a strange position for a theist. But that is what seems to be asked of Meyer – to provide a natural mechanism for what may well be beyond natural mechanisms – precisely the point to be debated. Insisting on a mechanism assumes the answer to the question at hand.
    Asserting that science cannot study things beyond nature in no way proves that causes beyond nature are false, it does suggest that science has limits. And it does not invalidate science to suggest it has limits. It only calls into queston the dogma that finite humans using reason and science can answer every question about what happened before any human existed.
    RJS seems to have said several times over many posts that God works within natural law. I would agree. The question is, can God work outside of natural law? Any theist should say yes, particularly theists who have read the Old and New Testaments. RJS, and Hrafn I assume, seem to say no, no cause beyond nature is allowable – because to allow something beyond nature violates some creedal dogma of what real science is. Therein lies the problem.
    A truly theistic approach would say that if it is the case, at least theoretically, that a being created nature, and is thus outside it, we might not be able to detect the natural mechanisms used for every natural phenomena, but might be able to detect the effects – the phenomena that result from the incursion into nature. We might not know how water was turned to wine for example, but could taste the wine. The types of evidences that ID proponents point to, could be the “effects” for which no natural causes will ever be found precisely because nature is not all there is. But that very suggestion is completely anathema to anti-theists and apparently to many theists who are bound by this rigid definition of science.
    I would not bother to argue this case on a site that proclaims there is no God. But it seems horribly inconsistent and tragic to claim to believe in an all-powerful Creator on one hand while committing to a philosophy of science that imprisons Him within the very laws of nature that he authored. I can only assume that the inviolable orthodoxy of scientific naturalism must be maintained at all costs for reasons that go beyond this discussion.

  • RickK

    Dan said “I can only assume that the inviolable orthodoxy of scientific naturalism must be maintained at all costs for reasons that go beyond this discussion.”
    Natural phenomena have natural causes. This has been true enough times that it is reasonable to assume that any natural phenomena we don’t fully understand has, at its root, a natural cause.
    If you want to respond with “what caused the natural laws?”, then we’re well beyond the scope of biological evolution.
    Sure, if you want causes outside of nature, that’s fine. All phenomena that are outside of the natural world may very well have causes outside the natural world. So by all means, sit down and contemplate the supernatural causes for all those supernatural effects.
    But life on Earth is firmly within the scope of the natural world, and is fully within the realm of scientific naturalism to investigate. And while Fundamentalist-funded, Christian PhDs-for-hire use every argument in the book to maintain a gap big enough to squeeze their god into, real scientists are creating self-replicating molecules that display Darwinian evolutionary behavior without any presence of DNA or Meyer’s precious “information”, real scientists are observing how genetic duplication and divergence add “information” to the genome, real scientists are mapping the exact NATURAL genetic changes that separate humans from chimpanzees, and real scientists are even theorizing how the second law of thermodynamics may actually be a fundamental causal force for starting life.
    The people that grasp at Meyer’s arguments, like Meyer himself, are simply not interested in the science. They are interested only in using the language of science to “wedge” the door open and allow their anthropomorphized god the opportunity to tinker with nature.
    Newton was wrong when he concluded that only god could have set the planets in motion. And Meyer is wrong to conclude only a divine intelligence could have set life in motion. The difference is, Newton didn’t know any better, and Meyer does. Newton was on new territory with his theories, blazing new trails. Meyer is entirely derivative and is using the work of others to create a great obfuscation which he purposely directs at the public, not at other scientists.
    http://www.antievolution.org/features/wedge.html

  • Jeremiah Duomai

    I don’t think Meyer’s thesis has anything new to contribute to the advancement of Science. The problem with his thesis is that he does not provide explanation for mechanisms, which Science is actually interested in.
    Dan # 27,
    You said, “A truly theistic approach would say that if it is the case, at least theoretically, that a being created nature, and is thus outside it, we might not be able to detect the natural mechanisms used for every natural phenomena, but might be able to detect the effects – the phenomena that result from the incursion into nature”
    If some scientists provide natural mechanisms as an explanation for the effect, arguing that designer would have done it is not really a competing scientific explanation. If there is no natural explanation it’s best that we leave it there unexplained than bring in designer to explain the gap.
    I see Biologos as a better model for Science-Religion dialogue than ID.
    Jeremiah Duomai,
    New Delhi

  • Hrafn

    Dan (27):
    1) Kindly learn the difference between a ‘reductio ad absurdum’ argument and a “strawman”. My argument was the former, and your accusation of the latter was unsubstantiated, and appears to be baseless.
    2) Given that none of your “theists who were scientists” made Meyer’s extremist claim (that experiments mean that the phenomenon being studied is the result of design), they are irrelevant to the argument. See also Ray (14)’s comment on this.
    3) Thank you for egregiously ignoring the full contents of my comment (11#3). It DOES NOT FOLLOW “that any suggestion of a cause that is beyond nature cannot be true” (and my comment clearly makes the point that I am disavowing any such claim). This would only be a logical consequent of my comment if YOU ASSUME THAT ALL TRUTH IS SCIENCE. Not all truths are scientific truths. It may be true that a Shakespearean sonnet is beautiful — but this is not a scientific truth. It may be true that last night’s sunset was glorious — but this is not a scientific truth. It may be true that “fools rush in where angels fear to tread” — but this is not a scientific truth. Supernatural causation is not amenable to discovery by scientific tools, therefore science does not attempt to do so. ID does not provide a successful counterexample to this as (i) ID does not follow the scientific method (ii) it provides no useful details about the purported supernatural causation & (iii) even to get to the bare claim of causation requires it to indulge in a logical fallacy (fallacy of a false dilemma) and/or a bad analogy.
    3) The work on ‘Inference to the Best Explanation’ demand that a ‘Best Explanation’ provide specificity and detailed mechanisms. It is therefore entirely pertinent for RJS to demand mechanisms of a claim that purports itself to be the “best explanation”.
    4) “Can God work outside of natural law” is NOT the relevant question. The relevant one is ‘even if God does work outside of natural law, can science even detect this, let alone say anything useful about it?’ There has been no evidence to date supporting a positive answer to this question.
    5) Your “truly theistic approach” would appear to be unworkable. There is no way from distinguishing between causation by an as-yet-undiscovered mechanism and/or there being insufficient data to narrow down the specific mechanism and supernatural causation. This essentially devolves into a weak form of a ‘God of the Gaps’ argument. This approach would also balkanise science into Christian (and possibly even Protestant and Catholic) Science, Muslim Science, Hindu Science, Buddhist Science etc. A compromise, whereby they each agree that their own deity(ies) is(are) sufficiently subtle not to leave obvious fingerprints, would appear to be a reasonable (and non-blasphemous) way to ensure intersubjectivity.
    6) ID points to no “evidences” — merely a logical fallacy (a false dilemma) and an extremely weak analogy (itself a subjective inference, not objective evidence).

  • Jeremiah Duomai

    Hrafn #30,
    @5
    I think ID folks have sown such seed. In India Hindus are advocating for Vedic Science, and it’s going to be introduced in Science Dept of Indian universities soon.
    I think one of the reasons why people get attracted to Intelligent Design argument is because of the term they have employed. The term sounds very attractive for Christians. Whereas term like theistic evolution does not sound pleasant. Personally, I have come across many people who prefer ID over theistic evolution without having gone deeper into the strengths and arguments of both the positions. In fact, Creationism is very attractive for many Christians too. I think Francis Collins’ phrase Biologos is the most appropriate and attractive term. I want to suggest to all that we use the term Biologos instead of theistic evolution/evolving creation/evolutionary creation.
    God bless,
    Jeremiah Duomai

  • Hrafn

    Jeremiah Duomai (31):
    Well, Behe did admit at Dover that under his, ID-accepting, definition of ‘science’, astrology is science, so it would certainly seem fair that if we’re going to admit ID, then we should also accept Jyotiṣa (Hindu astrology, which appears to be part of ‘Vedic Science’).
    On the ‘attractiveness’ of ID to Christians, the problem is that Dover pretty much demonstrated that explicit ID has no chance (due to its close ties to pre-existing creationism) of passing constitutional muster. This means that US legislatures and school boards since have been forced to find some other euphemism (such as ‘academic freedom’ or ‘strengths and weaknesses of evolution’) for their promotion of anti-evolutionism.

  • Hrafn

    Turning from Vedic Science to (arguably) ‘Buddhist Science’ — should we likewise accept the reincarnation research of the likes of Ian Stevenson into the scientific mainstream? Like ID, reincarnation research frequently evokes criticism for its failure to articulate a viable mechanism for its claims.
    Its all very well demanding that supernatural claims be allowed into science when they align with your own religious beliefs, but many other people have their own religious beliefs, that often contradict yours, and will soon be demanding the same privileges. How many Christian parents do you think would want Hindu astrology and reincarnation taught to their children as ‘science’? And if they reject this, then what right do they have to demand that their own beliefs be taught in the guise of ‘science’?

  • pds

    The Design Spectrum
    Jeremiah #29 and Dan and RJS,

    If there is no natural explanation it’s best that we leave it there unexplained than bring in designer to explain the gap.

    That kind of sums up our differences. It’s about philosophical preferences, not the evidence. Jeremiah and RJS would prefer “unexplained” over any design explanation. It is kind of an “argument FOR ignorance.” It is inherently flawed.
    It also is unscientific, since “design” is not an inherently non-natural inference. It is perfectly natural in the realm of archeology and forensics.
    I also point out that Jeremiah joins the chorus in referring to “gaps.” They seem intent on ignoring all the positive evidence for design.

  • RJS

    pds,
    No – I do not prefer anything over a design explanation. I believe that God designed the world, universe, life, and did so intelligently.
    But I will evaluate claims of empirical observation of design on their merits. I outlined Meyer’s chapter here with his hypothesis, his grounds for evaluation, and the data he presents. The logic of his argument fails. This doesn’t mean no design – it does mean that Meyer does not prove design. There is no meat to his argument – at least through chapter 15. We will continue on through more of the book.

  • RJS

    BradK (#26),
    So far Meyer has not proposed a testable hypothesis – but there is more to the book, and we will continue and see what comes.

  • Jeremiah Duomai

    pds # 34,
    What do you think would happen to the designer once the design in the effect is explained through natural mechanism?

  • pds

    The Design Spectrum
    RJS #35,
    “No – I do not prefer anything over a design explanation. I believe that God designed the world, universe, life, and did so intelligently.”
    I am talking about the origin of life question. You are a theist, but you carve out biology and have a strong preference for materialistic and non-design answers in the realm of biology. I prefer the best explanation whatever that is.
    “Meyer does not prove design”
    Of course he does not “prove design.” He made a good argument for design as the “best explanation.” That’s the best we can do in the historical sciences. You prefer “no explanation.”
    You have claimed Meyer’s methodology is wrong, but you have not said how or why. I think he has made a very good case for the proper methodology for the historical sciences. I think a lot of scientists who specialize in the operational sciences can’t really get that a different methodology is required for the historical sciences. Your statement “Meyer does not prove design” shows me that you prefer to cling to a methodology that you are comfortable with.

  • pds

    Jeremiah #37,
    The “design argument” has been around for 3000 years and is articulated in many different forms based on many different sources of evidence. It got much stronger based on the discoveries of science in the 20th century.
    You said you like Biologos. What do you think of Francis Collins’ design arguments? Are you at the extreme end of The Design Spectrum and reject all design arguments?

  • pds

    The Design Spectrum
    RJS #24,
    You said,

    First: analogy to common human experience is a poor test for a scientific theory. Quantum mechanics (my specialty) is a good example here. Appeal to human intuition gets everything wrong. Relativity … standard model … the counter examples abound.

    This is an interesting argument. The problem is “analogy to common human experience” is often right. Scientists use it all the time. Sometimes it is wrong. But when it is rejected, it is rejected because of better evidence. Here you seem to be rejecting the analogy argument based on no contrary evidence, just a personal prediction.
    Again, the methodology of quantum mechanics is different from the methodology for the historical sciences. A better approach is to weigh the analogy evidence generally, and weigh it against other evidence.

  • RJS

    pds,
    Perhaps there are aspects in the origin of life where there is a room for a specific design argument. But Meyer does not talk in vague generalities … he sets a specific goal (specified information in DNA) and he puts forth his argument. I am not evaluating all design arguments – I am evaluating this design argument.
    Meyer does not make a strong case (through Ch. 15) – it has serious logical flaws even by the standard he sets for himself.
    I will not cut him any slack here because if people looking into Intelligent Design have any chance of making an inroad they cannot submit sloppy work. It has to be rigorous and fair.
    With respect to Meyer’s argument – his dismissal of specified information arising from “accident remembered” uses rhetorical misdirection and ridicule… it does not deal with the meat of the argument. Until he does this, if he can, his argument fails to pass muster.
    I have serious problems with other parts of his argument as well – but until he can deal with this one, the rest isn’t really even on the table.

  • Hrafn

    PDS (40):
    Please point to any historical science whose methodology accepts a mere analogy, let alone a very weak one, as “evidence”. Your argument appears to be making the fallacy of a ‘special pleading’.

  • Hrafn

    I just did some further scratching around. As far as I can find, Meyer’s ‘building blocks’ for his definition of ‘best explanation’, ‘causal uniqueness’ & ‘causal adequacy’ have no currency in general discussion of the inference to the best explanation, but is only used in the context of Meyer himself, his writings, his fellow ID henchmen and discussion thereof.
    Essentially, all that Meyer is saying is ‘according to my own idiosyncratic definition of Best Explanation, mine is the best explanation. That and $5 will buy you a coffee from Starbucks.
    Oh and this, like pretty near everything else in the book is simply a regurgitation of earlier ID works.

  • pds

    The Design Spectrum
    RJS #41,
    Where is the “ridicule” you claim? What page? 278? My reading is that his response to the “accident remembered” argument is that it shifts the fundamental problem elsewhere. And/or that the “accident” won’t be “remembered” unless there is a functional reason for it to be remembered. That is not ridicule.
    You continue to say “not good enough” without providing any “better explanation.”

  • Jeremiah Duomai

    pds # 39,
    I am not arguing against design as such. My concern is for the mechanism. I have read your posts and possibly you may not switch side. Fair enough. But my concern with ID is that it does not sound as the better approach than that of, say, Alister McGrath. Without attacking evolutionary biology Alister was able to deflate Dawkins’ argument in Dawkins Delusion.
    ID won’t claim that it is a religious group. But many don’t see it that way. There is religious bent to it, or at least that’s the way many see. And once Christians in the West start bringing in religious tone into Science you cannot prevent Hindus/Buddhist from taking similar step. If Hindus in India are bringing in their religious tone into Science it’s going to be hard for us to fight against it. Christians here are just 2%.
    I work in a campus ministry. And many of my students read ID writers. But in a campus where 98% are non-Christians ID kind of arguments just don’t work. In fact, in Delhi except for two colleges all are 99.9 non-Christians. It’s because 75% Indian Christians are from “lower caste” and most don’t get into colleges. For practical reasons I have been telling my students and colleagues here that ID books are an obstacle for evangelism. As of now it’s just Vedic Science conservative Hindus are introducing in the universities. Few years back they tried to rewrite the whole syllabus of schools and colleges with Hindu religious tone. And it was the Marxist/atheist who protested such move. Christians were just helpless.
    I think two things ID proponents need to ask: Has ID in some way contributed to the cause of Christ? And has it contributed to the growth of scientific advancement? If both the answers are negative I don’t think it’s worth defending.
    Regards,
    Jeremiah Duomai

  • pds

    The Design Spectrum
    Jeremiah #45,
    Good points. ID has to be used in a contextually appropriate manner. I agree that it can be use badly. Here in the US there is a myth that science explains everything. It is a defeater mythology that stops the gospel. I think design arguments from nature can help address that. I recommend Dallas Willard’s recent book Knowing Christ Today.
    “Has ID in some way contributed to the cause of Christ? And has it contributed to the growth of scientific advancement?”
    A resounding yes to both. See Collins pp 71-78. And Tim Keller’s use:
    http://thedesignspectrum.wordpress.com/2010/01/28/tim-kellers-design-argument/
    I think the more important question: Is it the best explanation for the origin of life? Is it true?

  • RJS

    pds,
    Is it the best explanation for the origin of life?
    On one level yes – the existence of a God, specifically the Christian God, seems to me to be the best explanation for the origin of life. (See dopderbeck’s comment #12) We can discuss this – but Meyer’s book doesn’t, at least through Ch. 15.
    Is the existence of a designer the best explanation for the specified information encoded in the DNA of the cell.
    No – or at least not even plausibly demonstrated as of yet. This is what Meyer purports to demonstrate in his book.
    The “displacement problem,” (pp. 277-279) while not removing the plausibility of a designer (God), undermines the very premise of Meyer’s argument, because the proposal of “accident remembered” means that the form of the specified information is not specified by the designer. All of Meyer’s classroom demonstration examples of random typing of texts and magnetic kids letters (and his comparison with the Rosetta stone) become irrelevant.
    With respect to ridicule and rhetoric…Meyer fixates on the combination lock and the apparatus required to make a lock – he did not actually deal with Quastler’s argument(I think I have the right name – but I am working from memory so may not). He sidestepped it.
    The tactic is similar to those who note that Jesus taught on the kingdom of God (Mark 4:30-32):

    And He said, “How shall we picture the kingdom of God, or by what parable shall we present it? “It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the soil, though it is smaller than all the seeds that are upon the soil, yet when it is sown, it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and forms large branches; so that the birds of the air can nest under its shade.

    And then fixate on the fact that the mustard seed is among the smallest but is not the smallest seed and that the plant is large but is not the largest. They may be right, but it is irrelevant to the point of Jesus’s teaching. (And it does not undermine the reliability of scripture.)

  • pds

    RJS #47,
    you said:

    The “displacement problem,” (pp. 277-279) while not removing the plausibility of a designer (God), undermines the very premise of Meyer’s argument, because the proposal of “accident remembered” means that the form of the specified information is not specified by the designer. All of Meyer’s classroom demonstration examples of random typing of texts and magnetic kids letters (and his comparison with the Rosetta stone) become irrelevant.
    With respect to ridicule and rhetoric…Meyer fixates on the combination lock and the apparatus required to make a lock – he did not actually deal with Quastler’s argument(I think I have the right name – but I am working from memory so may not). He sidestepped it.

    I think he dealt with it head on. Quastler’s example depends on there being a lock that can remember the sequence and give it functionality. But locks are designed by intelligent agents. It is only because they are designed that they can give meaning and function to an accidental sequence. Floating chemicals cannot do that.

  • RJS

    pds,
    When you say “Floating chemicals cannot do that” you are assuming the conclusion. Meyer must demonstrate that floating chemicals cannot do that.
    Look – I am not saying that the origin of life is a solved problem. I am not even saying that there is no room for design. I am saying that Meyer does not prove his case.
    There has to be a “lock” of some sort, and that “lock” can be a functionally significant specific sequence that starts the ball rolling. One can suggest that the design of the universe produces that functionally significant specific sequence. All of this moves the designer to steps before the assembly of specified information content in the DNA. But this is not what Meyer wishes to prove. He appears to wish to prove that the information content of DNA is written in the cell in the “mind to matter” fashion that produced the text on the Rosetta Stone or the words that you are reading right now.
    Is there anything in his book that leads you to believe otherwise?

  • pds

    The Design Spectrum
    RJS #49
    You said,

    One can suggest that the design of the universe produces that functionally significant specific sequence. All of this moves the designer to steps before the assembly of specified information content in the DNA.

    That is exactly what Meyer means by the “displacement problem.” The design is just pushed back. But design is still required. I think he is pretty clear about that. The critical specified information is in the lock system that comes first.

    He appears to wish to prove that the information content of DNA is written in the cell in the “mind to matter” fashion that produced the text on the Rosetta Stone or the words that you are reading right now. Is there anything in his book that leads you to believe otherwise?

    Yes, his discussion of the displacement problem. That’s what that means.
    Does he discuss the specific mechanism of the design? I don’t think so, and it is not essential to his argument.

  • pds

    RJS,
    “When you say “Floating chemicals cannot do that” you are assuming the conclusion. ”
    Ok I will restate: Floating chemicals have never been shown to retain specified information in the way a highly design combination lock can.

  • RJS

    pds (#50),
    No – the critical design when it is displaced to the “lock” is not “specified information.” The critical design is then in the laws of chemistry and physics. There is no designed specified information of the sort Meyer discusses – there is a designed universe. This is a big difference.
    The specific place for the design (in the DNA – possibly in RNA) is absolutely critical to the argument of Signature in the Cell.

  • Unapologetic catholic

    “I think he dealt with it head on. Quastler’s example depends on there being a lock that can remember the sequence and give it functionality. But locks are designed by intelligent agents.”
    Fractally incorrect–not even wrong.
    “Ok I will restate: Floating chemicals have never been shown to retain specified information in the way a highly design combination lock can.”
    Flatly incorrect again.
    Here’s the problem. There are no “locks” on molecules. There’s no lock and key arrangement on molecules. There’s no “combination” either.
    The “lock” phrase is an analogy only–and a bad one at that. The fact is that if there’s a “lock” the “keys” are not perfect. Not only aren;t they perfect, there’s several versiosnof the key that opens the lock.
    Meyers simply handwaves away the scietific studies showing that functionally specifc replicating sequences can easily evolve.
    here’s one example:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9917382
    Here’s another:
    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/1167856
    There’s a lot more.
    The lock analogy is faulty. As the first research article demostrates it’s not”an inseert key” arrangement– the binding site is a “rough spot.”
    A much better analogy than the lock is “velcro.” The right rough spots will bind even if its’s not a perfect fit jsut like velcro will still hold with only a parital overlap. That’s the improtant part. Binding will occur even it it’s not a perfect fit.
    Some fits are better than others and better fits can cause rearragements so that future fits are even better still and replicaiton is improved. The “velcor” gets better becasue the overlaps will improve. (An analogy! That’s not exactly how it works.)
    No sentience or supervisison is required for this process.
    Buth the “lock” and the “velcro” are only analogies for what actualy happens. Meyer’s mistake–and he’s not the only one making this mistake–is to confuse his analogy with reality.
    Quastler died in 1963, nearly 50 years ago. Biology has advanced just a bit since then. I doubt seriously if he woud have the the same opinions today. Meyer’s reliance on outdated and out of context work is telling.

  • pds

    RJS #50,
    You are trying to defeat a design argument by proposing that a designed universe explains the origin of life?

    The specific place for the design (in the DNA – possibly in RNA) is absolutely critical to the argument of Signature in the Cell.

    Why? The specific place of the evidence is in the DNA. DNA is evidence of design, whether it came directly from a designer or from a designed system designed by the designer.

  • RJS

    Unapologetic Catholic
    If I get the argument right, Quastler’s analogy with the lock was that there is no need to specify a combination beforehand or have any chemical reason for a specific combination. So the fact that TTT and TTC code for Phenylalanine, TCT and TCC for Serine, TAT and TAC for Tyrosine etc. could be simply “accident remembered”, (although the specific redundancies may have a functional basis as some mutations are more likely than others).
    There is no need for the code to come first. And there is no more fundamental significance to the code than there is to the fact that Latin uses panis, English uses bread, and Greek uses ἄρτος for the same thing (essentially the same).
    Some molecule based functional advantage to a molecular sequence (possibly RNA, but could be some other multi-monomer chain) comes first and complexity builds up from there.

  • R Hampton

    This is a side by side comparison of what Evolution and Intelligent Design teaches: http://i.imgur.com/25MC5.png

  • RJS

    pds,
    I am not trying to defeat a design argument. I am trying to look at what rings true and what does not.
    As far as you are concerned – it may be true that it makes no difference if the design is in the “specified information” of the DNA or in the design of the universe that makes the DNA.
    If the goal is to combat the rampant secular naturalism – ontological naturalism – of our western culture, it makes no difference where the design is (it actually makes no difference if there is empirical evidence for design). In this case Meyer and Dembski can join hands with Collins and Conway Morris and me and many others and fight the battle that I think actually needs to be fought.
    If the goal is to combat “evolution” as the mechanism producing the diversity of species (not just secular naturalism), then it matters deeply where the design is located. If the goal is to construct an argument against common descent (as it is for some, I don’t know if it is for Meyer) then the design must be located in the DNA – written mind to matter as the letters on the Rosetta Stone are written.

  • Unapologetic Catholic

    RJS You’re probably correct that Quastler was using the lock analogy as you described but the analogy cannot be extapolated as Meyers does and since 1950, a lot of work has been doen to suggest that certain molecular structures predispose towards certian outcomes and make others much less likely.
    I expect you could give an entire seminar on that subject.

  • Jeremiah Duomai

    pds # 46,
    I agree that there is some idea that Science can explain everything. My point is why does one have to use ID to counter that? Alister McGrath does not do that. And nobody can accuse McGrath of bringing disrepute to Science.
    I have no quarrel wrt the idea that the universe is designed. But one does not have to use ID to argue for that. Even Biologos argues that the universe is designed. I think brothers in Christ like Johnson and Dembski argue with missionary zeal for ID because they thought that’s the way they could defeat atheistic elements in Science. But I am not quite convinced with the idea.
    Do you think there is something more to ID that Biologos does not have? I think, however, that Biologos has more to say than ID. Biologos would even to to the extend of identifying the designer i.e the God of the Bible revealed in crucified and risen Christ.

  • Hrafn

    Following up a point made by
    Jeremiah Duomai (59), I would like to ask how ID, even potentially, can be considered a viable method to “defeat atheistic elements in Science.”
    The scientific community, based upon the statistics I have seen, is considerably more areligious than the general community (and stably so for many decades). Further, it appears that the upper levels of its meritocracy tend to be even less religious than the scientific community as a whole. Will ID encourage believers to enter scientific fields dominated by those (believers and unbelievers alike) who reject ID? I think not. Will it aid them in ‘climbing the greasy pole’ up the meritocracy that likewise rejects ID? Highly unlikely. I can therefore see no way that ID can hope to remedy this imbalance.
    ID has strenuously avoided direct engagement with the scientific community, spurning even attempting to publish in the peer-reviewed literature, in favour of addressing the general public (a less discerning and more sympathetic audience) directly. They thus occupy a self-created academic ghetto, rubbing shoulders with cranks of the likes of Rupert Sheldrake, and derided and ignored by the scientific community — and thus exercising no influence over it, and having absolutely no leverage whatsoever to “defeat atheistic elements” within it.
    ID cannot reasonably hope to influence science, and its main efforts are not targeted at this but at influencing (politically-controlled) education. Here it fights as part of the creationist rearguard action, to dilute and distort the teaching of evolution, winning some victories, but being repeatedly routed by an inexorable march of unfavourable court decisions.

  • pds

    Jeremiah,
    Biologos applauds ID arguments in the fine-tuning of the universe. It ridicules ID arguments in biology. It gives no good reasons for the double standard.
    I think it misleads Christians regarding the evidence for and against evolutionary theory. It misleads Christians as to what ID is.
    You seem to using “ID” in a manner that is different than how its proponents use it.

  • Hrafn

    PDS (61):
    The difference would appear to be that it is possible to argue for “ID arguments in the fine-tuning of the universe” without (as far as I know) rejecting any well-founded science. Arguing for “ID arguments in biology” requires rejecting the Theory of Evolution. This (i) requires misleading fellow Christians into believing that there is legitimate “evidence … against evolutionary theory”, when none exists & (ii) means losing all credibility within the scientific community.

  • Jeremiah Duomai

    pds # 61,
    How am I using ID differently?

  • http://electricconsciousness.tripod.com Glen Davidson

    Undirected materialistic causes have not demonstrated the capacity to generate significant amounts of specified information. At the same time, conscious intelligence has repeatedly shown itself capable of producing that information. (p. 341)

    Let’s say that intelligent agents (obviously I mean something like us, notably, capable of rationally determining cause and effect) coming from another dimension, universe, and causal regime came to earth and were able to understand causes here, 10 million years ago.
    How true would Meyer’s second sentence in that quote be?
    It wouldn’t be true at all, since intelligence was not capable of producing such information, at least not in artifacts, manuscripts, computer codes and files, and in various kinds of designs.
    And so how appropriate is it to use an “argument” that works at one point in history, and not at another time? Intelligence is a good inference now for life’s origin, but was not 10 million years ago? That sort of situation totally destroys intelligent argumentation altogether.
    In one sense I’m saying that he’s clearly begging the question of how life, and then eventually intelligence, arose. And in a contingent manner, he’s resorting to the genetic fallacy, because it’s impossible that we could even have these discussions if we were not intelligent enough to make integrated systems of “specified information,” yet he uses this necessary capability as if it applied generally to the origin of such a capability.
    Of course Meyer also ignores the fact that life’s information is in many ways very different from what humans produce, unless they are trying to mimic evolutionary processes, and that life’s information exists in an evolvable form that humans do not typically make (again, we do if we’re trying to make systems evolvable, following evolutionary observations). Another disanalogous factor is that, while it is not beyond our imagination that aliens might make life (although almost certainly via mimicry), there is no reason to believe that it would be done without a whole lot of attendant machines and environmental manipulations, while their Designer is supposed to have acted to make life and not left behind any other kinds of artifacts at all.
    These further issues highlight how unlike science Meyer’s approach is. He just assumes a “cause” without establishing its plausibility 4 billion years ago or so on earth, and he takes the late development of intelligence capable of producing informational systems somewhat similar to those found in life as if it were itself the answer to life’s development. The whole enterprise fails to truly explain anything, from the rather significant (evolutionarily facilitating) differences between the DNA code and those we most naturally produce (when not trying to mimic evolution, that is), to the existence of intelligence.
    But I do think that the worst misuse of intellection is assuming that the contingent and late existence of an intelligence capable of putting together the process of evolution is an indication that such an intelligence must itself be the cause of intelligence. It begs all of the questions that evolution actually answers.
    Glen Davidson
    http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p


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