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Re: [OriginsTalk] Re: Shermer-Dembski Intelligent Design Debate

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  • Clare Wilson Parr
    ... Well, I failed to make my point clear. It s my understanding that both Behe and Dembski subscribe to common descent / natural selection + random mutation,
    Message 1 of 12 , Jan 1, 2006
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      On 12/31/2005, pk4_paul wrote:

      >--- In OriginsTalk@yahoogroups.com, "James Putnam" <fizzeeks@y...>
      >wrote:
      > >
      > > --- In OriginsTalk@yahoogroups.com, Clare Wilson Parr
      > > <turandot@i...> wrote:
      > > >
      > > > On 12/30/2005, James Putnam wrote:
      > > >
      > > > >(This is my impression of their respective positions.) Michael
      > > > >Shermer feels we should restrict science to natural causes. That
      > > > >sounds reasonable to many. William Dembski feels that intelligent
      > > > >participation and guidance should be investigated scientifically.
      > > > >That sounds reasonable to many others. My own feeling is that
      > > > >Shermer's natural causes are not scientific, and that Dembski's
      > > > >apparent acceptance of them weakens his case. He seems to be
      > > > >looking for evidence of intelligence that exists in additon to
      > > > >known natural causes.
      > > >
      > > > Excellent summary, IMO.
      > > >
      > > > I strenuously agree that Dembski's ID case is weakened by his
      > > > "best-of-both-worlds" philosophy, and so, incidentally, does
      > > > Behe.
      > > >
      > >
      > > Thank you. I have to admit that I had not heard of Behe or Dembski
      > > until about August of this year. I began visiting some Intelligent
      > > Design related websites and saw their names several times. I have
      > > seen their work referred to by others. I learned through reading
      > > the words of others that Michael Behe has put forward examples of
      > > irreducible complexity in biology. I have yet to read his work or
      > > hear him speak, so I am asking a question due to lack of first
      > > hand knowledge. My impression was that this argument allowed for
      > > many living things or parts of living things to have evolved by
      > > natural causes while some others required intelligent intervention.
      > > Your point above indicates to me that this impression is false.

      Well, I failed to make my point clear. It's my understanding that
      both Behe and Dembski subscribe to common descent / natural selection
      + random mutation, which is what I interpreted your "natural causes"
      to mean. I agree with your opinion that Dembski does weaken his
      argument by ceding the Darwinists' their common descent / natural
      selection arguments. It is certainly well within the realm of
      possibility that Behe and Dembski _define_ the terms common descent,
      natural selection differently than the Darwinists. For instance, do
      Behe and Dembski define common descent per the Darwinists'
      _universal_ molecules-to-man meaning, or do they mean common descent
      at the cellular level?

      >I've read Behe's book 'Darwin's Black Box' as well as several of the
      >essays he has authored that are posted on the web.

      Ditto.

      >The description of Behe's ideas as characterized above is off the mark.

      How so?

      >Behe's irreducible complexity is a term that aptly desribes many if not
      >most cellular systems. It also fairly describes the component parts
      >of specific proteins and genes. Behe scores empirical points while
      >his critics have countered with scenarios that are imagination
      >dependent. The appearence of newly observed adapatations has been
      >observed primarily in one-celled organisms. They almost always
      >entail simple point mutations of a single gene which confers an
      >advantage within a limited environment. What we do not observe is
      >telling. We do not observe multiple coordinated mutations involving
      >many genes which alter their protein by-products or mechanisms by
      >which proteins are regulated. This is a huge empirical point made
      >by Behe.

      I agree with every word you've written. What I _thought_ James was
      saying, and what I agreed about, is that Dembski [and in my response
      I included Behe] weakens his ID argument by "accommodating" the
      Darwinists' common descent / natural selection mechanisms.

      >Behe's critics have countered with references to homologous proteins
      >in species lacking an IC system in question. They then hypothesize
      >that these proteins had other prior functions in sometimes vaguely
      >described precursor systems. I know what biochemical pathways are
      >and if necessary can illustrate the difference between the
      >scientific description of the glycolytic pathway, for example, and
      >the imagination dependent pathways alluded to by Behe's critics.

      Agreed.

      >Based on our knowledge of mutation rates, gene structure, protein
      >properties, regulatory mechanisms and more Behe and others make the
      >case that IC systems would not have formed in the absence of
      >intelligent input.

      Again, agreed.

      I've located a couple of references that may better explain Behe's /
      Dembski's overarching life philosophies:

      <---->
      Behe: I believe that Darwin's mechanism for evolution doesn't explain
      much of what is seen under a microscope. Cells are simply too complex
      to have evolved randomly; intelligence was required to produce them.

      I want to be explicit about what I am, and am not, questioning. The
      word "evolution" carries many associations. Usually it means common
      descent -- the idea that all organisms living and dead are related by
      common ancestry. I have no quarrel with the idea of common descent,
      and continue to think it explains similarities among species. By
      itself, however, common descent doesn't explain the vast differences
      among species.

      That's where Darwin's mechanism comes in. "Evolution" also sometimes
      implies that random mutation and natural selection powered the
      changes in life. The idea is that just by chance an animal was born
      that was slightly faster or stronger than its siblings. Its
      descendants inherited the change and eventually won the contest of
      survival over the descendants of other members of the species. Over
      time, repetition of the process resulted in great changes -- and,
      indeed, wholly different animals.

      That's the theory. A practical difficulty, however, is that one can't
      test the theory from fossils. To really test the theory, one has to
      observe contemporary change in the wild, in the laboratory or at
      least reconstruct a detailed pathway that might have led to a certain
      adaptation.

      Darwinian theory successfully accounts for a variety of modern
      changes. Scientists have shown that the average beak size of
      Galapagos finches changed in response to altered weather patterns.
      Likewise, the ratio of dark- to light-colored moths in England
      shifted when pollution made light-colored moths more visible to
      predators. Mutant bacteria survive when they become resistant to
      antibiotics. These are all clear examples of natural selection in
      action. But these examples involve only one or a few mutations, and
      the mutant organism is not much different from its ancestor. Yet to
      account for all of life, a series of mutations would have to produce
      very different types of creatures. That has not yet been demonstrated.

      Darwin's theory encounters its greatest difficulties when it comes to
      explaining the development of the cell. Many cellular systems are
      what I term "irreducibly complex." That means the system needs
      several components before it can work properly. . . .

      [...]

      . . . As James Shapiro, a biochemist at the University of Chicago,
      wrote, "There are no detailed Darwinian accounts for the evolution of
      any fundamental biochemical or cellular system, only a variety of
      wishful speculations." ~ Michael Behe / Darwin Under the Microscope /
      The New York Times / October 29, 1996 /
      <http://www.arn.org/docs/behe/mb_dm11496.htm>
      <---->

      Dembski: Natural selection is no substitute for intelligence. All
      natural selection does is narrow the variability of incidental change
      by weeding out the less fit. What's more, it acts on the spur of the
      moment, based solely on what the environment at present deems fit,
      and thus without any foresight of future possibilities. And yet this
      blind process, when coupled with another blind process (incidental
      change), is supposed to produce designs that exceed the capacities of
      any designers in our experience.

      Where is the evidence that natural selection can accomplish the
      intricacies of bioengineering that are manifest throughout the living
      world? Where is the evidence that the sorts of incidental changes
      required for large-scale evolution ever occur? The evidence simply
      isn't there. To appreciate what's at stake, imagine what would happen
      to the germ theory of disease if scientists never found any
      microorganisms or viruses that produced diseases? That's the problem
      with Darwinism. In place of detailed, testable accounts of how a
      complex biological system could realistically have emerged, Darwinism
      offers handwaving just-so stories for how such systems might have
      emerged in some idealized conceptual space far removed from
      biological reality. ~ William Dembski / Foreword to Geoffrey
      Simmons's What Darwin Didn't Know / January 30, 2004.
      <http://www.arn.org/docs2/news/Dembski013004.htm>
      <---->

      [...]

      William Dembski: I'm open to common ancestry. I think that the
      evidence. . . . I think there is still some question about that but I
      know there are some very strong lines of evidence for common ancestry.

      [...]

      Peter Robinson: But the mechanism, random variation and natural selection�

      William Dembski: I would say it certainly operates but it's
      incomplete. I mean, there's no question that organisms vary and that
      those that are more fit, that are adapted in some way will go on to
      survive and reproduce. Okay so the mechanism that Darwin--Darwin was
      onto something. Question is, was he onto the whole show? Strict
      Darwinists like Richard Dawkins would want to say he really nailed it
      down. Where I would differ, I would say the Darwinian mechanism
      probably only accounts for about two to three percent of what we see.

      Peter Robinson: The Darwinian mechanism is a minor sideshow in the
      great geologic story of the planet and of living things. Is that a
      summation of your point of view?

      William Dembski: 'Minor sideshow' might be minimizing it too much.
      Certainly antibiotic resistance, I think, is something you could
      account for in terms of the Darwinian mechanism. And that's
      important. I mean, it's certainly important to the�

      Peter Robinson: Let me put it to you this way. So we know because we
      see with our own eyes that within a species, you can grow sheep with
      longer hair or shorter hair or you can grow hogs that are fatter or
      get fatter more�

      William Dembski: Right.

      Peter Robinson: So we know that you can--that through random
      variation or indeed intentional breeding, you can create certain
      characteristics within a species.

      William Dembski: Right.

      Peter Robinson: That we grant. Everybody grants that because we see
      it with our own eyes. But you can't--or we haven't seen with our own
      eyes a sheep turned into a goat.

      William Dembski: That's--I mean, it's the extrapolation. I mean,
      insects develop insecticide resistance. The Darwinian mechanism
      accounts for that but how do you get insects in the first place? If
      the Darwinian story is correct then�

      Peter Robinson: Okay so what you're saying is that what we do see and
      what is irrefutable is relatively minor modulations within a species? Right?

      William Dembski: Um hm.

      [...]

      ~ William Dembski / Uncommon Knowledge interview: Darwin Under the
      Microscope / December 7, 2001 /
      <http://www.uncommonknowledge.org/01-02/634.html>.
      <---->

      So, it seems to me that Behe's and Dembski's common descent / natural
      selection + random mutation positions are not Darwinist, and that
      their views reflect disinterest rather than equivocation. After all,
      Behe's a biochemist and Dembski's a design theorist.

      Happy New Year!

      Best,
      Clare
    • pk4_paul
      ... Michael ... That ... intelligent ... scientifically. ... that ... Dembski s ... to ... Dembski ... Intelligent ... have ... reading ... of ... or ... for
      Message 2 of 12 , Jan 1, 2006
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        --- In OriginsTalk@yahoogroups.com, Clare Wilson Parr
        <turandot@i...> wrote:
        >
        > On 12/31/2005, pk4_paul wrote:
        >
        > >--- In OriginsTalk@yahoogroups.com, "James Putnam" <fizzeeks@y...>
        > >wrote:
        > > >
        > > > --- In OriginsTalk@yahoogroups.com, Clare Wilson Parr
        > > > <turandot@i...> wrote:
        > > > >
        > > > > On 12/30/2005, James Putnam wrote:
        > > > >
        > > > > >(This is my impression of their respective positions.)
        Michael
        > > > > >Shermer feels we should restrict science to natural causes.
        That
        > > > > >sounds reasonable to many. William Dembski feels that
        intelligent
        > > > > >participation and guidance should be investigated
        scientifically.
        > > > > >That sounds reasonable to many others. My own feeling is
        that
        > > > > >Shermer's natural causes are not scientific, and that
        Dembski's
        > > > > >apparent acceptance of them weakens his case. He seems to be
        > > > > >looking for evidence of intelligence that exists in additon
        to
        > > > > >known natural causes.
        > > > >
        > > > > Excellent summary, IMO.
        > > > >
        > > > > I strenuously agree that Dembski's ID case is weakened by his
        > > > > "best-of-both-worlds" philosophy, and so, incidentally, does
        > > > > Behe.
        > > > >
        > > >
        > > > Thank you. I have to admit that I had not heard of Behe or
        Dembski
        > > > until about August of this year. I began visiting some
        Intelligent
        > > > Design related websites and saw their names several times. I
        have
        > > > seen their work referred to by others. I learned through
        reading
        > > > the words of others that Michael Behe has put forward examples
        of
        > > > irreducible complexity in biology. I have yet to read his work
        or
        > > > hear him speak, so I am asking a question due to lack of first
        > > > hand knowledge. My impression was that this argument allowed
        for
        > > > many living things or parts of living things to have evolved by
        > > > natural causes while some others required intelligent
        intervention.
        > > > Your point above indicates to me that this impression is false.
        >
        > Well, I failed to make my point clear. It's my understanding that
        > both Behe and Dembski subscribe to common descent / natural
        selection
        > + random mutation, which is what I interpreted your "natural
        causes"
        > to mean. I agree with your opinion that Dembski does weaken his
        > argument by ceding the Darwinists' their common descent / natural
        > selection arguments. It is certainly well within the realm of
        > possibility that Behe and Dembski _define_ the terms common
        descent,
        > natural selection differently than the Darwinists. For instance,
        do
        > Behe and Dembski define common descent per the Darwinists'
        > _universal_ molecules-to-man meaning, or do they mean common
        descent at the cellular level?
        >
        > >I've read Behe's book 'Darwin's Black Box' as well as several of
        the essays he has authored that are posted on the web.
        >
        > Ditto.
        >
        > >The description of Behe's ideas as characterized above is off the
        mark.
        >
        > How so?

        Paul: Behe's ideas- his irreducible complexity and illustrations of
        it- (as opposed to his unexplained conclusion- accepting common
        descent) form an excellent foundation on which to build a case
        against Darwinism and for intelligent design. The comment: "My
        impression was that this argument allowed for many living things or
        parts of living things to have evolved by natural causes while some
        others required intelligent intervention," after having viewed it a
        second time, seems to logically follow the divergent themes
        expressed by Behe. In fairness to Behe he is consistent in
        advocating that intelligent input is a common denominator.
        Intelligence can accomplish what natural laws alone cannot cause.
        That's why weak or non-existent evidence of purely natural causes
        can in itself be evidence for intelligence. Accepting Darwinian
        concepts like natural selection and common descent puts IDists back
        at square one having to again explain the implausibility of
        Darwinian mechanisms against the backdrop of the seemingly
        contradictory impulses of accepting concepts while arguing against
        them. In the end Behe's acceptance of common descent does nothing
        to mitigate the vitriol aimed at him because among Darwinists it is
        understood that common descent and an intelligent creator are
        mutually exclusive concepts.
      • Paul
        ... James, proponets of ID have focused much attention on the plausibility of attributing life to natural causes; specifically as it relates to biochemical
        Message 3 of 12 , Jan 2, 2006
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          --- James Putnam <fizzeeks@...> wrote:

          > Hello Members,
          >
          > I have followed the debates here for some time now.
          > It has been
          > interesting. Things have quieted down. Here is a
          > link
          > http://www.audiomartini.com/Index.html , there is
          > a 'Listen Button' with the
          > debate information under it, to an audio replay
          > of a radio debate between Michael Shermer of
          > http://www.skeptic.com and William Dembski of
          > http://www.designinference.com
          >
          > James Putnam

          James, proponets of ID have focused much attention on
          the plausibility of attributing life to natural
          causes; specifically as it relates to biochemical
          interactions. Probability assessments underlie many
          of their conclusions. Clare has posted an article
          referencing a paper focused on thermodynamics. Given
          your interest in physics I thought it would be
          interesting to get your take on it.

          http://www.math.tamu.edu/~sewell/odes_pdes/article.pdf

          From the article:

          "A closer look at equation (5), which holds not only
          for thermal entropy, but for the "entropy" associated
          with any other substance that diffuses, shows that
          this argument, which goes unchallenged in the
          scientific literature, is based on a misunderstanding
          of the second law. Equation (5) does not simply say
          that entropy cannot decrease in a closed system, it
          also says that in an open system, entropy cannot
          decrease faster than it is exported through the
          boundary, because the boundary integral there
          represents the rate that entropy is exported across
          the boundary: notice that the integrand is the outward
          heat flux divided by absolute temperature. (That this
          boundary integral represents the rate that entropy is
          exported seems to have been noticed by relatively few
          people..."

          Members wishing to view some of James's ideas can do
          so at this website.

          http://newphysicstheory.com/


          Paul
        • James Putnam
          ... Hi Paul, I will be thinking the article over. I have not yet written anything on entropy. I almost am never able to take shortcuts by referring to the work
          Message 4 of 12 , Jan 2, 2006
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            --- In OriginsTalk@yahoogroups.com, Paul <pk4_paul@y...> wrote:
            >
            > James, proponets of ID have focused much attention on
            > the plausibility of attributing life to natural
            > causes; specifically as it relates to biochemical
            > interactions. Probability assessments underlie many
            > of their conclusions. Clare has posted an article
            > referencing a paper focused on thermodynamics. Given
            > your interest in physics I thought it would be
            > interesting to get your take on it.
            >
            > http://www.math.tamu.edu/~sewell/odes_pdes/article.pdf
            >
            > From the article:
            >
            > "A closer look at equation (5), which holds not only
            > for thermal entropy, but for the "entropy" associated
            > with any other substance that diffuses, shows that
            > this argument, which goes unchallenged in the
            > scientific literature, is based on a misunderstanding
            > of the second law. Equation (5) does not simply say
            > that entropy cannot decrease in a closed system, it
            > also says that in an open system, entropy cannot
            > decrease faster than it is exported through the
            > boundary, because the boundary integral there
            > represents the rate that entropy is exported across
            > the boundary: notice that the integrand is the outward
            > heat flux divided by absolute temperature. (That this
            > boundary integral represents the rate that entropy is
            > exported seems to have been noticed by relatively few
            > people..."
            >
            > Members wishing to view some of James's ideas can do
            > so at this website.
            >
            > http://newphysicstheory.com/
            >
            >
            > Paul
            >

            Hi Paul,

            I will be thinking the article over. I have not yet written anything
            on entropy. I almost am never able to take shortcuts by referring to
            the work of others. When a person's ideas are as far afield as are
            mine, it almost always requires building the argument piece by piece
            oftentimes from scratch or close to scratch. There are a few
            preliminary remarks I can make. First though, a disclaimer for all
            readers, I am not putting myself forward as an expert.

            With regard to your opening comments, I do not approach the origin
            of life by comparing probabilities. I think the use of probability
            calculations weakens the case for ID. Not because the probabilities
            aren't in their favor, because they certainly are. Rather I avoid it
            because the calculations are based upon the acceptance of there
            being any possibility that life and intelligence could result from
            mechanical means. Physicists have saddled us with a fundamental
            interpretation of the universe that is only mechanical. It is my
            position that the probability of life and intelligence having arisen
            by mechanical means is zero.

            In my own work I have presented a new fundamental theory of physics.
            It also is just another mechanical model. In that form it also has
            no potential for ever giving birth to life and intelligence. Its
            purpose is not to demonstrate the universe is mechanical. Its
            purpose is to begin the process of dismantling mechanical
            materialism (some refer to this as scientific materialism) by
            removing its foundation. I am attempting to demonstrate that
            theoretical physics is wrong about almost everything. This is why I
            have previously said there are no known natural causes. Those which
            physicists propose are only imagined to exist. My website is there
            to support this statement.

            I expect very great changes are in store for how we (I certainly
            include scientists) view the universe. Now that others who read this
            have some idea about how I approach an analysis of the universe,
            life and intelligence, I will offer one preliminary observation
            concerning our 'open system'. The earth is not a closed system
            mainly because of the presence of the sun. I observe that the sun
            does not send us order. It sends us an immense mixed storm of
            photons of various frequencies. The photons do not come here to tell
            the earth how to produce life and intelligence. They come here (with
            no intelligent intent) and move particles of matter around. A pre-
            existing means of order takes advantage of the motion to realize its
            intended purpose. That purpose is to organize matter, by its
            own 'real' and, as yet, unknown natural properties, into forms that
            display its potential for contributing to recognizable (by us) life.

            Lets see how this flies.

            James
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