Re: [OriginsTalk] Re: Shermer-Dembski Intelligent Design Debate
- On 12/31/2005, pk4_paul wrote:
>--- In OriginsTalk@yahoogroups.com, "James Putnam" <fizzeeks@y...>Well, I failed to make my point clear. It's my understanding that
> > --- 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.
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 theDitto.
>essays he has authored that are posted on the web.
>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 notI agree with every word you've written. What I _thought_ James was
>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
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 proteinsAgreed.
>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.
>Based on our knowledge of mutation rates, gene structure, proteinAgain, agreed.
>properties, regulatory mechanisms and more Behe and others make the
>case that IC systems would not have formed in the absence of
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
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
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 /
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.
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 /
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!
- --- In OriginsTalk@yahoogroups.com, Clare Wilson Parr
> On 12/31/2005, pk4_paul wrote:
> >--- In OriginsTalk@yahoogroups.com, "James Putnam" <fizzeeks@y...>
> > >
> > > --- 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.)
> > > > >Shermer feels we should restrict science to natural causes.That
> > > > >sounds reasonable to many. William Dembski feels thatintelligent
> > > > >participation and guidance should be investigatedscientifically.
> > > > >That sounds reasonable to many others. My own feeling isthat
> > > > >Shermer's natural causes are not scientific, and thatDembski's
> > > > >apparent acceptance of them weakens his case. He seems to beto
> > > > >looking for evidence of intelligence that exists in additon
> > > > >known natural causes.Dembski
> > > >
> > > > 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
> > > until about August of this year. I began visiting someIntelligent
> > > Design related websites and saw their names several times. Ihave
> > > seen their work referred to by others. I learned throughreading
> > > the words of others that Michael Behe has put forward examplesof
> > > irreducible complexity in biology. I have yet to read his workor
> > > hear him speak, so I am asking a question due to lack of firstfor
> > > hand knowledge. My impression was that this argument allowed
> > > many living things or parts of living things to have evolved byintervention.
> > > natural causes while some others required intelligent
> > > Your point above indicates to me that this impression is false.selection
> Well, I failed to make my point clear. It's my understanding that
> both Behe and Dembski subscribe to common descent / natural
> + random mutation, which is what I interpreted your "naturalcauses"
> to mean. I agree with your opinion that Dembski does weaken hisdescent,
> 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
> natural selection differently than the Darwinists. For instance,do
> Behe and Dembski define common descent per the Darwinists'descent at the cellular level?
> _universal_ molecules-to-man meaning, or do they mean common
>the essays he has authored that are posted on the web.
> >I've read Behe's book 'Darwin's Black Box' as well as several of
> >The description of Behe's ideas as characterized above is off the
>Paul: Behe's ideas- his irreducible complexity and illustrations of
> How so?
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.
- --- James Putnam <fizzeeks@...> wrote:
> Hello Members,James, proponets of ID have focused much attention on
> I have followed the debates here for some time now.
> It has been
> interesting. Things have quieted down. Here is a
> 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
> James Putnam
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.
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
Members wishing to view some of James's ideas can do
so at this website.
- --- 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.
> 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
> Members wishing to view some of James's ideas can do
> so at this website.
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.