Design Theory: Answering Some Question (Part 3)

Please pardon the delay between posts. Unfortunately, this entry will have to be shorter that originally planned, for several reasons. First, A couple of commenters have recently posed challenges and critiqued my previous ID posts. This has lead me to write responses (that can be found in the comments sections of the ID entries). Also unfortunate is the fact that these replies have been rather short and have not fully addressed the questions of the commenter, a fact I’m quite aware of. And that leads to the second, and more pressing reason for the delay in my blogging: I’m getting married in less than 36 hours. The kind of fuller replies that this topic demands aren’t possible on my time schedule (for those of you that are married, I’m sure you can recall what the last week before the ceremony was like). So, here I’ll simply mention two points. The first is on what’s called the “explanatory filter” and the second is regarding the issue of falsification.

First, the explanatory filter. One of the common objections to Intelligent Design theory is that there is no “design meter” by which we can observe a structure and detect design as opposed to natural processes (devoid of design). William Dembski has, in response, argued for what he calls the explanatory filter. The purpose of the filter is straightforward: the goal is to argue that the detection of design is indeed an empirical process. When observing a biological system, the organic machinery of the human cell for example, several questions are asked. The following chart is a helpful summary of the filter.

The key here to detecting design is, according to Dembski, what’s called specified complexity (not to be confused with Behe’s notion of irreducible complexity). I wish I had the capability (and the time!) of Dembski to explain it lucidly, but I don’t, so I’ll allow him to define his own teaching here. Here Dembski makes the point that, “The Explanatory Filter faithfully represents our ordinary practice of sorting through things we alternately attribute to law, chance, or design. In particular, the filter describes
  • how copyright and patent offices identify theft of intellectual property
  • how insurance companies prevent themselves from getting ripped off
  • how detectives employ circumstantial evidence to incriminate a guilty party
  • how forensic scientists are able reliably to place individuals at the scene of a crime
  • how skeptics debunk the claims of parapsychologists”
Second, the issue of falsifiability. Another objection is that ID cannot be legitimate science because it is not falsifiable, i.e. it provides us with not way of proving the theory wrong. I find this objection particularly strange, because all of the IDers that I’m familiar with believe that ID is falisifiable (in principle). They may deny that opponents have successfully shown ID to be bad science, junk science, or what have you, but they do acknowledge that if Darwinists could successfully demonstrate how specified complexity (such as the information found in a strand of DNA) can be produced and implanted apart from intelligent causation then essentially the ‘jig” would be up.
On the other hand, I find Darwinism as that which has been (functionally, at least) unfalsifiable. Here I won’t get into to many specifics (I’m typing this in my fiancee’s bedroom, while downstairs there’s a family reunion going on…just to give you an idea of my “time issues.”). Proponents of neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory may say that their theory is open to falsification, but whenever anyone suggests another alternative, such as ID, they are labeled “creationists,” advocates of “junk science,” and of secretly trying to get religion into the public educational system. As touched upon in my last ID post, various answers to the modality question regarding the complexity and specificity of life have been purposed, but all within the Darwinian framework. When the fossil record shows large gaps (and in fact is contradicted by the evidence of theCambrian explosion), someone will always be there to put forth another theory. This boils down to the “Darwinism of the gaps” solution. Whatever the cost (or so it seems), life must have developed along the lines that Darwin assumed.
Of course, what’s happening here is a clash of scientific, or explanatory, paradigms. As mentioned earlier (in another post), Thomas Kuhn spoke of explanatory paradigms, models, methods, and questions that a particular school of thought, which develop in order to answer questions that certain data (in this case, biological systems) warrant. Since the rise of Darwinism, and neo-Darwinism, the reigning scientific paradigm is both naturalistic and mechanistic. The challenge of Intelligent Design is raising many questions to the explanatory power of the Darwinian model (what Kuhn would call anomalies), and naturally the “old guard” is fighting back, stating that ID isn’t true science. ID can be falsified, but any attempt to falsify Darwinism and that’s “religion.” And if it’s religion, then it’s not science (think of how regardless of how often IDers distinguish between their position and Henry Morris style Creationism, the distinctions are ignored and IDers are labeled “creationists.”) I must admit, it’s a great PR smear campaign on the part of Darwinian scientists.
What I find interesting about so much of the objections to ID that are in the media and online is that they’re mostly the “gate keeper” objections, the kind that do not actually argue points of ID data, but try to cut off the discussion from even happening. That’s also why a film like Expelled is both so controversial and needed. Despite it’s flaws (oh, and it had some biggies), the main point that I walked away from in the film is not that ID is true (it didn’t really get into any of the details or arguments of ID scientists. It stood mostly at the intuitive level. I guess that’s the best you could expect from a popularly aimed film), but rather that it’s worth discussing seriously and openly at the academic level.
Ok, well I’m done with this for a while. I’ve got a beautiful woman to marry, a honeymoon to enjoy, and other topics that I’d like to discuss.
PS: I apologize for the formatting on the last several paragraphs, I’m not quite sure how to fix it. I’ll keep trying though.
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Posted on June 14, 2008, in Science. Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. Good luck on the wedding.

    – – –

    You could save time by actually addressing the issues.

    One point was that Dembski’s explanatory filter has been rejected as unworkable by the maths community. To address this point you would normally present supportive responses to the criticism from Dembski or other authors pointing out the errors in the criticism.

    You can’t do this because Dembski hasn’t issued a rebuttal paper.

    Exactly how repeating the original discredited copy actually answers my point I don’t know.

    think of it this way;

    You make claim A.

    I point to ciriticism B which is based on items B1, B2 and b3.

    You sau OK and explain A again.

    Can you see how this is not rational debate? You should address points b1 b2 and b3.

    Not to do so is not just obviously silly but pretty impolite.

    – – –

    Falsification would be even quicker.

    There is no clash of interpretations.

    Evolution is easily shown to be falsifiable – e.g. a fossil rabbit in the pre-cambrian. Done.

    My contention that ID/Creationism is not falisifiable would be very simply countered by you giving me a similar peice of theoretical evidence which would falsify it. This only takes one sentence.

    You strike me as intelligent enough to realise this. I’m not sure is you are self aware enough o realise that you are blatantly ignoring the point. Either way, I find this very impolite.

    – – –

    Its amazing how long you are taking, and how politely you apologise for not answering points x, y and z whilst impolitely failing to even address points a and b. Ignoring people is very impolite. Pretending that you are aren’t doing this is frustrating and more impolite.

    Perhaps after the wedding you could sapre 5 mins to do as suggested above – it would take no longer.

    – – –

    PPS

    How long do you think the Cambrian explosion took?

    Regards,

    Psi

  2. So you think that Dembski actually has something worthwhile to say, and that his “design filter” is more than arm waving? Great! If it is really possible to use Dembski’s techniques to detect design, then let’s these techniques to the test.

    Here are five alphabetic strings. Four of them are just random strings of letters. The fifth string was designed by me-it is an English sentence encoded using a standard cryptographic technique that does not require the use of a computer.

    String 1: qxoigpfrrqnglbn
    String 2: jezpnmtottrtwci
    String 3: zzvxtodudponqxb
    String 4: rgsojkybqxjdqwu
    String 5: ahxfsfyevzyozcg

    Please identify the designed string, and tell me how you used Dembski’s “design filter” to identify it. Mind you, I am not asking you to decrypt the designed string. I am only asking you to use Dembski’s techniques to do what he claims to be able to do: to detect design.

    Good luck!

  3. Thanks for the comment, but in all seriousness, last time I checked, my last name wasn’t Dembski. (I personally wouldn’t even know where to begin. Of course, the fact that I don’t know everything is hardly a concession) Perhaps you’d like to forward that over to his website, maybe he’ll take up your challenge.

    Although, I do find it ironic that the one string that contains design (I take it you mean some type of pattern?) was encrypted by a personal intelligence.

  4. I would presume that if all of evolution, or at least the groundwork of it was “intelligently design,” the magnitude of the designer should be exponentially more grand than a homo-sapiens/John’s personal design. So if dembski’s formula can detect design of something/someone more dynamic than John, shouldn’t it also be able to detect John’s?

    Hope that made sense…

  5. Perhaps we could pray for the answer?

    – – –

    Here is a variation using gods own language – DNA.

    If you can detect design then perhaps you can also tell me which of these two sequences has more design than the other?

    Sequence 1: cag tgt ctt ggg ttc tcg cct gac tac gag acg cgt ttg tct tta cag gtc ctc ggc cag cac ctt aga caa gca ccc ggg acg cac ctt tca gtg ggc act cat aat ggc gga gta cca agg agg cac ggt cca ttg ttt tcg ggc cgg cat tgc tca tct ctt gag att tcc ata ctt

    Sequence 2: tgg agt tct aag aca gta caa ctc tgc gac cgt gct ggg gta gcc act tct ggc cta atc tac gtt aca gaa aat ttg agg ttg cgc ggt gtc ctc gtt agg cac aca cgg gtg gaa tgg ggg tct ctt acc aaa ggg ctg ccg tat cag gta cga cgt agg tat tgc cgt gat aga ctg

    Thanks,

    Psi

  6. Apolojest – how old do you think the earth is?

    Thanks,

    Psi

  7. Here Psi, I direct you to my reply to John the Skeptic above, because my thoughts here are exactly the same.

    Secondly, i don’t plan to continue this conversation with you if you insist on taking little pot-shots at me (i.e. “apolojest”). That simply isn’t civil conversation.

    Third, I refuse to discuss the issue of the age of the earth for several reasons. a) I raised the issue in neither in the original post where you raised the question, nor b) have I raised the issue in any other of the over 140 entries I’ve posted since starting this blog. Not a single one of any argument, on any topic i’ve discussed here, it based on or dependent upon ANY particular age of the earth. This is why I called it a rabbit trail, it was a completely unrelated question to the topic of the post, or of anything else these blog is about. I apologize for not entertaining your interests.

    I’m personally not particularly interested in the age-of-the-earth question, and, again, none of my foundational beliefs are dependent upon it’s answer. To answer your question (though I don’t have a settled opinion on the matter) would simply open up another can of worms, and surely more questions on your part. That is not something I want to do, especially since I’m more than eager to get my blog rolling in other directions by this point.

  8. Just a slip of the fingers apolojet. Honestly. I think you can see several other typos in my comments.

    Thanks for the answer.

    Except can I just point out that you are actually declining to answer in your answer? Also this refusal to answer that particular point actually ignores the other questions I asked.

    The unanswered issues not addressed by your answer to John are as follows (marked with *);

    *One point was that Dembski’s explanatory filter has been rejected as unworkable by the maths community. To address this point you would normally present supportive responses to the criticism from Dembski or other authors pointing out the errors in the criticism.

    You can’t do this because Dembski hasn’t issued a rebuttal paper.

    Exactly how repeating the original discredited copy actually answers my point I don’t know.

    think of it this way;

    You make claim A.

    I point to ciriticism B which is based on items B1, B2 and b3.

    You say OK and explain A again.

    Can you see how this is not rational debate? You should address points b1 b2 and b3.

    Not to do so is not just obviously silly but pretty impolite.

    – – –

    *Falsification would be even quicker.

    There is no clash of interpretations.

    Evolution is easily shown to be falsifiable – e.g. a fossil rabbit in the pre-cambrian. Done.

    My contention that ID/Creationism is not falisifiable would be very simply countered by you giving me a similar peice of theoretical evidence which would falsify it. This only takes one sentence.

    You strike me as intelligent enough to realise this. I’m not sure is you are self aware enough o realise that you are blatantly ignoring the point. Either way, I find this very impolite.

    – – –

    *How long do you think the Cambrian explosion took?

    So we have three quick issues. Easily addressed. Not requiring huge amounts of research or massive commentary.

    Why not give it a go?

    Regards,

    Psi

    PS

    Hope the nuptials went well.

    PPS I think I know what you think the age of the earth is 😉

  9. Well, if these 3 things are all you’d like, we’ll see what I can do.:

    PSI: “…can I just point out that you are actually declining to answer in your answer? ”

    Regarding the age of the Earth? Yes, I am declining, I thought I made this clear in my last response. In response to you knowing what I truly believe about the age of the earth, nice try at luring me out. It’s not going to work, 1) because I’m not going to answer this question because I find it irrelevant to this discussion, and 2) because I take no committed stand on the issue.

    PSI: “One point was that Dembski’s explanatory filter has been rejected as unworkable by the maths community. To address this point you would normally present supportive responses to the criticism from Dembski or other authors pointing out the errors in the criticism…You can’t do this because Dembski hasn’t issued a rebuttal paper…Exactly how repeating the original discredited copy actually answers my point I don’t know.”

    The original goal of my posts on ID was to be descriptive. You asked how people suich as Dembski detect design, and I mentioned his Explanatory Filter. This is his construct, not mine. You asked a simple question, and I provided a straight-forward answer. I never pretended to get into details of the construct (hence my linking to Dembski’s paper). The fact that you state that some have rejected his thesis is not an argument, it’s an assertion.

    I am no mathematician, and cannot judged the merits of the rebuttal to Dembski on those grounds. Also, I have no read the rebuttal and am in not position to critique it in logical and argumentative grounds. So, I am not in a position to offer a rebuttal. I would simply direct you to Dembski’s work (his blog, Uncommon Dessent). That’s the best I can do on that issue. Sorry to disappoint.

    – – –

    PSI: “Evolution is easily shown to be falsifiable – e.g. a fossil rabbit in the pre-cambrian. Done…My contention that ID/Creationism is not falisifiable would be very simply countered by you giving me a similar peice of theoretical evidence which would falsify it. This only takes one sentence.”

    Well, one sentence is hardly enough. And let’s be honest here, Psi. If I responded with just one sentence, you’d be all over that just as much as you’ve been “all over” everything else I’ve written. Let’s avoid playing those games.

    What would strongly argue in favor of the falsifiability of ID? 1) A clear and undisputed fossil record from single-celled creatures to the diversity of life today, 2) arguments not based a priori on philosophical naturalism, and 3) solid, non-circular, proof for naturalistic development of information in a cell.

    You asked, and those are some of the things that would challenge me personally. But, I’m not going to continue on more with this, because we could go on infinitely.

    – – –

    PSI- “How long do you think the Cambrian explosion took?”

    Again, I have no idea. Last I checked, it was said to be roughly 550 million years ago. I have no strong reasons to dispute this.

  10. So, you’re saying intelligent design sounds like a good idea to you, though you don’t know how to use the chief tool its advocates claim to have found, you can’t explain exactly how it works, and you can’t offer any evidence it does work.

    Need we point out you’re taking this very much on faith?

    Darwin’s theory provides us with practical applications, including treatments for diabetes, cures for cancer, and the Green Revolution. For a tired, non-working idea, that’s pretty remarkable. One might say it’s miraculous.

    Maybe God is really on Darwin’s side.

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