Archive for ‘ID’

June 4, 2012

On natural abiogenesis – give that man a PhD

by Neil Rickert

We all know what BS stands for.  MS means “more of the same”, and PhD means “piled higher and deeper.”  (A joke that used to circulate around college campuses).

A post at Uncommon Descent, titled “On the Impossibility of Abiogenesis” purports to prove that natural abiogenesis is impossible.  I shall detail why I see it as piled higher and deeper with nonsense.  The post is by niwrad, and I shall be quoting parts of that post and then commenting on them.

read more »

May 27, 2012

ID is making progress

by Neil Rickert

Seen in a comment at UD:

I.D. Is finally making some truly profound objections to evolution theory. Also, why are there still apes if we evolved from them?

Well, okay, that was only a comment.  Perhaps we can’t assume that all ID proponents agree.  But it does give us a moment of humor for this weekend.

March 11, 2012

Random confusion

by Neil Rickert

In a recent post “Coordinated Complexity — the key to refuting postdiction and single target objections” at the Uncommon Descent blog, scordova attempts to address some of the objections to the probabilistic arguments used by ID proponents.  He gives an example of the kind of objection that he will address:

The opponents of ID argue something along the lines: “take a deck of cards, randomly shuffle it, the probability of any given sequence occurring is 1 out of 52 factorial or about 8×10^67 — Improbable things happen all the time, it doesn’t imply intelligent design.”

Unfortunately, that post at UD fails to answer the criticism and only further illustrates the confusion that it so common in ID thinking.

read more »

February 22, 2012

The Neil deGrasse Tyson discussions

by Neil Rickert

There have been several recent posts at Jerry Coyne’s site, related to the views of Neil deGrasse Tyson.  They began with “Neil deGrasse Tyson goes all militant“, and there are followup posts here and here.

My personal take on the first of those posts was that I did not see Tyson as going all militant.  In fact, I did not see his comments on religion as much different from what I have seen in other video talks, though he does raise some interesting questions.

In any case, those posts and the featured videos are worth reading and watching.

read more »

January 17, 2012

James Shapiro on ID

by Neil Rickert

From time to time, ID proponents mention James Shapiro as someone who offers an alternative to the Darwinism that they much ridicule.  But they have never been sure where Shapiro stands on the question of ID.  Shapiro has now given a response.  And it is the kind of response that we might expect from a scientist at University of Chicago:

These statements are confusing. Is Dembski saying that he abandons the supernatural as a component of ID? If so, then we can start a real scientific dialogue about the possible natures of intelligence, teleology and design in biology and how to investigate them both theoretically and experimentally. However, if he does not want to abandon the supernatural (as Michael Behe has repeatedly told me he does not) and if he wishes always to have recourse to a literal Deus ex Machina, then we cannot have a serious scientific discussion. Doing that requires respecting the naturalistic limits of science. I think it would be a very positive development for ID proponents to give up on all theological crutches and engage in a strictly naturalistic inquiry, independent of whatever their beliefs in final causes may be. Is Bill Dembski willing to do that?

It is worth reading the full Shapiro post.  There’s also a reaction at Uncommon Descent, though there isn’t much to the reaction yet.  Perhaps more will follow in the comments.

November 20, 2011

Is Granville Sewell a mole?

by Neil Rickert

Mathematicians are generally pretty smart people.  So when Granville Sewell originally came out with an argument based on the second law of thermodynamics (see here), I was saddened to see a mathematician come out with an argument that is so foolish, so ignorant, so wrong.  Recently Sewell has repeated his arguments in a post at the Uncommon Descent blog.

My first reaction was to scratch my head, and wonder how a mathematician could come up with such appallingly poor reasoning.  But then it struck me.  Maybe Granville Sewell is a mole.

read more »

November 12, 2011

Uncommonly funny

by Neil Rickert

I try to follow the Uncommon Descent blog, to get an idea of what is happening in the world of ID proponents.  Some of the posts deserve a good laugh.  The last few days have been particularly rich in the humor that they have supplied.

1: In Embryo and Einstein – Why They’re Equal, vjtorley argues against abortion.  Given that the UD blog often claims that ID is a scientific program, and not a religious program, one wonders why.  But then vjtorley attempts to explain that his argument is not religious, with:

The aim of this essay is to demonstrate on purely philosophical (i.e. non-religious) grounds that a human embryo is a person, who matters just as much as you or I do.

read more »

August 28, 2011

ID debunked, by an ID proponent

by Neil Rickert

In a recent post at the Uncommon Descent blog, Eric Holloway has given a clear explanation of why ID is not science.  That may not be what Eric was intending to explain, but he succeeded whether or not it was his intention.

Eric uses the Aristotlean notions of “efficient cause” and “final cause”, with efficient causes being used in answers to the “how” question and final causes being used in answers to the “why” question.  And Eric is clear on putting ID explanations in the final cause category.

Now, to relate these concepts back to the interplay between materialism and ID, materialism implies that all events only have efficient causal explanations, and any perceived final causal explanations can be reduced to efficient causal explanations.

I’m not sure what is this “materialism” that Eric speaks of.  If materialism says that, then its a good reason to not be a materialist.  Science seeks causal explanations.  But most scientists do not deny that there can also be final cause explanations.  It is just that the final cause explanation is not science.

Let’s suppose that I want to build a house.  I hire architects to design it, and a construction firm to build it.  The way that all of the parts are put together to assemble the house constitutes the efficient cause explanation.  My intention and the insight of the architect are part of the final cause explanation.  Now if somebody else wants to build a house, then the efficient cause explanation can be very useful.  The final cause explanation might make interesting history, but it isn’t of much use to those who want to build houses, because it only answers the “why” question and fails to address the “how” question.

The main issue of ID has always been on whether ID is science.  Critics of ID fully understand that people ask the “why” question, and wonder about questions of origins.  But it is the “how” question that matters to science.  The primary objection to ID has always been an objection to attempts to force the teaching of ID into the science classroom.

A recent cartoon illustrates that the “why” question is not one of concern for science.

August 15, 2011

The improbability of ID

by Neil Rickert

ID proponents are frequently appealing to probabilistic arguments as evidence for their ID claims.  Unfortunately, most of the presented arguments are wrong.  There’s a particularly egregious example posted today at the Uncommon Descent blog.  The author of that post, JonathanM, apparently managed to get into a debate with Massimo Pigliucci.  He quotes Pigliucci as saying:

No evolutionary biologist I know…actually attaches probabilities to specific evolutionary events of the type you are talking about. There is no way to do that.

JonathanM then goes on to cite places where evolutionists have used probabilistic reasoning.  Apparently, JonathanM has no understanding of the difference between probabilities of specific events, and the use of probabilities over populations.

Here’s an illustration of the problem.  If I shuffle a deck of cards, and then deal out a bridge hand, I will have produced a highly improbable event.  If you were to list a particular hand before I had shuffled and dealt the card, then the probability calculation would show that the hand you listed was very unlikely.  If I had then dealt that actual hand, you would have reason to question whether I had been cheating.  However, once a hand has already been dealt, it makes no sense to compute the probability for that hand.  It does not tell us anything useful.

If you really wanted to look at a few hands that I had dealt, to find evidence of cheating, there is a way to do that.  You would need an alternative explanation as to how those hands were dealt.  And then you could calculate the conditional probability:  given that this hand was dealt, what is the conditional probability that it was dealt by method X (say, standard shuffling) rather than by method Y (your alternative).

It isn’t the direct probability of the hand that matters, it is that conditional probability.  And we can only use that method if we have sufficient data to realistically estimate the condition probability.

Unfortunately, the ID proponents don’t seem to understand this.  They do not use conditional probabilities in their arguments.  Perhaps this is because an estimate based on conditional probabilities would show that natural causes are far more probable than supernatural causes.

It is not just JonathanM who is confused about this.  His blog post has been made into a “sticky” and thus highlighted on the Uncommon Descent blog.  So whoever makes the decisions about such highlighting is presumably just as confused.

After citing his examples of statistics applied to population genetics, JonathanM comments “To this, I received no response.”  That, I can understand.  By this time, Pigliucci must have recognized that Jonathan was driven by ideology, and unwilling to learn anything.

August 2, 2011

ID as science

by Neil Rickert

In a recent post at the Uncommon Descent blog, we are assured that ID is not an apologetic.  Rather, it is science.  Here is how they explain it:

We find ourselves in a world of conscious beings, inventing, creating, thinking, and planning. Yet science, so far, has dealt only with the unplanned and automatic portions of it. In my view, there is a lot missing, and ID, by taking agency as a real causal force, can appropriately extend science to take into account agency as a causative force.

So there we have it.  A case has been made for the god intelligent designer of the gaps, as part of the ID apologetic science.