Monday, December 26, 2005

If ID is a theory equivalent to evolution ... #1

repack rider

Thanks for your comment. I have decided to respond to it in a blog post, since it is long and may be of more general interest. To distinguish your words from mine, I prefixed them with "RR>" and bolded them. Because of its length, I have split my response into three parts.

Please don't interpret this as an invitation to debate-it isn't. As my very first post to this blog says:

Since 1994 I have been debating creation/evolution/design on the Internet. ... and after over a decade of debates I find most debates largely a waste of time"
which is why I terminated my list (CED) and started this blog (CED). My attitude to comments is summed up in this quote, "The word comment for weblogs implies that the author does not need further participation to reach a goal-comment if you want":
"Weblogs and Message Boards both allow for responses from the community- new topics can be responded-to by others. Weblog topics have comments and message board topics have replies. This subtle difference in syntax reveals a difference in the roles. The word comment for weblogs implies that the author does not need further participation to reach a goal-comment if you want. Reply, on the other hand, implies that participation is explicitly requested by the poster. A discussion is not a discussion without a reply. ... The order and presentation of topics across message boards and weblogs relate another difference. Weblogs are consistently arranged with the most recently posted topics at the top of the page, regardless of new comments. With a message board, the posting of replies can govern the presentation of the originating topic-topics with new replies are often presented at the top ... This illustrates the relative importance of replies in message board discussions. Replies can keep a discussion alive and at the top of the page for months or even years in some cases. ... weblogs do not depend on responses to provide value." (LeFever, L., "What are the Differences Between Message Boards and Weblogs?," Common Craft weblog, August 24, 2004. Emphasis in original)

----- Original Message -----
From: Repack Rider
To: Stephen E. Jones
Sent: Monday, December 26, 2005 1:23 AM

Subject: It's Over in Dover, But Not For Intelligent Design

RR>If ID is a theory equivalent to the theories of gravity. electromagnetism, or evolution, then all its adherents need to do is test it in the same manner that other such theories are tested.

Intelligent Design (ID) is the scientific theory that there is empirically detectable evidence of design in nature. ID does not claim it is "a theory equivalent to the theories of gravity [or] electromagnetism" which concern phenomena that are occurring in the here and now and can be experimentally tested to many decimal points of accuracy. The theory of evolution, on the other hand, cannot be experimentally tested in its all-important macroevolutionary sense, because "[macro-]evolutionary happenings are unique, unrepeatable, and irreversible" and "Experimental evolution deals of necessity with only the simplest levels of the evolutionary process, sometimes called microevolution":

"Mutation is a basic physiological process which is studied experimentally, with the aid of physical and chemical methods. On the other hand, it is manifestly impossible to reproduce in the laboratory the evolution of man from the australopithecine, or of the modern horse from an Eohippus, or of a land vertebrate from a fishlike ancestor. These evolutionary happenings are unique, unrepeatable, and irreversible. It is as impossible to turn a land vertebrate into a fish as it is to effect the reverse transformation. The applicability of the experimental method to the study of such unique historical processes is severely restricted before all else by the time intervals involved, which far exceed the lifetime of any human experimenter. ... Experimental evolution deals of necessity with only the simplest levels of the evolutionary process, sometimes called microevolution." (Dobzhansky T.G., "On Methods of Evolutionary Biology and Anthropology, Part I, Biology," American Scientist, Vol. 45, No. 5, December 1957, p.388)

Indeed, there is no such things as the theory of evolution (at least in the purely scientific sense (see below). The late Ernst Mayr noted that "Darwin's `theory' of evolution was a whole bundle of theories" and that Darwin wrongly "referred to ... `my theory,' as if common descent and natural selection were a single theory":

"IN BOTH SCHOLARLY and popular literature one frequently I finds references to `Darwin's theory of evolution,' as though it were a unitary entity. In reality, Darwin's `theory' of evolution was a whole bundle of theories, and it is impossible to discuss Darwin's evolutionary thought constructively if one does not distinguish its various components. ... One particularly cogent reason why Darwinism cannot be a single monolithic theory is that organic evolution consists of two essentially independent processes, as we have seen: transformation in time and diversification in ecological and geographical space. The two processes require a minimum of two entirely independent and very different theories. That writers on Darwin have nevertheless almost invariably spoken of the combination of these various theories as `Darwin's theory' in the singular is in part Darwin's own doing. He not only referred to the theory of evolution by common descent as `my theory,' but he also called the theory of evolution by natural selection `my theory,' as if common descent and natural selection were a single theory." (Mayr E., "One Long Argument: Charles Darwin and the Genesis of Modern Evolutionary Thought," Harvard University Press: Cambridge, MA, 1991, p.35-36)
Darwin in fact had at least nine evolutionary theories and Mayr partitioned these into five major theories:
"Discrimination among his various theories has not been helped by the fact that Darwin treated speciation under natural selection in ... the Origin and that he ascribed many phenomena, particularly those of geographic distribution, to natural selection when they were really the consequences of common descent. Under the circumstances I consider it necessary to dissect Darwin's conceptual framework of evolution into a number of major theories that formed the basis of his evolutionary thinking. For the sake of convenience I have partitioned Darwin's evolutionary paradigm into five theories, but of course others might prefer a different division. The selected theories are by no means all of Darwin's evolutionary theories; others were, for instance, sexual selection, pangenesis, effect of use and disuse, and character divergence. However, when later authors referred to Darwin's theory they invariably had a combination of some of the following five theories in mind: (1) Evolution as such. This is the theory that the world is not constant nor recently created nor perpetually cycling but rather is steadily changing and that organisms are transformed in time. (2) Common descent. This is the theory that every group of organisms descended from a common ancestor and that all groups of organisms, including animals, plants, and microorganisms, ultimately go back to a single origin of life on earth. (3) Multiplication of species. This theory explains the origin of the enormous organic diversity. It postulates that species multiply, either by splitting into daughter species or by `budding,' that is, by the establishment of geographically isolated founder populations that evolve into new species. (4) Gradualism. According to this theory, evolutionary change takes place through the gradual change of populations and not by the sudden (saltational) production of new individuals that represent a new type. (5) Natural selection. According to this theory, evolutionary change comes about through the abundant production of genetic variation in every generation. The relatively few individuals who survive, owing to a particularly well-adapted combination of inheritable characters, give rise to the next generation. For Darwin himself these five theories were apparently a unity, and someone might claim that indeed these five theories are a logically inseparable package and that Darwin was quite correct in treating them as such. This claim, however, is refuted by the fact ... that most evolutionists in the immediate post-1859 period-that is, authors who had accepted the first theory-rejected one or several of Darwin's other four theories. This shows that the five theories are not one indivisible whole." (Mayr E., "One Long Argument: Charles Darwin and the Genesis of Modern Evolutionary Thought," Harvard University Press: Cambridge, MA, 1991, pp.36-37).
Now ID itself has no necessary problem with any or all of the above five theories of evolution, at least as Mayr presents them. An IDist who is also a Young-Earth Creationist (YEC) would have a problem with (1) "the theory that the world is not ...recently created" and (2) "the theory that every group of organisms descended from a common ancestor and that all groups of organisms ... ultimately go back to a single origin of life on earth", but his problem is as a YEC, not as an IDist. This is evident in that an IDist like Mike Behe (and me) who accepts "that the universe is ... billions of years old" and "that all organisms share a common ancestor" have no problem with (1) and (2):
"Evolution is a controversial topic, so it is necessary to address a few basic questions at the beginning of the book. Many people think that questioning Darwinian evolution must be equivalent to espousing creationism. As commonly understood, creationism involves belief in an earth formed only about ten thousand years ago, an interpretation of the Bible that is still very popular. For the record, I have no reason to doubt that the universe is the billions of years old that physicists say it is. Further, I find the idea of common descent (that all organisms share a common ancestor) fairly convincing, and have no particular reason to doubt it." (Behe M.J., "Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution," Free Press: New York NY, 1996, pp.5-6)
As for the other three theories of evolution: even creationists would accept (3); not all evolutionists would accept (4); and (5) is so vague that few if any creationists (let alone IDists) would reject it (note that Mayr does not say that "evolutionary change comes about" only "through the abundant production of" random "genetic variation in every generation").

As I wrote in response to questions by a journalist, "ID is only necessarily opposed to "evolution" when the latter denies that there is design in nature, e.g. Darwinian evolution (or Darwinism)":

As for "ID versus evolution," ID is not necessarily opposed to evolution if by "evolution" is meant microevolution, such as insects becoming resistant to insecticide, changes in the frequency of light and dark moths in a population, or the lengths of the beaks of finches on the Galapagos islands. ID is not even necessarily opposed to universal common ancestry. One of ID's leaders, Professor Michael Behe, has stated, "I find the idea of common descent (that all organisms share a common ancestor) fairly convincing, and have no particular reason to doubt it"[3]. Another ID leader, Dr William Dembski, has pointed out that, "intelligent design is compatible with ... the most far-ranging evolution (e.g., God seamlessly melding all organisms together into one great tree of life)."[4] I myself accept universal common ancestry.[5]" ID is only necessarily opposed to "evolution" when the latter denies that there is design in nature, e.g. Darwinian evolution (or Darwinism), as in the title of leading Darwinist, Professor Richard Dawkins' book, "The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design" (Norton, New York, 1986. My emphasis).
"Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved." (Crick F.H.C., "What Mad Pursuit: A Personal View of Scientific Discovery", [1988], Penguin Books: London UK, 1990, reprint, p.138).

RR>First they must show how it explains the observations. We know things fall to earth when dropped, which is an observation. The theory of gravity is the explanation of that observation. No one claims that an invisible entity pushes things to earth when we let them go, which would be the gravitational equivalent of ID. Newton's theory of gravity stood unchallenged until Einstein showed that it was not completely accurate, and that the theory of relativity was a better explanation of the observations.

ID only seeks to "explain... the observations" of the evidence of design in nature, which even Darwinists agree appears to be there, but whichdismiss out of hand, on naturalistic philosophical grounds, as an illusion, e.g.:

"The difference is one of complexity of design. Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose. Physics is the study of simple things that do not tempt us to invoke design. " (Dawkins R., "The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design," W.W Norton & Co: New York NY, 1986, p.1. Emphasis original)
"It turns out that the physical constants have just the values required to ensure that the Universe contains stars with planets capable of supporting intelligent life...The simplest interpretation is that the Universe was designed by a creator who intended that intelligent life should evolve. This interpretation lies outside science." (Smith J.M. & Szathmary E., "On the likelihood of habitable worlds," Nature, Vol. 384, 14 November 1996, p107)
"Although the idea that the universe has an order that is governed by natural laws that are not immediately apparent to the senses is very ancient, it is only in the last three hundred years that we have discovered a method for uncovering that hidden order-the scientific-experimental method. So powerful is this method that virtually everything scientists know about the natural world comes from it. What they find is that the architecture of the universe is indeed built according to invisible universal rules, what I call the cosmic code-the building code of the Demiurge. Examples of this universal building code are the quantum and relativity theory, the laws of chemical combination and molecular structure, the rules that govern protein synthesis and how organisms are made, to name but a few. Scientists in discovering this code deciphering the Demiurge's hidden message, the tricks he used in creating the universe. No human mind could have arranged for any message so flawlessly coherent, so strangely imaginative, and sometimes downright bizarre. It must be the work of an Alien Intelligence! ... One of the odd features of the cosmic code is that, as far as we can tell, the Demiurge has written himself out of the code-an alien message without evidence of an alien. ...Whether God is the message, wrote the message, or whether it wrote itself is unimportant in our lives. We can safely drop the traditional idea of a Demiurge, for there is no scientific evidence for a Creator of the natural world ..." (Pagels H.R., "The Dreams of Reason: The Computer and the Rise of the Sciences of Complexity," Simon and Schuster: New York NY, 1988, pp.156-157)

RR>Ever since Darwin, scientists have observed that organisms evolve, and that one species can evolve into another. The first thing the design proponents need to do is show how their "theory" explains this observation.

See above on the multiple meanings of "evolve". There is no need for ID theory to dispute "that organisms evolve, and that one species can evolve into another." All that design proponents need to do is show how their theory explains the observation that life not only appears to be the result of intelligent design, but it actually is, at least partly, the result of intelligent design:

"[Eugenie] Scott refers to me as an intelligent design `creationist,' even though I clearly write in my book `Darwin's Black Box' (which Scott cites) that I am not a creationist and have no reason to doubt common descent. In fact, my own views fit quite comfortably with the 40% of scientists that Scott acknowledges think `evolution occurred, but was guided by God.' Where I and others run afoul of Scott and the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) is simply in arguing that intelligent design in biology is not invisible, it is empirically detectable. The biological literature is replete with statements like David DeRosier's in the journal `Cell': `More so than other motors, the flagellum resembles a machine designed by a human' [DeRosier D.J., Cell, Vol. 93, 1998, p.17]. Exactly why is it a thought-crime to make the case that such observations may be on to something objectively correct?" (Behe M.J., "Intelligent Design Is Not Creationism," Science, dEbate, 7 July 2000)

RR>Next, they must show how their "theory" can be used to make predictions that can be tested. In 1859 Darwin said that in order for his theory to be true, there must be a physical substance that transmitted heredity. It was not until nearly 90 years later that this substance, DNA, was identified and its mechanics studied, but Darwin's prediction turned out to be accurate, a profound example of the usefulness of the theory of Evolution, since testing it led to an entirely new branch of science, a branch which has turned up massive amounts of new data that support the ToE.

See above regarding your error in assuming that "Darwin" had a single "theory" of evolution and that there is a single, scientific theory called "the theory of Evolution". There is indeed, a single "standard ... theory of Evolution", however it is not scientific but metaphysical and in fact theological namely, "human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process" (my emphasis):

Facing such a reality, perhaps we should not be surprised at the results of a 2001 Gallup poll confirming that 45 percent of Americans believe `God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so'; 37 percent prefer a blended belief that `human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process'; and a paltry 12 percent accept the standard scientific theory that `human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process.'" (Shermer M.B., "The Gradual Illumination of the Mind," Scientific American, February 2002. My emphasis)
And Darwin was in fact wrong on his evolutionary theory of "a physical substance that transmitted heredity", namely "pangenesis".

In fact all Darwinists (and indeed all evolutionists) were wrong in that they assumed the actual "heredity" transmitted was "physical", but in fact it turned out to be information:

"Evolutionary biologists have failed to realize that they work with two more or less incommensurable domains: that of information and that of matter. ... These two domains will never be brought together in any kind of the sense usually implied by the term `reductionism.' You can speak of galaxies and particles of dust in the same terms, because they both have mass and charge and length and width. You can't do that with information and matter. Information doesn't have mass or charge or length in millimeters. Likewise, matter doesn't have bytes. You can't measure so much gold in so many bytes. It doesn't have redundancy, or fidelity, or any of the other descriptors we apply to information. This dearth of shared descriptors makes matter and information two separate domains of existence, which have to be discussed separately, in their own terms. The gene is a package of information, not an object. The pattern of base pairs in a DNA molecule specifies the gene. But the DNA molecule is the medium, it's not the message. Maintaining this distinction between the medium and the message is absolutely indispensable to clarity of thought about evolution." (Williams G.C., "A Package of Information," in Brockman J., "The Third Culture," [1995], Touchstone: New York, 1996, reprint, p.43)
As for "ID proponents must show how their theory can be used to make predictions that can be tested," in my "Problems of Evolution" book outline, I have a section PE 5.3.5. "Evolution fails its own demarcation criteria ... Predictability" in which among the points I make is that it was in fact its lack of predictability that led Karl Popper to "regard Darwinism as metaphysical" and "not testable":
"I now wish to give some reasons why I regard Darwinism as metaphysical, and as a research programme. It is metaphysical because it is not testable. One might think that it is. It seems to assert that, if ever on some planet we find life which satisfies conditions (a) and (b), then (c) will come into play and bring about in time a rich variety of distinct forms. Darwinism, however, does not assert as much as this. For assume that we find life on Mars consisting of exactly three species of bacteria with a genetic outfit similar to that of three terrestrial species. Is Darwinism refuted? By no means. We shall say that these three species were the only forms among the many mutants which were sufficiently well adjusted to survive. And we shall say the same if there is only one species (or none). Thus Darwinism does not really predict the evolution of variety. It therefore cannot really explain it. At best, it can predict the evolution of variety under `favourable conditions'. But it is hardly possible to describe in general terms what favourable conditions are except that, in their presence, a variety of forms will emerge." (Popper K.R., "Unended Quest: An Intellectual Autobiography," Open Court: La Salle IL, Revised Edition, 1982, p.171)
I also quote Dawkins from a TV debate that I saw him have with physicist Paul Davies. When Dawkins was asked what was effectively a prediction that evolutionary theory would make "If you wiped our life and started again". But Dawkins could not even with certainty predict "plants, animals, ... parasites, ... predators, ... flight, [or] ... sight":
"PD: ... The question that we have to ask is if the earth was hit by an asteroid tomorrow and everything but simple microbes were destroyed and we came back in another 3 or 4 billion years, would we expect to find homo sapiens here again. Well, of course not. RD: Of course we wouldn't! PD: No, of course not. But the question is would we expect to find any intelligent life and I think most biologists would say no. McK: Richard Dawkins, I know you're bursting to say something there. RD: Yes. It is not in my view sensible to invoke fundamental laws of physical improvement for the biological improvement of complexity or running speed or anything else. If you wiped our life and started again-no, you would not get homo sapiens. I tell you what you would get, you would probably get a great diversity of living form . You'd probably get plants, animals, you'd probably get parasites, you'd probably get predators, you'd probably get large predators, small predators. You might well get flight, you might well get sight. There are all sorts of things that you can guess that you might get. You would certainly not get a re-run of what we've got." (McKew M., "The Origin of the Universe," Interview with Richard Dawkins & Paul Davies, Lateline, Australian Broadcasting Commission, 19 June 1996, in Australian Rationalist, No. 41, Spring 1996, pp.72-73)
Only the other day I quoted Dawkins admitting that .the question, "where are humans headed?" is "the question he's most often asked" yet he says it is "a question that any prudent evolutionist will evade":
"Scientists are fond of running the evolutionary clock backward, using DNA analysis and the fossil record to figure out when our ancestors stood erect and split off from the rest of the primate evolutionary tree. But the clock is running forward as well. So where are humans headed? Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins says it's the question he's most often asked, and "a question that any prudent evolutionist will evade." But the question is being raised even more frequently as researchers study our past and contemplate our future." (Boyle A., "Human evolution at the crossroads: Genetics, cybernetics complicate forecast for species," MSNBC May 2, 2005)
I wil now added another quote to that section, where Ernst Mayr admits that "The theory of natural selection ... cannot make reliable predictions, except through such trivial and meaningless circular statements":
"The Problem of Prediction. The third great problem of causality in biology is that of prediction. In the classical theory of causality the touchstone of the goodness of a causal explanation was its predictive value. This view is still maintained in Bunge's modern classic (1959): `A theory can predict to the extent to which it can describe and explain.' It is evident that Bunge is a physicist; no biologist would have made such a statement. The theory of natural selection can describe and explain phenomena with considerable precision, but it cannot make reliable predictions, except through such trivial and meaningless circular statements as, for instance: `The fitter individuals will on the average leave more offspring.' Scriven (1959) has emphasized quite correctly that one of the most important contributions to philosophy made by the evolutionary theory is that it has demonstrated the independence of explanation and prediction." (Mayr E.W., "Toward a New Philosophy of Biology: Observations of an Evolutionist," [reprint of Mayr E.W., "Cause and effect in biology," Science, Vol. 134, 1961, pp.1501-1506], Harvard University Press: Cambridge MA, 1988, pp.31-32)
So it is hypocritical (but par for the course) for evolutionists to demand of ID standards that evolutionary theory itself cannot meet.

[Continued in part #2]

Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol).
"Problems of Evolution"

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