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Source: (consider it) Thread: The Death of Darwinism
Faithful Sheepdog
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quote:
Originally posted by Russ:
quote:
To my mind the success of the program is simply an artefact of human design and the product of programming skill. The programming rewards each step of the way as the digital creatures evolve towards the most complex function.
So where's the beef ?

I can only suppose that the reason that this topic has run to 21 pages is that someone is seriously confused as to the sorts of proposition being made and the framework within which they are valid propositions...

Russ

From memory Russ's initial quotation looks like it is mine from a while ago.

Your point about deductions from what is observable within the universe is a good one. ID theory has been developed on precisely those sort of rational grounds.

The "beef" is whether these computer models actually reflect what is being claimed by scientists about Darwinian evolutionary theory. Personally I think that there is some very serious confusion afoot.

Neil

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"Random mutation/natural selection works great in folks’ imaginations, but it’s a bust in the real world." ~ Michael J. Behe

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HenryT

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quote:
Originally posted by Faithful Sheepdog:
...The "beef" is whether these computer models actually reflect what is being claimed by scientists about Darwinian evolutionary theory. Personally I think that there is some very serious confusion afoot.

Neil

The computer models demonstrate that emergent behaviour and increasing complexity can occur. The fossil record shows that increasing complexity does occur. Darwin's theory provides the link between them.

It's a nicely woven web.

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"Perhaps an invincible attachment to the dearest rights of man may, in these refined, enlightened days, be deemed old-fashioned" P. Henry, 1788

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Faithful Sheepdog
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quote:
Originally posted by Henry Troup:
The computer models demonstrate that emergent behaviour and increasing complexity can occur.

As a brute fact I will accept that this is correct as a description of the models. However, what is at issue is how and why that emergent behaviour and increasing complexity is ocurring. I have argued earlier on the thread that it is a human artefact of the programming code, no more, no less.

quote:
The fossil record shows that increasing complexity does occur. Darwin's theory provides the link between them.
ID theory has no argument at all with the facts of palaeontology or with the general principle of descent with modification. ID theory does have a lot to say about the inadequacy of Darwins's purported mechanism to provide a full explanation for this process.

quote:
It's a nicely woven web.
Nice metaphor, but a spider's web is a fragile thing. The Darwinist mechanism simply isn't that robust when it comes to generating complex specified information de novo in the absence of teleology.

Neil

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"Random mutation/natural selection works great in folks’ imaginations, but it’s a bust in the real world." ~ Michael J. Behe

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HenryT

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quote:
Originally posted by Faithful Sheepdog:
...The Darwinist mechanism simply isn't that robust when it comes to generating complex specified information de novo in the absence of teleology.

Neil

You're either using a meaning of "specified" so esoteric as to be previously unknown; or moving the goalpost; or asserting a true but irrelevant fact.

Case the first:

You seem to presuppose that Darwinism (in its loose definition as in the thread topic) assumes purpose. It doesn't.

ID introduces "specification" to the topic.

Case the second:

Darwinism increases information, but now you want "specified information"

Case the third:

A parallel statement would be

Relativity isn't that robust when it comes to generating pseudo-random numbers.


***

At the metalevel, you're doing what I think of as the "usual creationist thing" - focusing on one trivial point to try to presuade people that the complex interralted web of scientific truth isn't really there.

To invert one of the favorite creationist arguments, you're looking for one water-worn pebble at the foot of Mount Rushmore, and if I admit that there is one, you'll say the whole thing is just an erosion feature.

[ 31. August 2005, 16:59: Message edited by: Henry Troup ]

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"Perhaps an invincible attachment to the dearest rights of man may, in these refined, enlightened days, be deemed old-fashioned" P. Henry, 1788

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Faithful Sheepdog
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quote:
Originally posted by Henry Troup:
At the metalevel, you're doing what I think of as the "usual creationist thing" - focusing on one trivial point to try to presuade people that the complex interralted web of scientific truth isn't really there.

To invert one of the favorite creationist arguments, you're looking for one water-worn pebble at the foot of Mount Rushmore, and if I admit that there is one, you'll say the whole thing is just an erosion feature.

Henry Troup

To date your posts have always been fair and reasonable. Because of that I have a certain measure of goodwill toward you, and I do not wish to see it eroded. This response to you is therefore going to remain measured and controlled.

Please confirm that you intend no attack on my personal integrity and intellectual competence by your comments above. If you are able to do this, then I will respond to the rest of your post in a purgatorial fashion as time permits.

If you do intend an attack on my personal integrity and intellectual competence, then please make that very clear. In this case I should warn you that our next exchange in likely to be in Hell.

Thank you for your cooperation.

Neil

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"Random mutation/natural selection works great in folks’ imaginations, but it’s a bust in the real world." ~ Michael J. Behe

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HenryT

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I don't intend a personal attack.

What I described is, I think, such a difference of world-view as to make real argument (with the possibility of someone changing their opinion) very hard indeed.

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"Perhaps an invincible attachment to the dearest rights of man may, in these refined, enlightened days, be deemed old-fashioned" P. Henry, 1788

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Faithful Sheepdog
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quote:
Originally posted by Henry Troup:
I don't intend a personal attack.

What I described is, I think, such a difference of world-view as to make real argument (with the possibility of someone changing their opinion) very hard indeed.

Thank you for your clarification and response. I accept that there was no intention to make a personal attack.

Time has run out for today, but I hope to respond further tomorrow in a purgatorial fashion. At the earliest it is likely to be in the afternoon UK time.

As a preliminary, may I ask to what extent, if any, you are familiar with the published writings and ideas of the ID community, Dembski, Behe et al.?

Neil

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"Random mutation/natural selection works great in folks’ imaginations, but it’s a bust in the real world." ~ Michael J. Behe

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HenryT

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quote:
Originally posted by Faithful Sheepdog:
As a preliminary, may I ask to what extent, if any, you are familiar with the published writings and ideas of the ID community, Dembski, Behe et al.?

Not in the least.

Once, the "Argument from Design" was a position one could take as a scientifically educated Christian. Then, the ID people co-opted the word "design" for another flavour of bogus theory. Actually, simply unnecessary theory.

So now, I'll subscribe the the "Strong Anthropic Principle" and continue on my merry way.

I prefer a more subtle God.

--------------------
"Perhaps an invincible attachment to the dearest rights of man may, in these refined, enlightened days, be deemed old-fashioned" P. Henry, 1788

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Barnabas62
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Faithful Sheepdog

Following some advice from Alan Cresswell on these boards, I've been, patiently, slogging my way through the ID argumentation. Given the length of this thread, I haven't checked to see whether what I am doing now if repetition. It may be -and if so I apologise to the contributors.

I have now read quite a lot of Behe and Dembski on the Net - there is a fair bit there. No doubt I am not nearly as conversant with their work as you are. I would like to propose what may be a more constructive way of looking at the ID argument. A test case. Looking at a specific paper from the works of Behe and Dembski. One which contains testable arguments, or evidence. But one which would be accessible to the SofF community, whether they have a scientific background.

I begin with an example and two preliminary questions. Firstly, does this paper by Behe, presented to the C S Lewis society, satisfy the criteria I have put forward? Secondly, do you believe it is a good example? If you would prefer another example, please feel free to choose it. If you would prefer not to go down this road at all, that is also fine with me. Given that your POV in this thread is a minority one, I think it only fair that you should control the choice of any test case paper - or have the option of deciding not to take part.

From my POV, the Behe paper expresses some scientific arguments, with supporting evidence, to an audience which was Christian and probably included people from many different backgrounds (including scientific). I found it quite accessible, even though I haven't personally practised science for many years. (I am an ex-Chemist who forsook the lab for IT systems design and development work).

Over to you.

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Barnabas62
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Sorry for the double post - I missed the edit. The second paragraph should end this way - "..regardless of scientific background".

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Who is it that you seek? How then shall we live? How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?

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Alan Cresswell

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quote:
Originally posted by Faithful Sheepdog:
quote:
Originally posted by Henry Troup:
The computer models demonstrate that emergent behaviour and increasing complexity can occur.

As a brute fact I will accept that this is correct as a description of the models. However, what is at issue is how and why that emergent behaviour and increasing complexity is ocurring. I have argued earlier on the thread that it is a human artefact of the programming code, no more, no less.
That the codes used in genetic algorithms are human artefacts isn't in doubt. The question is, are they entirely human constructs, or do they expoit processes that also occur in nature. To illustrate the question, allow me to shift example. Most scientists and geologists have no doubt that minerals form through entirely natural processes, and yet various human devices akin to glorified pressure cookers can simulate the natural conditions these minerals form in and create artificial minerals. Does the fact that a machine designed by intelligent beings can create minerals mean that minerals found in rocks were also created by a "machine designed by an intelligent being"? I would say that that doesn't. The ability of intelligent beings to recreate a process doesn't mean that that process doesn't occur without any intelligence designing the process. That's true for genetic algorithms as well as mineral production.

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Don't Brexit if you haven't a scooby how to fix it.

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Faithful Sheepdog
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quote:
Originally posted by JimmyT on in Hell:
Now you've got my attention, since I study genomics, physiology, and molecular evolution of marine bacteria. What are you talking about, quorum sensing?

How on earth can you even conceptualize an ability of humans to detect bacterial "intent" and bacterial "formulating design?" They "intend" to form a biofilm, signal each other that they are present in sufficient numbers, and they then go about making a biofilm, intentionally designing the film and coordinating their activities by intent and not by mechanical feedback mechanisms of the signal molecules phosphorylating receptors and so on?

How could you separate this from cold air and hot air "intending" to form a cloud and rain on plants so that they will give off moisture and present the cold and hot air with an opportunity to make more rain if they decide they want to?

I would guess that if you can find intent, broadly speaking, in bacteria you could find it everywhere. Bicycles develop a dislike for their owners, cause the owners to forget to lock them up, display their pretty colors to humans, and attract a new owner. It was not the intent of the human to steal, but the intent of the bike to be stolen.

[Confused]

Sorry JimmyT and everyone else, time is not on my side at the moment. I will get back to this thread as soon as real life permits. If anyone else wishes to respond to JimmyT's post about evidence for bacterial intelligence, please do so.

Neil

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"Random mutation/natural selection works great in folks’ imaginations, but it’s a bust in the real world." ~ Michael J. Behe

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Barnabas62
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JimmyT

Yes, I was extremely puzzled by FS's comment here. He'll have to defend it himself. But I had an analagous, though not necessarily all that related point. I think most of us know that when Dawkins writes about the "selfish" gene he is using language in a particular way (I sometimes think, cynically, to help sell popular books on science). The language says something, but has caused as much confusion as enlightenment.

I'm not sure of the extent to which FS is copying Dawkins (now that's a fragrant thought) in this sort of use of language but I suppose he might be. Or he might be implying that the mechanical, behaviour of orgnaisims which are in themselves non-sentient, demonstrates, by some paradox, some sign of sentience anyway. A sort of "echo of the designer", who might of course be anyone (or Anyone, or Someone). If you see what I mean. Who can tell?

It will be up to him to cough when he can - meanwhile there you have a puzzled, guessy type view. Liked your post BTW - your field of study sounds interesting. Also BTW I've guessed that quorum sensing (new term for this ignoramus) means a sort of beehive behaviour type thing - if that's stupid please feel free to show me up.

(missed out the y in JimmyT. Now thats a thought..)

[ 01. September 2005, 13:07: Message edited by: Barnabas62 ]

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Who is it that you seek? How then shall we live? How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?

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HenryT

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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
...I think most of us know that when Dawkins writes about the "selfish" gene he is using language in a particular way ...

but, Dawkins claims and demonstrates that that language can always be transformed back into the conventional statistical language.

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Barnabas62
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Yes I should have said that as well - thanks.

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Who is it that you seek? How then shall we live? How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?

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Faithful Sheepdog
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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
I'm not sure of the extent to which FS is copying Dawkins (now that's a fragrant thought) in this sort of use of language but I suppose he might be.

I hope to come back to the other posts some time tomorrow, but for now I want to comment on this point.

From a literary perspective Richard Dawkins is actually a very good writer. His prose is clear and lucid, and not without its poetic touches. His descriptions of animal behviour are a joy to peruse. For the general audience that he has in mind, his style is ideal.

Where Dawkins' writing falls down is at the point where we leave behind general information and enter the serious world of hard science. He does not write with enough precision for this purpose and in consequence skates over important technical issues. His elegant writing simply does not stand up when we begin to ask, "Yes, but how does he know that?"

So, I am not consciously copying Dawkinss' style, but nevertheless I would be happy to write to the same general standard as he does, provided that I could also move into a more precise style for occasions when full technical detail is required.

Neil

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"Random mutation/natural selection works great in folks’ imaginations, but it’s a bust in the real world." ~ Michael J. Behe

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Faithful Sheepdog
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quote:
Originally posted by Henry Troup:
quote:
Originally posted by Faithful Sheepdog:
As a preliminary, may I ask to what extent, if any, you are familiar with the published writings and ideas of the ID community, Dembski, Behe et al.?

Not in the least.

Once, the "Argument from Design" was a position one could take as a scientifically educated Christian. Then, the ID people co-opted the word "design" for another flavour of bogus theory. Actually, simply unnecessary theory.

So now, I'll subscribe the "Strong Anthropic Principle" and continue on my merry way.

I prefer a more subtle God.

Your unfamiliarity with the writings of the ID community explains why we are talking past one another. Since you haven’t studied the present ID proposals at all, I cannot give much weight to your opinion that it is “another flavour of bogus theory” or “unnecessary”. The argument is intensely focussed on the different types of information and on just what kind of information purely natural processes can generate.

From your previous posts you have some mathematical ability and, in particular, a knowledge of statistical entropy and Shannon information theory. On that basis you should be able to understand at least some of Dembski’s line of argument regarding “design” (by which he means the quantitative detection of intelligent agency). The argument has moved on substantially from the “argument from design” associated with Paley in the 18th century.

According to this Wikipedia article, the Strong Anthropic Principle is consistent with ID ideas. The arguments that Dembski and co. are producing are substantially more subtle and nuanced than many people give them credit for. If you prefer “a more subtle God” you might find their ideas striking a chord with you. They certainly have with me.

quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
Faithful Sheepdog

Following some advice from Alan Cresswell on these boards, I've been, patiently, slogging my way through the ID argumentation. Given the length of this thread, I haven't checked to see whether what I am doing now if repetition. It may be -and if so I apologise to the contributors.

Firstly I salute your intention to study some of the ID arguments for yourself and the fact that you have read some of the well-known authors in this field. To be honest, if anyone is new to this subject, then this thread is not the best place to start. It rambles all over the place and at times is more likely to confuse than enlighten. Some of the discussion has been intensely technical and therefore well over most of the Ship’s head for unavoidable reasons.

For total newcomers to the subject I recommend the Access Research Network (ARN) website. This is some kind of educational foundation in the USA and I see that you have found it already.. This site has many articles, links and dedicated forums available. They also sell subsidised books. The scientific standard on this site is high.

quote:
I have now read quite a lot of Behe and Dembski on the Net - there is a fair bit there. No doubt I am not nearly as conversant with their work as you are. I would like to propose what may be a more constructive way of looking at the ID argument. A test case. Looking at a specific paper from the works of Behe and Dembski. One which contains testable arguments, or evidence. But one which would be accessible to the SoF community, whether they have a scientific background.
Your proposal is very fair and reasonable. Many ID writings are widely available on the Internet, and Dembski in particular does make an effort to differentiate between those papers he addresses to a more general audience, and those that he addresses to serious mathematicians. I will give some effort to locating something that may be suitable for this purpose.

quote:
I begin with an example and two preliminary questions. Firstly, does this paper by Behe, presented to the C S Lewis society, satisfy the criteria I have put forward? Secondly, do you believe it is a good example? If you would prefer another example, please feel free to choose it. If you would prefer not to go down this road at all, that is also fine with me. Given that your POV in this thread is a minority one, I think it only fair that you should control the choice of any test case paper - or have the option of deciding not to take part.
I couldn’t get your link to open, but I think this is the Behe paper to which you refer. Behe is a professor of biochemistry and particularly associated with the concept of irreducible complexity, which he introduced in his book Darwin’s Black Box. Some of his arguments require a lot of technical biochemical knowledge to understand and critique fully.

The concept of irreducible complexity has been discussed before on this thread several times before. It is an important concept that seems intuitively correct to me as an engineer. It describes the evolution of a certain kind of biological feature as a mathematical step function over time in terms of the biological functioning.

However, even if this concept were to be comprehensively rebutted in the biological world, that would not of itself falsify other ID ideas on evolution. For that reason it may be better to concentrate on something Dembski has written rather than Behe. Dembski has the more fundamental concept of “complex specified information” (CSI) and much of the ID argument hangs on that.

quote:
From my POV, the Behe paper expresses some scientific arguments, with supporting evidence, to an audience which was Christian and probably included people from many different backgrounds (including scientific). I found it quite accessible, even though I haven't personally practised science for many years. (I am an ex-Chemist who forsook the lab for IT systems design and development work).

Over to you.

Someone with a general level of scientific literacy should be able to make an informed opinion of these ideas and their worth. To understand and critique them fully requires a lot more knowledge, especially mathematical. The argument is also very subtle and nuanced at times. It is easily misunderstood and in some places, wildly misrepresented by others.

I have been following this debate for over five years now. My own ideas and understanding have been refined several times during that period, partly as a result of the excellent debate that I had last year with Glenn Oldham, who was nevertheless no supporter of ID proposals.

quote:
Originally posted by Alan Cresswell:
That the codes used in genetic algorithms are human artefacts isn't in doubt. The question is, are they entirely human constructs, or do they expoit processes that also occur in nature. To illustrate the question, allow me to shift example. Most scientists and geologists have no doubt that minerals form through entirely natural processes, and yet various human devices akin to glorified pressure cookers can simulate the natural conditions these minerals form in and create artificial minerals. Does the fact that a machine designed by intelligent beings can create minerals mean that minerals found in rocks were also created by a "machine designed by an intelligent being"? I would say that that doesn't. The ability of intelligent beings to recreate a process doesn't mean that that process doesn't occur without any intelligence designing the process. That's true for genetic algorithms as well as mineral production.

You raise an extremely good question that goes to the heart of this issue. Just what kind of creative processes can take place in the natural world without recourse to anything other than the basic laws of physics and chemistry? ID attempts to answer this question scientifically. The natural world is clearly capable of many things on its own, but is there any kind of discoverable limit?

Your argument breaks down in the final sentence. Is the full equivalent of genetic algorithms actually occurring in nature? This is the nub of the debate and I have argued earlier on the thread that it is not. With respect to geology, the natural state of minerals formed by geological processes alone cannot be characterised by what Dembski calls “Complex Specified Information” (CSI).

(Be careful, he is using that phrase in a precisely defined technical and quantitative sense. It’s best to read up on this in his own words.)

However, if we found mineral deposits containing any form of CSI (e.g. a clearly spelled out and recurring sequence of prime numbers from 2 to 101, or a message in a recognisable language, or some other form of detachable pattern), then would we still infer that only natural forces had been at work? Or would we infer something else instead?

This is where Dembski argues that CSI is a reliable indicator of intelligent agency. In his argument, neither chance, nor necessity, nor both in combination, can create CSI. The only thing we know that can is intelligence. Please note that his argument, however, says nothing about the nature of that intelligence.

quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
JimmyT

Yes, I was extremely puzzled by FS's comment here. He'll have to defend it himself.

JimmyT and Barnabas62 – I have a response on bacterial intelligence under preparation. Unfortunately I have family staying with me at present and my time is limited. Please accept my apologies for not being able to reply properly at this time.

Neil

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"Random mutation/natural selection works great in folks’ imaginations, but it’s a bust in the real world." ~ Michael J. Behe

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Callan
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Those interested in both sides of the argument might also like to look here.

But do look at both. [Smile]

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How easy it would be to live in England, if only one did not love her. - G.K. Chesterton

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Ricardus
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quote:
Originally posted by Faithful Sheepdog:
This is where Dembski argues that CSI is a reliable indicator of intelligent agency. In his argument, neither chance, nor necessity, nor both in combination, can create CSI. The only thing we know that can is intelligence.

I'm an arts student, so I don't have the technical knowledge to make any sensible comment about CSI. But surely scientific methodology would rule out intelligence a priori, on the grounds that it's not a useful hypothesis?

i.e. If we assume that CSI comes about as a result of an intelligent entity, then that's more or less the end of the road for scientific investigation in that area. An intelligent entity's actions are, pretty much by definition, unpredictable.

If we assume that intelligence was not involved and that there's some other factor that we haven't discovered, then we may be wrong, in which case we'll be stumped, but no more stumped than we were before. If we're right, though, then the discovery of this factor opens up a whole new field of scientific investigation.

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Then the dog ran before, and coming as if he had brought the news, shewed his joy by his fawning and wagging his tail. -- Tobit 11:9 (Douai-Rheims)

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Alan Cresswell

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Ricardus has it right, IMO. Who said arts students know nothing about science?

If you take a definition of CSI that is something like "information present that is sufficiently complex that it must be the result of intelligent action" thenyou can go and look for examples of CSI. However, any real world example (excluding things of human construction) can only, at best, be apparent CSI - you can never rule out the possibility that this complex information came about by some route that did not involve an intelligent agent - though there may well be instances where the probability of non-intelligent agency is very low. As scientists, fruitful research can only come about by further examination of this example of apparent design as though it were not intelligently designed.

Incidentally, the reverse is also true. You can never prove something was caused by entirely materialistic means without the input of an intelligent agent either.

Which puts the whole "intelligent agent" (excluding human agents) concept outside the realms of science.

I've included the exception of human agency, because I do believe that investigation of human artefacts can be done scientifically. There is, of course, still a grey area of "Possible human artefacts" (eg: "is that flint shaped that way cos it fell from a cliff and happened to shatter into sharp shards, or was it shaped by humans for a purpose?") where the mathematical concept of CSI could, I suppose, help clarify things.

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Alan Cresswell

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I posted this in Hell the other day, it was (in the context of the discussion) effectively a one-liner in Hell. It wasn't intended to be an extensive discussion of the similarities and differences between ID and YEC. It's been suggested I expand on it a wee bit more here.
quote:
Originally posted by Alan Cresswell:
quote:
Originally posted by Marvin the Martian:
If ID and Creationism were the same thing you may have had a point. Unfortunately for you, they're not.

Indeed. ID is a slightly modified form of Creationism that doesn't require a strict adherence to a literal interpretation of Genesis, yet retains the "Creation Science" faith that there will be scientific evidence of the Creative activity of God. Oh, and ID is also very coy about naming God as the Intelligent Designer, not that anyone has any serious doubts about that is who they really mean.

Which is a shame really, because strict adherence to a literal reading of Genesis and the Creator God of the the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition is at least a basically logically consistant position to stand on. ID seems to stand on rather shifting sands when you remove that philosophical foundation.

Though I've likened ID and Creation Science in this post, I do recognise that they clearly have very different attitudes to Biblical Literalism, evolutionary science etc, and that as a result both ID and Creation Science disassociate themselves from each other. I'm not claiming any simple correspondance between these positions, but there are IMO some definite similarities in the basis of these approaches.

The similarity, to me, is that both of them expect to find support for an essentially philosophical position in science - I'd say that's something they also share with Dawkins et al. By this I mean that these people (all of the above) tend to start with an assumption (YEC - the God of the Bible created as recorded in a literal interpretation of Genesis; ID - there is an intelligent agent behind the material universe; Dawkins - there is no external intelligent agency) and then go to look for support in science. In the case of Creation Science I'd say that most of the time that support is found in some extremely poor science. In the case of Dawkins, the science he goes to is good. I suspect that IDers may find themselves somewhere in between.

The contrast to most scientists is that they have rejected aiming for the greatest level of objectivity possible. Scientists go to the material universe to find out what it's really all about with the minimal amount of preconceptions about what they'll find. If the material universe contains scientific evidence for the presence of a Creator, an intelligent agency behind the design, or none of the above then fine. But to do science to look for such evidence isn't the same thing.

The commonality between YEC, ID and Dawkins is that they do science for a reason other than just to find out what the material universe is.

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Faithful Sheepdog
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BACTERIAL INTELLIGENCE

First off, this subject requires an extensive knowledge of microbiology, biochemistry and genetics to discuss in full detail. These are not my specialist subjects. It’s my impression from the outside that the concept of bacterial intelligence is new to microbiology and is currently the subject of much research and discussion.

In this post I am therefore simply going to give some basic information sources and explain why the concept of bacterial intelligence has found sympathetic listeners in the ID community. Anyone with particular knowledge or interest in bacterial intelligence is welcome to pick this topic up and run with it as far as they can.

Firstly, JimmyT used the term “quorum sensing”, which was new to me. A short article explaining what it means and giving me many more links is here.

On the general subject of bacterial intelligence, a quick Google search revealed the following articles. These are relatively short and quick to read:

http://kb.muxspace.com/brooding/bacterial_intelligence

http://www.world-science.net/exclusives/050418_bactfrm.htm

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/1542539.stm

http://www.csd.uwo.ca/dna11/abstract_Eshel.html

A much longer and full-weight journal article can be found here. Although this article is long, I can particularly recommend it. Even as a non-specialist, I was able to follow most of it. It has some amazing colour pictures and is well worth reading for insight into the remarkable abilities of bacterial colonies.

(Please not that the word “complexity” in this article is being used in its broad, everyday, dictionary sense. It is not to be confused with the very particular way that Dembski defines and uses the term “complexity” in ID theory. He explains his own use carefully.)

As I have stated several times, the ideas contained within ID theory do not automatically imply a theological corollary. It is possible to make deductions from this theory in a very different direction. One such direction is called Endogenous Adaptive Mutagenesis (EAM). This is one particular form of a non-Darwinian evolutionary theory. There is more information on EAM here.

quote:
EAM is the 'multiple designers' version of Intelligent Design. It holds that every organism possesses intelligence to some degree, and that it uses that intelligence in an unconscious, instinctive way, to redesign itself and/or its behaviour, and that of its offspring, in the face of novel, crucial environmental demands. Ecological adaptedness, that is, balance between environmental pressure and an organism's capacities, replaces the 'competitive' Darwinian notion of differential 'fitness' between organisms, in the teleology of EAM.
EAM is to be clearly distinguished from historical Lamarckianism due to the vastly superior knowledge of microbiology, biochemistry, and genetics that is now available. The recently discovered phenomenon of epigenetic inheritance also appears to be relevant to the issue of EAM. The existence of bacterial intelligence (if and when it is fully confirmed) would certainly be consistent with the EAM school of thought, hence the ID interest in this subject.

EAM is also one possible explanation for the undisputed phenomenon of antibiotic resistance. Far from this development being dependent on the operation of a random mutation/natural selection mechanism, some hold that it is caused by the ability of a bacterium to intelligently manipulate its own genome to its own advantage in the face of an antibiotic threat. That would be an example of EAM in action, and a form of ID evolution.

Neil

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mr cheesy
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FS - despite my two science degrees, I fail to see how your links prove your point.

They just state that bacteria can be observed doing complicated things. This isn't really news to anyone. I don't see how it therefore follows that they have some kind of inherent intelligence.

I certainly don't see how that explains antibiotic resistance (because following that line of reasoning, a bacterium would have to wake up in the morning, get out of bed and say to itself 'You know what, I am getting a bit sick of this nasty antibiotic - what I need to do is redesign myself to make myself resistant to it. Excuse me whilst I find that a bit unlikely). A more obvious solution is that there is no intelligence involved and that random genetic mutations cause some individuals to me more - or less - resistant to the antibiotic. If there are sufficient individuals with the resistance then the population expands with the new antibiotic resistant trait.

The problem with your explanation is that a) why millions of individual bacterium let themselves die when they could have the intelligence to 'switch on' the resistance b) there is masses of evidence of populations behaving in this way and no evidence of them using any form of intelligence.

Of course, you might be using "intelligence" in a way that I don't understand.

C

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Callan
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Originally posted by Faithful Sheepdog:

quote:
EAM is the 'multiple designers' version of Intelligent Design. It holds that every organism possesses intelligence to some degree, and that it uses that intelligence in an unconscious, instinctive way, to redesign itself and/or its behaviour, and that of its offspring, in the face of novel, crucial environmental demands. Ecological adaptedness, that is, balance between environmental pressure and an organism's capacities, replaces the 'competitive' Darwinian notion of differential 'fitness' between organisms, in the teleology of EAM.
Imagining for a moment that EAM is correct, and I suspect it is not for the reasons Cheesy points out, then presumably EAM would be detectable in nature through the techniques of methodological naturalism.

If hard scientific evidence for EAM were detected, could we then expect to see a retraction of the claim that methodological naturalism is a flawed technique?

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Petaflop
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I have a question about ID which I don't think has been covered. (I found a post back on page 10, but I was not very happy with it).

First, some background. I work in a field in which we have to develop highly detailed models ('theories') based on very weak data. As a result, we have to treat all our models with a great deal of skepticism. A model cannot be accepted on the basis of how well it explains the existing data, but only one the basis of its 'predictive power': how well it predicts data which it has never seen.

In fact, since we collect all the data which is relevent to a particular problem, we deliberately set aside 10% to use for this testing once the model is complete. This is a statistical technique called cross-validation (not to be confused with a theory of the atonement).

I would like to suggest that the 'predictive power' of a theory is a principle means of testing theories in science. If I may offer a couple of illustrations: In 1887 the Michelson-Morley experiment, designed to detect the Earth's absolute motion in space, produced a null result, failing to detect even the Earth's motion about the Sun. In the long run two explanations for this result remained:
  • 'Ether dragging', which was intellectually unsatisfying.
  • Special relativity, which was plainly bonkers.
Special relativity remained controversial (indeed Einstein received his Nobel prize for other work), until 10 years later the theory of general relativity predicted precession in the orbit of Mercury, and an experiment was set up specifically to test this prediction. The prediction was confirmed.

Another example would be in quantum mechanics, in which two alternative theories: the Copenhagen interpretation and hidden variables, were long thought to be indistinguishable, except by an impractical thought experiment. Recently it became possible to perform that experiment, leading to the rejection of hidden variable theories.

How does this apply to evolution and ID?

Evolution, in comparison to theories like quantum mechanics, has been comparatively spartan in providing new predictions: see this page, although the evidence from protein sequences is extensive. I guess one issue is that it is harder to make predictions in biology than physics due to the complexity of the systems. However, it is only fair to ask the same questions of ID:

  • Q1: What experimentally testable predictions has ID made?
    (Given the field and the newness of the theory, it is perhaps unreasonable to expect any predictions at this stage. However, it shouldn't be too early to ask a second question...)
  • Q2: What sort of experimentally testable predictions is it possible for ID to make?
    (In particular we are interested in predicitions which would distinguish ID from evolution. Note there is one problematic possibility: that there is a designer who is designing to give the appearance of evolution. This of course is untestable).

I have some more stuff to post on cross-validation, but I'll leave that for another post.

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Faithful Sheepdog
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quote:
Originally posted by Cheesy*:
FS - despite my two science degrees, I fail to see how your links prove your point.

They just state that bacteria can be observed doing complicated things. This isn't really news to anyone. I don't see how it therefore follows that they have some kind of inherent intelligence.

I submitted the links as evidence that the concept of bacterial intelligence is being discussed in the scientific community. It is one possible interpretation of the experimental data. I agree that it remains to be a conclusively proven concept.

quote:
Originally posted by Cheesy*:
I certainly don't see how that explains antibiotic resistance (because following that line of reasoning, a bacterium would have to wake up in the morning, get out of bed and say to itself 'You know what, I am getting a bit sick of this nasty antibiotic - what I need to do is redesign myself to make myself resistant to it. Excuse me whilst I find that a bit unlikely). A more obvious solution is that there is no intelligence involved and that random genetic mutations cause some individuals to me more - or less - resistant to the antibiotic. If there are sufficient individuals with the resistance then the population expands with the new antibiotic resistant trait.

The problem with your explanation is that a) why millions of individual bacterium let themselves die when they could have the intelligence to 'switch on' the resistance b) there is masses of evidence of populations behaving in this way and no evidence of them using any form of intelligence.

Your explanation is somewhat caricatured. The intelligence in question (to my eyes) appears to be an emergent property of the colony, not the possession of an individual bacterium. As for the mechanism of bacterial resistance, there appears to be a measurable increase in their rate of genetic mutation under antibiotic threat. What does that signify?

Many bacteria obviously die before they find the right genetic mutation and the resistance develops. However, with concepts such as bacterial communication and bacterial altruism, it is not difficult to see a rational and intelligent strategy as one possible explanation for their behaviour.

quote:
Originally posted by Cheesy*:
Of course, you might be using "intelligence" in a way that I don't understand.

I would expect to find some precise definitions and tests of “intelligence” in the relevant literature, but I haven’t gone looking in depth.

quote:
Originally posted by Callan:
Imagining for a moment that EAM is correct, and I suspect it is not for the reasons Cheesy points out, then presumably EAM would be detectable in nature through the techniques of methodological naturalism.

That appears to be a fair statement as far as I understand EAM. Remember, ID theory says nothing of necessity about the nature of the designer. It follows that in some cases the designer may well be readily accessible to further scientific investigation.

quote:
Originally posted by Callan:
If hard scientific evidence for EAM were detected, could we then expect to see a retraction of the claim that methodological naturalism is a flawed technique?

No.

Methodological naturalism is a potentially “flawed technique” in so far as it presupposes the nature of nature. Remember, many people only go looking for what they expect to see, and then, even when they stumble on something highly significant, they sometimes fail to recognise it because of presuppositional blinkers.

Read this essay on “The Neglected Elements of Scientific Discovery” by “Mike Gene” (a pseudonym) at the TeleoLogic website. He is another professional biochemist and ID theorist. If I recall correctly, he self-identifies as an agnostic.

quote:
Originally posted by Petaflop:
I have a question about ID which I don't think has been covered. (I found a post back on page 10, but I was not very happy with it).

Hi Petaflop, welcome to the debate. Please make sure your seatbelt is fastened. [Smile]

quote:
Originally posted by Petaflop:
First, some background. I work in a field in which we have to develop highly detailed models ('theories') based on very weak data. As a result, we have to treat all our models with a great deal of skepticism. A model cannot be accepted on the basis of how well it explains the existing data, but only one the basis of its 'predictive power': how well it predicts data which it has never seen.

In fact, since we collect all the data which is relevent to a particular problem, we deliberately set aside 10% to use for this testing once the model is complete. This is a statistical technique called cross-validation (not to be confused with a theory of the atonement).

ID theory as developed by Dembski has a strong mathematical and statistical component to it. It sounds like you should be well able to understand it and critique it sensibly. Read his book “No Free Lunch”.

quote:
I would like to suggest that the 'predictive power' of a theory is a principle means of testing theories in science. If I may offer a couple of illustrations: In 1887 the Michelson-Morley experiment, designed to detect the Earth's absolute motion in space, produced a null result, failing to detect even the Earth's motion about the Sun. In the long run two explanations for this result remained:
  • 'Ether dragging', which was intellectually unsatisfying.
  • Special relativity, which was plainly bonkers.
Special relativity remained controversial (indeed Einstein received his Nobel prize for other work), until 10 years later the theory of general relativity predicted precession in the orbit of Mercury, and an experiment was set up specifically to test this prediction. The prediction was confirmed.
The Michelson-Morley experiment is an extremely good example of an observation that discomforted the existing theory of “luminiferous ether” without immediately knocking it from its position of dominance. This would be in accordance with Thomas Kuhn’s notions of what it takes to topple a scientific paradigm.

The presuppositions of the time found special relativity to be a “plainly bonkers” idea, so it settled for the “intellectually unsatisfying” notion of ‘ether dragging’. It took the wider acceptance of special relativity and some spectacular confirming cosmological observations to finally put the “luminiferous ether” theory to bed circa 1930.

Just out of interest, are there any competent physicists today who still hold to the theory of “luminiferous ether”?

quote:
Originally posted by Petaflop:
Another example would be in quantum mechanics, in which two alternative theories: the Copenhagen interpretation and hidden variables, were long thought to be indistinguishable, except by an impractical thought experiment. Recently it became possible to perform that experiment, leading to the rejection of hidden variable theories.

I am not particularly knowledgeable on quantum mechanics, but I do know that the same basic theory has given rise to many different interpretations that can’t all be right. Apart from that I can’t comment much further on the specifics you mention.

quote:
Originally posted by Petaflop:
How does this apply to evolution and ID?

Please note that ID theory does not rule out evolution per se (“biological descent with modification”). However, it does have some very definite negative comments on the adequacy of Darwinian mechanisms (random mutation/natural selection) to produce historical change and development in life-forms.

quote:
Originally posted by Petaflop:
Evolution, in comparison to theories like quantum mechanics, has been comparatively spartan in providing new predictions: see this page, although the evidence from protein sequences is extensive. I guess one issue is that it is harder to make predictions in biology than physics due to the complexity of the systems. However, it is only fair to ask the same questions of ID:

Again, don’t confuse what may be evidence for some form of common descent with the specific claims for the ability of a Darwinian mechanism to bring about that biological change. ID per se says nothing about common descent either way. One is free to make any reasonable deduction from the palaeontological and biochemical evidence.

quote:
Originally posted by Petaflop:
Q1: What experimentally testable predictions has ID made?
(Given the field and the newness of the theory, it is perhaps unreasonable to expect any predictions at this stage. However, it shouldn't be too early to ask a second question...)

Dembski discusses testability in section 6.9 of his book “No Free Lunch”. For him “testability” not only includes Popperian falsifiability, but also “confirmation, predicability [sic – note the deliberate absence of the letter T], and explanatory power”.

His theory hangs on his concept of Complex Specified Information (CSI), a rigorously-defined, quantifiable concept tied in to information theory. He predicts that unintelligent, non-teleological, natural processes cannot generate this form of information. Nevertheless, he predicts that the natural biological world should be full of CSI.

He also predicts that we will find certain patterns of technological evolution in biology, namely “sudden emergence, convergence to ideality, and extinction”, and that such evolution will be (mostly) via a non-Darwinian process.

quote:
Originally posted by Petaflop:
Q2: What sort of experimentally testable predictions is it possible for ID to make?
(In particular we are interested in predictions which would distinguish ID from evolution. Note there is one problematic possibility: that there is a designer who is designing to give the appearance of evolution. This of course is untestable).

Your question is presuming that ID is automatically against all notions of evolution in the general sense of the word. As I have said above, this is not the case. This appears to a widely-held misconception on these boards.

Your point about the intelligent designer trying to disguise his/her/their/its actions is a good one. ID theory cannot distinguish between genuinely non-designed events and those designed events skilfully disguised by an intelligent agent to look like non-designed events.

Dembski’s “explanatory filter” may therefore assign an event to chance or necessity (his two other categories of non-designed events apart from designed events), even though it has in fact been designed. However, the filter reports a designed event if and only if such an event has truly been designed.

Neil

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"Random mutation/natural selection works great in folks’ imaginations, but it’s a bust in the real world." ~ Michael J. Behe

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Faithful Sheepdog:
Your explanation is somewhat caricatured. The intelligence in question (to my eyes) appears to be an emergent property of the colony, not the possession of an individual bacterium. As for the mechanism of bacterial resistance, there appears to be a measurable increase in their rate of genetic mutation under antibiotic threat. What does that signify?


No idea. Are you suggesting they are deliberately upp-ing their mutation rate? By what mechanism?

quote:
Many bacteria obviously die before they find the right genetic mutation and the resistance develops. However, with concepts such as bacterial communication and bacterial altruism, it is not difficult to see a rational and intelligent strategy as one possible explanation for their behaviour.
Bacterial communication and altruism eh? New one on me. I agree, my explanation was a caricature - according to your explanation bacteria act as a co-operative and make a joint decision based on the threat. I wonder if this is a democratic one-bug-one-vote system. I'm sorry, I find that explanation laughable when we are talking about single celled organisms.

quote:
I would expect to find some precise definitions and tests of “intelligence” in the relevant literature, but I haven’t gone looking in depth.
I suspect your explanations of intelligence are totally different to those in this corner of the academic community, Neil.

Given that your explanation depends on you having a grasp of the same idea - I suggest to you that if you are going to use this as an example it might be kinda important to check you know what they are talking about. I very much doubt that anyone is talking about a conscious decision on the part of microrganisms to deal with a perceived threat.

I suggest to you that "intelligence" refers to the capacity of the microbe genome to mutate and provide resistance to antibiotics.

C

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overheard on a Welsh bus-stop: Jesus don't care about you, he's only interested in your soul

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mr cheesy
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FS, I just want to point out that if you wish to have an academic discussion, you should at least provide evidence which is more than the google equivilent of something you find on the bottom of your shoe.

quote:
Originally posted by Faithful Sheepdog:
http://kb.muxspace.com/brooding/bacterial_intelligence

http://www.world-science.net/exclusives/050418_bactfrm.htm


These are not refereed papers, they are not in an academic journal.

quote:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/1542539.stm
An article by the BBC (not a refereed academic journal), based on research by BT (not a recognised academic institution) into neural networks (not microbiology).


quote:
http://www.csd.uwo.ca/dna11/abstract_Eshel.html
An abstract of a conference paper. Getting slightly warmer, I'll grant you.

quote:

A much longer and full-weight journal article can be found here. Although this article is long, I can particularly recommend it. Even as a non-specialist, I was able to follow most of it. It has some amazing colour pictures and is well worth reading for insight into the remarkable abilities of bacterial colonies.

Hurrah, a real paper.

Given that you have only provided one paper in evidence - and that we can easily ignore all your other links - maybe you would now be kind enough to tell us/me how this paper proves your case.

Remember, the case that you are trying to prove is that bacteria either individually or collectively have an intelligence which they use consciously to attack antibiotics.

Bacteria have no direct influence on mutations in their own genome - and I've never heard anyone postulate such nonsense.

C

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overheard on a Welsh bus-stop: Jesus don't care about you, he's only interested in your soul

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Faithful Sheepdog
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quote:
Originally posted by Cheesy*:
Are you suggesting they are deliberately upp-ing their mutation rate?

Yes.

quote:
By what mechanism?
To be determined - I don't know.

quote:
Bacterial communication and altruism eh? New one on me. I agree, my explanation was a caricature - according to your explanation bacteria act as a co-operative and make a joint decision based on the threat. I wonder if this is a democratic one-bug-one-vote system. I'm sorry, I find that explanation laughable when we are talking about single celled organisms.
Why do you find the concept of communal social intelligence to be laughable? Why the need to lapse into a silly caricature? If you've got some serious knowledge on this subject, then please share it.

quote:
I suspect your explanations of intelligence are totally different to those in this corner of the academic community, Neil.
Did you read the first short link that gave some of the key points of similarity between neural networks and bacterial colonies? The link is here.

Intelligence generally is a broad and far reaching concept. It includes problem recognition, problem solving and problem implementation. It includes the ability to show intention, to make rational choices, and to act differently at different times.

quote:
Given that your explanation depends on you having a grasp of the same idea - I suggest to you that if you are going to use this as an example it might be kinda important to check you know what they are talking about. I very much doubt that anyone is talking about a conscious decision on the part of microrganisms to deal with a perceived threat.

I suggest to you that "intelligence" refers to the capacity of the microbe genome to mutate and provide resistance to antibiotics.

Did you read the paper on "Bacteria harnessing complexity"? The link is here.

From the paper:

quote:
Bacteria use their intracellular flexibility, involving signal transduction networks and genomic plasticity, to collectively maintain self and shared interpretations of chemical cues, exchange of meaning-bearing chemical messages, and dialogues. The meaning-based communication permits the formation of colonial intentional behavior, purposeful alteration of colony structure and decision-making – features we might begin to associate with bacterial social intelligence. Such social intelligence, should it exist, would require going
beyond communication to encompass additional intracellular processes, as yet unknown, for generating inheritable colonial memory and commonly shared genomic context.

Whatever the full story subsequently proves to be, the authors of this recent paper certainly do not consider the concept of bacterial social intelligence to be a laughable concept. They sketch out what they mean by intelligence in the short extract above.

Note that "meaning based communication" also underlies spoken human language. Language is much more than simply pressure waves in the air. It is a high-level concept indeed.

Neil

[cross-posted with Cheesy above]

[ 05. September 2005, 13:13: Message edited by: Faithful Sheepdog ]

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"Random mutation/natural selection works great in folks’ imaginations, but it’s a bust in the real world." ~ Michael J. Behe

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Faithful Sheepdog
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quote:
Originally posted by Cheesy*:
FS, I just want to point out that if you wish to have an academic discussion, you should at least provide evidence which is more than the google equivilent of something you find on the bottom of your shoe.

That's why I differentiated between the short, lightweight links that are easily read, and the much longer article that has to be printed out and read away from the screen, because it is too detailed to do otherwise.

quote:
These are not refereed papers, they are not in an academic journal.
I never claimed that they were. They were provided for general background information on a tangential issue that came up in a Hell thread.

quote:
Hurrah, a real paper.
Have you read the paper?

quote:
Given that you have only provided one paper in evidence - and that we can easily ignore all your other links - maybe you would now be kind enough to tell us/me how this paper proves your case.

Remember, the case that you are trying to prove is that bacteria either individually or collectively have an intelligence which they use consciously to attack antibiotics.

I think you'll find it's the antibiotics that attack the bacteria, and not the other way round. In their defence against antibiotic attack it is possible that bacteria may employ intelligence of some form.

I am not trying to "prove a case" in a formal sense. I am providing evidence of an ongoing scientific discussion.

quote:
Bacteria have no direct influence on mutations in their own genome - and I've never heard anyone postulate such nonsense.
How do you know that it is nonsense? I see no argument here, only an assertion.

Neil

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"Random mutation/natural selection works great in folks’ imaginations, but it’s a bust in the real world." ~ Michael J. Behe

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mdijon
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I have some background in the bugs bit of this (as, I believe, does JimmyT); but no background in the first 20 page; so I'll restrict comments to the bugs.

It is true that bacteria increase mutation rates under antibiotic pressure. Sometimes this can be traced directly to the antibiotics interferring with DNA synthesis. Sometimes this is a result of a stress response in the bacteria, consequent on the antibiotics.

This is probably useful in nature; bacteria coming into contact with new antibiotics are likely to find a way round it; and one can argue these kind of mechanisms would be positively selected by evolution.

Quorum sensing is a related concept referred to elsewhere; bugs at certain densities sense it, and behave differently.

So mechanistic explanations which give the appearance of intelligence are possible here.

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Faithful Sheepdog:
Why do you find the concept of communal social intelligence to be laughable? Why the need to lapse into a silly caricature? If you've got some serious knowledge on this subject, then please share it.

Tell me, honestly Neil. How many university level degree courses did you do in microbiology? How many hours have you spent studying bacterial colonies in a laboratory?

quote:
Did you read the first short link that gave some of the key points of similarity between neural networks and bacterial colonies? The link is here.

Even if neural networks function similarly to bacterial colonies, this is not the same as suggesting that either have any real kind of intelligence - or at least not the kind you are suggesting they may have.


quote:
Intelligence generally is a broad and far reaching concept. It includes problem recognition, problem solving and problem implementation. It includes the ability to show intention, to make rational choices, and to act differently at different times.

Did you read the paper on "Bacteria harnessing complexity"? The link is here.

From the paper:

quote:
Bacteria use their intracellular flexibility, involving signal transduction networks and genomic plasticity, to collectively maintain self and shared interpretations of chemical cues, exchange of meaning-bearing chemical messages, and dialogues. The meaning-based communication permits the formation of colonial intentional behavior, purposeful alteration of colony structure and decision-making – features we might begin to associate with bacterial social intelligence. Such social intelligence, should it exist, would require going
beyond communication to encompass additional intracellular processes, as yet unknown, for generating inheritable colonial memory and commonly shared genomic context.


Yes, but this is not what you are saying it is, Neil. There is a vast difference in some primitive sort of chemical communication between single celled organisms and the kind of genetic choices that you are suggesting bacteria are making in the presence of an antibiotic.

quote:
Whatever the full story subsequently proves to be, the authors of this recent paper certainly do not consider the concept of bacterial social intelligence to be a laughable concept. They sketch out what they mean by intelligence in the short extract above.

Note that "meaning based communication" also underlies spoken human language. Language is much more than simply pressure waves in the air. It is a high-level concept indeed.

Neil


I'm sorry Neil, I do not believe you understand this paper at all. You are ascribing higher organism functions to single celled organisms.

For goodness sakes, with a million individual microbes in every 1g of soil, they could destroy all other life if they worked together with the kind of intelligence you suggest.

Really, Neil, you would do best to stay within your own expertise and not stray into areas where you make assumptions about their use of jargon.

C

[Correctly attributed quoted material.]

[ 05. September 2005, 19:26: Message edited by: Sarkycow ]

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mr cheesy
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Apologies, this para in my post

quote:
Intelligence generally is a broad and far reaching concept. It includes problem recognition, problem solving and problem implementation. It includes the ability to show intention, to make rational choices, and to act differently at different times.
Is from FS previous post. I stuffed up the code.

C

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mdijon
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I've done a fair bit of higher study in microbiology; so perhaps I pass your test Cheesy. I'm certainly not with FS on most of this, but I'm not entirely with you either, Cheesy. I think the idea of social intelligence among bacteria is not so far fetched, and seems well referenced and argued.

I think there are real similarities between the behaviour of bacteria and neural networks.

Although that may be a nail in the coffin of ID; It is quite clear from bacteria that the elements required to produce a complex, apparently sentient, behaviour pattern can be evolved. Indeed, the author of the review FS quotes finishes with "We might even discover that the last five decades of evolution in bacterial social intelligence is largely a result of their encounter with our socially irrational massive use of antibiotic materials......"

Fascinating review.

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by mdijon:
I've done a fair bit of higher study in microbiology; so perhaps I pass your test Cheesy. I'm certainly not with FS on most of this, but I'm not entirely with you either, Cheesy. I think the idea of social intelligence among bacteria is not so far fetched, and seems well referenced and argued.

OK - please explain the term 'social intelligence' to me and if possible how it might mean that bacterial communities are able to affect the mutation of their own genome to combat the effects of antibiotics. My education is very flawed in this area.

quote:
I think there are real similarities between the behaviour of bacteria and neural networks.

Although that may be a nail in the coffin of ID; It is quite clear from bacteria that the elements required to produce a complex, apparently sentient, behaviour pattern can be evolved. Indeed, the author of the review FS quotes finishes with "We might even discover that the last five decades of evolution in bacterial social intelligence is largely a result of their encounter with our socially irrational massive use of antibiotic materials......"

Fascinating review.

I might be wrong, but I understood that neural networks, whilst being able to perform some complex tasks, cannot really be ascribed the intelligence.

And to be clear, I could be completely wrong about though I did study some microbiology at university. The ideas just sound incredible to me.

C

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Faithful Sheepdog
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quote:
Originally posted by Cheesy*:
Tell me, honestly Neil. How many university level degree courses did you do in microbiology? How many hours have you spent studying bacterial colonies in a laboratory?

You certainly don’t read my posts, do you? I stated clearly that microbiology, was not “my specialist subject”. I also invited those with specialist knowledge in this area to contribute. My thanks to mdijon for his/her contributions.

The subject of bacterial intelligence is frankly somewhat tangential to the mainstream ID issues that I have defended to date. Whether this proposal is subsequently vindicated or overturned does not affect the overall ID theory. However, I can see that an overturning may upset the EAM crowd.

quote:
Even if neural networks function similarly to bacterial colonies, this is not the same as suggesting that either have any real kind of intelligence - or at least not the kind you are suggesting they may have.
That is precisely the point at issue in the debate. What is the appropriate language to describe the behaviour of bacterial colonies? Is it even appropriate to talk about bacterial intelligence at all? If so, what kind of intelligence is involved? How could such intelligence be characterised? To what is it analogous?

quote:
Yes, but this is not what you are saying it is, Neil. There is a vast difference in some primitive sort of chemical communication between single celled organisms and the kind of genetic choices that you are suggesting bacteria are making in the presence of an antibiotic.
Yes, I am well aware there is a difference.

quote:
I'm sorry Neil, I do not believe you understand this paper at all. You are ascribing higher organism functions to single celled organisms.

For goodness sakes, with a million individual microbes in every 1g of soil, they could destroy all other life if they worked together with the kind of intelligence you suggest.

I’ve suggested nothing of the kind, but it sounds like the script from a good science fiction film.

quote:
Really, Neil, you would do best to stay within your own expertise and not stray into areas where you make assumptions about their use of jargon.
That is precisely why I declared my lack of specialist knowledge up front and invited others to contribute. So far I have found your contribution very unenlightening.

Neil

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"Random mutation/natural selection works great in folks’ imaginations, but it’s a bust in the real world." ~ Michael J. Behe

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ken
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Aren't we getting a bit het up about nothing here?

Yes, "intelligence" is a silly word to use about bacteria, but bacteria certainly exhibit behaviour, and they change their behaviour.

Just in order to make our language simpler we can talk about bacteria "intending" to do something, or doing something in order that they achieve some goal. I doubt if anyone at all thinks that that means we assume the bacteria have thoughts or ideas or emotions or intelligence in the way that animals do. Its no different from saying that a plant grows towards the light so that it can photosynthesise. We can even talk about bacteria "choosing" between one life state and another or one behaviour and another. With the possible exception of some aspects of motility effectively all bacterial behaviour is mediated through differential gene expression - a bit more of this protein, a bit less of that. In effect behaviour, gene expression, cell state, life cycle, and phenotype are not separate categories when talking about bacteria.

Ideas of altruism & so on are no more problematic when used about bacteria than when used about any other organism without a brain. And we know that bacteria often - probably usaually - co-operate within and between species, and form quite complex multicellular structures.

Mutation rates evolve along with any other characteristic of an organism - though there is no real reason I know of to think that any special "intelligence" is required. Some bacteria have mechanisms to take in foreign DNA under certain circumstances and some of them are more likely to take in foreign DNA when under certain kinds of stress. That will tend to up the mutation rate...

NB the idea of epigenetic inheritance is not new. In fact it is at least a century older than modern genetics. Though the word "epigenesis" was once used to mean something rather different what what it means now - it was introduced to describe what we might now call embryonic development as opposed to preformation. But in the sense it has been used on this thread it has been an accepted part of modern genetics since maybe the 1920s. Nothing mysterious or weird about it at all, which is not to say it can't get to be confusing, especially when mixed up with handwaving about emergent properties. Also a lot of what is now called "epigenetic inheritance" is really nothing more than straightforward control of gene expression, for example by methylation & demethylation of DNA, autosomal imprinting & so on.

The Science Citation Index currently has 6,246 references for "epigenetic" and 293 for "epigenesis". Along with epigenetics we also have epistasis, pleiotropy & penetrance... each bits of genetics jargon for some of the many reasons why it is very naughty to say "a gene for" something.

But none of this has anything to do with whether or not evolution by natural selection is a good explanation for the origin of species. All these things are just as subject to natural selection as simple Mendelian genetics. In fact for the first 70 years of the general acceptance of evolution & common kinship, Mendelian inheritance was unknown, or ignored, or thought incapable of explaining evolution, and these other ideas were used instead (along with a whole load of even more handwaving ones that have been discarded since)

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mdijon
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Cheesy (and slightly Ken), I think the term "Social intelligence" is being used to describe what is seen. The bacteria, as a community, behave in apparently intelligent ways. In a sense this isn't new; it's been known for some time that bugs adopt different properties dependant on their density, which seem to help survival of the overall infection, rather than any individual bacteria.

It is described as intelligence because of the outcome; this doesn't imply consciousness, or any other higher function - so yes, it might be a silly term to use here, but that's what they chose.

In what way are these, and neural networks "not intelligent". I think it is becoming harder and harder to define what makes "artificial intelligence" different from intelligence.

I see all this as supportive of evolution per se, rather than ID.

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Barnabas62
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quote:
Originally posted by mdijon:
Cheesy (and slightly Ken), I think the term "Social intelligence" is being used to describe what is seen.

<snip>

It is described as intelligence because of the outcome; this doesn't imply consciousness, or any other higher function - so yes, it might be a silly term to use here, but that's what they chose.

In what way are these, and neural networks "not intelligent". I think it is becoming harder and harder to define what makes "artificial intelligence" different from intelligence.


Very well put. Without some objective tests for the colloquial terms of consciousness (maybe conscious self-awareness), to imply "intelligence" from outcome no longer seems to be very safe to me. The colloquial meaning and the technical meaning of the word overlap, again putting pressure on intelligent (oh there I go again) discussion.

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Petaflop
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quote:
Originally posted by Faithful Sheepdog:
ID theory as developed by Dembski has a strong mathematical and statistical component to it. It sounds like you should be well able to understand it and critique it sensibly. Read his book “No Free Lunch”.

Thanks, statistics and information theory (combined with biological applications) are right up my street. It's on my reading list. I'm afraid that probably means 6 months, but look for me back here then.

In the mean time, one more question if I may. Is it a necessary part of ID that one cannot know anything about the designer? Or is it legitimate to draw conclusions about the designer from observations of the results?

I ask because the more specific a theory is, the greater its predictive power.

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Faithful Sheepdog
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quote:
Originally posted by Petaflop:
Thanks, statistics and information theory (combined with biological applications) are right up my street. It's on my reading list. I'm afraid that probably means 6 months, but look for me back here then.

In the mean time, one more question if I may. Is it a necessary part of ID that one cannot know anything about the designer? Or is it legitimate to draw conclusions about the designer from observations of the results?

I ask because the more specific a theory is, the greater its predictive power.

ID theory supports a “design inference”, which is understood as evidence for the actions of an intelligent agent. The theory of itself says nothing about the nature of that agent other than he/she/it/they are intelligent.

In section 6.1 of No Free Lunch Dembski outlines a possible research strategy for ID theory. He provides 11 lines of research that are clearly scientific and fully accessible to further scientific investigation. He also provides an additional 4 lines of investigation that move increasingly away from science into non-scientific areas. This movement away from science he clearly acknowledges.

This section of the book is similar to this article at the ARN website, except that the book has 15 in its list and the article only 14. The last 4 are identical in the book and the article, namely the problems of ethics, aesthetics, intentionality and identity.

So in Dembski’s thought one is certainly free to investigate who or what is the designer implied by ID theory. However, one needs to be aware that this line of investigation may or may not take one beyond the realm of science. Dembski is on record somewhere as developing his personal ideas about the designer with reference to the logos theology of St. John’s gospel, but he is very clear at this point that he has left science behind and entered the realm of personal faith. This move is completely optional as far as the theory goes.

If the designer is some hitherto unknown natural intelligence or teleological property of the biological world, then that should indeed be discoverable by the normal scientific method (as the EAM crowd are suggesting). The important point with ID theory is that it breaks free from the suffocating constraints of a philosophical naturalism.

I hope that answers your question. Please feel free to ask more.

Incidentally, if you are mathematically literate, you will find extensive technical discussion on pages 11 to 14 of this thread on evolutionary algorithms, including full discussion of a fascinating electronics experiment using one such algorithm. There is also some more discussion of computer models on pages 20 and 21 of this thread, including some dedicated evolutionary software called AVIDA.

Neil

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ken
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quote:
Originally posted by Petaflop:
Thanks, statistics and information theory (combined with biological applications) are right up my street.

Sort of up my street as well, seeing as I just finished a bioinformatics MSc with a project on using various statistical measures of codon bias to try to find gene clusters and highly expreessed genes in bacteria.

But I have to confess that I have read quite a few of those ID papers now & I still don't quite see what they are worried about. Three quarters of it seems to be more or less common-sense, but in no way in conflict with more generally accepted ideas. And the other quarter looks like handwaving. "I just don't believe it!". They assert that certain biological systems are "irreducibly complex" but have so far offered nbo evidence that they are. (Unless there are other secret publications I haven't come across yet)

quote:

Is it a necessary part of ID that one cannot know anything about the designer? Or is it legitimate to draw conclusions about the designer from observations of the results?

Presumably it has to be because a putative designer would have to be someone who would want to design the things they have designed. Though of course that would also apply to a traditional Christian view of creation as well as to ID. (All those mediaeval Catholic proofs of the existence of God for example)

quote:

I ask because the more specific a theory is, the greater its predictive power.

naughty, naughty...


But more generally, obviously any Christian, or any other kind of theist, has to be deep down inside some sort of creationist, by definition. And if they accept that God is sovereign over the world, and that God has plans which are fulfilled in the world, then they must accept that God in some sense designed the world. But that's not the same as thinking that we can find out things about God by spotting flaws in the design.


The cheap thing about ID is that it seems to depend on God making mistakes. Back to the God of the Gaps again. That's not as bad as YEC which implies that God tells lies in creation, but it still feels dangerously near the edge of blasphemy to me. (Or at least of a too-small view of God). ID says that the universe that God designed is not capable of bearing the creatures God designed to live in it, so that God has to keep on intervening to fix the flaws in order to keep evolution going.

Its as if the world has errors in its execution, like parts of an old painting which have been worked over with extra brush-strokes to cover up mistakes, or places where the artist chained their mind, which if examined long enough by a well-trained art critic might reveal information about the painter. Surely God reveals himself in the whole picture, not in any mistakes?

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Ken

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mdijon
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I haven't read much ID material; but your characterisation, Ken, seems to fit the bacterial social intelligence discussion; 75% common sense (or at least, well established science) with 25% hand waving "I just don't believe it"..... where actually the parsimonius explanations point to evolution.

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Faithful Sheepdog
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quote:
Originally posted by ken:
But I have to confess that I have read quite a few of those ID papers now & I still don't quite see what they are worried about. Three quarters of it seems to be more or less common-sense, but in no way in conflict with more generally accepted ideas. And the other quarter looks like handwaving. "I just don't believe it!". They assert that certain biological systems are "irreducibly complex" but have so far offered no evidence that they are. (Unless there are other secret publications I haven't come across yet)

I salute you for doing some reading on ID ideas for yourself. As evidence for irreducibly complex systems, check out the writings of Michael Behe who is a biochemist, especially Darwin’s Black Box and the subsequent debates. You will probably be able to understand some of the biochemical details much better than I can.

quote:
naughty, naughty...
Nothing naughty about Petaflop’s question at all. If ID ideas are going to win more mainstream acceptance, this is precisely the kind of question that needs to be asked. As I said to Petaflop, Dembski has already asked that question of himself and sketched out an answer.

quote:
But more generally, obviously any Christian, or any other kind of theist, has to be deep down inside some sort of creationist, by definition. And if they accept that God is sovereign over the world, and that God has plans which are fulfilled in the world, then they must accept that God in some sense designed the world. But that's not the same as thinking that we can find out things about God by spotting flaws in the design.
I am puzzled as to where you get the notion of “flaws in the design” from? ID claims to be able to detect design, but makes no claims for the optimality of that design or the absence of flaws, however defined.

quote:
The cheap thing about ID is that it seems to depend on God making mistakes. Back to the God of the Gaps again. That's not as bad as YEC which implies that God tells lies in creation, but it still feels dangerously near the edge of blasphemy to me. (Or at least of a too-small view of God). ID says that the universe that God designed is not capable of bearing the creatures God designed to live in it, so that God has to keep on intervening to fix the flaws in order to keep evolution going.
Again, I‘m very puzzled by your reference to “mistakes”. I confess I don’t understand you at this point. Please will you expand on your argument here.

I think you’ve shifted from scientific onto theological ground here. I also think you may be missing the point that the “design inference” of ID theory is being proposed on logical and rational grounds, not theological and revelatory.

ID theory does not postulate of necessity continuing intervention by the designer. It simply says that we have detected design. When and how that design was implemented is beyond the remit of the theory.

My computer is operating now because someone designed the computer and someone designed the software. Whoever those people were (and I personally know nothing about them), the continuing operation of my computer no longer depends on their active and continuing intervention, despite the clear evidence of design available to me. The original designers’ work is now finished.

Mind you, some would say that’s not true - Windows is still full of “flaws”. [Smile]

quote:
Its as if the world has errors in its execution, like parts of an old painting which have been worked over with extra brush-strokes to cover up mistakes, or places where the artist chained their mind, which if examined long enough by a well-trained art critic might reveal information about the painter. Surely God reveals himself in the whole picture, not in any mistakes?
Your comment about “God reveals himself in the whole picture” is certainly true from a theological perspective, but again I don’t understand your reference to mistakes. There is no implication in the theory that the detectability of design is any kind of flaw or mistake in the design. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Here we are back to Gosse and his omphalos (Adam’s navel) again. The YEC world expects us not to accept that the clear evidence of our (scientific) eyes from the natural world. For them that evidence has been superseded by revelation instead.

By contrast, the ID world trusts the evidence from our (scientific) eyes and draws (scientific) conclusions accordingly. Passing beyond the realm of science to the realm of faith, one is then free to take up any theological position one wishes.

Neil

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ken
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Dembski and Behe are quite specifically claiming that some biological systems cannot be explained by natural processes (i.e. the ones God created in the first place) and so must have been designed and built in one go (as if God changed his mind and added new bits on)

But as I said I don't know of any reason to think there are such irreducibly complex systems in biology anyway.

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Alan Cresswell

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quote:
Originally posted by Faithful Sheepdog:
As evidence for irreducibly complex systems, check out the writings of Michael Behe who is a biochemist, especially Darwin’s Black Box and the subsequent debates.

The problem with the concept of "irreducible complecity" is that it's well nigh impossible to find a conclusive example. You can find examples whereby no currently conceivable mechanism for the development of the system can be determined (and, I'm not sure Behe even manages to find any of them given that AFAIK all the examples he gives have been countered by scientists offering gradual mechanisms how they could have developed) - but how do you prove that no future scientific developments won't find a mechanism whereby those systems could have developed in a gradual manner. Irreducible Complexity is the sort of thing that's liable to have a small number of examples that gradually collapse as science progresses.

But, I think you've said more or less the same thing earlier on this thread, and suggested that Complex Specific Information is therefore a more useful concept than Irreducible Complexity.

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Faithful Sheepdog
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quote:
Originally posted by ken:
Dembski and Behe are quite specifically claiming that some biological systems cannot be explained by natural processes

The claim is more limited than "natural processes" in general. It is about what a specifically Darwinian evolutionary process can or can't accomplish. It leaves open the possibility that "natural processes" contain much more to be discovered. Such new discoveries may well demonstrate how a non-Darwinian evolutionary process constructed an irreducibly complex system.

quote:
(i.e. the ones God created in the first place)
We're back onto theological ground here. ID does not deny the abilities of presently-known natural processes to drive a limited evolutionary process of some kind. It does however establish the inherent limits of those presently-known processes to construct complex specified information (CSI).

quote:
and so must have been designed and built in one go (as if God changed his mind and added new bits on)
This doesn't follow. In ID theory there is no reason at all for the design and the construction to happen simultaneously. In the real engineeering world temporary states during a project often require as much design input as the final state.

Similarly in biology, the design may long precede the "construction", i.e. the biological changes that result in "descent with modification". In Davison's form of the ID model, he sees evolution in history as driven by the decompression of existing information within the life-form, long after that information first came into being.

quote:
But as I said I don't know of any reason to think there are such irreducibly complex systems in biology anyway.
The ID poster boy for irreducible complexity (IC) is the bacterial flagellum, although ID theory predicts that IC systems will eventually be found all over the biological world. As Alan Cresswell has remarked, Behe's IC concept has been subject to intense scrutiny and criticism by others. Nevertheless, although it remains very controversial, Behe still stands by his concept.

In his book No Free Lunch Dembski examines Behe's IC concept in detail and examines the numerous arguments brought against it. He also provides a much tighter definition than the one originally provided by Behe. This is a good example of the responsible internal critique within the scientific ID world.

Neil

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mdijon
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# 8520

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Ah - back to bugs again.

Why is the flagellum irreducibly complex? It doesn't seem so to me.....

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mdijon nojidm uoɿıqɯ ɯqıɿou
ɯqıɿou uoɿıqɯ nojidm mdijon

Posts: 12277 | From: UK | Registered: Sep 2004  |  IP: Logged
Faithful Sheepdog
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# 2305

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quote:
Originally posted by mdijon:
Ah - back to bugs again.

Why is the flagellum irreducibly complex? It doesn't seem so to me.....

From ARN: a simple article on the bacterial flagellum is here.

From ISCID: a further short description of the bacterial flagellum is here.

From ARN: further information on molecular machines and irreducible complexity is here.

From ARN: many more articles by Behe and his responses to his critics can be found here.

Neil

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"Random mutation/natural selection works great in folks’ imaginations, but it’s a bust in the real world." ~ Michael J. Behe

Posts: 1097 | From: Scotland | Registered: Feb 2002  |  IP: Logged
mdijon
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# 8520

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I see.

I think there are a number of related structure's, though, that seem to share common ancestry. Secretion mechanisms, pilae, intracellular ATPase's....... secondly I'm not sure why pick on the flagellum; it strikes me that most organs and most organisms could be described as irreducibly complex on the same basis.

So the argument doesn't seem different from saying "creation is incredible; there must be a designed" rather than a specific instance of God's footprint.

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mdijon nojidm uoɿıqɯ ɯqıɿou
ɯqıɿou uoɿıqɯ nojidm mdijon

Posts: 12277 | From: UK | Registered: Sep 2004  |  IP: Logged



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