William Dembski
 



January 30, 2006

Framing The ID Debate Around Science

I will remind everyone again - please frame your arguments around science. If the ID movement doesn’t get the issue framed around science it’s going down and I do not like losing. The plain conclusion of scientific evidence supports descent with modification from a common ancestor. You are certainly welcome to have other opinions based on faith in something other than science but I’d ask that you go to a religious website with them if you must talk about it.

You certainly don’t have to agree here with descent with modification from a common ancestor but I’m going to start clamping down on anyone positively arguing against it. It’s simply counter-productive to our goals and reinforces the idea that ID is religion because nothing but religion argues against descent with modification from a common ancestor. What we are fighting is the idea that the modification was unguided. ID can fight that without ever leaving the battleground of plain scientific conclusions. If we try to argue against anything else we’re are going to lose. Plain and simple. No buts about it. There’s only one gaping vulnerability in the commonly accepted evolutionary narrative we can exploit successfully and that’s the bit about it being unplanned.

Filed under: Intelligent DesignDaveScot @ 9:43 pm



66 Comments »

  1. I’m confused. Does that mean, for example, that raising the Cambrian Explosion as an objection to macroevolution is inappropriate or does ID say that a designer just caused occasional, sudden accelerations in evolutionary change? Is that what ID says?

    What mechanism do you need to explain where all those animals came from if not from an unbroken cell line? Miracle? Science won’t entertain miracles. It just won’t. If you try you’ll never get anywhere.

    Comment by russ — January 30, 2006 @ 10:14 pm

  2. Chill out man.

    Even if ID gets pushed into the realm of philosophy perhaps it can take Darwinism with it.

    Qualiatative is no longer with us. Who is next?

    Comment by Qualiatative — January 30, 2006 @ 10:16 pm

  3. “If humans and lobsters share a common ancestor in this sense, then there must be a reproductive process which can create from this ancestor the specific, complex, adaptive characteristics of modern humans and lobsters without an influx of information from the outside.” - Phillip Johnson

    Yes, there must be. It’s intelligent agency. Next!

    Comment by Tiax — January 30, 2006 @ 10:18 pm

  4. “DARWIN’S TREE OF LIFE. Why don’t textbooks discuss the “Cambrian explosion,” in which all major animal groups appear together in the fossil record fully formed instead of branching from a common ancestor — thus contradicting the evolutionary tree of life?”

    - Dr. Jonathan Wells, www.iconsofevolution.com

    Saltation. Next!

    Comment by russ — January 30, 2006 @ 10:56 pm

  5. “Common design, perhaps expressed through evolutionary convergence, accounts
    for the repetitions of many biological structures (like the camera eye in humans
    and squids) far better than common descent or blind evolutionary convergence.”

    From “Ten Questions to Ask Your Biology Teacher about Design”, By Wm. A. Dembski

    Everything we observe is descent with modification. Things that are observed happening the same way millions of times without exception are not just theories but laws of nature. There is no scientific evidence whatsoever to argue against descent with modification. That’s what your biology teacher will tell you when you ask that question. What he won’t tell you is that there is no scientific evidence to argue that all modification is unguided or that evolution was an unplanned process. Evolution happened. Science will never admit anything different. Just ask Davison. Or just listen, you don’t have to ask. He’s been a biology professor for 50 years. He’ll tell you evolution happened and that it was planned by an intelligence to happen the way it did. I couldn’t agree more. That is the perfect scientific description of intelligent evolution. Dembski’s mathematical design detection plays right into it as does Behe’s irreducible complexity. Nothing but science.

    Comment by russ — January 30, 2006 @ 11:05 pm

  6. I agree with Dave. The case for common descent is extremely strong, even more so when you consider how many *independent* lines of evidence converge to support it. Let’s “follow the evidence where it leads”, as the saying goes.

    For those who remain unconvinced, I strongly recommend Douglas Theobald’s “29 Evidences for Macroevolution: The Scientific Case for Common Descent”:

    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/

    Give it an honest, unprejudiced reading. If you can honestly maintain your skepticism in the face of this evidence, so be it. At least your future arguments won’t be against incomplete or strawman versions of common descent.

    Comment by watchmaker — January 30, 2006 @ 11:06 pm

  7. “Historically, advocates of Darwinian evolution have recognized this extreme functional sensitivity of organisms to any change in codon-amino acid assignments. As a result, they took previous evidence for the universality of the code as prime evidence for Darwin’s theory of universal common descent. Since organisms can’t change their codon-amino acid assignments without deleterious consequences (a.k.a. death), Darwinists reasoned that all organisms must have all evolved from a single organism with a single common code. Thus, the theory of universal common ancestry, implied (or predicted) the existence of a universal code. If there was a single common ancestor, there should be a single common code. And since, until recently, biologists knew of only one code, evidence of the same seemed to support the hypothesis that all life had evolved from a single universal common ancestor.

    But what if the code is not universal? Well, it isn’t. Many new variant codes have been discovered. Yet evolutionary biologists have not produced credible new explanations about how any organism could continue to survive while nature tinkered with something as fundamental as the code by which its cells (or organelles) direct protein synthesis.”

    Dr. Stephen C. Meyer, Discovery Institute http://www.arn.org/docs/meyer/sm_meyerwhitworth.htm

    Dr. Meyer was mistaken about the deviations being deleterious. The article referenced is 5 years old. If it was true he’d have turned evolutionary biology over on its ear. Here is the database of known deviations:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/Taxonomy/Utils/wprintgc.cgi?mode=t#SG12

    and here is the authority on research into them

    http://www.evolvingcode.net/index.php?page=Emergence_of_Non_Standard_Genetic_Codes

    To turn a phrase, the small deviations are nothing more than the exceptions which prove the rule. Look at the data yourself.

    I tried this argument a year ago, by the way

    http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives/2005/01/dean_esmays_lat.html#comment-12831

    The genetic code is the obvious first place one looks to find a chink in the armor of common descent. I couldn’t find one.

    Comment by russ — January 30, 2006 @ 11:19 pm

  8. Why is common ancestry assured?

    Nothing in science is assured. That’s why science is agnostic. That’s why I’m agnostic.

    In the case of biogenesis by natural law, would not the homologies be just as easily the result of natural laws acting on multiple cases of biogenesis?

    Anything is possible. Do you have any evidence of these natural laws that you speak of? The only natural law we have is that daughter cells come from mother cells. Without known exception. It takes extraordinary positive evidence to dispute things like that. Idle speculation certainly doesn’t cut it for extraordinary positive evidence.

    Likewise, if there was a plan for a single common ancestor, why not multiple?

    Because there’s strong indirect evidence of a single ancestor and none for multiple ancestors.

    It seems that you are necessarily cutting off arguments not because they are unscientific, but just because they aren’t easy wins, and you don’t hold to them.

    I’m limiting (not cutting off) arguments that will not fly in the scientific community. I want to win not be the next creation science living in denial of the obvious. What do you want?

    Even the secularists such as Doolittle and Woese have argued against UCA to some extent.

    Did they persuade anyone?

    If science is the search for truth — let’s find the truth! It is _politics_ that is the search for consensus. If you want to play science and not politics, then search for the truth and not just a “win”.

    Creation science already lost. Didn’t you get the memo?

    Comment by johnnyb — January 30, 2006 @ 11:24 pm

  9. Dave wrote: “There is no scientific evidence whatsoever to argue against descent with modification.”

    Per your original post, I thought this thread was about “modification with descent from a common ancestor”, not “descent with modification”.

    Comment by russ — January 30, 2006 @ 11:29 pm

  10. “If humans and lobsters share a common ancestor in this sense, then there must be a reproductive process which can create from this ancestor the specific, complex, adaptive characteristics of modern humans and lobsters without an influx of information from the outside.” - Phillip Johnson

    Yes, there must be. It’s intelligent agency. Next!

    I’m somewhat confused by this reply. Does the work of an intelligent agency represent the influx of information from the outside? Not necessarily. The source of the intelligence has not been identified. The information could have been there all along, never needing to be added. If not, then intervention by an intelligent agency could not increase information (am I right on that?)There may have been no intervention. Evolution unfolding the way it did could have been predetermined at the instant the universe was created with no further intervention required. and then the arguments against NS + RM that take the position that this process cannot account for novel information would also be arguments against intelligent intervention (since it too does not represent an increase in information). Could you clear this up for me?All ID does is identy patterns in nature that are the result of design by intelligent agency. How and when the design was accomplished is outside the scope of ID.

    Comment by Tiax — January 31, 2006 @ 12:13 am

  11. So let me just get this straight, and I’ll try not to bug you anymore.

    Humans and all other animals are descended from simple, one-celled creatures.

    All the evidence indicates that, yes.

    Science has essentially proven this.

    No. Nothing is ever proven in science. There are best explanations until something better comes along. Nothing better has come along in this case. Nothing has come even close to being a better explanation.

    There is no serious scientific evidence to refute this position.

    None that I’ve seen.

    Is that the bottom line for ID now?

    It needs to be if it’s going to become part of science. There’s obvious, abundant evidence of descent with modification from a common ancestor. There’s no evidence that it was unguided. It’s the claim made by the Wiesel 38 that evolution is an unguided, unplanned process that is unsupportable. Logically, one cannot distinguish between common descent and common design but there’s no scientific evidence to support common design while there’s plenty to support common descent - every single living thing whose origin can be determined descended from another living thing. If you can provide any scientific evidence whatsover that living things don’t always descend from other living things I’d love to hear it.

    Comment by russ — January 31, 2006 @ 12:22 am

  12. http://www.leaderu.com/offices/dembski/docs/bd-whatwhen.html

    Look at the words I emphasize below

    “But–and this is the crucial place where an ID-based curriculum will differ from how biological evolution is currently taught–intelligent design is not willing to accept common descent as a consequence of the Darwinian mechanism. The Darwinian mechanism claims the power to transform a single organism (known as the last common ancestor) into the full diversity of life that we see both around us and in the fossil record. If intelligent design is correct, then the Darwinian mechanism of natural selection and random variation lacks that power. What’s more, in that case the justification for common descent cannot be that it follows as a logical deduction from Darwinism.

    Darwinism is not identical with evolution understood merely as common descent. Darwinism comprises a historical claim (common descent) and a naturalistic mechanism (natural selection operating on random variations), with the latter being used to justify the former. According to intelligent design, the Darwinian mechanism cannot bear the weight of common descent. Intelligent design therefore throws common descent itself into question but at the same time leaves open as a very live possibility that common descent is the case, albeit for reasons other than the Darwinian mechanism.

    Wm. A. Dembski, Feb 2001

    The Darwinian mechanism, RM+NS, is dead in the water as a universal explanation for complexity in living things. Common descent is alive and well. If there’s any scientific evidence that organisms don’t always descend from other organisms, or that there’s more than one line of descent, I have yet to hear it from anyone. Where is it?

    Comment by russ — January 31, 2006 @ 12:34 am

  13. Dave you said: “I will remind everyone again - please frame your arguments around science.”

    Fully agree with that, however I would just insert a single qualifier in front of science; empirical. Over the years we were served whole a lot of non sense as science (and not just in Biology). Maybe we should discuss the following: How do we separate our faith system or worldview from science? The former precedes the later, don’t you think?

    Good point re empirical science. Experimental science would be even better but that would rule out talking about past evolution altogether!

    Comment by Srdjan — January 31, 2006 @ 1:14 am

  14. Interesting. What is the data that demonstrates that a population of single-celled organisms can evolve into anything but a population of single-celled organisms?

    But I digress. As for ID and Science- please read:

    Intelligent Reasoning- read the essay “Why ID is scientific”.

    Comment by Joseph — January 31, 2006 @ 7:31 am

  15. Well, Dave, I guess you need to number Mike Syvanen among the religious:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=pubmed&dopt=Abstract&list_uids=12047948&query_hl=3&itool=pubmed_docsum

    Comment by Paul Nelson — January 31, 2006 @ 7:37 am

  16. Dembski quote: “Intelligent design therefore throws common descent itself into question but at the same time leaves open as a very live possibility that common descent is the case, albeit for reasons other than the Darwinian mechanism.”
    ——————————-

    Dave, you seem to have breezed past this last selection in the Dembski quote, when you simply highlighted “Darwinian mechanism” at the end. What about the rest of this sentence? A “Live possibility” for something that’s been “thrown into question” is not the same thing as “only possibility” as you seem to be claiming.

    Comment by russ — January 31, 2006 @ 7:38 am

  17. Ok, I’m starting to understand why some at the Panda’s Thumb don’t take us too seriously. Yes, I’ve been there and seen that they don’t deserve the honor either.

    Comment by Ben Z — January 31, 2006 @ 7:53 am

  18. Dave, if you’re going to intersperse your comments in other peoples, at least initial them, bracket them, or something. It looks like I am saying the things that you are saying.

    “Nothing in science is assured. That’s why science is agnostic. That’s why I’m agnostic.”

    You appear to be trying to close down inquiry.

    “Anything is possible. Do you have any evidence of these natural laws that you speak of?”

    No, because I don’t think they exist. However, it is an ID theory, and seems to be what ID’ers such as Denton believe.

    “The only natural law we have is that daughter cells come from mother cells. Without known exception.”

    If science is able to copy the process and produce cells de novo, then there will be an exception :) So, do you believe in panspermia? If not, then there must be some exception in our history.

    “It takes extraordinary positive evidence to dispute things like that. Idle speculation certainly doesn’t cut it for extraordinary positive evidence.”

    That things have an origin? That designed things have intelligent origins? In order to speculate the Intelligent Design of life, you must first admit that life had an origin.

    “Because there’s strong indirect evidence of a single ancestor and none for multiple ancestors.”

    None? First of all, if you think that life had an intelligent origin, almost all of the indirect evidence for common ancestry goes away. Homologies would be just as indicative of common design as common descent. Let’s look at the Cambrian explosion — is there any evidence that these animals had any ancestors other than similar organisms? What evidence is there for this? With adding intelligence as a factor, the arguments for common ancestry just went “Whooosh!” out the Window.

    “I’m limiting (not cutting off) arguments that will not fly in the scientific community. I want to win not be the next creation science living in denial of the obvious. What do you want?”

    The truth. And true investigation. Not some watered-down form just to get the big “W”. I have no problem with Darwinists persuing their ideas — Darwin had some good ideas worth exploring. I have no problem with Davison exploring his ideas, and find some of them very fascinating. But I don’t think anyone should water down their approach just to look more sophisticated. I honestly don’t care if ID wins in the scientific community. I don’t do personally do things to get honors from others, and I think it’s quite silly that doing so is your recommended strategy. I think if you persue this, it will backfire in a big way. Instead of being the party for open inquiry, you will be the party for shutting down arguments that don’t get you the glamour you desire. Wait, that sounds like what has kept Darwinism alive all these years! Don’t be like them.

    “Did they persuade anyone?”

    I haven’t the foggiest. However, I know that other arguments in fact have. Wilder-Smith persuaded a lot of people, including scientists. Other scientists have been persuaded as well. But again, I’m not in it for the “W”.

    “Creation science already lost. Didn’t you get the memo?”

    So did ID, or haven’t you been reading the NCSE’s bulletins?

    The fact is that YEC’ers are actually getting more secular traction than ID’ers. The RATE group presented their findings at the American Geophysical Union. Kurt Wise spoke at the Geological Society of America. What biology conferences which are not organized by ID advocates are they getting to present their findings in?

    Have you thought about the possibility that the reason ID has done so well is actually because there are more creationists (old- and young-earth) in biology than you suppose? Perhaps it has not really failed except in the view of the journals — that the arguments are stronger than you realize and believed by more people than you realize, who are just keeping quiet to keep their jobs. If you make ID overtly antithetical to creationist ideas (which is what you are essentially proposing), you may find that you will lose the support that you thought you had. What people want is free inquiry into the intelligent origin of life, including ideas such as Davison’s. However, they don’t want to be restricted to _only_ ideas such as Davison’s.

    Comment by johnnyb — January 31, 2006 @ 7:58 am

  19. Was that Carl Woese I saw going into a church in Urbana, Illinois?

    http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/full/99/13/8742

    [paper is freely available on-line]

    “Extant life on Earth is descended not from one, but from three distinctly different cell types.” (See the conclusions of Woese’s paper.)

    Comment by Paul Nelson — January 31, 2006 @ 8:05 am

  20. Malcolm Gordon of UCLA (faculty page here: http://www.eeb.ucla.edu/indivfaculty.php?FacultyKey=1545) — another religious zealot:

    http://www.springerlink.com/(rk4zocnat2fagg454aaarofa)/app/home/contribution.asp?referrer=parent&backto=issue,2,9;journal,30,80;linkingpublicationresults,1:102856,1

    Comment by Paul Nelson — January 31, 2006 @ 8:17 am

  21. Sorry, the link to Gordon’s article on monophyly v. polyphyly didn’t work. Here’s the reference and abstract:

    Biology and Philosophy
    Issue: Volume 14, Number 3
    Date: July 1999
    Pages: 331 - 348

    The Concept of Monophyly: A Speculative Essay
    Malcolm S. Gordon1

    (1) Department of Biology, University of California, Box 951606, Los Angeles, CA, 90095-1606, U.S.A

    Abstract The concept of monophyly is central to much of modern biology. Despite many efforts over many years, important questions remain unanswered that relate both to the concept itself and to its various applications. This essay focuses primarily on four of these: i) Is it possible to define monophyly operationally, specifically with respect to both the structures of genomes and at the levels of the highest phylogenetic categories (kingdoms, phyla, classes)? ii) May the mosaic and chimeric structures of genomes be sufficiently important factors in phylogeny that situations exist in which the concept may not be applicable? iii) In the history of life on earth were there important groups of organisms that probably had polyphyletic, rather than monophyletic, origins? iv) Does the near universal search for monophyletic origins of clades lead, on occasion, to both undesirable narrowing of acceptable options for development of evolutionary scenarios and sometimes actual omission from consideration of less conventional types of both data and modes of thought, possibly at the expense of biological understanding? Three sections in the essay consider possible answers to these questions: i) A reassessment is made of major features of both the concept and some of its applications. Recent research results make it seem improbable that there could have been single basal forms for many of the highest categories of evolutionary differentiation (kingdoms, phyla, classes). The universal tree of life probably had many roots. Facts contributing to this perception include the phylogenetically widespread occurrences of: horizontal transfers of plasmids, viral genomes, and transposons; multiple genomic duplications; the existence and properties of large numbers of gene families and protein families; multiple symbioses; broad-scale hybridizations; and multiple homoplasys. Next, justifications are reassessed for the application of monophyletic frameworks to two major evolutionary developments usually interpreted as having been monophyletic: ii) the origins of life; and iii) the origins of the vertebrate tetrapods. For both cases polyphyletic hypotheses are suggested as more probable than monophyletic hypotheses. Major conclusions are, as answers to the four questions posed above: probably not, yes, yes, and yes.

    Back to Paul:

    The point here, Dave, is intellectual freedom. Many scientists with no obvious religious motivations doubt universal common descent (Darwin’s single Tree of Life, which you consider beyond question). By your lights, they would not be welcome here. Is that really the forum you wish to encourage — one where the monophyly of life on Earth is taken as a given?

    If so, Uncommon Descent is badly misnamed, for lots of reasons.

    Comment by Paul Nelson — January 31, 2006 @ 8:24 am

  22. JohnnyB wrote: “Have you thought about the possibility that the reason ID has done so well is actually because there are more creationists (old- and young-earth) in biology than you suppose? Perhaps it has not really failed except in the view of the journals — that the arguments are stronger than you realize and believed by more people than you realize, who are just keeping quiet to keep their jobs. If you make ID overtly antithetical to creationist ideas (which is what you are essentially proposing), you may find that you will lose the support that you thought you had.”

    Well I agree with this. Science is not my vocation or avocation, but I’ve been following the ID movement for a long time. To suddenly discover last night that ID says I’m almost certainly descended from an ape-like creature, and a bacteria or something a few million generations prior that is somewhat of a surprise. If this is what ID really says, then the PR problem caused when ID presenters give talks in churches and other houses of worship is solved. Those venues should dry up pretty quickly.

    I can accept that ID leaves the common descent issue open, but I’m surprised to find that it’s now established science.

    Comment by russ — January 31, 2006 @ 8:31 am

  23. And I would add that common descent most certainly is not established science. There is plenty of room for debate on this issue and no room for intransigence. We would all do well to heed Paul Nelson’s advice in comment #21.

    Comment by Bombadill — January 31, 2006 @ 8:40 am

  24. Here are some compelling reasons (in my humble opinion) to at least question the alleged 29 evidences for Macroevolution:

    http://www.trueorigins.org/theobald1a.asp

    http://www.trueorigin.org/ca_ac_01.asp

    Comment by Bombadill — January 31, 2006 @ 9:08 am

  25. May I surgest a blog name change from uncommon descent to the rather more snappy title of ‘Common descent with intelligent modification’?
    Comment number 22 is ‘right on the money’.

    Comment by WormHerder — January 31, 2006 @ 9:09 am

  26. Although ID is playing essentially on the level of the mechanism, ID is NOT “common descent under intelligent guidance”. ID is looking for signs of intelligence in the “pattern of life” but does not explain the origin of this pattern. If there is good evidence for Design we should ask how is the connection between Design and the origin of the “pattern of life” - in form of testable scientific hypotheses. But this attempt for an connection must not _necessarily_ include “common descent”. It should only be derived from the data and logical conclusions/hypotheses based on the data - look at ReMines “message theory” for such an attempt.

    In the light of the fact that not all aspects of the “pattern of life” are fit into the theory of “common descent” and that many of the best arguments for “common descent” are based on more or less hidden religious assumptions (concepts about the designer/his plan of creation) or that many arguments are logically questionable I’m following opinion: There is a lively possibility that “common descent” will be more questioned with the ascent of ID.

    Comment by Markus Rammerstorfer — January 31, 2006 @ 9:52 am

  27. […] Read some interesting dialogue (and disagreement) on the compatibility of common descent with ID over at here. […]

    Pingback by JZuHone.org » Common Descent over at “Uncommon Descent” — January 31, 2006 @ 9:58 am

  28. Davescot,

    If the argument is solely “purpose v. no purpose”, you are headed for a battle of philosophies.

    Paul,
    You’re always the peacemaker. Great job! =)

    Comment by Qualiatative — January 31, 2006 @ 10:01 am

  29. To say that one can make an argument for ID but be agnostic on common descent is completely absurd.

    The whole Design Inference Machinery that was developed by Dembski depends on the proper calculation of probabilities.

    If is agnostic about common descent, the probabilities can’t be calculated. End of story.

    Comment by Poisson — January 31, 2006 @ 10:07 am

  30. typo:

    If ONE is agnostic about common descent, the probabilities can’t be calculated. End of story.

    Comment by Poisson — January 31, 2006 @ 10:08 am

  31. I’m having trouble seeing where to draw the line between “common descent” and “common design”…

    Just ask around to see if anyone has ever observed a living thing not coming from another living thing. I think you find that new living things have been observed coming into existence millions of times and invariably it’s the result of descent from another living thing. Common design supposes that living things may be created independent of an immediate ancestor and while there’s no physical law prohibiting this from happening there’s not a lick of empirical evidence that ever happened. On the other hand every living thing ever observed, where the origin is known, came from another living thing. It’s not hard to draw a line of demarcation between what’s empirically supported and what’s just a logical possibility that cant’ be excluded.

    It clearly excludes the young-earth creationists and the man-didn’t-come-from-monkeys crowd. Explicitly excluding them is probably the only way to stop them from trying to hijack the ID movement like they did in Dover, so this is a good thing.

    That is my concern.

    But does it also exclude the “continuous creation” model? (The scenario where the designer takes some ancestral-chimpanzee DNA, changes 2% of it to create human DNA, grows a small population of humans in the lab and then releases them into the wild.)

    That would still be descent with modification. The modification would be by design in that case.

    Or does the descent need to be more direct? So there’s no grand leap from proto-chimp to human, but rather a long series of small changes progressing through more-and-more human-like forms.

    Modification need not be gradual. In fact it I don’t believe it was, the fossil record doesn’t support it, and Professor Davison has not only proposed it wasn’t gradual but has offered what appears to be a working biological mechanism for saltation - semi-meiosis.

    The last scenario seems especially exciting, because it implies that we should be able to see design events happening right now. I’ve never really understood the math behind ID…do the equations suggest that this is happening?

    What if so-called macro evolution has ended. It was a planned process and humanity was its final end product? Nothing science has been able to demonstrate shows that macro-evolution is still going on today. All we see are extinctions and trivial modifications to already existing species. The only thing supporting the notion that macro-evolution is ongoing is that small modifications eventually add up to grand new designs. If that is not true then there’s nothing left to say evolution is still proceeding like it did in the past.

    Comment by chaosengineer — January 31, 2006 @ 10:16 am

  32. “It’s simply counter-productive to our goals and reinforces the idea that ID is religion because nothing but religion argues against descent with modification from a common ancestor.”

    I must question this assertion, at least to some extent. I believe it rests on the assumption that the earth is a closed system biologically. If the earth is closed biologically, then certainly all life on earth had to descend from previous life on earth. (This leads to a big problem when we get back to the beginning, but that’s not my main point)

    What if the earth is NOT a biologically closed system? An earth-centric cosmology went out with Galileo, if not before. Why do we cling to an earth-centric biology?

    When I first encountered Fred Hoyle’s studies on interstellar gas spectra, and his ideas about life from space (panspermia) I thought it was food for nutcases.

    But…the more you look at it, the more it makes sense.
    Whether via naturalistic or intelligence-intervention mechanisms, the periodic injection of new genetic information into the earth’s biosphere from outside (by whatever mechanism) potentially explains the cambrian explosion and other sudden appearances of new life forms, lack of transitional forms, and much else that traditional neo-Darwinism cannot account for. It also makes unnecessary the assumption of common descent (from a common earthly ancestor, at least).

    Panspermia is potentially a more complete theory than ID by itself, which says nothing of the “how” of introducing new information, or where it comes from. The two theories are also not mutally exclusive. Another very appealing aspect of panspermia is that it easily accomodates a purely naturalistic mechanism, but does not at all rule out intelligent input.

    I invite everyone interested (all here I think) to spend some time at http://www.panspermia.org/

    Comment by dacook — January 31, 2006 @ 10:17 am

  33. russ
    You are doing fine. Don’t go away. I need you.

    The question of a single origin of life is open of course. There may have been a few or even several but each line once present either persisted to the present or became extinct along the way. One of the things I am interested in is how far back can we go and still be sure that we are a product of that line. Present chromosomal structural evidence leaves no doubt that all primates are the product of a single origin. I am sure this will be pushed even further back. The trouble comes at the phylum level especially when you look at the Cambrian when several drastically different body types appreared in very short order. Were these all related is the question. It sure doesn’t look like it that is for sure. The Big Front Loader or Loaders (BFL) might have programmed several lines. Some of the Cambrian Phyla went extinct in short order. Others including the Chordata definitely persisted to the present with us the terminal product. It is really hard to transform a Protostome into a Deuterostome or the reverse because the difference is so fundamental, namely whether the opening of the primitive gut, the blastopore, becomes the mouth or the anus. That is pretty darn basic you have to agree. However the PEH can accomodate almost anything by simply assuming, based on the necessary evidence, how many times the BFL loaded separate discs as it were. In other words how many times did life either get created or more likely once created how many times did it get separately programmed. I am inclined toward the latter and I think we could get by with about a half dozen or so. Of course that is pure conjecture. The one thing that I am absolutely certain about is that chance, the sine qua non of the Darwinian myth, had absolutely nothing to do with any of it. Neither did natural selection which is only able to maintain the status quo. Neither can sexual reproduction because it cannot be demonstrated to exceed the species barrier through the most intensive selection imaginable. What we are left with is a presexual mode of reproduction which I proposed back in 1984 was the first meiotic division. I still feel the properties of that cytological event contain the secret to macroevolution and perhaps to all of evolution. Once the second division appeared, and it did so independently many times, the meiotic products became haploid and sex became the only way to resore the diploid condition characteristic of all higher life forms. I am now conviced that mandatory sexual reproduction brought evolution in that line to a screeching halt. That does not mean that sexual forms cannot evolve because the rare event, the prevention of that second division, can automatically produce a new reorganized chromosme pair in a single step, a step that I am convinced can or did result in a new and different species. This seems no longer to be going on but possibly can be produced exerimentally. I am no longer in a position to test this prospect and it may prove to be quite impossible. But until the attempt is made it remain a viable avenue for experiment. From my own research back in the sixties I know that occasionally in frogs the second meitic division indeed does not take place because among some of the sexually produced frogs there occurs an occasional triploid animal. That can only have been produced by the fertilization of an egg in which the second meitic division failed to take place. As a matter of fact it was those experiments, some of which I published in Science, that served to allow me much later to conceive of the Semi-meiotic Hypothesis (SMH) which I first published in 1984 in the Journal of Theoretical Biology.

    It is only through controlled experiment that science can proceed. You can hunker down by the side of the pond and speculate until your nose bleeds and it will tell you nothimg about evolution. That was the mistake that Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace both made. Wallace at least had the common sense to abandon it later in life. Darwin and his followers never did. We will just have to jam the truth down their unwilling throats just like Thomas Henry Huxley said:

    “Of the few innocent pleasure left to men past middle live - the jammimg common-sense down the throats of fools is perhaps the keenest.”

    Being well past middle life I especially appreciate his sentiments and thoroughly enjoy the same pastime.

    Now I know all this is anathema to the Darwinian crowd but I, like a dog with his bone, am going to adhere to my scenario until someone, somewhere, somehow shows it to be wrong. That is not going to be an easy task.

    How do you Darwinian mystics out there in cyberspace like them raw Rocky Mountain oysters on the half shell? I never tried them myself but I hear they’re great with a little lemon, salt and pepper, washed down with a couple of pints of warm beer. I also hear they have aphrodesial powers.

    Comment by John Davison — January 31, 2006 @ 10:18 am

  34. The ID movement is’t going to get anywhere with “scientific” arguments. You need to focus on the religious issues. That is the only way to get public and political support so you can teach this to children.

    You can already muster a simple majority that favors teaching religious alternatives to Darwinian evolution. A simple majority isnt’ enough. To teach religion requires a constitutional amendment and that requires a supermajority. There is nowhere near enough public and political support to form such a supermajority.

    Comment by dbpitt — January 31, 2006 @ 10:19 am

  35. So is macroevolution with front-loaded complexity the way things are looking now?

    That’s the best fit to the observations that I’ve seen. It’s scientific suicide to seriously question that living things don’t come from other living things. One can point out that it is logically possible that living things don’t always have to come from other living things but there’s just no evidence that the possibility is a reality. All we see is life coming from life. -ds

    Comment by Tiax — January 31, 2006 @ 10:52 am

  36. “How do you Darwinian mystics out there in cyberspace like them raw Rocky Mountain oysters on the half shell? I never tried them myself but I hear they’re great with a little lemon, salt and pepper, washed down with a couple of pints of warm beer. I also hear they have aphrodesial powers.”

    :) LOL
    I’m not a “Darwinian Mystic” but I have eaten Rocky Mountain Oysters. I prefer them fried, with maple syrup. Yum! And regarding the aphrodesial powers; I do have six kids! ;)

    Comment by dacook — January 31, 2006 @ 12:04 pm

  37. Not warm beer Prof. Davison, I beg you,

    Comment by Srdjan — January 31, 2006 @ 12:25 pm

  38. dacock wrote: “I’m not a “Darwinian Mystic” but I have eaten Rocky Mountain Oysters. I prefer them fried, with maple syrup. Yum! And regarding the aphrodesial powers; I do have six kids!”

    Years ago when I worked for a small airline in San Luis Obispo, CA, there was a little restaurant in town that served “turkey nuts”. I had to ask the waitress to confirm that that’s what they really were and it wasn’t a joke. I think I had the nachos that day.

    Comment by russ — January 31, 2006 @ 12:30 pm

  39. Dave Scot

    “The only thing supporting the notion that macro-evolution is ongoing is that small modifications eventually add up to grand new designs. If that is not true then there’s nothing left to say evolution is still proceeding like it did in the past.”

    Do any scientists here have an opinion as to what the last “grand new design” in living organisms was? and when that occurred? Is flight a “grand new design”? Or is swimming underwater efficiently a “grand new design”? Who gets to decide what a “grand new design” is?

    Glad you asked. Professor Emeritus of Biology John Davision is a comparative physiologist with 50 years experience. He can tell you all about the lack of evidence for ongoing macro-evolution and is right here in the UD community. As I recall it was about 10 million years ago for the last new genus.

    If the idea that small modifications eventually add up to larger modifications is the “only” idea supporting “macro-evolution” then the present existence of the (geologically slow) process of “macro-evolution” is rather powerfully supported. Isn’t it?

    No. Saltation appears to be a better fitting explanation. The fossil record is one of rapid emergence of radical new kinds followed by long periods of statis and then, for species with obligatory sexual reproduction, extinction. There is no real evidence that small random mutations do anything other than eventually cause extinction through the buildup of deleterious effects which of course is what the vast majority of random mutations are - deleterious.

    Comment by Kiss My Sweet Lips — January 31, 2006 @ 12:34 pm

  40. Modification need not be gradual. In fact it I don’t believe it was, the fossil record doesn’t support it

    Dave, what do you mean by gradual? Genetypically gradual or phenotypically gradual? The fossil record only records the latter. As we know, small genotypic changes can create large phenotypic variation.

    Really. Let me know when you can find a string of small genotypic changes each with fitness advantage so selection can operate on them where the cumulative changes create a distinct and novel cell type, tissue type, organ, or body plan.

    Just take the chimpanzee. Ask any student how different genetically they think a chimp is from a human (in fact, I do this a lot with my outreach work) and you consistently get answers ranging from 10% to 75%. The actual figure is never guessed because chimpanzees “appear” much different than us.

    No, a jellyfish “appears” a lot different. Chimps appear almost the same in comparison. Frame the question properly and you’ll get more sensible responses.

    Comment by aldo30127 — January 31, 2006 @ 12:37 pm

  41. Dave Scot

    “What we are fighting is the idea that the modification was unguided. ID can fight that without ever leaving the battleground of plain scientific conclusions.”

    For the sake of argument, let’s say that you “prove” somehow that the life forms we see on earth today and in the fossil record could not have evolved without “intelligent guidance.”

    How do you hypothesize that that this guiding “force” affects the biology of living things, and how do you propose to positively detect the “force”?

    Thus far all the ID proponents — religious or otherwise — have are negative arguments (e.g., argument from incredulity) against life evolving in the absence an intelligent force guiding that evolution.

    Do you think that this “force” is going to be a new “force” that has previously gone undetected because we presently lack the instrumentation to detect it? Is anyone attempting to design such an instrument presently?

    These latest developments are very curious indeed.

    Random mutation plus natural selection as an all powerful mechanism responsible for all diversity is just as much an argument from incredulity. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

    Comment by Kiss My Sweet Lips — January 31, 2006 @ 12:41 pm

  42. dacook

    “Why do we cling to an earth-centric biology?”

    I think the moment someone finds some evidence which supports DNA-based life forms (or viruses at least) entering earth from outer space, this alleged “clinging” will cease.

    For now, I believe that scientists don’t spend too much time formulating extraterrestrial explanations for the fossil record because such explanations are dead ends in the absence of any detectable source of biological information entering earth “from the skies.”

    Comment by Kiss My Sweet Lips — January 31, 2006 @ 12:49 pm

  43. John Davison

    “The question of a single origin of life is open of course. There may have been a few or even several but each line once present either persisted to the present or became extinct along the way.”

    And proto-life forms may be “originating” on earth right now, as we speak, somewhere. LOL - and it may raining beer and pringles somewhere at this very moment too. As long as we’re fantasizing I thought I’d throw that out there. -ds It may happen every day and the proto-life may go extinct immediately as a result of being outcompeted by the existing life forms (e.g., bacteria) that dominate the microlandscape where the proto-life forms are generated. How would scientists find and study this process? I think the difficuluties are enormous.

    But it is a good thing that Davison has an open mind regarding this possibility.

    Comment by Kiss My Sweet Lips — January 31, 2006 @ 12:53 pm

  44. Dave Scot

    “Random mutation plus natural selection as an all powerful mechanism responsible for all diversity is just as much an argument from incredulity.”

    Huh? How so? Random mutations occur. Natural selection is a proven means by which natural events can change the genetic make-up of a population. Where does the “incredulity” part come from in, Dave?

    First of all prove it’s random. As far as physics can tell us, at the atomic scale and upwards there is no such thing as random - every effect has a cause and this chain of cause and effect is in principle traceable back to the origin of matter. There is some debate whether quantum events are truly random but the mutations you refer to are chemical changes at the atomic scale and completely deterministic as far as anyone knows. Secondly, random mutation plus natural selection has NEVER been observed creating a new cell type, tissue type, organ, or body plan. Each and every one of novel cell types, tissue types, organs, and body plans must be accounted for in evolution. The proposition that RM+NS is responsible is purely an argument from ignorance i.e. “if not RM+NS then what else”?

    Comment by Kiss My Sweet Lips — January 31, 2006 @ 12:59 pm

  45. Regarding the common descent notion heres a pdf which may be of interest:
    http://www.scienceandchristianbelief.org/articles/finlay.pdf
    Graeme Finlay :Homo divinius The ape that bears Gods image.
    Outlines the inheritance of genetic events from species to species.
    Im not endorsing it just thought it might be of interest

    Comment by WormHerder — January 31, 2006 @ 1:10 pm

  46. “Nothing science has been able to demonstrate shows that macro-evolution is still going on today. ”

    How can science demonstrate macro-evolution in the present day? By discovery of a genus that originated in recent history. Macro-evolutionary processes are pretty much impossible to detect in short time spans. How convenient. You need the historical perspective to observe large scale changesNo, you can’t observe large scale changes. All you can do is gather inferential evidence and concoct stories that fit the evidence., and even then the borders are fuzzy over short periods of geological time. For example, the great radiation of stickleback species in the US over the last 10,000 years is a good example of macroevolutionHuh? Are they a new genus?, but many of the species are still genetically (although not behaviorally) interfertile if you use artificial spawning.Then they’re not even a new species by classical definition. How is this “macro-evolution”?

    -Dave Watt

    Comment by DaveWatt — January 31, 2006 @ 1:25 pm

  47. Dave,
    Could the commentary benefit from a common language? You bet it could!Darwinism and macroevolution, for instance, have little to no meaning outside of the creationism controversy. All these people in all these peer reviewed publications evidently didn’t get the memo that they can’t say macroevolution and darwinism like it has meaning. Ernst Mayr is amongst the first ten hits publishing in JSTOR. If we’re talking science here, then evolution regards the study of evolution, and natural selection. You’re acknowledging that evolution exists, but its unclear what your thoughts are regarding natural selection. Natural selection works primarily to maintain the status quo. It’s a conservative force not a creative force.

    Bearing in mind what natural selection is, isn’t it possible that evolution could be manipulated by manipulating a population’s environment, and that natural selection really does work pretty much the way the scientific community says it does, as far as science can “know” anything? Anything is possible. The bottom line remains that RM+NS has not been observed creating a novel cell type, tissue type, organ, or body plan.

    If the Discovery Institute has had it wrong all along, as you seem to be indicating in your responses to the above quotes, do they owe the country an apology? When are they going to clarify their new position?I’m not connected with the Discovery Institute and I’m not aware that they have anything wrong unless they assert that evolution (descent with modification from a common ancestor) didn’t happen and have empirical evidence to back up the assertion. Then I’ll say they’re wrong.

    Comment by mike — January 31, 2006 @ 1:30 pm

  48. dacook:

    “Why do we cling to an earth-centric biology?”

    Kiss My Sweet Lips:
    “I think the moment someone finds some evidence which supports DNA-based life forms (or viruses at least) entering earth from outer space, this alleged “clinging” will cease.

    For now, I believe that scientists don’t spend too much time formulating extraterrestrial explanations for the fossil record because such explanations are dead ends in the absence of any detectable source of biological information entering earth “from the skies.” ”
    =============
    dacook:
    From the introductory essay at http://www.panspermia.org/ :

    “19 May 1995: two scientists at Cal Poly showed that bacteria can survive without any metabolism for at least 25 million years; probably they are immortal.
    24 November 1995: The New York Times ran a story about bacteria that can survive radiation much stronger than any that Earth has ever experienced.
    7 August 1996: NASA announced fossilized evidence of ancient life in meteorite ALH 84001 from Mars.
    27 October 1996: geneticists showed evidence that many genes are much older than the fossil record would indicate. Subsequent studies have strengthened this finding.
    29 July 1997: a NASA scientist announced evidence of fossilized microscopic life forms in a meteorite not from any known planet.
    Spring, 1998: a microfossil that was found in a meteorite and photographed in 1966, was recognized by a Russian microbiologist as a magnetotactic bacterium.
    Fall, 1998: NASA’s public position on life-from-space shifted dramatically.
    4 January 1999: NASA officially recognized the possibility that life on Earth comes from space.
    19 March 1999: NASA scientists announced that two more meteorites hold even stronger fossilized evidence for past life on Mars.
    26 April 2000: the German team operating the mass spectrometer on NASA’s Stardust mission announced the detection of very large organic molecules in space. Nonbiological sources for organic molecules so large are not known.
    19 October 2000, a team of biologists and a geologist announced the revival of bacteria that are 250 million years old, strengthening that case that bacterial spores can be immortal.
    13 December 2000: a NASA team demonstrated that the magnetosomes in Mars meteorite ALH 84001 are biological.
    June 2002: Geneticists reported evidence that the evolutionary step from chimps to humans was assisted by viruses.
    2 August 2004: Very convincing photos of fossilized cyanobacteria in a meteorite were reported by a NASA scientist.”

    J. Craig Venter, co-sequencer of human genome:
    “Life is ubiquitous throughout the universe. Life on our planet earth most likely is the result of a panspermic event…. Panspermia is how life is spread throughout the universe.”

    There IS evidence of DNA-based life-forms entering the earth. This is becoming increasingly recognized by mainstream scientists such as Dr. Venter. For some reason it doesn’t get any press.
    Please check out the site. There are references for all the above and much more fascinating evidence.

    Comment by dacook — January 31, 2006 @ 1:49 pm

  49. Dave Scot

    “The bottom line remains that RM+NS has not been observed creating a novel cell type, tissue type, organ, or body plan.”

    But this is a trivial argument, Dave. Erosion has not been observed creating a novel canyon as “grand” as the Grand Canyon. Is erosion an “argument from ignorance” floated by geologists who “cling” to a terrestrial explanation for the formation of non-volcanic mountains and canyons?

    Canyons aren’t complex machinery. Try again.

    Comment by Kiss My Sweet Lips — January 31, 2006 @ 2:03 pm

  50. ID posits an undefined, but suprahuman intelligence(s) behind life on earth.
    Since no such intelligence exists on earth, it must be “out there” somewhere. Therefor life here, or at least the information behind it, must come from “out there”, wherever this intelligence/s is/are.

    ID is therefor already more than halfway to panspermia. I think the two dovetail quite nicely. I am frankly surprised the ID people don’t have more to say on panspermia. It potentially provides the (or at least one possible) “how” so often demanded by ID’s critics, in a scientifically verifiable form.

    I am going to make a risky prediction.
    I predict that when the dust samples from the recently-returned Stardust mission are analysed, they will be found to include organic compounds.
    You read it here first.

    Comment by dacook — January 31, 2006 @ 2:13 pm

  51. Hi Poisson,

    “If ONE is agnostic about common descent, the probabilities can’t be calculated. End of story.”

    You can calculate the probabilities of abiogenesis.

    Also, you can assume common descent happening through solely NS/RM, and then “estimate” (giving generous margins) the probabilities of that happening (using some stochastic model). It’s almost like a proof by contradiction. If the probabilities are low, you have three choices:

    A) Reject common descent.
    B) Reject the naturalistic mechanism of NS/RM and suggest that life’s evolution was guided by chance-eliminating intelligence.
    C) Wait for somebody to discover another naturalistic mechanism (other than NS/RM).

    IDers could choose either A or B. Thus, they can still be technically “agnostic” about common descent. I personally would choose A. It makes more sense from a philosophical standpoint. If “intelligence” was needed to make the first life (”abiogenesis”), then naturalism crumbles, and common descent crumbles with it.

    Comment by anteater — January 31, 2006 @ 2:21 pm

  52. Paul Nelson,

    As this thread illustrates, common descent is still a contentious issue among ID supporters. I have heard that you are working on a book, called “On Common Descent”, that addresses the idea from a skeptical perspective.

    When do you expect the book to be published?

    Comment by watchmaker — January 31, 2006 @ 2:34 pm

  53. If ID is about detecting design, it is simply about detecting design. It is a broad movement. If some want to disagree with common descent, that has no bearing on the arguments of ID. If they agree with common descent, who cares if it has no bearing on the arguments.

    Comment by geoffrobinson — January 31, 2006 @ 2:39 pm

  54. Comment by geoffrobinson — January 31, 2006 @ 2:39 pm

    “If ID is about detecting design, it is simply about detecting design. It is a broad movement. If some want to disagree with common descent, that has no bearing on the arguments of ID. If they agree with common descent, who cares if it has no bearing on the arguments.”

    ————————

    Well it seems that some prominent writers, such as Phillip Johnson, have presented evidence against common descent as an important part of their critique of neo-Darwinism. Many regular folk like myself find his arguments persuasive. Dave Scott is now saying that we belong in Sunday School if we repeat the claims of Johnson and others.

    Comment by russ — January 31, 2006 @ 2:56 pm

  55. How does the theory that we are part of a computer simulation by an advanced lifeform trying to understand how they came to exist sit with ID?

    It sits quite well. In fact many of us are convinced that Richard Dawkins is a malicious computer virus and ID is the antivirus program.

    Comment by arnoldjrimmer — January 31, 2006 @ 3:56 pm

  56. To my question “How can science demonstrate macro-evolution in the present day?”

    DaveScot replied:

    By discovery of a genus that originated in recent history.

    How do you (I mean you, as in you, Dave) define a genus?

    genus

    I wrote: “Macro-evolutionary processes are pretty much impossible to detect in short time spans. ”

    DaveScot replied: How convenient.

    Well no, not really. It would make life much easier if we could observe large scale changes occurring in samll time frames. It would certainly shut biblical creationists up!

    It’s convenient because something that isn’t happening can’t be observed. If one insists that a non-existent effect is true one must concoct a story about why it can’t be observed. Maybe legions of little green men from Mars are responsible for large scale changes but they work too slowly to observe, eh?

    I then wrote (missing out a bit) “For example, the great radiation of stickleback species in the US over the last 10,000 years is a good example of macroevolution”

    DaveScot replied ” Are they a new genus?,”

    Yes, they are. Apeltes, Culaea, Gasterosteus, Pungitius and Spinachia. Five genera, fourteen species in total.

    There is not a single new species since they can all be crossbred to produce fertile offspring They are varieties of a single species. Changing the definition of species so it includes geographic isolation or preference isolation is specious. I’d be a different species than Eskimos if that’s the case. Ernst Mayr invented or at least popularized this fuzzy definition of species. The textbook definition of species is “a group of organisms which can interbreed and produce fertile offspring”. There is a problem in that it is impractical to test capacity to produce fertile offspring on millions of potentially unique species so other definitions to make classification practical are used in its stead.

    I wrote “many of the species are still genetically (although not behaviorally) interfertile if you use artificial spawning.”

    DaveScot replied: “Then they’re not even a new species by classical definition. How is this “macro-evolution”?”

    There is no classical definition of species, or at least not one that is used today. Ask five biologists how to define species, and you’ll get ten answers. This illustrates the problem of the species concept, (which, funnily enough, is evidence FOR evolutionary theory, rather than against it)

    Maybe biologists ought to agree on what a species is before they start agreeing about how species evolve. Just a suggestion…
    -DaveWatt

    Comment by DaveWatt — January 31, 2006 @ 3:58 pm

  57. That’s ridiculous!!!

    As Paul Nelson said, then this blog has the wrong name. And what about the wordgame in Uncommon Dissent?

    So is ID now restricting hipotheses just like creationists and evolutionists do? I cannot accept it.

    Certainly I’m figuring out what to think about common ancestor but indoctrination is my first step for not accepting it.

    Ridiculous!!!

    Comment by Daniel512 — January 31, 2006 @ 4:06 pm

  58. Common descent is an inference drawn from the data, which may be true or false. Looking at Ford Mustangs thousands of years from now in the fossil record could show common descent…or it could mean common designer(s) who reuses things. You may be more able to see design than you are descent.

    The concept of convergence in evolution would be an example of what I’m talking about. Unrelated, according to common descent, species all winding up with the same designs to do the same things. Now, that could fit with those who believe in common descent and those that don’t.

    I want to keep it a big umbrella about detecting design.

    If your concern is to be taken seriously by scientists, we won’t be by any materialists. Why? They are committed to materialism.

    I would just focus on what you think is true. The non-common descent folks can use the arguments of Behe (who believes in common descent). And the non-common descent folks can use other ID arguments of those who do.

    In the end, a materialist is going to react the same way to an ID argument. If they realize common descent is impossible with materialist assumptions, they are going to freak out.

    Comment by geoffrobinson — January 31, 2006 @ 4:07 pm

  59. Russ,

    I think a reason many ID types have looked askance at common descent is that they have not conceived of a way for it to be nongradual. It looks too much like RM & NS. Even Behe was reduced to saying that the flagellum may have been instantly created by God in a puff of smoke.
    What is needed is a way for evolution to be both guided/planned, and at the same time nonmagical.
    Of course, the nearly universal idea of a remote God who tinkers from without, is a large part of the problem, to my monistic way of thinking.
    I’ve long thought that evolution must have occured both naturally and with intelligence by methods we just haven’t thought of yet. Two thinkers who have given me great insight into the possiblities for that are John Davison, whose Evolutionary Manifesto I read last summer, and Jeremy Narby who wrote The Great Cosmic Serpent. He’s a bit off the beaten track for this crowd, though.

    It always astonishes me how men argue so vehemently their conclusions with what can only be limited knowledge. The understanding of modern science (albeit it is only skin deep)that all theories and facts are provisional is a glimmer of light.

    Comment by avocationist — January 31, 2006 @ 4:15 pm

  60. People are free to believe whatever they like, but I agree with Dave. The main goal of ID as I understand it is to end the reign of dogmatic materialism in science. A front that is united would be more effective in accomplishing that objective. Questioning common descent here is one thing, but it is not going to fly within the realm of science EVER. The reason for that being that if we are not a product of common descent then God or whatever you would like to call the creative force, went through quite a bit of trouble to make it appear as though we did. There was enough evidence to suggest common descent 150 years ago and the passage of time has consistently added evidence in its favor.

    I would add another point. If ID wants to be part of the mainstream we have to acknowledge the possibility that materialists are right. I do not think they are, but I am forced to admit that there are in fact good reasons for believing that the universe is a product of natural forces. The blind faith of Dawkins & Co. is another natter entirely. They have no more evidence for the lack of a God then I do for God’s existence. All that said I think that it is an open question that will most likely never be resolved (we’ve been asking it for thousands of years). We should strive for equality not supremacy. If I call a materialist an idiot on the sole basis of his/her beliefs then I am making myself look like one. Ultimately ID is not combatting evolution but the dominance of materialism in science.

    Comment by ftrp11 — January 31, 2006 @ 4:30 pm

  61. Let me get this straight. You do not admit that there may be data inconsistent with the common ancestry hypothesis? We need DS to be demodded.

    Comment by jaredl — January 31, 2006 @ 4:32 pm

  62. As Professor Flew
    advises: “We must follow the evidence, wherever it leads.”
    said Stephen Meyer.

    Comment by Xavier — January 31, 2006 @ 4:59 pm

  63. Anteater wrote:

    You can calculate the probabilities of abiogenesis.

    You don’t need a calculator; the answer is 1.

    Comment by Xavier — January 31, 2006 @ 5:21 pm

  64. Anteater,

    If one determines that the probability is too small, then you are correct.
    If this were true, it is utterly arbitrary to chose between A and B.

    However, it is not the case that the probability has ever been determined to be too low assuming common descent. For example, Dembski’s calculation for the flagellum in NFL doesn’t condition on common descent.

    Also, what happens in your scenario when one calculates the probabilities assuming common descent and comes up with a reasonable probability but then calculates the probability assuming abiogenesis and comes up with probabilities that are too low ? What do you chose then ?

    Finally, independent of any inferences, the correct probabilities depend on the correct assumptions about common descent. One can not be agnostic about common descent and provide reasonable probabilities that will be convincing to anyone.

    Comment by Poisson — January 31, 2006 @ 5:54 pm

  65. Hehe, it’s funny to see how “common descent” creates controversy among us ID-proponents. ID is a tool for detecting design not a theory to explain the “big pattern of life” - all the different kinds of organisms and all the similarities and differences between them as well as their distribution in the fossil record. We are all standing together in our opposition against darwinism as mechanism and we are all thinking that there is good evidence for real (intentional) design in organisms.

    But it is a logical consequence of this position that the case for “common descent” must be reexamined as well as other viewpoints on the facts of life. We can’t argue for Design and remain on this step. It’s not to say “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of design” but it’s to say “Let’s look from a teleological viewpoint on the facts of life”. And there is simply no use for “common descent” as “holy cow” if one shares this attitude. But all this steps beyond ID as theory for detecting design (towards a theory for explaining the pattern of life) must be grounded on evidence, more: Interpretation of this evidence in form of testable scientific theorys! As far as I can see is the hypothesis of “common design” very interesting but it’s no alternative to “common descent” if one seeks for an scientific alternative to “common descent”. Not yet (?) - the future is the undiscovered country…

    Comment by Markus Rammerstorfer — January 31, 2006 @ 6:17 pm

  66. “There is not a single new species since they can all be crossbred to produce fertile offspring They are varieties of a single species. Changing the definition of species so it includes geographic isolation or preference isolation is specious. I’d be a different species than Eskimos if that’s the case. Ernst Mayr invented or at least popularized this fuzzy definition of species. The textbook definition of species is “a group of organisms which can interbreed and produce fertile offspring”. There is a problem in that it is impractical to test capacity to produce fertile offspring on millions of potentially unique species so other definitions to make classification practical are used in its stead.”

    I’m confused. Are you saying there is a problem with your definition of species, or not? Maybe I should ask you what youdefinition of a genus is…..

    -DaveWatt

    Comment by DaveWatt — January 31, 2006 @ 6:18 pm

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