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a critique of Intelligent Design

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Interesting article.

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CrimsonLine wrote:

: I'm no scientist, but I think you've been misinformed about what ID is and how it

: operates. I've found this site helpful: www.idthefuture.com. There, a number of

: prominent ID'ers answer objections to ID. And the one they counter the most often is

: that ID is not falsifiable, and that it produces no testable theories.

Could you describe just ONE of these testable theories that it has produced, then...?

: ID doesn't propose the cessation of research! Rather, it proposes a mechanism

: (intelligent design) . . .

Ick. The whole POINT of intelligent design is that it ISN'T a mere mechanism. This just confirms what some skeptics have argued, which is that ID seeks to turn the supernatural into just another facet of the natural. Is that really what we WANT?

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ID, I am told, has produced no useful theories whatsoever.
Edited by SDG

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Could you describe just ONE of these testable theories that it has produced, then...?

I don't follow it that closely; I'd point you to that website if you want to know more.

: ID doesn't propose the cessation of research! Rather, it proposes a mechanism

: (intelligent design) . . .

Ick.  The whole POINT of intelligent design is that it ISN'T a mere mechanism.  This just confirms what some skeptics have argued, which is that ID seeks to turn the supernatural into just another facet of the natural.  Is that really what we WANT?

Is it a MERE mechanism, or a mechanism? I think there's a difference. ID doesn't "seek to turn the supernatural into just another facet of the natural." ID asserts that design is a detectible and testable hypothesis for the origin of life on earth. That the fingerprints of a designer can be seen all over organic life.

And if you want to argue THAT line of reasoning, Peter, naturalistic evolution seeks to turn the supernatural into...what? A complete irrelevancy. But that's your line of argumentation, not mine.

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While this may be a valid approach when examining something really peculiar, like a miraculous healing or a myrrh-streaming icon, it is not so valid when we are dealing with things like the fossil record, the geographic distribution of species, the genetic and morphological links between species, and so on and so on.

I'm not arguing for a "God of the gaps," which is what you are arguing against here, but given what we know of the universe, doesn't life fit into the category of "something really peculiar"?

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Looking at the lead articles on the blog you referenced, Crimsonline, I see absolutely no reference to any research being done by the IDers. Indeed, the current article at the top of the page is an imagined journalistic article, written as if it were 2025. It seems a sad wishful fantasy - for instance, it purports to look back to the year 2009, 'when Darwin's followers had hoped to stage a triumphal celebration of their leader's 200th birthday, [but instead] millions of people were laughing at the emperor with no clothes' -- and then to 2020, when Darwinism was 'effectively dead.'

I also see a continued reliance on whipping boys like the anti-theist Dawkins, but no reference to principled theistic scientists who believe in evolution. I see no mention of any ID research being conducted, so apparently the I.D. M.O. continues, of attacking evolution without doing any research of their own. I also note that they accuse evolutionists of distorting facts while themselves making the bogus statement that evolutionists claim that evolution is too slow to observe; instead, vertebrate studies have actually shown genetic change at rates 1000-10,000,000 times more rapid than that demanded by the fossil record.

I cited the book 'Finding Darwin's God' by Brown university cell biologist and Christian evolutionist Kenneth R. Miller in another thread. I would highly recommend it, as he credibly shows that ID and 'irreducible complexity' are truly the naked emperors. He also argues (quite well, in my opinion) that evolution furnishes more honor and glory to God than any 'creationist' hypothesizing.

Edited by Andrew

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As I'm not a scientist, I may very well have the wrong idea of what I.D. is, but my understanding, and also that of people I've talked to, is that it means that the life we see on earth shows evidence of being designed. I used to, as a Christian, take this for granted. God created the dog. Dogs were designed by God. But the more I've been thinking about it lately, the less this seems to make sense. Dogs are a great example of evolution at work, clearly all the dogs we have now come from a common ancestor, and almost as clearly, dogs and wolves both also share a common ancestor. So did God design each breed of dog individually? As we breed new varieties, did God also design those? Without going into the crazy mind-boggling question of God's sovereignty, I would say, "no." In my mind, God doesn't really care one way or the other if a tea-cup St. Bernard is bread. God didn't pre-ordain its existence, and therefore, he didn't design it. Once you admit that, then where do you draw the line? At the first dog? At the proto-wolf-dog-creature? Because the process that we go through to breed new varieties is just a controlled version of what happens naturally through natural selection.

Now, what I believe God did design is the incredible system of genetics, DNA replication, mutation, and reproduction that accounts for the amazing diversity in His creation. I would even go so far as to say that the creation of the first life was a supernatural act, though I would still be in favor of researching for a natural explanation, because even if it was a natural process that led to the formation of life, what an amazing universe we live in that can do such a thing! It's like the difference between designing a watch and adding features now and then, and designing a watch that can determine the most useful feature and add them itself. It boggles my mind just to consider the design of the universe if it works the way many scientists think it does.

And regarding the question of, "Is I.D. Christian?" I would like to point out that it is not surprising that proponents of I.D. have not claimed it to be a "Christian philosophy." However, I just read a story about a text-book that was submitted for considering which just did a find-replace for "creation" and replace with "I.D." FWTW.

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Looking at the lead articles on the blog you referenced, Crimsonline, I see absolutely no reference to any research being done by the IDers. 

It's a blog; stories march by like in a parade. Not all are of equal worth. All I can say is that I've read a bunch there over the months that have confronted Peter's challenge head-on. I lost the link in a recent computer incident, and haven't checked the site in a couple of months, but the stuff I remember there has been strong.

I cited the book 'Finding Darwin's God' by Brown university cell biologist and Christian evolutionist Kenneth R. Miller in another thread.  I would highly recommend it, as he credibly shows that ID and 'irreducible complexity' are truly the naked emperors.  He also argues (quite well, in my opinion) that evolution furnishes more honor and glory to God than any 'creationist' hypothesizing.

I've read positive reviews of that book, and good interviews with Miller. I have no truck with him, and I don't look down on anyone who believes that evolution is the way God made the world. I disagree, but that's not an unusual occurrence. What I have a problem with is distortion of arguments and using straw men to attack those with whom you disagree. And that is what I've been working to snuff out here in this discussion.

As to which gives more glory to God, isn't that a prior theological argument, rather than an argument from science? Isn't that the kind of straw-man thing that keeps being set up in opposition to ID, and then vehemently knocked down? Shouldn't we just investigate and go where the facts lead us, instead of theorizing which hypothesis will wind up giving more glory to God, and then riding that horse into the sunset? For the record, I believe that the truth glorifies God more than anything else in these matters. Whether the truth is evolutionary gradualism, punctuated equilibrium, or design, shouldn't we pursue the truth, trying as best we can to shed political power-plays, human greed, and turf battles, and see where it leads?

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As I'm not a scientist, I may very well have the wrong idea of what I.D. is, but my understanding, and also that of people I've talked to, is that it means that the life we see on earth shows evidence of being designed.  I used to, as a Christian, take this for granted.  God created the dog.  Dogs were designed by God.  But the more I've been thinking about it lately, the less this seems to make sense.  Dogs are a great example of evolution at work, clearly all the dogs we have now come from a common ancestor, and almost as clearly, dogs and wolves both also share a common ancestor.  So did God design each breed of dog individually?  As we breed new varieties, did God also design those?  Without going into the crazy mind-boggling question of God's sovereignty, I would say, "no."  In my mind, God doesn't really care one way or the other if a tea-cup St. Bernard is bread.  God didn't pre-ordain its existence, and therefore, he didn't design it.  Once you admit that, then where do you draw the line?  At the first dog?  At the proto-wolf-dog-creature?  Because the process that we go through to breed new varieties is just a controlled version of what happens naturally through natural selection.

This is a common area of confusion. ID is talking about the beginnings of life on earth, not about the derivation of every single sub-species of life that now exists. Human beings bred dogs from wild to domesticated animals. We've bred chickens of all sorts of varieties, and sheep, and on and on. The basic building blocks of life - in all life, whether bred by humans or not - show evidence for design. The basic structures of living things show evidence for design. That does not negate the possibility of microevolution happening. In fact, I don't know of anyone - even the most wooden literalists when it comes to Genesis - who denies microevolution or human breeding programs.

Actually, the dog argument is a poor one for evolutionary purposes, since it is human intervention that has produced all of the various breeds of dog. If left to themselves, within a few generations, all of the dog breeds on earth would eventually just meld back into mutts again. It's not an example of anything just happening on its own, on any scale.

Now, what I believe God did design is the incredible system of genetics, DNA replication, mutation, and reproduction that accounts for the amazing diversity in His creation.  I would even go so far as to say that the creation of the first life was a supernatural act, though I would still be in favor of researching for a natural explanation, because even if it was a natural process that led to the formation of life, what an amazing universe we live in that can do such a thing!

This is pretty much the argument I've heard ID'ers make - that God designed the system and made the first life. Some argue further up the chain than that, some don't.

Edited by CrimsonLine

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::As to which gives more glory to God, isn't that a prior theological argument, rather than an argument from science?

Oh, absolutely! Miller is merely, after laying down the science in the first half of his book, responding to the creationist concern that evolution is anti-God, i.e. relegating God to the sidelines or even arguing Him out of existence. This part of Miller's book is not science, but is theological speculation.

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And I honestly don't think that Miller has merely set up creationist or ID straw men to knock down; and I'm sorry if it appears that I'm doing so. I'm honestly trying to be fair in my critique; and as a bio major, who attended creationist seminars and read a number of the major writings, I think I've got a decent background on the subject (and I'm hopefully not sounding defensive - just attempting to lay down some of my credentials).

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I have no such credentials. I'm just a reasonably intelligent person who follows these questions reasonably closely. I'm more of a Philip Johnson kind of person (evaluating arguments, more than evidence) than a Michael Behe kind of person.

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SDG wrote:

: Is it a valid approach when examining Stonehenge?

Yes, because stones don't naturally grow like that.

: I would be interested in a fuller account of what is meant by "really peculiar," and how

: you arrived at the determination that a myrrh-streaming icon fits that category while

: the origin of the cell or the eye does not.

Because paintings don't naturally bleed substances that were not built into the paint or canvas or wood or whatever.

Eyes, on the other hand, do grow. There is, in fact, not just one kind of "eye" (as in your phrase "the eye"), but there are MANY different kinds of eyes. This suggests that growth exists, and has existed, not just between zygote and adult but between different species as well.

As for the origin of the cell, I am not aware of any methodologically naturalistic reason to suppose that the combining of chemicals could not have led to cells WITHOUT intelligent design. Behe's big concept -- "irreducible complexity" -- was exposed as wrong several decades before he invented it, because the simple fact is that irreducibly complex things CAN and DO evolve from reducibly complex things, and sometimes, as organisms shed certain features, other features that began as mere luxuries become essentials without which an organism cannot survive.

CrimsonLine wrote:

: I don't follow it that closely; I'd point you to that website if you want to know more.

When I have time, then.

Can you at least say whether there are any actual BIOLOGISTS there? So far, all the ID bigwigs have been non-biologists -- Johnson's a lawyer who famously gets his science wrong and repeatedly dodges actual scientific dialogue, Behe's a chemist, Dembski's a mathematician, etc. Do any actual BIOLOGISTS have anything to say about this? And if so, why don't THEY take centre stage?

: Is it a MERE mechanism, or a mechanism?

I thought the whole POINT of ID was to get AWAY from a mechanistic universe.

: ID doesn't "seek to turn the supernatural into just another facet of the natural."

Perhaps, but sometimes what it seeks to do is less important than what it actually does.

: ID asserts that design is a detectible and testable hypothesis for the origin of life on

: earth. That the fingerprints of a designer can be seen all over organic life.

Yes, I know that IDers have been asserting that ID can produce testable hypothoses, but I keep hearing from evolutionary creationists that IDers have failed to produce actual hypotheses. We are still waiting to see what these hypotheses might be.

: And if you want to argue THAT line of reasoning, Peter, naturalistic evolution seeks

: to turn the supernatural into...what? A complete irrelevancy.

No, at worst it would only be irrelevant to the question of biological origins. You know, kind of like how it is irrelevant to the question of gravity and astronomy and how planets revolve around the sun. A few centuries ago, some people thought the planets were moved by angels; others said they had no need of that hypothesis. And indeed, they didn't. Occam's Razor, and all that.

: ID is talking about the beginnings of life on earth, not about the derivation of every

: single sub-species of life that now exists.

In other words, ID has no objection to Darwinism whatsoever? Ha! Johnson, for one, would disagree. (I assume this is why he goes on and on about how silly it is to believe that whales descended from rodents, even though no scientist has ever actually made that claim -- and I suspect that's just one example of how pathetic Johnson's grasp of biology is.)

solishu wrote:

: As I'm not a scientist, I may very well have the wrong idea of what I.D. is, but my

: understanding, and also that of people I've talked to, is that it means that the life

: we see on earth shows evidence of being designed.

That's what it SHOULD be, and I am all in favour of discussing it in philosophy classes. But it does not belong in science or biology classes.

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::...Johnson's a lawyer who famously gets his science wrong and repeatedly dodges actual scientific dialogue...

Yes, and the fact that, prior to his ID writings, he had challenged the consensus view that the human immunodeficiency virus causes AIDS doesn't exactly bolster his credibility, IMO.

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As for the origin of the cell, I am not aware of any methodologically naturalistic reason to suppose that the combining of chemicals could not have led to cells WITHOUT intelligent design.  Behe's big concept -- "irreducible complexity" -- was exposed as wrong several decades before he invented it, because the simple fact is that irreducibly complex things CAN and DO evolve from reducibly complex things, and sometimes, as organisms shed certain features, other features that began as mere luxuries become essentials without which an organism cannot survive.

Wow! Can you point to an example of a feature that has been shown to have done this?

CrimsonLine wrote:

: I don't follow it that closely; I'd point you to that website if you want to know more.

When I have time, then.

As you wish. Look, Peter - I'm not your enemy here. I am going from memory in this argument, and I don't have the footnotes to back up what I am saying. I'm sorry that I don't meet your standards for argumentation. You can feel free to ignore what I'm saying if you don't find me persuasive, I won't be offended.

Can you at least say whether there are any actual BIOLOGISTS there?  So far, all the ID bigwigs have been non-biologists -- Johnson's a lawyer who famously gets his science wrong and repeatedly dodges actual scientific dialogue, Behe's a chemist, Dembski's a mathematician, etc.  Do any actual BIOLOGISTS have anything to say about this?  And if so, why don't THEY take centre stage?

I know that Jonathan Wells is one of the names on the ID the Future website, and his brief bio is:

Jonathan Wells has received two Ph.D.s, one in Molecular and Cell Biology from the University of California at Berkeley, and one in Religious Studies from Yale University. He has worked as a postdoctoral research biologist at the University of California at Berkeley and the supervisor of a medical laboratory in Fairfield, California, and he has taught biology at California State University in Hayward.

Dr. Wells has published articles in Development, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, BioSystems, The Scientist and The American Biology Teacher. He is also author of Charles Hodge's Critique of Darwinism (Edwin Mellen Press, 1988) and Icons of Evolution: Why much of what we teach about evolution is wrong (Regnery Publishing, 2000).

: Is it a MERE mechanism, or a mechanism?

I thought the whole POINT of ID was to get AWAY from a mechanistic universe.

From a naturalistically mechanistic universe. "Mechanism" can mean "means," which is how I was using it.

: ID doesn't "seek to turn the supernatural into just another facet of the natural."

Perhaps, but sometimes what it seeks to do is less important than what it actually does.

You're the one who used the word "seek," Peter.

solishu wrote:

: As I'm not a scientist, I may very well have the wrong idea of what I.D. is, but my

: understanding, and also that of people I've talked to, is that it means that the life

: we see on earth shows evidence of being designed.

That's what it SHOULD be, and I am all in favour of discussing it in philosophy classes.  But it does not belong in science or biology classes.

Why is "design" an unscientific hypothesis when it comes to the origins of life, but not when it comes to the origins of anything else?

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CrimsonLine wrote:

: : Behe's big concept -- "irreducible complexity" -- was exposed as wrong several

: : decades before he invented it, because the simple fact is that irreducibly complex

: : things CAN and DO evolve from reducibly complex things, and sometimes, as

: : organisms shed certain features, other features that began as mere luxuries

: : become essentials without which an organism cannot survive.

:

: Wow! Can you point to an example of a feature that has been shown to have done

: this?

Not offhand. But the scientist I've read who made this point (and who referred to the scientific argument presented several decades ago) alluded to computer programming as another field in which unnecessary extras became necessary traits. The biological example he offered, IIRC, was the air bladder that sea creatures evolved, which allowed them to move about on land and then became indispensible after their descendants lost the ability to breathe underwater.

: Look, Peter - I'm not your enemy here.

Hey, no worries; I never said you were.

: know that Jonathan Wells is one of the names on the ID the Future website . . .

Ah, yes, I've heard that name. Funny that HE isn't the one whose name keeps coming up in news stories, evangelical conferences, or legal trials, etc.

: : I thought the whole POINT of ID was to get AWAY from a mechanistic universe.

:

: From a naturalistically mechanistic universe. "Mechanism" can mean "means,"

: which is how I was using it.

This sounds more like sophistry than sophistication. But it seems you are confirming one of my main points, which is that ID is a primarily philosophical, not scientific, set of arguments. If, as you say, ID is not concerned with the actual mechanisms but in what's behind them -- if it is concerned not with nature but with supernature -- then it doesn't conform to any definition of science that I am familiar with.

: Why is "design" an unscientific hypothesis when it comes to the origins of life, but

: not when it comes to the origins of anything else?

See my responses to SDG on this point.

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Regarding 'irreducible complexity,' here are a few of the examples that Miller cites (a couple of which are in refutation of points made in Behe's book):

- the human clotting cascade - the cofactors in this cascade are actually very closely related to protein sereases, enzymes found in the cells of many classes of animals, used for other purposes besides clotting (there is also a fibrinogen-like protein found in sea cucumbers, not used for clotting purposes). Other animals have clotting cascades containing less than the 13 factors found in human blood

- the bacterial flagellum - in contrast to Behe's contention, the flagellum or cilia takes many forms in various organisms, besides the classic 9+2 structure he describes - in some cases, it is without some of the structures that Behe contends are 'essential'

- in addition, optic and echolocation systems are found in various states of complexity in a multitude of organisms, without necessarily having the sophistication of mammals and bats, respectively

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: Is it a valid approach when examining Stonehenge?

Yes, because stones don't naturally grow like that.

So far, so good.

: I would be interested in a fuller account of what is meant by "really peculiar," and how

: you arrived at the determination that a myrrh-streaming icon fits that category while

: the origin of the cell or the eye does not.

Because paintings don't naturally bleed substances that were not built into the paint or canvas or wood or whatever.

Eyes, on the other hand, do grow.

The question is not the growth of eyes in individual organisms, but the development of eyes in species. Like the building of Stonehenge, this is not, AFAIK, a process that is currently available for our study and testing, so the claim that it is a naturally occurring process is, at least, not demonstrable by empirical or experimental means.

There is, in fact, not just one kind of "eye" (as in your phrase "the eye"), but there are MANY different kinds of eyes.  This suggests that growth exists, and has existed, not just between zygote and adult but between different species as well.

Maybe it does and maybe it doesn't. AFAIK, there are at least three different families of eyes that are so radically different from one another that the theory is that they have completely independent evolutionary origins, rather than any having developed or evolved from either of the others.

As for the origin of the cell, I am not aware of any methodologically naturalistic reason to suppose that the combining of chemicals could not have led to cells WITHOUT intelligent design.  Behe's big concept -- "irreducible complexity" -- was exposed as wrong several decades before he invented it, because the simple fact is that irreducibly complex things CAN and DO evolve from reducibly complex things, and sometimes, as organisms shed certain features, other features that began as mere luxuries become essentials without which an organism cannot survive.

An example of this "simple fact" in action, please? Incidentally, luxuries becoming necessities isn't necessarily the same thing as irreducibly complex systems developing from reducible complexities.

Can you at least say whether there are any actual BIOLOGISTS there?  So far, all the ID bigwigs have been non-biologists -- Johnson's a lawyer who famously gets his science wrong and repeatedly dodges actual scientific dialogue, Behe's a chemist, Dembski's a mathematician, etc.  Do any actual BIOLOGISTS have anything to say about this?  And if so, why don't THEY take centre stage?

Um, Behe is not just a chemist, but a biochemist, which seems to count as a biologist according to this hostile witness:
There's only one way to shake up biologists now

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CrimsonLine wrote:

: : Behe's big concept -- "irreducible complexity" -- was exposed as wrong several

: : decades before he invented it, because the simple fact is that irreducibly complex

: : things CAN and DO evolve from reducibly complex things, and sometimes, as

: : organisms shed certain features, other features that began as mere luxuries

: : become essentials without which an organism cannot survive.

:

: Wow! Can you point to an example of a feature that has been shown to have done

: this?

Not offhand.  But the scientist I've read who made this point (and who referred to the scientific argument presented several decades ago) alluded to computer programming as another field in which unnecessary extras became necessary traits.  The biological example he offered, IIRC, was the air bladder that sea creatures evolved, which allowed them to move about on land and then became indispensible after their descendants lost the ability to breathe underwater.

Behe's argument is that in an irreducibly complex system, you cannot get from one functioning structure to another in gradual steps - all the steps in between are non-functioning, and therefore not valuable for survival. What are the steps by which a sea creature might evolve an air bladder - each step functioning to help the animal have a better chance of survival than animals without it?

:  know that Jonathan Wells is one of the names on the ID the Future website . . .

Ah, yes, I've heard that name.  Funny that HE isn't the one whose name keeps coming up in news stories, evangelical conferences, or legal trials, etc.

Beats me.

: : I thought the whole POINT of ID was to get AWAY from a mechanistic universe.

:

: From a naturalistically mechanistic universe. "Mechanism" can mean "means,"

: which is how I was using it.

This sounds more like sophistry than sophistication.  But it seems you are confirming one of my main points, which is that ID is a primarily philosophical, not scientific, set of arguments.  If, as you say, ID is not concerned with the actual mechanisms but in what's behind them -- if it is concerned not with nature but with supernature -- then it doesn't conform to any definition of science that I am familiar with.

I am not a scientist propounding ID, I am a bystander listening to the arguments, and making some of my own. What I say ought not be construed as official ID argumentation. That said, the quarrel I had with your original sentence was that you contended that ID didn't want the origin of life to be a "mere" mechanism. My argument was against the word "mere" - IDers don't claim that there was no MEANS by which a designer created life but that the means were not merely naturalistic, random processes. You took it off into a discussion of "mechanism."

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By the Stonehenge logic, poor design would also have to be taken into consideration as evidence against the Creator having managed every major step of species formation. Examples of this include:

- the appendix

- the useless yolk sac within the mammalian embryo

- the human vertebral column - quite satisfactory for quadrupeds, but prone to difficulties after 30-some years of bipedal ambulation (to which I can sadly attest!)

- the 'blind spot' in the mammalian eye, present due to the fact that the bundle of sensory neurons form the optic nerve in a rather inconvenient location

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CrimsonLine wrote:

: Wow! Can you point to an example of a feature that has been shown to have done

: this?

Not offhand.  But the scientist I've read who made this point (and who referred to the scientific argument presented several decades ago) alluded to computer programming as another field in which unnecessary extras became necessary traits.  The biological example he offered, IIRC, was the air bladder that sea creatures evolved, which allowed them to move about on land and then became indispensible after their descendants lost the ability to breathe underwater.

It's hard to argue compellingly from a human-directed, designed system like computer programs to what evolutionists claim is a non-directed, non-designed system of biological origins.

And the air bladder example begs the question - why did the sea creature evolve the air bladder in the first place. Evolutionary theory hinges on the assertion that random mutations produce changes that aid survival and therefore are more likely to be incorporated into the creature's genetic lineage. In that example, you postulate the appearance of a fully-functioning (but unnecessary) air bladder that hangs around for a while but later becomes indispensable. THAT's not any evolutionary theory that I know of.

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Not offhand.  But the scientist I've read who made this point (and who referred to the scientific argument presented several decades ago) alluded to computer programming as another field in which unnecessary extras became necessary traits.

Yes, the hostile article referenced above uses the same example. As one who codes for a living, I find programming a remarkably unconvincing example for rebutting irreducible complexity. Of course no program is completely irreducible in the sense that you can remove much of the "necessary" coding and the program will still function on some level. But many line commands, taken in themselves, are useless or worse than useless -- not just "luxuries" or advantages that haven't yet become necessities, but crippling problems -- without a whole context of other lines that, taken all together, forms an irreducibly complex unit.

Heck, individual lines of code are frequently irreducibly complex; the individual operators, the individual characters cannot be separately regarded as "luxuries" that just happen to add up to a great big necessity. Often enough, none of the parts, deprived of any or all of the others, will enhance the program's functionality at all, and frequently they will simply break it unless every operator is correctly in place.

The biological example he offered, IIRC, was the air bladder that sea creatures evolved, which allowed them to move about on land and then became indispensible after their descendants lost the ability to breathe underwater.

Which is precisely why I said above that luxuries becoming necessities isn't necessarily the same thing as irreducibly complex systems developing from reducible complexities.

I can see where an air bladder is a luxury for an aquatic creature that later becomes a necessity for a land-dwelling creature. That may not be the same thing as any of the individual various chemical reactions that go into vision occurring as luxuries later becoming necessities.

It may be (I'm not a biochemist and can't say) that any number of these reactions, in the absence of all the others, constitutes no "luxury" at all, provides no competitive advantage, and is thus unlikely to survive at all, let alone spread and persist long enough for all of the other non-advantageous pieces to accidentally fall into place and suddenly become (woo hoo!) an advantage.

I am only discussing ideas in a near vacuum. I don't know nearly enough to have convictions about any of this.

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Regarding 'irreducible complexity,' here are a few of the examples that Miller cites (a couple of which are in refutation of points made in Behe's book):

- the human clotting cascade - the cofactors in this cascade are actually very closely related to protein sereases, enzymes found in the cells of many classes of animals, used for other purposes besides clotting (there is also a fibrinogen-like protein found in sea cucumbers, not used for clotting purposes).  Other animals have clotting cascades containing less than the 13 factors found in human blood

- the bacterial flagellum - in contrast to Behe's contention, the flagellum or cilia takes many forms in various organisms, besides the classic 9+2 structure he describes - in some cases, it is without some of the structures that Behe contends are 'essential'

- in addition, optic and echolocation systems are found in various states of complexity in a multitude of organisms, without necessarily having the sophistication of mammals and bats, respectively

Here I'm a bit out of my depth (no: a LOT out of my depth) but that hasn't stopped me so far...

-"closely related" does not show a functioning pathway from one to the other. And simply because there exists a clotting cascade that works with fewer than the 13 factors found in human blood, that similarly does not show a functioning pathway from one to the other. In fact, if you posit that there is a lineage between them, you have to explain why the human cascade evolved additional clotting factors when the animal cascade functions just fine with fewer. No?

-Re: the flagellum: But can Miller describe a pathway between the functioning cilia with a less complex mechanism to the cilia with a more complex mechanism, the addition of each step along the pathway of which is itself a functioning system?

-the existence of less- and more-complex systems, each of which is fully functional, does not mean there is an evolutionary pathway that leads from one to the other in gradual steps, EACH STEP of which is fully functional, which is what Behe calls "irreducible complexity."

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By the Stonehenge logic, poor design would also have to be taken into consideration as evidence against the Creator having managed every major step of species formation.  Examples of this include:

- the appendix

- the useless yolk sac within the mammalian embryo

- the human vertebral column - quite satisfactory for quadrupeds, but prone to difficulties after 30-some years of bipedal ambulation (to which I can sadly attest!)

- the 'blind spot' in the mammalian eye, present due to the fact that the bundle of sensory neurons form the optic nerve in a rather inconvenient location

Now YOU'RE using the kind of argument you decry! "We don't understand it, so there must be no reason for it." Is the appendix a useless part of the anatomy? My understanding is that it functions as a part of our immune system. The human vertebral column (and the whole human bone system) functions better, is self-repairing, and works under more serious stresses than any other material man has yet invented. Your knees take more punishment (I know, knees are not vertebral) than any man-made material ever invented can. The "blind spot" is frequently cited as evidence of bad design, yet noone (to my knowledge) has been able to propose a better arrangement that still functions as well as the arrangement we are designed with.

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By the Stonehenge logic, poor design would also have to be taken into consideration as evidence against the Creator having managed every major step of species formation.  Examples of this include:

- the appendix

- the useless yolk sac within the mammalian embryo

- the human vertebral column - quite satisfactory for quadrupeds, but prone to difficulties after 30-some years of bipedal ambulation (to which I can sadly attest!)

- the 'blind spot' in the mammalian eye, present due to the fact that the bundle of sensory neurons form the optic nerve in a rather inconvenient location

Not necessarily. Even the present configuration of the stones at Stonehenge is only partly attributable to its designers; it is also partly attributable to other factors, including the very undirected geological factors to which it would be wrong to attribute the whole.

Likewise, claiming (whether rightly or wrongly) that the development of the human organism cannot plausibly be attributed entirely to undirected processes doesn't mean that the human organism mightn't still reflect undirected processes in a way that is often inefficient or inconvenient.

With respect to the drawbacks of bipedal ambulation, please believe me when I say that I feel your pain.

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