Of Baramins and Baloney 18

[Don]
“In the first few sentences of your last email, and throughout, you present all evidence as either for or against evolution. You are not accepting evidence as possibly being for or against any other position. Therefore, if you see evidence supporting evolution, then it is positive evidence; if it does not support evolution, then it is negative evidence. You cannot see positive evidence for design, as long as you look only from the position of Darwinian evolution. My argument to you about design in the Cambrian Explosion was not presented as negative evidence for design. That there are no interim forms in one layer (a negative observation) is only part of the argument. That there is fantastic order in the immediate next (a positive observation) is the other part. Together they are evidence. One without the other is meaningless. Also, notice that in my argument I did not say that the evidence negates or even counters evolutionary theory. I merely argued that design was the better explanation of the two for the evidence. I am not trying to disprove evolution; I am trying to demonstrate that ID has a legitimate (scientific) place in the discussion of origins.”

I’ll keep coming back to this until it seems to be understood. Design, as an explanation, has one very big disadvantage over evolution. Design has no *mechanism*. You cannot tell me HOW, even on a theoretical level, a designer generated the events that led to the observations that you are citing. Evolutionary theory has a mechanism, and that mechanism is consistent with natural observations. In addition, BECAUSE it has a mechanism, it is predictive. We can generate predictive hypotheses and test them. You can generate nothing of the sort.

So evolutionary theory has both explanatory power and predictive power. Lacking a mechanism means that design has neither. You can look at the observations and claim that they are “evidence” for design. But you could look at ANY observations and claim the same thing. If you don’t think that is the case, *please give me some observations that are incompatible with the design explanation*.

“As for a mechanism: In the equation “chance plus natural selection,” “natural selection” is only an eliminating factor, a filter, a terminator. All generative power must be in “chance.” Your response to my comments on nylonase was to say, actually to my surprise, that you believe change plus natural selection actually is a sufficient mechanism to explain the existence of life in its many forms. This implies to me that you do not see any reason to continue to investigate cause-and-effect for this molecule, that this molecule of thousands of atoms just happened by chance. Worse still, that a DNA pattern happened by chance that happened to work for giving instruction to produce just the right molecule to work in this specified new environment. That is not consistent with the scientific curiosity needed to drive discovery of new knowledge. It is however consistent with the reductionism that divorces one field of knowledge from another. It is consistent with not recognizing mathematics as having any bearing on other forms of science.”

This is, I’m sorry to say, gobbledygook as well as a veritable forest of strawman arguments. I am not saying, and no reputable biologist has ever said, that nylonase or any biomolecule “just happened by chance”. Chance plus selection plus contingency explains nylonase perfectly well.* I seem to have missed the design explanation for that observation*, and what predictions could be made from that design explanation. Do you have an explanation? Does it have a mechanism? No? Well, then please quit trying to explain away the perfectly good evolutionary explanation with strawman arguments and irrelevancies.

“Just as a person can mentally disassociate science and philosophy, so evolutionists seem to disassociate chance and probability. A probability of .05 (one in 20) is considered robust among data across the sciences, but never applied to the probability of chance resulting in a desirable molecule. Discovering that organic molecules are produced exclusively by an independent set of molecular instructions has only made the probability more remote. The mathematic improbability of evolution by chance was clearly pointed out at the Wistar Institute conference of1966, and has been ignored by evolutionists ever since.”

Again, simple strawman arguments. IF you make bad assumptions you can make the math do anything. One bad assumption is that the biomolecules must be generated randomly from monomers; calculating probabilities from that bad assumption could indeed lead to the mistaken conclusion that evolution is impossible. Ignoring contingency is another bad assumption; the “search space” for evolution is significantly smaller than Dembski and others would like to admit. Garbage in = garbage out, as the engineers say. The probabilities are adequate, and that has been proven by mathematicians who are not biased by a conclusion-first approach to the problem. So no, it is simply incorrect to say that the mathematic improbability is too low. It is simply incorrect to characterize it as “evolution by chance”. And it is simply incorrect to say that it has been ignored by “evolutionists” ever since. See http://pandasthumb.org/archives/2008/02/fisking-dembski-1.html for just one recent example, and pay attention to the bad assumptions that are revealed to be behind Dembksi’s bad conclusions.

It is also interesting, again, to note that this negative argument moves you not one nanometer closer to evidence FOR design. So despite your protestations above, you return again and again to arguing against evolution, without ever giving evidence that your preferred notions can explain anything.

So I’ll sum up with this plea, again. If design is to be accepted as a better explanation, it needs new evidence. That evidence should consist of an explanation for some observations that can compete with evolutionary theory with regard to both explanatory power (mechanism) and predictive power (again dependent on the discovery of a mechanism). Ideally the predictive power should lead to some experiments that have been done, and where the new observations are inconsistent with evolutionary theory and are derived from design principles. Since no one has identified these design principles (who, where, when, how?), that evidence has not been forthcoming in your comments so far.

Mark

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