Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Materialism or Bust

Yet to be published...
There is a considerable amount of double-think promoted around the relationship of chemical evolution to biological evolution. I had a hard time figuring out what "Origins of Bust" (as it is referred to several times) was supposed to mean, or whether it may be presumed to have any shared understanding. What Mr. Downard means by "Origins or Bust" is "if life did not (and cannot) originate naturally, then it did not (and cannot) have evolved." Mr. Downard may well be knowledgeable enough to know that the Intelligent Design framework does not require there to be no macroevolution (though for many of us the continued lack of a suitable mechanism for the "theory" makes the evidence for macroevolution seem that much sketchier), so it's possible that he is simply drawing attention to things that are largely irrelevant to Meyer's arguments.

Aside from this though, I find Mr. Downard's understanding of this so-called "trope" misrepresents what I think and what I think many others of us think who find this mystery so compelling against naturalism. If the "origin of life" problem points to a need for an intelligent cause because the sum total of all unintelligent causes described/predicted by physical laws are collectively insufficient, then invoking that intelligent cause in other situations where material causes are categorically insufficient does not "multiply entities beyond necessity." There are plenty of problems within the macroevolutionary scheme--even without looking at the explanatory hurdles of the "origin of life" problem"--that speak to a need for an intelligent cause for macroevolution even for many who find the "reptile-to-mammal" evidence compelling.

To go back to Mr. Downard's understanding of "origin of life" significance for so-called "science deniers," a teleological cause for origin of life does not necessitate a teleological cause for biological diversity--but for many the necessity of teleological causation in the biosphere is more readily apparent in origin of life, and if it's necessary for life to start it makes people wonder whether it might be a better explanation for other things that appear to be designed for a purpose. The secular miracle of abiogenesis is supposed to remain a blank check on explanatory power--and everyone pretends that it must have perfectly reasonable (i.e. natural) explanation because almost ever since Darwin we have been pretending that science has always required that leap of faith. I think Mr. Downard's characterization is more apt description (however still imperfect) of how blindly optimistic the application of the apparent "success" of macroevolutionary theory has caused so many to suppose that we must be close to some coherent account on the origin of life, to the point of even supposing that some sort of natural selection also explains chemical evolution. It's "Naturalism or Bust," the contrapositive of what Downard imagines "creationists" typically have in mind.

Conveniently, it is forgotten how much work natural selection did in making the unificatory abduction seem to be better-supported than it was--except by those holdouts who still believe in the wonder-working power of selection. The "theory" of evolution, in whatever sense it has coherence, is a troubled theoretical framework. The "unificatory" power of Darwinian explanation seems to be not the least bit troubled (in the consensus groupthink of "tortucan" Darwinism) by natural selection becoming a less and less plausible mechanism. Selection turns out to have merely been an imaginary stand-in for what the "consensus" would like this yet-to-be-found mechanism to be capable of.  It becomes more acceptable when the paucity of coherence in the origin of life speculations is apparent.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017


An interesting point.  If this is true, must it necessarily follow that consciousness reduces to physical laws? or does it mean that nature cannot reduce to physical laws?  (Note: I don't believe that Penrose is a reductionist though he may well be some sort of physicalist.) 

Many hard-core materialists believe by simply categorizing all difficult-to-reduce phenomena as epiphenomena they have made "a proper place for it."  But I think this is definitional gerrymandering. 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Reductio ad 'undesirum'

One might say this is a conundrum of the design inference:  Assuming for the moment that the biological world can be attributed to intentional design, is the most reasonable next inference--even if it can't be inferred scientifically but only on philosophical/religious grounds--that the designing intelligence is that which also caused and infused order into this universe?

A related concern (for some people) is this:  If that is the most reasonable inference after the design inference, should that consequence invalidate the design inference?   

Modified from its original form

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Intelligent Interference vs. Creation

from The Emperor's New Mind by Roger Penrose
Perry Marshall dismisses ID as Old Earth Creationism because he seemingly is against any inference to the interference of an Intelligence that might turn out to be an Entity that resists scientific inquiry--or at least admitting any such inferences into science...  But in this broad characterization of what constitutes "Old Earth Creationism," how does Marshall's view differ?   

Marshall seems to be claiming at times that something has been introduced into the universe long after its beginning (which he accepts, I think, to be the consensus time of about 14 billion years ago).  Stardust somehow finds itself getting into interesting configurations over the course of 10 billion years and then, poof, God introduces information somehow, before there are cells intelligently manipulating their own genetic information, in a way that is a total game-changer.  Marshall asserts:
  • In the history of the universe we also see the introduction of information, some 3.8 billion years ago. It came in the form of the Genetic code, which is symbolic and immaterial.
  • The information had to come from the outside, since information is not known to be an inherent property of matter, energy, space or time. [bold emphasis in original; red highlighting is mine]
So ... at some point around 3.8 billion years ago, configurations in matter arise that aren't explicable in terms of the configurations that were there 3.9 billion years ago.  Why?  Because information is introduced from outside the space-time continuum that serves as the substrate for matter and energy, otherwise the information cannot be inferred to have been introduced without some qualitative difference that would invoke an abductive inference to ... design.  I can't help but wonder how this fails to meet Marshall's own broad criteria for God-of-the-gaps.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Is Perry Marshall the Reza Aslan of Intelligent Design?

There is a sense in which Perry Marshall almost neuters the relevance of Intelligent Design the way that Reza Aslan attempts to neuter the historical context of Christianity.  Reza Aslan appears to concede that the resurrection of Jesus could have been a historical event, and yet proceeds as though there was truly nothing extraordinary about what the historical Jesus did and said (that is, Jesus was an otherwise unremarkable man who was only later made remarkable because men invented a religion about him because he just may or may not have been an unremarkable man who happened to come back to life after suffering a gruesome death).  According to Aslan's book Zealot, since history is about what probably happened, historians can't infer improbable events (such as miracles) even though he sometimes argues that there is some historical plausibility to the resurrection. 

Marshall, on the other hand, appears to concede that a supernatural God may or may not be interjecting design into the natural world along its history; however, scientists just can't really make money doing science if we allow that there might be evidence of the need for an intelligence injecting information into natural processes.  (Huh?) We must only acknowledge such evidence in a hazy metaphysical sense (an ultimate sense) but never in any way that effects what historical conclusions we come to.  Because the scientist who thinks that a natural process is not solely sufficient to explain the prehistoric event has stopped the gravy train for producing papers about speculative (but "100% natural"!) events.

Marshall says that he has witnessed miracles personally.  But has he really investigated whether these "miracles" were merely natural events that aren't currently understood in the present paradigm and body of scientific knowledge?  Aren't such assertions just miracles-of-the-gaps until they eventually get explained away according to a consensus paradigm?  By calling these events "miracles" is he stating that there are good reasons to think that there is no "natural" explanation available in principle and therefore not likely to ever be found in anyone's lifetime ? or just no such explanation present at this time? --or is he vacuously asserting that since they are not repeatable natural events they can't provide scientific data?

I'm not equating these two men in terms of their sincerity or credibility.  I think Marshall is a much more sincere and credible figure than Aslan, but they are in some ways both masters of spin and presentation over content, and some of the similarity of their errors may be due to venturing outside their realm of expertise.  They both excel at marketing, and in either case, I think the effectiveness of marketing comes at the expense of conceptual clarity. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Omniscience and Omnipotence in Evolution 2.0

The word 'omniscience' seems to play an important role in Perry Marshall's characterization of the Intelligent Design research program as a specie of Old Earth Creationism.  In at least two places (here and here) Marshall seems to claim that Stephen Meyer has brought in omniscience into their debate on Unbelievable.  What Meyer actually said (twice) was that Marshall seemed to be attributing a "near omniscient" knowledge to various kinds of cells.   

Before teasing apart what this means, let's look at one of Marshall's criticisms of neo-Darwinistic evolutionary theory:
Darwinists have this naive conception that random copying errors with natural selection have godlike powers and can do anything.
Of course this violates every principle of information theory and probability known to man; this is why Darwinists scream bloody murder any time someone brings up statistics. But it’s impossible for accidental processes to do this. They may as well believe in Superman or the Easter Bunny.
Marshall claims here that neo-Darwinism attributes to mutation+selection a near-omnipotence if not omnipotence.  However, the sort of omnipotence that neo-Darwinism claims for mutation+selection (+ even more accidental mechanisms such as genetic drift) is just the power to get from a prokaryotic cell even more simple than a bacterium to every "leaf" on the evolutionary tree.  But this is the same sort of power that Marshall claims for a "Swiss Army Knife" of mechanisms that are "in principle, capable of getting you [from] anywhere on the tree of life to anywhere else." Not truly omnipotent per se, but presumably capable of accounting for anything we've ever seen.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Drunkard's Search: The Many Problems With Perry Marshall's Conception of Intelligent Design

Annotated for clarity, another comment that is lost in moderator limbo:
I recently attended a play (“Disinherit the Wind”) by Matt Chait in L.A. (who is definitely NOT a creationist in any generally accepted sense) after which a group largely composed of ID people applauded a monistic take on ID—not because they think its monism is correct but because it showed a serious grasp of both ID and the academic freedom that is desired for it.

There are many problems I have with the way ID is characterized on this site [Evolution 2.0].
  (1) It is generally difficult (if not impossible) to have a clear discussion about the claims made concerning ID without first having a clear discussion of what constitutes “miraculous” and “supernatural” (and whatever other related terms) in a scientific or meta-scientific sense. I agree with what Paul Brown wrote on [the] Meyer debate thread. You’ve defined god-of-the gaps so broadly that any abductive inference to X becomes an X-of-the-gaps if it’s possible for some new finding to make Y seem much likely than X. “Science” becomes by definition naturalism-of-the-gaps, with the gaps defined as anything not yet explained naturalistically (whatever “naturalistic” means). What Thomas Nagel writes here is a decent consideration of the “inference to best explanation”:
The Drunkard's Search
  (2) There are some implicit assumptions about the relationship of science to paychecks that seem both unrealistic and philosophically flawed (i.e. both descriptively and prescriptively deficient).
  (3) It is not clear to me that even a young earth creationist would disagree with macroevolution in the sense that I see it construed here. In the range of being a theistic evolutionist (in the Behe sense) to being a baraminologist, I [think] there are people who are very interested in understanding what sorts of speciation are actually possible. It would be especially interesting to see you debate Cornelius Hunter, who draws very different conclusions from the same sorts of “overnight evolution” findings that you admirably draw attention to.