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”:   http://philosophy.fas.nyu.edu/docs/IO/1172/papa_132.pdf
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. 

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Bill Nye peddles his "Junk" Science

Bill Nye the Clown Prince of Scientism and Secular Humanism has an entire show about how "science" can save us  ... from our antiquated sexual mores among other things.  Watch if you dare but prepare to be offended by almost everything that is said and done.  It says something that this man was the headliner for the recent "March for Science."  I agree with one thing in this video:  It certainly is junk, with regards to science, morality, or just good taste. 
I hope that even the NCSE can manage to be embarrassed by this 'robust display of vulgarity' from one of the apostles of "science literacy."  This is how Bill Nye (and the progressive scientism he is advocating) intends to "save the world."

Note: By "creationism" Bill truly means anything teleological that doesn't reduce us to being insignificant "specks" in a universe that exists as a value-free junkyard of cosmic debris:  
Irony meter: Bill wants us to stop embarrassing ourselves and subjecting children to harmful ideas.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Genomic DNA: Consilience "proof" of undirected evolution

ID (Intelligent Design) doesn't need common descent to be false (e.g., Michael Behe seems to accept common descent), but all theories of undirected evolution seem to require common descent.  Which means that to whatever degree common descent (CD) is not supported, undirected evolution is also not supported, since CD is one of the tent pegs of any specific theory of undirected evolution. 

One the key pieces of evidence for the "fact" of common descent of species through natural selection (plus some other assortment of mechanisms).

So, how accurate was our picture of the relationship of animal kinds based on morphology (looking at bones, organs, and tissues)?  The degree to which the fact of evolution is supported is supposedly measured by similarity of the tree of life before the flood of genomic DNA data to the tree of life based on genetics (i.e. a "parsimonious" tree of life that poses the fewest problems for a common descent narrative).

Here is one such comparison:

Tree changes:  Cnidarians (jellyfish) are actually more genetically similar to the more complex animals than ctenophores (comb jellies) even though they appear simpler (fewer morphological innovations).  Therefore, because of molecular studies, they are now assumed to have arrived later than jellyfish.  At least two groups of morphological deuterostomes are now thought to have much closer relationship to the other protostomes than to the chordates (vertebrates, tunicates) and starfish.  All the explanatory help of lumping the arthropods with the segmentally organized annelids (earthworms) is gone; instead, insects are closer to the simpler nematodes, and earthworms are more like molluscs (snails, squids) genetically.  Platyhelminthes (flatworms) are a significantly later development than previously thought.  Rotifers are closer to flatworms now than to roundworms, and the same goes for earthworms.

The only way that this confirms the tree story is that, loosely speaking, there is a correlation of morphological similarity and genetic similarity, which would be expected they are alike because of shared design or because of "descent with modification."  Only we weren't expected so much reworking of the trees assuming descent with modification.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Natural Selection: All Part of This Balanced Theory

Depending on how you define evolution, nearly everyone from hyperadaptationists like Richard Dawkins to young earth creationists believe that natural selection plays some role in diversification of species (i.e. evolution with a small "e").  But not even hardcore materialists all agree that natural selection is the primary mechanism that explains all the things that "have the appearance of design" in the biosphere.  This is the source of the contention between Paul Nelson and Jerry Coyne, and in fashion typical of biology academia, Jerry Coyne rallies the troops to aver triumphantly that Natural Selection must play some role in macroevolution, even though many of them believe that selection is a poor general explanation for biological innovation.

That is to say, selection is part of this balanced theory.  Which sounds familiar:
The ["part of this balanced breakfast"] claim is technically a legal requirement, but, like a Stealth Cigarette Commercial, the companies have hidden the obvious beneath the implications. After all — really! — if you're still hungry after eating a bowl of cereal, you don't cook yourself some bacon and eggs, or make toast. You just grab the cereal box and pour yourself another bowl.
In other words, your Choco Woofers are "part of this complete breakfast" in much the same way that chocolate cake is "part of a complete dinner": as a tasty dessert that doesn't add anything to the meal but calories.

And in much the same way that Natural Selection is part of the explanation of biological diversity as macroevolutionary descent with modification.
Part of this balanced explanation!!!!!
It's got what plants crave!
Here is further evidence that the theory of evolution (which one?) is as well-established as the theory of gravitation.   It might be better to describe it as an explanation in search of an actual theory.