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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2005 5:49 am 
One of the arguments I've seen advanced for intelligent design is that of "Irreducible Complexity". I think the argument deserves to be examined.

What happens if you take the catalytic converter out of your automobile? Not much, it keeps running, just sounds a little louder. Break the left rear window? Hey, you can still drive it. Rust it half off? I've ridden in worse. Snap this, displace that, a puncture here and you can still limp it on a flat tire home. Got the picture? We could define your automobile as a "reducibly" complex system, by which we mean that we can take bits off and it's still basically an automobile. If your car is in such a lamentable state it still performs (however poorly) the basic function of an automobile. When you put your foot down on the gas pedal, the car moves.

Now let's take another system. Say you've set up a chain of dominoes so that you can tip them all over with the merest flick. And let's say that the last domino hangs on the edge of the table where dropping it will cause doom to the lego men below. Now also imagine that the dominoes are spaced loosly, so that if you were to remove one, the chain reaction of falling dominoes would stop at that point. We could define this as an "irreducibly complex" system, by which we mean that if we take any single bit out, the system no longer funtions. We might be able to tip over nearly all of the dominoes, but if any one of the middle dominoes is gone, the basic function of the chain is destroyed, namely the annihilation of the lego people.

So how does this relate to intelligent design? Do you remember the flagellum? It's that little whip thing that some single celled organisms use to move about. I've heard that that system is "irreducibly complex", it's an arrangement of something like 30 proteins that, were you to remove any single one of them, would no longer perform it's basic function. (And by "I've heard" I mean I don't know enough microbiology to affirm or deny this).

Ok, so 30 proteins in a specific arrangment. That's unlikely, but possible. I mean, with enough time-- And that's where the second half of the argument cuts in. Where did you get enough time? If you start from the beginning of the universe and juggle your proteins in a random fashion, 15 billion years might not be enough time. Unfortunately, I don't remember all the parameters of the calculation determining how likely it was for the proteins to come together. But I'm not exactly qualified to make the calculation either, so I'm just going to assume the person who calculated it wasn't cheating. (Probably not that bad of an assumption, if he was cheating any number of people would have gone over his figures and discovered it. Moving on).

What they concluded was that the flagellum was unlikely to exist. Unlikely in the way that winning the lottery with just one ticket is. Ok, if that were true it'd be a big argument in favor of intelligent design. But is it true? So I went looking for the other side.

I found a paper online that claimed to have nullified the "irreducibly complex" argument when it comes to a flagellum. Apparently (from the abstract of the paper) you could have proto-flagella that performed a different function than movement, which means that a flagella isn't irreducibly complex, and therefor isn't terribly unlikely to exist. And by that I mean that you could reasonably expect to have them from random processes in the time provided.

So I dive into the paper, much like a cartoon character dives into an empty swimming pool. I could not understand what I was reading, I simply did not have the background, and I doubt I'd have that background with anything less than a Bachelor's degree in biochemistry. So was he correct? I don't know.

The position I'm in right now is that I'm unable to determine which side is correct. Any assessment I make of whether a flagelleum is irreducibly complex or not now falls under the category of "What experts I believe." This puts me in the very frustrating but oh so scientific position of saying

"I don't know."


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2005 6:45 am 
One problem with irreducable complexity is that as long as a mutation doesn't seriously impact survival it can continue to exist in a population.

A mutation doesn't have to be beneficial to survive.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2005 6:53 am 
Havoc Jack wrote:
One of the arguments I've seen advanced for intelligent design is that of "Irreducible Complexity". I think the argument deserves to be examined.

I think you've understood the gist of the paper. Let's look at a hypothetical primitive sea-dwelling animal that has tiny hair-shaped organs on its skin with which to feel water currents. One might argue that such an organ only works if you have the hair, the pressure-sensitive mechanisms at its base, and a nerve leading to the brain all in place. Every one of these elements is necessary for the organ to work, so they must all have popped into existence at once, since natural selection doesn't say "huh, that might come in handy later". Right?

Nope. The ancestral form of the animal might have already had scales on its skin, a sense of touch (pressure sensitivity) and nerves leading from the skin cells to the brain for that sense. Only a comparatively simple mutation is needed to enlarge one of these scales, which then gets tossed about in the water currents outside the skin, which tugs and pushes on the skin cell. Ta-da! Instant water current-o-meter. The way is paved for further improvements like shaping the scale into a long thin hair and specializing the generic touch sense mechanism to attach to the hair directly so as to read the forces off it more efficiently.

The point is: Seemingly irreducibly complex mechanisms can be derived from pre-existing mechanisms that originally served a different function. The fallacy in the Irreducible Complexity argument is the assumption that an organ develops 1) from scratch and 2) for a fixed purpose.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2005 7:41 am 
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Monkey House Exhibit
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Catharsis wrote:
I think you've understood the gist of the paper. Let's look at a hypothetical primitive sea-dwelling animal that has tiny hair-shaped organs on its skin with which to feel water currents. One might argue that such an organ only works if you have the hair, the pressure-sensitive mechanisms at its base, and a nerve leading to the brain all in place. Every one of these elements is necessary for the organ to work, so they must all have popped into existence at once, since natural selection doesn't say "huh, that might come in handy later". Right?

Nope. The ancestral form of the animal might have already had scales on its skin, a sense of touch (pressure sensitivity) and nerves leading from the skin cells to the brain for that sense. Only a comparatively simple mutation is needed to enlarge one of these scales, which then gets tossed about in the water currents outside the skin, which tugs and pushes on the skin cell. Ta-da! Instant water current-o-meter. The way is paved for further improvements like shaping the scale into a long thin hair and specializing the generic touch sense mechanism to attach to the hair directly so as to read the forces off it more efficiently.

The point is: Seemingly irreducibly complex mechanisms can be derived from pre-existing mechanisms that originally served a different function. The fallacy in the Irreducible Complexity argument is the assumption that an organ develops 1) from scratch and 2) for a fixed purpose.



I think you've essentially begged the question there, by having the whole skin,sensor,nerve,brain system already in place, making one small tweak, and shouting "See, evolution!".

Most Creationists (such as myself) don't deny the possibility of random mutations in existing systems leading (very occasionally) to something useful. Some of us suspect that God designed living things with such flexibility in mind. But you have to first have something there, for mutations to happen at all.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2005 8:05 am 
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Vorpal Bunny Slipper
Vorpal Bunny Slipper

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Great, so much to reply to and I'm busy at work. Ah, well. Such is life. I can reply to one part, though:

FrankNorman wrote:
Ah yes, the old "argument from evil". Goes back at least as far as some ancient Greek thinkers.

Standard Theist response is that of Free Will - God gave us the ability to choose our actions, with there being a range of actions possible to us, good or bad.
If He stepped in all the time to over-ride our choices whenever we made the wrong ones, our choices would be meaningless, as they would be without consequences.
The demand for choices without consequences, to be able to do whatever you want with no bad effects (at least to yourself) often shows up in people who are in rebellion against God.


Wow. How lucky for me that I've got a discussion going on this topic as we speak! Come, join us. Our religion forum could use more traffic. (Edit: I'm putting my response over there.)

(Edit edit: My response has been posted. I fear most of it will just go ignored, but I wouldn't mind being wrong about that.)

_________________
Scharr, scharr, verscharr das Gebein, grab es tief unten im Keller ein.
Später dann graben es andere aus, und nennen dein Haus das Knochenhaus.
Scharr, scharr, verscharr das Gebein, leg auch ihre weißen Schädel hinein.
Mit Beton gießt du es aus, das Fundament vom Knochenhaus.
Scharr, scharr, verscharr das Gebein, da ist noch Platz, da paßt noch wer rein.
Hier tobte sich der Teufel aus, unten im Keller im Knochenhaus.


Last edited by Jeremiah Smith on Thu Dec 22, 2005 9:55 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2005 8:36 am 
Regarding irreducible complexity:

Assuming that the flagellum was necessary for any single-celled organisms to survive, and, assuming that no life could develop without it, you still don't disprove evolution.

The most common argument I've heard to 'refute' evolution is that the odds of everything coming together in such a manner is extremely low.

I find it amazing how self-centered and small-minded that argument is.

If earth were the only planet in the universe, then, by all means, odds are it was intelligent design. However, when you take into account all the countless galaxies, stars, planets, etc, you still have more than enough where, by the odds alone, that string of proteins would fall into place and life begin, on countless millions, if not billions of planets.

Yes, the odds are extremely low. Comparable even to winning the lottery with a single ticket.

That is why you and I haven't yet won the lottery. But look at the larger picture, at the whole country, and, voila! it happens almost every week. Sometimes no winners, sometimes 3 or even 10.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2005 8:46 am 
Also, I feel I should state my own view on the matter, rather than solely playing devil's advocate and rebutting other people's claims.

I do believe in god. I don't believe he gives a rat's ass what name you call him by. I don't believe it matters what religion you belong to, or whether you worship him, rather, I believe it matters that you life your life in the manner he desires you to.

To put it quite simply, if Mother Theresa was an athiest, she would still go to heaven. (Provided nothing else she did changed)

------

As to my views on creationism/evolution, they are not mutually exclusive. In my view, the universe is one gigantic, extremely complex machine. God designed this machine. He set into place all the parameters of operation, then turned it on and fed all the energy/matter into it.

He designed the universe so that it would follow the various rules of the machine. Some of these we know, (or at least think we do) some of them we dont. For example, two bodies that have mass will attract eachother. Always. This is called gravity.

It's not a difficult leap of logic to believe that God would have designed the parameters of chemical interaction to allow evolution to take place. After all, it would seem he's gone to all this trouble to have a machine that functions on logic, which means every development beyond the initial 'feeding' of the energy/matter, will occur according the the rules of the system.

That said, it is not entirely outside the realm of possibility that he reaches in to 'tweak' the system every now and then, fudging a variable here and there.

That would be the basis of miracles. That, or, the people just didn't know enough to be able to figure out which set of rules caused that event to happen.

The only true unknown and independant variable in the system is that of free will. Face it, a machine that functions the exact same from beginning to end is rather boring. One where tiny bits of it are given the wherewithal to modify their own variables is, well, fun!


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2005 9:34 am 
anthonyr wrote:
The principal is the same. If we couldn't exist, we couldn't ask the question, so the fact that we exist is not revealing.


That's not my point at all. I understand it's easier to attack that point than my actual point.

My point is that there are a few compounds absolutely critical to life. It is extremely interesting to me that of all the compounds that are critical H20 haves differently than 99.999%(estimate :)) of the rest of the scientific world. Not just differently, but in a manner diametrically opposed to what "most stuff does."

(And, of course I understand WHY, oh lets just call it water to make it simple, I understand WHY water behaves the way it does. And thanks to whomever pointed out the other elements that behave similarly. I learn stuff on this forum every day.)

Water is no more proof of a Creator than gravity. We're not going to ever "prove" a Creator exists. I just think water raises the possibility a little.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2005 9:57 am 
rbliss wrote:
Remember the theory of all the monkeys and typewriters that would eventually produce the entire works of Shakespeare? It doesn't work. They actually experimented with the monkeys and computers and it turns out the monkeys just want to keep typing the letters "e" and "w". (Apparently a promising begining to a story entitled "We . . .")


I have performed similar experiments, but the monkeys just typed random strings of characters like "OMFGLOL", "GG FTW" and "O RLY?". The experiment was deemed a failure, but my request to have the monkeys terminated was overruled by those pansies on the ethics committee. What good is being a mad scientist if you have to follow all those silly rules?

Getting back to the topic at hand, I don't think that I could believe in a divine being who was powerful enough to create the world and all the creatures on it, but did such a sloppy job that his creations couldn't survive without contant tinkering. There's nothing incompatible about Science and Religion. Science tris to find the rules which govern the Universe while Religion asks who wrote them. The only conflict arises when you try to do away with one in favour of the other.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2005 10:18 am 
rbliss: Only if you presume there's something special about life, and that life could only come out one way. You're trying to argue that the correlation between features of life and features of the environment has to be explained by the environment being tailor-made to life, and that's just... no. It's like looking at a tree and at a hammock and concluding that trees must have been invented to prop up hammocks.

Of course, it'll be difficult to argue convincingly either way that we are the sole way life could have come out when all we can do is look in the mirror right now, but the biodiversity of some of the extreme areas of our planets provide a hint- there are critters that live solely in little puddles on the icecaps, there are ones that thrive in extremes of heat and cold that most beasties in the temperate climes we tend to focus on wouldn't last a minute in, there's basic lifeforms that do just fine without pretty much any of what you'd think of as the environmental requisites for life that you'd care to think of. Liquid water is as close to a constant requirement as you can get, but it's not inconcievable that on a planet where water isn't literally everywhere life couldn't make do quite well with another chemical with similar reactive properties.


And, of course, this is all presuming that life isn't ultimately comparable to, say, geology- a certain highly complex chemical reaction to certain preconditions. It's only if we take life as special (and throw up all sorts of modifiers about certain chemicals and methods of doing things and such that ultimately don't have much to do with anything) that what we are and what we do appears unique at all. If you want stimulus-response, break out the vinegar and baking soda. Want something that needs to consume fuel or else it ceases to function and decays? Try a star. There's not much in the whole "life" gig that isn't just basic chemistry of the kind found everywhere.


Last edited by Ryder P. Moses on Thu Dec 22, 2005 10:28 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2005 10:22 am 
Wow, so much to say, so little time.

I just had to jump in about a couple of things here...

Drakona> You make a good argument for pursuing ID as a PHILOSOPHICAL discussion. The problem with ID is not that it is impossible, or antithetical to science, the problem is that ID is not science, it is philosophy. Of the points you addressed, the debate over teaching ID is about teaching it as a scientific alternative to Darwin's Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection. (More on that later). While you simplify the argument to be one of science demeaning "meaning and faith", there is a solid definition of science that needs to be addressed. The cliffs notes version is that science is only science if it follows the Scientifc Method, which requires that scientific theories be testable, be used to make predictions about what will be observed AND disprovable. ID is neither, it falls under the realm of faith because it cannot be tested, it cannot be used to make prediction and it is inherently undisprovable. Take a look at what happened in Kansas on their second attempt to introduce ID into the classroom. The schoolboard didn't just insert ID, to make it work they changed the definition of science in the curriculum (at which point all the major copyright holders of scientific textbook information refused to let their content be included in textbooks with that definition of science). See http://arstechnica.com/journals/science.ars/2005/11/9/1772

SETI, by the way, is science because it is an attempt to test a hypothesis that there is life elsewhere in the Universe, that is MUCH earlier in the scientific process.

So lets examine DTOE (Darwin's Theory of Evolution). First of all DTOE is not as some have asserted (Howard, I'm looking at you here) a theory of "how we evolved from single celled organisms to humans", although that certainly fits within the predictions made by the theory (remember when Darwin worked, he didn't have the same understanding of early organisms we have now). DTOE covers a number of different things, most of which are not controversial any more, things like species going extinct WERE controversial at the time as Christianity in particular argued that God had created all species exactly as they were today, some others seem pretty obvious to us but were revolutionary in their time, like not all individuals surviving to adulthood and those that do survive being (in general) those best adapted to their environment. The part that is still controverisal is the argument that changes happen slowly and randomly over long periods of time. Especially the whole randomly part (the fossil record shows the slowly part pretty clearly). So what is the evidence for randomly? Well, surprise! We can see it happen in a pitri dish with bacteria (I refer to mutation here). We can see it's results in the human genome. We're now discovering (and the science for this is way beyond me, I just like reading the summaries) that DNA may be adaptive by nature with proteins regulating a regular drift in the sequence.

So

Howard> With regards to your Big 'E' little 'e' addendum on the site. You are parroting the creationists argument against Darwinism. Scientifically speaking, the adaptation we can see in the pitri dish (little 'e'volution) is supporting evidence of Big 'E'volution, not something separate. The separation is entirely the contrivance of those seeking to ignore supporting evidence.

So now whats up with the whole "Irriducable Complexity" thing? Well, we're back to Darwin. Remember that every good scientific theory has to include a discussion of what would disprove it, and Darwin's answer was that Evolution could not explain something that was absolutely necessary and was so complex that there was no way it could have evolved from something else.

The problem with throwing out Evolution on this basis is that we are constantly learning. 10 years ago there were many complex biological systems we could not explain. Darwin didn't see them because we are talking about some very seriously esoteric stuff here, obscure proteins mostly. But as our understanding of DNA has improved, those issues rapidly disappeared. All it took was more study.

Gravity is useful as an analogy here (as several others in this thread have done). The best Theory of Gravity we have today is probably still General Relativity, but it doesn't explain everything. That doesn't mean that we have discarded Einstein, it means that physicists throughout the world are actively exploring hypotheses that might explain the discrepancies. Dark Matter and String Theory are to General Relativity what the theories about precursers to Flagellum are to Evolutionary theory. An ongoing study that may someday refute the current Theory, but much more likely will only serve to describe the mysteries of the universe a bit better.

What's really amazing about DTOE is how few things have actually had to change over the course of almost 150 years. Microbiology, Biochemistry, DNA... so many things Darwin had no inkling of... yet all are incredibly consistent with everything predicted by his Theory. Not even Newton and Einstein have come even close. [/list]


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2005 10:30 am 
rbliss wrote:
My point is that there are a few compounds absolutely critical to life. It is extremely interesting to me that of all the compounds that are critical H20 haves differently than 99.999%(estimate :)) of the rest of the scientific world. Not just differently, but in a manner diametrically opposed to what "most stuff does."

One of the key mistakes that pervades the whole edifice of Creationist "reasoning" is the aforementioned egocentricity. They regard Man as a given, and consider the many possible worlds he, as a finished product, could have been thrust into. Most of the time, it would end quickly. "Gack! Can't... hmpfff... breathe... ech..." and the likes. Lucky, lucky us that the world had been expecting us with tea and cookies, eh?

Scientifically, the situation is quite the opposite: The world is a given, and depending on the conditions, things happen. Most of the time, nothing does. In some (precious few?) worlds, one of the volatile materials happens to exist in three states bound in a dynamical equilibrium. It provides a convenient solvent for chemical reactions and an entropy drain. Life centered around this material is possible and sometimes emerges. Let's call it water. Is it now remarkable that of all materials, the oh-so-crucial water should be available on this planet in just the right form for this life? No, since it's the fact that this life developed in water that makes water crucial in the first place.

If the laws of particle physics were different, life as we know it would probably not exist. Maybe some other form of life would emerge based on totally different forms of matter an energy, and they'd say, "Aren't we lucky that our universe allows for the existence of glopthwock, which is crucial to life!" And maybe no life at all could exist. The universe wouldn't give a damn. For some reasons, Creationists seem to presume that 1) any existing universe must "make sense", and that 2) making sense is defined as "humans exist". Not the most humble of concepts.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2005 10:54 am 
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Vorpal Bunny Slipper
Vorpal Bunny Slipper

Joined: Sun May 12, 2002 2:54 am
Posts: 2707
frieddan wrote:
Wow, so much to say, so little time.


I love you mister frieddan.

_________________
Scharr, scharr, verscharr das Gebein, grab es tief unten im Keller ein.
Später dann graben es andere aus, und nennen dein Haus das Knochenhaus.
Scharr, scharr, verscharr das Gebein, leg auch ihre weißen Schädel hinein.
Mit Beton gießt du es aus, das Fundament vom Knochenhaus.
Scharr, scharr, verscharr das Gebein, da ist noch Platz, da paßt noch wer rein.
Hier tobte sich der Teufel aus, unten im Keller im Knochenhaus.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2005 11:22 am 
Jeremiah Smith wrote:
I love you mister frieddan.

Argh, more man-children? :roll:


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2005 11:30 am 
Jeremiah Smith wrote:
frieddan wrote:
Wow, so much to say, so little time.


I love you mister frieddan.


Just don't tell my wife :)


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2005 2:13 pm 
Drakona wrote:
One of the most common arguments I see raised against intelligent design is that it is merely a cover for creationism. I've seen that several times in this thread, and I think Howard Taylor's original open letter mentioned that (though not as an argument). It's a bad arguement for the obvious reason: it's bad logic. It doesn't matter what the motives of ID proponents are. The ideas and arguments stand on their own merits.


At least as far as the recent lawsuit goes, the motives were relevant to the decision, and the motives of the Thomas More Law Center were clearly demonstrable. Also, their material was based on creationism literature with very minimal editing done to remove nominal references to religion. In that case, they were pushing a brand of ID that was very close to creationism. They were attempting to put state-sponsored religion in the biology classroom. One doesn't need to reject ID to reject ID in that particular case.

rbliss wrote:
That's not my point at all. I understand it's easier to attack that point than my actual point.


Okay, your point is that some elements and componds behave differently in a way that didn't necessarily have to happen, and the fact that they behave differently in a way beneficial to life increases the probability of a creator by some non-trivial amount.

I still don't buy it. There's too many counter-examples, of things that behave differently without helping us. There are elements and compounds that behave differently in a way that didn't necessarily have to happen that don't get involved in life at all. For example, Helium and the other nobel gasses don't interact chemically. Helium is so light it floats up to the top of the atmosphere and gets blown away by the solar wind. They don't really get involved in life, while most of the other lighter elements do, even if only in trace amounts.

Something behaving differently shouldn't be taken as evidnece of intent to make the universe favorable to life, because plenty of things behave differently with no impact on life.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2005 2:28 pm 
Catharsis, I understand exactly what they mean by "irreducible complexity". What I don't understand are the specific arguments the different sides are using to say whether a flagellum is reducibly complex or not. If a flagellum is reducibly complex, it has to still perform a function (not necessarily movement). What the Intelligent Design people were saying was that there is no other function. What the other paper was saying is that there could be a different function. What I am saying is that I am in no position to judge one way or another.

Novulae, I do not know the specifics of the calculation. Unless you say otherwise I doubt that you do either. But it occurs to me that it's very likely that whoever did the calculation in the first place took that into account, simply because the number of places life might develope seems like an important parameter. You note that in my previous post I used the number 15 billion as the age of the universe and not 4 billion as the age of the earth.

Minuit, if you are a mad scientist, why are you listening to the ethics committee in the first place?

frieddan, I appreciate your point about constantly learning. The paper that I looked at is a good example of that. If we didnt' know of a less complex flagellum when the Intelligent Design people first made their argument, but we've subsequently discovered one (as the person who wrote the aforementioned paper argued), then it would have been a bad idea to throw out Evolution on that basis.

The trouble is, I can't tell who is right. The discussion has progressed to a point where I lack the capability to even follow the arguments advanced by either side, much less compose my own. Any judgement on who is right is a judgement I make on the faith that my expert could beat up your expert.

(And by the way, Newton proposed his theory of gravity in the 17th century. Einstein proposed general relativity at the beginning of the 20th. That's what, two to three centuries? Thermodynamics lasted a good hundred years before it was generalized into statistical mechanics. Darwin's track record isn't so unique.)


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2005 3:13 pm 
I'm not going to touch whether evolution works or not. I'm not going to touch whether ID is creationism or not.

There is one reason Inteligent Design isn't science, regardless of all of that: It says we can't. Science is in the business of we can.

ID says: 'Look no further, you cannot see beyond this point. There is something non-explainable, something unimaginable, something you cannot do here.'

Science, from it's beginning, is about finding ways to understand. Ways to imagine, ways to do. You want to fly like a bird? Science says you need a certain lift-to-weight ratio. Get to work, build it. You want to go to the Moon? Science says you'll need a container with these properties to live in, and you'll need to move it this fast straight up. Get to work. You want to go faster than light? Science says you either need matter with negative gravitational mass, or to find a way around the space-time fabric. Get to work.

Inteligent Design says: You want to understand how a flaggelum came to be? Sorry. You won't. That is not a scientific answer. A scientific answer is: We don't know yet, but here's the condtions it must have met. Get to work.

Science is dedicated to expanding human knowledge. ID limits it.

ID has two possible answers to this: The first is to ignore it, and become religion. The second is to say that ID points out that there is a form of life in the universe that we don't know about. (The designer.) Which raises the questions of where did the designer come from? How did they get here? How did they leave? Why did they come? Why did they leave? (Or, if they are still here, why don't we notice them?) How did they create what they created? Where did they go? How were they created? Where is the evidence they exist?

If ID follows the second course, it fails Occam's Razor: It has introduced a complexity to explain something that other theories explain without it. Unless it predicts something new, correctly, that the old theory doesn't, it is a useless theory. If it follows the first, it denies all claim of being science.

ID predicts nothing new, and delares a limit to our understanding. It is not a valid scientific theory.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2005 4:37 pm 
rbliss wrote:
anthonyr wrote:
The principal is the same. If we couldn't exist, we couldn't ask the question, so the fact that we exist is not revealing.


That's not my point at all. I understand it's easier to attack that point than my actual point.

My point is that there are a few compounds absolutely critical to life. It is extremely interesting to me that of all the compounds that are critical H20 haves differently than 99.999%(estimate :)) of the rest of the scientific world. Not just differently, but in a manner diametrically opposed to what "most stuff does."

(And, of course I understand WHY, oh lets just call it water to make it simple, I understand WHY water behaves the way it does. And thanks to whomever pointed out the other elements that behave similarly. I learn stuff on this forum every day.)

Water is no more proof of a Creator than gravity. We're not going to ever "prove" a Creator exists. I just think water raises the possibility a little.


Just as a slight correction to your argument, water is only denser in its liquid form at 4 degrees celcius. It becomes less dense as it freezes, then, as temperature continues to drop, it becomes more and more dense. Should ice be cooled enough, it will be more dense than 4 degree water.

Also, the only reason why water is so important to life is because of its polarized nature. It's equally as important as carbon is. C arbon is important because of its flexibility in bonding.

But the simple fact that it's amazing and profound is not evidence of intelligent design, or even of God, it just plain is.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2005 4:43 pm 
Havoc Jack wrote:
Novulae, I do not know the specifics of the calculation. Unless you say otherwise I doubt that you do either. But it occurs to me that it's very likely that whoever did the calculation in the first place took that into account, simply because the number of places life might develope seems like an important parameter. You note that in my previous post I used the number 15 billion as the age of the universe and not 4 billion as the age of the earth.


I do not know the calcualtion either. But what I do know is, those are the odds of it happening on one planet, not any planet. The odds improve by every planet you add to the equation.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2005 4:47 pm 
Havoc Jack wrote:
Minuit, if you are a mad scientist, why are you listening to the ethics committee in the first place?


I'm sad to say that Mad Science Funding just isn't as readily available as it used to be. There was a time when I could sell hammers and screwdrivers to the military for billions of dollars or just fire up the giant robot ants and knock over a bank or two, but with times being what they are I'm reduced to seeking grant money from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and a shadowy organization known only as "Viewers Like You".

Don't worry, though. They too shall rue the day they ever denied my grant application for not having sufficient educational content. That Doomsday Machine would have taught the entire world what it meant to mess with mad science.

Instead I wound up making a little red plush doll that giggles when you tickle it.

Oh yes, rueing will certainly come. The day of ruefultude will one day be upon them all. Rueness awaits.

Now somebody get me a rueben.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2005 4:55 pm 
Novulae wrote:
I do not know the calcualtion either. But what I do know is, those are the odds of it happening on one planet, not any planet. The odds improve by every planet you add to the equation.
And there are a lot of planets out there. Even if not all of them are good grounds for life, I think the universe is large enough to hold not just one, but thousands of planets that will at one time support intelligent life.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2005 5:08 pm 
Havoc Jack wrote:
The trouble is, I can't tell who is right. The discussion has progressed to a point where I lack the capability to even follow the arguments advanced by either side, much less compose my own. Any judgement on who is right is a judgement I make on the faith that my expert could beat up your expert.


I agree with you there, but it misses my point a bit. My point is that a single observation at a current level of understanding is not enough to overturn a scientific theory, it is only the beginning of a new process of hypothesis on why a given anomoly exists. It is possible that the answer will eventually be the rejection of the original scientific theory, but in cases as complex as this, we are not in a position to state anything with certainty because we are still learning.

Take the original Theory of Gravity (pre-Newton)... lets call it "The Law of What Goes Up Must Come Down". Now that we have that settled, someone comes along and points out that a bird went up and didn't come back down. This anomoly can't be immediately resolved, so it could be used to scrap TLOWGUMCD, but if you watch long enough, you'll see the bird actually come down. The fact that we didn't know that at the time is not enough to tear down a good scientific theory, it is a starting place for questioning it. In this case, TLOWGUMCD would be ammended to show that there are other forces at work based on the data.

Havoc Jack wrote:
(And by the way, Newton proposed his theory of gravity in the 17th century. Einstein proposed general relativity at the beginning of the 20th. That's what, two to three centuries? Thermodynamics lasted a good hundred years before it was generalized into statistical mechanics. Darwin's track record isn't so unique.)


Yes, that's a good long time, but it is not only time I was looking at. Newton's theories held up for a long time, but as soon as new avenues of science arose that allowed us to look at gravity in another way they fell apart. Darwin's theory has survived almost entirely intact despite an incredible array of new scientific avenues that allowed much more detailed looking into the exact issues that he addressed. And every one has followed exactly with his predictions. The fact that TLOWGUMCD survived thousands of centuries before people started realizing that the moon and the sun were just objects that should have fallen down too doesn't make that theory more spectacularly brilliant.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2005 5:20 pm 
Rhialto wrote:
Could well be. Darwinian Pool Room is one of my all time favourite short stories, and I thank you heartily for that link. There's another of his shorts, dealing with [spoiler snip for those who've not read it], that together has a certain mental poetry in describing a marriage of religion and science.


The Last Question. Absolutely beautiful.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 23, 2005 1:20 am 
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anthonyr wrote:
At least as far as the recent lawsuit goes, the motives were relevant to the decision, and the motives of the Thomas More Law Center were clearly demonstrable. Also, their material was based on creationism literature with very minimal editing done to remove nominal references to religion. In that case, they were pushing a brand of ID that was very close to creationism. They were attempting to put state-sponsored religion in the biology classroom. One doesn't need to reject ID to reject ID in that particular case.


OK, now we're getting somewhere.

If that's the case, yeah, it shouldn't be in the science curriculum. Furthermore, I'm really really ticked off at the bozos who mixed that Morris and Gish jive in with Michael Behe's elegant line of reasoning.

See, the part that should be mentioned in science class is nothing more than "there are some characteristics which it is not clear how they could have evolved, which causes some people to speculate that there is some element of design involved. The nature of that designer, whether Space Aliens, Jehovah, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or whatever, is beyond the scope of this class."

But my impression (confirmed every day) is that the There Is One True Unfaith And Darwin Is Its Prophet jihadiis would go berzerk even at that.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 23, 2005 7:06 am 
DStaal wrote:
There is one reason Inteligent Design isn't science, regardless of all of that: It says we can't. Science is in the business of we can.

ID says: 'Look no further, you cannot see beyond this point. There is something non-explainable, something unimaginable, something you cannot do here.'

Science, from it's beginning, is about finding ways to understand. Ways to imagine, ways to do. You want to fly like a bird? Science says you need a certain lift-to-weight ratio. Get to work, build it. You want to go to the Moon? Science says you'll need a container with these properties to live in, and you'll need to move it this fast straight up. Get to work. You want to go faster than light? Science says you either need matter with negative gravitational mass, or to find a way around the space-time fabric. Get to work.

Inteligent Design says: You want to understand how a flaggelum came to be? Sorry. You won't. That is not a scientific answer. A scientific answer is: We don't know yet, but here's the condtions it must have met. Get to work.


So you want to determine the position and momentum of a particle more definetly than h/2? Sorry. You won't. You want to reduce the net entropy in an isolated system? Sorry. You won't. And here I had my heart set on Quantum Mechanics and Thermodynamics as being science. Oh well.

Saying that something can't happen naturally isn't limiting our knowledge. The Second Law of Thermodynamics is an attempt to explain why some processes never happen. For example, it tells us why the Atlantic ocean doesn't freeze over and use the heat to melt Europe. (Would you like the Atlantic to do that? I hear we have a Mad Scientist eager to accept your funding). Rather than limiting our knowledge, this particular constraint expands it.

Intelligent design doesn't say that we can't create flagellum, we as people who might try creating them qualify as intelligent designers. What it does say is that finding them just lying around is highly unlikely. Similar to your moon example, Intelligent design doesn't say that we're unable to get to the moon, it says that we're not very likely to find a spaceship just lying around.

So what if we did? What if a coal miner broke his pick on a genuine alien spaceship buried somewhere in the earth? Intelligent design would say "this machine displays far too much compexity to be the product of a random association of geological..." and here we'd stop listening because we'd already have come to that conclusion. The existence of the alien spaceship would be very good evidence that someone left it there. Similarly, the flagellum (if it is everything the intelligent design people claim it is) would be very good evidence that someone else put it there. Whether this someone else is God, the FSM, or aliens who were forced to do without during thier own Evolutionary climb and who wish that other forms of life have every advantage that they did not.

Intelligent design does make a prediction: that certain processes could not (or at least were prohibitively unlikely to) have existed unless someone made them in the first place. If such processes are shown to exist (and we're not jumping to conclusions here*) then that constitues very good evidence that some designer existed. This isn't affected by Occam's razor; if no theory based in natural processes can predict that a flagellum exists, then Intelligent design becomes by default the simplest explanation.

Note: if all of the processes in question are shown to be possible naturally, then the theory does become useless, and ought to be cut off from the rest of science by Occam's razor as DStaal was saying. But Intelligent Design does predict something. If the processes can all be explained naturally, then Intelligent Design is useless. If they can not, then it would be foolish to disregard Intelligent Design.

(*) Here's the bit about why we're not jumping to conclusions. I think I"m addressing here frieddan's concern. Let's say that there are a dozen such proposed irreducibly complex systems. And let's say people work on them, trying to find natural ways for these things to happen. And let's say they work for a reasonably long time, say a minimum of 20 years. After 20 years, we get the following conclusion from the scientists trying to break the theory. "Well, we've got 3 of these systems down. But we can't find anything that would explain the other 9." Then the new dominant theory of biology is Evolution as modified by Intelligent Design. Or "Use Evolution to explain everything up until this point, but after this point you're going to have to use Intelligent Design." And then Intelligent Design reigns supreme until we get good explanations on how those nine things could have happened naturally. Remember that this is a very big "If"; I still don't know if any process (the flagellum in particular) is irreducibly complex. But if this sort of evidence came up, I think I'd be hard pressed to argue against Intelligent Design as being a more complete description of the universe.

(And as a bit of a post script) I can't understand why you're so confident, Novulae. Is it because of the "comporable to winning the lottery with one ticket" odds I said? That number came off of the top of my head, and I'll gladly withdraw it. But at this point, I might say the number is higher, you might say the number is lower (the number for the entire universe and howevery many planets it contains, mind you), and we'd have no way to know who was right, unless someone actually looked up the calculation in question.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 23, 2005 8:08 am 
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The reason intelligent design constricts our knowledge is for a very simple reason.

The ID proponents have, to date, made nothing but arguments from incredulity: "we don't know how it could have evolved, therefore it's impossible for it to evolve". It rests solely on gaps in our knowledge. The argument from irreducible complexity basically says "I don't know how systems with this sort of nature could evolve, therefore it's impossible for it to evolve". This is, more specifically, what Richard Dawkins calls the argument from personal incredulity: just because Behe doesn't know how IC could evolve doesn't mean other scientists don't, and they do, quite well. To be technical, Behe's assertion that IC cannot evolve is based on the assumption that evolution only works by adding whole parts to a system.

Read more: http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CB/CB200.html
http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CI/CI102.html
http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/behe.html
http://www.talkdesign.org/faqs/icdmyst/ICDmyst.html
http://www.don-lindsay-archive.org/creation/behe.html
http://www.bostonreview.net/br21.6/orr.html
http://www.bostonreview.net/br22.1/orr.html
http://www.simonyi.ox.ac.uk/dawkins/WorldOfDawkins-archive/Catalano/box/nature.shtml

They choose to then explain these gaps in terms of a supernatural agent -- i.e., God. And then that's that. There's no reason to further explore these gaps. Why bother looking for an explanation for the flagella? We've got one, God. Sure, it's a useless explanation that furthers science in no way, but that's just God for ya. Attributing things to supernatural explanations means nothing more can be studied. It's only after you start seeking natural explanations that science can progress.



Has anyone here actually even read the ruling (139-page PDF)? The judge explains quite clearly why
1) ID is not science.
2) The ID movement in general is obviously religious.
3) The Dover School Board's reason for putting ID in the curriculum was religious.
4) ID is creationism relabeled.
5) It is unconstitutional to teach ID as science in a public school.
6) Both the leaders of the ID movement and the members of the Dover School Board are awful liars when it comes to admitting the motivations for the ID movement.

It really is a gorgeous piece of writing.

_________________
Scharr, scharr, verscharr das Gebein, grab es tief unten im Keller ein.
Später dann graben es andere aus, und nennen dein Haus das Knochenhaus.
Scharr, scharr, verscharr das Gebein, leg auch ihre weißen Schädel hinein.
Mit Beton gießt du es aus, das Fundament vom Knochenhaus.
Scharr, scharr, verscharr das Gebein, da ist noch Platz, da paßt noch wer rein.
Hier tobte sich der Teufel aus, unten im Keller im Knochenhaus.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 23, 2005 8:24 am 
Havoc Jack wrote:

(*) Here's the bit about why we're not jumping to conclusions. I think I"m addressing here frieddan's concern. Let's say that there are a dozen such proposed irreducibly complex systems. And let's say people work on them, trying to find natural ways for these things to happen. And let's say they work for a reasonably long time, say a minimum of 20 years. After 20 years, we get the following conclusion from the scientists trying to break the theory. "Well, we've got 3 of these systems down. But we can't find anything that would explain the other 9." Then the new dominant theory of biology is Evolution as modified by Intelligent Design. Or "Use Evolution to explain everything up until this point, but after this point you're going to have to use Intelligent Design." And then Intelligent Design reigns supreme until we get good explanations on how those nine things could have happened naturally. Remember that this is a very big "If"; I still don't know if any process (the flagellum in particular) is irreducibly complex. But if this sort of evidence came up, I think I'd be hard pressed to argue against Intelligent Design as being a more complete description of the universe.


Ok, perhaps I should clarify a bit. While I did use the amount of time we have looked at something in the example, scientific method is not based on arbitrary time limits, be it 20 years or 200. Science, first and formost (at least in my eyes) is about recognizing that we don't know everything and the quest to always know more. You don't get to a theory by default, ever. To say "well I can't find a good testable explination for it so we'll ascribe a non-testable reason" is not science. Period. Science allows for the unknown, faith does not. It is one of the biggest problems that we have in this kind of debate. The faith-based argument always requires there to be a final answer. Science does not. That is yet another reason why ID is not science. The fact that we have no scientific answer for how flagellum developed means nothing except that there's something to keep scientists busy studying, generating hypotheses, and testing them.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 23, 2005 8:34 am 
Mike Van Pelt wrote:
See, the part that should be mentioned in science class is nothing more than "there are some characteristics which it is not clear how they could have evolved, which causes some people to speculate that there is some element of design involved. The nature of that designer, whether Space Aliens, Jehovah, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or whatever, is beyond the scope of this class."

The problem is that already this single sentence suggests a supernatural solution to what is simply a hole in our current understanding. This has no place in a textbook. A thousand years ago, science was in no position to explain lightning and rainbows, whereas nowadays, they are just physics. Think of how many fundamental things we know about the physical, chemical, biological and astronomical world that we had no idea about a century ago. Would it have been scientific before the discovery of the strong nuclear interaction to write that some people speculate God Himself to hold the particles in the atomic nucleus together? Hardly.

And that second sentence is completely futile. Quite obviously, the aforementioned designer refers to a God. If non-eternal beings had done so, they'd have to have been very advanced to do so... so who would have designed them?

1) The process of evolution, common ancestry and the geological age of the Earth at ~4.5 billion years are falsifiable scientific theories that have been confirmed by a vast and diverse volume of evidence.

2) The evolutionary pathway that led to a given feature in a given organism can often not be determined. In many cases, we as of yet have no idea how they came to be.

3) Through research, some of these evolutionary enigmas have already been resolved scientifically. (See http://www.talkorigins.org/origins/post ... 3.html#run , specifically #7).


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 23, 2005 9:00 am 
Havoc Jack wrote:
Intelligent design doesn't say that we can't create flagellum, we as people who might try creating them qualify as intelligent designers. What it does say is that finding them just lying around is highly unlikely. Similar to your moon example, Intelligent design doesn't say that we're unable to get to the moon, it says that we're not very likely to find a spaceship just lying around.

That's the classical watchmaker argument. It's been refuted to hell and back again. Let's move on, shall we?

Quote:
(ID) isn't affected by Occam's razor; if no theory based in natural processes can predict that a flagellum exists, then Intelligent design becomes by default the simplest explanation.

Quite to the contrary. ID requires the existence of a Creator, which is extremely more difficult to explain that a twitchy thing on a bacterium. I'm afraid ID remains Occam's breakfast until we discover that the large scale structure of the universe spells "God wuz here".

(Also, the Creator solves no problem, it simply renames it. Instead of wondering about the origin of the universe, we now have to wonder about the origin of the Creator.)

Quote:
(*) Here's the bit about why we're not jumping to conclusions. I think I"m addressing here frieddan's concern. Let's say that there are a dozen such proposed irreducibly complex systems. And let's say people work on them, trying to find natural ways for these things to happen. And let's say they work for a reasonably long time, say a minimum of 20 years. After 20 years, we get the following conclusion from the scientists trying to break the theory. "Well, we've got 3 of these systems down. But we can't find anything that would explain the other 9." Then the new dominant theory of biology is Evolution as modified by Intelligent Design.

Nope. The 3 solved systems show that there are scientific solutions to these questions. For some, we simply don't have enough data to work on. Burn a sheet of paper and mix the ashes thoroughly. No 20 years of research will ever let you reconstruct what was on that leaf. That fact doesn't let you make any predictions about what was on the leaf. So what if we don't know how 9 given systems evolved? Do we have to know everything for our knowledge to be valid? If you see an apple with a small wedge cut out and missing, does the fact that you have no way of reconstructing what that piece looked like allow an "alternative theory" that it was in fact an orange?


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