Imperfect Design: Casey v. Richard Dawkins

That video is titled “Richard Dawkins demonstrates laryngeal nerve of the giraffe.” It shows a rather graphic dissection, but it’s over in less than five minutes. We think it’s well worth watching because it demonstrates a spectacular example of un-intelligent design. The evolutionary explanation is presented at the end — the giraffe’s oddly meandering nerve is the result of something that started with our fish ancestors.

Try to guess, dear reader, the effect of such evidence on the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute‘s creationist public relations and lobbying operation, the Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids, a/k/a the cdesign proponentsists).

There’s no need to guess. Here are some excerpts from a new article at the Discoveroid blog. It’s by Casey Luskin: The Recurrent Laryngeal Nerve Does Not Refute Intelligent Design. Casey doesn’t mention Dawkins, except briefly at the end. He’s mostly responding to Jerry Coyne. But the Dawkins video is right on point so we’re using it anyway. Casey says, with bold font added by us:

Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that common ancestry between mammals and fish is the best explanation for the nerve’s path. Would that refute intelligent design?

Hey — Casey actually stated the question. To that extent he appears to understand the problem. But now what? Let’s read on to see how he handles this:

As one pro-ID biologist wrote me on this topic, “this is only a problem for design if one assumes design means designed from scratch for each taxon, and if one believes that the designer would necessarily use the shortest distance between two points (in other words, that the designer thinks like we do), and that there are not other design considerations at play.”

Ah, so a “pro-ID biologist” (presumably Behe) informed Casey that the designer works in mysterious ways. We continue:

But if we set aside the question of whether evolutionary history explains the RLN’s path —

What? How can he just set the question aside? Isn’t he going to address it? Apparently not. Casey’s sentence resumes:

it’s also never been clear to me why “imperfect design” should refute design.

Lordy, lordy. How could we have been so wrong? All this time we thought the Discoveroids were touting a concept they called Intelligent Design. Now Casey is telling us that ID can also mean “Ridiculous Design That Looks Just Like Sloppy Evolution.” But perhaps we’re leaping to an unwarranted conclusion. Is Casey really saying that? Let’s see:

I’ve complained before about the breakdowns and flaws I’ve had with computers, but obviously computers are designed. In fact, every piece of technology that has ever had a flaw shows that imperfect designs are was [sic] still designed! “Imperfect design” — a term used by Coyne — is still design.

An interesting notion. But would William Paley’s watchmaker analogy have impressed anyone if it had been about Paley’s Unwieldy, Barely Functional Device?

This new concept of imperfect design is the only reason we’re blogging about Casey’s post. As is his custom, Casey’s little essay drones on, and he spends the rest of his time attempting to argue that the tortuous, elongated path of the giraffe’s laryngeal nerve really is a great design after all. We don’t know why he bothers, because sloppy design that seems evolved is good enough for Casey’s purposes.

We’ll spare you the rest of Casey’s post. But if you’re interested, click over to the Discoveroid blog and read it all.

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45 responses to “Imperfect Design: Casey v. Richard Dawkins

  1. I have to say that of all the “poor design” that fits the evolutionary model and makes no sense as “design,” the transitionals are almost certainly the best. Good ol’ Archaeopteryx is rather clearly a not very flightworthy bird precisely because it’s a dinosaur only partly adapted to flight.

    And it really makes little difference throughout the course of evolution whether or not something as exquisite as a swallow results from adaptation. The swallow’s wonderful wings are still simply modifications of dinosaur forelimbs, an idiotic way for any designer to begin developing flight, while it was the only course available to evolution given the circumstances.

    Attack possum Luskin will always play dead when the issue is the entirety of the idiocy of the whole “design process” that would be occurring over the course of evolution. Only deal piecemeal with whatever looks moderately deniable, while ignoring the fact that the pattern of the development of life involves adaptation after adaptation from unattractive and unpromising organs from any kind of “design” standpoint (think of legs developing from fins–then back again in marine reptiles and mammals), while these adaptations make perfect sense for an unthinking process like evolution. This is the fact that none of the IDiots ever dares to address, and also what alone would mean that ID isn’t science–if we didn’t also have hundreds of other reasons.

  2. Casey just gets worse with his defense of ID. This one is just more stupidity as he tries every ridiculous way to promote IDiot viewpoints. If anything, it weakens the ID arguments!

  3. Oh Casey just won’t give it up! Great post, it made chuckle!

  4. sir you are truly a wordsmith…on a grey rainy day you brought a little sunshine to my breakfast coffee and tickled the old ribs.

    I thank you

  5. Casey is refuting the wrong argument. He is arguing that there is function in the position of the nerve, however the evolutionary argument is simply that it’s position is determined by the series of changes in body plan from fish to mammal – not whether it may have acquired additional functionality in the process. It follows a path that it is predicted by evolution. An evolutionist can point out that it is an illogical path from a design viewpoint, which is certainly true, but the real value in the evolution argument is it’s clear evolutionary history. If it disconnected and reconnected to follow a shorter and more efficient path, that would be difficult to explain from an evolutionary viewpoint.

    To my knowledge, ID apologists argue against common ancestry between mammals and fish – they argue that macro-evolution is impossible. So why do all of these unusual structures exist that have clear history to earlier ancestors, all the way back to the original vertebrates? Apparently the new and improved ID has dropped the “intelligent” requirement from design, and does not require that every creature be designed “from scratch”. Design looks more and more like evolution.

  6. Ed says: “Casey is refuting the wrong argument.”

    It’s worse than that. He’s refuting the Discoveroids’ own definition of intelligent design, which says:

    The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.

    Is “imperfect design” really the “best” explanation? That’s the question Casey specifically avoided.

  7. It’s worse than that. What Casey is arguing is the old creationist, “God made it that way,” argument which works for anything. Furthermore, Casey argues that we puny, not-so-smart humans can’t possibly know the Mind of the Designer ™ , rather we can only glimpse at his/her/its handiwork.

    Not a very intelligent argument if you ask me, but par for the DI.

  8. Gabriel Hanna

    Again, without specifying the intentions and abilities of a designer, you can’t prove or disprove design.

    Every rock and snowflake could individually designed, if Casey gets to just make up abilities and intentions as he goes along. Casey could never prove that they aren’t designed.

  9. Debating ID is like playing a game of “Calvin Ball”.

  10. Ed: “To my knowledge, ID apologists argue against common ancestry between mammals and fish – they argue that macro-evolution is impossible.”

    As the Curmudgeon noted for another ID claim, “it’s worse that that.” They try to have it both ways. They want their Biblical literalist rubes to infer that mammals and fish, and by extension, humans and other apes, arose independently. But the “official” position of ID does not rule out any common ancestry. And the only major ID apologist to clearly state his position (Behe) has clearly conceded that common ancestry is the best explanation. He just denies that “RM + NS” is the cause of changes above some conveniently unspecified taxonomic level.

  11. Gabriel Hanna

    Infinitely better link

    I don’t have your 1337 h4x0ring html skills. All they have to do is click the thing either way.

  12. The link reminds me how much I miss Calvin and Hobbs.

  13. Let’s do take apart Luskin’s critique, as well as Coyne’s, Dawkins’ and perhaps yours as well. Casey states, “Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that common ancestry between mammals and fish is the best explanation for the nerve’s path. Would that refute intelligent design?”

    Depends on your ID perspective. If it were an undirected path, save for NS, then yes, it might explain the RLN in later mammals. If evolution is directed (in part or in toto), it would not, since design alterations would need to fit evo’s mechanism of using what’s there. If a redesign from scratch were postulated, it would refute ID. Evolution, based on my interpretation of the evidence, is option two (above), or gene tweaking at determined points in time.

    ” … Jerry Coyne assumes that ID is incompatible with common ancestry, which it isn’t. As one pro-ID biologist wrote me on this topic, “this is only a problem for design if one assumes design means designed from scratch for each taxon … ”

    Not in evidence by taxonomic data.

    ” … and [or] if one believes that the designer would necessarily use the shortest distance between two points … “

    Dawkins and Coyne conclude that, but obviously have an evo agenda, and/or haven’t studied anatomical neurologic details, which I’ll summarize shortly.

    ” … (in other words, that the designer thinks like we do), and that there are not other design considerations at play.”

    The neurologic data says that there are.

    “But if we set aside the question of whether evolutionary history explains the RLN’s path – “

    Sensuous wrote: “What? How can he just set the question aside? Isn’t he going to address it? Apparently not.

    Most present day IDsts consider common descent, or some variant of it, based on the data. But rather than brushing an evolutionary explanation aside, he addresses a more key point directly: the ‘imperfect design’ argument. Technically, one could classify all designs as ‘sub-optimal”, since enhancements are nearly always possible with any design. But is the RLN even sub-optimal? Not if one reads the data. From Gray’s Anatomy and the paper by Wolf-Ekkehard Lönnig:

    The fact is that even in humans in 0.3 to 1% of the population the right recurrent laryngeal nerve is indeed shortened and the route abbreviated in connection with a retromorphosis of the forth aortic arch.

    An evolutionary improvement? Rather, it can cause difficulties in swallowing, and respiratory difficulties. http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=5868576

    Furthermore, there is long-standing data (Grays, Platzer et al) showing filament nerves innervating other (including cardiac) anatomic regions, details here, with diagrams:
    http://www.weloennig.de/LaryngealNerve.pdf

    Also mentioned,

    The keen observer Claudius Galenos [Galen] – having discovered, concentrating on and meticulously dissecting the recurrent laryngeal nerves of many different species of mammals and birds1 – must necessarily also have seen at least some of the their branches leading to other organs as well.

    And,

    To sum up: The Nervus laryngeus recurrens innervates not only the larynx, but also the esophagus and the trachea and moreover “gives several cardiac filaments to the deep part of the cardiac plexus” etc.

    In sum, rather than a point A to point B esophageal nerve, it is a conduit for a multitude of subclavian filament nerves with ancillary functions, some critical. This point alone shoots down circuitous routing as a defect.

    I suggest taking the time to read these 12 pages, where Weloennig also makes a case that ID tends to stimulate, rather than to inhibit scientific inquiry. Ever heard a design proponent shrug and say, “God did it” ? Me neither. Rather than a ‘goddidit’ write-off, non-existent with IDsts, the corollary ‘mutantdidit’ can be more of an inquiry killer, by applying the ‘bad-design’ write off.

    So is it sub-optimal or poor design? Not in evidence, as shown above. Evolved from fish? A possibility if gene tweaking as a design technique to alter species has been employed. Is the RLN harmful to the giraffe? Not really, if you’ve watched them battle in neck to neck combat. It may even provide strain-relief for rapid swings and sways.

    So to conclude, don’t misread Luskin. He just mentioned that even if an imperfect design or evolutionary artifact, the RLN (or NLR in latin) has been shown to have functions, which shoots Dawkins and Coyne out of the water (or primordial soup).

  14. Gabriel Hanna

    He just mentioned that even if an imperfect design or evolutionary artifact, the RLN (or NLR in latin) has been shown to have functions, which shoots Dawkins and Coyne out of the water (or primordial soup).

    Biologists have never maintained that sub-optimal designs don’t have functions. It’s a straw man.

    The giraffe has to make do with what it has, like pandas and their stomachs and flatfish with their eyes and whales with their thighbones.

    The problem for the ID argument is that these suboptimal designs are everywhere, almost the norm, and they just wave it away. A sub-optimal design, once established, can be improved and taken advantage of, of course, and other organs can grow up to be dependent on it. But they say that this is evidently all part of the plan–they use poor design and good design as proof of their designer who has inscrutable intentions and any abilities they care to make up.

    What Bowman says about the giraffe is ass-backward. That giraffe necks adapt to the needs of giraffes is obvious. That doesn’t mean that giraffe necks were designed to take advantage of the kludges necessitated by giraffe necks–it means the giraffes made do with the genes and development they were dealt.

  15. Gabriel Hanna says:

    What Bowman says about the giraffe is ass-backward.

    I left the comment up because it was polite. I didn’t think anyone would take it seriously.

  16. Gabriel Hanna

    SC, I thought you should have left it up. It was a good comment, just wrong, in my opinion.

  17. The problem for the ID argument is that these suboptimal designs are everywhere, almost the norm, and they just wave it away.

    I strongly disagree. Given the complexity of all higher phyla, there is little that can rightly be considered ‘sub-optimal’, a subjective conclusion. Given not only the finely tuned functionality, but the ongoing metabolic and enzymatic replenishment, data-processing, visual to musculature response (ever watch a soccer game?), repair mechanisms, and reproductive functions (that can all proceed simultaneously), how can one say it’s ‘sub-optimal?!’

    Rather than wave it off, they disavow it. One of the points brought up in the documentation I cited above is the question of why hasn’t evolutionary selection ‘repaired’ these ‘defects’, including the RLN?

    But they say that this is evidently all part of the plan–they use poor design and good design as proof of their designer who has inscrutable intentions and any abilities they care to make up.

    We obviously cannot know intentions, but one to consider is that the designer(s) didn’t intend biologic life to be perfect or Utopian, but competitive. That fits the predator v prey and parasite v host conundrum, wars, illness and death. Multiple designers over vast time may also have had multiple motivations as well. These points aren’t args for design, but rebuttals to certain design refutations.

    What Bowman says about the giraffe is ass-backward. That giraffe necks adapt to the needs of giraffes is obvious. That doesn’t mean that giraffe necks were designed to take advantage of the kludges necessitated by giraffe necks–it means the giraffes made do with the genes and development they were dealt.

    It’s equally plausible that tweaks to redesign a functional giraffe were in accord with meeting a challenge by competitively motivated designers or design teams. If so it/he/they succeeded.

  18. Gabriel Hanna

    Lee Bowman, let me introduce you to Abbie Smith:

    http://scienceblogs.com/erv/2010/10/immunology–_isnt_it_maaaagikaaaaal.php

    “There are a limited number of ‘antibody genes’ in your genome, and yet we apparently have the ability to make countless different antibodies to react to countless different pathogens and diseases. How does this work out?

    First, you can combine the different gene segments in different ways. You break DNA with an enzyme you stole from retroelements and domesticated for this purpose millions and millions of years ago. It gets ‘fixed’ by some Gomer Pyle enzymes “HUR DURRRR! I HALP!” which makes a ton of mistakes ‘fixing’ everything. Yes, these mistakes contribute to the diversity of our antibodies, but there is sooo muuuuch cell death along this ‘perfect’ path (‘non-productive rearrangements’). This is not a precise, streamlined process. Its “Ummmm hurp de durp! Do this wurk?” with a trail of dead B-cells in its wake– 90% of the B-cells you make die. Some are just flat-out f**k-ups, but some are killed because they think you are a pathogen. If its not killed, you get autoimmunity. Look at how perfect that process is. And the death of a ‘self-reactive’ B-cell? Its biochemistry, not magic.

    And even if during these initial ‘perfect’ steps you dont have autoimmunity, another way your immune system creates more antibody diversity is via somatic hypermutation (more ‘HURP DERP! I HALP!’ enzymes). There are no ‘is this me?’ safety checks in this process, which is why molecular mimicry can lead to autoimmunity. PERFECT!

    B-cells are also a good example of the creativity of genetic drift– you have antibodies that kinda-sorta recognize anything, from Ebola to microscopic monkeys from space. But if those antibodies are never actively selected for via an infection, they just hang out (junk B-cells).

    You can get more antibody diversity because you have different variants of the same antibody, each better at one trick (neutralizing virus) than another (activating complement), because of gene duplication and divergence, aka, basic genetic evolution. Some duplication events didnt evolve into anything useful.”

    It’s equally plausible that tweaks to redesign a functional giraffe were in accord with meeting a challenge by competitively motivated designers or design teams. If so it/he/they succeeded.

    No, it isn’t equally plausible. You can’t tell us anything about these designers, what they are, what they intended, and what abilities they needed to accomplish it. All you’ve said about them sounds like what Carl Sagan said about the dragon in his garage. (Can I see it? No, it’s invisible. Can I put flour on the floor and see its footprints. No, it levitates. And so forth.) All you are doing is assuming ad hoc whatever you need to in order to meet my objection.

  19. Gabriel Hanna

    If Abbie’s not to your taste, a less colorful presentation is here:

    http://webeasties.wordpress.com/2010/10/14/implications-of-the-immune-response/

    When it comes to humans, we know their abilities and intentions, and we can recognize what is carefully planned and what is a kludge. These “designers” you make up are too nebulous.

    I think every snowflake is individually designed. You can’t prove differently. This is why the design hypothesis for biology is useless, except for cases like Cavendish bananas and seedless grapes and such, for which we have confirming historical evidence.

  20. What exactly does ID predict?

    Evolution, in the macro sense of descent with modification, predicts that all life is related in some logical or intelligible manner, in a “tree of life” with common ancestors stretching back in time. That’s what we find.

    Evolution predicts that life forms will sometimes contain assorted vestigial remnants pointing to their evolutionary history, like limb remnants in cetaceans, and perhaps gall bladders, wisdom teeth and the like in humans. This is what we find.

    Evolution would predict that the structure of animals would depend greatly on what their ancestral forms were like. That’s what we find. For example, we have numerous problems related to walking upright in a body evolved over millions of years for walking on four legs. (We are, in that sense, a transitional species). Also, of course, the path our favorite nerve takes through the body points to it’s evolutionary path and was dependent on the path it took in the common ancestor – in this case, very deep in the past.

    So what does ID predict that distinguishes it from evolution? Presumably a designer can create life, and if so, should be able to design new life forms at will from the proverbial clean sheet of paper. Where are the novel life forms? Nowhere to be found. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, I understand, but the absence is conspicuous. What does ID predict about the design process itself? Where does the designer work, how does he/she/it effect changes, how can we detect these changes? Clearly evolution is continuing today, so if ID is true, someone should be working on this problem and devising some means of studying it. Evolutionists certainly work on the mechanisms of evolution. Why not ID?

    The onus of proof is with Intelligent Design.

  21. Ed: “The onus of proof is with Intelligent Design.”

    And yet ID has not even stated testable hypotheses of where, when and how the designer(s) (possibly no longer in existence, per Behe’s Dover testimony) “intervened.” Let alone test those hypotheses and reject any that fail the tests. When cornered they claim that it’s not ID’s job to “connect dots.” Then they do whatever they can to try to shift the focus back to “weaknesses” of “Darwinism.”

    As you might suspect, I’m getting as annoyed with fellow “Darwinists” who keep “taking the bait” as I am with IDers. Sure, ID promotes the mutually contradictory “literal” interpretations of Genesis to those who desperately want to infer it. But most people know that already, yet it ‘s only the tip of the iceberg of the games that ID peddlers play. What is still a well-kept secret to most people is that many IDers have conceded nearly all of evolution (at least the entire ~4-billion year timeline and common descent), and those who haven’t know better than to challenge those who have. Plus several prominent IDers have conceded that ID has no alternate science. As if to rub that in (though it has gone over most heads) “Expelled” admits that ID’s real objection is the fear that acceptance of evolution will produce more Hitlers.

  22. Ever heard a design proponent shrug and say, “God did it” ? Me neither.

    Lee Bowman (ever hear of the guy, Lee) wrote:

    Multiple designers over vast time may also have had multiple motivations as well.

    I guess the “shrug” was implied, Lee. Try harder next time, OK?

  23. Lee,

    That a nerve’s path is “suboptimal,” does not mean that it does nothing else. I expected it to be innervating other things along the way. It is still suboptimal to take a down and up route when a couple smaller nerves would serve these functions better. Recognizing suboptimal structures does not preclude further investigation, we assume that if something stays suboptimal, it might have gotten stuck for more than a single historical (as in ancestral solution) reason. This nerve got used for more connections along the way. Thus, it is a history of co-opting rather than a history of designing. That there are better options for obtaining such innervation rather than the convoluted one is evident from what we see in other innervations.

    So, no. Functionalities of suboptimal structures, as well as functionalities of vestigial structures, do not shoot Darwin, nor Coyne, out of the water. Nor does our recognition of evolutionary suboptimal co-opting stop research.

  24. When Evolution talks about “survival of the fittest,” it really means “survival of the adequate,” not “survival of the perfect.” Phrased in the negative, it’s “non-survival of the inadequate.”

    Thus, discovery of suboptimal structures does not imply a failure of Evolutionary Theory. If it gets the job done, it’s good enough to evolve.

  25. Another fellow with the name Lee Bowman said here:

    I’ve pondered that myself, ever since becoming familiar with [Ken] Miller. He sits in a precipitous place, on the one hand having to defend Darwinism, and one the other going to Mass and having to pray to a non-existent God throughout the service.

  26. Suppose, for a moment, that in an alternate universe scientists became convinced that life was designed. These curious, hard-working biologists and other scientists spend their time investigating life under the universally accepted belief of intelligent design. In that alternate universe, what questions would these scientists ask? A few questions spring to mind:

    1. When did design occur? Was it once, billions of years ago? Did it occur multiple times at key junctures in the history of life? Is it a continuous ongoing process, as the designer tweaks life to adapt it to changes in its environment? What are the markers of an intervention by the designer, verses natural variation and adaption to the environment? These scientists would put together hypotheses based on their findings stating when they believed design occurred in the history of life, and probably publish many competing papers prompting much research and testing of competing ideas. Eventually a synthesis would emerge. What are ID advocates doing in our universe to answer this question?

    2. Who was the designer? In a world of real scientists studying design, this would be a burning question, not a topic to be avoided. Based on their conclusions about designs found in nature, scientists would propose hypotheses on a wide variety of questions related to the designer. Are there signs of multiple designers, or does the pattern of design indicate one (or a group of identical beings)? Is the pattern of design episodic, such that it indicates periodic visits by a designer, or is it continuous such that the designer could be inferred to be present in the current world? What phenomena other than the signs found in biological life corroborate the various designer hypotheses? One can imagine many competing points of view and lively testing and evaluation of ideas on the nature of the designer. What are ID advocates doing in our universe to answer this question?

    3. How does the designer effect design? If design is determined to be through the process of ongoing tinkering, how are DNA molecules actually altered? What are the physical processes involved, and can they be duplicated by science? (this could be fruitful research, obviously, if it results in new medical technologies) What are ID advocates doing in our universe to answer this question?

    4. What is the designer’s purpose? Studying the history of life as known to the scientists, can any direction or purpose to life be inferred? Where are we on that path, e.g. are we simply a soon-to-be-extinct form on the path to some other goal? Are other designers working on other worlds throughout the universe, and are we part of a larger plan – or are we merely a competing science fair project? Does life appear to be chaotic in it’s design, such that the designer appears to work at random, creating life and discarding it for new ideas? The answers are important in order to be able to predict future developments in the designed world, particularly extinctions or the emergence of new forms. What are ID advocates doing in our universe to answer this question?

    5. Can the designer be defeated? If scientists, believing in ID, conclude that the designer has a long history of creating life forms and discarding them, sometimes in mass, then it would be prudent to study means to protect humans from being discarded by the designer in the future. This would follow from the research into how the designer actually works in the natural world, and the true nature of the “supernatural”. Perhaps weapons are possible, shields, perhaps even some means of communication and negotiation could be developed – perhaps the designer could be drawn out into the natural world and parlayed with. I won’t even ask where our ID advocates are on this issue.

    The point of the above is to propose examples of the sort of research that real science based on intelligent design would lead to. However, ID advocates do almost none of the above; instead they spend their time throwing stones at evolution. It is also interesting to speculate on the path that a real ID science would lead – would our current ID advocates be comfortable investigating the nature of the designer, and attempting to predict the designer’s future actions? Methinks they have a religious view of the designer, rather than a scientific one, and would be very uncomfortable in such research. However, in my opinion such research would be a natural consequence if ID were adopted as real science.

  27. Lee Bowman tried to fake us out with this ounce of stupidity: Ever heard a design proponent shrug and say, “God did it” ? Me neither.

    Hey, Lee, ever hear of Michael Behe? Me neither.

    While most people – including myself – will think the designer is God, some people might think that the designer was a space alien or something odd like that.” (Michael Behe, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 02/08/01).

    Hmmm, I guess to Leading Intelligent Design Theorist and Proponent, Dr. Behe, the designer being God is less odd than a space alien.

    I’ll not bother digging up quotes from 700 Club star Stephen Meyer claiming “God did it” nor will I bother dragging Dembski into this mess. Like shooting my ancestor fish in a barrel.

  28. Ed says:

    Suppose, for a moment, that in an alternate universe scientists became convinced that life was designed. These curious, hard-working biologists and other scientists spend their time investigating life under the universally accepted belief of intelligent design.

    We should immediately attack! We could swiftly conquer and occupy an entire universe inhabited by creatures too stupid to resist us.

    I couldn’t resist. Otherwise, that was an excellent comment.

  29. Inter-universal warfare! Sounds like an excellent concept for a new comic book series. Or a new episode of Dr. Who.

  30. I’m sorry, Lee, but I just can’t resist. I guess I’m drawn to IDiocy like a moth to a flame. (BTW, moths are our cousins. Did you know that, Lee?)

    Here’s Dr. Dr. Wm. Dembski who, as I recall, is something to do with ID. Oh, yeah, now I remember, he’s a Leading Proponent and Theorist of ID. The good Drs. writes in 2007:

    I believe God created the world for a purpose. The Designer of intelligent design is, ultimately, the Christian God.

    Enough shrugging for you, Lee? Hey, Lee, where’d you go, buddy?

  31. I’ll hate myself in the morning for this, but here’s Stephen Meyer, somewhat of an ID Proponent, shrugging away in 2005:

    I personally believe that the designer of the universe is God, but I can only, the reason we don’t say that as a matter of the theory is that we have to be careful about what the evidence supports and what it doesn’t.

    Strike three.

  32. Doc Bil quotes Stephen Meyer saying:

    … we have to be careful about what the evidence supports and what it doesn’t.

    It’s very impressive how the Discoveroids stick to the evidence.

  33. Sorry Curmy, but these are good points for showing how mistaken is the view of evolution, not just by creationists, but also by “the public.”

    One of the points brought up in the documentation I cited above is the question of why hasn’t evolutionary selection ‘repaired’ these ‘defects’, including the RLN?

    Why would evolution repair this defect? Evolution is not a conscious agent, but a natural phenomenon. It “acts” with what it is “given” by the history of the organisms. As I said above, from evolutionary principles, we expect perduring bad designs to be stuck for more than one historical reason. Such as those further innervations along the path. A designer could easily decide for new and alternative innervations.

    Of course, designers can do things whichever way, even make it appear as if everything is an evolutionary history. But why propose a designer that would have to be found, or at least explained, when evolution suffices?

    That “designers” or rather “gods” would be able to do as they please is a fundamental reason why ID is not science. It explains nothing, it predicts nothing. Everything goes.

  34. gabo says:

    Sorry Curmy, but these are good points for showing how mistaken is the view of evolution, not just by creationists, but also by “the public.”

    No problem. I just won’t tolerate the typical creationist who babbles that “Darwinists” have no evidence, it’s just a religion, it’s all about the freedom to behave licentiously, etc. This situation appears to be an exception. At least for now. Sometimes they start out okay, but then they degenerate — that is, they revert to normal creationism mode. That hasn’t happened yet. Carry on.

  35. Doc Bill: “BTW, moths are our cousins. Did you know that, Lee?”

    I’m sure he is aware of it. The question is whether he accepts it. I only vaguely recall him from his occasional participation on the Panda’s Thumb, and don’t recall any particular doubt of common ancestry. As you know, ID officially neither concludes it nor rules it out. Behe specifically accepts it, while most major IDers pretend to be uncertain. Maybe some of the YECs (former YECs?) who ran for cover under the big tent ca. 1987 (Edwards v. Aguillard and “cdesign proponenstists”) might still doubt it, but they can’t be that confident that the evidence supports YEC if they refuse to challenge those IDers who conclude something much different or play “don’t ask, don’t tell.”. There’s also the possibility that the more Genesis-friendly IDers are Omphalos creationists (believing one of the mutually contradictory “literal” accounts of Genesis, but admitting that the evidence does not support it).

  36. Frank J says:

    As you know, ID officially neither concludes it nor rules it out [common ancestry]. Behe specifically accepts it, while most major IDers pretend to be uncertain.

    I suspect there are fierce disagreements about that, about the age of the earth, and all the other creationist issues, but they keep quiet about them because as Discoveroid “fellows” they probably get paid to play along. If the music ever stops, watch for the knives to come out.

  37. I suspect there are fierce disagreements about that, about the age of the earth, and all the other creationist issues, but they keep quiet about them because as Discoveroid “fellows” they probably get paid to play along. If the music ever stops, watch for the knives to come out.

    David Heddle found out that the knives come out at present if you dare to criticize the young earth position even on the private IDiots’ forum. Of course he wasn’t being paid, so didn’t have much reason to put up with censorship on that position and on other matters.

    Yes, they’re all about academic freedom.

  38. To be clear, Behe may “accept” common descent, but not by variation and natural selection. That’s the whole point behind his pointless book, Edge of Evilution.

    Behe’s God is a real tweak freak changing stuff all the time, like the malaria plasmodium, apparently God’s favorite critter.

    It’s no minor point. It’s not that Behe quibbles about some minor detail of the theory of evolution, he doesn’t accept any of it.

  39. @ Ed

    So what does ID predict that distinguishes it from evolution? Presumably a designer can create life, and if so, should be able to design new life forms at will from the proverbial clean sheet of paper.

    Presumed by whom? Depending on where in the chain various methods could be employed, but ‘design from scratch’ is not in evidence. Some would say “Oh yeah? Cambrian!”, but what I address is the more recent morphs, ergo pushes toward radical speciation by gene tweaking, hox gene modifications, and using what’s there to alter functions. The exaptation concept is a valid explanation as well, but is overused to explain evolutionary change by NS.

    Where are the novel life forms? Nowhere to be found. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, I understand, but the absence is conspicuous. blockquote>

    By novel, we don’t need to revert to the concept of an outa-the-blue creature. No, evolutionary steps are in evidence, and the methods appear to be adaptive alterations by NS as well as intervention. I do not postulate top-down de novo creation events.

    What does ID predict about the design process itself? Where does the designer work, how does he/she/it effect changes, how can we detect these changes?

    This is a work in progress, as forensic determinations here are a little more difficult to unravel than determining how a crime was committed for instance, where known methodologies are fitted together based on gleaned evidence, suspects living in an area, a priori metods utilized before, possible motives, and similar crime historicities. With the ID postulate, none of that is available.

    What I have proposed is simply a form of Genetic Engineering. For possible methods, search ‘genetics’ and ‘methods and protocols’. A non-corporeal entity would obviously use the tools at its disposal. And not magic or miracle; just genetic manipulations.

    … so if ID is true, someone should be working on this problem and devising some means of studying it. Evolutionists certainly work on the mechanisms of evolution. Why not ID?

    Absolutely.
    + + + + +
    @ Frank

    And yet ID has not even stated testable hypotheses of where, when and how the designer(s) (possibly no longer in existence, per Behe’s Dover testimony) “intervened.” Let alone test those hypotheses and reject any that fail the tests.

    To a large degree, none of that is testable. But using alternate but equivalent laboratory methods, the ‘gene tweaking’ method can be (and has been) tested. At some point, novel species will be produced by scientists. But not by inducing mutations (failed drosophila experiments to produce novel innovations), but by directed means (plasmids, viruses and microinjection). Cross breading may also play a part.

    Hey, it’s not that different from attempts to simulate evolutionary events by induced evolutionary processes. But if even a smidgen of intelligent input is employed, these experiments are as predictive of ID operatives as of natural processes, perhaps even more so.

    When cornered they claim that it’s not ID’s job to “connect dots.” Then they do whatever they can to try to shift the focus back to “weaknesses” of “Darwinism.”

    I have read your discourses with Wm Dembski and others, as well as the talks on ISCID you linked, and they ask serious questions on both sides of the issues, few answered. But as Ed mentioned above, more efforts at ID verification/falsification are seriously overdue. Would academic authorities’ and funding organizations’ prohibitions play a part? Their tactics are no different than Italy’s prior fascist governmental controls in the early 1900s.

    You mention the evo crowd putting up with IDers by “taking the bait” by allowing discourse, and of IDers “playing games”, much of which is clandestine. But then you then mention Genesis interpretations, which have absolutely nothing to do with ID proper. These are straw-men that don’t even need to be knocked down as they fall of their own weight.

    Regarding IDers accepting more and more of the data supporting 4 plus billion years, as well as common descent, a significant fraction thereof, that’s no ‘secret’. ID, properly addressed, is science based and will certainly address the data.

    Agreed that ‘Expelled’ played too heavily upon purported cultural effects brought on by Darwin’s work. Trick interviews added little. If anything in the film was valid, it was the depiction of strong academic and trade bias against ID. Not sure that Ben Stein is really up on ID, nor did DI participate in the flick.

  40. At four in the morning, formatting errors (above) are not my concern. ;~)

    @ Doc Bill

    Lee Bowman (ever hear of the guy, Lee) wrote:

    “Multiple designers over vast time may also have had multiple motivations as well.”

    I guess the “shrug” was implied, Lee. Try harder next time, OK?

    Richard B. Hoppe, as well as Allen MacNeill and myself see efficacy in MDT. Not mainstream theology, but certainly a viable possibility. But neither do I propose it as an ID prediction.
    http://pandasthumb.org/archives/2004/09/introduction-to.html

    Regarding Behe, Dembski and Meyer expressing a theological belief, none dare say would use that belief to verify a scientific observation, i.e. explaining a tectonic plate shift by (shrug) “God did it.”

    The argument is that allowing god into the lab, which is not ID’s purpose or method, would stifle science. Shrugging off a perplexing observation in that vein would certainly be poor science, but I often hear its corollary of ‘then a mutation occurred’, or a variation thereof.

    The distinction is simply criteria of what verifies science, which is strictly kept separate from a personal faith-based position.

  41. Lee Bowman: “Not sure that Ben Stein is really up on ID…”

    While I have (mostly disagreeing) comments on many of your replies, I’ll just address that one for now. After 2.5 years I have not seen any response by Stein, either to agree or disagree, with “Set Ben Straight.” If you have seen any please let me know. Otherwise I’ll add that to the many other pieces of evidence that clearly show that if anyone is “expelling” IDers it is they themselves.

    Doc Bill: “To be clear, Behe may “accept” common descent, but not by variation and natural selection. That’s the whole point behind his pointless book, Edge of Evilution.”

    Sure. But he has clearly conceded the “biological continuum” (his own words) that Biblical literalists would not concede regardless of how much evidence they are shown. But Behe keeps “expelling himself” by refusing to test where and when those “design-based” processes (other than variation and natural selection, which he knows could also be ultimately design-based) occur.

  42. OK, one more:

    Lee Bowman: “But as Ed mentioned above, more efforts at ID verification/falsification are seriously overdue. Would academic authorities’ and funding organizations’ prohibitions play a part?”

    They already do. Stuart Kauffman doubts the Darwinian mechanism and gets plenty of funding. Ken Miller thinks “God did it” and gets plenty of funding. What they don’t do is pretend that one implies the other. But even those who do get plenty of funding from more “liberal” sources. Yet they use almost none of it to conduct original relevant work, and almost all of it on PR to promote unreasonable doubt or evolution.

  43. Lee Bowman, poster boy for professor Harry Frankfurt’s book, “On Bulls**t” expounds the following:

    A non-corporeal entity would obviously use the tools at its disposal. And not magic or miracle; just genetic manipulations.

    I’m calling you out on this one, Lee. What do you know about the properties of a “non-corporeal” entity? Pink unicorn? Flying spaghetti monster? Tooth fairy? That’s what Frankfurt refers to as “bulls**t,” an attempt to “bull” people into thinking you know something they don’t.

    Oh, the “non-corporeal” entity would OBVIOUSLY use the tools at his disposal? Oh, really? You know the motives and methods of this “non-corporeal” entity? Why, bless mah soul, these “non-corporeals” sound just like us, I do declare!

    Sorry, Lee, but I can summarize what you wrote in the words of Richard Dawkins: What rubbish!

    As for the quotes I dug up from Behe, Dembski and Meyers, they stand at face value. You simply can’t spin it that on Monday Behe can claim not to know who the designer is and on Tuesday say it’s God. It’s no different from Behe saying on Monday that tectonic plates move by convection and on Tuesday saying God moves the plates.

    On second thought, on Monday Behe would say that he doesn’t know how the plates move. That’s more consistent, don’t you think, Lee?

    Thanks for showing up, Lee! We haven’t had an ID creationist apologist around here for quite a while. My whack-a-mole hammer was getting rusty.

  44. @ Lee

    Thank you for your comments. If I can paraphrase what I believe you are saying, it is that from 40,000 feet, evolution and ID look the same – both are based on an ancient earth, do not address origin of life, and describe common descent by incremental changes. ID and evolution differ only in the details of how the incremental changes are made, with ID postulating that some changes require direct intervention in addition to the various natural mechanisms described by the modern theory of evolution.

    I think that’s a limited perspective on ID, and much like a “god of the gaps” argument. Here are my comments:

    1. The designer in ID is a supernatural intelligence of some sort with the ability to manipulate molecular DNA of creatures in the natural world. Yet, per your description, this designer is either limited in its power to effect changes, or chooses to act in a limited way, by only tweaking DNA here and there where natural causes are not sufficient, or where it wants to create a new species that would not otherwise be selected for.

    I believe this is illogical. In the first place, there is no reason to assume a supernatural designer, undetectable and untestable, simply to explain relatively small changes in DNA. That’s assuming a process, for which we have zero evidence, to explain changes that could otherwise be explained by one or more of the natural mechanisms we have evidence for, or by natural mechanisms yet to be discovered. We need sufficient evidence to establish the existence of a supernatural designer before such a designer can be involved in a scientific explanation. Secondly, once a supernatural designer is assumed, there is no logical reason whatsoever to assume limitations on the designer’s powers. Almost by definition, a designer would have unlimited power to create and manipulate genetic information. What is the purpose of ID if otherwise? If the designer can only work in small incremental steps, then ID is merely a placeholder for those changes that are yet to be explained by evolution. I do not think this is what the fellows at the DI have in mind for ID.

    2. A limited ID of the type you described would be rejected by the religious community. It not only does not incorporate the biblical creation stories, but it refutes them. However, the supporters of ID are religious organizations, bible colleges, and religiously motivated individuals who are attempting to bring ID into public schools. If, as you say, the “science” of ID has moved away from these religious roots to embrace an old earth and common descent, once ID proclaims these principles openly and clearly it will lose all of it’s support and funding. It is the belief of the evangelical religious community that supports ID that the designer can be understood to be God, or is at least interchangeable with the god of their bible. Essentially, it is understood that if a science can be established that incorporates a supernatural entity as the designer of life, then they have proven the existence of God. If, the science they have supported is one that says, “there is a supernatural entity, but it’s definitely not a god with unlimited powers, the bible is wrong, etc”… well, it’s clear where that would go.

    3. Finally, the ID that you describe still does not seem to have predictive power, or produce any testable hypotheses. The mountain to be climbed is the question of supernatural cause. That is so improbable that even the most unlikely natural explanation, or simply “we don’t know” will always be preferred. I have no idea how to address that issue, but ID needs to define the problem and an implement some approach to dealing with it.