Saturday, October 14, 2006

Questions on IC and ID.

Matt Inlay posted these as a comment but I thought they were excellent questions so I will answer them here:

1. Do you feel that science has made progress understanding the origins of these systems since the publication of DBB?
Yes

2. Do you think science will continue to make progress understanding the origins of these systems? (Regardless of whether the final result of the research will ultimately satisfy Behe's requirement.)
Yes

3. Do you think that it is impossible (or implausible) for any IC system to have evolved?

Can I try and ask the question in a few different ways to explain my answers to different ways of understanding the question.

Do you think that there are complex systems in biology which unintelligent causes cannot produce?

Yes.

Do you still believe that there are such unevolvableIC systems within the immune system?

Yes. I would not use the complement example nor would I be confident in using any of the examples in DBB but I still have a hunch that ultimately there is need for intelligence to cause this system and that this will become clearer as more work is done.

Do you consider that it is more helpful in terms of the discussion for and against ID for IC to be used for systems which a person believes cannot be produced by unintelligent causes?

Yes. I think it confuses the debate to speak of IC systems evolving. If they can evolve by the usual processes then they are not IC. I think for the purposes of argument IC should be reserved for systems which a person believes cannot evolve.

4. Do you still consider it reasonable for Behe and company to conclude intelligent design based on the existence of IC systems in biology?

I consider that IC to ID is a fascinating argument. It is an interesting hypothesis well worthy of further investigation. I do not consider that it has been demonstrated that unintellegent causes can explain everything in biology. It is reasonable to infer design but it has not been clearly demonstrated in a rigorous way that I am aware of as yet. The terms of the calculations necessary need to be clarified in my view.

5. What do you see as to the future of the IC-to-ID argument? Do you think IDists will be able to further develop the concept, or will evidence against it continue to accumulate? In other words, will the IC-to-ID argument improve over time, remain the same, or decrease?

I am convinced that ultimately the IC to ID argument will prevail. I think ID will be developed and evidence for it will accumulate. I expect it to become a demonstrated fact at some point.

6. Do you think it is important for IDists to develop their own theory of origins, with "detailed, testable" models, or do you feel that the evidence against evolution is sufficient to take a pro-ID stance?

I do not consider that I am qualified to take a view on cosmological ID from fine tuning arguments because I have not got a clue about the physics and maths of them.
I think that in biology the argument has considerable appeal. A person's enthusiasm for it or antagonism against it is going to depend on their world view I think. I do not think that the argument is sufficiently well developed that all scientists should be convinced of it but I do not think that it should be dismissed from scientific discourse on the basis of the methodological naturalism argument.

I think a large number of ID supporters are pro-ID because of religious convictions. I think that there are however some people who are frustrated with "evolution only" explanations on the basis of the science alone but it is hard to distinguish between the two.

Unquestionably there is much work needing to be done if ID is to become convincing generally.

7. Do you think IDists will ever develop a "detailed, testable" model of ID?

Yes.

8. Do you think ID is science? If so, why?

Yes. ID is a mixture of lots of things but I am convinced that to exclude the possibility of a design inference is an unecessary restriction on possible explanations for what we see in the universe. I like the sort of work that Douglas Axe and Scot Minnich have done and think that this is the correct way forward.

11 Comments:

Anonymous Hrafn said...

Andrew:

I answer to "If [ID is science], why? you answered:
" ID is a mixture of lots of things but I am convinced that to exclude the possibility of a design inference is an unecessary restriction on possible explanations for what we see in the universe."

There are however a vast number of "explanations for what we see in the universe," but the vast majority of them are clearly not scientific -- being myths, folk tales and superstitions. Therefore, just because ID is an explanation is no reason at all to consider it to be scientific.

"I like the sort of work that Douglas Axe and Scot Minnich have done and think that this is the correct way forward."

The trouble is that Douglas Axe has explicitly disavowed that his work makes any argument for ID. Further, the level of knock-out that his work required to eliminate functioning, was so extreme that it gives no support for a lack of evolvability.

Has Axe published anything since he disappeared into the phantom 'Biologic Institute' (which appears to have no existence outside Axe's head). As of August 2005, he had apparently only published 5 papers, and only one since 2000.

Scot Minnich has, under oath, admited that he has never published on the evolvability of the flagellum and that it's "not the emphasis of [his] work."

I would question whether either offer any "way forward."

3:19 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hrafn said...

There are however a vast number of "explanations for what we see in the universe," but the vast majority of them are clearly not scientific -- being myths, folk tales and superstitions. Therefore, just because ID is an explanation is no reason at all to consider it to be scientific.

I can't understand why IDers don't see that the statement "we don't know" followed by "therefore insert supernatural power of choice here did it" is seriously deficient for testability. Why does the lack of an answer drive the IDer to point out with such certainty (and regularity) some unfathomable intelligence to such questions?

Honestly, it's beyond me. Perhaps we need some research on the mindset of those that would confirm their faith by pretending that what they're doing is science.

10:21 pm  
Anonymous Matt Inlay said...

Andrew, thanks for taking the time to respond.

I see a lot of talk from you defending irreducible complexity, its unevolvability, and the IC-to-ID argument, but what I don't see is any real justification for it. You don't really say why you feel that the basic arguments still hold, even when you acknowledge evidence to the contrary. Why should anyone in science think that IC is a roadblock to evolution when we have strong evidence for the evolvability of some IC systems? If you acknowledge that some IC systems can evolve, why not all? Is there a qualitative difference between evolvable IC systems and unevolvable ones? This strikes at the heart of irreducible complexity. There is no logical, scientific justification for why some IC systems can't evolve.

Behe and company have had 10 years since DBB's first publication to clarify and expand their argument. Instead, they've retreated to an increasingly nebulous and useless argument.

Do you have a reason to justify your optimism? Let's start with this statement:

"I am convinced that ultimately the IC to ID argument will prevail. I think ID will be developed and evidence for it will accumulate. I expect it to become a demonstrated fact at some point."

What evidence do you have for this?

7:42 pm  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Matt,

I hope to give some kind of response to your questions here with a new post.

2:42 pm  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Anonymous,

You said:

I can't understand why IDers don't see that the statement "we don't know" followed by "therefore insert supernatural power of choice here did it" is seriously deficient for testability.

You imply that this is the logic of IDers. Can you show me where a leading IDer says something like this? It is a straw man.

2:44 pm  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Hrafn,
You said:

"Further, the level of knock-out that his work required to eliminate functioning, was so extreme that it gives no support for a lack of evolvability."

That is not how I understood his work. I understood that he was changing amino acids for similar amino acids at positions away from the active site.

2:49 pm  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

"I understood that he was changing amino acids for similar amino acids at positions away from the active site."

He made his substitutions in groups of ten. He found that a single-group substitution "affect function only mildly," and that he needed to do a combined substitution of the full four groups (i.e. 40 substitutions in total) for ">99% inactivation" to occur (and this was only for the original function, he did not check for new functions). I think this supports my contention that "extreme" changes were needed to "eliminate functioning".

4:20 am  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

I think your last comment illustrates a little of the differences in the way we think about proteins.

I think the golf course analogy helps here. You (I think) think of the functional protein "holes" as rather large and not too difficult to find.
(lots of needles in a wastepaper basket)
I tend to think of them as rather small and difficult to find.
(very few needles in a gigantic haystack.)

3:30 pm  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

"very few needles in a gigantic haystack."

As I pointed out in another thread, the problem with this viewpoint is that the vast majority of this gigantic haystack has no existence outside a biochemist's imagination.

5:12 pm  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Hrafn,

Sorry for the delay in responding.
It is clear that Minnich is doing some work which is relevant to the evolution of the flagellum and this is the kind of work which represents the way forward for ID

11:46 am  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Hrafn,

I quote from Doug Axe's paper in Journal of Molecular Biology 301-3 p585:
First, highly conservative replacements of exterior residues, none of which would cause significant functional disruption alone, are combined until roughly one in five have been changed. This is found to cause complete loss of function in vivo for two unrelated monomeric enzymes.

To say that this kind of research has no relevance to ID is bizarre. It is clear from Doug Axe's association with Discovery that he can see that it has ID relevance.

11:58 am  

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