July 18, 2005

The defense rests on revisionist history - Dembski's "In Defense of Intelligent Design"

William Dembski has written a contribution for an upcoming book, “The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Science,” called “In Defense of Intelligent Design.”

Much of this defense consists of the familiar, tired canards that Dembski and others continue to employ without regard for how they've help up under criticism. These include the SETI analogy, the Mt. Rushmore example and Anthony Flew as well as many others. He essentially hits all the talking points.

But there is a section called “Methodological Materialism” that I thought it would be useful to review, not because it is any less tired than the rest of this “defense” but because it’s where, in my opinion, the thinking of ID proponents goes so disastrously off the tracks.

Dembski begins this section by saying,
“Notwithstanding, critics of intelligent design argue that it is not a scientific theory. They do so, however, not by confronting the evidence and logic by which design theorists argue for their conclusions.”
Of course this is simply untrue, and Dembski is well aware of it. His arguments have been confronted in a multiplicity of venues, and most often they have been found to be wanting. His arguments have convinced few but those predisposed by their theism to embrace closet creationism. What little “evidence” and logic Dembski has offered up for evaluation has been met with reams of discussion, so much so that he has accused others of creating careers out of contesting his arguments.
“Rather, they do so by definitional fiat. Essentially, they engage in conceptual gerrymandering, carefully defining science so that conventional evolutionary theory falls within science and intelligent design falls without. The device by which they keep intelligent design at bay is a normative principle for science known as methodological naturalism or methodological materialism. ID’s rejection of this principle is said to show that ID is committed to a form of supernaturalism. This, in turn, is supposed to make ID a form of religious belief. Barbara Forrest (2004) and Eugenie Scott (2005) make methodological materialism the centerpiece of their critique against ID.”
Here we see the kind of paranoid petulance that too often lends an air of ugliness to these issues. Not content with relying upon the expertise of those who are professionals in the relevant field, Dembski attempts to inoculate ID against failure by making it clear that any who demur are unscrupulous and conspiratorial. His brooding-child-in-the-corner act instantly changes what could be a debate about “evidence and logic” into a rancorous polemic on power and morality.

Despite Dembski’s protestations about evidence and logic his tactics, as usual, make it clear that this is really not about science.

He continues,
“The impression they give is that whereas conventional evolutionary theory is engaged in the hard work of real science, intelligent design appeals to the supernatural and thus gives up on science, substituting magic for “natural explanations.” But what are “natural explanations”? Indeed, what constitutes nature remains very much an open question. If one reviews the ID literature, one finds that early on there were quite a few references to “the supernatural,” but that by 2000 (especially with Nature of Nature conference, organized by Baylor’s Michael Polanyi Center—see Dembski and Gordon 2000), references to the supernatural largely disappear. The reason for this is that the very term “supernatural” concedes precisely the point at issue, namely, what is nature like and what are the causal powers by which nature operates.”
Cynics might rejoin that there is another, more obvious, and certainly more politically savvy reason for this change, that being the intent to avoid direct reference to ID’s fundamental reliance upon religious concepts.

Dembski says - “...what constitutes nature remains very much an open question.” An important, and ostensibly unobjectionable question. But let’s understand this question within the context of history. Seekers of explanations have spent over two millennia wrestling with questions of epistemological inference. From before the time epilepsy was considered “the sacred disease” to the present day explanations with no observable or measurable content, explanations that offered no predictions, and included no testable agency, have been offered and found inevitably to be inadequate. The process has been slow, with great progress coming in the last couple hundred years (with no small thanks to Darwin), but the argument is today considered, for scientific purposes at least, settled. Science cannot accommodate explanation by way of untestable phenomena. Anything beyond the bounds of nature is, not simply by definition but by acceptance of reality, not testable.

Unhappy with the way the last several hundred years played out Dembski and other ID “theorists,” by way of questioning the methodological concepts that underlie contemporary science, are implying we need to have this discussion all over again, despite (or perhaps because of) the foolish waste of time and energy it would represent.

But most rational individuals realize that debate is old news. When scientists make statements along the lines of this quote Dembski offers from Eugenie Scott...
“Most scientists today require that science be carried out according to the rule of methodological materialism: to explain the natural world scientifically, scientists must restrict themselves only to material causes (to matter, energy, and their interaction). There is a practical reason for this restriction: it works. By continuing to seek natural explanations for how the world works, we have been able to find them. If supernatural explanations are allowed, they will discourage—or at least delay—the discovery of natural explanations, and we will understand less about the universe.”
...these statements can be functionally regarded as a footnote referencing the hundreds of years spent debating the compatibility of science and the supernatural. This is not hand-waving, or blithe dismissal of reasoned confrontation, this is simply a shorthand way of saying “who the hell needs to relive the Enlightenment?” Dembski’s complaint about gerrymandering should be seen for what it is, a bit of rhetorical whimpering designed to encourage sympathy for a position that has already been soundly rejected.

Certainly, though, the ID advocates make noises about how they are not simply presenting the same old tired argument from supernatural design. Dembski suggests that what may be needed is a new definition of “natural.”
“If nature contains a richer set of causes than purely material causes, then intelligent design is a live possibility and methodological materialism will misread physical reality.”
But this is a sham. And we know it is a sham because if Dembski could demonstrate how we might detect, quantify, and test “non-material” causes he would have done so. Not only this, but he'd have written papers that would have been published, reviewed, won awards, and garnered the paradigm-shattering accolades he seems so fervently to desire. A few sentences later he says,
“Indeed, design theorists argue that intelligent causation is perfectly natural provided that nature is understood aright.”
And isn’t this really the point? Here Dembski provides us with a rubric for understanding his position - ‘Let’s toss out the progress science has made in the last couple of hundred years and go back to a time when nature could include whatever our fantasies demand. Everything, including science and our culture, will work fine if we are just willing to change definitions to suit the ID agenda.’

This business about nature containing a “richer set of causes” is obvious special pleading. And what’s worse it is special pleading for (despite Dembski’s use of euphemisms such as “mind,” or “designing intelligence,” or even “telic processes that are not reducible to chance and necessity”) an idea that has long since been conclusively shown to be empirically irrelevant.

Dembski goes on to find other difficulties with the perspective of methodological materialism. In a stunning display of non sequitur he opines that,
“if,… scientists employ [methodological materialism] because “it works,” then scientists are free to discard it when they deem it as no longer working. Design theorists contend that for adequately explaining biological complexity, methodological materialism fails and rightly needs to be discarded.”
In response let me just say that when a child protests “but I ate all of my dinner!” as a way of avoiding his usual (not punitive) bedtime, it shows that the child either misunderstands or is willfully twisting the concept of bedtime. Children, however, have the excuse of not having grown up.

The second difficulty Dembski notes is that definitions of science (“the search for natural explanation”) appear to assume their conclusions, which is again just another way of saying he doesn’t get what has happened over the past two thousand years.

After this he returns to the idea of redefining "nature,"
“Because so much of the debate over intelligent design’s scientific status hinges on the role of methodological materialism in restricting the nature of nature, let us examine the nature of nature more closely. Nature, as conceived by Scott and most critics of intelligent design, consists of material entities ruled by fixed laws of interaction, often referred to as “natural laws.” These laws can be deterministic or nondeterministic, which is why some scientists refer to nature as being governed by “chance and necessity” (like Jacques Monod 1972). Obviously, these laws of interaction rule out any form of intelligent agency acting real-time within nature.”
I just want to take a moment to point out here (as I've needed to do so often previously) the standard ID tactic of deliberately conflating supernatural intelligent design with natural intelligent design, as with the above “rule out any form of intelligent agency…,” so as to achieve two goals,

1) allow ID to appear to be a reasonable, even mundane, inference, and,
2) cast scientists who oppose ID as foolishly opposing obviously real, demonstrable phenomena.

This is one of the tactics used by ID “theorists” that I find exceedingly disingenuous.

But I digress. Dembski continues,
“They operate autonomously and automatically: given certain material entities with certain energetic properties in certain spatio-temporal relationships, these entities will behave in certain prescribed ways. An inescapable question now arises: How do we know that nature is in fact a set of material entities ruled by fixed laws of interaction? Equivalently, how do we know that everything that happens in nature can be accounted for in terms of antecedent material conditions and the material causes that act on them?”
I’d say that Dembski’s questions here evoke an even more inescapable question – what alternatives does he propose? After all, it’s not as if the definition of natural – 'everything we can directly or indirectly observe' – is particularly restrictive, unless of course one has a need to bolster one's insecure theology.

In any case Dembski’s self-serving questions are those of philosophy, not science, and edge rather close to a kind of nihilism that doesn’t offer any more evidential support for ID than it does evolution.

But he presses on, quoting himself (from NFL),
“In arguing that naturalistic [materialistic] explanations are incomplete or, equivalently, that natural [material] causes cannot account for all the features of the natural world, I am placing natural causes in contradistinction to intelligent causes.”
(Well, that will certainly come as a shock to archeology, forensics, etc. And notice once again the disingenuous conflation I spoke of above.)
“The scientific community has itself drawn this distinction in its use of these twin categories of causation. Thus, in the quote earlier by Francisco Ayala, “Darwin’s greatest accomplishment [was] to show that the directive organization of living beings can be explained as the result of a natural process, natural selection, without any need to resort to a Creator or other external agent.” Natural causes, as the scientific community understands them, are causes that operate according to deterministic and nondeterministic laws and that can be characterized in terms of chance, necessity, or their combination (cf. Jacques Monod’s Chance and Necessity).”
(Nice to see that he now acknowledges the possibility of combination, pointed out to him by many who were examining his “evidence and logic.”)
“To be sure, if one is more liberal about what one means by natural causes and includes among natural causes telic processes that are not reducible to chance and necessity (as the ancient Stoics did by endowing nature with immanent teleology), then my claim that natural causes are incomplete dissolves.”
(In other words – ‘if you guys would just accept my redefinitions then I wouldn’t have any complaint.’)

But now we come to the nut. Dembski pulls out his chessboard analogy, suggesting that it demonstrates how ID has defused the explanatory power of biological science,
“Accordingly, to define science (in line with methodological materialism) as the search for natural explanations of natural phenomena is to affirm that such explanations exist for all natural phenomena. But how is this affirmation to be justified? Rather than justify it, methodological materialism begs the question. To see this, consider the following analogy from the game of chess.

[He displays two chess board configurations.]

There is no way to get from the first position to the second by the rules of chess.

So too, intelligent design purports to show that there exist configurations of material entities in biology (e.g., bacterial flagella, protein synthesis mechanisms, and complex organ systems) that cannot be adequately explained in terms of antecedent material conditions together with the law governed processes (i.e., mechanistic evolutionary processes) that act on them.”
He goes on to grant that the analogy isn’t really a good one – “chess constitutes a toy example whereas the biological examples ID theorists investigate are far more complicated,” but continues from there to say – “But the point of the analogy still holds” – and proceeds to take inferences as if no one has noticed that the analogy, as he’s admitted, is inapt.

Yes, by the rules of the game of chess we cannot get from one configuration to the other. But this very important caveat “by the rules of the game” is exactly the one which needs to be applicable to biology for his analogy to hold. It isn’t and it doesn’t. We don’t know all the rules of the biological game, a fact which many of us consider something to be thankful for, and something to be protected from the overreaching “truths” assumed by ID.

Dembski's analogy more accurately reflects that moment in science when a scientist looks at some data and mutters, "hmmm...that's not supposed to happen." By comparing the unattainble chess configuration with biology, he highlights the provisional nature of scientific explanation. The fact is that at any moment we might make an observation that has the potential to rewrite the rules as we know them. In addition, by relying upon this breach in current understanding modeled by his chess analogy, he puts a fine point on the criticism that ID theory amounts to slapping a "designer" label on a gap in scientific knowledge.

He follows with more special pleading for redefining "nature" and then recounts his dog riddle,
“How many legs does a dog have if one calls a tail a leg? The correct answer is four. Calling one thing another thing doesn’t make it something else.”
As happens with so many aspects of this debate, opponents of evolution often do quite well with a concept right up until the moment it becomes applicable to their own position, at which point the mirror is ignored, and the irony is inevitably missed.

After a bit more special pleading...
“To make methodological materialism a defining feature of science commits the premodern sin of forcing nature into a priori categories rather than allowing nature to speak for itself.”
...Dembski sums up by again arguing for new definitions, this time with a wrinkle. He suggests that the distinction is not necessarily a dichotomy. We do not need to choose between natural or supernatural (magical) explanations, he suggests, we can consider a third possibility, that of “mind.”
“ID theorists are not willing to concede the materialist claim that a designing intelligence (mind) interacting with matter is “supernatural.” Indeed, investigations by ID theorists are beginning to demonstrate that this interaction is perfectly natural — that nature cannot be properly understood apart from the activity of a designing intelligence (cf. Schwartz and Begley 2002).”
I think we’d all like to see the fruits of those investigations. Perhaps Dembski can refer us to the appropriate biological journals. Maybe it will be there that the skeptical among us will discover the functional difference between Dembski’s “mind” and magic. Maybe there the experimental design which tests this concept will be outlined so that the data can be replicated. Maybe he, or one of his colleagues will finally demonstrate to us how we can adduce “mind” as a causal agency of a naturally occurring phenomenon by revealing the empirically connected series of steps that link the two (rather than relying on gaps in data, or unsupportable assertions about "impossible" configurations).

Or maybe he’s just hoping that if people spend enough time boggling over what the difference between supernatural/magic and supernatural/“mind” (God) might be, they won’t notice that ID has nothing more in the way of evidence or logic going for it than does the notion of divine invention of epilepsy.

But science figured epilepsy out a long time ago. And acting as if the intervening millenia haven't included a significant debate on, and rejection of, supernatural explanations for natural phenomena isn't going to wash. Much as he might wish to, Dembski cannot rewrite history. Science and theism are different animals, and as we all know, "calling one thing another thing doesn’t make it something else."

It is thus with regard to the disease called Sacred: it appears to me to be nowise more divine nor more sacred than other diseases, but has a natural cause from the originates like other affections. Men regard its nature and cause as divine from ignorance and wonder, because it is not at all like to other diseases. And this notion of its divinity is kept up by their inability to comprehend it, and the simplicity of the mode by which it is cured, for men are freed from it by purifications and incantations. - Hippocrates, On the Sacred Disease

23 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent overview of why ID is scientifically vacuous. No wonder Dembski ignores critics, the alternative would be devastating to ID.

8:17 PM  
Anonymous Ginger Yellow said...

Are you sure Dembski hasn't made this book up? It doesn't appear on the OUP's list of upcoming books.

1:59 PM  
Anonymous John A. Davison said...

We still have no evolutionary theory and to maintain that we do is without foundation. We have only failed and untested hypotheses. Darwinism and Lamarckism are examples of the former, the Prescribed Evolutionary Hypothesis (PEH) one of the latter. A past evolution is not theoretical. It is undeniable. The issue is the mechanism and always has been. Theories, sensu strictu, are hypotheses that have received empirical support, preferably experimental. Neither Lamarckism nor Darwinism qualify.
Furthermore, Intelligent Design is not theoretical either. It is undeniable as well. Why Dembski and the rest of the IDists ever introduced it as a subject for debate escapes me entirely. ID is a given without nothing in the living world will ever make sense.

The mistake that the Darwinians and the Lamarckians both made was to assume that there was an external cause for evolution. No such cause has ever been identified and in my opinion never existed. Phylogeny apparently resulted from an unknown original number of front-loadings of blocks of information which subsequently, through endogenously controlled derepressions, became expressed in the form of novel new life forms, a process which I believe is no longer in progress. Like ontogeny, phylogeny was goal directed, and in my opinion terminated with the production of Homo sapiens, to my knowledge the youngest mammalian species on the planet.

That is precisely how ontogeny proceeds, responding to the front-loadings present in the single cell with which all higher life forms begin, the fertlized egg. Both ontogeny and phylogeny have proceeded driven entirely by internal factors which have acted with little or no reference to the environment. This, the essence of the PEH, was anticipated first by William Bateson, next by Reginald C. Punnett, then by Leo Berg, then Pierre Grasse and finally by myself. There was never a role for chance in any feature of either ontogeny or phylogeny and to blindly continue to assume that there was or is is without foundation. Futhermore there is not a shred of evidence that phylogeny is in progress today beyond the trivial production of varieties and subspecies which is all that selection, controlled or natural has ever been able to document and even that only in some life forms.

The entire Darwinian paradigm was dreamed up out of thin air by a pair of Victorian naturalists, one of whom, Alfred Russel Wallace had the good sense to abandon later in life.

We are dealing with the age old contest as to how man is to regard his position in the universe. Is he and his living world only an accident as Stephen Jay Gould proclaimed: "Intelligence was an evolutionary accident."? I don't think so and frankly don't understand how anyone else can either The only explanation I can offer for this remarkable state of affairs is that the way we view the world, like every other aspect of phylogeny, has also been predetermined, leaving us helpless victims of our genetic heritage.

"Everything is determined... by forces over which we have no control."
Albert Einstein

2:16 PM  
Anonymous John A. Davison said...

I inadvertantly omitted Otto Schindewolf among those who anticipated the PEH. Sorry about that.

3:52 PM  
Anonymous PJF said...

(Assuming, provisionally, that the book isn't fictional -- as ginger yellow quite rightly speculates...)

His whole tone is just completely inappropriate for the sort of introductory work that the Oxford Companions usually include. I've got the Philosophy, Mind, and Bible editions at home, and refer to them a lot; they're incredibly handy. And they've got any number of pieces on controversial topics written by clearly partisan authors, but I've never struck that level of one-sidedness and just that triumphant "the other side is clearly wrong, and cheating, and probably smelly, besides!" tone that Dembski hits with every sentence.

I'm not saying I'm surprised mind you. I'm just saying: he's a hack.

11:35 PM  
Blogger Nic George said...

"We still have no evolutionary theory and to maintain that we do is without foundation."

I thought about being polite but I’ve had a long day writing my thesis – you’re an idiot. Either you haven't read a modern biology text book or you have are deliberately ignoring it. Of course we have a f—king evolutionary theory! Actually we have several theories! I can give you a simplified explanation if you like - We have genes which have been seen to mutate and produce genetic variation that is detrimental, neutral AND positive to an organism. We have populations of animals with many different genes. We have different kinds of selective pressures. The world is big and we have abundant evidence it is very old. Hey presto populations of organisms change over time. Like any good theory it can be used to make predictions. This isn’t the best example but this morning P.Z. Myers on Pharyngula wrote an article about the fact that House Cats have a defective gene for tasting sweet things. The gene does work as far as we can tell, and therefore won’t come under much selective pressure. If the mutation happened back in cat evolution we should expect the dud gene to still be around. We also think House Cats, Tigers and Cheetahs are related by common descent due to morphological similarities. The researchers looked and what did they find, the same dud gene in Tigers and Cheetahs!

Evolution is a big and complicated ‘theory’, I have spent three years studying it in my spare time (plus the time during my undergrad days when I learn about it as part of my course work) and only now am I starting to really understand the depth of it. There is abundant evidence for evolution. I tend to be respectful of my religious friends, but it shits me when they claim there isn’t evidence for evolution. One of these I am going to call out creationist to defend their beliefs against the evidence! If you don’t think evolution explains the evidence tell me what you hypothesis is? If you support the intelligent design movement tell me what their ‘theories’ are and what they predict. People like you who make huge sweeping statements like ‘There is no theory of evolution and science disproves evolution’ irritate me. You carry your ignorance around like a flashing sign on your head! I am just a young PhD student but I bet if you and I had a polite debate about evolution even I could grind you to paste.

*deep breaths*

Kind regards

11:45 PM  
Blogger Nic George said...

"We still have no evolutionary theory and to maintain that we do is without foundation."

I thought about being polite but I’ve had a long day writing my thesis – you’re an idiot. Either you haven't read a modern biology text book or you have and are deliberately ignoring it. Of course we have a f—king evolutionary theory! Actually we have several theories! I can give you a simplified explanation if you like - We have genes which have been seen to mutate and produce genetic variation that is detrimental, neutral AND positive to an organism. We have populations of animals with many different genes. We have different kinds of selective pressures. The world is big and we have abundant evidence it is very old. Hey presto populations of organisms change over time. Like any good theory it can be used to make predictions. This isn’t the best example but this morning P.Z. Myers on Pharyngula wrote an article about the fact that House Cats have a defective gene for tasting sweet things. The gene does work as far as we can tell, and therefore won’t come under much selective pressure. If the mutation happened back in cat evolution we should expect the dud gene to still be around. We also think House Cats, Tigers and Cheetahs are related by common descent due to morphological similarities. The researchers looked and what did they find, the same dud gene in Tigers and Cheetahs!

Evolution is a big and complicated ‘theory’, I have spent three years studying it in my spare time (plus the time during my undergrad days when I learn about it as part of my course work) and only now am I starting to really understand the depth of it. There is abundant evidence for evolution. I tend to be respectful of my religious friends, but it shits me when they claim there isn’t evidence for evolution. One of these I am going to call out creationist to defend their beliefs against the evidence! If you don’t think evolution explains the evidence tell me what your hypothesis is? If you support the intelligent design movement tell me what their ‘theories’ are and what they predict. People like you who make huge sweeping statements like ‘There is no theory of evolution and science disproves evolution’ irritate me. You carry your ignorance around like a flashing sign on your head! I am just a young PhD student but I bet if you and I had a polite debate about evolution even I could grind you to paste.

*deep breaths*

Kind regards

11:47 PM  
Blogger Wedgie World said...

You can safely ignore Nosivad (John Davison) aka Salty, Nosy... His arguments are well known and ignored by creationists and scientists alike.

9:12 PM  
Anonymous John A. Davison said...

Thank you Nic George and Wedgie World. You are behaving as expected. Incidentally, I am posting freely at SciAm Perspectives and even receiving some support there. I learned long ago to ignore all derogations and denigrations from those who must remain anonymous and so as far as I am concerned neither of you exist. My views are in hard copy in refereed journals and have yet to be even acknowledged by the professional evolutionists, if there even is such a genre. The critics of Darwinism have always been ignored. We simply are not allowed to exist. I am delighted to be identified with them all, some of the most penetrating minds of two centuries.

To be ignored is understandable but to be insulted by rank amateurs is even better. It demonstrates perfectly what a monumental disaster neoDarwinism really is. The establishment, too cowardly to confront its critics openly, sends in the third team, untrained asnd uninformed amateurs, to do its dirty work. I am delighted.
Keep up the good work.

Ask not for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for neoDarwinism.

4:10 AM  
Anonymous John A. Davison said...

Wedgie Wood, whoever that really is.

I note you indicate I am ignored by Creationists as well as scientists. I take it that you regards Darwinists as scientists? Well I don't. Both camps are dominated by mysticism. The Creationists worship a personal, biblical God and the Darwinians worship the great God Chance. I have rejected both entrenched camps which is why I am ignored by both just as have been all my sources and for the same reason. I have only a couple of defenses against such tactics, both of which I have openly employed on internet forums but of course not in published papers. The Creationists have become the "Fundies" or the "Bible Bangers" and the Darwinians are now the "Darwimpians." When their respective leaders ban me from their forums, I simply express my contempt for such tactics by transforming their names. Wesley Elsberry, who has banned me both from "Panda's Pathetic Pollex" and his personal blog "The Austringer," is now Esley Welsberry. William Dembski having banned me from "Uncommon Descent" is now Dilliam Wembski and P.Z. Meyers after telling everyone that "my stench has preceeded me" and then banning me from "Pharyngula" is now M.P. Zeyers. John Rennie is not yet Rohn Jennie and I appreciate his tolerance and have said so.

When the "Darwimpians" and the "Bible Banging Fundies" get through butchering each other I have every intention of being the last man standing. I have erected the Prescribed Evolutionary Hypothesis on a solid foundation provided by some of the finest biologists of two centuries and have no intention of abandoning it just because lesser intellects insist on practicing such shabby tactics as disemvowelization, personal insult, rabid denigration, deletion and bannishment. These are the tactics employed by insecure ideologues, unable to defend their beliefs in open dialogue. They only serve to further convince me of my own proposals which are firmly based on the independent conclusions of some truly great predecessors.

"No sadder proof can be given by a man of his own littleness than disbelief in great men."
Thomas Carlyle

"A dwarf standing on the shoulders of a giant may see farther than a giant himself."
Robert Burton

I am that dwarf and I have said so.

It's hard to believe isn't it?

12:16 PM  
Blogger Nic George said...

Thanks Wedgie World, I don’t know if you frequent Pandas Thumb but there are similar trolls there. It is enjoyable to do battle with them some times any way.
Okay Davie, to start with how am I anonymous? I used my actual name and my (new) blog is also there for all to see. And how am I a rank amateur? What do you actually mean by ‘rank amateur’ any way? Assuming you mean some one not qualified to argue about evolution - I have nearly finished a PhD in a topic that involves, amongst other things, population and evolutionary genetics. I also have peered review papers published in conference proceedings and I have three journal articles on the way. Although I do agree I was being denigrating, I feel some guilt for being unpleasant, but I was in a foul mood and I think the nature of your post deserved it.
Critics of Darwinism are allowed to exist as far as I can tell. I personally think they should be able to voice the criticisms. The reason I ignore posts like yours most of the time is that I get sick of rebutting stupid comments like ‘there is no theory of evolution’. It would be as stupid as me saying ‘I don’t think England exists.’ (I have never been there and seen it with my own eyes, all the people who claim to go there are part of a conspiracy, perhaps all those people with English accents are just pretending and putting on funny voices.) If you have some research that suggests aspect of evolution are wrong by all means show them to me and every one else. If they get critiqued and are shown to be wrong don’t plead that you are being treated unfairly, perhaps consider that it is YOUR methodology or conclusions are wrong. That is what science is about. For example, a researcher has recently suggested that the Big Bang theory may be wrong. People listened to him – he even had an article in New Scientist. Do you know why? He spelled out clearly what he thought was wrong with the Big Bang theory, proposed an alternative hypothesis, AND then suggested ways of testing his hypothesis! If you want to be taken serious by the nebulous group of people you pigeon hole as ‘Darwinists’ please tell the people at this blog in SIMPLE terms what parts of evolution you have problems with, why you have a problem, what evidence has lead you to your conclusion, what alternative your propose, and how we can test if you are correct or not.

11:49 PM  
Blogger Nic George said...

Ah crud..., I really need to proof read my comments before i post them.

11:51 PM  
Anonymous John A. Davison said...

Nic

A theory, sensu strictu, is an hypothesis which has received support, either observational or experimental. The Darwinian paradigm does not satisfy that criterion beyond the level of variety or in some cases subspecies. That is why I, like others long before me, have abandoned it as a working hypothesis. There is little to be gained by getting all emotional over something so obvious. Just accept it and look elsewhere for the answers. That is what I have done and that is what science is all about.

Also like it or not, the critics of the Darwinian model have always been ignored by the ruling establishment. I personally find it both cowardly and revealing. It is as simple as that.

4:54 AM  
Blogger Nic George said...

"A theory, sensu strictu, is an hypothesis which has received support, either observational or experimental. The Darwinian paradigm does not satisfy that criterion beyond the level of variety or in some cases subspecies."

Yes, okay, but you are still being vague and apparently confusing two issues. What do you mean when you say Darwinian paradigm? Do you mean common descent? In your opinion what specific observations contradict common descent? Can you please provide some actual details for us?

7:03 PM  
Anonymous John A. Davison said...

Darwinism is based on chance. I agree with Leo Berg that there is no room for chance in either ontogeny or phylogeny. Nomogenesis, page 134

As for common descent, of course I believe in it with the following qualification. No one knows how many times life was created and there are several reasons to question a monophyletic origin. Everything we know about the living world demonstrates profound discontinuities with no evidence for gradualism at any level. Furthermore, while a past evolution is undeniable, there is no evidence that evolution is in progress today beyond the formation of varieties and in some instances subspecies. We observe only the products of a past evolution, not evolution in action as the Darwinians continue to maintain.

4:19 AM  
Blogger Nic George said...

No, it isn’t based on chance, it is based on chance AND selection. Selection is not random. People for get that. Mutation produces random variation. Selection picks the mutation best suited to the environment. This true story illustrates the point - I had a large population of gold fish in my back pond, probably a hundred or so. I bought them from a store. They were orange, white, black and spotty. They bred for a few years and all the offspring were the same. The a crane found the pond and started eating our fish. A few months later only totally black fish remained in the pond and their offspring were also black. Clearly the genes specifying colour were lost (eaten). Wow, isn’t chance incredible that they all went black! No! It had nothing to do with chance. The selection pressure against coloured fish had not been operating in the pet store, so all the coloured mutant survived. My pond was a different matter.

Also - we do see species form from hybridization between other species, although you probably mean new species ‘arising from old ones’. This all comes down to how you define a species. I don't think there is such a thing as a 'species' it is an arbitrary human classification. The biological species concept (a species is a group of organisms that can inter-mate and produce fertile offspring) has problems with it. It would be almost impossible for a Chihuahua and a Great Dane to inter-mate so are they two new species? Without a definition of a species how do we tell exactly when a new one arises?

Also, we can look at two different ‘species’ and using different methods (molecular clocks, fossil evidence and the like) we can estimate how long ago they diverged. Take Cichlids in lake Victoria i takes many thousands of years for two varieties to diverge genetically until they are different enough to be called ‘species’. Drosophila have diverged into differing ‘species’ in the lab in a few decades though. Sure, they are “still just fish/flies” but to get even more differentiation you need even long periods of time, perhaps hundreds or thousands or millions of years. We do see groups of organisms diverging genetically today, but we aren’t going to see radically different ‘species’ evolving because it happens on times scales that are too large.

6:39 PM  
Anonymous John A. Davison said...

Darwwinian pablum, pure and simple.

7:58 PM  
Blogger Nic George said...

We've already established you think it is pablum. Why is it pablum? Which bit of what I wrote?

1. You don't believe selection is non-random?

2. You think we do have a clear definition of species? If so what is it?

3. You don't think people have seen new 'species' appear?

4. You don't think the appearance of radically different species should take long time?

5. You think species should arise quickly and the fact that we haven’t is a problem for evolution?

You can't just wave your hands and say it is all trite then not give good reasons why you think this, which is what you have done up until now. I have never debated you before until now, but assuming you treat every one like this have you considered that the reason people ignore you is that you debate in a frustrating way? I have been trying to engage in a serious (although heated) debate with you and you are simply avoiding my questions.

12:18 AM  
Anonymous John A. Davison said...

I agree with Leo Berg and Reginald C. Punnett that natural selection is very real and serves only to preserve the status quo. Even at that it typically ultimately fails as deleterious genes accumulate and species become extinct.

There is absolutely nothing in the Darwinian paradigm that ever had anything to do with creative evolution, a phenomenon no longer occurring. I have made my position transparently clear in my several published papers and see no point in presenting those arguments again here or anywhere else for that matter.

I have learned that it is impossible to reason with ideologues whether they be Darwinian mystics or Fundamentalist Bible bangers. I have lost all respect for both camps. They are victims of their genetic destiny and as nearly as I can determine there is nothing that can be done for them.

4:19 AM  
Blogger Nic George said...

Fair enough. Can you give me the references for your published work so that I can go have a look at them?

In a stable environment it is expected that selection will maintain the status quo. However wouldn't environmental change (ie climate change or the arrive of a new predator) cause a shift in selective pressures? And how do you know that deleterious alleles accumulate in a population eventually making it go extinct? Can you tell me what research has shown this?

You have made a testable hypthesis at least "creative evolution is a phenomenon no longer occurring." Now we dig up some research to see which of us is more probably correct.

7:38 PM  
Anonymous John A. Davison said...

I recommend my "An Evolutionary Manifesto: A New hypothesis for Organic Change" for a summary of my published works up 2000. My home page, which has been frozen by UVM since 2000, is at www.uvm.edu/~jdavison

Since then I gave published papers at Rivista di Biologia, the most recent of which is in the current issue."A Prescribed Evolutionary Hypothesis"

Also several of my papers have been discussed at other forums, notably ARN, "brainstorms" and EvC, all of which have since banned me.

Read and enjoy.

10:20 PM  
Anonymous John A.Davison said...

I invite all to respond to a thread I have started at Terry Trainor's forum "Creation? Evolution? or Both?" TalkOrigins@groups.msn.com

It is called "A few evolutionary challenges."

I have found this to be necessary as I am either banned or being deleted at most forums. Trainor with whom I have some differences, being a true Christian (which I am not), tolerates my heresies. Others do not.

Spread the word. The more the merrier.

"I'm an old campaigner and I love a good fight."
Franklin Delano Roosevelt

12:42 AM  
Anonymous John A. Davison said...

As for neoDarwinism in all its guises:

"Never in the history of mankind have so many owed so little to so many."
After Winston Churchill

Don't feel bad. It is not the first time the establishment has proven to be dead wrong. Phlogiston went down in the 18th century, the Ether in the 19th and both Freudian Psychology and Communism came and went in the 20th. Now finally and long overdue, at the beginning of the 21st century, Darwinism is in its death throes. It is about time. It gives me great pleasure to be able to contribute to its demise.

4:25 AM  

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