This Week in Intelligent Design – 29/03/11

Intelligent design news from the 23rd of March to the 29th of March, 2011.

This week marked the highly notable, first ever mention of yours truly in an official Discovery Institute blog post, which is rather exciting. Pity then that, as I already said today, the mention was a horribly confused jumble of misinterpretation and laziness that made me come off like an undefinable supporter of ID-dualism, or something like that.

But whatever, that doesn’t really matter in the scheme of things. What else happened this week in the online world of intelligent design?

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The eponymous user Evolution News & Views informed us of a new TV show that Stephen C. Meyer, the author of my latest reading project, Signature in the Cell, will be appearing in in April:

In four television episodes of the John Ankerberg Show broadcast across the US and over 200 nations worldwide, Dr. John Ankerberg interviewed Dr. Stephen C. Meyer, author of the groundbreaking book Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design. The series will begin broadcasting on April 3 at 5:30pm EDT on the Daystar Network and on April 10 at 9:30pm EDT on the INSP Network.

In the interviews Dr. Meyer explains how even Charles Darwin, in his book The Origin of Species, admitted he did not know how the first cell came into being, or how life came to be.

Scientists in Darwin’s day thought the cell was a simple glob of plasm, but today we have discovered that the cell is an almost unimaginably complex system of molecular machines and rich in digital code.

Where did this high-tech in low life come from? Ankerberg and Meyer explore the mystery surrounding this question, which Meyer calls the DNA enigma. Click on the links below to watch full episodes of the show online!

Yep, you can watch the show here, here, here and here, if you want to. The funny thing is, of course, that the two networks that the show is to be broadcast on – Daystar and INSP – are both Christian TV networks. Is anyone surprised? Surely not. Yet more evidence that ID proponents are highly linked in with the evangelical Christian community… but it’s not like we needed any more of it.

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Michael Egnor was at it again this week, challenging Jerry Coyne to do… what, exactly?

And Coyne goes further. He asserts that mere adherence to ID, whether held by a scientist with religious views or by a scientist with no religious views, absolutely precludes employment in science. Note that Coyne’s blacklist extends to all areas of science, not just to evolutionary biology or even to biology. Coynes’ blacklist would apply to oceanographers and chemists and meteorologists as well. Coyne proposes a blacklist of ID scientists from all employment in science.

So here’s my challenge to Dr. Coyne:

As of today, over 800 scientists have signed A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism. These scientists, all of whom hold PhD’s or MD’s (with an academic appointment), work at many universities, including Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Dartmouth, Rutgers, University of Chicago, Stanford, Berkeley, Princeton, MIT, among others. Many of the scientists are senior investigators (young untenured scientists take enormous risks by questioning Darwinism). The statement they sign is:

We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.

Not all of these scientists explicitly endorse ID, but clearly many do, and those that do would constitute “unemployable” scientists by Dr. Coyne’s standard.

Despite the fact that Michael never actually challenged Jerry Coyne on anything, there’s still a point in there that needs to be fleshed out. He’s conflating scientific discrimination with religious discrimination – ie. that discriminating based on a person’s scientific knowledge and ability is the same as discriminating based on a person’s religious beliefs. This is patently false. Religious discrimination is bad because a person’s choice of religion is irrelevant to their scientific abilities, unless, of course, that religion is something like young-Earth creationism, when it’s a serious issue. Unless the religion brings scientific problems with it, there’s shouldn’t be any discrimination going on.

ID is not a religious belief, even if it is very compatible with many religious faiths (in which case I would probably call it ID creationism), but even if it was, it would still bring with it some scientific problems. Scientists that accept ID display both a lack of understanding of evolutionary biology and of the philosophy of science, both of which are factors that should impact a scientist’s employability. This is about competence, not metaphysics. Scientific institutions should, in theory, have the right to discriminate amongst potential employees based on merit related to the employment at hand. Religion has nothing to do with it, in my opinion.

So Michael has no real reason to complain, unless he wants to challenge what makes a scientist “competent” at their job. Does the average working scientist really need to know about the philosophy of science if they’re working in a field that doesn’t require advanced critical thinking application? That’s probably a discussion for another time, but I’m inclined to say yes. As such, ID-adherence should be a big factor in the employment decisions of scientific institutions, because it’s relevant, unlike abstract religious belief.

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Arguably the biggest news around ID this week was over on Uncommon Decent (yes, I know, it’s unprecedented), where an ID critic by the username of “MathGrrl” was somehow allowed to start a thread for a discussion about how to precisely mathematically define “complex, specified information” (CSI), something that ID proponents talk about a lot, yet never seem to get too rigorous with:

My goal is still to understand CSI in sufficient detail to be able to objectively measure it in both biological systems and digital models of those systems. To that end, I hope some ID proponents will be willing to answer some questions and provide some information:

  1. Do you agree with vjtorley’s calculation of CSI?
  2. Do you agree with his conclusion that CSI can be generated by known evolutionary mechanisms (gene duplication, in this case)?
  3. If you disagree with either, please show an equally detailed calculation so that I can understand how you compute CSI in that scenario.
  4. If your definition of CSI is different from that used by vjtorley, please provide a mathematically rigorous definition of your version of CSI.
  5. In addition to the gene duplication example, please show how to calculate CSI using your definition for the other three scenarios I’ve described.

Discussion of the general topic of CSI is, of course, interesting, but calculations at least as detailed as those provided by vjtorley are essential to eliminating ambiguity. Please show your work supporting any claims.

Thank you in advance for helping me understand CSI. Let’s do some math!

As of the time of writing, there have been 389 responses to the post and not much convergence in the responses. Of course, major players who have posting access at UD have given their own answers, but no consensus as such exists as of yet. The very fact that ID proponents cannot agree on this fundamental aspect of their “hypothesis” is very telling. In fact, an ID critic over at Cassandra’s Tears wrote a good post about what this means, using a UD comment by a user named “Tulse” as the core of the smackdown. It’s rather humorous and I recommend it.

Then again, a guest post on The Panda’s Thumb seems to be arguing that CSI is a measurable value… I don’t know what to think anymore, other than CSI seems to be useless in the detection of design. I guess I need to read more about it all – after all, I am but a young player on this scene.

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Rapid fire ID news!

2 thoughts on “This Week in Intelligent Design – 29/03/11

  1. The posting on Panda's Thumb was, I think, more about the potential value of CSI rather than any actual calculations. And regardless of any value the concept of CSI might have, the way that IDers use it is completely wrong because the assume, with no evidence what so ever, that information cannot increase by natural means. It is trivial to show this is wrong, so their entire house comes crumbling down.

    In fact, their house is built on several cards. Unfortunately, all of them are fundamentally and demonstrably wrong.

  2. The Ankerberg show with Meyer has already aired on the local fundamentalist station in my US city.
    Meyer was full of lies and half truths like “It’s now been shown there is no such thing as junk DNA”, etc. All said with great confidence.

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