Does the intelligent design movement need to be demolished and rebuilt?

The intelligent design (ID) movement has been around for over 20 years, and few (if any) of its stated and implied goals and plans have thus far come to fruition. While contributing factors to this lack of success are certainly the hard work of the scientific community and its friends, as well as the fact that ID has never been adequately formulated as a scientific idea, a significant proportion of the responsibility for the outcome should be laid upon the ID movement itself. It has, in arguably many respects, acted in the exact opposite way that it should have acted if it wanted to be taken seriously – only one example of which is bringing up religion whilst simultaneously claiming that they weren’t and then chastising critics who pointed out what they were doing.

It’s hard to find an ID proponent who will admit this. Like many movements, the one constructed around ID is insular, mistrusting and lacks introspection, and it spends most of its time on attacking “the Darwinist enemy” in academia instead of really thinking about what it’s doing. This is understandable, considering it’s been relentlessly criticised by the scientific community ever since it poked its head up out of the carcass of creation science, rendering it in a somewhat-perpetual state of defensiveness. Those few proponents who can somehow forget the fact that nearly every biologist in the world would laugh about their ideas to their face given the chance still attack evolutionary biology with unparalleled confidence, which bolsters the morale of those in the Internet trenches: and thus the movement continues. Even with its “Darwinist conspiracy” mindset, it still thinks it’s winning. But it’s not. Not by a long shot.

On the How To Debate Evolution blog, the pro-intelligent design author, EvoGuide, has written what they think is a solution to many of these problems, in a post titled “Towards a Better Version of ID – A Manifesto”. While I think it still has its flaws, the bigger ID blogs, such as Evolution News & Views and Uncommon Descent, would do well to listen to this advice:

Somewhat more recently, among creationists, the realization emerged that what was needed was a more “scientific” version of creationism. So as a result, they came up with “Intelligent Design” or ID. To bystanders like myself, those were exciting times. At last, creationism would finally become an actual scientific theory that would go toe to toe with evolution. We even had our champion, Michael Behe, who had already baffled evolutionists with his concept of “Irreducible Complexity.” The sky was the limit to what would be accomplished.

But instead IDers devoted themselves to loosing [sic] silly and embarrassing court cases (endorsing textbooks where the word “God” was search and replaced with “id”). And Michal [sic] Behe? Well, he seems to have resigned himself to authoring books and collecting royalties.

To all my fellow evolution skeptics out there, I’m sad to tell you that creationism and ID are dead. And it’s not even as if ID entered the ring with evolution and got its butt kicked all over the canvas. Then at least, it would have died in honor. Instead, its more as if, for all these years, it has not yet even been able to figure out how to climb into the ring.

I believe that if there is any hope for “Design” as a concept to survive the next century, we need a whole new version of Intelligent Design altogether. In fact, I wouldn’t even call it Intelligent Design anymore for all the bad memories.

This is what honesty looks like, everyone. The Discovery Institute isn’t about to admit to any of this though, of course – it would be a PR nightmare. But then again: if ID is to be rebuilt, don’t the old edifices need to be demolished before that can happen?

EvoGuide then goes through a list of eight things the new ID should endeavour to do, in order to change its image and scientific prospects. Some are good, some are iffy and some are just plain common sense:

This new ID should:

1) Sever all ties with any religious or political organization, any religious or political agenda.

I doubt it will ever happen, but in a perfect world, ID’s leading organisation wouldn’t be a conservative Christian think tank.

2) Cease all efforts to gain influence through court trials and legislation.

The proper process of science isn’t to legislate your ideas into the classroom: be they your hypotheses or your arguments against rival theories.

3) Stop trying to make changes to the public school curriculum.

Curricula change in response to legitimate revisions in the opinions of the scientific community. It doesn’t work the other way around.

4) This new ID will need to find a way to do one of two things:

  1. Either invent a new scientific method, one that is at least as effective as the current one at studying the natural world but which can also allow for and has ways to study the supernatural (highly unlikely) or,
  2. b) Find a way to work within the confines of the current scientific method.

What this means is that for something to qualify as science within the current system, it must not allow for supernatural elements. So if ID believes that the Intelligent Designer is a supernatural being, it must find a way to study this concept “naturally”.

The only way this can be done, as far as I can see, is to postulate the design process as if accomplished by a scientifically advanced bio-engineer extra terrestrial (SABEET) that would go about the process the same way a human scientist would once we became advanced enough to create new life forms and populate new planets. Using such a concept would allow us to develop a model based on which to make testable predictions.

This point is questionable. Once you start hypothesising a specific type of Designer (which is exactly what the ID movement needs to start doing in order to be anywhere remotely close to having a scientific hypothesis), the predictions and tests are valid only for that particular hypothesis. Predictions based on alien bioengineering, if fulfilled, only support the alien bioengineering hypothesis: ID proponents can’t then take those positive results and claim that a supernatural Designer hypothesis has also been supported. If that was the case, why do you even need to posit a non-supernatural Designer in the first place, if a supernatural one can benefit from positive predictive outcomes?

In my opinion, for ID to move up and out of the pit it is currently trapped in, it needs to leave the concept of supernatural design behind.

5) Once a basic framework for scientific study is agreed upon, effort should be made to gain consensus for this new framework among as many IDers and Creationists as possible. We are already more than a century behind and need all the help we can get. But more importantly, it will be very difficult for a theory of ID to gain ground if every little group of IDers has its own private version of the theory.

This is what the Discovery Institute has been trying to do, albeit slightly half-heartedly, for 20 years. But their reason for doing so wasn’t a practical, scientific one, but a theological and political one: if you’ve got Catholics, Protestants and Jews all together in one tent, you’ve got to find the lowest common denominator, an idea that everyone can agree to, so the coalition doesn’t splinter into shards before any meaningful work can be done. It’s still sound advice, however.

6) Not just this, but this new ID should seriously invest in bright young people who have an interest in the subject and sponsor their education and advanced studies at the best possible schools in order to develop a new generation of scientists that are highly skilled in their fields.

I think I’m probably correct when I say that this is the dream of every new branch of science: and it’s easier said than done. Sponsorship requires money and the recruitment of new talent requires preliminary results and excellent communication skills on the part of the core group trying to get their ideas out there. A new ID without an entity such as the Discovery Institute is unlikely to have any of these things. Perhaps this “rebuilding ID” thing is trickier than it looks.

7) Then, such ID should first focus on contributing to science. A theory of ID as described above would overlap in many instances with the theory of evolution. ID scientists should choose first, areas of study where they share a common interest with evolutionary scientists and publish scientific papers that contribute to the overall advancement of science. They should thus develop a good reputation and respect within the scientific community.

Sound advice. I’m not sure anyone could predict ahead of time how much ID will (hypothetically) overlap with evolutionary biology, though. It would most likely depend on the form of ID being put forward.

8) Lastly, ID scientists should not be focused on competing with or defeating Darwinism. Even when their work might take them in direct opposition to what is commonly agreed upon in evolutionary circles, the focus should not be to disprove evolution but rather to do good science.

The thing is, critiquing competing ideas is an invaluable part of science. No serious ID critic should claim that attacking evolutionary theory is a bad strategy for ID proponents, provided they also give positive evidence for their own ideas, especially in cases where their ideas would supplant those that they are attacking. The key here is balance: clear the way for your own ideas with legitimate criticism, but make sure you have developed and justified your own ideas enough so that they are able to fill the explanatory holes you create.

EvoGuide goes on to describe a possible hypothetical scenario that a new form of ID could be based upon, but I won’t go into any detail on it. It’s a reasonably interesting scenario, but, of course, various aspects of it need to be independently supported before it can count as a scientific hypothesis, lest it succumb to the fate of its old-ID ancestor.

In short, what I want to get across in this post is that the ID movement at the moment is a scientific joke – and I’m not saying that to make a rhetorical point or to bolster my case, I’m saying it because it’s true. It’s filled with sneaky and not-so-sneaky appeals to theology, politics and law, while it neglects to engage with science or the scientific community in any meaningful way. It’s defensive, not inquisitive; it attempts to change textbooks before it has any justification to do so; and it’s hung up on a concept of design that is untestable and flawed, in order to appease a wide, religious base of supporters who hang together due to the vagueness of the concept of ID.

To all the ID proponents out there: do you want to be taken seriously? Consider what EvoGuide and I have to say. While your ideas may be proven incorrect in the long run, if you truly believe you’re onto something, make the most of it and stick to the proper method of conducting science.

47 thoughts on “Does the intelligent design movement need to be demolished and rebuilt?”

  1. I'm not sure that there is anything to be gained by baiting the ID crowd try to rebuild an argument for design, unless you think that it is entirely a rhetorical excersize so they would come to their senses and realize that there is in fact no evidence for design at all. If mountains of unambiguous evidence nullifies the ID hypothesis, it's the job of the scientific community to report the state of affairs as such. Find a new design argument that doesn't posit a supernatural cause? Isn't that silly? Conceptually the very notion of design will always imply a designer. To describe how a system, especially a biological one that has been constructed through natural selection, isn't a "design," but is a testament of an historical, contingent process in nature. We perhaps have to stop thinking of living organisms as machines that contain components, and accept them for what they are, brief constellations of living matter that show us their historical path. I don't know if I articulated that well enough, but I think you get the drift.

  2. Chuck, I thought exactly the opposite. This is "the Wedge" strategy, but applied to creationism/ID. Have them change the basis of their ideology (religion/authoritarian ) to a falsifiable one (like the scientific method) and they will self destruct after a while.
    Genius. For a moment, I would even think that EvoGuide is a double agent. But shhhhhh.

  3. Why does it matter whether ID is "winning"? Should Galileo have rebuilt his theory because he didn't "win"? The history of ideas is a history of important ideas not "winning". Personally, I'm interested in ID because the idea is revolutionary, not because it's "winning".

  4. Provocative post, Jack – but plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. Have you read this 2002 essay by Bill Dembski?…%5Ddsci

    Here’s another perspective to consider. 20 years after the publication of the Origin of Species, Darwinian theory began to enter what historian Peter Bowler calls its “eclipse,” such that at the 50-year anniversary of the book (1909), the theory was widely pronounced to be moribund. Yet…you know the rest.

    The worst thing that could happen to ID would be for someone like you to stop thinking about it. Don’t visit Uncommon Descent or other ID sites, don’t read books such as Signature in the Cell, don’t write blog posts like this one – just become indifferent.

    Could that happen? Sure. Will it? Only you know.

    [cross-posted to Panda's Thumb]

    1. I assume you mean this essay, Paul? –

      Very interesting. It paints an entirely different picture, of an ID that seems to be at least *pretending* to try and get some science done (whether or not what Dembski describes actually constitutes science is another matter: I would consider writing about this essay if the ID movement actually mentioned it and drew on it as inspiration every now and again – sadly, it seems to have been lost to the ages).

      I love how you've effectively placed the fate of ID into my and other's hands, like it's merely our pathological fascination with pseudoscience that keeps the ID ship afloat. I'm not convinced that's the case, mainly because I don't go out of my way to argue against ID in a vacuum – I'm always addressing points made by proponents or challenging their current ideas and talking points (whether or not this is worth my time is another question worth considering).

      I'd be happy for ID to slip away quietly in the night without too much fuss, but the movement isn't going to dissolve without a great deal of noise – and that's where people like myself and those at The Panda's Thumb come in: we mitigate the damage to science education and academia whilst you all take your best parting shots.

      Perhaps I'm being a little dramatic. Ah well, you can't claim I wasn't inspired by the tone of your comment.

  5. Paul,

    You know what else went into eclipse around 1909? Luminiferous ether. Also phrenology. And plenty of other pseudosciences. What brought evolution out of eclipse was not the equivalent of blog posts, nor was it abstract interest by young critics, nor even the publication of hackish popularizations like SitC. Nor, especially, was it the publication of high school textbook supplements critical of opposing ideas (perhaps: "Explore Evolution, the evidence for and against neo-Lamarckism"), or laws rewriting what teachers could say in classrooms.

    It was research, published in mainstream venues, not house organs of ideological institutes (e.g., Biocomplexity, PCID, that brought evolution out of eclipse. Research of the sort ID advocates don't do, and I'd argue couldn't do because ID isn't science.

    Jack cites the Wedge Document above, which nicely summarizes the problem: "Without solid scholarship, research and argument, the project would be just another attempt to indoctrinate instead of persuade." It promises that within 5 years of its 1998 publication, we would "see intelligent design theory as an accepted alternative in the sciences and scientific research being done from the perspective of design theory," "One hundred scientific, academic and technical articles by our fellows," "Ten CRSC Fellows teaching at major universities," "Two universities where design theory has become the dominant view," etc.

    None of the substantive research goals laid out in that document have come to pass 13 years later. What possible reason remains not to take you and the DI up on your own reasoning, and declare ID "just another attempt to indoctrinate"?

    BTW, the Wedge Document (1998) also promises, toward the publication goals listed above, the imminent publication of: "Nelson's book, On Common Descent." 13 years later, how's that going?

  6. I actually wonder often why ID still needs to exist at all…I mean it was invented to circumvent the American court ruling the teaching of Creationism….you'd figure after Dover they'd just drop it.

    To me, it's either that the DI and others invested so much into ID that they don't want to deal with the shame that would result in them going back to Creationism and letting ID dissolve.

    Another part of me sees the holding onto the idea of ID that "something designed life at some indeterminate time(s)" as a tacit acceptance that if they try to make ID legit and provide further "pathetic" details they'll just be easily disproven like YEC are…..they NEED the vagueness and untestable nature of the main ID hypothesis, otherwise they would just be proven wrong.

    In the end, ironically, I see the very existence of ID as an admission that most of Creationist hypothesis' are clearly false and the only way around it is to paint oneself into a tiny corner. Thus trapped I don't see anyway out of it for the ID crowd.

  7. This is typical Darwinitis. Criticize ID for not being scientific when it is evolution that is under the knife for being pseudo science. Dembski, Behe, et al have done a marvelous service in bringing into the public spotlight the idea that another paradigm for understanding and describing organisms is needed, along with some serious scientific thinking about how to do that. Leave it to the evolutionists to pooh-pooh that work in the conceit that they are the real proprietors of all that is holy and scientific.

    This cheap trick is not going to work anymore. Human beings have always understood the animate life of organisms to be categorically distinct from the inanimate world. This is the oldest conception in the world, held by philosophers, saints, sinners and civilizations throughout history. The mechanical materialist concept of life held by evolutionists today is what is recent, misconceived and pseudo scientific, and doomed to extinction — if only because the truth can be covered only temporarily by ignorance, but ultimately the truth must be victorious: satyam eva jayate, as the Sanskrit slogan tells us.

    This passing cloud of evolution is rapidly dissipating in the 21st Century. Jack is a mere rhetoritician. He hardly knows anything about the modern predicament that evolution finds itself in, or if he does he tries to hide that behind a cloak of apparent scientific snobbery toward anything anti evolution. The fact is that evolution is under severe attack from forces within the scientific community itself, as well as from without from the common sense of people who have traditionally understood the fundamental difference between animate and inanimate world without difficulty for the entire history of mankind.

    This is not a new problem, to say the least. In my comments on this blog I have pointed out numerous modern scientists who have challenged and defeated the idea of evolution on scientific grounds. Is this ever mentioned by Jack or his evolution infected friends? Never! The fact is evolution is NOT a fact, and this has been proven again and again by modern scientific studies. Darwinism is dead. Read the literature. The tree of life has become a forest by study of the very thing that was supposed to clinch the argument for evolution – genetics.

    What J Shapiro, of the University of Chicago calls "natural genetic engineering," confirms the idea of intelligent design within the organism. The static mechanistic conception of the DNA molecule, only 50 years old, and with it the whole neo-Darwinian misconception, has been overthrown by the now known dynamic nature of DNA which plays a peripheral/participatory role in the integral life of the organism.

    But those infected by Darwiitis filter out the facts as they are – what objective observation of Nature itself tells us, what the common man with common sense know, -and see things through their Darwin colored glasses, ignoring not only the facts, but the most current research available.

    Well, go on with your ignorance (which is simply based on what is ignored). Paint your ignorance in all the blog posts you like, Those with a little intelligence can see through your ploy. The march of scientific knowledge goes on. And the truth will set us free of the monstrous mechanistic monolith of the materialistic mutants of evolutionism. Life and liberty (free will) are never to be lost to the preachers of darkness – of death and determinism as the foundation of Nature and Reality.

    Nature tells us: (1.) Life comes from life. (2.) Matter comes from life. All you have to do is look around you. Nature is all around us. It is pseudo science which attempts to controvert what we observe before our very eyes. Life is fundamental, and matter is merely an under-determination of that fact. This is what science should be concluding in order to be real science. Chemistry and physics are useful in their own right, but not when they trespass into the the magisterium of biological life.

      1. Any links to Will's previous posts and the literature he speaks of. I want to learn more about matter coming from life. As a science teacher this worries me because I've always taught (on a simple level) that matter cannot be created or destroyed.

      2. Where are your cited papers in your long, long blogposts, Jack? Finally you stick your head out of the sand, or wherever you keep it, and have a chance to challenge something I have written, and what do you come up with? –Authority! You can't think your way out of a paper bag.

        What of the rational arguments I presented. You are like the Bible thumping fundamentalists, only you call your Bible "papers". Think about the rational arguments first. Look around you. Look at Nature. Look at yourself. What do you discover? Molecules are something you have been taught. to see. They don't exist except in the "papers" you have sold your intelligence to. It is about time you stopped being a mindless, unintelligent evolutionist who thinks everything just happens because it happens and start becoming a mindful intelligent scientist who can distinguish between reality and ideology.

        Why is it that you don't read the literature? Are you too busy finding fault in ID that you fail to read the literature in which evolution is being challenged and defeated? I have given plenty of references to scientists and books that are accomplishing this demolition of evolution. You act as if you haven't read the comments I posted for so many months on this blog. Either you are just playing dumb or you really are dumb. I think it is a bit of both.

        Rational thought and sound common sense are just "words" to someone who can't think rationally. Well reason is much more than just words for those who have the intelligence to understand it. The idea that all knowledge is science and only science is called scientism. Ever heard of that Jack? The problem is, Darwin dummies don't know how to think, or their thinking is all scripted by their evil Darwin masters who have stolen their freedom and independent powers of thought.

        Sure, there are plenty of references Jack. But you are in such a dull headed mind funk that you read this and react only to defend your Darwinian bigotry in whatever others see as clearly opposed to this ideology.

        1. To refresh your memory about already cited references –

          Eugene Koonin, THe Logic of Chance.
          Surprising evolutionary reconstructions arising from the comparison of complete genomes leads to the question: Is there a tree of life–or a forest?

          James Shapiro. Evolution: A view from the 21st Century
          Shap[iro proposes an important new paradigm for understanding biological evolution. Shapiro demonstrates why traditional views of evolution are inadequate to explain the latest evidence, and presents a compelling alternative. His information- and systems-based approach integrates advances in symbiogenesis, epigenetics, and mobile genetic elements, and points toward an emerging synthesis of physical, information, and biological sciences.

          Massimo Piglucci. Evolution – The Extended Synthesis
          The Extended Evolutionary Synthesis is a provisional one subject to modification in the light of further discoveries in the field which are coming thick and fast.

          Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piatelli-Palmarini, "What Darwin Got Wrong"
          "We thought we'd best make clear from the outset, because our main contention in what follows will be that there is something wrong – quite possibly fatally wrong – with the theory of natural selection; and we are aware that, even among those who are not quite sure what it is, allegiance to Darwinism has become a litmus for deciding who does, and who does not, hold a `properly scientific' world view."
          Their most persuasive, and engaging, criticism is that evolutionary theory is just tautological truisms and historical narratives of how creatures came to be. Natural selection as the driver of speciation has become decreasingly explanatory as research continues to appreciate the complexity of internal and external processes impinging on development.

          Suzan Mazur, "the Altenberg 16: An Exposé of the Evolution Industry"
          "“Let’s begin with the facts: The days of evolutionary science being an exclusive old boys club are over" The scientific establishment has been somewhat scared of dealing rationally and openly with new evolutionary ideas because of its fear of the powerful creationist movement. {Why is creationism so powerful if evolutionists have all the scientific evidence to back them up?]

          —Lynn Margulis, recipient of the US Presidential Medal for Science:
          “And what Haldane, Fisher, Sewell Wright, Hardy, Weinberg, et al. did was invent. . . . The Anglophone tradition was taught. I was taught and so were my contemporaries. And so were the younger scientists. Evolution was defined as ‘changes in gene frequencies’ in natural populations. The accumulation of genetic mutations were touted to be enough to change one species to another. . . . No. It wasn’t dishonesty. I think it was wish fulfillment and social momentum. Assumptions, made but not verified, were taught as fact.”

          S.N. Salthe, "Analysis and critique of the concept of Natural Selection"
          "The Darwinian (Synthetic) theory of organic evolution, insofar as it is crucially driven by the concept of natural selection, is not suitable to be a part of Modernism's creation myth…As to its ability to explain the evolution of organisms (as opposed to the evolution of gene systems), it has not, after some 60 years of development, delivered a very convincing mechanism."

          Carl WOese, " A New Biology for a New Century"
          Biology today is at a crossroads. The molecular paradigm, which so successfully guided the discipline throughout most of the 20th century, is no longer a reliable guide. Its vision of biology now realized, the molecular paradigm has run its course. Biology, therefore, has a choice to make, between the comfortable path of continuing to follow molecular biology's lead or the more invigorating one of seeking a new and inspiring vision of the living world, one that addresses the major problems in biology that 20th century biology, molecular biology, could not handle and, so, avoided. The former course, though highly productive, is certain to turn biology into an engineering discipline. The latter holds the promise of making biology an even more fundamental science, one that, along with physics, probes and defines the nature of reality. This is a choice between a biology that solely does society's bidding and a biology that is society's teacher.

          Stuart Newman ( professor of cell biology and anatomy at New York Medical College in Valhalla, NY)
          “Unless the discourse around evolution is opened up to scientific perspectives beyond Darwinism, the education of generations to come is at risk of being sacrificed for the benefit of a dying theory.” He now has a theory about the origin of form of all 35 or so animal phyla – ”it happened abruptly” not gradually, roughly 600 million years ago via a “pattern language.”

          etc. etc. etc.

          1. Re Koonin – let me understand – if there is a forest of life (as opposed to a tree), does that not mean that life developed (abiotically or otherwise) repeatedly? Isn't that the exact opposite of what you want to claim?

            Re Shapiro – how is showing that self-modifying structures evolve more readily than otherwise expected a nail in the coffin of evolution, rather than a much stronger argument for evolution.

            Re Fodor and Piatelli-Palmarini, I'll put aside that the book is published by a house that aims at a general audience. Let me grant their premise for the sake of argument. So if non-natural selection mechanisms are required for evolution (other than general life processes), and these are all natural processes, how does this prove your argument, again?

            Re Mazur, she strikes me as very pro-evolution – I just read her interview with Vincent Fleury. I'm not in a position to evaluate Fleury's argument, but let's grant his argument – tetrapods have their basic shape due to flows in the early embryo – and let's go further – that no gene or collection of genes can turn this off/cause a different body type (it might be true – an epigenetic outcome, then). How does this disprove evolution, again? I read further again – so here's a quote from Mazur:

            Natural selection was only part of Darwin’s Origin of Species thinking. Yet through the years most biologists outside of evolutionary biology have mistakenly believed that evolution is natural selection.

            So now I must ask you whether you have read any of the authors you have quoted, for it strikes me that you haven't.

            Finally, a general word on epigenetics (the actual matter that the above authors emphasize). Study into epigenetics is hardly suppressed, those authors' often excessive language notwithstanding – a google scholar search using only the term 'epigenetic' brings up 239 000 papers. Perhaps it could be claimed that epigenetic research is not given enough coverage, and perhaps certain scientists are abusive toward others. Perhaps there are conflicts of interest in disbursement of research funding. Heck, perhaps natural selection can only account for a small portion of evolution, perhaps only in combination of other mechanisms (the most radical claim that is seriously advanced in your sources). None of that would begin to support your claims, though.

            And not one paper – only books, generally not from scientific presses.

            1. saskydisc — "Re Koonin – let me understand – if there is a forest of life (as opposed to a tree), does that not mean that life developed (abiotically or otherwise) repeatedly? Isn't that the exact opposite of what you want to claim? "

              Maybe if you try to think outside the "evoluton" box, you would understand the implications properly.

              As for the term evolution, it is a tribute to its chameleonesque nature that scientists can be demolishing evolution on one hand and at the same time espousing it. What does that say about "evolution." Even Darwin developed the idea from the arcane conception of archetypes, akin to the traditional understanding that species are originally ideas in the Mind of God.

              In other words, evolution is an ideology not a scientific concept. It is not even a scientific mechanism. A scientific mechanism is one that can be tested and verified or falsified. The fact is that every evolutionary mechanism that is published in your sacred scientific journals, is never subjected to testing or experimental verification. All we find is 'may have", 'could have', 'would have' or co-opt. horizontal transfer, and other such add-ons that are full of chemical and physical word jugglery, but nary an actual scientific proof that would demonstrate the narrative supposed mechanism as being factually the case.

              "Evolution' has become such a joke that in these times of economic conservatism many are thinking that enough money has been wasted on the useless game playing it represents and the need to get to something that can be of real use and benefit, beyond all the wild speculation and ideology that has infested science. Amen to that.

              1. Maybe if
                You are careful enough not to suggest explicitly that the author rejects evolution (natural selection based on gene mediated outcomes, epigenetics, etc, other well-described outcomes). And not one of the authors you list shows any effort to 'demolish' evolution – only one of the people you list even tries to claim that natural selection cannot explain evolution, i.e. the development of new species from old species over time, i.e. as suggested by molecular biology (DNA and the like) and the fossil records.

                How evolution is supposed to be an ideology (rather than a by now trivial summary of the facts) you alone know – not one of your references try to claim that – rather, they ask whether genetic mutation and post-mutation (actually, post spread of mutation in a population, to some extent) is enough to describe evolution. They posit that epigenetics is more significant. At this point, it looks like air boxing, as there are about 240 000 papers on epigenetics on a quick google scholar search, versus 3.6 million for 'natural selection,' where epigenetics have largely been retarded by a lack of understanding of the genetic mechanisms – it is easy (relatively) to check if a gene is responsible for some outcome, so once you know more or less what genes do, you can begin to to check what they don't do, and see what other mechanisms could be involved – without first checking what genes do what, you start running into wild goose chases.

                And this brings us to your veiled threat, namely of cutting off funding. I am amused, actually, and not only by the weird economic ideology, namely 'conservatism' in one of the historically most state funded economies on earth – but then, the 50s are often also described as a very conservative period, and was the single most state-funded and high tax – 90s% for the very rich – period. So why don't I feel the least bit threatened? The part of natural selection research that takes the most funding is genetic studies – I found about 1.8M papers that contain 'genetic' without 'natural selection' – that work will not be stopped, as too many companies depend on it, and they (state-funded research, including genetic studies, and state acquisition) are the basis of your economy (as a conservative economist once explained to me, the reason why the 'bid the prices down' model of economy that the Ayn Rand types espouse doesn't work, is personal debt) – no politician dumb enough to pull such a stunt will receive funding from the corporate interests that fund elections, be they the Kochs (who fund the party politically closest to you in USA), or Monsanto (and other bio-techs) – they understand who butters their bread, and health-care technology remains profitable. If your ideological friends succeed over such odds, China and Europe will continue the research, and USA will lose the economic benefits – what remains at this point on the genetic side is compilation of genomes and associated genetic studies, and epigenetic studies, and these are actually not too dependent on an understanding of evolution.

                Actual research into evolution, once the above (financially profitable) research has been done, is reasonably cheap – researchers often rely on used equipment (in no small part due to the grubby hands of university administrators, who take e.g. 70% -at Stanford – of research grants for 'administrative overhead,' while providing ever-shrinking administrative support – I'll leave my further snide comments on that affair aside) and other donations. An irony strikes me at this point – that French guy doing the epigenetic research, who was interviewed by Mazur, and that I linked pointed out that the French researchers also do their work with minimal funding. So I'm going to quote a very famous conservative US president:

                Bring it on.

                1. IMHO, like that president you so fondly quote, it certainly seems like a case of one's ignorance being exceeded only by one's arrogance. Darwinism is dead. This is only difficult to understand by those whose lifestyle or livelihood depend on not accepting it.

                  Take away their funding and the cult of evolution would be swept into the dustbin of history while the saner majority of people who reject that view would be relieved of having to work for and fund that useless burden they have no faith in. As a predecessor liberal president once nicely explained the principle: "Once you have them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow." Remember that the next time you get on your highfalutin soap box.

                  1. So again, my curiousity is stirred. Evolution aside, do you acknowledge or reject that genetic structures (DNA) impact an organism's development?

                    If you acknowledge that it does, then I wonder how you propose to stop research into standard genetic evolution – if you insist on funding only those groups that don't mention evolution, the science will progress quite well, as I explained.

                    How much funding do you think goes into evolution-based research, other than simple genetic studies, and how much funding goes into non-evolution-specific research?

                    1. The field of genetics is in tremendous flux right now. Most people (including biologists) seem to forget that Watson and Crick developed the whole DNA genetic nomenclature as a model, along with their Central Dogma. "A model!" If you see an X-ray of what they called DNA it shows nothing like what they described in their model. Somehow it seemed to fit what was known about organisms at the time.

                      Much more sophisticated methods of examining the inner workings of an organism within the last two decades revealed a completely different picture of the detailed processes that were involved within an organism. The extent of that revolutionary change has left biologists divided into camps. Those who give importance to genes, those who think the genome is to be considered the basic unit, and those who hold that epigenetic factors are of central importance, and even the more ecologically oriented views that consider the entire environment to be a tightly balanced system that is necessary to understand in comprehending a living organism. This is all far beyond Darwinian evolution, gene-centric dogmatism and the whole 20th Century concept of biology.

                      The same DNA is found in all the cells of a multicelled organism. Yet each cell is different, forming brain, muscle, liver, eye, etc., etc. — all diverse organic tissues so that DNA cannot possibly be the sole determiner of this incredible variation. Other factors take the determining position.

                      21st Century biology will be based on the observed phenomena of Nature, that LIfe comes from Life, and Matter comes from Life. Nature is essentially sentient living substance,and not dead matter. Life can only be understood as a non-material Concept, an embodied natural purpose as Kant and other philosophers of the past already figured out. Reality is not merely positivistic or materialistic. The project of logical positivism was long ago jettisoned by philosophers after Russell but science never caught up.

                      Because they are lacking a proper philosophical comprehension, biologists will have to become philosopher-scientists in the 21st Century if they expect to actually understand life. They will be forced by the honest study of reality itself. Gradually a more spiritual culture will arise in the maturity of that understanding.

                    2. With regards to your first paragraph, I haven't read up on what exactly Watson and Crick did, but I'd assume that they do what molecular biologists generally do when they want to understand a protein or other biomolecule – make a crystal of the biomolecule (using various chemical tricks), take an X-ray, and do a best-fit to the underlying structures and the probabilities of x-ray absorption for different constituent atoms. Read up on X-ray crystallography sometime – it is a standard method. See e.g.

                      Here's the DNA x-ray crystallography image:
                      Here's an enzyme x-ray crystallography image:
                      and the enzyme that it represents:
                      I cannot find any simple BCC or FCC x-ray crystallography images online, but we used to calculate the intensities in grad school.

                      With regards to your second paragraph, could you point me to biologists who claim that epigenetics and ecology are insignificant? I image that most biologists try to ignore it, to get a basic handle on what the genetics does, before they try to understand anything else, but off the top of my head I cannot imagine that anyone ignores epigenetics and ecology – evolutionary biology has been the main effort at incorporating epigenetics and ecology with genetics into biology, precisely as an interplay of these realities/systems.

                      As to what makes cells specialise, that has been understood for some time to varying degrees – once a cell has specialised, at least at certain points in an organism's development, it gives off chemical cues to neighbouring cells to specialise in a related fashion. See e.g. stem cells, and what happens when they are added to certain organs.

                      As to your mantra that 'Life comes from Life' and 'Matter comes from Life' (and putting aside the premises that you're trying to smuggle with that capitalization), is carbon dioxide alive? How about a sterile solution of Fe3+ ions? If I burn carbon, it forms carbon dioxide, and certain 'living' organisms (plants) can readily convert it (with water and other compounds) to biopolymers, simple sugars and the like. Likewise, geobacter can reduce the iron ions to Fe2+ (and get energy for their internal processes, or life processes if you prefer, in doing so).

                      Do you propose that life processes created iron, carbon, uranium, hydrogen, or more generally, mass-energy?

                      As to positivism, I seem to recall that you (or was it another anti-evolution individual here?), on this very blog, have claimed that science is based on verifying theories, which was one of the first claims of the positivists to be rejected (in favour of falsifiability, h/t Karl Popper). Could you point me to biologists who claim that verifiability is the basis of science, i.e. logical positivists? Likewise, can you point me to a single biologist whose investigations is not guided by theories (i.e. described phenomena) of biology, and are thus with the logical positivists? (H/t H Putnam)

          1. Yes! – but biologists are the last to know about the science of quantum mechanics and apply it in their field because the equations and conceptions are too complex for their intellectually limited brains. They are capable of employing only the most simplistic models of biomolecules within the living organism., and think thereby they have understood them. Generally biologists are far behind advances in science because the intricacies of dealing with living systems is not reducible to ridiculously simplified chemistry and physics of the 19th century, or the biology of the 20th century. Electrons, nuclei and molecules cannot be individually identified in a wave function or the probability cloud that describes them. But if biologists recognized this fact they would be out of a job because their job would be out of their league. So what do they do — they are like the foolish man who lost his ring in the woods outside the town but looks for it under the lamp post in the middle of town because that's where the light is.

            Thus they give us a bunch of bull feathers, and those who are even less educated and clever eat it up with gusto and think they know everything from how the universe was created, how man evolved from molecules and arrogantly dare to declare that God is dead! And it all starts with bull feathers! And these stupid fellows ignorantly proclaim that the theists are idiots!

            Schrodinger, Planck and many others understood that consciousness is the indispensable ground of all reality. This is the most ancient understanding of mankind from the beginning as we find in the primordial Vedic scriptures. Truth does not change according to the most naive understandings of the puppy brained fools who parade before other fools as society's pompous know-it-alls.

            Let fools worship their fools. They deserve them.

            1. Can I try and clarify this point (just for me)?

              Biologists don't apply quantum theory to their work so their science is de-funct?

              Brilliant! Especially given such advances in biology and medicine as antibiotics, anaesthetics, open heart surgery, growing organs from stem cells. Just think what progress Biology would have made if history's best Biologists had allowed quantum physics into their intellectually limited brains.

              Try making clarified sensible points one at a time so at least anyone listening has a hope of addressing the issue.

              1. This is totally irrelevant to the point I am making. Let me redirect you to the point again by asking two questions:

                1. Do you accept in the scientific validity of quantum mechanics as our most advanced understanding of fundamental reality?

                2. A map may be useful for traversing a terrain, but do you think it is identical with that terrain and if not, does that make maps functionally useless?

            2. Will,

              This discussion about which is more important – conciousness or molecules under physics and chemistry – is like to discuss which is more important in a computer – software or hardware… They are both important, non dispensables, and evolution is the result of feed-back between them. But, then, you need understand that consciousness, like software, is under evolution also, at least here, in this visible hard-wired world. If you want to have an idea how is the Universe composed by hardware+software, or how could be the diagram/software of conciousness, see the formula at Matrix/DNA Theory.

              1. Alas, my friend, you miss the real point of your analogy. Both software and hardware are made possible by a pre-existing consciousness or intelligence. The software is not the only thing created by a conscious intelligence, nor does it represent subjective consciousnesss. The hardware is also created by a conscious intelligence, because it is a machine that is manufactured to accomplish a specific function/purpose. Sp your analogy fails.

                True enough. consciousness indeed does evolve. But this is subjective evolution, which is found in even the most ancient cultures, known as reincarnation, metempsychosis, or transmigration of the soul. This is to be contrasted with objective evolution of bodies that is proposed by materialist/naturalist evolutionists. Objective evolutionists are ignorant of the underlying subjective consciousness that determines and controls the form of the apparent material body, which itself is a superficial misunderstanding of its genuine underlying spiritual substantiality.

                Sorry, but your naturalistic Matrix/DNA theory does not make the grade corresponding to reality. You are attempting to attribute everything to Nature, but Nature or naturalism fails to grasp what Nature is the nature of. Nature implies there must be that of which it is the nature. What is that? There we can find the underlying reality, and that is Spirit, Conscious Personality or the Sentient Absolute, God. Darwin, Dawkins, Hawkings, Diddley-do-winks and his dorks, or Jack Scanlan and his skeptical friends may claim to be the absolute personalities upon whom ultimate truth rests — good luck to them and their worshipers with that. But I guess I lack faith in them, and choose to worship the Supreme Personality as Absolute in Whom all truth has its ultimate foundation.

    1. "As an illustration of the change of thought, the lecturer spoke of evolution's failure as a strong theory and the downfall of Darwinism. When the theory came out it was seized upon with avidity, and most of the great scholars examined it and accepted it. Now they had given it up. Prof. Virchow in the Edinburgh celebration said evolution had no scientific basis. No skull had yet been found differing to any extent from the general type. Prof. Tyndall had lately said that 'evolution belongs to the twilight of conjecture.' Prof. Huxley, at first one if its strongest advocates, said the link between the living the the not living had not been found. It must be found to prove the evolution theory." "Thomas Kimber's Lecture on Science in Relation to Divine Truths," The New York Times, Nov 25, 1884.

      1. Evolutionary materialism is an ideological obsession that is insulated from the onslaught of empirical science, and the proof of that is confirmed in the statement you just quoted, and it is again and again confirmed in the rapidly changing modern scientific paradigm for biology.

        But 'scientists' are people too, and subject to their pet irrational prejudices, so we find the famous quote —
        "A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it." Max Planck, father of Quantum Mechanics, The Observer, January 1936.

        Matter Comes from Life
        "As a man who has devoted his whole life to the most clear headed science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as a result of my research about atoms this much: There is no matter as such. All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. This mind is the matrix of all matter." — Max Planck, Das Wesen der Materie [The Nature of Matter], speech at Florence, Italy (1944)

    2. Matter comes from life, does it? So how did life (I take it that you wouldn't consider a car or the sun to be alive, even though neither operate at thermodynamic equilibrium) create Uranium (238, and not the masses specifically converted in human labs)? Where have humans (or other observed life-forms) created mass-energy? You've perked my curiosity.

  8. Pseudoscience? Oh no!

    Nucleic-acid-peptide micro-molecular technology – a database of DNA through RNA intermediaries is implemented by the polypeptide interface. But this is an automated production system. A user who is? And this is an older subject – lipid membrane. Once upon a time, a few billion years ago, some engineers of a great civilization lipidoides created this nucleic acid-peptide technology and armed with it, settled by a million ships in all parts of the visible universe. But what do our evolutionists? And they are the origin and evolution of life on self-replicators – RNA! Wow! So you can keep your computer from the origin of a computer mouse! Yes, the computer system, of course at the last regular duplication mice formed a small detail, like user …

    I think the concept "extra-terrestrial" for life is not correct. Life is life. It is the same painful geo-anthropo-centrism. Intelligent life, armed with a nucleic-polypeptide technology could in a few billion years to spread widely in the universe, and here we have one of the planetary population. It is strange that you do not think this is correct!
    Another interesting question. The above is obvious, but the crowd of smart people at NASA and elsewhere raise the question only about panspermia microorganisms! But why not a creative landing – a pan-noo-spermia? It's that – a taboo? I wonder who the customer? Ah yes, the theory of evolution as something is lost … And creationism, too, seemed suddenly melts away! Because the origin of life in the universe moves away into the distance – for billions of years ago and in the world those creative lipidoids that have not yet created a DNA, proteins and many metabolic technologies … And the theory of evolution is irreversible changes to the theory of de-evolution (and, strictly according to Darwin!)

    Sci-fi: (… )

  9. And haw do you refute this argument, for instance?

    Theories – Origin of Life

    At the moment just prior to death all the biochemical molecules in the dog are still functioning and intact.
    At the very moment of death they are still there, however as you rightly point out the regulatory mechanisms cease and the molecules begin to disintegrate.

    In other words, the natural laws of physics, chemistry and thermodynamics continue operating but without the guiding regulation that has now been removed, and the result is degeneration, down to their constituent parts.

    Therefore the natural course that natural laws take, breakdown biochemical molecules.
    Since that is the case how can those same laws naturally guide the building of cellular life let alone the whole organisms
    They have to be guided down the different regulated pathways if they are to succeed.
    So whatever life is, it is certainly not a constituent part of physics or chemistry.

    That is why a naturalist view of the origin of life is scientifically untenable.

    Any comments?

    1. Not only the regulation of physical and chemical processes is affected by the the loss of life for an organism, but the production of its vital constituent bio-molecules ceases. Life creates is own matter. Matter comes from life. We never find immensely complex bio-molecules in Nature outside of living organism. The process called photo-synthesis produces the enormous quantity of biomass in Nature, but what scientists fail to tell you is that without the living spark within the organism the whole process would never occur. All attempts at creating a synthetic process of photo synthesis have failed, and they could never produce the quantity bio-mass that even a solitary blade of grass has no difficulty with.

      If life is just chemistry, where is the chemical you can insert into a dead organism and bring it back to life?

      Why do people accept the fairy tale of the materialistic origin of life when there is no scientific evidence for it? Jack criticizes the IDers for claiming only to recognize design but not explaining the designer, but he eagerly extols the scientific validity of Dawinian-hype evolution and claims it neither explaians nor does it have to explain the origin of life.

      1. No-one, except perhaps yourself in your strawman claim above, seriously claims that life is 'just chemistry' – depending on the particular failure of an organ in a particular individual of a particular species, chemical means may at times restore life-process (and life is a thermodynamic process that operates in bio-chemical systems), albeit with harm to organs that have begun irreversible degradation due to available energy starvation (available energy as supplied by ATP, oxygen, Ca/Na concentration gradients etc), e.g. letting someone who has been clinically dead due to impediment in breathing to breath again. If you break the (main) boiler of a thermochemical plant, has the plant "died"? What if corrosion damages the rest of the equipment due to neglect as the plant is no longer productive/profitable? The analogy is striking, precisely on a thermodynamic level.

    2. So if I turn off my car, it died? How about if I have a heart attack – am I dead when my heart has stopped (has the guiding regulation stopped)? Does this change if someone restarts my heart? The argument made is incoherent.

      Molecules in your body disintegrate all the time while you are alive – they just don't get repaired or replaced once the oxygen content in your blood has dropped enough, so microorganisms get a big feast (no oxygen/ATP to sustain an immunosystem).

  10. Yes, indeed, it is difficult to say now, as there are beings engineer, consisting only of lipid membranes. But the direct descendants – the membrane of our cells! That they must learn to understand how to create a personality – an active model of the world on the quantum-electronic fields of membranes! And to make a structured membrane artificially create artificial intelligence, similar to a natural! Difficult? But then, maybe it will be understood as such a phenomenon could occur by itself!

    1. Did you mean sarcasm against "will," or is this meant as a response to the original article? Could you post this on your website in the original (Russian, though Ukrainian would be a bit easier for me…) with contextual notes, and post the link here?

      1. All of my articles in Russian here:

        On the origin of the eye and multicellular

        Collapse of civilizations – the regression of creative thinking

        Vegetative and sexual phase in the life cycle of multicellular organisms

        Biological vectors civilizations

        Asteroid earthquakes

        Thank you!

        Scientific theoretical basis in science fiction stories

        Black Star Laplace against the Black Hole GR

        1. I meant specifically with regards to your comment above, as it is utterly unclear. I'll give your pages a look some time, but I already have serious questions – why would consciousness require special solutions to Schroedinger's equation (as you seem to imply to "will" below), rather than simpler solutions of Schroedinger's equation leading to electrochemistry, and conciousness arising from normal neural occurrences?

          1. I meant specifically with regards to your comment above, as it is utterly unclear. I'll give your pages a look some time, but I already have serious questions – why would consciousness require special solutions to Schroedinger's equation (as you seem to imply to "will" below), rather than simpler solutions of Schroedinger's equation leading to electrochemistry , and conciousness arising from normal neural occurrences?
            Yes, indeed. We are talking about processes in a structured lipid bilayer. Known quantum processes associated with ion channels, but are assumed and the wave oscillations in polarized bilayer. Quantum oscillations? Is an intracellular process. Simpler solutions of Schroedinger's equation to electrochemistry arising from normal neural occurrences – hmmm… Here – it's inter-cellular level. But how to observe on intra-cellular level, the oscillations of the Golgi membrane, or membranes "tigroid substance" of a neuron? And what version of Schroedinger's equation can be applied here? I do not know.

    2. Leo — Empirical science can never give us knowledge of ultimate Reality. It can only give us knowledge that is true FOR US, but not for Reality as it is in and for itself. For example, you may see the Sun setting, and another person on the opposite side of the world will see it rising. But for the Sun itself, it is neither rising nor setting.

      We are part of Reality. Reality has produced sentient creatures with consciousness, intelligence and personality. If we are produced with such qualities, how can we deny them to the Reality that is the source of those qualities. We may also think that matter is also produced by and from that Reality. Whatever we may experience as limitations or deficiencies FOR US, have nothing to do with Ultimate Reality in and for itself.

      How we understand or misunderstand Reality is controlled by Reality, not by us. Our understanding or mind is also a product of Reality and therefore under the control of Reality. We can either accept this or reject it and live in unreality.

      When speaking of consciousness, personality, soul or God, we cannot make reference to understanding acquired through empirical science because that will always give us a personal perspective – a viewpoint, or facet of Reality. But to understand Reality itself will not be possible by that method. The only thing we can do by experience is to recognize that we are conscious and that tells us something about the ultimate Reality of which we are a part. The objects within our consciousness are also real, but we would never be able to refer to them if we were not conscious. So consciousness must come first, and the objects of consciousness, be they atoms, electrons or anything else, are existing in that.

      1. Yes, our possibilities of knowledge is limited. Therefore, we must observe and experiment, using the criterion of practice. And what we have left? Nevertheless, we have a chance to deal with the material of the quantum-field membrane carrier of consciousness!

  11. Great debate guys! Let me invite you all to chew on this very recently published book MONOPOLIZING KNOWLEDGE by Ian Hutchinson (Alcator Project Coprincipal, Plasma Science and Fusion Center, MIT. Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology).

    The book is very critical to the debate in this blog. Hey Jack, pick up the book and let me suggest that you give it a review. I've ordered the book myself but it's going to be weeks before i get it.

    Happy debating to all! :)

    1. Nice book by a thoughtful practicing scientist. Some of the chapters of the book are at
      A little awareness about the history and philosophy of science goes a long way in helping to get a proper perspective of science that doesn't let it sink to the level of scientism. Scientism is the concept held by idiot savants that everything in the world, including the world, can be explained using no more than three ideas: physics, chemistry and evolution. The frightening thing is that so many so-called intellectuals have actually been bamboozled into believing such preposterous chauvinistic nonsense — frightening because it is reminiscent of the mass irrational beliefs that Hitler was able to foist on the public in the last century. God save us from ourselves! (Which is just why God is so necessary.)

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