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An unintelligent Intelligent Design creationism quiz

Larry Moran has been given a quiz to test our comprehension of Intelligent Design creationism. Unfortunately, it was composed by someone who doesn’t understand ID creationism but merely wants everyone to regurgitate their propaganda, so it’s a major mess, and you can also tell that the person writing it was smugly thinking they were laying some real traps to catch us out in our ignorance.

Larry has posted his answers. I’ve put mine below the fold (I sorta subtly disagree with him on #2). If you want to take a stab at it untainted by our answers, here’s the original quiz, untainted by logic or evidence, so you can view them in their pure naked ignorance.

Also, another thing: the person who composed the quiz clearly expected simple yes/no answers, yet wrote questions that demand explanation. Yet again, the idiocy of the IDiots is exposed. I’ve actually troubled to explain my answers.

1. Is Intelligent Design compatible with the truth of evolution, with evolution defined (as per wikipedia) as change in the inherited characteristics of biological populations over successive generations?

Yes, by that limited definition of the fact of evolution. Evolutionary theory also encompasses specific mechanisms, however, and ID is not compatible with the consilience of explanations.

2. Is Intelligent Design compatible with common descent, with common descent defined as the claim that all living organisms share a common biological ancestor?

I might disagree with Larry here. Yes, it is compatible if your model is one of a tinker constantly meddling with lineages — if your template is, for instance, how human agriculture has continuously selected for and modified domestic plants and animals. That does require continuous intervention, though, which would be detectable. It is not compatible if, as I’ve often seen, the model they are using is that frontloading nonsense, where they claim an original species was prepared with genes for all subsequent forms, and evolution is a literal unfolding of predetermined potential. That is incompatible with reality. The third alternative, that rather obviously all too many ID cranks hold near and dear to their hearts, is basically special creation — each species is individually conjured into existence by a creator…and that is completely incompatible with common descent.

But then, I’ve never found an ID creationist with a consistent, specific model with evidence for their theory, that is also coherent and consistent with common descent. Behe tries. But his ideas are pretty much in conflict with the actual evidence.

3. Does Intelligent Design, as offered by its most noteworthy proponents (Behe, Meyers, etc) propose to explain any purported incident of design by appeal to miracles or “supernatural” acts of any kind?

Hmmm. Does Meyer get that superfluous and wrong terminal “s” as often as I get an extra “e” added to my last name?

This question ignores the history of ID, which was intentionally formulated in response to court decisions that prohibited gods and faith-based arguments — they literally rewrote their texts to exclude god (anyone remember “cdesign proponentsists”?) to circumvent church-state conflicts. So nominally, no, not usually. It’s all behind the scenes. But Phillip Johnson has been quite clear that he came up with this legalistic excuse called ID as part of becoming a born-again Christian, and William Dembski declared ID as “the Logos theology of John’s Gospel restated in the idiom of information theory.” To deny the religious foundation of ID isn’t just madness — it’s intentionally lying.

4. Does Intelligent Design, as offered by its most noteworthy proponents, argue that any given purported incident of design must have been performed by God, angels, or any “supernatural” being?

This is simply a restatment of question 3, with a different set of supernatural phenomena. They consciously avoid saying so in public, but sometimes slip up when speaking to the faithful, and by implication, many of their rationalizations must include supernatural phenomena. Behe, for instance, is among the most meticulous in avoiding god-talk, but his explanations require constant, intentional intervention by an intelligent designer in the evolution of every family/genus on earth over billions of years. Without saying “god”, the inference that it requires a god-like being or beings is unavoidable.

5. Is Intelligent Design, as offered by its most noteworthy proponents, compatible with atheism?

No. You’ve got Berlinski as a counter-example, but he’s more of a pompous contrarian who can’t advance a rational alternative. Atheism says that we are here as a product of natural processes, no guidance from beyond required; ID says natural processes are inadequate, intent, planning, and constant intervention by a capital-D Designer required. Read any of Meyer’s books: they sneer at all of biology and propose an ineffable being of great power to replace it.

6. Does Intelligent Design, as offered by its most noteworthy proponents, rely on the bible, or any religious document? (as a source of evidence, etc)

There he goes again, repeating the same core question as 3 and 4. Creationists love padding their arguments with noise.

7. Hypothetical scenario: a designer starts an evolutionary process. The designer arranges the environment and the organisms involved in the process in such a way so as to yield a particular, specified and intended result, with no intervention on the designer’s part aside from initially setting up the situation, organisms and environment. Is this an example of Intelligent Design in action, according to ID’s most noteworthy proponents?

That’s the frontloading scenario. It doesn’t work. The natural processes that we know exist and function interfere with the production of a “particular, specified and intended result” — it’s as if they want to pretend that chance has no input in descent with modification.

Yes, it is a fairly common explanation offered by intelligent design creationism proponents. It’s also stupid.

8. Revisit 7. Stipulate that designer only used completely “natural” means in setting up the experiment and successfully predicting the result. Is this still an example of Intelligent Design, as offered by its most noteworthy proponents, in action?

Since we understand that many natural mechanisms are going to produce chance outputs, which will make that “particular, specified and intended result” an impossibility, it is a stipulation that makes the proposal completely incompatible with intelligent design creationism. Therefore it cannot be an example of intelligent design. Unless ID is so vacuous and empty of meaning that it accepts any possible explanation of organic change as ID.

9. An ID critic proposes that intelligent aliens, not God, may be responsible for a purported incident of Intelligent Design – for example, the origin of the bacterial flagellum. Has the ID critic proposed a scenario which, if true, would disprove Intelligent Design, as offered by its most noteworthy proponents?

Padded questions and convoluted logic — yes, I can tell a creationist mind is at work.

This is a meaningless gotcha. We can point right now to bio-engineered organisms, creatures that were modified by human intelligent design; similarly, we can imagine non-human interventions that modify organisms, although of course we have no evidence that such intelligent non-human beings exist. Our creationist interrogator is trying to play a game of suggesting that individual examples of intentional variation in organisms is a disproof of a theory that proposes there was intentional variation in organisms.

He’s an idiot, in other words.

He’s also dodging and squirming from what ID actually says. Look at their books: they are almost uniformly about claiming that evolutionary theory is inadequate to explain the origin of species. Showing that there are novel mechanisms outside the processes that have driven evolution for four billion years does not say anything about the sufficiency of those unguided natural processes.

10. A creationist argues that evolution must be false, because it isn’t mentioned in the Bible. Has the creationist made an Intelligent Design claim?

No. I’ll make this easy for you. Intelligent design claims are arguments that natural processes are insufficient to account for the biology of life on earth, that are consciously designed to walk a gray line imposed by the local and parochial laws of the United States that prohibit the teaching of religion in public schools. They would not mention the Bible by design — it’s part of the definition of what ID does.

But look deeper. All of the major proponents of ID creationism are religious, most are closet Christian apologists, and will testify about their faith-based, traditional beliefs at religious venues. Let’s not pretend there isn’t a colossal biblical component to their ideas, all buried under layers of legalisms that are used to skirt the American Constitution.

Comments

  1. hexidecima says

    ah, more nonsense by lying theists. and all of the lovely ignorance displayed by someone who has intentionally avoiding knowing anything about Kitzmiller vs. Dover.

  2. raven says

    An ID critic proposes that intelligent aliens, not God, may be responsible for a purported incident of Intelligent Design – for example, the origin of the bacterial flagellum.

    1. This again. Who made the intelligent UFO aliens? Or did they evolve. This just puts the question back a step or two.

    (I know, “it’s UFO aliens all the way down.”) I don’t see that this will work. At some point, you start crowding against the Big Bang. There has to be a first intelligent UFO aliens even if they make all the succeeding generations.

    2. The clown also neglected the Multiple Intelligent Designers guess. It could be that there are whole herds of gods. Billions maybe. And they all worked together. If you ignore all the evidence, anything is possible

  3. Sastra says

    I took the quiz before looking at PZ’s answers and think the ID proponent would have been very pleased: I always knew which scenario to use. Space aliens. If “advanced aliens from another planet” is imagined as one of the legitimate options for the Intelligent Designer — and this is always inserted into the question — then you will get every answer “right” from the perspective of the website. See, you can be an atheist and accept ID. It’s not about religion. It’s not religious.

    In theory.

    But we’re not stupid, and neither is the guy who made this ‘test.’ It tested only whether I know what the ID proponencists want me to think. It doesn’t test my understanding of what ID is.

    Hey, ‘nullasalus’ — now do a quiz on mechanisms of ID. Let’s see how many answers YOU get right.

    No, scrap that. Let’s see if you can write a single question other than “Intelligent Design does not speculate on any of the mechanisms or processes involved in the formation or implementation of ID:( true) or (false.)

  4. raven says

    3. Does Intelligent Design, as offered by its most noteworthy proponents (Behe, Meyers, etc) propose to explain any purported incident of design by appeal to miracles or “supernatural” acts of any kind?

    Yes.

    Most formulations of ID have the gods poofing species into existence when we aren’t looking. That would be the Cambrian explosion and every other new fossil in the geological record.

    The god tinkering with DNA when we aren’t looking is more theistic evolution.

  5. zenlike says

    Funny that the poster of the quiz goes by the nym ‘nullasalus’ (nulla salus) meaning ‘no salvation’, which is most often (or better: almost always) used in the sentence ‘extra Ecclesiam nulla salus’, or ‘outside the Church there is no salvation’.

    Yeah, ID certainly is not 100% religiously inspired. /rollseyes.

  6. doubtthat says

    I would like to encounter someone who doesn’t believe in God (or similar magical mumbo jumbo) but does believe in universal ID (not just the BS space alien thing everyone has rightly targeted).

    How is that even possible absent some supernatural…something.

  7. kathleenmcnamara says

    Question 7 makes me want to hit the writer of these questions over the head with a thermodynamics text book!

  8. kosk11348 says

    ID is many things. It is a theological argument (argument from design) reworked into a pseudo-scientific hypothesis for the purpose of skirting laws against religious proselytizing in American public schools.

    The one thing it is not is testable science.

  9. Menyambal --- making sambal a food group. says

    When the article uses “God” without specifying which god is being meant, it is pretty clear it means the Christian god, and that the writer is Christian. When the article keeps referring to noteworthy proponents, rather than to theories, facts and experiments, it’s pretty clear that appeals to authority is all they have.

  10. Menyambal --- making sambal a food group. says

    How can they deduce a designer, but not deduce anything about the designer?

  11. says

    Oddly, the ID proponentists aren’t hypothesizing that space aliens (which appeared through abiogenesis and evolved to intelligence) seeded earth early in its planetary lifecycle, for the lulz or whatever reason they had. Perhaps there was an alien species that didn’t adequately sterilize a probe before they launched it, and it had a few of their equivalents of tardigrades on it.* For some reason they jump straight to a supreme being, rather than a bunch of cosmic tinkerers. Which is more likely…?

    (* not that I think that is what happened)

  12. rrhain says

    Regarding Question 7, I’m reminded of an assignment from my intro Computer Science class in college:

    Construct a program that finds a knight’s tour of a chessboard. Extra points if the one it finds is cyclical.

    A knight’s tour is where you put a knight on the board and you have it move around as knights do (two squares in one direction and then one to either side). The goal is to land on every square but never landing on a square more than once. A cyclical tour is one such that the last square of the tour is a single knight’s move to the first square of the tour.

    The exercise was to examine algorithms, practice list structures, etc. They gave a hint that certain squares are “more flexible” than others. For example, a knight sitting on a corner square has only two possible moves…and one of them was the square you came from so you can’t use it. This would help use develop the algorithm to find the tour.

    Now, the “real” solution to this problem is to have a system that at the very least has a way of backing up. That is, you move the knight around and if you find yourself in a position where you can no longer move the knight without going to a square you’ve already landed on and yet you still haven’t finished, back up the knight to a place where it can make a different choice and move forward again. With some guidance in the algorithm about where to “prefer” to go, you can make this search more efficient. Being in the center allows more moves than being on the edges.

    But what I did, in the name of time, was manually find a cyclical knight’s tour and programmed the board to restrict the process to just that tour. That is, I developed an array to model the chessboard. Each square had only two possible “legal” moves attached to it. When a knight landed on a square, it marked it as landed upon and then looked at that square to see which legal moves it could use. The first move was done randomly.

    The thing is, this meant there was only one way through. The only real randomness, since the tour was cyclical, was whether or not you went “forward” or “backward” through the tour. Only the first square had any choice because as soon as you landed on a square, one of the two legal moves assigned was no longer available: You had just come from that square.

    Thus, it forced a tour.

    While I got full credit (since I adhered to the letter of the assignment), I know that my result wasn’t really in the spirit of things. It didn’t actually find the tour. It already had it. It was much more complicated to have it actually find a tour on its own and I didn’t have time to program an algorithm to do it.

    So the answer to Question 7 is, “That isn’t an evolutionary process. A forced result based upon initial parameters isn’t evolutionary.”

    It makes me want to give this assignment to those people who talk about front-loading in order to show them the difference between the two. I don’t hold out much hope, but it might work on at least one.

  13. says

    At some point, you start crowding against the Big Bang. There has to be a first intelligent UFO aliens even if they make all the succeeding generations.

    Imagine that early on in the life of the universe, on some planet or other, abiogenesis happened, and intelligent life evolved. Imagine further that the intelligent life figured out their biology and physics and discovered a mechanism for long distance molecular action at a very small level, and were able to assemble nano-robots (that were kind of like primordial bacteria) on a few faraway places. Then they were sucked down a rogue black hole, so sad. Meanwhile those primordial bacteria flourished and evolved.

    The “sky hook” in my little story above is the molecule-level action at a distance – which, interestingly, is something that theists generally assume “god” would be capable of. For all intents and purposes, then, my space aliens are no less unlikely than “god” and, because I’m not assuming an all powerful supreme being, my space aliens seem more likely (though still ridiculously unlikely) and you don’t have to answer questions like “if there’s a supreme being, why is it hiding?” and “if there’s a supreme being, why is it such an asshole?”

    What’s really weird to me is that a supreme being would have to resort to molecule-level action at a distance in the first place. Because if it were tinkering around nowadays we’d see some interesting bumps in probability distributions and things like that. Physicists are getting pretty darned sensitive with their measuring devices and if god’s not careful they’d catch him with his finger on one end of the quantum entanglement, or something, and it’d be “game over, man”

  14. woozy says

    How can they deduce a designer, but not deduce anything about the designer?

    This is why I say even if ID was right, it would still be wrong.

    ID is, in its theory (but IDists lie so….), based on the premise that some organisms have irreducible complexity. Apparently (and not surprisingly) this isn’t the case (although how would those of us who are not biologists know). But even if it were the case, this doesn’t imply a design much less a designer. It merely implies we do not understand the processes of our current theory (as was the case, in many fields of science, when chaos theory and complexity theory was ill-understood) or that there are unknown processes involved (which has occurred and will continue to occur countless times in the history of science). To attribute an *unknown* criterion to the name “design”, which implies intent and quantification that hasn’t been verified, is the opposite of science.

    But all this is moot as, apparently, organisms don’t have irreducible complexity.

  15. imthegenieicandoanything says

    Why can’t these silly people stay at home by themselves and play air guitar while listening to Rush or Led Zep (or is it Zepp?) or whatever, or pretend they are Toscanini conducting Beethoven, instead of pretending their genius is that of Wile E. Coyote on a bad day?

    Is being tiresome a way of getting into creationist heaven (and is THAT a horrible image!)?

  16. rrhain says

    @16: It’s akin to the canard that “Science says bumblebees can’t fly!”

    First, science never said that. Scientists are smart enough to realize that when you see a bumblebee flying, it would be insane to say that they can’t. Instead, what science said was that given what we know about rigid wing flight and fluid dynamics, there isn’t enough lift to support the weight of a bumblebee…

    …therefore we need to do more work. Thus, we found out that bees don’t have rigid wings, fluid dynamics was more complicated, etc., etc.

    At no point did anybody say, “Therefore, god..er…credesign proponentist being is providing the lift.” Not even creationists. Nobody thought god was holding the bees up. Even when this was used as a “Science doesn’t know everything!” justification, nobody ever thought god was involved in the flight of the bumblebee.

    This is what the creationists never seem to grasp. Just because we don’t know how doesn’t mean you get to insist that it’s magic.

  17. bcwebb says

    On common descent: question 9 uses the creationist argument that ID must have occurred based on the supposed missing intermediates to complex structures such as flagella; there must have been a complex rearrangement from one functioning structure to another. The examples all involve multiple DNA changes. Presumably only DNA pairings with either all of the changes or none expressed correspond to viable organisms. They aren’t really “descendants:” in one generation, the new organisms are not statistically fertile with their predecessors.

  18. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    The one question on the table that will never get answered by IDiots, is who designed the designer…..

  19. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    (eyeroll) Duh! It’s designers all the way down!

    Each, of course more complex than the previous…. ;)

  20. Trebuchet says

    Easier answers, without even having to read the questions:
    1. Wedge Document
    2. Wedge Document
    3. Wedge Document
    4. ….

    Here’s a quiz for the ID proponents:
    1. Would you believe in ID if you were not a Christian?

  21. John Pieret says

    Note that 7, 8 and 9 are, collectively, incompatible with 3 and 4. As John Wilkins has said:

    ID requires a designer who can visualise all possible combinations of chemistry over billions of years. If that isn’t a supernatural designer, I’ll eat my epistemological hat!

    For a designer to arrange “the environment and the organisms involved in the process in such a way so as to yield a particular, specified and intended result, with no intervention on the designer’s part aside from initially setting up the situation, organisms and environment” would, in fact, take omniscience or something so close to make any such alien indistinguishable from a god.

    The reason they make the alien move is easy to determine. It is an ad hoc attempt to remove the obvious conclusion that the IDers “designer” is, in fact, God for the sole purpose of avoiding the constitutional ban on teaching religion as fact in public schools.

    But when they talk among themselves, there is no question who they mean:

    http://dododreams.blogspot.com/2009/07/alien-to-truth.html

    Blatant dishonesty is more than a good enough basis to reject ID.

  22. John Pieret says

    Note that 7, 8 and 9 are, collectively, incompatible with 3 and 4. As John Wilkins has said:

    ID requires a designer who can visualise all possible combinations of chemistry over billions of years. If that isn’t a supernatural designer, I’ll eat my epistemological hat!

    For a designer to arrange “the environment and the organisms involved in the process in such a way so as to yield a particular, specified and intended result, with no intervention on the designer’s part aside from initially setting up the situation, organisms and environment” would, in fact, take omniscience or something so close to make any such alien indistinguishable from a god.

    The reason they make the alien move is easy to determine. It is an ad hoc attempt to remove the obvious conclusion that the IDers “designer” is, in fact, God for the sole purpose of avoiding the constitutional ban on teaching religion as fact in public schools.

    But when they talk among themselves,there is no question who they mean:

    Blatant dishonesty is more than a good enough basis to reject ID.

  23. simulateddave says

    It always amuses me how ID’ists use relentless vagueness as a selling point. As far as I can see, the Theory of ID is: “Over the past few billion years, sometimes someone intelligent somehow does something somewhere that in some way influences the development of life on Earth, and this should be taught in high school biology classes for some reason.”

    From what I can tell, scientists usually try to be a little more specific. When Newton said he could explain the motion of the planets, he did a little better than say “I’d theorize that there’s something that makes them go that way.”

  24. Nemo says

    The frontloading scenario would seem to require omniscience to set it up, which I think excludes non-supernatural designers.

    @rrhain #18: There’s a movie (and book) called “The Bumblebee Flies Anyway”, in which one of the characters brings up the bee aerodynamics thing, and then says — I kid you not — “The leading theory is that it’s mind over matter.” I’m probably paraphrasing, but that’s close.

  25. brucegee1962 says

    Regarding questions 7 & 8:

    They sound like two people observing a rock rolling down a mountain. The ID proponents says “Someone threw that rock down the mountain.” The scientist says “The mountain appears to be unscalable, there are no paths going up it, and there are plenty of natural processes that dislodge rocks, so the null hypothesis is that it got knocked down due to erosion or plant roots.” But really, since there’s no way of actually testing either hypothesis, the real question is Why even bother asking?

  26. roxchix says

    Question about these do not link links.

    When I want to look up something on dubious websites, such as uncommon descent, or AIG, I copy any links into google and look at the page on googlecache, rather than going to the page. Is there anyway to do that with the do not link links?

  27. chrislawson says

    Actually, ID is very testable and has been refuted many times. Just because the IDists keep moving the goalposts or hiding in equivocations does not make their theory untestable. Here are some of the failed ID hypotheses:

    1. Flagellae are irreducibly complex. (Behe)
    2. The No Free Lunch Theorem disproves natural evolution. (Dembski)
    3. AIDS is a designed punishment from God and is not caused by HIV. (Johnson)
    4. Natural creatures have no imperfections. (Nelson)
    5. The conceptual foundations of any successful scientific theory must be grounded in Christ. (Dembski)
    6. Design leaves a clear and unambiguously measurable signature. (Johnson)
    7. Evolutionary theory is being abandoned by biologists and is about to collapse. (Every creationist and IDist since 1859)
    8. The peppered moth data were faked. (Wells)
    9. Peer review is Lysenkoism. (Dembski)

    Of course, even successful theories have their failed hypotheses which then lead to improvement of the theory. Darwin made a few mistakes himself. But the problem for ID is that the only testable hypotheses they’ve ever presented have been experimentally invalidated, often by experiments performed many years before the IDists came up with their stunts. Much of what Behe wrote about flagella was wrong and known to be wrong at the time he was writing if only he had looked into the published research. And even more importantly, there is not a single positive ID hypothesis that has been experimentally confirmed, which is to me the bare minimum for a theory to be considered scientifically viable.

  28. says

    It always amuses me how ID’ists use relentless vagueness as a selling point

    This. A big problem with ID is that they’re so unwilling to make any testable statements. They want to be taken seriously as scientists, but they fail at it because their position isn’t actually a scientific position.
    While they refrain from making explicitly religious claims, their position is entirely religiously based. That’s why they constantly end up in trouble; they feel a strong need to support certain positions, for which they have no scientific basis, but they can’t reveal why without exposing their true religious motivations. Every time they do try getting specific, they’re proven wrong.

    They can’t use science (because it contradicts them) and they can’t use religion (because they’re trying to pretend they’re not religious), so they end up not really saying much.

    That’s why they’re so vague about the supposed designer. That’s why they’re vague on the mechanisms for the design. That’s why they’re vague on what was supposed to have happened when. That’s why they want to discuss the “strengths and weaknesses of evolution,” rather than just propose a competing, testable hypothesis. Vagueness is the whole point.

    That’s also why this “test” fails miserably. Sure, many things are compatible with ID, as long as you’re willing to not specify anything about who, what, where, when and how. The fact that ID proponents are dishonest about what they really believe is not a point in their favor and I’m amazed that this guy apparently thinks it is.

  29. Anri says

    3. Does Intelligent Design, as offered by its most noteworthy proponents (Behe, Meyers, etc) propose to explain any purported incident of design by appeal to miracles or “supernatural” acts of any kind?

    To reinforce raven, above, the answer is: yes.

    Once you have said that intelligence cannot develop on its own, you cannot posit a first intelligent designer with purely natural causes.
    Either the first designer must have developed on its own, or magic man dun it!.

    You can intelligently design species – I work in biotech, that’s much of what we do – but you can’t intelligently design the first sentient beings. This is so obviously self-refuting, I’m not sure how to make it simpler.

  30. ChasCPeterson says

    Flagellae

    ‘Flagella’ is already plural. One is a ‘flagellum’.

    [this has been your moment of undercaffeinated pedantry]

  31. zmidponk says

    What really makes me laugh about that is questions 7 & 8:

    7. Hypothetical scenario: a designer starts an evolutionary process. The designer arranges the environment and the organisms involved in the process in such a way so as to yield a particular, specified and intended result, with no intervention on the designer’s part aside from initially setting up the situation, organisms and environment. Is this an example of Intelligent Design in action, according to ID’s most noteworthy proponents?

    8. Revisit 7. Stipulate that designer only used completely “natural” means in setting up the experiment and successfully predicting the result. Is this still an example of Intelligent Design, as offered by its most noteworthy proponents, in action?

    As a hypothetical thought experiment, taking into account the severe nebulousness of ID (an unknown designer of unknown nature designed and created life, at an unknown point in the past, using an unknown method for an unknown purpose), this is actually compatible with ID, and also compatible with the very basic idea of evolution. However, actually apply this to what we know of the history of Earth, and we get a designer capable of not only setting up the right starting conditions, but also successfully predicting many events over the next several billion years which quite dramatically impacted on the direction of evolutionary processes (such as the dinosaur near-extinction), or one who returned at various points over the next several billion years to nudge evolution in the right direction. Either way, this proposed ‘designer’ is beginning to sound very god-like to me. Or the Doctor. One of the two.

  32. says

    @zmidponk
    And he has specifically ruled out repeated interventions in his scenario, as well as being quite concerned to emphasize that the designer isn’t a god. So, those questions are pretty much gibberish.

  33. jamessweet says

    At the risk of coming across as a Dictionary Atheist, I’m not sure I agree with #5. Sure, ID is technically compatible with some really warped and unskeptical forms of atheism. Directed panspermia is certainly not a theistic idea, and it’s only in the last few decades (as molecular biology has progressed) that it has become a wildly implausible idea. (It could never have been ruled likely, but there wasn’t really any specific evidence against it until relatively recently)

    There’s lots of very very stupid ideas that are compatible with atheism. :D In fact, just about all good ideas are compatible with a whole lot of bad ideas. Feminism is perfectly compatible with astrology. Calculus is perfectly compatible with racism. That doesn’t take anything away from feminism or calculus, nor does it add anything to astrology or racism. They are just different categories. Sure, ID is compatible with a particular form of atheism… that means absolutely nothing.

  34. sc_a5d5b3a48ba402d40e1725cbb3ce1375 says

    zmidponk:

    However, actually apply this to what we know of the history of Earth, and we get a designer capable of not only setting up the right starting conditions, but also successfully predicting many events over the next several billion years which quite dramatically impacted on the direction of evolutionary processes (such as the dinosaur near-extinction), or one who returned at various points over the next several billion years to nudge evolution in the right direction.

    Assuming, of course, that humans are the designer’s end goal. If the goal was merely to produce eventual multicellularity, the hypothesis is much simpler. And IDists don’t even bother with “serious” arguments that go anywhere further up the tree of life. As much as their YEC supporters are bothered by the ape-to-human transition, IDists don’t argue that it required functional-specificed-irreducible-trans-saturated complexity (or at least, they don’t make that argument in scientific/mathematical terms).

    So if we’re going to create a better ID hypothesis for them, that would be one place to start: “One or more intelligent aliens manipulated an early earth environment to eventually produce life with a flagellum, but had no particular goals for evolution beyond that.”

    The standard creationist interpretation of evolution as “leading up to” us bowtie-wearing monkeys informed a UD question about the age of the earth (Bing cache link): Given that a couple million years is “too short” for evolution and a few billion seems like “enough”, how much time would be “too much” (or “more than enough”) for evolution?

    The assumption of this weird “gotcha” is that “evolutionists” just massage the evolutionary timeline to fit the known geological age of the earth, in the same way that tasks always expand to fill the time available. In other words, an inability to pre-specify the “minimum time required for evolution” is an instance of unfalsifiability.

    But “How long should evolution have taken?” is a vague question (evolution of what?), and one that ignores so very much about the field. Everything is contingent, with plenty of random factors; re-wind the tape and you’d get a different result. Furthermore, the evolutionary timeline is not some kind of black box, such that some simple early cell went in one end and elephants came out the other. We have the fossils! Ergo, we know “how long it took” to get from one species to another because we can date the rocks.

    The answer to the question depends on how detailed we want to get; there’s a difference between “How long does it take to grow a flower?” and “How long does it take to grow a flower with this specific arrangement of molecules?”

    In another universe, perhaps Earth would have evolved life of equivalent-to-human intelligence after, say, half a billion years. In yet another one, it “took” six billion years. Unless, of course, that definitely-not-supernatural designer somehow arranged for everything to come off just so, like a Rube Goldberg of unfathomable intelligence.

  35. vaiyt says

    As much as their YEC supporters are bothered by the ape-to-human transition, IDists don’t argue that it required functional-specificed-irreducible-trans-saturated complexity (or at least, they don’t make that argument in scientific/mathematical terms).

    IDists are creationists. The only function of the ID argument is to be a springboard to shove Yahweh in the designer role. The reason they don’t have a full scientific argument is that they don’t have one.

  36. rrhain says

    @27, brucegee1962: “But really, since there’s no way of actually testing either hypothesis, the real question is Why even bother asking?”

    But that’s just it: There *are* ways of testing. Actions cause reactions, they leave traces. If you found fingerprints on the rock, managed to get up the mountain to find the likely spot where the rock came from, discovered footprints around it, some of which are shoved deeply in consistent with someone shoving on the rock, etc. You’d conclude it is likely the rock was pushed.

    As mentioned, every single attempt to provide a concrete example of ID has been tested and found that no, it wasn’t designed but actually evolved.

  37. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @Dhorvath, 23:

    So that’s why they call it iD.

    Stolen forever.

  38. says

    There’s also the issue that if the designer has enough control to, without any following correction, set up the initial conditions to reliably produce human beings, we must conclude that he (/she/it/they) also must have intended all the other results of the evolution of life on this planet.

    Results like, e.g. viruses.

  39. Owlmirror says

    woozy @ #16:

    But all this is moot as, apparently, organisms don’t have irreducible complexity.

    I’m pretty sure that this is incorrect — or at least, needs to be qualified.

    There are a lot of features about evolved organisms that are irreducibly complex, in the sense that the current combination of features are reduced to the point where removing one of them would cause failure.

    The thing is, this is actually to be expected with evolution. There is some redundancy built in, but high-cost redundancy would tend to be eliminated, and even low-cost redundancy can be dropped over time.

    The usual analogy for this sort of thing is of a scaffold and a structure — the whole structure arises with the scaffolding surrounding it; then the scaffolding is removed, and it “looks” like the structure is just there, having “appeared” on its own (as an example from geology, consider Arches National Park).

    That irreducible complexity is expected from evolution. The type of irreducible complexity that we don’t see is basically a kind of saltation; a complete set of features with no antecedants anywhere in the organism’s evolutionary heritage.

    chrislawson @#31

    6. Design leaves a clear and unambiguously measurable signature. (Johnson)

    As phrased, I think this might well be true — but it doesn’t help the case for ID.

    There have been lawsuits over genetically engineered organisms (crops) showing at times and places where their creators (Monsanto) had not licensed them to be. I don’t think the lawsuits would have had standing if it were not possible to tell that these organisms had been intelligently designed (engineered).

    But we see no sign of such engineering in all other organisms (so far as I know), leaving us to conclude that no intelligent design has occurred during their evolution

    LykeX @#43:

    There’s also the issue that if the designer has enough control to, without any following correction, set up the initial conditions to reliably produce human beings, we must conclude that he (/she/it/they) also must have intended all the other results of the evolution of life on this planet.

    Results like, e.g. viruses.

    Oh, I’ve brought up the putative design of disease pathogens that kill many humans (mostly children) many many times over the years when arguing with creationists. So far as I can tell, they just ignore it.

    I think Behe did once admit that there may have been non-benevolent intelligent designers mucking about.

  40. Amphiox says

    One can get around the big problem by supposing the alien designers were something like S. Baxter’s Xeelee – ie they can travel between universes and enter new universes early in their formation.

    As to where the infinite regress comes from you have two options. First you can call upon infinite multiverse theory – if it is truly infinite then somewhere somewhen every possible collection or pattern of particles must spontaneously arise, include that of an intelligent designer, fully formed.

    Or you can call on the concept of time travel – the designers come from extremely evolved life at the end of the universe traveling back in time to the beginning to create a closed space-like curve.

    And in the meantime you can tell parsimony to to sit in a corner and cry…

  41. David Marjanović says

    That’s why they’re so vague about the supposed designer

    …except for the number of designers. Don’t they always assume exactly one?

  42. Anri says

    Amphiox @ 46:

    For the infinite universes bit, that’s still positing intelligence coming about as a result of undirected forces, just a different set of forces. Which negates the entire point of ID.
    (Or we can just argue that we should ask Princess Celestia of Equestria – according to their theory, she exists. If they don’t really think she exists, they don’t really accept that theory.)

    As far as time-travel goes, if someone’s explanation not only can but must involve causality-violating time paradoxes, they’re better off writing bad Dr. Who fanfic than engaging in scientific debate, and should be told so.