Tuesday, August 23, 2005

more Dembski

I was thinking about the Dembski stuff a bit more, namely his claim that if a 'irreducibly complex 'machine'' evolved in Lenski's E coli studies 'the issue of contamination would also arise'. I realize that this might be a joke. But probably not. Which is exciting to me because it kind of reveals, at least to me, how funny Dembski's views, and all of ID's views really are.

Anyway, the problem with ID, at least the brand of ID that requires God to actually manipulate the organic world every now and again (let alone a more deist interpretation), is that nobody really knows what one of these manipulations should look like. Therefore, there can never be any evidence for or against the hypothesis that God 'guides' evolution.

Now this is a pretty standard critique of ID. ID is not testable. It's not falsifiable in principle. There's nothing that we can imagine being observed that would force us to reject ID.

Why I find this particular case so funny is that Dembski is trying to come up with alternative, ad hoc explanations for the appearance of 'irreducibly complex' traits. Why contamination? Why not just say: well, it may appear as if the trait evolved through 'natural' causes, but really, God was nudging the nucleotides around the whole time, we just can't tell. What prohibits God from working in a lab? It's not like it's any different to God from a jungle.

The problem is that EVERY possible observation is compatible with ID, however only a very small number (relatively speaking) are compatible with evolutionary biology.

I mean, if we were out in the jungle and 'watched' an orchid evolve some complex pollination apparatus, could we really tell it was being actively designed? Sure, we might be able to use Dembski's model for 'detecting design' (I actually doubt that very much but for the sake of argument), but it wouldn't matter.

But maybe I'm jumping the gun. Maybe Dembski would really give up ID if we could show the exact sequence of changes that took place leading up to some 'irreducibly complex' trait, well, at least a snapshot of the population every 100 generations. But I doubt he'd give it up even then. I would imagine he would say, 'look, it is so unlikely that that particular sequence of events lined up just like that and led to that particular trait that each one had to be put in place by God.' (again repeating the 'low probability fallacy' as I think it should be called, i.e. not understanding that some trait only has a 'high probability' of evolving in a certain context, i.e. a wing would surely not be very likely if you didn't already have something to build on, like a forelimb)

I don't know. I guess we'll have to wait and see, because I have a very good feeling about this Lenski study. Not like it's necessary, but I just want to see how 'they' handle it.

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