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Irreducible and Specified Complexity

Creating a clay woman

Things fester on the internet. Propositions that were refuted long ago don’t go away; there’s always someone who hasn’t been brought up to speed yet, paddling the same old canoe that has already been sunk many times over.

Irreducible Complexity and Specified Complexity are terms used by the proponents of Intelligent Design to support their proposition that there is a creator deity. There’s a backstory to this: the Federal government, following the famous 1925 court case, known as the ‘Scopes Monkey trial’ 1, made the teaching of Creationism in US schools illegal. What did the theists do? They rebranded Creationism, calling it ‘Intelligent Design’! At that point, they abandoned any legitimate claim to have the open mind needed to do science. 

Intelligent Design sidesteps the issue of a Creator God by leaving the agent anonymous. They just refer to an unknown ‘Intelligent Designer’ (we all know they mean their god) and say that the ‘evidence’ that such a being must exist is because, they assert, some of the complex features of organisms cannot have evolved. That’s not evidence for a designer, it’s just a variant of the argument from ignorance fallacy 2 and it reveals that they don’t understand the difference between argument and evidence.

They skate over how one is supposed to recognize what qualifies as a ‘complex feature’ because they obviously wish to extend their claim from ‘a designer must be required for complex features’ to ‘a designer must be required for all features’. They love to quote statistics showing how improbable it would be for such things to have evolved by chance. All that does is tell us that they don’t understand how evolution works; the mechanism of evolution is not chance; it’s selection. Leaving all that aside, let’s examine the items of ‘evidence’ that they claim supports their case for an Intelligent Designer: irreducible complexity and specified complexity.

Irreducible complexity

Irreducible complexity supposes that certain complex organs or biological processes couldn’t have evolved gradually by intermediate stages because, until they are complete, they don’t work and, therefore, don’t confer any advantage.

The first problem that IDers face is any feature, however complex, is only irreducible until it has been shown to be reducible and several of the IDer’s ‘irreducibly complex’ examples have fallen at this hurdle; we have good explanations for how the mammalian eye and the flagellum likely evolved. Smuggling the assumption of irreducibility into an item being offered as evidence is a clue—it’s not evidence, it’s a claim! 

They probably think like this because they are assuming a deliberate progression from simple to complex. This is not the case; there is no intentionality in evolution, it’s only a matter of passing on genes by not dying before breeding. Sometimes a characteristic begins with one function and, as it evolves, acquires a different function. Evolution is by modification of the existing, not by designing on a blank sheet of paper. Any particular characteristic doesn’t even have to contribute to survival; it might just be taking a ride into the next generation on an individual that didn’t die before breeding for other reasons.

Specified complexity

Specified complexity claims that the existence of coding in the DNA, which instructs the production of proteins that lead to the construction of a cell, indicates that some clever being must have programmed it. But both specifying and designing are manifestations of intentional intelligence. Ask any procurement officer and you will find that the first thing they do is compile a wishlist of demands, for example: ‘The aircraft should be able to fly at 600 mph, carry 300 passengers, have a range of 4,000 miles and be able to use short runways’.

Specifications are designed before a product is designed so IDers are assuming the existence of their designer when they label a particular complexity as having been ‘specified’ and then saying that the existence of that complexity proves that there must be a him! All Intelligent Design proponents have done is moved their presupposition of a designer back one stage in the process of creation that they imagine is taking place. Projecting backwards is like saying, “I exist, therefore, two hundred years ago, my great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather must have inseminated his partner with a plan to produce me as a descendant!” Ludicrous isn’t it! You can’t conclude historic intentionality—it will always be merely a claim.

Once you spot that specifying is designing, their claim boils down to ‘a designed complexity is evidence of a designer’! They are just trying to trick us by using the word ‘specified’ instead of the word ‘designed’. This is an example of the begging the question fallacy or circular reasoning 3 —assuming an explanation for an existing phenomenon and then claiming that the existence of that phenomenon is evidence for that assumption! Smuggling the assumption of specification (designing the features) into an item being offered as evidence is a clue: it’s not evidence, it’s a claim! 

The fact is, biological diversity doesn’t require any specifying. We have a good model of how the complexity of DNA likely came about and it wasn’t by design, it was by natural selection from an array of variants produced by mutation, both of which are unplanned events. Variants pop up all the time due to external mutagenic factors and recombinations in the gametogenesis and fertilization processes. That happens at every reproductive event, whether the species is evolving or not. The environment determines which variants succeed and has its ‘foot on the throttle’: more change in the conditions stimulates more change from the population in response. No need for any specifier, designer or god. 

Unintelligent design

Then there are the countless examples of unintelligent ‘design’! Once you actually study genetics you will find lots of apparent nonsense, such as multiple replications of pieces of code and dormant viruses, in every nucleus. Craig Ventner has demonstrated this with the investigation to find the minimal genome 4. The truth is, we have acquired a hotchpotch of accidentally accumulated genetic material which is most unlike any deliberately specified code. A designer would have to have been a scatterbrain rather than intelligent.

IDers are not doing science; they are doing presuppositionalism and the law courts agree: ‘Intelligent Design’ was recognized as Creation-by-another-name in the 2005 case of Kitzmiller vs Dover Area School District 5

Even if ‘irreducible complexity’ and ‘specified complexity’ were real things, they wouldn’t be evidence for an Intelligent Designer, they would just be unsolved mysteries. You can’t turn ‘we dunno’ into ‘godunnit’. Not even any god, let alone the Christian one… This is Science 101. Go back to school IDers.

References:

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scopes_Trial
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_ignorance
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Begging_the_question
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minimal_genome
  5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kitzmiller_v._Dover_Area_School_District

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11 Comments

  1. Bill Flavell

    The reasons creationists give for denying evolution by natural selection evolve faster than anything else!

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      There’s a truism!

      Reply
  2. Avatar

    The first thing I’d better point out is that I am a creationist, or as this article would refer to me, an IDer. I’ll be attempting to refute this article paragraph by paragraph.

    According to the third paragraph in the introduction, assuming we were created by something when the arguments of those trying to prove we weren’t is an argument from ignorance. But, there isn’t a third option here. We were either created by an intelligent being, or we weren’t. It’s not an argument from ignorance, at worst it is the process of elimination.

    There is a simple answer to paragraph four in the introduction: defining a ‘complex feature’. Most IDers agree that a complex feature is a piece of the body that, when one part of it is removed, does not function at all. That’s an oversimplification, but for purposes of this argument, I believe it is sufficient.

    I question why there is no source for paragraph 2 of “Irreducible complexity” in regard to knowing how the eye has evolved, as it seems to be the only place in this article where any real evidence is mentioned. My argument here is not really an argument, I am just admitting my own ignorance in this particular case.

    Paragraph 3 says that all of the irreducible things in our body have merely come about by chance. If this is true, why do we not see other parts of our body that are complex things that have not yet fully developed? Any irreducibly complex organism is highly unlikely – which seems to be atheism’s specialty – but we have many irreducibly complex organisms! The very blood cells of our bodies are irreducibly complex. Not only that, they present a chicken-and-egg dilemma in that they cannot survive without other functions of our body, and those cannot happen without blood cells.

    Paragraph three of “specified complexity” states that ‘a designed complexity is evidence of a designer’ is circular reasoning, but that’s just not true. Saying that the design of this website is evidence that someone designed it is not circular, it’s logic. The teleological argument is an argument very similar to what we are discussing here, and it has yet (to my knowledge) to be disproved.

    Paragraph four of “specified complexity” and paragraph one of “unintelligent design” claim that much of our current being came about through mutations. But if you study mutations, you will see that in every case mutations are caused by a LACK of DNA. Not one mutation has ever caused more DNA to be added to the genetic code, or provided any beneficial trait to the mutated.

    Paragraph one of “unintelligent design” also claims that imperfections in the genetic code indicate an imperfect designer, but as we’ve already discussed, mutations passed through bloodlines have caused this. Likely earlier humans had purer DNA, fewer mutations, but as the years have gone by (billions of them according to atheism), inbreeding and chance have caused imperfections, not God.

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    William Fartherly comments:

    The first thing I’d better point out is that I am a creationist, or as this article would refer to me, an IDer. I’ll be attempting to refute this article paragraph by paragraph.

    AAI: Hello William, thank you for your email. My responses are here labelled ‘AAI’.

    William: According to the third paragraph in the introduction, assuming we were created by something when the arguments of those trying to prove we weren’t is an argument from ignorance. But, there isn’t a third option here. We were either created by an intelligent being, or we weren’t. It’s not an argument from ignorance, at worst it is the process of elimination.

    AAI: The ‘Ignorance’ in the ‘Argument from Ignorance’ fallacy refers to a lack of positive evidence not to a lack of alternatives. To support the claim of creation, you need to produce some evidence FOR it, not merely assert “We dunno, therefore my godunnit.”
    The heart of this matter requires an understanding of the difference between argument and evidence: Argument is thought – a mental construct, while Evidence consists of observations in the Natural Realm.

    William: There is a simple answer to paragraph four in the introduction: defining a ‘complex feature’. Most IDers agree that a complex feature is a piece of the body that, when one part of it is removed, does not function at all. That’s an oversimplification, but for purposes of this argument, I believe it is sufficient.

    AAI: So, at what level do you apply that criterion? At the anatomical level or the molecular level? If you apply it at the molecular level, then EVERY biological structure is complex because the removal of one atom could destroy functionality. However, claiming you can define a ‘complex feature’ assumes that functionality is a black or white matter. This is not the case: for example, some people lack a full complement of cones in their retinas. Are they sightless? No, they are merely color blind. There are degrees of functionality – it’s not an on/off switch.

    William: I question why there is no source for paragraph 2 of “Irreducible complexity” in regard to knowing how the eye has evolved, as it seems to be the only place in this article where any real evidence is mentioned. My argument here is not really an argument, I am just admitting my own ignorance in this particular case.

    AAI: Here’s a link https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/library/01/1/l_011_01.html
    And another https://www.detectingdesign.com/humaneye.html

    William: Paragraph 3 says that all of the irreducible things in our body have merely come about by chance.

    AAI: DOES IT? THE MECHANISM OF EVOLUTION IS NOT CHANCE. IT’S SELECTION.

    William: If this is true, why do we not see other parts of our body that are complex things that have not yet fully developed? Any irreducibly complex organism is highly unlikely – which seems to be atheism’s specialty – but we have many irreducibly complex organisms! The very blood cells of our bodies are irreducibly complex. Not only that, they present a chicken-and-egg dilemma in that they cannot survive without other functions of our body, and those cannot happen without blood cells.

    AAI: THE FALLACY OF CONSIDERING THINGS TO BE IRREDUCIBLY COMPLEX IS DEALT WITH IN THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE.

    William: Paragraph three of “specified complexity” states that ‘a designed complexity is evidence of a designer’ is circular reasoning, but that’s just not true. Saying that the design of this website is evidence that someone designed it is not circular, it’s logic. The teleological argument is an argument very similar to what we are discussing here, and it has yet (to my knowledge) to be disproved.

    AAI: The circularity comes from the expression ‘specified complexity’ because, as I explained in the article, specifying is part of designing – it is performed by an intelligent agent. So, you are building the concept of intelligent design into your claim. Assuming a condition and then claiming that its existence proves your assumption is a circular argument.

    William: Paragraph four of “specified complexity” and paragraph one of “unintelligent design” claim that much of our current being came about through mutations. But if you study mutations, you will see that in every case mutations are caused by a LACK of DNA. Not one mutation has ever caused more DNA to be added to the genetic code, or provided any beneficial trait to the mutated.

    AAI: Incorrect. Mutations CAN be deletions but they can also be insertions, duplications and recombinations.

    William: Paragraph one of “unintelligent design” also claims that imperfections in the genetic code indicate an imperfect designer, but as we’ve already discussed, mutations passed through bloodlines have caused this. Likely earlier humans had purer DNA, fewer mutations, but as the years have gone by (billions of them according to atheism), inbreeding and chance have caused imperfections, not God.

    AAI: Purer? You are assuming that there is perfection. There isn’t.
    There is only fitness for the environment.

    HELPFUL HOMEWORK:
    1. PLEASE REREAD MY ORIGINAL ARTICLE.
    2. AND WATCH THIS: https://www.patreon.com/posts/27045638

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      And here I was thinking this was going to be boring…

      Much of the “proof” for theories relating to the origin of the universe requires spatial thinking and logical argumentation. You cannot simply throw all of that out and say that only things you can observe can be used as proof. To use an analogy, convicting criminals does not consist of merely presenting the evidence; it requires you to use the evidence to support your theory, which requires arguments. Both Creationism and Atheism use both argumentation and evidence.

      We can expand this discussion into the broader topic of evidences for both sides if you would like, but if we do we should take this another place. Would it be all right if I e-mailed you later this week so we can discuss this? In the meantime, the book I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Athiest by Frank Turek and Norman Geisler provides both arguments and evidence for creationism. Chapter six, in particular, relates to this discussion.

      I see my definition is not adequate. My mistake. “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.” -Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species. The blood cell is a better example of this than the eye, but for now, we’ll stick with eyes. Of the two links you gave me, one is an argument against the common interpretation of the evolution of the eye, and the other is that common interpretation.

      The problem here is we’ve started an argument in the middle. We’ve picked up a book and started reading the tenth chapter. If we can prove the universe was designed, is it safe to say that the universe must then have a designer? I can provide several evidences for this in another setting if you would like.

      “Purer” is, indeed, relative. And as is pointed out in your video, if we throw out a standard for “better” or “worse”, then no change is “better” or “worse”, it is amoral. For purposes of this argument, let’s do that. So, humans have changed. What proof does this provide for ID or Atheism? None. Humans have changed within the bounds of their species, as we know happens. Humans have NOT become anything other than humans. In your analogy of the train passing through the station, humans still fit inside our descriptive box.

      As I said, I would be happy to expand the topic of this discussion beyond irreducible complexity. If you would like, you can e-mail me at [email protected]

      Reply
  4. Avatar

    And here I was thinking this was going to be boring…

    Much of the “proof” for theories relating to the origin of the universe requires spatial thinking and logical argumentation. You cannot simply throw all of that out and say that only things you can observe can be used as proof. To use an analogy, convicting criminals does not consist of merely presenting the evidence; it requires you to use the evidence to support your theory, which requires arguments. Both Creationism and Atheism use both argumentation and evidence.

    We can expand this discussion into the broader topic of evidences for both sides if you would like, but if we do we should take this another place. Would it be all right if I e-mailed you later this week so we can discuss this? In the meantime, the book I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Athiest by Frank Turek and Norman Geisler provides both arguments and evidence for creationism. Chapter six, in particular, relates to this discussion.

    I see my definition is not adequate. My mistake. “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.” -Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species. The blood cell is a better example of this than the eye, but for now, we’ll stick with eyes. Of the two links you gave me, one is an argument against the common interpretation of the evolution of the eye, and the other is that common interpretation.

    The problem here is we’ve started an argument in the middle. We’ve picked up a book and started reading the tenth chapter. If we can prove the universe was designed, is it safe to say that the universe must then have a designer? I can provide several evidences for this in another setting if you would like.

    “Purer” is, indeed, relative. And as is pointed out in your video, if we throw out a standard for “better” or “worse”, then no change is “better” or “worse”, it is amoral. For purposes of this argument, let’s do that. So, humans have changed. What proof does this provide for ID or Atheism? None. Humans have changed within the bounds of their species, as we know happens. Humans have NOT become anything other than humans. In your analogy of the train passing through the station, humans still fit inside our descriptive box.

    As I said, I would be happy to expand the topic of this discussion beyond irreducible complexity. If you would like, you can e-mail me at [email protected]

    Reply
  5. Avatar

    William: And here I was thinking this was going to be boring…

    AAI: It’s going to be far from boring; it’s going to be FUN!
    But it IS going to be a lot of work for me!
    I’m going to have to dissect your first sentence into several parts because it’s so full of misunderstandings. Here we go then:

    William: Much of the “proof” –

    AAI: I’m glad you used quotation marks because ‘proof’ requires absoluteness, which is not available in the Natural Realm and, therefore, proof is not a concept that is applicable to science.

    We can have proof in the Conceptual Realm because there is no limit to what we can conceive (I give you Humpty Dumpty). The conception of lines that have length but no width, and points that have location but no area, enables geometric proofs, but those ideas are not real. That works because maths is merely thought i.e. all in the Conceptual Realm (inside our heads).
    Science uses EVIDENCE, not proof. Evidence is outside of our heads.
    You won’t hear good scientists using the word ‘proof’ in a scientific context.

    William: – for theories relating to the origin of the universe –

    AAI: In Science ‘Theory’ means an evidential explanation (‘evidential’ means IT HAS PASSED TESTING) for a phenomenon or collection of phenomena. It’s a model that fits observations and enables predictions that can be further investigated for confirmation or denial.

    Note: A Theory is a model. Science does modelling. Some of our models are very good – we are communicating using technology derived from scientific discoveries, aren’t we? But models may be improved upon…

    We don’t have theories for the origin of the universe, we only have hypotheses and I’m being generous calling them that.

    Hypotheses are possible explanations, i.e. claims, based on what is known, that CAN BE TESTED but HAVEN’T PASSED TESTING yet.

    I grant you that Cosmologists often refer to their ideas as ‘theories’. They are using the word ‘theory’ in a mathematical way to mean possibility based on calculated reasoning.
    I wish they wouldn’t!
    ‘String Theory’ should be called ‘String Hypothesis’ in my view, and that’s being kind to it.
    Why is it ‘being kind’? Because, see above, a hypothesis should be testable or it’s just a guess.

    It’s difficult to see how hypotheses about the origin of the universe could EVER BE TESTED…
    Without a time machine or observations of another universe starting up, ‘theories’ of origin are doomed to remain speculative, aren’t they? So, that makes them NOT EVEN HYPOTHESES really, since they can’t be tested and hypotheses must be testable. Untestable = unscientific.

    William: – requires spatial thinking and logical argumentation.

    AAI: Spatial thinking and logical argumentation is entirely appropriate for ‘hypotheses’ about the origin of the universe.
    Since hypotheses are thoughts, of course you can think about them!
    In fact, logic is the most rigorous form of thought, but all thoughts need testing for a match (or not) with observations – that’s the science bit. If they can’t be tested they are NOT SCIENTIFIC.

    However, AFTER investigation has yielded repeatable observations enabling a conclusion to be drawn, thought can be put to bed until some observation that doesn’t fit the model crops up.

    If the effect of gravity was hypothetical, you would have to undergo thoughtful consideration about what might happen if you were to jump off a roof. You might even argue with other people who have a different opinion about it – will we fly, float or fall?
    The ability to argue indicates that a proposition is contentious – not known.
    The effect of gravity IS known: we know what will happen if you jump off a roof, so you don’t need to think about it. Thinking is redundant for unfalsified evidential information.
    That’s the difference between unfalsified evidential information and beliefs.
    Beliefs are opinions about the unknown – no wonder they are subject to argument!
    No wonder you don’t believe the beliefs of others…

    William: You cannot simply throw all of that out and say that only things you can observe can be used as proof.

    AAI: There you go again! Leave ‘proof’ for maths, it’s just a concept; Science collects evidence.

    I’m not ‘throwing all of that out’, I’m just saying that hypotheses are not theories. Hypotheses are in the Conceptual Realm while Theories have confirmation in the form of observations in the Natural Realm. Hypothesis (thought) + Matching Observations (evidence) = Conclusion.
    Lots of conclusions that fit together can be assembled into an overarching Theory.

    The process of discovery of new information starts by thinking up a hypothetical explanation for a mystery, tests it for observations that match its predictions in the Natural Realm and then draws conclusions based on whether matching observations were found or not. This is scientific method. Often, the initial mystery is an observation that doesn’t fit into the current model of understanding. I wish they taught this in school!

    William: To use an analogy, convicting criminals does not consist of merely presenting the evidence; it requires you to use the evidence to support your theory, which requires arguments.

    AAI: The criminal justice system does not claim to produce truth, its outcomes are merely judgments.
    Convictions are so unreliable that we have a hierarchical system of appeal courts to re-examine them and sometimes they are overturned; prisoners are released, compensation is paid.

    Science does a lot better. In fact, over the last one hundred and fifty years, scientific theories have not been disproved, they’ve been improved.

    Newtons’ Laws of Motion are still pretty accurate within the solar system except for the orbit of Mercury. Einstein’s Relativity goes one better and explains Mercury’s orbit.

    If argument is involved we don’t have evidence, we only have opinions, even if it is the opinion of a clever attorney making a persuasive case.
    The evidence was the smoking gun with the finger prints on it. Repeatedly observable – see?

    Evidence is shareable repeatable observations, nothing else.

    William: Both Creationism and Atheism use both argumentation and evidence.

    AAI: False assembly: you can’t bracket together Creationism and Atheism; they are not bedfellows. Unlike Creationism, ‘Atheism’ is not an ideology – it makes no claims.

    Do you believe in Zeus?
    No?
    You’re an atheist in regards to Zeus then.
    Can we derive anything from that?
    No.

    Science uses imagination and argument to conceive the input to an investigation and how to investigate that hypothesis, but NOT for the outcome, which is simply a match (or not) between prediction and observation.

    Show me evidence for Creationism (evidence please, not argument or proof).
    That will require repeatable observations of a Creator.
    Not just ANY old Creator, mind you: it’ll have to be YOUR ONE.

    William: If we can prove the universe was designed, is it safe to say that the universe must then have a designer?

    AAI: Assuming that by ‘prove’ you mean ‘provide evidence for’, what would you consider to be evidence for design?

    I’ll tell you what I consider to be evidence of design – the use of non-naturally occurring materials like steel and plastic, signs of cutting or tooling on the materials, methods of fastening such as glue, screws or bolts, a layer of paint on the surface, etc.

    Go ahead: provide evidence that the universe was designed. Go on.

    Without such evidence, are you expecting me to believe it happened by magic?

    I suppose you know that every mystery we have solved has turned out to have a natural explanation? That makes a supernatural one vanishingly improbable, doesn’t it? And in any case, postulating ‘Supernatural’ as support for your supposition is another claim that requires evidence! We call that an ‘ad hoc fallacy’1.

    William: “Purer” is, indeed, relative.

    AAI: Good, we agree.

    William: And as is pointed out in your video, if we throw out a standard for “better” or “worse”, then no change is “better” or “worse” –

    AAI: more agreement

    William: – it is amoral.

    AAI: ‘Amoral’? That’s a value judgment.
    What’s that got to do with the subject we are discussing?
    I thought we were discussing Evolution, Creation and Intelligent Design not morality.
    Move the goalposts why doncha!

    Are you claiming that your Creator or Intelligent Designer agent, whose existence you haven’t yet established, has the character traits of a magistrate?

    Pile claim on top of claim why doncha.
    You’ll be telling me he’s a man with a beard next!

    William: So, humans have changed.

    AAI: Correct. And we are changing still: the gene for the persistence of the production of lactase enzyme into adulthood only appeared in the last few thousand years following the development of dairy farming2 and has not yet penetrated to the whole population.

    William: What proof does this provide for ID or Atheism? None.

    AAI: Again, proof only exists in the Conceptual Realm.

    ‘Atheism’ makes no claims, has no doctrine, is not a belief system so there’s nothing to be ‘proven’. It’s just a lack of belief.

    Like you I don’t believe in Zeus. I expect we agree about that.
    Unlike you, I also don’t believe in your god (Jesus?).

    It’s your job to justify Intelligent Design or Creationism or to give me evidence supporting your belief in your god. Can you do it?

    William: Humans have changed within the bounds of their species,

    AAI: ‘Species’ is a human-fabricated term that is useful for facilitating the study of the vast diversity of life. It’s like the sorting wall at the post office, but there are no boxes in nature so ‘species’ is a vague concept which cannot be specifically delineated.
    Nature shows continuous variation not compartmentalization, there are no ‘bounds’.

    William: Humans have NOT become anything other than humans.

    AAI: Not in recent history or in our brief lifetimes, no.
    We die on the platform as the evolving train goes past.

    However, in deep time, fossil and DNA evidence indicates otherwise3, recognisable humans only appeared around 200,000 years ago.

    And we can observe evolution in species that have a short life cycle4.

    Have we stopped evolving?
    No
    Will we split into several populations that are reproductively separated, in other words, will we speciate?
    Probably, if we don’t destroy the planet first.

    Get out your crystal ball or go in your time machine and come back in several millennia to find out.

    HELPFUL HOMEWORK:

    https://www.patreon.com/user?u=5850943
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_hoc_hypothesis
    2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lactase_persistence
    3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_evolution
    4.https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=big+petri+dish+expt&&view=detail&mid=D4F603DA4E0E6FF87DA6D4F603DA4E0E6FF87DA6&&FORM=VRDGAR

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      Well, I’m glad a 16-yr-old is giving you a workout then. And yes, I admit this is rather fun.

      I notice you spend a lot of time worrying about my terminology. For a science teacher, that’s a good teaching moment. For someone defending his point of view on the origin of the universe (possibly the most important question to exist), it’s semantics, and a half-hearted sidestep of the points I’ve made.

      So you claim “unfalsified evidential information” is the only thing we can believe? That’s illogical. There are lots of things that we accept as truth that rely on theoretical evidence. By your standards, you cannot provide empirical evidence as to the origin of the universe; nobody can! But we know the universe HAS an origin because the universe is here.

      I’m sorry, I must be misunderstanding you. Are you saying that in the past 150 years no scientific laws have been disproved? How about the “law” of spontaneous generation? It was a scientific theory that was accepted as law but later was shown to be false. Science is not perfect, and the laws we have now are only laws until they are shown to be false.

      I’m afraid I have to contradict you there. Atheism does make claims. It makes the claim that there is no true God. It requires belief. Belief that there is nothing besides the materialistic world that we can see. Some would even say it is a religion, as it is a system of beliefs relating to the supernatural and the afterlife (namely, that there is none). It is a lack of belief in some things, which requires belief in others.

      Your definition of evidence of design presupposes that the universe has no creator. You use the term “non-natural”, but before the universe existed none of the materials you consider natural WERE natural, because the only thing that existed was nothing. Also according to your definition, would a drawing in the sand on a beach not be designed? No non-naturally occurring materials were used, after all.

      I’ve given you several arguments (things that scientists all around the world accept as evidence and proof) for the existence of God. If you would like more, I would be happy to provide you with some. The only problem is, you’ve changed the definition of what is “acceptable” evidence to the point that we can no longer determine anything. I’m done playing by those rules.

      You claim that we can’t use the term “species” to mean anything because nature doesn’t fit inside such a confining box, but scientists and linguists have fine-tuned the definition specifically so that nature DOES fit within its confines. There are bounds; you’ve used them yourself. Monkeys cannot breed with whales. That’s a boundary. The falcon has wings, anglerfish don’t. That’s a boundary. You say that, eventually, humans will branch off different paths in the evolutionary line and “speciate”. If that’s true, that’s a clear-cut boundary.

      The bacteria in the video you linked changed, but they did not change to the point where they were no longer bacteria. They didn’t escape the confines of their species as we have defined it.

      On to the difference between ID and Creationism. I am not a world-wide representative of belief in God. Some people might think there’s a difference, and they could be right. I am both an IDer and a Creationist, but some people might believe themselves only one of those. Please, ask them why they believe that.

      Reply
      • Avatar

        William Fartherly September 18, 2019, 8:59 pm
        Well, I’m glad a 16-yr-old is giving you a workout then. And yes, I admit this is rather fun.

        AAI: You’re doing very well for your age, William. I’m happy to engage in conversation with you. When I was teaching your age group in England, I only encountered one Creationist – it’s not popular here.
        When she told her parents that I was teaching evolution, they moved her to another subject!

        William: I notice you spend a lot of time worrying about my terminology. For a science teacher, that’s a good teaching moment. For someone defending his point of view on the origin of the universe (possibly the most important question to exist), it’s semantics, and a half-hearted sidestep of the points I’ve made.

        AAI: Terminology is everything. We cannot communicate if we do not agree definitions.

        William: So you claim “unfalsified evidential information” is the only thing we can believe? That’s illogical.

        AAI: Where did I say that? On the contrary, if you read my words carefully, I said that unfalsified evidential information does not NEED BELIEVING.
        Believing requires an act of mental consideration; unchallenged information does not. When did you ever take a moment to wonder what will happen if you jump off a roof?
        Knowns (unfalsified evidential information) are indisputable; it’s a chosen attitude towards the UNKNOWN that needs believing. Why?
        Because it’s just an opinion.

        William: There are lots of things that we accept as truth that rely on theoretical evidence. By your standards, you cannot provide empirical evidence as to the origin of the universe; nobody can! But we know the universe HAS an origin because the universe is here.

        AAI: The problem here is that ‘accept as true’ is just a matter of choice; it is not necessarily connected to evidence. It may just be a PERSONAL choice, “I believe coffee tastes better without sugar” or it may be acceptance of a parent’s, teacher’s or pastor’s choice, “I believe Jonah lived in a whale”.
        Is that good enough for Science?
        Have you abdicated your ability to choose to your seniors?

        I agree. Nobody can provide evidence as to the origin of the universe; I said that above.
        That’s why the ‘theories’ are not even hypotheses. Please keep up!

        Yes, the evidence (red shift and cosmic microwave background radiation – repeatedly observable and shareable please note) is quite convincing that the universe had a beginning. What we cannot know is what happened before the, badly named, ‘Big Bang’.
        Is the universe reiterative: was there a Big Bounce before the Big Bang? Some cosmologists are reconsidering the Steady State concept. The Multiverse idea is becoming popular – where every possible alternative effect exists somewhere in an infinite number of universes. The truth is WE JUST DON”T KNOW.

        William: I’m sorry, I must be misunderstanding you. Are you saying that in the past 150 years no scientific laws have been disproved? How about the “law” of spontaneous generation? It was a scientific theory that was accepted as law but later was shown to be false. Science is not perfect, and the laws we have now are only laws until they are shown to be false.

        AAI: Pasteur exposed the ‘Law of Spontaneous Generation’ as false in 1859. 2019 – 1859 = 160 years ago. If you go far enough back you will find lots of mistaken beliefs that were widely held before we mastered scientific method: the earth is the centre of the solar system, iron ships will sink, heavy items fall faster than similar sized light ones, etc.

        What’s a ‘Law’ of Science? The best definition is a Theory which can be expressed as an equation. Don’t forget, even Theories are models and are perpetually provisional as Einstein’s better way of predicting cosmic trajectories compared to Newton’s model demonstrates. Science just makes models, remember? Some of them are very good – look what we can currently do with our understanding of semi-conductors and electricity, but wait to see what Quantum Theory brings to the computing table…

        There are no ‘Laws’ of Science in the sense of absolute certainties.
        We only know what we know TODAY. Who knows what we might discover tomorrow?
        Ptolemy thought he understood the ‘heavens’, then the telescope was invented!

        William: I’m afraid I have to contradict you there. Atheism does make claims. It makes the claim that there is no true God.

        AAI: Nope. That’s what Theists would like you to think ‘Atheism’ means. Many of them will also tell you that people like me hate god and are purposeless and immoral!

        William: It requires belief.

        AAI: It’s the very OPPOSITE of a belief! It’s a non belief!
        Do you believe in Fairies?
        No?
        ‘Atheism’ is like that.
        Do we need a word ‘Afairyist’ for your non-belief in fairies?
        No!
        Why not?
        Because your lack of belief in fairies doesn’t come with any values or principles.
        The very word ‘atheism’ is no more necessary than ‘afairyism’.
        Why does it exist then?
        To label non-members of religious clubs for victimisation.
        Previous words coined for this purpose include ‘Heathen’, ‘Gentile’ and ‘infidel’.

        William: Belief that there is nothing besides the materialistic world that we can see.

        AAI: Make up your mind! Are you talking about ‘atheism’ or materialism?
        They are two separate things. There are religious materialists and ‘spiritual atheists’.
        Theists love to conflate these two concepts into one for the purposes of denigrating non-believers.

        William: Some would even say it is a religion, as it is a system of beliefs relating to the supernatural and the afterlife (namely, that there is none). It is a lack of belief in some things, which requires belief in others.

        AAI: Yes, some would. And some would put me to death for not believing.
        Stoning for apostasy is regrettably common in fundamentalist Muslim countries.
        Does that make them right?
        What ‘other belief’ does your lack of belief in fairies require you to have?
        Think about that…

        William: Your definition of evidence of design presupposes that the universe has no creator.

        AAI: No it doesn’t.
        It’s based on my knowledge of the properties of things that we know WERE created.
        How else would we distinguish the created from the natural?

        William: You use the term “non-natural”, but before the universe existed none of the materials you consider natural WERE natural, –

        AAI: ‘Before the universe existed’? You know something about that?
        See back: we have no knowledge about ‘before’ at all.
        What we do know is how the elements came about and it was by entirely natural processes that are still happening inside stars today.

        William: – because the only thing that existed was nothing.

        AAI: There is no evidence for the existence of nothing. Space is not nothing and we can’t make nothing in the laboratory.
        Our best attempts at producing nothing involve a chamber with 8 foot thick aluminium walls and days of vacuum pumping.
        And we still can’t keep neutrinos out – they go through everything. Our best guess is that there has always been something.

        William: Also according to your definition, would a drawing in the sand on a beach not be designed? No non-naturally occurring materials were used, after all.

        AAI: Good question! One of my criteria for recognizing design was evidence of tooling, remember?
        A sand drawing certainly exhibits that.

        William: I’ve given you several arguments (things that scientists all around the world accept as evidence and proof) for the existence of God.

        AAI: Arguments are thoughts, not evidence. Evidence is outside the head, remember. I’ve covered this earlier. You have given me no evidence.
        Yes, there are a few Scientists who believe in a god.
        Which god is that?
        Going by Nobel prize winning Scientists, many of them prefer Yahweh to Jesus!

        William: If you would like more, I would be happy to provide you with some.

        AAI: You haven’t provided me with any yet, so you can’t provide me with more! With apologies to the Red Queen.

        William: The only problem is, you’ve changed the definition of what is “acceptable” evidence to the point that we can no longer determine anything. I’m done playing by those rules.

        AAI: I’ve given you the Scientific definition of ‘evidence’. We know that’s a good definition because we are both using internet connected computers… It works!

        William: You claim that we can’t use the term “species” to mean anything because nature doesn’t fit inside such a confining box, but scientists and linguists have fine-tuned the definition specifically so that nature DOES fit within its confines. There are bounds; you’ve used them yourself.

        AAI: I said that ‘species’ was a USEFUL human fabricated term but not an eternally fixed category.
        It’s convenient to have names for things and to put them into groups. How would we study the myriad of diverse creatures without doing that?
        However, no definition of ‘species’ is watertight. There are ring species and hybrids between two populations that have been usefully classified as separate ‘species’.
        Linguists? Language is a human fabrication. You can’t use one human fabrication to substantiate another human fabrication.

        William: Monkeys cannot breed with whales. That’s a boundary. The falcon has wings, anglerfish don’t. That’s a boundary. You say that, eventually, humans will branch off different paths in the evolutionary line and “speciate”. If that’s true, that’s a clear-cut boundary.

        AAI: Yes, probably the best definition for ‘species’ that we have is ‘a population that can breed together to produce fertile offspring’.
        But what you are doing with your ‘whale and monkey’ example is taking two extremely different animals and saying ‘Told you so!” It’s a variation on the laughable Ray Comfort ‘Crocoduck’ claim.
        Nobody disputes that breeding across different genera is improbable. But there’s plenty of evidence that organisms gradually change into closely related but non-interfertile ‘kinds’.
        The whale used to be a land animal for example, and has vestigial pelvic and hind limb bones to this day…

        William: The bacteria in the video you linked changed, but they did not change to the point where they were no longer bacteria. They didn’t escape the confines of their species as we have defined it.

        AAI: What gives you the power to demand greater levels of difference in a short while?
        Big differences take billions of years to evolve. Look back at the fossil record and you will see that the earliest life forms were simple and, as time went by, more complex creatures have appeared.
        This is the OPPOSITE to the claims of Creationists, which, as I understand it, is that all life was placed on Earth in a few days in a finished and perfect state!
        We are not told HOW this was done!
        By magic?
        And, by the way, 90% of the ‘species’ turned out to be so ‘perfect’ that they’ve gone extinct!

        William: On to the difference between ID and Creationism. I am not a world-wide representative of belief in God. Some people might think there’s a difference, and they could be right. I am both an IDer and a Creationist, but some people might believe themselves only one of those. Please, ask them why they believe that.

        AAI: I can tell you why.
        It’s because the teaching of Creationism in schools was banned by the US federal government and Creationists needed some way to evade the ban. I explained this in my original article. Please pay attention!
        They took their Creationism textbook and edited it by substituting ‘Creationists’ with ‘Intelligent Design Proponents’.
        Trouble was, they let a mistake get printed ‘Intelligent Design Proponentists’!!
        That error destroyed their case in court!

        Thank you for a fun conversation, William. Adopt critical thinking and you will go far.
        Try googling ‘evolution of whales’ for a start… Or ‘interspecific hybrids’…

        HELPFUL HOMEWORK:

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hybrid_(biology)

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8cn0kf8mhS4

        Reply
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    By the way, William, I’m glad you said this, “The first thing I’d better point out is that I am a creationist, or as this article would refer to me, an IDer.”

    It drives a coach and horses through the claim that ID is not Creationism, doesn’t it!

    You have, maybe unwittingly, accepted the court’s decision in the Kitzmiller vs Dover Area School District case, in which the school’s claim that they were not the same was dismissed.

    Reply
  7. Avatar

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    Reply

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