Saturday, 16 February 2008

ID Does Predict Something

Well, that was a shock. About a month ago, Bill Dembski put up a post on his blog saying that he had some ID predictions, but what about other people? This generated a lot of discussion (over 200 comments), but little in the way of predictions. And we were all left wondering if Bill actually had any.

It turns out he did, and he revealed them this week. Bizarrely, he did this after being prodded by a couple of sock-puppets. And the predictions were...

(1) ID predicts that although there will be occasional degeneration of biological structures (both macroscopic and microscopic), most structures will exhibit function and thus serve a purpose. Thus most organs should not be vestigial, and most DNA should not be “junk DNA.” ...

Ah, this old canard. Afarensis has had a go at this one, and it also has a potted rebuttal in the Index To Creationist Claims. But I think there is one point worth adding. We're told that ID only asks whether there is a designer, but it says nothing about the identity or properties of the designer (which is good. They'll be embarrassed when they find out Ididit). But this prediction about junk DNA assumes a rather pragmatic designer who wouldn't put something into their design unless it was functional. What if the designer was slightly odd, and just wanted to throw something in for the hell of it. Perhaps the designer just wants to say 'Alu to us all. This is only really an ID prediction if one makes articular assumptions about the designer. For example, that it doesn't care what colour the wheel should be.

(2) Many systems inside the cell represent nanotechnology at a scale and sophistication that dwarfs human engineering. Moreover, our ability to understand the structure and function of these systems depends directly on our facility with engineering principles (both in developing the instrumentation to study these systems and in analyzing what they do). Engineers have developed these principles by designing systems of their own, albeit much cruder than what we find inside the cell. Many of these cellular systems are literally machines: electro-mechanical machines, information-processing machines, signal-transduction machines, communication and transportation machines, etc. They are not just analogous to humanly built machines but, as mathematicians would say, isomorphic to them, that is, they capture all the essential features of machines. ID predicts that the cell would have such engineering features; by contrast, Darwinian theory has consistently underestimated the sophistication of the machinery inside the cell.

Somewhere in there there might be a prediction.

Ah, found it. It's that "machines" in the cell and human-built machines have the same essential properties. Like being designed by humans, or having their primary structure determined by DNA. Any questions?

The analogy between the different types of machine is just that - an analogy. It isn't perfect - human designed machines aren't coded by DNA, and aren't parts of structures that start dividing and reproducing. A problem, then, is how do we know when the analogy has gone too far? If we take Dr. Dembski at face values, it never does.

(3) Conservation of information results (also referred to as No Free Lunch theorems, which are well established in the engineering and mathematical literature — see www.EvoInfo.org) indicate that evolution requires an information source that imparts at least as much information to evolutionary processes as these processes in turn are capable of expressing. In consequence, such an information source (i) cannot be reduced to materialistic causes (e.g., natural selection), (ii) suggests that we live in an informationally open universe, and (iii) may reasonably be regarded as intelligent. The conservation of information counts as a positive theoretical reason to accept intelligent design and quantifies the informational hurdles that neo-Darwinian processes must overcome. Moreover, ID theorists have applied these results to actual biological systems to show that they are unevolvable by Darwinian means. ID has always predicted that there will be classes of biological systems for which Darwinian processes fail irremediably, and conservation of information is putting paid to this prediction.

OK, Dembski works on evolutionary information, so I guess we should have expected this. But it's not clear what the NFL theorems have to do with conservation of information - they say that blind search does not better than any other search strategies when averaged over all fitness surfaces, but some of those fitness surfaces will look very strange. And in reality, evolution works on a small set of such surfaces, which similar properties (I'm in a bit of a rush, so I won't dig out any links just now). Dembski did produce one manuscript claiming conservation of information, but his proof was to assume "for consistency's sake" that p1 <>2, and then prove log(p1) <>2). I never did get an explanation for what he meant by "for consistency's sake".

So, there you go, about we would expect 0 out of 3. Of course, I'm biased, so Iäm suer the UDites will score differently.

2 comments:

shpalman said...

The inside of a cell is a total mess. There are things which up-regulate and things which down-regulate, and bits which have to correct the mistakes in other bits, and all that. It doesn't strike me as having been designed in the most intelligent way.

Panic Attacks said...

It is rather shocking. That's quite a score. Those predictions remain to be debated on. Thanks for sharing.