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  Topic: What should make one suspect ID?, Answers to the question< Next Oldest | Next Newest >  

Posts: 319
Joined: May 2002

(Permalink) Posted: Dec. 18 2002,18:24   

Over at ARN, Mike Gene is again claiming that the question "What should make one suspect ID?" has not/cannot be sufficiently answered by ID skeptics.  The implication is basically that ID skeptics are close-minded and unable to consider the matter in a neutral, open, explorative way.;f=13;t=000536

But there are lots of things that would make me suspect ID.  Note that these things are not the same things that would prove it beyond a reasonable doubt, although a lot of these "evidences for suspicion" put together might fit that bill.

MG specifically put forward the flagellum as an example, conveniently a particularly ancient system for which the kinds of evidence available for e.g. the immune system are much more difficult to come by.


Tell me what would cause you to suspect the flagellum as designed. Thus far, not one ID critic has shared a useful criterion.

As JP has noted in the thread, many answers to the "suspect" question have already been provided, it's just that Mike Gene doesn't like them because design does not entail that these things exist.  That's pretty much the problem with Mike-Gene-design, it doesn't appear to entail anything in particular at all.  Even IC systems are apparently accessible to evolution under MG-ID, so if the tremendously complicated immune system is shown to have plenty of evidence of gradual natural origins, he can just shrug it off and say that ID designed something more remote, like the flagellum.

Still, an observation does not have to be *entailed* by design in order to be an observation that would legitimately raise suspicion.  Evolution does not predict that any particular transitional fossil will be found, just that some will be found somehwere, and these legitimately raise suspicion.  Presumably even a rarified design hypothesis predicts that some kind of positive evidence will be found somewhere.

I would suspect (not conclude) design for the flagellum if there were evidence for any of the following:

1) A purpose other than maximizing the reproduction of the genes of the bacterium in question, that fits with some hypothesized designer.  E.g., mousetraps are designed for trapping mice that are annoying humans.  Note that in contrast, evolutionary theory predicts this for all complex "designed" systems.  Find a counterexample and you've disproved evolution.  Find a counterexample with a purpose that fits some specific designer hypothesis and you've got reason to suspect that designer hypothesis.

2) True IC, i.e. if the parts of the flagellum really did not have any function apart from contributing to flagellar function, i.e. that any subset of flagellar parts really was "by definition nonfunctional".  This was Behe's original attempted argument, and if it had held up under the weight of evidence then he would have had something.

3) Biologically impossible transplants of the complex "design" across phylogenetic lines.  This is seen *in spades* in human design systems.  However, in biological systems, such transplants appear to be limited in numerous ways:

a) Basically limited to single-celled critters without protected germ-line cells
b) Most commonly there to prokaryotes that are *known* to do all kinds of conjugation, DNA uptake, etc.
b.5) In eukaryotes, the most impressive cases lateral transfer are the cases of symbiosis, in which the genomes of the host and symbiont are in close association for millions of years and transfers can occur bit-by-bit while maintaining function
c) Suspicions of transplants are often confirmed by finding plasmids, insertion remnants, and evidence of other known lateral transfer mechanisms
d) Transplants are most common between prokaryotes (a) closely related or (b) living in close proximity
e) Apparently limited to relatively simple systems (single operon?), and the more complex the system, the more closely related must be the donor/acceptor.  The most complex system transferred that I can think of is Type III virulence systems, and (IIRC) these are all restricted to a relatively narrow group.

As an example of the contrast seen in human designs, the following highly complex systems originated locally and were rapidly transplanted into any manner of larger devices (cars, planes, boats, etc.) without any regard for the kinds of biological, ecological, and phlyogenetic patterns described above:

- computers
- GPSs
- satellite phones
- emergency transponders

4) It occurs to me suddenly that the pattern that all of these designed transplants follow is that they are useful *to the designer*, i.e. safety, navigation, etc.  So, even in a case where the lateral transfers were biologically possible, if the pattern of transfer fit the purposes of a hypothesized designer(s), I would suspect design.

5) Evidence of "front-loading", e.g. if many bacteria had buried instructions for flagella, protected somehow from degradative mutations (not a tough burden for your average superadvanced designer), that were waiting to be "turned on" at some point in the future for some purpose of a hypothesized designer (this is a modified version of Behe's supercell idea)

6) A communication-to-intelligent-beings signal encoded in the flagellar genes.  E.g., a prime number sequence apparently cleverly encoded in the essential nucleotides or amino acids of the flagellum.  I say "apparently" because just the bare fact of a prime number sequence would not constitute proof, only suspicion (which is all MG wants anyway), unlike in astronomy it is just possible that there are ways for biological mechanisms to generate primes (although it is quite a stretch from 17-year cicadas to genome sequences).

I'm sure there's more...I won't, however, say the one that I think MG prefers, namely "it looks designed", because it's pretty clear that natural selection can produce complex "designed" adaptation when the adaptation benefits the genes of the organism.  Even Mike Gene concedes this, so IMO it appears that he is being inconsistent when he places the thus-far-unverified-in-biology ID hypothesis on the same footing as the well-verified-in-biology NS hypothesis.  Why not also include Lamarkian evolution and complexity theory on the same footing also?  I would say that each of these has at least a wee bit of positive evidence raising a little bit of suspicion, unlike ID.

Links to other threads and CCed posts on this topic would be worthwhile.


Posts: 97
Joined: May 2002

(Permalink) Posted: Dec. 18 2002,19:36   

Quote (niiicholas @ Dec. 18 2002,18:24)
Over at ARN, Mike Gene is again claiming that the question "What should make one suspect ID?" has not/cannot be sufficiently answered by ID skeptics.  The implication is basically that ID skeptics are close-minded and unable to consider the matter in a neutral, open, explorative way.

After having gone 'round and 'round with Mike about this issue several times, he finally let loose the notion that he's using "suspect" in a completely different way than I was.  As he was using it, he seemed to mean "suspect as a possibility" whereas I figured he meant, "suspect as being reasonably likely".  Given the first meaning, it's a somewhat trivial question.  I would simply say that I would suspect design as a possibility for the same reason that Paley did.  Living things and their parts are complex, and do serve functions (i.e. have teleos) like our designs.  So I accept ID as a possiblity, if a remote one.  Yet it's another story entirely whether or not ID is testable, and whether or not the available evidence supports it. What I do soundly reject is Paley's logic in concluding that this is a sufficient hallmark of design.  And then there's this guy named Darwin who showed that the Palian argument generates false positives.  

Suspecting that ID is true, on the other hand, carries with it a much higher burden of evidence, and it depends entirely on what theory of ID you're talking about, which itself will depend on some assumptions about the designer.  But mainstream IDists reject this entirely, instead claiming that "design" can be detected in the absence of any theory about who, how, when, where, etc., that would actually lead to specific predictions.  They claim that design can be detected because of the supposed impossibility of natural mechanisms.  But when someone answers Mike by saying that this would need to be demonstrated, he complains about it being an unfair demand!  Having been shown this point, Mike still advances the notion that no one's interested or capable of answering his question, even though he knows it's not true.  He simply maintains it as a rhetorical device.

theyeti (aka Grape Ape)


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(Permalink) Posted: Dec. 18 2002,20:59   

The whole question is more than a little silly. It's the job of the proponents to come up with the evidence to persuade the critics.

Can you imagine ol' Charlie Darwin popping around to Richard Owen's house and asking him, "What can I do to convince you of my theory"? If he had so little confidence in his own knowledge of what constituted strong evidence, it would no good to beg for help from his foes.

Mike Gene's question is basically an admission that he's floundering and clueless.


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(Permalink) Posted: Dec. 19 2002,16:45   

An additional consequence I would expect from ID (in addition to what others have already said) is that design would not be limited to life.  If the qualities of a bacterial flagellum indicate design, then I would expect such flagella, or things of comparable complexity and functionality, to occur on rocks, hail stones, stream banks, etc.  If non-life doesn't "look designed," that is strong evidence against design, period.

Suppose though, design was limited to life.  In that case, I would expect one of three patterns, depending on how nearly omnipotent the designer is.  If the designer were omnipotent, I would expect all life forms to appear suddenly, with no history of vastly different extinct forms.  If the designer were somewhat less powerful, I would expect an evolutionary history of life on earth, but with novel forms appearing much more frequently later in history as the designer gets more practice and more working parts.  If the designer didn't have much more technical prowess than we do now, then I would expect the designer to use evolution.  Evolution gives a designer the ability to make life that doesn't need constant tinkering as environments change, and it allows a single design to diversify.

The first two of those possibilities are contradicted by observations of the fossil record.  That leaves only a designer who uses evolution.  Since IDists reject evolution, they themselves reject what I see as the only possibility of design.

charlie d

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Joined: Oct. 2002

(Permalink) Posted: Dec. 19 2002,18:10   

To me, at the molecular level, an ID hypothesis would be probably warranted (though not proven) by evidence for bona fide teleology, such as real directed mutation mechanisms, or clearcut - not a posteriori - front-loading.  

At the organismal/ecological level, I would be swayed by mechanisms of homeostasis going counter reproductive advantage, for instance if preys ceased to escape from predators when predator numbers decline.  Something like mass lemming suicide, if it were real, would be suggestive evidence too.

Of course, in all these cases the hard part would still be to test the actual ID hypothesis vs alternative naturalistic explanations, but at least the secret ID scientists would have something real to work on.

But I agree, these standards are already too high compared to what Mike seems to be looking for, i.e. some sort of admission for "soft" ID.


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(Permalink) Posted: Dec. 20 2002,14:27   

I'd have to agree with Charlie. It seems MG is on a fishing expedition to get ID critics to admit to some low standard for recognizing ID. It's just low-ball rhetorical tactic to make your opponents look foolish. Let's say someone admits to some sort of low standard that would allow them to "suspect ID" (whatever that means.) MG will scour the literature for something that fits that standard. Then the critic is left with two options: 1) accepting an ID suspicion, or 2) rescinding on the low standard the critic originally accepted. MG can then cry foul and claim the critic is moving the goal posts.



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(Permalink) Posted: Dec. 20 2002,16:49   

As an aside about Mike Gene. He's made some comments about people not using their real name, but he's posting under a pseudonym too. Does anyone know who he is? I've reason to believe that he's a particular member of the Discovery Institute or someone associated with him.


charlie d

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(Permalink) Posted: Dec. 20 2002,17:07   

Hi Bebbo:

I doubt Mike Gene would make such a silly comment; what he was complaining about was the number of anonymous ID critics at ARN who say they are ("pose" as) scientists.  Of course, one could actually spot a poseur rather quickly, so I am afraid that Mike has to accept the fact that those are real scientists, and that no scientists, anonymously or not, appear interested in defending ID on ARN.  The only people really making noise about actual identities are Chris and Genie.  

Anyway, whether Mike is or not who you think he is, I think you should probably delete the name from the previous post, to respect his privacy, or to avoid associating the wrong person with Mike's work.  



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(Permalink) Posted: Dec. 20 2002,18:39   

charlie d wrote:

>I doubt Mike Gene would make such a silly comment;
>what he was complaining about was the number of
>anonymous ID critics at ARN who say they are ("pose"
>as) scientists.

Whether or not they're "posing" as scientists I don't think Mike should be commenting negatively that others use a pseudonym when he does too.

>Of course, one could actually spot a poseur rather
>quickly, so I am afraid that Mike has to accept the fact
>that those are real scientists, and that no scientists,
>anonymously or not, appear interested in defending ID
>on ARN.  The only people really making noise about
>actual identities are Chris and Genie.  

Gawd, that pair! Btw, I saw a post, which has since been deleted, by Genie (posted by the user askfifi) saying that her and Chris's ARN accounts had been deleted. I wonder what's going on.



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(Permalink) Posted: Dec. 20 2002,20:53   

I probably made a mistake in mentioning a specific personality. Recommend we keep the focus on the topic rather than on personalities.

And having had my pseudonym "exposed" myself awhile ago, I strongly recommend against trying to figure out who pseudonyms are, people have a right to privacy whether or not they have a good reason. 'Net pseudonyms are the norm in discussion forums.  

Another thing that would make me suspect ID: if the various IC systems usually proposed to be the result of "interventions" (even this low level of detail is rarely reached) all showed some kind of common signature apart from adaptive complexity, this might be suspicious (depending on the signature).

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