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epistemological issues in neo-Darwinism v. cretinism

 
 
Reply Sun 14 Feb, 2010 02:19 am
so I'm reading Evidence and Evolution: the Logic Behind the Science, a rather tortuous book about the details of philosophy of science immanent in claims made by both evolutionary biologists and cretinists and something that came up that I had never thought of before is the idea that we have no way to assess the likelihood P(observation of organisms having certain features | "intelligent design" hypothesis) without auxiliary assumptions about what such a creator would want

this goes both ways ... for example, the late Stephen Jay Gould, who rejected the ID hypothesis on the grounds that a panda's "thumb" is really inefficient for its purpose, was using the same kind of faulty thinking that we can know what a designer wants ... what if the designer wanted pandas not to eat all the bamboo and wreak ecological havoc?

of course the likelihood argument for intelligent design simply falls apart because it requires prior commitment to the nature of the creator (code word for "Jehovah")

now I'm reading about assumptions involved in irreducible complexity idk this is a pretty interesting issue for me despite being bogged down in Bayesian terminology I have to come to find awfully tedious

pretty cool
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pantheras
 
  1  
Reply Sun 14 Feb, 2010 03:59 am
@odenskrigare,
I think that these themes cannot be succesfully figured out without auxiliary assumptions about what motivated subject to do so.

Therefore you can get that Panda is just descendant of something else which was hungry, start to eat bamboo and stayed there for ever.
0 Replies
 
Dave Allen
 
  1  
Reply Sun 14 Feb, 2010 06:53 am
@odenskrigare,
odenskrigare;128136 wrote:
now I'm reading about assumptions involved in irreducible complexity idk this is a pretty interesting issue for me despite being bogged down in Bayesian terminology I have to come to find awfully tedious...

Well, the fact that intelligent design relies on assumption to the degree it does is why it can't be taken seriously as science.

Irreducible complexity is perhaps the most telling of these assumptions - those with a vested interest in irreducible complexity tend to pick on something in nature that involves lots of parts working in concert, they assume that because this is so the parts cannot have come together piecemeal - but must have arrived on the scene at one time, or with the benefit foresight.

They then claim this proves a designer and publicise the assumption as if it were a 'finding'.


Once publicised the 'finding' usually gets debunked pretty quickly.
  • Blood clotting was held up as irreducibly complex, and it is, in land animals, but not in fish - so it doesn't count because evolutionary ideas place land animals as a legacy of fish.
  • The bombadier beetle was held up as irreducibly complex - but only because those doing so lied about how the chemical reaction it utilises takes place, and ignored the fact that similar but weaker chemical reactions are used by other beetles that might conceivably evolve to the equivalent sort of explosion.
  • Baterial flagellum were held up as evidence - but only because those doing so ignored the fact that the same proteins used to build the flagellum were put to use in less complex structures in other bacteria.
By the way - I think it's characterising Stephen J Gould with very broad brush strokes to assume he dismisses Intelligent Design on the basis of a Panda's thumb alone. The thumb is just one of many examples of bad design that can be found in nature.

By all means one can theologically speculate on a God who inflicts disabilities on his creations to keep them in balance - but that's not science.

What it does do is eliminate 'intelligent' design - by proving that much of the apparent engineering found in nature could conceivably be improved.

So the proposed designer looks as much a bungler, really.

Or - the 'designer' could be a neutral and natural process with no guiding hand or preconceived plan.

You have to go through some pretty wierd metaphysical gymnastics to explain why an intelligent designer left us with things like appendixes, or airways that share space with gullets for food, or hiccups, or hernias, or atavisms or mutations.

But evolutionary explanations are readily apparent - they are either a legacy of our past, or possible routes to our future.
0 Replies
 
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Sun 14 Feb, 2010 02:55 pm
@odenskrigare,
I think, first, the use of the term cretinist is derogatory and prejudicial. Certainly there are many bad arguments in support of creationism, and many ill-educated people who advance them. But there are many intelligent and well-informed persons who nevertheless believe in some sense that the universe is informed by a presiding intelligence. Do you recognise the difference between creationism, intelligent design, and theism, or are they all tarred with the same brush? What about the idea that the marvellous regularities of nature, the many imponderable co-incidences which have somehow given rise to the wonder of creation, hints at some grand design? Surely this is one of the impulses behind the whole tradition of Western philosophy. It this too now to be dismissed as 'cretinism'?

I am also interested by the inference that to believe that the universe is intentional - which is the way I prefer to express it - necessarily means that anything which the human observer deems as 'imperfect' is an argument against theism. For example, 'junk DNA' and various marginal types of adaption. I suppose the idea must be, then, that if the Universe really were the work of a divine intelligence, that every creature in it would be, somehow, an image of perfection, according to your criteria. This whole line of argument can then be extrapolated to argue that the mere existence of anything 'other than perfection' shows that there can be no God - for example, dust, germs, accidents, mess, noise, chaos, politicians, and so on.

So this argument almost amounts to, if God exists, how can anything be less than perfect? So is this the argument? It sounds like a kind of reverse-fundamentalism to me, but then the terminology should alert us to that.
Pythagorean
 
  1  
Reply Sun 14 Feb, 2010 08:20 pm
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;128214 wrote:
It sounds like a kind of reverse-fundamentalism to me, but then the terminology should alert us to that.


Agreed. It is not constructive to begin a discussion that purports to engage two sides of an issue with name calling. Such slander is not an appropriate form of philosophical discussion.

--Pyth
0 Replies
 
Dave Allen
 
  1  
Reply Mon 15 Feb, 2010 07:10 am
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;128214 wrote:
Do you recognise the difference between creationism, intelligent design, and theism, or are they all tarred with the same brush?

The Creationist movement and Intelligent Design proponents are - in an institutional sense - the same thing. Relying on the same authorities, arguments and seeking much the same thing in terms of goals. The ID crowd might present a more professional front, and do go to some effort to seek input from those who understand science, and forego the biblical literalism - but it's wolf in sheep's clothing stuff really.

I'm not sure who Oden was referring to - I rather thought it clear that he meant creationists as a gestalt - those who advocate creation 'science'. I think adopting ad hominem is a poor mode of argument - for sure. On the other hand the repeated lies and distortions of the likes of Ken Ham, Kent Hovind and son, Duane Gish, Kirk Cameron and the like are clearly appeals to idiocy in that they, in the main, rely wholly on the ignorance of their audience to get through.

Luckily for them most people are rather ignorant of science in detail, and it's easy to paint gradual historical processes as confused or lacking in evidence and therefore non-scientific.

But the confusion is really just hype and the evidence more comprehensive than most people realise.

Whenever you see someone say "evolution is only a theory" or "if man came from apes why are there still apes" or "evolution doesn't work so now they've invented punctuated equilibrium instead" or dozens of other canards - you know that whilst they might not be a creationist themself they've certainly caught on to some creationist meme.

So I do think it's worth underlining just how stupid such objections are.

Irreducible complexity is, of course, not a creationist meme - it's one of Darwin's ideas that he proposed as a possible challenge to his own ideas.

(This is one of the things that I think undermines the assertion that evolution is a religion - what religion provides criteria that will prove it wrong if found in nature?)

However, the idea that nature shows examples of irreducible complexity is wrong as far as we know - the irreducible complexity of the bacterial flagellum, for example, has been savagely debunked, both in courts of science and law.

But - when they think no one who knows that is looking - the ID crowd will still wheel it out as evidence.

Hence people's annoyance with them I suppose - not that they are cretins, exactly, but liars who seek to spread their lies for faith, fun and profit - definately.
north
 
  1  
Reply Fri 26 Feb, 2010 06:18 pm
@Dave Allen,
how does creationism account for fossil genes ?

genes that deteriorate over time
0 Replies
 
prothero
 
  1  
Reply Sat 27 Feb, 2010 12:38 am
@Dave Allen,
Dave Allen;128458 wrote:
The Creationist movement and Intelligent Design proponents are - in an institutional sense - the same thing. Relying on the same authorities, arguments and seeking much the same thing in terms of goals. The ID crowd might present a more professional front, and do go to some effort to seek input from those who understand science, and forego the biblical literalism - but it's wolf in sheep's clothing stuff really..
That is certainly true of the ID and creationist community in the U.S. You did not address the question about theism and evolution and theistic evolution is a not uncommon position for educated and more sophisticated theists. This would be basically the position that life has evolved as described in the theory of evolution but that evolution is gods plan for creation not a completely blind, indifferent and ultmately purposeless process. Evolution both cosmological and biological can be viewed as a a manifestation of the divine or an emmantion of spirit and the universe can be viewed as inherently rational and intelligible not accidental or a mindless machine.
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Sat 27 Feb, 2010 02:32 am
@odenskrigare,
I don't think there are any creationist who contributes to the Forum. The term 'creationism' has been extended well beyond its original definition meaning 'those that insist on literal interpretation of the biblical account of creation'. If you understand the biblical account as allegorical, mythical, or metaphorical, then it is quite possible to reconcile a religious attitude with the scientific evidence. Science after all only deals with immediate and efficient causes, not final or formal causes.
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Sat 27 Feb, 2010 02:46 am
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;133147 wrote:
I don't think there are any creationist who contributes to the Forum. The term 'creationism' has been extended well beyond its original definition meaning 'those that insist on literal interpretation of the biblical account of creation'. If you understand the biblical account as allegorical, mythical, or metaphorical, then it is quite possible to reconcile a religious attitude with the scientific evidence. Science after all only deals with immediate and efficient causes, not final or formal causes.


Psychology is a science (I suppose) and psychology deals with purposes. And, aren't purposes final causes? Of course, there is no psychology of God, I agree. So science does not deal with God's purposes.
0 Replies
 
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Sat 27 Feb, 2010 02:50 am
@odenskrigare,
well we are in agreement then. Let's break open the champagne :bigsmile:
0 Replies
 
Dave Allen
 
  1  
Reply Sat 27 Feb, 2010 03:21 am
@prothero,
prothero;133128 wrote:
That is certainly true of the ID and creationist community in the U.S. You did not address the question about theism and evolution and theistic evolution is a not uncommon position for educated and more sophisticated theists.
True, but neither did the OP and until he defines his terms I don't suppose we'll know if he was including such people.

Frankly, I think anyone who proposes a position that there simply *must* be room for theism - of any stripe - within a scientific model ought to provide their hypothesis and methods of observing and testing that.

Otherwise they make a mockery of a central tenant of the scientific method - which is to draw conclusions from evidence not vice versa.

Given their awful record of retarding scientific progress, perverting scientific understanding and ostracising (whether by cries of heresy or dismissive attitudes to proper understanding of science) scientists and teachers I think theists (whether 'sophisticated' or not) should learn to leave the well alone. If anyone PRIVATELY wants to think "well the theory of thermodynamics sits well with my concept of deity" that's their right - I also think that's OK within an honestly presented theological chat - but they look pretty foolish to me when spouting that as a given fact.

In this regard I think "theistic evolution" is just another thin end of the wedge and that "sophisticated theism" is an oxymoron unless held as a personal and unevangelical belief.
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Sat 27 Feb, 2010 03:46 am
@Dave Allen,
Dave Allen;133157 wrote:
"sophisticated theism" is an oxymoron unless held as a personal and unevangelical belief.


Thanks. Very interesting remark.

---------- Post added 02-27-2010 at 09:17 PM ----------

I am still interested in this question of causality in all of this, though. As far as I can see, the only driver in evolutionary theory is adaptive necessity operating on undirected changes to the organism brought about by spontaneous mutation. Now to me, this still looks like an undirected process, in the sense that it is not directed by anything other than chance (mutation) and (adaptive) necessity. So the argument still has to be that this process produced H Sapiens for no particular reason. There was no 'divine plan' or foreknowledge that H Sapiens was to evolve as a result of this process.

It seems to me that if this really is the argument from scientists, then it has very many serious philosophical problems. For example, according to this viewpoint, nothing is designed. There really is no such thing as design in all the universe, save for the designs which humans conceive and create, because, as well all know, there is 'no designer', the watchmaker is blind, and the universe, or nature, is dumb, and so on.

So, how did H Sapiens evolve the ability to learn to design, in a universe totally devoid of design? What adaptive necessity could have brought about this cosmic novelty? How did the ability to design evolve in H Sapiens, purely on the basis of the selfish gene? How was it that we gained sufficient evolutionary advantage from our design ability to proliferate on the African plain? Especially when the many other evolutionary changes that came about in quick succession to give rise to the human form, such as the narrowing of the birth canal and the adoption of the bi-pedal posture, would seem, prima facie, to not provide much of an evolutionary advantage under those circumstances?
Dave Allen
 
  1  
Reply Sat 27 Feb, 2010 10:47 am
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;133163 wrote:
It seems to me that if this really is the argument from scientists, then it has very many serious philosophical problems. For example, according to this viewpoint, nothing is designed. There really is no such thing as design in all the universe, save for the designs which humans conceive and create, because, as well all know, there is 'no designer', the watchmaker is blind, and the universe, or nature, is dumb, and so on.
Dumb as in stupid? I don't think that's a position any scientists take - afaict. I wouldn't regard these processes as relative in terms of intelligence.

I'd say the unbaised position of gestalt science is to say the jury is out on the issue of causality or ultimate design and stuff like that.

Why would that be a "philosophical problem"? Many branches of philosophy actually start off from this assumption. Philosophical angles such as existentialism are more adamant about this position (at least in the hands of its most famous proponents) than scientists tend to be (as a gestalt).

Quote:
So, how did H Sapiens evolve the ability to learn to design, in a universe totally devoid of design?


I dunno.

I'm not sure the universe is devoid of design, provided we accept that in this sense design is a synonym of pattern. Pattern results from the interactions of forces at work in the universe - whether or not those forces were purposed to produce the patterns.

Animals in particular (though not exclusively) percieve these patterns and develop different methods of exploiting them to their best advantage - or fail in doing so and go extinct (the ultimate fate of all species) .

Of the animals the most adept at this particular skill seems to be humans - to the extant that humans tend to think they alone plot designs.

But that's not really true. Humanity doesn't seem to me to be the actor we credit it as - and some other animals seem to me to offer alternate models of progress (or, at least, not suffer from the neuroses of mankind).

Quote:
What adaptive necessity could have brought about this cosmic novelty?

I am not sure it is a cosmic novelty, because I know of other animals that display the same skills to a lesser degree, and I'm limited to knowledge of some of the animals of our space and time.

Quote:
How did the ability to design evolve in H Sapiens, purely on the basis of the selfish gene?
Because it so advantages our species I reckon.
Quote:
How was it that we gained sufficient evolutionary advantage from our design ability to proliferate on the African plain? Especially when the many other evolutionary changes that came about in quick succession to give rise to the human form, such as the narrowing of the birth canal and the adoption of the bi-pedal posture, would seem, prima facie, to not provide much of an evolutionary advantage under those circumstances?

Without freeing our hands we wouldn't have been best placed to take advantage of our capacity for tool use. The price we had to pay was steep in terms of birth and back problems, but worth it for the energy saved through bipedalism and the freedom to manipulate objects manually.

Evolution results in imperfection.

I see it as more of a challenge to ID (or whatever) - because why would we be designed to have flaws such as diseases, parasites, vestigal appendixes, narrow birth canals and the rest - if not from the result of a natural process which would throw such things up as a legacy?
0 Replies
 
prothero
 
  1  
Reply Sat 27 Feb, 2010 11:17 am
@Dave Allen,
[QUOTE=Dave Allen;133157] Frankly, I think anyone who proposes a position that there simply *must* be room for theism - of any stripe - within a scientific model ought to provide their hypothesis and methods of observing and testing that. [/QUOTE]
Dave Allen;133157 wrote:

Otherwise they make a mockery of a central tenant of the scientific method - which is to draw conclusions from evidence not vice versa.
My general position is that
The notion that the universe has rational intelligence and purpose behind it is not scientific and certainly not scientific fact.
Likewise the notion that the universe is blind, indifferent and ultimately accidental and purposeless is not scientific.
Science should be (properly understood is) neutral with respect to purposes and intentions or the lack thereof.



Science alone does not suffice for an adequate worldview and one always supplements our scientific understanding of the world in constructing a philosophy of life. I think those who ignore science in constructing their worldviews are generally uninformed and unsophisticated. But like wise those who assert science confirms their atheism, their materialism and their mechanistic deterministic view of reality are making a false and unsubstantiated claim.
Dave Allen
 
  1  
Reply Sat 27 Feb, 2010 11:29 am
@prothero,
prothero;133250 wrote:

Science should be (properly understood is) neutral with respect to purposes and intentions or the lack thereof.

I think it looks equally foolish when one asserts atheism or materialism or determinism as a given fact.
Indeed - the jury is out. [/COLOR]

[quote]Science alone does not suffice for an adequate worldview and one always supplements our scientific understanding of the world in constructing a philosophy of life.[/quote]
I disagree - I would say it's a matter of taste. Just because person X needs more than what can be rationally determined that need not apply to person Y.
[quote]But like wise those who assert science confirms their atheism, their materialism and their mechanistic deterministic view of reality are making a false and unsubstantiated claim.[/QUOTE]
Sure - but that's a dualism that no one has to conform to.

One could easily say, for example, that their metaphysical beliefs are an honestly acknowledged placeholder for the ineffable, and that they'll trust science in matters of apparent reality.

That is neither suggesting science confirm atheism, but neither is it demanding science consider the implications of any particular theism.
prothero
 
  1  
Reply Sat 27 Feb, 2010 12:17 pm
@Dave Allen,
[QUOTE=Dave Allen;133259] I disagree - I would say it's a matter of taste. Just because person X needs more than what can be rationally determined that need not apply to person Y. [/QUOTE] OK, but I doubt that most people actually do this. Most have a position about determinism, free will, materialism and even about purpose of lack of it in the universe.
One of the concepts that always attracts me is the concept of things presupposed in the practice of living (commonsenism, hard core assumptions) (free will, meaning, purpose, independent causality, efficacy of will) that are denied in theory. I fail to see the point of denying in theory what one does (and in some sense must) presume in practice (in living).

[QUOTE=Dave Allen;133259] One could easily say, for example, that their metaphysical beliefs are an honestly acknowledged placeholder for the ineffable, and that they'll trust science in matters of apparent reality. That is neither suggesting science confirm atheism, but neither is it demanding science consider the implications of any particular theism. [/QUOTE] I trust science in the material aspects of reality. I try not to hold any metaphysical view which denies the truth of science. I do think that science gives us only a partial and incomplete of reality as a whole as is an inadequate basis for a comprehensive worldview which includes aesthetics and values. I am not dogmatic about my metaphysical views and I do not present them as scientific, as fact, or as truth. The true role of science in this is to inform us about certain aspects of our world and certain kinds of truth but science does not speak directly for or against atheism or all forms of theism nor does it provide us with an adequate basis for the totality of human experience and human concerns. For many of course god is the ineffable.

Certain religous beliefs (special creation, fixity of species, supernatural theism, miracles, contravention of the laws of nature) do seem incompatible with science. I would suggest this is bad religion.

Certain scientists do seem to promote the notion that science confirms atheism. I would suggest this is bad science.

Part of Einsteins quote still applies "religion without science is blind".
0 Replies
 
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Sat 27 Feb, 2010 04:22 pm
@odenskrigare,
yes the jury is still out, so don't cast your net too wide, to mix metaphors.

It is one thing to cling to fundamentalist readings of the Bible and a literal depiction of Deity. It is another thing altogether to intuit an intelligence behind all existence. And I think that this latter sentiment is fundamental to the entire tradition of Western philosophy. The very nature of 'reason' itself grew out of Pythagorean mysticism, not the hypotheses of 20th century scientists. And the nature of our origins and our very being much more that just a scientific question, and the science is being used for a great deal more than its purpose in the debate about this topic.
Dave Allen
 
  1  
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2010 03:49 am
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;133355 wrote:
yes the jury is still out, so don't cast your net too wide, to mix metaphors.

It is one thing to cling to fundamentalist readings of the Bible and a literal depiction of Deity. It is another thing altogether to intuit an intelligence behind all existence.

In ballpark terms I think they are both the same thing - an anthropomorphic egotistical assumption about the ineffable - that it *just has to have* characteristics we also recognise in ourselves. Humans (healthy ones at least) seem to be unusually intelligent and sometimes purposeful - and they project that onto the ineffable.

That is not intuition - it's assumption, or projection, or sometimes (at best I think) a theatrical metaphore.

"Western Civilisation" is built on many things. Not all of them worth keeping.

---------- Post added 02-28-2010 at 04:51 AM ----------

prothero;133275 wrote:
OK, but I doubt that most people actually do this. Most have a position about determinism, free will, materialism and even about purpose of lack of it in the universe.

Yeah, but to some the position is that such things are illusory.
0 Replies
 
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2010 04:33 am
@odenskrigare,
If there is no cause, no purpose, and no intention, then where does reason stand? Science likes to present itself as 'rational' but with no philosophical absolute, and no deity, there is nothing other than measurement of particulars and the discovery of efficient causes. You can talk all you like about 'being rational' but in such a universe it doesn't mean much. And couldn't.
 

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