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About FreedomOfThought

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    TGL Apprentice
  • Birthday 09/11/1951

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  • Gender: Male
  • Location: Ormond Beach, FL
  • Real name: Greg Adams
  • Interests: Many things, but mostly theoretical physics.
  • About me: Retired software engineer.

FreedomOfThought's Activity

  1. FreedomOfThought added a post in a topic Site update problesm   

    I can't get the "Follow Content" button to work. Is it just me, or is this a real problem?
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  2. FreedomOfThought added a post in a topic ID: How might one argue for it?   

    I agree and me too.

    Let's review what you said:
    1. "...going to lead to a massive anti-scientific backlash..."
    2. "...that the supporters of science are going to lose...
    3. "...looking for scapegoats..."
    4. "...Atheists...most distrusted minority...more than...other groups..."
    5. "...recent development..."
    6. "...get really bad here...convenient scapegoat..."
    7. "...bankers will flee and hire protection..."
    8. "...what will high-school biology teachers do?..."
    9. "...the way forward work for detente...on...ID..."

    Let's review what I said:
    1. "...outright slaughter of all non-Christian biology teachers..."
    2. "...unavoidable, future bloodbath..."
    3. "...Evangelicals turn the full force of their wrath..."
    4. "...on all atheists..."

    My description may be a bit more graphic than yours, due probably to my projecting my own fears about this scenario into it, but it does not seem to me to be an implausible extrapolation from what you described. Further, I am not trying to ridicule your prediction, I actually have long expected some sort of extremist Christian crusade against the rest of us during the Bush years driven by something akin to the "Turner Diaries" that seems to have inspired Timothy McVee in the white supremacy camp. (I just don't usually express it outside of my closest circle of acquaintances lest I be considered a conspiracy crackpot, so please don't tell anyone else. ) I did not seriously expect a bloodbath to materialize quickly, but I still believe the seeds of it have been planted and are out there festering. I have long said the only difference between the right-wing extremists in this country and the other country(ies) is a difference of degree, not of kind. It's just a matter of time before people like Rush Limbaugh and others incite their rabid followers to action or they gain enough political power to institute a theocracy, which is their real goal. (We may be in a sort of remission at the moment, but 53% is a damned small margin to hang one's hopes on.) This is one of the reasons I'm so hopeful that some progress may be made toward shutting these fanatics down now that we have a smart, rational person in the White House and more aggressive atheists like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchins are becoming more vocal and more visible. So, I was not trying to be sarcastic or to ridicule your scenario. I don't know how real of a threat it really is, it's hard to get reliable data to back any particular hypothesis about it, but my natural paranoia keeps me from dismissing the possibility out of hand and has motivated me to start making at least small donations when I can to some atheist and church/state separation groups in the hopes they will be effective in hindering these extremist's agenda in this country. So, I promise, there was no ridicule intended.

    I get:
    1. "...defeating ID is the wrong goal..." which implies to me that we should be willing to live with it.
    2. Ok to defeat religious views, but maybe not even those.
    3. " [meaning anti-ID] ought to want to work together with them [meaning IDers] for common goals..."

    I also get:
    1. It's incumbent upon us anti-IDers to make the effort.
    2. We should want to make the effort.
    3. We have common goals.

    I get:
    1. Preventing slaughter via intellectual detente is a noble goal which I can appreciate.
    2. Nevertheless, intellectual detente is irrelevant to the intellectual issues.
    3. ID cannot be taken as science no matter how much detente is achieved.

    I get:
    1. Reasons for seeking intellectual detente are irrelevant to the intellectual issues.

    So, we may be close to at least one point of agreement. If I missed something in your other posts that should have brought this to my attention, then I apologize for my incompetence, but I did not get that from the quotes I was reading when I wrote my response. (I was taking your posts one at a time because you write a bit faster than I can read .)

    A worthwhile pursuit. IMHO, domestication, selective breeding, and genetic engineering seem to me to be very appropriate for the science classroom as they are all branches of applied science. Complementary to what you care about is what I care about and that is what is being taught to children as science in the public science classroom, hence my repeated return to that theme.

    I'm afraid that's all the time I have for now. Mostly I wanted to respond to assure you I meant no disrespect, ridicule, or sarcasm. It's just my ineptitude with English composition that sometimes makes it seem so. That, of course, doesn't mean I agree with everything you said, but my disagreements are sincere, and I did send you love & kisses . Y'all all continue on while I digest the rest.

    Talk to you later,
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  3. FreedomOfThought added a post in a topic ID: How might one argue for it?   


    I have to agree with Tim that you've certainly said a bunch of interesting stuff. There are some few parts of it with which I think I may agree, but most of it I'm pretty sure I don't. I think you are mixing a number of issues and points that are actually quite separate, distinct, and even incompatible, plus I think you are making a number of assumptions, especially regarding science and how it works, that are not necessarily correct. I think it would take me several lifetimes to untangle it all, so I'll confine my remarks to my major complaints:

    1. Although I certainly appreciate your very noble goal of preventing the outright slaughter of all non-Christian biology teachers in the unavoidable, future bloodbath, to which you allude, when the Evangelicals finally turn the full force of their wrath on all atheists and other low-lifes, that really has no bearing on the intellectual issues at hand and does not raise ID to the level of an acceptable scientific theory worthy of serious discussion in the scientific community. Fortunately, past generations did not take this approach when confronting the questions of the structure of the solar system, the laws governing motion, or any other scientific questions. A theory either survived testing, or it did not. Modern science is not an amalgam of competing ideas, each with its honored place so as not to offend the sensitivities of any of its believers. Science is not about belief; it is about facts and what we can explain with them. Peaceful coexistence, although a noble and desirable goal of society, politics, government, and even religion, is not the way science works. I also disagree that the purpose of entering a debate is to change its nature. To contribute neglected facts, to illuminate overlooked sequences of reasoning, to clarify the issues, to change the outcome...yes. But to change the very subject being debated...that would be starting a new debate...or a new thread. Either way, intellectual detente is not an acceptable reason for accepting any notion as scientifically acceptable. "Just the facts, Mam, just the facts."

    2. I readily admit that I am largely ignorant of the field of General Philosophy, but I think I understand that the rules of reasoning, argument, and perhaps even "evidence" in GP are very relaxed from those in Science. This is well precedented as the rules of evidence in the courtroom are quite relaxed in several respects from the rules in the laboratory, yet people live and die by those laxer, courtroom rules. So, if it is acceptable in GP to count any notion that impinges itself upon our conscienceness as some kind of evidence for that notion, then so be it, but this is absolutely not acceptable in Science. Much of what you indicate and even seem to accept as "broad evidence" or "evidentiary support" are what would be call "hypotheses" in Science. The mere thinking of an idea in Science is not any kind of evidence for it in any sense of the word of which I'm aware. If the places in your discourse that you offered these hypotheses as evidence were dealing with purely philosophical matters (e.g. ethics, morals, whatever), then perhaps GP would allow them into evidence, but the topic in which you offered them was not philosophical but a question of how life began on the Earth...a clearly scientific question that must clearly be approached scientifically...unless we don't care about the correctness and provability of the answer. So I reject virtually all of your "evidence" whether narrow or broad as not being any kind of evidence at all.

    3. I, too, have to insist that what you call IDv3, and what the rest of us call biotechnology, is not any part of any discussion among anyone I've read regarding the scientific community's fight against the injection of religion into the science classroom. And I certainly have not heard any proponent of ID (except you) ever suggest that IDv3 is what they want to teach in schools. If only that were the case, there would be no debate. The science classroom is exactly where IDv3 should be taught (bypassing for this discussion the very important safety and ethical issues surrounding it). Here I feel that your insistence on the appropriateness of IDv3 as classroom subject matter being sufficient to justify accepting ID as a serious scientific subject is very much confusing the issue. I think it's called "equivocation"? I really don't think any serious evolutionist would object to IDv3 as science or that any creationist would accept it as what they mean.

    4. As an atheist, I don't embrace superstitions regardless of how noble some of their practitioners claim some of their tenets may be, but as a freethinker I also respect each individual's right to believe whatever ridiculous horse hockey they may fancy, as long as they don't try to force it down anyone else's (especially, my) throat. So, I am willing to try to find a way for all sides to peacefully coexist. I think there is a very simple resolution, but the religious fanatics refuse to cooperate. The solution (told to me by a friend who was a devout Southern Baptist, a biology major, and a thoroughly entrenched evolutionist): "Biological evolution is the physical mechanism that God used to bring about the diversity of life we see in the World today." By that he meant, of course, that God works as He pleases, but it pleases Him to go "au natural". God did not set up the Cosmos just to go sticking His finger in every little detail for all Eternity to come. He set up a Cosmos that could take care of itself. (Of course, they still claimed He intervened when people like Moses made a wrong turn and got caught with his pants down, but you gotta have that sort of thing in religions, don't you.) This was what I was taught by my parents, teachers, and, yes, even ministers (Methodist and Southern Baptist) when I was a tyke. Except for a very few people, usually of little education, no one I ever knew ever insisted that evolution and the Bible were in conflict on this. It was simply assumed that Genesis told you "what" God did, and sometimes "why", but only Science told us "how". How many times in my science education did my teachers say, "Science cannot answer the question 'Why?'. It can only answer 'How'". Now, if the right-wing fanatics could only see reason, we would not be having this discussion.

    And, just a couple of minor points:
    1. The anomaly in Mercury's orbit did not "bring down Newton". This is an oft-quoted and incorrect notion. All of Newton's Generalizations of Motion and Theory of Gravity are still perfectly in tact (enough so that any physics student will tell you of the hours they've spent having to master the subject); they are just extended by Einstein's Relativity. Einstein is more general, Newton still works perfectly in the special case of slow speeds and weak gravitational fields (a favorite homework problem in General Relativity books is to prove this). Einstein subsumes Newton. (after Hugo's remarks:
    2. Also, we could probably argue over the definition of the word "direct evidence" forever, but most scientists would consider that there is a mountain of direct evidence for atoms. (I'll leave defense of the evidence for speciation to Timothy.) As a physics major, I have seen plenty of such direct evidence in the form of needles being deflected on a volt meter, spectral lines on a photographic plate whose separation distances I've had to measure, streaks of particles in a Wilson cloud chamber, and much more. No, I haven't actually seen an individual atom with my own eyes, but I have seen secondary phenomena completely in keeping with that explanation and no other. Now one may say that's not "direct" evidence, but then neither is anything else. No one has ever actually seen a rock either. We only see the light reflected from the rock some picoseconds or so ago. We only feel the rock because of electrical impulses in our skin and brain. But, if we agree to be a little more reasonable in our definition, I think that the glowing, green, concentric circles on the phosphorescent screen in the electron diffraction experiment I had to conduct in my undergraduate physics lab and the clearly visible streaks, some appearing as I stared, in the Wilson cloud chamber my 9th grade science teacher assembled while the entire class watched, would count as pretty direct evidence of something going on that needs explanation. It may not prove all aspects of the Atomic or Quantum Theories, but all observations were certainly in keeping with what we were taught they would be...and, we either watched the assembly and operation, or had to setup the equipment ourselves. There was no conspiracy and no shenanigans. There was just direct observations. And, if you're willing to shell out a little money, you can actually duplicate many of these experiments yourself. In fact, some big city science centers probably have hands-on demonstrations you can view. Or, enroll in your local university's physics program. Many have "personal enrichment" programs where no degree is conferred. You just go and learn. Science is not confined to "eyewitness testimony" or "personal experience". Science is very democratic--everyone can see it and repeat it for themselves...if you're sufficiently motivated.

    And, in closing let me say, despite my rather negative response to your discourse, be assured that I am merely sharing my view of your views and mean nothing negative to you personally. I just think you're wrong. I appreciate your contribution to the discussion and will continue to consider your points. After all, if we all agreed, then why are we here?

    Love & kisses,
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  4. FreedomOfThought added a post in a topic ID: How might one argue for it?   

    A couple of comments regarding casting teleology as a scientific theory:

    It's been said before that we do not have a good definition of "looks designed". I still can't offer one either, but here are some thoughts (probably repeating earlier work) on the subject.

    Suppose we have an organism that possesses a complex structure such as the modern eyeball that we have conclusively determined, perhaps by examining the fossil record, developed from raw, separated molecules to the full-blown, fully-working structure in, oh say, 24 hours. If such a thing could be proved, I think I would have to say that such a thing would be hard to explain as a natural phenomenon, so this would support a teleological explanation. On the other hand, if we could conclusively determine that the structure developed over, oh say, 10 googleplex years, then I would have to say that such a thing could be natural. It could be natural because, as discussed previously, if there is a non-zero probability that something can occur, then after waiting long enough, it becomes almost certain that it will occur. Somewhere between these two extremes, I, at least, would have to switch my evaluation of these developments from "probably not natural" to "probably natural". The question is, "How complex in how short of a time is the dividing line?"

    There are people today who think the modern eyeball appearing in the four to five billion years we think things have been developing is too complex in too short of a time. Most mainstream biologists would disagree. We seem to have no actual examples that well fit either extreme described above, so, who is right? How can we tell? It seems that the teleology/natural selection debate boils down to making this determination.

    From the recent exchange between Timothy and charleshappell:

    Timothy: I'd love to see a concrete example of what you have in mind. You've moved from very difficult to a lesser minefield. Any chance you can concoct something simple for inspiration, or is the problem still too difficult even for that? (I admit that I'm running out of ideas on it.)

    The second comment:

    Suppose we have a petri dish full of bacteria we'll call G0, for Generation Zero. We apply some chemical, call it C, to one side of the dish. Let's say that we find that 90% of the bacteria of the treated side disappear, while 0% of the untreated side disappear. (The untreated side is called the "control experiment" to show the bacteria did not disappear for some other reason.)

    Now, we take a sample of the 10% bacteria remaining on the treated side and grow a new culture in a new dish we'll call G1, for Generation One. Now let's treat one side of the G1 dish with C. What will happen?

    Predictions from Natural Selection: Less than 90% (on the treated side) of the bacteria G1 will disappear after treatment with C. The explanation of this behavior is that, by sheer, natural chance, some of the bacteria already have the ability to neutralize C and so survive its application. These survivors, after being transferred to the new dish, multiply making new offspring. Each individual offspring has some probability of inheriting its parent's resistance to C and some probability for not inheriting it. Since all of the parents in G1 are resistant, there will be a higher percentage of resistant offspring than in the previous generation.

    Predictions from Teleology: ????

    Weeeelllll....We have several problems: What is the teleological agent and how does it work? How does the agent decide when to make a change? How does the agent decide (design) the change to be made? How is the change made? How quickly does the agent work? etc, etc, etc. The point is, we really don't know what teleology would predict. However, let's press on anyway and make a few reasonable assumptions.

    Case 1:
    Assumption: The teleological agent acts perfectly for all time.
    Prediction: 0% of the bacteria G0 would have disappeared after treatment with C because the teleological agent perfectly planned the bacteria to be 100% resistant to C from the beginning.

    Case 2:
    Assumption: The teleological agent acts instantly and perfectly now.
    Prediction: 0% of the bacteria G1 will disappear after treatment with C because the teleological agent has immediately caused all offspring of the survivors to be redesigned as a new organism that is 100% resistant to C.

    Case 3:
    Assumption: The teleological agent acts incrementally and refines the design as needed.
    Prediction: Less than 90% of the bacteria G1 will disappear after treatment with C because after the previous treatment, the teleological agent changed some of the offspring of the survivors to be resistant to C.

    Case 1 is only observed if C is something that affects no individuals at all, say distilled water. Case 2 has never been observed (to my knowledge). In Case 3, teleology results in exactly the same observed result as natural selection, but with a different explanation.

    Now, admittedly this was an overly simple experiment and probably not well suited to teleology. But even so, teleology must still make the correct prediction to be accepted. In an experiment involving a more complex structure, the motive for considering teleology may be clearer, but clear results would be more difficult to obtain. (Remember, as I said in an earlier post, one will always find teleology lurking in the areas with the least data or the most difficult issues to understand.)

    To allow teleology to make useful predictions, we must have a better definition of the teleological agent, how it works, how it makes decisions, etc. So far, nothing has been offered by anyone (including me, although I am still trying).

    So, based on this and everything else we've ever read about it, it seems that:
    1. Using teleology to make useful predictions is difficult at best because we have an incomplete model of how it interacts with physical systems,
    2. When what predictions we can assume it might make differ markedly from natural selection, those predictions are completely contradicted by observed results, and
    3. When its predictions are not contradicted, they are identical to those of natural selection.

    Taking these two points together, I find myself rapidly running out of rope. It seems less and less likely to me that a clear and objective definition of "looks designed" is even possible (although I await insight from Timothy), and less and less likely that any clear, definitive predictions from teleology can even be made. Both of these points seem to speak strongly against the possibility of casting teleology as a scientific theory. (But, I'll keep picking at it.)

    Any insights from the gallery are always appreciated.

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  5. FreedomOfThought added a post in a topic ID: How might one argue for it?   

    Since you're talking about the one subject I claim to actually know something about...Timothy is, unfortunately, very, very correct. Much of my career was spent digging into such redundancies and functionless elements looking for which functions were actually called and which ones actually worked (they never hired guys with my experience level until they were well in over their heads, the cheap bastards). Computer programs are probably one of the best examples of naturally evolved systems you'll ever see: Code changes randomly...if it happens to work, then DON'T TOUCH IT!!!!

    It shouldn't be that way, but then there's that pesky Reality again.

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  6. FreedomOfThought added a post in a topic ID: How might one argue for it?   

    Mathsteach2 said: I see ID as an hypothesis, i.e. A valid scientific enterprise. It is not yet a theory, as it does not have the empirical data to support it, as does the theory of evolution, gravity, electron theory of metals, etc!

    FoT said: The word "theory" is unfortunately highly overloaded in English. We may need to include some remarks to disambiguate its use in this enterprise not only for the benefit of any readers who may not have had formal training in the subject, but also to avoid any rhetorical difficulties in the discussion. This chronic misunderstanding is clearly a problem since we frequently hear IDers referring to evolution as "only" a theory.

    Thank you, Mathsteach2, for so vividly illustrating my point.

    I have neither the time nor the qualifications to compose an authoritative treatise on the various meanings of the word "theory". An excellent book for that purpose is: "An Introduction to Logic", by Irving M. Copi. I can only offer the following brief and inadequate comments to highlight the main points and the following reference to

    As evident from the reference, the word "theory" in the American dialect of the English language, has several meanings. For our purposes, there are three that are of principal importance;

    An explanation of the observed physical behavior of physical systems such that we can make predictions and compare those predictions against actual observation either naturally occurring or in deliberate experimentation. The emphasis here is on testing the predictions. If a proposition is not testable, then it is not a theory according to this meaning. Note that this requirement for testing is also applicable to hypotheses (

    An hypothesis that has survived one or more rounds of testing and has been promoted to a theory. (This is the meaning in which you have used it.)

    Meaning #3: SYSTEM OF KNOWLEDGE:
    A coherent and consistent body or system of related knowledge.

    The point that I have been "preaching" in this thread is that the modern theory of biological evolution is a "theory" (meaning #1) in the sense that it has the correct form, namely, it can make predictions and those predictions can be tested, but that ID does not have this form. It is not clear how to use ID to make predictions that can be tested. Hence, evolution is a theory (meaning #1), but ID is not a theory (meaning #1). And, my goal in this project is to thoroughly and honestly examine the possibility of casting ID into a properly formatted theory (meaning #1). I think doing so would be one way, but not necessarily the only way, of arguing for ID as requested by davidm's OP.

    The meaning of the word "theory" (meaning #2), as you have used it, is a different sense in that it refers, in a rather vague way (the word itself, not your use of it), to the "rank" or "quality" of an hypothesis. Typically, hypotheses are supposed to be reasonable, informed guesses about how things work, but are not necessarily devoid of any evidence to support them. Theories (meaning #2), in this sense, are supposed to be hypotheses that have survived somewhat more intense testing. When an hypothesis can be "promoted" to a theory (meaning #2) is not precisely defined (hence my use of the word "vague" above) and may even be contentious on a case-by-case basis. Before we can even begin to consider ID as either an hypothesis or a theory (meaning #2), we must first cast it into the form of a theory (meaning #1). (Ain't English fun?

    Yet a third meaning of "theory" is a coherent, consistent system of knowledge of some area of intellectual inquiry. Thus, we have the "Electron Theory of Metals", the "Kinetic Theory of Heat", both of which are thoroughly established as fact; "Game Theory", "Number Theory", and the "Theory of Equations", etc, in mathematics which are theories according to meaning #3, and even "Music Theory" (meaning #3) completely outside of science. (It's a mad house...A MAD HOUSE!

    So, although you certainly have the right to see ID any way you wish (and with a screen name like "FreedomOfThought" you know I will fully support your right to do so), I would have to exercise my right to disagree with you on that point, for the reasons given above.

    As to the "Anything Goes", I am not familiar with Paul Feyerabend and don't wish to falsely accuse him of any particular view, but if what is meant is that we can abandon the scientific method and include into science whatever notions anyone may propose without testing, then I can't image how I could disagree more. Whatever overzealous proponents of Science may or may not have said over the centuries about the infallibility and universal applicability of Science, the failure of Science to live up to any such misguided and patently absurd view points cannot be taken as justification to discard the scientific method or to permit just any nonsense uttered to enter the science curriculum. The scientific method's success in the arena of physical science is an established, historical fact that cannot be dismissed regardless of how poorly it may sometimes be represented by particular scientists in some cases.

    Now, I do believe that we free thinkers are allowed to think freely, but I still maintain that we must think with discipline. If we wish to hypothesize the existence of "GOD", however we define "GOD", or "intelligent input" into biology, that's fine. We can discuss it forever, if desired. But, if we wish to discuss it scientifically, we need to do so according to the rules of Science. Otherwise, it's not Science, it's something else, perhaps General Philosophy, or, dare we say, Theology. That these are not Science does not mean they are not valid and useful areas of intellectual inquiry, it simply means they play by different rules. Our disciplined thinking is best served by playing by an established, agreed-upon set of rules that best suit the kind of thinking we wish to pursue.

    Just my two cents worth.

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  7. FreedomOfThought added a post in a topic ID: How might one argue for it?   

    Timothy: Thanks for the compliment.

    I agree with you, Timothy. After thinking about it awhile, it occurred to me that the examples I gave were not so much high levels of complexity, they may appear no more complex than anything else, but they were just "significant" in the sense that they exhibit patterns we recognize as something we humans would deliberately design. "Helpful, but not essential". So, those examples are just misleading and should be ignored.

    In addition to the folks you mentioned, I wonder if any of the concepts and/or techniques used by SETI (Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence) would be helpful. Granted, they are focusing on the "wrong class of things" since they too are looking for patterns that would be similar to what we would design, but perhaps some of their ideas would be useful anyway.

    I can see I'm going to have to do some reading and thinking on this part. It's not clear to me at all how something like an eyeball can "scream planning & foresight". It seems plausible to me that such structures could come about by paths that work at every step but lead ultimately to something that cannot work if any of its components are changed even slightly. This could occur because at some point in its history, the structure had more than one way of doing the same function until the obsolete components were completely replaced by the new ones, leaving a complex structure that cannot work if any of its "new" components fail. Again, I've seen this phenomenon in software where we program ourselves into a corner such that any change destabilizes the whole system but at no point along the way did anything not work. (This has been discussed in earlier posts, of course, but you may have noticed that I'm a bit slow on the uptake. I'll reread them with my "new" insights.)

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  8. FreedomOfThought added a post in a topic ID: How might one argue for it?   

    ****WARNING: Long post seeking help on this project.

    Per my earlier posts, my interest in this thread is to attempt to cast Creationism/Intelligent Design/Teleology into the proper form of a scientific theory in response to davidm's call "ID: How might one argue for it". Anyone uninterested in this project should skip this post.

    I certainly have not achieved my goal, but I need some assistance to continue. I humbly the offer the following as my poor, initial step toward a solution.

    Section A: Some miscellaneous points about ID and teleology:
    A1. For ID to ever be accepted into a science curriculum, which is the ultimate goal of the IDers and would constitute an acceptable way one might argue for it, then it must first be cast into the form of a proper, scientific theory.

    A2. Whatever we call it, ID is teleology so casting teleology into a properly formatted, scientific theory is logically equivalent to casting ID into a properly formatted, scientific theory.

    A3. Based on the history of Teleology vs. Science, we have no real confidence that the effort of trying to so cast it would be successful.

    A4. Since teleology is "the study of the evidences of design or purpose in nature" (, then, at some point, we will need to understand what we mean by "looks designed" and to establish some test for distinguishing between systems that "look designed" and "look undesigned".

    A5. Modern science has eliminated the need for teleological explanations well beyond biological evolution so it is unlikely to be productive concentrating our efforts there to find such a test, except perhaps as a training ground to develop some understanding of how we can do this, or to insist we focus there to honor the purpose of the OP.

    Concentrating the search for the test near the edge of our understanding of modern physics (where one might argue the current teleological boundary would be located) is also unlikely to be productive because so much of it is either highly speculative or requires so many levels of derivations that we would become bogged down in the details of just understanding the theories.

    Thus, our enterprise may either be hampered by the difficulties or rendered moot by the progress of scientific understanding.

    A7. The whole subject of teleology suffers from the logical recursion that sufficiently complex systems require even more complex systems to have brought them into existence, ad infinitum. This has little evidence to support it and makes even less sense. (Caution: Common sense has almost as notorious a history in science as teleology: geocentric universe, flat earth, phlogiston theory, luminiferous aether, etc.)

    A8. The fact that not all biological modifications are optimal, some are redundant, and some are obsolete, seems to me to be a fairly strong indicator that either biological systems are "undesigned", or the "designer" is an idiot. If ID can ever be formed into a proper theory, this may be the single, most compelling, observed fact that can prove that it isn't a correct theory.

    Section B: Brief review of the scientific method relevent to our enterprise:
    B1. OBSERVE:
    The first step in any scientific investigation is to observe. This has been done for centuries and the results are well recorded in the scientific journals. It is impractical to review all of it here, so we will pull what we need when we need it. Let's agree that we will accept the word of respected, well-established, legitimate scientists publishing in recognized journals as to the correctness of the reported data. This will include lay-oriented books by recognized, mainstream experts. This does not mean we must always accept the interpretation of the data, but the raw data we should accept.

    B2. ANALYZE:
    The second step is to review, analyze, and correlate the observed data and to try to organize it into whatever patterns can be recognized. Those patterns are then explicitly described and relations among them identified.

    B3. EXPLAIN:
    The third step is to hypothesize possible explanations for the patterns and relationships from step B2. This includes identifying possible mechanisms that could produce the same patterns and relationships. This constitutes using the hypotheses to make predictions about how the systems under investigation will behave under various conditions.

    B4: TEST:
    The fourth step is to test the hypotheses. This involves designing and implementing experiments to set up the conditions identified in B3 and observing the behavior of the systems. The actual behavior is then compared to the expected behavior and the differences are noted. (Of course, in our case, we will simply cite the data reported by the experts.)

    The hypotheses are then either adjusted or discarded according to the results from step B4 until all experiments produce the expected results. The surviving hypotheses are now candidates for promotion to "theory". Of course, the theories continue to compete in this same manner until one eventually emerges as the most likely candidate.

    NB: The word "theory" is unfortunately highly overloaded in English. We may need to include some remarks to disambiguate its use in this enterprise not only for the benefit of any readers who may not have had formal training in the subject, but also to avoid any rhetorical difficulties in the discussion. This chronic misunderstanding is clearly a problem since we frequently hear IDers referring to evolution as "only" a theory.

    Section C: How do we apply this to our enterprise?
    C1. OBSERVE:
    We should choose from the observations some simple, easily understood examples. Darwin's "The Origin of Species" and "The Voyage of the Beagle" may contain some good, simple examples. Or, we could focus on the examples cited in recently published books that have been most central to the public debate of late. (Recommendations, anyone?)

    C2. ANALYZE:
    The central and most difficult problem we face is to define "looks designed" and "looks undesigned" and how to distinguish between them.

    A possible approach is to develop an objective, possibly multi-dimensional, measure of "complexity" that can be compared among specimens and compared to some standard value(s) that we select, using some as-yet-to-be-defined criteria, that define "looks designed" and "looks undesigned".

    We can start by describing examples of "looks designed" that are in the extreme, such as:
    1. Microscopic cells that have a serial number in Arabic numerals printed on each individual cell's surface.
    2. Such cells where the serial number is incremented by one each generation.
    3. A galactic map to the parent planet of all life in the galaxy encoded in unused strands of DNA of every cell.
    4. A tree or plant that spells out an English phrase with its parts.

    (Thanks to John Castillo and other posters for coagulating these ideas in my mind.)

    We can then focus on the opposite extreme of the "complexity spectrum" by selecting examples so simple that we easily accept them as "looks undesigned", such as:
    1. Darwin's finches.
    2. Vestigial limbs.
    3. Nonfunctional, vestigial eyes of some mammals living in caves.
    4. Mudskippers--fish that walk on dry land for days.
    5. (Suggestions anyone?)

    Somewhere between these two extremes, there will be some region that changes from one "looks..." to the other. That region needs to be identified. Part of the identification process will involve selecting what features we should include in our measure of complexity. Studying examples of biological complexity and simplicity to compare and contrast their features should help us make those selections.

    C3. EXPLAIN:
    If something "looks designed" and if we use the common meaning of "designed", then there must be something acting as the "designer". We'll refer to whatever this is as the "teleological agent", a hopefully, politically-neutral term. (Neutrality is not only to help keep the peace, but also helps to avoid the intellectual pitfalls of using highly-connoted words in our deliberations.)

    The only teleological agents that can be properly considered by science are immanent (if I correctly understand this word). Anything else would be some other form of philosophy, but it would not be approachable by science. I said in an earlier post that science preassumes some form of materialism.

    We do not need to know the details of how any teleological agent physically works in order to form a proper theory. That is, we don't have to explain everything in the beginning to be a valid (correctly formed) theory.

    There are several varieties of ID under discussion (in this thread and in public). At least one such variety suggests that the teleological agent is not always at work, but is active only when the complexity of a system is sufficiently high that natural processes cannot adequately explain the system's configuration. So, we will need to decide either: 1. The teleological agent is always active (pure teleology), or 2. The teleological agent is active only when needed (partial teleology). These will constitute two, different, but related, hypotheses and we will need to explore each, if they are both worthy of consideration.

    Partial teleology will also introduce some additional complications such as: 1. How does the teleological agent measure the complexity of a system, 2. At what level of complexity does the agent decide to become active, 3. How is that decision made, 4. How does the agent decide what change to make, 5. Does the agent ever decide to reduce the level of complexity, 6. Can the agent get into an oscillating, feedback loop where it is alternately lowering then raising the level of complexity in an infinite loop of actions, etc.

    The remaining steps cannot be productively addressed until we have accomplished some of the previous steps, beginning with collecting useful examples of observations that can help illuminate how complexity can be quantified. So, I shall tackle C1 next (as time permits but my recent window of opportunity may be rapidly closing).

    If anyone has an interest in this project, I would appreciate your providing any references (especially online ones) just to help me reduce my workload here. If preferred, you can PM me and I'll digest and summarize for the gallery.

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  9. FreedomOfThought added a post in a topic ID: How might one argue for it?   

    A couple of quick comments: As to the rhetoric mentioned in the last couple of posts, from my experiences watching this debate on and off for many years, it seems to me that rhetoric is all the activist IDers really have because the evidence is completely against them. As to the Darwinists/evolutionists/whatever, "Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit." (KJV Proverbs 26:5, thanks to When evidence and reason fail to persuade, then one can only fight rhetoric with rhetoric, to paraphrase an adage. But, that is just a complaint about how the debate proceeds beyond these hallowed walls. Here at TGL, we are doing much better than that, I'm happy to see.

    As to the imperfect designer, this triggered a thought: After 35+ years of software design, some of it for hardware systems that had so many patch wires (also called "oops" wires) that they looked like the cat got into every color of Grandma's yarn, using human-designed systems as a criteria may not be such a good idea as it might seem, after all. While reading the descriptions of the wiring around the toilet, I realized: I've seen computer programs that would fit that description (and I wrote a couple of 'em myself, I hate to admit). (Sorry, not very helpful to our insights, but I couldn't resist the microscopic bit of humor about it .

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  10. FreedomOfThought added a post in a topic ID: How might one argue for it?   

    An added counter-thought: Someone is bound to say (and have in previous posts) that even the most unlikely event will be almost certain to occur if we wait long enough or repeat the trials enough times. Or, as the mathematician would say: An integration of infinitesimal probabilities over an infinite interval will lead to a value infinitesimally close to certainty. So, even the most outrageous example could be argued as almost certain. But, if we could calculate, or at least estimate, that the probability is sufficiently low by choosing the most outrageous example we can concoct, then the length of the interval could well be many orders of magnitude greater than the estimated age of the Universe, or certainly the age of our written history. And, if the outrageous example occurred with sufficient frequency within a sufficiently small interval of time or number of trials, we would have to admit that the probability would be very high that the behavior was "not natural". Otherwise, we would be guilty of committing the same offense of reasoning as some of the more pig-headed IDers (all present company excluded, of course).

    Of course, I have yet to see a real live example sufficiently outrageous as to convince me its designed.
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  11. FreedomOfThought added a post in a topic ID: How might one argue for it?   

    John Castillo triggers an interesting thought in my tiny, little head (did I miss seeing this somewhere?). I'm reminded of the movie "Blade Runner" with Harrison Ford. In one section his character ran around a future Chinatown looking for the maker of a biological, but artificially produced snake. His clue was a serial number all makers of artificial, biological forms included to identify their handiwork.

    In an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation (I forget the details) some scientists were led to a particular planet that was the birthplace of the majority of the humanoid species in the galaxy by some sort of map left in the DNA sequences of lifeforms. (Again I forget if this was actually in the episode, but...) if humanoids evolved independently on many different planets from simpler lifeforms left by this galaxy-ranging, telic agent and there was a recognizable and verifiable space map encoded in the DNA sequences of all these lifeforms, that would be remarkable.

    So, if real scientists really found a species of vine in real life, say, growing in the middle of some dense jungle, and they grew some in the laboratory from seeds, and it grew up so that its little snaking vines spelled out the phrase in English: "We are the champions, my friends", or possibly, "E=mc^2", then I'd probably have to say my overall, intuitive, common sense would suggest to me that someone had been tampering with Nature and that this organism was not entirely natural.

    See, see, see! I knew there was a reason I liked hanging with youse guys.

    Now I think I'm beginning to see what these guys have been driving at about "looks designed". I kept thinking in terms of the claims that eyeballs and other complicated stuff looks designed, of which I just couldn't convince myself, but if you push the example to an absurd extreme, then I have to admit there are some features that would be hard to defend as completely natural. This is good. How to decide what "looked designed" and what didn't was one of my stumbling blocks. I'll add this to my growing list of notes.

    My mind has been expanded! Thanks to all, and an extra couple to John.

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  12. FreedomOfThought added a post in a topic ID: How might one argue for it?   

    At the risk of sounding a little unfair to the spirit of this thread, and with my assurances that I mean nothing personal to anyone, please permit me to rant for a bit on this subject.

    Whether it's called Creationism, Intelligent Design, or whatever, we're talking teleology here. Those who have studied science and/or its history know full well that teleology has a long and infamous history beginning with blaming bad whether, earthquakes, volcanos, famines and plagues on spirits, demons, gods or God. Over the millennia, as knowledge and reason have advanced, the domain of teleology has receded. As the "light of knowledge" was brought to a new area of human enquiry, teleology scampered away to whatever remaining "darkness of ignorance" it could find. As it settled into its new, temporary sanctuary, it snarled from the shadows, "Well, Science, I bet you can't explain this, now can ya? Can ya? Huh? HUH?". Of course, Science would have to admit, "No, Teleology, we can't. At least not right now." Of course, eventually, Science would explain it and away would go Teleology once again seeking the next pocket of darkness.

    Science has pushed these pockets well away from the field of biology and deep into the province of physics. One personal example: In my junior high school days, before I had read about the weak and strong nuclear force, a friend asked how science explained how so many positive protons could be packed into such a small nucleus without flying apart by electrical repulsion. I had to admit that I did not know. They said they believed that it was God's angels holding the nucleus together with their hands. (This was someone I had gone to school and sunday school with since the first grade. They were completely serious. Fortunately, even then, I was unimpressed with their "argument".)

    Now, teleology snipes at us from the shadows that we cannot explain the fine-tuning of this universal, physical value or some other. And, we have to admit that we do not yet know the answer. But after such a long trail of spectacular failures of teleology's taunts, even my nearly catatonic mind can detect a pattern. I am not at all concerned about teleology's temporary, self-congratulatory "victory". One day, it too will be dispelled.

    Davidm's most excellent post focuses on these fine-tuning parameters, but this is not the first time that teleologic arguments have utilized such ideas. How many times have any of us had to listen to some bozo with no formal education in science glorify the name of God because He so mercifully put us humans on a planet in the "Golden Zone" where the Sun was just the right distance from the Earth so that we neither burned up as we would have had He placed us on Venus nor froze to death as we would have had He placed us on Mars. Or, thank God the atmosphere has just the right percentage of oxygen to nitrogen...after all, a few percent more and our bodies would burn up from oxygen poisoning, or a few less and we'd suffocate! How could anyone possibly live on such a planet? But, my absolute favorite, from one of my favorite British comics, the late, great Benny Hill (no, not Benny Hinn...Hill, Hill) is: "When God made Man, glasses hadn't been invented yet, but look where He put our ears!"

    Those "fine-tuning parameters" davidm so eloquently takes to task are just more of those same Baloney Slices!

    As to the need to explain the fine tuning, I firmly believe everything needs to be explained. But, that is exactly what science has always done. But not explained in a teleological sense; explained in a scientific sense. The question is not "Why are the values so precisely set to allow us to exist?". The question is "What physical theory (i.e. quantitative, mathematical description) correctly predicts the values they have?". The first is Philosophy, and there's nothing wrong with that, but only the second is Science.

    Alan Guth wrote a very readable, fascinating account of his development of the Inflationary Theory. Guth's journey began with his desire to explain the fine-tuning of the mass density of the Universe that appeared to make it so flat. His deliberations led his colleagues and him to predictions regarding the rarity of magnetic monopoles, which led to the idea of the sudden, rapid expansion shortly after the Big Bang event itself. But what Guth and his colleagues produced is a quantitative, mathematical description that correctly predicts the values being investigated. Is Inflation the Reason for the mass density fine-tuning? Who knows? All we can say is that, if Guth's theory is correct, the density is what it is because the universe inflated. But now, "What caused it to inflate?". Must have been those pesky, telic agents we never see. And on it goes.

    So, all the teleological challenges regarding the fine-tuning of certain fundamental constants can be reduced to the simple form: put our ears in exactly the right place for our glasses.

    I remain unimpressed.

    Ok, that ends my tirade. I'm feeling mmmmuuuuuuch better now. Thank you for your patience.

    Just so you won't think I'm just lurking around waiting to rant whenever possible, I am working on some ideas for trying to take ID seriously, but I'm having a devil of time making it work. I almost had something to append to this post, but after a few hours reflection (another night I'm having trouble sleeping---sigh), I've decided it was just plain wrong. So, I decided to release the rant now and I'll keep working on the rest of it.

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  13. FreedomOfThought added a post in a topic ID: How might one argue for it?   

    Timothy: Well, I think I have to say I agree with everything you said, with the possible exception of being able to devise a reliable detector of design. My mind was chewing away last night on all that I have read in this thread and I thought I saw no way to really distinguish between design and non-design. But, based on your post here, I'll continue to ponder it. I also agree with your condemnation of the politics. I feel that we must first get ID on a proper, scientific footing before we can honestly consider it for inclusion in a science cirriculum, but so far as I can see, no one has been able to do that. If it can be done, then we can ignore the politics and discuss ID on its own merits and in competition with other properly formatted theories. If it could be done, I would have no objection to that.

    I particularly like your last sentence. Don't tell the Christians this, but I noticed some time ago, for example, that the Big Bang Theory basically handed the Christians Genesis Chapter 1 on a silver platter, but they promptly rejected it. Talk about "let there be light"! Hopefully, none of them will ever notice this lost opportunity.

    (BTW, I like the way you think and write. I've enjoyed your other contributions to this thread and look forward to many more.)
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  14. FreedomOfThought added a post in a topic ID: How might one argue for it?   

    I am sure you are much more up-to-date on what the great defenders of science are saying today than I am, so I am willing to accept your evaluation of this. I also have to admit that scientists are people and thus are subject to all the emotions, egos, etc one would expect in a political campaign. And, no one can deny that proponents of ID have used every dirty and disingenuous trick in the book to try to sneak it into the schools as science. Also, I understand science's reluctance to continue to engage ID in this debate just as science has wearied of debunking UFO's, physic phenomena, crop circles, and my personal favorite, the neverending rain of alternative theories to relativity on the newsgroup sci.physics.relativity. After awhile, it just gets old.

    But, I also believe that if ID could be put in the proper form for a theory, someone would have done it. I've been trying for years to no avail, but then I'm no expert in the subject. A large part of my interest in this thread was the hope that better minds than mine might show a way of doing that. Unfortunately, what I am seeing is basically the same old arguments I've seen/read/heard for decades. Apparently, no one else is any better equipped to honestly formulate a proper theory out of ID than I have been.

    But, your comments notwithstanding, I still support maddog's point: "the advocates have not properly defined what they mean by ID. It's not that people discount them solely because they are Christians. It's that they seem to be unable to adequately define or justify what they are talking about".

    And, I too have been unable to do it for them, though I do keep trying from time to time, just to keep myself honest.

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  15. FreedomOfThought added a post in a topic ID: How might one argue for it?   

    I must so strongly agree with maddog when he says, "I don't think that's the position I and others are taking". Much of the essence of the objections to ID has been lost in the discussion, I think. The objection that mainstream science has to Creationism/Intelligent Design is that it does not have the form of a scientific theory, not whether it is right or wrong. My interest in this thread was the hope that the clearly nimble and highly intelligent minds here would be able to do a good job of casting ID in the correct form, since I have miserably failed in the task for many years. (Sorry, I'm referring to post #32 in this thread.)
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