Skip to comments.Biologic InstituteDesign without a Designer? (Hold onto your hat!!! Evos invite IDers to...)
Posted on 12/10/2009 11:03:19 AM PST by GodGunsGuts
Last February I mentioned the events that would commemorate the life and work of Charles Darwin in 2009. I had no idea at the time that I would be invited to participate in one of these events. But there I was, precisely 150 years after On the Origin of Species first appeared, seated with other scientists in front of a packed room that featured, among other interesting things, a life-sized model of a baleen whale. The venue was the National Museum of Natural History in Stuttgart, Germany, and the occasion was a panel discussion titled Design without a Designer?  The “bold generation” of young thinkers turned up in droves, listening intently as the discussion went well beyond its advertised ninety minutes.
To my knowledge the event wasnt recorded, so a transcript may never appear. Ill include my statements below (which I had to prepare in advance for translation). I have to confess, though, that the mere fact that this took place at all impressed me beyond anything that was said. You have to wonder what Darwin would have thought had he known that his theory would still be the subject of scientific debate a century and a half later. Does anything become healthy after so many years of limping along?
The official description of the event  is remarkable in itself, in that it sheds the usual religious caricature of ID in favor of the real scientific issue whether there is objective evidence of creative intelligence behind the design of life. Weve translated the short version as follows:
On the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the first publication of Darwin’s theory, this high-caliber panel discussion between evolutionists and Darwin critics will consider the question of whether the evolution of life on Earth is based solely on blind and unguided natural processes, or whether there is non-religiously based, verifiable evidence of meaningful and purposeful acts of creative intelligence in the natural world. This meeting at the Stuttgart Museum of Natural History aims to contribute constructively and with clarity and objectivity to this important debate. A public debate between evolutionary biologists and evolutionary critics at this high level is very rare in Germany, and therefore can be expected to be a very exciting evening.
Its rare anywhere. And an exciting evening it was.
Here’s my opening statement on intelligent design:
The controversy surrounding intelligent design has generated much confusion about the theorys basic claims. For example, the Oxford American Dictionary defines intelligent design as: the theory that life, or the universe, cannot have arisen by chance and was designed and created by some intelligent entity.
The problem with this definition is that it makes intelligent design sound more like a dogma than a theory. So, lets consider another description. William Dembski and Stephen Meyer have both framed the design argument in terms of functional information, meaning information that specifies a significant functional outcome. Since this fits well with my own understanding, I offer the following three-statement summary of the design argument:
First: Living things contain within their genomes large amounts of functional information.
Second: The only cause known to be capable of generating large amounts of functional information is intelligence.
And third: It is therefore reasonable to infer that the functional information in living things must have an intelligent source.
Here we have not a pronouncement but an argument based on evidence and logic. It is perfectly fair to argue against it, of course, but it is hardly fair to dismiss it as dogma.
So, what does this have to do with Darwins great book, which we remember today? On this question I refer to a well known popularizer of Darwins theory, professor Richard Dawkins. In his book Climbing Mount Improbable , Dawkins distinguishes between designed objectsthings crafted with creative intent and what he calls designoid objectsthings that appear designed but have in fact been crafted by natural selection. Living things are either one or the other either designed or designoid. They cannot be both. On this point, Dawkins and I agree.
To support his claim that they are designoid rather than designed, Dawkins turns to spiders and computers. He uses a computer program called NetSpinner, which applies an evolutionary algorithm to optimize the design of a virtual spider web. After evolving in this way some impressive webs, he discusses the limitations of computer models like NetSpinner. Here he makes a common-sense point about the trade-off between their simplicity and their realism. In his words: Every time an additional and complicated point of detail is incorporated into NetSpinner, extra pages of difficult computer code have to be written by a clever human programmer. 
Now, as obvious as this point may be, it is significant in that Dawkins reasoning here seems very similar to the design reasoning I just outlined:
Software upgrades contain large amounts of functional information.
Intelligence is the only known source of this kind of information.
Therefore software upgrades require intelligent programmers.
Moreover, Dawkins applies this design reasoning right after using NetSpinner to demonstrate the power of natural selection operating in a computer. Why, I wonder, does he not tap that power to create those new pages of computer code? Is it that code is too complex to be spun by selection? If so, does any biologist honestly believe that the inner workings of biology are less complex?
According to Dawkins, a typical spider produces six different kinds of silk from its spinnerets, each made in a separate abdominal gland, and it switches between the different types for different purposes. The silk itself has what Dawkins describes as a remarkably complicated structure that imparts to its threads equally remarkable material properties. Among these are the ability to stretch on impact to ten times its rest length, and to dampen the recoil so as not to fling captured prey out of the web. Equally remarkable is the stickiness, which is achieved in some spiders with a special coating, and in others with a multi-stranded silk which must be combed out with a specialized comb on the spiders leg. The result is a microscopic version of Velcro, which is highly efficient at snagging insect legs.
Perhaps someday someone will show in a convincing way how such things can come about without intelligent design. If that day ever comes, we will presumably have no more need of clever human programmers or engineers. Perhaps that day will come. But today, despite the heroic efforts of people like Darwin and Dawkins today we must appeal to intelligent design.
And here’s my statement on the origin of biological information:
Id like to develop further the connection between functional information and intelligent design. In a broad sense, everything that performs a function by means of a special arrangement of parts embodies functional information. When it comes to quantifying that information, though, some things are much more suitable objects of study than others. Here sequences of characters, like letters in sentences or bits in data streams, are of special interest.
No one in Darwins time would have guessed how important information of this digital kind would become in human technology. But as hard as that would have been to imagine, it would have been still harder to imagine the central role of digital information in life itself. Even today we are debating the implications this has for Darwins theory.
For my own part, it is the study of functional information in life that, more than anything else, has convinced me that Darwinism must give way to intelligent design. Five minutes is not enough time to explain this fully, so those interested in the details will need to refer to more detailed accounts. I particularly recommend Stephen Meyers recent book Signature in the Cell, though it is not yet available in German.
Here, in order to simplify the subject Ill use an analogy to describe how the functional information in biological genes has been measured. The analogy is between the proteins that genes encode and written language, the two having at least rough correspondence in several respects. Proteins are something like long sentences, written not with a 26-letter alphabet but with a 20-amino-acid alphabet. In both cases the alphabetic characters are arranged in sequence to accomplish useful tasks either a communication task or a biological task. The rules for proper sequence arrangement are somewhat flexible in both cases. Just as the same idea can be expressed in different words, and therefore different letter sequences, so also the same protein function can be achieved with different amino-acid sequences. And both kinds of sequence are somewhat forgiving as well sentences may be readable even with several typographical errors, and proteins may likewise tolerate amino-acid changes caused by random mutations in the genes that encode them.
In both cases, however, the forgiveness has strict limits. If random errors are allowed to accumulate, function is lost when only a fraction of the positions have been altered. This transition from a functional or readable sequence to a non-functional or unreadable one presents an interesting opportunity. Since the degradation can be observed, it can be used to measure how restrictive the demands of function are on the sequences. And this is directly related to the functional information required to meet those demands.
So, to find out how much functional information is required for even a weakly functional sequence, we begin by isolating one such sequence one with enough errors that it is just barely readable (or just barely functional). Then we randomize a section of this sequence to produce a great variety of altered sequences, most of which dont work at all. Some fraction of these randomized sequences will work, though. They will almost certainly differ from the original sequence, but they will be comparably functional. By measuring that fraction after several sections of sequence have separately been randomized, one can estimate the fraction that would have worked if the entire sequence had been randomized. And from this one can calculate the amount of functional information.
But the fraction itself does a better job of conveying how unlikely working sequences are. For one protein subjected to this kind of experiment, the conclusion was that working sequences are as rare as one in a trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion.  In other words, they are unimaginably rare far too rare to be stumbled upon by any unguided search, such as a Darwinian search.
Notice that this isnt a negative result in the sense of an unsuccessful attempt to measure something. The measurement was successful. Some will still see it as a negative result in that it precludes unguided searches. But since we do in fact encounter meaningful sentences every day, we know that intelligence is fully capable of producing what chance simply cannot produce. So we ought also to see this as a positive result one that confirms the design explanation just as decisively as it refutes the Darwinian one.
 Design ohne Designer?
 ISBN: 0393039307
Debate on church doctrine and or threads on specific religious matters may be best posted in the religion forum, but the defense of religious freedom, especially against those who wish to deprive us of same belongs front and center on FR....They banned God and prayer and creationism from public schools and public places, but Ill be damned if theyre gonna ban Him or it from FR!
There will be a lot of weeping and gnashing of teeth in the Dawkins’ wing of the Darwin Party tonight!!!
Thank You Jim Robinson
So far as we know, intelligence comes from intelligence. Modern science is based on the belief that the universe is intelligible. At the same time, there is the inexplicable.
Kind of reminds me of an experiment I composed on a thread a few months ago where I allowed any reader to try to demonstrate whether a computer could or could not self-assemble and it baffled all the "enlightned" evo-knuckledraggers at the time.
That was shortly followed by one of the "clearly-more- baffle-able-than-others" posing as though he had a PhD in something, but didn't know that "peer-reviewed" journals are largely published as magazines.
Evo-knuckledraggers around here are too often revealed to be just imposters and in more ways than just one.
"I love science. Just like evolution, its one of Gods greatest creations. Its the gift that keeps on giving."
- Jim Robinson
my thanks was for posting
And my apologies to swordmaker and wendy1946 for the oversight...
But nothing to add to this beyond a drive by snarking.
Science IS a beautiful thing. But it can NOT explain all. All will be explained when we get to our home in Heaven.
Jesus loves you Natural, do you know Him as your Savior?
You can’t post anything without an insult, can you?
I prefer to do my theological discussions in the Religion Forum where they belong. Pick a post there and ping me if you want to explore my faith. While you are at it, please stop ringing my door bell early Saturday mornings asking the same question.
My peacocks were always good at chasing them off the property....
Be careful. Using "pea" and "cock" in the same sentence will have them mashing the report abuse button.
Indian Peafowl, Pavo cristatus, for those in Crevo-Linda.
Still baffled I see. Must have recognized yourself.
It's just so much fun to watch imposters and pretenders to conservatism like yourself get your panties in a wad when you're busted.
You claim to be a Christian?
Which puts it smack, dab in the middle of a debate in ........
That is not science. Science can deal with the mechanical and explain how, but is useless beyond that.
Yet it is a source of constant amazement the number of scientists who have the arrogance to make pronouncements about subjects outside their expertise using a tool totally inappropriate for the job.
Notice that they qualified the intelligent agent as in the *natural* world? Can't have any of that God creating stuff now, can we?
Don’t forget the part about God creating.....
“I love science. Just like evolution, its one of Gods greatest creations. Its the gift that keeps on giving. God creates everything for a reason. He created you and me. He created GGG, xcamel and all FReepers and placed us all here together on FR for a reason. He even created the duck billed platypus for a reason. Mine is not to question why or even to do or die. To God Be the Glory.” JR