Monday, January 30, 2006

Round Three With Krauze

Kruaze has now logged another entry in our little scuffle. After staring, slack-jawed and unbelieving, at his maunderings for about twenty minutes now, I've decided that I really have to respond.

Krauze begins as follows:

To Jason Rosenhouse, intelligent design is nothing but a political and legal strategy to disguise creationism. Consequently, it’s not surprising that in his latest reply in our discussion of Michael Ruse’s book he has adopted the tone of a shrill politician, presenting simple answers to complex questions and demonizing those who disagree with him. Thus, the arguments for intelligent design are “completely false”, “hopelessly flawed”, “standard gobbledygook”, the concept contains “nothing at all beyond falacious logic and distortions of modern science”, and what I’m saying is “ridiculous” and “pure fantasy”. At least no one can accuse him of being mealy-mouthed.

Here we see the typical martyr pose of ID proponents. I will simply point out that examining a nonsensical statement, calling it nonsense, and then explaining why it is nonsense is not demonization. It is refutation. By contrast, whining about your opponent's tone is not refutation.

Thus, it was the ID arguments based on irreducible complexity and complex specified information that were completely false and hopelessly flawed. I note, incidentally, that Krauze refuses to dispute my characterization of those arguments (more on this later). It was Krauze's assertion that Chambers' Vestiges marked the beginning of modern evolutionary theory that was ridiculous. And it was his statement that ID has evolved in recent years that was pure fantasy. I also explained very clearly why I attached those labels to Krauze's statements, but he was too busy feeling aggrieved to attempt a response.

But since whining is the order of the day, let me observe that he is the first one to resort to name-calling. Apparently I speak with the tone of a shrill politician. I note simply that I have attacked his ideas and that is all. There is nothing shrill about labelling nonsense for what it is.

Krauze continues:

In my post, “Big ideas take time”, I posted some excerpts from Michael Ruse’s The Evolution-Creation Struggle that showed that even after Darwin had published Origin of the Species, it still took a considerable amount of time for evolution to take off as a serious research program. I then made the point that ID critics should keep this in mind when asking when intelligent design will result in a research program. I didn’t say that it was just a question of time before intelligent design would result in research. I didn’t say that because evolution overcame its “childhood troubles” so would intelligent design. And I didn’t say that evolution has never resulted in any research. The reason I start by making this clear is that, when reading Rosenhouse’s reply, he seems to be thoroughly confused as to what the point of all of it is.

And here is my description of Krauze's point, taken from my previous entry on thus subject:

Last Thursday, Krauze, of the pro-ID blog Telic Thoughts, posted this essay in which he argued that big scientific ideas require time to come to fruition. He illustrated this idea with the early days of evolutionary theory, pointing out that it was more than sixty years after Darwin published the Origin that the neo-Darwinian synthesis was developed. This was intended as a rebuttal to those who criticize ID for not producing any peer-reviewed research. ID has only been around for a decade, you see.

See the original for links.

I defy you to find any significant difference between our versions of what this argument is about.

Krauze continues:

In a previous post, Rosenhouse disputed my claim that no theory of evolution existed until the Modern Synthesis was proposed in the 1930’s, offering Lamarckism and mutationism as counter-examples. I explained that according to NAS’ own definition, these views didn’t qualify as theories, but more as hypotheses. Rosenhouse shoots back:

The fact remains that there were many possible meachanisms of evolution in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and all could claim a considerable amount of support. And these hypotheses led to clear avenues of research.

That's mighty selective quotation. Here's what I actually wrote:

In my original blog entry I made a clear distinction between a well-developed theory and a proposed theory. Krauze here argues that instead of “proposed theory” I should have said “hypothesis.” Fine. The fact remains that there were many possible meachanisms of evolution in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and all could claim a considerable amount of support. And these hypotheses led to clear avenues of research. ID, alas, does not even have a hypothesis. It has nothing at all beyond falacious logic and distortions of modern science. This is what Krauze will have to come to terms with if he wants to draw any comparisons between modern ID and the early days of evolution.

The point was that it was rather silly to hide behind the NAS' definition of the term “theory” when it was perfectly clear that I was not using their definition. I'm afraid the distinction between a “proposed theory” and a “hypothesis” is too subtle for me.

So let's review. In his original essay on this subject Krauze asserted that there were no proposed theories of evolution in the time between the publication of the Origin and the modern synthesis of the nineteen thirties. I replied that actually there were a great many proposed theories, that these theories led to a large amount of valuable research, and that this is an obvious point of disanology with ID. In his reply, Krauze argued only that ideas like Lamrackism and mutationism didn't meet the NAS' definition of a theory, but rather should be called hypotheses.

And he says I'm the one who's missing the point?

This time around Krauze at least attempts to answer my point. He writes:

In the comments, I asked Rosenhouse to clarify exactly which hypotheses and what research he was talking about, leading him to answer:

Darwin made it clear to everyone that the nature of inheritance was of crucial importance. Prior to Darwin, that question had been almost completely ignored. The mere fact that there were so many viable theories of inheritance, each of which could claim some evidential support, was what drove a lot of the research into genetics in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

At this point, Rosenhouse seems to have forgotten what his own point was. Remember, we were talking about hypotheses about possible meachanisms of evolution, and now he’s talking about “theories of inheritance”. Knowing how traits are passed from generation to generation sure is helpful in finding out how those traits change over time, but the two things aren’t the same. And if he wants to claim that it was Lamarckism and mutationism that drove the research into genetics, he really has some ’splainin to do.

He's joking, right?

Lamarckism and mutationism were two proposed mechanisms of evolution. Natural selection acting on small variations was another. There were still others as well. Assessing the correctness of any of these proposals required a thorough understanding of the nature of inheritance. That is why research into genetics is, unavoidably, also research into mechanisms of evolution. This isn't complicated.

Krauze continues:

Rosenhouse thinks that “there’s no controversy that new branches of science take time to come to fruition” and that my claim, “big ideas take time”, is “trivial”. But wait a minute, didn’t Rosenhouse just inform us:

[ID supporters’] entire theory, such as it is, rests entirely upon two pillars: irreducible complexity and complex specified information. Both of these ideas are utterly and irretrievably wrong-headed. Nothing the ID folks build upon such a foundation will ever produce anything but poisonous fruit.

In other words, it is impossible that intelligent design will produce new theoretical concepts or reformulate existing ones. The idea must emerge fully researchable from the get-go, or fail. Of course, it this very assumption that my “trivial” post calls into question.

An new branch of science does not have to emerge “fully researchable” (whatever that means) from the get-go, but it can't be based on obvious falsehoods either.

It is interesting that, once again, Krauze refuses to come to the rescue of irreducible complexity and complex specified information. Instead he reposes his dreams in some far-off day when ID produces new theoretical concepts or reformulates existing ones.

I thought the big idea Krauze was talking about was that there is actual empricial evidence of design in nature. The people who make that claim base their argument on two pillars, as I said. Both of those pillars are rotten. No reformulation of them will help. Let me be more specific. Any argument based on the idea of doing probability calculations to learn something about the plausibility of natural selection producing a given structure will always fail. Likewise, any argument based on the idea that natural selection can not produce a multi-part system in which all of the parts are essential will always fail.

But if Krauze's big idea is merely ID in the abstract (not wedded to specific claims made by Behe, Dembski or the others) then I would point out that ID is one of the oldest and simplest ideas there is. It goes back to the ancients.

So the choice is this: Either Krauze is talking about the vague idea that there is an intelligence behind the workings of nature, or he is talking about the recent assertions of major ID proponents about irreducible complexity and complex specified information. If the former, then the idea is ancient and has had plenty of time to prove its worth. If the latter, then Krauze is basing his essay on arguments that are blatantly incorrect.

Krauze concludes with:

Incidentally, Rosenhouse seems surprised that I didn’t dispute his claims about irreducible complexity and specified complexity. But there’s no need for surprise, as I usually attempt to focus on the issue at hand, ignoring distracting side-issues. And in a historical discussion about nineneteen-century ideas, the values of irreducible and specified complexity are side-issues. Let’s assume, for the sake of the argument, that Rosenhouse is correct that these concepts are “utterly and irretrievably wrong-headed.” What conclusion should we draw from this? Which promising concepts did evolution have when Robert Chambers published Vestiges of Creation?

I made it very clear in my last entry that it is silly to locate the origin of evolutionary theory in Chambers' book. Unable to respond to this obvious point, Krauze prefers to ignore it and simply repeat what he has said previously.

As it happens though, Chambers' book, for all its flaws, did have at least one big thing going for it: It popularized the idea of evolution through natural law. Chambers did present some good evidence for this (he also presented a lot of dreck), and it was certainly an idea amenable to scientific study. So even Chamber's work had produced one good idea, which is one more than ID has produced.

And, as we saw at the beginning of this essay, this is not primarily a discussion of nineteenth century ideas. It is a discussion of whether the history of evolutionary theory provides any lessons for how modern ID critics should respond to modern ID proponents. In that light, as I have explained repeatedly, it is relevant to look at points of disanaolgy between the early days of evolution and the current state of ID. One major point of disanalogy is that evolution post-Darwin had a solid empricial foundation, while ID has only a lot of bad arguments. Krauze is welcome to dispute that claim if he wishes to, but it is certainly relevant.

Suppose I claim to have a great new scientific idea. The idea is that the moon is made of green cheese. I suspect Krauze would lead the charge to point out that my claim stands in stark defiance of every piece of evidence we have about the composition of the moon. I retort with, “Sure, my theory may not be fully researchable right now. But just look at the early days of physics when Newton was occasionally invoking the action of Gods to explain mysterious points in his theories. That turned out well. So don't be too critical of the green cheese theory. Big ideas take time, you know!” Would anyone consider that a serious reply?

Let me also repeat that people on my side of this demand that ID folks produce some actual research only because many of those folks already claim to have actual scientific results to report. Behe and Dembski do not claim that they need more time to develop their ideas. They say that the discovery of design should be considered on a par with the ideas of Galileo and Newton (in Behe's case) and constitute a scientific revolution (in Dembski's case). It is not my side of this that is making unreasonable demands. It is the ID side that is making claims it can not defend.

I will conclude with some direct questions for Mr. Krauze. Do you believe that irreducible complexity, as defined by Michael Behe, poses any challenge to gradualistic evolution? Do you believe that William Dembski's use of the No Free Lunch theorems, or the probability calculation he did in section 5.10 of his book No Free Lunch, or his claims about complex specified information, are valuable ideas that scientists should take seriously? Does ID have any other ideas of scientific consequence that people on my side should be taking seriously?


At 9:36 AM, Blogger Mark Nutter said...

"Either Krauze is talking about the vague idea that there is an intelligence behind the workings of nature, or he is talking about the recent assertions of major ID proponents about irreducible complexity and complex specified information. If the former, then the idea is ancient and has had plenty of time to prove its worth."

And in fact, if you think about it, what is primitive shamanism/spiritism, if not the vague idea that some intelligent force(s) is/are behind the natural phenomena that impact the lives of men? Intelligent design "theory" can, in principle, be reduced to the same intuitive superstition that gave rise to tribal witch doctors and the earliest naturalistic religions--anthropomorphizing what we don't understand about nature.

At 12:44 PM, Blogger bmk md said...

ID, Intelligent Design, is really DI, Design Intervention. There is no need for any mechanisms of action if the design creator just wills it so.

And that's why DI/ID people like Kruze can't come up with anything to research.

At 12:40 PM, Anonymous Kevin from NYC said...


ID proponent down for the count..or maybe not!

There he is disputing the meaning of the word time! It's clear that if the world is as young as it is then evolution would not have enough tmie to work so its false.


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