Thursday, January 26, 2006

Intelligent Design - Several Pieces

On Intelligent Design

Intelligent Design is the growing point for a new post-Darwinian science. It challenges Darwinian theory at the macroevolutionary level. As Michael Denton writes in Evolution; A Theory in Crisis – "… it does not necessarily follow that, because a certain degree of evolution has been shown to occur, therefore any degree of evolution is possible. There is obviously an enormous difference between the evolution of a color change in a moth’s wing and the evolution of an organ like the human brain, and the differences among fruit flies of Hawaii, for example, are utterly trivial compared with the differences between a mouse and an elephant, or an octopus and a bee... ."

Along with the question of scale or degree there is the question of time. Scientists are realizing that the complexity of life’s molecular structures could not have come about through trial-and-error (random chance or natural selection) as Darwin postulated.

Another major problem with Darwinian macro-evolutionary theory is that the fossil record does not confirm the existence of intermediate species, one of the pillars of the Darwinian idea that evolution comes about through small incremental changes. Macroevolution is in effect speciation, or transpecific evolution. "Species simply appear at a given point in geologic time, persist largely unchanged for a few million years and then disappear. There are very few examples – some say none – of one species gradually shading gradually into another." (New York Times Report on evolution, Nov. 5, 1980)

Another compelling dissent from the Darwinian general theory was published in the Dec. 28, 2005, issue of The American Spectator, an article that just came to my attention today. Written by mathematician Granville Sewell, "Evolution’s Thermodynamic Failure." Sewell writes: "A National Geographic article from November, 2004, proclaims that the evidence is ‘overwhelming’ that Darwin was right about evolution. Since there is no proof that natural selection has ever done anything more spectacular than cause bacteria to develop drug-resistant strains, where is the overwhelming evidence that justifies assigning to it an ability we do not attribute to any other natural force in the universe: the ability to create order out of disorder?"

These are just a few of the dissents gathering on the horizon of biological studies. I hope to post news and reflections on this site.

A Witty Mathematician

Quotes from an interview with David Berlinski, a mathematician living in Paris and supporter of Intelligent Design. Posted on a website by Jonathan Witt:

See also: "Darwinian Doubts," by David Berlinski, Wichita Eagle, 9 March 2005: A few choice bits: "The suggestion that Darwin's theory of evolution is like theories in the serious sciences-- quantum electrodynamics, say -- is grotesque. Quantum electrodynamics is accurate to thirteen unyielding decimal places. Darwin's theory makes no tight quantitative predictions at all." "A great many species enter the fossil record trailing no obvious ancestors and depart for Valhalla leaving no obvious descendants."

Also his "The Deniable Darwin," Commentary, 1 June 1996. (Available on
Also his review of Richard Dawkins' Climbing Mount Improbable, which begins in this wise: "The theory of evolution is the great white elephant of contemporary thought. It is large, almost entirely useless, and the object of superstitious awe." Berlinski says of Dawkins' book: "The science throughout is primitive. Difficulties are resolved by sleight-of-hand." That Dawkins holds a Chair at Oxford is a telling reminder of the decline of Western thought.

In the following passages Berlinksi captures the vanishing quality of modern intellectual life with silken nets of wit. I am impressed with how he understands that atheism, moral relativism, and materialism basically are a form of "sentimentalism" -- see below. I think that is a deep insight.

There is no argument against religion that is not also an argument against mathematics. Mathematicians are capable of grasping a world of objects that lies beyond space and time ….

But if you ask me just who is the more credulous, the more suggestible, the dopier, the more perfectly prepared to convey absurdity to an almost inconceivable pitch of personal enthusiasm – a well-trained Jesuit or a Ph.D. in quantum physics, I’ll go with the physicist every time.

Look, for thousands of intellectuals, becoming a Marxist was an experience of disturbing intensity. The decision having been made, the world became simpler, brighter, cleaner, clearer. A number of contemporary intellectuals react in the same way when it comes to the Old Boy – Darwin, I mean. Having renounced Freud and all his wiles, the literary critic Frederick Crews – a man of some taste and sophistication – has recently reported seeing in random variations and natural selection the same light he once saw in castration anxiety or penis envy. He has accordingly immersed himself in the emollient of his own enthusiasm. Every now and then he contributes an essay to The New York Review of Books revealing that his ignorance of any conceivable scientific issue has not been an impediment to his satisfaction...

Another example – I’ve got hundreds. Daniel Dennett has in Darwin’s Dangerous Idea written about natural selection as the single greatest idea in human intellectual history. Anyone reading Dennett understands, of course, that his acquaintance with great ideas has been remarkably fastidious.

The real mark of an ideological system is its presumptuousness.

A congeries of sentimental attitudes are at work in the humanities – atheism, moral relativism, materialism. They are incarnated locally in the United States by Richard Rorty, a philosopher, I must say, who while espousing irony as an antidote to anomie (and anything else that ails you) seems to me, at least, to exhibit an almost elephantine earnestness in everything he writes. The man could paralyze an infantry battalion just by beginning a lecture.

Naturalism is sometimes taken to mean that there is only one body of human knowledge, and that is contemporary science; at other times, it is taken to mean that there is only one method by which knowledge can be acquired, and that is the scientific method. This is a little like arguing that cabbage is the only food and that prayer is the only way to get it.

Where science has a method, it is trivial – look carefully, cut the cards, weigh the evidence, don’t let yourself be fooled, do an experiment if you can. These are principles of kennel management as well as quantum theory. Where science isn’t trivial, it has no method. What method did Einstein follow, or Pauli, or KekulĂ©? KekulĂ© saw the ring structure of benzene in what he called a waking dream. Some method.

[Questioner] What is the connection between Darwinism and naturalism? …

DB: There is none – at least if by a connection, you mean a logical connection. There is, however, a sentimental connection. A commitment to naturalism, however defined, very often makes Darwin’s theory seem more plausible than it otherwise might be. Naturalism is sentimentally a sufficient condition for Darwinism. By the same token, Darwinism is sentimentally a necessary condition for naturalism. ...

The Conformity Postulate; or, Unintelligent, Ill-Designed, and On Purpose

The huge applause that greeted Judge John E. Jones III’s decision in the Dec. 20 ruling Kitzmiller v. Dover School Board illustrates how the strength of conformity exists in inverse relation to the power of thought. The Conformity Postulate correlates with an evolutionary process which is posited to be totally mindless and random. Thus the Conformity Postulate conforms with Darwinian theory, which also perfectly corresponds with itself. No other methodology of correlation is feasible, since by definition only that which is in conformity with Darwinism can be considered science, and science is that which is only in conformity with Darwinism. Thus, mindless conformity is not only the rule but also conforms to the ruling in Kitzmiller v. Dover School Board.

The conformity postulate is thus perfectly self-serving, and unlike paleontology, geology, or other frustrating sciences like biochemistry, it leaves no gaps in the record. Why should anyone be confused by sciences that claim the existence of ‘jumps’ or fissures, through which alarming alternative interpretations might trickle? No, Judge Jones rightly decided to view the entire series of mutations of incoherence as a trail of droppings left by one fossilized thinker after the next. Thus no "turd" left behind as an awkward suggestion of an "irreducibly complex" process of digestion! Thus the entire sequence, from mastication to digestion, may be considered as a "taste test" problem of the "prebiotic soup," which was much too cold by the time nobody appeared on the scene not to eat it anyway. Thankfully, Judge Jones’ ruling tosses out this culinary catastrophe from the province of legitimate science.

Postulating the conformity postulate has many other advantages as well. It would allow us to agree with newspaper writers who called Judge Jones’s opinion in the Dover case ‘erudite.’ For example, a Miss A.W. of the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote an article about how handsome Judge Jones was, or is, and that apparently he is "the toast of the globe for his erudite opinion in the intelligent design trial." The Inquirer thoughtfully provided a picture (unfortunately small, and unfortunately the judge was clothed) of a beaming Judge to accompany Miss W.’s gushy paean to the male beauteousness of his person.

Concerning ‘toast of the globe,’ the writer might have added a modest disclaimer, to the effect, "the toast of the globe… among people like us," but who cares for accuracy when celebrity journalism descends upon our meager little lives in all the glitter of its unblushing nakedness? It goes without saying that people who think like us are the only people on the globe who count, so obviously, it follows that "we," therefore, are "the globe."

As for ‘erudite,’ whether Miss W. even understands the meaning of the word is highly debatable. Judge Jones has ridden hard into the camp of the Intelligent Designers on his white steed, breathing the fire of righteous scientism regarding peer-reviewed scientific articles (he said that the partisans of Intelligent Design don’t have any, which is blatantly untrue) and belching platitudes about the nature of science which, apparently, he has never studied. Judge Jones took upon himself the heroic task of deciding what science is, and he declared that Intelligent Design is not science… well, because evolutionists do not agree that it is. Evolutionists only agree that evolution cannot be intelligent except when they are the ones doing it, in which case it is very intelligent, although some admit to a distressing absence of empirical corroboration for it, an absence which they interpret as proof for unintelligent, ill-designed and purposeless evolution, though not for a lack of intelligence.

This is science?

Yes, said Judge Jones, citing the ACLU as his incontrovertible authority for saying what science is. The ACLU made up its mind long ago that Intelligent Design is Creationism and Planned Parenthood objected to it because it feared if people believed in it they might start having fewer abortions. This substitution of the ACLU for "the government" (i.e. as represented by the Dover School Board) was considered to be a great victory for American freedom, liberty, Constitutionalism, progress, and sliced bread. The day after the robed and beauteous judge unveiled his decision, the Philadelphia Inquirer gushed that, "What shines forth today is the strength and clarity of the Constitution, how easily it exposed this attempt to swap sound science for one group's creed. How beautiful this document is, which allows all Americans to worship or not, believe or not, see intelligent design in the cosmos or not… By derailing the abuse of liberty, Jones’ decision affirmed the liberty of all Americans."

The Conformity Postulate now makes it possible to take cloying cant like this as the work of grown-ups, and not, as one may have thought, that the Philadelphia Inquirer is really Peter Pan in disguise. The only slightly worrisome thing is the possible effect of the Conformity Postulate upon people, i.e. it might cause them to become extinct, and soon. It has been found that the total convergence of the human mind with cant cannot yield further scope for adaptation in the struggle for existence, i.e. the need to think. Aside from this problem, the Conformity Postulate leads to the certainty of empirical evolutionism in the attainment of extinction through perfectly-achieved self-satisfaction, an outcome that is consistent with the total absence of intelligence in the Dover decision.

Music and Genetics

The following article appeared in the Birmingham News, Tuesday, January 26, 1988: "Music, genetics show same pattern, scientist says":

Duarte, Calif.(AP)--It seems that genes not only carry the blueprint for life, they also carry a tune, according to one scientist's research.

Bored with tedious mathematical equations, Susumu Ohno decided to convert chemical formulas for living cells into musical notes, to make patterns easier to study.

The result, which some experts say has no practical application, is a system for converting chemical formulas into melodies similar to classical music of the baroque and romantic eras, sometimes with an uncanny resemblance to the works of great composers, said the award-winning researcher at the Beckman Research Institute in Duarte, part of the City of Hope Medical Center.

Take for instance, Ohno's "Mouse Waltz."

Translated into sheet music and performed on the piano, a portion of mouse ribonucleic acid -- a complex genetic messenger substance -- sounds like a lively waltz, and parts sound like a faster tempo version of Frederic Chopin's Nocturne, Opus 55, No. 1, Ohno found.

"This is not surprising," Ohno said. "Nature follows certain physical laws -- the universe obeys them, as does the process of life. Music follows the same patterns as well."

The idea of converting genes to music came to him three or four years ago. He was searching for simpler patterns repeated within the complex structure of deoxyribonucleic acid, which is in every living cell and contains the genetic code which governs heredity.

Ohno said he invented a system to convert repetitious parts of the genetic equation into musical compositions.

"First we identity the repeating units. Then we try to find the appropriate melody for this unit. That's how we start. We find the sound combination that is melodious."

Genes are composed of four basic nucleic acids -- adenine, guanine, thymine, and cytosine. In Ohno's system, each is assigned two consecutive musical notes, which are strung together as they occur in the gene's chemical formula.

Ohno said he doesn't use all sound combination within the structure because some just aren't melodious. He adds a secondary harmony loosely based on the same genetic patterns, and sets the tempo to fit the feeling of the melody, which is played on piano or violin.

"I think it's cute but I don't think it's profound," Leroy E. Hood, biology chairman at the California Institute of Technology, said recently.

Ohno, 59, holds the title of distinguished scientist at the Beckman Research Institute.

He moved from Topkyo in 1953 to join the institute, where his work on occasion gained national attention, including the Emory Prize in 1981 from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences for his work in reproductive genetics.

Ohno has converted to music the genes from a chicken's eye, from a rainbow trout, from slime mold, brewer's yeast and the human brain.

The musical score within a cancer-causing oncogene sounds somber, while the gene that bestows transparency to the lens of the eye is filled with trills and flourishes-- airy and light, he said.

Reversing the process -- converting music to chemistry -- works as well: When Ohno translated a funeral march by Chopin from notes to chemical equations, entire passages appeared identical to a cancer gene found in humans, he said.