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Intelligent Design debates Secular Humanism Options
Posted: Saturday, February 20, 2010 9:18:07 PM

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Found this interesting debate between Stephen Meyer, author of "Signature in the Cell" and secular humanist Peter Atkins. Stephen's point is that DNA is information and therefore an indication of intelligence behind the creation of life. Atkins refutes the claim and says that DNA is just a structure that can come about through evolution. Meyer clearly thought he won the debate, or he wouldn't have put it on his website. Whatever you believe, on debating tactics alone, Atkins comes across as a bully, getting angry and throwing insults, while Meyer comes across as fairly professional. What do you think?
Posted: Sunday, February 28, 2010 9:44:45 PM
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Very frustrating debate as there is an inarguable gap held by conventional scientists that really should be open, specifically, that ID should be accommodated as a hypothesis and subjected to scrutiny via experimental testing and evidence, just as every other scientific theory. Mainstream science seems to be so abhorrent of the (now long-departed) influence of the Church, that anything remotely connected to religious origin is considered verboten and a priori (and by definition) outside the bounds of science.

Canonical evolutionary theory is adamant in NOT accepting that there is a huge gap that one can not and should not hand-waive away between accumulated random transcription errors and the ability for selection to, and by selection alone, accumulate long chains of such micro evolutionary changes into progressive advancement, or what I shall call Macro Evolution.

As a software programmer, I am convinced that if I take a software program in its binary form, and begin to induce random bit changes in the binary machine code, that there is NO chance whatsoever that by testing the software against some(any!) "measure of fitness" that the program will over time increase if functional capability.

That there MAY be some other process, whether "intelligent design" or some as-yet-undiscovered "force" of information, is a possibility that Science should accept as a valid hypothesis, and test it. Because as far as I am concerned, while I agree that the Tree Of Life (as evidenced by DNA similarity), suggest common origins and adaptation patterns, there is a vector of advancement that has not been (to me adequately) explained by the notion of selection. If such a mechanism as selection were indeed able to operate based on random fluctuations, we should be able to see that mechanism operate in some other domains aside from genetics. Yet we don't. Which suggests that either there is some other properties of genetics that make its evolutionary mechanisms susceptible to advancement by random change filtered by selection, or that random change filtered by selection is not actually the mechanism underlying macro evolutionary advance.

That is: that if macro evolutionary advance occurs through accumulated random changes filtered by selection criteria, then genetics operates unlike mechanical devices, chemical structures, software programs, architectural constructions, and everything else that I have experience with. Which is NOT to say that this can't be the mechanism -- just that if it is, the story of how it works is incomplete, because it can't be modeled programmatically, and I have yet to encounter any aspect of the Universe now understood by Science that is not (eventually) rendered by a coherent and (reasonably) complete and self-contained mathematical model.

Certain conclusions of evolutionary mechanics certainly are irrefutable. But the core precept that a long tail of accumulated random perturbations of genetic material evaluated individually by selective criteria can amalgamate as organized macroscopic change.

In this discussion I mean neither to support Intelligent Design nor refute it, but assert that it is a candidate among others to explain what we clearly see as directional evolutionary advancement. I do mean to inculcate canonical evolutionary theory for extrapolating its own justification by declaration, and call it to task to present a computational model that demonstrates for some arbitrary information-based entity (as genetics is for biological entities) a process of evolutionary advance based on the mechanism of selection of random mutations of the informational content of the entity. In this regard, I throw a gauntlet, and say: Show Me.

Finally, please understand that in my interpretation, that while Intelligent Design may have had its origins in creationist ideals, that the notion could be hijacked by the Universe-As-Computation crowd, and given new legitimacy on a solid theoretic foundation.
Posted: Monday, March 1, 2010 9:11:29 AM

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Greetings, Zhami,

Great post and welcome to our forum. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I completely agree with your argument and have been working on a paper / blog post on the "DNA as evidence of intelligence" debate. In this particular exchange between Meyer and Atkins, I found flaws with both arguments, but it could easily have been because neither had the full opportunity to develop their positions. Since long durations and very large numbers can be used as evolutionary arguments, it seems to me that it boils down to either proving or disproving that the necessary selection mechanism exists and that the statistical analysis supports it. My research so far say no.

As a member of the "Universe-As-Computation" crowd, I wonder (and as you are also a programmer, would appreciate your thoughts) if you can imagine your "vector of advancement" being programmatic. I'm sure it could, although not strictly necessary (see Omphalos or "Last Thursday -ism").
Posted: Thursday, March 4, 2010 6:49:01 PM
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Hey Jim, a new member posted!Anxious(long one too)

There is no spoon.
Posted: Saturday, March 6, 2010 12:17:15 PM

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Ya, good post too. And then he/she disappeared.
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