I’d just like to point out that many of the things ID proponents say we can’t account for the origin of, we can in fact account for the origin of. There are actually accounts for the origin of the spliceosome, the flagellum, the nuclear pore complex and the nuclear envelope, and so on. Accounts that draw on well-established mechanisms of evolution (hint: it’s almost always some combination mutations and natural selection, perhaps with a bit of HGT from endosymbiont to host thrown in).
The problem here is how ID proponents respond when such accounts are actually given, which betray a fundamental misunderstanding about the nature of science and reasoning about the past. When we talk about what happened in history before anyone was around to observe and record it, the only thing we can do is inference to the best explanation. Meaning we draw from mechanisms we think we understand and have reason to believe were in operation in the past too, and use those and the data we have to piece together how X came into existence.
And this is where it all goes wrong for IDcreationists. They’ll say we don’t have a detailed step-by-step account for the origin of X, and then when we provide that they call it a “just so story”, declare that the sequence of events described is so unlikely so as to be miraculous, and then they demand we prove that it really happened in history because, they say, it’s just “speculation” and we can’t “prove it happened like that”.
But what do they propose as an alternative? Design, as in the word and nothing else. No details, no reasoning, nothing. Their alternative amounts to uttering or typing the word ‘design’ into a browser window. And for them too the issue remains, that they’re attempting to account for events which happened in the past, and which they couldn’t ever hope to demonstrate in the way they demand it be demonstrated for evolution. So first and foremost they have a double standard.
They will accept and believe their own ad-hoc conjectures with literally zero explanatory power, while also being COMPLETELY unable to determine the probability of the things being designed, yet demand that biologists give Bayesian prior probability estimates for their proposed scenarios.
If those scenarios are actually provided, they will declare it unsubstantiated speculation dreamt up out of fear and hate of God and a “prior commitment to materialism” when scientists use established evolutionary mechanisms and comparative genetics to draw up a scenario for the evolutionary origin of X.
This whole thing is ridiculous. I could write a long post on the origin of the spliceosomal complex and the Prp8 protein, and draw on many lines of evidence and causal reasoning from mutation and natural selection for why it came to exist, grew to it’s current size and so on. But I can’t travel in time and prove that this is what really happened.
I have to bring up the Mt Everest analogy here again because there’s no in principle difference between how geologists versus biologists reason about the past. Scientists use well-understood causal forces/processes (plate tectonics, wind and erosion, gravity, thermal pressure, convection etc.) to explain how some extremely unlikely assemblage of atoms came into existence.
We call it the Mt Everest. We have no problem accepting that there is some extremely unlikely combination of how the wind blew, how convection took place deep in the Earth’s mantle, and how the crust was shaped by erosional forces, and the pressure of drifting colliding continents, that explains how we ended up with the incalculably unlikely arrangement we call the Mt Everest. Hundreds of millions of years ago.
We can’t travel back in time to see it happen again, we just can’t. We have to make that inference to the best explanation. For every single atom in the structure and it’s current position in the whole thing. How did this particular calcium atom come to rest in this position? How about that silicium atom a kilometer below it? Think of the world-history it had to go through to get to where it is. What explains it’s position? Why did it not end up one centimeter to the left? Four angströms more north? What would be the Bayesian prior probability of the explanation we would have to come up with to account for the entire mountain? And yet we understand that it was, in fact, made by blind dumb pressure propagating through rock. A superficial and ad-hoc answer that doesn’t really explain anything in much detail except to say “lots of rock was pushed together and some of it was pushed up”. And yet we’re fine with it. That does, in principle, explain all of it. And we can see how there is some explanation, at the atomic level, for why some atom ended up where it did even if we couldn’t ever hope to know.
But we move to biology and suddenly people’s heads explode. Though nothing has really changed here. The explanations are again inferences using causal forces and processes seen operating in the present. Mutations happen, carriers exhibit biased reproductive success due to the fitness effects of those mutations. The types of mutations have different molecular results. Some are duplications, others are point mutations, some are deletions etc. etc. We make an inference to the best explanation by drawing on these causal forces, combined with comparisons of the genomes of many organisms, to give the best explanation for the larger pattern of how genes are distributed in populations, and from this how some structure evolved.
But now people’s standards have changed. It’s biology, it’s about them and their own history and the myths and stories they were brought up with. Suddenly great^nth grand-dad far enough back was a non-human ape, or a fish, or something no more complex than slime mold, and that’s not a welcome thought. And so they’re suddenly demanding fatutous probability estimates and ultra complicated models just so they can call them “just so stories” and demand time-travel scenarios. You can’t create the flagellum again from scratch. No, I can’t. I also can’t re-create the Mt Everest again from scratch, but you were fine with that one.