Intelligent Design and Common Descent


(Ann Gauger) #81

A mutation occurring in real time under realistic conditions that provides a new, beneficial function–that’s not a new gene, but I’ll grant you that–no, that would be evidence for evolution. But note the qualifying “realistic conditions.” The experiments I know where new genes are claimed are done under conditions that are far from realistic. And a single mutation is always within reach in evolution.

If a new function were to occur that required four mutations, all of which were neutral or deleterious until all occurred, that would strongly suggest intelligent design.

(Ann Gauger) #82

You still haven’t got my position straight. I am interested in the possibilities you raise. I just don’t know the relative proportion each played in life’s history.

(George) #83


I think we have an interpretation problem here. And i think @jongarvey would support my “take” on this:

His analogy to a complex pool shot is NOTHING AT ALL like a sequence of individual special creations. It is a fully designed (aka Christian) unfolding of evolutionary causation.

He doesnt describe pool balls popping into existence - in order to complete the shot - like a creationist might.

And he doesnt even suggest that the pool balls have additional miraculous assistance in order to complete the shot - like a creationist might.

And yet, ironically, he doesnt sound anything like @Agauger sounds in her parts of the tome recently published.

Perhaps Dr. G. could affirm (or not) that she would ever embrace the Pool Shot Scenario as described by Dr. Behe?

@swamidass, ill be trying to finish the transcript of another video i promised you, and will add a transcript from this video to my promise (unless someone (happily) produces one before i get a chance!


(George) #84


And so?

He says DESIGN is behind it all… and so do I. The difference between us is that he SEEMS to think science can affirm this… while i dont see how science can OBJECTIVELY affirm anything supernatural.

Design hides itself behind causation (which CAN be affirmed!) … and behind the miraculous (which CANNOT be affirmed!).

This is how @Swamidass and I have routinely, consistently, and inevitably stated over and over again.

(George) #85


A very fine paragraph!

(George) #86

@Agauger (cc: @swamidass, @jongarvey, @Eddie)

Dr. G: I am restating my original question, which seems 100% supported by the link to Dr. Behe in another posting.

How do you explain the differences in your approach? Or is this all a simple misunderstanding and that your approach is the very same Pool Shot Scenario described by Dr. B?

(T J Runyon) #87

Hi Ann, I’m just curious if you disagree with anything I said about alternative explanations for orphan genes.

All the best.

(George) #88

@gbrooks9 wrote asking if Dr. Gauger supported “… creation [as] a
series of special creations, with God periodically “poofing” a new
“kind” or “species” into existence without any attempt to guide
evolution itself.”

Dr. Gauger wrote this in reply: “That’s not my position.”

@gbrooks9 also wrote:
“How can you argue for an old earth but reject the idea of (or be
uninterested in) God designing with old earth processes like evolution
and its corollary, design through common descent?”

Dr. Gauger wrote this in reply:
“You still haven’t got my position straight. I am interested in the
possibilities you raise. I just don’t know the relative proportion
each played in life’s history.”

@gauger (@swamidass, @jongarvey, @eddie ),
please forgive my persistence, but for someone who hopes to be
understood clearly by other “camps”, you offer a pretty thin soup.
Dr. Behe doesn’t seem to have any lack of enthusiasm for God working
behind a veil of natural operations, all designed and guided by the

In contrast, as seen in your written contributions to The Tome, one
wouldn’t even dare to imagine that you support any of the evolutionary
processes. Dare I propose that you and Dr. Behe represent the
opposite ends of the broad ID spectrum? But upon reflection, I can
see that I would be wrong. YECs are at the opposite end of the
spectrum from Dr. Behe. In contrast, you appear to be somewhere in
the middle, where you entertain ideas of the Biblical Adam and Eve
being from a time period well beyond 6000 years in the past.

In what is now a relatively famous exchange between you, Dr. Buggs and
Dr. Venema at BioLogos, your enthusiasm for a range in the timeline
anywhere from 100,000 years to even 700,000 years ago was particularly
striking. Ironically, this kind of hybrid position has a comfortable
place here in the House of PeacefulScience.Org. And the principle
that God could and did specially create de novo Adam and Eve is
treasured and defended here. But this position is based on the
context that what Science can and does say about human evolution
(before Adam) is clear, demonstrable and not to be overturned just
because God performs some crucial miracles here or there (like the
Miracle of Adam & Eve, in parallel to the Miracle of Jesus and the
Virgin Mary). These miracles don’t compromise the robust evidence
supporting the findings of the sciences and how the Cosmos fits into
God’s design and plan.

But it is only in the last few days that I have made a left turn and
banged right into the Riddle that your position represents! Is this
an “allergy” to Evolution as an unpleasant terminology? Why would a
scientist of your standing be troubled by speciation. I intentionally
avoid using the term Common Descent (and even more so, Universal
Common Descent) because the terms are becoming increasingly useless in
making distinctions between camps. We have the ‘young ones’ who
oppose “common descent” on sight … even if we are talking about
paternity testing. And we have the ‘old ones’ who think Common
Descent says it all (even though there is lots of evident common
descent that never leads to speciation) - - but you and I know (I
think) that ‘speciation’ is the term that says it all.

And so, for the sake of the readers here, I’ll spell it out, since you
are a little shy about doing so. When you say:
“…I am interested in the possibilities [for speciation] you raise. I
just don’t know the relative proportion each [miraculous-only
speciation vs. miraculous-but-natural speciation] played in life’s
history.” this is a proxy sentence for saying: “I believe God
miraculously (as opposed to miraculously-but-naturally) created
humanity, and most likely a lot of other species.”

This can be decoded because you are still looking for a single pair
bottleneck, which must also preclude the idea of Adam/Eve joining any
pre-existing human population. The pre-existing human population is
asserted in the “Geneal.Adam” scenarios because the evidence doesn’t
reveal any known 2-human bottleneck.

This is a denialism of the existing academic evidence equivalent to
the climate change deniers.

And if you believe that God miraculously (as opposed to
miraculously-but-naturally) created other life forms - - other
non-primate life forms - - then you are expanding this unnecessary
denialism well past anything that Dr. Behe has ever discussed or

For an academic of your standing to say there is an issue of “relative
proportion” of “the miraculous-only” vs. “the
miraculous-but-still-natural” in the Tree of Life should suggest to
any adult that are not comfortable in your skin as a scientist. I
don’t want to seem harsh or unfair, but what else are we to conclude?
In two posts, where I practically beg for insight into your position,
all you can offer is you haven’t made any important conclusions on
where you think science allows for a sequence of special creations, or
even a massive episode of special creation. And yet this topic
occupies a huge part of your life.

I once thought you would be the “bridge builder” between the ends of
the spectrum. But after that surprising video on Dr. Behe, it would
seem Dr. Swamidass and Dr. Behe are the logical leaders of the
bridge-building effort.

Note to @Eddie - archive this post! I never thought I would
write such a thing either!

(Bill Cole) #89

I would conjecture that Mike Behe would have the same position as Ann here. The pool shot analogy is only a possible scenario to him.

(Bill Cole) #90

I find Ann’s position completely rational. None of us really know how life’s diversity happened in detail. She is stating that she does not know. I for one completely agree with her.

I think it is you that is speculating here. How do you know the degree to which common descent explains life’s diversity?

(Timothy Horton) #91

The problem is when you start espousing the claim “since science doesn’t know everything about evolutionary biology that means it doesn’t know anything!”.

We have over 150 years’ worth of consilient positive evidence from dozens of independent scientific disciplines for the diversification of life on Earth. You blow off all that work and all that evidence just because we don’t know every fine detail. Makes it hard to believe you are genuinely interested in learning and easy to believe you’re just protecting your religious preconceptions.

(Bill Cole) #92

Who here has ever made this claim?

(Timothy Horton) #93

You just claimed we should reject the scientific explanation for life’s diversity because we don’t know how life’s diversity happened in detail. That’s like saying we should not accept the Roman empire ever existed because we don’t have the name and birth date of every Roman citizen who lived in the era.

(Retired Minister) #94

I just want to say that I really appreciate Dr. Gauger’s participation on this forum. For a long time I’ve wanted to have a better grasp of what the scientists associated with the Discovery Institute are saying. I read all of her posts here with great interest.

I confess that I’ve often been frustrated in trying to assess the various views expressed by the Discovery Institute, in large part due to the often baffling stream of articles posted at the Evolution News & Views website which appear to clash with what the Discovery Institute scientists have expressed in other venues. (Indeed, most people reading the ENV website would probably be justified in casually assuming that all Discovery Institute scientists adamantly deny Common Descent and have nothing but contempt for evolutionary biology! Am I wrong in that opinion? Frankly, I think the ENV website does a disservice to the DI scientists—but that’s just me and I’m not trained in the relevant fields of study.)

I’d love to see Stephen Meyer and Michael Behe join this forum. I have many questions, but mostly I would sit back and watch the scientists dialogue.

(Greg) #95

I don’t see how science can OBJECTIVELY affirm that life results from natural processes of an organism selecting from a body of mutations for development either.

(The Honest Skeptic) #96

Interesting thread here on that topic, starting at the linked post below:

(Timothy Horton) #97

Science has been empirically observing and collecting evidence for the diversification of life through naturally occurring genetic variations (mutations, drift) and selection processes for almost 70 years now. There are literally millions of papers on the subject from hundreds of thousands of researchers. How much objectivity do you require?

(Dan Eastwood) #98

@Agauger, if you don’t mind a comment from a critic of ID:

It seems to me that without a hard break from Common Descent, it will never be possible to separate design from evolution, always leaving the possibility that the Designer is evolution itself. I see only two possible ways around this. One being to “catch the designer in the act”, and the other to establish that certain sequences or functions are physically unreachable without intervention (ie: not just unlikely in probability).
The former seems problematic; if the designer is retired then there is no prospective design to observe. If the designer is active the we might observe design in Lenski type experiments - which would raise the question of design being repeatable. For the latter, I can conceptually grasp there may be physically unreachable sequences, but I have no idea what that means in terms of biochemistry. If it were a mathematical problem I would look for a proof by induction approach; first assuming it is possible, then demonstrate a contradiction.

Anyway, that probably as close as I can get to a constructive suggestion for ID. Thanks for reading!

(Retired Minister) #99

I believe you. You don’t see how science can objectively affirm various things because every time we provide links to articles providing the details you claim to want, you refuse to read them and tell us that you don’t have time for such articles (which you also decide, sight unseen, that they are invalid and hopelessly biased.) That’s exactly what you stated on another thread where you walked away from our discussion—where I put in a lot of time carefully answering your questions. (You ended that discussion by warning Christian brethren like me with a passage from the book of Revelation. Nice touch. Always question the spiritual state of your opponent.)

By the way, I also appreciated Greg’s accusation on that thread that people like me who affirm evolutionary processes are ignorant of statistics. (I admitted to Greg that I only had a few statistics courses and had only taught one first semester statistics course long ago. But Greg ignored my asking for his background in statistics.)

Greg, what are your three best examples of science journal papers which you believe illustrate UNOBJECTIVE affirmation of “life results from natural processes of an organism selecting from a body of mutations for development either.”?

You “don’t see how” science can determine all sorts of things because you refuse to expose yourself to the evidence.

Well said.

This time I am hoping that Greg will stick around rather than dismissively walking away when the evidence he requests is posted.

(Retired Minister) #100

I certainly won’t claim to speak for Dr.Gauger or anybody else, but I assume that their claim is design by an intelligent agent (i.e., an Intelligent Designer) and not just some process or set of processes (such as evolution in general.)

Of course, we also have to define “design” and whether it requires a mind. It is in part a semantic issue. Richard Dawkins likes to emphasize that “appearance of design” is not the same thing as design.

Does an effective genetic algorithm (aka evolutionary algorithm) used in solving a particular engineering problem thereby constitute a “designer”? Is the output of the EA a “design”? (Or does it merely have the appearance of a design produced by an intelligent agent? Indeed, some would claim that because the EA’s design is useful, and perhaps even brilliant, it is thereby “intelligent”.)

I would like to see ID advocates publishes not just a Comprehensive Theory of Intelligent Design but also basic heuristic rules which would help us to investigate any structure or phenomenon X and determine whether X was intelligently designed (i.e., designed by an intelligence of some sort.) If ID is valid science—and not just philosophy—I would think that this should be a reasonable objective.

Suppose I find a variety of metal spheres buried along a sandy beach. How can a scientist determine if they were “intelligently designed”? (Obviously, archaeologists even geologists face similar questions in their work. They must distinguish man-made objects from naturally occurring objects.) What if I discover that the metal spheres appear polished to an unusual level of nearly perfect roundness? What if the metal isn’t readily available in mines or on the surface anywhere near that beach? What if the metal in each sphere is of unusual purity? Does any of that mean that they were intelligently designed? How about if I add the discovery that all of the spheres’ diameters are integer multiples of two centimeters? How about if all of the spheres are prime integer multiples of two centimeters? If “intelligent design” is a valid scientific concept, shouldn’t ID researchers be able to come up with a comprehensive theory and useful heuristic rules so that I can determine if the spheres were produced by an intelligent designer?