Intelligent design and "design detection"

True for most archaeologists (except when they get close to species whose humanity is unknown) but ecologists and behavioral biologists routinely attempt to answer all four of those questions for animal subjects.

IDcreationists claim to be detecting design itself, not the intelligence itself. Specifying it is off-limits politically.

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You should say that to Szostak for I guess he is unaware that his definition of FI (the one used by Gpuccio in his analyses) is contrived, simplistic and has no basis in reality.

No, I shouldn’t. It is definitely not the definition used by @gpuccio and promoted by you here, which used sequence conservation as a metric. That’s the part that has no basis in reality.

Even worse than that massive conceptual mistake, he used conservation between species and completely ignored conservation within species. Maybe you can explain how that could possibly be justifiable, even assuming the falsehood that conservation is a proxy for functional information.

According to Szostak in that Note:

It is important to note that functional information is not a property of any one molecule, but of the ensemble of all possible sequences, ranked by activity.

Its usefulness for what Szostak uses it for is beyond me. I can’t see how it would be useful for disproving evolution, let alone detecting design. Can Gil, or anyone else explain how GPuccio uses it to do so?

Wasn’t the metric actually sequence similarity to human genes?

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Yes, I don’t see how that differs from what I wrote.

@Rumraket patiently explained the invalidity of that here:

None of that is in Szostak’s paper incorrectly cited by Gil.

Well, similarity to human genes is an odd measure of sequence conservation, since human genes are not primitive. All it’s really measuring is genetic distance, which has something to do with conservation but more to do with time since divergence. And why choose humans as the reference sequence? Pinnacle of creation, or what?

Indeed. But that’s the definition that gpuccio provided that Szostak did not.


Prolly. Why ignore human polymorphism if you’re claiming to measure the prevalence of function in sequence space? The whole thing makes no sense.

I only vaguely remember gpuccio’s arguments, but didn’t he produce a graph purporting to show increase in functional information over time, which was basically a line showing time since divergence from humans? Do you have a link to his very sciency publication?

Lucky you!

Again, these claims are “not directly detecting the presence of design, but merely inferring design”, so again:

Calling any of this “design detection” would be a bit like calling the presence of fire engines and hoses a “smoke detector”.

Likewise, a police officer might detect the presence of cyanide by the smell of bitter almonds – they would not detect its presence, but rather infer or deduce it, from the the fact that an autopsy showed that the murder victim died of cyanide poisoning.

Indirect inference or deduction tends to involve more assumptions, and therefore be less certain than direct detection – so mislabeling “Design deduction” as "design detection* is a form of exaggeration.


You’re thinking of this impressively scientific-looking figure concocted by Gpuccio:

The textbook cargo-cult science post that originated the whole thing:

One among numerous threads we had on it here:

I like how Gpuccio begins his post with the pseudoscientific rhetorical device that someone here taking the time to look over his post is an “acknowledgement.” Better pump up that “we’re being taken seriously/getting acknowledged” number as much as possible.

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Yes, exactly. The “big jump” is between the similarity of cephalochordate proteins to human and the similarity of shark proteins to human. Well, duh. The two divergences are very far apart in time, and it only looks like a sudden jump because the x axis is arbitrary and doesn’t represent time or anything else. And the measure of “information” is just silly, as I had vaguely recalled. I do wonder what that graph would look like if the x axis did represent time.

More importantly, if this is @Giltil’s idea of ID science, that says a lot.


The focus on human genes is probably heavily influenced by various religious beliefs, although non-religious people are just as susceptible to ego as anyone else.

From my understanding, the argument boils down to the probability of producing a highly conserved protein sequence. Their claim is that only that sequence could have carried out that function which is evidenced by how highly conserved it is. What they don’t seem to consider is contingency through time. Protein interactions can cement the importance of a specific sequence after it has appeared, especially if multiple proteins interact with the same target. It’s a bit like being amazed that the hole in the ground exactly fits the shape of the water in the hole.


But Gpuccio isn’t even measuring conservation. He’s measuring similarity to the human sequence. Not in any way the same thing.

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If an orthologous sequence is 99% similar between sharks, frogs, birds, and humans then that would be a highly conserved sequence.

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For sure. But that isn’t what’s happening there. The comparison is only between some species and humans. Chimps, by that measure, would have almost every sequence highly conserved, while sharks would have very few.


I think I am confusing things in my mind. I am remembering arguments based on a single or handful of strongly conserved genes, but that doesn’t appear to be the argument being cited here. Apologies.

IIRC, Gpuccio was plugging the bit values from BLAST alignments into Szostak’s equation(s) and claiming “information” or something like that.

Clearly he doesn’t understand Szostak’s definition. But the graph that’s been shown doesn’t even use an equation. It just reports the bit values.