The Extra Face in Mount Rushmore

@Patrick I have no control over how you see it. But I suggest your view is biased.

It probably is, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t correct. I can see how becoming known as an IDer might interfere with a real science career, just as becoming known as a geocentrist would adversely affect a career in astronomy, but how does talking about someone’s research, without attaching their name to it, cause any damage to anyone?


@Timothy. My apologies if that is not how you meant it. You did not merely ask though. You gave the offensive comparison. Certainly the tone of that answer was provocative, so perhaps my mistake was understandable.
But I am glad you would not want students canned for attending the summer seminar. Is that correct?

Of course not for merely attending. I do think it is fair game for a potential employer to ask about and understand a student’s knowledge of actual evolutionary biology, and to judge how their religious ID views may affect their work. I know of YECs who went on to become productive geologists even though they personally didn’t accept an old Earth age.


Of course my view is biased. But you do have control on how you are perceived by the public, your piers, the general science community. Here is where more openness and honesty and less evasiveness will go a long way in improving their perception.

@John_Harshman. I have answered this before. This is a public place. There are people who would seek to disrupt any research or shut it down if they found out it was ID related. FACT. I give you enough information, you can narrow the field of labs involved, so can anyone with an agenda.

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Paranoid much?

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How? I can think of one way. If the research is somehow Federally funded, it would be a violation of the separate of church and state as ID has been found by Federal Court to be religious based creationism. So if you are afraid that Federal funded ID research would be deemed unconstitutional, you have a valid point to hid it. But this is dishonest (and illegal) anyway (see @EricMH and Air Force funded ID research) But if the research is privately funded how can it be disrupted by secular science?

Paranoia is a woman’s best friend. You really shouldn’t trust her though.

Now if you take that seriously I’ll keep trying until I make you laugh, and you wouldn’t want that to happen.

Lots of claims from people in the ID camp make me laugh. Pity it’s at them and not with them. :wink:

That just seems paranoid. And I don’t think I actually could figure out who it was from a simple description.

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Are you saying that this new thing is truly about ID, as in an actual test of an actual ID hypothesis? Because none of you have ever done anything of the sort to date!

That’s not how science works. That strongly suggests that you still haven’t reached the point of testing an ID hypothesis. Shouldn’t you be accounting for all of the extant data, then testing a hypothesis and producing new data?

Then why would you start the questions by mentioning it?

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I’ll sketch out a possible approach to the Mt Rushmore problem. It won’t be magnificent or detailed, just a possible ID approach. I’ll use the three test cases: Mt Everest, Mt Rushmore with its four faces, and then Mt Rushmore rotated to produce what looks like a fifth, crude face. For brevity, let’s designate them “Ev”, “Rush”, and “Rote”.

First, to distinguish between a very loose definition of “design” (anything created by God) and something that appears to be a higher level of design, I will define the higher level design as “intelligent design” (ID) where

ID: an effect that requires intelligence to produce. To expand slightly, it is an effect that represents a very significant deviation from expectation, given a pre-existing physical system, but which can be produced by an intelligent agent.

Examples: laptop, aircraft engine, MicroSoft Word

Right off the bat, one could argue that the laws of physics and the initial conditions of the universe would require intelligence to produce, and I would agree, but I would go on to argue that laptops, aircraft engines, and computer programs represent a significant anomaly or deviation from what the physical system can normally be expected to produce. These “higher order” designs can all be explained as the output of intelligent minds.

Testable, falsifiable Hypothesis: The ability to produce statistically significant levels of functional information (FI) is unique to intelligent minds. Some would argue that evolution can do it, but science must be testable and reproducible and, thus far, we have not been able to reproduce statistically significant levels of FI using solely natural mechanisms (indeed, natural mechanisms seem to be empirically degrading FI in biological life). We can also test this hypothesis computationally and, again, we have thus far failed to produce statistically significant levels of FI for genetic algorithms modelling natural processes and fitness. (I expect strong objections at this point, but even if we grant those objections, I think the approach I’m sketching out brings us closer to solving this “mount” problem.)

Testing for ID: Estimate the amount of FI required to produce the effect. If it is statistically significant, then it likely required ID to produce and we can conclude that the effect is an example of the higher order design defined earlier. This also doubles as a method to measure deviation from the expected null hypothesis, as well as an objective method to quantify an anomaly. Let’s use a simplified equation for FI as follows:

FI = - log2 (Wf/Wt)

where Wt represents the number of possible configurations given the physical system and Wf represents the number of possible configurations that the putative design seems to be empirically constrained to.

We need something(s) that can be used to objectively quantify Wf/Wt. Since this is only a sketch, I’ll propose just two variables: a) complex symmetry and b) relative surface smoothness.

Complex symmetry: smooth stones from a streambed and crystal lattices can be very symmetric, but are relatively simple in their symmetry. An artefact becomes increasingly complex symmetric if there is symmetry in numerous aspects of the effect (e.g., the eyes, ears, cheeks, mouth, etc.), as well as symmetry in numerous compound curves (e.g., the curves of the cheeks, nose, forehead, mouth).

Relative surface smoothness: this is the smoothness of the surface of the anomaly compared to the variation in smoothness within the larger area of the anomaly, found on the mountains within a radius of, say, 20 miles.

Application to Ev (case one): For both complex symmetry and relative surface smoothness, there appears to be little or no deviation from the surrounding Himalayas. Therefore, Wf ≈ Wt, and FI ≈ 0, and Ev fails to test positive for ID.

Application to Rush (case two): Both the complex symmetry and the relative smoothness appears to be highly constrained relative to the mountains in the general area. Thus Wf is likely to be much, much smaller than Wt, resulting in a significant deviation from what we might normally expect. Thus, Wf/Wt turns out to be quite small and FI, therefore, would be significant.

Application to Rot (case three): Here, as we rotate around the large “face” to examine for complex symmetry, we see that it has, on the overall scale, no symmetry on the larger, crude face scale, but we do observe a smaller area of symmetry found in the Rush example. Same goes for the relative surface smoothness. So the only area that contributes to FI is the same area that was examined in Case Two (Rush). So for Rot, we can conclude that a portion of it required FI – the same portion as in Rush, but the larger, crude “face” requires no extra FI and, therefore, the crude face fails to test positive for ID.

Bonus: This method requires no knowledge of human faces, so if an alien race landed here long after humans had gone extinct, they could still determine that Rush tests positive for ID.

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Sorry but that is demonstrably false. Here is one such experiment where basic evolutionary processes produced large amounts of FI. The amount is only limited by how long the experiment is allowed to run.

Evolving Soft Robots, 1

Evolving Soft Robots, 2

“Functional Information” is just one more attempt by ID to use circular logic to define itself into existence.

I don’t think you are grasping what “testable hypothesis” means. It means a hypothesis that makes empirical predictions, with all your assumptions baked in.

If you disagree, please simply state the empirical predictions.

How would one argue that?

Please explain and defend this claim.
Also, I’m confused. Is this the testable hypothesis?:

Or is this?:

The second of course depends on the first being true. And that seems to be the big problem. There are others.

I don’t see either of these being calculable in the great majority of cases. I don’t see a clear relation between these numbers and the criteria you suggest for Everest or Rushmore.


This requires complete knowledge of all arrangements that will produce a specific function. I don’t think this is knowable, and it certainly can’t be determined by looking at just the known examples that have that function.

For the faces on Mt. Rushmore, symmetry seems like a good measure. Relative smoothness runs into problems because there are plenty of naturally occurring rocks that are smooth, and there are examples of complex symmetry as well. For example, Giant’s Causeway is a completely natural rock formation (as far as we know):

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An interesting question, but an important thing to note about ID theory (at least as formulated by Dembski) is ID analysis can only provide guarantees regarding true positives, not regarding true negatives. So, we can never discount design, we can only confirm design. In this way, ID is consistent with @swamidass notion that everything is providentially guided. The sciencey part of ID (empirical, quantitative tests) only comes into play when we are trying to definitively prove ID in some instance.

So, my opinion in this specific matter is ID theory cannot positively demonstrate the “fifth face” is intelligently designed, although it can do so for the other four faces. Yet, this does not imply the “fifth face” is not intelligently designed.


Also interesting to note without perfect and complete knowledge ID’s methodology is also prone to producing false positives. That’s why Dembski abandoned his “Explanatory Filter” device - no way to prevent large amounts of false positives which made the whole thing useless.


Scientific theories don’t provide guarantees. They don’t do demonstrations. They make empirical predictions. You don’t have any.

It’s not science, and it’s not even sciencey. Science doesn’t purport to prove anything, much less definitively prove anything.