The Problem with the ID Argument

If you have a clear way to determine ancestry between species then explain it. @Jordan what are your thoughts? Let’s see if @Jordan believes you have a clear hypothesis.

I was trying to really really dumb it down but you’re right, it won’t matter.

Again, did you actually read either of the articles I pointed you at? Did you check out the thread on crocodylian phylogeny here? I see no reason to repeat myself for the nth time when you don’t seem to remember any of it.


Whatever you do don’t mention a blue fish from a Pixar movie. That will get you a time out. :slightly_smiling_face:

Then call it what it is-an indication based on dozens of preconceived notions and assumptions. We have obviously not literally observed anything close to proof that we all evolved from some common descent. We observe species changing in real time. But in a world that is designed and created by God there will be dozens if not hundreds if not thousands of assumptions that must be made in order to arrogantly declare that (especially naturalistic) UCD is true. These assumptions are guided by Darwinianism and i hear through the grapevine that this is a devolving theory driving towards the cliffs of extinction.

I as a builder see commonalities in construction of various structures all of the time, but i never go out on a limb and assume that this must mean the same builder, or the same lumber company sourced the builds etc. You may take your “indications” and happily have show and tell with like minded naturalists loaded within our universities today. But i find a much wiser crowd in a place called the church that already stands upon what is true and this templeton endorsed contest to marry naturalism which science can become bedfellows with quite easily and Christianity where revelation tells us of a God who transcends the natural is tantamount, is not welcommed. Therefore common descent in your mind as an evolutionist runs contrary to common design in my mind as a creationist. Taking the mysterious, powerful, transcendent God and fitting Him into a box of manmade figments of imagination is just not right and is in no way complementary to texts in God’s revelation starting in Genesis.

I think I agree with @Timothy_Horton on this part:

The similarities between the spliceosome and a microprocessor seem to be superficial, at most. The only thing I can see is that they are both a complex assemblies. But on the other hand, they are made of completely different materials and in completely different ways (manufacturing plants vs. cells). If a model is an analogy, then the power of the model is in its clarity and correspondence to the reality it models.

How can that be? I thought ID was supposed to be a competing theory for the origin of living organisms. Do you mean that ID doesn’t have a specific mechanism for the spliceosome in particular? That’s OK, but is there a general mechanism by which ID proposes that new biological assemblies are generated? I’m assuming there is something beyond “an intelligence did it”, but perhaps not. If not, I think that is problematic for ID as a scientific pursuit.

That doesn’t mean it couldn’t be a valid philosophical or theological pursuit, but I think it loses credibility as a scientific theory without some sort of specified mechanism.

Well, I know not everybody can be expected to be a biologist or to recreate research papers, but I did participate in @John_Harshman’s excellent office hour: John Harshman: The Phylogeny of Crocodiles . I read a lot of Wikipedia articles and some papers, I installed phylogenetic software and learned a bit about the algorithms it uses. I made lots of mistakes but @John_Harshman, @davecarlson, @Rumraket, and @swamidass helped me understand it much better.

Well, I certainly don’t know a lot about this area. One of the things that I’ve learned is that scientists know their work very well. They are still human and may have a tendency to overreach at times when it comes to interpretation of the science, but they are mostly people passionate about getting to the truth of the what’s and how’s of the universe. So, all that to say, I generally defer to my colleagues.

Here’s how I understand the ancestry question. A phylogenetic tree shows hypothesized relationships between organisms. The interesting part to me is that computational phylogenetics uses very little in the way of biology. Very generally, you can put a set of protein/DNA sequences in and apply various statistical algorithms (which are similar to those used outside of biology) to generate a tree. I took a class on machine learning and statistical inference that included clustering techniques similar to those used in phylogenetics. One of the most startling things to me is how grounded in statistics evolutionary biology is. Look at the founders of population genetics, for instance.

Of course a phylogenetic tree is just a hypothesis of relationships based on statistics, so you want to compare it to other data. You could compare a tree with a known ancestry (if we have a record), a phylogenetic tree built from morphology, or to the fossil record. If common decent is a generalizable model, we should be able to have close matches between trees created from different data (DNA, morphology, fossil record, for instance) across many examples. This, according to my colleagues, is what we see.

So, I’ve had a peak at the methodology (which is grounded in statistical techniques used outside biology) and I’ve played with the software a little bit to see how it works myself. I see no reason to reject the common descent model. It fits the data.

Is it universal? I don’t know. I don’t know that anybody knows it’s 100% universal. I would suppose that those who have no mechanisms outside nature would merely assume it’s 100% universal. Those of us who allow for agents outside nature may wonder if it’s not quite absolutely universal but that does not invalidate the model or mean we can toss it aside for one we just happen to like more.

As Christians we have a ready example of this kind of thinking. Think of the Resurrection. “Dead people stay dead” is still a good and useful model for understanding the world, even though we affirm that there was an exception. I think it’s plausible that God was involved in the first cell, or maybe made a tweak here or there to steer things in the right direction, but I have yet to see clear/convincing evidence that it was anything detectable by science.


So you would say that Isaac Newton’s law of gravity was 100% worthless because he didn’t provide a mechanistic explanation for action at a distance? That’s a pretty reckless statement, isn’t it?

Physics operates at the level of defining the fundamental laws of nature. IOW, it provides the basic rules and principles by which mechanisms operate. It is the job of other disciplines such as biology, geology and chemistry to determine how these laws operate within the material world to explain particular phenomena. So your analogy is inapt.

@Giltil, while I think @Faizal_Ali was not particularly diplomatic, your particular example is maybe not the best.

If you look at Newton’s Laws of Motion:

  1. an object either remains at rest or continues to move at a constant velocity, unless acted upon by a force
  2. F = ma
  3. when one body exerts a force on a second body, the second body simultaneously exerts a force equal in magnitude and opposite in direction on the first body.

and Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation, which takes the mathematical form:
F =G \frac{m_1 m_2}{r^2}

one could notice (as you pointed out) is that none provide a mechanism, they are just straightforward observations or relationships. That’s what (often) differentiates a theory from a law in science.

In broad, not consistent because it’s science and we never do anything consistently, strokes here is what I tell my freshman science students:

  • Models: conceptual/mathematical analogy
  • Theories: tested hypotheses & models
  • Laws: well-tested description of observed phenomena
  • unlike facts, laws are broadly applicable
  • unlike theories, laws don’t give a mechanism

Here’s a good figure from Wikipedia:

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Yet your YEC creationism is exactly that – an assumption that all organisms had the same builder. And you base that assumption on ancient stories.



And, yet, it the situation is such that we can demonstrate it to be true with just a few, simple axiomatic assumptions:

Independent observations can be made.

Logic works.

That is it.

I am not an expert in the field, but it seems to me that not all philosophers of sciences ( Paul Feyerabend for example) would agree that a scientific theory absolutely requires a mechanism. Am I wrong here?

Hi Jordan
I think you are making the same mistake that I was. You are conflating the process of making the artifact with the process of designing it. Tim described a small piece of the semiconductor manufacturing process.

While the design rules had to take this into account the bigger issue is the arrangement of the lines and the transistor arrays. This is what we call the microprocessor architecture.

Yes, ID is a limited claim and that is its weakness. As it claims a mechanism (mind) I think it is best described as a limited scientific claim however all scientific claims are limited some just more than others.

You see this in the same way I do. What the model does not show us is if there is independent origin events. It assumes a single tree. When I am asked if tigers and lions share a common ancestor I have no objective way to make this decision. My decision is just based on intuition.

Are you claiming proteins have transistors and were designed by humans? Biological life is nothing like human integrated circuit design OR manufacture.

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No, you’re not wrong at all. I tried to make that clear in my preface to what I teach my students. There isn’t any universal science standards body that defines the terms and methodologies across the sciences. What I said was just a fairly common way for people to think about laws and theories.

My point was 2-fold.

  1. Using physical laws as an example of theories without mechanisms is probably not the best example.
  2. That if ID folks want to put forward a scientific theory they should be ready to give a mechanism and not just an observation or assertion. Scientists will expect both a description of what happened, but also how it it happened.

If the scientists are open minded they won’t expect unreasonable detail for the mechanism or for you to even necessarily defend it, that can come later. What they need is something to differentiate between other proposed theories.

What scientists do really well is take competing models and break them down into component parts and compare them to the data to see which of the models is closest to reality. If I could summarize what science is that’s pretty close, in my opinion.

So, when people put out a theory without mechanism or anything to “grab on to” with their tools, they can’t do science and eventually they will say that the theory isn’t science.

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No Bill it doesn’t ASSUME a single tree. A single tree is an empirical observation for which the most parsimonious explanation is common ancestry. You keep getting that wrong no matter how many times it is explained to you.


No, I am claiming both have purposefully arranged parts.

You just can’t demonstrate it with biological life. You’re just guessing again.

In what case would the model deliver a tree with more than one starting point?