Tag Archives: intelligent design

Those HOTS again


We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority. (excerpted from current State of Texas Education Standards)

My presentation was titled “An Information-Theoretic Proof of God’s Existence,” in which I showed how the type of information we find in living systems is beyond the creative means of purely material processes, so that if we backtrack this information in time, the amount of information that needs to be accounted for only intensifies. This leads to a regress of information that naturally points to some ultimate source of information. Who or what is such an ultimate source of information? From a naturalistic perspective, such a source remains a mystery. But from a theistic perspective, such an information source would presumably have to be God. (William Dembski, providing link between intelligent design and at least a nominally theistic entity.)

Creationists do not present arguments about the possible operational workings of supernatural intervention in natural mechanics. This has always surprised me because their other arguments, finally, are contingent on an intervention of some sort. Dembski writes with a straight face about information sourced in a domain ascertainable from the theistic perspective making its way to the domain in which its requisite informed operations occur and are ascertainable from a naturalistic perspective. He does not suggest how information ultimately arises in one domain and goes on to penetrate the other domain. He does suggest one could backtrack as if such information sets out a trail of crumbs!

so that if we backtrack this information in time

There’s a certain unintentional symmetry in Dembski hanging category errors on each side of this bridging idea, to backtrack.
GAllup 2010 Evo Poll

78% of American adults according to this poll have some substantial deficit in their Higher Order Thinking Skills.

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The Hard Problem

Evolution Made Us All from Ben Hillman on Vimeo.

Actually, the proposition here over-generalizes, but it is apparently true for biological life.

I don’t track the follies of Intelligent Design anywhere near as closely as I used to, yet I do maintain a tag search and every now and then I am moved to go check out the ‘action,’ always with the hope what I encounter will be amusing, and, rich as a qualitative data set about how people approach talking with each other.

Uncommon Descent, ‘serving the intelligent design community,’ is a dependable source of circularity and a time waster over many years. I got a nice positive at the end of March. I’ve let it, the comment thread, percolate since then. It is: worthy.

The set-up is a article, On the Computation of CSI, by Mathgrrl. Here is the equivalent of its abstract.

In the abstract of Specification: The Pattern That Signifies Intelligence, William Demski asks “Can objects, even if nothing is known about how they arose, exhibit features that reliably signal the action of an intelligent cause?” Many ID proponents answer this question emphatically in the affirmative, claiming that Complex Specified Information is a metric that clearly indicates intelligent agency.

As someone with a strong interest in computational biology, evolutionary algorithms, and genetic programming, this strikes me as the most readily testable claim made by ID proponents. For some time I’ve been trying to learn enough about CSI to be able to measure it objectively and to determine whether or not known evolutionary mechanisms are capable of generating it. Unfortunately, what I’ve found is quite a bit of confusion about the details of CSI, even among its strongest advocates.

Setting aside the effort to configure a worthwhile computational platform for ID, the post and its continuing offshoot oneand offshoot two, interest me because Mathgrrl, (who is seemingly Lauren Taalman of James Madison univesity,) has made her effort without also grinding any axe. My further interest, then, is to see what happens as a matter of the responses to her generous and sincere effort. How soon will bad will arise by design (!) to meet her good will?

The answer, of course, is: instantly. 11:17am. However, overall the discussion proceeds without much aggression. (It’s not besides the point that Dembski’s CSI has been discredited, but, in another sense the dialogs are seeking to discover a corrective or more correct estimate.) Alas, it turns out a moderator is riding the posts too, so some of the action only saw the light of day briefly.

As a Batesonian, I was amused to read this (#367):

I am saying, per my previous post, and interminable posts prior to this on other threads, that is it impossible, IN PRINCIPLE, i.e. it is logically impossible, to explain information in terms of algorithms and/or physical laws. This so obviously true that it is scarcely worth repeating. So I won’t. You will sooner be able to create a square circle as to generate information with time and physics. Information is impossible without reason, language, free will, and intentionality. That is, a mind. Or Mind in the case of life.

Having now created the square circle, what say you? Why would information require logic to be represented in any possible explanation of information, and this given too in any possible ‘terms?’ Oh look, my square circle just rolled up my stairs!

In the main the discussants don’t reconcile Mathgrrl’s urge to define CSI with greater specificity with the ID company line, that Dembski’s conclusions have already completed the endeavor. All in all, not very amusing, except for the usual category mashing, and this–as always–in the context of the unspoken problematic implied by some kind of computationally clever designer found somewhere beyond nature and biology. And, maybe this designer was/is, like, undesigned?

Then: pay dirt. Mathgrrl Lives Down to Expectations on April 14. The post’s subject remains calm. She should get a medal. Between this and the action over at the unintentionally very amusing comment spew at intelligentreasoning blog, I am suddenly delivered to the social psychological nirvana I was hunting for.

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Favorite Humorists

Using Google alerts, the philosopher Bradley Monton drifts on my radar screen with increasing regularity.


He’s a philosophically-minded proponent of the validity of the motive behind the “research” program of Intelligent Design. Also, his work is unintentionally really amusing. Too, I would count myself as a proponent of my (and the,) motivation to find humor, especially unintentional humor, in odd places. For consistent howler potential, ID is second to none.

His paper, Is Intelligent Design Science? Dissecting the Dover Decision (pdf), is worth a close reading for amusement’s sake.


My position is that scientists should be free to pursue hypotheses as they see fit, without being constrained by a particular philosophical account of what science is.

There are lot of hypotheses a scientist or someone else could pursue. What constraints a researcher enforces and suffers under are necessary to an eventual credible claim of verification or falsification. But, what this has to do with a philosophical account of any kind is not a question Monton pursues in his paper. Presumably, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, but, we’re still waiting for a cogent entry in the philosophy of ‘supranatural’ science able to issue constraints on ID researchers.

Don’t hold your breath. Still, it would be neat to learn of a philosophical account which unpacks ID’s primary posit: ‘biological systems were designed because their a lot like designed stuff.’

Monton’s paper approaches his four points of contest sideways in each of the four instances.

His kick off is remarkable:

I do, however, have specialized training which will help me to answer the question of whether ID counts as science.

So does ID count as science? I maintain that it is a mistake to put too much weight on that question.


If our goal is to believe truth and avoid falsehood, and if we are rational people who take into account evidence in deciding what to believe, then we need to focus on the question of what evidence there is for and against ID. The issue of whether ID counts as “science” according to some contentious answer to the demarcation question is unimportant.

So it is that his specialized training is inadequate to the task of peeling the onions of a demarcation problem. Whatever the answers are to the demarcation problem, one would have to demonstrate their unimportance, and this is irrespective of their being contentious. I do know you wouldn’t take your car to a mechanic who appealed to their own authority and then next told you, “But, I’ve had it with engines!”

Yet, Monton then goes into, sort of, his hollowed out version of the demarcation problem. It’s more funny then reasonable.


I will now argue that it is counterproductive to restrict scientific activity in such a way that hypotheses that invoke the supernatural are ruled out. Specifically, I will argue that it is possible to get scientific evidence for the existence of God. The scenario I am about to describe is implausible, but there is nothing logically inconsistent about it. The point of the scenario is that in the described situation, it would be reasonable for scientists to postulate and test the hypothesis that there is supernatural causation occurring.

I have a better suggestion, why not entertain a plausible scenario? Give it your best shot. In any case, his scenario is riotously funny.

If one works through the rest of his oeuvre, his basic position on ID is clarified: ID hasn’t been proven impossible. In a sense, his paper’s argument is unintentionally ironic: ‘my arguments here may be specious, but this doesn’t mean that better arguments are impossible!’

Amazingly, google alerts turned up more intellectual anti-matter. Via Denyse O’Leary’s Post-Darwinist blog, I came to listen to two interviews with another philosopher, Angus Menuge. He’s given the podcast treatment by The Discovery Institute’s Casey Luskin: (1) Agents Under Fire: Part One With Angus Menuge; (2) Rebutting Methodological Materialism.

Menuge. . .much more amusing than Monton, and Monton is very amusing. On one hand, Menuge and Luskin indulge in canard-a-rama. Incredibly, the tornado whirling through the junkyard is revisited in a different guise. On the other hand, Menuge folds in a vague and very extreme picture of a hyper-positivist materialistic naturalism, adds in a fuzzy reference to an irrelevant fault line in the field of theory of mind, dribbles in a riff on downward causation, and then battles the super dooper straw man so conjoined of those disparate and completely unjustified parts. Or, to be more accurate, Menuge doesn’t articulate any justification or reasons why this category mash-up is germane to his vague argument. Maybe it was enough that the argument impressed fawning Luskin.

However, having brought up downward causation, he could at least have speculated about what the import of an over-arching designer is in the context of a particular, well-defined and operationalized system, for which the conceptions of both upward and downward causation are justified and thus may be deployed.

More Menuge.. Is Menuge a young earth creationist?

As always, my consul with respect to proponents of ID is brute simple: please, start theorizing the operations of the designer’s agency, so your movement (or research program,) can quickly depart the long discredited agenda of trying to overturn naturalistic biology, and, trying to subvert the demonstrable efficacy* of natural science.

IDers, you really do not require philosophers and their philosophical accounts. If you do, best to find some brilliant, less funny, ones.

*It would be world-shaking at such point that any ID biologist verifies a single, ‘starter,’ hypothesis.

William Dembski in 2005:

For ID to win the day, however, will require talented new researchers able to move this research program forward, showing how intelligent design provides better insights into biological systems than the dying Darwinian paradigm.

Close, but not close enough. Better: showing how intelligent design provides better understanding of the development of biological systems. Tis most of the ball game–riding on the better replacing the merely good.

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