Advertisement

Intelligent Design: The Clincher

A butterfly explodes the theory.

By | December 1, 2006

At first sight, nothing could seem less intelligent than the design of a flying insect. From an egg laid in or on a food supply, it hatches into a slow-moving eating machine that keeps outgrowing its skin, so that it has to molt every few days. At the moment of molting, it is extremely vulnerable to predators and parasites. Then, inexplicably, it stops moving and grows a hard shell, inside which it completely redesigns its body from square one, to emerge into a thing with wings that launches itself into hundreds of cubic miles of atmosphere in search of a mate, and a food plant, with nothing to guide it but a few stray molecules - pheromones and plant odors - blowing in the wind.

The fact is, however, that this is a very efficient system for spreading the genes of that species around the landscape, and for locating food plants that would take an Earth-bound caterpillar days to find by dint of much hard crawling. The proof is that there are more species of insect than any other class of animal, and their biomass outweighs the mammals, even though the latter include all the elephants on earth and close to a billion overweight humans as well.

OK, that complicated life cycle seems an intelligent creation in the end. But what can we make of the further complications that led the Large Blue butterfly (Maculinea arion) to extinction in Britain? It entrusts a critical stage in its life cycle to the tender care of a single species of red ant that is particularly finicky about where it nests.

The story goes like this: The Large Blue lays its eggs in the buds of thyme - the culinary herb that grows wild in Europe - in the tight-bud stage. If the butterfly is ready to lay its eggs before the buds appear, or not until after they have started to open, the brood is lost. The eggs hatch after one or two weeks, depending on the weather; warm weather speeds hatching. The young caterpillars feed on thyme flowers for about two weeks during late July and early August, then fall to the ground where they are "adopted" by red ants (Myrmica sabuleti) attracted by a sugary substance secreted from a dorsal gland. The ants carry the caterpillar back to their nest, where it then gorges on ant larvae. While hidden from its own predators, the caterpillar spends 10 months as a predator in the ant nest, and then pupates there. After three weeks pupation the butterfly emerges during the four weeks mid-June to mid-July.

M. sabuleti is a warmth-loving ant that thrives only in short, dry grassland on hot south-facing slopes that are heavily grazed. If the grass grows higher than 3-4 cm and shades the ground, cooling it, this ant dies out and other species of ant take over - ants that are not interested in providing free food and lodging for Large Blue caterpillars. Taller grass also crowds out thyme.

What happened in Britain was a constellation of events that conspired to spell disaster for the Large Blue. One was the increased use of chemical fertilizers that promote vigorous grass growth, which kills off small wild flowers such as thyme. Then, sheep were pulled off the land by a change in livestock farming. For a few years, rabbits spread and kept the grass short in habitats favored by the butterfly, but in the 1950s myxomatosis (a viral disease of rabbits) was introduced and eliminated them. Pastures also were previously burned over, which kept the grass short, but this is no longer done.

So here you have an insect that depends for its very existence on a fragile chain of circumstances that is easily broken by bad weather, changes in exposure to grazing due to human intervention and disease, loss of its unique food plant, and loss of its protector ant species. If I were to design such a silly system I'd at least choose the most abundant, hardy species of ant to host my caterpillars, and ensure that they could feed on other plants beside thyme, and at other stages than the bud. To me, the case of the Large Blue is conclusive disproof of the theory of intelligent design.

Jack Woodall is director of the Nucleus for the Investigation of Emerging Infectious Diseases in the Institute of Medical Biochemistry at Brazil's Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. jwoodall@the-scientist.com

Advertisement

Comments

Avatar of: E. Borovicka

E. Borovicka

Posts: 1

December 4, 2006

Nobody can argue that life has evolved over time- circumstances change and adaptations are made. Life forms that don't adapt go extinct. I don't see how this rules out Intelligent Design. Personally, I see big gaps in the Theory of Evolution and Intelligent Design, but I don't think this butterfly illustrates anything more than a failure in adaptation to a change in it's environment. Just the chain of events that "produces" this butterfly is amazing and would make Intelligent Design all the more believable.

December 4, 2006

Intelligent Design Theory has nothing to do with 'optimal design', and this is something that Woodall seems to be unaware of. Has he read any books by William Dembski?
Avatar of: Gordon Couger

Gordon Couger

Posts: 23

December 4, 2006

Having watched nature for 60 years and seeing insects and weeds evolve to meet the changing conditions of framing it obvious to me that evolution is real and happens in a much shorter time frame than most scientist expect.\n\nNature can not be confined by a neat set of rules set down by man. Be it copies of what what is passed down by word of mouth from their God or the Soil Association.\n\nGordon Couger

December 4, 2006

Help me understand your logic. You?re saying that bad design equals an unintelligent design, correct? If so, then instead of using the term intelligent as the advocates of intelligent design use it, you?ve chosen to have it mean perfect design, right? Additionally, doesn?t your premise imply that you know all purposes for which the Large Blue was designed? If not how can you judge the design as good or bad? I once owned a stereo receiver that increased in volume whenever I turned up the treble. Was that receiver an intelligent design or not? And if the designer said he really meant for it to be a door stopper and not a stereo, a task for which it was perfectly suited in my dorm room, wouldn?t you agree that it was a good design and therefore an intelligent design? In fact, I have to assume, given the logic of your premise, that if someone showed you a good design in nature you?d concede an intelligent designer, right?
Avatar of: John A. Tvedtnes

John A. Tvedtnes

Posts: 1

December 4, 2006

Woodall wrote, "To me, the case of the Large Blue is conclusive disproof of the theory of intelligent design." I am always cautious of people who use terms like "proof/prove" and "disproof/disprove." I prefer "evidence" or "indications." Moreover, I find it hard to believe that, in any scientific field, one can claim omniscience, which is what statements like Woodall's suggest by employing the word "conclusive." "Conclusions" of early scientific investigations are usually been replaced by different "conclusions" over time. Isn't that what science is?
Avatar of: Javier Sampedro

Javier Sampedro

Posts: 1

December 4, 2006

Jack, I would agree with you in that Large Blue is conclusive disproof of the theory of intelligent design, except that intelligent design is not a theory, as you may have noticed.\nGordon Couger is right: evolution can be quite fast, and there's a recent and beautiful example coming from the genetics of Heliconius, another butterfly:\nhttp://biology.plosjournals.org/perlserv?request=get-document&doi=10.1371/journal.pbio.0040303\n
Avatar of: James V. Kohl

James V. Kohl

Posts: 53

December 5, 2006

From a molecular biochemical approach, species that survive through food intake and sexual reproduction attest to an unparalleled degree of complexity that begins, simply put, "...with nothing to guide it but a few stray molecules - pheromones and plant odors - blowing in the wind." \n\nFor example, the genetic conservation of gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) and its receptor enable the physiological regulation of sexual reproduction across species from unicellular to multicellular organisms. Well-conserved molecular biochemical mechanisms that interact with GnRH enable most - if not all - multicellular species to be guided to food by odors, and to a mate by pheromones. \n\n"At first sight" exemplifies how conscious thoughts about what we see pervasively over-ride what is known about the biological basis of sexual reproduction; it is driven by the unconscious. Thinking about demonstrable molecular biochemical effects and observed behavioral affects elicited by a whiff of GnRH-directed genetic diversity might provide a more revealing approach to the question of Intelligent Design. \n\nOthers might also want to learn more about how caterpillars remain hidden for 10 months in the ant nest. At first sight, the ants should recognize the intruder. How are the caterpillars hidden? \n
Avatar of: Nancy Reyes

Nancy Reyes

Posts: 1

December 5, 2006

As a scientist, the argument is more against Darwin's idea that only the strong survive, i.e. survival of the fittest, than intelligent design.\nHowever, I don't know much about the theory of intelligent design.\nLike most educated Catholics, I agree with St. Augustine and Bishop Shoenfelds' editorial in the NYTimes: evolution is not incompatible with religion that combines revealation and logic. However, we assume there is a Designer who programed the laws of evolution, and that He "tweaks" his program at times (i.e. nothing happens "at random" but that there is a design behind everything).\nAnd, as the German Doberman, AKA Benedict 16, pointed out, the postmodern ideas are more dangerous to science since they deny we can know truth at all.\nWithout a BELIEF that the universe is logical, and can be dicsovered with logic, the scientific paradigm itself is in danger of being destroyed.\nThat's what his "Regansburg" lecture was about, not about Islam...\n
Avatar of: Paul Lipscomb

Paul Lipscomb

Posts: 1

December 5, 2006

Intelligent design is neither provable, nor disprovable. It is therefor just superfluous to the concept of scientific inquiry. \n\nThose who want badly to believe, can and will believe. Those who do not need to believe, need not. But religious belief systems, much like political belief systems, have nothing at all to do with scientific inquiry.
Avatar of: James G. Reimer

James G. Reimer

Posts: 2

December 5, 2006

Responding to Nancy Reyes:\n> However, we assume there is a Designer who programed the laws of evolution, and that He "tweaks" his program at times\n\n> Without a BELIEF that the universe is logical, and can be dicsovered with logic, the scientific paradigm itself is in danger of being destroyed.\n\nWouldn't a designer who interacts with his creation in an ongoing basis even if to only tweak his program, violate a strictly logical interpretation nature? If a creator responds to requests from humans to change the outcome of a situation, wouldn't that make scientific knowledge less dependable and the formation of scientific laws impossible?\n\n\n\n
Avatar of: Mark Fitzmaurice

Mark Fitzmaurice

Posts: 1

December 5, 2006

Butterflies, even blue ones display some amazing engineering and I for one find this story supposedly undermining Intelligent Design to be quite silly. It lacks an understanding of what ID claims. \n\nID claims that science can detect designed systems.\n\nFor some of the optical engineering design in butterflies' wings see this IEEE link.\n\nhttp://www.idnet.com.au/files/pdf/Butterfly%20Effect.pdf
Avatar of: Dorothea Penizek

Dorothea Penizek

Posts: 6

December 5, 2006

Nancy Reyes should get her facts straight before she writes: the man she refers to is Cardinal Schönborn, Dobermann is written with two n's and the place in Germany where Ope Benecict XVI made his speech is called Regensburg.\n\nIf the lady is as sloppy in her science as she is in her writing, I fear that her opinion is not worth much.
Avatar of: Dorothea Penizek

Dorothea Penizek

Posts: 6

December 5, 2006

OOPS typos: Pope Benedict, of course
Avatar of: den Boer

den Boer

Posts: 2

December 5, 2006

I'm sorry if I sound naive, but I come to quite the oposite conclusion. An animal that requires such specific conditions for survival is clearly a sign of design. \n\nI do not see how darwinism can explain such a delicate system, because darwinism favours the most survivable. In other words, the creature with the largest number of survival avenues will be favoured by natural selection. This butterfly should've become extinct long before it got to be this specific in its survival conditions. In a purely darwinian world, such delicate systems shouldn't exist in the first place.\n\nJust my two cents.
Avatar of: den Boer

den Boer

Posts: 2

December 5, 2006

A shack is a very bad design for a home. In the summer, it's too hot, in the winter it's too cold. When it rains, it leaks. On top of that, it's a fire hazard. \n\nYet no one would claim that blind undirected natural forces can construct a shack.\n\nThe point of ID is not whether whether the design is intelligent or not, but whether live could've arisen from purely natural processes or not. The odds are against undirected natural processes. The only remaining agent known to us, capable of constructing such complex structures, is intelligence. And yes, we don't know who or how, but likewise, I don't know who constructed my car, and how he did it. Does that mean it evolved?
Avatar of: Stephen E. Jones

Stephen E. Jones

Posts: 1

December 5, 2006

It is interesting how often Darwinists `refute' ID by: 1. setting up a straw man of something that ID does not even claim (e.g. "the [perfect] design of a flying insect"); 2) claiming to have refuted that straw man; and then 3) claiming to have refuted ID.\n\nBy the way, in one of my zoology units in my biology degree, we were taught that one reason for the success of insects is their two-stage (larva and adult) life cycle, which are so different that if one stage was adversely affected by an environmental catastrophe, the other stage would probably survive. It sounded like very *good* design to me!\n
Avatar of: joe walsh

joe walsh

Posts: 2

December 5, 2006

In nature there are many more ways to be dead than to be alive (paraphrasing Richard Dawkins). This is why an estimated 99% of all animal species that ever existed are extinct. Natural selection doesn't hone adaptations to perfection or to optimal levels, but tinkers with what is available in the gene pool, and those individuals that pass on their genotypes to the next generation are "fit." A butterfly species going extinct in a rapidly changing environment is not contrary to natural selection, and no surprise. An "intelligent" designer who allows a creation to become extinct would indeed be a cruel designer.
Avatar of: DaveW

DaveW

Posts: 1

December 5, 2006

Good science demands that each hypothesis be balanced by an alternative or null hypothesis. I see no conflict in the assertion that intelligent design is the alternative hypothesis to those of evolution. In the large, these are not mutually exclusive, but in the small, where real science gets done, there are cases that are best explained by design and others that are explained by evolution. Evolution is under attack precisely because its most ardent supporters have substituted rhetoric and politics for the scientific method.\n\nWhat will designed life be called when it finally emerges from the lab?
Avatar of: David L. Hagen

David L. Hagen

Posts: 1

December 5, 2006

Woodall lists four man made causes for the butterfly's extinction: \n1) "One was the increased use of chemical fertilizers that promote vigorous grass growth, which kills off small wild flowers such as thyme."\n2) "Then, sheep were pulled off the land by a change in livestock farming."\n3) "For a few years, rabbits spread and kept the grass short in habitats favored by the butterfly, but in the 1950s myxomatosis (a viral disease of rabbits) was introduced and eliminated them."\n4) "Pastures also were previously burned over, which kept the grass short, but this is no longer done."\n\nLogical Fallacy: Woodall then commits the logical fallacy of concluding that man made extinction (or destruction) refutes Intelligent Design. This is equivalent to saying that the man made destruction of Hiroshima by the atomic bomb demonstrates that Hiroshima itself was not man made.\n\nButterfly's Wing & Light Interference Coloration\nIn his searching to understand Nature, I encourage Woodall to contemplate the coloration and structure of the butterfly's wing. Repetitive structures result in ultra light wing structure while giving coloration by light interference patterns. (See Scientific American Vol. 245, Nov. 1981 p 106, or Werner Gitt, 2000, In the Beginning was Information, Ch 1, sect 3 pp 15, 16 ISBN 3-89397-255-2.) Pigmentation by contrast would appear to be heavier and not as efficient. \n\nNeo-Darwinism vs Intelligent Design\nPerhaps Woodall could provide a detailed step by step explanation for the formation of the butterfly's wing by neo-Darwinian mechanisms within Dembski' Universal Probability Bound of 1 in 10^120 (of all possible combinations of all atoms over all time at the fastest possible recombination rate.) In doing so, he may wish to account for the accumulation of near neutral mutations in the genome as highlighted by Kimura, M. 1968, Evolutionary rate at the molecular level. Nature 217:624-626, and as reviewed by geneticist John C. Sanford (2005) Genetic Entropy and the Mystery of the Genome. ISBN 1-59919-002-8. \n\nThen Woodall may wish to reconsider whether the logic and validity of his assertions refute Intelligent Design or reflect on himself.
Avatar of: KKilborn

KKilborn

Posts: 1

December 5, 2006

"What will designed life be called when it finally emerges from the lab?"\n\nUh . . . design. So what? If the scientists involved keep proper records permitting independent replication, there is no debate. That hardly describes what ID proponents are advocating. Science requires natural explanations, not deistic ones, and is silent with regard to the existence or non-existence of a deity because there is no conceivable evidence that could falsify the hypothesis that a deity exists.

December 5, 2006

I would suggest that 4-stage metamorphosis is, prima facie, irreducibly complex.\n\nCurrently espoused views of evolution claim to explain how organisms gain new traits and behaviors by successive step-by-step modifications, whether by variation and selection, cooption, exaptation, direct adaptation, etc. This leads to a question:\n\nWhat does an organism (that is in the process of gaining the ability to metamorph) do when it is capable of deconstituting itself (larva to pupa), but does not yet have the ability to build itself back up (pupa to adult)? Are there organisms that make a type of pupa case around themselves, have enzymes and such that deconstitute their internal structure, which then causes the death of the organism?\n\nI?ve also had thoughts about hibernation behaviors that seem to have a similar irreducible core as well.\n\nAny thoughts?
Avatar of: Jim Lord

Jim Lord

Posts: 2

December 5, 2006

Your conclusion is hardly based on scientific inquiry, but rather on a flawed theological assumption about the nature of an intelligent designer.\n\nThat you can push over your self-made straw man is no testament to your powers of reason.
Avatar of: joe walsh

joe walsh

Posts: 2

December 5, 2006

Inq. Brain,\n\nI agree that complete metamorphosis is awesome. One argument against irreducible complexity is to find extant organisms that have life stages similar to each stage in the caterpillar to butterfly transition without pupation. The pupa is then just seen as an adaptation to provide protection during a vulnerable time period. Many organisms undergo significant morphologic metamorphosis without pupation: tunicate larvae to sessile adults, bilateral echinoderm larvae to radially symmetric adults, tadpole to frog, incomplete metamorphosis in many insect orders like mantids, and the examples of prolonged juvenile stages and brief adult reproductive stages in mayflies and cicadas. All these organisms undergo their programmed development without pupation, and there is no need for any "deconstruction" or intervening dead stages.
Avatar of: Basil Hall

Basil Hall

Posts: 2

December 5, 2006

I wonder why intelligent people respond, and so give some credence to, the idea of ID. It is, in the main, merely a ploy to insert religion, posing as science, into school curriculums. \n\nIt is a take on the tale of a primitive who finds a watch and comes to the conclusion that someone must have created it. The expected infantile respose to ID goes: Because the world is ordered someone must have ordered it...it wasn't us, so who did?....of course! it was God. \n\n Intelligence is an attribute of a sentient being and a design presupposes a designer. ID is merely the theists' circuitous way of restating that God created the world. Theists continually repackage the idea of God, and like commodity advertisers, employ every semanticl trick in the book in an attempt to convince themselves and others of the truth of their claims.\n\nIt is unintelligent to rise to the bait and put forward unneccessary and flawed rebuttals.
Avatar of: Martin Wagner

Martin Wagner

Posts: 2

December 5, 2006

I've been reading the attempts at rebuttal that the ID defenders have been posting here, and when they aren't simply the time-tested "argument from incredulity" fallacy all over again ("I can't imagine how something so complex could have evolved, so it must be design!"), they all hammer on the point that just because design is BAD doesn't mean it isn't design.\n\nOn the face of it, this would seem a valid point. Until one butts up against the fact that Dembski and virtually every other ID proponent I've ever encountered is either Christian, Muslim, or some believer in a montheistic god from the Abrahamic tradition. This God is said to be perfect in every way. So whence could come imperfect design?\n\nWe all know the reason the name "God" is swept under the rug by ID defenders. In order for ID to fly in the courts, it can't be seen to have a religious origin. (This ploy hasn't worked, but anyway...) But this isn't a court of law, it's a purely scientific arena here. So I must now ask everyone slamming the article as attacking a "straw man" of ID because of the "imperfect design" approach: Are you people religious (whether Christian, Jew, or Muslim), and if so, do you believe your God is omniscient and omnipotent? If you answered "yes" to both those questions, and still think that ID isn't refuted by pointing out poor examples of design, then how do you reconcile imperfect design with a perfect designer? Or are you suggesting that God is, after all, imperfect? Or are you going WAY out on a limb and suggesting some designing agent OTHER than the God of your religion actually did all the designing (which would make you a polytheist)? And if so, how do you reconcile THAT with your religion?\n\nFinally, if complexity requires a designer, then the Designer, being at least as complex if not moreso than its creations, requires a Super-Designer itself. If ID'ers deny this, then thier entire position refutes itself, as they will have to admit that at least one complex thing (the Designer) did not require a designer. And if that's the case, why assume a Designer is needed for ANY complex thing?\n\n(PS: before I sign off, it must be pointed out to folks not well versed in these debates that all analogies to artificial constructs of humanity -- cars, watches, airplanes -- are invalid. These are not biological entities. We know artifacts are deliberately designed, but we even know, within that context, they do evolve: the modern digital watch is very different from the timepieces of 1000 years ago. Even then, we DON'T know that biological entities are deliberately designed, and anyone making an analogy to a watch or car is simply using a superficial "looks like" reasoning for inferring design, without bothering to learn the complex -- and well understood -- biological processes that go into development of organisms, about which there is much literature which very few creationists wish to bother to read.)
Avatar of: Jim Lord

Jim Lord

Posts: 2

December 6, 2006

Mr. Wagner, I believe you make some very valid points about ID'ers' arguments.\n\nWithout going to far into theological territory, suffice it to say that religious leaders throughout history (who believed in a perfect God) did notice that man was imperfect. Such an obvious condition did not go unnoticed.\n\nTherefore, true/inspired or not, religious texts such as the Bible and Qu'ran provide explanations for man's imperfection. (Else, why preach a need for a relationship with God?) The Bible describes man's fall and separation from God in Genesis.\n\nIn the famous opening passage of the Gospel of John, the Bible makes an ontological argument for the existence of God, which is supported by other passages. "In the beginning was the 'Word'", the logos, the reason of itself.\n\nUnfortunately, just as religious leaders turn to science to prove their faith, scientists often resort to half-baked theological arguments. Faith cannot be fostered with fact, but just because it is faith does not necessarily mean it isn't true.
Avatar of: Martin Wagner

Martin Wagner

Posts: 2

December 6, 2006

Therefore, true/inspired or not, religious texts such as the Bible and Qu'ran provide explanations for man's imperfection. (Else, why preach a need for a relationship with God?) The Bible describes man's fall and separation from God in Genesis.\n\nJim, what you call explanations I think can more accurately be termed rationalizations or justifications. It is a real problem for Christianity that it proposes, on the one hand, a perfect god, then must turn around and resort to all manner of tortuous rhetoric to explain how a perfect creator makes an imperfect creation. If God were truly omniscient, he'd have foreseen the imperfections in his creation and either rectified them or chosen not to make those mistakes at all. That he didn't either indicates this deity either isn't so perfect after all (then why worship it?), or, meant for all of life's imperfections, including evil (there goes omnibenevolence), to be part of the Grand Plan, or whatever.\n\nThis is the crux of the Problem of Evil that demolishes Christianity's O3G (omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent) concept of God. Despite two millennia of highly motivated theodicy, this dilemma has never been successfully addressed. And its ramifications do impact the validity of intelligent design as both a scientific and theological concept.\n\nIn the famous opening passage of the Gospel of John, the Bible makes an ontological argument for the existence of God, which is supported by other passages. "In the beginning was the 'Word'", the logos, the reason of itself.\n\nThe opening of John isn't an argument at all, but a series of tautological assertions that are hermetically sealed against rational inquiry. "Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made." Does that apply to God himself? If God belongs to the information set labeled "all things," then did God make himself? Or did something else make God? Or is God "unmade"? If so, whence came God, and what was he doing for the infinite span of time before he decided to create a universe? And, knowing via his omniscience he was going to create a universe someday, why not do so before he eventually did so? And if you are willing to accept the existence of at least one unmade thing, why stop at one? \n\nYou see how God fails scientifically as any kind of concept with explanatory power. The unanswerable questions are endless. Invoking God as the explanation for our universe is simply an act of trying to solve a mystery with an infinitely greater mystery.\n\nAncient holy books that attempt to define their deities into existence by rhetorical fiat do not exactly qualify as scientific treatises on the nature of life and the universe. After all, how does one look at the claims made in John 1 and decide they are any more or less valid a creation story as, say, this one? \n\nUnfortunately, just as religious leaders turn to science to prove their faith, scientists often resort to half-baked theological arguments.\n\nI actually tend to see more apologists using half-baked theological arguments than scientists, frankly. Not to mention holy books themselves -- see John 1.\n\nFaith cannot be fostered with fact, but just because it is faith does not necessarily mean it isn't true.\n\nMaybe, but that is not a scientific statement. If ID supporters wish their alternative "theory" to be taken serioiusly by the scientific community, they're going to have to do better than "just because it's faith based doesn't mean it isn't true." They're going to have to make with the evidence for the Designer, and it is going to have to be evidence every bit as detailed as what science currently has for evolution across multiple disciplines. What nature of being is this designer? Is it bigger than a breadbox? Is it alive, in the sense we understand an organism to be alive? Does it have metabolic processes? Where does it live, if not in this universe? What exact mechanisms does it employ when it creates universes, and how does it employ them? Constantly attacking scientists for making alleged "straw man" criticisms of ID is pretty dishonest of the ID camp, when they aren't even beginning to try to address these questions and explain their designer in an intelligible way (except to say it isn't "necessarily" the Biblical God whenever they find themselves addressing a judge or school board).\n\nScience, by definition, is a process of empirical study that can only draw conclusions based on observation of evidence. Faith is fine for religionists, but it just has no place in the scientific method. If you admit that "faith cannot be fostered with fact," which I take to mean that religion's claims cannot be examined scientifically, then you must agree that faith-based concepts like ID simply don't get to join the scientific fraternity...at least until some fostering facts come along to give it actual substance.
Avatar of: David Bump

David Bump

Posts: 15

December 6, 2006

Well, it seems the comments have gotten away from the original article entirely. It seems to me it comes down to this: What has been observed is only minor changes compared to the great mythology of evolution from raw chemicals. Living things are not merely complex like a watch or something, they are far more complex than any mechanism ever designed by man, and that goes for "simple" bacteria. We're not talking theological discussions here, merely simple observation. \n\nYou think it's naive or simplistic? Fine, show me an observation of something in nature that isn't alive that shows a tendency to develop any significant, dynamic complexity. Snowflakes? Please! Static crystals of one chemical (not counting incidental impurities). Boiling water, hurricanes? Get serious. We're not talking about a bit of order here, but many different parts interacting in a regulated way to transform energy through a number of regulated steps, etc. To say that living things somehow formed without any intelligent guidance, that is clearly a statement of faith that flies in the face of the observed workings of the universe. \n\nAnd even if you exclude the origin of life from the discussion, what about evolution of all living things from some ancient microbes? Not observed, and again it posits not only the sort of changes that have been observed but the addition of untold numbers of dynamically complex interactive systems. \n\nDo you really think random variations in coding, filtered by the random fluctuations in the environment, could produce all that? Fine, but have you got something to match my personal incredulity besides your personal credulity? Where are the scientific observations? Drug resistance? How much more complex are drug resistant bacteria or insecticide resistant insects? Or do most of them merely have an eflux pump jammed on full blast or something like that? What's that? Computer programs? Please, I'm being skeptical here, you'll need to show me something more than some simplistic pre-fab electronic version of an evolutionary puppet show. Protozoans developing multicellularity? Sorry, I've seen that one and it's no more than a glitch in an existing system, and it only works in an artificial environment at that. Fossil record? You can't actually observe evolution there, and even your game of "connect the dots" sometimes cheats by re-arranging the dots (e.g. lining up velociraptor, sinornithosaurus, and archaeopteryx although they are dated in the opposite order). \n\nAnd you expect to get us to believe that somehow things as marvelous as butterflies are no more than the end product of a series of random mutations "guided" by the rigors of surviving in a chaotic, fluctuating environment, just because one species goes extinct? That's not science, that's a desperate defense of the philosophy of uniformitarian materialistic naturalism. \n\nI don't know which example in the comments is the most amusing (or pathetic) -- the self-defeating response saying it is foolish to respond? Or maybe the defense saying that "designed things evolve too," which merely shows that an apparent "evolution" can actually be a series of products of intelligent design?

December 6, 2006

Nancy Reyes and James Reiner touched what seems to me an interesting problem: that of intention and coherence of the material world. I find it too difficult to scientifically deal with intention in this case. I would like however, to review the basis on which we consider that matter acts coherently.
Avatar of: Carin Nel

Carin Nel

Posts: 1

December 6, 2006

It just shows that the human race who is supposed to take care of the earth and its animals, vegetation and insects, did not do a good job and needs to look at the way we deal with the environment.\nIt has nothing to do with the Creator when his creatures mess up and pollute the environment. We are responsible, not the insects or God.\n
Avatar of: Matteo

Matteo

Posts: 1

December 6, 2006

So, Martin Wagner illustrates for us that the fundamental basis for belief in evolution is an argument from theology. IDists explain why they think the evidence for unguided evolution is poor, and why design is the infererence to the best explanation, and Wagner's response is an argument based on the nature of God. Interesting. IDists talk scientific evidence, Wagner talks theology.\n\nTo paraphrase Wagner:\n\n"I've been reading the attempts at rebuttal that the Darwin defenders have been posting here, and when they aren't simply the time-tested "argument from theological incredulity" fallacy all over again ("I can't imagine how a good God could have created this universe, so unguided evolution must be true!!"), they all hammer on the point that just because design is BAD that means it isn't design. "

December 7, 2006

:::Begin quote:::\nIt's unfortunate . . .\nby Jim Lord\n\n[Comment posted 2006-12-05 20:39:24]\n\nYour conclusion is hardly based on scientific inquiry, but rather on a flawed theological assumption about the nature of an intelligent designer.\n\nThat you can push over your self-made straw man is no testament to your powers of reason.:::End quote:::\n\nI asked three questions, which admitted my ignorance upfront, and then you say my ?conclusion is hardly based on scientific inquiry,? and that my ?powers of reason? are deficient. I?m seeking scientific inquiry and powers of reason. You, on the other hand, would prefer to make fun of people who admit they are ignorant, while not teaching anyone a single thing. I don?t see your approach as helpful to anyone. If by commenting you are trying to communicate with me, this approach is also not helpful to your own goals. Such an attitude is always self-defeating. I?m seeking information here, not epithets.\n\nI am asking a question here, of course I am ignorant of the answer. I have no idea if there is an organism that systematically denatures itself and then dies. I've never seen or heard of one. Of course, if I knew the answer, I wouldn?t be here asking this question at a place I thought I could find real answers to my questions, not ridicule and disdain. I am making an observation based on what I know about current scientific knowledge. Please tell me what I?m missing. What unintelligent mechanisms can generate this metamorphosis process? And if no one can think of any, why do many assume that unintelligent mechanisms DID generate this process.\n\nAnd while you?re at it, please identify my theological assumptions, and, if you can find any, why they are wrong.\n\nIf I am making a straw-man, please provide me the real argument which I should address. As far as I know, there are no well-documented examples where organisms gain a mechanism that causes instant death by deconstruction, and later another mechanism is added on to not only prevent death, but even to yield a completely new form that is extremely divergent in morphology, diet, function, behavior, etc.

December 7, 2006

Metamorphosis complex and amazing, but not irreducibly complex\nby joe walsh\n\n[Comment posted 2006-12-05 21:03:16]\n\nI appreciate these examples, your comment is much more helpful than Jim Lord?s. I was aware of these, but I don?t see how they address my question. I agree that in some cases it seems ?there is no need for any "deconstruction" or intervening dead stages.? Yet, somehow, these needless stages exist. In order for an organism to reconstruct, there would necessarily have to be at least one deconstruction. And according to current evolutionary theory, the organisms that developed this reconstructing ability would have to be able to deconstruct first, and only generations long after would have the ability to reconstruct. So for many generations, the organism that is deconstructing is actually selecting itself out of the gene pool before selection can preserve any possible adaptation for reconstitution.\n\nLooking at presumably unintelligent processes, like adaptation, mutation, speciation, selection, genetic drift, gene flow, cooption, exaptation, I don?t see how they could have given rise to such a process, since the organism is selecting itself out of existence before reconstitution can take place. Someone please help me not set up a straw man. Give me the real evidence, facts, and knowledge. To my mind, saying that ?some things don?t die like this,? is not helpful in reasonably adjudicating this issue.\n\nI?m not antithetical to evolution. I?m an ID evolutionist. I think evolution is very useful for understanding the living world, including metamorphosis. My question is how this would happen by unintelligent processes, and I balk at this part of the explanation.

December 9, 2006

It's all about the genes\nby joe walsh\n\n[Comment posted 2006-12-09 01:31:33]\n\nJoe,\n\nThank you for your more tempered second response. Based on your first response, I figured I wasn't the only one here that was ignorant about entomology and details on insect metamorphosis.\n\nSomeone at an ID blog posted this link for me. I think it?s pretty helpful:\nhttp://icb.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/46/6/795\n\nI don't think that your answer matches up with the type of deconstruction we are talking about here. With complete metamorphosis an organism creates a casing around itself and then releases enzymes from within itself for the purpose of breaking down the tissues already present in the individual. You are proposing that it is analogous to processes of reproduction, especially those that result in death like the salmon reproductive cycle. I see two key distinctions between reproduction and complete metamorphosis that I think break down the analogy.\n\n1) In reproduction, new individual(s) result, but with metamorphosis the same individual undergoes transformation.\n2) In reproduction, new individual(s) with basically the same phenotype result, but with metamorphosis, the same individual is radically transformed into a very different morphology that gives it many new abilities, like flight.\n\nSo I would reject your analogy.\n\nMany in the biological sciences think that the particular flavor of gene-centrism you focus on will be old news as epigenetic factors are discovered. I am personally confident that epigenetics will subvert the gene-centrism of neo-Darwinism. The gene may be a subunit of selection, but it is likely that it will only be one among a suite of subunits that are selected. See the International Postgenetics Society: http://www.junkdna.com/postgenetics.
Avatar of: Greg Watson

Greg Watson

Posts: 2

December 12, 2006

As stated prior I too am a little hesitant to make sweeping statments that one particular piece of evidence makes a conclusive case for or against a particular argument.\n\nHaving said that however one of the things I find surprising about ID is that there are a plethora of examples in nature of what seems to be poor choices in 'design', many of which make an organisms existence a little more precarious in an already competitve environment. \n\nIf we can recognise these flaws then surely an intelligent designer whether it be God, aliens or whatever who has the power to create all life would have forseen these problems as well? And why not rectify them in the planning stage? It is a poor architect who willingly builds a shoddy house. To me it suggests that perhaps evolution, in all its messy jury rigging (to overly simplify) seems the more logical choice.
Avatar of: Greg Watson

Greg Watson

Posts: 2

December 12, 2006

Sorry there was a problem with my computer and I've just now read the ongoing debate and realised my comment has already been pretty extensively covered by both sides.\n\nThe only thing I can add I suppose is that personally unless some scientific evidence supporting ID can be presented I cannot take it seriously. Creating a thought construct 'Life is complex/we cannot create life/ergo a higher power created it' without corroboration is not scientific, I feel it is more properly theology or philosophy.\n\nOne question I would like to ask is that when our technology achieves the ability to design and engineer life forms does that make us the intelligent designers? What does that mean to the theory of ID? Should we then be considered Gods as we create life? I use the term God as it seems certainly clear from and ID tract I have read that God is the intelligent designer.\n\nIf anyone has any suggestions for readings or links for intelligent design information please let me know, I would like to read them.
Avatar of: Ralph Hatcher

Ralph Hatcher

Posts: 1

December 14, 2006

There are many excellent comments in defense of ID, but there is another thing about Dr. Woodall's piece that should be noted. He claims that this example provides "conclusive disproof of the theory of intelligent design." He is claiming that he has proved a negative, "conclusively," no less! I don't think Karl Popper would approve. I can forgive Dr. Woodall for getting caught up in his own exuberance, but where were the editors of "The Scientist?"\n\nhttp://dakotavoice.com/200612/Guest/20061212_RH.html\n

December 14, 2006

comment:\nOops\nby Greg Watson\n\n[Comment posted 2006-12-12 14:28:53]\n\nGreg,\n\nWhen our technology achieves the ability to design and engineer de novo life forms, we would then have a well-documented demonstration that intelligent causes can produce living things. Yes, that would make us intelligent designers of new living forms. That would mean that ID would be observationally validated in at least one case. Not that we are ?Gods,? but that we are capable of producing living things. Properly, ID infers intelligent causes. To conclude the intelligent cause as God requires the use of philosophy and theology, and it is unclear whether science will ever be able to make such a conclusion. So it is unclear whether ID will ever be able to conclude that the designer is God, since ID employs observational evidence to derive proposals.\n\nI do agree that disteleological aspects of nature seem to indicate contingency. But the presence of contingency does not negate teleology; it shows that contingency has played a role in nature. Fundamentally, the ?Bad design? argument does not show non-design, though. Additionally, the disteleology argument is intrinsically metaphysical, and is inseparable from valuation arguments.\n\nAs William A. Cirignani noted at his comment posted 2006-12-04 22:50:40: Intelligent design does not mean perfect design. Also, if bad design ?conclusively? negates ID, then any good design in nature would necessarily support ID. If good design doesn?t equal intelligent design, the entire ?Bad argument? conclusion falls apart, since it would then be admitted that all possible factors have not been taken into consideration.\n\nID is not a construct where 'Life is complex/we cannot create life/ergo a higher power created it.' I would recommend reading more material from ID theorists and researchers, as opposed to religious tracts which incorrectly claim that ID shows God is the intelligent designer. Religious tracts are typically not as reliable as are books written by the originators of a concept.\n\nI would suggest starting at the ResearchID.org bibliography. The address is:\n\nhttp://www.researchintelligentdesign.org/wiki/The_Essential_Intelligent_Design_Bibliography\n
Avatar of: Rick Sifers

Rick Sifers

Posts: 5

December 14, 2006

Although I am not a follower of the intelligent design theory, I do understand that knowledgeable theologians consider the book of Genesis to represent an allegory used by Moses to introduce people to God. Because there is no suggestion in any valid religious teachings that a "designer" (whomever you might chose) is concerned about the loss of a species or failed to include natural selection as a means to refine the "design", the chosen example of an extinct butterfly species falls short of disproving the theory. Perhaps the author is disgusted with the overall movement. I don't blame him, but his argument is not valid.
Avatar of: Terry Thompson

Terry Thompson

Posts: 1

December 14, 2006

I would be less annoyed if these ID people would quit trying to pass off their philosophy as a rigourous scientific theory to say its the equal of the theory of evolution, which evolution is, with 150 years of data. Sure, it has holes and is incomplete, thats why its still a theory, not a law. Come up with some data and experiments to prove or disprove something instead of recycled bible thumping ID people spout off, then we can talk.
Avatar of: Liz

Liz

Posts: 1

December 14, 2006

And that's what we're talking about here no matter the flippin fancy words you use for it. \n\nIt seems to me that an almighty, omniscient knows everything from beginning to end, compassionate God would do better designing anything than that!\n\nI mean he's supposed to be God right? he's supposed to know it allll. So he intelligently designs this particular butterfly to crash and burn, no matter the reason. Yeah*snort* right!\n\nI have problems with the fact that he created such an arrogant, destructive, stupid creature as man, much less poorly designed butterfly reproduction.\n\nIntelligent design? Ha! Intelligent by whose standards? Wasting time throwing big words around and ya just love to debate for debate's sake. It doesn't solve anything. You can always find words and numbers to support anything you want to support. What a waste!
Avatar of: Hugh Fletcher

Hugh Fletcher

Posts: 44

December 15, 2006

Inquisitive brain asked how pupation evolved. Answer: In simple steps. There are many examples of metamorphosis without pupation. A locust or grasshopper egg hatches in the soil and a vermiform (worm form) larva emerges. It burrows worm-like to the surface and immediately splits its skin, and a 6-legged nymph crawls out. As it grows it will periodically shed its old skin and inflate the new one before it hardens, so growing. Later nymphs have buds on their backs. At the last moult, fully grown wings are inflated from these buds. Now suppose an organism?s life cycle such that the latest nyphal stage overwinters so that the adults mate and lay egg at the beginning of the next year?s growing season. Those nymphs effectively hibernate. There is now selection on them to have thicker cuticles to resist transfer of water, or invasion by fungal or bacterial pathogens, and less need for mobility. This will also select for reduced surface area. The most pupae-like nymphs will survive best, they are selected for. So the final nymph stage becomes a pupa. Now there is a resting pupal stage and less need to retain movement and digestion, so further evolution can concentrate morphological change within the pupae, and reduce the disadvantage of carrying developing wings in buds on active nymphs where they are a hindrance. Eureka. If you are prepared to look, the steps and intermediate forms are usually there.\n\nIf an intelligent designer is required to explain life, then logically it needed to be designed itself, ad infinitum, so that is a recursive, non-scientific explanation for life. If there is an intelligent designer then it is certainly a god in as much as it has supernatural powers. Its fallibility is more reminiscent of the Ancient Greek or Scandinavian Gods with all their foibles than anything omniscient. The multiple examples of bad design (human lower back, the mammalian vegas nerve) are much easier to explain by evolution than anything supernatural.\n
Avatar of: luis Reyes

luis Reyes

Posts: 1

December 15, 2006

Are we a good example of ID?\nif you response is yes..turn on your TV, watch what's happen in Irak... or see the satelite map of Amazonia,or the rivers in China, and please, tell us where is the ID's STIGMATA?\n\nIn God we trust...what about us?\nGod bless Darwin!
Avatar of: Tara

Tara

Posts: 1

December 15, 2006

I think you made the wrong conclusion from your observations. A fragile system like that would never evolve in the first place. A system that intricate and delicate, clearly bears the stamp of a designer. A system that has one part that could not have evolved separately from the rest. The fact that man changes the environment to exterminate such a delicate system, is a separate issue. \nAlso, I dare to point out the other flaw in your article that caterpillars, in general, are FAR from defenseless.\nhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caterpillar\nThe Scientist continues to push whatever it's agenda is, which obviously has nothing to do with science. Let's get some DATA please! That is what science is all about!\n
Avatar of: BG

BG

Posts: 1

December 18, 2006

Evolution is just a theory. What man thinks as a bad design, poor deisgn does not mean that it is a bad, poor design. If unintelligible things like a car or a pen needs a designer, then more intelligible things like living things need a perfect designer. If you damage a design or uncomfortable with a particular design because of your obvious limitations does not mean that the design is bad and designer does not exist.
Avatar of: Leigh Jackson

Leigh Jackson

Posts: 3

December 18, 2006

Intelligent Design is not a theory, it's a wish.
Avatar of: Dave Knight

Dave Knight

Posts: 3

December 18, 2006

<>Let's forget about the fact that there are individuals with obvious biases from both sides of the issue commenting on this article.\n\nI find it incredibly hard to believe that an accomplished individual like Woodall actually believes that this microscopic butterfly scenario "is conclusive disproof" of something as large as Intelligent Design. Its absurdity....and the author knew it when he wrote it.\n\nI honestly believe this was a ploy to stir up controversy...and you all bit hook, line, and sinker.
Avatar of: Dr. Juan

Dr. Juan

Posts: 1

December 18, 2006

When a creature dies, medical science is still unable to explain just what changed, even in crude terms. And they can't restart the life either! Nor bring back the extinct.\n\nSo much for the power of medicine and science. Till Frankenstein trully lives we will just have to trust in a higher and more clever force. \n\nDoctors will not have true credibility until they can walk on water, turn water into wine, heal the dead and sick unaided over long distances and are still being studies and worshiped 2000 years after their death. So what if they can sequence a gene - they still can't power up life.
Avatar of: Brian Hanley

Brian Hanley

Posts: 1

December 19, 2006

I can argue the other side of that for intelligent design, no problem, and I certainly don't believe in ID. The answer using their logic is obvious. Only an intelligent designer could have come up with such a convoluted, far-fetched scheme that was so dependent on what we, the biblical stewards of this land, did. Obviously, god designed these butterflies for us as a sign to us of our responsibility. After all, if Maculinea arion is such an egregious error, then rocket engines that are not a sign that humans are intelligent designers. For isn't a rocket engine something that depends, critically, on even less likely circumstances occurring? \n \nI could carry that one forward into a whole series of sermons Jack - sermons that would leave the faithful absolutely certain that god is watching us, that there is free will, and that we shall be judged in the final days! :-) \n\nWe must be careful about preaching to our own choir about intelligent design. It is as fatal a flaw for us as it is for them. One of my favorites to challenge the followers of Mr. Johnson with, (he, himself is too much of a coward to allow such challenge to be heard) is that he styles his monologues "Darwin on Trial". But in a trial, there is an advocate for the accused, is there not? And yet Mr. Johnson never allows a defense in his lectures during which he plays the role of a prosecutor. As a result, his talks are filled with straw men, and he has not actually conducted anything remotely resembling a trial. \n \nIf you want some gentlemen to converse with about it who can give you a run for your money, try some of the orthodox Rabbis, such as the Chabad. \n:-) \nIf they will bother, they are quite good at it. Some of them are quite sure that they have clear proof that evolution is false. Unlike many of the Christian ID folks, they have a tradition of debate and argumentation. \n\nPerhaps orthodox rabbis should be reveiwers for articles on ID. :-)

December 19, 2006

You all seem to believe that Intelligent design means that some supreme being individually tinkers with all of the small details and that if there is no such tinkering , then Descent with Modofocation must be the case with no influence from a supreme being. We (Human Beings)designed memory chips and programming and computers and Ninetendo Game Cubes and Playstations 1 - 3 and Xbox 360s etc. I have experienced first hand that different scenarios arise and seem to take off all by themselves in some interactive games because we make one choice or another as game players in some of the more sophisticated interactive games. Perhaps the electronic virtuals have developed belief systems to account for such things. The thing is that even in such primative experimental realities, we do not control all of the variable parameters and no game plays exactly the same each time.\n\nMy point is that if our Multiverse was designed by some infinitely complex brain, we have about as much chance of proving or disproving its existence as trhe ants and butterflys spoken of in this article have of dertermining that humanity is or isn't responsible for their extinction. If evolution was intelligently designed, it was designed to allow life to exploit every opportunity and every utilizable niche and expand to occupy these as they become available. \n\nUnfortunately for some of these orgasnisms, if the niches dissappear or are in some other fashion made unavailable, then specialists who have occupied them\nare doomed to "adapt or die" as it were. It seemes that throughout the geological time span some manage to adapt but most die out with their niches. The amazing thing to me which more than anything else says that a design does exist is that as soon as a new niche becomes available irrespective of (and sometimes because of) previous extinctions, something invariably evolves to occupy it no matter how incredible the chain of events neceassary for it to do so. Quantum Mechanics, Chaos Theory, call it what you will, it happens and perhaps it is even predictable that it will do so.\n\nTo me, intelligent design is proven by the very "randomness" of these events because no matte rhow random they appear, they still must follow what appears to be definable and determinable physical rules and laws in order to take place. The lack of proof of intelligent design is not because the proof is not there, it is instead, our lack of the technological ability to detect or to predict it completely, yet the fact that most of us sense or feel that there IS a Multiversal Designer (whether or not) we choose to ignore or accept these feelings speaks volumes. Things do occur by chance - but only because chance too was designed in order to assure that life would continue the pattern of self replication which began with some simple strands of self replicating Ribonucleic Acid and will end only when we KNOW not only the Program but the Programmer as well.

December 19, 2006

Just in case you who read my comment wish to point out the imperfections eg. "modofocation" instead of modification, remember, in MY time zone, I posted the comment early in the morning. Perhaps our intelligent designer hadn;t had Its/His/Her morning coffee either, hence some of the imperfections those who observe such things see all around them.

December 19, 2006

I know, Hadn't not Hadn;t!
Avatar of: Wade

Wade

Posts: 2

December 19, 2006

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tf6edE0C4RE&mode=related&search=)
Avatar of: Paul S Oliver

Paul S Oliver

Posts: 1

December 19, 2006

With the 90+% extinction rate that has been proposed, I guess that the Large Blue butterlfy might have had 9 other insects that it could live off of, but now the last beneficial creature, this red ant too is in short supply, thereby threatening the large blue butterfly.\n\nI don't see any strenght in your argument.
Avatar of: Yaw Kwakye

Yaw Kwakye

Posts: 1

December 19, 2006

I find myself in a position few others share when it comes to religion and evolution. Note that I do not use intelligent design since, as evidenced in the comments posted so far, it is subject to all manner of interpretations.\n\nI am a scientist who is a practicing catholic and went to a catholic high school. I believe in the scientific thought process that has led to the theory of evolution. I was required to take a course in religious knowledge in secondary school and my class took a course taught by a Jesuit priest where we studied and discussed inconsistencies and contradictions in the bible. In college I was taught evolution by a biologist who was a self-professed born-again Christian. There was never a time in both classes where anyone, teacher or student, claimed to have ?the answer?. Faith, we were told, was believe in something you haven?t and can?t see. I believe in God and it?s a personal decision. I may be totally wrong here but it is a risk (if you can call it that) I take. \n\nReligion should be left to an individual. The religious, Christians and others, who try to force religion into school curricula and politics, should realize that living a religious life (humility, gentleness, generosity, love etc) will serve their course better than pointless discussions about intelligent design. \n\nYour faith will be fickle and thus not worth fighting for if irrefutable proof of evolution will make you not believe in God\n
Avatar of: MikeNYC

MikeNYC

Posts: 1

December 20, 2006

We need more light weight humor like this to stimulate minds. \n Any one who has the slightest knowledge of how things work realizes the intelligence that had to design the whole system.\n Let us check into the VEDIC knowledge revealed 5,000 years ago and see they have answers to our present questions. They place E=mc2 in the right relation to consciousness and matter etc. Start with www.mapi.com.

December 20, 2006

Back to Butterflies, by Hugh Fletcher, \n[Comment posted 2006-12-17 12:47:45]\nHugh,\n\nThank you for your reply. You have proposed the same answer as joe walsh, and very enlightening about possible routes to pupation. Unless I am misunderstanding your answers, you still have not answered my questions. If you are agreeable, I will restate my questions:\n\n* In order for an organism to reconstruct, there would necessarily have to be at least one deconstruction. And according to current evolutionary theory, the organisms that developed this reconstructing ability would have to be able to deconstruct first, and only generations long after would have the ability to reconstruct. So for many generations, the organism that is deconstructing is actually selecting itself out of the gene pool before selection can preserve any possible adaptation for reconstitution. \n\n* What does an organism (that is in the process of gaining the ability to metamorph) do when it is capable of deconstituting itself (larva to pupa), but does not yet have the ability to build itself back up (pupa to adult)?\n\n* Are there organisms (extant or extinct) that make a type of pupa case around themselves, have enzymes and other biochemicals that deconstruct their internal structure, which then causes the death of the organism?\n\n* Looking at presumably unintelligent processes, like adaptation, mutation, speciation, selection, genetic drift, gene flow, cooption, and exaptation; I don?t see how they could have given rise to such a process, since the organism is selecting itself out of existence before reconstitution can take place. What unintelligent mechanisms can generate this metamorphosis process? And if no one has evidence to present that unintelligent mechanisms DID generate this process, evidence be damned? What happened to the ?tentative? knowledge of science?\n\nIf you have provided answers to these questions, please explain how. Also, I am not saying the fact that these questions are unanswered means that ID is, necessarily, a better explanation. Other evidence would need to be considered for that proposal.\n\nAlso, on the point about ad infinitum and recursive explanations: all of human knowledge, in its totality, and in specifics, suffers from this fate. Any epistemic construct, if looked at close enough with strict and systematic logical rigor, and followed backwards chronologically, falls apart. The construction of a statement or claim of knowledge requires the use of first principles, which are not subject to scrutiny by way of the original statement, per se. This is why there were, and still are, nihilists when it comes to knowledge and existence. David Hume addressed this when he clarified the problem of induction. The fault you ascribe to intelligent design is a fault of knowledge in general, including all of the natural sciences and every scientific theory ever proposed.\n\nI am, admittedly, not knowledgeable in all aspects of philosophy. If this logical weakness of human knowledge has been successfully fixed, someone out there please alert me. I would be elated to hear such wonderful news.
Avatar of: bjoern

bjoern

Posts: 1

December 20, 2006

Is ID saying anything other than "the trait in question was designed"? If so, what does it explain?\nI'd be interested in the mechanistical basis for design: How was the trait designed? How were the genomes re-arranged, the genes duplicated and the basepairs exchanged? The answers would also explain why ID conforms to developmental and structural constraints (which you wouldn't expect).\nBiology has pretty good answers for these questions, but what are the ID answers?\nWithout answers for these questions (where we already have answers in biology), ID explains less than biology.\nHow would you even design experiments to find out?\n\nOnce we know the mechanistic basis for ID, we can ask: Was the designer who designed the designer more intelligent than the one who designed us? Maybe the deigner who designed the desgner was designed by a truly intelligent designer?\n:-)
Avatar of: Chelly Blailock

Chelly Blailock

Posts: 1

December 20, 2006

Check this out:\n\nThe Biblical Hebrew word "golem" means embryo. It comes from the root, "galam" which means to wrap together, to fold, to fold together.\n\nHas anyone seen the Science channel program which shows the human embryo in the womb as it develops from one egg into a mass of cells? When it gets to a certain stage, the mass folds in on itself, in half. The center vertical back of the fold becomes the spinal column. \n\nI ask the world of science; How did the writer of Psalms 139:16, in the Bible, know this? The world of science needs to understand that, God finally allowed them to invent a tiny camera which can be placed in utero, to watch the cells as they fold in on themselves!\n\nAV; Psalms 139:16, Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect (hebrew-golam embryo) and in thy book all my members were written which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.\n\nIs it just me, or is it awesome when the Intelligent Designer allows science a little peek into His intelligent design?\n\nChelly\n\n

December 21, 2006

I remember recently being ?cut off? in traffic on the less than safe streets of Los Angeles. The perpetrator and I ended up face to face in the same parking lot, so I decided to confront him (bad mistake) with the good intentions of possibly influencing good citizenship. I asked his pregnant girlfriend who was exiting his car if she felt safe with his driving skills and he, acting like he was about to pummel me, shouted ?Is that all you got?? as if to question my apparent decision to fight him. In a sense, I suppose, he was doing me a favor, because he was displaying his superior firepower just inches from my face, and giving me a chance to quickly (yet humiliatingly) declare his obvious mastery over me.\n\nIt may have been with similar good intentions that Jack Woodall brazenly declared that ?A butterfly explodes the theory [of Intelligent Design]? in a recent column in The Scientist (Woodall, 2006). It seems, however, that he has brought a peashooter to a canon fight. \n\nMillions of scientists, who have been quietly won over by the unassailable evidence for an Intelligent Creator, are cringing right now and asking, ?Is that all you got?? because the tired old method of deriding the Designer for designs that are ?obviously? wrong does nothing to elevate the alternate view.\n\nFortunately, Woodall does catch on a bit after describing the overwhelmingly complex life cycle of the insects and acknowledges, ?OK, that complicated life cycle seems an intelligent creation in the end.? Awesome, Jack ? you are almost free! \n\nOf course, what Woodall and others, (Dawkins, Gould, and E.O. Wilson included) have failed to do is to compellingly explain the step by step progression by which molting, the formation of a hard shell, flight, metamorphosis, etc., etc. have all developed according to their failed evolutionary fairy tale. \n\nUndeterred, Woodall goes on to blame God for the ?fragile chain of circumstances?? that led to the demise of the ?protector ant species? that the butterfly, M. arion is dependent upon for its very survival. He rants, ?If I were to design such a silly system I?d at least choose the most abundant, hardy species of ant to host my caterpillars?? Thinking he has now mortally wounded the Creator?s character, Woodall declares, ??the case of the Large Blue is conclusive disproof of the theory of intelligent design.? \n\nOne could just as easily have said ?If evolution were to design such a silly system it could have at least chosen the most abundant, hardy species of ant to host its caterpillars?? In fact, if evolution were true, why did IT allow such a ?silly design? to foster? Isn?t evolution all about survival of the fittest? (Oops, I fear that I have opened a corollary topic that exceeds the thrust of the current argument).\n\nNevertheless, Woodall is assuming that the current state of affairs on our sad little planet (including the loss of such beautiful butterflies) is exactly what the Designer intended, and we all know (especially now at Christmas time) that this is not what He had in mind. \n\nOf more importance, however is the type of ?evidence? Woodall has used here to defend his cherished theory. If that is ?all you got? Jack, then Intelligent Design has won.\n

December 24, 2006

While I am not an expert on the theory of intelligent design, I felt like sharing my thoughts after reading this article and its follow-up comments. Intelligent design is, I think, neither 'good' nor 'bad' design. The design of a play or a fiction novel can be intelligent, despite it having both, good and bad characters. In other words, one needs to have an aerial view of the situation (a complete picture) to appreciate the intelligence in nature's design. I also try to imagine what would be the consequence today of that extinction event not happening in 1950s. Certainly, things would be different. A caricature of what I try to say can be grasped from Ray Badbury's science fiction, 'A Sound of Thunder', where in a person goes to the past, makes a slight change in the scenario, only to find an array of multiplied effects of that slight change manifested in the present.
Avatar of: Hari

Hari

Posts: 1

December 26, 2006

My view on this Article would be to Quote Feynman when he was asked about the existence of ?god? to which Feynman replied when you look at the universe, the stage is too big for someone like God ( here I would replace it by intelligent designer ) to play a role in it.

January 10, 2007

I prefer to take ID at its word, as a scientific proposition independent of religion. Then I ask, supposing for the sake of argument that intelligent design has played a significant part in the development of life on earth, what can be inferred from known facts about the nature of the designer, if we reason without religious motivation? I speak of probable inference, not absolute proof. Here's what I come up with.\n\nLimited vs unlimited: Vestigial organs and patching indicate a designer of limited powers. Patching is quicker, easier, less error-prone than redesign de novo, but these advantages would not affect a designer without limitations.\n\nBenevolence vs malevolence: There is plenty of evidence for both, so I infer indifference.\n\nManufacture and mobility: Geographical proximity of closely related species suggests that new species are manufactured physically from existing ones and that the designer cannot easily transport organisms over large distances.\n\nSingle vs multiple: An alternative explanation of the geographical distribution is that many designers are at work somewhat independently of one another, but each restricted to a certain geographic locality.\n\nThis sort of reasoning may disturb those who wish scientific thought to follow lines prescribed by religion; but the proponents of ID, who disclaim that attitude, should have no problem with it.

January 13, 2007

[Intelligent Design is carefully couched creationism, pure and simple. It should not be addressed in scientfic journals since it is NOT science, it is religion. Addressing the issue of intelligent design in a journal such as "The Scientist" elevates ID to a status that it DOES NOT deserve. Does one see discussions of a flat earth and the Flat Earth Society in astronomy journals? Besides, Darwinian evolution has NOTHING to do with the origin of life, it merely addresses the origin of species. \n\nKeep religion OUT of science journals as well as OUT of science curricula.]
Avatar of: ThoughtorTwo

ThoughtorTwo

Posts: 1

February 5, 2007

Inteligent design. Uninteligent design. It seems that word design implies inteligence so one could say that there is a design or there isnt. Inteligent is unnecesary doubling. Anything could be a design or just something (organism made) or nothing and who or what is the arbitrary position of such choice? It seems that the very fact that we can choose what it will be or how will it be explained speaks for itself. If i understand Darwinism correctly there is no real selection. It appears as if selective. And the easiest way to explain it, is simplifying it.In reality it is a very complex process. As large quantity produces large variations which may or may not favour their environment. Or environment might not favour them, environment being other organisms and not so much the inorganic matter. Organism doesnt really study and analyze what will be the next best thing it could have. If that was so then selection would be very real. Organsim doesnt even know what it is that it would like to have. So it looks pretty much that organisms kind of bully themselves and that makes it a self driven reaction. Its like teasing one another to provoke something. Selection being a consequence of it. Selection from this point is by-product and not the central idea. Multicelular will get into all kinds of troubles for that matter. Some of it resembles to being very uncomfortable and changing positions all the time.
Avatar of: rpgivpgmr

rpgivpgmr

Posts: 1

March 15, 2007

I thoroughly enjoyed your thoughts.\n\nPlato wrote that all things were perfect in God's mind and creations only have imperfections due to those in the material used to make them. \n\nMaybe the Design was not only 'intelligent' but perhaps even 'perfect', and the experience for butterfly, or our experience of them as humans, was given as a gift.\n \nFurther, I imagine one whole imperfect creation could affect another whole ones progress or even survival.
Avatar of: Gregory Pronger

Gregory Pronger

Posts: 9

December 26, 2008

Another perspective:\n\nImagine ?us? as creatures living within a TV set, but one with the picture tube pointing inside.\n\nAs with the real ?us?, this imaginary ?us? enjoys watching TV.\n\nOne of ?us? within the TV, notices a small insignificant wire, and since it?s small and insignificant, cuts the wire. As it happens, the wire is part of the vertical-hold, and suddenly the picture in rolling.\n\nOf course, the perspective of the imaginary ?us? is simply that the creator had to be completely stupid as to put such an important component in such a vulnerable location and make it so fragile. \n\nAnother way to look at it is how we like to marvel at the complexity of nature. A complex system will almost invariably have fragile components. When one of these components breaks, we have a tendency to then look at the situation and marvel at the stupidity of its design.\n\nWhether the natural world is the outcome of a ?Creator? or a happenstanical combination of the right chemicals and some electricity, billions of years ago; the reality is that the system we see before us is more complex than we have been able to decipher. All the plight of the butterfly proves is that small perturbations in this complex system (nature) can mess it up in ways we can?t proactively determine.\n
Avatar of: LEWIS Sheffield

LEWIS Sheffield

Posts: 2

December 26, 2008

Very interesting example of the often observed inefficiencies of nature. But hardly disproof. No matter how much data are accumulated showing evolution is a better model than ID or CS, you can never really disprove a theory based on untested assumptions rather than actual data.\nOnce one postulates someone or something capable of anything (or nearly so) for reasons unknown and possibly unknowable, any discrepancy is just the way the designer did it. Who are we to question the designer's ways?\nThis assumption appears to be the basis of every ID or CS supporter I have every known. Since the basic assumption allows the theory to explain everything, it ultimately explains nothing except how the proponent views the universe. If you believe it was designed, you see design everywhere. The same can be said of any particular view of nature. That's why we have to be careful our theories are actually testable.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 1

December 26, 2008

The author implies that ID can only be understood in the context of current knowledge. Therefore If we do not recognize it as "intelligent" it must be "silly". Whoever invented the process of evolution was pretty intelligent.
Avatar of: matthew goodwin

matthew goodwin

Posts: 1

December 26, 2008

One must point out that ID is in no way a scientific theory. Period.\n\nIf it is, I would quite curious to see the data supporting it.
Avatar of: simon waters

simon waters

Posts: 7

December 26, 2008

only evolution is disprovable. There is no way to disprove (nor prove), ID: it is a belief system based on faith, all the evidence for which is ambiguous. \n\nThe theory of evolution is supported by the evidence from the fossil record, from observation of living systems, and from our understanding of the mechanisms involved in inheritance. \n\nAs with the existence (or not) of an all-powerful deity, there is no way of proving or disproving ID: you can only believe.\n\nGreat discussion!!
Avatar of: Lee Bowman

Lee Bowman

Posts: 2

December 26, 2008

Bad design args are subjective, based on the presumption that an omni(3) designer would design perfect life forms. Flawed logic, since:\n\n*It assumes a monotheistic designer\n\n*It assumes that it follows logically, that any 'created' life form would be perfect.\n\n*It assumes that predator/prey and host/parasite relationships contravene a creator's benevolence.\n\n*It assumes that extinctions would never ensue.\n\nIn sum, it makes subjective conclusions, based on presuppositions.\n\nThe evidences of design are complexities that could never invent themselves. Monotheistically governed, perhaps, but seldom does one entity act alone, both here and 'out there.' Multiple designers, whether or not acting under a supreme authority, fit the competitive paradigms and the vast time periods. Where is it written (or logically inferred) that biologic life was to be Utopian, and without peril, conflict and challenges?\n\nBalance the above with the pleasures and fulfillments that a biologic existence provides, and you have a form of synergism. Famine, disability, illness, torture, and child rape are the extremes, but where free will is afforded, these untoward events will happen. Consider life to be a sporting event.\n\nRegarding extinctions, so what? We've (mostly) all driven cars in the past that are now extinct, so what's the problem? Similar to phylogenetic progressions, new models will take their place. All bioforms die, and their conscious inhabitants are free to recycle, or stay put in the spirit realm. From a dualistic perspective, physical dealth is not spiritual dealth. The good news would be that that possibility might open one to cosmic travel, where a bioform would be unable to exist, let alone traverse vast distances, but a non-corporeal entity would, perhaps.\n\nWhile not provable under the rules of science, there are evidences of the above scenario. OOB has been documented in thousands of cases, most in mutual conformance of the details, and reported by observers with no a priori agenda to fabricate an experience.\n\nNow philosophy aside, the evidence of design is rampant, and the butterfly, and other insect examples show a complexity that transcends any evolutionary mechanisms known, or proposed. ID is based, not on scriptural accounts, but on design inferences alone.\n\nOne commenter said that he didn't know of any ID adherents that weren't Christian, Moslem, or of other faiths, implying that that was the reason for their acceptance of ID. Fact be known, most religionists deny ID, since it goes against their creation conception, and of course, the Genesis account. \n\nIt actually works in reverse in many cases, where an awareness of 'design' in nature may precedes a conclusionary acceptance of faith, or in many cases, a TE position. So the canard that ID is religion in disguise is false, although the term has been co opted for religious purposes on occasion. \n\nIt is logical to assume, and we will know for sure someday, that we are not alone in the cosmos.\n
Avatar of: JAMES KOHL

JAMES KOHL

Posts: 53

December 26, 2008

I'm no theologian, just a clinical laboratory scientist who believes that the evolutionary conservation of a peptide ligand and diversification of its receptor attest to Creation via evolution (e.g., of all species that sexually reproduce). You hit on the importance of pheromones in your article. In case you ever have time to approach the case of the Large Blue from my perspective, I have published several times on the topic. Simply put, if olfactory/pheromonal stimuli and their associated chemical reactions drive the diversification of species with species-specific reproductive sexual behaviors, an Intelligent Designer could start with one yeast cell that recognized a difference between its "self" and another "non-self" yeast cell. All species (i.e., diversified) thereafter would then be created and could recreate themselves sexually. To me, this is like the Biblical story of Adam and Eve being told to go forth, be fruitfull, and multiply--except that Adam was one of the yeast cells created to recognize a difference between him and his non-self counterpart: Eve. The Adam and Eve story would have been easier for people to grasp 2000 years ago compared to the genetics, immunology, and neuroscience of today that one would need to understand to make an intelligent decision about intelligent design.
Avatar of: Marty Bacon

Marty Bacon

Posts: 1

December 27, 2008

\nAn interesting ecological study demonstrating system security and fragility is used, (jokingly???) to postulate there would never be any changes in an intelligent universe. \n\nGarbage if the author is serious, \n\nObscurely funny if he is joking.
Avatar of: Peter HIbbard

Peter HIbbard

Posts: 7

December 27, 2008

I agree with the writer who said the ID and religion have no place in science. That is not to say that individuals should not apply their own religous ethics to their decisions, but that is part of a belief system and the existance of God is subject to neither proof nor disproof by science. God cannot be put on a lab bench. That said, the argument that there must be a designer is reminicent of the times when Apollo was the explanation for the movement of the sun through the sky. In days past, anything that could not be fully and adaquately explained by the knowledge of the time was attributed to a God. This leads to a danger for modern religion that IF science produces a comprehensive answer, will that negate the need for God? Robert Pannock (Tower of Babel and Intelligent Design, Creationism and it Critics) calls this the "God of the Gap" and represents a real threat for religion, which must then oppose any attempts to actually find answers that contradict their teachings. People were executed for supporting a Heliocentric model of the solar system. The bigger issue seems to be the understanding of the term, "evolution". Evolution, defined as an inheritable change in the genome of a species, is not in doubt. It exists. What is subject to scrutiny is the explanation for the process. Science has some explanations for what has been observed, but, as in much of science, each new answer seems to generate new questions. In other words, the very nature of the debate is evolving. If there is ID, why are some offspring, human or otherwise, born with lethal mutations? It would appear that the designer is experimenting. An alternate explanation would be that evolution IS the mechanism of creation. If one accepts an all-powerful God, why would He (She?) be in a hurry? And why should you be privy to complete understanding? If you want information from the Bible, go back and read Genesis, the part about the error of humans in trying to be as knowledgable as God. (Got us kicked out of the Garden, right?) Pope John Paul II provided an adaquate explanation in 1996 when he said that science should explain what happens and how, and leave it to the Church to tell us why.
Avatar of: vetury sitaramam

vetury sitaramam

Posts: 69

December 28, 2008

If all things are created, who created God? If I were to extend the butterfly argument to the Bible, I would not know if he were created as the one and only jealous god or the more tolerant version of the New Testament. Even after the later, other adaptations of the Old Testament, the evolved God has been and still is, more responsible human misery than any other factor.He does not sem to be a product of an intelligent design. Has God created AK47 in his own image?\nAbsurd arguments seem to be as common in theology as are in science. A strange case of unity in absurdity.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 2

December 30, 2008

You just have to love the extent to which \n"conclusive" is used in dogmatic arguments.
Avatar of: Leslie Tobler

Leslie Tobler

Posts: 2

December 31, 2008

I thought it was a good article. It was not meant to be an indepth evaluation of Intelligent Design but instead an intelligent comment on Intelligent Design.
Avatar of: richard novick

richard novick

Posts: 3

January 5, 2009

Here are some musings on ID, creationism, etc. \n1. The concept of ?intelligence? is a purely human invention as is the concept of ?design?. Is it not slightly arrogant to attribute to natural processes either intelligence or design or the combination? In other words, are we (humans) not attempting to impose our own entirely parochial and artificial constructs on whatever process has engendered our natural world?\n2. One could argue either that god created man in its own image or vice-versa. If the former, then the concept of ?intelligent design? is god-given, as is all else human, and the argument in favor of intelligent design is nothing but simple creationism, a matter of faith, which is not falsifiable and therefore can in no way be construed as scientific. If the latter, then the concept of intelligent design is, like everything else human, a purely human construct which, in effect, precludes any suprahuman designer.\n3. If god created man, then it also created science and all things scientific, including evolution and all other natural laws; we, as scientists, have simply set ourselves the task of figuring it all out. If one believes this, one must accept the facts as revealed by science as god-given (i.e., designed) and there can be no argument about ?design?, intelligent or otherwise. But then there is (Judeo-Christian) scripture, which, if taken literally, states that the ?hand? of god accomplished creation in a manner that is set forth in a clear and entirely self-contained framework, that is 100% contradictory to what science, an agency of god, has incontrovertibly demonstrated. \n4. Stated differently, all early societies developed creation myths and the Creation according to Judeo-Christian Scripture is simply one such, has no more or less credibility than any of the others, and cannot be a matter of serious discourse. \n5. On a different tack, science, a human invention, and a rather recent one at that, differs fundamentally from creationism, as has amply been pointed out, in that it does not presume to have any a priori answers, but simply hopes to understand as much as it can of the way things are, were, and may be, and has sufficient humility to realize that humans are a rather insignificant feature of the universe.\n6. Pre-scientific thinking generated theologies and other pseudo-rational ideologies that gave rise to epistemological systems which were overthrown, one by one, by evidence-generating investigations (i.e., science).\n7. It is interesting that among all of the accomplishments of science, viewed unemotionally as a body of information that has explained a good deal of the natural order, and has given rise to many well-established principles ? natural laws, if you wish ? only biological evolution, and also geological evolution, continues to generate vociferous theological opposition. \n8. Why is this so? Why do we not hear questions about the validity of other scientific laws ? Newtonian mechanics, atomic structure, quantum mechanics, relativity, gravity, genetic heredity, biological mechanics, the cellular basis of life, chemistry and chemical reactions, structure of matter, etc.? \n9. Although the law of evolution is as well established as any other natural law, our understanding of evolution is certainly imperfect, as is our understanding of the phenomenology underlying any of the other natural laws.\n10. Pre-scientific (especially deistic) thinking has always invoked the supernatural to ?explain? phenomena beyond immediate comprehension, and one possibility is that attacking evolution may be its last bastion of defense against the hegemony of factual knowledge.\n11. Another possibility is that evolution, alone among the natural laws, directly challenges the key underpinnings of Christian (and certain other) theologies and this challenge is so profound that it simply cannot be tolerated: First, these theologies set humans apart from and superior to all other life forms, and support this position with the doctrine of immutability of species. Second, humans, unlike all other species, are endowed by various gods with immortal souls that transcend bodily existence and exist in an eternal afterlife. This gives rise to the doctrine of the sanctity of human ? as opposed to animal ? life. If species are not immutable and if humans evolved from pre-existing primates, which, in turn, evolved from earlier animals, then humans are not fundamentally different. In that case, human life is no more sacrosanct than that of other animals, or, for that matter, plants, all of which (or none of which) must also have immortal souls that inhabit the afterlife universe. \n12. This problem is the key to creationism, Intelligent design, and other anti-scientific doctrines and the damage they cause is not confined to esoteric philosophical discourse, but rather underlies many of the problems that the world is facing in the light of having been grievously overrun by our species: e.g., unsustainability driven by population explosion and environmental degradation; these are compounded by sexual ?morality? issues, as manifested by virulent opposition to contraception, abortion, homosexuality, etc. - And so it goes... . \n\n\n\n

Follow The Scientist

icon-facebook icon-linkedin icon-twitter icon-vimeo icon-youtube
Advertisement
Panasonic
Panasonic

Stay Connected with The Scientist

  • icon-facebook The Scientist Magazine
  • icon-facebook The Scientist Careers
  • icon-facebook Neuroscience Research Techniques
  • icon-facebook Genetic Research Techniques
  • icon-facebook Cell Culture Techniques
  • icon-facebook Microbiology and Immunology
  • icon-facebook Cancer Research and Technology
  • icon-facebook Stem Cell and Regenerative Science
Advertisement
Thermo Scientific
Thermo Scientific
Advertisement
Mettler Toledo
Mettler Toledo
Life Technologies