Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Pathways to an Intelligent or Telic Inference

An interview of Nancy Pearcey was brought up in a previous post. I've included two more questions and answers from the interview in this post. Nancy breaks down and categorizes different approaches to ID. From the interview:

CS: So there's an intelligent cause behind the DNA?

NP: Right. There are three major areas where ID builds its case. One is the fine tuning of the universe, the many physical constants of the universe that seem to be so finely tuned to allow life to emerge. Fundamental constants like gravity and the electromagnetic force have to be so incredibly precise in their values — and there are so many of them — that it boggles the mind to think they are merely all "cosmic coincidences." It begins to look, then, like they have the value they do because someone intended it that way. This is so widely recognized by cosmologists today that "the God question" is now a very open discussion. The second area where ID scientists are developing positive evidence for design is Mike Behe's argument that many structures in the cell do not seem to be the kind of things that could come about by a gradual process.

Nancy Pearcey points to fine tuning as the basis upon which a case for ID can be made.

CS: Irreducible complexity?

NP: Yes, but the media tend to misstate the argument in terms of "it's too complex to have evolved." That's too simplistic. It's really a logical question about what kind of structures can be constructed in gradual steps and which structures have to be organized at the beginning. Is it an aggregate structure — like a pile of sand, which can be built up one piece at a time — or is it a complex structure, for which you need a blueprint from the beginning because all the parts interrelate? A kind of structure that can't be built up gradualistically. And the third area where ID is building its case is the argument from DNA and information theory; that is, where does complex biological information come from? Do natural causes as we know them produce information?

In singling out irreducible complexity Nancy Pearcey first discounts the popular cliche that ID signifies an argument based on "its too complex to have evolved." Actual arguments focus on both mechanisms for generating change and natural selection. Irreducible complexity calls into question the adaquacy of both of these orthodox pillars. Pathways to new complex structures and functions involve a series of incremental changes; all of which must have selective value. Changes must become predominant throughout a population.

There are subtle variations of ID positions that center around both the mechanism for change and natural selection. At Telic Thoughts Mike Gene, Krauze and others have championed a case for front loading. This takes advantage of the natural selection concept in an interesting way. Assume that in a line of descent (represented by x and y) a gene (or genes) were found in x having no reproductive enhancing properties. However the same gene located in y was both functional and essential. This would involve inheritance based on a front loaded capacity identified through a selection anomaly.

My own ID candidate is focused on Nancy Pearcy's last area; information rich DNA. The history of life on earth, according to standard models, envisions processes that incrementally enhance the information content of DNA from its RNA world inception. The directional arrow is clear but acquired information must be retained for this model to be plausible. A complex of factors threaten the integrity of genomes including radiation, chemical reactions and copying errors. Existing mechanisms would have had to evolve to neutralize their effects. The question is could they evolve or must they be front loaded to prevent the destruction of life at its outset? Indications that information loss exceeds gains, in the absence of DNA repair mechanisms, supports ID.


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