Friday, May 30, 2008

Around the Blogosphere 5/30/08

Denyse O'Leary at The Mindful Hack:

Commentator Dinesh D'Souza on The Spiritual Brain: Including stuff he didn't know

Denyse O'Leary at Colliding Universes:

Letter: Multiverses are nonsense but so is much contemporary physics

Denyse O'Leary at Uncommon Descent:

Out-of-print early ID book now available as a .pdf

Design Watch:

Scientists Discover a Molecular Scaffold That Guides Connections Between Brain Cells

Monday, May 26, 2008

Testing and the Designer-Centric Approach

Mike Gene posted Evidence for Design at The Design Matrix. Quoting:

Christopher Wills, a professor of biology from UCSD, and an ID critic, acknowledges that the ID hypothesis “is in principle testable.” What is most striking about Wills’s claims is that they are not indebted to the designer-centric approach. This demonstrates that, in the end, the designer-centric approach is a matter of taste and convenience, not necessity.

It is a rare ID critic who will acknowledge that one can test ID without first being introduced to the intelligent designer. Gene uses the phrase "designer-centric approach" to reference the insistence that discovery of a designer preceed discovery of the evidence the designer leaves behind.

Read the entire linked blog post of Mike Gene which contains his thoughtful comments. The post also has further links of its own.


Saturday, May 17, 2008

More on 'Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed'

FIRST-PERSON: The difference 'Expelled' will make is an article authored by William Dembski which discusses the movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed and other related matters. Quoting from the article:

Who's right? That's the wrong question. Anyone who has studied the history of science knows about "the pessimistic induction." The pessimistic induction says that all scientific theories of the past have to varying degrees been wrong and required modification (some were so wrong that they had to be abandoned outright). No scientific theory is written in stone. No scientific theory should be venerated. Every scientific theory should now and again be subjected to severe scrutiny. This is healthy for science.

Biological theories of origin (abiogenesis and evolution) do arouse a level of passion not found associated with other scientific fields of endeavor. That includes a defensiveness on the part of its advocates that belies the "pessimistic induction" noted by Dembski. Another quote:

Spotlighting yet another sin of society is all fine and good. Happily, Expelled also suggests a way forward in the debate over biological origins. The most surprising thing viewers learn from watching the film is the flimsiness of the scientific evidence for thinking life can be explained apart from a designing intelligence -- the other side's rhetoric notwithstanding. Take Jeffrey Kluger's review of the film for Time Magazine:

"He [Stein] makes all the usual mistakes nonscientists make whenever they try to take down evolution, asking, for example, how something as complex as a living cell could have possibly arisen whole from the earth's primordial soup. The answer is it couldn't -- and it didn't. Organic chemicals needed eons of stirring and slow cooking before they could produce compounds that could begin to lead to a living thing."

The author thinks he is being clever and that he is showing Ben Stein's ignorance of an essential element and guarantor of the process- eons of time. But it does nothing more than illustrate a substitution of scientific faith for empirical supporting data- something nonscientists, let alone scientists, should find objectionable.

The linked article includes this notice:

© Copyright 2008 Baptist Press. All Rights Reserved. Terms of Use.

Also of interest to potential viewers of the movie are links at this site.


Friday, May 16, 2008

What is Intelligent Design?

The Intelligent Design Movement is authored by William Dembski. It provides some historic background about Intelligent Design and contains this paragraph:

What then is Intelligent Design? Intelligent Design begins with the observation that intelligent causes can do things which undirected natural causes cannot. Undirected natural causes can place scrabble pieces on a board, but cannot arrange the pieces as meaningful words or sentences. To obtain a meaningful arrangement requires an intelligent cause. This intuition, that there is a fundamental distinction between undirected natural causes on the one hand and intelligent causes on the other, has underlain the design arguments of past centuries.

A meaningful arrangement of parts characterizes objects of known design. Writing is an example. The purposeful arrangement of symbols being characteristic of design. There is also this:

To say intelligent causes are empirically detectable is to say there exist well-defined methods that, on the basis of observational features of the world, are capable of reliably distinguishing intelligent causes from undirected natural causes. Many special sciences have already developed such methods for drawing this distinction-notably forensic science, cryptography, archeology, and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (as in the movie Contact).

Whenever these methods detect intelligent causation, the underlying entity they uncover is information. Intelligent Design properly formulated is a theory of information. Within such a theory, information becomes a reliable indicator of intelligent causation as well as a proper object for scientific investigation. Intelligent Design thereby becomes a theory for detecting and measuring information, explaining its origin, and tracing its flow. Intelligent Design is therefore not the study of intelligent causes per se, but of informational pathways induced by intelligent causes.

The generation of information stored and conveyed within symbolic systems is an indicator of design. Alphanumeric symbols have their counterpart in the realm of biology- codons composed of nucleotide "letters."


Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Whole Genome Scanning Approach

Jason Moore's Epistasis Blog features a post called The Pathway Less Traveled. The blog has some noteworthy entries and this, I believe, is one of them. Moore refers to a paper he co-authored which was accepted for publication in Current Pharmacogenomics and Personalized Medicine Quoting from the post:

Wilke, RA, Mareedu, RK, and Moore, JH. The Pathway Less Traveled: Moving from candidate genes to candidate pathways in the analysis of genome-wide data from large scale pharmacogenetic association studies. Current Pharmacogenomics and Personalized Medicine, in press (2008)


The candidate gene approach to pharmacogenetics is hypothesis driven, and anchored in biological plausibility. Whole genome scanning is hypothesis generating, and it may lead to new biology. While both approaches are important, the scientific community is rapidly reallocating resources toward the latter. We propose a step-wise approach to large-scale pharmacogenetic association studies that begins with candidate genes, then uses a pathway-based intermediate step, to inform subsequent analyses of data generated through whole genome scanning. Novel computational strategies are explored in the context of two clinically relevant examples, cholesterol synthesis and lipid signaling.