Monday, 29 November 2010

C4ID’s Introduction to Intelligent Design: Part 9

 The Centre for Intelligent Design website features a set of brief (sometimes very brief) pdf documents which collectively form an Introduction to Intelligent Design, credited as written by Dr Alastair Noble, C4ID Director.  This pamphlet sets out C4ID’s manifesto for ID. Often these documents are written in a way that could be seen as persuasive to the uninformed.  On closer inspection, there is nothing new – the arguments are the same as those demolished in Kitzmiller v Dover Area School District.

Part 9 relies heavily on the writing of Paul Davies, who’s quoted in the first paragraph:
Living organisms are mysterious not for their complexity per se, but for their tightly specified complexity. To comprehend fully how life arose from non-life, we need to know not only how biological information was concentrated, but also how biologically useful information came to be specified.’
It isn’t particularly clear from this quotation what is meant by ‘specified complexity’,but see this article by my BCSE colleague Paul Braterman (Beacon Vol XIIV, No 2 pp4-6). Noble goes on to observe that the origin of genetic information is unclear (but of course science has several hypotheses), and revisits Bill Gates’ unsatisfactory (though of course it might of been satisfactory in its original context) analogy of genetic information as a software programme.
Essentially all Noble can come up with in Part 9 is that he cannot comprehend (presumably this reflects his scientific background as a chemist rather than a biologist) where this information has come from:
Now this poses a fundamental question. Where does this very complex and highly specific information come from? [I’ll give you a clue] All our experience tells us that information only arises from prior intelligence. The information in a letter comes from the mind of its writer. An article in a newspaper comes from the mind of the journalist who wrote it. The information in a PC comes from the mind of the software engineer who wrote it. There is no known example anywhere of functional information arising randomly or by chance. We only get information from prior intelligence.
This is a classic argument from ignorance. Bronze age goat herders can’t understand how the world came to be, so they write Genesis (which, bizarrely, some otherwise intelligent humans in the 21st century still believe!); Behe can’t understand the evolution of the bacterial flagellum, so a designer (aka God) must have done it. Noble cannot understand the growth and change of biological information through the history of life on this planet, so a designer must have done it. And I cannot believe, given his status as a lay preacher that this designer does not equate to hid God.
Noble finishes in fine, if illogical, style:
The origin of the information in DNA alone is sufficient grounds for proposing the Theory of Intelligent Design.
Er, not for this biologist it isn’t. It’s just intellectual cowardice.
Robert Saunders, BSc (Hons), PhD

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