Dembski’s Predictions at Last!


BPSDB
Dembski has ruined my theory by providing his list of predictions. Dembski’s list can be found here. Let’s look at the first:

1) ID predicts that although there will be occasional degeneration of biological structures (both macroscopic and microscopic), most structures will exhibit function and thus serve a purpose. Thus most organs should not be vestigial, and most DNA should not be “junk DNA.” ID proponents have been saying this from the start, and they are now being vindicated. The human appendix, just in the last months, has been found to serve as a repository of friendly flora to keep the gut healthy. Similarly, seemingly useless “junk” DNA is increasingly being found to serve useful biological functions. For instance, James Shapiro and Richard Sternberg (2005) have provided a comprehensive overview of the functions of repetitive DNA-a classic type of junk DNA. Similarly, Roy Britten (2004) has outlined the functions of mobile genetic elements-another class of sequences long thought to be simply parasitic junk. In this case, ID has made potentially falsifiable predictions and neo-Darwinian theory has shown itself to be a science stopper.

Sigh! Here we go again. “Junk DNA” being functional is part and parcel of evolutionary theory as I pointed out in this post (also, follow the links, in the comments, to T. R. Gregory’s posts on the subject). I’ll not flog this dead horse more, although I would like to make one observation. Dembski claims “junk” DNA has a function as have some in the evolutionary biology community. Let’s play devil’s advocate and assume this position is vindicated. Does this count as a successful prediction for ID? Those in the evolutionary biology community? Both? Neither? Wouldn’t one have to put a successful prediction into the broader context of the theory the prediction is based on. In other words, wouldn’t we have to examine the theoretical underpinnings and determine if the prediction can be validly inferred from the theory?
What about vestigial organs? Here again, I think, Dembski somewhat misrepresents the thinking on this subject. I have been randomly leafing through the 2nd edition of Bernard Campbell’s Human Evolution: An Introduction to Man’s Adaptations, published in 1972 (this is an excellent book that I would love to see someone update). A couple of interesting passages stand out:

At the same time, since all parts of an organism require energy for their maintenance, any part that ceases to have a function will be rapidly lost in the process of evolution. Not only any part but any process will also be lost. As an example, color vision is believed to have been evolved by the reptiles and then lost in the very early period of mammalian evolution; it was evolved a second time in the evolution of the primates, but other mammals cannot see color because it has not been selected during their evolution. Thus we do not often find characters without functions, a fact that may well apply to so-called vestigial characters; it seems probable that they have at least a reduced function. [emphasis mine – afarensis]

Campbell also talked about the appendix:

There is one character that separates the Hominoidea from the monkeys: the former have a veriform appendix attached to the cecum. This tubular extension from the cecum in the Pongidae contains some lymphoid tissue, and in man somewhat more…While its function is not yet fully understood, it does not appear to be vestigial, as has often been claimed, but rather is a hominoid specialization that has reached its greatest elaboration in man. [emphasis mine – afarensis]

So at least one evolutionist was predicting a function for vestigial organs. There is one more vestigial organ that I would like to mention because Campbell makes a really interesting observation about it. This vestigial organ is the tail:

In man the tail is reduced to from three to five small vertebrae known as the coccyc. This reduction may be due to fast brachiation, sedate brachiation, or simply to man’s bipedal locomotion. We do not know when the tail was reduced, and at present no coccygeal vertebrae are known from Australopithecus. Reduction of the tail in modern man has not gone so far as in the gibbon, which may well be because it assumed a totally new function arising from man’s erect posture. The tail vertebrae, the coccyx, are now curved ventrally and help form the basin shaped structure that carries the viscera. Ligaments run from the forward pointing coccyx to the ischium – the lower part of the pelvis.

Like duplicate genes, vestigial organs can be co-opted to serve a different function.
Overall, then, Dembski’s predictions reflect a distortion of the literature and Dembsi fails to provide the critical part that was asked for:

Before we make a call on your clients, can you or they provide any samples of things that intelligent design theory has predicted, which researchers have later determined to be true?

Instead he provides a laundry list of ID talking points not much better than some of the predictions in the comments to that post. Consequently, I stand by my theory, Dembski was eaten by an octopus.
Literature Cited
Campbell, Bernard (1974) Human Evolution: An Introduction to Man’s Adaptations
Aldine Publishing Company: Chicago
Update 1: Bob O’Hara has more.

19 Responses

  1. It is more than a matter of making true predictions based on assumption of intelligent design. It is a matter of making true predictions based on intelligent design which cannot be made based on opposing assumptions of unintelligent design.
    As I understand it, Newton’s laws are based on the assumption that time and spce are fixed; while Relativity is based on the assumption that the speed of light is fixed. Newton has no prediction of any affect of gravity on the path of light. Einstein predicted that gravity warped space and caused the path of light to bend. This seems to be the case. Therefore Einstein offers us a more complete theory of the universe than did Newton. That Einstein and Newton both predict that, if you drive your car at 60 mph for three hours, you will go, sofar as you can tell, 180 miles, does not favor either theory.
    Physicists feel free to correct the above.

  2. It is more than a matter of making true predictions based on assumption of intelligent design. It is a matter of making true predictions based on intelligent design which cannot be made based on opposing assumptions of unintelligent design.
    As I understand it, Newton’s laws are based on the assumption that time and spce are fixed; while Relativity is based on the assumption that the speed of light is fixed. Newton has no prediction of any affect of gravity on the path of light. Einstein predicted that gravity warped space and caused the path of light to bend. This seems to be the case. Therefore Einstein offers us a more complete theory of the universe than did Newton. That Einstein and Newton both predict that, if you drive your car at 60 mph for three hours, you will go, sofar as you can tell, 180 miles, does not favor either theory.
    Physicists feel free to correct the above.

  3. Newton has no prediction of any affect of gravity on the path of light.

    Well, there might be one. If you plug into Newton the distance at which the escape velocity is the speed of light, you can calculate the Schwarzschild radius, to within a factor of 2 (if I remember correctly).
    On the other hand, mere dimensional analysis gets you there, too.

  4. These are “Sylvia Browne predictions”. That is, “predictions” made after the fact. I can “predict” in that way with near 100% accuracy on any subject. Wanna hear my prediction of who won the last 10 World Series?

  5. What an incredible disappointment. I was really looking forward to someone coming up with a critical observational or experimental test to distinguish whether ID operates instead or as well as NS. Really. Now we get non-predictions, based on no actual ‘ID’ theory, that agree with accepted evolutionary theory, and to which the answers are already known. Nul points!

  6. Now, now young man. You’ll never be a church burnin’ Ebola boy if you use the logo.
    Bob

  7. Now, now young man. You’ll never be a church burnin’ Ebola boy if you use the logo.
    Bob

  8. Now, now young man. You’ll never be a church burnin’ Ebola boy if you use the logo.
    Bob

  9. How does ID design predict that “there will be occasional degeneration of biological structures”?
    Does he think his magic sky fairy is a half-assed self-taught unschooled designer? Are all existing organisms merely beta releases, with their eventual perfection only a perpetually delayed promise as the designer learns from his mistakes?

  10. The selfish DNA hypothesis was proposed explicitly as an alternative to the then-dominant tendency, based on adaptationist thinking (i.e., “Darwinism”, properly defined), to expect a function for every segment of the genome. They unambiguously maintained the possibility that some non-genic regions would turn out to be functional, and regulatory or other essential sequences were not defined as selfish DNA. Scientists did not stop looking for functions after the idea was proposed. It did, however, remind us that selection could operate at more than one level, and not everything is automatically adaptive. ID is now making a “prediction” that was the standard assumption among the most ardent Darwinians up to the mid-1980s (and, among many, into the present time). Dembski’s history is as nonsensical as his projections.

  11. The selfish DNA hypothesis was proposed explicitly as an alternative to the then-dominant tendency, based on adaptationist thinking (i.e., “Darwinism”, properly defined), to expect a function for every segment of the genome. They unambiguously maintained the possibility that some non-genic regions would turn out to be functional, and regulatory or other essential sequences were not defined as selfish DNA. Scientists did not stop looking for functions after the idea was proposed. It did, however, remind us that selection could operate at more than one level, and not everything is automatically adaptive. ID is now making a “prediction” that was the standard assumption among the most ardent Darwinians up to the mid-1980s (and, among many, into the present time). Dembski’s history is as nonsensical as his projections.

  12. Ken Shabby, the answer is “the fall”. It’s Eve’s fault. Not that we have any intention of saying who the designer is… in public.
    Dembski in interview in San Francisco Chronicle: “It could be space aliens. There are many possibilities.”
    Dembski in interview with Focus on the Family: “The Designer of intelligent design is, ultimately, the Christian God.”

  13. Re Ahcuah
    The trouble is, since, in Newtonian physics the speed of light is not a limiting factor, one could imagine a mass great enough to set the escape velocity at twice the speed of light, or four times the speed of light, or, in fact, any finite number whatever.

  14. most structures will exhibit function and thus serve a purpose

    Wow! What a prediction! I sure wish wMAD had spelled out just what the Theory of Intelligent Design says, and how it could make such a remarkable prediction. I also wish he had gone into greater detail discussing “purpose.”

  15. Are all existing organisms merely beta releases…?

    Maybe the designer is just too busy finishing up “Duke Nukem 3”.

  16. Are all existing organisms merely beta releases…?

    Maybe the designer is just too busy finishing up “Duke Nukem 3”.

  17. I have to say this everywhere Dembski-Junk DNA is brought up:
    Dembski does not believe in common descent. Dembski believes humans were Specially Created.
    Thus any argument he makes about ‘junk DNA’ is junk because he doesnt believe in ‘junk DNA’ like ERVs. ERVs do not exist in William Dembskis world.
    God he is a tard.

  18. Don’t let him get away with 2) and 3)! Or 1), for that matter – besides not understanding what ‘vestigial’ means (middle school biology material), he makes no sound reasoning for why or how “neo-Darwinian theory” would predict nonfunctioning DNA (I use quotes because ID-proponents rarely know how to use these terms). Instead, it seems, he has wishful thinking as opposed to what scientists have held, which is that it does not seem to have an obvious regulatory or protein-coding function, but may or may not serve some other purpose.
    But back to 2) and 3) – 2) is just the watchmaker analogy, with its usual tragic flaws including the fact that watches don’t reproduce and their inner functions don’t alter over time. Cells are complex and perform various functions in order to live. That’s certainly in line with evolutionary theory, and just like 1) it doesn’t have a tie-in to ID other than a comical comparison of something like walking to motor proteins like myosin.
    3) Is even more fun due to its vagueness. It doesn’t just lack a concrete tie-in to ID, he never includes any explicit mathematical backup for his rants on information and NFL theorems. He’s arrived at the conclusion but failed to give his actual reasoning for reaching it, and in addition to this is yet another situation of attacking evolution and never giving any useful, testable, or even rational prediction for what ID-based-research will find.

  19. Re: SLC

    The trouble is, since, in Newtonian physics the speed of light is not a limiting factor, one could imagine a mass great enough to set the escape velocity at twice the speed of light, or four times the speed of light, or, in fact, any finite number whatever.

    So? What’s that got to do with anything? The point is, Newtonian physics predicts something like a black hole (in a limited sense). As long as the escape velocity is greater than the speed of light, it still predicts a black hole (but once again with all sorts of caveats compared to the real thing).

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