Truth or Market Share? Intelligent Design vs. Evolution 2.0

After my radio debate with Stephen Meyer, the Discovery Institute Volleyed back.

They took umbrage with me defining the debate in terms of “Market Share”:

Perry Marshall: I take the position I take, because if I take the old school Neo-Darwinist position I will lose market share every year as more and more things turn out to be orderly instead of random.

If I take the creationist or Intelligent Design/Discovery Institute position, I will lose ground every year as they explain more and more evolutionary steps with observable processes.

But if I take the Third Way view, my market share will grow and grow because the explanatory power of an integrationist, non-reductionist paradigm which also considers consciousness.

Sure, I’m talking about eyeballs. But I’m also talking about truth and street cred.

Every year, scientists discover natural systems and processes that creationists and ID people long ago declared to be interventions of an Intelligent Designer.

This does not bother most religious people, because in the end God made everything anyway. But every time this happens, ID gets a black eye.

This makes a world of difference to a scientist, who can only get paid to discover natural processes.

The ID framework may help a scientist see order where others only see randomness. But at the end of the day it still has to be a process.

Otherwise, no paycheck.

Yeah, I know. Paychecks are crass too.

But scientists still have to earn them. And those grant committees can be brutal.

Does my preoccupation with paychecks and empiricism make me less interested in the truth? Absolutely not. Because truth takes many forms.

Suppose DOS evolved into Windows 10 over the last 35 years, all by itself, with no software engineers in Redmond Washington… suppose it developed a Windows desktop, an internet connection, a browser, Word and Excel… all by itself.

Would you be less impressed with Bill Gates? Or would you be more impressed?

And if DOS could evolve into Windows 10, would you accuse Bill Gates of monistic idealism or quantum mysticism? Or would you suspect he was far and away the greatest software genius that ever lived?

And if you’re any kind of engineer or entrepreneur, wouldn’t you want to know how that self-adapting software works in the first place?

Do you think you might find some cool applications for code like that?

What I’m suggesting is: ID sets its sights way too low.

Darwinists underestimate nature. Creationists underestimate God.

I’m not merely theorizing. When I discovered Barbara McClintock’s work in 2006, I said to myself, “HOW COME NOBODY IS TALKING ABOUT THIS???? This is the biggest untold story in all of science – and everybody is just ignoring it!”

In McClintock’s 1984 Nobel Prize paper, she describes the adaptive behavior of genomes. The title of her paper is “The Significance of Responses of the Genome to Challenge.” In this paper, she describes not only threats for which her plants clearly had pre-programmed responses (like heat shock) but also singular responses to unique threats that no plant could possibly anticipate.

Barbara wrote, “Induction of such reprogrammings by insects, bacteria, fungi, and other organisms, which are not a required response of the plant genome at some stage in its life history, is quite astounding… It is becoming increasingly apparent that we know little of the potentials of a genome. Nevertheless, much evidence tells us that it must be vast.”

She continues, “A goal for the future would be to determine the extent of knowledge the cell has of itself, and how it utilizes this knowledge in a “thoughtful” manner when challenged.”

You can label this monistic idealism. You can call it mysticism. I call it empirical scientific observation. I call it not being afraid to ask an incredibly obvious question:

“How do those cells know how to do that???”

The first algorithms I wrote were on my HP calculator in college. For the last 15 years I’ve been advising advertisers who spend tens of thousands of dollars per day on Google AdWords how to deal with Google’s 21st century algorithms.

I know algorithms.

And what a plant does is not an algorithm.

“Algorithm” is a useful metaphor, for sure. But whatever a cell does is a living algorithm. Something human engineers have no category or language for. The word algorithm doesn’t begin to capture what the cell actually does.

And please note, McClintock was not theorizing about what might have happened over millions of years. She was describing direct personal observation and experiments.

Is all of this “front loaded”? Is it pre-programmed? Or is nature in some sense truly free to develop as it desires?

I don’t know. But as a person who’s worked with information systems in acoustics, digital signal processing, analog signal processing, digital communication protocols for 35 years, having authored an Ethernet book, the only things that do what living things do are things that possess willfulness and linguistic capability.

Which is exactly what I’m seeing when a protozoan cuts its DNA into 100,000 pieces and radically alters its physiology in response to stress – in 12 hours. And its “program” doesn’t even crash!

You guys are looking for miracles. But there’s one staring you in the face with every symbiogenesis experiment. There’s a natural living miracle in every McClintock paper, every Margulis paper, every Shapiro paper.

So I am pursuing a body of empirical, experimental TRUTH that grows with each passing year.

YES – “where this all came from” is a mystery. Where the information originally came from is a mystery. Absolutely it is.

Günter Bechly said, “Intelligent agents cannot be their own designers, because they have to come into existence before they can design anything.

I agree.

So the larger question is: Where do codes come from in the first place?

My answer is a $3 million technology prize for anybody who can figure it out. Because I’m here to carry empiricism as far as it can be taken.

All these questions about what bacteria “know” only serve to highlight the original origin of information problem. I suspect that the answer to both questions is the same. I suspect it’s got something to do with consciousness.

Maybe my challenge will still be here in 500 years, prize money unclaimed. Like Euclid’s parallel postulate, which stands unproven after 2500 years.

I’m fine if nobody ever solves Origin of Information. I’m also in favor of getting it solved. Maybe someone will solve it tomorrow.

Either way, we won’t have to listen to made-up stories by Richard Dawkins about warm ponds and happy chemical accidents anymore.

And if the problem of chemicals-to-code is solvable, I’m on the side of solving it.

So let’s handle a few objections before I go:

OBJECTION: “Given the lack of any physical basis for such intelligence on the level of simple organisms like bacteria, this intelligence must be based on an immaterial mind.”

ANSWER: Nobody knows why or how bacteria do what they do. Nobody knows what a cell knows about itself.

Barbara McClintock reported: “The stimulus associated with placement of the insect egg into the leaf will initiate reprogramming of the plant’s genome, forcing it to make a unique structure adapted to the needs of the developing insect.”

If one insect burrowing into a plant leaf causes restructuring of the plant’s genome, automatically forming a symbiosis between plant and creature… then what other questions have we not even thought to ask?

Are we in any position to declare what cells can’t do? Especially when most of us are ignoring what cells can do?

QUESTION: “Why do we need brains at all?”

ANSWER: Isn’t it obvious that every organ in your body possesses its own kind of intelligence? Does not the stomach “know” how to digest food? Does not your immune system “know” how to fight pathogens? And isn’t it obvious that your brain does very different jobs than either of those other organs?

And is it not true that nearly every cell in your body has the ability to cut, splice, and re-arrange its own DNA?

What are those editing systems really capable of?

Does anybody know?

I say we stand to find a lot more answers than we’ve gotten so far. I believe in God, but abdicating to God of the Gaps won’t help us in this most important of quests.

7 Responses

  1. Andrew says:

    Brilliant text. That’s true intellectual honesty. Thanks!

  2. Joseph Haire says:

    This paper must be what you were alluding to in your original ad for your book when you claimed that new information has been proven to be able to be self generating. If that is what you were referring to,that is a bit of a leap.
    Granted, I havn’t studied McClintock’s paper, but from what You share about it, this has nothing to do whatsoever with information genesis. An organism responding in a way you were unaware it could does not prove a thing other than its capabilities.
    I am curious about these processes discovered every year that baffle creationists…I follow it very closely and watch all the debates I can find and have yet to hear any evolutionary scientist making these claims. To the contrary, they are destroyed every time without exception. Which is why evolutionists don’t do debates much anymore.
    Yours, sir, is simply another attempt to try to squeeze millions of years into the Bible. Why? Evolution is bad science and produces no useful knowledge.
    Asserting that if Bill Gates had designed self evolving computer systems would not make me think more of him, it would make me think him a liar, since he has revealed how he did it and that ain’t it. Biblical creation doesn’t put God in a box. Evolution is sloppy and full of death and disease, that doesn’t sound like something ‘very good’. Unless you are claiming belief in a god other than the one of the Bible…and if so, do you also believe in Jesus? Because if death existed before sin, Jesus died for no reason. Death is the wages of sin. If you are going to cut out parts of your bible you don’t think are intellectually satisfying, where do you stop? Pull on one thread and the whole thing unravles.
    My suspicion is, like most theistic evolutionists, you have been overexpossed to evolutionary indoctrination and under exposed to your Bible…As well as creation science, it really is more scientifically sound.
    I’m not mad at you personally, sir, I’m glad you believe in God. My concern with these types of compomise theories is that by not standing on the authority of scripture, you are telling the youth that they don’t have to either. You are not saving intelligent believers from supposedly having to check their brain at the door, you are compromissing the integrity of the gospel.

    • I have no patience for your theological accusations and judgments. To be frank you have not explored this subject or this website enough to join this conversation yet.

      Start by reading McClintock’s paper, please.

      Also read what I have written about “death before the fall.”

  3. Joe Coddington says:

    I disagree that believing and searching for evidence that “God created things” will put scientist out of work. I think arguments in “The Privlegded Planet,” (transparent atmosphere, transparent place in galaxy, can study sun”s atmosphere only during eclipse) gives argument for scientist to have a mandate from the creator to study his creation. But if science is only able to look for evidence of athiesism and suppress any apparent contradiction between science and atheism then and only then will people see science as an enemy of a loving God or hopes of seeing their loved ones again. The latter is what will make young people to not want to go into science and will cause boos from citizens as politicians give money to science. That is what will prevent scientist from having a job.

    • Agreed, but if the difference between one species and another is always explained as an outside act of God, you constantly stand in danger of missing what nature itself is capable of doing.

  4. oldagg says:

    Bill Gates’ program would still be only a program. McClintock’s plant is still a plant of the same variety. To this old average guy the question about codes / information seems self-evident: its source must be an intelligent, self-aware entity smart enough and powerful enough to accomplish the result we see. In regards to the Universe and everything in it, that source has been shown to be the God of the Bible (at least to my satisfaction). Can we ever discover how he has built instinct into a cell? I don’t know. But if we ever do find the element of that cells “knowing”, it will not prove that it came about naturalistically but only that whatever information necessary for its accomplishment was implanted at the beginning. Foor, as with ll such complicated processes, the first cell had to have it all, functioning, at the beginning did it not??

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