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.

12 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. Tom Godfrey says:

    Perry,

    Your phrase “abdicating to God of the gaps” may serve as a convenient insult to some people who disagree with you, but it may also represent a distortion or perhaps an unintentional straw man. I think the same goes for your earlier explanation for not taking the creationist position, namely, your worry that you “will lose ground every year as [people] explain more and more evolutionary steps with observable processes.” Note that any explanation of what actually happened in the past has to be pure speculation if it is based on observation of processes in real time and a presupposition that no miracle was actually involved in real history. Think about it. What if a new explanation comes to light and is used in a creation myth, but later, a better explanation comes to light? It’s hardly impossible. Dogmatic science is dead science.

    Has a creationist ever needed to change a belief about what the Bible tells us about origins due to a new explanation based on an observable process? I think a creationist simply believes what the Bible clearly says. One with training in science may also help bring to light physical evidence inconsistent with the tentative theories of atheists eager to write an alternative account of origins. Your “God of the gaps” concept suggests that creations are also trying to piece together a story from physical evidence, but whenever they come to a gap not supported by available evidence, they simply say that God did it to fill the gap. Is this what creationist do? In reality, Genesis is what they believe, regardless of gaps, which are inevitable in any story. Where is the black eye here?

    One other point you seem to be overlooking is that creationists have no problem at all with “direct personal observation and experiments.” This is the ordinary work of scientists eager to learn about nature and the laws of nature as they operate in the absence of miracles. Whatever has been learned about the amazing abilities of cells through this approach is no exception, but this by no means commits one to a conclusion that Darwin’s tree of life must be a fact of real history.

    As you know, all kinds of nonsense ideas can be believed if only one can ignore the problems with it. It might help to consider some examples of this principle in operation.

    One might believe, for example that the currently observed speed of light and astronomers’ statements that innumerable stars are billions of light-years away must mean that the universe must have begun, if it ever had a beginning at all, at least billions of years ago. How could those years needed for light to travel to earth be squeezed into only about 7000 years? As you know, the edge of the observable universe is supposed to be about 46.5 billion years away, but squeezing this into only 13.8 billion years is no problem at all, right? The discrepancy is explained by the natural expansion of space. Could God have miraculously expanded space in the beginning? You evidently want to ignore this angle. It would violate the no-miracle presupposition, right?

    Have you seen this?
    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/03/oldest-life-earth-iron-fossils-canada-vents-science/
    I suppose most atheists read this article with no embarrassment at all, and yet, as intelligent and good at evolving as cells are supposed to be, possibly the oldest forms of life never evolved at all. They are evidently still with us and continue the same lifestyle they are supposed to have enjoyed billions of years ago. This article also shows how an atheist’s story of origins is ever subject to revision. How long ago did life appear on earth? The experts will get back with us on that.

    The fossils featured above are hardly unique. Think of Neanderthal and all the highly evolved animals that are now extinct, and yet the lowly loriciferans still soldier on as they have, in theory, for millions of years.
    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/01/170130133409.htm

    In general, the fossil evidence for the tree of life is quite meager, based mostly on fragmentary, difficult-to-identify remains of terrestrial vertebrates, practically ignoring the relatively rich evidence of no evolution available in the fossils of plants, insects, and marine invertebrates. The next article illustrates nicely how this works. Focus on the tail fragment and ignore the nicely preserved ant that refused to evolve.
    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/12/feathered-dinosaur-tail-amber-theropod-myanmar-burma-cretaceous/

    You may be able to sweep this kind of stuff under the rug, including evidence featured in this next article, too, but not all of us can do this. It takes too much faith.
    https://answersingenesis.org/astronomy/cosmology/galaxies-unexplained-spirals/

  4. 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.

  5. Joel Roadruck says:

    I believe the debate between Creation/Design vs Evolution has been incorrectly framed. Every living organism alive today is the result of evolution and every living thing clearly shows complex design. DNA is exponentially more complex than the binary code used by programmers to update code from DOS to Windows10. No one denies that computer code is the result of intelligent design.
    The huge error with evolution is thinking that it adds information just like intelligent Microsoft programmers. That is simply not the case. The process of evolution is one of loss (or rearrangement) of information. The logic mistake is made because it can be observed that organisms have been able to adapt to their environment through the process of natural selection. This is deemed good and is incorrectly viewed as new design but the term natural selection is apt. The genetic trait must already be in the DNA in order for it to be selected so evolution is therefore a FUNCTION of the design.
    Evolution is true but it never creates new information and thus designs nothing.

  6. 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??

  7. Joe Baublis says:

    PM writes ““How do those cells know how to do that???”. If that is meant to be a rhetorical argument, then it may be a fallacy of logic because PM has not proved that the cells “know” anything. And although PM appears to argue that the genomic response is not an “algorithm”, PM has not proved that a theoretical intelligent designer is limited to PM’s understanding of algorithm programming. The mere fact that PM thinks that “only” willfulness and language explain genome rearrangement does not mean that the Intelligent Designer was limited by PM’s claim. At least, I don’t see a proof from PM. For example, isn’t it possible that what PM recognizes as “willfulness” is actually just a design for which PM has no other explanation? If so, then isn’t PM – essentially – arguing from his own ignorance?

    As for PM’s reliance on Gunter Brechly’s alleged limits on intelligent design origin, the are some problems. For example, one need not know the origin of a designer but still draw a reasonable deduction that a highly complicated machine was designed by a designer. I can deduce that a designer designed my motor vehicle , but I don’t need to know where that designer was born. The Bechly claim also may have a problem with time because because his claim appears to depend on a Intellgent Creator existing within human perception of linear time. But that is a fallacy or logic. Can we really know whether – or not – the Divine Intelligent Designer existed BEFORE his designs? Can such knowledge be proved? Perhaps not. After all, neither “time” (nor space nor matter, nor energy) appears to have existed prior to the singularity event from which the universe is scientifically theorized to have exploded in the Big Bang. Without that “time” Bechly’s claim is rendered moot, and that plus the rug out from beneath Perry Marshalls argument.

  8. Dennis ODonnell says:

    Enjoyed this article, Perry!

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