Monday, January 21, 2008

Intelligent Design Predictions

Denyse O'Leary presents her predictions from Intelligent Design. This was in response to a question which asked for ID predictions that have already shown to be true. While O'Leary presents none which have been shown to be true already, she does give 10 (as of this posting) predictions which she believes will be true in the future. Let's look at these one at a time.

1. No good theory will be found for a random origin of the universe, either by the Large Hadron Collider or anything else. The universe will consistently behave more like a great idea than a great machine.
This is not testable as worded. Perhaps with a timetable, this would make some sense. Also, what would it mean for the universe to behave like a "great idea"? It seems like the universe works very much like a well-oiled machine based on our ability to make scientific (testable) predictions. Also, the universe could very well be a great idea and a great machine. There is no reason to believe those are mutually exclusive concepts. There is, however, no evidence (because there is no conceivable test) for the universe being an "idea".
2. No good theory will be found for a random origin of life, though there will be plenty of huffing and puffing in favour of bad ideas. All theories that exclude purpose and design fail because they leave out the key driver - the purpose that life should come into existence.
Again, I have a problem with the word "good". This leaves wiggle room for backing out of acceptance of a theory that may be scientifically acceptable but is not "good enough" for the ID proponent (This is also known as God of the Gaps.)
3. Complete series of transitional fossils will not usually be found because most proposed series have never existed. Eventually, researchers will give up on ideologically driven nonsense and address the history that IS there. They will focus on discovering the mechanisms that drive sudden bursts of creativity.
Of course the complete series of transitional fossil will never be found. Animals do not easily fossilize, and we have surely destroyed millions of fossils stomping around the globe creating cities. We have, however found many transitional fossils. Tiktaalik is my favorite. Also, what does the phrase "discovering the mechanisms that drive sudden bursts of creativity" mean regarding fossils. Are we to presume that ID will lead us to an understanding of some god's reasons behind design? The mechanism that drives "sudden bursts in creativity" is evolution.
4. The environment will prove far more resilient than eco-doomsayers believe. People forget that the Permian extinction wiped out 90% of the marine life forms on this planet. Life seems to want to exist on this planet, even at the South Pole (cf March of the Penguins). Note: I have no time for environment destruction, and personally gave up keeping a car, as the simplest and most economical way to reduce my environment footprint. But I am NOT waiting for enviro-apocalypse!! - I don't believe it will happen. There will be changes. That's all. Not the end of the world or anything like it.
How is this related to Intelligent Design?
5. No account of human evolution will show a long slow emergence from unconsciousness to semi-consciousness to consciousness, let alone that consciousness is merely the random firing of neurons in the brain. However consciousness got started, it appeared rather suddenly and it permanently separates humans from our genetic kin, however you want to do the gene numbers and however much time researchers spend coaxing monkeys to stop relieving themselves on the keyboard and type something meaningful.
I do not understand the example about the monkeys, but I believe that neurologists are working very hard on this problem. If I were a neurologist, I am sure I could come up with some fascinating studies. (If anyone knows any good papers on this, leave them in the comments.) Anyway, this is a prediction that is not possible to test. Negatives cannot be proven. (I should not here that O'Leary has "Positive predictions" after each numbered prediction, but they make little to no sense as predictions. I believe she intends them to be positive outcomes from her "predictions.")
6. Claims that the human brain is full of "anachronistic junk" will be falsified, just as century old claims that there are hundreds of vestigial organs in the human body were falsified. The human body will be recognized as suitable for the purposes for which we exist. (Not in all cases perfect, to be sure, but in general suitable.)
I would guess we would needed to know the purpose of our existence to address this claim. However, the first part of this prediction is testable but not very meaningful. Scientific theories change all the time as new evidence is found to support this or that idea. It's just how science works. Chances are we'll improve on every scientific theory given enough time.
7. No useful theory of consciousness will demonstrate that consciousness is merely the outcome of the random firing of neurons in the brain. All useful theories will accept that the mind and the brain exist in a relationship. Research will focus on delineating the relationship more clearly. That will greatly benefit medical research, especially research on difficult mental disorders such as phobias, depression, etc.
This is very similar to prediction 5. I'm not sure many people believe that the neurons in the brain fire completely at random, even if only the ones that produce consciousness. I do agree, however, that learning more about the brain and consciousness is medically useful.
8. No useful theory of free will (human volition) will demonstrate that it does not really exist. Free will (which includes using the mind to help heal bodily injuries) will become an important tool of medicine, especially for helping aging people toward a better quality of life. For example, the fact that a drug only need perform 5% better than a placebo to be licensed for use will encourage the development of mind-based treatments for people who would otherwise be forced to take antagonistic drugs.
I don't know how free will is related to psychic healing, but I am quite sure psychic healing does not exist. In fact, prayer has little to no effect on healing other people. Personal meditation does often helps due to its calming nature.
9. No useful theory of human psychology will be founded on claims about what happened in the caves of our ancestors (= evolutionary psychology). That is because there are no genes that simply "cause" behaviour in a clinically normal human being. The mind is real and humans create their social environment by mental effort. Information is passed on from mind to mind, not through genes or physiology.
This is just wrong. Almost every sentence. Evolutionary psychology is a new field. As it grows, I am sure we will see many new ideas emerge. However, saying that all behavior is caused mental effort (I'm pretty sure she implies this.) is crazy. There are chemicals in the brain which have been proven to produce all kinds of emotions and behaviors. There are even chemicals that produce a profound religious feeling.
10. I have decided to add a tenth prediction (but I am not changing the hedder for tech reasons). The ID guys will win because they are more interesting. I just got done rejecting a whack of comments by people I take to be boring young fogies with plenty of time on their hands (a problem I certainly don't have).
I guess there are no need to include this one except out of a need for completeness. Its ridiculousness is palpable.

As you can see, these predictions are absolutely meaningless and none of them prove anything about ID one way or the other. It's almost as if O'Leary asked an astrologer for ID predictions. They are that vague and untestable. Also, I find it interesting that as a Roman Catholic, O'Leary does no side with the Vatican which have an official stance in support of evolution. That was on of the things I appreciated, being raised Roman Catholic and going to a Catholic grade school. I was still taught science and not fundamentalist fairy tales.

I would also like to quote a comment from the blog. I think it speaks for itself but I will provide some context as a way of being fair. O'Leary is responding mostly to this paragraph of the comment by someone named Corn:
When a med student is learning a procedure (for example, a second trimester D&E) they don't learn about religious objections to the practice, they learn how to perform the practice safely (relative to the mother of course), to minimize risk (to the mother's life), and to look out for the various (medical) complications that may ensue. It is in their philosophy class that they learn about Medical Ethics and what controversies, both religious and non-religious, surround the procedure (at my school ME was a required course, I suspect the same at other schools). It is in their psychology classes that they learn about the psychological trauma that may be experienced by those who've undergone the procedure.
Here is her response.
Corn, your choice of D and E abortions (as "science?") speaks volumes, actually. "Science" is about killing kids and "philosophy" is about the oddd views of people who are upset by the fact that one does it?

As for my predictions, I am simply waiting to see if they pan out. I only argue about such things with publishers.
Then why post about it and accept comments?

Thanks to Blake Stacey and Jason Rosenhouse for leading me to this bit of nonsense.

13 comments:

Prazzie said...

Ben said: "Then why post about it and accept comments?"

I tried to comment there, but it says "New comments have been disabled for this post by a blog administrator".

Gaaaah! The frustration could very well be the death of me.

As for her "As for my predictions, I am simply waiting to see if they pan out" line - did the nice corn not point out to her that she was using the word "predictions" incorrectly?

I predict that gravity will eventually fail and we are all going to float into outer space and die. I'm just going to hang around and see if my dandy scientific prediction "pans out".

Someone should direct that insufferable woman to Long Bets, just in case she doesn't live long enough to see whether her positive predictions pan out. Also, it would require her to put a time frame on her nutso* "predictions".

*Sorry, I'm so astounded by this post that I've retreated back to a time when I read Hardy Boys and the worst insult I knew was calling someone "nutso".

Ben said...

She did have comments up for a while. She also moderates them not only to control spam and crazies, but to control the content. I am assuming the ones that are up there are only because she had a response she felt was adequate.

I also noticed in her blog that she wanted help from a physicist to write on multiverse theories. Given how she has molested science, I would stay away from it if it were to appear in some bookstore in the future.

Prazzie said...

"She did have comments up for a while"

Of course, I realise, hence my happy journey there to leave my comment too. I didn't mean to imply that you were incorrect, I meant to point out that she's retreated into "lalalalalala I can't hear you!" land.

Ben said...

Oh I said that more for anyone else reading these comments. I figure that since you took the time to look at her site that you probably know as much if not more than I do about her.

Flavin said...

Unknowingly, she has produced a great prediction. "All theories that exclude purpose and design fail because they leave out the key driver - the purpose that life should come into existence." This is testable: examine the success or failure of theories that do not address purpose, and for those that fail see if the lack of purpose was the reason they failed. Best of luck to Denyse on her hypothesis!

Eventually, researchers will give up on ideologically driven nonsense and address the history that IS there.
I can't wait until the Discovery Institute does this.

No account of human evolution will show a long slow emergence from unconsciousness to semi-consciousness to consciousness, let alone that consciousness is merely the random firing of neurons in the brain.
Consciousness is not produced by random firings of neurons. That's called a seizure.

The human body will be recognized as suitable for the purposes for which we exist. (Not in all cases perfect, to be sure, but in general suitable.)
It already has been by those who know it evolved to fit the environment. Is she saying IDers will finally leave Pangloss behind and catch up to the rest of the world on this?

Also, over at ID nest , Denyse has put up a little more info on her amazing psychic powers.

Back in 2001, I predicted that intelligent design would be BIG news by mid-decade, while some Darwinist or other was reshaping neo-Darwinism to fit the facts (retrodiction) or prophesying ID’s death every six months (malediction?). I, meanwhile, sold a book on the basis of my prediction (By Design or by Chance? Augsburg 2004) and got named as co-author on another one (The Spiritual Brain, Harper One, 2007). And who was right on the facts?

By "reshaping neo-Darwinism to fit the facts" I can only assume she means "doing science," because what else should a theory fit but facts? So, just like all ID theorists, she writes and sells a book, all the while letting the facts pass her by.

Ben said...

Selling a book = correct?

I'm so confused.

Ben said...

Also, what the hell is Darwinism? Is there some place that offers a class on it? I'm pretty sure they teach evolutionary biology places, but I see nothing about proclaiming Darwin as god. It's the ideas, not the man that is important. I should turn this thought into a post later.

bob-eldritch said...

Prediction:

Any scientific discovery of a purposeful universe would not clearly demonstrate "Intelligent Design". This is because if there is any unambiguous definition of the term "intelligent" then this could only be an attribute of living organisms such as human beings.

scripto said...

"That is because there are no genes that simply "cause" behaviour in a clinically normal human being. The mind is real and humans create their social environment by mental effort."

Guess we all better remember to breathe.

questforright said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ben said...

Please don't advertise on my blog.

Prazzie said...

Flavin: "That's called a seizure."

I hate to have to do this, but lol!

Ben, yes please do a post about this "Darwinism". I'm slowly losing teeth over that issue. Just last week I was accused of this: "if u think u are going 2shove ur pseudo-atheistic darwinian religion down my through in the childish unorganised manner in which u started u are wasting your time".

No, I don't know what that means either. But I'd love to find out more about my Darwinian religion and how much it's going to cost me.

Ben said...

The trick will be to do it in a way that is not a seething rant. And to that other poster.....WHAT??