Evolution - Panda's Thumb and Teleology
Reading Panda's Thumb and their response by Burt Humburg to the Dawkin's article I commented on yesterday and I came across these gems.
Teleological thinking is generally shunned as a scientific method because it’s not useful, but concepts in science are often a lot easier to get across if teachers refer to enzymes or organelles being “designed” to do a particular function.So other than using teleological thinking when it is useful, it isn't useful in science? Thats funny. Of course, it isn't just used in 'teaching concepts' as anyone who regularly reads scientific journals should know.
For example from Gong et al., “Dynamic Error Correction and Regulation of Downstream Bubble Opening by Human RNA Polymerase II,” Molecular Cell, Volume 18, Issue 4, 13 May 2005, Pages 461-470; you can find the following teleological words
high fidelity, quality control, inner workings, genetic coding, exquisite nanotechnology in living systems, genetic control, blueprint for life, industrial assembly line, conveyor belt, preloading, criteria, backs up to correct the error, sensed and corrected, acceptable level of error required for the speed at which cells must reproduce, elegance of cell creation, fidelity mechanism, tried and true design, and enduring design.
or maybe Q&A: Howard Berg, Current Biology, Volume 15, Issue 6, 29 March 2005, Pages R189-R19
Many such papers exist heavily using teleological concepts to describe and understand biological systems.
(HT: Creation Safaris)
Similarly, Dawkins talks about the incorrect default explanation of design. That is, to a creationist, once one rules out a current understanding of science or evolution, it’s as good as proving design. This is an intrinsic failure of an eliminative method, like Dembski’s “Explanatory Filter.” (Suspect design, rule out chance; rule out science: design.)Burt fails to explain why chance or even evolution should be considered the default answer. It is just assumed. He does go on to talk about likelihood
I don’t want to gild Dawkins’ lily but he’s absolutely correct. Eliminative methods can be used in science, but not as evidence for something. Rather, eliminative methods are used in place of evidence - as a surrogate for positive reasons to consider one explanation over another.
But what if the patient in question was 30 years old? A 30 year old is incredibly unlikely to have Alzheimer’s disease. To get me to believe a patient like this had Alzheimer’s, I’d have to see a reliable brain biopsy that confirmed the diagnosis, and I’d do that only at the end of ruling out every form of temporary dementia (aka, delirium) I could think of. Even then, I’d be hesitant to settle on that diagnosis unless it was really my last option.Yet he fails to elaborate on how or why evolution is even remotely likely or that chance can somehow turn pond scum into people?
Essentially, he is trying to claim that his beliefs should be the default belief. You may argue that we don't claim anything other than chance or law are responsible for most scientific investigations, however I think if you actually investigate what type of science is being used you will notice that it is experimental science that accepts chance and law are default. Part of the experimental method actually excludes design as a possible, so this is quite understandable.
However, when you look at the historical, more fuzzy types of science, you will note a much greater allowance for intelligence, especially when dealing with objects that are specified and complex. When an archaeologist finds a bronze spearhead, he concludes it was intelligently designed because it is unlikely that chance and natural law could create the seemingly purposeful shape of the spearhead. But also note, that it is possible for chance and natural law to create the shape, but just exceedingly unlikely. Burt has failed in any way to show why this same sort of reasoning is invalid in looking at the origin of biolgoical features which also seem to have purposeful shape and which chance and natural law have great trouble explaining.