Tuesday, September 03, 2013

A Science Lacking in Content

If science ever completes the descriptive jigsaw of physics then god-of-the-gaps theologians will have to admit defeat. In the meantime dualists can cling on to the benefit of gnostically inspired doubts in science!  We need to move from  a religion that trades on  gaps in science and is therefore antagonistic to it, to one that attempts to interpret the findings of science.

In this post on his blog evangelical atheist Larry Moran takes IDist Jonathan McLatchie to task for his wrong suggestion that a particular pseudo-gene could become functional by RNA editing. McLatchie has admitted his mistake.

Anyone who knows anything at all about the de-facto Intelligent Design community in North America will understand McLathie’s motivation. As Larry Moran says:

Intelligent Design Creationists don't like pseudogenes because they are junk and their intelligent designer would not fill up the human genome with junk. Hence, pseudogenes must have some function that has yet to be discovered.

I must add, however, as an aside that even if one assumes the kind of Homunculus Intelligent Designer as conceived by the North American ID community, then an absence of Junk DNA is not an absolute expectation: There is clearly a large measure of inscrutability about the personality of a sentience with intelligence powerful enough to have conceived and engineered life. Ergo, there are all sorts of scenarios one can imagine involving an homunculus intelligent designer that could conceivably explain redundant bits of genetic code, starting with a desire to retain some bits of the edit history of the DNA program (as do human programmers) through to “I can’t be bothered to do a code cleanup!”. Or perhaps it’s got something to do with the intelligent designer’s code source control methods! Who knows! North America IDists don’t do justice to the fact that any real intelligence necessarily has all the motivational foibles of a personality; and that's tantamount to introducing an explanatory object with an open ended number of adjustable variables, thus opening up the potential to "explain", that is, to "join the dots", of just about any presented data set. Conspiracy theory has a similar explanatory potential!

But the real problem with North American ID is rooted in, as I’ve said many times before, a god-of-the-gaps theology which in turn leads to Intelligent Design being set over and against what is (wrongly) referred to as “chance and necessity”.  Deeper still we find that god-of-the-gaps theology traces back to a concept of God which stresses His eminence at the expense of His immanence; hence the North American idea of the Creator is one of an homunculus who is eminent to the processes of life as might be an alien molecular engineer.

The upshot is that North American IDists are well motivated in their attempt to prove the inadequacy of physics to manufacture life, thus leading to a science of negation rather than a proactively positive science with lots of content. Larry Moran’s observation seems all too true:

McLatchie failed utterly to give us a plausible example when he discussed the GULOP pseudogene and his hand-waving references to RNA editing are useless unless he can point to another specific example. But that's what counts as legitimate argument on the creationist blogs. All they need to do is raise doubts about evolution and it doesn't really matter if their arguments make sense. McLatchie's error was to pick a specific example that could be easily refuted. Most creationists don't make that mistake. I think Jonathan McLatchie has learned the lesson. We probably won't see much science from him in the future.

Although I have a lot of sympathy with the North American IDists and would want to distinguish them from the lake-of-fire-breathing fundamentalists*, they nevertheless share a common god-of-the-gaps theology that leads them to promote a science of negation which in turn sets them on a collision course with the government controlled academic establishment who see ID science as a purely negative affair. Their consequent maginalisation from the establishment makes them susceptible to anti-government right-wing conspiracy theorists who receive them with open arms.

This is not to say that I myself am 100% satisfied with the proposed evolutionary mechanisms as they currently stand. In fact consider the relationship I stated in my last post:

Dg <= k log T + D0

The class of complex configurations of length Dg can only be reached in slow logarithmic time. This suggests to me that there may be some sort of yet to be understood (expanding) parallelism in physical processes which compensates for the slow linear time processing of conventional computation. The immanence of God may express itself in physical processes that are in effect a manifestation of intelligence at work.


* Footnote on Lake of Fire breathing fundamentalists.
As one of Jason Lisle’s fundamentalist followers triumphantly informed me:

Mr. Reeves, Your war is with God, and you've already lost. You should read your bible and believe it and repent before its too late. A lake of fire and eternal suffering await those who reject God till the end.

Lovely people! Really lovely people! I'm sure atheists are queuing up to join them like they would queue for a kick between the legs! No surprise that they rationalise their marginalisation with a separatist ideology which portrays them as a holy and elite spiritual remnant fighting against the world-wide Satanic conspiracy.

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