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Since our original Posting and Critique of Mr Renner's web page, he has apparently removed his original commentary in favor of one that claims Intelligent Design has a scientific element. This cannot be, for science is logos, what we know by proof, while religion and Intelligent Design are mythos, or faith, things we do not know and cannot prove. You can find his new offering on Here, Mr. Renner claims science and religion overlap because both ask the question: "How did we get here?" Both may ask the same question, but no overlap is possible. Science relies on observation and logic. It is testable, ID is neither observation nor logic. It is not testable.

His new core argument follows: [Our commentary]

How Intelligent Design Theory Works:

i. Observation: The ways that intelligent agents act can be observed in the natural world and described. When intelligent agents act, it is observed that they produce high levels of "complex-specified information" (CSI). CSI is basically a scenario which is unlikely to happen (making it complex), and conforms to a pattern (making it specified). Language and machines are good examples of things with much CSI. From our understanding of the world, high levels of CSI are always the product of intelligent design.

    [Complex-specific information applies to to any special thing created by a life form. Absent life, the laws of physics, chemistry, and gravity, combine to create features like the moon and martian landscapes, the suns and Jupiters of the universe, indeed all that is in the universe. All these follow general well-known principles acting to create features of recognizable characteristics, from volcanoes to impact craters, from mountains to river valleys, first- and second-generation stars.]

    [In contrast, when one discovers an ant hill or bird's nest, or worm hole, one can only ascribe them to life forms. Finding an automobile or lost space-craft would lead an observer to the same conclusion. These items bear markings very different from those of nature absent life. They are so immensely improbable, they can only be created by a life form. The only difference among these items of complex-specific information is the degree of complexity. In each case an unusual object leads to an unusual conclusion--there must be a life-form acting.]

    [The fossil remains of a fish are such an example as well. Before the discipline of science existed, the prophet could only explain the fish fossil on the basis of rain for 40 days and 40 nights. In later days, when people developed the principles of logic, the logician asked further questions about the fish fossil. He also observed fish carcasses being buried in estuaries which led him to a further insight, S/he said to her/himself: "That fish fossil is the remains of a fish like I now see being covered up!" It was a long time from that beginning, long before Darwin, to where we are now. But each step of understanding enabled yet more understanding. What was mere inspiration at first, became a testable hypothesis, and many more followed that eventually become the core science of biology. So an alternate hypothesis is that Renner's CSI is really a product of life forms, the kind now being looked for on Mars. A truly definitive result would be to find fossils on Mars. That could actually happen this century or next. The ultimate would be to find actual living organisms on Mars. And we now know where to look. A methane plume observed could well indicate microbial life on this otherwise lifeless planet. Finding and identifying such a microbe would be unlikely to deter the ID folks; they would just include Marts within their purview.]

ii. Hypothesis: If an object in the natural world was designed, then we should be able to examine that object and find the same high levels of CSI in the natural world as we find in human-designed objects.

    [Not just human, almost any life form leaves a CSI signature. From that signature one can deduce how advanced the creating life form is. An anthill differs from an arrowhead. But an arrowhead has more in common with a anthill than it does with a computer, yet the life form that created the arrowhead is the same as the life form that created the computer.]

    [In is broadest meaning, CSI includes methane emission by microbes, one of the most primitive of life forms. And guess what? A plume of methane has been detected on Mars! Could it be microbial in origin? Of course. How likely is it that the plume could be inorganic in origin? That depends on ready sources of precursors, carbon and hydrogen with enough heat to allow their reaction in the absence of oxygen. Methane has the formula CH4. One carbon mates with four hydrogen atoms. Which origin it has must be known before any conclusion can be reached. This scenario, is the way of science--discovery follows discovery, and what we find is not always what we might expect or want.]

iii. Experiment: We can examine biological structures to test if high CSI exists. When we look at natural objects in biology, we find many machine-like structures which are specified, because they have a particular arrangement of parts which is necessary for them to function, and complex because they have an unlikely arrangement of many interacting parts. These biological machines are "irreducibly complex," for any change in the nature or arrangement of these parts would destroy their function. Irreducibly complex structures cannot be built up through an alternative theory, such as Darwinian evolution, because Darwinian evolution requires that a biological structure be functional along every small-step of its evolution. "Reverse engineering" of these structures shows that they cease to function if changed even slightly.

    [On the contrary, Evolution could not work EXCEPT by small changes. Mr Renner's misunderstanding is a bit gross. Go to the Galapagos and see for yourself. A single species of Finch slowly evolved into 13 species in all. Each filled a different niche. The original pair, or a single fertilized female more likely, arrived from South America. All the flora (plants) and fauna (animals) on these islands are closely related to those in South America-being only somewhat different. Plants had to arrive before the Finches did. This is Evolution in action.]

    [Instead of a PRODUCT of a life form, Mr Renner's original definition of CSI likens CSI to an organ that a life form cannot do without because it IS the life form itself. His reasoning seems OK, unless you realize that, in fact, he redefines his variable. What is he really talking about? His hat?

    Reverse engineering is not something that happens in nature, except in the human mind. Reverse engineering is a thought and logic process. What's more, reverse engineering, done right, would retrace in reverse the evolutionary path that brought us here. That could well happen this century as DNA tools for doing so become ever more refined.]

    [As simple replicating fragments of life evolved from the beginning, they grew steadily more complex with each new process, organ or appendage that made it more capable. The 4.5 billion years available brought us to the multitude of species today. Looking at their commonalities, their integration of each organ and function, and comparing these with the fossil records, leads one to an inescapable conclusion. Evolution did this. It is a testable theory and every test so far has strengthened and refined the concept of evolution.]

iv. Conclusion: Because they exhibit high levels of CSI, a quality known to be produced only by intelligent design, and because there is no other known mechanism to explain the origin of these "irreducibly complex" biological structures, we conclude that they were intelligently designed.

    [How can there can be a valid conclusion when both the basic assumption and logic are flawed. Furthermore, is not this a case where an appropriate option was not considered: Evolution? Evolution can only be overthrown by experiment or the discovery of an explanation that better fits the facts. Until that happens, we will go with observations that logically ties together the science of biology in consistent and predictable ways. This does not prove there is no creator. What it does prove is that the creator is not only not anthropomorphic, but also must be far more subtle than Mr Renner would have us believe. One of Darwin's early converts was a Christian. He realized that if a god created Evolution, then that god is far more powerful than the one Renner proposes. Charles Lyell was the convert's name. Lyell was the foremost geologist of his time.]

Science employs observations and logic, and reports findings in a coherent way. Evolution came into being as the most logical explanation of the fossil record. In contrast, religions describe our origins by mythos. Nothing in religion can be tested as scientific theories can. A question in and of itself is not science unless the question has an answer that can be demonstrated by experiment. To ask a question is not science, even if it can lead to new science. To find a provable answer adds to scientific knowledge. The question helps find an answer.

Intelligent design purports to know the answer. But religion has no experimental data, no set of first principles to work from in making that assertion, and no predictive ability--science has all these things. Religious belief systems simply have no experimental equivalent to that of science itself. Religion and science are simply different things. They serve different needs of society, Each will be around for a good long while. Meanwhile science will move on to the remaining questions and suppositions, and improve our longevity and power over nature. With scientific knowledge comes control. In contrast, monotheistic dogma often correlates with violence and stagnation of thinking and progress.

Make an assertion. If it is subject to experiment, science can observe and experiment and either prove or discredit the assertion. And all who test the same assertion will find the same answer, invariably if the experimental conditions are the same. That is not true of religion. There are hundreds of religious explanations, for example of our origins; each explanation is as likely as any other; none can be proved in the scientific sense. There is no general agreement among the many religions, even as to the nature of God, Gods, or whatever. This is a fact, however uncomfortable.

Religions serve many purposes for humanity. So does science. But the purposes are different. Science tells us what we know; religion embraces what we do not know or cannot prove--things we can only take on faith.

In reference to Mr Renner's question as to how we got here, anyone can ask that question, anyone at all. Probably most people do at some point in their lives. Indeed many humans have been asking that question for millennia. In most such cases a religion was invented to explain existence and purpose. In other cases, religion seems to have been a means of control. Since none of those early folks were scientists, Mr. Renner's assertion that religion has an element of science in it is simply false.

Certain scientists among us are exploring nature at both very high and very low energies. In contrast, Mr Renner relies on writings by scribes over a millennium before the concept of energy even existed. The same is true of chemistry, biology, and geology. None formally existed until the Enlightenment. Some scientists will soon be looking for what the media calls the God Particle ( Higgs Boson, predicted to exist by the Standard Model). If they find it, it could well "explain" existence insofar as the data support such an assertion. We do not expect that to actually happen any time soon. A mathematical concept can be as rigorous as they come. But unless it explains or illustrates causation itself, it will describe WHAT and maybe HOW, not WHY in the first place, though that could come--a mythos view.

What current science has done is put limits around what God can be. God cannot be anthropomorphic for example. But God could be whatever brought the universe into being. Since the universe seems doomed to "heat death" by ever increasing entropy, it may be naive to contemplate life everlasting. Life as we know it requires an external source of energy to sustain it. What does this say about an anthropomorphic god?

Indeed, what does Nature (the work of whatever it was in the first place) have to say? Richard Dawkins captures how evolution works with this simple statement:

"Natural selection is a guided process, guided not by any higher power, but simply by which genes survive and which genes don't survive. That's a non-random process. The animals that are best at whatever they do-hunting, flying, fishing, swimming, digging-whatever the species does, the individuals that are best at it are the ones that pass on the genes. It's because of this non-random process that lions are so good at hunting, antelopes so good at running away from lions, and fish are so good at swimming."

In other words, mutations are random, but after that, only the most fit survive, and that is not a random process.

Dawkins also fills in what Renner seems to think is missing for the atheist, which Dawkins is:

"I think there is something glorious in the universe, in contemplating the Milky Way galaxy, in contemplating the fact that this is only one in billions of galaxies, contemplating the fact that at the beginning of the 21st century, humanity really has gone a very long way toward understanding the universe in which we live and the life form of which we are a part. I find that a truly inspirational thought.

Obviously, there are other things having nothing to do with science-music, poetry, sex, love. These are all things that make life, to me, extremely worth living."

For those interested in following the controversy over ID more deeply may peruse:

Beliefnet: Inspiration, Spirituality and Faith
Discovery Institute: for the mythos views and
The National Center for Science Education: for the logos viewpoints.


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