Joined: May 2006
What Afdave fails to recognize in the area of origins is the importance of establishing proximate causes, of showing how one event causes another one.
In this matter he thinks like the ancients did, by using sweeping analogies which led to anthropomorphic "hypotheses". While few of the ancients made the mistake of thinking that animals and humans were designed machines (they don't act like machines, they aren't "designed" like machines, and they are produced in a wholly different way. The evidence for derivation came later, of course), they did view "creation" as occurring via reproductive means, spirit transfers, and speech.
But what we need for any ID hypothesis is a designer who has been shown to design items similar to organisms. We don't mind inferring design of simple and complex objects so long as they conform to human capabilities, because we have this known "proximate cause" for pots and spacecraft. Undoubtedly we would also infer intelligent humanoid designers if we found early alien spacecraft, again because we know how some evolved "intelligences" act. Yet we totally lack any credible designer who has made organisms like those we see.
Thus a designer is not a reasonable explanation. As IDists have noted, we do indeed think that we could detect the results of "intelligent beings" in radio signals and in machines. Yet virtually no one has seriously proposed that aliens made the animals (aliens are brought up to confuse the issue, but only for that reason). This is because animals are very different from machines, even at a cursory glance. And more so when we study organisms thoroughly.
What is more, we aren't even satisfied with "intelligence" as a "reason" for human-made machines and art, rather we typically appeal to psychology, evolution, and social causation to explain why and how art is made (as in all historical sciences, we can't fully explain Sumerian art, but we can explain important aspects of it). Ideally we will at some point have good neurological explanations for artistic creation, which will rely on evolution for part of the complete explanation.
This brings up an important fact: triumphant IDists would likely impede investigation into what intelligence is and why it is the way that we find it to be--even if only by suggesting that intelligence is some kind of "universal constant" or "law". We don't even explain design, today, without resort to causal factors beyond the former black box of the brain. IDists analogize wildly to God, but then they fail utterly to be able to identify factors, like evolution, that would constrain God's designs. So while we are unwilling to stop with "design" as an explanation anywhere, IDists insist that this is the end of the matter, that God designs in a certain way because of his will, or some such thing.
Anyway, I became sidetracked in these issues, but the important point is that Afdave thinks of "Cause" in the pre-scientific analogical sense, while we insist on at least tentative causes throughout. We are not going to know every cause, of course, but if we could not find causes of evolution in the genome/environment, we would have to abandon evolution as an explanation.
We know how many mutations are caused, and we know a good deal about natural selection. We have dealt with the causes, we have connected them, and we have shown how evolution proceeds, at least in considerable part. It would not do to just invoke "RM + NS" as some grand "Cause", rather science has worked out how it happens, if questions remain. Science extends these conclusions to fossils and "genomic fossils", but only because both fossils and genomes fit the pattern expected from RM + NS, the patterns observed in HIV evolution. Thus it is a very reasonable extrapolation.
Dave doesn't like macroevolution, claiming that it has not "been seen". Since, however, macroevolution is predicted to be produced by largely known mechanisms, therefore to produce the sorts of fossils, nested hierarchies, and genomes that we see, it is fair to say that we have observed it, since we are surrounded by it and are a part of it.
What he wants is some sort of "evidence" for macroevolution beyond the proximate causes that we know. But science wants proximal causes for evolution, including "macroevolution", and this is what it finds. This is all that it can be expected to find, since it insists on using proximally linked causes in its evidence, as opposed to the philosophizing about the "Grand Cause". We have found the mechanisms of evolution, and the patterns to be expected from "RM + NS" (plus other mechanisms of "selection" and bottlenecking).
The genetic material we found is what was needed for evolution, and what would seem unlikely for a perfect creation to have in it. That is to say, we have found the proximate causes of "macroevolution" operating. This was needful, but evolution passed this test.
Dave wants something like God to explain "macroevolution", otoh, because he equates evolution with his origins myth. No, we do not accept Causes that are not seen to be acting, we accept the mutations and selections of those mutations as the sort of mechanism that evolution demands and requires, both as a science of proximal causes, and as a theory peculiar to biology.
Could something be intervening in the course of evolution? See, here is where it is appropriate to demand evidence for "macroevolution". We don't know what might have intervened in the past, but we know that something could have. Hence, evidence is required for past "macroevolution" if it is going to be properly accepted. Since we've found such evidence in abundance, some through predictive (and other) paleontology, and much more in the genomes of organisms, we have high confidence that the proximal causes necessary for evolution that we have identified happening, also happened in the past (or at least any other mechanisms left essentially the same pattern of derivation).
We have our proximate causes, then. The IDists/creationists have no cause at all, but only an analogy that on the face of it appears flawed, and which more tellingly cannot be backed up through evidence for active proximal causes. Evolution is active today, while any number of IDists and creationists claim that the proximal causes of "type creation" are lost to the past. We can and do demonstrate how changes occur, but the IDist cannot demonstrate how anything was "caused by the designer".
Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of coincidence---ID philosophy