Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Intelligent Design and Human Evolution

Back in July of 2005 PCID published to articles on intelligent design and human evolution. One (Human Origins and intelligent design) was by Casey Luskin. The other (Reflections on Human Origins)is by Dembski. I will be examining both in a series of posts.

Both papers purport to offer the "Intelligent Design theory of human evolution. What they being, though, is a strange mix of creationist arguments and punctuated equilibria. I will start with Luskin.

Two Views of Origins

This section of Luskin's paper lays out the differences between "blind natural processes" and ID. After a brief recapitulation of the paleoanthro version of human origins Luskin lays out the ID case. According to Luskin some proponets of ID argue there are limits to the amount of change in genetic information possible through "Darwinian processes" consequently, they have proposed a new taxonomic catagory. The new catagory is the "basic type" (where have I heard that before - oh wait from Gish, Morris and company). The basic type is defined as " ...a group of organisms related through ancestry that initially acquired their fundamental genetic programs through design, and not through ancestry with some other type of organism." Luskin continues "Because their genetic architecture is distinct, members of one basic type cannot interbreed to produce offspring with members of another basic type. The converse is not necessarily true as some species which cannot interbreed could be members of the same basic type." (pg. 2)

My first thought on reading this was "huh". So I reread it several times. A new taxonomic catagory? Okay, where does it fit in the taxonomic scheme of things? Between species and genus, between genus and family? Between higher units? Better yet, why do we need another catagory? I still haven't figured out what the next bit means. I understand a group of organisms related through ancestry... Then he threw a curve with ...that initially acquired their fundamental genetic programs (though I don't quite know what a fundamental gentic program is) not through ancestry with some other organism. So which is it? Are they related or not? Is this trying to say that, say prosimmians are a basic type in that they are related by ancestry but don't share fundamental gentic prgrams with anthropoids. Oh well, skip that let's move on. One basic type can't interbreed with another because of different genteic architecture yet some species which cannot interbreed could be members of the same basic type? Then what good is the lack of inbreeding as a criteria for distinguishing basic types? I'm confused about this so let's move on to how basic types appear in the fossil record and worry about definitions later. Apparently, basic types appear suddenly in the fossil record and will be different from previously existing critters. "This infusion of information could be revealed in the fossil record as a 'quantum or discontinuous in specified complexity or information'". I can't help thinking they are stealing from Gould and Simpson here.

After laying this out, Luskin lays out the purpose of the paer, which is to test the hypothesis that some groups of "upper" primates were intelligently designed by looking at the fossil record and asking which groups belong to distinct basic types. So apparently, discovering a basic type is enough to justify the inference of intelligent design. Considering the tortured explanation of what a basic type is one thinks anything could be a basic type.

Coming soon: Limitations of Paleoanthropological Methods, Datasets and Studies.