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Posted by on Aug 11, 2013 in Creationism, Science | 0 comments

Casey Luskin Doesn’t Have a Clue About Science

Casey Luskin works for the Discovery Institute, the peddler of all things Intelligent Design.  Here’s a short bio from the DI website.

Casey Luskin is an attorney with graduate degrees in science and law, giving him expertise in both the scientific and legal dimensions of the debate over evolution. He earned his B.S. and M.S. in Earth Sciences from the University of California, San Diego, where he studied evolution extensively at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. His law degree is from the University of San Diego, where he focused his studies on First Amendment law, education law, and environmental law. In his role at Discovery Institute, Mr. Luskin works as Research Coordinator for the Center for Science and Culture, assisting and defending scientists, educators, and students who seek to freely study, research, and teach about the scientific debate over Darwinian evolution and intelligent design. He formerly conducted geological research at Scripps Institution for Oceanography (1997-2002).

If I were the Scripps Institute, I’d demand that he remove that statement after reading his latest work, What is the Theory of Intelligent Design?

I’m not going to go into all the mistakes and wrong things he says in this article.  I’m not going to harp on ID at all.  What I’d like to talk about is Casey’s monumental misunderstanding of science.  Anyone who has done actual research (as he claims to) should know better.  Which tells me that he’s peddling something.  But let’s look past the claims with no support and talk just about Casey.

First, he has no idea what a theory is.  Intelligent Design is not  theory.  It does not have a great deal of evidential support.  It does not explain anything.  It does not provide a framework for predicting anything.

But that’s a minor quibble.  Let’s look at what Casey thinks are valid examples of ID being hypothesized about and tested.  This is under the section “Intelligent Design uses the scientific method”.

Example the first:

ID and Biochemistry:

Observation: Intelligent agents solve complex problems by acting with an end goal in mind, producing high levels of CSI. In our experience, systems with large amounts of specified complexity — such as codes and languages — invariably originate from an intelligent source. Likewise, in our experience, intelligence is the only known cause of irreducibly complex machines.21

Hypothesis (Prediction): Natural structures will be found that contain many parts arranged in intricate patterns (including irreducible complexity) that perform a specific function — indicating high levels of CSI.

Experiment: Experimental investigations of DNA indicate that it is full of a CSI-rich, language-based code. Biologists have performed mutational sensitivity tests on proteins and determined that their amino acid sequences are highly specified.22 Additionally, genetic knockout experiments and other studies have shown that some molecular machines, like the flagellum, are irreducibly complex.23

Conclusion: The high levels of CSI — including irreducible complexity — in biochemical systems are best explained by the action of an intelligent agent.

- See more at: http://www.evolutionnews.org/2013/08/what_is_the_the075281.html#sthash.Zhf4z4jf.dpuf

Seriously?  Let’s begin with the “observation”.  The first 5 words are an observation.  The rest of that first sentence is begging the question, an informal fallacy.  He has not established that intelligent agents act with an end goal in mind.  Nor has he established anything about CSI.  The second sentence is true… as far as it goes.  But since he doesn’t define specified complexity, we can’t say that anything “invariably” happens.  The final sentence is also begging the question.  He thinks that this is an observation, but it’s really his conclusion… and it’s wrong.

Now, this is not a hypothesis.  It’s not actually testable or falsifiable.  Why is it not testable?  Because we don’t have a formal definition of CSI or specific function or intricate patterns.

A hypothesis should test one and only one thing, removing other variables in order to establish a relationship between one variable that is manipulated and one that is (thought to be) controlled by the manipulated variable.

This isn’t falsifiable because the existence of these kinds of structures may or may not be caused by intelligence.  There’s no discriminatory information here.

Now look at the experiment.  DNA is not a language-based code.  It is not a computer code.  It is DNA.  Shockingly, we know enough about DNA to actually talk about DNA and not analogies that don’t work.  I’ve discussed this before, analogies are useful for teaching, but if your argument depends on an analogy, then you are arguing wrongly, even if you are correct.

What is ‘highly specified’?  What values (and how are they measured) indicate high specificity?  Why?

The experiments are not discriminatory either.  Some experiments are done and it shows that DNA is complex.  OK, so what.  There are natural features that produce complex structures (N/S aligned termite mounds, for example, unless you think that termites are intelligent agents (as some ID proponents do)).  The point of the experiment is to determine a very specific thing.

So amino acid sequences are high specific.  So what?  They aren’t that specific, we know that there can be significant changes to amino acid sequences and the protein still perform its regular function and we know that simple changes can result in changes that the protein can’t perform its original function.  We also know that both simple and complex changes can result in proteins that do something else.

None of this has anything to do with a designer.

The conclusion doesn’t follow from the experiments or the hypothesis.  Look carefully at the hypothesis.  Is there anything about an intelligent agent in the hypothesis.  In real science, the conclusion should be “the hypothesis is supported” or “the hypothesis is refuted”.  That’s all that can be derived from a proper experiment that is directly related to the hypothesis.

If you really want to see how focused hypotheses are and how conclusions should be drawn from experiments, watch a couple of episodes of Mythbusters.  There is a specific hypothesis (can bees really lift a laptop), there are experiments measuring things like how much bees can lift and the fundamentals of flight, then there is a conclusion… no, bees cannot lift a laptop.  That’s it.

When there are words in the conclusion that aren’t in the hypothesis, then that’s most likely an incorrect conclusion.

And it just gets worse.  Poor Casey, it’s a shame he doesn’t know anything about science.

True story, I was asked to be on the committee for a young woman who wanted to graduate with an advanced degree.  Her plan was to have a science fair for the school, which was a good plan.  Unfortunately, she never talked to any of the committee members, we never met, and we had to make a decision after seeing her science fair.

I made my decision when I saw her poster presentation.  For the first poster, her hypothesis was that DNA was like a ladder made of macaroni.  She then had glued and painted dry macaroni noodles in the shape of a ladder.  She concluded that “DNA is like a ladder made of macaroni”.

Casey is not much better.

Example the second:

ID and Paleontology:

Observation: Intelligent agents rapidly infuse large amounts of information into systems. As four ID theorists write: “intelligent design provides a sufficient causal explanation for the origin of large amounts of information … the intelligent design of a blueprint often precedes the assembly of parts in accord with a blueprint or preconceived design plan.”24

Hypothesis (Prediction): Forms containing large amounts of novel information will appear in the fossil record suddenly and without similar precursors.

Experiment: Studies of the fossil record show that species typically appear abruptly without similar precursors.25 The Cambrian explosion is a prime example, although there are other examples of explosions in life’s history. Large amounts of complex and specified information had to arise rapidly to explain the abrupt appearance of these forms.26

Conclusion: The abrupt appearance of new fully formed body plans in the fossil record is best explained by intelligent design.

- See more at: http://www.evolutionnews.org/2013/08/what_is_the_the075281.html#sthash.Zhf4z4jf.dpuf

Sentence one does not establish that ONLY intelligent agents do this.  While it’s true, he neglects other things.  A critical mistake.  I also like that word “rapidly”.  What is ‘rapidly’ in context.  He’s talking about the Cambrian explosion which took place over some 38 million years (which is about 5 times as long as it took humans to go from the last common ancestor with chimps to intelligence).

Yes, this is an observation, but it ignores too much to be very useful.

This is a great hypothesis.  This is actually testable and falsifiable. It doesn’t have anything to do with intelligent agents or CSI or anything like that.

Unfortunately, the “experiment” is wrong.  Casey, being a geology major, should understand the fundamental limitations of the fossil record.  And yet, we actually do have a lot more transitional fossils than he seems to think we do.  I’m sure I’ll cover a lot of the specifics in my continuing review of Darwin’s Doubt.

The conclusion, is, again, wrong.  You simply cannot draw a conclusion about intelligence design by looking at the LACK of fossils.  And that’s what this is saying.  The fossils don’t exist, therefore design.

My question to Casey is if we discover the transitional fossil, does that mean that ID is falsified?  Because that’s really what Casey is saying in this… whatever it is.

Casey, please, leave the science to scientists… you don’t have a clue how to formulate a hypothesis, an experiment, or a conclusion.  Regardless of the truth or not of ID, this article is ridiculously stupid.  And if this is the best ID can muster, then it’s doomed.