A while back, William Dembski, the inaptly-called "Isaac Newton of information theory", father of specified complexity (here are some critiques by Elsberry), the explanatory filter (and some critiques) and a bunch of other Intelligent Design (ID) nonsense, wrote:
As for your example, I’m not going to take the bait. You’re asking me to play a game: “Provide as much detail in terms of possible causal mechanisms for your ID position as I do for my Darwinian position.” ID is not a mechanistic theory, and it’s not ID’s task to match your pathetic level of detail in telling mechanistic stories. If ID is correct and an intelligence is responsible and indispensable for certain structures, then it makes no sense to try to ape your method of connecting the dots. True, there may be dots to be connected. But there may also be fundamental discontinuities, and with IC systems that is what ID is discovering.
The quotation comes from a blog debate on the evolution or irreducibly complex nature of the immune system. How did it come about? Did it evolve via mutation and natural selection or was it intelligently designed? You can read through it here.
Dembski's post was a reply to a poster named Rafe who provided a massively (for a blog thread) detailed account with multiple citations and quotations of research that explained how the immune system could have evolved bit by bit. Rafe's comment that preceded Dembski's nasty remark was:
admittedly, i left out a lot of details, but if you want more, you'll first have to propose a model for the origin of an IC system through intelligent design in at least as much detail as i presented. that shouldn't be too hard, it's only 8 sentences.
Just 8 sentences (after considerably more). But what amazes me, as today's title makes clear, is Dembski's objection to "[Rafe's] pathetic level of detail." If ID wants to be included in the scientific game, then it needs to engage the details in such a way that explains the observable phenomena and subsequently generates predictions that we can test. In order for it to become a scientific theory, it must, in some way, be mechanistic.
Why? Nature behaves according to laws that are uniform in all of the observed universe. Inductively, we ascertain that material phenomena have material explanations which means that science is methodologically natural. The natural explanations that we ascertain through hypothesis testing are all gleaned from the interaction of matter and energy occurring in space and time. Those phenomenal interactions operate according to mechanistic laws that we glean through observation and inference. So what's this have to do with Dembski's invocation of the boogey man of the "mechanistic theory" and its "pathetic level of detail"?
An accurate response to the questions, "How did the immune system come to be?" must be both mechanistic and detailed...even pathetically so.
The word "how" in the previous question asks for the cause of the effect. It can also fairly be asked as "What process formed the immune system?" What a staggeringly cool question that has an answer worth knowing. There are also lots of answers that are not worth knowing because they are factually errant or irrelevant. An answer worth knowing or least considering would be that proposed by Rafe in the previous link. An explanation of "How did the bacterial flagellum come to be?" has been proposed by the likes of Ken Miller and Nick Matzke who are looking at the Type III Secretory System (TTSS) as a possible root. Note, we can't prove (that word makes me nuts now) that it is the TTSS, but it appears as a good candidate for the predecessors and by examining the protein differences (see previous link) between the TTSS and the flagellum, we can glean some of how the flagellum arose and, seemingly, evolved.
An irrelevant answer to the question would be "An intelligent agent designed it." The question was not "Who made the immune system/flagellum come to be?" No. "How..." We could say Merlin, Voldemort, Saruman, or the midgets from Time Bandits (they did make the giant bungaroo afterall) made the immune system. But that doesn't answer the adverb "how" at all. Even if we know "who" did it, we didn't ask that question which makes it irrelevant, that doesn't explain to us at all what the process was that Merlin or whoever used. It's an inquiry stopper and a huge embrace of ignorance.
A question to ask Dembski. "How did the designer make the flagellum?" But he has no answer. Essentially, "God did it." Thanks for that pathetic level of piffle. I'll go with the details thank you.