Dembski and Human Origins

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William Dembski has just posted an essay on human origins on www.designinference.com. If there was any doubt that the Intelligent Design movement was about religious belief rather than science, this essay dispels that doubt.

In this rather peculiar essay, he makes it quite clear that “Design theorists” reject the idea that humans evolved from a common ancestor with apes.

I could go on at some length on the numerous mistakes Dembski makes in biology in this essay. I will limit myself to just one area, the genetic similarity between humans and chimps. Dembski has a problem with the 98% similarity between Chimpanzee and human DNA, (actually, it is closer to 99.2%, when data from the human genome and chimp genome projects are compared.) and he goes out of his way to try and minimize the impact of this, revealing his deep misunderstanding of biology in the process.

Dembski Wrote:

Consider, further, that chimpanzees (like the other apes) have 48 chromosomes whereas humans have only 46 chromosomes…

Yes, consider it. This is presumably meant to throw doubt on the 98% figure, because gee, humans have lost a pair of chromosomes compared to chimps. But we have 46 chromosomes because two chromosomes that are separate in chimpanzees are fused in humans. This doesn’t affect the similarity of our DNA one bit.

Then, after a far too long section of alternate versions of a Hamlet soliloquy, he makes this remarkable statement.

Dembski Wrote:

The similarity between human and chimpanzee DNA is nothing like the similarity between these two versions of Hamlet’s soliloquy. With the two versions of Hamlet’s soliloquy, we’ve lined up the entire texts sequentially. By contrast, when molecular biologists line up human and chimpanzee DNA, they are matching arbitrarily chosen segments of DNA. It’s like going through the works of William Shakespeare and John Milton, and finding that 98 percent of the words and short phrases they used can be lined up letter for letter and therefore are the same.

Ahh, no its not. Its more like comparing two different editions of the complete works of Shakespeare and finding that 98% of the proof text is identical. Remember, we now have the first draft of the complete chimpanzee genome to compare to the human genome. We have virtually the same genes, in the same order and locations, with only minor sequence differences between human and chimp genes On chromosome 22, of the 231 genes identified, 179 show a coding sequence of identical length in human and chimpanzee and exhibit similar intron-exon boundaries. For those 179 genes, the average nucleotide and amino acid identity in the coding region is 99.29% and 99.18%, respectively. Of these, 39 genes show an identical amino acid sequence between human and chimpanzee, including seven in which the nucleotide sequence of the coding region is also identical (see the recently published chromosome 22 gene sequence. It is not the arbitrary mish-mash that Dembski portrays.

Note also that Dembski doesn’t mention the shared errors between humans and chimps, like the shared broken ascorbic acid gene, or the bits of shared broken viruses that litter human and chimp genes, that provide compelling evidence of shared ancestry.

Aside from his continued misunderstanding of biology demonstrated in this essay, which would take a long essay to deal with (his misundersatnding of the implications of altered gene expression paterns alone is worth an entire essay), his essay shows that the intelligent design movement is essentially a religious movement.

Dembski Wrote:

Design theorists have yet to reach a consensus on these matters [whether humans are redesigned apes or built from scratch]. Nevertheless, they have reached a consensus about the indispensability of intelligence in human origins. In particular, they argue that an evolutionary process unguided by intelligence cannot adequately account for the remarkable intellectual gifts of a William James Sidis or the remarkable moral goodness of a Mother Teresa.

123 Comments

Dembski is sounding more and more like a raving YEC Evangelist. Quote mining, egregious arguments he surely has to know are shakey, to say the least, etc. I don’t think he cares.

FYI-to the PT mods. The comment entry window is stretching off the screen to the right. It jumps back when you try to stretch the screen to accomodate it, but then returns to the stretched out window upon the first character entered. I can’t even see the end of this sentence as I type it, it’s a foot or more off the creen to the right.

The essay is apologetics at its most transparent. His arguments on DNA sequence similarity are a “difference in kind and not merely a difference in degree”.

I have a question about our shared-with-chimps inability to synthesize vitamin C: Do gorillas and orangutans also lack the ability to synthesize ascorbic acid? Other primates?

I have a question about our shared-with-chimps inability to synthesize vitamin C: Do gorillas and orangutans also lack the ability to synthesize ascorbic acid? Other primates?

All primates have a broken ascorbic acid gene. Gunea pigs also lack the ability to make their own vitamin C, but this is (iirc) just a coincidence.

Dembski says:

In particular, they argue that an evolutionary process unguided by intelligence cannot adequately account for the remarkable intellectual gifts of a William James Sidis

So I looked up William James Sidis, and found this quote from Robert Pirsig:

It was about a child prodigy who had possibly the highest intelligence ever observed, and who in his later life went nowhere.

A metaphor perhaps??

Ian Wrote:

All primates have a broken ascorbic acid gene. Gunea pigs also lack the ability to make their own vitamin C, but this is (iirc) just a coincidence.

The broken gene in question is one responsible for the formation of L-gulono-gamma-lactone oxidase. The reason for the defect is different between primates and the guinea pig, just as you’d expect.

See:

Nishikimi M, Kawai T, Yagi K. (1992) Guinea pigs possess a highly mutated gene for L-gulono-gamma-lactone oxidase, the key enzyme for L-ascorbic acid biosynthesis missing in this species. J Biol Chem. Vol 267(30):21967-21972.

and,

Nishikimi, M.; Fukuyama, R.; Minoshima, S.; Shimizu, N.; Yagi, K. (1994) Cloning and chromosomal mapping of the human nonfunctional gene for L-gulono-gamma-lactone oxidase, the enzyme for L-ascorbic acid biosynthesis missing in man. J. Biol. Chem. Vol 269: 13685-13688.

…the 98% similarity between Chimpanzee and human DNA, (actually, it is closer to 99.2%, when data from the human genome and chimp genome projects are compared.

Wow. That is incredible. What then explains the phenomenal differences between humans and chimps? It obviously isn’t down to DNA. Do we know what the 0.8% that is unique to us produces?

Even more incredible:

“There’s a young student at this university,” says Lorber, “who has an IQ of 126, has gained a first-class honors degree in mathematics, and is socially completely normal. And yet the boy has virtually no brain.”

Surely impossible.

While I agree that there are mistakes in Dembski’s paper, it is sort of misleading to emphasize that fact that we share 99.2% of our genetic material with chimps. We share 33% with daffodils, but no one ever uses that in argumentation. I am not saying that I deny that we share 99.2% of our genetic material with chimps, I am just saying that the statement lacks perspective and it isn’t really the most convincing. I think the most convincing arguement that humans and chimps share ancestory is the fact that we both have identical genetic errors. The probability of us both having these errors independent of each other is ridiculously small. It’s hard to argue with a fact like that.

I also wonder if the Sidis example, along side Mother Theresa, was an attempt to try to take religion back out of it so his discussion wouldn’t seem religiously biased on first glance. Sidis himself was a staunch athiest, according to one biography site. (MT herself really was little more than an extreme case of perserverance and willpower, not anything directly “miraculous” nor a type of person that needed to be “designed” – statistics could show that type of person as being quite common throughout history. Religion may be the most common originator for an individual’s drive for positive societal change, but its hardly the only one.)

Also, I do note a tendency for IDers to only accentuate the positive. They talk about the complexity of aspects of life, like the human immune system, and yet do not talk about the flaws in it that make it dangerous to the host human, such as MS or Leukemia. Similarly, the blog-clotting system often gets a mention, without discussion of how it is responsible for heart attacks and strokes in otherwise utterly healthy people.

So not mentioning the flaws at the genome level is just part of a larger picture of ignoring the flaws of all biology in favor of a 18th century image of catagorical, idealistic perfection (which itself was inherited by the 18th century fascination with greek philosophy), all part of some overall vision of undoing the entire 19th century of science and thought (vis a vie associating Darwin with Freud and Marx which is a common writing among anti-evolutionists).

Such a vision itself is flawed, as it doesn’t recognize the aspects of the works of Freud and Marx that were in fact scientifically or sociologically correct, such as Freud’s emphasis on physiological or developmental conditions being a source of abnormal behaviour rather than “Demons”, or Marx’s analysis of the flaws of unfettered capitalism as demonstrated in the events leading up to the great depression or in the current state of small-town america being destroyed by the rise of the walmarts.

In the end, therefore, ID remains unscientific, since it filters out which data it wants to consider for supporting its hypotheses, rather than developing a hypothesis that fits all of the data.

Not that you all didn’t already know that. :)

http://www.gate.net/~rwms/hum_ape_chrom_2.gif

Wow. Can we force those who doubt the close relationship between humans and apes to wear t-shirts with this picture on it? Heck, can I get this on a t-shirt to wear for myself?

Wow. Can we force those who doubt the close relationship between humans and apes to wear t-shirts with this picture on it? Heck, can I get this on a t-shirt to wear for myself?

I see your one chromosome and I raise you an entire genome.

http://webpages.charter.net/rufusat[…]unisFig2.GIF

“Similarly, the blog-clotting system often gets a mention, without discussion of how it is responsible for heart attacks and strokes in otherwise utterly healthy people. “

Wow! These website renovations really are serious! ;)

From the commentary that goes along with the Nature paper,

By lining up chimp chromosome 22 and human chromosome 21 and comparing them nucleotide by nucleotide, the consortium found instances in which one nucleotide was substituted for another in only about 1.44% of the sequence. The chimpanzee chromosome has been sequenced to an accuracy of less than one error in 104 bases, so sequencing mistakes account for less than 1% of the observed single-nucleotide mismatches. There is also an impressive number (68,000) of small to large stretches of DNA that have been either gained or lost (these are called “insertions or deletions”, “indels” for short) in one species or the other. …

Given the broad similarities between chimps and humans, many researchers thought that changes that alter amino-acid sequences would not be very frequent. Surprisingly, however, the consortium found that sequence differences in the protein-coding regions of genes are not a great deal less common than in non-coding genomic regions. But some of the affected genes might be pseudogenes — defective copies of functional genes — that have arisen recently. And, among 231 presumably functional genes that could be compared between chimps and humans, 179 have protein-coding regions of identical length; 140 of the predicted encoded proteins would differ by one amino acid or more, but probably with little or no functional impact. Of the other 52 genes, however, 47 show more significant structural changes.

Weisenbach (2004) Nature 429: pp352-353

Dembski points out that whenever one explains how a piece of evidence is consistant with the evolutionary hypothesis, one is “presupposing evolution”. Thus refuting all arguments in favor of evolution. Not a bad trick.

Next Dembski will start complaining that there aren’t enough “transitional” sequences between lineages.

Dembski might also reconsider the “remarkable moral goodness of a Mother Teresa,” if this piece by Christopher Hitchens is to be believed.

http://slate.msn.com/id/2090083

As Hitchens, in his usual, irascible way, puts it:

“She was a fanatic, a fundamentalist, and a fraud, and a church that officially protects those who violate the innocent has given us another clear sign of where it truly stands on moral and ethical questions.”

Among the catholics, being only “a fanatic, a fundamentalist, and a fraud” makes her pretty upstanding.

Oh no! John Bracht is a very intelligent compatriot of mine at UCSD. It’s rather distressing to see his name acknowledged on Dembski’s work. Bracht does some great stuff with C. elegans and never fails to make an insightful comment. Dembski’s paper fall far short of what I’d expect from his support.

The part about ethics really frosted me–Dembski first states the selfish gene ideas, which describe people like Mother Teresa as the product of a population that has been bred to contain a proportion of population-serving individuals. But, then, without telling us, he reverses course and says explicitly that evolutionary theories would regard Mother Teresa as a freak of nature.

Let me apply some evolutionary psychology to Dembski: there’s always a certain tolerance for cheaters in the population. People like Dembski can go around telling others what they want to hear (that is, Dembski is cheating) and the thing that will ultimately limit such behavior is its own detrimental effects on the populations that allow it. There was a really bad example of that in Stalinist Russia, as I read about on this site a while back…

Dave

This is over the top even for Dembski!

No one can really tell what someone truly believes, of course, especially if that someone is as liberal with the English language as Dembski. So with all due respect to those of you who think that Dembski is a closet YEC or OEC, I still think that he privately accepts evolution, in its scientific definition if not his fantasy one that “explicitly rules out intelligence.” At the very least he accepts common descent, despite this masterpiece of misrepresentation (note his “yet to reach a consensus” admission in the conclusion). What he wants his audience to conclude is, of course, another thing entirely.

As of his April 2004 debate with Niall Shanks, Dembski still maintained that Michael Behe accepted common decent, and as usual gave no clue to his own position. He did allude to the tired old Cambrian explosion incredulity argument, but that has no bearing on human/chimp common ancestry (other than to fool the audience). In the past Dembski has exploited the fact that Behe knows more biology than he does. Now that he is playing the Phillip Johnson outsider role and second-guessing Behe, he needs to do one or more of the following:

1. Challenge Behe directly on common descent. Caveat: The Discovery Institute has been under increasing pressure to come up with a model, and common descent simply will not do with the literalist audiences, so it’s possible that Behe may be forced to recant soon if he hasn’t already.

2. Come up with compelling positive evidence of independent abiogenesis for one or both lineages. After all, we still need to know how the designer did it if not by speciation.

3. Admit that the essay is just a “devil’s advocate” exercise, and that the implied alternative - independent abiogenesis - is the real extraordinary claim – with or without a designer.

Why so much sneering and sarcasm? Is it because a remarkably non-human chimp has entered the room and no one knows what to say to him?

This is kind of interesting. Hot news in fact. And on one chromosome. What will the others tell us? Our common ancestor was a daffodil?

The results reported this week showed that “83% of the genes have changed between the human and the chimpanzee—only 17% are identical—so that means that the impression that comes from the 1.2% [sequence] difference is [misleading]. In the case of protein structures, it has a big effect,” Sakaki said.

The researchers report in Nature1 that many of the differences were within genes, the regions of DNA that code for proteins. 83% of the 231 genes compared had differences that affected the amino acid sequence of the protein they encoded. And 20% showed “significant structural changes”.

You guys are up against a wall and your dull retorts are running out of steam. Well at least this proves that DNA does have some function. I was beginning to wonder what could have been in that 0.8%.

Thanks M_M for shedding some light on why we are so different from our cousins. I don’t think Reed’s apology diminishes the impact of this piece of research.

Wow! Send me my chimp T-shirt!

Well at least this proves that DNA does have some function.

I’m suspicious that this guy is a real creationist. Is anybody really this clueless?

Jack,

Exactly what light did M_M shed? “Chimps are not like humans” is hardly an incisive comment.

I would suggest that an incisive comment might be, “Inanimate man-made contrivances are not biological organisms,” and further, that “Extrapolations cannot be made from the former to the latter without a valid basis being first established.”

If you have a dispute with this, take your best shot.

So Dembski is now taking on the ultimate icon- human evolution(I wonder why not primate evolution as a whole? maybe his reading assistants didn’t have enough time to write up crib sheets and flash cards?) This essay is sloppy even considering Dembski’s abysmal standards. If Dembski wants to offer up a serious critique of evolution by examining the case of a certain religious “mercy worker” he should spend time reading Hitchens on the lady. There’s an even better account of the miracle work and saint in waiting - Read it at www.meteorbooks.com. The author Aroup Chatterjee was one of the producers of the Channel 4 documentary that Hitchens hosted. Aetheists and secular humanists have as a class exhibited genuine altruism when compared religious extremists. One has to only compare Bertrand Russel to his intellectual inferior CS Lewis. As Jeffrey Shallit puts it if (anyone) compared Russel to Lewis even in imaginary debate, Russel would clean out Lewis’s clock! Wonder what produces outstanding intellectuals like Russel? Maybe intelligent design works sometimes after all!

Dave wrote

Oh no! John Bracht is a very intelligent compatriot of mine at UCSD. It?s rather distressing to see his name acknowledged on Dembski?s work. Bracht does some great stuff with C. elegans and never fails to make an insightful comment. Dembski’s paper fall far short of what I’d expect from his support.

See his collaboration with Dembski on a supposed model of evolutionary processes here: http://www.iscid.org/mesa/mesa-overview.php. Then consult someone who knows anything at all at a professional level about GAs to comment on “MESA,” claimed by Dembski to be a useful simulation tool generated by IDists. See Bracht’s posting describing what he thinks MESA means for biology here: http://www.iscid.org/boards/ubb-get[…]-000061.html. Note especially the sentence

The MESA program is a generic model of an evolutionary process, and grants the evolutionary process the best possible fitness function: one that is smooth, and gradually slopes up to a single, unique, global optimum. (Emphasis added)

Ask your friendly neighborhood evolutionary computing expert how well MESA, which is a primitive child’s toy of a GA, represents “a generic model of an evolutionary process.” Hell, I wrote a more sophisticated genetic algorithm on a TI-99/4A nearly 20 years ago. But see what Dembski claims for it:

Evolutionary computation occurs in the behavioral repertoire of organisms but is also used to account for the origination of certain features of organisms. It would be helpful to explore the relationship between these two types of evolutionary computation as well as any design intrinsic to them. My work in chapter 4 of No Free Lunch lays out some of the theoretical groundwork here. Besides theoretical work in this area, we need a large contingent of ID computer programmers who can write and run computational simulations that investigate the scope and limits of evolutionary computation. One such simulation is the MESA program (Monotonic Evolutionary Simulation Algorithm) due to Micah Sparacio, John Bracht, and me. (http://acs.ucsd.edu/~idea/idprospects.htm)

Bracht may be doing some fine work with C. elegans, but his work with evolutionary modeling leaves a good deal to be desired. Again, consult your friendly neighborhood GA expert for an opinion.

RBH

You guys are the experts. So, I write with deference to your wisdom. But it seems to me that comparing chimp DNA with human DNA assumes that DNA is the relevant common-property of comparison. But why choose DNA? Shouldn’t physics have a say in this? If so, then at the most basic level of material constituency, chimps and humans have 100% in common. But so does Britney Spears and the tree, materially speaking, of course.

Why choose biology over physics or cognitive psychology or philosophical anthropology?

You guys are the experts. So, I write with deference to your wisdom.

It seems to me that comparing chimp DNA with human DNA assumes that DNA is the relevant common-property of comparison. But why choose DNA? Shouldn’t physics have a say in this? If so, then at the most basic level of material constituency, chimps and humans have 100% in common. But so does Britney Spears and the tree, materially speaking, of course.

Why choose biology over physics or cognitive psychology or philosophical anthropology?

From the inimitable, ubiquitous Steve:

I’m suspicious that this guy is a real creationist. Is anybody really this clueless?

Steve, you keep reiterating that you have no truck with debating creationists but you keep coming back with inane personal attacks on me. What’s your point? If you want to discuss something, do it. If it’s not worth your time or attention, ignore it. Otherwise you’re just a pest and reduce yourself to appearing even more idiotic than me, something I assume would be anathema to you. I suggest some remedial reading lessons as a start and some basic lessons in literary comprehension.

Before I become as inane as you, let me take up your point and add that I am not a creationist in your reductio ad absurdum model of a creationist. My entire argument is framed within what I perceive as the inability of science to prove that living organisms arise or evolve by a process of spontaneous and random self-assembly. That’s it. When I see supposedly scientific minds insisting that random self-assembly is the cause and maintenance of all life, despite evidence to the contrary, I begin to smell what you call “creationism”, ie a belief system based not on fact but on history, majority consensus, preservation of hierarchies, etc. It’s intellectual laziness and there’s no place for that in science. I am an evolutionist in the sense that there is evidence that living organisms have changed radically over time. But the “missing link” I am looking for is not in transitional forms because I do not see the evidence indicating that species evolve into other species. The “missing link” I am looking for is the source of the information, genetically coded, which separates life from non-life and one species from another. Like many a poor soul I once took Darwin’s scenario as fact and as I have said I haven’t entirely shed the notion of evolution. Darwinism and neodarwinism had their place and set us thinking in the right direction about the origins of life, but they no longer stand up to what we know about living organisms. We have refined our empiricism but our ultimate conclusion has remained the same. We need new explanations of evolution which match, not ignore, the existing evidence.

Bob sez:

Exactly what light did M_M shed? “Chimps are not like humans” is hardly an incisive comment.

MM provided a link to an article originating in Nature which revealed that 83% of the genes in chimp chromosome 21 were different from orthologous human chromosome 22. This radically revises assumptions of chimp-human genetic identity based on the 99% parity in base pairs between chimps and humans. The article was in May 2004.

In his article Dembski criticizes evolutionists for stressing the similarities between apes and humans while ignoring or glossing over their preponderent differences. I agree with Dembski that the differences between apes and humans are much more marked than their similarities. The fact that this difference, until now, was not reflected in observed DNA differences between chimps and humans always puzzled me. But lo and behold, in its admirable pursuit of truth, science has now revealed that at the rock bottom level of our genetic constitution humans are indeed very different from chimpanzees.

But I quoted from the article and you ignored it. You guys want to wage war with straw men.

Frank Wrote:

It seems to me that comparing chimp DNA with human DNA assumes that DNA is the relevant  common-property of comparison.  But why choose DNA?  Shouldn’t physics have a say in this?  If so, then at the most basic level of material constituency, chimps and humans have 100% in common. 

Because DNA carries information and is a strong causal determinant of an organism’s phenotype. DNA is also heritable, being passed nearly identical (though not quite identical) from parent to offspring. The more basic materials that an organism is comprised of are not heritable, but become incorporated into the organism (and endlessly cycled through) because of its behavior and physiology, which themselves are specified by DNA.

It’s really that simple. DNA is what makes humans human, and chimps chimps. I’m oversimplifying of course, but that’s what it boils down to. Being made of carbon or containing lots of water is not what distinguishes one organism from another, nor does it even distinguish living from non-living.

Given how ID advocates fawn all over the incredible “information” contained within the genome, I’ve come to expect that most ID sympathizers believe DNA to have have special, almost magical properties. It’s very amusing to see its status downgraded to “expendable” as soon as we start comparing human and chimp sequences. I guess you use whatever works for the moment.

But so does Britney Spears and the tree, materially speaking, of course.

Being the die-hard Britney Spears fan you are, you should know that she contains a bit less cellulose than the average tree. Unless you know her more intimately than we do. :)

Why choose biology over physics or cognitive psychology or philosophical anthropology?

Why do you think a forensic pathologist uses DNA instead of congnitive psychology or philosophical anthropology to identify a murderer, or to determine paternity? You use the tool that’s appropriate for the question you’re trying to answer. And if the question is about biological relatedness, then you look at the DNA.

It seems to me that comparing chimp DNA with human DNA assumes that DNA is the relevant common-property of comparison. But why choose DNA? Shouldn’t physics have a say in this? If so, then at the most basic level of material constituency, chimps and humans have 100% in common. But so does Britney Spears and the tree, materially speaking, of course.

Why choose biology over physics or cognitive psychology or philosophical anthropology?

Well, first of all the close relationship of chimpanzee and human was first inferred based on anatomical traits. Behavioral studies have also confirmed the close affinity of cognitive and behavioral processes in the two species.

Ultimately, however, since it was determined over half a century ago that DNA constitutes the material of genetic inheritance, it became possible to study genetic relationships based on DNA similarity. This applies at all levels: between individuals in a population, populations within a species, and species within larger taxononomic groups.

As for why not use “physics”, I guess “physics” is not a very discriminating parameter at this level: chimps, humans, plants and rocks are all have mass, are made of atoms, which are made of the same subatomic particles and are subject to the same physical laws. General chemistry is a little better, as you could relatively easily distinguish a rock from a living thing with a basic chemistry set. To distinguish plants from animals you’d need more sophisticated chemistry tools, and to distinguish humans from chimps you’d need very discriminating tools (eg, fine analysis of protein electrophoretic mobility, or better, such as DNA analysis). To distinguish Joe from his brother Jack, you would essentially need DNA analysis, or an approach of equivalent resolution power. This, of course assuming Joe and Jack are not identical twins (although I hear that even identical twins can in principle be unequivocally distinguished based on somatic mutation patterns).

Russell Wrote:

I did rather assume that the mutations occurred primarily at reproduction, but I guess not.

Well, I gave my POV. The evidence is equivocal and needs more study, and lots of evo biologists would agree with you.

These are, of course, all fine points relative to the back-of-the-envelope calculations I was hoping to interest our creationist friends in.

Yep. The really amazing thing is that the background mutation rate as determined by a cancer researcher is independent of what a paleontologist says is the date of divergence for chimps and humans, and both are independent of what equation an evolutionary biologist derives to relate the two measurements. And even with the simplifications, the equation’s predictions match observation extremely well. As in all of science, that is certainly not what one would expect if your theory is wrong.

In a previous post I wrote that I got 96% similarity between human and chimp genomes.

Douglas Theobald Wrote:

How did you get that? I used 5 million years at 15 years per generation = 333,333 generations, and get S = 99.667 %.

The equation quoted above actually gives the change from the original sequence in only one lineage. So, for the similarity between two species, the equation should be modified to s = e^(-2*g*m). Which then gives 99.34%.

(looks embarrased) Transcription error, I converted the 99.6% on my calculator to 96%. I used 6 millon years fro the LCA, so my figure is 99.60%, using the corrected formulat, I get 99.21% for a LCA at 6 million years.

Russell Wrote:

I think the truth of the matter, as it so often tends to be, is a little more complicated, which is probably one reason that molecular clock arguments are not quite as “slam-dunk” as we would like.

In fact I was surprised that the “stochastic clock” was even as reliable as it is. Cells are as far from the proverbial ideal gas that one can get.

On that note, while biologist critics of Michael Behe often dismissed him as having had a poor understanding of evolutionary biology while writing “Darwin’s Black Box,” I have always held that it is even more irresponsible for a biochemist like Behe to sell out to his argument-from-incredulity than it would be for a non-molecular biologist. Especially since it is more about abiogenesis than evolution, most of the latter he apparently accepts. Behe knew quite well how few chemical details are known about abiogenesis and early evolution, but nevertheless exploited this to the general public as being a challenge to evolution. It may be a challenge, but to claims that evolution never made in the first place.

That of course doesn’t mean that Dembski can be forgiven for not being a biologist or chemist. He has had ample time to come up to speed on the subjects of his obsession.

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This page contains a single entry by Ian Musgrave published on June 22, 2004 8:32 AM.

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