Teaching students to critically analyze

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I cross-posted my last essay on science standards and ID over at ARN, and someone there offered this:

Concerning the Ohio standards, Meyer [Stephen Meyer, of the Discovery Institute] said this:

[quote] Dr. MEYER: Well, we agree with you, Ken, and this is one of the reasons that we asked–certainly there were political supporters of design in Ohio who are getting the cart before the horse. That’s one of the reasons we took the theory off the table for the purposes of the state testing standards. We understand that this is a new theory. We think it’s unrealistic to think that teachers would be able to be informed enough to teach it well at this point, and so we said, ‘Look, the main focus,’ as you have said, ‘of biological research is evolutionary theory. Let’s look at that openly and in a critical manner.’ [endquote]

Do you agree with this?

I’d like to respond to this question here.

First, and I don’t want to dwell on this point, calling ID a new theory is a misnomer. It is an unformulated and untested hypothesis at this point: there is no ID theory, so it’s no wonder they took it off the table.

The “Let’s look at that [evolutionary theory] openly and in a critical manner” statement is trickier.

All of science should be looking at openly and critically, and so no respectable scientist would object to this statement. However, the ID movement tends to use that statement to mean “let’s doubt some or all fundamental tenets of evolution” as a means of introducing ID (since the basic ID argument is to establish ID as true by establishing evolution as false.)

For instance, in response to the statement about critical analysis in the Ohio standards, the IDists on the curriculum committee created a “model lesson plan” full of inaccurate science focused on creating doubt about the existence of macro-evolution and thus common descent. These are not concepts that are in doubt in mainstream science. In this case the IDists abused a principle that all scientists agree with in order to smuggle in discredited anti-evolution ideas.

Again, the issue here is what is appropriate for the high school curriculum. If we are going to give students some experience in critically analyzing some part of science (and perhaps show them what controversy looks like and how it is resolved,) then we need to choose topics that are genuine scientific controversies and we need the topic to be one for which the students have the appropriate background in order to practice critical analysis.

For instance, my friend Keith Miller has suggested that the question “what is a species” would be a good question for high school students to tackle. This question would bring a lot of important issues to the table about evolution, and it would also serve to illustrate more general considerations about science

For instance, the question would involve both the present and the past: in the present, species are differentiated primarily (but not exclusively) by the ability to breed or not, but in the past they must be differentiated much more by morphological characteristics preserved in the fossils. (And how do we decide about species of bacteria?)

The question would bring up the tension between the messy ambiguities and fuzzy boundaries of the real world with the more precise (and misleading) sense of certainty created by using language to name things: things like ring species, hybrids, and transitional fossils would help students see some of the problems of taxonomy in general.

Also, the question, by looking at such things as reproduction, DNA, geographical distribution, and so on, would help students see that multiple lines of evidence are brought to bear on scientific problems.

In addition, one could also examine a related question from the past (such as the classification of the various panda bears) to see how questions that were once controversial became more or less settled.

The point of this example is to show that there are genuine scientific controversies accessible to high school students that can be used to show them how scientists critically analyze the evidence, argue among themselves, and eventually move towards consensus.

This type of exercise would be genuinely educational in respect to science. However, this is not what the ID movement intends when they support “critical analysis” - what they want is a vehicle to insert their decidedly non-mainstream concerns into the curriculum.

50 Comments

Intelligent design is not a theory, it is a hypothesis without measureable predictions that posits a mechanism (an intelligent designer) for which there is no evidence. Quite silly.

…perhaps teachers could use ID to illustrate the differences between psuedoscience, antiscience and science.

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Discussions about teaching “critical thinking” usually make the same error. They presume that science is or should be the application of a predefined methodology to facts. But the history of science is all about a struggle over what will count as a scientific explanation and that struggle continues. In any event, since serious judgments about the probability of a theory depend on prior knowledge, it is futile to level the playing field by assuming as a matter of principal that any hypothesis has equal likelihood in advance. That would just make it impossible to get anywhere. It’s understandable that Intelligent design folks would like us to disregard the immense body of research, data, and theory that supports natural explanations of evolution; but that’s just special pleading. They promote a traditional but obviously inadequate philosoophy of science, not because they have any reason to think it is correct, but because it is convenient for their religious purposes.

The “What is a Species” question would be a great course. Excellent idea.

The biggest leap religious folks have to make is to abandon their foregone conclusion in favor of one that is established upon empirical evidence and supported with scientific methods. I would argue that even someone of deep religious conviction would agree that their belief would be even better substantiated by physical evidence. Once they can admit this to themselves, they need to be convinced that the best way to look at evidence is to abandon any prior conclusion. Hopefully, they will see the logic in this, as evidence works best when it is used to build a case, not work toward some pre-established goal. Then perhaps the mountains of evidence against creationism will begin to finally take shape as actual science and not just a threat to their faith. It would seem most IDist and creationists look upon evolution as some shadowy, amorphous theory that aims to kill their god, rather than a rigorously documented and researched field of science. The changing of these misconceptions begins in the classrooms, and teachers need to make their case more logically appealing than the undercurrent of doubt being handed to them at home or in the church.

An alternate lesson plan was developed in Ohio on the topic of How do new species form? A critical analysis of current evolutionary concepts.

See Tom Baillieul’s critique of the ID-based “critical analysis” lesson plan’s references and linked web sites.

Good. Keith and I both contributed comments on this subject, but I hadn’t seen the actually alternative lesson plan. I knew a number of people had written strong indictments of the flaws of the model lesson plan written by the IDists on the curriculum committee.

How about teaching students to analyze critically, and in the process to never split infinitives :)

At the specific request of several members of the Ohio State Board of Education, an alternative lesson plan on speciation for the “Critical Thinking” Benchmark was written by genuine evolutionary biologists, members of Ohio Citizens for Science. That alternative lesson plan was sent to the Ohio Department of Education at the end of February 2004 during the Board’s discussions of the model curriculum. At the March meeting of OBE, we were informed that the Department would not consider it during that round of adoptions, because there was no time to get comments or field tests. ODE was not even going to distribute the alternative to the Board for its information until several Members demanded it.

So the Board adopted the trash Lesson Plan, partly scrubbed of the more overt YEC references but still unadulterated Wellsian trash, that was written by the Intelligent Design Creationism proponents. Once again, the motion in the Board to delete the trash Lesson Plan from the Model Curriculum was defeated 7-10 with one abstention, with all 7 votes to delete coming from elected Members of the Board, and 8 of the 10 votes against deletion coming from Governor Taft’s appointees. Can you say “political decision”?

RBH

Oops. Wesley beat me to it. That’ll teach me to read the whole thread before posting. Oh, well, I had the vote counts! And I know that the alternative was actually requested by Memmbers of OBE and was deep-sixed by ODE. :)

RBH

Critical analysis is boring. Well before their teens, tell them stories. Tell them about phlogiston. Tell them about caloric. Tell them about the 4 humours. Tell them about Ptolemaic epicycles and about the luminiferous ether. Tell them about Theophrastus Philippus Aureolus Bombastus von Hohenheim, Dr Dee, and Francis Bacon stuffing chickens with snow. Tell them about the splendid Bishop Berkeley, who was right after all, kind of. Tell them about big bang vs. steady state. Tell them how the personalities involved were often wrong, often blinkered, often stupid, and often reluctant to let the facts get in the way of a good story. Nevertheless .….… by the time they’re ready for the hard stuff they’ll know something of the peculiar processes by which knowledge, er, evolves, and should recognise the difference between a scientific debate and other kinds of debate.

Nicely said, Gav.

There is definitely a scientific, rational basis for intelligent design. I’m trying to catch up with some of the material on this forum, but irreducible complexity has been formulated in mathematical terms by numerous scientists. Furthermore, evolution (and intelligent design) are usually just overlays in the curriculum, and so could each be given, side-by-side, in the final weeks of the course (I taught junior high biology for awhile, but now teach high-school chemistry, so I’m familiar with the structure of adolescent science education).

Finally, by the reading I’ve done in the biology arena, I’m convinced that evolution itself is quite untenable. I hate to say it, but the censorship in the scientific community is palpable and the notion of academic freedom with regards to this subject and related ones in geology seems to have been replaced with one of thinly veiled demagoguery. It’s time for equal representation, so that students can indeed see what’s true and what’s not.

Admonitus: irreducible complexity has been formulated in mathematical terms by numerous scientists.

Then you should have no trouble coming up with at least one reference for us.

Unsubstantiated accusations of censorship are demagoguery that’s not even thinly veiled.

Admonitus wrote

… irreducible complexity has been formulated in mathematical terms by numerous scientists.

To help Admonitus along with his task of finding references for mathematical formulations of irreducible complexity, here are three different definitions of it from ID’s very own Encyclopedia of Science and Philosophy. Not an equation in sight, I’m afraid, unless one regards Behe’s counting of ‘unselected steps’ a “mathematical formulation”. Counting is math, I reckon.

Michael Behe’s Original Definition: A single system composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function of the system, wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning. (Darwin’s Black Box, 39)

William Dembski’s Enhanced Definition: A system performing a given basic function is irreducibly complex if it includes a set of well-matched, mutually interacting, nonarbitrarily individuated parts such that each part in the set is indispensable to maintaining the system’s basic, and therefore original, function. The set of these indispensable parts is known as the irreducible core of the system. (No Free Lunch, 285)

Michael Behe’s “Evolutionary” Definition An irreducibly complex evolutionary pathway is one that contains one or more unselected steps (that is, one or more necessary-but-unselected mutations). The degree of irreducible complexity is the number of unselected steps in the pathway.

RBH

“Finally, by the reading I’ve done in the biology arena, I’m convinced that evolution itself is quite untenable.” So which is it, Admonitus? Are they all lying? Or all fools? The tens of thousands of professional biologists who think it’s tenable–are they liars, or fools?

I think i’m going to go to the bathroom and scrawl some bad things about Admonitus. Where’s my Sharpie…

Let’s try to write the question in a less loaded manner, because it is relevant to one of my main points.

Admonitus writes, “Finally, by the reading I’ve done in the biology arena, I’m convinced that evolution itself is quite untenable.”

I don’t know what Admonitus’s background is, but the question I ask him (as Steve did), is this: “how can you explain why you think you are likely to be right and thousands upon thousands of scientists who work in fields related to evolutionary theory think it is more than tenable - that much of it is quite solidly established? If it is so clear to you that evolution is untenable, why don’t all these others see that also?

Darwin himself admitted the fragility of his theory in The Origin of Species: “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.” Numerous, successive, slight modifications could not have produced the multi-protein chains such as the blood clotting cascade, because removal of any one component simply renders the system inoperable. IIRC, Russel Doolittle was mightily embarrassed by his flagrant and ill-considered attempts to bring down Michael Behe when his ideas first started gaining steam. A liberal publication like the New York Times might publish Doolittle’s arguments in an editorial, but Behe’s arguments have stood firm. There is no credible argument for the evolution of irreducibly complex biochemical systems, and Behe’s hypothesis is becoming more of a theorem every time evolutionary biology fails to refute it (indeed, it seems every step forward in molecular biology is a step backward for the evolutionary hypothesis). William Dembski has provided further support for Behe’s hypothesis with his work on information theory. I’ll see what I can find for you if I have the time.

As for the “thousands of scientists who think evolution is tenable,” I keep thinking that this is really another soft spot for evolutionists and I’ve let some of my students know if they ask. They seem so eager to pounce on the idea that they’re a huge majority in science. Once that elephant gets hurled, though, is there anyone stopping to look around and really talk with their colleagues about what they think? My hunch is that peer pressure and a perception that someone’s coleague believes in evolution conspire to make the evolutionists’ numbers seem much larger than they really are. After all, most of the eminent scientists of history have operated under the assumption of divine intervention. Now that the laws of physics have been dissected so far, and the nature of living things has been elucidated, is it so hard to accept that age-old suspicions may have been true?

IMHO, it’s evolution that has a lot to prove and a lot of ground to take. Intelligent design has historically been a much more solid foundation for biology, and it’s now starting to appear all of science as well.

Quote from Admonitus:

“After all, most of the eminent scientists of history have operated under the assumption of divine intervention.”

Intervention ? Really ? On which side of the equations which Maxwell wrote for electromagnetism did a God term appear, which would have described said intervention ?

I think you confuse their theological belief in divine creation with the scientific explanations that those eminent scientists gave.

Regards, HRG.

So, Admonitus, if we were intelligently designed, why do I have an appendix?

Anyway, if you think there aren’t any credible criticisms of Behe, it doesn’t sound like you’ve been doing your homework. Instead of just arguing by declaration and “hunches” (“There is no credible argument for the evolution of irreducibly complex biochemical systems”; “My hunch is that peer pressure and a perception that someone’s coleague believes in evolution conspire to make the evolutionists’ numbers seem much larger than they really are.”), try reading the following article and present us with a point by point explanation, citing your sources, of where it is wrong. Please devote particular attenton to the passage about the blood clotting cascade, about halfway down, and again, if you think it is wrong present an argument, not merely an assertion, explaining why.

http://www.talkdesign.org/faqs/icdm[…]ICDmyst.html

Oh, Admonitus, one more thing. Here’s a partial transcript of an interview where Kenneth Miller backs Behe into a corner and gets him to admit he’s wrong about the blood clotting cascade being IC. I await your response. The full interview can be read here:

http://tinyurl.com/yucos

KM: So the point stands that a subset of these proteins is functional in a different context. Now that’s the bacterial flagellum, let’s look a couple of the other guys. Let’s look at the clotting pathway, this is the way in which blood clots, you call this the Rube Goldberg in the blood, great stuff, and the clotting pathway is extremely complex. It produces a clot around the red blood cell, and what you wrote is, in your book is that none of the cascade proteins, these proteins, are used for anything except controlling the formation of clots, that’s very clear. Yet, in the absence of any of the components blood does not clot and the system fails. Now here’s the, the hard part for me. Remember you said, in the absence of any of the components, blood does not clot and the system fails. One of those components that you’ve talked about is called factor 12 or Hagemann factor, and you’d think, if we take it away, the system should fail, so there shouldn’t be any living organisms that are missing Hagemann factor, but it turns out, uh, lo and behold, that there are some organisms that are missing Hagemann factor, I’ve crossed them off up there, and those organisms turn out to be dolphins and porpoises…I assume that statement therefore is incorrect and has to be changed?

MB: Well, first of all let me express my condolences for the dolphins. Umm…[laughter]

KM: You don’t have to have to do condolences they do fine. That’s my point. It’s the theory of irreducible complexity that needs condolences at this point, [laughter/applause] because that’s what’s happening.

MB: Well, if you read my book a little more closely, you’ll see that I talk about both the intrinsic and extrinsic pathway, I say that they can use both of them. And, uh, you’ll see that when I talk about irreducible complexity I say, the details of the pathway, beyond uh christmas factor and so on, are rather vague, so let’s uh, so I said I’ll, we’ll confine my argument to those. But nonetheless…

KM: Yeah but your own words are up here and you point out Hagemann factor, factor 12 and so forth, so they’re part of that system.

MB: Well, um, nonetheless, let me point out that if you do delete prothrombin if you delete tissue factor, you end up with this.

KM: I’m asking you about Hagemann factor. I’m not deleting those. My question is straightforward. You said you couldn’t delete them, nature’s done the experiment, it deleted them, doesn’t that disprove the hypothesis?… and you’re talking about deleting other ones?

MB: You’re right there are redundant components in the blood clotting system…

KM: So it’s not irreducibly complex?

MB: In the same sense that a rattrap is not, that’s correct.

Apologies about the formatting errors in the above.

Man, this guy makes Creationist Timmy look like a piker. He only needs a few more sentences to have given every known argument against evolution. Try to work the remaining ones into your posts, guy:

Darwin didn’t believe it himself/recanted on his deathbed Evolution’s really a religion The odds against (whatever) randomly assembling is (huge number) The Earth is only 6,000 years old, so evolutution hasn’t had enough time

We’ve been round this block many times with creationists before. I suggest Admonitus check the archives before embarrassing himself and his cause yet again.

Meanwhile, this part of the pattern seems to be pretty predictable:

Creationist - (henceforth Paleyist ) comes in with a raft of ID slogans, bearing the distinctive imprint of the Discovery Institute.

Despite unusually verbose comments, and authoritative allusions to “mathematical” rigor, Paleyist offers no specifics, no calculations, no references.

In the ultimate display of chutzpah, Paleyist suggests that it is “peer pressure” that keeps all those ovine scientists in line. Censorship, conspiracies, death rattle of a failed theory… (yawn).

Here’s a list of unsupported statements and implications found in Admonitus’s latest, none of which I expect him to get a pass on:

1 There is definitely a scientific, rational basis for intelligent design

2 irreducible complexity has been formulated in mathematical terms by numerous scientists.

3 censorship in the scientific community is palpable

4 the notion of academic freedom with regards to this subject and related ones in geology seems to have been replaced with one of thinly veiled demagoguery. (Emphasis mine.) There’s a real red flag. This is where the pretense that ID is distinct from good old fashioned creationism slips. Check comment #4572 over on the Bathroom Wall, where the YEC flag is flown more prominently

5 Numerous, successive, slight modifications could not have produced the multi-protein chains such as the blood clotting cascade, because removal of any one component simply renders the system inoperable

6 Behe’s arguments have stood firm

7 it seems every step forward in molecular biology is a step backward for the evolutionary hypothesis

8 William Dembski has provided further support for Behe’s hypothesis with his work on information theory

9 most of the eminent scientists of history have operated under the assumption of divine intervention.

10 … it’s evolution that has a lot to prove and a lot of ground to take.

11 Intelligent design has historically been a much more solid foundation for biology,…

12 …and it’s now starting to appear all of science as well.

By the way… may I ask of what, and by whom, does Admonitus consider himself admonitus?

From Admonitus:

Darwin himself admitted the fragility of his theory in The Origin of Species: “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.”

Darwin was being too hard on himself. Every law contains a severability clause, something like “If any part of this act is declared invalid, the remainder remains in effect.” Scientists apply the same thing to a theory: If a part of a theory doesn’t work, they will try to replace the unworkable part without affecting the parts that still work. The essence of Darwin’s theory is variation plus natural selection. He assumed that variation has to come in small, gradual steps, but it turns out that nature doesn’t always work that way. Nature guides the theory, not vice versa.

Admonitus - looks like legalistic thinking. In general I find that “critical thinking” means propositional logic which is of limited use (at best) in science. Students would do better to ask “How does one ask a scientific question?”, “How does one develop an hypothesis?”, “What predictions does the hypothesis make?”, “How can I test those predictions?”. “What is a species?” is too complex a question for beginning students.

Thanks, HRG. Caught me in a late-night stupor. That is, indeed, what I was intending to say, but as can be inferred from the great improbability of randomly creating certain irreducibly complex systems, intelligent intervention was necessary not just for the advent of the universe but the placement of things in it. Life is, of course, not removed from physical laws, but the organization of life is something altogether removed from random processes that evolution is based on.

Also, when I see arguments like “nature guides the theory” I have to wonder how much the facts are really able to speak for themselves. There must be an initial framework for interpreting facts, particularly when one does not have all information available as is the situation we’re in now. The quality of the framwork may be judged by its ability to accommodate the facts we know. In Darwin’s day, there was some desire to provide a purely naturalistic, atheistic theory of life and its origin. Darwinian evolution stood out as it was able to accommodate some of the facts. But even then, and especially today, it falls far short.

As for the dolphins, river dolphins, and porpoises, I could believe that dolphins and porposies are descendants (via natural selection) from the original “dolphin” kind, but I have no doubt that the functionality of their clotting system without Hagemann factor is the result of sophisticated, deliberate engineering: take any organism that does have Hagemann factor and try knocking it out. The clotting will invariably be prevented. There’s no functional intermediate, and thus no way to get such an organism without careful organization of the parts, de novo.

Admonitus makes standard ID arguments, the flaws in which have been discussed in great detail elsewhere. I don’t mind if they get discussed some here also, but I still think the bigger question is more important - despite Admonitis’s sense of assurance, his ideas (especially those about the age of the earth and the existence of created kinds), are entirely rejected by mainstream science and have in fact been declared religious, not science, by Suprem Court decisions. Therefore, these ideas have no place in the public school system.

Hey Admonitus, where’s that mathematical formulation of irreducible complexity you mentioned? I’d like to see this for myself. Who are some of the “numerous scientists” who have come up with such formulations? Where and when was their work published?

Are whales part of the dolphin kind, too, as AIG suggests?

Martin asked:

“So, Admonitus, if we were intelligently designed, why do I have an appendix?”

This is a puzzle. Having an appendix should have some selective advantage to counteract the potential disappointment of dying of appendicitis as a young adult. Not sure that’s dealt with in Dr Theobald’s otherwise very informative FAQ. I’d be interested to know, not so much why people have an appendix as why they’ve still got an appendix (assuming it’s not been removed).

Also, when I see arguments like “nature guides the theory” I have to wonder how much the facts are really able to speak for themselves.

Hardly at all. It is a given among philosophers of science that facts are theory-dependent. You can’t talk about genes, for instance, without a theory of heredity.

The quality of the framwork may be judged by its ability to accommodate the facts we know.

Evolution, especially with the addition of developmental biology, provides very broad and deep explanations. ID, on the other hand, concentrates on a few seemingly difficult issues (which sometimes turn out to have been explained long ago, when ID wasn’t looking), and ignores all the things that are explained. The defining characteristic of ID, IMHO, is that its promoters don’t seem interested in biology.

I can’t possibly answer all the charges that are being brought against me, but I’ll take the Socratic dialogue scrawled on the bathroom wall in good humor.

So far, I’ve got agreement from John Wendt that facts are interpreted according to a framework. The question of evolution versus creation is one of unproveable versus unproveable (all these events happened in the distant past, where our knowledge is wrought with presuppositions). Any others willing to be so frank?

As for the human appendix and other “vestigial” organs, a true vestigial organ is just as elusive as a true, functional intermediate. There are uses for your appendix, but they may have simply been the weakest link in the “very good” chain that God created in the design of human beings. What I am convinced we are seeing is the result of imperfections that have worked into the original creation, which adds another layer of complexity (not to be confused with the specified complexity that was originally created) to the problem of back-tracking biological history. I expect that supposing such is not the case would then make the problem even more confusing, as modern biology seems to have now tied itself it knots about it.

Admonitus wrote:

“…but as can be inferred from the great improbability of randomly creating certain irreducibly complex systems, intelligent intervention was necessary…”

Why do people who claim to have read Darwin and to understand the current formulation of evolutionary theory continue to talk this way? Admonitus, pay attention; Genetic Mutations - the pool of variation available for selection to work on - are random in nature, but the results of selection due to environmental pressures on groups of organisms with this pool of natural variation are highly directed, indeed solely directed, toward those mutations which result in more offspring that are better adapted to their current environment. Organisms aren’t randomly created! Stop! Please, can someone make it stop!?!?

Ugh. You have an appendix because, in the past, it conferred a selective advantage to your distant ancestors, possibly aiding in the digestion of uncooked meat. Not needed any longer. Therefore random mutations in the gene sequences that code for the elements that build an appendix are not selected for or against. Since most mutations are NOT beneficial, if selective pressures cease to work on a particular system, it will generally atrophy and eventually dissappear.

From Admonitus: “As for the dolphins, river dolphins, and porpoises, I could believe that dolphins and porposies are descendants (via natural selection) from the original “dolphin” kind, but I have no doubt that the functionality of their clotting system without Hagemann factor is the result of sophisticated, deliberate engineering: take any organism that does have Hagemann factor and try knocking it out.  The clotting will invariably be prevented.  There’s no functional intermediate, and thus no way to get such an organism without careful organization of the parts, de novo.”

Setting aside the fact that “kind” is creationist lingo and not in any way an accurate way to refer to any kind of scientifically valid phylogeny…

Why would this “sophisticated, deliberate” engineer you propose bother to create a handful of species that don’t need the Hagemann factor in their blood clotting cascade while most other species do? It seems to me it would be easier (and more reflective of the purported “I” in ID) to use one template for all species; less work that way. See, Admonitus, all you’re doing is making guesses, and I asked you for arguments and to cite your sources. Give me science, not assumptions.

And in any event, your pointing out that the abrupt removal of the Hagemann factor in blood clotting from any species that does possess it now would result in their blood clotting not working does not in and of itself retroactively prove that the clotting cascade could not have evolved gradually into such a state.

I repeat: why do I (and you) have an appendix, a superfluous organ that serves no purpose other than to present a risk of disease or even death? Is this also the result of “sophisticated, deliberate engineering”?

PS: Your dodging of Behe’s concession that the blood clotting cascade is not, after all, irreducibly complex (as well as numerous other questions) has been noted.

From Admonitus: “As for the dolphins, river dolphins, and porpoises, I could believe that dolphins and porposies are descendants (via natural selection) from the original “dolphin” kind, but I have no doubt that the functionality of their clotting system without Hagemann factor is the result of sophisticated, deliberate engineering: take any organism that does have Hagemann factor and try knocking it out.  The clotting will invariably be prevented.  There’s no functional intermediate, and thus no way to get such an organism without careful organization of the parts, de novo.”

Setting aside the fact that “kind” is creationist lingo and not in any way an accurate way to refer to any kind of scientifically valid phylogeny…

Why would this “sophisticated, deliberate” engineer you propose bother to create a handful of species that don’t need the Hagemann factor in their blood clotting cascade while most other species do? It seems to me it would be easier (and more reflective of the purported “I” in ID) to use one template for all species; less work that way. See, Admonitus, all you’re doing is making guesses, and I asked you for arguments and to cite your sources. Give me science, not assumptions. You could say “I have no doubt that (blah blah) was the result of sophisticated, deliberate engineering” about anything at all, including the freak birth of a two-headed calf.

Your pointing out that the abrupt removal of the Hagemann factor in blood clotting from any species that does possess it now would result in their blood clotting not working does not in and of itself retroactively prove that the clotting cascade could not have evolved gradually into such a state.

I repeat: why do I (and you) have an appendix, a superfluous organ that serves no purpose other than to present a risk of disease or even death? Is this also the result of “sophisticated, deliberate engineering”?

PS: Your dodging of Behe’s concession that the blood clotting cascade is not, after all, irreducibly complex (as well as numerous other questions) has been noted.

Re Comment 4635: Jeff, I know this, but I want Admonitus’s answer, since he thinks everything is the result of “sophisticated, deliberate engineering.”

Sorry about the double post with 4636 and 4637.

Ok Martin. I also would like to see a straightforward ID answer to this question. Something with explanatory and predictive power.

Admonitus:

The question of evolution versus creation is one of unproveable versus unproveable (all these events happened in the distant past, where our knowledge is wrought [sic with presuppositions).

Since no theory is ultimately “provable”, all have equal status? This is the first step in intellectual nihilism.

So what “presuppositions” is our knowledge “wrought” with? Mind you, I’m not going to hold my breath: the Paleyist style of argument is to litter the terrain with several undefined unsupported assertions, and when challenged on any one of them, to litter the terrain with five more.

A “new” remix of the same old, dull broken record labelled “ID” is being played by this “Admonitus”. It’s a bad tune, and you can’t dance to it.

Jeff said:

“You have an appendix because, in the past, it conferred a selective advantage to your distant ancestors, possibly aiding in the digestion of uncooked meat. Not needed any longer. Therefore random mutations in the gene sequences that code for the elements that build an appendix are not selected for or against.”

Martin said:

“why do I (and you) have an appendix, a superfluous organ that serves no purpose other than to present a risk of disease or even death?”

Can’t think of any other vestigial bits and pieces that carry quite this degree of risk. So why aren’t relevant gene sequences (apparently) selected against?

Don’t know is a perfectly acceptable answer. Just wondering if anyone does know.

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Gav,

So why aren’t relevant gene sequences (apparently) selected against?

Just guessing here. Appendicitis tends to afflict people after they have reproduced; hence, the selective disadvantage is minimal (the benefits of grandparenthood on offspring notwithstanding). Also, it’s possible (I suppose) that the genes required for appendix development are necessary or useful in some other process which provides a benefit which hasn’t been appreciated or recognized (yet).

Gav,

Actually, before modern medicine intervened appendices were being actively selected against. How many people who were susceptable to appendicitis died before leaving any progeny? Lots. If they have no selective advantage, and cause N pre-reproductive age deaths, then, ever so slowly they’re being selected against. Worldwide this may still be true but in the developed world, with appendectomies ranking with tonsilectomies for commonness, I would argue that there is no significant selective pressure, for or against.

GWW,

Good point. Cross functional aspects of genes, to my understanding, can greatly complicate the issue of whether some system atrophies just because there’s no direct selective pressure on it. If we found and muted the expression of sequences specific to appendix formation, what else might we affect?

More to the appendix than you thought:

http://www.sciam.com/askexpert_ques[…]&catID=3

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This page contains a single entry by Jack Krebs published on July 5, 2004 10:24 AM.

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