How often do biologists talk about this evolution stuff, anyway?

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Creationists like to say that evolution's influence is dying and that it is of little importance to doing biology. They take advantage of the layperson's lack of familiarity with the scientific literature to argue that evolution has little relevance, or that Dobzhansky's aphorism that "nothing makes sense in biology except in the light of evolution" is false. Anyone who actually reads the biological literature, though, will come away with exactly the opposite impression: the journals are full of references to evolution, even in disciplines and journals that don't have "evolution" in their title. The concept is central; it's as ubiquitous as references to "genes".

To demonstrate, I've carried out a quick exercise, similar to one I've done before. The latest copy of one of the major journals in my field, Developmental Biology, just arrived in my mailbox. It's a top-notch journal, affiliated with our biggest organization, the Society for Developmental Biology. It's not evolutionary biology directly, but there has been an increasing awareness of the significance of evolution to our field, so it's a good representative of an expanding, hot field which is experiencing some synergy with other disciplines.

What I did was to quickly skim through each of the 21 articles in Volume 274, Issue 2, of Developmental Biology, and ask myself how much each article depended upon or discussed the topic of evolution. I categorized and color-coded each one by the following criteria:

Blue articles are explicit in their discussion of evolution, proposing evolutionary connections or even testing evolutionary hypotheses. The evolutionary aspect may not be the major point of the paper, but it is discussed.
Green articles treat evolution as implicit; they may work with molecules homologous between different species, but they don't specifically address evolutionary ideas. This is not to say that they have a lesser commitment to evolution, but more that they take it for granted.
Gray articles don't say anything one way or the other about evolutionary relationships. Most often these are papers that are tightly focused on analysis of data from a single species. It's entirely possible to imagine a creationist writing these, but of course there is no implication that the authors deny evolution.
Black articles would be ones that directly discuss Intelligent Design or other anti-evolutionary ideas about science. This is a hypothetical category; none were found.

Here is my classification of each of those articles, with a brief justification for why I put each in its particular category.

Continue reading "How often do biologists talk about this evolution stuff, anyway?" (on Pharyngula)

33 Comments

Jolly good. But more to the point, supposing evolution was not true. Would it change anything?

For example, to take one at random:

Tissue-specific expression of FoxD reporter constructs in amphioxus embryos Jr-Kai Yu, Nicholas D. Holland and Linda Z. Holland This is all about molecules central to the evolution of vertebrate innovations, such as neural crest

This paper talks about the introduction of genetic material from somewhere else (AmphiFoxD) into an invertebrate organism. But how much does this actually tell us about evolution? Firstly, a total of 6.3kb were introduced. These weren’t generated randomly; they were extracted from vertebrates. So we aren’t being told how this genetic material might have appeared in the first place. Secondly, this material was inserted into the organism eggs in a sophisticated laboratory experiment. How does this correspond with the introduction of genetic material in vivo, which is what is required for evolution to occur? I would humbly suggest, not at all.

Now, I know that you will say that my grasp of molecular biology is obviously limited, and that that these weren’t what the experiments were for. However, you can’t say that this paper is “explicit in [its] discussion of evolution”, and then criticise me for pointing out that in the key areas that are required for evolution to occur (i.e. the production of genes coding new features), it is simply assuming evolution works. I assume that what it is talking about is evolution onwards from this point - but in the matter of the experiment, it appears to just assume that evolution happens.

There’s an illustration in “Darwin’s Black Box”, which I will now proceed to mess up the description of. If somebody tells me that they can show that cakes appear at random from a particular strain of wheat, then I would be impressed. If they then say that they want to grind the wheat into flour first to speed up the process, then I might have reservations, but possibly go along with it. But if they say that they want to mix the wheat with flour and milk in a bowl and then put it in an oven, and say that it still demonstrates the same thing, then I walk away.

Conversely, what would these experiments tell us if evolution was not true? Well, it would still show that these genes do what they have been identified to do - it would still perhaps show that they (or something like them) were crucial components in the vertebrate genome. The only thing you wouldn’t need is the blind faith that somehow these things can appear by mutation and natural selection.

It is not simply assuming evolution works. It is providing tools to test specific models of evolution.

This study, which is the first report of a method for introduction of large molecules such as DNA into amphioxus embryos, opens the way for studies of gene regulation and function in amphioxus and for comparative studies with vertebrates to understand the relationship between the extensive gene duplications that occurred within the vertebrate lineage and the evolution of vertebrate innovations such as neural crest.

What is proposed is that the alteration of regulatory regions of DNA has been the primary mechanism for altering body plans, and the way that this happens is often through duplication of a gene followed by tissue-specific changes in the regulation of the copies. FoxD is likely to have evolved through this process; Amphioxus has only one FoxD gene, while vertebrates have 5 subclasses. In particular, one of those subclasses is expressed in an essential and innovative tissue, the neural crest. Yu et al. are working towards identifying the molecular foundation for the evolution of a tissue, asking what specific changes occurred in the regulation of FoxD between amphioxus and us. It’s part of the process of identifying the ingredients in the recipe for this particular cake.

Your analogy really doesn’t hold up well. We’re saying that there’s wheat and flour and milk and an oven involved, and showing that there is a series of comprehensible, entirely natural events that occur to make a cake; it doesn’t take a designer to introduce changes into the promoter of a gene. ID creationists are saying that there was some mysterious, unexplainable, impossible event that occurred, and Behe’s whole argument rests on something being completely impossible without some kind of quasi-miraculous intervention. This line of research shows that he is wrong, and that quite ordinary processes like gene duplication and variation are sufficient to explain the differences in this battery of genes between rather different organisms.

I know the analogy doesn’t really hold up - it’s not really connected. But I like it anyway, and it is relevant to the wider issue of how well-supported the fundamentals of evolution are.

However, I disagree with your comment that “ID” “creationists” - (which you persist in sticking together, evidently failing to understand the fundamental philosophical separation!!!) are saying that there was

some mysterious, unexplainable, impossible event that occurred

viz. the action of a designer. It is only mysterious, unexplainable and impossible if you have a prior commitment to uniformity of natural causes within a closed system. However, if you have this prior commitment, then we are also part of the system, and there is no point in this argument, because we have no significance. There isn’t even any point in wishing Wesley well for his surgery, or for him to bother having it done at all - because he’s just an assembly of molecules, and his sense of life and significance is meaningless.

It is actually the evolutionists who say this - not once, but over and over again - mysterious, unexplainable, impossible generation of new genetic material. They assert that it isn’t impossible, but seemingly have no idea as to what the actual odds are (I know - I spent several days trying to get any information on this out of people here. When I was given information, and started to tease out the implications, I was basically told to go away). When it is pointed out that huge amounts of new information would have been needed to produce the body plans of new taxa that first appear in the fossil records during the Cambrian explosion, evolutionists argue with the analysis, saying that it is possible that the time involved could have been an order of magnitude or two longer - and fail to realise that it would have to be about twenty orders of magnitude longer to make a difference to the logic. And don’t tell me this isn’t a significant debate even within evolutionism - the difference between punctuated equilibrium and conventional neo-darwinism is all about the fact that darwinists simply don’t know how the fundamentals of their theory can possibly work.

I think I could have been more specific in terms of comments about evolution in this paper and others - I have been puzzling out precisely what I mean by this. At issue isn’t whether a paper assumes, or says anything about, evolution. The issue is whether the discussion or debate about evolution have anything to do with the science involved. It may even be the case that an experiment has been carried out to look at what it would say about evolution - but evolution itself may not bear on the science.

Considering this case again, is evolution a necessary pre-requisite for this experiment to work? No - we know that we can incorporate new genes into creatures which will be expressed.

Does evolution necessarily follow from the research? No - it may be the case that the gene and its variants are needed for higher organisms to express additional features. It may be the case that duplication and relatively small numbers of mutations might explain further changes in body plans. However, a lot more research would be needed to demonstrate this, and it is equally possible that regulation by genes is designed. With no analysis of the probability of this arising, or any attempt at suggesting a mechanism by which these thousands of base pairs could appear in the first place, there is no connection with the fundamental process of evolution. It is the improbability of the fundamentals, not how well already specified genes work, that constitutes the ID challenge to evolution.

Does the research make evolution look more convincing? I would argue, no - to go back to the poor analogy, being able to show that we can switch the oven on doesn’t demonstrate that the wheat can make itself into cakes. You are adding a huge amount of design to wee amphioxus to argue that chance and time can achieve the same thing. And you are still not addressing the fundamental question - how this gene might have come about in the first place.

It is inevitable that, if evolution frames people’s beliefs, they will do research on the basis that it is true. A paper written by an ID’er having carried out this research would not have talked about evolution, of course. It would have confined itself to making the point that this gene was crucial to the expression of new body features in higher taxa. The claims that have been made for evolution are irrelevant to the actual research in the paper, even though evolution is discussed, since no assessment has been made of the reasonableness of these claims in the light of the fundamental processes of evolution.

Also, molecular homology isn’t necessarily or sufficiently related to evolution - there are ID and creationist interpretations of this evidence. Your categorisation of papers is too broad-brushstroke, and too vague for your analysis to be meaningful as anything other than propaganda. I realise that you charge creationists and ID’ers with this - but ultimately if you want to win arguments rather than preach to the converted (which is basically what the discussion on Panda’s Thumb is about - I am an interloper!!!), you need to out-argue them.

I know the analogy doesn’t really hold up - it’s not really connected. But I like it anyway, and it is relevant to the wider issue of how well-supported the fundamentals of evolution are.

However, I disagree with your comment that “ID” “creationists” - (which you persist in sticking together, evidently failing to understand the fundamental philosophical separation!!!) are saying that there was

some mysterious, unexplainable, impossible event that occurred

viz. the action of a designer. It is only mysterious, unexplainiable and impossible if you have a prior commitment to uniformity of natural causes within a closed system. However, if you have this prior commitment, then we are also part of the system, and there is no point in this argument, because we have no significance. There isn’t even any point in wishing Wesley well for his surgery, or for him to bother having it done at all - because he’s just an assembly of molecules, and his sense of life and significance is meaningless.

It is actually the evolutionists who say this - not once, but over and over again - mysterious, unexplainable, impossible generation of new genetic material. They assert that it isn’t impossible, but seemingly have no idea as to what the actual odds are (I know - I spent several days trying to get any information on this out of people here. When I was given information, and started to tease out the implications, I was basically told to go away). When it is pointed out that huge amounts of new information would have been needed to produce the body plans of new taxa that first appear in the fossil records during the Cambrian explosion, evolutionists argue with the analysis, saying that it is possible that the time involved could have been an order of magnitude or two longer - and fail to realise that it would have to be about twenty orders of magnitude longer to make a difference to the logic. And don’t tell me this isn’t a significant debate even within evolutionism - the difference between punctuated equilibrium and conventional neo-darwinism is all about the fact that darwinists simply don’t know how the fundamentals of their theory can possibly work.

I think I could have been more specific in terms of comments about evolution in this paper and others - I have been puzzling out precisely what I mean by this. At issue isn’t whether a paper assumes, or says anything about, evolution. The issue is whether the discussion or debate about evolution have anything to do with the science involved. It may even be the case that an experiment has been carried out to look at what it would say about evolution - but evolution itself may not bear on the science.

Considering this case again, is evolution a necessary pre-requisite for this experiment to work? No - we know that we can incorporate new genes into creatures which will be expressed.

Does evolution necessarily follow from the research? No - it may be the case that the gene and its variants are needed for higher organisms to express additional features. It may be the case that duplication and relatively small numbers of mutations might explain further changes in body plans. However, a lot more research would be needed to demonstrate this, and it is equally possible that regulation by genes is designed. With no analysis of the probability of this arising, or any attempt at suggesting a mechanism by which these thousands of base pairs could appear in the first place, there is no connection with the fundamental process of evolution. It is the improbability of the fundamentals, not how well already specified genes work, that constitutes the ID challenge to evolution.

Does the research make evolution look more convincing? I would argue, no - to go back to the poor analogy, being able to show that we can switch the oven on doesn’t demonstrate that the wheat can make itself into cakes. You are adding a huge amount of design to wee amphioxus to argue that chance and time can achieve the same thing. And you are still not addressing the fundamental question - how this gene might have come about in the first place.

It is inevitable that, if evolution frames people’s beliefs, they will do research on the basis that it is true. A paper written by an ID’er having carried out this research would not have talked about evolution, of course. It would have confined itself to making the point that this gene was crucial to the expression of new body features in higher taxa. The claims that have been made for evolution are irrelevant to the actual research in the paper, even though evolution is discussed, since no assessment has been made of the reasonableness of these claims in the light of the fundamental processes of evolution.

Also, molecular homology isn’t necessarily or sufficiently related to evolution - there are ID and creationist interpretations of this evidence. Your categorisation of papers is too broad-brushstroke, and too vague for your analysis to be meaningful as anything other than propaganda. I realise that you charge creationists and ID’ers with this - but ultimately if you want to win arguments rather than preach to the converted (which is basically what the discussion on Panda’s Thumb is about - I am an interloper!!!), you need to out-argue them.

(sorry)

CTa, Having remarked at some point - on EvC - that Panda’s Thumb usually gets a better class of creationists, I’m pleased to see you prove the point.

It does seem to me that referring to IDCreationists is on the mark, as Johnson, Dembski, Wells, Behe - the ID biggies - all acknowledge that the Christian God is their designated Designer. I think it thus becomes the IDCers imperative to make a credible case that ID is not simply DC in a new costume. It seems obvious that a credible positive case cannot be made for supernatural Design until a credible positive case has been made for a supernatural Designer.

I don’t think, in the end, that there can be any “win” in an argument with a creationist, given the inability of science to prove the nonexistence of the supernatural or creationists to prove that it does exist. Knowledge is always incomplete, and the best we can do is try to fill in the gaps, a bit at a time. The best we can hope for is probably to convince the onlookers that science/evolution provides realworld repeatable positive observational and experimental evidence to extrapolate from; and that IDC provides no record or body of research, consisting wholly of negative criticisms and complaints, theology/philosophy, “squishy” math, flexible definitions, and reliance on gaps in knowledge - many of which have been filled since first pointed to. It bears frequent repeating that Science, by definition, does not claim ultimate truths, but Religion does. Science deals with objective observation of the natural; Religion with subjective revelation of the supernatural. The one can neither “prove” nor “disprove” the other.

With the varying cross-fertility of various equine, canis, and panthera “species”; HIV, Ebola, etc; the constant need for new antibiotics; Darwin’s finches and tortoises and iquanas; we can see speciation in realtime operation, and provide a window for examining the fossil evidence for, say, cetacean evolution from land dwelling quadrupeds.

There’s a self-correcting mechanism in science that eventually eliminates the deadends and the falsehoods. I don’t think that can be said for Religion or, by extension, IDC. IDCs demise will be occasioned by the continuing accumulation of evidence FOR evolution - and that will be a day for celebration.

Er, thank you, I think .…

The case for the separateness of ID and creationism is not based on their proponents having a shared belief. Your analysis is logically indistinguishable from saying that because I am a vegetarian and also a conservative (actually, I am neither), then it is my job to establish that the two beliefs are distinct.

This is also separate from the issue of having to demonstrate that there is a God. Firstly, this lies in the realm of philosophical presuppositions, rather than empirical observations. From a theological/philosophical perspective, I can demonstrate that it is reasonable to believe that there is such a thing as an external absolute, that it has various properties that are like those we would describe as characteristics of God, that it is not a problem that observation of this lies outside our experience, and that not having these philosophical presuppositions has an impact on our epistemology (humanist science still operates with what is basically an enlightenment worldview - but philosophy has long abandoned it. Ironically, science was actually founded on a pre-modern world view - which isn’t to say the basis for this worldview has been outdated.… see “Unnatural Enemies” by Kirsten Birkett for more). However, it is not the job of science to change people’s presuppositions - that is philosophy/theology.

This is part of the difference between ID and creationism, as I understand it. Creationism is basically all about saying that people’s presuppositions are wrong or unreasonable a priori, and they need to change them (i.e. accept that there is a God and that he has spoken), which will change how they evaluate the relative merit of the Bible and the theory of evolution. ID doesn’t start from the presupposition of a designer. It looks at the evidence from science, and makes an assessment as to whether the proposition that time and chance (mutation and natural selection) are feasible as engines of evolution, on the basis of probability, and comes to the conclusion that they aren’t. Therefore, an alternative theory is required - namely, that there is an external agent. However, ID does not make any comment on the nature of the external agent.

I agree with you that the problem with the debate between creation and evolution is in a sense a non-starter - though I think that this is because the real issue is the difference in presupposition (though I saw Wesley’s venn diagram relating different beliefs, and accept that the issue of presuppositions doesn’t entirely cover the case). I disagree that religion is entirely subjective - I don’t accept much of Gould’s thesis in “Rocks of Ages” - I think he was basically saying that “religion is OK as long as it doesn’t claim to mean anything”, whereas I believe that God is the ultimate objective reality (though I am limited in my potential experience at the moment because of my own subjectivity). I think it is inevitable that ID is regarded as an “entirely negative” theory - but this is because it is identifying the failure of evolution to come up with a mechanism that works. This is negative - but the problem lies with evolution, and the fact that ID is a reaction against it. As you imply, what would be best for evolution would be to come up with the mechanism for mutation/natural selection to work - i.e. produce the new proteins that evolution requires - not show that if you give it proteins from elsewhere you can show something. I think that the cases that are cited are limited in their value, though I certainly don’t dispute “micro-evolution” - a design that wasn’t able to accommodate changes to the environment would be a bad design. Hence Darwin’s finches - though I think that the changes in beaks are more to do with the expression of different existing aspects of the phenotype, rather than the evolution of new features. Similarly, it was argued on another thread a while ago that viruses were the lowest level of life - however, am I not right in saying that viruses only work with a host? Therefore, they aren’t really independent life. (Or is that only retroviruses?) You can certainly argue that if two creatures aren’t able to reproduce together they are separate species - though that is not necessary or sufficient definition of a species (sheep/goat, horse/donkey etc) so you need something a bit more watertight to say that you are observing speciation.

CTa, First, there are two alternative hypotheses for the simultaneous commonality and variation in nature: evolution and special creation. The direct involvement of an outside agent (as opposed to a natural, repeatable process) is creationism. Period. IDC is a variation of creationism, just as Lamarckian inheritance is a version of evolution. The difference is that the predictions of Lamarckian inheritance can be tested and compared to those of Darwinian natural selection. Darwin wins in every case. To propose the existence of a Designer (whether that is the Biblical Christian god, the Raelian spaceship-beings, Roswell-beings from Alpha Centauri, or an undefined agent) is creationism because it proposes the direct involvement of an agent in explaining biological variation. So let’s have a little truth in advertising here.

The IDC-ers try to beg the question by saying that the Designer isn’t necessarily You-Know-Who. They fail on this attempt precisely because there is no way of testing whether the supposed Design is caused by one being or another. More basically, they have no way of testing whether the apparent design of the Universe was caused by a being or whether it is a figment of our imaginations (we humans will impute repeated patterns to randomly generated dots for example).

Finally, I must take umbrage at your statement of the “failure of evolution to come up with a mechanism that works.” This belies your misunderstanding of the field of modern biochemistry. First, all organisms are related, in a way that is best understood as due to common ancestry. At a more basic level, we can by Darwinian selection come up with a wide variety of novel protein and nucleic acid molecules, many of which work as well as the naturally-occurring ones. But we don’t find them in Biology. Why not? The answer is common ancestry.

I’m sorry for the people whose faith is so weak that they can’t accept the evidence of reason and observation. They are entitled to that belief system but they have no right to call it science, any more than the people who believe that we are regularly visited by aliens can call their belief Astronomy.

The IDC-ers try to beg the question by saying that the Designer isn’t necessarily You-Know-Who. They fail on this attempt precisely because there is no way of testing whether the supposed Design is caused by one being or another.

Sorry, don’t quite follow the logic there - can you clarify? - by your own argument, if there is no way of establishing from empirical data who the supposed designer might be, doesn’t that tie in with the fact that ID-ers aren’t asserting that it might be God? (You can say that - he’s only scarier than Voldemort if you don’t settle your account before you die :-) [Don’t worry, I do know what you are getting at, really…] ) Doesn’t that tie in with naturalistic science in a way that creationism via revelation doesn’t?

More basically, they have no way of testing whether the apparent design of the Universe was caused by a being or whether it is a figment of our imaginations (we humans will impute repeated patterns to randomly generated dots for example).

Again, I disagree. The point made in books such as “The Design Inference” is that DNA is not only complex but specified. No, I know the maths hasn’t been done - but who is going to dispute the fact? The fact is that DNA actually does something (unlike a pattern of random dots, which will only “do something” or “create order” in our minds). Or put it another way, is our DNA randomly generated? I’d like to see you end up with a viable organism from a random sequence of DNA - however long you make it.

Oh, one more thing. What is going on here is that you are defining “creationism” to include Intelligent Design - on the basis of requiring external agent. That is fine - if you want a broad definition of creationism (which suits your purposes in this case). However, what you are then asserting is that ID is therefore like more narrow creationism in all other ways (belief in revelation rather than science - and the other things that mean it is excluded from the canon of science) - which it isn’t - it has only been included under creationism because that was how you chose to define it! This is rubbish logic - but of course, this argument is rarely about logic - it’s all about philosophical presuppositions.

I suppose this shouldn’t surprise me - evolutionists do the same thing by saying that macro-evolution (development of entirely new characteristics, through new proteins etc) and micro-evolution (selection of characteristics within a phenotype) are both evolution. Creationists keep these distinct, accepting micro but rejecting macro. So evolutionists define them as the same thing, then laugh at creationists because they say that they don’t believe in evolution.

Troll:

However, what you are then asserting is that ID is therefore like more narrow creationism in all other ways (belief in revelation rather than science - and the other things that mean it is excluded from the canon of science) - which it isn’t - it has only been included under creationism because that was how you chose to define it! This is rubbish logic - but of course, this argument is rarely about logic - it’s all about philosophical presuppositions.

I don’t think so. The basic distinction is between the position that life occurs and changes naturally, and the position that life was created or changes supernaturally. Indeed, this is the only distinction that matters here. And beyond this, any exploration of the various supernatural creationist models is nothing more than a discussion of competing religious doctrines to which science is indifferent. Science is only capable of investigating natural phenomena, and ALL supernatural speculations fall outside these boundaries, however different they might be from one another.

I suppose this shouldn’t surprise me - evolutionists do the same thing by saying that macro-evolution (development of entirely new characteristics, through new proteins etc) and micro-evolution (selection of characteristics within a phenotype) are both evolution. Creationists keep these distinct, accepting micro but rejecting macro.

I think you’re doing it yourself! Generally, microevolution is the unit of granularity (so to speak) by which life forms can change. In other words, the canonical position is that macroevolution represents a directed series of microevolutional events over a long period of time. You seem to be caught up in the “kinds” mentality, looking at the rainbow and seeing clearly-drawn lines between “yellowness” and “greenness”, such that any color within that band must be unambiguously inserted into either one slot or the other.

In other words, you have reified a segment of what is essentially a spectrum, giving that segnemt a label and declaring it conceptually and qualitatively different from the rest of the spectrum from which it was arbitrarily extracted. I understand WHY you are doing this (your interpretation of scripture requires it), but you should at least recognize THAT you are doing it

C-Troll wrote

Oh, one more thing. What is going on here is that you are defining “creationism” to include Intelligent Design - on the basis of requiring external agent. That is fine - if you want a broad definition of creationism (which suits your purposes in this case). However, what you are then asserting is that ID is therefore like more narrow creationism in all other ways (belief in revelation rather than science - and the other things that mean it is excluded from the canon of science) - which it isn’t - it has only been included under creationism because that was how you chose to define it! This is rubbish logic - but of course, this argument is rarely about logic - it’s all about philosophical presuppositions.

It’s not the ID critics’ purposes that are served by identifying ID with stealth creationism, it’s the ID political movement that is served by it. Phil Johnson invented the “big tent” by thoroughly blurring the lines so as to have access to the political muscle of the YEC troops. Go to a local school board meeting where one or another version of an ID policy is being pushed. The troops on the ground – the audience responding with “Amen” – are YECs to a man and woman. Phil Johnson took care of that in Darwin on Trial:

Clearing up confusion requires a careful and consistent use of terms. In this book, “creation science” refers to young-earth, six-day special creation. “Creationism” means belief in creation in a more general sense. Persons who believe that the earth is billions of years old, and the simple forms of life evolved gradually to become more complex forms including humans, are “creationists” if they believe that a supernatural Creator not only initiated this process but in some meaningful sense controls it in furtherance of a purpose. As we shall see, “evolution” (in contemporary usage) excludes not just creation-science but creationism in the broad sense. By “Darwinism” I mean fully naturalistic evolution, involving chance mechanisms guided by natural selection.

RBH

CTa,

You said, “Er, thank you, I think . …”

I assure you it was a sincere acknowledgement of your presentation, knowledge, demeanor, language skills, and intellect - all of which can be in damnably short supply where creationists are concerned. EvC has recently had some real wacko YECers, and I was truly relieved to find someone like you, whether or not we agree on anything.

You then said, “The case for the separateness of ID and creationism is not based on their proponents having a shared belief. Your analysis is logically indistinguishable from saying that because I am a vegetarian and also a conservative (actually, I am neither), then it is my job to establish that the two beliefs are distinct.”

I disagree completely. Your example, inadvertantly I hope, avoids the simple truth that the leaders of the ID movement, which flatly posits an “Intelligent Designer,” all name the Christian God as that Designer. On that basis I would suggest that your analysis is logically bankrupt.

I must leave my response there for the moment - the dinner bell has rung. I’ll pick it up later this evening.

CTa,

As to your third paragraph (post 8564),I think I’ve already addressed it in my previous post.

I must admit that I’m not entirely sure what you’re trying to say here, but I can only refer again to the reality that the major proponents of ID have all explicitly signed on to the identity of the “Intelligent Designer.” That is the narrow reality that you must address, not some abstract deflection about the existence of God. They’ve already posited the exiastence of God, and you’re stuck with that reality if you want to defend them or their suspect construct(ID).

CTa,

Your paragraph 4 is more of the same, and was addressed in my immediate previous response. You say, “ID doesn’t start from the presupposition of a designer.” I say, “Bullshit!” In point of fact, ID cannot exist without the pressupposed presence and actions of a Designer.

CTa, A couple of points:

You won’t get far in this forum by invoking The Design Inference, which has been rather thoroughly raked over the coals. At best it’s an argument from analogy, and therefore weak. I would hold that it’s fallacious.

Order is the result of design. Biology shows order Therefore, Biology is the result of design.

Illicit major premise. (http://www.datanation.com/fallacies/) It is possible to have order arise through random processes, for example in computer programs like Avida.

I suggest that you look over Elliott Sober’s discussion of the Design Argument (http://philosophy.wisc.edu/sober/default.htm) which is more erudite than my own scribblings.

Thanks for that link Frank. Just read the paper at http://philosophy.wisc.edu/sober/dembski.pdf . Excellent stuff about the design inference.

CTa,

You may “believe that God is the ultimate objective reality..,” but that is a belief which cannot be substantiated objectively, save perhaps by the sight of the skies parting and a massive bearded visage appearing and thundering, “Listen up, most noble creation! I’m only going to say this once!”

Contrary to your assertion, ID does not “identify the failure of evolution to come up with a mechanism that works,” it merely attempts to convince the gullible that that’s what it does. What research has ID produced? what science has it presented? What does it offer to support its proponents’ demands that it be given equal time in the classroom with evolution?

Where and how did I imply that “what would be best for evolution would be to come up with the mechanism for mutation/natural selection to work”?

Are you suggesting that the evidence for cetacean descent from quadruped land mammals is merely evidence for “micro-evolution”?

Concerning Darwin’s finches, if “the changes in beaks are more to do with the expression of different existing aspects of the phenotype,” how do you account for those differing existing aspects?

You asked whether you’re right in saying that viruses only work with a host and that therefore, they aren’t really independent life. My understanding of things like HIV, SARS, Ebola, etc, is that these are viruses which have mutated and jumped species. That would seem to indicate some level of independence. How would you characterize, and explain the “creation” of, symbiotic relationships between different organisms?

As to speciation, I would predict that cross fertility between two groups of organisms indicates those groups’ relatedness. I would further predict that the rate and quality of the fertility of the resultant offspring provides indications of the length of time since those organisms branched from a common ancestor. Carp all you want about “micro-evolution,” but with canis, equus and panthera, at a minimum, we are indeed observing speciation in action. I would claim that “micro-evolution” to the extent that it is a valid concept, is simply a snapshot of one point on a much longer timeline leading to distinct species.

““ID” “creationists” - (which you persist in sticking together, evidently failing to understand the fundamental philosophical separation!!!)”

So, what is the “fundamental philosophical separation” that makes ID different from creationism other than you don’t actually specify who the mystery man is? We stick them together because they are both saying the same thing but one is doing it in a sneaky and confusing way and the other lot are being open about their true motives.

Um, I seem to have rattled cages again! I’m about to go to church, so can’t reply to everything at once. However.…

You may “believe that God is the ultimate objective reality..,” but that is a belief which cannot be substantiated objectively, save perhaps by the sight of the skies parting and a massive bearded visage appearing and thundering, “Listen up, most noble creation! I’m only going to say this once!”

Well, Christians would say this has happened (bar the massive bearded visage) - it’s called the Bible. For more, see “Is propositional revelation nonsense?” - an essay by Francis Schaeffer.

Concerning Darwin’s finches, if “the changes in beaks are more to do with the expression of different existing aspects of the phenotype,” how do you account for those differing existing aspects?

Because in changing environmental conditions, the finches would need to be able to use different food supplies. Adaptation to new environments is an aspect of good design, not just a hallmark of evolution.

How would you characterize, and explain the “creation” of, symbiotic relationships between different organisms?

I can easily see how a genuine symbiotic relationship might exist if it was created to be symbiotic. I find it harder to see how it might have arisen through an evolutionary process - because until one works, the other doesn’t. A genuine symbiotic relationship is “irreducibly complex”.

Viruses may be able to get new hosts - but what was at issue was how they might have appeared in the first place. They are not a lower form of life than bacteria - because they require a host organism for reproduction (I think? Shomebody shtop me! before i make a fool of myself [more than this, anyway]). So viruses can’t arise before organisms with the wherewithall to reproduce their genetic material, if that is the case.

More another time.

I can easily see how a genuine symbiotic relationship might exist if it was created to be symbiotic.

I was afraid of this. It’s trivially easy to see how ANYTHING AT ALL might have been created. Poof! It was created that way! Any more questions?

The problem lies in determining whether something might NOT have been created. If creation has no limits, then its only “strength” is that it cannot be disproved. It explains nothing, predicts nothing, can’t be falsified and has no relationship to evidence. Yet some people find such a claim convincing. This strikes me as intellectually lazy at best.

(Incidentally, isn’t there some evidence that ancient viruses have themselves become symbiotic at the cell level?)

C-Troll wrote

Because in changing environmental conditions, the finches would need to be able to use different food supplies. Adaptation to new environments is an aspect of good design, not just a hallmark of evolution.

Then the Designer(s) is (are) incompetent. As I wrote in MDT, the history of life on earth is littered with the debris of failed designs. The vast majority of species are dead and gone, extinct after (on average) single-digit millions of years. Evolutionists are criticized by IDists for using the optimality argument – why would an all-knowing Designer create suboptimal designs? – on the ground that it makes an assumption about the designer. C-Troll’s remark about “an aspect of good design” is of the same nature, and is equally vulnerable to the IDists’ criticism. If the finch beaks represent an aspect of good design, then the various crummy ‘designs’ (think recurrent laryngeal nerve) are equally valid as evidence for the Designer’s incompetence.

RBH

CTa,

If you want to talk about the bible, we can start with Noah’s flood.

I hold to my observation concerning a better class of creationist, but you’re slipping.

CTa,

You responded to 3 of 7 points in the final of my 4 response posts to your response to my first response to your post #8514. Cherry picking?

Bob: Well, maybe cherry picking, but time is limited, so I can’t do everything. You wouldn’t want me to clone myself, presumably!

I’m slipping! Oh, no, my reputation!!!

Let’s see if I can work backwards through some of these posts before my caffeine craving gets too big, or the REM album finishes, or I have to get my child from nursery .…..

I am quite happy to talk about Noah’s flood - I take it you are objecting to the wiping-out of most of the population, flora and fauna in the world. However, I can’t talk about it in isolation - I would need to give you the theological framework. To be honest, although I am prepared to do that, it would take a lot of work. It certainly isn’t a story that ought to be idly taught to children, complete with jolly songs, “And the rain came down in torrents, and only eight were saved”, or, “Mr Noah built an ark, the people thought it was a lark”, or the Arky Arky Song are prime examples. It is an incredibly serious part of the Bible. As all of it is - yes, I do object to the attitude that Sunday School is simply “telling stories” to children - there is much too much significance in the Bible for that.

Do I think it’s historical fact? Well, probably - there is certainly a great deal of corroborative account in other mythologies - at least for a substantial regional flood. I think it is interesting that catastrophism, which is now regarded as a significant component of world history (in the form of ice ages, meteor strikes etc) was until a few decades ago virtually excluded - at least in predicting evidence of catastrophes, creationism was some way ahead of evolutionism.

RBH: Is the designer incompetent? I think I can see what you are getting at - in short, you seem to be saying that I can’t on the one hand say that something demonstrates good design, and on the other hand say that we don’t know about the designer’s intention. Well, I think that this is a poor argument from generalisation. For your argument to work, there would only be two possibilities: 1) It is never possible to identify the purpose of a design 2) It is always possible to identify the purpose of a design However, when looked at in these terms, this is obviously not sound. Just because I can’t always understand why something is the way it is doesn’t mean I can never understand. I can see that the different phenotypic expressions in finches allows them to adopt different ecological niches - so I can see what the purpose is there. That doesn’t mean that I will always know. Bear in mind that this argument has actually weakened, not strengthened, the evolutionist position over the last 50 years or so - there were loads of features that at one stage were considered to be examples of poor design, or vestiges - “left-overs” from evolution - which upon closer examination have turned out not to be. The assumption that things are “mistakes” or “left-overs” has in some cases inhibited research into what their function actually is.

Coffee required .….

I was afraid of this. It’s trivially easy to see how ANYTHING AT ALL might have been created. Poof! It was created that way! Any more questions?

OK, so you might think this is a naff argument. I’m sorry about that. You raised the issue of symbiotic organisms. What are the options? 1) They evolved at the same time - given all we know about evolution - the fact that we are talking about adding another layer to the functionality of organisms - not only new proteins, new cellular structures, and new inter-cellular relationships but also inter-species relationships - and we don’t really have any assessment as to how probable the first layer is (or the probabilities that we have basically seem to say that evolution is not possible) - belief in this would seem to be a real leap of faith. 2) The symbiotic relationship is a consequence of both losing functionality - but I would have thought that constraining dependence upon another organism would not have a selective advantage - is there any research on this? 3) They were designed in a symbiotic relationship - with the “and with one jump he was free” problems this creates. 4) Err … 5) That’s it. I think. Unless you can suggest more.

The point is, simply saying that you find the conclusion unpalatable (which isn’t surprising, as it runs counter to your presuppositions) isn’t a valid argument against the conclusion. To misquote Conan-Doyle, once you have excluded everything that is impossible, whatever is left, no matter how unpalatable, must be the truth.

The problem lies in determining whether something might NOT have been created.

Exactly so - and Behe in “Darwin’s Black Box” made the point that proposing design doesn’t inhibit science - it just means that you don’t spend for ever trying to demonstrate the impossible. He also accepts that “design” can be a provisional label (I think).

If creation has no limits, then its only “strength” is that it cannot be disproved. It explains nothing, predicts nothing, can’t be falsified and has no relationship to evidence. Yet some people find such a claim convincing. This strikes me as intellectually lazy at best.

The fact that something is “intellectually lazy” doesn’t mean that it is false. However, “The Biotic Message” by Walter ReMine proposes some tests for falsification of the proposition that there is a designer who designed things for a particular (meta)purpose.

(Incidentally, isn’t there some evidence that ancient viruses have themselves become symbiotic at the cell level?)

Don’t know. However, given the “simplicity” of viruses - the fact that they can be engineered, if this is the case, it ought to be possible to give some idea of what a precursor would have been like. Is there research to this end?

C-Troll wrote

RBH: Is the designer incompetent? I think I can see what you are getting at - in short, you seem to be saying that I can’t on the one hand say that something demonstrates good design, and on the other hand say that we don’t know about the designer’s intention. Well, I think that this is a poor argument from generalisation. For your argument to work, there would only be two possibilities: 1) It is never possible to identify the purpose of a design 2) It is always possible to identify the purpose of a design However, when looked at in these terms, this is obviously not sound. Just because I can’t always understand why something is the way it is doesn’t mean I can never understand. I can see that the different phenotypic expressions in finches allows them to adopt different ecological niches - so I can see what the purpose is there. That doesn’t mean that I will always know. Bear in mind that this argument has actually weakened, not strengthened, the evolutionist position over the last 50 years or so - there were loads of features that at one stage were considered to be examples of poor design, or vestiges - “left-overs” from evolution - which upon closer examination have turned out not to be. The assumption that things are “mistakes” or “left-overs” has in some cases inhibited research into what their function actually is.

Actually, that was not what I was “getting at.” C-Troll cited the variations in Darwin’s finches’ beaks as an example of what a good design would be like, and hence, by implication, were designed by a competent designing agent. It follows that a slew of lousy designs that nevertheless work in biology are examples of incompetence on the part of the designing agent(s). Take the giraffe’s recurrent laryngeal nerve’s routing as your object of analysis, and dream up a way it could be called good design. It works for the giraffe, but it’s a bizarre design on any engineering grounds I can think of.

C-Troll’s sidestep to “vestiges” is just that: a sidestep. I’m entranced that while in one posting C-Troll claims that labelling some things as “vestiges” has inhibited research into their functions (the one appropriate use of “function” in that posting), in his very next posting he doesn’t accept that labelling something as “designed” would inhibit research into the causal history of that thing.

The changes in Darwin’s Finches observed by the Grants over the years aren’t merely “phenotypic expressions.” See here for an introduction to the genetics associated with the finches, and here for an entre’ to the genetics of beak size control. Even I can find that stuff in a few minutes of search; surely C-Troll could, too.

RBH

CTa, A discussion of Noah’s Flood would of course require you to support the biblical claims with scientific and geological evidence for a Global inundation, in addition to providing some sort of credible account of the logistics and engineering involved in the actual construction of the ark and the gathering of all the twosies or fourteensies (or however many you think it was) from the various continents, along with such considerations as food, etc. Also, a timeframe would be appreciated - are you talking thousands or millions of years ago? We have the theological framework, incomplete though it may be as to specifics.

What you are lacking from the theological framework is part of what gives you a problem in terms of the scientific and engineering framework - the idea that if there is a God who created the universe, then he is able to intervene in history. I realise that this doesn’t answer your questions. However, answering your questions would be off-topic, would be reposted to the bathroom wall, and would not address the issue of this thread - namely whether the papers cited above (remember?) actually need evolution to support their science, or whether their discussion of evolution is simply “because it’s [apparently] there”.

However, talking of the giraffe, can you come up with any design that can solve problems of getting a water supply into the stomach from ground level, but grazing leaves from four metres above ground level? So any design that “works for the giraffe” is pretty impressive. Feed the question in the other way - can you think of a (non-Lamarckian) neo-darwinian developmental process that would allow the giraffe to evolve at all? No. Because you can’t do that with any species. All you are left with is the “must have”s and “could have”s of the morphological stories that are told in connection with all evolutionary development.

Back to Darwin’s finches. I could only read the abstract of the second paper you posted. However, it appears to relate to differential expression of the same gene in chickens, and the first is saying that “speciation” does not come from significant genetic changes. It would be interesting to see whether there were bounds for this speciation - i.e. whether selective pressures over sufficient generations could (say) result in birds that are basically insectivores becoming dependent upon berries. Or whatever. If the second paper relates to the finches (as well as the chickens), and differential expression of a gene were the determining factor for beak morphology, then the differences between finches are not related to directly to genes so much as to how they are expressed - so they shouldn’t be used as a demonstration of neo-darwinism. Unless regulating genes (those that cause the expression) are being modified and/or selected for as the environment changes, this would also suggest that there is more to the evolutionary process than neo-darwinism allows - perhaps modifications to developmental environment? Interesting articles, thanks.

Darn. I really didn’t intend to come here today. Where’s the morning gone?

aCTa Wrote:

It is only mysterious, unexplainable and impossible if you have a prior commitment to uniformity of natural causes within a closed system.

what closed system?

aCTa Wrote:

However, if you have this prior commitment, then we are also part of the system, and there is no point in this argument, because we have no significance. There isn’t even any point in wishing Wesley well for his surgery, or for him to bother having it done at all - because he’s just an assembly of molecules, and his sense of life and significance is meaningless.

Why can’t creationists comprehend that those with beliefs in God can have morals and self purpose in life. I know my life and my interaction with others is not less purposeful because I don’t believe in your Christian god.

aCTa Wrote:

Similarly, it was argued on another thread a while ago that viruses were the lowest level of life - however, am I not right in saying that viruses only work with a host?

and

aCTa Wrote:

Viruses may be able to get new hosts - but what was at issue was how they might have appeared in the first place. They are not a lower form of life than bacteria - because they require a host organism for reproduction (I think? Shomebody shtop me! before i make a fool of myself [more than this, anyway]). So viruses can’t arise before organisms with the wherewithall to reproduce their genetic material, if that is the case.

Ok sorry for not being more clear…it was I that said that. My point being is that while you might consider the cell as the smallest unit of life I would disagree. There are self replicating molecules that you could consider as primitive life. The link below is man made but there is no law saying similar processes couldn’t occur naturally.

Self-Reproducing Molecules Reported by MIT Researchers

So we have the IC cell broken down even further. Stuff like this could be precursors to more complex molecules.

Micro and Macro evolution is no different in my view then taking a grain of sand and putting it on the ground. Then take another and put it beside the first. Take a third and put it so it is next to those first two. Take a fourth and put it on top. continue this process a few trillion times. When does this process change from a pile of sand to a mound to a hill to a mountain? Its all sand we just classify it differently don’t we. Life is life.…the amount 2 life forms differ dictate how we classify the life form. Now with life its a bit more complex then just simple quartz grains but the principle is the same. Creationist and IDers some how believe there are lines where enough changes simply can not pass despite the evidence that to the opposite.

aCTa Wrote:

Well, Christians would say this has happened (bar the massive bearded visage) - it’s called the Bible. For more, see “Is propositional revelation nonsense?” - an essay by Francis Schaeffer.

aCTa how much do you know about the origins of different religions? So many Christians hold the bible as the word of god but don’t have any idea where their book came from. The fact is that we can trace some stories, with modification, back up to almost 4,000 years ago (flood story). Other stories we can see how they’ve been altered over just the last 2 thousand years (Virgin Mary). Pretty much all of the New Testaments history and origin we can trace. We have other documented accounts that show how many of the gospels where written down and what political pressures where present during these first few centuries of Christianity. Sorry to burst your bubble but god did not write the bible. Men seeking power and favours wrote the bible.

flint Wrote:

(Incidentally, isn’t there some evidence that ancient viruses have themselves become symbiotic at the cell level?)

I’m trying to track down some material I’ve read that focused on the fact that cellular life as we know it is most likely derived from more primitive life forms forming a symbiotic relationship. Ah found one of them DARWIN AMONG THE MACHINES; OR, THE ORIGINS OF [ARTIFICIAL] LIFE?

aCTa Wrote:

o - there were loads of features that at one stage were considered to be examples of poor design, or vestiges - “left-overs” from evolution - which upon closer examination have turned out not to be

Care to give some examples? I’m curious about this because while I’ll agree it may occur from time to time this would be far from the norm.

Oh and I think Bob is referring not to the “Epic of Gilgamesh” a clear source of the Story of Noah. The validity of a global flood is in no way supported by the physical evidence. If you hold to the story being true just say the water came forth and receded by a miracle and that the evidence of said flood was stricken from the geologic record by god. I’m sick of hearing about fossil sea shells on the top of Everest from creationist that have no clue about geologic formations.

aCTa Wrote:

once you have excluded everything that is impossible, whatever is left, no matter how unpalatable, must be the truth.

How exactly do you exclude everything that is impossible? The above statement is, sorry, stupid.

aCTa Wrote:

The symbiotic relationship is a consequence of both losing functionality - but I would have thought that constraining dependence upon another organism would not have a selective advantage - is there any research on this?

How is a symbiotic relationship a consequence of both losing functionality? I see it as the 2 organisms gaining functionality they may not have had in the first place. If you hire an electrician, cabinet maker, plumber, and a tiler to build you a new kitchen is any one of those people removing functionality from the other? No they are working in cooperation and producing a better result then any one of them could.

aCTa Wrote:

Don’t know. However, given the “simplicity” of viruses - the fact that they can be engineered, if this is the case, it ought to be possible to give some idea of what a precursor would have been like. Is there research to this end?

See my reply above

… ok Bob was talking about the physical problems with the flood of Noah … I’m talking about the clear source of the flood of Noah coming from the “Epic of Gilgamesh”

aCTa Wrote:

can you think of a (non-Lamarckian) neo-darwinian developmental process that would allow the giraffe to evolve at all?

Are you serious? Can you not see how a giraffe could have evolved? What is the problem you see with their development?

I know my life and my interaction with others is not less purposeful because I don’t believe in your Christian god.

Indeed, I never understood how enslaving myself to a foul dictator would give my life any meaning. Like Hitchens says, it would be like a celestial North Korea. Occasional torture, no chance of escape, endless opportunity for self-abnegation…

CTa,

You said, “What you are lacking from the theological framework is part of what gives you a problem in terms of the scientific and engineering framework…”

I have no problem, you do, if your position is that the Global Flood described in Genesis happened. We’re not talking local or regional, we’re talking Global and 5 miles deep. I would expect that, like all myths and legends, the whole thing IS based on a local flood, but you’re stuck with the Genesis account. Of course, I guess you could suggest that it’s an allegory or metaphoric, or symbolic, not actually an accurate account. Fine, but then you’ve simply opened up the entire bible to those same charges. Sorry.

Hey i am doing a science project on a panda bear i need to know the symbiotic relationship of the panda so if you can please post the anwser for me it would be nice!!! Thanx

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This page contains a single entry by PZ Myers published on October 6, 2004 3:58 PM.

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