Brain evolution: Keeping your Witts about you

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Discovery Institute Fellow Jonathan Witt has a post over on his blog (“Darwinism and Demarcation: Ducking the Debate”, see also his comments on that post and his subsequent post, Comments on Ducking the Debate).

Witt is quite confident that modern biology is totally wrong, but it’s clear that he doesn’t even understand the basics.

“Micajah,” a commenter on Witt’s blog, cites this press release about the cover story of this week’s issue of Cell. The Cell article, “Accelerated Evolution of Nervous System Genes in the Origin of Homo sapiens, gives new insight into how the human brain evolved.

Unfortunately, the comments by Witt in reply to “Micajah” and other posters indicate almost total unfamiliarity with the relevant science. It is, I think, an example of “this is your brain on ID/creationism.”

The commenter “Micajah” says,

You may have noticed the publication of a study yesterday which points to the apparently special nature of the human brain’s evolution.

Here’s the HHMI web page: http://www.hhmi.org/news/lahn3.html

And, here’s the first sentence of the second paragraph in that notice: “The accelerated evolution of these genes in the human lineage was apparently driven by strong selection.”

Is it just me, or is that a relatively dogmatic way of explaining what happened?

The driving force for this “special event” was natural selection, according to these scientists’ view.

What, then, was the driving force for the wealth of beneficial genetic mutations which provided the opportunity for selection to work its “magic”?

It’s been a long time since I took a close look at evolution via natural selection, but isn’t it odd to point to selection as a driving force for a rapid mutation rate? It’s not quite the same as arguing that acquired characteristics can be inherited by offspring, but it seems to be similar.

Unfortunately for this poster, natural selection is directly detectable at the molecular level by comparing the synonymous and non-synonymous substitution rate. This is exactly what the article’s authors found. (Note that the substitution rate is what changes, not the mutation rate, as the commenter mistakenly claimed.)

The Cell article, “Accelerated Evolution of Nervous System Genes in the Origin of Homo sapiens,” is really a majestic piece of research. The authors compared the sequences of a whole bunch of nervous-system-associated genes between humans, macaques, rats, and mice. With high statistical significance, they discovered that these genes have evolved more rapidly in primates than in rodents, and furthermore more rapidly in humans than in macaques. In addition, they found a significantly higher ratio of nonsynonymous-to-synonymous substitutions, a clear indication that natural selection spread these mutations to fixation in the populations. The mutations occurred across a broad suite of genes, with no evidence of gene duplication or other obvious changes in complexity at the genetic level. A plausible model is that the changes occurred piecemeal, each random mutation yielding a bit more brainpower, or a more efficient use of that brainpower, being retained by selection. None of this is particularly surprising to anyone aware of evolutionary theory and the fossil record of hominids, but it is nice to begin documenting the changes on the genetic level. The evolution of the human brain is certainly “special,” but the evidence indicates that normal evolutionary processes produced it.

Witt’s replies are revealing:

1. Evolution of the brain: Witt doesn’t correct any of the above mistakes by the commenter, but instead replies, “The evolution of the brain doesn’t fit well at all with Darwinian gradualism” and goes on to discuss punctuated equilibria, as if that were relevant in this case. But brain size increases gradually in the human fossil record:

Why can’t the ID folks just admit, straight up, that the fossil record of human evolution is just about exactly what we should expect if Darwin was right?

2. Punk Eek: Witt continues,

The Neo-Darwinian theory called punctuated equilibrium tries to explain these supposedly rapid evolutionary events and the dearth of transitional forms in the fossil record (We should see millions transitionals; we only see a handful).

Punctuated equilibria is just allopatric speciation (that is, speciation of geographical isolates, a common process in the Recent) applied to the fossil record. It properly applies only to a transition between closely-related species – on the level of a horse/zebra difference. Stephen Jay Gould argued that, if allopatric speciation was the dominant speciation process in evolutionary history, transitional fossils between two closely related species would be rare at this near-microevolutionary scale (that’s right folks, Punk Eek is basically microevolutionary theory applied to the fossil record). Over larger-scale transitions, Gould was quite clear that lots of transitional fossils exist (for example, for the origin of birds, mammals, amniotes, tetrapods, elephants, sirenians, whales, humans, horses, rhinos, etc.). Gould has been on record on this point for 20 years:

I count myself among the evolutionists who argue for a jerky, or episodic, rather than a smoothly gradual, pace of change. In 1972 my colleague Niles Eldredge and I developed the theory of punctuated equilibrium. We argued that two outstanding facts of the fossil record – geologically “sudden” origin of new species and failure to change thereafter (stasis) – reflect the predictions of evolutionary theory, not the imperfections of the fossil record. In most theories, small isolated populations are the source of new species, and the process of speciation takes thousands or tens of thousands of years. This amount of time, so long when measured against our lives, is a geological microsecond …

Since we proposed punctuated equilibria to explain trends, it is infuriating to be quoted again and again by creationists – whether through design or stupidity, I do not know – as admitting that the fossil record includes no transitional forms. Transitional forms are generally lacking at the species level, but they are abundant between larger groups.

- Gould, Stephen Jay 1983. “Evolution as Fact and Theory” in Hens Teeth and Horse’s Toes: Further Reflections in Natural History. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., p. 258-260.

…but creationists are so committed to the “no transitional fossils” dogma they just refuse to recognize these basic points. They’ve fooled the whole intelligent design movement into following in their misbegotten footsteps on this one.

3. Cambrian explosion: In a later comment, Witt continues,

The first commenter asked for one fact that doesn’t fit with Darwnism. The list of facts that don’t fit with what it predicted are almost endless. Darwinism has become dogma, though, so there’s always someone to offer a patch/revision to the theory where data doesn’t fit.

To take one of the more striking examples, the Cambrian explosion doesn’t fit Darwinism. Various patches have been tried to salvage the appearance of radically new animal forms in the geological blink of an eye–punctuated equilibrium, the artifact hypothesis, the Vendian radiation, the Deep Divergence Hypothesis, the idea that animals before the Cambrian were soft-bodied and, therefore, weren’t preserved. All of them fail.

Just one of the many evidences for why: Cambrian and Precambrian finds in sites like one in China do preserve Precambrian soft-bodied forms quite nicely. None are even remotely like what we find in the Cambrian. None are suitable precursors or transitionals. Again, see the Stephen Meyer article. It was peer-reviewed by experts in these fields, from Ivy league and other respected institutiions. The editor, who works in The Smithsonian Institution, has two relevant Ph.D.s, one in evolutionary biology. The article has been ridiculed but not refuted.

Witt strangely doesn’t link to the criticism he’s talking about, and relies on the authority of a guy, Sternberg, who is an odd enough duck to hang out with Baraminologists (this is rather like an astronomer hanging out with astrologers). We’ve been over all of the problems with Meyer’s PBSW article before, but it is worth mentioning that in that article, Meyer actually doesn’t go through the various hypotheses about the Cambrian explosion, except for Punk Eek which is irrelevant. Instead, Meyer basically says, “I don’t care how much time it took or how gradual it was, evolution can’t produce new information, full stop.” So Witt doesn’t really even know what’s in the Meyer article he recommends.

I also doubt that Witt actually knows that Meyer’s article was “peer-reviewed by experts in these fields.” Meyer’s paper makes elemental mistakes that would have been caught by any competent reviewer working in their specialty. Everyone can draw their own conclusions, but I doubt that the “experts” Sternberg chose as reviewers were actually experts in the relevant fields, namely information theory, the origin of genes, or Cambrian paleontology. If they were, I suspect this would have been trumpetted from the hilltops already.

Witt’s argument that soft-bodied fossils are preserved in the Precambrian, therefore if transitionals existed we would have found them, is hopelessly simplistic:

Just one of the many evidences for why: Cambrian and Precambrian finds in sites like one in China do preserve Precambrian soft-bodied forms quite nicely. None are even remotely like what we find in the Cambrian. None are suitable precursors or transitionals.

Witt doesn’t mention that the depositional environment changed drastically between the Precambrian and Cambrian. In the classic Edicaran rocks in the late Precambrian, algal mats covered the sediment (there were no algae-grazers yet), providing special conditions that allowed coarse features of the soft-bodied Edicaran fauna to be preserved. These conditions specifically do not allow for the preservation of millimeter-scale worms. Witt refers to one very special Precambrian site in China where Precambrian phosphatized sponge embryos were preserved, and – like Meyer and several other ID advocates – uses this one location as his silver bullet against all possibility of Precambrian bilaterians. However, we know these bilaterian worms existed, because their tracks have been preserved in many places. Even worse, the “silver bullet” recently hit the ID movement in the foot, because small bilaterian fossils were discovered at the same location. Witt neglects to mention this even though this very paper was cited in the critique of Meyer.

Given the ambiguity of Meyer’s position on gradualness and timing of the origin of the bilaterian phyla in the PBSW paper, Witt ironically defends the traditional creationist “poof” model of the Cambrian explosion, arguing that it represents the instantenous origin of modern phyla. However, the phyla were not modern, and the process was not instantaneous. This is true even if we look at a timeline from James Valentine – who basically argues that we should trust the fossils and not the molecular dates, an essentially “conservative” view:

590-550 mya – First appearances of metazoans 565-542 mya – Ediacaran fossils 570 mya – First fossils of metazoan tracks/trails 545 mya – First minute shells 543 mya – Offical base of the Cambrian 543 mya – First penetrating burrows 543-530 mya – Small shelly fossils, gradually increasing in diversity (tiny shelled metazoans and disarticulated skeletons) 530 mya – Tommotian, beginning of “Cambrian explosion”, which continues for at least 13 million years, perhaps 23 million years 530 mya – First brachiopods/mollusk fossils 525 mya – Atdabanian 525 mya – First echinoderm fossils, arthropod body fossils ~518 mya – Chengjiang fossil beds ~505 mya – Burgess Shale

Derived from James W. Valentine (2002). “Prelude to the Cambrian explosion.” Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences. 30: 285-306.

So, even on the conservative view we have about 52 million years to get from the worms making the tracks in the Precambrian at 570 mya to the diverse – but still relatively primitive in modern terms (many stem-group forms) – fauna present at Chenjiang at 518 mya. In the trace fossils we have evidence of gradually increasing diversity all of the way, but mostly in millimeter-scale worms. Since the basal state within most phyla, or of close sister group phyla, appears to be of the worm/slug grade of organization, it’s hard to see where the miraculous intervention is required.

Readers may recall that Jonathan Witt recently felt well-enough informed on evolution to tell the hundreds of thousands of readers of the Seattle-Times that evolution was wrong and intelligent design was the “best explanation.” But all he’s got is an old-fashioned creationist’s understanding of the science, and he repeats canards that even the more sophisticated ID proponents shy away from. It’s hard to see how ID will ever convince the scientific community that it deserves to be taken seriously if it can’t even dissuade its lieutenants to avoid long-discredited creationist arguments.

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Jonathan Witt holds a Ph.D. in Literary Studies from the University of Kansas. Before joining the Discovery Institute as Writer in Residence, Witt served for nine years as the head of creative writing at Lubbock Christian University, and has published... Read More

Jonathan Witt holds a Ph.D. in Literary Studies from the University of Kansas. Before joining the Discovery Institute as Writer in Residence, Witt served for nine years as the head of creative writing at Lubbock Christian University, and has published... Read More

DR Jonathan Witt Jonathan Witt holds a Ph.D. in Literary Studies from the University of Kansas. Before joining the Discovery Institute as Writer in Residence, Witt served for nine years as the head of creative writing at Lubbock Christian University,... Read More

DR Jonathan Witt Jonathan Witt holds a Ph.D. in Literary Studies from the University of Kansas. Before joining the Discovery Institute as Writer in Residence, Witt served for nine years as the head of creative writing at Lubbock Christian University,... Read More

DR Jonathan Witt Jonathan Witt holds a Ph.D. in Literary Studies from the University of Kansas. Before joining the Discovery Institute as Writer in Residence, Witt served for nine years as the head of creative writing at Lubbock Christian University,... Read More

DR Jonathan Witt Jonathan Witt holds a Ph.D. in Literary Studies from the University of Kansas. Before joining the Discovery Institute as Writer in Residence, Witt served for nine years as the head of creative writing at Lubbock Christian University,... Read More

DR Jonathan Witt Jonathan Witt holds a Ph.D. in Literary Studies from the University of Kansas. Before joining the Discovery Institute as Writer in Residence, Witt served for nine years as the head of creative writing at Lubbock Christian University,... Read More

DR Jonathan Witt Jonathan Witt holds a Ph.D. in Literary Studies from the University of Kansas. Before joining the Discovery Institute as Writer in Residence, Witt served for nine years as the head of creative writing at Lubbock Christian University,... Read More

DR Jonathan Witt Jonathan Witt holds a Ph.D. in Literary Studies from the University of Kansas. Before joining the Discovery Institute as Writer in Residence, Witt served for nine years as the head of creative writing at Lubbock Christian University,... Read More

DR Jonathan Witt Jonathan Witt holds a Ph.D. in Literary Studies from the University of Kansas. Before joining the Discovery Institute as Writer in Residence, Witt served for nine years as the head of creative writing at Lubbock Christian University,... Read More

DR Jonathan Witt Jonathan Witt holds a Ph.D. in Literary Studies from the University of Kansas. Before joining the Discovery Institute as Writer in Residence, Witt served for nine years as the head of creative writing at Lubbock Christian University,... Read More

DR Jonathan Witt Jonathan Witt holds a Ph.D. in Literary Studies from the University of Kansas. Before joining the Discovery Institute as Writer in Residence, Witt served for nine years as the head of creative writing at Lubbock Christian University,... Read More

DR Jonathan Witt Jonathan Witt holds a Ph.D. in Literary Studies from the University of Kansas. Before joining the Discovery Institute as Writer in Residence, Witt served for nine years as the head of creative writing at Lubbock Christian University,... Read More

DR Jonathan Witt Jonathan Witt holds a Ph.D. in Literary Studies from the University of Kansas. Before joining the Discovery Institute as Writer in Residence, Witt served for nine years as the head of creative writing at Lubbock Christian University,... Read More

Dr. Jonathan Witt Jonathan Witt holds a Ph.D. in Literary Studies from the University of Kansas. Before joining the Discovery Institute as Writer in Residence, Witt served for nine years as the head of creative writing at Lubbock Christian... Read More

Dr. Jonathan Witt Jonathan Witt holds a Ph.D. in Literary Studies from the University of Kansas. Before joining the Discovery Institute as Writer in Residence, Witt served for nine years as the head of creative writing at Lubbock Christian... Read More

Dr. Jonathan Witt Jonathan Witt holds a Ph.D. in Literary Studies from the University of Kansas. Before joining the Discovery Institute as Writer in Residence, Witt served for nine years as the head of creative writing at Lubbock Christian... Read More

Dr. Jonathan Witt Jonathan Witt holds a Ph.D. in Literary Studies from the University of Kansas. Before joining the Discovery Institute as Writer in Residence, Witt served for nine years as the head of creative writing at Lubbock Christian... Read More

48 Comments

Witt said:

Simberg’s fourth axiom warrants comment. One of the idols of philosophical materialism is reductionism. Therefore, in practice, the materialist/Darwinists’ fourth axiom reads thus: “The simplest explanation … is the one that should be preferred.”

Did he just confuse parsimony with reductionism?

Witt’s article merely demonstrates his Creative Writing credentials.

Hey, Nick, you might want to explain what synonymous and nonsynonymous substitutions are, and how why we use their ratio to conclude selection.

Nick Matzke Wrote:

Witt is quite confident that modern biology is totally wrong, but it’s clear that he doesn’t even understand the basics.

C’mon now. Discovery Institute fellows “eat, drink and sleep” modern biology just so they can misrepresent it.

Obviously, Young-Earth Creationists won’t be swayed by the argument that the “Cambrian Explosion” took place over tens of millions of years. If they can compress billions of years into thousands, they can certainly convert millions into “poof”.

Witt’s citing of the Meyer article seems like the typical pseudoscientist’s tendency to stick with a statement no matter how severely or frequently it has been debunked. But then, how many school board members are familiar with the criticism that article has received? After all, he knows he can’t convince scientists.

mark Wrote:

Obviously, Young-Earth Creationists won’t be swayed by the argument that the “Cambrian Explosion” took place over tens of millions of years. If they can compress billions of years into thousands, they can certainly convert millions into “poof”.

As you know, most YECs and OEC-IDers ignore, rather than challenge, the anti-evolution arguments that are inconvenient to their position. That is, of course, because their main agenda is to preserve the big tent. One would expect YECs and even some OECs, though, to at least lobby for alternative arguments that better generate incredulity about human origins than the “Cambrian Explosion” arguments. Then again, virtually any argument is interpreted by the “I don’t come from no monkey” crowd as a vindication.

Valentine, often quoted by ID proponents, seems to be at odds with Meyer and the DI claims. Notice that both referenced Valentine’s 2004 On the origin of Phyla to support their claims. Let’s see what Valentine has to say.

Valentine Wrote:

The title of this book, modeled on that of the greatest biological work ever written, is in homage to the greatest biologist who has ever lived. Darwin himself puzzled over but could not cover the ground that is reviewed here, simply because the relevant fossils, genes, and their molecules, end even the body plans of many of the phyla, were quite unknown in his day. Nevertheless, the evidence from these many additional souces of data simply confirm that Darwin was correct in his conclusions that all living things have descended from a commmon ancestor and can be placed within a tree of life, and that the principle process guiding their descent has been natural selection.

((Valentine On the Origin of Phyla 2004: Preface)

I am working on the other references chosen by Meyer and have found some interesting ‘quote mining’. In other words, the papers do not really support the claims by Meyer. In the past the DI has rejected such observations by pointing out that they are not necessarily agreeing with the conclusions of these papers, just that they are using some comments in these papers for their own purposes…

Witt Wrote:

According to the preceding argument, design inferences are always eliminative arguments from ignorance and, therefore, should be eliminated as a possible explanation. That’s a common tactic for some Darwinists. It’s always easiest if one can use definitional tactics to rule an opposing explanation out of court.

Actually, intelligent design is an inference to the best explanation.

This is a common confusion of terms. First of all, due to the eliminative nature the design inference does not rely on any positive hypothesis of design. Since it does not rely on any positive hypothesis of design it cannot even compete with ‘we don’t know’. In other words, the design inference is not an inference to best explanation since it 1) does not present any explanation or hypothesis of its own 2) cannot compete due to 1) with ‘we don’t know’.

Witt Wrote:

And as for Stephen Meyer’s use of Valentine, Meyer generally makes it quite clear that Valentine is a Darwinist. That Meyer and Valentine concur in certain observations about the Cambrian Explosion but draw different conclusions about those observations is hardly scandalous.

First of all, neither the DI nor Meyer really present Valentine as a Darwinist but rather Meyer mentions Valentine as support for various claims without even mentioning that the paper reached the opposite conclusion. That seems somewhat ‘scandalous’ to me.

Examples:

Meyer Wrote:

One way to estimate the amount of new CSI [2] that appeared with the Cambrian animals is to count the number of new cell types that emerged with them (Valentine 1995:91—93).

From the Valentine paper we read the following:

Valentine 1995 Wrote:

Cell-phenotype numbers in living phyla, and a model of cell-phenotype number increase, suggest an origin of metazoans near 600 my ago, followed by a passive rise in body-plan complexity. Living phyla appearing during the Cambrian explosion have a Hox/HOM gene cluster, implying its presence in the common ancestral trace makers. The explosion required a repatterning of gene expression that mediated the development of novel body plans but evidently did not require an important, abrupt increase in genomic or morphologic complexity.

when Meyer claimed “The Cambrian explosion represents a remarkable jump in the specified complexity or “complex specified information” (CSJ) of the biological world.”

Now lets see how Meyer treats Valentine’s On the Origin of Phyla

Meyer Wrote:

Though Gilbert et al. (1996) attempted to solve the problem of the origin of form by proposing a greater role for developmental genetics within an otherwise neo-Darwinian framework,1 numerous recent authors have continued to raise questions about the adequacy of that framework itself or about the problem of the origination of form generally (Webster & Goodwin 1996; Shubin & Marshall 2000; Erwin 2000; Conway Morris 2000, 2003b; Carroll 2000; Wagner 2001; Becker & Lonnig 2001; Stadler et al. 2001; Lonnig & Saedler 2002; Wagner & Stadler 2003; Valentine 2004:189-194).

Surely Meyer is suggesting that Valentine has raised doubts about the adequacy of the Neo-Darwinian framework and yet in the preface to this book we read

Valentine Wrote:

The title of this book, modeled on that of the greatest biological work ever written, is in homage to the greatest biologist who has ever lived. Darwin himself puzzled over but could not cover the ground that is reviewed here, simply because the relevant fossils, genes, and their molecules, end even the body plans of many of the phyla, were quite unknown in his day. Nevertheless, the evidence from these many additional souces of data simply confirm that Darwin was correct in his conclusions that all living things have descended from a commmon anscestor and can be placed within a tree of life, and that the principle process guiding their descent has been natural selection.

(Valentine On the Origin of Phyla 2004: Preface)

Wow…

Expecting our children to believe that there is no intelligence behind the design of our universe is like expecting modern day scholars to believe that the earth is flat. The presence of intelligent design seems so obvious to most of us. My own child once remarked to me concerning abortion. She asked, “How could this have ever become an issue? How could anyone ever believe for even a moment that killing an unborn baby is anything other than murder?” Children tend to be very literal, but they also tend to see and speak the truth more readily than adults. If for once and for the first time in history, science has it all right, it still does not rule out the presence of a creator who designed with a plan and purpose. Look at the science books down through the ages, however, and you will find that year by year they must be discarded as new discoveries prove the old to be wrong. The fact that evolutionist have become so politically involved and so defensive of their position tends to cause me, for one, to be very skeptical of the reports I read. True scientist do not want less discussion and the squelching of ideas and questions. Something is wrong when a scientific theory becomes political. There are questions. The questions on the site below interest me. I am not a scientist, but I would like to see your answer on this.

http://www.origins.org/articles/boh[…]5crises.html

Jan,

I’ve never commented on this site, and I’m not an expert on evolution, but I thought I’d at least make a dent in your comments.

You say that old theories are discarded when new discoveries are made, but may I kindly point out that the theory of an intelligent designer is several millenia old (the ancient Babylonians had creation myths), but evolution is only a couple of hundred? Which is the new theory supplanting the old?

I’m not an expert in biology (my degree is in physics), but ID does not meet one of the single most important criteria of being a scientific theory: there is no evidence that can prove the theory wrong. This violates the fundamental principle of science known as falsifiability. To illustrate: Newtonian physics was ammended by Relativity when it was discovered that light did not behave as Newtonian theory predicted it should (notice that I used the word “ammend”. Newtonian physics is entirely accurate at everyday scales and velocities). Evolution could be shown to be wrong if fossils were discovered that contradicted the basic assumptions of evolutionary theory. But there is no evidence that could prove that there is not an intelligent designer.

To further illustrate: is there any way you could discern between one creator and two creaters? Or more than two? For all you know, every species on Earth could have been designed by a different entity. Is there any way to tell the difference? Are you starting to see why ID is not a good scientific theory?

Personally, I would argue that it is the ID’ers who are politicizing this “issue”, not the “establishment” scientists. They are attempting to force unscientific conjectures (I hesitate to use the word “theory”; see above) into science classrooms. There is no more reason to teach ID in a biology class than there is to teach astrology in a physics class. Imagine the reaction that physicists would have if horoscopes became part of the standard science curriculum.

Remember, old theories are discarded when new evidence contradicts them. The ID’ers are the ones who are flying in the face of the scientific evidence, not the evolutionary biologists.

For some reason, physicists are as attracted to refuting creationists, as lawyers are to promoting them, it seems.

Expecting our children to believe that there is no intelligence behind the design of our universe is like expecting modern day scholars to believe that the earth is flat. … Children tend to be very literal, but they also tend to see and speak the truth more readily than adults.

I think this might be the fabled Argument From Lack of Authority. It’s very rare in the wild.

Jan #12491

True scientist do not want less discussion and the squelching of ideas and questions. Something is wrong when a scientific theory becomes political. There are questions. The questions on the site below interest me. I am not a scientist, but I would like to see your answer on this.

http://www.origins.org/articles/boh[…]5crises.html

True scientists want science to be taught in the science classes, not religion. They do not want ideas to be misrepresented. The site you link has the purpose of promoting religion:

Probe Ministries is a non-profit corporation whose mission is to reclaim the primacy of Christian thought and values in Western culture through media, education, and literature. In seeking to accomplish this mission, Probe provides perspective on the integration of the academic disciplines and historic Christianity.

The questions on that site do not particularly interest me, because I have seen them all before and they do not withstand criticism. Rather than break them down one more time here I will direct you to Talk.Origins where you can find every one of those arguments thoroughly refuted.

I notice that site specifically mentions the coelecanth, so I will point out a very recent genetic analysis of that animal, which fits very nicely into evolutionary theory: Coelacanth genome sequence reveals the evolutionary history of vertebrate genes James P. Noonan, Jane Grimwood, Joshua Danke, Jeremy Schmutz, Mark Dickson, Chris T. Amemiya and Richard M. Myers Genome Research 14:2397-2405, 2004

The presence of intelligent design seems so obvious to most of us.

The fact that the Sun revolves around the Earth seemed obvious to most people at one point in history; that does not mean it is correct. Human intuition is very often not a reliable guide to the true nature of reality.

Look at the science books down through the ages, however, and you will find that year by year they must be discarded as new discoveries prove the old to be wrong.

Yes, and? Do you think that there is something wrong with changing your mind in response to new evidence? I will never understand why some people think it is a virtue to start out with a position arrived at without critical examination and then refuse to reevaluate it no matter what subsequently discovered facts say. Yes, science changes as our understanding of the natural world continues to improve; that is not a weakness, but its greatest strength.

The fact that evolutionist have become so politically involved and so defensive of their position tends to cause me, for one, to be very skeptical of the reports I read. True scientist do not want less discussion and the squelching of ideas and questions.

Evolutionary scientists would welcome evidence-based discussion of ID, but in the place where such debates belong - the peer-reviewed scientific literature. It is, in fact, the advocates of creationism who have refused to debate, and who are instead trying to do an end-run around the process of critical examination every scientific theory undergoes, by ignoring the scientific community entirely and instead trying to force public schools to present their ideas through legislation.

Consider the theory of plate tectonics. When it was first proposed, it was rejected by most scientists. Did the advocates of plate tectonics immediately stop their research and form a public-relations firm to lobby that their ideas be taught in public school? No. Instead, they continued to do research, amass evidence, and publish their ideas in scientific journals. When the evidence became sufficiently convincing, a large number of scientists accepted plate tectonics, and now the idea is standard in planetary geology. Only after this happened did schools begin to teach it. That is how science works and that is the process that ID advocates are trying to avoid having to go through. They want to have the respectability of science without doing any of the hard work.

Did Witt just remove the ability to add comments to his website? Is this an example of ‘ducking the debate’?

Jan Wrote:

The presence of intelligent design seems so obvious to most of us.

It’s obvious to me too. So why do pseudoscientific anti-evolutionists need to keep coming up with more god-of-the-gaps nonsense that only make it look like the Creator (sorry, “designer”) can be outsmarted by us? And why on earth are they tying that nonsense to evolution when evolution never rules out a Creator/designer in the first place? IOW why do they have to misrepresent evolution in every possible way to make unsuspecting people think that they have a better theory, when they have not taken the first step toward developing one? And why are they covering up the fact that all of the creationist origins models (the “what happened and when” part if not the designer part) are utter scientific failures? Here’s a clue:

http://reason.com/9707/fe.bailey.shtml

I am not a biologist (I am a late career chemist) but I do suspect that there are better theories forthcoming. But from all I can see, they will be well within the general “Darwinian” framework, and there is virtually no chance that they will invalidate common descent or the 3.8 billion year history of life. If IDers would admit that much (at least one already did), they might start to earn some respect in the scientific community. They will still need to abandon their god-of-the-gaps strategy, however, which is generally considered not only bad science, but bad theology too:

http://www.asa3.org/evolution/irred_compl.html

Jan Wrote:

Something is wrong when a scientific theory becomes political.

The theory is not political, but it is defended by conservatives as well as liberals, if that’s what you mean - and even by most major religions:

http://tinyurl.com/cxfr

Oh, and Bohlin’s misrepresentations are all answered here:

http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/index.html

Jan wrote

My own child once remarked to me concerning abortion. She asked, “How could this have ever become an issue? How could anyone ever believe for even a moment that killing an unborn baby is anything other than murder?”

And then, after you wiped away your tears of joy, you proceeded to tell your daughter about the grueling inquest suffered by her mother after the alleged “miscarriage” of her first pregnancy. The DA decided not to prosecute but it was a close call, wasn’t it?

Syntax Error: mismatched tag at line 1, column 232, byte 232 at /usr/local/lib/perl5/site_perl/5.12.3/mach/XML/Parser.pm line 187

You said, “The fact that the Sun revolves around the Earth seemed obvious to most people at one point in history; that does not mean it is correct. Human intuition is very often not a reliable guide to the true nature of reality.” You know, you are correct. Just as further study has proven this to be incorrect, so might further study completely disprove the theory of evolution. For that reason, lets not be to hasty to teach it exclusively.

I realize that my comments are largely misunderstood. I do not use the term ‘intelligent design’ with the same intent that those on this blog refer to it. Perhaps it is redundant because the use of the term design would necessitate a designer and given the order of our universe, intelligence seems obvious. I only recently became aware efforts of those who teach evolution to keep mention of design out of the classroom. While I understand that you are in favor of keeping anything unrelated to science out of a science class, I also tend to believe that the origin of the species could possible come under the category of science at some point. Certainly evolution is not the only theory for the origin of matter and life, is it? I also understand that it is difficult to keep the acknowledgement of God out of a classroom and still acknowledge the evidence of intelligent design. Perhaps that is the decision that should be reconsidered.

Jan, you appear to be operating under some misconceptions.

You said, “The fact that the Sun revolves around the Earth seemed obvious to most people at one point in history; that does not mean it is correct. Human intuition is very often not a reliable guide to the true nature of reality.” You know, you are correct. Just as further study has proven this to be incorrect, so might further study completely disprove the theory of evolution. For that reason, lets not be to hasty to teach it exclusively.

At any given time we teach what science understands to be the best current theory; that’s all. Clearly we can’t teach what isn’t known at the time. There are no competing scientific theories of evolution. None. So what on earth does ‘teach it exclusively’ mean? Should we also teach the geocentric theory because it might turn out to be true? I don’t think you’d agree with than.

Another problem with your comment is that you seem to be conflating two things: evolution, and the theory of how evolution happens.

Evolution (a consistent, well-ordered variation in life-forms over time) is as much a fact as heliocentrism, or gravity, or wave-particle duality. It’s an observation, not subject to dismissal (except by the insane).

The theory of evolution, like all good theories, could be modified and expanded; but it is unlikely to be simply ‘discarded’ in its entirety.

Your example implies that heliocentrism was a ‘theory’. It wasn’t. It is an ‘observation’ made possible by increased sophistication of instrumentation.

I realize that my comments are largely misunderstood.

Not necessarily… :)

I do not use the term ‘intelligent design’ with the same intent that those on this blog refer to it. Perhaps it is redundant because the use of the term design would necessitate a designer and given the order of our universe, intelligence seems obvious.

Then you have failed completely to make clear what you mean by intelligent design. Remember, the fact that intelligence is obvious to you is NOT evidence of intelligence: only your perceptions and beliefs.

I only recently became aware efforts of those who teach evolution to keep mention of design out of the classroom.

All good science classes try to keep non-science out. That is rational. Otherwise, why shouldn’t we admit astrology and the flat-earth theory in as well?

While I understand that you are in favor of keeping anything unrelated to science out of a science class,

Yes, that is correct.

I also tend to believe that the origin of the species could possible come under the category of science at some point.

They do now. And the best current explanation is the theory of evolution. Certainly no one has presented anything better (better in the sense of ‘explains more observations’, ‘more easily falsified’, ‘generates more experiments’, ‘unifies otherwise unrelated observations and hypotheses’).

Certainly evolution is not the only theory for the origin of matter and life, is it?

Since evolution is NOT, I repeat, NOT a theory about the origin of matter and life, your question makes no sense.

I also understand that it is difficult to keep the acknowledgement of God out of a classroom and still acknowledge the evidence of intelligent design. Perhaps that is the decision that should be reconsidered.

Perhaps what decision should be reconsidered? Should we admit God explicitly into the classroom?

And there is no evidence of intelligent design (in the sense that the ID movement uses the term). None. Do you actually have any counter-evidence?

Jan claims that further study may completely disprove the theory of evolution. I think this sort of remark is misleading. If you mean that it is logically possible for the theory of evolution to be completely wrong. you’re right. Hey, maybe O.J. didn’t kill Nicole, maybe I’m really Alice and you’re all just a bunch of cards. On the other hand, if you mean that it is reasonable to doubt the general truth of the theory of evolution, you’re simply wrong. At some point it gets to be merely silly to claim that skepticism about evolution is something a reasonable person can reasonably entertain just as it has long been unreasonable to think that everybody’s wrong about the earth not being in the middle. We know that it isn’t in the middle just about as well as we know anything, and we know that animals and plants evolved just as surely.

When skepticism morphs into sheer denial, the result is the profusion of rhetorical pathology that blooms so luxuriantly on this site. It isn’t just that the Creationists and ID folks undertake prodigies of special pleading. We defenders of evolution get ourselves in strange places too as we keep trying to come up with new proofs for facts long since established by hundreds of years of biological and geological research. Well, I guess the 10,000th reason not to take the story of Noah and the ark literally is also going to be a bit peculiar, “I’ve helped a guy build a rowboat in his garage and that’s given me certain reservations about whether a 500 year old man with stone tools would be up to buillding a wooden ship the size the Queen Mary, etc.”

We defenders of evolution get ourselves in strange places too as we keep trying to come up with new proofs for facts long since established by hundreds of years of biological and geological research. Well, I guess the 10,000th reason not to take the story of Noah and the ark literally is also going to be a bit peculiar, “I’ve helped a guy build a rowboat in his garage and that’s given me certain reservations about whether a 500 year old man with stone tools would be up to buillding a wooden ship the size the Queen Mary, etc.”

I don’t think it’s very efficient to reargue the same dozen things naive new creationists like Jan come in here repeating, when usually they are just really ignorant of the established science and the associated political debate. I favor pointing them to good monographs on evolution, such as What Evolution Is, by Mayr, and Talk.Origins to handle the main creationist talking points, Evolution and the Myth of Creationism, by Berra, Abusing Science, by Kitcher, Why Intelligent Design Fails, by some PT locals, etc. Otherwise we wind up endlessly retyping the same things. If I had the expertise I would put together such a comprehensive package of material for informing them about the topics. That, in my opinion, is the best way to handle the creationist naifs, the people who have the most potential for learning. I know, it wouldn’t be any good for the people who’ve been endlessly led to water, yet refuse to drink, and maybe real-time argument would, I don’t have any opinion on that, except that for myself, arguing with them carries too high an Opportunity Cost.

We defenders of evolution get ourselves in strange places too as we keep trying to come up with new proofs for facts long since established by hundreds of years of biological and geological research. Well, I guess the 10,000th reason not to take the story of Noah and the ark literally is also going to be a bit peculiar, “I’ve helped a guy build a rowboat in his garage and that’s given me certain reservations about whether a 500 year old man with stone tools would be up to buillding a wooden ship the size the Queen Mary, etc.”

I don’t think it’s very efficient to reargue the same dozen things naive new creationists like Jan come in here repeating, when usually they are just really ignorant of the established science and the associated political debate. I favor pointing them to good monographs on evolution, such as What Evolution Is, by Mayr, and Talk.Origins to handle the main creationist talking points, Evolution and the Myth of Creationism, by Berra, Abusing Science, by Kitcher, Why Intelligent Design Fails, by some PT locals, etc. Otherwise we wind up endlessly retyping the same things. If I had the expertise I would put together such a comprehensive package of material for informing them about the topics. That, in my opinion, is the best way to handle the creationist naifs, the people who have the most potential for learning. I know, it wouldn’t be any good for the people who’ve been endlessly led to water, yet refuse to drink, and maybe real-time argument would, I don’t have any opinion on that, except that for myself, arguing with them carries too high an Opportunity Cost.

Rilke’s Granddaughter said, “Since evolution is NOT, I repeat, NOT a theory about the origin of matter and life, your question makes no sense.” That was what I thought most of you were saying in the beginning of this debate. Now, since this is FINALLY and FULLY established, can we discuss why evolutionist want ID proponents to shut up and go away. If evolutionist do not want to discuss the origins of life and matter, fine, but if origins are to be brought up inside the classroom.….??? Perhaps you will retype the same argument, but please do not do so for my benefit.

Jan said,

Now, since this is FINALLY and FULLY established, can we discuss why evolutionist want ID proponents to shut up and go away. If evolutionist do not want to discuss the origins of life and matter, fine, but if origins are to be brought up inside the classroom . ….???

Certainly. Those who accept the theory of evolution as the current best explanation of biodiversity and the fossil record can’t find any science in the various flavors of ID put forward by the folks in the ID movement.

It is the business of a science teacher to teach science. There doesn’t currently appear to be any science in ID, therefore it would be reprehensible for ID to be taught in a science class.

And there are other hypotheses related to the origin of life (and of matter and (why you insist on associating the two is beyond me)) that have scientific content and can be taught in science classes.

It’s really very simple: produce some ID science, and the critics will have to shut up. But there is no ID science (subject to the usual caveat that we’re talking about ID in certain moments of the space-time continuum that don’t include humans.…)

Jan Wrote:

Now, since [that evolution is not a theory for the origin of life] is FINALLY and FULLY established, can we discuss why evolutionist want ID proponents to shut up and go away.

Because they misrepresent evolution, pure and simple. Confusing it with abiogenesis is just one of their tricks. Was it an IDer who set you straight on this? I thought not.

Jan Wrote:

If evolutionist do not want to discuss the origins of life and matter, fine, but if origins are to be brought up inside the classroom . ….???

It is the pro-ID Dover strategists who don’t want to discuss the origins of life in class. “Evolutionists” are perfectly fine with discussing origins of life (abiogenesis) in science class, as long as it’s not misrepresented. Another ID tactic is to confuse abiogenesis itself, which occurred at least once by definition with a theory of how it occurred. While there is not yet a theory of abiogenesis, there is considerable progress toward concluding how it most likely occurred – in terms of chemistry, that is. What we do know beyond any reasonable doubt is that the first life on earth appeared about 3.8 billion years ago. What happened after that is evolution. If the evidence pointed to saltation or independent abiogenesis instead, that’s what would be taught – no weasel words like “special creation” or “common design.” To say “a designer did it” is not an alternative explanation, because (1) none of the existing or potential explanations rule it out in the first place, and (2) it invariably avoids investigating the “hows” (proximate causes), which is what science is all about. Besides, the only activist groups who want equal time for “a designer did it” or even the phony “critical analysis of evolution,” are those who are known to deliberately misrepresent evolution and the nature of science. And as I said in my other post, most religions agree that they misrepresent God too.

I know that there are possible constitutional issues, but I am one who has no problem with discussing God, even in science class. But until we can assure everyone that the discussion will not lead to misrepresentation, God is best left out of science class.

Getting back to “possible alternate theories,” I agree that students should be aware of what they could be (again, I mean saltation, independent abiogenesis, other theories of evolution, etc.), and what evidence would be needed to support them. Students would then learn how unlikely they are in light of present data, and how ID doesn’t even qualify as a theory. Unfortunately the anti-evolution activists want none of this. That makes them the real censors.

Jan Wrote:

I do not use the term ‘intelligent design’ with the same intent that those on this blog refer to it.

Actually, IDers deliberately bait-and-switch two definitions. When they want to distance themselves from creationists, they make it sound like ID is just about existence of design, and does not necessarily contradict evolution. But when they need to make a different point, ID morphs into a “don’t ask, don’t tell” alternative to evolution. I, for one, try to be clear to differentiate between “ID in the general sense” (which I believe) and “the ID strategy” (which I vigorously oppose).

Rilke’s Gr., How familiar are you with the work of Michael J. Behe, William A. Dembski, Dr. Hugh Ross, Ph.D., & Charles B. Thaxton, Ph.D.? I think that their work should not be dismissed so quickly, however, I personally have other reasons for wishing to see evolutionist open the door to discussion of other ideas. I am not even asking that teachers teach design. My question is why it is taboo? Do you wonder? Do you wonder why a man who lived 4,000 years before the space age would remark that the earth was formed to be inhabited? Not any other place or planet, but the earth specifically. Isaiah spoke and said, “For thus says the Lord, Who created the heavens…Who formed the earth and made it.…Who formed it to be inhabited.” Isaiah 45:18 I am not asking that this be taught in government schools as I know that it will not happen, but I do ask that those who are interested in truth, consider the words of Isaiah. Consider the possiblity that the earth was created to be inhabited. Consider the possiblity that science cannot be destroyed or injured by other ideas.

Do you wonder why a man who lived 4,000 years before the space age would remark that the earth was formed to be inhabited?

Maybe he wanted to impress people with his religiosity. You know, kind of how preachers like Pat Robertson talk with “God” and claim that all sorts of events can be explained by “God”’s emotional reactions to sinners, etc.

Humans enjoy playing that game. It’s a well-known fact. Many humans, including Pat Robertson, make a damn nice living doing so. Such statements please certain groups of people, who express their satisfaction with the “prophetic” utterances by bestowing gifts upon these “prophets”. It’s an attractive career for certain types of people, especially for people who are interesting to look at for one reason or another, or who have interesting voices. And it’s always been that way.

Anyway, that’s my parsimonious explanation of this Isaiah character and his rather mundane alleged utterances regarding the existence and modus operandi of invisible deities who are worshipped at various times by some fraction of the earth’s human population.

Thanks for asking.

And there is the other explanation, that he was a prophet sent by God. Isaiah had 121 prophecies concerning the Jewish nation and the coming of Messiah which were fulfilled. You are not being asked to believe, however. Actually, I think I know the answer to the questions I asked earlier.

Jan said:

Rilke’s Granddaughter said, “Since evolution is NOT, I repeat, NOT a theory about the origin of matter and life, your question makes no sense.” That was what I thought most of you were saying in the beginning of this debate. Now, since this is FINALLY and FULLY established, can we discuss why evolutionist want ID proponents to shut up and go away. If evolutionist do not want to discuss the origins of life and matter, fine, but if origins are to be brought up inside the classroom . ….??? Perhaps you will retype the same argument, but please do not do so for my benefit.

We don’t want ID proponents to shut up and go away. We want them to stop pushing crank science. Since evolution is not a theory of origins, evolution does not deny that God is the creator – consequently, the ID advocate claim that we should introduce blatantly Darbyist religious doctrine into science classes to “counter” such claims is hoo-haw, wholly apart from ID being crank science.

Most of the biology textbooks address some of the origins of life experiments that have been conducted over the past. Those experiments irk the tarnation out of creationists, I understand. The creationist response – same as the ID response – is to tell fibs about those experiments. That introduces the quality of deceit into the classroom.

Can you tell us, Jan, why we shouldn’t be anxious to protect innocent kids and budding scientists from crass lies told to “rectify” imaginary slights?

Jan,

Rilke’s Gr., How familiar are you with the work of Michael J. Behe, William A. Dembski, Dr. Hugh Ross, Ph.D., & Charles B. Thaxton, Ph.D.?

I’ve read all of them except Thaxton, I think.

I think that their work should not be dismissed so quickly,

What work? That’s the point: they have offered nothing except some arguments that the ToE is insufficient to account for the present biodiversity. They have offered no theory, they have offered no experiments, they have offered no mechanisms. They have offered only one thing: criticism of existing science. Science that they don’t even understand (some of Dembksi’s comments on the theory of evolution go beyond hilarious).

however, I personally have other reasons for wishing to see evolutionist open the door to discussion of other ideas.

Reasons other than science? And what kind of other ideas? No other scientific ideas have been forthcoming from anyone you mention.

I am not even asking that teachers teach design.

Probably a good thing; the 30 seconds or so of total silence might be embarrassing.

My question is why it is taboo?

It’s not. You have been misinformed. Scientists criticize each other all the time; theories get ripped to shreds on a regular basis. Anyone who tells you that scientists aren’t open to scientific criticisms of the ToE is lying to you, plain and simple.

Do you wonder?

Since you are wrong about the taboo - no, I don’t wonder. I don’t wonder about something that doesn’t exist.

Do you wonder why a man who lived 4,000 years before the space age would remark that the earth was formed to be inhabited?

No. Why shouldn’t he make that remark? It would seem to be a perfectly reasonable comment.

Not any other place or planet, but the earth specifically.

Ummm. 4,000 years ago nobody thought there was any other place to live. The universe as it was ‘imagined’ then was a very small, compact place: the earth, the pillars that supported it, the sky-dome over it. God floating around somewhere.

Isaiah spoke and said, “For thus says the Lord, Who created the heavens … Who formed the earth and made it . …Who formed it to be inhabited.” Isaiah 45:18

There is nothing surprising about this: there was no other place in the Jewish cosmology to be inhabited.

I am not asking that this be taught in government schools as I know that it will not happen,

You could teach that Isiah said this in a class about religion or the history or religion - so sure, you could teach this in a government school.

but I do ask that those who are interested in truth, consider the words of Isaiah. Consider the possiblity that the earth was created to be inhabited.

This is an old point, and you are, once again, mistaken: evolution and theology are not incompatible. Evolution is “God-neutral” it is not “God-free”. Many of the scientists I know are very devout christians; even the biolgists. Some are Muslim; some are Taoists. You can accept the ToE and the Christian faith with no intellectual strain at all; they have nothing to do with each other.

Now, the ToE and Biblical Literalism… that’s another story.

Consider the possiblity that science cannot be destroyed or injured by other ideas

This makes no sense: science isn’t a thing, in the sense you mean it - and it can be destroyed. It has been wiped out several times.

It seems that present day evolutionist are willing to dismiss anyone who finds fault with their elief” in evolution. They are labeled as ignorant and stupid. Those who see the presence of design and therefore seek more information concerning the designer, those who find serious gaps in evolutionary theory or science must for the present either go quietly away or find other means of teaching students outside of public education.

It seems that present day evolutionist are willing to dismiss anyone who finds fault with their elief” in evolution. They are labeled as ignorant and stupid. Those who see the presence of design and therefore seek more information concerning the designer, those who find serious gaps in evolutionary theory or science must for the present either go quietly away or find other means of teaching students outside of public education.

That’t petty.

You don’t appear to be realize how much scientists are interested in challenges to their theories (that’s how Nobel prizes get awarded!)

No one is going to label you ignorant or stupid… unless you cannot back up your assertions.

You state that you see “the presence of design”. What do you consider the best three “presences”?

You state that there are “serious gaps” in evolution theory and science. What do you consider the three most significant gaps in science the evolutionary theory?

Jan,

Those who see the presence of design and therefore seek more information concerning the designer, those who find serious gaps in evolutionary theory or science must for the present either go quietly away or find other means of teaching students outside of public education.

Yes, I quite agree. Unless these people can put forth a coherent scientific theory of design, test that theory, and publish peer-reviewed papers in support of it, they must indeed stay out of a science classroom. Science classes are for studying science. Sunday school/bible study is for studying religion. If you wish to teach children your non-scientific explanation of the origins of life, there are plenty of avenues available. But public school biology classes are not one of them. What in this are you failing to understand?

Jan:

It seems that present day evolutionist are willing to dismiss anyone who finds fault with their elief” in evolution. They are labeled as ignorant and stupid. Those who see the presence of design and therefore seek more information concerning the designer, those who find serious gaps in evolutionary theory or science must for the present either go quietly away or find other means of teaching students outside of public education.

The vast majority of anti-evolutionists I’ve encountered are ignorant, I know that just as soon as they mis-apply the second law of thermodynamics or parrot some other tripe they dug up on a Creationist web site. As for finding gaps in a scientific theory, that is not the way to attack an evidence-based viewpoint. Of course there are gaps. The way to attack an evidence-based theory is not to point out the gaps but to point out the evidence that is not explained by the theory. To instead point out gaps is the logical fallacy of argument from ignorance, in this context also known as God of the Gaps.

Behe’s argument is a prime example of the argument from ignorance. Since his main argument is logically fallacious, it doesn’t matter what examples he puts up to support it. To analogise, it is an ugly baby, no matter what clothes he dresses it up in. But now look at the clothes. Behe’s examples have been torn apart for being inaccurate and misleading.

Take a trip over to Talk.Origins and see what has been said about the arguments of Behe, Dembski, et. al.

Actually, I am unqualified to evaluate Behe’s work. I read a great deal of the findings and as you admit, evolution seems to have many gaps. I do not expect Intelligent Design to be proven by a scientific experiment. I believe that the design found in our universe along with other evidences of our Creator should be enough to keep arrogance out of both the classroom and the science textbook. It appears to me that evolutionist have positioned themselves above God. The fact that evolution has many problems should be the focus of the science. I do not understand the dogmatism of the present day evolutionist. Just today, there is an article in USA Today announcing that new information found by research indicates that a protein promotes artery inflammation and lowering levels of the protein is just as important as reducing bad cholesterol for preventing heart attacks and strokes. What does this have to do with the study of evolution? Nothing! It does, however, illustrate clearly what I have tried to point out. Until now, who would have believed this could be true. Scienctific findings are always replaced as knowledge increases. Evolutionist go after creationist with such zeal and anger that it is astounding. This seems to be ignorance and foolishness.

there is an article in USA Today announcing that new information found by research indicates that a protein promotes artery inflammation and lowering levels of the protein is just as important as reducing bad cholesterol for preventing heart attacks and strokes. What does this have to do with the study of evolution? Nothing! It does, however, illustrate clearly what I have tried to point out. Until now, who would have believed this could be true.

Um, anybody who didn’t have their head up their arse?

Jan, why do you keep using “evolutionist” in the singular? And why do you say “evidences” in the plural? Surely you know that scientists always refer to “evidence” in the singular - except in jest:

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/

You claim to have read Behe. Do you know his stand on the age of the earth and common descent? Do you agree? Or are you going to plead ignorant because you are “unqualified”? And if you are “unqualified” about evaluating Behe, what makes you qualified about evaluating “evolutionist”?

Have you read the rebuttals to Behe, especially those by devout Christian “evolutionist”? Have you read the links I provided in earlier comments? Or do you just read what “feels good”?

Of the dozen fallacies creationists have repeated for a century, the idea that we should withold acceptance of evolution because theories will change in the future, is about the stupidest. The best response to it was written fifteen years ago by some dude named Isaac.

http://home.earthlink.net/~dayvdanl[…]lativity.htm

steve Wrote:

Of the dozen fallacies creationists have repeated for a century, the idea that we should withold acceptance of evolution because theories will change in the future, is about the stupidest.

And it is getting more common than ever, as professional anti-evolutionists are gradually abandoning attempts to support alternative “theories” that they know are much less “complete” than the one we have. They also know that, given students’ prior misconceptions, all it takes is to teach a few out-of-context “weaknesses” under the pretense of “critical analysis,” and most students will be infer one of the truly “incomplete” alternatives. The recent “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach conveniently avoids any true critical analysis, especially of the alternatives.

Jan, do still think that “evolutionist” are the censors? And do you still think that teachers should bear false witness just because all theories are incomplete?

To answer Frank’s question, “ Should teachers ‘bear false witness’ in the classroom? I am not suggesting that we withhold acceptance of what we know about evolution or any other field of science because knowledge will change the perceptions over time. What I am saying is simply that we should not be dogmatic. Now for the “bear false witness” question.

Let me pose a few questions. Would it be a “false witness” to teach children that natural forces organized nonliving matter into cells and then produced the complex biological systems that we see today? Would it be “false witness” to teach children that the Second Law of Thermodynamics is the law that states systems become disordered over time unless energy is supplied from some source to create order. Would it be “false witness” to teach them that there is controversy over whether or not evolutionary processes could have occurred due to this second law of thermodynamics? Would it be “false witness” to teach children exactly what both sides are saying concerning this ‘matter”. (no pun intended) Would it be “false witness” to teach children that infinitely improbable events would have had to occur for evolution to explain our complex systems that we see today. Would it be acceptable to teach that such an infinitely improbable “event” would have been necessary and would be needed not once but repeatedly to produce the evolutionary record we see. Would it be ‘honest’ to teach them about the controversy that is raging at this time? There is certainly enough written that an upper level student will be able to read and consider for himself/herself other ideas. A student will consider other possibilities unless all ideas are squelched in the early elementary grades by teachers who teach children that questioning in the area of evolution is unacceptable. That is what you mean isn’t it, Frank, when you say: “They also know that, given students’ prior misconceptions, all it takes is to teach a few out-of-context “weaknesses” under the pretense of “critical analysis,” and most students will be infer one of the truly “incomplete” alternatives.” It sounds like you are saying defend even the weaknesses of evolution in order to prevent students from making a mistake and believing that evolution does not explain all our complex systems today. That is not teaching at all, it is endoctrinating. This brings one back to the starting point of this debate. Should other ideas be squelched in order to convince children to believe evolution?

Jan, since this has been getting off the thread’s topic, I replied to Comment 13030 with Comment 13034 on the Bathroom Wall.

Jan Wrote:

Would it be “false witness” to teach them that there is controversy over whether or not evolutionary processes could have occurred due to this second law of thermodynamics?

Yes. There are ignoramuses who claim that “evolution violates the 2nd law of thermodynamics”, but being ignoramuses they fail to understand either thermodynamics or evolutionary processes or both. There is no process required for evolutionary change that has not been observed to happen in modern populations. None. I’ve pointed this out before:

http://www.antievolution.org/people[…]sp/2lot.html

Brooks and Wiley’s “Evolution as Entropy” makes the case that entropic processes makes biological evolution inevitable.

And see Mark Isaak’s response to the claim at http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CF/CF001.html

Wesley, whether you call those who disagree with you ignoramuses or whether you do not, the fact remains that there is controversy. Example: http://www.icr.org/pubs/imp/imp-058.htm

Jan,

I hope you can understand that this is NOT a controversy about either evolution or thermodynamics, since those who understand either or both recognize that these claims are false.

What there is, of course, is a religious and political dispute, a fight for hearts and souls in which minds are very carefully and deliberately not engaged. The ICR’s purpose in life is to save souls and make converts. Since the souls don’t need (and indeed had better NOT need) to understand the real world to be saved, actual honesty and integrity are contraindicated.

And so, it turns out, knowledgeable people can try to explain why these claims are false at every opportunity throughout their lives, without the slightest effect on those whose lives are structured around lying for Jesus. The ICR understands one thing better than the scientists: when people find the message congenial, they don’t bother to wonder about whether the message is correct. Simplistic lies WORK, they are substantially more effective than complex facts at reinforcing desired orientations for multiple reasons: Simple lies require no knowledge, no study, no mental exercise, and they don’t engender confusion and doubt like reality tends to do.

So the controversy isn’t really over thermodynamics, but over whether people in general are better off with faith or with genuine understanding when the two are being set in opposition.

From CNN just now, in a report that rats can distinguish between Japanese and Dutch speech …

http://www.cnn.com/2005/TECH/scienc[…]t/index.html

“It was striking to find that rats can track certain information that seems to be so important in language development in humans,” Toro said in a statement.

The study shows “which abilities that humans use for language are shared with other animals, and which are uniquely human. It also suggests what sort of evolutionary precursors language might have,” he added.

What, no mention of whether the “mysterious designers” who created all the earth’s life forms more likely spoke Dutch or Japanese? How dare CNN censor this alternative and pretend that “ID theory” is useless! Jan, perhaps you’d like to organize the letter writing campaign this time.

Jan Wrote:

Wesley, whether you call those who disagree with you ignoramuses or whether you do not, the fact remains that there is controversy. Example: http://www.icr.org/pubs/imp/imp-058.htm

Jan would you call less then .5% a controversy? A “controversy” hopefully would need more then the statistical margin of error. In science you’ll probably find that percentage people with wacky ideas. Currently ID is no different.

Flint (13169), I wish I had said it! In particular: ‘Simplistic lies WORK’

The rest of your post is equally astute. Thanks for putting it in ‘print’.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Nick Matzke published on January 1, 2005 3:32 PM.

Happy New Year, ID movement! (ID and Evol. Immunology) was the previous entry in this blog.

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