Quote of the Day - 13 July 05

| 23 Comments

The more things change…

“What men of science want is only a fair day’s wages for more than a fair day’s work; and most of us, I suspect, would be well content if, for our days and nights of unremitting toil, we could secure the pay which a first-class Treasury clerk earns without any obviously trying strain upon his faculties.” –Thomas Henry Huxley Administrative Nihilism (1871)

23 Comments

“Every great advance in natural knowledge has involved the absolute rejection of authority.” -Thomas Henry Huxley

“Power is not sufficient evidence of truth.” -Samuel Johnson

I’m beginning to notice a pattern emerging.

“Wherever you go, there you are.” Buckaroo Banzai

Just to change the pattern.

im pretty new at this (computers I mean) and visiting websites. much of the “debate “ between the various satan-worshipping communist child molesting homosexual athiest materialists and the narrow minded fundamentalist speaking in tongues snake handling trolls is way over my head. Im interested in a quote from Jonathan Witt that appeared in this weeks Time magazine in response to an editorial from George Will.who stated that intelligent design was not a scientfic theory because it could not be falsified. “George Will says the theory of intelligent design isn’t falsifiable-isnt a “testable hypothesis.” Actually, particular design arguments are falsifiable. Design theorist Michael Behe, for instance argues that we can detect design in the bacterial flagellum because the tiny motor needs all its parts to fuction at all. Thats a problem for Darwinian evolution, which builds novel form one tiny functional mutation at a time. How to falsify Behe’s argument? Provide a detailed evolutionary pathway from simple ancestor to present motor. The flagellum might still be designed, but Behe’s argument that such design is detectable would have been falsified.” my questions related to this are: can you falsify theory “a” by showing a testable/verafiable mechanism for theory “b”? Is this falsifiable issue which I think came from Karl Popper still felt to be a sine qua non of true scientific value? If you could show a “detailed evolutionary pathway” would that in any way imply that this pathway was ever utilized or doesn’t that even matter? Does this “simple ancestor” actually exist or is it forever lost in a stromatolite? I personally don’t think you could falsify design even if you could prove evolution. Am I mistaken?

Mr. Pro from Dover, you have some skills to learn if you want to get around the Web.

One of them is search engines.  One of the best is Google (http://google.com).  I knew from previous reading that the flagellum’s mechanisms are closely related to one or another bacterial secretory system, so I typed flagellum “secretory system” into Google and voila, I got this on the first page of hits:

http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/[…]CB200_1.html

Click through, read and see if it doesn’t refute everything Behe asserted.

I personally don’t think you could falsify design even if you could prove evolution. Am I mistaken?

You are correct.  That is why the design hypothesis is scientifically worthless; if no possible discovery could falsify it, then all possible discoveries are consistent with it and it does nothing to tell us what we should find and what we should not (ergo, why things are the way they are as opposed to some other way).

Design theorist Michael Behe, for instance argues that we can detect design in the bacterial flagellum because the tiny motor needs all its parts to fuction at all. Thats a problem for Darwinian evolution, which builds novel form one tiny functional mutation at a time.

This is like claiming that a ship floating at sea must have been built at sea.

can you falsify theory “a” by showing a testable/verafiable mechanism for theory “b”?

Not exactly, but in practice “a” will be abandoned if “b” is simpler or more elegant than “a” or has greater explanatory and predictive power.

Is this falsifiable issue which I think came from Karl Popper still felt to be a sine qua non of true scientific value?

Largely, but check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imre_Lakatos for a broader view.

If you could show a “detailed evolutionary pathway” would that in any way imply that this pathway was ever utilized or doesn’t that even matter?

It doesn’t matter because Behe claims that no such pathway is *possible*.

Does this “simple ancestor” actually exist or is it forever lost in a stromatolite?

The “simple ancestor” is ID misdirection. Elegant designs are generally preceded by messier more complex designs.

I personally don’t think you could falsify design even if you could prove evolution.

Right – because ID isn’t a scientific theory.

The Creator ‘designed’ the world to be supportive of humans. “He” made them immortal. All animals were docile and allowed themselves to be caught. All rivers flowed downhill in both directions.

Gluskabee saw that this design was flawed. If humans were immortal they would not strive for anything so he gave them death. If all animals gave themselves to hunters without a struggle, humans would become lazy. He gave animals a fear of humans. Finally, if rivers flowed downhill in both directions, humans would not struggle to travel about their world. He fixed all rivers so that they flowed downhill in only one direction.

And thus we see “evidence” of not only design but redesign in the world.

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I’ve just come across what appeared to me to be an intelligent Intelligent Design argument. Obviously, this argument is in a Science Fiction book. I won’t name the book or author because I don’t want to risk spoiling the story for anyone who might read it.

In the story, exo-biologists come across a planet with life, sentient life, that is native to the planet. They find a “complete balanced ecology”, but “biology builds up from the basic building blocks. Here there are none. Just a few organisms and a spotty food supply. No pyramid of life, just a few big fauna sitting atop a set of stilts.” From that, not finding the diversity that would be produced by evolution, the biologists deduce that this must be a designed biosphere. Of course, unlike our earth-bound ID, the identity of the designers and their instrumentality play a big role in the story and are the focus of further investigation.

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I don’t know if this is appropriate here, but it looks like ID is what is being discussed, thus I’ll discuss it, too (no one has bothered to renew the Bathroom Wall, meaning that we have to put odds and ends wherever).

The whole “good design/bad design” issue is reasonably well analogized by that other well-known set of evolved (if through different mechanisms and using some different rules) phenomena, language. Is English “well-designed”? Of course not, not if typical meanings of “design” are used.

Why is the plural of “sheep”, well, “sheep”? Because the word goes back to the Germanic neuter plurals of Old English. I’m not sure about the origin of the plural of “child”, but there is another aspect of English that is almost certainly explainable via history and a sort of evolution, and not by what we call “design”.

French is filled with vestiges of Latin, such as silent h’s, and consonant word endings which are typically not pronounced, but only when followed by a word beginning with a vowel. English imports some of its particular inconsistencies and marks of “non-design” from the old French, as well as a few from new French. Some of these inconsistencies are merely inconsistent in English, while others are imported French quirks.

One could go on and on about languages and how they are explicable via history, and not by any sort of “design” (though languages differ from biology in sometimes reflecting conscious rationalization). But the point should be obvious, that if we mean anything by “design”, we do not mean irrational adaptations of partially incompatible genes and words, such as we find in genomes and languages. If mimicking the irrationality of evolutionary adaptation is meant by “design”, then “design” has been voided of any real reference to experienced phenomena.

We try to understand the evolution of language so that we can understand modern language itself, as well as to learn how better to translate across data sets (writings) both in time and in space (well, between related languages). The same is true of understanding the evolution of genomes. Neither type of study readily produces the immediate and obvious benefits demanded by those intent on devaluing these studies, for both are closer to being basic research than to applied research. Yet both the study of language evolution and of biological evolution are quite beneficial and we can point to the benefits accruing from these studies to those having an adequate education. The major difference being that understanding of biological evolution has almost certainly proved to be of much more practical benefit than will our knowing of how languages evolved.

The attempts of Behe and of Dembski are to define “design” in a manner that wholly bypasses the actual data that we use to understand that genomes, like languages, evolved. We find genomes to be explicable only through the natural selection of sensibly random variations in information. This triumph of evolution is what the IDists seek to make an end-run around, by defining “design” in a manner that undercuts all historical inference and explanation. It is this that is their greatest assault upon science as it is known today.

Pretend evolution crumbles and ID wins. What happens next? What will research and education look like?

Back to the quotes:

“Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”–Benjamin Franklin

That’s easy–a vast theocratic organization dedicated to finding ‘evidence’ of design. Research will consist soley of finding things we can’t explain, and then praising the designer, as well as making sure all your fellow researchers are following the party line.

Basically, like Soviet Russia, during the Stalin years. Only with a Christian stance.

So the Angel said: ‘thy phantasy has imposed upon me, & thou oughtest to be ashamed.’ I answer’d: ‘we impose on one another, & it is but lost time to converse with you whose works are only Analytics.’ - William Blake The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

Comment #38017: Posted by Curious on July 14, 2005 11:03 AM

Pretend evolution crumbles and ID wins. What happens next? What will research and education look like?

I can’t speak to education but research will ‘look’ Asian. As in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Singaporean, Taiwanese. Oh and don’t forget Indian ;p

I can’t speak to education but research will ‘look’ Asian. As in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Singaporean, Taiwanese. Oh and don’t forget Indian ;p

Hate to say this, but it already does in many fields… Sure, we’re in America, so there are still quite a few Americans, but when I visit the lab in which my wife workds, we have:

1 Pole (the PhD PI) 1 German (PhD) 3 Chinese (1 PhD, 2 Doctoral Canidates) 1 Israeli (PhD) 1 Candaian (PhD)

2 Americans (PhD) Some additional Doctoral Canidates of which 1 is an American and a couple I don’t well enough to say for sure, but I think not…

Many universities discriminate against Asians in admissions. If not for this, it would be even more obvious that the future of science is Asian.

“Pretend evolution crumbles and ID wins. What happens next? What will research and education look like?”

Pretend the sun turns into a flock of doves. What happens next?

Actually, to debunk Behe, one only needs to show that evolution of so-called “irreducibly complex” is possible.

At which point, Behe will move the goalposts and ask you for a detailed step by step description of every amino acid change throughout the whole of history.

All the while, neglecting to give us even the barest hint of an outline as to how ID works.

I believe this is referred to as a “double standard”.

Some might call it “dishonest”.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Mike Dunford published on July 13, 2005 5:41 AM.

Imperfections of design was the previous entry in this blog.

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