Hunter’s Distortions

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One device used by ID advocates to create the illusion of seriousness is the misrepresentation of scientific research. References to actual papers, coupled with the occasional bit of jargon, allow them to appear authoritative to lay people. But since there is nothing in the literature to aid their arguments, this appearance of authority can be obtained only by presenting a grotesque caricature of what scientists actually do.

For example, consider this blog entry from Cornelius Hunter, posted at the blog IDtheFuture.

The subject is this paper, from The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, entitled “Sodium channel genes and the evolution of diversity in communication signals of electric fishes: Convergent molecular evolution.” In it, the authors (Harold Zakon, Ying Lu, Derrick Zwickl and David Hillis) report some recent findings on the evolution of “electric organs” in certain species of fish.

Hunter believes he has caught the authors playing fast and loose with the evidence. He writes:

Evolution is a curious theory. It suffers from significant evidential problems, yet there are stacks and stacks of supportive research papers. This provides evolutionists with a handy problem deflector. Sure there are problems with evolution but don’t the piles and piles of research papers assure us it must be true? One such paper that was recently published deals with sodium channels in electric fish [H. H. Zakon, Y. Lu, D. J. Zwickl and D. M. Hillis, “Sodium channel genes and the evolution of diversity in communication signals of electric fishes: Convergent molecular evolution,” PNAS, 103:3675-80, 2006].

Of course, the significant evidential problems Hunter refers to exist entirely in his imagination. But of greater import to the present essay is his description of how scientists behave when defending evolution. Apparently evolutionists rely on the sheer quantity of published papers, as opposed to their content, in making their case. This allows them to deflect attention from the sorry state of their theory, you see. All pleas for respect from the ID side will fall on deaf ears so long as charges like this are part of their repertoire. Scientists defend common descent on the basis of the accumulated evidence from paleontology, anatomy, embryology, biochemistry, genetics and all the rest. They defend the efficacy of natural selection both on theoretical grounds drawn from population genetics and computer simulations, and on practical grounds drawn from countless field studies and analyses of various complex systems. The volume, by itself, of evolution related papers published every year is significant simply because it shows that professional scientists find evolution to be very useful in their professional work. All of these papers contrast very nicely with the nothing at all produced by ID folks.

Hunter disputes that last part. He would have us believe that scientists talk about evolution so often not because they find it a useful concept, but rather because they are in the grip of a stifling orthodoxy. Hunter writes:

Electric fish and sodium channels are not exactly the kind of products one thinks of as resulting from random mutations. Nonetheless, the Zakon paper authoritatively states that “Two groups of teleosts, the mormyriforms of Africa and the gymnotiforms of South America, have convergently evolved electric organs.” And the paper concludes that certain evolutionary convergences occurred in the sodium channel genes. So there you have it—yet another objective journal paper dryly reporting yet another demonstration of evolution. Amazing, those electric organs really did, somehow, just evolve. In fact, this is all so run-of-the-mill that they evolved twice. If they can evolve once, then why not twice? Nature works in mysterious ways.

That first line, in which Hunter manages to combine the argument from personal incredulity with an oversimplified view of evolution, is a marvel of inanity. Why, exactly, do we not expect evolution by natural selection to produce fish with electric signaling organs? Given the obvious selective advantage accruing to fish who possess these structures, and considering that the paper under discussion here is about to show that a crucial gene in the formation of these structures was coopted from a gene expressed in muscle in nonelectric fishes, it looks to me like the evolution of these structures is pretty likely.

Later he presents the following quote from the PNAS paper:

We investigated whether the evolution of electric organs and electric signal diversity in two independently evolved lineages of electric fishes was accompanied by convergent changes on the molecular level.

and writes

The question was not if evolution occurred, but how it occurred. The bulk of the paper reports empirical findings that do not hinge on, nor support, evolution. The force-fitting of the results into the evolution paradigm is gratuitous. Of course this assumption of evolution is no surprise. But this means that such papers do not help evolution as is claimed. Piles and piles of papers that presuppose evolution and force-fit results do little to rescue evolution from its many evidential problems.

Of course, empirical findings by themselves never hinge on particular theories. But more to the point is that Hunter’s distinction between establishing that evolution occurred vs. determining its precise trajectory is too facile. What actually happened here is that the authors gathered a lot of data about the genetic basis for the electric organs in certain fish. Contrary to Hunter’s assertions, they found that their data suggested a clear evolutionary scenario.

Furthermore, it is just silly to argue that since the authors take evolution for granted in developing their research program their work consequently loses all value for defending evolution. Their presumption of the validity of evolutionary theory suggested an interesting line of research to pursue, and that is all. Whether the data confirm or deny that presumption is simply a separate question.

After all, it’s not as if Hunter was browsing through the scientific literature, you know, just trying to keep up with the latest developments, stumbled on to this paper, and used his keen intellect to pierce through a veil of confusion produced by other, lesser scientists. Hunter could have chosen any paper at random that mentions evolution and made the same bad arguments.

On the other hand, it would be significant indeed if the authors were force-fitting their data to match their hypotheses. But as we shall see, Hunter is wrong on this point. Hunter also writes:

But wait. What exactly is the evidence for this? Just how did the authors arrive at this remarkable conclusion? It turns out that there really isn’t any evidence, in particular, for the evolution of these electric organs or their sodium channels. The authors are working within a paradigm where evolution is taken for granted. When the authors conclude that the sodium channel genes in the two different lineages convergently evolved, they do not mean they have found evidence for evolution; rather, they mean that given the assumption that evolution is true, then certain convergences must have occurred in the sodium channel genes.

In ID fantasy-land the mere fact of convergence in evolutionarily separate lineages is presented as a problem for evolution. But it is never explained exactly just what the problem is. In the present case Hunter writes as if the assertion of convergent evolution in the sodium channel genes was something so audacious that extraordinary evidence must be produced to make it plausible. No doubt if you noted that the road was wet and asserted that it rained recently, Hunter would likewise demand to see your evidence. But is he right that the authors present no evidence to support their evolutionary conclusions? Of course not. Hunter is presenting a distorted version of what the authors actually said in their paper.

Let’s consider the paper’s first two paragraphs:

Divergence of animal communication signals accompanies reproductive isolation and speciation (1–3). Because most communication signals are under polygenic control (4), it is difficult to identify the contributions of particular genes to signal evolution. We studied the relationship of gene expression and sequence evolution to signal divergence in weakly electric fish because of the simplicity and species diversity of their electric communication signals and the dependence of those signals on ion currents. Ion currents are generated by ion channels, the genes for which are easily identified.

Two groups of teleosts, the mormyriforms of Africa and the gymnotiforms of South America, have convergently evolved electric organs (EOs) whose weak electrical emissions function as communication signals and for electrolocation. There is a 100-fold difference in electric organ discharge (EOD) duration across species (200 µsec to 20 msec) (ref. 5; Fig. 1), with both lineages showing great diversity in signal waveform. Sexual and natural selection have likely played roles in the evolution of this diversity (6–8). Variation in EOD characteristics, especially pulse duration, forms the basis for detection of species-specific signals (9). This richness in the EOD waveform is based in part on the properties of the ion channels of the cells of the EO, the electrocytes (10). The diversity in membrane excitability of electrocytes contrasts with the simple excitability of vertebrate skeletal muscle from which electrocytes evolved, highlighting ion channel genes as potential candidates for strong evolutionary change in these fishes.

The bold-face half-sentence above was the one quoted by Hunter as an authoritative declaration on the part of the authors regarding the convergent evolution of the electric organs in these fish. Placing the quote in context makes it clear that this is not just their own bald assertion, but is actually the logical conclusion of much previous work in this field (references 6-8, in particular). Indeed, the present paper builds on massive prior work that shows, via both anatomical and developmental evidence, that electric organs in fish evolved as a variation on muscle. The decision to investigate sodium channel genes was strongly suggested by this prior work.

For still more on the background of this work, see this excellent essay from blogger Afarensis.

One of the chief findings of the paper was that in nearly all of the convergent lineages, a gene expressed in muscle in nonelectric fishes was coopted for use in the electric organs of the fish being investigated. The patterns of expression and the sequences of these genes made it possible to construct a phylogenetic tree showing the evolutionary relationships between the various fish. Here is how the authors summarize their conclusions:

To investigate changes in the selective regime acting on the Nav1.4a gene, we used the maximum-likelihood codon models implemented in the CODEML program from the PAML package (26). Phylogenetic analyses using a number of methods all resulted in the same tree topology (Fig. 3), which resembles the recognized phylogenetic relationships of these species based on other criteria. This topology was fixed for all codeml selection analyses. We applied site models (27) to estimate variation in the pattern of substitution across sites of all 11 taxa and branch-site models (26, 28) to estimate variation in the pattern of substitution across sites on specific lineages identified a priori.

They were also able to study the phenotypic effects of specific amino acid changes in the genes being studied. This permitted some clear conclusions to be drawn about the selective advantages or disadvantages of mutations in the relevant genes. Also of relevance is this statement, from the paper’s discussion section:

The main finding of this study is that the evolution of signal diversity in two independently derived lineages of electric fish is accompanied by convergent alteration of expression and changes in sequence within the same or complementary functional domains of the same Na+ channel gene, Nav1.4a. Site-directed mutagenesis allows us to determine how specific amino acid replacements in this gene lead to variations in species-specific communication signals. Because a number of these replacements occur at sites that are otherwise highly conserved (i.e., Q to P or L in the inactivation loop) but previously not singled out for study, our results have also pinpointed a number of amino acid sites of potential functional importance for all Na+ channels. A genome duplication at the origin of teleosts has been suggested as a substrate for the morphological diversity and extensive speciation characteristic of teleosts (22, 23). Nevertheless, there are few concrete examples of genes whose duplication are directly related to species diversity or the emergence of novel structures in fish. Although the duplication of Nav1.4 in fish is not responsible for the genesis of the EO, it allowed for the compartmentalization of one gene duplicate in the EO, providing a substrate for the evolution and divergence of species-specific signals in two lineages of fishes.

So the situation is this: The authors of the paper set out to better understand the genetic basis for certain electric signaling organs in fish. The evolution of these organs had already received considerable attention in previous research. For practical reasons, the authors chose to focus on certain sodium channel genes, which are essential to the proper function of the organs being studied. They discovered a particular gene that is expressed in muscle in nonelectric fish that has been coopted for other purposes by the electric fish. By examining the patterns of expression and the amino acid sequences of these genes, they were able to construct phylogenetic trees via several different methods. In each case they got the same tree, and this tree closely resembled the trees crafted by other means. On top of this, they found clear evidence for the role of natural selection on the structure of these genes. Along the way they also described several open questions for further study.

More than that, we find in this paper an excellent example of different biological disciplines coming together to produce some useful results. The research group headed by Dr. Zakon is made up of neurophysiologists. Dr. Hillis, by contrast is a well-respected systematist and evolutionary biologist. Scientists look at this sort of consilience between quite distinctive disciplines as a good thing.

To Hunter this careful and meticulous work is all a big embarrassment for evolutionists. In his world the modest conclusions of the paper reflect only the prior biases of the people doing the work. Never mind that the findings reported in the paper dovetail nicely with prior work in the field and point clearly to a particular evolutionary scenario for the development of these organs. After all, honestly describing that simple fact might force him to reassess his own, poorly-reasoned, biases on this subject.

29 Comments

Hunter reveals the level of intellectual capacity he expects in his target audience when he says, in the first sentence of the second paragraph of the linked post,

An electric fish is not something that you plug in.

It is my understanding that several groups of fish have independently evolved the capacity to generate electric signals.Some like the gold-lined black knife fish, Sternopygus, generates signals in modified muscle cells in the tail, while the brown ghost, Apteronotus, uses modified motor neurons for the job. As with the evolution of the eye,incremental changes in different sets of cells result in a tightly coordinated system. In electric fish, the neural circuitry of the pacemaker and the electric organ consists of just a few, well-defined cells. The simplicity of this system makes it a good model for the evolution of more complex systems, like the hormonal modulation of behavior in mammals. Because the electrical signaling system is so simple,the molecular and cellular basis of hormone responsiveness can analyze in detail, which is not yet possible in more complex systems.

A fine example of “spray and pray” by Hunter. If you point your gun and fire enough rounds in the general direction of your target your bound to hit something even if you only graze the target. Then the shooter claims a hit and expert marksmanship skills. This in turn requires a lengthy refute by someone who reads the paper and points out Hunter’s misses and his actual marksmanship skills. Frequently, someone comes to the defense of the marksman trying to recalculate the score and the replies start to fly back and forth. This is how the ID crowd is generating the perceived controversy.

Delta Pi Gamma (Scientia et Fermentum)

Hunter, of course, is a fellow of the Disco Institute and widely reported on the intarnets to be an “adjunct professor of biophysics” at the Bible-Institute-Of-Los-Angeles University, a hotbed of biophysics research, I’m sure. But the Biola website doesn’t seem to have any trace of him. Anyone know wassup?

Hunter, of course, is a fellow of the Disco Institute and widely reported on the intarnets to be an “adjunct professor of biophysics” at the Bible-Institute-Of-Los-Angeles University, a hotbed of biophysics research, I’m sure.

Indeed. With this guy at a Bible institute and Dembski at a theological institute (not to mention who funds Discovery institute and why), I can’t for the life of me imagine why anyone would ever think that ID had something to do with fundamentalist religious apologetics. Must be that damn atheistic darwinist propaganda, huh.

I absolutely agree with Hunter. And I’m going to use his logic the next time the IRS claims I owe ‘em more tax without first verifying the validity of arithmetic.

The line

“They defend the efficacy of natural selection both on theoretical grounds drawn from population genetics and computer simulations”

clearly frames the distinction between what science calls “theory” and non-theoretical conceptions like ID: a scientific theory provides a sufficient basis to create a simulation. That is, a theory is so consistent both within the specific discipline - here evolution - and across related disciplines - i.e. genetics, geology and biochemistry as they relate to evolution - that a realistic and useful model can be developed, say on a computer.

Using that as the basis for a challenge question for ID folks: what exactly would a computer simulation of an ID world look like? How would it play out scenarios? How would it at all reflect the real world?

ID can’t be simulated. Go figure!

What would a computer simpulation of ID look like?

http://www.btinternet.com/~digital.[…]rk_jesus.jpg

Ah, computer simulations. I had a long-running tussle with a creatid in another place, where he was insistent that stuff like Avida was in itself proof of ID.

I asked a few times how he would model the conventional theory of evolution instead, or what part of Avida actually simulated the creator, but never got an answer that made sense.

It does seem that any attempt to involve modelling in the discussion will show that the presence of abstraction can be used to misconstrue the argument. This is either through genuine inability to think that way – abstract thought does not come easy to some – or because of the fact that, when given a bottle of ink, some people choose to throw it in the water rather than use it to write stuff down.

R

Lost in the analysis of a typical ID argument from incredulity (and a relatively poor one given the rhetorical skill of DI folk) is the fact that Hunter offers no clue as to what alternative could better explain the “convergence” than evolution. This is especially puzzling because the DI’s own Michael Behe proposed one a decade ago. The first cell ~4 billion years ago could have had all the genetic material in place but just “turned off” until needed. All this time they could have been testing these data, and all the others for which they make similar empty complaints, against their alternative hypothesis, instead of recycling the same old nonsense that has been shown time and time again to do nothing but misrepresent evolution.

Biola website doesn’t seem to have any trace of him.

Does the Biola website list any of their adjunct faculty?

Hunter does start with a valid premise: Most scientific research articles on the subject take evolution as a given and do not actually try to argue a case in favor of evolution.

His conclusion is the problem: Evolution is not as well supported as it appears.

The thing is most people do not go around trying to recreate the wheel. The basic concepts of evolution are not merely conjecture based on evidence, but are reproducible in a laboratory. We’ve witnessed evolution taking place. How many times do you have to watch an apple fall before you can accept that gravity exists, even if you don’t know how it works? When you know that apples fall, what kind of madman argues that it is crazy to think that the apples under the apple tree might have fallen there?

I think that Hunter has a good point. It has been claimed that evolution is the foundation of the biological sciences, but I now believe that it is possible to describe the relationships between organisms without making any assumption that any species ever evolved into another. Furthermore, even if evolution theory were necessary in the biological sciences, scientists could still use this theory while believing that all or part of it is untrue.

There are many scientific articles and books that mention evolution just incidentally and matter-of-factly in passing, as though the authors were just talking about gravity, and then these publications are credited with adding to the support of evolution theory! These publications‘ alleged support for evolution theory is based on the “begging the question“ fallacy.

In the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial, the plaintiffs‘ attorneys dramatically dumped a stack of 58 scientific-journal articles and several books in front of defense expert witness Michael Behe. These publications supposedly “proved“ the evolvability of the immune system, but there was no evidence that any of these publications even addressed – let alone refuted – Behe‘s arguments against the evolvability of the immune system. Behe aptly described the dumping of these publications as nothing but “courtroom theatre,“ but the gullible and impressionable Judge Jones lapped it up.

Comment #88508 posted by Alann on March 22, 2006 03:28 PM

The basic concepts of evolution are not merely conjecture based on evidence, but are reproducible in a laboratory. We’ve witnessed evolution taking place.

We‘ve witnessed microevolution but not macroevolution.

Oh gee, thanks ever so much for your regular contribution of drool there, super Larry.

Do you EVER tire of being wrong?

no wait, i already know the answer to that.

you’re a sociopath, Larry; seek treatment immediately.

Yeah, sure, Larry, you’ve knowingly and explicitly praised the blatantly dishonest tactics of the “cdesign proponentsists,” but now you expect us to believe you’re both honest and competent to speak on ANY topic?

Your refusal to pick a handle and stick to it only reinforces my impression that you are hiding from your real-world self and problems. Get help.

Nat Whilk Wrote:

Does the Biola website list any of their adjunct faculty?

One of the 4 biology* associate professors only has degrees in computer science; degree fields of the other 3 are nowhere revealed but 2 have no PhD. One would think having a biophysics PhD adjunct would be worth listing. What could explain why a ex-bibleinstitute/now-university would not list their adjuncts?

(* a goal of the department is to teach biology “thru the lens of intelligent design.”)

The authors of this paper clearly have used an evolutionary framework for their research, but Dr. Hunter is right that their results have no significance with respect to the validity of evolutionary theory, even though they will certainly be referenced as “supporting literature” in the future.

What a fair reader should consider is, what would a design-theoretic approach have revealed about the same issue? Would it be more or less successful than one based on evolutionary theory? We probably would never know, since explicitly design-theoretic works rarely can be published in the “official” literature (although some cautiously worded papers can slip through once in a while).

Let’s contrast the predictions of intelligent design theory and evolutionary theory here.

Intelligent design says that electric fishes operate using proteins designed for the purpose. Evolutionary theory says that electric fish operate using modified, co-opted versions of proteins possessed by non-electric fish. As this paper shows, and many others show, the predictions of evolutionary theory are born out, and those of ID are not.

Any ID advocates who disagree with this, should kindly state what predictions ID does make, or stop pretending that it’s science.

Biology papers work within an evolutionary framework in much the same way that space exploration works within a gravitational framework. Doing it any other way doesn’t work.

This example of convergent evolution of sodium channels is a great demonstration of the expected differences from evolved versus designed structures, and does provide strong support for the evolution of complex structures through simple, stepwise substitutions. As such, it IS strong support for natural evolution of complex structures, and AGAINST the ID argument, despite Hunter’s stated opinion. If the electric organs were designed, then we would not expect to see the similar substitutions that confer the new function placed in the context of very different background sequences (which themselves fit the pattern of the phylogeny of the organisms inferred from other genes and structures). If a designer designed a sodium channel for an electric organ independently from the sodium channels for muscle, then we would expect the phylogeny inferred from the sodium channel genes to group the various electric organ sodium channel genes together, even in different orders of fishes. Instead, the separate groups of fishes have sodium channel genes that support the independent origins of the electric organs. The convergence is limited to sites that confer a functional change (from sodium channels used in muscle contraction to sodium channels used in electric discharge), and these changes are not identical. The overall sequences support the independent origins of these structures. Moreover, the substitutions that confer functional changes appear in the phylogeny in a stepwise manner, rather than all at once (as would be expected under design). I think the IDers attacked this article because they probably see how devastating it is to the ID arguments: complex structures can evolve through a simple process of selection for stepwise substitutions, and the evolution of similar functions from very different background sequences is inconsistent with the design of the structures. In this case, electric organs evolved independent from muscles in different groups of fishes, and the independence of the origins is clear from the sequence data. The paper not only provides strong support for evolutionary theory, the data presented are also completely inconsistent with notions of intelligent design. In this case, there are clearly different expectations of the sequence data of the sodium channels from evolutionary theory versus intelligent design. The data are completely consisent with the evolutionary explanation, but are completely inconsistent with the design explanation. That is why the IDers noticed this paper, and decided to launch a pre-emptive strike!

What a fair reader should consider is, what would a design-theoretic approach have revealed about the same issue?

I don’t know. Why don’t you go ahead and show us.

Tell me more about this “design-theoretic approach”. W hat does it consist of? How does it work? How does one use it?

Show us how to apply this approach, whatever it is, to the issue at hand. Or any other issue.

(sound of crickets chirping)

Yep, that’s what I thought.

“Tell me more about this “design-theoretic approach”.”

Sure. On the one side a design theorist would argue that the differences between electric organs in mormyriforms and gymnotiforms do not just reflect happenstance evolution, but functional differences that are important in the physiology of the two species of fish. Thus, one would look at how the molecular differences may prove advantageous according to the functional requirements for the two electric organs. Also, design theory would suggest that any similarities found would reflect commonality of design, instead of “positive selection” (assuming such thing is even possible, and can be retrospectively established), and focus on these similarities to look at their functional relevance. These are all fresh perspectives that ad hoc evolutionary explanations would mostly ignore.

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“Tell me more about this “design-theoretic approach”.”

Sure. On the one side a design theorist would argue that the differences between electric organs in mormyriforms and gymnotiforms do not just reflect happenstance evolution

What the hell is “happenstance evolution”? How do you differentiate it from “NON-happenstance evolution”?

Does “natural selection” indicate “happenstance” or “non-happenstance” evolution? (You do know what “selection” means, right?)

, but functional differences that are important in the physiology of the two species of fish.

No kidding. You mean the two fish aren’t the same? Amazing.

You need “design theory” to tell you that … ?

And you think that is some sort of problem for evolution … ?

Thus, one would look at how the molecular differences may prove advantageous according to the functional requirements for the two electric organs.

So the ones that would be “advantageous” would be “selected for”, right?

And that differs from evolution how, again … ?

Also, design theory

What “design theory” would that be. Please tell me what the scientific theory of design says.

What did the designer do, according to this scientific theory of design?

What mechanisms did the designer use to do whatever the heck you think it did?

Where can we see the designer using these mechanisms to do . . well … anything?

would suggest that any similarities found would reflect commonality of design, instead of “positive selection”

That’s nice. And you propose to tell the difference how, again … ?

Why do you assume “commonality of design”? How do you know there is any “commonality of design”? How do you test for “commonality of design”?

What about any NON-commonality of designs – what would THOSE mean, and why?

(assuming such thing is even possible, and can be retrospectively established)

How, again, is “common design” demonstrated to be possible or retroactively established?

and focus on these similarities to look at their functional relevance.

And that differs from evolution how, again … ?

These are all fresh perspectives that ad hoc evolutionary explanations would mostly ignore.

I suspect they are ignored because they don’t, well, actually answer anything. (shrug)

Tell me more about this amazing, uh, science of yours. What does the designer do to implement its designs? Where are the designs stored before they are implemented? How are these designs produced. Why should we assume there is just one designer – why not two, or ten, or a hundred of them all working in committee? Why assume commonality of design? Why not assume a different designer for every individual organism?

Is the designer supernatural? How can we tell? If it’s not, then where did the designer come from – did it evolve naturally, or was it also deisgned by another designer? How can we tell?

When will you be submitting your earth-shattering, uh, science to the peer-reviewed journals? With your, uh, vast experience in biology and your, uh, world-shaking insights, you’d certainly be a cinch for that next Nobel Prize. Right?

Isaac Wrote:

explicitly design-theoretic works rarely can be published in the “official” literature (although some cautiously worded papers can slip through once in a while).

So because the abstract used the words “circuit” and “engineer” it’s a “design-theoretic work”. What’s next? “Levers”? The bankruptcy of ID is evidenced by its word games. Like the “official” literature touch.

Isaac clearly stated his own problem on his blog:

It is hard to explain if you don’t experience it, but there is a sort of existential loneliness when you are a biologist with an interest in design.

no, the loneliness comes from the fact that a “biologist” interested in design has to figure out how on earth they can produce a testable hypothesis to begin with, let alone how to construct an experimental method.

You’ll continue to be lonely, cause you’ll never have any results to share with any other biologists who happily can (and do every day) construct and test hypotheses based on some aspect of evolutionary theory.

It really is that simple, and always puzzles me why design proponents get so confused about the issue; excepting those who obviously suffer from some psychological schism.

you can blog all you want, but it won’t ever get you any results that any scientist will care about.

think about that when you ponder why you maintain your blog.

Neuron Wrote:

The data are completely consistent with the evolutionary explanation, but are completely inconsistent with the design explanation. That is why the IDers noticed this paper, and decided to launch a pre-emptive strike!

Careful, you’re taking their semantic bait! Actually, nothing is inconsistent with the design “explanation,” because design is not an explanation. Whenever someone asks them how the designer did it if not via evolution - and this question is asked much too infrequently IMO - they either evade the question or concede that it could be “like evolution.” After some early missteps, like Behe’s admissions in “Darwin’s Black Box” they usually only volunteer a heavily-qualified answer if they don’t think many YECs are paying attention.

What the hell is “happenstance evolution”? How do you differentiate it from “NON-happenstance evolution”?

Does “natural selection” indicate “happenstance” or “non-happenstance” evolution? (You do know what “selection” means, right?)

What “design theory” would that be. Please tell me what the scientific theory of design says.

What did the designer do, according to this scientific theory of design?

What mechanisms did the designer use to do whatever the heck you think it did?

Where can we see the designer using these mechanisms to do . . well … anything?

would suggest that any similarities found would reflect commonality of design, instead of “positive selection”

That’s nice. And you propose to tell the difference how, again … ?

Why do you assume “commonality of design”? How do you know there is any “commonality of design”? How do you test for “commonality of design”?

What about any NON-commonality of designs — what would THOSE mean, and why?

How, again, is “common design” demonstrated to be possible or retroactively established?

Tell me more about this amazing, uh, science of yours. What does the designer do to implement its designs? Where are the designs stored before they are implemented? How are these designs produced. Why should we assume there is just one designer — why not two, or ten, or a hundred of them all working in committee? Why assume commonality of design? Why not assume a different designer for every individual organism?

Is the designer supernatural? How can we tell? If it’s not, then where did the designer come from — did it evolve naturally, or was it also deisgned by another designer? How can we tell?

Well . … .?

(sound of crickets chirping)

Yep, that’s what I thought.

Why oh why why why don’t ID/creationists ever answer any of my simple questions . … . … ?

Hey, I want you guys stop picking on Isaac and guys like him. Next time he shows his head, be scrupulously polite. Draw him out. Let him talk. Your comments remind me of lions pouncing on a gazelle. And you wonder why they don’t answer your questions. (I know, they don’t have answers, but rudeness is reason #2.)

The best refutations of ID are the polite ones.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Jason Rosenhouse published on March 21, 2006 2:18 PM.

What We’re up Against was the previous entry in this blog.

Schism Emerges in New Intelligent Design Theory is the next entry in this blog.

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