An ever-deepening Egnorance

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By this point, the name Michael Egnor should be familiar to readers of this blog - but if you need a reminder, he’s the neurosurgeon who recently signed on to the staff of the Discovery Institute’s Media Complaints blog. Over the last week or two, Egnor has been trying to convince people that evolution is really not important in any way to medicine.

His last attempt, before today, came less than a week ago, with this spectacular piece of inane argumentation. I responded to the arguments that he made, Orac responded to the arguments he made, Afarensis responded to the arguments he made, Mark responded to the arguments he made, and many other people have also chimed in on the topic. A couple of hours ago, Egnor decided to take another swing at the argument.

Read more (at The Questionable Authority):

90 Comments

I make a “20 post” comment on TO once in a while. It is just in reference to the stuborness of some posters where they are willing to bash their heads against the wall for entire threads, just because they can’t admit that they were wrong on a stupid point. It is a strange pathology.

I wonder if Egnor is going to be allowed to go 20 posts on the Discovery Institute’s web site. I wonder if even his fellow IDiots can convince the guy to move on or just shut him off before he makes them look too stupid.

Ron Okimoto Wrote:

before he makes them look too stupid.

I don’t think that’s even possible. I’m not being snide when I say this (not anymore, anyway), the DI simply does not care what it is saying anymore. They have nothing to lose and a sizable cadre of followers who simply don’t care about, and will not listen to, the rebuttals, so why not go for broke? Fling poo any which way!

Plus, he is a DOCTOR as well as a creationist, and therefore the Smartest Man In The World to them. Nothing will dissuade them.

Fortunately, this battle is almost over. Dr Egnor completely concedes that the theory of evolution explains bacterial resistance.

“Microbiology tells us that bacterial populations are heterogeneous. Individual bacteria differ from one another.”

So far so good. And let’s add that due to imperfect genetic replication, heterogenaiety will be introduced every time bacterial cells reproduce (and not only then, for that matter).

I’m sure Dr Egnor agrees with this clarification of his point. It would be absurd, and unexpected, for him to argue that bacterial reproduction is perfect, and that every unique bacterial genome was created by magic.

“Molecular biology tells us that some bacteria have molecular mechanisms by which they can survive antibiotics. Molecular genetics tells us how these resistance mechanisms are passed to other bacteria and through generations of bacteria. Pharmacology helps us design new antibiotics that circumvent the bacterial defenses.”

Correct again.

“What does Darwinism add to the sciences of microbiology, molecular biology, molecular genetics, and pharmacology? Darwinism tells us that antibiotic-resistant bacteria survive exposure to antibiotics because of natural selection. That is, bacteria survive antibiotics that they’r e not sensitive to, so non-killed bacteria will eventually outnumber killed bacteria. That’s it.”

Here we have a semantic issue. Dr Egnor uses the term “Darwinism”, a term I never use, in an eccentric way. He uses it to refer to natural selection due to selective resistance to an environmental toxin (from the bacterial perspective). That’s just a single, dramatic example of natural selection. If there were no antibiotics, and no “premature” bacterial deaths, but bacteria with a particular trait merely reproduced a bit faster, that, too would be an example of natural selection.

But putting the issue of “Darwinism” aside, natural selection is one component of the theory of evolution - the other major component being genetic heterogenaiety of offspring relative to parents, as Dr Egnor discussed above.

Others may nitpick, but in fact, Dr Egnor, you have correctly described exactly how the theory of evolution explains bacterial resistance to antibiotics. And not only does it explain it, it helps us to predict what type of resistance may arise, and what strategies may best head off resistance!

The “intelligent design” explanation, which Dr Egnor makes no mention of, would be that a “designer” magically creates resistant bacteria.

The “intelligent design” explanation, which Dr Egnor makes no mention of, would be that a “designer” magically creates resistant bacteria.

…and the AIDS virus.

Bacterial infections (such as the one that is currently raging in what remains of my top left wisdom tooth) are not created by an individual bacterium. They are created by a population of bacteria.

And that population has another trick that’s not exactly “Darwinian” that makes this more complicated: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/[…]opt=Abstract

Chromosomal mutations alone cannot account for the rapid emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance. It has been established that plasmids and transposons are particularly important in the evolution of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Plasmid- or transposon-mediated resistance provides the bacteria with pre-evolved genes refined to express high-level resistance. In particular, transposons can transfer these resistance determinants in diverse bacterial species, and nature provides in humans and animals large intestinal reservoirs in which such communications are facilitated.

If Egnor were a really informed creationist he could spin that, but he hasn’t, so he might be more ignorant than we suspect.

You are not trying to understand what Egnor is saying. He gets it that some bacteria are able to survive an antibiotic, that all but the resistant bacteria will die, and that the population will contain only resistant bacteria. He thinks this is obvious, a tautology, and he thinks Darwinism adds nothing to our understanding of how or why some bacteria become resistant.

We know that popuations of bacteria (and organisms in general) can sometimes adapt to a changing environment. We know that natural selection must be true, because it is a tautology. The only thing Darwinism (or neo-Darwinism, if you prefer) adds is the hypothesis that genetic variations are accidents, that they are not in any way a response to the environmental changes.

Egnor is saying that we do not need that hypothesis to help us understand how bacteria adapt to antibiotics. We know that they do, we do not know if the Darwinist explanation is correct, and our approach to antibiotics would not be influenced one way or the other.

Let’s say we found out the Darwnist hypothesis were correct and the variations are entirely accidental – how would that change our approach to treating infections?

Egnor is saying Darwinism is irrelevant to the problem. But you are not getting what he is saying.

Resistance is rarely a simple boolean phenotype. It is often the case that in a population there are different resistance or tolerance phenotypes, each corresponding to a different genotype. These can be different alleles of the same gene or different genes. It is the later that Egnor really fails to understand when making his essentialist argument.

It is not simply that resistant bacteria will become more numerous, but that two different types of resistant bacteria can swap DNA and produce completely resistant bacteria, with a novel phenotype. The first types can be killed if you use enough of a drug. The latter type are completely immune from the drug.

Using antibiotics recklessly, not only encourages resistant bacteria to become more common—which means that the population evolves—but it also encourages the evolution of novel, super-resistant bacteria.

Evolutionary biology not only explains the phenomenon of resistant bacteria, but it also gives scientists and doctors tools to study resistance.

Despite Dr. Egnor’s egnorance, the fact is that before Darwin and evolutionary biology came onto the scene, scientists and doctors did not see variation as being important to biological populations. To them variations were rare and due to errors in the essential, God-given type of the species. Darwin changed all that by successfully arguing that variation was not only ubiquitous, but also the essential feature of populations. Variation was no longer ignored as an error of creation, but seen as the raw material for evolution.

If it wasn’t for the success of Darwin and other evolutionary biologists in revolutionizing the way scientists thought about biology, Egnor would not be here talking about how it is “obvious” that there is variation in resistance in bacteria.

And finally, 1+1=2 is a tautology; that doesn’t make it wrong or useless in medicine.

Egnor seems to be trying to prove that evolution is merely a collection of observations, specific mechanisms, various processes, and a whole host of “pathetic” little “details”, rather than being some grand myth.

You’re so right Egnor.

What does Darwinism add to the sciences of microbiology, molecular biology, molecular genetics, and pharmacology?

Why, it adds nothing to it, since these actually embody the so-called “Darwinism” in the areas of medical research. You don’t need to add “Darwinism” to the relevant areas of “Darwinistic” research, for you are already involved in “Darwinistic research”.

Somehow I think that Egnor is going to wear thin even with the IDiots pretty soon. He’s playing semantic games on a level that even most of them are intelligent enough to avoid. He appears utterly incapable of recognizing that he’s continually pointing out the fact that it isn’t “just evolution” that’s at stake, rather the specific areas of research informed by evolutionary thought are crucial to medicine.

He’s just too pig-ignorant to understand the relationships between what is arguably biology’s most important theory, and something like molecular genetics. The simple expedient of labeling it “molecular genetics” totally camouflages the fact that it is involved with evolutionary research from Egnor’s mind, and he argues far into the night that “Darwinism” isn’t useful to medicine because “Darwinistic” research is so fruitful.

By the way, Egnor, are you so far behind the times that you don’t even recognize the importance of evolutionary (and it is often called “evolutionary” in the journals) thought in cancer research today? Maybe you ought to look beyond your own specialty for once.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/35s39o

The only thing Darwinism (or neo-Darwinism, if you prefer) adds is the hypothesis that genetic variations are accidents, that they are not in any way a response to the environmental changes.

No, Skippy, that’s NOT what the theory of evolution (which is what biology and medicine are using) contributes to medicine. Once again, you pretend to know everything, and show you know nothing.

Since you’re not willing to engage with what we’re REALLY saying, “real”pc, why should we waste our time engaging with you? Stick your head as far up your bum as you want; we’re not following you there – we already know what’s up there, and we have no need of it.

You are not trying to understand what Egnor is saying. He gets it that some bacteria are able to survive an antibiotic, that all but the resistant bacteria will die, and that the population will contain only resistant bacteria. He thinks this is obvious, a tautology, and he thinks Darwinism adds nothing to our understanding of how or why some bacteria become resistant.

Perhaps you fail to understand the difference that even many IDists/creationists have pointed out—the fact that natural selection was understood before Darwin/Wallace to be a conservative “force”, but that Darwin et al. understood its capacity to select new features out of then-unidentified new hereditary material.

The mere fact of natural selection is not especially profound, what matters is that one recognizes its consequences.

We know that popuations of bacteria (and organisms in general) can sometimes adapt to a changing environment. We know that natural selection must be true, because it is a tautology.

Yeah, yeah, more boilerplate from the creationists. It may be written as a tautology, no question, however it can also yield predictions about some aspects of the patterns of adaptation. Thus we have phylogenies which follow the “neo-darwinian” (so to speak) patterning, not some sort of linguistic pattern of change.

For it is one thing to say, “the fittest survive”, it is quite another to say that mosaic changes will appear in the bird line, as we see in archaeopteryx.

The only thing Darwinism (or neo-Darwinism, if you prefer)

Well I don’t prefer. You pretend to know language, but you know neither how to use it well, nor seem capable of learning anything when you are told better.

adds is the hypothesis that genetic variations are accidents, that they are not in any way a response to the environmental changes.

Do you get paid to lie? Darwin himself accepted the inheritance of acquired characteristics to some extent. Neo-darwinism, it is true, did not, but only because the evidence is against the inheritance of acquired characteristics, and against any magical teleological force for change.

Learn some science, for once, instead of prattling on in your benighted state.

Egnor is saying that we do not need that hypothesis to help us understand how bacteria adapt to antibiotics.

Let’s see, is there any other scientific theory that accounts for it? No. So unless you’re simply against theory in science, your protestations are as well thought out as usual.

We know that they do, we do not know if the Darwinist explanation is correct,

Yes, we do know that it is correct so far as we can ascertain. You say otherwise with no evidence, backing, scientific thought, or any apparent knowledge of the literature.

We do not know for certain that “the Darwinist explanation” in fact explains everything, but we don’t have any reasonable alternative explanations.

and our approach to antibiotics would not be influenced one way or the other.

OK, what you’re saying is that “Darwinism” is correct, so it is superfluous. Well, it is not terribly important for investigating antibiotic resistance once the latter is understood in its mechanisms, but it does point to the big picture of adaptation through time. That is, it includes the history of adaptation into the picture, along with present-day adaptation, and for instance it helps to explain why resistance existed well before humans had their hands on antibiotics.

Let’s say we found out the Darwnist hypothesis were correct and the variations are entirely accidental — how would that change our approach to treating infections?

Now suppose you were an intelligent and knowledgeable person, and happened to be correct about the “Darwinist hypothesis” that variations are entirely accidental. Since this is the working (but not Darwin’s) hypothesis, and it is a useful guide to research, we would consider this to be a valuable theoretical guide to the research of the evolution of bacteria.

Egnor is saying Darwinism is irrelevant to the problem. But you are not getting what he is saying.

Right, because the evolutionary processes are now understood, we don’t need Darwinism. So quit pretending that evolution is Darwinism. That’s your problem, along with Egnor’s, the fact that you don’t understand that we simply use evolution to explain what’s going on, not some mythical “Darwinism” that only IDiots and cretinists believe in.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/35s39o

Let’s put the Egnorance into another form:

Evolution by natural selection is simply reality, hence we don’t need Darwinism.

And obviously we don’t need “Darwinism”, let’s just use what we know about evolution to research and teach according to the evolutionary reality that we know exists.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/35s39o

…and our approach to antibiotics would not be influenced one way or the other.

And my approach to flying to London is not influenced by heliocentrism one way or the other. So what?

realpc’s assertion is as illogical and irrelevant as it is false. The ID crowd must be getting desperate if they’re resorting to word-games like this. Are they trying to make Behe, Dembski, et al sound sensible by comparison?

Perhaps the “Wedge” Strategy has been replaced by the “Stop Making Fun Of Us Or We’ll Really Give You Something To Make Fun Of” Strategy?

Or maybe it’s the “Act Real Stoopid To Give The Darwinists A False Sense Of Confidence” Strategy?

Realpc -

“The only thing Darwinism (or neo-Darwinism, if you prefer) adds is the hypothesis that genetic variations are accidents, that they are not in any way a response to the environmental changes.”

Others have pointed out that this is an oversimplification and misuse of the term “Darwinism”, which I think is an inappropriate term anyway.

But let’s look at what YOU are really trying to say.

You’re clearly saying that genetic variations are NOT “accidents”. And we all know what you mean.

You mean that the “designer” magically created bacterial antibiotic resistance genes, don’t you? Come out and admit it instead of hiding behind insinuations and hints.

I think that the genetic sequences that underly antibiotic resistance arose naturally. They probably were the results of a genetic variations between “parent” and “offspring” genomes originally, which were “random” in the sense that no designing intelligence was scheming “I’ll insert a mutation here to really protect these bacteria against future antibiotics”.

Being “random” in this sense doesn’t mean that certain parts of the genome aren’t more prone to imperfect replication than others, nor that a mutation in a gene related to DNA repair might not accelerate the accumulation or other mutations; those things happen, and more complexities as well. But the original genetic variation events were random in the sense of being natural and unplanned.

They were probably selected for to some degree in past generations because fungi and in fact other bacterial species can naturally release antibiotics (that’s where we get many of our human antibiotics from). But they were maintained only at a low level in populations, partly because maintaining resistance genes costs energy. But when you hit the bacteria with chemical antibiotics, then resistance is really selected for.

That’s how I see it. I’ve simplified, I suppose, but at any rate, I see it as entirely natural. No need to blame “the designer” or anybody else.

But you think I’m wrong. You think that the “designer” reached in with his magic fingers and deliberately gave bacteria resistance genes, don’t you???? The question is, do you have the guts to admit that this is what you think, or at least what you constantly imply?

Just one more Egnorant variation on a theme:

Since Darwin was actually correct about the consequences of natural selection, why should we teach physicians and others the present and past effects of natural selection?

Indeed, it is time to quit teaching anything that is borne out by reality. Here comes ID!

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/35s39o

realpc Wrote:

Egnor is saying Darwinism is irrelevant to the problem. But you are not getting what he is saying.

I do. He is counting on his audience, which is trained to hear “Darwinism,” do their own bait-and-switch and conclude that “macroevolution” is irrelevant, thus untrue.

His latest rant may have set a record for the frequency of the words “Darwinism” and “Darwinists.”

Glen Davidson Wrote:

Somehow I think that Egnor is going to wear thin even with the IDiots pretty soon. He’s playing semantic games on a level that even most of them are intelligent enough to avoid.

His schtick may wear thin with the DI, but if so, they’ll just find another rube and another spin. Ever since Ann Coulter, it seems like the DI wants to play one semantic game with the critics, and another, less “high tech” one for general audiences. They reserve mostly the former for the “big names” (Dembski, Behe, etc.) and let their groupies take the heat for the latter.

The same words are being used with different meanings, and that is why no one here understands what Egnor is saying. When I try to explain it, everyone deliberately changes the meanings of the words.

Egnor is talking about the neo-Darwnist theory (NOT Darwin’s opinion) which says genetic variations in individual organisms are accidental.

Egnor is talking about the adaptation (NOT evolution) of bacteria.

He agrees that bacteria adapt to antibiotics, and would never recommend the careless overuse of antibiotics.

He agrees that evolution has occurred and that species have common ancestors.

He agrees that genetic variation and natural selection occur.

The only thing he questions is the neo-Darwinist assertion that genetic variations in individual organisms are accidental.

We are not talkiing about what Darwin said about variations. We know that Lamarckianism had not been discarded in Darwin’s time. We know that Darwin was far more open-minded than current neo-Darwinists.

What no one knows is whether genetic variations in individual organisms are always accidental, never a response to environmental changes. ID says they are not always accidental, although it does not pretend to know what causes them.

The only difference between neo-Darwinism and ID is the question of whether genetic variations in individual organisms are always accidental.

ID says nothing about creator gods. It only claims that something more is involved than accident plus selection.

The same words are being used with different meanings, and that is why no one here understands what Egnor is saying. When I try to explain it, everyone deliberately changes the meanings of the words.

Given that many of the people here are experts in the field that’s being talked about.…perhaps the problem isn’t with the people here…it’s with you and Egnor.

realpc wrote: “He gets it that some bacteria are able to survive an antibiotic, that all but the resistant bacteria will die, and that the population will contain only resistant bacteria.”

Then Egnor is an idiot. Most antibiotics only kill bacteria that are actively dividing. It’s only going to change the ratio of bacteria. It’s not binary.

realpc Wrote:

Egnor is talking about the neo-Darwnist theory (NOT Darwin’s opinion) which says genetic variations in individual organisms are accidental.

As I pointed out a few days ago, neither “Darwinism” nor “neo-Darwinism” says anything about whether or not genetic variations are “accidental” or “random.” That part comes from our understanding of molecular genetics. We do not “assert” that mutations occur randomly with respect to fitness. That is simply our null hypothesis, and it is one that (in most cases) has not been rejected.

What no one knows is whether genetic variations in individual organisms are always accidental, never a response to environmental changes. ID says they are not always accidental, although it does not pretend to know what causes them.

The only difference between neo-Darwinism and ID is the question of whether genetic variations in individual organisms are always accidental.

If ID says that mutations are not always accidental, what is the basis for that argument? In particular, where is the evidence?

This particular argument should be fairly easy to test - it would take a bit of money, but not an unreasonable amount. All that they would need to do is take a line of bacteria with a known DNA sequence for a particular gene, place the line into a set of environmental conditions where specific changes in that gene would be favored, do a huge amount of sequencing (making sure to sequence non-survivors as well as survivors), analyze the mutations observed, and statistically test against the null hypothesis of randomness.

Where’s the test?

Egnor is talking about the adaptation (NOT evolution) of bacteria.

Same thing, Skippy.

He agrees that bacteria adapt to antibiotics, and would never recommend the careless overuse of antibiotics.

Because they EVOLVE. This is the sort of thing the theory of evolution PREDICTS.

He agrees that evolution has occurred and that species have common ancestors.

Just like any other IDiot ends up doing when he can’t run away or deny the obvious.

He agrees that genetic variation and natural selection occur.

That’s evolution; I thought you just said he wasn’t talking about evolution. Can’t you keep your lies straight even within a single post?

The only thing he questions is the neo-Darwinist assertion that genetic variations in individual organisms are accidental.

You’re lying again: if you actually read and understood the essays in question, you would know that’s not what he’s been saying, and it’s not the reason we’re all calling him either an IDiot or a liar.

ID says nothing about creator gods. It only claims that something more is involved than accident plus selection.

“Something” like what? Space aliens? Someone who isn’t called “God” but just happens to have the same skill-set? Does ID prove the action of this unspecified “something?”

Your IDiot index-cards are more stale than Ronald Reagan’s. Go back to bed.

When I try to explain it, everyone deliberately changes the meanings of the words.

You mean from the erroneous meanings that you and the other IDiots give them?

Egnor is talking about the neo-Darwnist theory (NOT Darwin’s opinion) which says genetic variations in individual organisms are accidental.

Then why do you and he use the term “Darwinism”? Yes I know, you’re deliberately confusing the issue, though you’re as much ignorantly confusing it as well.

Egnor is talking about the adaptation (NOT evolution) of bacteria.

What’s the difference, dimwit?

See, here is where terms are shifted on us, for we know that there is no qualitative difference between adaptation and evolution (none has been demonstrated). But you twist words to fit your preconceptions, rather than adapting your use of words to fit reality.

He agrees that bacteria adapt to antibiotics, and would never recommend the careless overuse of antibiotics.

Wow, I guess he must be learned in this matter, then.

He agrees that evolution has occurred and that species have common ancestors.

Based upon what evidenced process? Oh, there’s the rub, magic is the “answer”.

He agrees that genetic variation and natural selection occur.

Yet he denies its value in medicine by denying “Darwinism”. Of course he tries to claim it under other terms, however his (and your) disingenuousness is more than a little obvious.

The only thing he questions is the neo-Darwinist assertion that genetic variations in individual organisms are accidental.

Based on what evidence, dimwit? We wouldn’t mind if he was discussing evidence, instead he (and you) are using words dishonestly to cast aspersions upon legitimate science.

We are not talkiing about what Darwin said about variations.

Are you admitting that you’re using “Darwinism” dishonestly, then? It’s about time.

We know that Lamarckianism had not been discarded in Darwin’s time.

So I guess you’re allowing that your complaints are all mealy-mouthed obfuscations and misdirection.

We know that Darwin was far more open-minded than current neo-Darwinists.

We do? And your evidence is?

That’s right, you don’t care for evidence-based science.

And actually, Wallace was more “close-minded” than Darwin on the matter of the inheritance of acquired characteristics (btw, dimwit, inheritance of acquired characteristics in evolution is not synonymous with Lamarckism). It is not unlikely that he did better in that matter than did Darwin, even if bogus “experiments” had indicated otherwise. One does not always do best in trusting “research” that seems to be contrary to the way the world works (sometimes “the world” is upturned by new observations and experiment, but there’s nothing wrong with skepticism where the results seem to go against, say, physics).

What no one knows is whether genetic variations in individual organisms are always accidental, never a response to environmental changes.

That’s what I said, dimwit. We go by what we have evidence for, while pseudoscientists insist upon models for which evidence is lacking.

ID says they are not always accidental, although it does not pretend to know what causes them.

Yes, it does not pretend to have the sort of grasp on these claimed “changes” that could be shown by observation and/or experiment. It simply demands that the gaps be decided in favor of their theology, sans evidence.

The only difference between neo-Darwinism and ID is the question of whether genetic variations in individual organisms are always accidental.

More lies. ID officially claims an unknown cause to produce results of the sort predicted by RM + NS +. Less officially, IDists regularly credit God as the “designer”.

ID claims “intelligent design” (again your utter inability to read words well appears), only that its results don’t differ from what would be expected from “natural processes”. IOW, apparently this “intelligent designer” is mimicking evolutionary results.

ID says nothing about creator gods.

IDists certainly say things about a creator God. That you and the rest dissemble when the law is involved is upon your own conscience.

It only claims that something more is involved than accident plus selection.

Based upon what evidence? Times up, I have to give you the answer: None.

And as I pointed out before, it says rather more than just that, although it’s worth mentioning that such an unevidenced claim is itself enough reason to brand ID as a pseudoscience.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/35s39o

Realpc -

“What no one knows is whether genetic variations in individual organisms are always accidental, never a response to environmental changes. ID says they are not always accidental, although it does not pretend to know what causes them.

The only difference between neo-Darwinism and ID is the question of whether genetic variations in individual organisms are always accidental.”

First of all, not true. There were two central claims to ID -one, that we could tell that all living organisms were deliberately “designed” just by looking at them, and making an anology to human artifacts like sandcastles or watches. And two, that certain aspects of living organisms, such as the bacterial flagellum or the blood clotting system could not have come into existence except by supernatural design. You’d like to retreat from those specious claims now that they’ve been publicly ridiculed so extensively, and I don’t blame you, but those were the original claims of ID. And this succinct summary accurately captures millions of pages of blather.

You dodged my question, so I’ll repeat it (and repeat it and repeat it and repeat it and repeat it if need be).

You mean that the “designer” magically created bacterial antibiotic resistance genes, don’t you?

The original mutations that led to antibiotic resistance genes had to be random with respect to conscious planning or intelligent intentions - “ACCIDENTAL”, if you must - or else some sort of intelligence had to create them deliberately. There are no other logical choices. So which is it?

You mean that the “designer” magically created bacterial antibiotic resistance genes, don’t you?

Let’s say we found out the Darwnist hypothesis were correct and the variations are entirely accidental — how would that change our approach to treating infections?

Well, for one it would suggest that resistance to even completely new drugs will essentially unavoidably develop. In other words, there is no fixed complement of drug resistance genes that was given to micro-organisms ab origine by some designer, which can be bypassed with some new miracle drug.

Second, it says that in the appropriate conditions, drug resistance can be prevented or delayed using combination therapies, with multiple drugs given together. This is because the chances of multiple independent resistance mutations occurring quasi-simultaneously in the same clonal lineage are highly unlikely, specifically because mutations are random with regard to fitness, and not targeted. Of course, this is key in the treatment of fast-evolving pathogens, such as HIV.

Third, it is crucial for explaining epidemiological and immunological findings in a number of diseases (e.g. the mechanisms of emergence of new influenza strains every year that can escape previous year’s immunity).

Finally, frankly we already found out the origin of mechanisms of drug resistance, and random mutation is prominent among them. Indeed, students test these principles routinely in undergraduate labs with relatively trivial experiments. It’s not like it’s brain surgery, you know. ;)

realpc said:

“Egnor is saying that we do not need that hypothesis to help us understand how bacteria adapt to antibiotics. We know that they do, we do not know if the Darwinist explanation is correct, and our approach to antibiotics would not be influenced one way or the other.

Let’s say we found out the Darwnist hypothesis were correct and the variations are entirely accidental — how would that change our approach to treating infections?”

On another thread I asked realpc to provide some evidence for the assertation that “variations” are not “entirely accidental” he ran away without answering. I asked him to propose a specific mechanism by which beneficial mutations could be preferentially “created” and he ran away without asnswering. Now he wants to know how this knowledge wuld “change our approach to treating infections”? Are you serious? How would knowing the source of mutations, their relative and absolute probabilities affect our plans for antibiotic treatment and/or vaccine strategies? If you can’t figure that out I probably won’t be able to help you much. I already pointed out a reference that shows how this data can be used to predict emerging disease strains ahead of time, (Genetics 160:823-832 2002). Can you refute the conclusions of this paper? Can you show how this is not important? And don’t foprget that this is only one five yeasr old reference. There is an entire literature on this subject that you are completely ingoring. I for one will ignore anything further you have to say on the subject until you answer my questions. I suggest others do the same. (PS I am not Lenny, just an admirer).

As I pointed out a few days ago, neither “Darwinism” nor “neo-Darwinism” says anything about whether or not genetic variations are “accidental” or “random.” That part comes from our understanding of molecular genetics.

Actually, the “synthesis” is called that because it incorporates what is known from molecular genetics with the theory of evolution via natural selection. Hence it does include the (so far well-attested) working hypothesis that hereditary variation occurs randomly (in the sense that it is not teleological or some such thing, not, of course, that mutations cannot be biased in any manner).

Here’s a bit from the Wikipedia entry “Modern evolutionary synthesis”, which phrase it clearly takes to be synonymous with “neo-Darwinism””

The modern evolutionary synthesis (often referred to simply as the new synthesis, the modern synthesis, the evolutionary synthesis, neo-Darwinian synthesis or neo-Darwinism), generally denotes the integration of Charles Darwin’s theory of the evolution of species by natural selection, Gregor Mendel’s theory of genetics as the basis for biological inheritance, random genetic mutation as the source of variation, and mathematical population genetics.

[bolding added]

Naturally it only took that position based on empirical research, and current evolutionary theory would change its opinion if evidence were adduced which indicated otherwise. But yes, the modern synthesis, or neodarwinism, takes note of the fact that evidence thus far only points to “random” mutation, and to nothing else.

Wikipedia is not the end stage of authoritative source material, of course, but I don’t think one has much reason to quibble with the portion I quoted. The purpose of the neo-Darwinian synthesis was to take account of what had been learned from genetics, thus it includes “random variation” simply because that is what we can observe.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/35s39o

“Neo-Darwinism” does not have an established scientific meaning. It is rarely used, and when it is, different authors have used it in different ways to derisively describe opponents. Usually, it is in the following context: neo-Darwinists like X believe that evolution is Y, yet we know that A, B, and C is involved in evolution.

Typically, “neo-Darwinism” is used to label the straw idea that selection is the only evolutionary force, and genes are the units of evolution. However, not a single evolutionary biologist, now or in the past, actually was a “neo-Darwinist”. Things like drift, migration, and inbreeding were all part of the modern synthesis of evolution and genetics.

random genetic mutation as the source of variation

Right, this is the only thing ID theory objects to. Both sides in the controversy could easily reach a compromise position. ID does not deny that there are random genetic mutations. It just says that something more seems to be required.

One test would be exposing bacteria to antibiotics and checking whether mutations that might be useful to the bacteria increase or not. If the frequencies of various types of mutations are the same, regardless of the environment, that would lend some support to the hypothesis that mutations are random.

I think one of the big issues here, as exemplified by realpc as well as the ID folks is a fundamental misunderstanding of the word random as it applies to statistics and in this particular case to Evolution, where mutations are quasi-random for various reasons that would be too lengthy to go into here. Mutations in essence follow probabilistic distributions which is confounded by the fact that molecular mechanisms that tie into this (the error checking and repair machinery for instance) are also under evolutionary pressure. There is a rather significant body of work that has shown that the rate of allowed substitution is under evolutionary pressure and can change as those pressures change.

IIRC during times of stress the mutation rate of many organisms (probably this has mostly been shown in bacteria) will often increase. Which makes sense, for the vast majority of organisms on this planet stress periods are usually times of low nutrient intake, etc. Error checking and repair of DNA takes a significant amount of energy. When energy goes down cellular processes suffer. There is no intelligence behind it or conscious will to change and adapt, but an emergent property of the fine chemical and molecular balancing acts going on in the cell is that these stress periods may result in a higher number of mutations in a population which will in turn provide variation within the population. Random doesn’t quite mean what the ID proponents make it out to seem and it most definitely is not equal to the definition of random that the lay person uses.

There are 300,000 species of beetle alone. How many species could one even generously consider intelligent? 20? How in the world does that indicate any kind of tendency?

As you know, MarkP, the less intelligent species have been around longer, and the more intelligent species evolved more recently.

Nice going, not answering the question. If “Biological systems seem to evolve in the direction of greater complexity and intelligence”, and this is due to some “law”, then it should be universal. That means you have an obligation to explain cases in which it appears not to occur, rather than trotting out obvious examples where it does occur. If you ever grasp that you have such an obligation, and live by it, you will almost magically transform from your current state into an intelligent, knowledgeable, and honest person. It’s this principle, of taking seriously the cases that aren’t consistent with your theory, that is at the heart of science and its great success in explaining the world we live in.

The more complex species evolved later. That does not mean all species evolve towards greater complexity. That is only true of the system as a whole. If all species evolved towards greater complexity, we would no longer have one-celled organisms. But the entire system depends on one-celled organisms and could not exist without them.

The fact that most of life remains relatively simple is evidence against Darwinism, not against CE (creative evolution – since I do not agree with every single statement by every single IDist, I will call it CE from now on).

Darwinism assumes that increasing intelligence leads to better survival skills. Darwninism depends on the idea that species evolve because of survival pressures only – not because of any law of complexity. Therefore a Darwinist must explain why intelligence has increased even though less intelligent species are perfectly good at surviving.

Our species – possibly the most intelligent on earth – does have great survival skills, and is great at destroying other species because of our technology. But aside from us, can you show that other intelligent species are better survivors than more primitive species? Are dolphins better survivors than sharks, for example? Are chimpanzees better survivors than rats?

The great intelligence of chimpanzees does not seem to have given them any great advantage over other species. Rats and cockroaches are good examples of survivors, but we don’t consider them especially intelligent. One-celled creatures are, as we know, terrific survivors, and they have no brains at all.

So I think the evolution of intelligence supports CE, not NDE.

So lets summarize shall we. According to realpc, bacteria acquire antibiotic resistance because some “natural” intelligence preferentially causes beneficial mutations that confer resistance in advance of selection for some unknown purpose by some unknown mechanism. Although this process is completely “natural” there is absolutely no evidence for it and no experiment that can be performed to demonstrate it. However, this same mechanism (presumably) also acts at some times in some organisms for some unknown reason in order to make some of them more “complex”. Apparently this has resulted in the ultimate “intelligence” on the planet, human beings, who die by the millions because this “natural” intelligence apparently cannot decide whether the bacteria should acquire resistance faster than the humans can develop appropriate immune responses. And of course all this means that evolution is not important to medicine, because obviously whoever the “natural” intelligence decides will win will win, regardless of what we do.

Of course, if humans are the best intelligence on the planet and they are not responsible, and if GOD is definately not responsible, (unless GOD is “natural”), then I guess it must be aliens who are doing all this invisible “natural” stuff.

By the way, does anyone have any real evidence that realpc is really Charlie Wagner? If you do then Charlie should be banned again for breaking the rules. If you don’t have any evidence, I think that name calling only encourages him.

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Realpc dissembled thusly:

The more complex species evolved later. That does not mean all species evolve towards greater complexity. That is only true of the system as a whole.

An average increase in complexity of 0.00001% (presuming one can even quantify such a nebulous concept) is hardly a case of evolving towards greater complexity as a whole.

If evolution were nothing more than a random walk towards or away from more complexity, we would still see the more complex creatures appearing with more time. It is no indication of any guidance. The Troll’s approach is classic cherry-picking.

The more complex species evolved later. That does not mean all species evolve towards greater complexity. That is only true of the system as a whole. If all species evolved towards greater complexity, we would no longer have one-celled organisms. But the entire system depends on one-celled organisms and could not exist without them.

No extant organism is more or less evolved than any other at the present time. They just evolved differently. Your “Law of Complexity” states that all organisms should become more complex over time; however, there have been many examples given to you where complexity either stayed the same or decreased. How does your “Law of Complexity” depend on single-celled organisms still being around? Your conjecture needs to take all of these things into account.

The fact that most of life remains relatively simple is evidence against Darwinism, not against CE (creative evolution — since I do not agree with every single statement by every single IDist, I will call it CE from now on).

How so? Your argument sounds like, “Well if humans evolved from apes; Why are there still apes?” There are still chimpanzees, and bacteria for that matter because they are well suited for the niches in which they live.

Darwinism assumes that increasing intelligence leads to better survival skills. Darwninism depends on the idea that species evolve because of survival pressures only — not because of any law of complexity. Therefore a Darwinist must explain why intelligence has increased even though less intelligent species are perfectly good at surviving.

This assumption has been amply demonstrated in humans. Can you name any other large mammal that is as quite as successful as we? Before you have stated that “Darwinism” depends on mutations being random, now you say it depends solely on natural selection; you really like to put words in our mouths don’t you. You are right, however, that most of us think your “law of complexity” is crap. Evolution does a good job of explaining why different species with different featurs and skill sets survive in different niches, if you knew anything about evolution you would know that.

Our species — possibly the most intelligent on earth — does have great survival skills, and is great at destroying other species because of our technology. But aside from us, can you show that other intelligent species are better survivors than more primitive species? Are dolphins better survivors than sharks, for example? Are chimpanzees better survivors than rats?

Your lack of understanding astounds. Dolphins and sharks live in different niches. Chimps and rats live in different niches. Your comparing apples and oranges. If you forced the examples you use into direct competition for a niche, one would out-compete the other. Intelligence would only be one factor that determined the outcome of such competition. As it is, there is only limited competition between the example organisms you employ.

The great intelligence of chimpanzees does not seem to have given them any great advantage over other species. Rats and cockroaches are good examples of survivors, but we don’t consider them especially intelligent. One-celled creatures are, as we know, terrific survivors, and they have no brains at all.

Chimps are very good chimps, as rats are very good rats. Each example you give is wonderfully adapted to survive in their own respective niche. i.e. you don’t find chimps living in suers and rats living in trees swinging from vines. What’s your point?

So I think the evolution of intelligence supports CE, not NDE.

Nobody cares what you think when it is obvious that you have no idea what you are talking about. Go read some books about evolution or go to Talk Origins to find out what the theory of evolution really says.

of course all this means that evolution is not important to medicine, because obviously whoever the “natural” intelligence decides will win will win, regardless of what we do.

Actually, the law of complexity, and the idea that nature is intelligent, is extremely important for medical science. If you believe the body has its own intelligence and healing powers you will treat it very differently than if you consider it a dumb machine that evolved merely by accident and selection.

Modern medicine often overlooks and underestimates the complexity of the body. As a result, the focus is often on treating symptoms rather than restoring the system’s natural balance. Heart disease and cancer are examples.

Modern medicine is great when you need emergency surgery or antibiotics. But it often fails when the system gone out of balance for some reason, and needs to be restored to health.

So yes, the theory of creative evolution is extremely important to medicine.

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You heard it here first folks. ID advocate admits:

“ … evolution is extremely important to medicine.”

Comment #166645

Posted by Vyoma on March 24, 2007 9:03 AM (e)

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Sorry for the OT, but I spent a long time writing the above comment and I can’t get back in to edit it. Is there anything I can do?

realpc dissembled thusly:

Actually, the law of complexity, and the idea that nature is intelligent, is extremely important for medical science. If you believe the body has its own intelligence and healing powers you will treat it very differently than if you consider it a dumb machine that evolved merely by accident and selection.

Modern medicine often overlooks and underestimates the complexity of the body. As a result, the focus is often on treating symptoms rather than restoring the system’s natural balance. Heart disease and cancer are examples.

Modern medicine is great when you need emergency surgery or antibiotics. But it often fails when the system gone out of balance for some reason, and needs to be restored to health.

So yes, the theory of creative evolution is extremely important to medicine.

This is a Gish Gallop of the highest order. Every assertion is false except for the “modern medicine is great” line. It’s like a child stringing words together at random.

realPc wrote:

“ The only difference between neo-Darwinism and ID is the question of whether genetic variations in individual organisms are always accidental.

ID says nothing about creator gods. It only claims that something more is involved than accident plus selection.”

Well that is real interesting. You know, I’ve often wondered about the shape of an inflated balloon. I’ve often suspected that it was controlled by something other than the metarial properties of the ballon and random collisions of air molecules with the ballon.

Can’t put my finger on it, its not a God or something, but I know its there.

somewhere.

real pompous crank says:

As a result, the focus is often on treating symptoms rather than restoring the system’s natural balance. Heart disease and cancer are examples.

You’re right. I have never heard a physician tell his/her patient, “You need to watch your diet or you stand a good chance of developing diabetes and all the health risks that come with it such as peripheral neuropathy, heart disease, blindness, etc…” or telling a smoker. “You should consider smoking cessation, otherwise, your risk of developing lung cancer, C.O.P.D., heart disease, periodontal disease, etc… is very high.” No sirree, physicians never try to alter their patients behavior to improve their overall health they just treat their symptoms with pills and surgery. Gotcha.

Clearly, by CE, realpc means the theory of MSI: Making Shit Up. S/he has this need for a Great Chain of Being, and invents groundless speculation to try to defend it. Sad really. Complete waste of otherwise useful neurons. Next s/he’ll be talking about Qi.

Slippery fingers. MSU.

Well that is real interesting. You know, I’ve often wondered about the shape of an inflated balloon. I’ve often suspected that it was controlled by something other than the metarial properties of the ballon and random collisions of air molecules with the ballon.

Can’t put my finger on it, its not a God or something, but I know its there.

Until the materialist air pressurists can prove that a pressurizing intelligence is not involved, I think it’s only fair to teach the controversy.

I’ve often wondered about the shape of an inflated balloon.

The laws of physics can, to some extent, explain non-living matter. What you fail to see is that life is more than just matter. The laws that describe non-living matter are not adequate to explain the origin and evolution of life.

realpc Wrote:

The laws of physics can, to some extent, explain non-living matter. What you fail to see is that life is more than just matter. The laws that describe non-living matter are not adequate to explain the origin and evolution of life.

To what extent can the laws of physics not explain non-living matter?

Matter is matter; it isn’t “living” or “non-living.” There’s no difference between the iron in a living thing and the iron in a rock whatsoever. It’s specific interactions of matter that make a living thing alive, not some imaginary difference between “living” and “non-living” matter, and every single one of those interactions is based on precisely the same physical laws that govern the interaction of matter outside of an organism.

What you fail to see is that you really haven’t the first clue about any of this. Not a bit of it. Moreover, you’re utterly unwilling to learn about it, favoring instead your own ignorance.

But go ahead, here’s a simple example. Explain the difference between the diffusion of a sodium ion across a cell membrane and it’s diffusion across a non-living membrane at the same electric potential. This is one of the most basic mechanisms in every single living thing on the planet, and it’s also fundamental to desalination. How exactly are the two different?

In fact, take your pick. Name anything that goes on in matter which we find in a living organism and that which isn’t. Be specific; cite an actual mechanism, a real reaction, not some vague garbage as you keep doing. Demonstrate something other than vagueries.

The laws of physics can, to some extent, explain non-trolling matter. What you fail to see is that life is more than just non-trolling. The laws that describe non-trolling matter are not adequate to explain the origin and evolution of trolling.

Actually, the law of trolling, and the idea that nature is trollic, is extremely important for psycological science. If you believe the body has its own trolligence and trolling powers you will treat it very differently than if you consider it a non-trollic machine that evolved merely by accident and selection.

Modern psychology often overlooks and underestimates the trollexity of the body. As a result, the focus is often on treating symptoms rather than restoring the system’s natural trollexity. Mental disease and dianetics are examples.

Modern medicine is great when you are non-trollic. But it often fails when the system gone out of trollexity, and needs to be restored to health.

So yes, the theory of creative trolling is extremely important to psychology.

MarkP Wrote:

The laws of physics can, to some extent, explain non-trolling matter.

You know, I think you may be onto something here. If realpc is indeed composed of trollic matter, then we can apply the trollic handwaving theorem. This states that trollic matter exposed to visible light will be transformed into stone (see this link for an application of the theorem).

If we assume that actual knowledge acts in the same manner as light, then it becomes obvious why realpc’s head is so incredibly dense. Anytime he’s exposed to knowledge, it turns into solid rock.

So let’s summarize again shall we. We now know that the “law of complexity” says that some things should complexify themselves at some times by some unknown mechanism and that the “theory of creative evolution” means that the “intelligence” apparently inherent in all living things, (which cannot be explained by any laws of physics even though it is “natural”), will protect us from all bad things and that medicine should be properly used to restore the “systems natural balance” so that this mechanism can act properly. Only in this sense can evolution be considered important to medicine.

Apparently, even though we are more “intelligent” than bacteria, the natural intelligence of our bodies is still not sufficient to defeat them by itself, so we still need modern medicine to intervene if we need antibiotics. Of course the point in the first place was the central importance of evolutionary theory in making informed decisions concerning antibiotic design and usage. So, in conclusion, all these “laws” and “theories” get us exactly nowhere! By the way realpc, you should look up the definitions of the terms “law” and “theory”. I don’t think you are using them in any meaningful sense.

By the way realpc, you should look up the definitions of the terms “law” and “theory”. I don’t think you are using them in any meaningful sense.

Inconceivable!

What we have here is an “emergent systems” vitalist. realpc, have a look at wiki’s ‘vitalism’ entry. Please take note of the quote from Francis Crick. If you have any actual proof of your belief, other than “I think…”, or “I don’t believe this can happen…”, please let us know. Thank you.

realpc:

What you fail to see is that life is more than just matter.

So show us.

The laws that describe non-living matter are not adequate to explain the origin and evolution of life.

So prove it.

realpc writes… Darwinism assumes that increasing intelligence leads to better survival skills.

I don’t know what Darwinism is, but Darwin assumed nothing of the sort.

He argued that any trait that helps survival tends to get selected, any trait that hurts it gets de-selected.

Yes, intelligence is often an asset, especially when viewed from the perspective of clever monkeys who rule the world with nimble hands, but it is not an absolute good in all situations.

The domestic dog, for example, is probably only 60% as smart as the wolves from which it is descended. Yet dogs are an amazingly successful species - there are 60 million dogs in North America alone - while wolves survive on the edge of the endangered species list.

In this case, intelligence was apparently less important than other traits, like sociability. Maybe intelligence led to more dominance and dumber animals got along with humans better.

Whatever the cause, it got in the way and was selected out by an evolution mechanism that doesn’t care what an animal has to leave behind, so long as it also leaves offspring.

realpc Wrote:

Darwinism assumes that increasing intelligence leads to better survival skills.

It does nothing of the sort, in fact one could argue that evolutionary theory predicts intelligence of any degree to be a rarity because intelligence requires a great deal of energy. The human brain consumes glucose at a frightening pace, there had to have been a good reason to keep it around. If you look at the evolutionary history of our lineage intelligence was an asset, we were primates living on the borders of the forest and the savannah. Intelligence and tool use provided unique survival strategies.

For the vast majority of niches, and of course by the organisms that inhabit those niches and are shaped by the unique evolutionary pressures of that niche, intelligence is most likely something that takes up unnecessary resources with not enough pay off for it to be worthwhile.

Darwinism assumes

Since the bulk of your arguments seem to be directed against what you say “Darwinism assumes”, perhaps you’d be so kind as to provide some links any place where a theory called “Darwinism” is presented. Some references to what the “assumptions” of this “Darwinism” are would be great too. Until then, you’re just arguing with straw, and doing a damned poor job of it.

realpc blathers on:

The laws that describe non-living matter are not adequate to explain the origin and evolution of life.

In order for this statement to be at all credible, some honest and reputable scientist(s) would have to show specific instances of “non-living-matter laws” failing to explain the behavior of living matter in specific circumstances (sort of like the way that Newtonian physics don’t work to explain motion near the speed of light). The fact that realpc fails to provide any link to any peer-reviewed paper describing such an event, proves he’s talking out of his ass.

As Vyoma pointed out, the physical properties of iron in a red blood cell are the same as those of iron in rock, or a sword, or a car. Same goes for the properties of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and every other substance found in every living thing known to Mankind.

Stop trying to substitute vague woo-woo New-Agey philosophy (“Some kind of law of complexity?” Gimme a break!) for actual science. There’s a HUGE difference – one works and the other doesn’t. All you’re proving is that you’re a stumbling idiot pretending to know things you clearly don’t. You’re also becoming a pretentious, monotonous bore.

So I think the evolution of intelligence supports CE, not NDE.

As I noted, it doesn’t matter what you think because a) you’re ignorant, b) you’re stupid and, most importantly c) you’re deeply, deeply dishonest. Over and over again you ignore evidence and reasoning that doesn’t support your view, and refuse to answer questions that challenge your claims. The consequence is that your conclusions are unreliable; if you happen to say something that’s true, it’s largely coincidental, and it’s never novel. Thus, other than being an annoying and disruptive troll, you’re irrelevant.

The laws of physics can, to some extent, explain non-living matter. What you fail to see is that life is more than just matter.

Gee, and here I thought you were going to claim that the laws of physics can explain non-living matter but not living matter, but you seem to have changed horses midstream – you’re complaining that we’re not vitalists. That’s really pretty funny at a bio blog.

But you’re right – life is more than just matter, it is matter in certain sorts of configurations. Thus, to explain it we need more than just physical laws, we need higher levels of explanatory theory – such as the theory of evolution.

The laws that describe non-living matter are not adequate to explain the origin and evolution of life.

And here you again make this category mistake; the laws that describe non-living matter are adequate to describe the origin and evolution of life. But to explain them, we need an explanatory theory that deals with the causal relationships at the right level. In the same way, the laws of physics are adequate to describe the weather, but they aren’t adequate to explain the weather; for that you need climate models that take into account the Gulf Stream and all sorts of other things that are not “laws of physics”.

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This page contains a single entry by Mike Dunford published on March 22, 2007 1:22 AM.

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