Science v Intelligent Design: Miller v Behe

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On Amazon Behe admits that Intelligent Design is nothing more than a code word for Christian faith.

Behe Wrote:
Miller Wrote:

Behe happily notes, as I would, that we live in a universe whose fundamental physical constants are remarkably hospitable to life. To me, and apparently to Behe, these constants may well reflect the will of a creator we would both identify as the God of Abraham.

So let me emphasize: Kenneth Miller is an intelligent design proponent. He believes that the laws of the universe were purposely set up to permit life to develop. Miller thinks that, to accomplish the goal of life, the universe had to be designed to the depth of its fundamental physical constants. I agree with him as far as he goes, but, on the other hand, as I write in The Edge of Evolution, I think design extends further into the universe, past physical constants, past anthropic coincidences, and well into biology. Yet, with respect to design, he and I differ only on degree, not on principle.

Well, there we have it, Intelligent Design is nothing more than Christian Theology. But Behe is equivocating on the meaning of the term “Intelligent Design”. Miller does not appeal to science being able to detect Intelligent Design via a flawed explanatory filter, or via the even more flawed concept of Irreducible Complexity. Miller has accepted on faith that God created the universe.

In that context, yes, both Miller and Behe are ‘creationists’ who believe that the world was created by a supernatural entity. But unlike Miller, Behe sees examples of continued creation in such details as the bacterial flagella or the malaria parasite.

Miller’s review is well worth a more in depth discussion and I hope to provide a more detailed overview of Miller’s claims. Needless to say Miller was not impressed

And now evolution has given us a book that accepts nearly every Darwinian principle, including common descent, disparaging only the adequacy of “random” mutation to produce the variation needed tor natural selection to work. Regrettably, on this point, Behe’s numbers are wrong, his arguments contrived, and his logic flawed.

The Edge is a work that will generate no scientific tests, no experiments, and no discoveries, yet it will certainly become a standard-issue weapon in the wars against scientific reason that will continue to sweep across our land in the years ahead. We are at a critical point in the struggle for scientific understanding in this country and this badly flawed book seeks to move us in exactly the wrong direction.

40 Comments

And Behe insisted on insinuating that he’s still a “scientist”?

Hello, lurker here. :) I have one question, and I wasn’t sure where else to post it: while I, personally, believe evolution to be true, a friend of mine believes in intelligent design. A lot of her arguments I was able to easily refute (they were things like the argument from personal incredulity), but she had one argument which I wasn’t, and that was: since there are so many species, how come humans are the only ones who evolved to be very intelligent (i.e. intelligent enough to create things like culture, government, different languages, religion etc.)? Since I don’t really have much formal education in evolution, I was at a loss for an answer. Do any of you know how to answer it?

I just commented on the Amazon blog thusly:

Dale Husband

Wow! Talk about misrepresenting your opposition! Behe claims that an evolutionist like Miller is an intelligent design proponent, when in fact he is anything but! Why shouldn’t Miller be upset with Behe? Whatever else Behe and Miller may have in common, they differ in one critical respect: Miller does NOT lie about his scientific work or about those he disagrees with.

Izzhov:

Hello, lurker here. :) I have one question, and I wasn’t sure where else to post it: while I, personally, believe evolution to be true, a friend of mine believes in intelligent design. A lot of her arguments I was able to easily refute (they were things like the argument from personal incredulity), but she had one argument which I wasn’t, and that was: since there are so many species, how come humans are the only ones who evolved to be very intelligent (i.e. intelligent enough to create things like culture, government, different languages, religion etc.)? Since I don’t really have much formal education in evolution, I was at a loss for an answer. Do any of you know how to answer it?

Many animals have evolved some degree of intelligence, but humans have taken this to an extreme. Consider falcons and how extreme fliers they are compared to sparrows. No one thinks that falcons are that different from sparrows, because they are both birds and can fly, but (to my knowledge) no sparrow can dive bomb at over 100 miles per hour, just as no horse can write a play like William Shakespeare did. Extreme traits in any organism are not a proof of Intelligent Design, but of the sort of competition that natural selection relies on.

Oh, brother! Behe has really lost it now!

http://www.amazon.com/gp/blog/post/[…]WHMS8WADYIGZ

Michael Behe

I think the reason for Miller’s deep disdain of a relatively minor difference in our positions on evolution is not scientific. Rather, it’s theological. It’s called the problem of evil. Briefly stated, if God is responsible for designing not only the lovely parts of biology, but also the dangerous and nasty parts as well, then we have a theological problem on our hands. What kind of a God designs not only pretty flowers, but deadly malaria, too? Is God actually malicious? On the other hand, if God simply designed a process like Darwinism that He knew would lead to life, then, the thinking goes, He didn’t directly design those nasty parts of biology — the process did. So God escapes any blame for bad stuff.

The Young Earth Creationists have an explanation for the problem of evil. They blame it all on Satan and the Original Sin of Adam and Eve. So why doesn’t Behe just come out with that? Oh, wait, that would only make him look even more crazy!

since there are so many species, how come humans are the only ones who evolved to be very intelligent

there have been several theories put forward to try and explain this (like elimination of competition - which also relates to why only a single species of human remains extant), but to my knowledge, there just is insufficient information to come to any conclusive resolution as yet. This by no means is a weakness of evolutionary theory, as we have reams of experiments supporting it as a very satisfactory explanation for much of what we do see, and so far there is no reason to presume it would fall flat as more information comes to light. In fact, we are just beginning to scratch the surface looking at how evolutionary theory applies to behavior in animals (it’s really only been in the last 40 years or so that we have even begun testing the evolution of specific behaviors), let alone in humans. So far, it appears to work just as well to explain and predict the evolution of behaviors as it does with morphology/physiology (not surprisingly). The difference being it is much harder to examine the fossil record to get a long term view of behavior.

However, this issue of human “achievement” aside, there are a great many questions that we have insufficient information to answer to our own satisfaction, and not just in biology. That’s what science is all about, seeking answers through a tried and proven method. ID is not about that, since they have tried their method for hundreds of years (yes, long before even Paley) and produced… nothing.

does that mean we resign currently unsatisfactorily answered questions to god?

nope.

ever heard of “the god of the gaps” argument?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_of_the_gaps

If your friend insists on pushing this point, ask them how they can explain it to YOUR satisfaction using “intelligent design”.

they’ll fail miserably, not even able to formulate a testable hypothesis, since there is no way to explain how their fictional designer operates to begin with.

so ask your friend, which has the better track record of success in explaining and predicting what we see:

science,

or

“goddidit”

Ichthyic: there have been several theories put forward to try and explain this (like elimination of competition - which also relates to why only a single species of human remains extant), but to my knowledge, there just is insufficient information to come to any conclusive resolution as yet. This by no means is a weakness of evolutionary theory, as we have reams of experiments supporting it as a very satisfactory explanation for much of what we do see, and so far there is no reason to presume it would fall flat as more information comes to light. In fact, we are just beginning to scratch the surface looking at how evolutionary theory applies to behavior in animals (it’s really only been in the last 40 years or so that we have even begun testing the evolution of specific behaviors), let alone in humans. So far, it appears to work just as well to explain and predict the evolution of behaviors as it does with morphology/physiology (not surprisingly). The difference being it is much harder to examine the fossil record to get a long term view of behavior.

However, this issue of human “achievement” aside, there are a great many questions that we have insufficient information to answer to our own satisfaction, and not just in biology. That’s what science is all about, seeking answers through a tried and proven method. ID is not about that, since they have tried their method for hundreds of years (yes, long before even Paley) and produced… nothing.

I just realized something: I definitely believe that evolution holds water in almost all biological cases, but once a species (such as humans) has a sufficiently evolved intelligence such that it is able to make advancements in medical science and prolong the lives of members of the species which don’t have an evolutionary advantage and thus allowing them to reproduce anyway, doesn’t the system break down in that case? (I do realize that if the advancements in medicine aren’t sufficiently advanced, then we will still evolve resistances to diseases we can’t treat, but in other cases, I think it does break down a little.)

which don’t have an evolutionary advantage and thus allowing them to reproduce anyway, doesn’t the system break down in that case?

yes, and no.

selection is still operating in other areas… remember that it is a measure of FITNESS, not just survivability, that is of the most importance.

anything that affects your ability to pass your genes on to the next generation is fair game.

It’s meaningless to live 120 years and never reproduce.

Actually, Izzhov, the complications towards which you are gesturing seem not to be limited to humans. After all, whenever specific behaviors are passed on from generation to generation (i.e. traditions), the capacity for those general sorts of behaviors is certainly passed on through genes, but the actual behaviors are not. Thus, unrelated individuals might also learn those behaviors, meaning that behaviors which may affect fitness can be passed on without genetic inheritance - which I think is pretty cool.

Human culture is of course the most obvious and important example of this: Human cultures and individuals blend and borrow ideas and behaviors from each other frequently without any question of genetic inheritance entering into it. But the passing down of traditions without regard to kinship has been observed in other primates: Various termite-feeding and nut-cracking techniques practiced by different troupes of chimpanzees in different areas, for example, are also learned by individuals raised in other troupes when they are adopted into a new troupe with new traditions. Feeding techniques obviously have the potential to alter fitness, but there are also non-primate examples: Mating songs sung by some whales and birds are sometimes learned from unrelated males, for example, and one can easily imagine that mating songs have fitness effects. For another example, tool-making and -using techniques among New Caledonian crows are not necessarily learned only from parents or other kin. Corvids in general, and especially this tool-using species, are very clever imitators and quick learners.

Basically, any time a species evolves the capacity for culture in some form, the possibility arises for cultural selection (which does not depend on genetic inheritance) to occur along side of and in addition to ongoing natural selection. Traditions which have a positive effect on fitness might spread without regard to which animals are passing on which genes, insofar as traditions can be passed on to non-offspring and even non-kin (although more rarely, since culture is usually passed on to youngsters in a given group).

since there are so many species, how come humans are the only ones who evolved to be very intelligent

Some scientists, like, James Kay, Eric Schneider, Dorion Sagan and Scott Sampson, think that it’s because we are selected for our ability to crack tough energy-gradients, per the second law of thermodynamics.

This idea extends to make for a part of a more-plausible answer to the fine-tuning problem, as well, since a true anthropic cosmological principle offers a causality-responsible solution to the problem from first physics principles, rather than the speculative rationale that Dawkins resorts to when he appeals to the unobservable possibilty for an infinite number of universes. Even Dawkins admits that his is a weak argument, (LOL @ Torbjörn… ;), and a soulution from first principles kills both, god and unobservable “whatifs” in one fell-swoop, so it is an infinitely stronger argument that only a darwinist, (rather than a neodarwinist), can or will recognize.

Reiterating Icthyic’s comments. In simplest terms a species that evolves the capacity for culture and in this case medicine has changed the game, but only superficially. Culture becomes subsumed under the large blanket of environment. Because the environment changes the selection pressures change, but that is a perfectly normal part of the process. Conceptually I think it is a very simple situation. I suspect mathematically it becomes much more complex because the environment can change very rapidly, and the agent being selected for can know effect what traits are selected for.

Izzhov:

This doesn’t answer your question, but I am curious whether your friend indicated whether she thinks, as Behe does, that humans nevertheless share common ancestors with other species. Or whether she prefers the “classic creationism” assertion that humans are the product of their own abiogenesis event.

BTW, I have always found it fascinating how ID rarely chooses human intelligence as the example of where “the system breaks down,” even though that would be the “holy grail” to their classic creationist supporters.

PvM Wrote:

But Behe is equivocating on the meaning of the term “Intelligent Design”.

“Equivocating” is too mild a word for a “shameless bait-and-switch.”

A major reason for there being no equivalent non-human culture, apart from the difficulty dolphins would have in establishing one in the open ocean, is surely that humans would permit no competition. Even amongst humans other groups are often regarded as sub-human and therefore a target worthy of attack. Think of what it would be like if the rival was not actually human.

What I don’t understand (among other things) is why Behe thinks it would ever be possible to demonstrate that something could not have evolved. I sometimes wonder whether, when he publishes his latest screed on the unevolvability of ‘the’ bacterial flagellum, Plasmodium or HIV, it occurs to him that he might possibly be in the situation of the person who said we will never know what stars are made of, a couple of years before helium was discovered in the sun.

how come humans are the only ones who evolved to be very intelligent (i.e. intelligent enough to create things like culture, government, different languages, religion etc.)?

It is ecology and evolution. Ecology states that only one species can occupy exactly the same econiche at the same time and in the same space. If there are two, one eventually outcompetes the other or the other evolves to occupy a slightly different and defensible niche.

We see this with humans. Before modern H. sapiens radiated out of Africa, there were 2 other (or more) subpecies or species of humans in the world. Neandertals in Europe, and Indonesian H. erectus. Look what happened. We are here and they are gone.

Humans are also a late evolutionary innovation. It could just be that it took the biosphere this long to evolve this particular adaptation. Some biologists think that if and when we are gone, the biosphere would be unlikely to evolve another intelligent tool user. Others say, given the obvious short term advantages of our biological lifestyle, intelligent tool users may be common in the next 2 billion years but only 1 at any given time. With our sample size of one species known, both are just guesses.

At any rate, the fact that only 1 human grade species exists is not an argument against evolution. Evolution and ecology would argue that this is expected.

Interesting points all, and it seems Behe in IDC fashion is now busy mirroring his problems onto critics.

Specifically Dale’s find shows that Behe tries to reflect the theologically serious moral problem that some have found in his conclusions on malaria back on Miller. While I can’t seem to find a justifiable defense for Miller elsewhere, this is completely fallacious.

Izzhov:

doesn’t the system break down in that case

IANAB, but as I understand it evolution is an ongoing process in culturally advanced societies. AFAIK rather recently lighter skin appeared in populations centered around the agrarian areas of Europe, and lactose tolerance and malaria resistant traits have evolved independently several times. Strong evolution in the areas of sexual selection and the immune system seems to be a trait shared by apes such as chimps and humans.

I suspect this process is expected to continue even with better medicine. G felis describe mechanisms for that, which I believe Dawkins has termed “the extended phenotype”. (I’m not sure how much of analogies to evolution (like culture and languages) are faithful to it without truly hereditary mechanisms though.)

island:

This idea extends to make for a part of a more-plausible answer to the fine-tuning problem, as well, since a true anthropic cosmological principle offers a causality-responsible solution to the problem from first physics principles, rather than the speculative rationale that Dawkins resorts to when he appeals to the unobservable possibilty for an infinite number of universes.

We must distinguish between the religiously inspired anthropic argument and scientific fine-tunings problems.

The erroneous anthropic argument is based in mistaking a priori unconditional probabilities with a posteriori conditional probabilities, or the assumption that low probabilities automatically translates to low likelihoods.

I.e. that assuming for example that if life is improbable (which it probably isn’t considering the short time taken to be established here) it is unlikely. But conditional on the vast amount of probable planets we only need the likelihood to approach ~ 1 to be consistent with observations.

Fine-tunings comes in two kinds, physical and biological. The first group is based on that physical models normalized parameters naturally are ~ 1, while some observed parameters can be many magnitudes smaller. Then we have terms that cancel each other in a fine-tuned manner.

There can be several natural reasons for this, unique forcing by a fundamental theory, or coincidence. Multiverses is another reason, since in addition to coincidence we can have a likelihood distribution of parameters. And if parameters are likely instead of unique events, this would also reasonably redefine what we mean with “natural” parameters.

Biological fine-tunings is that some parameter ranges, often broad such, permits life more or less similar to ours. This gives rise to a series of anthropic principles.

For example, that we observe that current physical parameters are consistent with life is a tautological anthropic principle. It can be consistent with forcing or coincidence. We can also assume a weak anthropic principle, that some universes are more likely to have observers. Thus a weak AP would explain both kinds of fine-tunings.

To sum up all of the above to address your claim, as far as I understand all anthropic principles are causal, but no one is necessary to offer a solution to fine-tuning.

I haven’t studied Dawkins’ so called “speculative rationale” so don’t know what you are referring to. AFAIU he has offered a probability argument why gods are improbable, because it has been mentioned in reviews that seems accepted on this point.

Even Dawkins admits that his is a weak argument, (LOL @ Torbjörn… ;),

As I noted, I’m not sure what his argument is. I have sometimes had reason to mention that Dawkins offer an improbability argument, not an impossibility argument, against gods. Is that what you are thinking of?

Nor do I know if it is weak. I have myself at times offered what I assume are similar improbability arguments against gods. My criteria on an ad hoc hypotheses, which this in many aspects is, is that it must be testable to be scientifically acceptable. (As opposed to theories that may be provisionally accepted based on tests of a subset of its claims or predictions.) And I have lived under the impression that likelihoods and especially subjective bayesian probabilities doesn’t offer that.

I have now learned about likelihood ratio tests however, so I’m currently reevaluating this.

and a soulution from first principles kills both, god and unobservable “whatifs” in one fell-swoop, so it is an infinitely stronger argument that only a darwinist, (rather than a neodarwinist), can or will recognize.

I have no idea what you are arguing here. But as I was mentioned in this context I would appreciate further detail.

Finally I should note on the mentioned energy gradients that I don’t exactly think organisms necessarily maximize entropy production, living on the edge of chaos and/or evolution and all that jazz. (Though we could perhaps expect life in a universe that maximizes global entropy production, assuming multiverses are true.) But I’m fairly certain that they don’t minimize energy consumption.

I have some problems with Miller’s favorable view toward cosmological ID. That said, let’s point out the huge differences between Behe and Miller at just about every turn.

First off, Miller believes “these constants may well reflect the will of a creator we would both identify as the God of Abraham.” He doesn’t call it science, nor does he imply that it ought to be taught in the science classes. He thinks that cosmological “fine-tuning” is evidence for the believer, not for the unbeliever.

And this holds over in the biological realm, as well. Miller suggests that God could be hiding in the irreducible randomness, which is about as close as he comes to Behe’s “Divine Mutagen”. But again, for Miller that’s at most a theological idea, not at all science. Even theologically, Miller evidently prefers the idea that God ultimately left the “creation” to work out according to freedom, without God lurking in Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle.

Most of all, Miller knows the difference between interpreting the unknowns according to his theological presuppositions, and science. Behe does not. Even Miller was sort of obscuring that huge difference, even though it is glaringly obvious in his remarks about Behe’s faulty logic and worthless “science.”

Behe’s ‘one of the most important developments in science of the twentieth century’ amounts in real terms to his “discovery” that not everything about evolutionary pathways is known at present. Miller always knew that, and recognizes that invoking an unknown (to science) cause for it is completely unscientific, even if as a theist Miller entertains the possibility in his book.

Miller is something of a creationist after all, but only in the old sense of the word–by faith. Behe appears to have no faith or “true religion” as the latter is understood in Xian theology, for he claims the unknown God to be the cause of biological unknowns, in stark violation of both science and of faith.

Perhaps Behe’s first fatal failing was his lack of understanding of religion, and only because of that, he failed to understand science and its crucial limits.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

As to why human-style intelligence is apparently rare: I wonder if in pre-technological times, maybe intelligence by itself isn’t really all that superior to the abilities that other predators have even without making tools. As that guy in “Beastmaster” said, “face the animal on his own terms, and you aren’t all that strong” (or something like that).

Henry

since there are so many species, how come humans are the only ones who evolved to be very intelligent

In a sense, this is just a question of why there happens to be a maximum in a given set, such as the set of “intelligent creatures”. To be sure, there have to be reasons why our evolution took us beyond other extant species, and probably beyond other extinct hominin species, however it should not surprise that one of the species of ape would have ended up being selected for intelligence more than the other lines.

The real science question is actually not why other animals did not evolve our intelligence, but why we did. The developmental, evolutionary, and metabolism costs of a big brain are fairly high, and the return on that investment appears to have been fairly low until relatively recently. Hominin fossils are not common, even in areas such as Olduvai Gorge, and although we can observe how advantageous our intelligence is today, the advantages of hominin intelligence even 100,000 years ago is not clear.

No, the question is not why expensive brains did not evolve more often, but why they did even once. It is possible that we just sort of fell into a kind of range of characteristics wherein our physical attributes were not great, but our intelligence made up for it (evolutionary constraints didn’t allow for much evolution of fast running (our bipedalism could play a role there) or strong claws, but we could strategize our hunting and gathering). Perhaps fire allowed us to receive more nourishment from meat and carbohydrate sources, and we could “afford” our big brains. And then it is sometimes suggested that sexual selection is responsible, that hominin females were attracted to bright guys.

So there are possible reasons why a species, or several, might have gotten onto a track of increasing intelligence. It’s still not clear why likely human levels of intelligence arose something like 150,000-200,000 years ago, however, considering our inability to compete very well compared to many other species (baboons with their small brains almost certainly were far more numerous than hominins in Africa until fairly recently). For, the costs of intelligence are high (consider how much must be invested in human young before they can survive), the returns are faily low until some threshold of technology are reached, and the transitional value of larger brains is uncertain.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

Since there are so many species, how come humans are the only ones who evolved to be very intelligent

Well, we did and we didn’t.

Don’t loose sight of the fact that there’s really not that much difference between us and the rest of the primates.

If you strip away the advantages of just a few thousand years of culture, and compare the basic animals, you’re left with small bands of hunter-gatherers living without written language, regular access to fire, or tools much better than rocks. Aside from better housing, it’s not really that much different than how bands of Bonobo Chimpanzees live today.

And those Bonobos have clocked intelligence tests similar to 4 year old human children. Not quite Ivy-league, but all together not that shabby for a mere ape.

In fact, there’s solid evidence that as recently as a few hundred thousand years ago, there were many different, competing sub-species of advanced primates, more than apes, but less than humans, and our ancestors were merely the ones that were able to eke out a slim advantage.

The thing that separates us from our animal brethren is less about biology and more about culture. At some point, primitive humans developed enough intelligence that they were able to communicate in symbolic language.

That was probably the tipping point. Up till then, your brain had to be big enough that you could learn everything you needed to know by direct observation, a time consuming task, and that limited how much information any given human head could hold in one lifetime.

After language, and the ability to manipulate concepts and easily pass on information, all bets were off. Suddenly, you didn’t have to watch the hunt for three years before you caught on to the fact that you always had to approach the herd from downwind, some village elder could just tell you in three minutes, and you could get on with it.

In modern parlance, that frees a hell of a lot of processor cycles. Capacity that can be better used elsewhere, like trading information on toolmaking or farming.

And once your success starts to depend on thinking, there is significant and immediate selection advantage to a better brain.

There’s a certain point, a critical mass, where once you get enough knowledge together it allows you to go make more, and once that threshold was crossed, whoever got there first was going to trounce the competition. It’s simply too big an advantage for history to have gone any other way.

Ask yourself how intelligent and successful you would be if you weren’t born in to a world where you had instant access to the all the knowledge of all your forebearers. Even survival itself would be a challenge (“Gee, I wonder if how I can make any more of this ‘fire’ stuff” - if it weren’t for the Boy Scouts would you really have any clue where to start?).

The answer to your question is simply the answer to “why did the first species to cross the finish line take the prize?”

Izzhov:

since there are so many species, how come humans are the only ones who evolved to be very intelligent

I think there are some things to keep in mind here. First, the existence of ecological niches. Modern humans (thanks to intelligence) draw from a number of ecological niches (e.g. growing cereal crops, eating fruit, fish, hunting animals, etc), but certainly not all of them. Bacteria have an ecological niche in eating-up food leftovers, in our gut, and all kinds of other places (including hot, acidic environments where humans can’t survive). Bird eat various insects, seeds, etc. Fish do quite well in their water-based ecological niches. They’re all quite good in their ecological niche, and if they left it, there would be an opportunity for some other animal to exploit it. What I’m driving at here, is that animals do quite well in their ecological niche, and like a ball stuck in a hole, they aren’t really in a position to move into other ecological roles that are currently occupied by other animals.

Another thing is that most animals aren’t really in a position to move towards a more intelligent species. Flying animals have certain weight requirements. A large brain would prevent bird and insects from being able to fly. (This is probably why, when I think of birds with large brains, I think of terrestrial birds - like ostrich or emu - they don’t have to maintain a low weight in order to retain their way of life.) Another fact is that brains consume a lot of energy. I think something like 25% of a human’s calories are consumed in the brain. This means that a small, slim brain is useful in a lot of cases. Cold blooded animals (like snakes and alligators) can go for long periods of time without needing to eat. If they had large, energy-consuming brains, they would need to eat much more frequently to survive. In the end, a small-brained, a low-energy consuming alligator might survive better than a large-brained, large energy-consuming alligator.

There are still some questions about what drives brain enlargement, and I seem to recall a study done some time ago showing that dolphins have had two periods of relatively fast brain enlargement, but the majority of their history doesn’t show much brain enlargement. I can’t help but think of those studies when I think about the fact that humans’ brains enlarged when the other 3 major ape species (gorillas, chimps, and orangutans) didn’t. It might just be that our period of brain enlargement mirrors those periods when dolphins did the same. But, the other apes just haven’t had the same forces at work (mirroring the period when dolphins didn’t undergo brain enlargement).

I guess in the end, asking why all the other animals haven’t undergone brain enlargement like humans is a little bit like asking why all electronic devices haven’t become desktop computers. Sure, desktop computers are great for what they do. They’re certainly more powerful than my cell phone, by alarm clock, or my watch, but all those other electronic devices have a place in our lives. They also have various features that make them very good at what they do. You certainly wouldn’t want to replace your watch with a desktop computer - assuming you still want to wear it on your wrist, that is.

Regarding Behe’s thought that the reason for Miller’s difference from his positions on evolution is the theological “problem of evil”, “if God is responsible for designing not only the lovely parts of biology, but also the dangerous and nasty parts as well, then we have a theological problem on our hands.”

This has been noted as a significant part of Darwin’s reasons for rejecting fixity of species, and embracing transmutation / evolution. http://speakingoffaith.publicradio.[…]script.shtml

The issue, for reasons unclear to me, is called Theodicy. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theodicy

The tension between theodicy and the requirements of the scientific method in the 1830s made the belief that God intervened in the course of nature increasingly hard to sustain, and Baden Powell promoting the view that the only rational and safe solution to the problem of reconciling science and theology is to keep them completely separate and to give up entirely the concept of miracle as having anything to do with science.…

http://human-nature.com/dm/chap5.html

Powell’s view prevailed, until the 1920s Fundamentalist reaction introduced Creationism as back-to-Paley rejection of science, culminating in our theologically learned friend Behe and chums..

With regard to why intelligence evolved only in humans, there have been a lot of good answers in this thread. The first thing that comes to my mind is that – evolutionarily speaking – there is nothing special about intelligence. It is crucial for the survival of OUR species, but flies get along perfectly well without it. So does every other non-intelligent species. Step into any war zone and you may be led to wonder if large brains will ultimately turn out to be a successful evolutionary experiment. Richard Dawkins discusses this issue a lot and his point is that there is something rather human-centric about the question. It seems like an interesting question to us because, well, intelligence is the major distinctive characteristic of our species. IIRC, the example Dawkins used in one of his recent books was the elephant: one can imagine elephant scientists running around speculating on why the trunk evolved only once.

I recently read Vonnegut’s “Galapagos”, which describes a sequence of events which leads to a small group of people being isolated on an uninhabited island while the rest of the human race goes extinct (due to an infectious micro-organism which destroys human ova). A million years later, humans have evolved into seal-like creatures with flippers instead of hands and much, much smaller brains- smaller heads are better streamlined :)

I thoroughly recommend the book, it’s both very funny and displays an excellent grasp of evolutionary theory. A central theme is that a lot of the things people are currently doing with their big brains are not survival-directed, indeed are often directly inimical to long- and short-term survival.

I suppose one could argue that every species alive today does something better than any other species; otherwise, competition would have eliminated it by now. So we can look at humans as an evolutionary experiment in producing a species with enough intelligence to mananage its environment, but not enough to do so wisely. I doubt this experiment will last very long.

It is an open question whether technological tool users will be a successful evolutionary adaption. Evolution is blind and drives species towards local optimuns of fitness.

The average species lasts 1-5 million years. So far we are at the .2 megayear mark, or less. Some people claim that we have a paleolithic brain with 21st century technology. In other words, our abilities to manipulate the material world have outrun our wisdom to do so.

It is an open question IMO. At one extreme, we could be the first intelligent species in the galaxy and could spread outward and own it all.

At the other extreme we could be all dead in a century or two. I used to associate with some deep time ecologists. Their big debate was whether we have overshot the sustainable carrying capacity of the planet and there will be a die off. Maybe when the fossil fuels run out and our agricultural areas are exhausted.

I’m just hoping everything hangs together for my expected lifespan. Please, just another 3-5 more decades.

“It has yet to be proven that intelligence has any survival value.”
Arthur C. Clarke

“It has yet to be proven that intelligence has any survival value.” Arthur C. Clarke

Ol’ Art blew that one. We didn’t evolve intelligence, at considerable cost, without it having any survival value. Was Clarke just being quoty or does he not understand that organisms don’t evolve with an eye to the future?

Mike from Ottawa:

“It has yet to be proven that intelligence has any survival value.” Arthur C. Clarke

Ol’ Art blew that one. We didn’t evolve intelligence, at considerable cost, without it having any survival value. Was Clarke just being quoty or does he not understand that organisms don’t evolve with an eye to the future?

IANAB, but is it not possible to evolve something as a by-product of something else that does have survival value? One hypothesis is that our intelligence is a by-product of our tribal social structure becoming ever-more complex. It has been suggested with tongue only lightly in cheek that language evolved as a way to gossip, that is, to exchange information about others in the social hierarchy.

At any rate, I believe the operative word in the quotation is “yet”. We developed this “language” skill that enables all our technology only yesterday in evolutionary terms. Our intelligence has not been with us long enough for our continuing existence to constitute “survival” in the long term, especially given our propensity for having a tremendously adverse effect on our environment.

Hello,

As a person who keeps her mind open, I’ve most recently been wondering where the proof for evolution-in-action has gone. I have read so many evolutionists talk about how humans are partially evolved from fish, monkeys, etc. and they sometimes present those all too common drawings of monkeys to humans. But where are the real pictures and the real reports? If evolution takes billions of years to happen, how do we even know it does happen at all?

I know a few evolutionists have added theories such as vestigial organs and punctuated equilibrium in an attempt to prove evolution has happened, but these theories are fraught with flaws themselves. (I can bring up a few arguments if you’d like me to.) Can someone please explain where you see the real proof?

KH asks where’s the evidence? Sigh… Here’s a start.

K H said:

As a person who keeps her mind open, I’ve most recently been wondering where the proof for evolution-in-action has gone … Can someone please explain where you see the real proof?

REALLY? I am shocked, SHOCKED! We’ve NEVER heard anyone say such things before. But you are in LUCK! You can read this if you like:

http://www.vectorsite.net/tadarwin.html

It will require a little work. If you prefer less work, try:

http://www.vectorsite.net/tadarwinp.html

Hey, if somebody asks me to plug my website, how can I refuse?

Cheers – MrG / http://gvgpd.proboards.com

KH, forgive us, but we’ve heard it all before. Your mangling of the ideas of evolution shows clearly that you’ve never studied it, so your “open mind” is merely another way of saying, “I’m not interested in the evidence”.

Humans are not evolved from monkeys, and nobody ever said so, except creationists who lie about it. We are evolved from earlier anthropoid primates, almost certainly the gracile (ie, slight and small) australopithecines. Look them up, and you’ll find the evidence, if you want it. Ample amounts have been found for them, and for transitional forms between them and modern human beings. For the latter, try googling “habilenes”. Again, there is no plain English word for them, but they’re too close to humans to be called “apes”. The habilenes (Homo habilis, Homo ergaster, if they are separate) certainly were tool makers. We can’t be absolutely certain that they are our direct ancestors - they could just possibly be on another branch - but they merge seamlessly into Homo erectus, who certainly is our ancestor. That’s another name to look into.

Like all air-breathing vertebrates, we are descended, some four hundred million years back, from fishes that lived on mudflats. Over a period of ten million years or so, they evolved limbs to crawl between waterholes, and gained the ability to breathe air. Try checking “tiktaalik”. Contrary to creationist lies, there is a complete transitional series leading from fish to tetrapod amphibians. There are also transitional series between amphibians and reptiles, reptiles and mammals, and dinosaurs and birds.

Now, I reckon that you’ll come back (if you come back) and demand to see “proof” that an ape gave birth to a human, or a fish laid eggs that hatched into frogs, or a dinosaur suddenly grew wings. If you do, it means that you don’t want to understand what evolution is saying, or how it works, or what evidence means. In that case, you shouldn’t be here. It’ll only end in tears.

Dave Luckett said:

Humans are not evolved from monkeys, and nobody ever said so, except creationists who lie about it. We are evolved from earlier anthropoid primates, almost certainly the gracile (ie, slight and small) australopithecines.

Of course not: Humans share a common ancestor with bonobos and chimpanzees.

Humans, along with all of the other great apes and the gibbons, share a common ancestor with the Old World monkeys (i.e., macaques and baboons, etc).

The apes and the Old World monkeys, in turn, share a common ancestor with the New World Monkeys. This group, in turn, shares a common ancestor with the prosimian primates (i.e., lemurs, loris, tarsiers, etc), forming the Order Primates.

And the Primates share a common ancestor with the treeshrews and flying lemurs.

Dave Luckett said:

Humans are not evolved from monkeys, and nobody ever said so, except creationists who lie about it.

Not to pick a fight with anyone, but I would point out that the fact that humans are, strictly speaking, not descendants of monkeys is, though absolutely not wrong, really somewhat moot – because we are descended from some small furry animals that lived in trees that any casual observer would call a monkey. (Most folks would call a lemur or tarsier a monkey.) It’s not a distinction that really impresses the other side.

Of course, this is not like I am coming to the defense of our visitor here, just raising a minor issue. Look up “pseudoskepticism”:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pseudo[…]doskepticism

I DON’T HAVE A DOG IN THE FIGHT!

“Ah, so that explains why you’re expending all your ammo on the white dog and ignoring the black dog.”

BLACK DOG? WHAT BLACK DOG?

Cheers – MrG / http://gvgpd.proboards.com

Dave Luckett said:

KH, forgive us, but we’ve heard it all before. Your mangling of the ideas of evolution shows clearly that you’ve never studied it, so your “open mind” is merely another way of saying, “I’m not interested in the evidence”.

Now, I reckon that you’ll come back (if you come back) and demand to see “proof” that an ape gave birth to a human, or a fish laid eggs that hatched into frogs, or a dinosaur suddenly grew wings. If you do, it means that you don’t want to understand what evolution is saying, or how it works, or what evidence means. In that case, you shouldn’t be here. It’ll only end in tears.

Hello Mr. Luckett,

Yes, I have indeed come back, but to respond to you. First, I am extremely interested in the evidence evolutionists have to present, and isn’t that what I have asked for? I sincerely do not mean to pick a fight or argue for the sake of arguing, but it appears when I ask to see the evidence, you say, “Well, when you say that, you don’t really want to see it, so I won’t show you. Go away.” Also, I don’t see how anything will end in tears since I asked a simple question in the first place.

I do appreciate your answers, and I will certainly look them up. I may come back with a few more questions, and I do hope you will understand all I want to gain from these questions is to learn, not to argue or act blindly.

Respectfully, K H

Dave Luckett said:

Yes, I have indeed come back, but to respond to you. First, I am extremely interested in the evidence evolutionists have to present, and isn’t that what I have asked for? I sincerely do not mean to pick a fight or argue for the sake of arguing, but it appears when I ask to see the evidence, you say, “Well, when you say that, you don’t really want to see it, so I won’t show you. Go away.” Also, I don’t see how anything will end in tears since I asked a simple question in the first place.

I do appreciate your answers, and I will certainly look them up. I may come back with a few more questions, and I do hope you will understand all I want to gain from these questions is to learn, not to argue or act blindly.

Respectfully, K H

Good. I’m glad you are prepared to look at the evidence. Have a look at the “Index to Creationist Claims” at Talk Origins. It is a full list of the various claims made by creationists against the evidence for evolution, with a citation for each one, a patient, detailed rebuttal and a redirect to the original sources of the evidence. It’s long, but it’s comprehensive. It addresses not only the physical data, but its implications. Even the theology and philosophy behind it.

See what you think. Specific questions (phrased, as you have phrased them, politely) are welcomed by the experts here. I hope you find what you seek.

There is god.God does not need to take care of all that was created.God put natural laws and they just follow their own course.Evolution just follow natural laws.Evolution does not refute gods presence

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This page contains a single entry by PvM published on October 27, 2007 1:05 PM.

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