There is no bottom to dumb

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From the Leiter Reports

Leiter Wrote:

A blog devoted to shilling for Intelligent Design has posted a link to the paper by myself and Michael Weisberg critiquing attempts to apply evolutionary psychology to law. It appears the author of the post, one Denyse O’Leary, a Canadian journalist who is a notorious apologist for ID creationism, thought our article was of a piece with the skepticism about natural selection that is her raison d’etre. The second commenter appears to have noticed what Ms. O’Leary missed.

Ms O’Leary is also still in denial about processes of regularity and chance being able to generate information. While she has been insisting that her background does not allow her to evaluate the claims of ID when they involve science or mathematics, she surely seems to be accepting them as the Gospel.

Hint: Processes of variation and selection can trivially increase information in the genome. Even Dembski seems to have come to accept this and now he claims that such processes smuggle in information. Of course they do, they transfer information from the environment to the genome.

Duh…

169 Comments

If you read through all the comments someone called bornagain77 hijacks the thread to plug some research being touted at www.quantumbrain.org and www.neuroquantology.com for some reason. Very odd.

Oops, sorry, what I was referring to happened on a different thread discussing Paul Davies’s article in the Nov 19th issue of Scientific American.

Jerad Zimmermann Wrote:

… called bornagain77 hijacks the thread …

Bornagain77 (and his various aliases) is a well-known threadjacker. He has diverted several therads on PT from their actual topic of discussion. Invariably, his comments lack any trace of merit, largely comprising antievolutionary ejaculations with no credible support whatever.

If I understand correctly, the Leiter and Weisberg paper is a research report, and yet it contains this:

Second, we are not denying that human beings and the human brain are products of evolutionary mechanisms, including natural selection. Only the “creationists” deny this,and we are resolute in our opposition to all forms of creationism. (ref. to footnote 10)

(footnote 10) We shall use “creationists” in what follows as a term of art to mean both those committed to the literal truth of the Book of Genesis as well as the proponents of “Intelligent Design.” Intelligent Design is simply creationism for those who have consulted a lawyer and a public relations firm; it has nothing to do with science, since the criticisms of evolutionary biology are without merit and the positing of “intelligent design” as an explanatory hypothesis is on a par, epistemically, with the positing of turtles on whose back the universe rests.

What kind of professional writing is that? In context, it reads as if either (a) they think their readers are morons and need a statement of the obvious (nobody with an IQ over 50 would think, at that point in the paper, that they are denying evolutionary biology) or (b) they just decided to sneak in an unnecessary editorial comment. Bad form in either case. And since when do blog-comment level descriptions make it into professional research papers? Do lawyers always write like snarky middle school students? Intelligent Design is simply creationism for those who have consulted a lawyer and a public relations firm. Not very clever, not very original, and totally out of place in a professional document. At this point their writing is on the level of, well, O’Leary’s.

Who gives a rats ass, given this is allegedly a scholarly paper about why evolutionary biology is irrelevant to the law, about whether or not they are “resolute” in their opposition to all creationism?

Not that I take it personally, given that their rather silly definition of creationist (literal readers of Genesis and ID advocates) leaves me and many others “off the hook” since we qualify under neither guideline.

Geez. Lawyers and journalists arguing about science. A pox on both their houses.

Dr. Heddle stated:

Not that I take it personally, given that their rather silly definition of creationist (literal readers of Genesis and ID advocates) leaves me and many others “off the hook” since we qualify under neither guideline.

Geez. Lawyers and journalists arguing about science. A pox on both their houses.

Remember, it’s lawyers and journalists, along with fundmentalist preachers, who are the problem, not the scientists.

fusilier James 2:24

Heddle,

It has come to a point where fear of the almost inevitable quotemining by creationists makes it prudent for authors of even scholarly pieces to add disclaimers. It’s unfortunate, but if creationists weren’t so obdurately dishonest, it wouldn’t be necessary.

“Processes of variation and selection can trivially increase information in the genome. Even Dembski seems to have come to accept this and now he claims that such processes smuggle in information. Of course they do, they transfer information from the environment to the genome.”

I’m not even sure that “information” is the correct terminology to use here. It can be a useful metaphor at times (much like “blueprint” for genomes), but I’m not aware of any way it helps illuminate biological questions in a technical way. Even worse, in the wrong hands it can very effectively obscure them. When I see Dembski raise his objections as such, I use the Pauli retort: he’s not even wrong. I don’t think it’s wise for evolution defenders to engage it as if it were a worthy objection.

heddle:

And since when do blog-comment level descriptions make it into professional research papers? Do lawyers always write like snarky middle school students? Intelligent Design is simply creationism for those who have consulted a lawyer and a public relations firm. Not very clever, not very original, and totally out of place in a professional document. At this point their writing is on the level of, well, O’Leary’s.

This is the part most Creationists don’t get. Science does not give a free ride to someone just because they support you. We don’t argue, “let us have a Big Tent, be inclusive and not fight among ourselves, we need to present a unified front to our enemies…” etc. We do not dilute our standards for anyone, supporters or deniers. It might have some short term negative consequences, these lawyers might get miffed.

Even after seeing such open distaste shown by scientists for low quality work even among their own supporters these creationists persist on the “Darwinistic Conspiracy”. Go figure.

What kind of professional writing is that? In context, it reads as if either (a) they think their readers are morons and need a statement of the obvious (nobody with an IQ over 50 would think, at that point in the paper, that they are denying evolutionary biology) or (b) they just decided to sneak in an unnecessary editorial comment.

To me, it reads as if they thought that their paper might be quote-mined by ID/creationists attempting to twist their conclusions. And what do you know? They were right.

I think that Barbara Forrest’s work has adequately demonstrated that ID was developed as a way of relabeling of creationism in hopes of bypassing court decisions. I have yet to see any ID argument that has not been previously advanced by avowed creationists.

Heddle -

I think the authors were prudent and professional in the extreme to include their discussion of ID/creationism.

It is always a wise idea to address obvious potential challenges or misinterpretations in an academic work.

They wrote a paper that challenged a single, controversial, highly specific proposed application of an extension of the theory of evolution.

And they knew damn well that creationists would pretend that their paper was a denial of the theory of evolution and start quote-mining it all over the internet. And they were immediately proven correct when O’Leary did exactly that.

Fortunately for them, they foresaw this highly predictable complication, and cleverly defused it by foreseeing it and addressing it in the paper.

“Intelligent Design is simply creationism for those who have consulted a lawyer and a public relations firm.” Not very clever, not very original, and totally out of place in a professional document. At this point their writing is on the level of, well, O’Leary’s.

No, that’s not an orignal opinion about intelligent design. It’s what I already thought of it, and have expressed at various times, and it’s been openly expressed, almost in those words, by someone I disagree with on most other issues, John Derbyshire. I’m sure many, many others have made the observation. Personally, I disagree about whether or not it’s “clever”. I think it’s a very accurate, clever summary of exactly what ID is all about.

I’m not quite sure how to parse the title of this article. Perhaps it should be “…too dumb” instead of “to dumb”?

James Chapman:

I’m not quite sure how to parse the title of this article. Perhaps it should be “…too dumb” instead of “to dumb”?

Perhaps if you think of it as “There’s no bottom to the abyss of stupidity” it might be clearer.

“There are two infinite things: The Universe and Human Stupidity. But the former is not certain.”
Einstein’s Calculus

Tyler writes…

I’m not even sure that “information” is the correct terminology to use here…

But each successful mutation does add information, provided by the environment, specifically, this particular genome did survive to reproduce, as opposed to all those that didn’t.

That is, to belabor the point, a significant boolean “bit” that you don’t want to ignore.

Stack enough of those up for a long enough time, and you have all the “information” you could possibly need when the DI comes asking “where did it all come from?”.

It can be a useful metaphor at times (much like “blueprint” for genomes), but… in the wrong hands it can very effectively obscure {the terms}.

Can and does, like the words “theory” or “good design”. Especially among those who want the terms obscured. Sometimes I wonder if things would have been different if Darwin had Newton’s ego and simply called his work the “Laws of Evolution”

Agree with Tyler (#136065). Any use of the word “information” in a biological context can cause a cringe reflex. Both sides of the IDC/science debate throw it around like some vaguely defined football.

“Real” Shannon) information usually makes little sense in biology. A gene duplication does add Shannon information to a genome, but a point mutation does not–it merely changes the information already there. And losing part of a gene decreases Shannon information, even though it may engender a different function. Yet a biologist (IANAB) would probably think of each of these as adding some kind of “information” to a genome.

Dembski likes to lean on complexity theory, although he distorts it quite a bit. Basically, the complexity of a system is proportional to the informational size of the system relative to the informational size of its simplest description. (And don’t forget, Dr Dembski, the Kolmogorov theorem, that a system having maximum complexity is totally random!) So information in the sense of complexity may not be very useful in biology.

Thus, almost all uses of “information” in biology seem to be metaphorical, rather than rigorous or quantifiable. That wouldn’t be a problem, except that the IDers treat their metaphorical uses as though they were both quantifiable and rigorous. The question is, can biological science define some sense of “information” that is meaningful and can’t be equivocated?

James Chapman (#136088) has trouble parsing “to dumb” because English can noun adjectives so easily. We could transform “dumb” into a real noun by adding “-th,” to make “dumbth.” This is the method the Olde Englishe used with, e.g., “wide”/”width”, “broad”/”breadth”, “well”/”wealth”, and many others. If you insist on a vowel change as in the other examples, we could say “dembth,” which is closer to one of its exemplars.

Re “There is no bottom to dumb”

to? too? two? ;)

Henry

[ID] has nothing to do with science, since the criticisms of evolutionary biology are without merit and the positing of “intelligent design” as an explanatory hypothesis is on a par, epistemically, with the positing of turtles on whose back the universe rests.

Brian Leiter is a slug, and his above comment, in addition to being gratuitous (as Dr. Heddle points out), is false.

Re “The question is, can biological science define some sense of “information” that is meaningful and can’t be equivocated?”

I tend to doubt it, but I’m no expert. I figure if the concept was of any use in biology, biologists would be using it and would have defined it appropriately for that use.

The only use that I see being made of it is political, as a way of increasing confusion about the subject, which by Shannon’s definition increases the size of the description, which increases the information content… Wait, that didn’t come out right.

Henry

What part is false? That ID has nothing to do with science? That its ‘criticisms’ of evolutionary biology are without merit, that the positing of ID as an explanatory hypothesis is on par with turtles all the way down?

My position is that ID is scientifically without content, its ‘criticisms’ of evolution especially focused on Darwinian evolution are founded in a misunderstanding of the concept of ‘random’, and lack in most cases in any merit and certainly have no relevance to ID, and finally ID is not in the business of being an explanatory hypothesis. So perhaps that’s the part with which you disagree? The suggestion that ID cannot be a competing explanatory hypothesis?

Robert O’Brien:

[ID] has nothing to do with science, since the criticisms of evolutionary biology are without merit and the positing of “intelligent design” as an explanatory hypothesis is on a par, epistemically, with the positing of turtles on whose back the universe rests.

Brian Leiter is a slug, and his above comment, in addition to being gratuitous (as Dr. Heddle points out), is false.

Robert O’Brien:

[ID] has nothing to do with science, since the criticisms of evolutionary biology are without merit and the positing of “intelligent design” as an explanatory hypothesis is on a par, epistemically, with the positing of turtles on whose back the universe rests.

Brian Leiter is a slug, and his above comment, in addition to being gratuitous (as Dr. Heddle points out), is false.

So then please demonstrate why Mr Leiter’s opinion is without merit by explaining why Intelligent Design is a science, and show us Intelligent Design’s much touted, but never unveiled explanatory power.

“Real” Shannon) information usually makes little sense in biology. A gene duplication does add Shannon information to a genome, but a point mutation does not–it merely changes the information already there. And losing part of a gene decreases Shannon information, even though it may engender a different function. Yet a biologist (IANAB) would probably think of each of these as adding some kind of “information” to a genome.

Remember that it is not just the mutation but the selection part which affects Shannon information. If a particular mutation has a particular fitness effect it can either disappear of become fixated, in the latter case, Shannon information increases as conserved nucleotides or conserved codons, do in fact contribute to an increase in Shannon information.

Re “A gene duplication does add Shannon information to a genome, but a point mutation does not–it merely changes the information already there.”

What if the point mutation is in one of two (or more) exact duplicates of a sequence? In that case what was an exact duplicate is now something different; how does Shannon treat that?

Also, if a point mutation produces a previously nonexistent allele, wouldn’t that be an increase in information in the gene pool of the species?

Henry

Stanton:

So then please demonstrate why Mr Leiter’s opinion is without merit by explaining why Intelligent Design is a science, and show us Intelligent Design’s much touted, but never unveiled explanatory power.

Intelligent Design is not a science in and of itself. However, suggesting evolutionary biology is beyond criticism is false as is equating ID with the belief that the universe rests on the backs of turtles.

Sophist cum pettifogger Leiter is not qualified to address matters of science, and it shows.

PvM:

What part is false? That ID has nothing to do with science? That its ‘criticisms’ of evolutionary biology are without merit, that the positing of ID as an explanatory hypothesis is on par with turtles all the way down?

My position is that ID is scientifically without content, its ‘criticisms’ of evolution especially focused on Darwinian evolution are founded in a misunderstanding of the concept of ‘random’, and lack in most cases in any merit and certainly have no relevance to ID, and finally ID is not in the business of being an explanatory hypothesis. So perhaps that’s the part with which you disagree? The suggestion that ID cannot be a competing explanatory hypothesis?

I agree with you that Behe’s “flagellum argument” appears to have been successfully refuted (by finding a more primitive structure that features a subset of the proteins contained in the flagellum). I also agree that Dembski has had plenty of time to deliver on his mathematical promises but has yet to do so. So, on those two points, you were right all along and I was wrong.

However, I disagree with Leiter (whom I already disdain) that evolutionary biology is beyond criticism and that ID is on the same epistemological footing as the belief that our universe is carried on the backs of turtles.

Should we ever receive signals form an advanced civilization trying to contact us, by calculating the Shannon entropy of the message we could determine how much the civilization is trying to tell us even if we can’t decipher the message. So, applied to DNA, Shannon entropy makes a great explanatory filter to determine how God designs things. For a string consisting of a sequence of letters AGC and T Shannon entropy is a maximum when sequence of these letters is purely random. The Shannon entropy for DNA from a randomly chosen organism is pretty close to this Shannon maximum. So we can conclude that God does his design work by playing dice. Sorry Einstein.

Robert O’Brien: Intelligent Design is not a science in and of itself. However, suggesting evolutionary biology is beyond criticism is false as is equating ID with the belief that the universe rests on the backs of turtles.

Please realize that Evolutionary Biology is not beyond criticism. Please also realize that there is a difference between the criticisms brought up by biologists and paleontologists and the criticisms brought up by anti-evolutionists such as creationists and Intelligent Design proponents.

The criticisms brought up by biologists and palaeontologists concern readjusting paradigms due to new, contrary evidence being revealed, such as the trashing of the idea that sauropods were aquatic because they were so heavy that they could not, allegedly, support their own weight in light of the fact that if sauropods were to stand in water up to their chin, the resultant water pressure would be enough to crush their lungs, OR, the changing of the so-called “great triad” of Mollusca+Annelida+Arthropoda to Nematoda+Lobopodia+Arthropoda because mollusks and annelids do not have genes for molting hormones like the ones arthropods, lobopods (peripati and water bears), and nematodes all have.

ON THE OTHER HAND, Mr O’Brien, the criticisms brought up by anti-evolutionists, especially by creationists and Intelligent Design proponents, are not brought up to correct mistaken ideas in the science, but to see Evolutionary Biology replaced entirely with politically motivated pseudoscience. The “criticisms” made by creationists and ID proponents betray their scientific ignorance, as well as their lack of motivation to do or understand actual science.

I agree with you that Behe’s “flagellum argument” appears to have been successfully refuted (by finding a more primitive structure that features a subset of the proteins contained in the flagellum). I also agree that Dembski has had plenty of time to deliver on his mathematical promises but has yet to do so. So, on those two points, you were right all along and I was wrong.

However, I disagree with Leiter (whom I already disdain) that evolutionary biology is beyond criticism and that ID is on the same epistemological footing as the belief that our universe is carried on the backs of turtles.

Evolutionary science is of course very open to criticism and calling ID on the same epistemological footing as ‘turtles all the way down’ may be giving too much credit to ID which is based on the ‘set theoretic complement of regularity and chance’ to infer ‘design’.

Does “epistemological footing” here refer to whether there’s an observed pattern of evidence that’s actually explained by a hypothesis? (If so, ID and the turtle “theory” would seem to both be totally lacking in that regard.)

Henry

Robert O’Brien: I disagree with Leiter (whom I already disdain) that evolutionary biology is beyond criticism

I’m surprised at the mildness of the replies you’ve received to this comment, O’Brien. You engage in the same old dishonest conflation of “dismissing ID” with “dismissing any criticism of TOE.” ID critics aren’t saying you’re not allowed to criticize evolutionary theory, just that IDists’ particular criticisms are bunk.

Whether you nonchalantly ignore this simple and obvious distinction because you really don’t get it, or because you’re engaging in some deliberate but clumsy sleight-of-hand, you should be embarrassed. Somehow I doubt you are.

And it’s worth pointing out for the millionth time that there’s a backdoor admission in this standard whine that all IDists have is complaints about supposed flaws in TOE, not any substantive ideas of their own.

MPW:

ID critics aren’t saying you’re not allowed to criticize evolutionary theory, just that IDists’ particular criticisms are bunk.

Whether you nonchalantly ignore this simple and obvious distinction because you really don’t get it, or because you’re engaging in some deliberate but clumsy sleight-of-hand, you should be embarrassed. Somehow I doubt you are.

Your doubt is justified. This is what Leiter wrote:

We shall use “creationists” in what follows as a term of art to mean both those committed to the literal truth of the Book of Genesis as well as the proponents of “Intelligent Design.” Intelligent Design is simply creationism for those who have consulted a lawyer and a public relations firm; it has nothing to do with science, since the criticisms of evolutionary biology are without merit and the positing of “intelligent design” as an explanatory hypothesis is on a par, epistemically, with the positing of turtles on whose back the universe rests. The Intelligent Design Creationists have stated no empirically testable hypothesis, and posit mechanisms that satisfy none of the standard desiderata of scientific theory construction, like ontological parsimony or methodological conservatism.

The language of the underlined clause suggests there are no legitimate criticisms of evolutionary biology. (Else, it should read: “…its criticisms of evolutionary biology…” or some such.)

Humans get AIDS and apes don’t because the immunodeficiency virus found in humans leads to AIDS and the one found in simians doesn’t.

So your explanation of why chimps don’t get AIDS isn’t because humans and chimps are significantly different in this respect, but rather because of simple lack of opportunity (not much sex between humans and chimps)? In other words, if we injected chimps with HIV, they’d get AIDS just like humans do?

I understand that HIV and SIV are different. But if chips cannot contract HIV and AIDS, then they’ve got a significant genetic difference from humans in at least this respect, right? Which is O’Brien’s point. And if both species DO contract AIDS from the same agent, what’s the issue here anyway?

If an “intelligent designer” can be inferred, then I equate the designer with God.

Not only is there no basis on which an intelligent designer can be inferred, but there is ample evidence on which the lack of an intelligent designer can be inferred. As Dawkins and others have pointed out, the world is just what we would expect if there were no intelligent designer. From that we can form an abductive inference that there is no intelligent designer.

Moreover, I accept Kurt Gödel’s Ontological Argument

I have to wonder if O’B read his own reference:

On Gödel’s theoretical assumptions, we can show that any set which conforms to (1) - (6) is such that the property of having as essential properties just those properties which are in that set is exemplified. Gödel wants us to conclude that there is just one intuitive, theologically interesting set of properties which is such that the property of having as essential properties just the properties in that set is exemplified. But, on the one hand, what reason do we have to think that there is any theologically interesting set of properties which conforms to the Gödelian specification? And, on the other hand, what reason do we have to deny that, if there is one set of theologically interesting set of properties which conforms to the Gödelian specification, then there are many theologically threatening sets of properties which also conform to that specification?

In particular, there is some reason to think that the Gödelian ontological argument goes through just as well — or just as badly — with respect to other sets of properties (and in ways which are damaging to the original argument). Suppose that there is some set of independent properties {I, G1, G2, …} which can be used to generate the set of positive properties by closure under entailment and “necessitation”. (“Independence” means: no one of the properties in the set is entailed by all the rest. “Necessitation” means: if P is in the set, then so is necessarily having P. I is the property of having as essential properties just those properties which are in the set. G1, G2, … are further properties, of which we require at least two.) Consider any proper subset of the set {G1, G2, …} — {H1, H2, …}, say — and define a new generating set {I*, H1, H2, …}, which I* is the property of having as essential properties just those properties which are in the newly generated set. A “proof” parallel to that offered by Gödel “establishes” that there is a being which has as essential properties just those properties in this new set. If there are as few as 7 independent properties in the original generating set, then we shall be able to establish the existence of 720 distinct”God-like” creatures by the kind of argument which Gödel offers. (The creatures are distinct because each has a different set of essential properties.)

Even if the above considerations are sufficient to cast doubt on the credentials of Gödel’s “proof”, they do not pinpoint where the “proof” goes wrong. If we accept that the role of Axioms 1, 2, 4, and 6 is really just to constrain the notion of “positive property” in the right way — or, in other words, if we suppose that Axioms 1, 2, 4, and 6 are “analytic truths” about “positive properties” — then there is good reason for opponents of the “proof” to be sceptical about Axioms 3 and 5. Kant would not have been happy with Axiom 5; and there is at least some reason to think that whether the property of being God-like is “positive” ought to depend upon whether or not there is a God-like being.

I would simply point out that axiom 5 is erroneous – as Russell pointed out, existence is not a property (it would be an odd sort of property that everything has and nothing lacks), and thus neither is necessary existence. (When we say in mathematics that a solution to some problem necessarily exists, what we mean is that the set of solutions is necessarily non-empty; it’s a statement about the solution set, not about the solution, which we haven’t even identified. All claims about existence can be reformulated as statements about set inclusion – e.g., the set of unicorns is empty).

as well as Leibniz’s Law, which effectively rules out polytheism as a viable option.

Since polytheism posits the existence of gods with different attributes, it isn’t incompatible with Leibniz’s Law (which itself isn’t necessarily true, as O’B’s own reference notes). And if the claim is that Gödel’s argument establishes all the properties of god and thus all gods must be identical (but that claim is false: “If there are as few as 7 independent properties in the original generating set, then we shall be able to establish the existence of 720 distinct ‘God-like’ creatures by the kind of argument which Gödel offers. (The creatures are distinct because each has a different set of essential properties.)”), it must be noted that “intelligent designer” is not a property attributed to god by Gödel’s argument.

I understand that HIV and SIV are different. But if chips cannot contract HIV and AIDS, then they’ve got a significant genetic difference from humans in at least this respect, right? Which is O’Brien’s point. And if both species DO contract AIDS from the same agent, what’s the issue here anyway?

hp has a problem with logic; his introduction (thrice) of ERV’s work as a rebuttal to O’B is fallacious (thrice). That ERV demonstrated evolution of HIV after it passed to humans has no bearing on the issue of immunological differences between humans and chimps (which indeed exist).

As for O’B’s larger “point”:

the differences in immunobiology between apes and humans is a mark against the common descent hypothesis (specific to the alleged common ancestry of apes and humans)

it is of course nonsense. It’s like saying that the differences between the pre-Aguillard and post-Aguillard versions of “Of Pandas and People” are a mark against the hypothesis that one was derived from the other. Close examination of the nature of the differences, in context, show that that is the furthest thing from the truth.

Here is a non-subscription article about the above-mentioned immunological differences between humans and chimps:

Human T cells respond much more robustly than chimpanzee cells do, a disparity that could be explained by the absence of human T cell Siglecs. The explanation for this human-specific evolutionary loss of Siglecs is currently unknown. The UCSD scientists speculate that this may have been due to a selective pressure by a microbe that once drove human ancestors to require a high level of T cell activation. Another possibility is that this phenotype was secondarily acquired, during the adjustment to the human-specific loss of the sialic acid Neu5Gc some three million years ago, and that the phenotype has been carried by all humans ever since.

The study raises warning flags about the stimulatory and potentially destructive potential of the absence of Siglec molecules in human T cells, compared to chimpanzees and other nonhuman primate counterparts.

This may explain some major differences in susceptibility to certain diseases between humans and great apes. One example is the lack of progression to AIDS in the great majority of chimpanzees infected with HIV virus. It could also account for the rarity of T-cell mediated liver damage, such as chronic active hepatitis, cirrhosis and cancer, following Hepatitis B or C infection in chimpanzees. In addition, several other common human T cell-mediated diseases, including bronchial asthma, rheumatoid arthritis and type 1 diabetes, have, so far, not been reported in chimpanzees or other great apes.

Of course, this is another example where differences in the genome point to common descent:

“The good news is that the loss of this brake system is not permanent, as we still have the Siglec genes in our genomes, and do continue to express them in other blood cell types,”

P.S.

This finding about human T cell Siglecs addresses a point in O’B’s citation that started this discussion:

“The chimpanzee is believed to share [approximately] 98.77% nucleotide and >99% amino acid identity with us. However, there are important biomedical (as well as obvious morphological and cognitive) differences between the two species, which thus far have eluded any molecular explanation within this supposedly 1% diversity range. Among these are our differential handling of a number of infectious agents, e.g., HIV (progression to AIDS), late complications of hepatitis B and C, as well as susceptibility to Plasmodium falciparum, which are of utmost public health importance” (PNAS 7708-7713).

Another gap closed by the progression of science.

P.P.S. On hoary puccoon’s idiocy:

Referring to “important biomedical” differences between chimpanzees and humans, Robert O’Brien mentions “HIV (progression to AIDS).”

Robert, did you not follow the Open Letters thread by Ian Musgrave regarding Abbie Smith’s challenge to Michael Behe? The whole issue was that Smith presented proof that HIV has mutated from SIV. (Simian IV.) There is no particular reason to think a priori that apes and people are very different in their susceptability to AIDS, since humans are being infected by a different virus.

It isn’t O’Brien who “mentioned” human and chimp “differential handling of a number of infectious agents, e.g., HIV (progression to AIDS)”, it was the authors of the PNAS article he cited who mentioned it. I think well-established “differential handling” of HIV by humans and chimps – it progresses to AIDS in humans but not in chimps – is a “particular reason” to think we’re “very different” in our susceptability. Duh.

OK, I think I follow this now. Humans were capable of being hosts to SIV. SIV subsequently mutated to HIV in humans. Chimps are also perfectly capable of contracting HIV. (Which implies that the Simian and Human prefixes apply to where the form originated, rather than which species is susceptible.) So we’re talking about two different viruses here. AND, the HIV form develops to AIDS in humans, but not in chimps, due to immunological differences between the species. So with respect to AIDS, both the virus, and the hosts, have mutated significantly from their prior forms. All of which points strongly to common descent.

Humans were capable of being hosts to SIV. SIV subsequently mutated to HIV in humans. Chimps are also perfectly capable of contracting HIV. (Which implies that the Simian and Human prefixes apply to where the form originated, rather than which species is susceptible.)

As I understand it, SIV doesn’t infect humans, and HIV-1 doesn’t infect chimps (but HIV-2 does). Perhaps the chimp that first infected a human (this apparently happened twice, via bites or dealing with the blood of a butchered chimp) carried a variant of SIV that had already mutated in a way that allowed it to infect humans. That could explain the rarity of the crossover.

All of which points strongly to common descent.

Among many many other lines of evidence.

All of which points strongly to common descent.

Get a load of this.

As I understand it, SIV doesn’t infect humans, and HIV-1 doesn’t infect chimps (but HIV-2 does).

Oops, I read something that said “The monkey SIV strains do not infect humans and HIV-1 does not infect monkeys” and foolishly translated it into a quite different, and wrong, statement.

Flint– I hope you won’t be too affected by Popper’s Ghost’s extreme hostility to me. I have no idea what it’s based on.

Another way I could have made the same point would have been to mention avian flu, which occasionally jumps from birds to people. In that case, it’s obvious that the host organisms are very different, so the ability to crossover must be due to mutations in the infectious agent. So Robert O’Brien’s point isn’t valid because: first, a large difference in susceptability doesn’t necessarily mean a large genetic difference between the host animals. Second, a large difference in susceptability may be due to a different, more virulent strain of the infectious agent in one of the host animals. In neither case would the hypothesis of common descent be threatened, of course.

Flint– I hope you won’t be too affected by Popper’s Ghost’s extreme hostility to me. I have no idea what it’s based on.

I’m pretty sure Flint’s primarily affected by your inability to offer a well reasoned rebuttal.

So Robert O’Brien’s point isn’t valid because: first, a large difference in susceptability doesn’t necessarily mean a large genetic difference between the host animals

That, like your other comments, is irrelevant. O’Brien’s point was that your observations about ERV’s findings are irrelevant to the question of differences in immune responses between humans and chimps, differences that are well documented and were referred to in the PNAS article he cited. His point in this respect is correct.

Second, a large difference in susceptability may be due to a different, more virulent strain of the infectious agent in one of the host animals.

That’s nonsensical; we’re talking about differences in susceptibility to the same virus among different hosts. The basis for that difference is apparently the absence of Siglecs in human T cells, as mentioned above. But you seem to be impervious to evidence, talking instead in vague terms of “doesn’t necessarily mean” and “may be due”.

Popper’s Ghost:

Moreover, I accept Kurt Gödel’s Ontological Argument

I would simply point out that axiom 5 is erroneous – as Russell pointed out, existence is not a property (it would be an odd sort of property that everything has and nothing lacks), and thus neither is necessary existence.

Gödel turned Russell on his head. Existence is indeed a property. (I am not troubled by “negative existentials.”)

Popper’s Ghost: (When we say in mathematics that a solution to some problem necessarily exists, what we mean is that the set of solutions is necessarily non-empty; it’s a statement about the solution set, not about the solution, which we haven’t even identified. All claims about existence can be reformulated as statements about set inclusion – e.g., the set of unicorns is empty).

What do you mean “we”? What mathematics have you done?

Popper’s Ghost:

as well as Leibniz’s Law, which effectively rules out polytheism as a viable option.

Since polytheism posits the existence of gods with different attributes, it isn’t incompatible with Leibniz’s Law (which itself isn’t necessarily true, as O’B’s own reference notes). And if the claim is that Gödel’s argument establishes all the properties of god and thus all gods must be identical (but that claim is false: “If there are as few as 7 independent properties in the original generating set, then we shall be able to establish the existence of 720 distinct ‘God-like’ creatures by the kind of argument which Gödel offers. (The creatures are distinct because each has a different set of essential properties.)”), it must be noted that “intelligent designer” is not a property attributed to god by Gödel’s argument.

First of all, I would like you to explain to the audience how you came up with 6! “distinct ‘God-like’ creatures.” Secondly, if the positivity of the properties does not depend on the object/being possessing them, then we also get uniqueness.

I hope you won’t be too affected by Popper’s Ghost’s extreme hostility to me. I have no idea what it’s based on.

As far as I can see, this is the posture he adopts as a matter of policy and persona. He often makes valid points, but makes a fetish out of belligerant intolerance while doing so.

In this case, fighting past the usual pile of gratuituous insults, I think he’s made a valid point. I imagine plenty of viruses and bacteria (and parasites) are evolving to survive better in humans, all of which has nothing to do with the similarity humans may have to any other critter not involved in this process.

So Robert O’Brien’s point isn’t valid because: first, a large difference in susceptability doesn’t necessarily mean a large genetic difference between the host animals.

Yes, I think O’Brien needs to circumscribe the differences to fit the minimum necessary variation. As has been covered at some length above, significant genetic differences can be highly localized. I understand that O’Brien would like to extrapolate these locales across the entire genome, but that’s not what he said.

Second, a large difference in susceptability may be due to a different, more virulent strain of the infectious agent in one of the host animals.

OK, I don’t understand this either. We’re looking at genetic differences between potential hosts, and how these differences affect relative susceptibilty to agent X. OK, now you’ve modified the strain to X’, but so what? Now we have to compare potential hosts against this new strain, but this strikes me as a new experiment, not necessarily casting any light on the prior experiment.

Popper’s Ghost: As for O’B’s larger “point”:

the differences in immunobiology between apes and humans is a mark against the common descent hypothesis (specific to the alleged common ancestry of apes and humans)

it is of course nonsense. It’s like saying that the differences between the pre-Aguillard and post-Aguillard versions of “Of Pandas and People” are a mark against the hypothesis that one was derived from the other. Close examination of the nature of the differences, in context, show that that is the furthest thing from the truth.

Argument by analogy is known as the weakest form of argumentation for good reason. There is no analogy between an inanimate, lifeless book that was changed by the direct intervention of intelligent agents and the evolution of two mammals that allegedly share a common ancestor.

Argument by analogy is known as the weakest form of argumentation for good reason. There is no analogy between an inanimate, lifeless book that was changed by the direct intervention of intelligent agents and the evolution of two mammals that allegedly share a common ancestor.

leave it to RO to entirely MISS the point of the analogy, which was an analysis of RO’s level of logic by metaphor, and was entirely apt.

yuppers, keep on showin’ us the bottom ‘o that barrel there, RO.

you always provide us with edifyin’ posts, even if they don’t communicate what you intend (er, not that anybody can ever figure what you intend from what you write anyway).

Argument by analogy is known as the weakest form of argumentation for good reason.

No, it’s far weaker to whine about what type of argument something is rather than rebut it.

There is no analogy between an inanimate, lifeless book that was changed by the direct intervention of intelligent agents and the evolution of two mammals that allegedly share a common ancestor.

If there’s no analogy, then I couldn’t have offered one as an argument, weak or not.

leave it to RO to entirely MISS the point of the analogy, which was an analysis of RO’s level of logic by metaphor, and was entirely apt.

Indeed. There are two types of analogical arguments, the weak question begging sort that claims that something true of one thing must be true of some similar thing (when whether the attribute in question is among the similarities is the very thing at issue), and the strong sort that I use, where logic that is obviously valid in one case is applied to a different case. One needs a damned good reason to reject prima facie valid logic, and “that’s different!” won’t do. Really, my analogy barely deserves being called an argument; it’s just an illustration of how bloody stupid O’B’s unargued claim is: the differences in immunobiology between apes and humans is not a mark against the common descent hypothesis; since they are descended with modification, we expect them to be different from the common ancestor and from each other. The only way to judge the differences in regard to common descent is, as I said, close examination of those differences in context. And the fact that the differences in immune response are accounted for by the absence of Siglecs in human T cells, but Siglecs are present in other human cell types, is strongly consistent with common descent – it’s precisely the sort of difference we would expect to see, a limited scope difference that could be the result of a single point mutation in a regulatory gene, rather than an arbitrary design difference reflecting a choice (to give humans but not other simians AIDS, it would seem) by an omnipotent and omniscient being.

As far as I can see, this is the posture he adopts as a matter of policy and persona. He often makes valid points, but makes a fetish out of belligerant intolerance while doing so.

I’ve responded to this sort of nonsense before. I’m usually quite clear as to the nature of my criticism.

In this case, fighting past the usual pile of gratuituous insults

Gratuitous? I noted that hp has a problem with logic; its an empirical observation from errors I’ve pointed out in the past, plus errors pointed out here. And in #136709 I quoted “hp’s idiocy” and explained just why it was idiocy. Rather than admitting to his blatant and foolish errors (like, say, I did in #136727), he launches a pre-emptive ad hominem swipe at you, whining about how you might be swayed by my being so mean to the poor little twit. His intellectual dishonesty is palpable, and it is that of which I am intolerant.

Popper’s Ghost:

You once again prove yourself to be a foul hypocritical asshole.

This claim does not comport with facts observed over a significant period of time. Flint’s contributions have been generally thoughtful and principled during the years I’ve been reading the messages in this forum.

There is no reason for you to launch these inutile phillipics. They are not constructive, neither are they productive of worthwhile discourse.

Put a sock in it, kindly.

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This page contains a single entry by PvM published on November 24, 2007 12:03 AM.

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