Luskin has lost it (on Altenberg)

| 198 Comments | 2 TrackBacks

Our good ol’ buddy Casey Luskin at the Discovery Institute Media Complaints Division has just put up an impressively mistake-strewn story about the “Altenberg 16” meeting in Vienna. In real life, the meeting discussed the possibilities for an “Extended Synthesis” in evolutionary biology which incorporates development, evolvability, complexity theory, etc. into the old “Modern Synthesis” of population genetics. But in the land of cranks & ID/creationists, the Altenberg 16 meeting has become the latest bit of evidence that evolution is a theory in crisis. The primary person who got the crazy-train going was “journalist” Suzan Mazur, who has written a series of stories that mis-portray almost everyone and everything involved and, no matter what her interviewees tell her, end up with the inevitable conclusion that evolution is on its last legs. No one seriously informed would pay attention to this kind of schlock, but ID/creationists will jump on anything with a vestige of credibility (in this case an allegedly serious journalist – is she a freelancer or what?). When meeting organizer Massimo Pigluicci got wind of the misinformation being passed around about the meeting, he wrote a great explanation of what it was actually about and why Mazur et al. were wrong.

Enter Luskin, who for some reason always takes on the unenviable job of defending and then making worse the mistakes of other people in his camp. He devoted an entire post to explaining why Mazur’s second-hand, ill-informed hearsay conspiracy theorizing about the meeting should trump the opinion of Pigliucci, the very guy running it. But Luskin, in classic creationist form, is simply taking a bad source (Mazur), then piling his own mistaken assumptions on top. The result is a conspiracy story which he and all ID followers (who virtually completely lack the spine or gumption to ever double-check their sources, or correct each other even on obvious factual points) will strongly believe, despite the fact that it bears only the vaguest resemblance to what actually happened. (In passing, it is worth noting that this sort of filter-assume-extrapolate-copy-don’t-correct-repeat process explains far more creationist behavior than the “they’re liars!” hypothesis). (E.g., here’s an example of Paul Nelson at Uncommon Descent uncritically passing on Mazur’s silliness.)

Let’s begin. Luskin writes:

Last year Rob Crowther reported on the “Altenberg 16” conference that was planned for Altenberg, Austria. Sixteen leading leading evolutionary scientist – who do not support intelligent design but do have doubts about Darwinism – were to re-evaluate the core claims of neo-Darwinism.

The conference apparently did happen, as scheduled – last week. We still don’t have any report on what took place, but that the topic definitely will continue to prove interesting.

Somehow Luskin, despite linking to Pigliucci’s debunking of the claims that the meeting was undermining “Darwinism” or “Neo-Darwinism” (whatever these terms mean to creationists, which are never the same thing they means in academic discussions, even when, rarely, “Darwinism” specifically is a topic of an academic discussion as opposed to the modern theory of evolution) missed the fact that Pigliucci has posted several detailed reports over the last week of what has been going on at the conference: 1, 2, 3 (and 4 a summary of the meeting by all 16 participants which was put up today, after Luskin’s post I think). Oops.

Luskin continues,

In advance of the conference, one participant, Massimo Pigliucci, tried to downplay the importance,, asserting that there is “not a sign of ‘crisis’” at this conference over neo-Darwinian evolution:

Um – Pigliucci wasn’t just “one participant”, he was the freakin’ chair and (I think) the lead organizer of the dang thing.

Of course no one here has been claiming that any Altenberg attendees support intelligent design (ID). But while the conference participants may not have been talking about ID as an alternative to neo-Darwinism (many of them prefer models of evolution driven by “self-organization” – models that have their own problems), Pigliucci’s comment sure sounds like damage control.

According to Luskin’s conspiracy theory, then, Pigliucci organized and publicized a conference to undermine “Darwinism” and then…tried to hide it? What? Most conspiracy theories at least have the virtue of being self-consistent, can’t we get something better than this?

In fact, according to Suzan Mazur, a journalist experienced in covering evolution who was invited to report on the conference, there is patently politically-motivated damage control taking place. As Mazur shows, the National Center for Science and Education – the Darwinist education lobby – opposed this conference for political reasons. Self-organizational models are rife with potent critiques of neo-Darwinian models of evolution, so they don’t like them:

I decided to ask [Eugenie Scott] some questions since I’d interviewed her colleague [NCSE President] Kevin Padian about the “evolution debate”, and he’d hung up on me. …

…When I introduced myself to Eugenie Scott, who was unfamiliar with my stories on evolution, I asked her what she thought about self-organization and why self-organization was not represented in the books NCSE was promoting?

She responded that people confuse self-organization with Intelligent Design and that is why NCSE has not been supportive.

Pigliucci claims there’s “no crisis” here, but Kevin Padian is hanging up on people and Eugenie Scott claims people will confuse the arguments of conference-attendees with intelligent design.

See that transition occuring? Reality (what people actually said) –> Mazur –> Mazur’s piece –> Luskin –> conspiracy to hide the “crisis.” Since I know the people involved (although I no longer work at NCSE and have not talked to either of them about Mazur, so these are strictly my own opinions), I’m pretty sure what happened. Padian is a busy guy running a paleontology lab and has little patience for reporters who make it evident they are bound and determined to misunderstand and misreport on evolutionary topics, rather than actually try to make an effort to understand what is going on (he will make plenty of time for the latter). Padian got that Mazur was hell-bent on writing an ‘evolution is a theory in crisis’ story, told her that in reality there was no scientific debate over the validity of evolution, and hung up. Genie Scott, on the other hand, possesses a saint-like patience and obviously made an attempt to help Mazur understand that (a) self-organization has nothing to do with ID but (b) the IDists attempt to invoke it, falsely, as “an alternative to Darwinism”, and then slip in ID as another alternative, (c) this sort of trickery is invalid in education or journalism and this is what NCSE opposes. And the idea that NCSE somehow “opposed” the Altenberg meeting, organized by one of NCSE’s own best buddies (Pigliucci) and attended by numerous others, is just silly three times before breakfast.

Mazur may have manipulated the interview into some sort of statement about NCSE “not supporting” the Altenberg meeting or books on self-organization – but there are a near-infinite number of books and meetings on all sorts of technical/academic evolution-related topics. NCSE doesn’t have the money, time, or mission to “support” them all even with website commentary, let alone financially or with staff time. NCSE doesn’t oppose any of these things, obviously. Based on Mazur’s argument, one could make an equally silly argument that NCSE “doesn’t support” statistical phylogenetics – a major academic topic these days. It’s the job of the National Science Foundation and other huge institutions to support research in diverse technical academic subjects; NCSE’s job is simply to support good science education.

Luskin continues:

What is most interesting here is not just Pigliucci’s attempt at damage control, but the NCSE’s knee-jerk reaction against anything that isn’t neo-Darwinian. It seems that the NCSE was indeed quite worried that this conference will do damage to neo-Darwinism. At the very least, this exchange exposes the NCSE’s intolerant attitude towards non-Darwinian thoughts, even when the doubters don’t support ID. Indeed, Mazur’s reports reveal that various scientists she has interviewed at the conference have fundamental doubts about neo-Darwinism, but they are eschewed by the scientific community.

C’mon, Casey, the people at the Altenberg 16 were the friggin academic community! All of them leaders in various evolutionary specialities. And what did they officially conclude at the end of their meeting? Not that evolutionary theory was in crisis, but simply that our understanding is advancing in many areas at once. This statement was signed by all 16:

By incorporating these new results and insights into our understanding of evolution, we believe that the explanatory power of evolutionary theory is greatly expanded within biology and beyond. As is the nature of science, some of the new ideas will stand the test of time, while others will be significantly modified. Nonetheless, there is much justified excitement in evolutionary biology these days. This is a propitious time to engage the scientific community in a vast interdisciplinary effort to further our understanding of how life evolves.

Oh, and Mazur is not “a journalist experienced in covering evolution”, she has come completely out of the blue on evolution reporting, has little idea who or what she is writing about, and her “experience” appears to consist completely of her recent error-strewn stories about Altenberg and related matters.

Luskin sticks in a bit about Stanley Salthe, who had nothing to do with the meeting, and then moves to well-known crank Stuart Pivar:

According to Mazur, the same thing happened to Altenberg 16 participant chemist and engineer Stuart Pivar: “Stuart Pivar has been investigating self-organization in living forms but thinks natural selection is irrelevant – and has paid the price for this on the blogosphere.”

Um, what? Pivar wasn’t part of the Altenberg 16, read the friggin’ list of the 16 right here. And in what way does being a chemist/engineer and former vague associate of Stephen Jay Gould qualify anyone to be a serious commentator on evolution worthy of inclusion in Mazur’s review? (And read PZ Myers’s review of Pivar.)

And let’s break out the tiny little violins for anyone who “pay[s] the price” on the blogosphere. Boo-hoo-hoo, people disagreed Pivar and noted that his “science” was crankery. It’s not the freakin’ Spanish inquisition.

Mazur also reports that Altenberg 16 participant, Rutgers philosopher Jerry Fodor, “essentially argues that biologists increasingly see the central story of Darwin as wrong in a way that can’t be repaired.” Mazur recounts that Michael Ruse condemned Fodor for even printing such thoughts in a mainstream publication – not because of the empirical data, but because of politics: In Ruse’s words, “to write a piece slagging off natural selection in that way, is to give a piece of candy to the creationists.” Apparently Ruse would suggest that scientists banish from their minds—and certainly from their pens—any real doubts about the sufficiency of natural selection, for purely political reasons.

Fodor is another Altenberg attendee that was completely imagined by Luskin. Can someone please inform the guys at the DI that just because one silly journalist mentions Fodor & Pivar in the same article as the Altenberg meeting, that doesn’t mean they were participants?

As for Ruse’s remark, he’s spot on. Unlike many other academic topics, evolution has a set of groupies from an evil parallel universe, i.e. creationists, who sit around 24/7 and yank out any quote, comment, paper, news article, etc., that sounds vaguely anti-evolutionary to them (and they almost universally misunderstand everything they comment on). This could be ignored if creationism was at the ignorable level of many other pseudosciences, but creationism has substantial political clout, and political struggles over legislation, lawsuits, etc. can and will happen again. In that situation, I think, there is some extra duty for academics to make sure they know what they’re talking about and to think about how it will be interpreted or easily misinterpreted by other scientists, journalists, the public, creationists, etc. It’s not an overwhelming duty – obviously an academic’s primary responsibility is to say what they think – but it deserves some consideration. And it is perfectly legitimate to criticize academics like Fodor who ought to know better when they make well-worn, long-debunked mistakes, ignore obvious and important distinctions, and fight subsidiary philosophical battles in the guise of opposing a concept as well-tested and explanatory as natural selection. I.e., “you’re wrong, but not only that your wrongness is being exploited by creationists, which anyone paying attention would have seen coming.”

Well, Pigliucci is certainly doing a good job of “vigorously and positively deny[ing]” all of the challenges to neo-Darwinian theory at this conference. So at least he’s consistent. But in the end, one thing is clear: there are fundamental doubts about neo-Darwinism in the minds of many of the scientists and philosophers who participated at Altenberg 16, and some leading Darwinists desperately wish that those doubts did not exist.

Posted by Casey Luskin on July 16, 2008 2:46 PM

So, according to Luskin, we’re supposed to think that when an (alleged) “leading Darwinist” like Pigliucci organizes and chairs a meeting to explore new areas in evolutionary theory, evolution is in crisis, because a few uninformed non-biologists have said some clueless/cranky things. Except they weren’t even at the meeting, and the actual participants of the actual meeting have denied the very conclusions which Luskin draws.

That’s ID/creationism for you: equal parts cluelessness, wishful thinking, copying other people’s mistakes, relying on unauthoritative sources that say what the creationist wants to hear, inventing new mistakes by assumption, all pasted together with a thick glue of wishful thinking and unshakeable faith in the rectitude of one’s facts & opinions.

Note to creationists: why don’t you ever double-check anything? Heck, even us partisans on the other side double-check each other. For example, I think us evolutionary scientists tend to create problems for ourselves in certain ways, e.g. research findings, meetings, science journalism, press releases, etc. far too often state or imply that whatever we are working on is “revolutionary”, “overturning long-held ideas”, etc. An awful lot of this is just hype and exaggeration. It is not a problem in evolution specifically, but science generally, because everyone is competing for funding, attention in the press and public, etc. The problem is probably unfixable, but we should at least be aware that it goes on and is a small but not tiny part of what keeps creationism and other forms of crankery psychologically viable. (I’m not saying this happened with the Altenberg meeting, I haven’t investigated the original announcements etc.)

2 TrackBacks

Massimo Pigliucci has posted the notes, parts 1, 2, and 3, from the Altenberg meeting that was unfortunately over-hyped by the creationist crowd (no blame for that attaches to the organizers of this meeting). It sounds like it was... Read More

Stuff from the Science Blogosphere from Journey through a Burning Mind on July 23, 2008 10:57 AM

So, what do we have this week? A focus on the wars between science, reason, and rationality against creationism, lunacy, and arrogant ignorance. A very creative “demonstration” of how random mutations along with selection pressure make evol... Read More

198 Comments

The real irony here is that there really are plenty of credible new ideas about evolution that are floating around. Thing is, they are on the other side of NeoDarwinism from I.D. For example, Stuart Kaufman’s order-for-nothing bit is even more alien to traditional natural theology than the original version of natural selection ever was. The ship is leaving the shore, sailing further and further away from common sense, Plato, and Genesis into realms that are all the more mysterious for having nothing in common with the banal mysteries of religion. Meanwhile Luskin et. al. have to don floaties before they can summon up the courage to dip their feet in three inches of water.

It’s…the imminent demise of evolution!

http://chem.tufts.edu/AnswersInScie[…]/demise.html

Hat tip to Patrick Henry (http://sensuouscurmudgeon.wordpress[…]f-evolution/)

People have been predicting the imminent demise of evolution for 150 years. A stopped clock is right twice a day but that particular error of mistaking wishes for reality hasn’t been right yet.

The same group has been predicting the end of the world for 2,000 years with the same track record.

That’s ID/creationism for you: equal parts cluelessness, wishful thinking, copying other people’s mistakes, relying on unauthoritative sources that say what the creationist wants to hear, inventing new mistakes by assumption, all pasted together with a thick glue of wishful thinking and unshakeable faith in the rectitude of one’s facts & opinions.

This is exactly how they work with their “religion”; and they carry these habits over to discussing science. So it is not surprising that they can make no progress in either. Hence, they turn to political force and other forms of bullying and burning at the stake.

What was that great quote from Wes Elsberry again? “If a creationist tells you the sky is blue, go outside and check.” So fitting.

Give our buddy Casey a break, will ya? He DID get a perfect score on his APGAR test after all…

Why? WHY ARE PEOPLE THIS STUPID?!?!

“Our good ol’ buddy Casey Luskin” reminds me of “Little Buddy” Gilligan. But then, Casey Luskin himself reminds me of Gilligan…

That’s ID/creationism for you: equal parts cluelessness, wishful thinking, copying other people’s mistakes, relying on unauthoritative sources that say what the creationist wants to hear, inventing new mistakes by assumption, all pasted together with a thick glue of wishful thinking and unshakeable faith in the rectitude of one’s facts & opinions.

This is exactly how they work with their “religion”; and they carry these habits over to discussing science.

Exactly so. Nick has produced a wonderful description of the Religious Method.

“Our good ol’ buddy Casey Luskin” reminds me of “Little Buddy” Gilligan. But then, Casey Luskin himself reminds me of Gilligan…

I dunno about that comparison - Gilligan didn’t go around implying that the Professor didn’t know squat about his subject.

Henry

Casey Luskin has shown over and over again that he is a pimp. Nothing more. He has nothing to offer science. His purpose in life is to lie for his masters, who are dominionist christians who would love to have the police at your door on Sunday morning asking why you aren’t in church. Their church, by the way.

I used to think that Luskin was just like Gilligan, but he’s not stupid like Gilligan. He knows his audience. He knows how to quote mine, lie, misrepresent, and purposefully mangle.

It’s important to show over and over again how the DI’s lackeys, like our little buddy Luskin, are working to undermine science education, and therefore science and reason, in our society.

Give your support to the NCSE, Nick Matzke, and all who work so tirelessly to beat back the dark ages that Luskin and his masters want to foist on us.

Well, there is one correct item there:

The misreporting of the evolution issue is one key reason for this site.

Sorry, I know you’ve all seen that before, but it gets me every time I visit that site.

I am reminded of the dilemma faced by small airplane companies like Cesna a number of years ago. Liability lawyers were able to construe any improvement made to the planes as an admission that there was something wrong with any previous plane that had crashed, and file the obligatory lawsuit. It almost brought innovation to a complete halt, as company lawyers had to review any proposed improvements.

Nice write up. Luskin is mighty good with that footgun isn’t he ?

I do have a nitpick

Most conspiracy theories at least have the virtue of being self-consistent, can’t we get something better than this?

My experience is that most conspiracy theories are not self consistent. Try getting a moon hoaxer or a 9/11 “truther” to give a coherent account of what they think actually happened. They tend to spend their time simply regurgitating a collection of largely unconnected complaints about the mainstream account, not putting forward a consistent theory of their own.

It’s hard not to see a certain similarity to the ID movement.

On a minor tangential point, which I wouldn’t bother with had I not seen it three times on blogs this week: you might like to try writing posts with a programme that doesn’t do things like turning a c within brackets into a copyright symbol.

Yeah that copyright symbol thing is really annoying, it seems to be a feature of many programs e.g. Movable Type, Word, etc. It must be popular with business customers or something, in more academic writing it is just annoying.

It’s easy to write (c) instead of (c) just use “(c<b/>)” or “(&#99;)”.

if the problem originates in Word, the easiest solution is to remove the autocorrection rule

It’s easier to get rid of the copyright symbol shuffle, by eliminating it from the auto-correction dialog box under “Tools” in your Word program (or something similar in other programs, no doubt). When still needed occasionally, it can be inserted simply through the Symbol… facility.

I’m so grateful that the dissident voice of the Altenberg 16 hasn’t been quenched, but that I can access the original results. Apparently the censorial apparatus of the anarcho-atheist-communist science Machine hasn’t yet a firm grasp on the innards of the web.

IT’S A FRAKKIN’ WORKSHOP!

Other workshops are: - 7th EANA Workshop on Astrobiology:

The workshop will address all the main topics of astrobiology:
* Interstellar chemistry
* Chemical evolution
* Early Earth and Mars
* Origins of life
* Life during the Archean
* The limits of life - Extremophiles
* Search for life in the Solar System
* Exoplanets
* Habitability
* Biomarkers
* Education and public outreach

Hold the presses, another attempt of attacking neo-darwinian orthodoxy by discussing abiogenesis and habitability. Everyone knows that the habitability of Earth is 1 - but elsewhere there is dissent.

- CDSAGENDA V.5 Workshop on Cosmology and Strings

In recent years there has been an impressive improvement in Cosmological observations. Cosmology is developing into one of the most promising testgrounds for String Theory. The workshop will focus on this fruitful interface. The topics to be discussed will include:

* Inflation in string theory

* Landscape of vacua

* Cosmic strings

* String inspired alternatives to inflation

* Cosmological solutions in string theory

* Cosmological data VS string theory

* Future experimental observations

The main idea of the workshop is to highlight important new developments and problems and to stimulate discussion of these through a small number of daily talks and discussion sessions.

Hold the presses, another attempt of attacking neo-theoretical physics orthodoxy by discussing cosmology and string theory. Everyone knows that string theory is not yet an alternative for everyday physics - but elsewhere there is dissent.

… and so on, and so forth.

many of them prefer models of evolution driven by “self-organization” – models that have their own problems

I will think of those problems while my body assembles folded proteins, lipid layers, and coordinates my raised eyes, as well as next time I fire up the DVD laser.

Phase transitions, spontaneous symmetry breaking, crystallization, superconductivity and percolation thrives well in physics. What has Luskin against old and new physics?

Reed A. Cartwright said:

It’s easy to write (c) instead of (c) just use “(c<b/>)” or “(&#99;)”.

Or “(1<b/>)“st for 1st instead of 1st?

I think the point is that the raw text is what is usually intended. And furthermore markup is intended to be optional instead of enforced.

It is an example of where doing less is more IMO.

Torbjörn Larsson, OM said:

And furthermore markup is intended to be optional instead of enforced.

An exception is of course the quote function - and may I add that PT’s version kicks ass? I didn’t have to modify anything of markup in the raw code extraction that the quoting above gave me. W00t!

Nick Matzke Wrote:

No one seriously informed would pay attention to this kind of schlock…

Unfortunately the great majority of people is not “seriously informed,” and gets its evolution “education” almost exclusively from that “kind” of schlock. And that includes most non-biological scientists, including me in my first ~20 years as a chemist.

Noting that the “Extended Synthesis” incorporates complexity theory, I wonder how many people know that the DI tried to have it both ways with Stuart Kauffman (a “Darwinist” and a “fellow dissenter”) until he made it clear that he wanted no part of ID?

Nick Matzke Wrote:

Mazur may have manipulated the interview into some sort of statement about NCSE “not supporting” the Altenberg meeting or books on self-organization…

Ironically, a few months after I bought Kauffman’s “The Origins of Order” (in 2000) I saw it offered at NSCE - at less than half what I paid. :-(

This was my favorite quotation from the link James F provided:

“Today, at the dawn of the new century, nothing is more certain than that Darwinism has lost its prestige among men of science. It has seen its day and will soon be reckoned a thing of the past.” – 1904

It is not important to check your sources and do some research before writing a news article. It would be assumed that this is what journalism is all about. It is quite interesting that Casey Luskin is suppose to be reporting on the misinformation found in the news about the theory of evolution.

I had read Suzan Mazur’s article earlier, and it seem that she clearly did not understand the topic that she was writing about. It is hard to understand why someone would use such an unreliable sources, unless the have an agenda.

This was my favorite quotation from the link James F provided:

Yep. In the world of religion, things only come true by saying they’re true and sincerely believing it. Creationists have applied this method, absolutely foolproof in the world of religion, to evolution for centuries without the slightest influence either on evolution (which continues stronger than ever) or on creationists (who do the same thing). Both sides win!

What did you expect? Luskin is a lawyer. Lawyers aren’t paid to find an accurate description of reality, they’re paid to win. Reality is irrelevant.

FastEddie said:

This was my favorite quotation from the link James F provided:

“Today, at the dawn of the new century, nothing is more certain than that Darwinism has lost its prestige among men of science. It has seen its day and will soon be reckoned a thing of the past.” – 1904

I get the impression not all are familiar with the works of Glenn Morton? I’m a fan myself.

That item is a more interesting read if you realize that Glenn was once a “card-carrying member of the Institute for Creation Research.” Oh jeez, now he has to update it.

I looked up a picture of Glenn one time. Looks just like the easy-going pleasant Christian fellow he sounds like he is in his writings.

White Rabbit (Greg Goebel) http://www.vectorsite.net/gblog.html

Dear Anthony,

Alas, this is well stated:

Anthony said:

It is not important to check your sources and do some research before writing a news article. It would be assumed that this is what journalism is all about. It is quite interesting that Casey Luskin is suppose to be reporting on the misinformation found in the news about the theory of evolution.

I had read Suzan Mazur’s article earlier, and it seem that she clearly did not understand the topic that she was writing about. It is hard to understand why someone would use such an unreliable sources, unless the have an agenda.

I met Susan Mazur at the Rockefeller University evolution symposium back in early May, and immediately, I realized that she had “an agenda”, judging from the hostile line of questioning she was pursuing with evolutionary geneticist Jerry Coyne after his talk on Thursday night, trying to persuade him that evolutionary theory was in a “state of crisis”. Afterwards I e-mailed her twice, urging her to be wary of the favorable comments she’s been receiving from the likes of Denyse O’Leary, among others. Much to my disappointment, she has ignored both e-mails.

While I don’t wish to be placed in the position of defending her, I shall note only that I became aware of her work after she wrote an article praising some of the recent work done by a prominent - if controversial - Metropolitan Museum of Art archaeologist I know (whom, I might add, is a fellow alumnus of my high school, and may be better known to some of my fellow college alumni as a long-time visitor to our undergraduate alma mater, lecturing on Middle Eastern archaeology there). To put it succinctly, when Ms. Mazur chooses to do so, she can write effectively and persuasively, with almost the same breadth of knowledge and clarity of thought shown by, for example, Carl Zimmer. Unfortunately, with respect to contemporary evolutionary theory, Ms. Mazur seems interested only in pursuing a bizarre agenda that’s won her the respect of Denyse O’Leary, Casey Luskin and their fellow Discovery Institute mendacious intellectual pornographers.

Sadly, I must conclude that with a friend like Susan Mazur, then who needs enemies?

Appreciatively yours,

John

A late reply:

Mike Elzinga said:

The main justification for such an approach seems to be, in my opinion, to have gained some experience with these kinds of models and leave open the possibility that the more bottom up approaches (those that use the chemistry and physics and also what we have learned from Darwin and natural selection on living systems) will fall under one of these sets of rules.

Thanks for your in depth analysis; and I believe we have very much the same opinion on this.

Mike Elzinga said:

In fact, we want just such a system in science as the systems these research questions are attempting to understand.

Yes; and I believe that is in the next chapter of “The Quark and the Jaguar”. :-P

Yes Bjoern, deterministic processes/forces are provable (at least in theory, and often to many decimal places), whereas randomness obviously isn’t, in theory or otherwise. It’s not “evidence [that] points to QM processes indeed being random,” it’s merely belief and/or ignorance.

And yes Bjoern, non-locality is essentially incompatible with relativity, regardless of whatever your preconceived notions are on the issue. I referenced Wiki only for those like you, obviously having a rather shallow understanding of the subject, but apparently Wiki hasn’t helped you much. Oh well.

Glad to see that iMl8 explained the obvious to Bjoern, that Darwinian evolution is indeed undirected.

olegt said:

But there’s another good reason to prefer Einstein’s special relativity to Lorentz’s: by dispensing with the absoluteness of time and space it prepared the ground for general relativity. I doubt that GR could ever come out of Lorentz’s relativity. It was too conventional, a crutch rather than a wing.

So yes, one can stick with hidden variables, but that’s a dead end.

Yes. I have been thinking about that, but aren’t really well versed in this physics beyond basic QM. But perhaps the point that classical mechanics action principle works analogously for QM in the path integral formulation is supporting this?

That formulation makes all pertinent variables explicit as a basis for the system histories used - presumably not making place for hidden ones as I understand it.

[And it also makes the earlier discussed stochasticity explicit.]

And the path integral formulation was useful when quantum field theory was developed, I believe.

Bjoern said:

But non-local hidden variable theories contradict Special Relativity (information can’t travel faster than light), and hence there isn’t a big chance that they are right.

IIRC there are papers in the arxiv that makes that assumption explicit and shows that gauge theories then are unstable in the usual causal light cone.

Sort of a lose-lose proposal there, from our troll.

Bjoern said:

and probabilities are little more than an attempt to quantify our ignorance.

Hint: this is also an “unprovable” claim. But in contrast to the claim that QM processes are random, that claim of yours goes against the evidence…

Ah, our scientifically uninformed troll is an avid fan of subjective bayesianism, the philosophical evil twin to science use of objective bayesianism. (Say when proposing phylogenetic trees for testing.)

Meanwhile it is ensemble probabilities that are doing the heavy lifting in science. And they are explicitly an quantification of our knowledge of a system.

I would say trolling is an attempt of quantifying someones ignorance. But the above mistake from our troll is so basic so I will write it down to pure stupidity.

bigbang said:

Although non-locality might appear to be incompatible with relativity, it nevertheless emerges in entanglement and has been demonstrated experimentally. Look it up in Wiki. Again, regarding hidden-variables, non-local hidden-variable theories simply are not ruled out.

The non-locality of quantum entanglement is a mathematical artifact. It applies to the quantum wave function, which is a bookkeeping device and not a physical observable. By performing a measurement on one particle in an entangled pair you instantaneously change the wave function of the other; however, an observer examining the other particle will not be able to tell whether you performed the measurement. It means no observable action at a distance and hence no violation of causality.

Hidden variables as a physical concept died as soon as they were shown to be nonlocal. If such objects existed in the real world, they would violate causality. So they’re up there with the gremlins, the tooth fairy and the dude that planted the fossils to make the Earth look old.

Lastly, science isn’t in the business of proving that something does not exist. For instance, you can’t prove the nonexistence of the aether: Lorentz’s theory gives the same predictions as special relativity. Prior to Einstein, the aether was a kludge that had to be used because there was no other way. Einstein showed that the aether was unnecessary, the aether died. Hidden variables followed the same trend. They were introduced by de Broglie to save determinism. Further developments (quantum entanglement) showed that the cure was worse than the disease: determinism was saved at the expense of locality and causality. That was too high a price, so physicists kept causality and threw away determinism. Some people don’t like it—too bad.

Torbjörn Larsson Wrote:

I would say trolling is an attempt of quantifying someones ignorance.

I would judge (especially from his last comment) that he is a sassy little shit ignoramus who is just baiting people to argue with him. I’m sitting here enjoying all his misconceptions. I don’t give a crap what he claims about his beliefs; it appears he gets most of his ideas, misconceptions, and tactics from the ID/Creationists.

Mike Elzinga said:

I don’t give a crap what he claims about his beliefs; it appears he gets most of his ideas, misconceptions, and tactics from the ID/Creationists.

I am a bit puzzled anyone takes him seriously. I try to read his stuff and all I see in it is “jamming”, throwing out noise and nonsense in order to sow confusion. There’s so little substance there that it hardly registers.

White Rabbit (Greg Goebel) http://www.vectorsite.net/tadarwin.html

Hi Everyone,

I see Suzan Mazur hasn’t replied yet to my e-mail. It’s a pity for someone who claims to be as “credible” a scientific journalist as she contends. If I was her, then I’d be more than a bit concerned that Discovery Institute mendacious intellectual pornographer Casey Luskin and Canadian mendacious intellectual pornographer Denyse O’Leary have taken great - and favorable - interest in her coverage of the recent evolutionary biology conference at Altenberg, Austria.

If, as Mazur contends, that evolutionary biology doesn’t have a viable scientific theory yet, then how does she account for this elegant evo-devo study which provides rather robust genetic support for homology with respect to the vertebral column:

http://pandasthumb.org/archives/200[…]tml#comments

Assuming that she is still reading comments here, I strongly encourage her to try emulating more her “colleagues” Cornelia Dean and Carl Zimmer by doing her “homework” - which both Dean and Zimmer do - with respect to evolutionary biology, instead of writing additional questionable journalism that runs the risk of being exploited by the likes of Luskin, O’Leary and others of their rather pathetic, quite noxious, ilk.

Otherwise, if Mazur isn’t careful, she could become the Discovery Institute’s latest “Tokyo Rose”.

Regards,

John (aka “Jekyll and Hyde of Paleobiology” courtesy of Uncommon Dissent IDiot Borg drone DaveScot Springer)

tguy said:

RE: ROCKEFELLER UNIVERSITY EVOLUTION SYMPOSIUM

After reading that I’d have to say Mazur is the Perez Hilton of evolutionary biology. (Not its Nader, then again “nadir” would be the right general direction.)

I should have indicated that the “Ralph Nader of the Evolution Industry” was written tongue in cheek. Based on something she wrote, I got the impression she was out to expose what she chose to name the “Evolution Industry” like it was another tobacco or sugar industry.

If someone are making big money on evolutionary research; if the ToE is more about money that about science, please let us know.

The fault is entirely mine. I should have commended your turn of phrase before adding my own twist on it. I do find her unusually gossipy and focused on wardrobe for a reporter covering science.

John Kwok said:

Did you have to remind me of this?

Sorry if I was a little off the topic. (I always wondered with my talent for putting foot in mouth if I could join the circus, but it turns out everybody can do this.)

Is anyone else getting the idea that Susan Mazur has decided scamming Sunday school children out of their dimes and quarters pays a lot better than free-lance science journalism? I expect to hear that she’s been appointed a Discovery Institute fellow any day, now.

The irony is that evolutionary theory is going through an especially exciting time right now, as the theory is worked out at the molecular level. (As John Kwok pointed out, PZ Myer’s current post is one good example.)

What kind of journalist instincts must Mazur have, to ignore what promises to be one of the greatest science stories of the 21st century and to focus instead on a venal fraud about a crisis that doesn’t exist?

(Yes, I do recognize this is flaming Mazur. But it’s pretty obvious at this point that she’s got it coming.)

Dear hoary puccoon,

Am starting to feel more than a bit cynical towards Suzan Mazur and your recent post expresses exactly my sentiment towards her:

hoary puccoon said:

Is anyone else getting the idea that Susan Mazur has decided scamming Sunday school children out of their dimes and quarters pays a lot better than free-lance science journalism? I expect to hear that she’s been appointed a Discovery Institute fellow any day, now.

The irony is that evolutionary theory is going through an especially exciting time right now, as the theory is worked out at the molecular level. (As John Kwok pointed out, PZ Myer’s current post is one good example.)

What kind of journalist instincts must Mazur have, to ignore what promises to be one of the greatest science stories of the 21st century and to focus instead on a venal fraud about a crisis that doesn’t exist?

(Yes, I do recognize this is flaming Mazur. But it’s pretty obvious at this point that she’s got it coming.)

I find it rather odd that she’s more worked up about a prominent Mormon scientist being a major supporter of NCSE than the fact that she’s giving ample emotional and intellectual aid to the likes of Luskin and O’Leary by writing polemical pieces online pretending to be “scientific journalism”. Again, I urge her to emulate the excellence demonstrated by the likes of such eminent scientific journalists as Cornelia Dean and Carl Zimmer if she wishes to write further on evolutionary biology.

Appreciatively yours,

John

Can anyone name one ‘success’ of evolutionary theory? The theory is not deductive, but is instead based upon categorization and taxonomy. It does not propose a deductively-arrived-at test, but instead the arrangement of data. Mazur’s point was not that it is in crisis so much as there seems to be an increasing number of biological phenomena it cannot explain, as understood so far - that it needs to be supplemented.

The genetic synthesis, with its Central Dogma of Biology, is on all fours with scientology in that both require narrow understanding of catechetical arguments lacking in predictive value. Darwin doesn’t stop with molecular biology, but must be extended to include the role of energy and metabolism in evolution. Progress in this area is stifled by widely accepted but scientifically unsound ideas of biological energy as involving more than redox coupling, as including some strange animal called chemiosmosis that depends upon the naive confabulation of ‘ion currents’ and ‘proton motive forces’. In the world of physics there are no such things. Their existence is posited only in the life sciences, and the theoretical justification for this bit of insularity dates to the 1902 hypothesis of Julius Bernstein invoking the 1888 Nernst equation to account for membrane voltages - voltages not detectable for almost another 40 years. In a gross violation of logic, the detection of those voltages was taken as corroboration of the hypothesized reason for them, an ion concentration gradient.

At Harvard’s Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology (DOEB) we find the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics, headed by Martin Nowak. Nowak published a book, Evolutionary Dynamics, in 2006, on the subject - an attempt to put evolution in mathematical form. The book does not have a single equation dealing with metabolism. It is all about the RNA/DNA world. Yet in the DOEB we find Lloyd Demetrius, a mathematical biologist who tinered with Kleiber’s Law so that it would relate metabolic rate to availability of energy sources. His equation is elegant, and models how evolution, and the origins of life, is primarily about energy, and only secondarily about genetics. Furthermore, the equation models the forces and pressures behind biological organization, from small to large. The equation is essentially about the recharge rate of organic biomass’s covalent bonds through redox coupling. The equation explains aging, and the metabolic role of ‘junk’ DNA. The equation relates reproduction to food availability, and answers the question of those in the origins of life field as to which came first, metabolism or replication. The equation shows that the two are inseparable, with replication occurring as alteration in size of biomass from perturbations in metabolic rate contingent upon changes in redox coupling efficiency. The idea biology is just too complex for physics is on a par with the belief that humans could not have evolved from monkeys.

Surely this is not a crisis for evolutionary theory. But it makes the modern synthesis appear naive in its stress on genetics. What it defines is the energetic parameters within which all genetic change must be limited if the organism is to survive and reproduce and grow and develop. What Mazur has done is turn over a stone and reveal to any who would introduce this take on the origins and evolution of life, what kind of snobs and mouth-breathing booger-eaters to expect, people who would resist any changes to doctrines which so far, have not really had a single success in the sense of a severe, deductive prediction about novel, undiscovered facts that can be tested for in a laboratory. The mathematical, physico-chemical approach provides for this. In doing so it demonstrates that the electrochemical forces and thermodynamic pressures necessary for life’s origins are still calling the tune in life’s functioning, with genetics playing second fiddle.

Gregorio said:

The genetic synthesis, with its Central Dogma of Biology, is on all fours with scientology in that both require narrow understanding of catechetical arguments lacking in predictive value.

Just to quibble, if only because it’s an incredibly fatal detail, but, Scientology is not a science, and never was a science. It’s a fake religion/mystery cult created by a science-fiction hack who had a phobia of psychologists so he could make money. To compare Evolutionary Biology, or Genetics to Scientology is tantamount to decide whether or not oranges are better than Catholicism on the basis of flaky pastry.

I think I was pretty clear in specifying how the two are similar. How is this an incredibly fatal detail? How is it fatal? How is it incredible? Did you understand what I said?

You say scientology never was a science, and you imply that evolution is. You don’t specify what qualifies a system of beliefs as a science. Ernst Mayr, in his 1982 The Growth of Biological Thought, specifies what he thinks a science is, and what the goals of science are. He has the effrontery to claim that Darwin, Mendel, Bernard and Freud did more to change our world view than any physicist. He cites hypothetico-deductivism as the method of science, even though this is not, as I specify above, the method of biology, and, in fact, with regard to key issues life scientists have repeatedly violated the laws of hypothetico-deductive logic. One of these involves the flight-fight model of nervous function, the idea, proven wrong in 1926 at the Mayo Clinic but believed still, is that the nerves can trigger vasoconstriction.

Mayr writes, “A fundamental difference between religion and science, then, is that religion usually consists of a set of dogmas, often ‘revealed’dogmas, to which there is no alternative nor much leeway in interpretation. In science by contrast, there is virtually a premium on alternative explanations and a readiness to replace one theory by another.” He says nothing about Crick’s Central Dogma of Biology, or the resistance put up by the people at this cite not to the idea, but to the messenger, that the modern synthesis has been found to be increasingly incomplete with the discovery of new biological phenomena. Q.E.D., the theory’s most ardent defenders fit into Mayr’s category of religion. I have seen the claim made again and again by people like yourself that biology is too complex for physics, and Mayr even makes this claim, saying it should not be held to the standards of a philosophy of science based upon what he calls the ‘hard’ sciences, i.e., the ones based upon hypothetico-deductive logic.

Not to mention appeals to the great God-of-the-Gaps (by His other, less incriminating Names) :-)

Mike Elzinga said:

That’s ID/creationism for you: equal parts cluelessness, wishful thinking, copying other people’s mistakes, relying on unauthoritative sources that say what the creationist wants to hear, inventing new mistakes by assumption, all pasted together with a thick glue of wishful thinking and unshakeable faith in the rectitude of one’s facts & opinions.

This is exactly how they work with their “religion”; and they carry these habits over to discussing science. So it is not surprising that they can make no progress in either. Hence, they turn to political force and other forms of bullying and burning at the stake.

I couldn’t resist myself commenting to this one. I am shocked.From where you people get so much info and knowledge. It’s just truly worth the read.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Nick Matzke published on July 16, 2008 11:11 PM.

NatGeo Tweaks ID ‘Just For The Halibut’ was the previous entry in this blog.

Creationist Research: Semi-Technical, Completely Worthless is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Categories

Archives

Author Archives

Powered by Movable Type 4.381

Site Meter