Mark C. Chu-Carroll critiques Dembski’s Latest

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William Dembski and Robert Marks have written a paper. No it won’t be going in the peer reviewed literature, but into another of Dembski’s anthologies. Mark C. Chu-Carroll of Good Math, Bad Math explains what is mind-bogglingly wrong with it here and here.

113 Comments

From the point of view of Dembski’s previous works, it is not the issue of where the information comes from that matters. Dembski had claimed to have theorems (his Law of Conservation of Complex Specified Information and his No Free Lunch argument) that made it impossible that the many adaptations in life were put there by natural selection. As I and many others before me have explained the first of these arguments is wrong, and the second fails if the fitness surface is not a highly-rugged “needle-in-a-haystack” form.

Dembski and Marks now argue that it takes information to choose a fitness surface that is not rugged. Therefore, they argue, the information had to be pre-existing, and could not arise by natural selection. However they do say that they are not denying the effectiveness of natural selection (at least, not in this article). So we are left with natural selection as the agency bringing about the adaptations! If that is their current position, it amounts to giving up on the Law of Conservation of CSI and giving up on the No Free Lunch argument. It leaves them with a Designer who operates by setting up a universe amenable to the effectiveness of natural selection! They are saying that the information must be pre-existing, encoded in the fitness surface, but they do not have any objection to natural selection being the mechanism putting the adaptations into the organisms. At least not in this new argument of theirs. May we welcome them to our side of that argument?

Obfuscatory math makes Baby Jesus cry.

Joe that made my brain hurt.

Are they now claiming (clandestinely of course) Divine Intervention, not in mutation/adaptation/selection, but in environment? Is that just me reading “landscape” too literally, or is that really what they’re hinting??

How can a fitness surface be ‘chosen’? Isn’t it contingent on complex history like everything else?

Joe Felsenstein said:

They are saying that the information must be pre-existing, encoded in the fitness surface, but they do not have any objection to natural selection being the mechanism putting the adaptations into the organisms. At least not in this new argument of theirs. May we welcome them to our side of that argument?

Dembski (http://www.uncommondescent.com/evol[…]mment-316221):

This paper was written under the supposition that common descent holds and that natural selection is the principal mechanism behind it. Writing under a supposition does not mean accepting it. My own views of the truth of the matter are clearly spelled out in THE DESIGN OF LIFE (http://www.thedesignoflife.com). In particular, I think that irreducible complexity at the molecular level (especially in the origin of DNA and protein synthesis) provides compelling evidence for discontinuity in the history of life.

emphasis in original

There are many simple examples from physics that illustrate the problems with Dembski’s approach and his attempts to define “information.” I have sometimes used dendritic growth as an example.

Another example can come from percolation. Water seeps into sand, and as it percolates, it encounters some particles that are soluble. Some of these dissolve and the insoluble particles surrounding them collapse into a somewhat different arrangement as the water continues to percolate.

Now freeze-frame for a moment.

Why would anyone assign those particular percolating paths and branching patterns some particular probability? What would be special about this configuration compared with the billions of other possibilities that could occur? What “information” is contained in this freeze-frame? It is a branching set of paths that result in water progressing through the sand, adapting to the “changing landscape” as it goes. What is special about it?

Yet this appears to be precisely what Dembski and his cohorts are doing when they attempt to assign some probability to and read “information” into a particular evolutionary outcome. It is Dembski who is reading “target” into every outcome.

There is no target. What falls out is what worked. Do it again and something different will fall out that also “works.” How does one justify assigning a probability or some notion of “information” to a particular outcome? Who gets to decide? Spiders might like something different from dolphins, which in turn, would prefer something different from algae.

Don’t these IDiots ever catch on that the millions of living organisms that exist on this planet along with the many millions more that have existed in the history of this planet are telling them that lots of workable things fall out in the course of evolution? Rerun the “experiment” and an entirely different workable history results. Which history and which “dendrites” are special?

paragwinn said:

Joe Felsenstein said:

They are saying that the information must be pre-existing, encoded in the fitness surface, but they do not have any objection to natural selection being the mechanism putting the adaptations into the organisms. At least not in this new argument of theirs. May we welcome them to our side of that argument?

Dembski (http://www.uncommondescent.com/evol[…]mment-316221):

This paper was written under the supposition that common descent holds and that natural selection is the principal mechanism behind it. Writing under a supposition does not mean accepting it. My own views of the truth of the matter are clearly spelled out in THE DESIGN OF LIFE (http://www.thedesignoflife.com). In particular, I think that irreducible complexity at the molecular level (especially in the origin of DNA and protein synthesis) provides compelling evidence for discontinuity in the history of life.

emphasis in original

Well at least he’s down to the molecular level now. I guess they gave up on the “systems”. He used to like to say “systems” a lot. Now the compelling evidence for discontinuity in the history of life is down to the molecular level. And getting more compelling all the time, I’m sure.

Dembski and Marks now argue that it takes information to choose a fitness surface that is not rugged. Therefore, they argue, the information had to be pre-existing, and could not arise by natural selection.

but…

fitness spaces are not determined solely by physical environments. Moreover, the physical environments themselves are often influenced by previous selection events on the organisms that inhabit them.

to assume one can construct a realistic fitness model to begin with in any kind of active, natural environment is wishful thinking at best.

the “information” that Dembski and Marks are lacking is simply the fact that they don’t know fuck all about how organisms interact, and so couldn’t construct an even remotely realistic model.

This is the problem with extrapolating from simple models to the real world; the results can generate interesting directions to explore, or they can be so disconnected from reality as to be beyond useless.

the whole exercise is beyond wankery.

Another way to look at what Dembski and Marks contend that they have done is to assume that there’s an equal possibility that, via their “usage” of NFL theorems, then all potential space in a given field of potential morphospace can be occupied. However, as we know well from anatomical and paleobiological data, that’s not exactly how living things evolve. For example, if you look at the fish to tetrapod transition, there are several different taxa that have varying permutations on the basic “body plan” for front and rear limbs, with as many as approximately 8 digits before they are “standardized” into five. Maybe we might have been better off with more than five digits, but that’s what all post-Devonian tetrapods have.

Mike Elzinga said: Don’t these IDiots ever catch on that the millions of living organisms that exist on this planet along with the many millions more that have existed in the history of this planet are telling them that lots of workable things fall out in the course of evolution? Rerun the “experiment” and an entirely different workable history results. Which history and which “dendrites” are special?

I think they catch on, alright. But it’s an obfuscation game. It’s not about what’s empirically, naturalistically true. The whole premise of these cracked actors is that science decoupled from the godhead is evil, and therefore all means to kneecap it is justified. If your cause is righteous, it’s OK to obfuscate and lie.

Unfortunately for ID in general and Dembski in particular, the jig is up. And in the void created by ID’s now-painfully-obvious lack of any real scientific theory, mechanism, or methodology, we have the cracked actors living in a perpetual ideological feedback loop: write the same debunked paper…over and over…til Kingdom Come.

jfx said: Unfortunately for ID in general and Dembski in particular, the jig is up. And in the void created by ID’s now-painfully-obvious lack of any real scientific theory, mechanism, or methodology, we have the cracked actors living in a perpetual ideological feedback loop: write the same debunked paper…over and over…til Kingdom Come.

Given that the other two papers by Dembski and Marks are slated to appear in the International Journal of Fun and Games, looks like the trend will continue.

fnxtr said:

Joe that made my brain hurt.

Sorry if I wasn’t clear.

Are they now claiming (clandestinely of course) Divine Intervention, not in mutation/adaptation/selection, but in environment? Is that just me reading “landscape” too literally, or is that really what they’re hinting??

I’d say so. Their argument about information being in the shape of the adaptive surface is really one about a Designer setting things up … so natural selection can work. That is (even if you accept all of their argument) as consistent with a theistic evolution position which let’s natural selection do the work. If the Law of Conservation argument has collapsed, and also the No Free Lunch argument, going to this argument is a huge step backwards.

How can a fitness surface be ‘chosen’? Isn’t it contingent on complex history like everything else?

Sure, real fitness surfaces vary through time, respond to ecological and evolutionary events in other species, etc. But there is a good reason to look at simple teaching-example fitness surfaces (ones with a constant relative fitness for each genotype). Have Dembski and Marks shown that these cannot work to create adaptations by natural selection? Nope, and the new argument does not show that either.

BTW thanks to the folks (paragwinn and 386sx) who quoted Dembski as saying that he is only supposing common descent and effectiveness of natural selection for the sake of argument. He ends up basing his disbelief in them on Michael Behe’s argument, perhaps because he realizes that his own arguments have collapsed. The new articles are consequences of that collapse.

Mark C. Chu-Carroll Wrote:

You see, Dembski uses very peculiar definitions of information; or, to be more precise, he doesn’t use any consistent definition.

What he says about “information” applies to just about any term ID uses, including “evolution,” “creationism,” “natural selection,” “irreducible complexity,” etc. ID is nothing but word games.

Speaking of “word games,” note the Dembski quote in above comments:

This paper was written under the supposition that common descent holds and that natural selection is the principal mechanism behind it. Writing under a supposition does not mean accepting it. My own views of the truth of the matter are clearly spelled out in THE DESIGN OF LIFE (http://www.thedesignoflife.com). In particular, I think that irreducible complexity at the molecular level (especially in the origin of DNA and protein synthesis) provides compelling evidence for discontinuity in the history of life.

If anyone has read “The Design of Life” and can elaborate on Dembski’s views I’d appreciate it. But what shouts at me is how, when Dembski uses the word “discontinuity” he deliberately avoids the adjective “biological.” Thus, unless he clearly states otherwise in the book or elsewhere, he does not necessarily dispute the “biological continuity” (Behe’s actual words) that Behe has unequivocally accepted for years.

The omission of the adjective contrasts sharply with the fact that, whenever an IDer speaks negatively about common descent, they rarely omit the adjective “universal.” That’s apparently because they often like to point out that a real scientist (& non-IDer) like Carl Woese, supposedly rejects “universal common descent”.

Not speaking necessarily negatively about common descent in the quote above, Dembski omits the “universal” qualifier. But note also that he refers to not just common descent, but that and the mechanism behind it. Well, Behe too rejects that “complete package”. Elsewhere, Dembski expressed doubt that humans and chimps evolved from common ancestors, and many people misinterpreted it as him doubting that they have common ancestors.

More word games, more bait-and-switch. What else is there to ID?

I’m always looking for good analogies for ID rationalizations, and the mathematics used here are not among my strengths. Is Dembski saying the equivalent of: “because the chances of a given sperm fertilizing an egg are very small, fertilization is an unlikely event?” Does this fallacy have a formal (or even informal) name?

I really don’t understand why anyone would even take the time to write such a paper when biology has already demonstrated that natural selection with random mutations alone is not how nature works in the formation of life’s diversity. The case is so bad for natural selection with random mutations today that there are scientist arguing that on their own are not even capable of one act of speciation, far less all the speciation events – that other factors are required. I suppose (taking a blind stab at it) he could be trying to run the course of “natural selection/ mutation = teleological argument”, thus if you teach you can’t exclude teaching ID on such a ground – or some such thing as that. However, that too seems to far out there to be of much worth. For one, they should not be teaching or even indicating that natural selection/ random mutation caused life’s diversity in a science class given that we know, by science, such teaching is in error. Whats more, if one did want to equate natural selection / random mutation to some sort of religious or philosophical ideology, one need not deal with Dembski’s law of information conservation at all, but instead turn to the science of sociology and simply demonstrate the connection. However, in doing so one directly sees the danger in the one sided teaching of Darwin’s theory as though it is some sort of fact, which in turn, far from justifies the teaching of ID. That being the case one may be able to reason, in some limited way, as to why Dembski chooses an effort of equating a dead theory with having a teleological nature. Perhaps I should take the question to his web site and ask it. In the meantime, given that I am here – I best ask as to why it is so much time is being spent on trying to tear apart his argument when the whole thing is focused on a dead theory anyway. Would it not be far easier to simply state that be it teleological in nature or not, it’s a dead theory so who gives a sh*t? Need we be reminded here of Lynn Margulis and her claim on the narrow neo-Darwinistic formulation being but “a minor twentieth-century religious sect within the sprawling religious persuasion of Anglo-Saxon Biology”? I mean, this isn’t a home where a minor twentieth-century religious sect preaches its views, is it??

Troy trolls.…

The case is so bad for natural selection with random mutations today that there are scientist arguing that on their own are not even capable of one act of speciation…

Then it shouldn’t be hard for you to produce this data and those names.

Please do so now.

Oh, yeah, that’s right. You can’t because it doesn’t really exist. Sorry, I keep forgetting that.

By the way, why is it that trolls can never figure out the return key?

Troy, that big key on the right of the keyboard, the one that looks like a backwards “L”, that’s called “return”.

You use it to make “paragraphs”.

Paragraphs are used to separate thoughts so your screed is readable, if not actually coherent.

You use it like this…

Screed one. {return}

Screed two. {return}

etc.

Try it sometime.

Okay, once again, just for Troy this time:

Show of hands please, who thinks RM+NS is the be-all and end-all of modern evolutionary theory?

Yeah, see, nobody. That’s what I thought.

You’re a few decades behind in your arguments, Troy, better catch up.

There’s this thing called reading, you might want to try that sometime, too.

Matt G said:

I’m always looking for good analogies for ID rationalizations, and the mathematics used here are not among my strengths. Is Dembski saying the equivalent of: “because the chances of a given sperm fertilizing an egg are very small, fertilization is an unlikely event?” Does this fallacy have a formal (or even informal) name?

Razzle-dazzle comes to mind.

The shtick is to appear erudite and “scientific”. All pseudo-scientists do it.

Basically this probability shtick is often referred to as the Lottery Winner Fallacy. It amounts to the conflation of “X wins the lottery” with “someone wins the lottery.”

Sorry Troy, but none of Dembski’s mathematical “laws” have been accepted as valid by fellow mathematicians. Joe Felsenstein - does the name ring a bell, Troy - has an extensive summary demonstrating how Dembski’s abysmal mathematics doesn’t refute the scientific validity of natural selection:

http://ncseweb.org/rncse/27/3-4/has[…]liam-dembski

In his rather lucid account, Felsenstein concludes,

“Dembski argues that there are theorems that prevent natural selection from explaining the adaptations that we see. His arguments do not work. There can be no theorem saying that adaptive information is conserved and cannot be increased by natural selection. Gene frequency changes caused by natural selection can be shown to generate specified information. The No Free Lunch theorem is mathematically correct, but it is inapplicable to real biology. Specified information, including complex specified information, can be generated by natural selection without needing to be ‘smuggled in’. When we see adaptation, we are not looking at positive evidence of billions and trillions of interventions by a designer. Dembski has not refuted natural selection as an explanation for adaptation.”

Stop wasting our time and yours by insisting upon posting more extensive examples of your breathtaking inanity. Instead, I recommend trying to learn something about modern biology for once.

Peace and Long Life (as an AiG Dalek Clone),

John Kwok

John Kwok said:

Another way to look at what Dembski and Marks contend that they have done is to assume that there’s an equal possibility that, via their “usage” of NFL theorems, then all potential space in a given field of potential morphospace can be occupied. However, as we know well from anatomical and paleobiological data, that’s not exactly how living things evolve. For example, if you look at the fish to tetrapod transition, there are several different taxa that have varying permutations on the basic “body plan” for front and rear limbs, with as many as approximately 8 digits before they are “standardized” into five. Maybe we might have been better off with more than five digits, but that’s what all post-Devonian tetrapods have.

unless you are a Panda - in which case you have 6 digits (or 5 + 1*)

:)

So much for asking the question over at the Dembski web site – can no longer post comments there.

stevaroni stated: “Then it shouldn’t be hard for you to produce this data and those names. Please do so now. Oh, yeah, that’s right. You can’t because it doesn’t really exist. Sorry, I keep forgetting that.” He stated that in reply to my statement : “The case is so bad for natural selection with random mutations today that there are scientist arguing that on their own are not even capable of one act of speciation…”

Lynn Margulis is one who argues that more is needed than natural selection and random mutation. She states that “Neo-Darwinism, which insists on (the slow accrual of mutations by gene-level natural selection), is a complete funk”. She claims that “symbiotic relationships between organisms of often different phyla or kingdoms are the driving force of evolution.” “Examination of the results from the Human Genome Project lends some credence to an endosymbiotic theory of evolution Human Genome Project” because “significant portions of the human genome are either bacterial or viral in origin”. (see her wikipedia page). Given such findings are not alone found in the human genome, it is rather glaringly strong evidence that life’s diversity did not get here via natural selection and random mutation alone, although that has not stopped certain Darwinst from claiming otherwise. Of course strevaroni will object that such clear evidence is not actually stating that natural selection and random mutation can lead to a single act of speciation. Perhaps he will like this better: “… natural selection alone cannot lead to speciation …”. That comes from a collage lecture guide which can be viewed here: http://209.85.173.132/search?q=cach[…]nk&gl=us Perhaps the faculty out at Elcamino are a bunch of creationist liars – but I feel fairly certain that actually their teaching is by no means odd or uncommon. Perhaps strevaroni could blow all of this completely out of the water by showing a science experiment, which others can replicate, wherein the factors of natural selection / random mutation are completely isolated and clearly lead, on their own, to speciation. In the meantime, I’ll stand with my claim.

That thought regarding the Giant Panda did occur to me last night after I posted:

jasonmitchell said:

John Kwok said:

Another way to look at what Dembski and Marks contend that they have done is to assume that there’s an equal possibility that, via their “usage” of NFL theorems, then all potential space in a given field of potential morphospace can be occupied. However, as we know well from anatomical and paleobiological data, that’s not exactly how living things evolve. For example, if you look at the fish to tetrapod transition, there are several different taxa that have varying permutations on the basic “body plan” for front and rear limbs, with as many as approximately 8 digits before they are “standardized” into five. Maybe we might have been better off with more than five digits, but that’s what all post-Devonian tetrapods have.

unless you are a Panda - in which case you have 6 digits (or 5 + 1*)

:)

But in the Giant Panda’s case, it is a crude, but still effective, “substitute”, for an opposable thumb. If there was really an “Intelligent Designer”, then why would he/she/it create such a poor substitute?

“Okay, once again, just for Troy this time: Show of hands please, who thinks RM+NS is the be-all and end-all of modern evolutionary theory? Yeah, see, nobody. That’s what I thought. You’re a few decades behind in your arguments, Troy, better catch up. There’s this thing called reading, you might want to try that sometime, too.”

Yeah – that’s the point – Denbeski reads to me like he is using a debunked theory. You might want to do your hand count again though as it seems to me that stevaroni is upset from the idea that RM+NS isn’t the be-all and end-all of modern evolutionary theory.

There are numerous instances of documented observations of speciation, and there are ways to achieve speciation besides just random mutation + natural selection, such as hybridization, or genetic drift.

And I notice that Troy insists on quoting Lynn Margulis, thinking that she opposes evolution, which she does not. She refers to her critics and competitors as “a minor twentieth-century religious sect within the sprawling religious persuasion of Anglo-Saxon Biology” due to sour grapes for rejecting her pet theory of Endosymbiosis, in that the primary driving force of evolution is inter-species symbioses, and not inter-species competition coupled with accumulation of positive mutations. Unfortunately for Dr Margulis, evidence suggests that, although some inter-species symbioses were earthshaking evolutionary events, i.e., the first protists acquiring mitochondria and then chloroplasts from bacterial symbiotes, or the acquisition of gut flora in metazoans, the primary forces driving evolution are, in fact, inter-species competition, interaction between species and the environment, and accumulation of positive mutations.

To regard one specific authority’s testimony as holy solely because she (or he) disagrees with the majority, and especially when she (or he) has a tremendous amount of rancor invested in her/his disagreement is extraordinarily foolish. Evidence is the currency of science, and if one can not present (enough) evidence to support one’s hypothesis, no amount of name-calling, rancor, hurt feelings, or predictions of doom and future humiliation can make up for this.

As for insinuating that anything written, especially anything pertaining to science, by Bill Dembski is trustworthy, well, only a dupe, a liar, or a lying dupe will suggest that Bill Dembski’s word can be trusted, let alone consider his word to be marginally more valuable than the paper it’s written on.

“Sorry Troy, but none of Dembski’s mathematical “laws” have been accepted as valid by fellow mathematicians.”

I don’t claim they are valid – never have.

fnxtr said:

Okay, once again, just for Troy this time:

Show of hands please, who thinks RM+NS is the be-all and end-all of modern evolutionary theory?

Yeah, see, nobody. That’s what I thought.

You’re a few decades behind in your arguments, Troy, better catch up.

There’s this thing called reading, you might want to try that sometime, too.

Do realize that we’re dealing with a troll who wants to “kick the balls of Darwinst” (sic) because scientists rejected a hypothesis about the existence of an Ice Age lake, nevermind that they then readily changed their minds once more evidence was found.

I concur with all of your astute observations, Stanton, but these two really stood out:

Stanton said:

There are numerous instances of documented observations of speciation, and there are ways to achieve speciation besides just random mutation + natural selection, such as hybridization, or genetic drift.

As for insinuating that anything written, especially anything pertaining to science, by Bill Dembski is trustworthy, well, only a dupe, a liar, or a lying dupe will suggest that Bill Dembski’s word can be trusted, let alone consider his word to be marginally more valuable than the paper it’s written on.

My “buddy” Bill Dembski is unquestionably among the worst in that pathetic band of mendacious intellectual pornographers known as the Dishonesty Institute’s Center for Science and Culture (formerly known as the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture). Bill deliberately forsook a promising career in mathematics (as evidenced by the fact that he had earned an NSF doctoral fellowship) so that he could prostitute himself and lie and steal on behalf of his Xian “GOD”.

Appreciatively yours,

John

John Kwok said:

That thought regarding the Giant Panda did occur to me last night after I posted:

jasonmitchell said:

John Kwok said:

..spipped for size—, if you look at the fish to tetrapod transition, there are several different taxa that have varying permutations on the basic “body plan” for front and rear limbs, with as many as approximately 8 digits before they are “standardized” into five. Maybe we might have been better off with more than five digits, but that’s what all post-Devonian tetrapods have.

unless you are a Panda - in which case you have 6 digits (or 5 + 1*)

:)

But in the Giant Panda’s case, it is a crude, but still effective, “substitute”, for an opposable thumb. If there was really an “Intelligent Designer”, then why would he/she/it create such a poor substitute?

no arguments here - the fact that the giant panda’s ‘thumb’ has been shown to be homologous to wrist bones in other tetrapods is evidence FOR common ancestry/ evolution - (I was just being snarky for fun, hence the smileyface)

Troy is exhibiting yet another peculiar act of your typical delusional creo, the creo “dodge”:

Troy said:

“Sorry Troy, but none of Dembski’s mathematical “laws” have been accepted as valid by fellow mathematicians.”

I don’t claim they are valid – never have.

What the ever delusional Troy doesn’t realize is that I am merely stating the obvious with respect to Dembski. He obviously doesn’t “get it”, since he has managed to write highly of Dembski at every conceivable opportunity. That is the difference between someone who comprehends the pseudoscientific religious nonsense that emanates from Dembski’s delusional mind and someone, like Troy, who is incapable of recognizing Dembski’s mendacious intellectual pornography AS mendacious intellectual pornography.

Dave wrote:

“Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to work?”

No, apparently not. According to Troy, the evil hate filled “darwinist” will contrive some story without any evidence, then all “scientist” will ignore all evidence in order to perpetrate thier scam on an unsuspecting populus. Any dissenters are ridiculed because all “scientist” must cling desperately to the facade of atheism which requires them to sacrifice at the alter of hate. No evidence of any kind will be allowed to challenge the preconceptions of the holy Darwin worshippers.

Hey, that sounds familiar. I wonder where he observed such behavior? Can anyone say PROJECTION? Hint to Troy: the side with over one million publications in peer reviewed journals is the side that values evidence, the side with no real publications is the side that is making up stories.

Meanwhile, Troy has not provided one example for any of his claims and has ignored all examples that he demanded with handwaving and blustering. Time for this guy to put up or shut up. He must really hate it when people don’t buy his hate.

Wegener was not the first to propose continental drift. In fact, continental drift made a brief appearance in the 1901 science fiction novel The Purple Cloud.

And Wegener mostly certainly did have evidence in his favor. It was not just the shapes of the land masses on either side of the Atlantic. For example, he pointed out shared species in older strata.

Wegener went beyond just presenting evidence. He gave a physical model of the continents floating on the crust. Unfortunately, it made no sense from a geophysics perspective. Worse, Wegener gave overly high estimates for the speed of the continents, at a rate that was just barely measurable in his day, and found not to happen.

As a result, the basic concept of continental drift suffered from guilt by association with several errors on Wegener’s part. It was a slow accumulation of better evidence in the 50s and 60s, culminating in seafloor spreading and its transparently clear geophysical model of plate tectonics that led to the revolution.

There you go: the secret to getting your wild and crazy, totally mocked, scientific idea accepted. Evidence, evidence, and more evidence!

I just wonder where Troy got this idea about modern evolutionary science as The Darwin Monolith. It’s… peculiar. And yet familiar.

Maybe he was home-schooled.

Apparently Troy has a great problem - which is a sign as to how much he is intellectually-challenged - between distinguishing between those conditions responsible for manmade artificial selection, and those that exist with respect to natural selection which would result in cichlid species flocks in East African Rift Valley lakes like Lake Victoria and Lake Malawi:

fnxtr said:

Troy said:

“I provided you with examples, and you’re just doing some bullshit handwaving. Please explain in detail why each of these examples don’t count as examples of speciation due to random mutation and natural selection.”

For one it is not my job to demonstrate that your examples are in fact speciation events, and two that they have properly controlled and accounted for all the diffrent aspects other than mutation which can play a role - like gene drift, symbiotic transfers, etc. - that would be your job.

No. You disagree, you prove you’re right.

Disagreement about how many distinct species (whatever that is) of cichlids there are does not disprove evolution, Troy.

Again, what are you on about?

“There is scientific consensus that the capacity to synthesize nylonase most probably developed as a single-step mutation that survived because it improved the fitness of the bacteria possessing the mutation. This is seen as a good example of evolution through mutation and natural selection.”

What I ask is that “most probably” turns into “did”. In this particular example, from the wiki page, the idea of “gene duplication” comes to mind, as does the matter of how no frame shift mutation was involved in the natural occurring discovery. As one reads on one is made aware of plasmid transfer (which is related to horizontal gene transfer).

What I don’t read is that a random mutation did it until I get down to the radicals of the creation evolution debate – in fact it rather reads like plasmid transfer and gene duplication are playing cards in this game.

Now I do not have the stuff here at home to run the experiment and discover as to if or if not random mutation was alone in making the change, or if horizontal gene transfer was active at work. However, I do trust that your convictions on this matter are very solid and as such you will be able to point me directly to the study which clearly demonstrates that, for instance, horizontal gene transfer played no role. So if you don’t mind, please do so.

Thanks for chiming in. I made a more terse assessment regarding the eventual acceptance of Wegener’s continental drift hypothesis here at PT a few days ago, noting that Wegener had erred critically in his potential mechanism for continental drift, and that evidence which would confirm his hypothesis AND MORE IMPORTANTLY point to a credible mechanism behind it didn’t emerge until the late 1940s through early 1960s. By the end of the 1960s, we had a full-fledged theory of plate tectonics which accounted for both seafloor spreading (what was discovered initially back in the late 1940s and early 1950s) and continental drift:

william e emba said:

Wegener was not the first to propose continental drift. In fact, continental drift made a brief appearance in the 1901 science fiction novel The Purple Cloud.

And Wegener mostly certainly did have evidence in his favor. It was not just the shapes of the land masses on either side of the Atlantic. For example, he pointed out shared species in older strata.

Wegener went beyond just presenting evidence. He gave a physical model of the continents floating on the crust. Unfortunately, it made no sense from a geophysics perspective. Worse, Wegener gave overly high estimates for the speed of the continents, at a rate that was just barely measurable in his day, and found not to happen.

As a result, the basic concept of continental drift suffered from guilt by association with several errors on Wegener’s part. It was a slow accumulation of better evidence in the 50s and 60s, culminating in seafloor spreading and its transparently clear geophysical model of plate tectonics that led to the revolution.

There you go: the secret to getting your wild and crazy, totally mocked, scientific idea accepted. Evidence, evidence, and more evidence!

There seems to be a recurring theme in Troy’s arguments that are similar to other arguments made by anti-evolutionists, Holocaust deniers, new-age medicine proponents, global warming deniers, etc.

“ The evil scientific illuminati are repressing the truth” and “ Evil done in the name of something (or inspired by something) makes that something evil”

the former for why creationism isn’t published - the latter for why ‘Darwinists’ are evil

don’t these people have the capacity to reason? Science relies on evidence - multiple examples above

is rocketry evil because Hitler used v2’s?

“Well, that gets us a bit further. Speciation happens. But if it is not natural selection among random mutations that is the major engine of speciation, what is?”

Good question! Polyploidy, gene drift, horizontal gene transfer, exposure to prions and other external factors, symbiotic relations, etc., etc. – the examples seem to grow on a regular basis and I have no reason to think more will not be uncovered. We do not have a theory at this time which is inclusive of such matters. Take for example the nylon eating beast pointed to earlier – where is the theory that tells us exactly what method it will use to come to eat the nylon prior to exposing it to the nylon? Will it do so via symbiotic relations, or via horizontal gene transfer, etc., etc., etc? To have the ability to answer that question correctly for the over whelming majority of life forms would be strong evidence that we have a “general” theory of worth. Whereas I have no reason to think we will never get there, I don’t think we have got there today.

The ever delusional Troy now employs another favorite creo trick, the argument from ignorance:

Troy said:

“Well, that gets us a bit further. Speciation happens. But if it is not natural selection among random mutations that is the major engine of speciation, what is?”

Good question! Polyploidy, gene drift, horizontal gene transfer, exposure to prions and other external factors, symbiotic relations, etc., etc. – the examples seem to grow on a regular basis and I have no reason to think more will not be uncovered. We do not have a theory at this time which is inclusive of such matters. Take for example the nylon eating beast pointed to earlier – where is the theory that tells us exactly what method it will use to come to eat the nylon prior to exposing it to the nylon? Will it do so via symbiotic relations, or via horizontal gene transfer, etc., etc., etc? To have the ability to answer that question correctly for the over whelming majority of life forms would be strong evidence that we have a “general” theory of worth. Whereas I have no reason to think we will never get there, I don’t think we have got there today.

Let’s assume that, maybe, just maybe, delusional twit Troy is correct in his breathtaking inanity. If he is correct, then what will ensue is the prospect of a better, more inclusive, “Expanded Modern Synthesis” which will have at its core, the Darwin - Wallace Theory of Evolution via Natural Selection.

I suppose Troy is so much a narcissist that he seems compelled to post every conceivable comment of breathtaking inanity that he can here at Panda’s Thumb. That, sadly, truly speaks volumes with regards to the overall quality of his intellectually-challenged mind.

“The point that Wegener’s “theory” was more of a “hypothesis” until the extra data was collected after his death, and that the Lake Missoula chap accumulated the required evidence is probably lost on Troy.”

Oh no sir – in fact it is very much a point and very much worth looking at. Science very often is sure of some things prior to actually giving solid demonstration of the fact. He earth going around the sun, for example, was very well excepted long before we could measure parallax to nearby stars (which rather strongly demonstrates the fact). More than one atom was believed to be around prior to its actual discovery because of the nature of the periodic table. A great many examples of this type can be found in the history of science as well as presently.

What is odd is not the occurrence of such things, but the rejection of them when there is such strong evidence for them (like in the case of the flood). When there is a case of very strong scientific evidence in favor of the said claim, and a very strong repulsion of the idea – one smells a crusade, not science. When people who are familiar with the evidence and remain silent for fear of their job while others use abusive words to degrade the person with the empirical evidence, one smells a crusade, not science.

Take for example the nylon eating beast pointed to earlier – where is the theory that tells us exactly what method it will use to come to eat the nylon prior to exposing it to the nylon? Will it do so via symbiotic relations, or via horizontal gene transfer, etc., etc., etc? To have the ability to answer that question correctly for the over whelming majority of life forms would be strong evidence that we have a “general” theory of worth. Whereas I have no reason to think we will never get there, I don’t think we have got there today.

Given that there is a large element of chance in determining where novel enzymes etc come from, whether they arise through mutations, transfer from some other organism, etc, I think it extremely unlikely that there will ever be a means of making general predictions about the source of novelty. Agreed, in specific cases it may be possible to make reasonable predictions, for example if a useful compound is absent in one bacterium but present in another in the same environment, then horizontal gene transfer becomes more likely. But in general terms, I don’t see it occurring. It is hard enough to even predict which compound would be of benefit. Why is the inability to make a detailed prediction important to accepting the theory?

Your latest comment demonstrates how you don’t understand anything about the nature of science. Wegener’s continental drift hypothesis was rejected - inspite of substantial evidence supporting it - simply because there was no credible, confirmable mechanism for it. That wouldn’t be discovered until the late 1940s with the advent of new scientific instruments and new kinds of data (e. g. magnetic stripes on seafloors pointing to seafloor spreading) that eventually would support his idea:

Troy said:

“The point that Wegener’s “theory” was more of a “hypothesis” until the extra data was collected after his death, and that the Lake Missoula chap accumulated the required evidence is probably lost on Troy.”

Oh no sir – in fact it is very much a point and very much worth looking at. Science very often is sure of some things prior to actually giving solid demonstration of the fact. He earth going around the sun, for example, was very well excepted long before we could measure parallax to nearby stars (which rather strongly demonstrates the fact). More than one atom was believed to be around prior to its actual discovery because of the nature of the periodic table. A great many examples of this type can be found in the history of science as well as presently.

What is odd is not the occurrence of such things, but the rejection of them when there is such strong evidence for them (like in the case of the flood). When there is a case of very strong scientific evidence in favor of the said claim, and a very strong repulsion of the idea – one smells a crusade, not science. When people who are familiar with the evidence and remain silent for fear of their job while others use abusive words to degrade the person with the empirical evidence, one smells a crusade, not science.

Richard Simons said:

Given that there is a large element of chance in determining where novel enzymes etc come from, whether they arise through mutations, transfer from some other organism, etc, I think it extremely unlikely that there will ever be a means of making general predictions about the source of novelty. Agreed, in specific cases it may be possible to make reasonable predictions, for example if a useful compound is absent in one bacterium but present in another in the same environment, then horizontal gene transfer becomes more likely. But in general terms, I don’t see it occurring. It is hard enough to even predict which compound would be of benefit. Why is the inability to make a detailed prediction important to accepting the theory?

It’s akin to rejecting plate tectonics because geologists are unable to predict exactly when and where a particular earthquake will occur.

stevaroni said:

Well, researchers then cultured Pseudomonas aeruginosa in nylon-enriched medium, and were able to produce a mutant strain that had its own unique version of nylonase.

That’s good to know, I only knew about the original 1970 “wild” version.

Do you have a link I can squirrel away for the next troll who denies natural selection?

Troy wrote:

“Polyploidy, gene drift, horizontal gene transfer, exposure to prions and other external factors, symbiotic relations, etc., etc. – the examples seem to grow on a regular basis and I have no reason to think more will not be uncovered. We do not have a theory at this time which is inclusive of such matters.”

Right. We have no idea that any of these things, or literally hundreds more, even exist. There is not an entire literatiure on each and every one of these things, and hundreds more. Let’s face it Troy, you have no point to make here at all. If we know nothing about any of these things, how are you aware of them? If you are not aware of their importance in evolution, why do you assume that no one else is? Why does anyone need to predict exactly what will happen at any instant in order for a theory to be considered correct? If we did know about every single mechanism, would Darwin still equal athesim still equal hate?

By the way, I believe that we understand considerably more about mutation and selection than you can possibly imagine. Here is a good reference:

Genetics 160:823-832 (2002)

It describes the mechanisms by which beneficial mutations arise that confer antibiotic resistance in bacteria. The mechanisms were documented in the laboratory, then predictions were made aboutevents that would occur in nature. the predictions were confirmed from studies of natural populations. Such studies help researchers to predict important events that affect public health. Of course you never bothered to read the walking stick paper so I know you will not read this paper either.

Could unexpected rare events occur, sure. Do we know every possible thing that could occur, obviously not. Do you think that we should just give up and stop studying evolution or should we continue to make more refined predictions? Do you have any real point to make or are you just going to continue claiming that anyone who disagrees with you is full of hate? Do you really think that the “you don’t know everything so I don’t have to believe anything you say” argument is valid?

“Let’s assume that, maybe, just maybe, delusional twit Troy is correct in his breathtaking inanity. If he is correct, then what will ensue is the prospect of a better, more inclusive, “Expanded Modern Synthesis” which will have at its core, the Darwin - Wallace Theory of Evolution via Natural Selection.”

better yet just outright say I am wrong and back it up with proof – an example of your general theory correctly predicting what was called for would do very nicely. Of course in its absence, do to the fact that you have no such theory, the substance of a modern crusade will have to do – you know, name calling and the likes. P.S. - don’t forget to credit Spencer, after all he is the one they nominated for a Nobel prize.

“Given that there is a large element of chance in determining where novel enzymes etc come from, whether they arise through mutations, transfer from some other organism, etc, I think it extremely unlikely that there will ever be a means of making general predictions about the source of novelty.”

Perhaps not, but I am not so sure about “extremely unlikely” - we are only at the beginning of this road of understanding, who is to say what general principles are yet to be uncovered.

“Your latest comment demonstrates how you don’t understand anything about the nature of science. Wegener’s continental drift hypothesis was rejected - inspite of substantial evidence supporting it - simply because there was no credible, confirmable mechanism for it.….”

You may of had some point had I anything to do with pointing to Wegener as an example – but, given that I didn’t.….…ahh - why bother taking that one up here (I may touch on it later though)

“It’s akin to rejecting plate tectonics because geologists are unable to predict exactly when and where a particular earthquake will occur.”

No – for that analogy to be slightly closer you would have to word it like this: “It’s akin to rejecting plate tectonics because geologists are unable to predict “how” a particular earthquake will occur” - and I am pretty sure they somewhat have that covered by their general theory. For it to be all the way useful, however, you would have to think of it this way - “if there was no general theory about that which governs earthquakes, there would be no general theory to reject, even though we all know there are earth quakes.”

“Right. We have no idea that any of these things, or literally hundreds more, even exist .….…”

Again, not remotely close to what I said or implied. I see you reference a genetics book – does it have examples of controlled states wherein it has been demonstrated that only selection and random mutation lead to a speciation event???

Only someone who is a delusional twit and a LSS (lying sack of s**t) like Troy would respond to his critics by quote-mining their comments, instead of trying to address, in a most credible fashion, each and every one of their objections. His latest post merely demonstrates that is peculiar, quite warped, mind is most intellectually-challenged:

Troy said:

“Let’s assume that, maybe, just maybe, delusional twit Troy is correct in his breathtaking inanity. If he is correct, then what will ensue is the prospect of a better, more inclusive, “Expanded Modern Synthesis” which will have at its core, the Darwin - Wallace Theory of Evolution via Natural Selection.”

better yet just outright say I am wrong and back it up with proof – an example of your general theory correctly predicting what was called for would do very nicely. Of course in its absence, do to the fact that you have no such theory, the substance of a modern crusade will have to do – you know, name calling and the likes. P.S. - don’t forget to credit Spencer, after all he is the one they nominated for a Nobel prize.

“Given that there is a large element of chance in determining where novel enzymes etc come from, whether they arise through mutations, transfer from some other organism, etc, I think it extremely unlikely that there will ever be a means of making general predictions about the source of novelty.”

Perhaps not, but I am not so sure about “extremely unlikely” - we are only at the beginning of this road of understanding, who is to say what general principles are yet to be uncovered.

“Your latest comment demonstrates how you don’t understand anything about the nature of science. Wegener’s continental drift hypothesis was rejected - inspite of substantial evidence supporting it - simply because there was no credible, confirmable mechanism for it.….”

You may of had some point had I anything to do with pointing to Wegener as an example – but, given that I didn’t.….…ahh - why bother taking that one up here (I may touch on it later though)

“It’s akin to rejecting plate tectonics because geologists are unable to predict exactly when and where a particular earthquake will occur.”

No – for that analogy to be slightly closer you would have to word it like this: “It’s akin to rejecting plate tectonics because geologists are unable to predict “how” a particular earthquake will occur” - and I am pretty sure they somewhat have that covered by their general theory. For it to be all the way useful, however, you would have to think of it this way - “if there was no general theory about that which governs earthquakes, there would be no general theory to reject, even though we all know there are earth quakes.”

“Right. We have no idea that any of these things, or literally hundreds more, even exist .….…”

Again, not remotely close to what I said or implied. I see you reference a genetics book – does it have examples of controlled states wherein it has been demonstrated that only selection and random mutation lead to a speciation event???

Troy wrote:

Polyploidy, gene drift, horizontal gene transfer, exposure to prions and other external factors, symbiotic relations, etc., etc. – the examples seem to grow on a regular basis and I have no reason to think more will not be uncovered. We do not have a theory at this time which is inclusive of such matters.

Huh!?!

Troy’s problem with evolution versus ID is that, at present, there are many plausible sources to drive evolution and more are likely to be found !?!

This is a problem for evolution ???

There are too many possible ways it could work ???

Once again, all I can say is “buhlub-lub-lub-lub!”, which is the sound of jowels flapping as I violently shake my head back and forth to knock the ID argument out of there before it hurts something.

responding to Richard Simons comment, I said:

It’s akin to rejecting plate tectonics because geologists are unable to predict exactly when and where a particular earthquake will occur.

responding to my above comment, Troy said:

No – for that analogy to be slightly closer you would have to word it like this: “It’s akin to rejecting plate tectonics because geologists are unable to predict “how” a particular earthquake will occur” - and I am pretty sure they somewhat have that covered by their general theory. For it to be all the way useful, however, you would have to think of it this way - “if there was no general theory about that which governs earthquakes, there would be no general theory to reject, even though we all know there are earth quakes.”

Since we’re discussing evolution anyway, let’s retrofit the analogies, put modern evolutionary synthesis (MES) in place of plate tectonics, mutation in place of earthquake, and see what we get.

original version: It’s akin to rejecting MES because biologists are unable to predict exactly when and where a particular mutation will occur.

Troy’s “slightly closer” version: It’s akin to rejecting MES because biologists are unable to predict “how” a particular mutation will occur. (Modes of mutation are well-known, but predicting the mode of a future mutation would be difficult indeed.)

Troy’s “all the way useful” version: If there was no general theory about that which governs mutations, there would be no general theory to reject, even though we all know mutations happen. (That’s useful?)

Troy,

For your information, Genetics is a journal, you know a real peer reviewed scientific journal. Not only did you not bother to read it, you don’t even know what it is. How can you possibly know anything at all about the modern field of genetics when you are not even aware of the most basic journal in the field?

My point, in case you missed it, was that we do indeed understand all of the things you mentioned very well. They have all been successfully incorporated into the modern theory of evolution. If the theory doesn’t make predictions that are good enough for you, then by all means, feel free to present a superior alternative. If you have none, then kindly piss off and quit your whining.

No – for that analogy to be appropriate you would have to word it like this: “It’s akin to rejecting plate tectonics because geologists are unable to predict “how” a particular earthquake will occur, even though they have much detailed knowledge about the many mechanisms that cause earthquakes and you have no viable alternative theory”

What if we could tell you exactly what mutations would occur in every organism? What if we could tell you exactly how the environment would change and what selection pressures the envirnoment would exert? What if we could predict exactly what adaptations and what species would be produced in the next one thousand years? Would Darwin still equal atheism? Would atheism still equal hate? Would you still demand more details? Well, we don’t have to match your pathetic level of … oh never mind.

Gee. Troy, I’ve asked you three times and you’ve ignored me three times, so here’s my question a fourth time:

Troy said:

“You mean like how the London Underground Mosquito, Culex molestus, evolved from a population of European Common Gnat, C. pipiens, trapped in the sewersystems of London almost 100 years ago, or how cichlids have undergone and are still undergoing rapid diversification and speciation in the lakes of East Africa, or how the Apple Maggot Fly, Rhagoletis pomonella, is on the verge of speciating because different populations have been genetically isolated from each other because different populations prefer different species of cultivated fruit?”

No, that is not what I mean – those examples include something other than “JUST” natural selection and random mutation.

So, Troy, since you know that there’s something more than mutation and selection going on … What is it? Surely you know, because otherwise you wouldn’t know that more than mutation and selection are acting.

What additional factor is at work?

What is the evidence to support your claim that this additional factor is at work?

Your theory leads only to atheism and hate.

No it doesn’t.

Well you have no theory then.

Really? How do you explain the statistically significant correlation between the shapes of coast of South America and the coast of Africa?

Well, you can’t prove that it’s contintental drift because you can’t predict the exact time of the next earthquake.

We do know the basic processes involved and the factors that influence the timing of the events. How do you explain the geopgraphic distribution of plant and animal species shared between South American and Africa?

I can’t. But contintental drift can’t be true because you can’t accurately predict the exact time of the next earthquake.

We can predict a time interval during which the probability of the next event is statistically likely. How do you explain the reversals in the earth’s magnetic field that are recored at the mid-Atlantic trench?

I haven’t got a clue. But since you can’t predict the exact minute of the next earthquake I still don’t have to believe in contintental drift.

GAHHH!!!! Didn’t you folks listen to me last time about not feeding trolls? I’ve spent the past couple of days getting my section of a grant rewritten as a system crash wiped to submitted files, and I come back to this?

I’m closing the thread as no-one seems to want to stay on topic, but I will make one point.

Troy said: Science very often is sure of some things prior to actually giving solid demonstration of the fact. [T]He earth going around the sun, for example, was very well excepted long before we could measure parallax to nearby stars (which rather strongly demonstrates the fact).

That’s because we have evidence. The crescent phases of Venus and Mercury, the fact that Mars at opposition was closer to the Earth than the Sun, the shifting of Sunspot paths with the year and Stellar Aberration had all shown that the earth rotated round the Sun rather than vice versa, Stellar Parallax was the icing on the cake (see here and here form more information).

The point is actually two fold. Firstly, science requires evidence. The heliocentric theroy was a powerful theoy that produced natural explanations for the retrograde motion of planets, expained the duration and frequency of retrograde motion and made predictions (the phases of Venus and the distance to Mars) that were confirmed. Acceptance of the theory rested on this other evidence (like the sunspot data and stellar aberration).

As a subsidiary point, most folks posting here are unfamiliar with the history of science. Wegener for example wasn’t universally derided, the situation was more complex, he actually had good support in Europe and his early work had mistakes. There was a continuing dialogue between Wegener and other scientists as his theory was developed. When a situation is portrayed as “lone genius fighting establishment”, you can bet that the portrayal is wrong.

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This page contains a single entry by Ian Musgrave published on May 12, 2009 5:04 PM.

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