Randomly growing an embryo. It can work.

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ResearchBlogging.orgRandomness. Shakespeare referred to it. The Bible talks about it. People love to bicker about what it really is, or whether it truly exists. And creationists, especially those of the ID subspecies, consider it a fighting word. A random process, many would say, is a process that doesn't involve God, or direction, or intention, or whatever it is that the culture warriors of the Discovery Institute are so foolishly fighting for. Ah, but it's not just the propagandists of design-think who can mistakenly assume that an ordered process is "directed." Consider this tale of a random process being put to surprising use during vertebrate embryonic development.

Our story comes from Nature about a month ago, and I will present it in four acts.

Act I: The elongation of an embryo

We all know that animal embryos acquire their form through various morphings and twistings. One interesting example is axis elongation, which is just what it sounds like: the embryo stretches out until it clearly has a long axis, then continues to elongate to form something with a head and a tail and everything in between. But "stretch" is a poor term for what's really happening: the tail end of the embryo is growing while the structures closer to the head are beginning to develop into recognizable structures. Developmental biologists know that new cells are added near the tail end, and we know that various directed processes control many similar movements during early development. It was reasonable to assume that these mechanisms would account for embryo elongation, but the actual processes were unknown before the experiments of Bénazéraf and colleagues ("A random cell motility gradient downstream of FGF controls elongation of an amniote embryo," Nature 8 July 2010).

ChickStage11.jpg

The authors employed an old warhorse of developmental biology, the chick embryo. At stage 11, the embryo looks nothing like the animal it will become; it has a head-like thing at one end (the top in the picture on the right), a weird hole at the bottom (Hensen's node), and some blocky structures called somites in between. Down at the bottom, on either side of the hole, is a tissue called the presomitic mesoderm (PSM). The anatomical details needn't concern us; what matters is that we understand that the embryo is elongating toward the bottom, that cells are being made near the top of that hole and that they are moving toward the tail, making it grow. Curious about how this works, Bénazéraf and colleagues started deleting pieces of the tail-end of the embryo, and they found that the PSM was critical for elongation. Good to know.

Act II: Cell movements in the elongating embryo

So, what's going on in the PSM that causes elongation? The authors used a nifty technique called electroporation to label the cells in that region so they could watch them as the embryo grew. Basically, they used an electric field to introduce DNA into the cells of interest the day before; the DNA caused the cells to express the wonderful and famous green fluorescent protein (GFP) so that individual cells could be monitored as the embryo continued to develop in culture outside of the egg. They found something interesting: near the tail of the embryo, the PSM cells were more motile than they were near the front of the PSM. But the cells near the front were more packed together. So try to picture it: in this region on either side of the center of the tail end of the embryo is an area (the PSM) of cells that are moving more frantically near the tail and that are more packed together toward the head. It would seem as though the cells are busily moving toward the tail, and that they get less crowded and more mobile as they get there. And when the authors looked at movement of individual cells, sure enough, there was a directional bias in the movement, meaning simply that cells in the PSM tended to move toward the tail. It looks like a simple case of directed migration of cells toward a target. Interesting, maybe, but not such big news. But then, a noise from the next room. Exeunt.

Act III: Random cell movements in the elongating embryo

So cells seem to move toward the tail. This could mean they're being directed toward the tail by some kind of homing mechanism, and this would be a reasonable expectation. But because the embryo is elongating, it could be that the directed movement of individual cells is an illusion: the cells are moving toward the tail because the space they inhabit is moving toward the tail. The authors addressed this by cancelling out the effect of elongation of the cells' environment, and focusing solely on the movement of cells within that environment. The environment in this case is the extracellular matrix, or ECM, as indicated by one of its components, fibronectin. I'm sorry about the jargon, but I included it so I could quote the authors in full as they describe the results of the experiment:

Surprisingly, the movements of cells relative to the ECM did not show any local directional bias. The mean square displacement of these cells compared to the fibronectin movement scales with time, indicating that cells exhibit a 'random walk'-like diffusive behaviour, with the diffusion of cells relative to the fibronectin following a posterior-to-anterior [back-to-front] gradient.

In other words, the cells are moving randomly, behaving like molecules diffusing in a liquid. The authors verified this by looking at cell protrusions, the telltale signs of a cell's migrational direction. The protrusions all pointed in random directions. Amazingly, this seemingly ordered march of cells toward the back, resulting in the growth of the tail end of the embryo, is the product of random cell movement. And yet it yields an ordered result. How?

Act IV: A gradient of random cell movement controlled by a conserved developmental signaling system

Recall that cell movement in the PSM is not uniform: cells near the tail move (randomly) more. The authors knew that an ancient and well-known signaling system functions in a similarly graded fashion in that tissue. Known as the FGF/MAPK pathway, it's fairly simple to manipulate experimentally. Bénazéraf and colleagues found that whether they turned the signaling up or down, the result was the same: elongation was stunted. This might seem strange, but it makes perfect sense: it's the graded nature of the signaling that matters, so turning it all the way up or all the way down erases the gradient and leads to the same result. What matters, for elongation, is that random cell movement is greater in the back than in the front. This leads to elongation, because the tail end contains cells that move more and have more freedom of motion due to their being less tightly packed.

The upshot is that an ancient conserved signaling system causes a simple gradient of random movement which, in the presence of physical constraints, leads necessarily to elongation of the embryo in one direction. It looks for all the world like homing or some other directed migration, but it's not. And, intriguingly, the authors conclude by suggesting that the mechanism might be quite common in the biosphere:

Axis formation by outgrowth is a common morphogenetic strategy that is widely evident in animals and plants. Thus, the mechanism described here might apply to other well-characterized, polarized axes, such as the limb buds, in which a similar FGF/MAPK gradient is established along the proximo-distal axis.

Randomness. Learn to love it. The End.

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Image credit: "Normal stages of chick embryonic development," poster on Developmental Dynamics site

Bénazéraf, B., Francois, P., Baker, R., Denans, N., Little, C., & Pourquié, O. (2010). A random cell motility gradient downstream of FGF controls elongation of an amniote embryo Nature, 466 (7303), 248-252 DOI: 10.1038/nature09151

322 Comments

This comment has been moved to The Bathroom Wall.

This comment has been moved to The Bathroom Wall.

Worth noting: plenty of unicellular organisms find their way to regions of high food concentration by a similar mechanism, in which the concentration of nutrients affects their random walk. If concentrations are low, do lots of long straight runs so you end up somewhere else. If concentrations are high, do shorter runs and more turns so you stay in the same area.

Yet another evolutionary truism: the stuff that the multicellular organisms do is based on modifications of stuff that unicellular organisms do for other reasons.

SAWells said:

Worth noting: plenty of unicellular organisms find their way to regions of high food concentration by a similar mechanism, in which the concentration of nutrients affects their random walk. If concentrations are low, do lots of long straight runs so you end up somewhere else. If concentrations are high, do shorter runs and more turns so you stay in the same area.

Yet another evolutionary truism: the stuff that the multicellular organisms do is based on modifications of stuff that unicellular organisms do for other reasons.

A property of diffusion processes is that if the diffusing cells (or whatever) have a higher variance of movements (a higher “randomness” in the terminology of this article), they will on average move out of that area and collect in the area with lower variance. (This is true if there is no average tendency to move one way or another, but differences in the variance of the change of position).

I wonder – are the cells dividing during this process? That would affect the movement too: if there were also more cell division in the high-variance region, that might offset the tendency to flee that region.

I prefer the term “stochasticity.” The difference is subtile, and is technically probably not meaningful… but “randomness” feels like it drags in some unrelated and imprecise baggage.

What’s happening in that embryo is actually quite intricate and precise. It makes use of the stochasticity of the system and of nature. To me the moral of the story is that if it exists, evolution will use it to accomplish something.

This is a very difficult concept for most students to understand. Whenever you describe to them the definition of diffusion, they get a funny look and usually ask something like - “yea but how do the molecules KNOW to move in that direction.” Then you have to patiently explain that they took the class before, memorized the definition of diffusion and remembered it long enough to pass the test. You can also point out that if diffusion depended on the ability of molecules to learn that they themselves would be incapable of diffusion!

Seriously, some people just cannot comprehend that a predictable phenomena does not require a guiding intelligence. Some people just cannot seem to grasp the concept of randomness. Why is it that creationists have decided that this is a dirty word? Why is it OK if god does not have to control every lightning strike, but she still has to direct every thing that occurs in development and every mutation?

Adam,

You also get an endorsement from me for using the term stochasticity, though I might opt to refer to this as a stochastic phenomenom. It still boggles my mind that I know creationists who will accept as random such natural phenomenona as earthquakes and lightning strikes and even violent storms as hurricances, but are unwilling to recognize the same for biological systems such as that which occurs in the developing embryo.

Steve,

Thanks for another great post. Yours are as well reasoned and written as PZ Myers’s here. Keep up the great work.

Sincerely,

John

Trying to teach randomness people who are in love with Intelligent Design is very difficult because “common sense” gets in the way. This “common sense” conflates random with purposeless. Here’s some example conversations. First mine, with Del Tackett, who teaches the Truth Project for Focus on the Family:

Del: Thank you for giving us some of your personal background. I agree with you that God has revealed Himself and truth through both His written word and His creation. That is why I am so fascinated by both. Neither are the products of random processes. … So, if I understand your argument correctly, you are saying that DNA cannot be classified as “information” or as a “design specification”, but it is essentially part of a fairly “random” process. Is that correct?

Me: [M]uch of the misunderstanding between scientists and lay people is that we use the word differently. To most people random connotes purposeless and no direction. Within science random means in part not predictable by humans. Even with this more restricted definition, evolution is considered a non-random process even by Richard Dawkins. Now parts of it are random in the restricted sense but the environment puts non-random restrictions on the evolutionary process.

The question arises is evolution as Richard Dawkins claims, directionless and purposeless. A Biblical example is in order here. God’s prophet predicted that King Ahab would die. Ahab did everything in his power to live. Yet, an arrow shot “at random” killed him just as God predicted. If Richard Dawkins was on the battlefield he would have concluded that arrow had no purpose. We, however, know better. Yet, without Biblical revelation, even believing science cannot *detect* that purpose.

In the end, I didn’t get through to Del because the conflation of randomness and purposeless is so hopelessly conflated by ID. They guard it very, very carefully because that’s all they have left. Michael Behe has conceded both common descent and natural selection but holds onto the denial of the sufficiency of random mutation. ID depends on being able to detect design and random means impossible to detect, so this causes a huge problem for ID. They try to gain the support of theists by this conflation. Note the big deal they made in Kitzmiller over Ken Miller’s biology textbook.

Here’s an example of ID’s rear guard action against randomness. ASA’s executive director, Randy Isaac, noted a similar conceptional problem in Logan Paul Gage’s review of The Dawkins Delusion in Christianity Today. First the conceptional problem from the review:

While theists can have a variety of legitimate views on life’s evolution, surely they must maintain that the process involves intelligence. So the question is: Can an intelligent being use random mutations and natural selection to create? No. This is not a theological problem; it is a logical one. The words random and natural are meant to exclude intelligence. If God guides which mutations happen, the mutations are not random; if God chooses which organisms survive so as to guide life’s evolution, the selection is intelligent rather than natural.

Theistic Darwinists maintain that God was “intimately involved” in creation, to use Francis Collins’s words. But they also think life developed via genuinely random mutations and genuinely natural selection. Yet they never explain what God is doing in this process. Perhaps there is still room for him to start the whole thing off, but this abandons theism for deism.

So there is a danger in the approach of theistic Darwinists such as McGrath. He is surely right that the religious and scientific worldviews are compatible. Harmony can be found. But this is not because theism can concede a materialist origin story and escape unscathed. Rather, it is because the materialist story is false and, further, is contradicted by mounting physical evidence in physics, chemistry, and biology.

Randy responded with the following letter to the editor to CT basically saying if you don’t like the explanation please provide an alternative hypothesis:

In his critique of Alister McGrath’s The Dawkins Delusion? [“The CT Review,” November], Logan Paul Gage fails to distinguish between scientific randomness and metaphysical randomness. By insisting that these two concepts are inextricably linked, Gage concludes that McGrath (and Francis Collins) maintain a position that precludes divine providence. Evolution is not a purely random process, though as with all natural processes, there are underlying random events involved. But even if evolution were completely random, God’s action is not limited by randomness, just as human creative activity may involve random actions.

The Bible records several instances when God’s guiding action was expressed through the casting of lots. Does Gage have a better explanation than McGrath and Collins have provided for how God carries out his sovereignty through means that appear to us as scientifically random?

Randy Isaac

Executive Director, American Scientific Affiliation Ipswich, Massachusetts

This caused ID to go into a hissy fit. In it Logan Paul Gage hands his critics the dagger to finish off both lower-case and upper-case ID.

If Isaac actually thinks an intelligent being can guide randomness, then it is up to HIM to explain how that works–not the other way around. I have claimed that it is impossible. Providence can certainly reign over random events; and Providence can certainly know the outcome of future contingents; but all that is different from saying that Providence can guide truly random events.

So, if intelligent design and randomness are mutually exclusive then if we observe randomness then there is no intelligent design. Q.E.D. Clue to ID proponents it’s not up to your opponents to provide an alternative hypothesis, it’s up to you. Your intellectual laziness brings down all of us. Stop it.

Another good post Rich, but let me rephrase this for you:

If intelligent design and randomness are mutually exclusive then when we observe randomness, there is no intelligent design. Q.E.D. Clue to ID proponents: it’s not up to your opponents to provide an alternative hypothesis, it’s up to you. Your intellectual laziness brings down all of us. Stop it. And stop adhering to the pathetic mendacious intellectual pornography emanating from our so-called “Christian” brothers at the Dishonesty Institute. They are a great malignancy on current Christian thought and their actions, collectively, are those which Christ, our savior, would repudiate.

Adam Ierymenko said:

I prefer the term “stochasticity.” The difference is subtile, and is technically probably not meaningful… but “randomness” feels like it drags in some unrelated and imprecise baggage.

Yeah, “stochastic” is such an UGLY word, but “randomness” just doesn’t get the message across.

Ever tinker with Monte Carlo math methods? Solving math problems by generating random values? They can be actually more efficient than deterministic algorithms, at least if a precise answer isn’t required.

Joe Felsenstein said: I wonder – are the cells dividing during this process? That would affect the movement too: if there were also more cell division in the high-variance region, that might offset the tendency to flee that region.

The cells are dividing, but the authors showed that proliferation is not necessary for elongation, in experiments with mitomycin C and aphidicolin.

I second Adam, and would add that any mention of randomness when communicating science should be followed up with mention of the word “stochasticity” - if for nothing more than followup by audience members. After that, I’m fine with either.

Also, it’s important to clarify the difference between uniformly random and directed or otherwise non-uniform randomness.

The basic idea isn’t new. The “Brownian ratchet” was first proposed almost a hundred years ago, was popularized by Feynman, and has been tentatively identified in one biological system. See Lizunova and Zimmerberg Current Biology “Cellular Biophysics: Bacterial Endospore, Membranes and Random Fluctuation”.

Funny, I was going to use the term “stochastic”.

One of the strange aspects of the universe from the human perspective is probability.

When a lot of small scale things occur as random variables, the larger scale outcome can appear deterministic, at least at levels of resolution that don’t detect the individual random changes.

Richard Blinne -

Your arrow example is actually a rather profound one in some ways.

Traditional thinking suggests that stochastic processes mask underlying determinism. For example, that dice rolls appear random only because we don’t have all the starting information we need to perfectly predict the roll.

Quantum physics may suggest the opposite - the operationally deterministic processes are actually the result of extremely large numbers of much smaller scale stochastic processes.

These may not be mutually exclusive, in a sense.

I forgot to include this rather obvious link in my comment above.

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

Adam Ierymenko said:

I prefer the term “stochasticity.” The difference is subtile, and is technically probably not meaningful… but “randomness” feels like it drags in some unrelated and imprecise baggage.

What’s happening in that embryo is actually quite intricate and precise. It makes use of the stochasticity of the system and of nature. To me the moral of the story is that if it exists, evolution will use it to accomplish something.

I concur with Adam. The term stochastic is appropriate. The difference is subtle, (perhaps as subtle as the difference between subtile and subtle), but that is the appropriate term. If for no other reason than it is much harder for creationists to demonize and denigrate a word if they have to look it up first.

harold said:

Richard Blinne -

Your arrow example is actually a rather profound one in some ways.

Traditional thinking suggests that stochastic processes mask underlying determinism. For example, that dice rolls appear random only because we don’t have all the starting information we need to perfectly predict the roll.

Quantum physics may suggest the opposite - the operationally deterministic processes are actually the result of extremely large numbers of much smaller scale stochastic processes.

These may not be mutually exclusive, in a sense.

I forgot to include this rather obvious link in my comment above.

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

I usually start with that example where randomness is descriptive rather than prescriptive but I don’t end there. This is better described IMHO as contingent. Much of evolution (but not the example above) can better be described this way. For example: http://www.pnas.org/content/105/23/7899.full

Ironically, the word contingent is a theological term used in the free will/predestination debate. Armininians will fight to the death for human contingency and also claim that their view is perfectly orthodox. On the other hand, if Rich Lenski claims that bacterial evolution is contigent charges of atheism abound! One reason why evangelical TEs are dominated by Calvinists is that we hold that contingency and divine sovereignty are compatible – we just don’t know how. This concept of concursus extends to things that are truly random as you allude to.

The example I usually give is radioactive decay. The alpha particles are trapped in a potential well that is impossible from a classical perspective to escape. There is a non-zero probability that they will escape from a quantum perspective. We can describe the decay using the half-life concept but it’s impossible to predict which individual alpha particle decays when. This physical phenomenon has been used to create hardware random number generators.

I like to point out that many of the complaints about evolution turn out to be at least as appropriate to reproduction and development. This seems to be yet another example - if you don’t like evolution because of the “randomness”, then what about this?

There is more than just a joke to “Scientific Storkism”.

harold Wrote:

I forgot to include this rather obvious link in my comment above.

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

On a related note, the graph in that link neatly illustrates the evidence (any one of multiple independent lines or it) for evolution and how it’s misrepresented by ID/creationists. To paraphrase Pope John Paul II, the evidence neatly “converges” on an explanation, with no one seeking or fabricating any desired outcome. Yet ID/creationists object each time the running average misses the mark, add up the “gaps” and pretend that they accumulate against evolution. Alternately they object how the running average keeps changing and accuse “Darwinists” of constantly changing their minds because their theory is “in crisis.”

Frank said:

harold Wrote:

I forgot to include this rather obvious link in my comment above.

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

On a related note, the graph in that link neatly illustrates the evidence (any one of multiple independent lines or it) for evolution and how it’s misrepresented by ID/creationists. To paraphrase Pope John Paul II, the evidence neatly “converges” on an explanation, with no one seeking or fabricating any desired outcome. Yet ID/creationists object each time the running average misses the mark, add up the “gaps” and pretend that they accumulate against evolution. Alternately they object how the running average keeps changing and accuse “Darwinists” of constantly changing their minds because their theory is “in crisis.”

ID’s issues are much deeper than the law of large numbers and miscalculating probabilities. ID proponents are real “pros” on the latter, cf. Behe’s Edge of Evolution. Even ignoring all this, making determinism a non-negotiable can potentially push ID out of the frying pan and into the fire.

As far as I can tell the dominant interpretation of quantum mechanics is the probabilistic Copenhagen interpretation. ID presumably doesn’t like that, so what’s the alternative? The many-worlds interpretation where quantum mechanics is deterministic where all the “possibilities” are in parallel universes. This wipes out the one argument that has a chance of being valid. Good job, guys.

Rich Blinne said:

ID’s issues are much deeper than the law of large numbers and miscalculating probabilities. ID proponents are real “pros” on the latter …

“Probability calculations are the last refuge of a scoundrel.” (Jeff Shallit)

MrG said:

Rich Blinne said:

ID’s issues are much deeper than the law of large numbers and miscalculating probabilities. ID proponents are real “pros” on the latter …

“Probability calculations are the last refuge of a scoundrel.” (Jeff Shallit)

Jeff should know. He had a lot of “scoundrels” commenting on his blog as he patiently tried to explain to them algorithmic information theory.

Rich Blinne said: Jeff should know. He had a lot of “scoundrels” commenting on his blog as he patiently tried to explain to them algorithmic information theory.

Oh yes. Shallit is indeed very patient, but I recall him slowly working up to a slow boil with the notorious Willy Wallace.

Is I’D a subspecies? Of what? If creationism is the genus then I.D is simply a species. Biblical creationists another species. Evolutionists are just a impact from outer space. Big noise and mess but now life is recovering finally.

6.7

Those last two “sentences” are top shelf looniness.

Nah. 5.2 is more appropriate IMHO:

Just Bob said:

6.7

Those last two “sentences” are top shelf looniness.

Booby, why don’t you ask your fellow delusional Canadian, Denyse O’Leary? Am sure she could “enlighten” you (In a manner befitting two delusional nuts trying to educate each other, with results that are truly “most” impressive.):

Robert Byers said:

Is I’D a subspecies? Of what? If creationism is the genus then I.D is simply a species. Biblical creationists another species. Evolutionists are just a impact from outer space. Big noise and mess but now life is recovering finally.

Rich Blinne Wrote:

ID’s issues are much deeper than the law of large numbers and miscalculating probabilities.

Of course. I’m only illustrating the tactics they use to mislead people who don’t understand and/or care how science is done.

Ironically, even though I’m usually the one most likely to highlight the differences between the ID strategy and classic “scientific” YEC and OEC, this is a case where a core strategy is common to both. The primary goal is always to promote unreasonable doubt of evolution. So they pretend that the science is “weak,” and/or that scientists are “biased” or worse. Anything that “sticks” with an uncritical audience. And by “uncritical audience” I don’t mean the hopeless ~25% that won’t concede evolution under any circumstances, but the other ~50% that prefers cool sound bites and conspiracy “theories” to science, and is usually willing to give an “expelled” “underdog” an unfair advantage.

Robert Byers said:

Is I’D a subspecies? Of what? If creationism is the genus then I.D is simply a species. Biblical creationists another species. Evolutionists are just a impact from outer space. Big noise and mess but now life is recovering finally.

OK, just a little “feeding”:

As you know and pretend not to, “creationism” has several definitions. Critics generally define it as any strategy that promotes unreasonable doubt of evolution and proposes a design-based nonexplanation in its place. That includes ID, for the simple reason that nearly all who are persuaded by ID’s arguments infer some scriptural “creation” account from it. A classic example is the rubes in Louisiana.

The public, however defines “creationism” almost exclusively as “honest belief in the 6-day creation in Genesis.” Some define it to include YEC and OEC versions, but most people simply haven’t thought it through, and lump all the mutually contradictory accounts as one that occurred “a long time ago.”

The DI routinely baits-and-switches the definitions to trap critics into careless “ID is too creationism” responses. Then like clockwork they jump all over those critics. Yet they usually just “look the other way” when a Biblical literalist says the same thing. Unless it is so blatant and public that it undermines the DI’s careful plans, as has just occurred in Louisiana. Then the DI has no choice but to go into damage control.

Rich -

This is what I am referring to:

http://www.uncommondescent.com/evol[…]ve-the-fray/

In comment number 20 (4/3/07 7:28 PM) you assert:

“No, that’s not what I am saying. I am saying address Dawkins with the best arguments available. Dawkins believes just because he slices through your weak arguments that he has conquered Christianity.”

“Note carefully what I am saying. Some of ID’s arguments are much stronger than others. The anti-evolutionary ones are its weakest. Focus on the stronger arguments you already have.”

You wrote this back in April 2007 when I presume you had read Barbara Forrest and Paul Gross’s “Creationism’s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design” (Or at least had heard of it.). They showed conclusively that Intelligent Design had no “strong arguments” to make, period. I am also reasonably certain that you may have heard Keith Miller declare this too. So I am utterly perplexed and stunned that you would even concede that Intelligent Design had “strong arguments” to contend with Dawkins’s condemnation of Christianity.

SWT said:

John, one of the points that you seem determined not to understand …

Alas, any one of them can only seem hopelessly insignificant in comparison to the sum of the rest.

John Kwok said:

Rich -

This is what I am referring to:

http://www.uncommondescent.com/evol[…]ve-the-fray/

In comment number 20 (4/3/07 7:28 PM) you assert:

“No, that’s not what I am saying. I am saying address Dawkins with the best arguments available. Dawkins believes just because he slices through your weak arguments that he has conquered Christianity.”

“Note carefully what I am saying. Some of ID’s arguments are much stronger than others. The anti-evolutionary ones are its weakest. Focus on the stronger arguments you already have.”

You wrote this back in April 2007 when I presume you had read Barbara Forrest and Paul Gross’s “Creationism’s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design” (Or at least had heard of it.). They showed conclusively that Intelligent Design had no “strong arguments” to make, period. I am also reasonably certain that you may have heard Keith Miller declare this too. So I am utterly perplexed and stunned that you would even concede that Intelligent Design had “strong arguments” to contend with Dawkins’s condemnation of Christianity.

Did you flunk English? At no time did I string the two words “strong argument” together but I did string the words “weak argument” together.

And Rich I find this more disturbing than your risible charge that I have committed a “creationist trick”. Again, under no circumstances at Uncommon Descent, should you have given any verbal “aid and comfort” to Dembski and his pathetic online gang of delusional intellectually-challenged fools incapable of discerning between sound science and religiously-derived pseudoscientific nonsense. Especially after his 2004 theft of $20,000 as the disappearing lead witness on behalf of the defense, the Dover Area School District board, in the Kitzmiller vs. Dover trial and his bizarre false accusation in 2006 to the Federal Department of Homeland Security, claiming that eminent University of Texas ecologist was a potential bioterrorist:

John Kwok said:

Rich -

This is what I am referring to:

http://www.uncommondescent.com/evol[…]ve-the-fray/

In comment number 20 (4/3/07 7:28 PM) you assert:

“No, that’s not what I am saying. I am saying address Dawkins with the best arguments available. Dawkins believes just because he slices through your weak arguments that he has conquered Christianity.”

“Note carefully what I am saying. Some of ID’s arguments are much stronger than others. The anti-evolutionary ones are its weakest. Focus on the stronger arguments you already have.”

You wrote this back in April 2007 when I presume you had read Barbara Forrest and Paul Gross’s “Creationism’s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design” (Or at least had heard of it.). They showed conclusively that Intelligent Design had no “strong arguments” to make, period. I am also reasonably certain that you may have heard Keith Miller declare this too. So I am utterly perplexed and stunned that you would even concede that Intelligent Design had “strong arguments” to contend with Dawkins’s condemnation of Christianity.

Obviously you are either ignorant of statistical methodology and using it to make statistically valid predictions with respect to polling data or you’re just interested in trying to make me look foolish (or both). Think you and SWT need to look at some stat books:

MrG said:

SWT said:

John, one of the points that you seem determined not to understand …

Alas, any one of them can only seem hopelessly insignificant in comparison to the sum of the rest.

John Kwok said:

Obviously you are either ignorant of statistical methodology and using it to make statistically valid predictions with respect to polling data or you’re just interested in trying to make me look foolish (or both). Think you and SWT need to look at some stat books:

MrG said:

SWT said:

John, one of the points that you seem determined not to understand …

Alas, any one of them can only seem hopelessly insignificant in comparison to the sum of the rest.

Obviously, you need to actually read my posts to see what I’ve actually written.

Are you guys seriously that bored? John and Rich, you each get one response then I’ll move any further bickering to the bathroom wall.

If you were a decent person, you would admit that you goofed in confusing Genie Scott’s citation of a 1996 Gallup Poll with one from Gallup for 2007. But you’re not decent.

GRRRR.

John, it’s the SAME DATA SET. Genie accessed it earlier is all.

Gallup has been collecting that same data for decades.

sweet JESUS, you’re dense.

It’s why I told you to actually read the Gallup report from 2007, where they reference that same, continuing, data set.

*sigh*

I don’t know why ANYONE bothers with you.

Mr Kwok is well on his way to become PT’s very own Mr Gordon E. Mullings (aka Kairosfocus on UcD), diluting the average information density of PT threads to dangerously low levels, making my fingers hurt from scrolling over his self-serving crap.

Start your own blog or STFU, Kwok.

Steve Matheson said:

Are you guys seriously that bored? John and Rich, you each get one response then I’ll move any further bickering to the bathroom wall.

You might consider shutting down a thread after about 300 postings or so. By that time, it’s usually just exchanges of fire between bickerers anyway.

Steve Matheson said:

Are you guys seriously that bored? John and Rich, you each get one response then I’ll move any further bickering to the bathroom wall.

Thanks, Steve and my apologies. You can count this as my one response. Over and out.

Steve,

Consider this my final response too. I have no interest or desire to comment further on comments made by delusional New Atheist fanatics here or by one of your co-religionists who believes that a hypothetical example I offwed here in this thread is a “creationist trick”, especially when he had the nerve to suggest to none other than William Dembski that Dembski - and Dembski’s Dishonesty Institute IDiot Borg Collective drones - had some “strong arguments” in ID to counter yet another condemnation of Christianity from Richard Dawkins. At the very least he shouldn’t have offered such a statement especially when it was well known back then that Dembski had stolen $20,000 from the Dover (PA) Area School District Board when he promised - then reneged - to appear on its behalf as a leading defense witness in the 2005 Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School District trial (And I am also certain he should heard of Dembski’s false accusation of eminent University of Texas ecologist Eric Pianka as a potential bioterrorist to the Federal Department of Homeland Security in 2006.).

MrG said:

Steve Matheson said:

Are you guys seriously that bored? John and Rich, you each get one response then I’ll move any further bickering to the bathroom wall.

You might consider shutting down a thread after about 300 postings or so. By that time, it’s usually just exchanges of fire between bickerers anyway.

Oh, shut up, loser, it is not!

:-)

fnxtr said:

Oh, shut up, loser, it is not!

:-)

IS TOO! IS TOO! :-O

I wasn’t going to comment further, but since Rich Blinne has yet to explain why he opted to give some encouraging words to Bill Dembski and Dembski’s delusional Dishonesty Institute IDiot Borg Collective drones at Uncommonly Dense back in April 2007 and has opted to comment extensively elsewhere here at Panda’s Thumb, I thought I’d leave one last closing comment. Rich Blinne may think he knows what constitutes creationism and how to deal with his fellow Evangelical Christians with regards to this. But he has never successfully confronted delusion Dishonesty Institute mendacious intellectual pornographers Stephen Meyer, William Dembski and Michael Behe. His fellow Evangelicals Steve Matheson and David Heddle have (And so have I, though admittedly, not in the same spectacular fashion that Steve Matheson demonstrated recently in his open letter to Stephen Meyer.).

Some typos so I am reposting this:

I wasn’t going to comment further, but since Rich Blinne has yet to explain why he opted to give some encouraging words to Bill Dembski and Dembski’s delusional Dishonesty Institute IDiot Borg Collective drones at Uncommonly Dense back in April 2007 and has opted to comment extensively elsewhere here at Panda’s Thumb, I thought I’d leave one last closing comment. Rich Blinne may think he knows what constitutes creationism and how to deal most effectively with fellow Evangelical Christians sympathetic to (or fervently believing in) Intelligent Design creationism and other forms of “scientific creationism”. But he has never successfully confronted delusional Dishonesty Institute mendacious intellectual pornographers Stephen Meyer, William Dembski and Michael Behe. His fellow Evangelicals Keith Miller, Steve Matheson and David Heddle have (And so have I, though admittedly, not in the same spectacular fashion that Steve Matheson demonstrated recently in his open letter to Stephen Meyer.).

There is much stochasticity in biology, most notably in gene expression. This Creationist Scientist acknowledges stochasticity in gene expression, signal transduction, and cell death numbers during architectural developmental processes. And yet determinism reigns with specification of some 250 unique cell types that make up (the majority of time) our unique body plan. There is no incompatibility with the aforementioned stochastic biological processes and existence of God just as there is no problem with intrinsic imperfections of the genome and a perfect God. Afterall, we are all living proof of non-perfection, especially as it relates to moral codes.

Anthony Joseph said:

There is no incompatibility with the aforementioned stochastic biological processes and existence of God just as there is no problem with intrinsic imperfections of the genome and a perfect God.

No one here has argued otherwise. I think you’re confusing “God didn’t do X” with “God doesn’t exist”.

John, no one as ASA is going to care how anyone treats you. You are a joke on Rational Wiki, John. You get banned from most blogs you post on. Blinne’s characterization of you as using creationist tactics is quite accurate, and well-substantiated by this very thread. Please, John, get help. Medical help, preferably. You are not a sane man.

John Kwok said:

What happened Rich? Did your cat caught your tongue?

Even if I don’t report you to ASA senior leadership, I am sure they’ll get a whiff regarding how you treat someone - myself - who has a well-established track record in dealing with delusional Xians like Michael Behe and Bill Dembski. They will certainly wonder how you can claim to be a credible advocate in urging others sympathetic to the DI, when they will see you merely as a liberal Evangelical who may be a stealth New Atheist in disguise, given your recent behavior here at Panda’s Thumb (Or even someone still sympathetic to the Dishonesty Institute based on your “advice” on how ID can be used against Dawkins’s condemnation of Christianity which you posted at Dembski’s website back in April 2007.).

If you wish to be seen as a credible advocate, then you can start by retracting your “creationist trick” comments and apologizing for them. Tomorrow is the Christian Sabbath. I think that would be a most appropriate time for your retractions and apologies.

First, “creationist scientist” is an oxymoron - you might wish to address that point: no creationist can be an honest scientist. Second, the imperfection of the world is a tremendous and potentially unanswerable counter-argument to a perfect God, though defining “perfect” in the context of God would be useful to advance your argument.

Anthony Joseph said:

There is much stochasticity in biology, most notably in gene expression. This Creationist Scientist acknowledges stochasticity in gene expression, signal transduction, and cell death numbers during architectural developmental processes. And yet determinism reigns with specification of some 250 unique cell types that make up (the majority of time) our unique body plan. There is no incompatibility with the aforementioned stochastic biological processes and existence of God just as there is no problem with intrinsic imperfections of the genome and a perfect God. Afterall, we are all living proof of non-perfection, especially as it relates to moral codes.

Malchus said:

no creationist can be an honest scientist.

Todd Wood appears to be both. The guy admits evolution is the only scientific theory for the origin of species, and that the physical evidence overwhelmingly supports it (he says he doesn’t believe it for faith reasons). RBH even wrote a PT post on him being an honest creationist (April ‘09).

However, Wood is probably more ‘exception that proves the rule’ than counter-argument. For every Wood, there’s probably countless creationists who go to school, earn a Ph.D. just to get the letters, then start spouting nonsense about the 2LOT or what have you.

Interesting. I will look him up. Thank you.

eric said:

Malchus said:

no creationist can be an honest scientist.

Todd Wood appears to be both. The guy admits evolution is the only scientific theory for the origin of species, and that the physical evidence overwhelmingly supports it (he says he doesn’t believe it for faith reasons). RBH even wrote a PT post on him being an honest creationist (April ‘09).

However, Wood is probably more ‘exception that proves the rule’ than counter-argument. For every Wood, there’s probably countless creationists who go to school, earn a Ph.D. just to get the letters, then start spouting nonsense about the 2LOT or what have you.

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This page contains a single entry by Steve Matheson published on August 8, 2010 11:55 PM.

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