Behe’s review in context, or what’s the point?

| 467 Comments

by Paul S. Braterman, University of Glasgow; Professor Emeritus, University of North Texas

As you know by now, Behe has actually had a paper published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal (Behe M.J., Quarterly Review of Biology 85(4), 2010, 419-415). Well, not exactly a paper, more of a literature review. Well, not exactly a literature review, more a review of previous reviews, reinterpreting their findings according to his own criteria. The publication itself is shoddy piece of work. I have written numerous reviews myself, and would never have dreamed of basing them on earlier reviews, rather than my own up-to-date literature search. But let that pass.

Behe constructs an elaborate apparatus for classifying mutations as “gain”, “modification”, or “loss” of what he calls a Functional Coded Element (FCT). The definition is skewed to make “gain” as difficult to prove as possible. The process needs to be understood at the molecular level, rather than simply in terms of phenotype expression. This enables him to dismiss as of unproven relevance the Lenski group’s famous demonstration of E.Coli acquiring the ability to metabolise citrate under anaerobic conditions. Moreover, advantageous removal of inhibition is treated as “loss”, but advantageous disruption of a function by IS duplication and insertion is classified as “modification”, rather than “gain”. Using these restrictive and asymmetric criteria, Behe classifies most sufficiently well-understood mutations in laboratory-bred bacteria as loss or modification, although he does recognise a few gains.

Why bother with this eccentric-seeming enterprise? Here we need to look at the broader context of Behe’s involvement with the Discovery Institute.

The context makes him a colleague of William Dembski, who notoriously claims that undirected evolution cannot even in principle generate novel information. So Behe is concerned to minimise the importance of cases where evolution has demonstrably done just that. The techniques he uses invite analysis along the lines of the deconstruction by Boudry et al. of creationist strategy, which (through good luck, or cruel judgement, who knows?) appeared in the same issue of Quarterly Review of Biology as the article under discussion. (Boudry M., Blancke S., Braeckman J., Quarterly Review of Biology 85(4), 2010, 473-482.)

The advocates of supernatural causation start with the bold initial claim: that organisms cannot acquire new functions by natural processes, since new information cannot be generated without the intervention of an intelligence. Notice that this is a claim that such things cannot happen, even in principle.

But there are numerous well-known counterexamples, many of them discussed in this review.

The next stage is rhetorical dismissal of such counterexamples. Here the strategies include limiting the search (ignoring the massive creative role of gene duplication and polyploidy in eukaryotes, and of horizontal transfer followed by selection in bacteria themselves), narrowing the criteria (new functions don’t count unless they can be demonstrated to arise from additions, rather than any other kinds of alterations, to the molecular machinery), and inventing additional constraints (creation of a new category, the FCT, classifying the process as a loss if either material or function is lost at any stage in the change being discussed, dismissing changes in function as mere transformations, rather than novelties). This stage switches the emphasis from what is possible in principle, to the demand that each case be demonstrated in practice, and fully analysed in detail, at the molecular level.

Finally, any counterexamples still surviving this moving of the goalposts and restricting and tilting of the playing field are dismissed as untypical, and therefore unimportant. Another leap of logic, as the present case shows. For even if losses (according to Behe’s criteria) outnumber gains, losses are in general unlikely to be dramatic without being lethal—there are some obvious well-known exceptions, such as the evolution of parasitism—whereas dramatic gains such as gene duplication, horizontal gene transfer, or polyploidy, can and do have the most profound effects imaginable.

The whole process is a study in indirection, closely related to the technique of the stage magician. We are supposed to nod our heads wisely, and agree that real and difficult problems have been raised, rather than noticing displacement of our attention away from the initial claim. This, let me remind you, was that something is impossible even in principle, and was more than adequately refuted by the very first counterexample.

The ultimate in indirection is the promulgation of a new rule, rising phoenix-like from the ashes of the old, while pretending to the same level of significance. In the present case we have, to quote the article’s peroration:

This reasoning can be concisely stated as what I call “The First Rule of Adaptive Evolution”:

Break or blunt any functional coded element whose loss would yield a net fitness gain.

It is called a “rule” in the sense of being a rule of thumb. It is a heuristic, useful generalization, rather than a strict law; other circumstances being equal, this is what is usually to be expected in adaptive evolution

(Emphasis in the original)

In other words, when it is advantageous to lose an element of the molecular machinery, selection pressures are likely to lead to its loss.

Did we really need 27 pages of prime journal space to tell us this?

467 Comments

Where “indirection” is used I think “misdirection” is meant.

The context makes him a colleague of William Dembski, who notoriously claims that undirected evolution cannot even in principle generate novel information. So Behe is concerned to minimise the importance of cases where evolution has demonstrably done just that.

and

Finally, any counterexamples still surviving this moving of the goalposts and restricting and tilting of the playing field are dismissed as untypical, and therefore unimportant.

If even one example survives, no matter how “untypical”, that would invalidate Dembski’s theorem, because the theorem is supposed to make increase of Complex Specified Information impossible. Behe can minimize all he wants, but the evidence has still refuted Dembski.

In fact, Dembski’s mathematical theorems don’t do what he claims, as he changes the definition of the specification before and after the evolutionary change. If he were to keep them the same, his theorem would easily be seen to be refuted.

Behe constructs an elaborate apparatus for classifying mutations as “gain”, “modification”, or “loss” of what he calls a Functional Coded Element (FCT).

I wince. Another hifalutin’ acronym to go into the creationists toolkit of fake information theory.

Isn’t QRB a relatively reputable journal, or at least used to be? I thought they solicited reviews rather than just taking whatever random musings pop out of someone’s rotted gourd. The frequency with which this (papers being published whose assertions are unsupported by their data) is happening these days is rather disturbing. Or have I just not noticed this before?

Chris Caprette said:

Isn’t QRB a relatively reputable journal, or at least used to be? I thought they solicited reviews rather than just taking whatever random musings pop out of someone’s rotted gourd. The frequency with which this (papers being published whose assertions are unsupported by their data) is happening these days is rather disturbing. Or have I just not noticed this before?

QRB is reputable. I have myself submitted an unsolicited review to them and seen it published. Of course, that was a good review.

It would be interesting to know how this article came to be there.

This line of “argument” has gone so far beyond ludicrous that I am surprised that QRB even bothered to publish it; unless this is simply putting creationist pseudo-science in the spotlight in journals that will bring it to the attention of the broader scientific community (that might ultimately be a good thing).

But this Behe junk science is so easily observed to be wrong even in physics and chemistry. Every level of complexity in condensed matter systems produces newly emergent phenomena that did not exist at lower level. This observation is absolutely unavoidable; and these IDiots are constantly bumbling around running into solid walls yet failing to notice.

This kind of stuff has been known for so long and is so well understood one has to wonder why Behe thinks it doesn’t apply to biological systems.

And he appears to think it doesn’t. But if he really believes that, then it is up to him and his cohorts to produce the laws of physics and chemistry that intervene to cut off such phenomena in biological systems and to show precisely at what level such physical laws kick in.

Physicists learned long ago that if it isn’t forbidden, it happens somewhere, sometime with some probability.

these IDiots are constantly bumbling around running into solid walls yet failing to notice.

Imagine that you are faced with two rigid, non-negotiable conditions: (1) Your faith absolutely demands that reality be a certain way, and simply cannot and will not tolerate anything else; and (2) Reality doesn’t come remotely close to your requirements, and indeed roundly and trivially refutes it at every turn.

NOW, what do you do? Curl up and die? Failing that, EITHER your faith or reality must be modified as necessary. And the former is not possible. NOW what do you do?

Ultimately, you find some way to soft-shoe around the Kurt Wise Insight - that evidence doesn’t matter. It can’t matter. If it’s allowed to matter, your faith risks being WRONG. And even death is preferable to THAT.

Very elegant takedown. But Behe’s whole argument in a nutshell seems to consist of semantic quibbles over the meanings of the words “gain,” “loss” and “modification.” Whatever words you use in describing the processes, genes do certain things that evolutionary theory claims they do - and ID claims they don’t.

Well, by way of counterpoint, Jim Bull, who read the manuscript prior to publication and has done a fair bit of work in this area is much more complimentary:

My own view of the MB paper is that it has done a service to the study of evolution by pointing out where the next generation of experients should focus.

http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress[…]ies-to-behe/

I’d be interested in Richard Lenski’s response. I’d also be interested in a response from Michael Lynch to Axe’s new paper in the pseudo-journal Biocomplexity. Lynch’s work always strikes me as excellent, so I doubt Axe’s attack has much merit, but would be nice to see a reply. Or maybe he’s got better work to do.

Better things to do I mean.

Braterman said

Behe has actually had a paper published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal (Behe M.J., Quarterly Review of Biology 85(4), 2010, 419-415). Well, not exactly a paper, more of a literature review. Well, not exactly a literature review, more a review of previous reviews, reinterpreting their findings according to his own criteria.

Did this paper add anything new to the research, why was it even published, did it even merit publication. It sounds more like Meyer´s review paper that Sternberg snuck into the Smithsonian related journal.

Even if Behe’s paper was a legitimate summary of the work out there it could be viewed as nothing more than support for the ‘anti-selectionist’ point of view. In my view, living things are rarely under any selective pressure and there is growing evidence that there has been a continuous ratcheting up of complexity that isnt selected for. ( There was a great review in either Science or Nature in the last 2 weeks that I could look up if anyones interested ) Seems to me the intense selective pressure thats part of a lab experiment would occur very rarely in any lineage so occasional losses of “FCT’s” would not be a problem

RWilson said: In my view, living things are rarely under any selective pressure and there is growing evidence that there has been a continuous ratcheting up of complexity that isnt selected for.

Or in other words, the ball of yarn just keeps getting more tangled on its own. The odd thing is that sounds on the face of it like an ID argument, but it’s exactly the opposite. Complexity has an aspect of disorder; it is the simple systems that demonstrate the greater orderliness.

RWilson said:

Even if Behe’s paper was a legitimate summary of the work out there it could be viewed as nothing more than support for the ‘anti-selectionist’ point of view. In my view, living things are rarely under any selective pressure and there is growing evidence that there has been a continuous ratcheting up of complexity that isn’t selected for.

It’s a little like asserting that because one obtains a hexagonal prism form of ice in a given experiment, that therefore snowflakes are impossible.

There is more on classifying snowflakes here.

This is one of those extremely simple systems that can do all sorts of interesting things with just a few changes in environmental conditions.

Why then should anyone be surprised at what complex, organic living systems can do?

And why should anyone be surprised that any given experiment with such systems would not reveal the whole range of evolutionary changes that can occur in such systems?

wikipedia wheat:

Wheat genetics is more complicated than that of most other domesticated species. Some wheat species are diploid, with two sets of chromosomes, but many are stable polyploids, with four sets of chromosomes (tetraploid) or six (hexaploid).[18]

Well Behe has confused me. If genetic information can’t increase by evolution, why is there wheat? Which has various genotypes, but the common one is a hexaploid.

This is not only interesting but useful inasmuch as wheat is a leading human food crop.

Evolutionary biology has made it possible to feed 6.7 billion people. What has creationism or ID ever accomplished?

To put this in perspective, Behe is just moving the goal posts.

Creationists used to say and most still do, that beneficial mutations are impossible.

Of course, there are countless examples of beneficial mutations wherever we look, including humans, alpha amylase (starch digestion), CDC5delta32 (HIV resistance), A1 Milano (resistance to artherosclerosis).

Now he is trying to say that they are all loss of function and evolution can’t create new information. Which is just as wrong. Amylase and A1 Milano are gains of function mutations.

Who knows how many beneficial mutations are known that are modifications or gain of functions, but whatever the number is, it is large.

He is wrong on the facts just like he was in his book called the Edge of Evolution. A better title would have been the Edge of Behe’s Ability to Tell Truth from Fiction.

Joe Felsenstein said:

Chris Caprette said:

Isn’t QRB a relatively reputable journal, or at least used to be? I thought they solicited reviews rather than just taking whatever random musings pop out of someone’s rotted gourd. The frequency with which this (papers being published whose assertions are unsupported by their data) is happening these days is rather disturbing. Or have I just not noticed this before?

QRB is reputable. I have myself submitted an unsolicited review to them and seen it published. Of course, that was a good review.

It would be interesting to know how this article came to be there.

Apparently this is a special issue devoted to evaluating the “scientific” claims of ID cretinism, judging from the other papers that were published. I suppose the editors opted to give Behe a forum so that they wouldn’t be accused of using McCarthyite tactics against such “notable” ID “scholars” like Behe. IMHO it’s the worst paper I have seen published in this journal, and frankly, I wished the editors hadn’t lowered their standards just to accomodate Behe.

Sometimes these sessions over ID theoretical arguments seem like “handwaving contests”. They get up and wave their hands frantically, leading to a flood of handwaving in response.

Not that, given that ID arguments are fuzz, nitpicking, red herrings, and evasions, the discussion could possibly sound like anything else. The handwaving contest does work out in the end: nobody who has a grasp of the facts fails to see ID as a con job, and as far as neutral bystanders who don’t have a grasp of the facts go, they soon get bored and go home.

Can somebody who has seen the article let us know if the term “intelligent design” actually appears in the article? (And that means in the body of the article, not in the author’s CV, as Dembski did in a recent IEEE “article.”)

Fake Michael Behe:

Then you went and backed that up with zero evidence.

This isn’t the real Michael Behe.

It is a troll who changes ID’s every hour or so.

There will be more Fake Aliases along.

so again, how does this paper pass review? because the problem is entirely that it has. behe always says rubbish - no news there. but now, instead of saying “behe asserts X”, creationists will say “behe has demonstrated X” and follow it with an irritating citation. if the paper so clearly fails to demonstrate it’s claim, why is behe being over-debunked while QRB is under-attacked?

I prefer “indirection” to “misdirection” because that is the term used by professional conjurers.

Ironically, very shortly after this “review” appeared, Nature published a report on a massive study of innovation in bacteria:

Lawrence A. David, Eric J. Alm. Rapid evolutionary innovation during an Archaean genetic expansion. Nature, 2010; DOI: 10.1038/nature09649

As the summary diagram shows, innovations greatly exceed deletions. A major pathway to innovation is horizontal gene transfer, which is of course automatically excluded in the laboratory monocultures that are the only systems that Behe discusses.

And the IDiots are indeed already podcasting Behe droning on about how he has shown that “the overwhelming majority of changes are deletions or, at best, neutral”.

But I don’t blame QRB, who, politically speaking, were in a cleft stick.

Flint:
NOW, what do you do? Curl up and die? Failing that, EITHER your faith or reality must be modified as necessary. And the former is not possible. NOW what do you do?

Personally, I would argue that the honest thing to do would be to admit that one’s faith is a higher priority than pursuing science and stop trying to use science to support one’s faith. Behe and cohorts seem to be compelled to act as if Philip Johnson’s fact-free belief that modern science is the root of all evil were true and that they as good Christians must fight valiantly to change it from within. It would be much less painful for us (and probably them as well) if they would just stick to what they can do competently or get out of the sciences altogether. My rank speculation in the form of armchair psychoanalysis is that these guys revel in faux persecution and martyrdom, much like non-violent jihadi’s.

//Personally, I would argue that the honest thing to do would be to admit that one’s faith is a higher priority than pursuing science and stop trying to use science to support one’s faith.//

Sigh, Behe was a Darwinian biologist before he became a skeptic, and like many Darwinian biologists who are still Christians at the same time, Behe had no problems with his Christian belief while he believed Darwinism was sufficient to account for the complexity and diversity of life.

@Raven

//Of course, there are countless examples of beneficial mutations wherever we look, including humans, alpha amylase (starch digestion), CDC5delta32 (HIV resistance), A1 Milano (resistance to artherosclerosis).//

Countless examples? Really, I can count the examples on my hand, the problem is that these types of mutations cannot be extrapolated to explain what needs to be explained. Yes, freak accidents happen, sometimes a single mutation in the right place is all it takes(works well when all you need to do is break something). But these types of mutations cannot be extrapolated to explain what would require a sequence of mutations in the right place in succession.

Creationist lying:

But these types of mutations cannot be extrapolated to explain what would require a sequence of mutations in the right place in succession.

False. Like everything you wrote.

The data says beneficial mutations are common and we find them wherever we look.

Hitchens: An assertion made without proof or data can be dismissed without proof or data.

But we scientists have the empirical data, unlike creationists who just make stuff up. One example of countless is below. Beneficial mutations are common enough that the main competition is between lineages with…different beneficial mutations.

Adaptive mutations in bacteria: high rate and small effects. Perfeito L, Fernandes L, Mota C, Gordo I.

Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência, Rua da Quinta Grande, number 6, 2780-156 Oeiras, Portugal.

Abstract Evolution by natural selection is driven by the continuous generation of adaptive mutations. We measured the genomic mutation rate that generates beneficial mutations and their effects on fitness in Escherichia coli under conditions in which the effect of competition between lineages carrying different beneficial mutations is minimized. We found a rate on the order of 10(-5) per genome per generation, which is 1000 times as high as previous estimates, and a mean selective advantage of 1%. Such a high rate of adaptive evolution has implications for the evolution of antibiotic resistance and pathogenicity.

creationist lying:

Countless examples? Really, I can count the examples on my hand,..

So. So you are ignorant and lazy. I could look up and list dozens with a few minutes with google.

But why bother. You would just move the goal posts and start claiming we have to pop off a Big Bang to prove the start of the universe.

I’ll point out here that medicine and agriculture depends heavily on the existence of beneficial mutations. On both sides.

Cancer is a disease of somatic cell evolution. What is often treatment limiting is resistance to radiation and chemotherapy. These mutations are beneficial to the cancer cells of course, not the host. But evolution is blind.

This fact will kill 1/3 of the US population, 100 million people.

The green revolution which feeds 6.7 billion people depends heavily on beneficial mutations from our stand point. It is threatened by mutations beneficial to various plant pathogens including fungi and insects.

Evolutionary biology only matters to people who eat and want to live long, healthy lives.

@Raven,

I am not a creationist, in fact I reject creationism for the same reason I reject Darwinism, I don’t like “forward-based” reasoning from deductions, be these because of our understanding or interpretation of religious texts or the acceptance of metaphysical presuppositions in advance.

Darwinists like to throw all the problems in the same class, so if they can therefore show that is some can be solved by Darwinian means this means any problems can be solved by Darwinian processes.

My argument was that you cannot use examples of single point mutations that had beneficial outcomes for the organism and pretend that we can extrapolate this to explain what would require a series of mutations in succession at the right place at the right time.

University of Southampton Lecturer and evolutionary computer scientist Richard Watson points out:

“In computer science we recognize the algorithmic principle described by Darwin—the linear accumulation of small changes through random variation and selection—as hill climbing, more specifically random mutation hill climbing. However, we also recognize that hill climbing is the simplest possible form of optimization and is known to work well only on a limited class of problems.”

Kris pouted:

At what exact point does something become a ‘theory’ instead of a thought, concept, hypothesis, assumption, experiment, speculation, guess, inference, vocalization, suggestion, discussion, debate, belief, or religious belief, and exactly who determines that point?

Well, gee, I dunno, Kris, you’re the only scientist on this forum, according to you, why don’t you enlighten me.

So, Johan, when are you going to explain to us how Intelligent Design is supposed to be a better explanation than Evolutionary Biology?

You continue wasting our time with a lot of philosophical nattering, and proud spouting of your own willful ignorance, yet, you never seem to get around to explaining and demonstrating what, exactly the evidence for Intelligent Design is, AND you never seem to get around to explaining how Intelligent Design is supposed to be an explanation in the first place.

I say this is deliberate: You are too cowardly to admit that there is no evidence for Intelligent Design, and you are too cowardly to admit that Intelligent Design is not an explanation, scientific or otherwise.

Johan said:

Flint said:

I will ask one last time: show us the evidence that supports your claim that anything in nature is intelligently-designed or STFU and go away.

What would you regard as evidence? Anything? After all, as many have pointed out, most structures of most organisms are functional and useful to the organism. Many are quite exquisitely suited to the organism’s environment and lifestyle. NOBODY argues that these things are coincidence.

And as many have also pointed out, IF we regard the environment as the designer, and differential survival rates as the environment’s designing mechanism, then we have a universal and constant design process occurring.

So what, exactly, are you demanding here? Certainly not either designs (all organisms are designed in this sense) or the design process (well understood but still being filled in with details). I’m guessing you’re demanding evidence that some agency OTHER than environment is contributing to design, and some mechanisms OTHER than those already identified of selection, drift, horizontal gene transfer, etc. are being imposed by means not yet experimentally established. Right?

I think it’s important to make this clear. I don’t see anyone disagreeing with Behe that design is obvious just by looking. The disagreement always revolves around the urge to inject unnecessary magical means and purposes into it. Apparently a good many respectable scientists (Miller, Collins, etc.) can do very effective work despite a belief that some mystical Final Cause somehow underlies the evolutionary process we are able to observe.

//Apparently a good many respectable scientists (Miller, Collins, etc.) can do very effective work despite a belief that some mystical Final Cause somehow underlies the evolutionary process we are able to observe.//

The problem is, both Collins and Miller attack ID on theological grounds, for Miller detectable evidence of design would undermine the freedom of God, and for Collins evolution has to be true and God had to have no part in it otherwise “God was an underachiever and started this evolutionary process and then realized it wasn’t going to quite work and had to keep stepping in all along the way to fix it. That seems like a limitation of God’s omniscience.”

I prefer atheistic evolutionists over theistic evolutionists any day, at least they are consistent.

Who else has noticed how blasphemous creationism is? They claim to worship the all-powerful all-knowing creator of the entire fucking universe, claim their imaginary friend can do miracles, heal the sick, raise the dead, make entire planets out of nothing at all, turn water to wine, fix sporting events, but the instant you ask them to SHOW you this god, he’s hiding. The god they claim is so amazing is powerless to reveal himself, incapable of spreading his word without government endorsement, constantly begging for money, terrified of billboards and bus ads, helpless against a dead British scientist, unable to so much as lift a finger to help those in need, and the subtle process of natural selection is utterly beyond his ken.

Show them the wonders of the universe, and they cover their eyes, plug their ears, and cower in the corner screeching “No, no, NO, my god is a tiny god, and I want him to stay that way!!!!”

Doc Bill said:

Kris pouted:

At what exact point does something become a ‘theory’ instead of a thought, concept, hypothesis, assumption, experiment, speculation, guess, inference, vocalization, suggestion, discussion, debate, belief, or religious belief, and exactly who determines that point?

Well, gee, I dunno, Kris, you’re the only scientist on this forum, according to you, why don’t you enlighten me.

He can not: Kris is too busy trolling and insulting everyone who does not bow down to his deliberately vague pontifications.

Johan said:

Dale Husband said:

Johan said:

Flint said:

I will ask one last time: show us the evidence that supports your claim that anything in nature is intelligently-designed or STFU and go away.

What would you regard as evidence? Anything? After all, as many have pointed out, most structures of most organisms are functional and useful to the organism. Many are quite exquisitely suited to the organism’s environment and lifestyle. NOBODY argues that these things are coincidence.

And as many have also pointed out, IF we regard the environment as the designer, and differential survival rates as the environment’s designing mechanism, then we have a universal and constant design process occurring.

So what, exactly, are you demanding here? Certainly not either designs (all organisms are designed in this sense) or the design process (well understood but still being filled in with details). I’m guessing you’re demanding evidence that some agency OTHER than environment is contributing to design, and some mechanisms OTHER than those already identified of selection, drift, horizontal gene transfer, etc. are being imposed by means not yet experimentally established. Right?

I think it’s important to make this clear. I don’t see anyone disagreeing with Behe that design is obvious just by looking. The disagreement always revolves around the urge to inject unnecessary magical means and purposes into it. Apparently a good many respectable scientists (Miller, Collins, etc.) can do very effective work despite a belief that some mystical Final Cause somehow underlies the evolutionary process we are able to observe.

//Apparently a good many respectable scientists (Miller, Collins, etc.) can do very effective work despite a belief that some mystical Final Cause somehow underlies the evolutionary process we are able to observe.//

The problem is, both Collins and Miller attack ID on theological grounds, for Miller detectable evidence of design would undermine the freedom of God, and for Collins evolution has to be true and God had to have no part in it otherwise “God was an underachiever and started this evolutionary process and then realized it wasn’t going to quite work and had to keep stepping in all along the way to fix it. That seems like a limitation of God’s omniscience.”

I prefer atheistic evolutionists over theistic evolutionists any day, at least they are consistent.

So why aren’t you an atheist? Because Theistic Creationists (TCs) are even more inconsistent than Theistic Evolutionists (TEs). TCs are inconsistent with reality itself, while TEs are merely inconsistent with a literal reading of the Bible.

Or maybe you fail to consider that biologists have found many shoddy examples of design in nature that most theists are unwilling to believe could have been designed by God, once they know of them. No one wants to worship an idiot, unless he is himself one. Are you an idiot, Johan?

Why am I not an atheist? Because I regard the position philosophically too problematic, on atheistic grounds one cannot provide an adequate philosophy of mathematics (atheism renders mathematics an invention of the human mind), naturalistic epistemology cannot account for normative truth in general (atheism cannot explain the very possibility of having knowledge). Atheism cannot explain good or evil, and renders both illusions, to name a few of the reasons why I am not an atheist.

Johan

Ah, I see, you’re not an atheist because everything you believe about atheists is a pack of obvious lies, slanders, and strawmen.

I bet you just LOVE AiG’s advertising.

Intelligent Design is nothing more than relabeled creationism, and creationism is nothing more than an excuse to steal money and rape children. If you have a problem with that characterization, then you can go fuck yourself, since it’s more accurate by miles than your bullshit.

Johan said:

Why am I not an atheist? Because I regard the position philosophically too problematic, on atheistic grounds one cannot provide an adequate philosophy of mathematics (atheism renders mathematics an invention of the human mind), naturalistic epistemology cannot account for normative truth in general (atheism cannot explain the very possibility of having knowledge). Atheism cannot explain good or evil, and renders both illusions, to name a few of the reasons why I am not an atheist.

Johan

All those statements are either false or irrelevant, Johan. Atheism is merely the denial of theism. How does denial of theism result in the inability of people to explain good and evil? How does the idea that mathemathics is a product of the human mind pose a problem for you and what does that have to do with atheism? And how can you possibly justify your claim that “atheism cannot explain the very possibility of having knowledge”? That is an absurdity!

The reason why Miller makes such bad arguments is because in the end he is motivated by theology not science, to Miller God’s creativity and freedom is undermined the second evidence for his design was detectable.

Therefore in Miller’s mind it makes perfect sense to conclude Motor bikes are not designed if one could strip the engine and use this as a heater, it’s because theology like it did for Darwin and others drives science and this theology demands that evolution is true one way or another. Unless we are to accept that God’s freedom is undermined, or that God is a cruel God, of course not! Fortunately evolution is here to save God’s freedom and goodness, or so the story goes.

Johan

Johan said:

Chris Caprette said:

Johan said:And this is exactly why evolution is a science stopper, we are not going to be motivated to try and understand the human genome as best as we can when we think it is mostly junk, because we don’t know of any function for non-protein coding DNA. If we really had to take our evolutionary presuppositions serious we would have to stop science, after all what would be the point of trying to figure out the purpose or function of something we believed is junk?

The bolded phrase above is generally used in reference toward creationists, where it applies. That 95% of the genome is junk is not a presupposition. It is a conclusion based upon considerable (and ongoing) testing. I would end that sentence with “you lazy ignorant ass!” but I would be unnecessarily stating the obvious. I will ask one last time: show us the evidence that supports your claim that anything in nature is intelligently-designed or STFU and go away.

Wow, so non-protein coding DNA really is just junk? This is a conclusion? Why am I not convinced by looking at the same evidence? It seems DNA codes not only for proteins but for a lot more, there are genes that act purely as switches which regulate the timing and expression of proteins, there are genes that get converted into RNA for many roles of which nothing has to do with building proteins.

What do I think is evidence that something was intelligent designed in nature?

Informational macro molecules[DNA, RNA, proteins] the information embedded in them together with the necessary machinery to translate and express this information, this I think is probably the most powerful evidence for ID.

Johan

You failed to read the original comment accurately – again and no doubt deliberately. “Protein coding” was your phrase. Mine was “functional products”, which includes any transcript and regulatory sequences.

The most powerful evidence to support your claim that anything in nature is intelligently-designed is biological macromolecules? Now you are arguing against natural abiogenesis and chemical evolution. The discussion at hand had to do with biological evolution, which it so happens is theorized to have occurred AFTER the macromolecules formed but I’ll humor you for a moment because you at least are attempting to answer the question after over 400 total comments a substantial percentage of which asked it. What about the macromolecules is evidence of intelligent design? Specifically, what predictions about those molecules does ID make (exclusive of other hypotheses, e.g. natural abiogenesis) that can be tested so that ID may be evaluated as a scientific hypothesis? Behe tried this with his “irreducible complexity” argument, albeit at a different point in the history, and was handed his hat. Can you do better?

Remember, labs have synthesized and continue to synthesize these molecules without intelligently designing them. Middle school kids can do this. So, you have to find some way of demonstrating that synthesis in the prehistoric earth environment somehow required something more than the ingredients and energy, the occurrence of both of which are explained by natural more-or-less random processes.

Dale Husband said:

Johan said:

Flint said:

I will ask one last time: show us the evidence that supports your claim that anything in nature is intelligently-designed or STFU and go away.

What would you regard as evidence? Anything? After all, as many have pointed out, most structures of most organisms are functional and useful to the organism. Many are quite exquisitely suited to the organism’s environment and lifestyle. NOBODY argues that these things are coincidence.

And as many have also pointed out, IF we regard the environment as the designer, and differential survival rates as the environment’s designing mechanism, then we have a universal and constant design process occurring.

So what, exactly, are you demanding here? Certainly not either designs (all organisms are designed in this sense) or the design process (well understood but still being filled in with details). I’m guessing you’re demanding evidence that some agency OTHER than environment is contributing to design, and some mechanisms OTHER than those already identified of selection, drift, horizontal gene transfer, etc. are being imposed by means not yet experimentally established. Right?

I think it’s important to make this clear. I don’t see anyone disagreeing with Behe that design is obvious just by looking. The disagreement always revolves around the urge to inject unnecessary magical means and purposes into it. Apparently a good many respectable scientists (Miller, Collins, etc.) can do very effective work despite a belief that some mystical Final Cause somehow underlies the evolutionary process we are able to observe.

//Apparently a good many respectable scientists (Miller, Collins, etc.) can do very effective work despite a belief that some mystical Final Cause somehow underlies the evolutionary process we are able to observe.//

The problem is, both Collins and Miller attack ID on theological grounds, for Miller detectable evidence of design would undermine the freedom of God, and for Collins evolution has to be true and God had to have no part in it otherwise “God was an underachiever and started this evolutionary process and then realized it wasn’t going to quite work and had to keep stepping in all along the way to fix it. That seems like a limitation of God’s omniscience.”

I prefer atheistic evolutionists over theistic evolutionists any day, at least they are consistent.

So why aren’t you an atheist? Because Theistic Creationists (TCs) are even more inconsistent than Theistic Evolutionists (TEs). TCs are inconsistent with reality itself, while TEs are merely inconsistent with a literal reading of the Bible.

Or maybe you fail to consider that biologists have found many shoddy examples of design in nature that most theists are unwilling to believe could have been designed by God, once they know of them. No one wants to worship an idiot, unless he is himself one. Are you an idiot, Johan?

Speaking of idiots, have any of you looked at Dale’s idiotic blog? He puts on quite a show there, and he obviously believes that he’s just about the only one on Earth who isn’t and is never wrong, delusional, ignorant, dishonest, fraudulent, stupid, uneducated, biased, dogmatic, insane, bigoted, arrogant, self-righteous, etc., etc., etc., and a ‘liar’.

Check these out:

http://circleh.wordpress.com/my-spi[…]al-journeys/

http://circleh.wordpress.com/2010/0[…]ng-of-jesus/

Need I point out more? Well, okay, here are some of his words:

“Scientists can be just as mistaken, corrupt, dogmatic, and failing in their efforts and assumptions as the rest of humanity. A few of them can even be downright stupid!”

If I said that, you guys and gals would attack me relentlessly, no matter what context it was in.

When I have said things similar to that here, I have been attacked relentlessly.

You all better run on over to Dale’s blog and attack him, if you want to be consistent that is.

Buried in all this noise, I find Johan’s answer to be intelligent and satisfying.

Why am I not an atheist? Because I regard the position philosophically too problematic, on atheistic grounds one cannot provide an adequate philosophy of mathematics (atheism renders mathematics an invention of the human mind),

Even worse, perhaps, an atheist cannot even imagine why this might be considered a problem! After all, so long as math works and adds a powerful tool to our problem-solving toolbox, who really cares who invented it? Geometry, for example, seems neither more nor less useful if I regard Euclid as having been gifted by Zeus.

naturalistic epistemology cannot account for normative truth in general (atheism cannot explain the very possibility of having knowledge).

Why not? If I learn (the hard way) not to touch a hot stove, how would I be any more or less informed if I were an atheist, a creationist, or a Buddhist? Can you explain? I have gained knowledge!

Atheism cannot explain good or evil, and renders both illusions, to name a few of the reasons why I am not an atheist.

This strikes me as semantic confusion. Atheists are generally as moral as other members of the population. They understand the value and utility of the golden rule. They know the value and utility is NOT illusory in any way.

I think you have not thought through your objections. You seem to be using your god as a sort of aether, a cosmic background you regard as necessary to put poorly-understood concepts into a sort of arbitrary and artificial context. This is equivalent to a child believing there’s no right or wrong UNLESS there’s a parent to tell him what to think.

Kris, the only idiots here are people like you and Johan who either refuse to learn, or refuse to give up long after their dishonesty has been exposed for all to see. I have been religious (and delusional) in the past and I grew out of that. Why don’t you? I am honest about when scientists fail and why they fail and can still show how science is self-correcting over time. You are not!

Kris said:

Speaking of idiots, have any of you looked at Dale’s idiotic blog? He puts on quite a show there, and he obviously believes that he’s just about the only one on Earth who isn’t and is never wrong, delusional, ignorant, dishonest, fraudulent, stupid, uneducated, biased, dogmatic, insane, bigoted, arrogant, self-righteous, etc., etc., etc., and a ‘liar’.

Check these out:

http://circleh.wordpress.com/my-spi[…]al-journeys/

http://circleh.wordpress.com/2010/0[…]ng-of-jesus/

Need I point out more? Well, okay, here are some of his words:

“Scientists can be just as mistaken, corrupt, dogmatic, and failing in their efforts and assumptions as the rest of humanity. A few of them can even be downright stupid!”

If I said that, you guys and gals would attack me relentlessly, no matter what context it was in.

When I have said things similar to that here, I have been attacked relentlessly.

You all better run on over to Dale’s blog and attack him, if you want to be consistent that is.

And that quote he pasted came from this:

http://circleh.wordpress.com/2008/0[…]iew-process/

Natural selection describes the process by which variations in a population of organisms are edited over time to enhance the ability of the individual organisms to survive and reproduce in an environment. Even if over 90% of all mutations, being random, are harmful to the next generation, natural selection can still eliminate those and keep those others that are beneficial, thus countering the destructive effects of mutations in general.

It is the same with the scientific peer review process. Because science has made so much progress over the past few centuries, most people have the impression that scientists are unusually brilliant, nearly infallible, and totally objective in their views and methods. But in fact, that is simply not the case for most of them, at least as individuals. Scientists can be just as mistaken, corrupt, dogmatic, and failing in their efforts and assumptions as the rest of humanity. A few of them can even be downright stupid!

If that is true, how can science be trusted to produce reliable facts and theories? Because the scientists use peer review as their means to test any new ideas put on the table by one of their number. No scientist’s word need be taken at face value. In order for his idea to be accepted as anything beyond a speculation, he must show observational or experimental data, clearly defined, that supports it. Thus, it should always be possible for other scientists to duplicate the results of the first scientist making the claim. If attempts to duplicate the observations or experiments do not produce the same result, the idea is rejected.

Sometimes the peer review process goes too far in its skepticism, and a valid idea, such as continental drift, is rejected and even ridiculed by scientists even though it explains all the data collected and is contradicted by none of it. But that’s why repeated testing of that idea is required, as long as it is not outright falsified. Continental drift WAS accepted in the 1960s once an overwhelming amount of evidence was found to support it and those geologists who had been bigoted against it in the 1920s had died or retired, and a new generation had arisen that was more open-minded. Those who supported the continental drift theory were able to come up with a mechanism, plate tectonics, that explained it, and once they did opposition to it faded away rapidly.

Individual scientists may fall so deeply in love with their own ideas that they refuse to accept the peer review process when it rejects their ideas. Then they become cranks who no longer do science, but instead put out propaganda to appeal to the scientifically illiterate. This is especially true of Creationists and global warming denialists who happen to have science degrees. They even go so far as to attack the peer review process itself! But it must be noted that they can never produce anything that would produce superior results in terms of seeking objective data in the universe and explaining it.

Scientists who refuse to recognize that an idea of theirs is wrong are like a population of organisms that are too specialized in their lifestyle to adapt to any sudden change in their environment, resulting in their extinction. Fortunately, the progress of science continues even in spite of such incidents, just as life on Earth has continued despite the mass extinctions that have wiped out most species that evolved on Earth before.

FUCK OFF, KRIS!

Doc Bill said:

Kris pouted:

At what exact point does something become a ‘theory’ instead of a thought, concept, hypothesis, assumption, experiment, speculation, guess, inference, vocalization, suggestion, discussion, debate, belief, or religious belief, and exactly who determines that point?

Well, gee, I dunno, Kris, you’re the only scientist on this forum, according to you, why don’t you enlighten me.

What’s the matter, too tough a question for you? You’re the one who professes to know what a theory or “real” scientific theory is. Did you forget your words? If so, here they are to remind you:

“Doc Bill | December 28, 2010 12:20 AM

You’re funny, Lee.

“Design theory?” What theory? Allow me to refresh your memory that “intelligent design” the definition consists of an unsupported assertion followed by a negative argument against the real scientific theory of evolution. Where’s the theory, Lee?

I realize you probably forgot, Lee, but there is no definition of design nor any metric to measure design.

ID isn’t falsely conflated with creationism, it is creationism as documented by the history of the ID movement and by the actions and very words of the ID promoters.

Come on, Lee, don’t be coy! Enlighten us on the theory of intelligent design. Oops, looks like your bungee cord is contracting, Lee. See you later!

Remember now, according to a statement here by one of your allies, ‘You can’t explain something if you can’t define it.’

Yeah, that also applies to science, and the terms therein.

Dale Husband said: I’ve never heard of this Polanyi guy. Anyone else know of him? He must not be so legendary, then. I know of Henry M. Morris, Duane T Gish, Ken Ham, Michael Behe, and William Dembski. They I would consider Creationist “legends”.

A quick check through TEH GOOGLE confirmed what I thought I remembered. He was a gifted Hungarian mathematician/theoretical chemist that produced some useful theoretical tools for chemistry and economics (I had thought physics but chemistry is just applied physics so I was close). He wrote a paper for Science stating that informational macromolecules are irreducible to chemistry and physics. I’m pretty sure that this doesn’t mean what Johan thinks it means, as I’ve seen Polanyi’s thesis used to support biological evolution of things such as cell-to-cell signalling.

At http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com I found: (not complete URL)

Abstract. The linking of Michael Polanyi’s name with a center (now changed to another name) at Baylor University that espoused intelligent-design theory calls for examination of Polanyi’s teleology. This examination attempts to put Polanyi’s epistemology in the perspective of his total philosophical work by looking at the clarification of teleology in philosophy of biology and in the framework of three major features of Polanyi’s thought: open and truth-oriented, purposive but open to truth, and transcendent yet intelligible. The conclusion is that Polanyi would not support intelligent design according to the nature of his own theory

But Kris, if you’re going to try to make an argument - something you want to attempt sometime - we need to know how you understand the terminology you’re trying to use. So far, you have shown that you really don’t appear to have a grasp on any of the relevant terminology. How can we talk to you if you hose not to educate yourself in the very basic terminology of science?

Flint said: Even worse, perhaps, an atheist cannot even imagine why this might be considered a problem!

Y’know … I do tend to be mild on the “Big G” question, but I tend to marvel that fundies honestly think they have a good argument:

“I believe that God created the Universe [or some specific component thereof]!”

“Okay … and how do you know that?”

“Well, the Universe exists, and so God must have created it [or some specific component thereof].”

And I think: Should I say that doesn’t remotely answer the question? Nor, as stated, provide enough specifics about God to rule out the Flying Spaghetti Monster as a candidate?

But since the matter is of no particular interest to me one way or another, I think: NAAAH. The real irony is, being as open-minded on the question as an indifferent apatheist can be, I’m being given arguments that make me rather less open-minded on the issue than I would have been if I had been told nothing.

Of course, such arguments aren’t remotely persuasive, and in fact are so unpersuasive that it’s hard to believe they are actually intended to be so. I think it has a lot more to do with the denunciation of others for its own sake.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Guest Contributor published on December 24, 2010 1:28 PM.

DI’s Klinghoffer undermines Behe, Luskin et al. on the origin of new genes was the previous entry in this blog.

Ediacaran roots extend deeper into geologic time? is the next entry in this blog.

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