BILL #4: “Why Evolution Is True” by Jerry Coyne

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The fourth BILL is a tour de force of scientific explanation, presented by a well-known scholar described by a colleague (who introduces him in the video) as “the principal guru to go to on evolutionary genetics in the world.”

BILL the fourth is “Why Evolution Is True”, a lecture by Jerry Coyne presented at the 2009 Atheist Alliance International convention. Coyne is the author of the excellent book and blog by the same name.

It was one of several very good lectures at that convention, some of which would make excellent future BILLs. Coyne’s lecture is a perfect BILL: illuminating and lively, basic enough for laypersons but stimulating for all.

As usual, tips and comments are below the fold. Recommendations for future BILLs should be sent to the BILL czar (BILL at pandasthumb dot org) or can be left in the comments.

Watch for the following highlights:

  • Richard Dawkins being coy.
  • “Maybe you don’t realize how multifarious this evidence really is.”
  • What we mean by a “scientific fact.”
  • A good outline of the facets of evolutionary theory.
  • On preaching to the choir: “Why am I doing this? I like it. What can I say.”
  • A nice emphasis on predictions of Darwin’s original proposal.
  • Marine microfossils showing the “instant” of speciation.
  • Horse evolution… one toe left…[audience laughs and applauds]
  • A nice breakdown of a feathered dinosaur and a very clear discussion of whale evolution.
  • Retrodictions and embryology: a mutant dolphin with hind limbs.
  • Linking vestigial features with vestigial genes that used to control those features: yolk!
  • Very concise and clear discussion of oceanic islands and biogeography.
  • Bad design and the prostate: “a miracle of bad engineering.”
  • A list of observations that could falsify evolution.

At 41 minutes, Coyne wraps up the presentation on evolution and discusses an “explanation” for why religion leads to doubting of evolution, ending with a very positive proposal for how to increase acceptance of Darwin. At about 48 minutes, he takes various questions from the audience. Watch for a shout out to Don Prothero.

194 Comments

This comment has been moved to The Bathroom Wall.

Using the same set of standards you would for your criticism of those expounding on the evidence for ID, don’t you find it troubling that Coyne’s remarks were recorded at religious convention to an audience of like minded believers?

fittest meme said:

Using the same set of standards you would for your criticism of those expounding on the evidence for ID, don’t you find it troubling that Coyne’s remarks were recorded at religious convention to an audience of like minded believers?

LOL. There’s evidence for ID?

This comment has been moved to The Bathroom Wall.

fittest meme said:

Using the same set of standards you would for your criticism of those expounding on the evidence for ID, don’t you find it troubling that Coyne’s remarks were recorded at religious convention to an audience of like minded believers?

Point taken: the fact that ID advocates frequently present their case to religious audiences is poor evidence for or against the strength of their case. And if that were a major argument against ID, then your observation would be more notable.

phantomreader, your obnoxious response to fittest meme had nothing to do with what she/he wrote and was peppered with gratuitous ad hominem. I moved it to the Bathroom Wall, and will delete anything similar on this thread.

Steve Matheson said:

Point taken: the fact that ID advocates frequently present their case to religious audiences is poor evidence for or against the strength of their case.

Sure, if one wants to play the game of pretending ID is actually trying to present a scientific case. If one isn’t so willing (and why should we? It’s like pretending a magician is a psychic even after seeing how he does his tricks), it is excellent evidence that ID is the religion-pretending-to-be-science scam that it is.

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phantomreader42 said:

If you don’t want me to point out that creationists lie constantly, show me one who doesn’t lie constantly.

I was a Creationist for a short time as a teenager, but I didn’t lie constantly. Oh, I guess you won’t believe me either.

Steve Matheson said:

fittest meme said:

Using the same set of standards you would for your criticism of those expounding on the evidence for ID, don’t you find it troubling that Coyne’s remarks were recorded at religious convention to an audience of like minded believers?

Point taken: the fact that ID advocates frequently present their case to religious audiences is poor evidence for or against the strength of their case. And if that were a major argument against ID, then your observation would be more notable.

“the fact that ID advocates frequently present their case to religious audiences” is not being treated as evidence against their case. The fact that ID advocates change what case they’re presenting depending on the religiousity of their audience is what serves as evidence against their case. Because the fact that they tell one story to religious audiences, and a different, incompatible story to non-religious audiences, is proof that they’re lying to at least one of these audiences.

phantomreader, you seem to think that if you type your assertions in italics or bold type, that you’ll be able to change them into facts or make them relevant to the points that others are making. (You seem not to read those.) Please post your subsequent comments on this thread straight to the Bathroom Wall.

Science Avenger said:

Steve Matheson said:

Point taken: the fact that ID advocates frequently present their case to religious audiences is poor evidence for or against the strength of their case.

Sure, if one wants to play the game of pretending ID is actually trying to present a scientific case. If one isn’t so willing (and why should we? It’s like pretending a magician is a psychic even after seeing how he does his tricks), it is excellent evidence that ID is the religion-pretending-to-be-science scam that it is.

And the way we judge whether ID is trying to present a scientific case is… what? It’s by reading what they write and evaluating their arguments. (I guess I can only speak for myself here.) Since that necessarily comes first, and only later do we then note that their case (scientific or not) is being presented as apologetics to believers, then I conclude that the latter is way less important than the former. That’s all I’m saying.

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phantomreader42 said:

Steve Matheson said:

fittest meme said:

Using the same set of standards you would for your criticism of those expounding on the evidence for ID, don’t you find it troubling that Coyne’s remarks were recorded at religious convention to an audience of like minded believers?

Point taken: the fact that ID advocates frequently present their case to religious audiences is poor evidence for or against the strength of their case. And if that were a major argument against ID, then your observation would be more notable.

“the fact that ID advocates frequently present their case to religious audiences” is not being treated as evidence against their case. The fact that ID advocates change what case they’re presenting depending on the religiousity of their audience is what serves as evidence against their case. Because the fact that they tell one story to religious audiences, and a different, incompatible story to non-religious audiences, is proof that they’re lying to at least one of these audiences.

This is something that was noted by Judge Jones in Dover. What certain witnesses were saying in court and what they were saying in church and in public were contradictory. Jones went so far as to say that perjury charges might be warranted. While the motivation of the claimant is not evidence against IDC/creationism, it does call into question their intellectual honesty and integrity.

Steve Matheson said:

… And if that were a major argument against ID, then your observation would be more notable.

Based on my comparative observation of your site to those that support ID I find emotional religious and political arguments to be more prevalent here than on the ID sites. I suppose we could use the scientific method (classify then quantitatively compare posts on different sites which were supportive vs. skeptical of evolutionary theory) to test my hypothesis. The video you posted, (and the fact that it was at an Atheist convention)as well as the posters responding to me, seem to provide adequate circumstantial evidence however that evolution defenders are very motivated by their belief that there is no God.

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fittest meme said: The video you posted, (and the fact that it was at an Atheist convention)as well as the posters responding to me, seem to provide adequate circumstantial evidence however that evolution defenders are very motivated by their belief that there is no God.

You got it backwards. Most ppl who become atheist do so for two reasons: lack of empirical evidence to support whatever God-centered religion they were raised in, or studying that religion and finding it unworthy of their allegiance for some reason, and being unable or unwilling to find an alterative religion that would be better for them. Evolution and other scientific theories may allow for atheism, but don’t demand it. They merely ignore religious beliefs. I doubt anyone because atheist just because they were taught at the Church of Atheism that man came from monkeys.

phantomreader42 said:

You’re lying, and you know it. Isn’t that imaginary god of yours supposed to have some sort of problem with bearing false witness?

How can I be lying by stating my perception of an observation I’m making? I indicated my observation was a hypothesis and didn’t attempt to pass it off as fact (I can’t offer the same observation of those defending the theory of evolution).

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dalehusband said:

fittest meme said: The video you posted, (and the fact that it was at an Atheist convention)as well as the posters responding to me, seem to provide adequate circumstantial evidence however that evolution defenders are very motivated by their belief that there is no God.

You got it backwards. Most ppl who become atheist do so for two reasons: lack of empirical evidence to support whatever God-centered religion they were raised in, or studying that religion and finding it unworthy of their allegiance for some reason, and being unable or unwilling to find an alterative religion that would be better for them. Evolution and other scientific theories may allow for atheism, but don’t demand it. They merely ignore religious beliefs. I doubt anyone because atheist just because they were taught at the Church of Atheism that man came from monkeys.

Fittest meme also has backwards the burden of proof. Don’t confuse “belief that there is no god,” with “lack of belief that there is a god.” As Dale says, evidence for evolution (or lack of evidence for anything else) leads to atheism; atheism does not lead to evolution. As for there being more “emotional religious” content here, that is absurd on the face of it.

Steve Matheson said:

And the way we judge whether ID is trying to present a scientific case is… what? It’s by reading what they write and evaluating their arguments. (I guess I can only speak for myself here.) Since that necessarily comes first, and only later do we then note that their case (scientific or not) is being presented as apologetics to believers, then I conclude that the latter is way less important than the former. That’s all I’m saying.

All I’m saying is all this is irrelevant once one reads the Wedge document. THAT comes first. Sure, its fun to show that the arguments they present are bunk, and many people (myself included) learn some science in the process. But let’s never lose sight of what’s really going on here. ID is not bad science. ID is politics pretending to be science to achieve political aims.

dalehusband said:

You got it backwards. Most ppl who become atheist do so for two reasons: lack of empirical evidence to support whatever God-centered religion they were raised in, or studying that religion and finding it unworthy of their allegiance for some reason, and being unable or unwilling to find an alterative religion that would be better for them. Evolution and other scientific theories may allow for atheism, but don’t demand it. They merely ignore religious beliefs. I doubt anyone because atheist just because they were taught at the Church of Atheism that man came from monkeys.

Well I guess I’m the exception to most people you hang out with. I was actually raised and taught the secular/atheistic dogma as a child and young adult through my public school education and a 4-year Biology degree. It wasn’t until sitting at a conference with speakers including Niles Eldredge, Peter and Rosemary Grant, and others that I realized that the evidence for evolution wasn’t as strong as I’d been led to believe. Galapogos finches hadn’t actually been observed to have “speciated;” instead one species just changed as a result of changing conditions … and the supposed “Tree of Life” as actually recorded in the fossil record wasn’t anything like what my text books had shown.

I began to question the explanatory power of the theory. I simply could not reconcile the claims of evolutionary theory with the evidence that was being presented at this conference of scientists supposedly doing work that supported it. Further research has only hightenend my skepticism in the institutionally supported scientific position.

Whatever nefarious strategies you think ID proponents execute I find their public and private conversations to consistent in point and they actually represent a variety of religious faiths. Granted, when in the company of like minded people their beliefs may be more easily presented with confidence. That’s part of the reason I questioned why the BILL video from a conference of such a nature would be used as support of evolution a public forum like this. Makes me think this site isn’t really trying to enlighten the debate … its just preaching sermons to the choir.

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fittest meme said:

Well I guess I’m the exception to most people you hang out with. I was actually raised and taught the secular/atheistic dogma as a child and young adult through my public school education and a 4-year Biology degree. It wasn’t until sitting at a conference with speakers including Niles Eldredge, Peter and Rosemary Grant, and others that I realized that the evidence for evolution wasn’t as strong as I’d been led to believe. Galapogos finches hadn’t actually been observed to have “speciated;” instead one species just changed as a result of changing conditions … and the supposed “Tree of Life” as actually recorded in the fossil record wasn’t anything like what my text books had shown.

I began to question the explanatory power of the theory. I simply could not reconcile the claims of evolutionary theory with the evidence that was being presented at this conference of scientists supposedly doing work that supported it. Further research has only hightenend my skepticism in the institutionally supported scientific position.

Whatever nefarious strategies you think ID proponents execute I find their public and private conversations to consistent in point and they actually represent a variety of religious faiths. Granted, when in the company of like minded people their beliefs may be more easily presented with confidence. That’s part of the reason I questioned why the BILL video from a conference of such a nature would be used as support of evolution a public forum like this. Makes me think this site isn’t really trying to enlighten the debate … its just preaching sermons to the choir.

You are sadly mistaken. Your biology education appears to be deficient. Speciation in Galapagos Finches has been extensively studied. Phylogenies reconstructed using morphology, allozymes, mitochondrial DNA and microsatellites all give the same basic topology. The nested hierarchy found in the tree of life is likewise consistent with many different molecular data sets. There is extensive evidence in support of evolution from genetics, paleontology, developmental biology and may other fields.

Besides, even if evolution is not true, that doesn’t mean that god exists. Perhaps you just needed to justify your decision for yourself. That’s fine, but don’t misrepresent the science to people who know better. The video presents evidence consistent with the theory of evolution. You have not even attempted to explain this evidence. Unless of course you want to explain why some whales are born with hind limbs if they did not have terrestrial ancestors.

Fittest Meme -

I’d like to examine the evidence for intelligent design.

I find the evidence supporting the theory of evolution to be very strong, but I’d like make sure that I’m not overlooking some strong evidence for ID. If I am, we’ll still have to figure out how to explain what seems like evidence for evolution, but one thing at a time. Let’s start with the evidence for ID.

1. Who is the designer?

2. What did that designer do?

3. When did the designer do it?

4. How did the designer do it?

5. What is an example of something that isn’t designed?

6. To be sure that we both understand each others’ viewpoint fully, can you provide a terse but accurate summary of the theory of evolution?

7. How old is the earth? The universe?

If you can’t or won’t answer these questions, please admit so and explain why.

Steve Matheson said:

And the way we judge whether ID is trying to present a scientific case is… what? It’s by reading what they write and evaluating their arguments. (I guess I can only speak for myself here.) Since that necessarily comes first, and only later do we then note that their case (scientific or not) is being presented as apologetics to believers, then I conclude that the latter is way less important than the former. That’s all I’m saying.

I must be missing something here. ID is, as far as I can tell, making no attempt to present a scientific case. They have almost no practicing scientists, no research program, no testable hypotheses. Yes, they make vaguely scientistical-sounding claims, but ID is in practice simply the “let’s pretend it’s science” arm of the PR program. Their target audience is uncommitted Christians who sincerely desire their beliefs to be scientific (AKA “right”), and who are most likely to swallow claims that ID is scientific because it makes them more secure.

Unavoidably, the ID claims spread into the world of science, which quite properly dismisses them as vacuous or deliberately dishonest. But scientists aren’t the target audience, except for rare cases where creationist scientists can be successfully divorced from their marriage to evidence. At which point, they become PR spokesmen; they no longer do science.

So I think you have it backwards. Scientific evaluations come LAST. At which point scientists wake up to the fact that they have, through inattention, lost a generation of willing Believers whose scientific grasp was weak to begin with. Before that, scientists simply paid no attention to what was going on in churches - why bother, it’s not science and it’s outside the field and basically out of sight.

I am simply astounded that anyone could seriously say that creationists would consider tricking converts into the fold “way less important” than the dismissal within the scientific community - a community with orders of magnitude fewer votes, that nobody much pays attention to anyway. Their whole mission is to trade minds for souls.

fittest meme said:

I’m done talking with you.

Oh, please, does that apply to Panda’s Thumb in general?

Just Bob said:

apokryltaros said:

Yet, you also assume you know better than actual scientists.

Yes, the MORTAL SIN of pride is strong in this one.

It’s not a sin if you sin for Jesus, after all.

Just Bob said:

OK, we’ve established that you have a problem tolerating ambiguity. Then it’s a really good thing that you don’t work in any of the life sciences, where pretty much all there is are shades of gray and grayer. So I suggest that you leave those areas to the scientists who psychologically comfortable with ambiguity, and quit demonstrating your mental deficits in such fields of study.

Hmm, then why do you suggest that it can all be explained materialistically through science. Remember that I’m the one suggesting that biology differs from chemistry and physics because of the addition of non-materialistic elements that have to be considered when describing life. I think you’ve just helped me make my case.

I’m actually pointing out that many of you purposefully use terms ambiguously depending on the situation and the point you’re trying to make.

I’m going to be gone again for a while. I have other things that need to be done.

All the best.

fittest meme said:

Hmm, then why do you suggest that it can all be explained materialistically through science.

Then how come you’ve repeatedly failed to demonstrate how anything can be explained in science nonmatertialistically? Hypocrite, much?

Remember that I’m the one suggesting that biology differs from chemistry and physics because of the addition of non-materialistic elements that have to be considered when describing life. I think you’ve just helped me make my case.

Yet, you remain deliberately vague about how “non-materialistic elements” can help explain biology better, as well as remain deliberately vague about what “non-materialistic elements” even are.

Unless, of course, you mean “GODDIDIT,” which isn’t even an explanation.

I’m actually pointing out that many of you purposefully use terms ambiguously depending on the situation and the point you’re trying to make.

What you’re doing is quibbling and whining.

I’m going to be gone again for a while. I have other things that need to be done.

And the troll flounces away for now.

fittest meme said:

DS said:

As for macroevolution, there is abundant evidence that birds were derived from reptilian ancestors, whales were derived from terrestrial ancestors and humans were derived form primate ancestors. This isn’t just speciation, it is the evolution of entire new forms of life.

DS. You and I both know that these conclusions are based upon theoretical assumptions that are inferred from evidence. That same evidence can be used to supports the theory of ID. You continue to misrepresent theory as if it were fact. I’m done talking with you.

You and I both know that these are the conclusions of the authors who actually published the papers. They are also the conclusions of the reviewers and the editors. Quite frankly your are in no position to argue with the conclusions. This evidence cannot in any way shape or form be use to support ID. You never even gave one reason why it could, just baseless assertions. Since you refuse to address the evidence, other that to to just say that you refuse to believe it, I am done talking to you as well.

fittest meme said, listing “discoveries” by which evolution “is being proven deficient”:

Molecular - Irreducible complexity of molecular machines required for transcription and replication of coded information in genetic material

It has been demonstrated that complexity arises naturally from the interactions of matter and energy. It has also been demonstrated that parsimonious structures can evolve from non-parsimonious ones by a process of deletion of unnecessary components, the non-parsimonious structures having arisen through exaption if by no other means. Hence, “irreducible compexity” of any structure is not an argument against the evolution of that structure.

Mathematical - lack of probabilistic resources in the universe to create even the simplest protein molecule by chance … let alone others that would be required to work with that first protiein to perform the most basic functions of replication.

But nobody thinks that even the simplest protein molecule arose by “chance”, whatever is meant by that term. Proteins arose because of the basic laws of chemistry, given the materials available, and their known reactions in specific conditions and with the presence of other specific compounds. There is the same component of “chance” operating as in any chain of chemical reactions, ie, none. We know of some of the precursor reactions, at least, and they have been shown not merely to be possible, or likely, but inevitable, under the circumstances. There is no reason at all to think that proteins are any exception to this.

Anyway, how is this a “discovery”? It is the exact reverse of a discovery: simply a statement that we do not know and can never know how these reactions occur. This is no discovery, and it is almost certainly false. We may not know now, but we are very likely to find out.

Cosmological - The fine tuned forces of the universe that are required for life and the improbability of them happening without design.

This is one of the philosophical arguments for God. It has been criticised on a number of cogent grounds, but there’s no need to go that far for our purposes, because it does not bear on the fact or theory of evolution.

All it can argue is that life is inevitable in this Universe. The surmise that life was meant to be inevitable because the Universe is designed to bring it forth is just that, a further surmise involving a number of further postulates. But even if that further surmise is also accepted, for the sake of argument, it has no relevance to the theory or fact of evolution.

Evolution has been repeatedly observed as a fact. The theory explains how the fact happens, given the observed conditions that exist or existed. Those observed conditions are not explained by the theory, which simply incorporates them.

But further, IF - I say if - the “fine-tuning” argument is accepted, it doesn’t even take one as far as theistic evolution, for all it says is that life is an emergent property from the basic laws, structures and materials of the Universe. This may very well be true, but it only confirms that the development and evolution of life conforms to natural laws and follows natural processes that can be understood. The theory of evolution is such an understanding. It is in fact, the only such understanding. Other theories, such as “intelligent design” deny the idea of fine-tuning ab initio being sufficient to cause life to arise, and insist that intervention in, or actual abrogation of, natural laws and their contingent processes is required.

Hence, the argument from fine tuning is not an argument against evolution, the fact or the theory, but it is an argument against “intelligent design” or “special creation” of life. It’s very curious to see it deployed as if the converse were true.

But the point is, there are no “discoveries” by which “evolution is proven deficient”.

fittest meme said:

Dave Luckett said:

Fittest, you said the theory of evolution “is being proven deficient through many forms of molecular, mathematical, and cosmological discovery.”

I asked you what these discoveries are. I know of none, but that’s not surprising. More to the point, the biologists, molecular biologists, biochemists and geneticists present also do not know of them. Nobody seems to know of these discoveries but you.

I ask again: what discoveries are these?

Molecular - Irreducible complexity of molecular machines required for transcription and replication of coded information in genetic material Mathematical - lack of probabilistic resources in the universe to create even the simplest protein molecule by chance … let alone others that would be required to work with that first protiein to perform the most basic functions of replication. Cosmological - The fine tuned forces of the universe that are required for life and the improbability of them happening without design.

You keep reciting the same mantra as all ID/creationists. Natural bridges are irreducibly complex; and they are a very simple example that proves that there are simple ways to produce irreducibly complex systems.

Yet you continue to dodge the question of emergent phenomena. Do you know what emergent phenomena are? You really don’t like physics and chemistry, do you.

The universe is not “fine tuned” PERIOD! That is a fallacy introduced and constantly repeated by ID/creationists. The fallacy consists in attempting to vary some of the “constants” one at a time and then concluding that the universe can’t exist.

But, when considered as ensembles, there are many combinations of fundamental “constants” that work together to produce universes that are complex enough to produce life. They don’t have to produce life as we know it. All that is required is that the hierarchies of complexity exist in a universe that is relatively much older than those complex systems that become “stars,” “elements,” “compounds,” “planets,” and all the other analogues to such systems our universe.

And time in any universe depends on the presence of matter and relative motions, some of which can serve as “clocks.” So even time doesn’t have to progress at the “same” rate if it were possible to compare times in other universes with the time in the universe we know. Millions of “years” in some such universes can look like a few seconds to us if we could look into some of those other universes. Conversely, “seconds” in some other universes can look like millions of years to us.

And, no, the universe doesn’t violate any laws of thermodynamics; PERIOD!

It really doesn’t help you to airily brush aside all of physics and chemistry in attempting to make biology look impossible. In fact, it really makes you look incredibly and willfully ignorant.

You ID/creationists seem to like that state of mind. By avoiding learning anything about the fundamental knowledge we currently have in science, you allow yourselves to wallow in medieval concepts and philosophies that have been discredited for centuries now.

Vitalism is no longer a viable concept in science. It was discredited long ago. Calling it “information” or “code” doesn’t change anything. Why do you keep trying to resurrect it?

Dembski, Meyer, Abel, et. al. are just pompously blowing smoke and completely mischaracterizing science, scientists, and scientific evidence. And you don’t seem to have the wherewithal to check out anything they say.

Dave Luckett said: But the point is, there are no “discoveries” by which “evolution is proven deficient”.

Indeed.

Every fossil in every museum around the world, and every fossil still in the rocks, is part of the immense Fact of Evolution called the Fossil Record.

It is undeniable, incontrovertible, indelible.

And it cries out for an explanation. That explanation is the Theory of Evolution - descent with modification.

No amount of blindfolded denial can erase the Fossil Record.

When will they ever learn?

Give it up guys. This fool is just spouting creationist nonsense that has been debunked long ago. He will never have the courage to actually look at the evidence. He will never accept the conclusions of science. He is blinded by his religious presuppositions. He will yammer on and on about how he uses the same evidence to support ID without ever even looking at the evidence. And worst of all he will always project his myopic shortcomings onto others, since he cannot conceive that they could be right and there must be something wrong with them. Of course it is also completely hypocritical that a person who is so rude and obnoxious and dismissive of others would demand civility in return. But that’s the double standard that these delusional twits impose.

Oh dear, I’ve called him bad names again! I’m really in trouble now. He’ll never speak to me again! How terrible.

fittest meme said: Molecular - Irreducible complexity of molecular machines required for transcription and replication of coded information in genetic material

This is an assertion, not an observation. Not only that, it’s an assertion that has proven incorrect in the three “best” cases that IDers put forward as examples: clotting, immune system, and flagella. In each case, mainstream scientists have shown examples of a system that functions with a piece of the “irreducibly complex” system removed.

Not only that, but Behe has admitted that his definition is faulty, and has admitted that he does not consider co-option when labeling something irreducibly complex - even though co-option is known to occur.

IOW, irreducible complexity has been shown to be wrong every time it’s been hypothsized, the author himself admits it is conceptually faulty, and even if it weren’t faulty, it would only apply to some toy, model world where mechanisms known to occur in the real world don’t occur.

Mathematical - lack of probabilistic resources in the universe to create even the simplest protein molecule by chance …

This is baloney on three fronts. First, because evolution does not create proteins ‘by chance,’ it makes slight modifications to (protein-generating DNA) structures that already exist. Which is highly probable.

Second, because creationist claims about what is ‘too improbable’ are regularly shown to be wrong simply by citing the last X lottery draws. Go ahead, name a limit in scientific formatting (e.g. [1 in] 1E100). The formula Log(limit)/8.3 gives the number of consecutive US powerball lottery draws needed to exceed it. Powerball has been run twice a week for decades; good luck coming up with a limit that hasn’t already been exceeded.

Third, we know how proteins can be created by chance because we’ve done it in labs. Since the 1950s. There many reactions that can form amino acids from abiotic compounds. Those two are just examples. And we also know of inorganic reactions for their formation into polypeptides (example). So we have observed real mechanisms that could produce them.

Cosmological - The fine tuned forces of the universe that are required for life and the improbability of them happening without design.

Seriously? The cosmological fine tuning argument has so many problems its easier to simply refer you to them rather than explain them. I will note that TalkOrigins missed a problem though: typical fine tuning arguments vary one constant at a time. They do not consider what happens when you vary multiple constants at the same time. So they are not exploring the entire space of possible universes.

fittest meme said: Hmm, then why do you suggest that it can all be explained materialistically through science.

I think you misunderstand science. Science looks at material explanations because those can be tested. But if you come up with a good test of nonmaterialistic explanations, we’re all ears. We’ll use them too. I should warn you, though, I don’t think anyone’s been successful in coming up with a lab test for the existence of God yet. At least, not one He’s passed.

Second, science doesn’t claim that everything, ever, will be explained by it’s methodology. Maybe some future phenomenon will not be explicable via science. It does appear, however, that everything science has studied so far has been shown to have a material cause, so betting on that horse for future causes is the rational thing to do. Relevant to this discussion, material causes are sufficient to explain the origin of species. You even admitted this earlier when you agreed that evolution does not break any physical laws. So there is simply no need to hypothesize a miracle in this case, since physics will do.

Lastly, science is very strongly pragmatic. Given competing ideas, the better one will be used regardless of how many holes it has, and a useful approximation is preferred over a fully worked out, bullet-proof idea that is useless. ID provides nothing for science or human society. It makes no useful predictions. It does not lead to innovation, discovery, technology development, or manipulating nature. It is, in a word, useless. As a theory, it is not as good as evolution by any of the metrics science or human society judges theory goodness. Therefore, it doesn’t matter whether it ultimately turns out to be right or wrong; scientists and society in general are fully justified in ignoring it as a waste of mental effort, leading nowhere. At least for the moment. In the future, after it starts contributing to innovation, discovery, etc… then you can call us, and we’ll reconsider it.

Remember that I’m the one suggesting that biology differs from chemistry and physics because of the addition of non-materialistic elements that have to be considered when describing life.

There have never been any non-materialistic elements discovered in biochemistry or organic chemistry. The concept of vitae went out in the late 1800s and early 1900s with attempts to measure the weight of the soul. (Although, having just read Spook by Mary Roach, it was amusing to find out some people still try to do this.)

I’m actually pointing out that many of you purposefully use terms ambiguously depending on the situation and the point you’re trying to make.

Defining ‘species’ is not cut and dried because nature is not cut and dried. Whatever definition you use, there is likely some critter that will be problematical for your definition.

And that is what one would expect if species originated in descent with modification: near-infinite, infinitely fine gradations, and problems distinguishing ‘species’ from ‘sub-species’ from ‘variety.’

In contrast, we would not expect to have these problems were animals specially created in distinct kinds. The ambiguity you complain about is evidence against your hypothesis.

fittest meme said:

DS. You and I both know that these conclusions are based upon theoretical assumptions that are inferred from evidence.

I still await the day one of you gets involved in a paternity suit and tries to deny the DNA test on this basis.

If the universe were not “fine tuned” for life, in the sense that if life existed despite natural laws, then wouldn’t that be evidence that there was some nonnatural cause for life?

For example, if life violated the 2nd law of thermodynamics, then how could life be a thermodynamic possibility?

If the universe were not “fine tuned” for life, in the sense that if life existed despite natural laws, then wouldn’t that be evidence that there was some nonnatural cause for life?

Thou shalt not use logic when considering that “kind” of question!

Repent!

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This page contains a single entry by Steve Matheson published on September 7, 2011 8:57 AM.

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