Dispatches from the Creation Wars

When the controversy over Richard Sternberg and the publication of the now-infamous Meyer paper broke, we heard quite often that Sternberg was not an ID advocate, merely an open-minded scientist (contrasted, of course, with the more-infamous – and mostly mythical – Darwinian Establishment that daily grinds to dust anyone who dares to question evolution). Jack Cashill, for instance, claims that Sternberg is “not himself an intelligent design (ID) theorist or an advocate of the same” (and note that the Discovery Institute reprinted that article without disputing that claim).

Fellow ScienceBlogger John Lynch came across a rather interesting interview with Paul Nelson that clearly shows otherwise. I’ll post a long excerpt below the fold:

micah (ID=10) (Aug 8, 2002 5:08:15 PM)
Paul, could you make a few comments on the ID movement in general, where you see it going, etc.

Paul Nelson (Aug 8, 2002 5:09:51 PM)
ID is struggling to grow up. We need to move from what I call the “bag of intuitions” stage to a real, testable theory. We need to make some discoveries of our own. All this is possible, but stubborn courage is needed.

Paul Nelson (Aug 8, 2002 5:12:11 PM)
I’ve got an unshakeable optimism that ID is going to do great things.

Paul Nelson (Aug 8, 2002 5:13:59 PM)
There’s a research meeting in Southern California, scheduled for October, where this “how do we grow up” problem will be on the agenda. I’ll be there, as will Bill Dembski, Jed Macosko, Scott Minnich, Rick Sternberg from the Smithsonian, and several others.

That research meeting was the RAPID conference, the same one that my friend Wesley Elsberry tried to register to attend only to be informed that the meeting was for ID advocates only. And notice also that he represents Sternberg as being a Smithsonian employee. During the controversy, this was a serious issue as it is against the rules for Research Associates (a courtesy position that allows scientists access to the Smithsonian collections) to represent themselves as affiliated with the Smithsonian. Sternberg worked, and works, at the NIH. The Discovery Institute has consistently listed Sternberg as a Smithsonian employee despite that fact for many years.

It should perhaps also be noted that, 5 years later, the ID movement still has not come up with a “real, testable theory” nor have they made any discoveries of their own. All of their published work, like Behe’s most recent book, is still focused solely on trying to poke holes in evolution on the assumption that if evolution can be challenged, ID must be true. And it doesn’t look like that’s going to change anytime soon.

Comments

  1. #1 DM
    June 15, 2007

    Is this deniable that he is an IDer? Sternberg talked at this RAPID conference, and it was entitled:

    “Causal entailments in convergently developed, irreducibly complex organ systems” (link)

    Some of my long-standing questions:
    1) Did Sternberg solicit the paper from Meyer at an ID conference? Meyer reported that he did:

    According to Mr. Meyer, this is the first time that proponents of intelligent design have published an argument for the theory in a peer-reviewed scientific publication. He said he had chosen the journal because Mr. Sternberg attended a conference where Mr. Meyer gave an oral presentation advancing the same arguments. The two discussed the possibility of publishing the work, he said.

    http://chronicle.com/daily/2004/09/2004091003n.htm

    2) Did Sternberg clearly violate the process for publication by not involving any other editors at any time in the process of publishing Meyer’s paper? What does the document that Sternberg alludes to on his website say about the role of the managing editor?

    …formally decided that the managing editor has control over every aspect of the Proceedings and can choose and supervise the associate editors at his or her discretion. The Council ruled that the managing editor has the final say in the publication of manuscripts. The Council asked me, moreover, to draft a formal process document describing the procedures of the Proceedings including their ruling on the role of the managing editor.

    He reports that after a conflict of authority, the managing editor was given clear authority over, and the choice to select, the associate editors. Thus, he could have published the article over the authority of the associate editors. That is not my question. The question is–he seems to make it clear that he never notified the associate editors of the paper, ever, and it appears that he equivocates authority over and discretion to choose with ability to entirely circumvent these editors…is this a fair assessment? He even links to a form letter which clearly indicates that associate editors would be involved at some point in the process. This does nothing to further his position, nor does it answer my question.

  2. #2 Doc Bill
    June 15, 2007

    Sternberg must have known what the reaction would be to the publication of the Meyer review, since it was a rehash of creationist arguments and presenting nothing new.

    As Editor, Sternberg apparently was able to keep the publication process totally under his control. For example, the Meyer paper had no abstract. Thus, associate editors had no clue to what was about to happen. There were no galley proof copies to review. Throughout the entire printing process only Sternberg, and Sternberg alone, knew the contents of the Meyer paper.

    However, scant hours after the journal hit the streets the proverbial Cambrian rabbit was out of the bag and scampering off into the blades of the fan. Meanwhile, Sternberg rode off into the sunset having completed his tenure as Editor.

    Actually, when you examine all the skulduggery that went on to get the Meyer paper published, it’s the best work the ID advocates have ever done. When the movie comes out I’m sure Tom Cruise will play Sternberg. I’m hoping Ben Stiller for Meyer.

  3. #3 Ed Brayton
    June 15, 2007

    Sternberg’s claim that he had the authority to do what he did is a red herring. Having the authority to do it is an entirely different issue; the dispute is over the ethical propriety of what he did and having the authority to do it does not answer those charges. He solicited the article at a private conference for ID advocates only. He then made sure that no one else on the editorial staff even knew of the article’s existence until it was published, bypassing at least three associate editors who were more qualified than him to evaluate the scientific claims. He was certainly in a position to make sure that the article was given only to ID-friendly reviewers. All of this is highly unethical. Because of his association and friendship with the author of the article, and his advocacy of what he knew was a highly controversial issue, he should have handed it off to an associate editor and recused himself of any involvement in the process.

  4. #4 DM
    June 17, 2007

    1) I’m just confused a bit — how is it news that he went to RAPID? We knew that a long time ago, and that he gave a talk there.

    2) I’m not so sure that he had the authority to entirely circumvent associate editors. It seems from everything he put online and from the PBSW that at some point in the process, at least one associate editor would also be involved, although it is clear that he had the authority to override them and decide to publish anyway, should they have disagreed about the merit of the publication.

    3) Sternberg’s fake martyrdom is old news, now. Now they have Gonzalez, and he’ll stand as a “lasting testament” to their “struggle” against the “Darwinian orthodoxy”…I’d say ol’ Rick will get little attention from them from here on out.

  5. #5 Simon Packer
    June 17, 2007

    Paul Nelson (Aug 8, 2002 5:09:51 PM)
    ID is struggling to grow up. We need to move from what I call the “bag of intuitions” stage to a real, testable theory. We need to make some discoveries of our own. All this is possible, but stubborn courage is needed.

    Testable implies prediction I guess, not just ‘my intuitive inference’ which both ID and evolution are accused of. Evolution largely avoids the predictive aspect of the scientific method because of timescales. Variation within species and viral mutation etc. notwithstanding.
    ID, certainly if biblically based, says species or ‘kinds’ were created and have remained. No need for transitionals.
    Evolution says that there are millions of incremental failed transitionals. There aren’t in the fossil record. The ‘we have lost most of the record’ clause does not hold water statistically, we would see lots of failed transitionals. So either evolution was ‘primed’ by ID to give favourable outcomes, or it is a failed hypothesis. I am aware Gould tried to wriggle round this one. Most evolutionists disagreed with his approach.
    My reasonable inference: The fossil record supports ID better than it does evolution.

  6. #6 Ed Brayton
    June 17, 2007

    Simon Packer wrote:

    Evolution says that there are millions of incremental failed transitionals.

    Wrong. I suggest learning something about a subject before spouting off about it. The phrase “failed transitionals” is gibberish. There are, of course, many transitional forms in the fossil record. Not only do they exist, they have often been predicted before they’ve been found. Tiktaalik roseae is a good example.

  7. #7 Simon Packer
    June 21, 2007

    Ed Brayton:
    Wrong. I suggest learning something about a subject before spouting off about it. The phrase “failed transitionals” is gibberish. There are, of course, many transitional forms in the fossil record. Not only do they exist, they have often been predicted before they’ve been found. Tiktaalik roseae is a good example.

    OK I am not a biologist or zoologist. I am a physicist by training. I have read Richard Dawkins and Ernst Meyr though. On the ID side I have read Behe and am reading Simmond’s new book. This of course gives the perspective of a medical doctor and a biochemist. Their main thesis appears to be that there are many many species with mechanisms or faculties which require a large leap from projected and known previous species, as against just incremental change. To account for the functionality leap, it seems to me you need either;
    *a trail of previous species with partial implementation of the new faculty, which in many instances means survival impeding deadweight
    *sudden hopeful mutation, Gould’s idea I believe, and a little comical unless you invoke designer foreknowledge

    I have read Talkorigins responses to Behe and personally find them partial at best and rather unlikely.

    Yes there are species such as the one you name which could be transitional. If they only have fuctionality which can be found in possible predecessors, there is a case. However, are there not interpreeding limitations to address? Again it seems to me that the problem of minimal viable transitional increment arises.

  8. #8 Dave S.
    June 21, 2007

    OK I am not a biologist or zoologist. I am a physicist by training. I have read Richard Dawkins and Ernst Meyr though.

    But did you read with comprehension? Your arguments suggest you need to start with basic biology first. Wouldn’t you find it annoying for someone to handwave away your field if they admittedly don’t even know basic physics, but have read but a little Hawking and Weinberg?

    On the ID side I have read Behe and am reading Simmond’s new book. This of course gives the perspective of a medical doctor and a biochemist. Their main thesis appears to be that there are many many species with mechanisms or faculties which require a large leap from projected and known previous species, as against just incremental change. To account for the functionality leap, it seems to me you need either;
    *a trail of previous species with partial implementation of the new faculty, which in many instances means survival impeding deadweight

    Name some of these “many many” species.

    I don’t know Simmond’s so I can’t comment on what he says.

    Behe however once indeed said that there were unleapable species gaps in the evolution of whales from terrestrial wolf-ish carnivore to aquatic mammal. Unfortunately for him, these gaps, were filled within months by several beautiful whale transitional fossils that showed exactly that.

    As for Behe’s pet biochemical arguments, those have been shown wanting to say the least. They aren’t even original, being described by Hermann Muller almost 100 years ago, who even then noted, correctly, that irreducible complexity (Muller called it interlocking complexity) was not only not a barrier to evolution, but was an expected consequence! The difference in conclusions comes about because Muller was actually using evolutionary theory, whereas Behe was just using his own strawman of evolution theory which in no way corresponds to reality.

    Garbage in, garbage out.

    *sudden hopeful mutation, Gould’s idea I believe, and a little comical unless you invoke designer foreknowledge

    If you mean hopeful monster, then that was Richard Goldschmidt, not Gould. Gould did give Goldschmidt a sympathetic hearing (arguing that some of what Goldschmidt had to say might be right), although that was 30 years ago and Goldschmidt’s idea hasn’t been rescussitated by anyone else yet. Even so, you are quite wrong that this theory implies designer foreknowledge. That idea, like Gould’s own punctuated equilibrium, is still Darwinian in scope.

    I have read Talkorigins responses to Behe and personally find them partial at best and rather unlikely.

    Personal incredulity noted. What about the biology is unlikely? If you don’t know the biology well enough, how can you say what is unlikely and what is not?

    Yes there are species such as the one you name which could be transitional. If they only have fuctionality which can be found in possible predecessors, there is a case. However, are there not interpreeding limitations to address? Again it seems to me that the problem of minimal viable transitional increment arises.

    Be specific. Give an example in the real world of such a problem.

    Have you ever heard of ring species?

  9. #9 Ed Brayton
    June 21, 2007

    Simon Packer wrote:

    To account for the functionality leap, it seems to me you need either;
    *a trail of previous species with partial implementation of the new faculty, which in many instances means survival impeding deadweight
    *sudden hopeful mutation, Gould’s idea I believe, and a little comical unless you invoke designer foreknowledge

    Wow. I don’t even know where to start on this. I guess let’s start with the last sentence. I don’t know what “sudden hopeful mutation” means; it appears to be a gibberish phrase. I suspect you mean to refer to the “hopeful monster” notion, but that came from Goldschmidt in the 1940s, not Gould; indeed, Gould explicitly rejects the idea. The attempt to equate the two, however, is extraordinarily popular among people whose sole knowledge of the subject comes from creationist pamphlets and books.

    Now on to the first claim of needing “a trail of previous species with partial implementation of the new faculty, which in many instances means survival impeding deadweight. You’re doing fairly good until that last clause, which again is just gibberish. We do have, in fact, a wide variety of well preserved series of fossil forms showing the gradual development of key traits. I mentioned Tiktaalik roseae because it is an excellent example of an intermediate form that was predicted and found. We already had series of fossil forms in precisely the correct temporal and anatomical order showing how the transition from lobe-finned fishes to amphibians took place. In that series you can trace the gradual change in a whole range of traits – the flattening of the head, the opening of the nasal passages for breathing air, the development of a stronger rib cage to be able to support weight out of water, the development of digits in the forelimbs prior to coming out of the water, and much more. But there was a gap in the series intermediate between earlier, more aqueous species like Pandericthys and Eusthenopteron and later, more terrestrial species like Acanthostega and icthyostega. Paleontologists predicted what that transitional form must look like, what environment is must have lived in and and when it must have lived based on where it fell in that sequence both temporally and anatomically. And they went looking for it in rocks of that age and that depositional environment. And they found it. And the fact is we have lots of well preserved series like that showing gradual transitions between taxonomic groups. The therapsid reptile to mammal transition is extraordinarily well preserved and complete. So is the tetrapod to whale transition (something the creationists found quite humorous until the fossils were found to fill in all those gaps).

    I have no idea what “survival impeding deadweight” means or why it would be relevant. You seem to be under the misconception that evolution has a goal in mind and creates intermediates that must then die off once the goal is reached; this is simply nonsense. All intermediate forms in such species must, themselves, have been well adapted to their environment at the time. Many close relatives of many of those transitional forms still exist today.

    Yes there are species such as the one you name which could be transitional. If they only have fuctionality which can be found in possible predecessors, there is a case. However, are there not interpreeding limitations to address? Again it seems to me that the problem of minimal viable transitional increment arises.

    Again, this is gibberish. It’s becoming increasingly obvious to me that you are using terms you just don’t understand. That’s the only explanation for why you keep putting together these weird phrases like “minimal viable transitional increment” – that’s just word salad, like you picked four words at random and threw them together.

  10. #10 Simon Packer
    June 21, 2007

    Ed, Dave

    Thanks for taking time to answer. I must be careful to define my phrases. I am not pulling them out of thin air.
    As regards transistion processes, and I think Darwin used the ‘transitional’ term or similar, I’ll start with an example, admittedly from an IDer, ie Geoffrey Simmonds. The bombardeer beetle. I know this one is used frequently by creationists. However, it exists and needs explaining by evolutionists.
    I am describing it in more detail than Simmonds does in ‘billions of missing links’. The beetle has a defence system. Essentially it is a hypergolic jet of the broad type used on the Apollo LM for example. A (hypergolic)propellant and oxidizer ignite on contact. You need two seperate storage chambers, control valves for each, a combustion chamber, a jet nozzle and optionally a steering system for same. You also need functional integration with the creature’s threat detection apparatus (the faculty is there for defence against predators). How did this system (functionality or faculty) evolve step-by-step? Where are the species having only part of the function? How did the beetle evolve the biochemistry to make the oxidizer, H2O2 I believe? It is here I am saying that a non-functional part-system is deadweight. It would add mass and detract from survival, hence my phrase ‘survival impeding deadweight’. If someone showed me a similar beetle which had evolved to squirt only the oxidizer at predators (viable), I would start to see evolution as a serious contendor here. If there was a beetle with just an H2O2 sac used for some other purpose, yes, same. If there were beetles that had evolved the biochemistry to make H2o2, but not use it yet, again, I’d start to see.
    Simmonds and others go through many other examples of unique physiology, giraffes and their unique cardiovascular systems, velvet worms, pelican nostril flaps, kiwi nostrils, dolphin blowholes etc.

    (The source of the hopeful monster thing is presumeably my mistake. I think Gould disagreed with Dawkins over the issue of information increase in the phenotype as evolution supposedly progressed, if I remember ‘Devil’s Chaplain’ correctly. It does not affect the substance of the discussion.)

    My phrase ‘minimum viable transitional increment’- I am asking what step size in the nature of a species is likely to occur as the result of one cycle of genetic combination and mutation? How big a step? A small step will not stand any chance of adding substantial extra functionality or of modifying existing fuctionality in a meaningful way.

    Your view of evolution seems to hold that all the incrementally changed species survive, at least for a while. So just when has a new species been arrived at?
    The finch-to-amphibian line, can you give me some references? I’m interested. Same with the wolf-whale. If all stages in the evolutionary path are simple ‘morphing’, ie changes in proportion, I can start to believe it. But they aren’t. It seems to me that the phylogenic tree is a little fluid anyway.

    How is it that DNA sequence changes are just expected to produce new types of functional system in the phenotype.
    I can’t believe it all at the moment. While some popularisers imply that there is a detailed, coherent, widely-agreed undertsanding of evolution and objectors are just ignorant, I’ve read enough to see this is not so. Some aspects of cosmology are similar in some ways. Science is best consolidated where it is practical to do experiments, especially with well-defined outcomes.

    I am aware that evolutionists believe evolution has no end goal in sight, Dawkins, maybe others, are at pains to make this point. It seems obvious and doesn’t affect any of my arguments as far as I can see.

  11. #11 Dave S.
    June 21, 2007

    Ed, Dave

    Thanks for taking time to answer. I must be careful to define my phrases. I am not pulling them out of thin air.
    As regards transistion processes, and I think Darwin used the ‘transitional’ term or similar, I’ll start with an example, admittedly from an IDer, ie Geoffrey Simmonds. The bombardeer beetle. I know this one is used frequently by creationists. However, it exists and needs explaining by evolutionists.

    It certainly has been frequently used by Creationists, but not for a while. The reason being that there already are perfectly plausible evolutionary models. See HERE for some detail.

    How did this system (functionality or faculty) evolve step-by-step? Where are the species having only part of the function? How did the beetle evolve the biochemistry to make the oxidizer, H2O2 I believe? It is here I am saying that a non-functional part-system is deadweight. It would add mass and detract from survival, hence my phrase ‘survival impeding deadweight’. If someone showed me a similar beetle which had evolved to squirt only the oxidizer at predators (viable), I would start to see evolution as a serious contendor here. If there was a beetle with just an H2O2 sac used for some other purpose, yes, same. If there were beetles that had evolved the biochemistry to make H2o2, but not use it yet, again, I’d start to see.

    Hydrogen peroxide is a normal chemical and is made in cells as part of the normal functioning of those cells for reasons totally unrelated to bombing predators (see for example HERE). Your own liver is at this very second continually using an enzyme catalase to break apart hydrogen peroxide that’s also formed there naturally as a byproduct of respiration.

    Once again, check out the first link above for a plausible evolutionary mechanism. The intermediates aren’t pie in the sky, as we do have other beetles which posess just those chemicals for other purposes (cuticle tanning, making a bad taste, etc.).

    Simmonds and others go through many other examples of unique physiology, giraffes and their unique cardiovascular systems, velvet worms, pelican nostril flaps, kiwi nostrils, dolphin blowholes etc.

    And?

    My phrase ‘minimum viable transitional increment’- I am asking what step size in the nature of a species is likely to occur as the result of one cycle of genetic combination and mutation? How big a step? A small step will not stand any chance of adding substantial extra functionality or of modifying existing fuctionality in a meaningful way.

    Sheer incredulity. Small steps merely take longer to fix in the population for a given selection pressure. Or they might fix simply because of neutral drift.

    The finch-to-amphibian line, can you give me some references? I’m interested. Same with the wolf-whale.

    That’s fish to amphibian. For whales, try HERE.

    If all stages in the evolutionary path are simple ‘morphing’, ie changes in proportion, I can start to believe it. But they aren’t. It seems to me that the phylogenic tree is a little fluid anyway.

    Given the total number of possible trees assuming common descent were not correct, its stunning how consistent phylogenies are. The degree of accuracy exceeds the determination of the gravitational constant G, to put it terms you might understand.

    Science is best consolidated where it is practical to do experiments, especially with well-defined outcomes.

    Evolution has those too. But like any good science, it relies on observation and hypotheses testing, whether in the form of a formal experiment or no.

  12. #12 DuWayne
    June 21, 2007

    Simon Packer –

    Dave S. brings up a great example. I have thought that whales are a very good example, for showing the likelihood of evolution. I mean, they have a forearm, wrist and digits, under their flippers. They still have rear legs, as a part of their skeletal structure, that serve absolutely no purpose, buried under their skin. Honestly, they are living evidence of evolution.

  13. #13 Ed Brayton
    June 21, 2007

    Simon Packer wrote:

    My phrase ‘minimum viable transitional increment’- I am asking what step size in the nature of a species is likely to occur as the result of one cycle of genetic combination and mutation? How big a step? A small step will not stand any chance of adding substantial extra functionality or of modifying existing fuctionality in a meaningful way.

    Again, this is just word salad. There is no such thing as “one cycle of genetic combination and mutation” – this is just a nonsense phrase. Nor does the phrase “step size in the nature of a species.” These phrases are simply gibberish.

    Your view of evolution seems to hold that all the incrementally changed species survive, at least for a while. So just when has a new species been arrived at?

    You seem to think that the entire population of a species all gradually change into a whole new species; that is rarely the case. Speciation is primarily allopatric, which means that the incipient species splits off from the ancestral species, usually after becoming reproductively isolated from the main population of that species. Both ancestor and daughter species then co-exist (just like your parents didn’t die when you were born, presumably).

    The finch-to-amphibian line, can you give me some references? I’m interested.

    Finches did not evolve into amphibians. Finches are birds, which evolved from reptiles. The lobe-finned fish to amphibian transition has been very well documented. I would suggest Carl Zimmer’s book At the Water’s Edge (though it predates the finding of Tiktaalik roseae).

    Same with the wolf-whale.

    Whales did not evolve from wolves. Again, the most accessible treatment of the subject is the Zimmer book above, which documents the transition both out of the water by amphibians and back into the water by dolphins and whales.

  14. #14 Dave S.
    June 21, 2007

    Ed writes:

    Whales did not evolve from wolves.

    This was probably my bad. I called them “terrestrial wolf-ish carnivore”. Just going for something he might recognize form extant forms.

  15. #15 DuWayne
    June 21, 2007

    This was probably my bad. I called them “terrestrial wolf-ish carnivore”. Just going for something he might recognize form extant forms.

    Actually, it is apparently a controversy, whether whales even evolved from mesonychid, which indeed appeared superficially wolf-ish. Though it seems to me, that evidence would suggest that, rather than whales evolving from anthracotheriidae, instead of mesonychid, anthracotheriidae was an intermediary, from mesonychid and whales.

    I also have to say, that rather than appearing wolf like, mesonychid appears more like a large feline with some bear like qualities, at least to me.

  16. #16 Science Avenger
    June 22, 2007

    Simon Packer said: The bombardeer beetle. I know this one is used frequently by creationists. However, it exists and needs explaining by evolutionists.

    No, it doesn’t. This is a fundamental point evolution deniers don’t get. The theory of evolution accounts for what we know of life using known mechanisms. As with any science, every detail of every possible area of study is now known…that’s why there is still research going on. That’s sufficient until someone comes up with a theory that accounts for the data better.

    Having unanswered questions is not the same thing as having a mystery – something that cannot be accounted for. To have a mystery one would have to demonstrate that something is incompatible with evolutionary theory. Saying “I don’t see how that happened” is not sufficient, and that is essentially all IDers/creationists have ever come up with.

    As an analogy, when confronted with a doubting child, I do not have to explain the path of every Christmas present every step of the way from market to Christmas tree to have valid confidence in the “parents do it” theory. It is enough that said theory accounts for the existence of presents under the tree using known mechanisms. There is no justification for believing in Santa just because you found one weird present I can’t account for.

  17. #17 Science Avenger
    June 22, 2007

    That should be:

    “As with any science, every detail of every possible area of study is NOT now known…”

  18. #18 Dave S.
    June 22, 2007

    Actually, it is apparently a controversy, whether whales even evolved from mesonychid, which indeed appeared superficially wolf-ish. Though it seems to me, that evidence would suggest that, rather than whales evolving from anthracotheriidae, instead of mesonychid, anthracotheriidae was an intermediary, from mesonychid and whales.

    I think the third link I put up describes this situation nicely. There is no question that whales evolved from 4-legged terrestrial mammals, the only question is the exact lineages. The evidence does seem to lean towards the artiodactyl group.

    I also have to say, that rather than appearing wolf like, mesonychid appears more like a large feline with some bear like qualities, at least to me.

    Actually I wasn’t referring to the mesonychids when I made that reference at all, but to the pakecetids. Which can also be said to resemble (sort of) a large long legged rat.

    At least to me!

  19. #19 Simon Packer
    June 26, 2007

    I had a look at the Talkorigins bombadier beetle stuff. Eleven or so stages to evolve the deterent mechanism from some none-equiped beetle starting point. How many generations do you expect each step to take? How many unviable systems on the way? How many beetles with redundant tanks, or poisonous accumulations of chemical for no real reason?
    You can just about envisage the path suggested, but I think the statistics would rule it as incredibly unlikely I feel. A suggested mechanism is most certainly not necessarily a proof. You need to wave a sort of ‘evolution magic wand’ over it in my opinion. A sort of implicit faith in evolution.

  20. #20 Science Avenger
    June 26, 2007

    Simon Packer: I had a look at the Talkorigins bombadier beetle stuff. Eleven or so stages to evolve the deterent mechanism from some none-equiped beetle starting point. … You can just about envisage the path suggested, but I think the statistics would rule it as incredibly unlikely I feel.

    Statistics are not something done on feel. If you want to make a statistical argument, then do the calculations. Otherwise it is just so much hot air. And be sure to do them right, which means not assuming the end product was the goal from the beginning. That would be the equivalent of doubting someone won the lottery because the odds are so low of THAT person winning. The real question is what the odds are of SOMEONE winning. Likewise, the bombadier beetle evolution had to end up somewhere.

    A suggested mechanism is most certainly not necessarily a proof. You need to wave a sort of ‘evolution magic wand’ over it in my opinion. A sort of implicit faith in evolution.

    A suggested mechanism that falls within known constraints does disprove the claim that it is impossible to evolve such a trait. Similarly, any Christmas gift that falls within the constraints of the parents doing is disproves the notion that Santa had to. I don’t need to retrace the history of the presents step by step. What you are doing is known as “moving the goalposts”, which is a common IDer/creationist tactic.

    For the most part science doesn’t deal in proofs, or opinions, it deals in evidence. Deference to the most reasonable hypothesis is not faith. Faith would be attributing any difficult-to-explain phenomenon to an ill-defined designer for which we have no evidence. Again sticking with the analogy, no matter how difficult it is for you to understand how a certain present got under the tree, it is never reasonable to conclude that Santa did it.

  21. #21 Dave S.
    June 26, 2007

    The only one waving a wand and needing faith is you Simon. Notice how you ask questions … like where are the intermediate forms … and when supplied with the evidence, an evolutionary model complete with intermediates, you simply ignore the answers and ask more questions! Typical creationist nonsense. It even has a name…the Gish Gallop. A real shame for someone who fancies a career in science. Why don’t you answer your own questions? If you think they provide a challenge, show us the data.

    You in fact have no idea about the “statistics”. That’s just another smokescreen. All you have is a feeling that somehow, some way, evolution just can’t account for the bombardier beetle.

    And you use the Creationist 2-Step too. First insist evolution can’t accomplish something, and then when provided with an evolutionary model and just the kinds of intermediaries that evolution predicts, you insist the evidence is not detailed enough. Two completely different arguments that you pretend are one. Really we don’t even need to point to beetles that have poison but don’t squirt it, since the model alone refutes your contention that evolution can’t make such a beetle. Having actual evidence is merely the icing on the cake.

  22. #22 DuWayne
    June 26, 2007

    Simon Packer –

    I think that two can play the game your playing here. Certainly there are examples of animals that have characteristics that make it seem unlikely they could have evolved without some help. On the flip side, you have animals that have characteristics that make is seem unlikely that they evolved through some sort of intelligent design. Take rabbits, animals that have such an inefficient digestive system, that they must eat, poop it out and eat it again.

    I think that Dave S. nailed it. Rather than answering Science Avenger, you just try to claim that we need more details. Really, the problem here is that you are answering evidence that supports evolution, with blather that the evidence isn’t good enough, when it is really in your court to show evidence of any sort, to support your claim or even to simply counter the evidence that supports evolution. Either put up, or shut up. If you have evidence that is better than that, which supports evolution, that either your belief is correct, or that the evidence supporting evolution is flawed, by all means, enlighten us. Otherwise, all you have, is meaningless blather.

    I should also note, that I am not an atheist. I believe in an interventionist God and do not presume that God didn’t affect evolution. Neither do I presume that God did intervene in evolution, indeed I think it’s rather unlikely. But that is a philosophical position, not science. Unless hard evidence is produced, to support your position, then all it is, is a philosophical/religious stance.

  23. #23 Simon Packer
    July 1, 2007

    Yes, I have a religious (Christian) stance. Evolution is by far the most plausible naturalistic hypothesis for the variety of life we see. That does not mean it is correct. However I continue to see it as very unlikely on it’s own unless there were ID seeding it. Added to the unlikeliness of some of the pathways, there is the unlikeliness of the accidental coming about of a molecule capable of defining so many organisms.
    If you allow a supernatural entity, you have other options. Just because this violates some definitions of science does not mean it is not true. I have been reading John Ashton (Ed) ‘In Six Days’ where 50 science PhDs discuss ID positively. There are a few statistical models in it, albeit very simplistic and approximate. Such is the complexity of the scenario it will be approximate. I have also read about some of Richard Dawkins’ attempts to rationalise evolution statistically. There are huge simplifications and assumptions in all these models. However I personally believe that Evolution is a failed hypothesis, and ID is mandated. ToE is superficially plausible if carefully and selectively justified and presented.
    Talkorigins 11 or so bombadier steps are a bit simplistic. Very many complications are glossed over. I have a lot of questions about it and the assumptions underlying it, like how any of the stages would consolidate well enough for the next.
    There is of course a big difference between the prevailing hypotheses of the scientific community (and the associated culture, vested interest and presentation) and a soundly proven hypothesis. I would suggest that someone with their eyes open would put ToE in the tentative working hypothesis category at best. A noteable (and I believe agnostic) astronomer recently made a similar statement about the Big Bang recently during a candid moment.
    Science, certainly if it is rigorous enough to be used for practical purposes, might be defined: observe, hypothesise, experiment, test/adjust hypothesis, repeat as necessary. The experiment stages are absent from most evolutionary theorising. I would not want to be test pilot of a plane designed with the leaps of unsubstantiated reasoning used by evolutionists. Incidentally I have been involved in the design of aerospace equipment.

  24. #24 Dave S.
    July 1, 2007

    Yes, I have a religious (Christian) stance. Evolution is by far the most plausible naturalistic hypothesis for the variety of life we see.

    On that we agree.

    That does not mean it is correct.

    That does not mean the atomic theory of matter is correct either. Nor the theory of relativity.

    However I continue to see it as very unlikely on it’s own unless there were ID seeding it.

    Bald assertion without a shred of evidence. How do you know ID is capable of “seeding” anything?

    Added to the unlikeliness of some of the pathways, there is the unlikeliness of the accidental coming about of a molecule capable of defining so many organisms.

    Silly argument. I have 2 decks of cards in my desk. It’s extremly unlikely that they would have the EXACT sequence (including which deck was specified) of AC 7D 10C 9S KC JS AC 7S 7D 5C 3C 2H 7C 10S QC 8S 9H AD 8D 3H 4S 8S 2C 4S 8H 2D AH AS KH 2H KC 10D JC 4C 2S 8C 5S 7S KD 4H QC 5S 5D JH 2D KD 10S 3C 9H KH 7H 4D QD JD 4D 5C 5D AS 9C KS 4C QS 6H 3S 3S QH 9D JS 6D 3H 10H AH 3D AD JC 6H 6C 9D 7C 8H QD 9S QH QS JD 10D 8C 10H KS 9C 6D 10C 7H 6S 2S 5H JH 2C 6C 3D 8D 4H 5H 6S. It’s 1 in 1 x 10^166. And yet, there it is. How do you explain this sequence, given that neither I nor anyone else purposefully arranged it that way?

    If you allow a supernatural entity, you have other options.

    Maybe yes, maybe no. You have no way of telling if there is or isn’t such an entity, and even there is, you have no way of telling when its at work and when it isn’t.

    Which is exactly the problem.

    Just because this violates some definitions of science does not mean it is not true.

    It means it isn’t science. But do put youre money where your mouth is. Decline all medical treatment since it too is based on purely materialistic science and does not allow for the supernatural.

    If you use doctors, then you are a hypocrite.

    However I personally believe that Evolution is a failed hypothesis, and ID is mandated.

    Fine. Without referring to the “failed hypothesis” of evolution, please tell us the scientific theory of ID that you want mandated. Don’t forget to tell us how we can test this theory, whether by experiment (which you seem to think is important) or otherwise through observation.

    Talkorigins 11 or so bombadier steps are a bit simplistic. Very many complications are glossed over. I have a lot of questions about it and the assumptions underlying it, like how any of the stages would consolidate well enough for the next.

    How many stages are called for by ID?

    Science, certainly if it is rigorous enough to be used for practical purposes, might be defined: observe, hypothesise, experiment, test/adjust hypothesis, repeat as necessary. The experiment stages are absent from most evolutionary theorising.

    Not true. And even if it were, so what? n experiment is merely a formalized way of making observations by manipulating variables. It’s only a tool of science, not all there is to science.

    I would not want to be test pilot of a plane designed with the leaps of unsubstantiated reasoning used by evolutionists. Incidentally I have been involved in the design of aerospace equipment.

    I would. Have you never heard of evolutionary (or genetic) algorithms? Those are design tools using the principles of evolution, and often make better things than we can without them. This includes aerospace.

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