Dispatches from the Creation Wars

A Christmas Bonus

- guest-blogged by W. Kevin Vicklund

Despite some people begging for coal, I just didn’t feel right without doing something like a real fisking. So I thought I’d write a little about some recent papers by some of the more prominent cdesign proponentists. However, since this is just a bonus, I won’t do a full-on fisking.

First up, Dembski (and Marks), who have written a few papers in the last couple of years attacking the “METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASLE” program. Dembski’s recent approach has been very odd. It’s basically “Evolutionary algorithms work really well on systems that mimic life, therefor God must have chosen to use them.” It’s a riff on his old No Free Lunch Theorem argument. But he fails to consider a few important things. First, evolution can utilize parallel search functions. That is, rather than being restricted to a single search function at a time, it can use multiple ones, and pick whichever one gets a beneficial solution first. We would then expect that an algorithm that works really well in that type of system to deliver a lot more of the beneficial solutions. The other is that, of all the potential search algorithms, only a few will be physically possible and still have even a remote chance of returning a beneficial solution. So we would expect a lot of the types of results typical of evolutionary algorithms (modifications and deletions of existing traits) and a few typical of more random searches (new traits), with very little if any of the types of searches that don’t work very well. And this would be what we’d expect if there was no designer.

This brings us to Behe’s latest paper. Here’s the abstract:

Adaptive evolution can cause a species to gain, lose, or modify a function; therefore, it is of basic interest to determine whether any of these modes dominates the evolutionary process under particular circumstances. Because mutation occurs at the molecular level, it is necessary to examine the molecular changes produced by the underlying mutation in order to assess whether a given adaptation is best considered as a gain, loss, or modification of function. Although that was once impossible, the advance of molecular biology in the past half century has made it feasible. In this paper, I review molecular changes underlying some adaptations, with a particular emphasis on evolutionary experiments with microbes conducted over the past four decades. I show that by far the most common adaptive changes seen in those examples are due to the loss or modification of a pre-existing molecular function, and I discuss the possible reasons for the prominence of such mutations. – Michael J. Behe, “Experimental Evolution, Loss-of-Function Mutations and ‘The First Rule of Adaptive Evolution’,” Quarterly Review of Biology, Vol. 85(4) (December, 2010)

Why, that’s exactly what we’d expect to find if evolution were true!

I would like to thank Dembski and Behe for once again providing evidence that there is no need for God to interfere in order for evolution to explain the diversity of life.