Derbyshire States it Plain

Writing in National Review Online, John Derbyshire provides a nice characterization of what it’s like to argue with creationists:

I’ll also say that I write the following with some reluctance. It’s a wearying business, arguing with Creationists. Basically, it is a game of Whack-a-Mole. They make an argument, you whack it down. They make a second, you whack it down. They make a third, you whack it down. So they make the first argument again. This is why most biologists just can’t be bothered with Creationism at all, even for the fun of it. It isn’t actually any fun. Creationists just chase you round in circles. It’s boring.

It would be less boring if they’d come up with a new argument once in a while, but they never do. I’ve been engaging with Creationists for a couple of years now, and I have yet to hear an argument younger than I am. (I am not young.) All Creationist arguments have been whacked down a thousand times, but they keep popping up again. Nowadays I just refer argumentative e-mailers to the TalkOrigins website, where any argument you are ever going to hear from a Creationist is whacked down several times over. Don’t think it’ll stop ‘em, though. (Emphasis in Original).

Well said.

I’m not quite sure what to make of this argument, though:

Materialism fails to convince because it implies that mind is an illusion. To this, an ordinary person will reply: “To what is this illusion presenting itself?” Materialism has no answer. Nor does it have anything to tell us about free will, morality, or any of the other conundrums discussed at the end of Pinker’s How the Mind Works. To adhere to religious metaphysics, on the other hand, you actually have to belong to one of the established religions, all of which require belief in things (resurrection, transubstantiation, reincarnation, Chosen People) that seem, to many minds accustomed to the evidentiary standards demanded by modern science and law, incredible.

Materialism does not imply that mind is an illusion. It implies only that mind is the product of physical processes. Why is that problematic? Free will might actually be an illusion, but it is one that is so powerful that it is impossible to live your life without accepting its reality. As for morality, it seems to me that materialism, or more precisely the relevant branches of science, have a great deal to tell us about that. More so, certainly, than any conventional religion. Evolution tells us that a capacity for moral reasoning makes good adaptive sense. Cognitive science tells us that there is a portion of the brain which, when damaged, leads to the complete loss of conscience. These are just examples, of course. Religion, by contrast, has only bald, groundless assertions about God’s will. Pardon me for finding materialism more satisfying.

And the fact is, what is the alternative? People may not find materialism convincing, but the fact remains that every shred of the considerable evidence we have points to the conclusion that mind is the product of brain and that is all. Your options are to follow the evidence where it leads, or concoct, from whole cloth, something you find more comforting.

Derbyshire continues:

There are of course lots of people who are perfectly satisfied by materialist atheism, and many more who find they can leap the credulity hurdles required by traditional religions. To many hundreds of millions of moderns, though (I am not speaking of only the U.S.A.: the rest of the world does, after all, exist), there is no satisfactory conceptual grounding for their beliefs, desires, and intentions. We really ought to be able to come up with something.

I’m afraid I don’t understand what this means. What does Derbyshire mean by a satisfactory conceptual grounding for beliefs, desires and intentions? If you find it hard to believe that all of the things the brain does arise from physcial processes, and you also find it hard to believe in some supernatural basis for the mind and whatnot, then I don’t see what that leaves you. Perhaps Derbyshire is arguing simply for a supernatural explanation, but one that steers clear of the claims of established religions. Whatever. I merely repeat my assertion from the previous paragraph. The evidence we have tells us that mind comes from brain. You either accept that, or you resort to making stuff up.

Comments

  1. #1 Colin
    July 13, 2006

    That was a really odd tangent that Derbyshire ran off to, and he was off to such a good start too.

    It’s a shame that so many people are for some reason terrified of materialism, as if once they beleive it suddenly life has no meaning and they become robots. Also materialism does not require one to suddenly accept free will as an illusion. There are several theories of free will that fit in with materialism.

    I just finished reading Nature Via Nuture by Matt Ridley (pretty good book though a bit scattered and rambly) and at the end he had an interesting comment about free will. He stated that most people when they envision free will think of all willed motivation as linear. And really it is a non-linear circular process — you are at every moment reacting to your own actions, which is in a sense free will.

    I’ve heard other justifications too but this one was interesting.

  2. #2 John Farrell
    July 14, 2006

    What’s ironic about this, Jason, is that I think even Thomas Aquinas would be more in agreement with you than with what Derb is aiming at here. Meaning, the mind, while distinct from matter–is still dependent on it. It’s not a ghost that requires a special explanation.

  3. #3 John Farrell
    July 14, 2006

    BTW, I noticed that in general, science blogs has a problem with comments when using Firefox or Netscape on Windows. Dunno why (but it’s annoying).

  4. #4 Nick
    July 14, 2006

    FYI, the whack-a-mole analogy isn’t original to Derbyshire. AFAIK, it was first used by Paul Ferrar in 1996 on talk.origins, and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen it used again since then.

    Here’s the text of Paul’s original posting, as archived by google:

    When we go to the mall, and we walk past the game arcade, my 3yr-old daughter always demands to go in for a round of her favorite game, Whack a Mole. This game is quite a throwback, being electromechanical, rather than video-electronic. A large square board is covered with
    mole holes, and at irregular intervals toy moles stick their heads up. When they do, the player whacks them with a large rubber mallet. Now I know why I enjoy t.o. It’s like Whack a Mole, but with no time limit. Every few days, or even hours, a little head pops up and says, “Consider the bombardier beetle. This interesting little fellow…” Whack! Eeep! Over to the right,”A lava flow in Hawaii,
    which is known to be 200yrs…” Whack! Eeep! Up there, “Lucy’s knee…” Whack! Eeep! It does get a little fatigueing after a while, which is why I mainly lurk.

  5. #5 Larry Fafarman
    July 16, 2006

    Darwinists tend to be very condescending when debating anti-Darwinists.

    Derbyshire said,
    “It?s a wearying business, arguing with Creationists. Basically, it is a game of Whack-a-Mole. They make an argument, you whack it down. They make a second, you whack it down. They make a third, you whack it down. So they make the first argument again.”

    – and anti-Darwinists see arguing with Darwinists as a wearying business. Darwinists have this idea that any argument that they present is automatically an airtight refutation. For example, Darwinists have this crazy idea that “exaptation” (also called “co-option” or “co-optation” ) — the notion that some parts of an irreducibly complex system had different functions before becoming part of the system — completely refutes the idea of irreducible complexity. And exaptation is the Darwinists’ only answer to irreducible complexity.

    Derbyshire said, “It would be less boring if they?d come up with a new argument once in a while, but they never do.”

    Questioning co-evolution is not new, but I have questioned co-evolution in ways that I have been unable to find elsewhere on the Internet — see http://im-from-missouri.blogspot.com/2006/04/co-evolutionary-paradox.html

    Also, there are things called “oldies but goodies” — an argument is not necessarily bad just because it is old. And new evidence can revive or reinvigorate old arguments — for example, recent discoveries about the great complexity of one-celled organisms have added support to the principle of irreducible complexity.

    Derbyshire said, “Nowadays I just refer argumentative e-mailers to the TalkOrigins website, where any argument you are ever going to hear from a Creationist is whacked down several times over. Don’t think it’ll stop ‘em, though.”

    You’re right — it won’t stop ‘em. Many of the TalkOrigins website’s rebuttals of creationist arguments are very sketchy, consisting of just a few sentences. For example, the TalkOrigins’ article on “obligate mutualism” does not even begin to address the questions I have raised about co-evolution. So arguments against co-evolution were not even “whacked down” once, let alone several times over.

    Derbyshire’s article is discussed further on my blog at — http://im-from-missouri.blogspot.com/2006/07/condescending-darwinists-whacking-down.html

  6. #6 Larry Fafarman
    July 16, 2006

    Nick said ( July 14, 2006 09:58 AM ) –

    FYI, the whack-a-mole analogy isn’t original to Derbyshire. AFAIK, it was first used by Paul Ferrar in 1996 on talk.origins, and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen it used again since then.

    Wikipedia says,
    The term Whac-a-Mole, or Whack-a-mole, has been used in the computer and networking industry to describe the phenomenon of fending off recurring spammers, vandals or miscreants. The connotation is that of a repetitious and futile task: each time the attacker is “whacked” or kicked off of a service, he only pops up again from another direction. Also used in the military to refer to opposing troops who keep re-appearing: Whack the mole here and it dies, but another pops up in a different spot. — from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whack-a-mole#Colloquial_usage

  7. #7 Michael "Sotek" Ralston
    July 16, 2006

    Oh please, Larry.

    First, you’re mangling the concept of coevolution. You are in fact talking about “symbiosis” and not coevolution at all.

    And symbiosis is perfectly capable of evolving.

    Flowers and bees… a very simple explanation would be that when flowers first got colorful, that was a purely neutral mutation – which is not implausible/
    Then bees evolved to seek out colors – a mutation that’s “simple” and advantageous.

    Then if the flowers evolved away from being colorful, that would be disadvantageous.
    And if the bees evolved away from seeking color, that too would be disadvantageous.

    Now, the two would evolve to improve the match, but as long as the match happened to have any advantage at all it would be selected for.

    I think I see your problem – you assume all evolution must happen in a single jump, with no gradual changes. For instance, it could be that bees went from never caring about colors to going to colorful things one percent of the time more often than random change would suggest, and so on until eventually they ALWAYS go towards colors.

    Also you assume neutral mutations are rarer than they really are – in fact they’re far and away the most common sort.

  8. #8 Larry Fafarman
    July 16, 2006

    Michael “Sotek” Ralston said ( July 16, 2006 04:09 AM ) –

    Oh please, Larry.

    First, you’re mangling the concept of coevolution. You are in fact talking about “symbiosis” and not coevolution at all.

    Oh please, Michael. On my blog, I talk about bees and flowers, and this is considered to be one of the best examples of co-evolution. Find me a reference that says or indicates that bees and flowers are not an example of co-evolution.

    “Symbiosis” generally refers to two organisms that live in close proximity in an intimate relationship with each other.

    Flowers and bees… a very simple explanation would be that when flowers first got colorful, that was a purely neutral mutation – which is not implausible/
    Then bees evolved to seek out colors – a mutation that’s “simple” and advantageous.

    Some co-dependent traits are non-viable or deleterious when the corresponding trait is absent in the other organism. For example, in “buzz” pollination, the pollen adheres so strongly to the plant that the vibration of an insect’s wings is required to dislodge it.

    For instance, it could be that bees went from never caring about colors to going to colorful things one percent of the time more often than random change would suggest, and so on until eventually they ALWAYS go towards colors.

    Without the ability to detect the colors or scents, the bees could never find the flowers.

    Also you assume neutral mutations are rarer than they really are – in fact they’re far and away the most common sort.

    The most common kind of neutral mutation is just a variation of an existing trait rather than the establishment of a whole new trait. Also, a neutral mutation that happens in the absence of a corresponding mutation in the other kind of organism confers no benefit in natural selection.

    Co-evolution presents the following problems:

    (1) Unlike the kind of evolution which is adaptation to widespread fixed physical features of the environment, e.g., land, water, and air, in co-evolution there is often nothing to adapt to because the co-dependent trait is likely to be initially absent in the other organism.

    (2) As mentioned above, a co-dependent trait could be non-viable or deleterious in the absence of the corresponding trait in the other organism. When this is true of corresponding traits in both organisms, co-evolution is virtually impossible.

    (3) Often, co-dependent organisms can interact only in large numbers — e.g., a bee visits many flowers and a flower is visited by many bees. Hence, large numbers of both kinds of organisms with corresponding traits may have to appear suddenly at the same place at the same time.

    (4) In cases of co-evolution that are supposed to consist of a series of incremental steps in both organisms, e.g., the co-evolution of deep flowers and long-nosed insects, the evolution of one of the organisms must stop at each step while the evolution of the other organism catches up. This would greatly slow down an evolutionary process which may have just a few million years to take place.

    (5) Often a co-dependent relationship consists of an “irreducibly complex” combination of pairs of traits rather than a single pair of traits. This compounds the problems presented by co-evolution and irreducible complexity.

    Darwinists just talk in vague, nebulous terms like “mutual evolutionary pressure” instead of looking at the nitty-gritty details of co-evolution.

  9. #9 Michael "Sotek" Ralston
    July 16, 2006

    Yes, some traits are deletorious when the corresponding trait is missing.

    But guess what – that just indicates the corresponding trait probably evolved first.

    For instance, insect wings work the way they work for plenty of reasons.

    Pollen that needs insect wins thus presumeably evolved afterwards. It really is that simple.

    Also, yeah, “irreducibly complex”. But that’s a bad definition anyway. The knockout test is INCORRECT – what would be correct would be if there are no “simple changes” that are still viable – but less so.

    And in most of these circumstances they are.

    Also, you say “often codependance this”, with your only example that I’ve seen being that of flowers and bees. Who is it who doesn’t want to look at the nitty-gritty? I’ve provided a very simple path for flowers and bees to have co-evolved together.

    But that example fits none of the criteria you present as being difficult anyway.

    Also, your final claim is such nonsense. Have you ever read a scientific journal on any subject, let alone biology? I’ve done the first, but not the second – and I’ve STILL read papers on coevolution.

  10. #10 Larry Fafarman
    July 17, 2006

    Michael “Sotek” Ralston said (July 16, 2006 09:14 PM ) –

    Yes, some traits are deletorious when the corresponding trait is missing.

    But guess what – that just indicates the corresponding trait probably evolved first.

    For instance, insect wings work the way they work for plenty of reasons.

    Pollen that needs insect wins thus presumeably evolved afterwards.

    Consider, for example, the colors and scents of flowers and the ability of insects to sense those colors and scents. How could the flowers or insects have evolved those traits independently? When the corresponding traits are absent in the other organism, those traits confer no advantage and hence do not benefit from natural selection. Also, I pointed out that these pairs of corresponding traits are not isolated but are part of an irreducibly complex set of pairs of corresponding traits possessed by the flowers and the insects.

    It really is that simple.

    Everything is simple to you Darwinists — too simple.

    Also, you say “often codependance this”, with your only example that I’ve seen being that of flowers and bees.

    Other examples are given in the links at the bottom of my article at http://im-from-missouri.blogspot.com/2006/04/co-evolutionary-paradox.html Other examples are also given in the Wikipedia articles on “co-evolution” and “symbiosis.”

    But that example fits none of the criteria you present as being difficult anyway.

    Not true.

    Also, your final claim is such nonsense. Have you ever read a scientific journal on any subject, let alone biology?

    Yes, I have read scientific journal articles, mostly in engineering subjects. But whether or not scientists are writing in scientific journals, they tend to speak in vague, nebulous terms about evolution theory. And a scientific paper that makes only passing reference to evolution will get credit for supporting evolution.

  11. Neutral drift, Larry. Heard of the term?
    Not all mutations are selected at all, either positively or negatively.

    Also, there’s, again, exaption. Pretend for a moment that the first mutations that allowed the production of the structure of flowers also made them colorful – and that the structure of a flower had some minor intrinsic advantage. Neither of these are particularly wierd assumptions, and yet if true would ensure selection for colorful flowers, at least for long enough for most flowers to be sufficiently colorful for the next step in coevolution to progress.

    And do you really think it’s possible for ANYTHING to be completely scentless? I don’t. Flowers with a little scent would provide a “target” for insects to evolve towards, and once those insects are close they too provide a “target” for flowers, and the two would evolve in response to one another.

    Okay, your specific examples. Buzz pollination … given insects pollinating flowers, a mutation that makes the pollen only spread on insect wings is advantageous – it prevents “wasted” pollen, and is not harmful. One-step, done. The given is clearly a very large given to you – but it’s the one we’ve been addressing.

    … and one of your examples provides highly plausible evolutionary paths for the evolution of the flower/bee situation. Why, precisely, are you linking to rebuttals of your own arguments?
    (Search for “The hypothetical evolution of pollination and angiosperms is tied together.” on biology.clc.uc.edu/courses/bio303/coevolution.htm and read that section.) … in fact, both your examples explain how it works. What, are you some sort of creationist version of the Onion?

    As for flowers that require a very specific species of insect … again, advantageous. If they were pollinated by insects in general, then if they attract one type over another, making it harder for the others to get at the pollen is good – it reduces the chance the pollen will be taken to another flower that’s of a different species. And any simple mutations in that direction will naturally have that result, because they are, as noted above, advantageous.

    As for your claim that papers use “vague neubulous terms” to describe evolution … I’m sure that’s true in ENGINEERING. Why bother trying to prove BIOLOGY when the BIOLOGISTS are convinced it’s true and aren’t going to be reading your paper anyway? You might as well ask biologists to prove the basics of chemistry before they can study any biology.

    Now, I’ve got a copy of conference proceedings from the Santa Fe Institute, specifically their tenth conference (published in 91-92). It’s not even a full journal, although it does have some peer-review anyway. Now, it’s not biology – it’s mostly simulations thereof.
    For instance, there’s a paper entitled “Non-Optimality” via Pre-adaptation in Simple Neural Systems, wherein they evolve neural networks similar to certain portions of the crayfish’s neurology under two separate conditions, and only one condition produces the crayfish circuit – the one where the task was changed halfway through from “Swimming” to “Flipping”. If it was flipping the entire time, the networks were simpler and better for flipping. But the ones that went for swimming first would be better if the task ever changed back to swimming.

    They even present reasons they might be wrong. A direct quote:
    “Of course, a use [for the suboptimal features of the crayfish tailflip circuit] might be found in the future. It might be possible that the ‘non-optimal’ synapse and attendant projections give an architectural constraint of some sort, and cannot be removed without great behavioral and fitness cost. (One hypothetical ‘use’ for the ‘non-optimal’ circuit is for the inhibitory sensory-FF projection to limit the duration of an excitatory volley – perhaps to make a short ‘burst’ in activity in the motor neuron. Alas, this does not appear to be the case in either the crayfish or our model networks: The inihibition of the FF neuron invariably precedes the excitatory volley through the ‘useless’ synapse.) Given the simplicity and plausibility of the pre-adaptation scenario provided by Dumont and Robertson and by our simulations, this explanation seems far more acceptable than any current alternative.”

    Are they using vague nebulous terms, or are they being rather clear and explicit?

    What about a paper that uses evolutionary programming techniques to design sorting networks, and finds that it gets the best results the fastest if it also co-evolves the test-cases in a sort of predator-prey dynamic? Is that ignoring coevolution?

    What about one that uses the Noisy Iterated Prisoners Dilemma as a model and finds that sometimes strategies which would do poorly on their own will succeed via a mututalistic relationship with other strategies, none of which could do well alone – playing against themselves they get into recurrent defecting situations, but when playing against one another they can correct noise and cooperate most of the time? Is that ignoring the difficulties of “irreducible complexity”?

    This isn’t biology – but it still examines evolution somewhat, because it’s close enough that that would make sense.

    Try finding a paper in a biological journal that discusses evolution, but only in a “vague, nebulous term” and provide a citation. I doubt you can – but you might be able to do it. If you do, I’ll be sure to get a copy of that journal for myself as that would mean it’s within my abilities to understand, and I’ll see if I can’t find another paper in it that isn’t vague and nebulous while talking about evolution.
    I think that the advantages, in that challenge, are yours – except, of course, that I’m convinced you’re wrong overall. Care to take it?

  12. #12 Larry Fafarman
    July 18, 2006

    Michael “Sotek” Ralston said ( July 17, 2006 03:45 PM ) –

    Neutral drift, Larry. Heard of the term?
    Not all mutations are selected at all, either positively or negatively.

    I question the ability of neutral drift to make big evolutionary changes. Many species have appeared suddenly in the fossil record and then continued virtually unchanged for millions of years until the present day or until they became extinct. Not much drift there.

    Pretend for a moment that the first mutations that allowed the production of the structure of flowers also made them colorful – and that the structure of a flower had some minor intrinsic advantage.

    There is too much pretending going on here.

    You Darwinists assume that evolution consisted of millions of virtually miraculous occurrences. You assume that any miracle that you can imagine probably happened, and if one of your imagined miracles did not happen, something equally miraculous must have happened in its place.

    The idea of “pre-adaptation” has appeared in a lot of the replies to my questions about co-evolution. The idea behind “pre-adaptation” here is that some of the co-dependent traits must have evolved independently of the other organism. But often a co-dependent trait that appears independently offers no advantage and hence does not benefit from natural selection, but natural selection is supposed to be one of the cornerstones of evolution theory, so how can there be evolution without natural selection? A co-dependent trait that appears independently and that offers no independent advantage will spread only slowly if at all.

    Try finding a paper in a biological journal that discusses evolution, but only in a “vague, nebulous term” and provide a citation.

    Here are two examples (not in peer-reviewed scientific journals, but I did not restrict my remark to peer-reviewed scientific journals) — http:// prefixes were removed because the links could prevent immediate posting —

    “Coevolution is the the (sic) mutual evolutionary influence between two species (the evolution of two species totally dependent on each other). Each of the species involved exerts selective pressure on the other, so they evolve together.”
    – from biology.clc.uc.edu/courses/bio303/coevolution.htm

    “The flower and the fly are caught in a cycle of coevolution: plant pollination benefits from long floral tubes, because nectar-seeking insects must press their bodies closely against pollen-bearing floral parts to reach nectar pools at the end of the floral tube.”
    – from http://www.naturalhistorymag.com/master.html?http://www.naturalhistorymag.com/0305/0305_feature.html (this is a single link)

    Examples of “vague, nebulous” language above are “mutual evolutionary influence,” “exerts selective pressure on the other,” and “caught in a cycle of co-evolution.” Furthermore, these references just take co-evolution for granted.

  13. #13 Dave S.
    July 18, 2006

    Larry:

    There is too much pretending going on here.

    Yes there is too much pretending, and it’d be nice if you stopped doing it.

    You Darwinists assume that evolution consisted of millions of virtually miraculous occurrences. You assume that any miracle that you can imagine probably happened, and if one of your imagined miracles did not happen, something equally miraculous must have happened in its place.

    Yes Larry, it can only be a “miracle” for a flower to be coloured for any reason other than as a signal to a bee.

    The idea of “pre-adaptation” has appeared in a lot of the replies to my questions about co-evolution. The idea behind “pre-adaptation” here is that some of the co-dependent traits must have evolved independently of the other organism.

    No Larry, the idea is that the trait evolved independently, and only later co-evolved with the other organism. Your problem is you assume any trait which can be seen as having co-evolved with another must have been meant for that purpose and must have arisen with that goal in mind. That’s not evolution Larry. Originally the trait may have been beneficial for a completly different reason, or it may have been neutral or even slightly detrimental if it arose in combination with a more desireable trait.

    Aphids for instance make honeydew, which is for them a waste product (they need amino acids and the excess sugars are just…well…crapped out). But in some cases it’s also beneficial to give some of it to ants, which then guard the aphids. Here we have the same trait (making honeydew) used for two different functions (excretia and bribe). The relationship in some instances becoming obligate…the aphids depending entirely on the ants for protection, the ants depending entirely on the aphids for their sweet sweet butt juice.

    It’s not a miracle Larry, it’s evolution. The ants get a rich source of food (and sometimes the ungrateful wretches eat the aphids themselves, but it’s counterproductive to do a lot of that) and the aphids get protected, not only from predators that otherwise might eat them, but the ants also sweep away other insects that might compete with the aphids for sap. In addition, by cleaning up the waste products the ants keep the aphid dining area clear, and may even carry the aphids to juicy bits of plant otherwise inaccessable to them and build shelters to protect them. But the aphids don’t need the ants to produce honeydew in the first place.

    But often a co-dependent trait that appears independently offers no advantage and hence does not benefit from natural selection

    You keep repeating this zombie-like Larry, which proves Derbyshire’s point, but you have yet to show us a single specific instance of some co-dependent trait which arose independent of the other species. I have no idea how to show this, and neither do you. That’s why you simply assume it happens. You list some generic co-dependent examples, and insist that these features must have arisen independently and simultaneously co-dependent, an obvious absurdity for which you supply not a shred of evidence other than you incredulity based on your basic lack of understanding (which you justify by claiming biology is just philosophizing, so anyone can do it). But you haven’t shown anything. You’ve only asserted it.

    but natural selection is supposed to be one of the cornerstones of evolution theory, so how can there be evolution without natural selection? A co-dependent trait that appears independently and that offers no independent advantage will spread only slowly if at all.

    I’m still waiting for you to show us a co-dependent trait that appeared independently. And by show I don’t mean just pick some example at random and assume it arose as you think.

  14. #14 Larry Fafarman
    July 18, 2006

    Dave S. said ( July 18, 2006 09:42 AM ) –

    Your problem is you assume any trait which can be seen as having co-evolved with another must have been meant for that purpose and must have arisen with that goal in mind.

    A lot of traits serve no natural purpose outside the co-dependent relationship. What natural purpose does color serve in flowers other than to attract pollinators?, in order to help support your position.

    I’m still waiting for you to show us a co-dependent trait that appeared independently.

    My point was that a co-dependent trait that provides no independent benefit is unlikely to evolve independently, so you are asking me to show an example of something that I say is unlikely to exist. Actually, to help support your position, you are the one who is supposed to give an example of such a trait that evolved independently.

  15. #15 Dave S.
    July 19, 2006

    Larry goes on:

    A lot of traits serve no natural purpose outside the co-dependent relationship. What natural purpose does color serve in flowers other than to attract pollinators?, in order to help support your position.

    You see Larry, you’re supposed to be the one proving that flower colouration doesn’t have a function outside of attracting pollinators (I notice you went from “bees” to “pollinators”, nice shift of that goalpost). You might ask, ‘How can I prove that?’? I don’t know, but for your argument to be valid, that’s what you need to show. You can’t do that, so instead you take the lazy man’s route that Creationists always take, and assume your argument is valid until someone can make you admit that it’s not.

    But to answer your specific question, in this case it need not have any other function before that at all. Although it may have had, for instance the desert flower Linanthus parryae comes in blue and white, and which dominates depends not on pollinators but on the environment, as blues outpace the whites when times are bad (because the blues produce more seeds then). Flower petals are just specialized leaves, and leaves already have colour variation beyond green (think Autumn). The earliest flowers were no doubt muted in colour, but there was variation in brightness depending on how much pigment is produced and when. If the brighter ones did better attracting insects (or other pollinators like birds) in existance at that time, then natural selection would take select for still more vivid ones.

    I know you talk about “buzz” pollination too, so I assume you’re familiar with THIS paper.

    My point was that a co-dependent trait that provides no independent benefit is unlikely to evolve independently, so you are asking me to show an example of something that I say is unlikely to exist. Actually, to help support your position, you are the one who is supposed to give an example of such a trait that evolved independently.

    No Larry. I’m arguing on the basis of actual evolutionary theory. I can’t comment on the basis of the imaginary strawman of evolution you have in your head. You’re still persisting in your fantasy that the brightly coloured flowers and the insects they depend on (and vise versa) arose completely independently and only stumbled upon each other later. You think this is evolution, and since you can’t see how that happens, then there’s a problem. But here’s the thing. It’s not evolution.

    But do note the ant/aphid example I just gave you. Note how the production of honeydew exists with and without co-dependent relationship with ants. That honeydew production can exist both as an independent stand-alone function and as a mutual function illustrates just how such systems can arise evolution-wise.

  16. #16 Larry Fafarman
    July 19, 2006

    Dave S. said ( July 19, 2006 09:30 AM ) –

    You see Larry, you’re supposed to be the one proving that flower colouration doesn’t have a function outside of attracting pollinators (I notice you went from “bees” to “pollinators”, nice shift of that goalpost).

    It is reasonable to presume that the colors of flowers serve no natural function other than to attract pollinators — so the burden of proof is on you.

    And my only purpose in going from “bees” to “pollinators” was to make the example more general — how in the hell is that shifting the goalposts? If it will make you happier, I will go back to just the “bees.”

    the desert flower Linanthus parryae comes in blue and white, and which dominates depends not on pollinators but on the environment, as blues outpace the whites when times are bad (because the blues produce more seeds then).

    What does flower color have to do with seed production?

    You’re still persisting in your fantasy that the brightly coloured flowers and the insects they depend on (and vise versa) arose completely independently and only stumbled upon each other later.

    For mutual evolutionary influence to occur, the corresponding mutations in both organisms would have to occur in the same small area, which is unlikely, considering that beneficial mutations are rare.

    But do note the ant/aphid example I just gave you. Note how the production of honeydew exists with and without co-dependent relationship with ants. That honeydew production can exist both as an independent stand-alone function and as a mutual function illustrates just how such systems can arise evolution-wise.

    All you are doing is just giving an example of an exception.

  17. #17 Dave S.
    July 19, 2006

    Larry says:

    It is reasonable to presume that the colors of flowers serve no natural function other than to attract pollinators — so the burden of proof is on you.

    There is no burden on me to demonstrate evolution, assuming it must only happen as you understand it Larry. And even if coloured flowers do have no other function, that is still no bar to co-evolving with insect pollinators. The colours and the insects attracted to them evolved together, which is the key.

    If it will make you happier, I will go back to just the “bees.”

    I keep wanting you to make your examples more specific, not more general. Instead you retreat into even more vague hand-waving and assertions.

    You seem to be absolutely dead set on accepting your vision of evolution as the real theory. Sadly, little good can come of further discussion. Although of course you will continue to claim that you’ve uncovered some big problem for evolution!

    What does flower color have to do with seed production?

    I didn’t say the colour is what influences the number of seeds. I’m saying the two traits are linked, and that the colour dominating can be through means other than pollinator effects. Although pollinators are the main driver to be sure.

    For mutual evolutionary influence to occur, the corresponding mutations in both organisms would have to occur in the same small area, which is unlikely, considering that beneficial mutations are rare.

    More repetition. No wonder you’re amazed nobody can answer your arguments. You simply ignore every response made in the past, and it’s like they never happened. It’s the movie Groundhog Day, all over again.

    I’m really getting bored of you simply repeating the same assertions over and over.

    All you are doing is just giving an example of an exception.

    Which proves the rule.

  18. #18 Dave S.
    July 20, 2006

    P.S.:

    Larry, your objection here is nothing more than the same objection Behe makes, which is the same one Paley made 200 years ago. The only difference is that where Paley was about anatomy and Behe about the micro-anatomy (or biochemistry), you are talking about IC on the larger inter-organism scale. Relationships that can be described as IC (which depends on where you draw the line as to what a ‘part’ is, and what you consider to be the ‘basic function’ of that system) exist on many scales. One could even go smaller and talk about individual molecules or larger and talk about interacting climatological or astronomical systems. Behe himself describes an inanimate object (mousetrap) as IC, so clearly it’s not a concept limited to living things.

    Take a look at Behe’s definition (OK…his original definition): By irreducibly complex I mean a single system composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning. An irreducibly complex system cannot be produced directly (that is, by continuously improving the initial function, which continues to work by the same mechanism) by slight, successive modifications of a precursor system, because any precursor to an irreducibly complex system that is missing a part is by definition nonfunctional. An irreducibly complex biological system, if there is such a thing, would be a powerful challenge to Darwinian evolution.

    And this is exactly your complaint with co-evolution. There are two well matched and interacting parts (organism A and organism B), both of which contribute to the basic function (survival of both species), and the removal of either part causes the system to cease functioning (that is, the survival of both species ceases). You are claiming exactly what Behe claims, that such systems can’t be produced by slight successive modifications because any precursor (the arrival one one of the pair) would be missing a part necessary for survival (the other half of the pair). It’s the same argument, but using a different scale, and could be claimed as an ID argument as readily as Behe’s argument whether you want it to or not. And it suffers from all the same defects, including coaptation, as we’ve seen with the aphids.

  19. #19 Dave S.
    July 20, 2006

    (the arrival one one of the pair)

    Typo. Should read (the arrival of only one of the pair).

  20. #20 Michael "Sotek" Ralston
    July 25, 2006

    Random (rather late) note:

    Citing a biology course and something clearly for the common public in reponse to a request for a citation in a journal is about as close to a lie as you can get without making any false statements.

    I didn’t specify peer-reviewed, no. But it was extremely clear I meant somewhere where biologists talk to other biologists, not to undergraduate students or the general public.

    My challenge stands.

  21. #21 Michael "Sotek" Ralston
    July 25, 2006

    It is reasonable to presume that the colors of flowers serve no natural function other than to attract pollinators — so the burden of proof is on you.

    Only if you assume that evolution cannot produce things with no “function”.

    Flower color, as has been noted repeatedly, was almost certain to exist without any coevolutionary relationships, simply because the way leaves (which flowers are clearly related to) work means that they DO have colors.

    Thus, the variation required for selection to take place would happen no matter what.