The Loom

Ghosts in the E. coli machine

ecoli circle.jpgIn today’s New York Times I have an article about the quest to create a virtual organism—a sort of digital Frankenstein accurate down to every molecular detail. The creature that the scientists I write about want to reproduce is that familiar denizen of our gut, Escherichia coli.

There are two things about this enterprise I find particularly delicious. One is that this little microbe is just too complex for today’s computers to handle. For now scientists are just laying the groundwork for a day that might come in 10 or 20 years when they have enough processing power to handle E. coli. Another delicious fact is that despite fifty years of intense research, scientists don’t know what a lot of E. coli’s genes are for. All told, this black box swallows up about a quarter of its genome.

The creationist frenzy of the past couple weeks gives these two facts special meaning. Creationists like to point out that life is very complex. They like to point out that despite years of work, scientists have yet to figure out the complete series of events by which much of that complexity evolved. This state of affairs does not represent unfinished business, according the creationists, but an outright failure. And that failure is proof that life could not have evolved. Therefore, the argument goes, life must have been directly designed by some powerful being.

To see why this argument impresses so few scientists, consider E. coli. Scientists are confident that they can explain how this microbe works with a purely mechanistic account—in other words, with the interactions of atoms, molecules, modules made of genes and proteins, and the like. It’s worked reasonably well so far, allowing them to create good hypotheses how E. coli strings together proteins, builds cell walls, and so on.

But despite decades of intense research, much of E. coli remains unexplained. In their obsession with mechanistic explanations, scientists have failed to find a complete account for how E. coli works. If you buy the argument for design, you must conclude that microscopic supernatural beings dwell inside E. coli, operating it like a microbial submarine.

Of course, nobody who actually does actual research on E. coli says this. They’re too busy trying to figure out how E. coli works. If you want to find examples of their work, go to scientific journals, or visit Thierry Emonet’s site. If, on the other hand, you want to find people claiming that the yet-to-be-discovered is evidence of supernatural intervention, you’ll have to look elsewhere. Op-ed pages are always a good place to start.

Comments

  1. #1 cats
    August 16, 2005

    Besides creationists, it seems to me that there’s another shout, probably from some professed philosophers: “oh, noooooo! It’s the damning REDUCTIONSIM!”

    All right, just ignore these “holistic” guys. The E.Coliemulator is an awesome idea, and if we could emulate a somatic cell, would it be possible to emulate the interactions between cell and virus, e.g., HIV? If so, it’ll be a great advancement.

  2. #2 cats
    August 16, 2005

    reductionism, sorry for typo. And sorry for multiple posting. Carl, would you remove the redundant post of mine?

    Senator Buttars is so funny, and I feel so lucky that Mr. Buttars is not a caliph.

    By the way, the title reminds me a Japanese animation, “Ghost in Shell”.

  3. #3 linguist
    August 16, 2005

    “If you buy the argument for design, you must conclude that microscopic supernatural beings dwell inside E. coli, operating it like a microbial submarine.”

    Is this really the necessary conclusion from the ID argument? I think you’re overstating a bit, which is unnecessary.

  4. #4 cats
    August 16, 2005

    yes, that may not be the necessary conclusion from ID, because it is also possible that supernatural guy (“the God”) maintains Matrix the main frame, which controls 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000…000 cells, include every cestode’s cells, and even every HIV virus.

    I think now you’ll be satisfied with this alternative statement.

  5. #5 Dan S.
    August 16, 2005

    Besides the wonderful image of countless numbers of little beings operating E. coli bacteria, there’s the big point how actual scientists are “too busy trying to figure out how E. coli works” – how science represents a lot of hard practical, productive work – always with the fact that decades of trying may ultimately earn one a small footnote, or the privilege of seeing it all swept into irrelvence by some minor discovery. The easy dismissal of all this by (especially certain sorts of) creationists – look, you haven’t explained everything, haha! is not just anti-intellectual, it seems in a way anti-humanist; for me, I can’t help but see in this relatively benign expression the shadows of burning libraries, or think of the purges of scientists who protested Lysenko’s more-politically-appropriate fantasies.

    But it’s a little more complex. Creationists of various stripes are working very hard, too. It’s just that scientists are (and with a whole range of motives, of course) working to understand and explain the material world around us. ID and other creationists are ultimately working for a whole ‘nother reason – generally, to establish and reinforce a moral and social world around us. It’s unfortunate they imagine that they need to attack science to do this.

  6. #6 Jim Anderson
    August 16, 2005

    IDers exemplify the same attitude toward origin-of-life research, which I’ve addressed here. They’re quick to confuse impossibility and improbability–it’s the very basis of ID “theory.”

  7. #7 Rudy
    August 17, 2005

    I’m so glad I found your site again. Your blog is a bastion of reason and focused dialogue on vital issues of our time.

    Thank you for your contributions to the understanding of this bio-planet. Also, I found your NY Times article in the Science section (8/16) truly awe-inspiring. WELL DONE!

    Educationally,
    Rudy Nyhoff

    8th Grade Earth Science
    Sego Middle School
    Augusta, GA

  8. #8 Whizper
    August 17, 2005

    Another take on your “e-coli submarine” statement:

    Why does all creationist thinking have to be lumped together? There are those that believe that the world popped into existence at a thought, complete with microbes and people.

    There are others, like myself, who would rather credit a system that may have started with a simple statement of creation by a omnipotent being,but, like the butterfly effect spreads out to include the evolution of mammals. All of life is a multidimentional graph of a mathematical equation of God that is more complex than anything dreamed by chaos theory.

    Call me a crazy but I believe both in the basic tenets of evolution (such as changes in genes over generations and heredity) and in a creator.

    Shoot me down at will…I can take it! :)

  9. #9 Rudy
    August 17, 2005

    “Shoot (you) down” Whizper. Hardly. You are absolutely, irrefutably (for that is where faith lies) entitled to your belief system.

    My contention, my belief system, does not hold for omnipotence but for the irrationality of chance, the one in a gazillion lotto ticket that created those first molecules that somehow, deistically-deprived unicellular organisms began the multi-billion-year pathway to the likes of Schweitzer and Einstein (unfortunately, Hitler and Pol Pot, too).

    I appreciate a lot and envy, a little, your assurance of the Master’s hand in creation, but I’m for the little guy who started this crazily wondrous process of life about 3 and 1/2 billion years ago.

    In precious humankindness and discovery,
    A middle school educator – in training (each day)

  10. #10 Whizper
    August 18, 2005

    I sometimes wish I could understand by what mechanism I am so convicted and convinced of what I believe, because by all reason and logic I would be the first to agree that the “amino-acid soup theory” has such great potential as to be considered the likely answer to the conundrum.

    But the thought that the universe is both simpler and more complex than mere chance entrances me…I see the incredible beauty of fractal geometry and I marvel that even the trees apply it when they grow their leaves…where some would see chance and survival of the fittest alone, I have this feeling in my gut that there is more than is dreamt of in my philosophy.

    Which is why I still study to be a biochemist, and keep abreast of science. God is not threatened by science, he created it (or so I believe).What is even more wonderful is that although others may not believe as I do, “my beliefs do not require them to” as Morphius put it so eloquently in The Matrix trilogy.( Strange how that movie had such a theme of salvation by the saviour, keep asking myself what the Wakowski brothers believe, hehe)

    Thank you for your honest and gentle reply, Rudy, I had expected the usual flurry of ridicule.

    Why am I in such a good mood today?

    Great blog b.t.w Hope I don’t chase anyone away with my religious fanatic ramblings. Just tell everyone I’m studying to be the mad scientist.

    Whizper

  11. #11 Dan S.
    August 18, 2005

    Whizper, that’s a moving comment, and very, very far away from the kind of gleeful mockery that I was talking about in the comment above . . . Thanks . . .

  12. #12 Rudy
    August 18, 2005

    It is my implicit, heartfelt belief that your conviction, Whizper, will stand you in good stead for your career in biochemistry.

    One needs to “wonder” and “marvel” at the inherent mystery of creation, much like your vision of fractal geometry in nature, to work toward a meaningful philosophy of one’s existence and purpose on this precious Earth of ours.

    Keep wondering and believing.

    Your words touch and hardly bear the mark of a “fanatic ramble”.

  13. #13 doug
    August 19, 2005

    A bit of a cloudy blog entry in my opinion. Either not completely well thought out or intentionally deceptive. I’d like to assume the former. Your initial summary of one creationist argument is basically accurate:

    Creationists like to point out that life is very complex. They like to point out that despite years of work, scientists have yet to figure out the complete series of events by which much of that complexity evolved.

    To be fair, I don’t believe creationists demand a complete account just a reasonable account that could stand up to scrutiny…but I digress.

    Then you rebut the argument as follows:

    To see why this argument impresses so few scientists, consider E. coli. Scientists are confident that they can explain how this microbe works with a purely mechanistic account—in other words, with the interactions of atoms, molecules, modules made of genes and proteins, and the like.

    How does explaining how the E. coli works do anything to address its evolution?

    It doesn’t. You’ve sidestepped the creationist criticism. The reason is probably because no reasonable scenarios for the natural evolution of such complexity have been proposed. None that amount to any more than a “just so” story. And even the “just so” stories are less than so-so.

    Then you draw the following conclusion about what creationists must believe:

    If you buy the argument for design, you must conclude that microscopic supernatural beings dwell inside E. coli, operating it like a microbial submarine.

    I can’t begin to understand this line of reasoning. Perhaps you’ve been reading Charlie Wagner’s posts under the mistaken impression that he is a creationist.

    It gives me the impression you’re unfamiliar with the creationist position. If not for your profession as a science writer with emphasis on evolution, this wouldn’t surprise me, as it seems very few in the evolution camp have an inkling of what creationists actually believe.

  14. #14 Equinox
    August 19, 2005

    Whizper wrote:
    Call me a crazy but I believe both in the basic tenets of evolution (such as changes in genes over generations and heredity) and in a creator.

    Shoot me down at will…I can take it! :)

    ***************

    Hi Whizper-

    No attempt at ridicule nor shooting down, you Deistic approach is understandable and it puts you in good company (many of the founding fathers of the US, for instance). I respect you and your beliefs, because those beliefs are not harmful (which I think fundamentalist Christian beleifs are).

    However, I will give you the next challenge that inevitably comes to your position – the problem of theodicy.

    Yes, our universe is indeed wonderful & amazing (in fact, that realization is a good chunk of my spirituality), but it also includes huge amounts of grinding pain. Many animals are terribly “designed” by evolution – such as the dodo’s shriveled wings, or our stupid prostate gland. Many of these cause suffering and earlier death too. In addition, the natural system is vicious in nature – it’s based mostly on everyone killing and eating each other, not to mention the unending torture of parasitism. This problem was recognized back in the 18th century, when the practice of many wasps to paralyze a spider, laying eggs on it that hatch and then slowly eat the living spider, who must suffer through the whole process of being eaten alive from the inside. In fact, most species on the earth today are parasites – what kind of god would make that kind of world? Even if that god only starts it, that god must know what will result. Yet, that god sits idly by, watching the incredible suffering unfold year after year. I wouldn’t want to honor, much less worship, an unfeeling and cruel god.

    I don’t need a response or a refutation. I’ve solved this years ago for myself by dispensing with the idea of a god, and it doesn’t matter to me how or even if you solve it for you. I hope your spiritual path is fulfilling, regardless of what it is. I only mentioned this in case you are interested in starting early on one of the challenges that will eventually arise.

    Take care-

    -Equinox

  15. #15 Dan S.
    August 20, 2005

    “How does explaining how the E. coli works do anything to address its evolution?”

    I believe Doug missed the point Zimmer was making. He’s addressing a specific complaint – look how complex life is, and you guys haven’t figured it out *yet*, obviously your silly little Darwinism is a big bad failure.

    Instead it turns out that, yes, life is very complex – today’s computers can’t handle sim – E.coli, maybe next decade – there’s no reason to expect scientists to have figured it all out, but they’re working hard at it. The premise is off, more or less.

    “To be fair, I don’t believe creationists demand a complete account just a reasonable account . . . ”

    In my admitedly limited experience, a “reasonable account” rapidly translates into “a complete account”. Look what happens in the comment. First we’re talking about reasonable accounts, none of which, it’s said, have been proposed (for ID creationism, many of the accounts being demanded are for things we’ve only pretty recently discovered). Then it turns out that there are accounts, but they’re just “just so” stories. In fact, these just so accounts are only so-so (a clever turn of phrase!).

    That’s how it does seem to work. Have a impressive (if not entirely perfect) series of transitional fossils? Well, #4 is probably not actually descended directly from #3 – so it’s all wrong. And how about fossils showing the transition between #4 and #5 – what, you just dug up #4a? Well, how about . . . (or – that doesn’t prove anything, that’s just a 1. And so’s everything you’re calling #2, 3, 4 . . . and #6 on are clearly all 10s! You haven’t shown anything! By the end you have people insisting that scientists must document the evolution of a new organ or body plan in the lab in order for folks to even consider taking them seriously . . .

    I will find actual quotes on request, in reference to whales and hominids. Please don’t make me, though. It hurts my eyes, brain, and heart.

    Zimmer’s crack about tiny E. coli operators is probably just that – a crack – although I suppose it is possible that he hasn’t bothered delving into the depths of ID arcana. As far as I know, the best hypothesis ID has offered was that the first living creature was designed complete with genetic instructions for all the unevolvable complexity its descendents would ever use, sort of held in reserve for when they might need them, and surviving over hundreds of millions undamaged (billions, actually, although I suppose you could argue that early evidence of life is wrong or a failed experiment, natural or otherwise.) While this is a fascinating reformulation of the mid-17th century (to-?) preformationism – holding that all creatures were created at the Creation, with each generation inside the previous one, like the world’s most impressive set of Russian dolls* – it’s not exactly part of modern science.

    * I’m not sure to what degree this was a major claim, or an accusation made by detractors about less sweeping claims.

    “this wouldn’t surprise me, as it seems very few in the evolution camp have an inkling of what creationists actually believe.”
    Creationists believe a wide range of things; there are distinct subspecies and in some cases beliefs have evolved to deal with a hostile legal environment (yes, sorry, I can’t resist). I would say the range goes from a recent 6-day Creation and global flood to almost all of modern science, except for that pre-packed designer cell, but I’ve seem to remember hearing that Behe backed off from that position? Lately it’s been very difficult to figure out what ID supporters believe, although that statement in Kansas about the world being – what was it, between 4,500 and 4.5 billion years old? Should find that quote – was certainly illuminating. I do suspect that most professional biologists, etc. don’t really spend too much time reading about Flood geology or designer cells – as Zimmer was pointing out, they’re busy. Certainly creationists of any stripe could get their attention by good solid results . . ..
    [sound of crickets chirping]

  16. #16 doug
    August 20, 2005

    I didin’t miss Zimmer’s point. I simply stated that it is wrong.

    If you and I stare under the hood at my car’s engine and I say wow that’s quite a piece of machinery how did that ever come about?

    Then you proceed to explain how the fuel pump pushes gasoline into the carburator and mixes with oxygen then it gets ignited by the spark plugs and the explosion pushes the cylnder etc. (i’m not a mechanic obviously).

    I will reply “wow that’s really interesting but that doesn’t say anything about where it came from.

    Carl is suggesting that creationists argue that darwinian evolution fails on the grounds that scientists can’t detail every facet of the E.coli. This statement is simply ridiculous. I’ve read a number of creationist arguments and have never come across anything at all resembling this claim.

    The struggles scientists face in detailing the operations of the E.coli do attest to its complexity. One claim creationists do make is that such complexity did not arise by fully natural means. This claim is based on a worldview that includes God. To counter this claim evolutionists must present a plausible scenario, not describing the complexity of the E.coli, but describing how such complexity could arise via natural selection operating on random genetic mutations. To defeat this claim the scenario must be demonstrated.
    ————————

    Regarding Dan S’s paragraph about transitional fossils he is right on! (so no need to find quotes) It boils down to a circular argument. The paleantologists with the evolutionary worldview begin with the assumption that macro-evolution explains the fossil record. They therefore line up the specimens mapping out transitions and descendents. This is all well and good but it can not then be used as evidence for evolution. It is only an interpretation of the fossils based on the worldview.

    Creationists also interpret the fossil record based on our own worldview. Our worldview states that God created the different “kinds”. We take the same set of fossils the evolutionist lined up and interpret that they are all of the same “kind.” The differences they display are a testment to the the wealth of genetic possibilities God provided for each “kind” to adapt for survival(natural selection).

    Historical science, analyzing evidence and attempting to describe what happened in the past, will always come down to “just so” stories. It doesn’t matter which side of the argument one is defending. No one was there, it can’t be reproduced.

  17. #17 SB91
    August 21, 2005

    Doug, what are “kinds” and how did God create them?

    BTW you still miss Carl’s point. He’s addressing the God of the Gaps view of creationism. If you consider science’s current inability to fully explain biological evolution as a reason to insert the “Goddidit!” explanation, then what is your rationality for stopping there? If divine intervention is responsible for the origin of the species then by what is to reasonably stop you from positing that any property of the natural world currently inexpicable by science? Can’t explain everything about how an E. coli functions, why not divine intervention? Meteorologists have problems forecasting the paths and especially the intensity of hurricanes. Maybe God occasionally takes control of a storm in order to punish some dirty sodomites or confirm the prophetic powers of Jerry Falwell?

    To be fair, Carl doesn’t consider that certain sets of presuppostions might automatically preclude naturalistic explanations for the full diversity of living organisms. Which, of course brings up the question, doug: If you believe that God created the different “kinds” (and, pending your answer to my initial, I’ll assume that you believe that they more or less appeared in their fully formed state) why would you even appeal to science to provide a “better” explanation when it’s clear that your worldview would automatically preclude anything to the contrary, no matter how comprehensive the scientific evidence might be?

    Ultimately, creationism boils down to bad theology. s the wooden literalism of the “unholy” alliance between the Darbyites and the Seventh Day Adventists *really* the way the Bible was meant to be read? Sure, it may have arisen as a counter to the claims that modern science disproves God, but does compounding error upon error reallly achieve anything?

  18. #18 John A. Davison
    August 21, 2005

    Of course there is no need for supernatural intervention. Once there was of course, when life was first created which may have been many many tmes. Once created, which was a supernatural event, everything became instantaneously natural and of course determined from that moment on. Don’t take my word for it.

    “Everything is determined… by forces over which we have no control.”
    Albert Einstein

  19. #19 doug
    August 21, 2005

    What are kinds and how did God create them?
    The “kind” does not correspond directly to the standard taxonomic levels. Sometimes it appears to be at the species level but often its probably at the genus level. The difficulty in pinning down the boundary is not unique to defining a “kind”. The same problem exists for Linnaean taxonomy. No matter what definition of “species” you choose, you will find exceptions that cross the line or candidates that should.

    A common distinction for “species” is reproduction with fertile offspring. But what of whales and dolphins or lions and tigers or zebras and horses. All of these are able to reproduce but are considered different species. Then there’s the st bernard and the chihuahua. They would obviously need some help reproducing yet they remain in the same species.

    For more on the “kind” search for Bariminology
    or visit Wikipedia’s entry and
    BSG

    As for how God created. You’ll love this… He spoke. Therefore, yes, the kinds appeared fully formed, which aligns remarkably well with what is found in the fossil record. That is not to imply that every species we see today existed. There is no conflict with “speciation” in the creationist model. The model predicts substantial biological diversity within a kind. The only limit being that the boundary can’t be crossed (a horse is a horse of course, of course).

    After thousands of years of dog breeding the dogs are still dogs. After a hundred years of fruit fly abuse in the laboratory, the fruit fly is still a fruit fly. The bacteria is still bacteria. You’ll now claim that it takes more time than can be crunched into the laboratory and if the time were possible we could witness a dog turn into a whale. Well don’t you see by that admission you are proclaiming “faith” in evolution. That it is not a testable theory of origins, but rather a philosophy, built on axioms which, by definition, cannot be challenged.
    ————————————-

    As for missing the point let me reiterate that i do not miss the point. Just because one disagrees with the point doesn’t mean the point is misunderstood. The argument is a common “straw man.” Naturalist/atheist debaters often throw out the idea that a scientist that believes in the Bible will resort to God when something is difficult to explain. That’s simply ridiculous. One of the chief goals of science is to define the normal operation of the universe. Without clearly defined boundaries of the “natural” world, miracles would lose all significance. Science was founded by Bible believing scientists. Bacon, Gallileo, Newton, Pascal, Boyle Pasteur, Kepler, Kelvin, Maxwell, Linneaus to name a few.

    The argument that creation scientists will fill in the gaps of comprehension with a simple “wow what an amazing God” has no standing. It can also be turned around on the evolutionist. I say you can’t observe and demonstrate particles to people evolution. You say “time” did it. Time fills the gaps. I say maybe the appendix or tonsils are there for a reason. You say no. Evolution predicts vestigial organs – we don’t know what they do so they must be leftover! (Maybe they’re just a clump of neutral mutations on there way to being a great organ)

  20. #20 John A. Davison
    August 21, 2005

    The examples which doug mentions of reproduction between species are indeed just that because the offspring from such crosses are sterile either entirely or partially. The sterility of the hybrid is the proof that the parents are different species as established by Theodosius Dobzhansky, a Darwinian by the way. There is no evidence that a new species has been produced in historical times and a new genus not in two million years. Evolution is finished except for the production of varieties and Darwinism never had anything to do with it when it was occurring. Trust me..

  21. #21 John A. Davison
    August 22, 2005

    I have introduced a thread at Terry Trainor’s forum “Creation? Evolution? or Both?”
    It is called “A few evolutionary challenges.”

    The reason I am doing this is because I manage to get either deleted or out right banned when I present my heresies elsewhere in cyberspace. Trainor, while a devout Christian with whom I have many differences, has proven to be most tolerant of my heresies and even went so far as to suggest “Davison is the Darwinians’ worst nightmare,” which naturally pleases me enormously.

    In any event I invite all to particpate by responding to my challenges (if you can). Spread the word. The more the merrier.

    “I’m an old campaigner and I love a good fight.”
    Franklin Delano Roosevelt

  22. #22 Dan S.
    August 23, 2005

    “Historical science, analyzing evidence and attempting to describe what happened in the past, will always come down to “just so” stories. It doesn’t matter which side of the argument one is defending. No one was there, it can’t be reproduced.”

    You ever watch CSI? Crossing Jordan? Any of those?

  23. #23 John A. Davison
    August 23, 2005

    There is no question as to what happened in the past. Evolution happened in the past and isn’t happening any more. Like ontogeny, phylogeny has been a self-regulating, self-terminating phenomenon which, having completed its intrinsic self-contained ends, is no longer in progress. The only demonstrable role for the environment for either has been to release latent endogenous potentials. Both are part of the same organic continuum and both have proceeded independently of the environment.

    The Darwinian myth, and a myth it most certainly is and always was, had nothing to do with either ontogeny or phylogeny. That is no longer in question. It has been established by centuries of human experience, the testimony of countless laboratory experiments and the undeniable and final revelations of the fossil record.

    It persists for one reason only. The atheist ideology, which provides the entire basis for the Darwinian system, is incapapble of accepting that which is self evident to every unbiased student of the natural world. Design is evident everywhere and their is no need to qualify it with the word intelligent. All design is intelligent. That is what allows it to be recognized.

    I am confident that we will be able to reconstruct the basis for that past evolution just as we will be able fully to understand the mechanisms that regulate the differentiation of the egg into a unique human being. These two processes, intimately related and part of the same organic continuum, will prove both to have been regulated entirely from within with no role for chance in those events.

    The great Russian ichthyologist and zoogeographer Leo Berg, protected as he was from a Western biological science dominated by the pipe dreams of a pair of Victorian natualists, fully realized this as early as 1922, a realization he shared with William Bateson before him and both Pierre Grasse and Otto Schindewolf after him.

    “The laws of the organic world are the same, WHETHER WE ARE DEALING WITH THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE INDIVIDUAL (ontogeny) OR THAT OF A PALAEONTOLOGICAL SERIES (phylogeny). Neither in the one nor in the other is there room for chance.”
    Nomogenesis, page 134, (his emphasis).

    “Evolution is in a great measure an unfolding of pre-existing rudiments.”
    ibid, page 406.

    To continue to pretend that such investigators as Berg, Grasse, Schindewolf, Osborn and Goldschmnidt never existed constitutes a scandal unprecedented in the history of science. That is exactly what the evolutionary establishment has done and continues to do. We several critics of the Darwinian fairy tale simply do not exist. Don’t take my word for it. Examine the indices of the books by the Darwinians like Gould, Mayr and Dawkins and see who is not listed there. It has been a “vast left-wing conspiracy” to borrow a phrase.

    Speaking as a convinced determinist, I can say that my role has been to resurrect these minds from the oblivion to which the Darwinians have relegated them and to integrate their independent conclusions into a new hypothesis to explain the great mystery of organic evolution. It is called “A Prescribed Evolutionary Hypothesis.” I have stood on the shoulders of giants.

    “A dwarf standing on the shoulders of a giant may see farther than the giant himself.”
    Robert Burton

  24. #24 doug
    August 23, 2005

    I’ve surely seen something similar to CSI or Crossing Jordan. While I don’t watch them I’ve certainly seen forensic crime shows. I believe you’d be making a gross exageration to compare historical science dealing with events regarded as “prehistory” to forensics as applied to recent criminal cases.

    In the latter many things are known facts: the victim, time frame, possible suspects, places etc. In historical science the investigator begins with few, if any, facts. The Tuang Skull for example was originally thought to be 2-3 m.y.a (million years old). This age was assigned largely because of its difference from modern humans and the estimate of how much time evolution might require to enable the transformation. In 1973 a geologist determined that the cave of the Tuang skull find was only 870 k.y.a (thousand years old) therefore the skull’s date was substantially reduced to 750 k.y.a. Well this causes all sorts of problems for its place in the evolution puzzle. Austraulopithecines should have been long forgotten 2 m.y.’s before this date.

    Then there’s the Kanopoi Elbow. The fit of the joint was compared to chimps, modern humans, and Australopithecus Robustus. The result: it matched closest to modern living humans even regarded as “indistinguishable from living humans”. The problem is the fossil was dated to 4.5 mya. How could a fossil dated at 4.5 mya be “indistinguishable” from that of modern man? Since it was so unreasonable, the fossil was instead classified as Australopithecus based more on its alleged date than its appearance. Hmmm, maybe we are living fossils like the coelcanth.

    Also it might be worth mentioning that the above mentioned TV shows are fictional stories. Turning to real life, look at the large number of overturned convictions since DNA evidence has been applied to cases predating its forensic application. Forensic techniques are continually improving and falsifying former conclusions. Your example only backs up my point about the fallibility of historical science (modern and archaic).

    Regarding evolution and its related fields, look at the frequent introduction of dating methods and techniques. A fossil or artifact is dated using one method and an absolute no-doubt-about-it date is published. A few years later, the new latest and greatest dating method is applied and a new date is published (usually adding years, rarely if ever reducing age estimates)

    BTW when are they going to carbon date the “gooey” t-rex matter. I know it would be useless to date a find that is 70mya but just for kicks and to shut up the YECs it might be interesting. (I wish HTML had a sarcasm tag like Bold or italics)

  25. #25 Mel
    August 23, 2005

    Why would carbon-dating — which does not work for samples that old — shut up the YECs? Weren’t the samples already dated via an appropriate technique (scientists don’t normally pull dates out of thin air, contrary to what Doug seems to think)?

    (For that matter, why has the press not mentioned that other dinosaur soft tissue samples of different ages have been found since?)

  26. #26 Dan S.
    August 23, 2005

    ” Turning to real life, look at the large number of overturned convictions since DNA evidence has been applied to cases predating its forensic application.”

    No. You can’t have it both ways. You don’t get to bring up DNA evidence and deny common descent without at least some explanation.

    Well, of course, you can, but I will make a rude noise at you. So there.

    Species names are lowercase – ie, Homo sapiens.

  27. #27 Doug
    August 23, 2005

    mel asks: Why would carbon-dating — which does not work for samples that old — shut up the YECs?

    Yes, as I sarcastically pointed out, it would be pointless to date the sample, given its “old age”. Apparently you missed the point. YEC’s, obviously, don’t believe it is that old. The YEC’s believe the soft tissue, based on descriptions by the paleantologists involved, exhibits traits of a specimen from well within carbon 14′s range. If they were tested and found not to contain a measureable amount of C14 it would confidently refute that claim. Of course it wouldn’t shut the YEC’s up completely but it would end the interest in the soft tissue. But unfortunately it won’t be tested. The scientists involved are blinded by their own assumptions. If Jack Nicholson were a creationist he’d say “YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!”

    Regarding whether the samples were tested by any other technique, i’m not sure. I’ve never read any indication that they have been uniquely dated. As far as I know the 70 m.y. date is based on the already “known” date of T-rex’s in general and the strata from which it was removed. Whether they’ve been dated by other techniques is a moot point anyway.

    Dan S says: No. You can’t have it both ways. You don’t get to bring up DNA evidence and deny common descent without at least some explanation.

    Another indication that the debater has not the slightest idea of what the creation methodology entails. The neo-creationist theory states that God created the original “kinds” with a large variety of genetic information. The variation we see within a kind is due to this wonderfully complex language of DNA.

    Notice I tagged “neo” in front of the word creationist (i’ve never seen this done), just like “neo” is now inserted in front of darwinist. Recall that “common descent” was proposed before DNA was discovered, before genes were discovered. In fact, Gregor Mendel is considered the father of genetics. Mendel was a creationist. Mendel conducted his research in a laboratory at the same time Darwin was changing the face of science using his imagination.

    The scientific evidence isn’t owned by one side of the debate or the other. This seems to be a common mistake. The DNA or a bone or a rock layer, these are all things that exist. They don’t come with labels of “evolution” or “creation.” They must be interpretted. The interpretation is done based on a worldview.

    In fact maybe I should make the same “demand” of you. You can’t use the vastly complex and seemingly intelligently originated DNA and deny the Intelligent orignator without at least some explanation.

    Species names are lowercase – ie, Homo sapiens.
    I get quite a triumphant feeling when your best rebuttal is to point out a typo! Of course if you address my “demand”, I guess your best rebuttal will again be analogous to a typo.

    BTW I like you Dan, you’re fun (no sarcasm)
    Now I want to see the promised rude noises in ascii text. That should be interesring :-)

  28. #28 John A. Davison
    August 23, 2005

    If someone wants “just so stories,” try Darwinism on for size. That is all it has ever been. There is not a shred of evidence that Natural Selection ever acted as a creative force. Quite the contrary, it has always been what it is now, conservative, preventing change, which is why a rank amateur can identify any wild animal or plant armed with little more than a binary key or even a photograph. The whole Darwinian paradigm is a myth simultaneously generated by a pair of Victorian naturalists who just happened to have shared the same reading experience with the works of Charles Lyell and Thomas Malthus. The mistake they and all of their followers have made was to assume without reason that there was an external cause for evolution. Such cause has never been identified and in my view never will be. We must look elsewhere for the solution to evolution and I, having done so, feel that I have found it. It was within the evolving genomes and is no longer being expressed. We see the products of a past evolution, not evolution in action as the Darwinians still so blindly continue to maintain.

    Macroevolution (speciation and the formation of all the higher categories) is a thing of the past and apparently terminated for the mammals with the appearance of its last documented species, Homo sapiens, still not demonstrated to be older than 100,000 years. Both Robert Broom and Julian Huxley agreed that a new genus has not appeared in the last 2 million years and as far as I am able to ascertain a new species has not appeared in historical times. Quite the contrary, all that we see is rampant extinction without a single known replacement.

    “Facts can be very stubborn things.”
    Anonymous

    “Aren’t our plants, our animals lacking some mechanisms which were present in the early flora and fauna?
    Pierre grasse, Evolution of Living Organisms, page 71

    Yes indeed.

  29. #29 Doug
    August 23, 2005

    For a short article summarizing the creationist view on genetics I encourage you to read this article by Dr Lane P. Lester. He is a graduate of the University of Florida and holds a Ph.D. in genetics from Purdue University, and M.S. in ecology.

    Genetics: No Friend of Evolution

  30. #30 Dan S.
    August 23, 2005

    ” The neo-creationist theory states that God created the original “kinds” with a large variety of genetic information. The variation we see within a kind is due to this wonderfully complex language of DNA.”

    Then why does analysis of genetic material – pretty much what we do to establish paternity, or study the relationships within/between human groups – provide rough ‘family trees’ indicating that all known life is related?

    “Mendel was a creationist. ”
    So?

    “The interpretation is done based on a worldview.”
    Yep. One of the worldviews is all productive and stuff – indeed, it’s the same worldview that’s given us antibiotics and other nifty things. The other appears to be practically useless and contradicts everything else we know about the natural world. Take your pick.

    “I get quite a triumphant feeling when your best rebuttal is to point out a typo!”
    What can I say – I’m a pedant (with atrocious spelling and grammar, ugh). But it looks bad. Slip of the shift key or not, it sends the message that you’re not really familar with the field. Why species names are lowercase, I have no idea. Should try to find out

    ” You can’t use the vastly complex and seemingly intelligently originated DNA and deny the Intelligent orignator without at least some explanation.”
    Um – there’s no evidence that it’s intelligently originated?

    “Now I want to see the promised rude noises in ascii text.”
    I’ve been trying for years. Success is just around the corner, really!

  31. #31 John A. Davison
    August 24, 2005

    I invite all to participate in a thread I have introduced at Terry Trainor’s forum Creation? Evolution? or Both?? Trainor, with whom I have several differences, is one of those rare individuals who can tolerate dissent without having to resort to denigration, deletion, disemvowelization, personal insult, ridicule and of course the ultimate defence, lifetime bannishment which it has been my honor to have received from so many internet forums.

    The thread is “A few evolutionary challenges” and I invite all to participate especially those who still adhere to either the Darwinian fairy tale or the so called “Intelligent Design” movement both of which entrenched camps have found it necessary to ban me from their proceedings, apparently since I have rejected the methods they have employed in dealing with those who have criticized their positions.

    Trainor still pemist my heresies and, since the professionals continue to ignore me as well as my distinguished sources, I am anxious to present my convictions on the internet. Trainor already permitted the presentation of some of my papers prior to their publication. Now that they have been publsihed I am once again presenting my current appraisal of the great mystery of organic evolution in advance of publication with the hope that, should that appraisal prove to be defective, I might recant before my heresies become permanent on the shelves of the world’s libraries as my earlier publications all have.

    I think the challenges I have presented and continue to present there will prove interesting to those who still maintain an open mind with respect to a phenomenon which I believe is now finished.

  32. #32 SB91
    August 25, 2005

    Dougie, Dougie, Dougie. How did God speak? In what language and for how long? When and where? As for the “kinds”, you still haven’t answered my question as to what a kind is. Let me guess, it’s whatever you say it is whenever you say it is. Plus, why should I even begin to follow Bariminology when its foundations… a juvenile understanding of Scripture, are so shakey. Demonstrate the soundness of the young-earther’s understanding of anachronistic translations of accounts relating to the Genesis Creation (the foundation of their “science”) before I give credulity to any of their findings. Also why do you assume that, at any one time, the products of a timeless, omniscient, omnipotent intelligence (your “kinds”) would at any one time point in our existence *have* to appear fully formed? In an effort to conform him to your reactionary, angry adolescent view of creation you underestimate what God, heck even the concept of any omnimax god figure really entails. Maybe it’s even something more than about defeating those Godsless materialists.
    ;)

    (BTW, Read some real Christian thinkers like Paul (and I really mean read him, don’t just quote mine him), Augustine and Aquinas and maybe you’ll stop following silly little cults like Morrisism (Henry Morris being the modern founder of creation so-called science).

  33. #33 John A. Davison
    August 26, 2005

    It is very true that Darwin became increasingly Lamarckian. His Pangenesis hypothesis is pure Lamarckism and of course was experimentally disproved by August Weismann in Darwin’s own day. Not that that was necessary. The fact that mutilations were not inherited had been known since antiquity. Someone once wisely observed that Darwin was more Lamarckian than Lamarck and Weismann was more Darwinian than Darwin.

    Actually Lamarck made one very interesting suggestion which is in accord with the Prescribed Evolutionary Hypothesis. He explained the appearance of new structures as a response to an “inner urge.” Of course the word “urge” should be replaced with the word “blueprint.”

    The origin of new structures can never be explained by the Darwinian paradigm as was explained by Mivart in Darwin’s own day. How, he asked, can natural selection influence a structure which has not yet appeared? That question remains unanswered and, in my opinion, always will. Natural selection has been entirely conservative and to that extent anti-evolutionary, serving only to maintain the status quo for as long as possible which in the vast majority of cases was for a limited period of time which ended with extinction. In that sense only, natural selection was essential for evolutionary progress.

    I maintain that phylogeny, like ontogeny, has been ENTIRELY emergent and proceeded with no role for the environment except that of providing a stimulus for the release of endogenous predetermined potential. Ergo, the Prescribed Evolutionary Hypothesis. Don’t take my word for it.

    “At most, the environment plays only a similar role with regard to organisms; IT CAN ONLY PROVOKE AND SET IN MOTION SOME POTENTIAL THAT IS ALREADY PRESENT.”
    Otto Schindewolf, “Basic Questions in Paleontology,” page 313. (his emphasis)

    “However that may be, the existence of internal factors affecting evolution has to accepted by any objective mind,…”
    Pierre Grasse, “The Evolution of Living Organisms,” page 209

    I also agree with Julian Huxley and Robert Broom that evolution is finished.

  34. #34 John A. Davison
    August 31, 2005

    I love this protracted silence in response to a frontal assault on the Darwinian fairy tale. It speaks volumes as to the inadequacy of the atheist materialist mentality to cope with the realities of organic evolution, a phenomenon no longer even occurring.

    “War, God help me, I love it so.”
    General George S. Patton

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