The Loom

Getting The Mooney Treatment

Things have not been going so well on the political front for the advocates of intelligent design (a k a the progeny of creationism). This election season their allies on state boards of education in Kansas and Ohio went down to defeat. On the scientific front, things have never really gone well. The Discovery Institute in Seattle claims that it has spent millions on research. They have precious little to show for it. As I wrote last year, a single evolutionary biologist produces more papers in peer-reviewed biology journals than the entire staff of the Discovery Institute. You’d be hard-pressed to find a single paper that actually claims that intelligent design is supported by original evidence. The closest they got to such a minimal standard–a review of the Cambrian explosion–was later retracted by the journal. The Discovery Institute claims that it’s got all sorts of stuff in the works, but they aren’t ready to share it with the world. Instead, they’d prefer to attack journalists.

In September, Casey Luskin of the Discovery Institute posted a 31-page attack on fellow scienceblogger Chris Mooney. Mooney is the author of the excellent Republican War on Science, which details some of the strategies the Discovery Institute uses to promote Intelligent Design, and the resounding rejection of intelligent design by the courts. As I wrote at the time, Luskin’s charges were empty.

Now I’m getting the Mooney treatment.

The occasion is the publication of my article in the current issue National Geographic about the evolution of complex features. In the article I survey several examples of complex features such as flowers and eyes, and I describe the latest research into their evolution.

Yesterday, Casey Luskin took to the Discovery Institute’s “Evolution News and Views” site to post part one of an attack on the article. How many parts do have to look forward to? Luskin doesn’t offer a clue. But in part one, Luskin has already offered a wealth of misrepresentations and faulty reasoning.

The headline of Luskin’s piece is “National Geographic Evolution Article Discusses Evidence that Supports Intelligent Design.” Luskin claims that I am selectively and misleadingly presenting information to make the case for evolution. If I presented the whole picture, the case for Intelligent Design (the idea that life is so complex it must have been created by an Intelligent Designer) would become clear.

To explain why this is wrong, I need to take a minute to explain how most science writing is typically done. You become familiar with a subject by reading recent papers in the leading peer-reviewed journals. You call the authors of those papers. You talk to other experts who have a similar track record. In some cases they agree on the big picture. In other cases, they differ sharply. You then try to craft all this information into an article that can introduce the subject to readers who are not familiar with it. Do you quote all the papers you’ve read, verbatim? Of course not. You choose the best examples of the sort of work that has led scientists to their general conclusions. But to make sure that you’ve chosen the right examples and described them accurately, fact-checkers take a close look at your work to find errors.

In other words, the simple absence of some piece of information from an article does not mean the reporter is misrepresenting the subject. Luskin would like us to believe otherwise. What’s more, he claims that the “extra” information missing from my article brings evolution into question. It does not.

Case 1: Embryos. On page 115 of the article, there’s an illustration of three embryos: a fish, a chicken, and a human. The caption explains that the early embryos of these animals look much the same, but the genes in corresponding parts of the embryo guide development by different paths. It adds that evolution often reshaped organisms by altering the genes that control development.

Luskin responds by showing a picture of embryo development from egg to adult. In the gastrulation stage, vertebrate embryos look more different from one another (some are ball-shaped, for example, and some are flattened). Eventually vertebrate embryos pass through a “phylotypic” stage in which they look a lot like other vertebrate embryos, before taking on their distinctive identities.

“These facts don’t so fit neatly with Zimmer’s claim that ‘[e]volution often reshapes organisms by tinkering with the genes that control development,’” Luskin declares, “because the hourglass pattern of development shows that transitions from fishlike development ultimately into other forms of development would require radical restructuring (not ‘tinkering’) from the earliest stages of development.”

This is wrong in many ways. Let me break it down into three parts: the earliest differences in embryos, the phylotype, and the adult form of vertebrates.

As fellow scienceblogger PZ Myers has clearly explained, the differences in the earliest stages are superficial. In many cases, the difference is simply whether an embryos develops as a mass of cells, or a mass of cells sitting atop a yolk. Whatever the differences in how the earliest embryos look, they undergo the same core steps of development, known as gastrulation. And the same genes control that process. In other words, what we see in the earliest stages of vertebrate embryos today are variations on an ancestral theme. Sounds like the standard evolutionary process to me.

As for the phylotypic stage, scientists are still debating why it remains so similar among vertebrates. There may be constraints that prevent natural selection from favoring mutations that push an embryo away from this shape. And once embryos move past the phylotypic stage, they begin to develop distinctive organs. Luskin completely ignores the particular organs that the National Geographic illustration actually illustrates: the limb bud.

In fish, chickens, and humans, tiny swellings of cells along the side of embryos emerge, and the cells express almost identical networks of genes. But over the next few days or weeks, the limb bud develops into very different shapes–a fin, a wing, or a hand. Scientists have charted the genes that switch on in cells in the limb buds as they take different forms. (None of these scientists, it should be pointed out, work at the Discovery Institute.) It turns out that many of the same genes are at work in fins, hands, and wings. The differences emerge thanks to the differences in when and where in the limb bud the genes produce their proteins. This is precisely the sort of evolution scientists are talking about when they refer to tinkering with genes that control development.

Case 2: The bacterial flagellum. Many species of bacteria such as E. coli use spinning tails to swim. These flagella are made up of dozens of proteins that work together. Some behave like a motor, some like a flexible hook, and others like the coiling tail. Still other proteins help build the flagellum, such as a needle that injects proteins into the growing shaft.

I am not surprised that the Discovery Institute would try to attack this example. In my work on my new book on E. coli, I’ve been exploring the long-running fascination creationists have had with the bacterial flagellum. In 1994 the Creation Research Quarterly dedicated an article to its wonders. “To evolutionists,” the article claimed, “the system presents an enigma; to creationists, it offers clear and compelling evidence of purposeful intelligent design.” In 2005, the Dover intelligent design case came to be known as the bacterial flagellum trial. But both at the trial, and in peer-reviewed journals, scientists explained why the notion that the flagellum was intelligently designed has no traction in the scientific community.

In Luskin’s attack, he misrepresents both my article and the science that it describes. He claims that the only evidence I provide is the needle. Some strains of E. coli and other species of bacteria use a practically identical form of this needle to inject toxins into other cells. Luskin then quotes William Dembski, also of the Discovery Institute, who claims that this needle is just one bit of evidence for the evolution of the flagellum. “What’s needed is a complete evolutionary path and not merely a possible oasis along the way,” Dembski informs us.

Luskin apparently does not understand the meaning of the word phrase “for example.” I chose to describe one structure from of many in the flagellum that can be found in microbes serving other functions. I based this part of the article on a number of papers that identify evolutionary links between proteins in the flagella and in other structures. But it would have been absurd for me to catalog them all. Rather than actually address all of that evidence in scientific papers, Luskin prefers to attack an article in a general-interest magazine for not reading like a scientific paper.

Luskin also would have us believe that the only way to find support for evolution is to provide a mutation-by-mutation account of evolutionary change spanning billions of years. The way science is actually done is quite different. Scientists do not go into a time machine and recreate history step by step. They assemble evidence and judge whether they support a hypothesis or not. If flagella evolved from earlier structures, the discovery of related forms of those structures would come as no surprise. I also explain in the article how flagella themselves provide evidence for ongoing evolution–including even cases in which flagella have been lost, with only the disabled genes for them surviving as molecular vestiges. These are other lines of evidence that support the hypothesis that flagella evolved.

All of these evolutionary links have allowed researchers to begin to put together detailed hypotheses about how bacterial flagella evolved. I describe one of these hypotheses, which was published by Mark J. Pallen and Nicholas J. Matzke in “From The Origin of Species to the origin of bacterial flagella,” in October 2006 in Nature Reviews Microbiology. It begins with a simple structure for injecting molecules, and then becomes increasingly elaborate. All of the structures that get combined in the process can be found in living microbes. In some cases, combinations of these structures have also been discovered. And scientists have barely begun to explore the microbial realm, so scientists can test Pallen and Matske’s hypothesis in years to come. If you rely solely on Luskin, however, you’d think I sat down and made up a story.

Luskin claims at the beginning of his post that I’m writing about evidence that supports intelligent design, but nowhere in the post do we find out why. Luskin instead tries to poke holes in evolutionary biology, and fails. It’s remarkable that he calls for an absurdly detailed reconstruction of history as evidence for evolution, while expecting nothing of the sort from advocates of intelligent design. Apparently the rules are different at the Discovery Institute. There you need only make vague references to a designer, claim some supposed shortfalls of evolution, and you’re done. “With its irreducibly complex nature and machinelike properties,” Luskin concludes, “perhaps the simplest explanation for the origin of the flagellum is intelligent design.” The term “irreducible complexity” is meaningless when it comes to flagella, and relying on a “machinelike” appearance of something is hardly a compelling argument that something was designed rather than evolved. I am reminded of the wise advice of Albert Einstein: Make everything as simple as possible, but not too simple.

(Note: If Luskin gets around to Part Two of his attack, I’ll update this post as needed. I suspect, however, that it will be more of the same.)

Update, 11/16: PART DEUX

In his second post, Luskin announces that my article “ironically discussed much evidence which ID-proponents often contend supports intelligent design.”

Where exactly is that irony? Imagine my article had been about the formation of the Grand Canyon–about the strata that formed its walls over millions of years, about the discontinuities where the layers of rock were heaved and eroded, only to be covered up again by more layers of rock and then finally cut through by the Colorado River. If Casey Luskin was a Young-Earth creationist, he might have written that the article “ironically” discussed much of the evidence which Young-Earth creationists often contend supports the idea that the Grand Canyon was formed by a worldwide flood a few thousand years ago. Just because they talk about the same evidence doesn’t mean that their conclusions are valid. The same goes for intelligent design.

This irrelevance doesn’t stop Luskin from going ahead and offering up bits and pieces from the article and claiming them as evidence of design. He rehashes various examples I offered of different groups of species using ancestral sets of genes to carry out different functions. For example, the axis of a developing fly’s body is controlled by genes from the same family of genes that control our own.

As I explain in the article, scientists have done a lot of research into how such genes evolved over time. An ancestral set of body-axis genes (called Hox genes), for example, was passed down to different lineages of animals. In each lineage, new copies were made, some old copies were lost, and the genes gradually changed their genetic sequence thanks to mutations that were favored by natural selection. Plenty still needs to be worked out about this evolution, of course, but all the work so far supports the theory that these genes diverged by the same sorts of natural processes we can see today.

For example, natural selection can leave its fingerprints on genes. Some mutations alter proteins, while others have no effect, and when genes take on new adaptations, the protein-altering mutations are unusually common. So if the evolution of body-axis genes was a process of adaptation by natural selection, you’d expect to see the fingerprints on these genes. Some scientists at Yale decided to investigate, and earlier this month, they reported that they’d found the fingerprints. Remarkably, they could even pinpoint the parts of the genes that had undergone strong natural selection: the parts that encode sections of proteins that grab other genes to switch them on. That’s exactly where you’d expect to find the fingerprints.

Luskin does not bother to address this scientific research, or any other for that matter. Instead, he suggests that these genes are signs of “common design.” Apparently, “designers often re-use parts that work in different designs.”

So, on the one hand, we have scientists analyzing 155 different genes using the latest statistical techniques for detecting natural selection, which they followed up with studies on the structure of the evolved proteins themselves. And then on the other hand, we have Luskin saying these genes…well, they just look like they’re re-used by a designer.

What is truly ironic is the way intelligent design advocates now try to use shared sets of genes as evidence for “common design.” After all, it was not all that long ago that they claimed that a biological structure such as the bacterial flagellum were intelligently designed, and for their evidence they claimed that the flagellum was encoded by a unique set of genes. The only problem was that scientists are getting better and better at finding the relatives of “unique” genes, often doing other functions. Now Luskin and company offer a designer which does anything it (He?) has to do to mimic whatever changes evolutionary biologists document.

In the end, Luskin searches for support for intelligent design in–I kid you not–the article’s analogies. In a couple places in my article, I quote scientists likening some evolutionary processes like variations on a theme, or changing elements while remodeling a house. Luskin claims that in both cases, the analogies hint at “intelligent agents.”

Before you shout, “Whoa! Dude!”, consider another analogy in the article. Sean Carroll likens the development of an embryo to the construction of a building:

“If you walked past a construction site at 6 p.m. every day, you’d say, Wow, it’s a miracle–the building is building itself. But if you sat there all day and saw the workers and the tools, you’d understand how it was put together. We can now see the workers and the machinery.”

By Luskin’s logic, an embryo must be filled with real construction workers–or at least “intelligent agents.” But lo and behold, the construction workers are but mere molecules, strings of carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, and other elements with no intelligence in our sense of the word. And yet these genes and proteins are quite capable of building an embryo.

I use analogies a lot in my articles, because they help make alien realms of nature more familiar to us. I assume that readers will recognize that embryos are not filled with guys with hardhats. But now there’s at least one reader about whom I have some doubts.

We’re almost done. Luskin promises one more part. Any guesses where he will go next? Word counts?

Update, 11/18: Part Three:

“Was the Ford Pinto, with all its imperfections revealed in crash tests, not designed?”

This is not from a satire of intelligent design in the Onion. These words actually appear in the final part of the Discovery Institute’s lengthy response to my article. I am tempted to just let those words speak for their own absurd selves and end this post right here. But it’s worth taking this trip to the very end. Having confused a magazine article for a scientific paper, having searched for evidence of design in figures of speech, Casey Luskin now sets the rules for what anyone can and cannot discuss when it comes to intelligent design. The only problem is, he can’t seem to abide by them himself.

For his final target, Luskin chooses my description of the evolution of the eye. In recent years, scientists have unveiled hidden connections between vertebrate and invertebrate eyes. Those clues are helping scientists understand how light-sensitive cells in early animals evolved into the variety of eyes seen today. Luskin skirts quickly past this research, which he calls “reminiscent of common design.”

Reminiscent is a strangely unenthusiastic word for an intelligent design advocate to use. You can’t tell if he really thinks these ancestral genes are evidence of design, or if they just vaguely remind him of design. In any case, claiming these conserved genes are “common design” is a gross simplification of the full evolutionary process scientists are documenting. Evolutionary biologists do not just identify ancestral genes involved in building structures such as eyes. They also identify how those genes duplicated and diverged in different lineages of animals, how other genes were co-opted later to build new kinds of eyes. Our eyes and fly eyes are both filled with a light-refracting substance called crystallin. But the genes for each kind of crystallin are different, and can be traced to different ancestral genes that played other functions in the body. Luskin does not offer any alternative explanation for this process, nor does he point us to a peer-reviewed scientific paper. He just reminisces.

Luskin perks up, however, at the suggestion that in some respects the vertebrate eye doesn’t seem very well designed. As I point out, the retina is delicately attached to the back of the eye and can become detached; its photoreceptors point backwards; and its optic nerve has to create a blind spot in order to exit the eye.

These observations take up the bulk of Luskin’s response, which climaxes with him asking–in italics–“Why has National Geographic become a mouthpiece for a view of theology that states that a designer must design things to withstand certain types of physical attacks?”

Theology? How’d we get here?

Well, apparently intelligent design only requires “the detection of specified complexity.” If something shows specified complexity, then it must be intelligently designed. “Specified complexity” is a term used by intelligent design advocates for patterns that are so improbable that they could only have been created by design. Supposedly, one can use a mathematical procedure to detect specified complexity. Luskin doesn’t actually mention whether anyone has detected specified complexity in the eye. I’m not familiar with anything alone those lines, and a search of databases of scientific papers yields nothing.

And I mean nothing. I searched PubMed, a database of over 33,000 scientific journals maintained by the National Institutes of Health, for the phrase “specified complexity. ” I got this response: “Quoted Phrase Not Found.” That’s because specified complexity has been roundly rejected by the scientific community.

To dare utter a single word about the design beyond specified complexity, Luskin warns, is to speculate about the “moral purpose of the designer.” In other words, it’s theology. Theology, Webster’s informs us, means “the study of God and of God’s relation to the world.” I made no mention of God in the article. It is, after all, an article about science, ie, the study of the natural world limited to natural explanations. I simply pointed out–as others have before me–that the flaws in the vertebrate eye make it hard hard to envision it as the work of a designer, who–by definition–could design something before building it.

Yet Luskin declares that I have crossed the line by discussing intelligent design beyond specified complexity. There’s just one wee problem here. Let me indulge in my own italics: When Luskin himself writes about intelligent design, he also goes beyond specified complexity. Luskin bolsters his case for intelligent design by telling us that designers re-use designs. He tells us that designers make things that fail catastrophically, like the Ford Pinto.

Luskin rattles the rooftops when others break his rule, but breaks it himself. He is not content to simply tell us that the eye has specified complexity. Perhaps that’s because he can’t. His fellow Discovery Institute colleagues break the rule as well, by discussing the purpose of intelligent design–Michael Behe testified at the Dover trial about the evidence of intelligent design in “the purposeful arrangement of parts.” The Discovery Institute sets rules for others that it doesn’t have to follow.

Yet after accusing me of theology, Luskin is still not content to leave the eye’s flaws alone. After telling us that design flaws don’t matter, he immediately turns around and claims that the vertebrate eye is not “inefficient.” He quotes an article in a creationist magazine that declares the retina must be upside down in order make contact with a layer of tissue called the retinal pigment epithelium, on which the retina’s survival depends.

This is an old creationist line, and recently Ian Musgrave demolished it anew. In brief, the retinal pigment epithelium and other features of the eye compensate for its structural problems. For example, thanks to the vertebrate eye’s backwards arrangement, the back of the eye overheats and needs blood vessels to carry away excess heat. Octopus and other cephalopods have their retinas arranged forward, which allows them to do without such extra features. They need less blood flow to cool and feed their eyes, which are very powerful (and blind-spot free).

And that’s it. That’s the sum total of the Discovery Institute’s week-long assault. They claim that the illustrations for my article are misleading, when they’re not. They claim that I offer almost no evidence for the evolution of various traits, but ignore much of the evidence that I do present (along with the evidence in scientific papers). They claim that I am pushing theology by discussing the notion of design beyond the discredited concept of specified complexity, when they plow beyond it themselves.

I’ve spent a lot of time on this rebuttal, in part because I don’t want accusations against me to go unchallenged, and in part because it’s been interesting to explore the sort of arguments used by intelligent design advocates. We encounter lots of stray pieces of information about various species arrayed to give the impression that evolution has no evidence and that intelligent design has a lot. But nowhere in these attacks do we find any actual interest in the organisms themselves. Why do you and an octopus have eyes that are so different and yet so similar? It’s a fascinating question, but one that never appears in Luskin’s posts. Design is always the answer, like a brick wall to curious minds.

Comments

  1. #1 J-Dog
    November 13, 2006

    Being attacked by Casey and his Designer Overlords is a sign of evolutionary success. You are to be congratulated!
    Poor Casey! In a battle of wits, brains and ideas, he comes disarmed to the fight.

    Maybe he’s spending too much time looking at the Geographic fold-out pictures of Papuan Mating Dance Rituals…

  2. #2 Bronze Dog
    November 13, 2006

    Poor Casey! In a battle of wits, brains and ideas, he comes disarmed to the fight.

    Not just disarmed, but dismembered.

    Luskin, the Black Knight: “Come back here, you coward! I’ll bite your legs off!”

  3. #3 AJ Milne
    November 13, 2006

    Luskin, the Black Knight: “Come back here, you coward! I’ll bite your legs off!”

    Heh. Amusing. I did a post that ambled into that very image on Behe/Luskin and their flagellar hijinks a few weeks ago.

    No, I wouldn’t call it a surprising convergence. This stuff, it pretty much writes itself.

  4. #4 Steviepinhead
    November 13, 2006

    Luskin, who wouldn’t resemble an embryonic biologist at any stage of development, is barely a baby attorney.

    From this uncredentialed lackwit, we typically get attacks on credentials, rather than attacks on facts. Pitiful either way really, but Carl certainly illustrates why Luskin would be best advised to steer far far from the foaming shoals of facts.

  5. #5 Jim Wynne
    November 13, 2006

    The DI is located in Oceania (or is it Eurasia?)and Luskin is the Minister of Truth. Ignorance is Strength!

  6. #6 Mary Kate Olsen
    November 13, 2006

    Luskin has been asked to debate the question: “Is the Discovery Institute a Disseminator of Anti-science Propaganda?”.

    But he refuses. He is a liar, coward and hypocrite.

    I wonder when the Discovery Institute is going to post their attack on Ken Ham’s “Creationist Museum”? I mean, if the self-identifying Christians at the Discovery Institute really care about scientific accuracy, you’d think that would be a priority since so many Christians will be getting bad information.

    When is the Discovery Institute going to attack Ken Ham and his museum for their inaccurate descriptions of science?

    I suggest we keep pressing them on this point until they explain themselves.

  7. #7 bpower
    November 13, 2006

    Very nice writing. It’s a pity to waste it on such tedious nonsense. At least you have the luxury of debating at some useful level of detail, whenever I “debate” a creationist I have to start with the most basic of facts and slowly build a picture of evolutionary theory. I rarely make it to the end, both of us find it exhausting.

  8. #8 Nick Matzke
    November 13, 2006

    The funniest thing about this is that Luskin doesn’t actually know much at all when it comes to actual flagellum facts. I have documented this with macabre fascination in the “flagellum evolution” category of Panda’s Thumb posts:

    Panda’s Thumb — “flagellum evolution” category
    http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives/irreducible_complexity/flagellum_evolution/

    The best part was when he added together 20 required proteins from the Pallen/Matzke paper with 33 proteins from a 1987 paper and ended up with over 50 flagellum proteins! He didn’t realize the naming scheme for flagellum proteins was redone in 1988, so he was double-counting the proteins.

  9. #9 MG
    November 13, 2006

    Responding to the DI crowd is wastefull and tedious but perhaps necessary.

    More importantly educating the populace, especially the young is critical. For my vote your National Geographic article reprints should be sent to every High School and College Biology class in the country.

  10. #10 "Q" the Enchanter
    November 13, 2006

    I just read an article in the paper about the shuttle program. And, you know, they never even mentioned Kepler’s laws? If they’d given *all* the information, the case for geocentrism would become clear.

  11. #11 John Pieret
    November 13, 2006

    Yesterday, Casey Luskin took to the Discovery Institute’s “Evolution News and Views” site to post part one of an attack on the article. How many parts do have to look forward to? Luskin doesn’t offer a clue.

    I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings but Luskin’s last multipart “response” to someone (Barbara Forrest in that case) went on for at least 9 episodes:

    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2006/10/response_to_barbara_forrests_k_8.html

    Luskin announced ahead of time in that instance that he was going to inflict 10 posts on an unsuspecting world, giving the wary an opportunity to escape. But we may not be able to count on that. It may just be that he learned from that mistake.

    Luskin is becoming another Lamont Cranston. But he clouds men’s minds with blather so dull and contentless that it lowers your IQ merely to be in the same universe with it.

  12. #12 MikeQ
    November 13, 2006

    NICE! A Shadow reference…

  13. #13 djlactin
    November 14, 2006

    I think that Luskin has an odd sort of advantage: since he is completely unqualified to comment on matters biological, we can’t accuse him of outright dishonesty because he can just plead ignorance.

  14. #14 JohnnieCanuck
    November 14, 2006

    Have you no pity? As a good Christian, Luskin doesn’t want to Lie for Jesus. It’s just that you tempt him beyond his capacity to resist.

    Over and over again, evilutionists drag him from the path of Righteousness and make him fall into Sin.

  15. #15 Andrew Sun
    November 14, 2006

    As a native Chinese, I feel extremely confused why there will be such peoples like Luskin existing in America who pay so huge effort to advocate for an obviously false ideas, and there will be so many who do believe them. And further more – they attack science! What is the benefit behind all these? In China, we also have lots of people believing in God or Buddha, but they do not attack science. If they do the government will arrest them. Therefore science is pretty safe here. I think it is necessary to be so. Please arrest Luskin for attacking evolutionism!

  16. #16 daen
    November 14, 2006

    The irony is lost on Luskin (and every other ID proponent) that evolution is berated for being too convoluted and improbable to produce such structures, but that the implications of their alternative (“the simplest explanation for the origin of the flagellum is intelligent design”) are given no critical consideration at all.

  17. #17 Andrew Sun
    November 14, 2006

    As a native Chinese, I feel extremely confused why there will be such peoples like Luskin existing in America who pay so huge effort to advocate for an obviously false ideas, and there will be so many who do believe them. And further more – they attack science! What is the benefit behind all these? In China, we also have lots of people believing in God or Buddha, but they do not attack science. If they do the government will arrest them. Therefore science is pretty safe here. I think it is necessary to be so. Please arrest Luskin for attacking evolutionism!

  18. #18 C.W
    November 14, 2006

    In China, we also have lots of people believing in God or Buddha, but they do not attack science. If they do the government will arrest them. Therefore science is pretty safe here. I think it is necessary to be so. Please arrest Luskin for attacking evolutionism!

    Sorry Andrew, but in the west we have a certain amount of something called “free speech”. This is an important part of something we call “democracy”. The general idea is that even people you disagree with are free to promote thier beliefs, even the patently false ones. While this has some annoying side-effects (like Luskin), democracy is still considered a fairly good idea.

    The price of democracy is that you have to engage a few (sometimes offensive) morons in debate. Unfortunately this point is lost on some european legislators who prefer to put said morons in jail. Which IMHO is a grotesque mistake.

  19. #19 goddogtired
    November 14, 2006

    And Luskin is to be taken seriously because, ah…., um….. Sorry, could someone not on the payroll of or affiliated with a creationist organization remind us?
    … Force of habit? I dunno….
    … For the sake of the lurkers? But they are now all on our side, so can’t we just write the articles w/o reference to these ID-shits? If someone is actually confused by the hand-waving they can always just ask, can’t they?

    Dear Carl,
    It’s interesting how nicely you have refuted his lies, but the time has come, frankly, not to engage these losers at all, for any reason, in the 2-sides-2-every-story (if the bu–sh–/Xian/ignorance party position is clearly false), brainless “mass media.”
    Your science walks the walk, while Luskin hasn’t yet evolved legs (or eyes, or more than the most reactionary stub of a brain.)

  20. #20 Jeff Rubinoff
    November 14, 2006

    I can’t help feeling that if only our elementary level science education were better, the ID/Creationism crowd would never get enough public backing to be a nuisance.

  21. #21 melior
    November 14, 2006

    The Devil put those fossils there to deceive us!

    That’s obviously also explains why the limb buds look so similar. Does he have to spell everything out?!

  22. #22 Adam Cuerden
    November 14, 2006

    What I want to know is what’s up with This article by Luskin’s orginisation. He provides an inaccurate understanding of information theory – but, aha! and this is where it gets interesting: All those unattributed quotes that are reasonably accurate? Quote-mined bits of ID arguements which are temporarily accurate.

    …Interesting.

  23. #23 MartinC
    November 17, 2006

    I listen to Casey on the Discovery Institute podcast (I found it on itunes when I typed in ‘Creationism’ as the search term – I kid you not). Unfortunately for Casey the first time I hear him I thought his voice sounded startlingly likethat of ‘Gopher’ from ‘The Muppet Show’ and I cant get that image out of my head whenever I now hear him talk. That said, I have to admit that he is truly a gifted individual. Unfortunately his gift is not for rational intellectual reasoning but more for inadvertant comedy. The last episode mentioned he has a three part section dedicated to showing how your article provides evidence for intelligent design.
    I look forward to seeing if he can better his recent hilarious podcast of the 31st of October when he showed how the intelligent design theory was strengthened by detection of the North Korean nuclear tests.

  24. #24 SteveF
    November 17, 2006

    “Luskin promises one more part. Any guesses where he will go next? Word counts?”

    Pithy!

  25. #25 Robert O'Brien
    November 17, 2006

    As I wrote last year, a single evolutionary biologist produces more papers in peer-reviewed biology journals than the entire staff of the Discovery Institute.

    Not if that biologist is PZ Myers.

  26. #26 Shelley Batts
    November 17, 2006

    Its funny that when the ideas at stake cannot be logically critized, instead detractors might find some nitpick, off-topic point like criticizing a teaching biologist for not being a research biologist.

    Like instead of typing evolutionary biology ‘Mitchell Sogin’ into Pubmed, and seeing hiw 9 pages and 169 papers.

    :Sigh:

    Was that a cheap shot? Cause it just felt too easy.

  27. #27 idlemind
    November 17, 2006

    Ah, I see that one of PZ’s trolls has escaped. Pay him no mind.

    Luskin seems to be of the delusion that science is based on debate, not evidence. He thinks that selecting (and frequently misconstruing) facts to construct an argument is more important than actually investigating the facts themselves. It’s what lawyers do. But last time I checked, lawyers had little to do with (and generally little aptitude for) science. Casey obviously missed his calling… he’s a failure as a scientist, but he might have done pretty well if he had taken up law.

  28. #28 Robert O'Brien
    November 17, 2006

    Its funny that when the ideas at stake cannot be logically critized, instead detractors might find some nitpick, off-topic point like criticizing a teaching biologist for not being a research biologist.

    As I’ve said before, those who can do; those who can’t blog about it from the backwater that is Morris, Minnesota.

    Like instead of typing evolutionary biology ‘Mitchell Sogin’ into Pubmed, and seeing hiw 9 pages and 169 papers.

    That’s nice, but I know people who have published more in more intellectually demanding disciplines than biology.

  29. #29 Steviepinhead
    November 17, 2006

    Uh, nope. He’s a baby lawyer from an undistinguished law school. In and of themselves, those would not be insurmountable hurdles to a hard-working and intelligent young feller. While the legal profession certainly offers the opportunity to “frame” the facts in a different manner than does science, persuasive arguments must still deal with the facts, in one way or another–explaining why they should or should not matter within a given legal or societal context.

    But a lawyer who constructs arguments as poorly–and as lazily–and as inattentively to the facts–as does Luskin (not to mention one who exercises such poor judgment in client selection) isn’t going anywhere, either as a lawyer or as a scientist wannabe.

    Bleh!

  30. #30 Timothy Chase
    November 17, 2006

    Carl Zimmer wrote:

    In Luskin’s attack, he misrepresents both my article and the science that it describes. He claims that the only evidence I provide is the needle. Some strains of E. coli and other species of bacteria use a practically identical form of this needle to inject toxins into other cells. Luskin then quotes William Dembski, also of the Discovery Institute, who claims that this needle is just one bit of evidence for the evolution of the flagellum. “What’s needed is a complete evolutionary path and not merely a possible oasis along the way,” Dembski informs us.

    Luskin apparently does not understand the meaning of the word phrase “for example.” I chose to describe one structure from of many in the flagellum that can be found in microbes serving other functions. I based this part of the article on a number of papers that identify evolutionary links between proteins in the flagella and in other structures. But it would have been absurd for me to catalog them all. Rather than actually address all of that evidence in scientific papers, Luskin prefers to attack an article in a general-interest magazine for not reading like a scientific paper.

    What you are describing here – a paper which is more or less exhaustive in examining all the relevant developments on the bacterial flagella – even if only at the level of an overview – is what is commonly known as a “review.” These aren’t simply technical articles: in my admittedly limited experience, they are quite large, oftentimes being between twenty and eighty pages in length, and recently they have been citing in the neighborhood of one hundred and fifty to two hundred other far more specialized papers. Somehow I doubt that this is the general sort of article which National Geographic or its subscribers would be that particularly interested in. Would Luskin prefer that National Geographic not have any articles on science at all?

  31. #31 Shelley Batts
    November 17, 2006

    That’s nice, but I know people who have published more in more intellectually demanding disciplines than biology.

    Do tell! Who are these well-published creationists?

    Funny that biology is apparently not intellectually demanding enough, yet Luskin et al are quick enough to (try to) argue against it. Why does it matter what biologists think if its not real science? Biology not good enough for ya? Try Kandel in Pubmed, in my field. Or perhaps neuroscience is also too ‘soft.’ Not that he won the Nobel Prize or anything. But I’m sure that pales in comparison to those creationists you have in mind. So I wait with baited breath.

  32. #32 Robert O'Brien
    November 17, 2006

    Shelley:

    I did not have any creationists in mind. (Well, I don’t actually know their stance on modern evolutionary theory.)

  33. #33 Oolon Colluphid
    November 17, 2006

    As I’ve said before, those who can do;

    So what is it you do? I’d love to know.

  34. #34 Robert O'Brien
    November 17, 2006

    So what is it you do? I’d love to know.

    I study mathematics and statistics. I have also been known to teach.

  35. #35 Jud
    November 17, 2006

    idlemind: “But last time I checked, lawyers had little to do with (and generally little aptitude for) science.”

    You must have checked before the attorneys for the plaintiffs did such an effective job understanding and presenting, and the judge such a fine job understanding, evaluating, and writing about, the scientific evidence in Kitzmiller v. Dover.

  36. #36 Nic Nicholson
    November 17, 2006

    Since we now know that the “designer” liked to reuse genetic material in its creations, we are forced to conclude that it must have been inordinately fond of viruses!

  37. #37 Bronze Dog
    November 17, 2006

    Luskin does not bother to address this scientific research, or any other for that matter. Instead, he suggests that these genes are signs of “common design.” Apparently, “designers often re-use parts that work in different designs.”

    So, anyone know why the designer(s) used the same broken sweet-tasting gene in all the cat species out there? Why not just leave it out if it’s not going to work?

  38. #38 Oolon Colluphid
    November 17, 2006

    I study mathematics and statistics. I have also been known to teach.

    Surely teaching is a vastly inferior discipline to churning out journal papers every two months or less. After all, you don’t want to be mistaken for a ‘dilettante’ like PZ Myers, do you?

  39. #39 idlemind
    November 18, 2006

    Oh, I’m not hatin’ attorneys. The ones on the winning side in the Dover case had the sense to consult heavily with real scientists, not religious texts like the Discovery Institute folks. But more importantly, they understood the law and made an effective legal argument that Intelligent Design was just warmed-over Genesis, and thus the Government had no business teaching it.

    I don’t think, though, that I’d want to settle scientific questions by having two teams of attorneys arguing before a judge.

  40. #40 Joe G
    November 18, 2006

    Two questions:

    1) How can one test the premise that a bacterial flagellum evolved via stochastic/ blind watchmaker-type processes in a population that didn’t have one?

    2) How can that premise be falsified?

    Also ID has not been rejected by the courts. Only one court has rejected a strawman of ID…

  41. #41 Unsympathetic reader
    November 19, 2006

    Regarding JoeG’s two questions…

    Good questions. Interestingly, that is *exactly* what Dembski, Behe et al (including Luskin) claim they can do.

    Hmm… Fred Hoyle claimed that the development of life was directed by ‘extraterrestrial viruses’ that carried the genes for new biological features in their genomes. So, one might filter stardust to see if viral DNA really can be found in space. But overall, I think it would be hard to determine the actual mechanisms by which *ancient*, broadly distributed features might have arisen.

    This is one of the reasons why I advocate that ID ‘researchers’ pick model systems for which definitive experiments or conclusions can be achieved. Why not pick the simplest, most recently emerged IC system for the test case? These would be the ones most likely to retain a good record of what the ancestors had prior to the origin of the new system. The ‘signal’ is more likely to be detected in such instances. Go for the definitive experiment!

    So, why do Behe et al persist in trying to examine the oldest, most difficult to evaluate cases as instances of ‘design’? Is it because previously identified ‘IC’ systems like blood clotting and immune systems seem to have too many precursors for an IDer’s comfort?

  42. #42 steve s
    November 20, 2006

    A warning to anyone new to the creationism/evolution discussion: Don’t get sucked into arguing with Joe G. He loiters around Dembski’s site UncommonlyDense and is a particularly stupid creationist, like Salvador Cordova-level stupid.

  43. #43 Davis
    November 20, 2006

    As I’ve said before, those who can do; those who can’t blog about it from the backwater that is Morris, Minnesota.

    So an academic only has value if he publishes? I find that attitude extremely obnoxious. A good teacher can do far more good for a field than a mediocre researcher.

    And why the hell are you even bringing PZ into this thread to begin with?

  44. #44 Tristram Brelstaff
    November 20, 2006

    Carl, you might want to check that it was “specified complexity” and not “specificed complexity” that you searched for in PubMed, and correct your post accordingly.

  45. #45 Carl Zimmer
    November 20, 2006

    Tristram–Thanks for catching the typo. I did spell specified correctly when I searched on PubMed. I think my spell checker went a bit goofy in the writing of the post. Anyway, search the term for yourself, if you’d care–it’s free.

  46. #46 Scott Simmons
    November 20, 2006

    idlemind: “I don’t think, though, that I’d want to settle scientific questions by having two teams of attorneys arguing before a judge.”

    One doesn’t. But when a scientific question (viz. the relative merits of the ‘evolution by mutation and natural selection’ hypothesis vs. the ‘designed by an intelligent agent’ hypothesis) has already been settled in the scientific arena, and someone continues to try to get the losing hypothesis taught in public schools for religious reasons–that issue needs to be settled by the law courts.

  47. #47 beajerry
    November 20, 2006

    Can the Blogosphere bring down the Discovery Institute?
    Stay tuned…

  48. #48 JavaElemental
    November 20, 2006

    He tells us that designers make things that fail catastrophically, like the Ford Pinto.

    I’m sorry — did Luskin just compare God to the engineers of the Ford Pinto? Out of everything I’ve read in this magnificent rebuttal, that is the most hilarious.

  49. #49 wintermute
    November 20, 2006

    Also ID has not been rejected by the courts. Only one court has rejected a strawman of ID…

    In that case, one has to wonder why the Discovery Institute, Behe, et al only presented a straw man of their arguments. Wouldn’t they have been better off if they told the court about their actual theory?

  50. #50 Bronze Dog
    November 20, 2006

    He tells us that designers make things that fail catastrophically, like the Ford Pinto.

    I’m sorry — did Luskin just compare God to the engineers of the Ford Pinto? Out of everything I’ve read in this magnificent rebuttal, that is the most hilarious.

    I suppose that would explain a lot.

  51. #51 llewelly
    November 20, 2006

    Well, I must admit, Casey Luskin has me convinced. God designed the Cephalopod eye, but the design of the human eye, he outsourced to Ford.

  52. #52 Despard
    November 20, 2006

    I searched for ‘specified complexity’ on Web of Science, which is arguably more thorough than PubMed because it also contains physical science, engineering and arts journals which PubMed does not. Who knows, maybe there are groups within the engineering community who have modelled irreducibly complex systems and concluded that they must have been designed (say).
    My results? Two whole references!
    One was a scathing Nature book review of Dembski’s No Free Lunch (Charlesworth, 2002). The other? An article in an engineering journal from 1981, about the design of filters (Kazakov & Malchiov, 1981) and nothing to do with ID at all.
    I tried. I really did. :-) Nice work with the rebuttal, btw.

    Charlesworth B., 2002. “No free lunch: Why specified complexity cannot be purchased without intelligence.” NATURE 418 (6894): 129

    Kazakov I.E. & Malchiov S.V., 1981. “Approximate design of Pugachev filters of specified complexity.” AUTOMATION AND REMOTE CONTROL 42 (12): 1618-1624

  53. #53 Timothy Chase
    November 20, 2006

    There is a great deal to recommend in what you have written here, but at the moment I would like to call attention to the following.

    Carl Zimmer wrote:

    Now Luskin and company offer a designer which does anything it (He?) has to do to mimic whatever changes evolutionary biologists document.

    In essence, what we are dealing with are simply variations on the Omphalos argument. For any given creationist, there are some elements of science which they may accept and others which they will not.

    In some cases, they will accept the fact that the world is old, or that some mutations might be beneficial – so long as they involve only “micro-evolution,” or they may even be willing to accept common descent. But whatever they choose not to accept they can simply dismiss or explain away with an all-powerful, all-knowing designer who might have created the world five seconds ago and had his own quite possibly unknowable reasons for making it look otherwise. Except of course when they choose to explain things away by means of a designer by analogy with human designers – who, given their limited resources and limited intelligence, will make use of the principles of reuse and common design – and often create faulty designs.

    Accept what you want and dismiss the rest is the very essence of their approach to empirical science. I think you summed it up beautifully in your final sentence:

    Design is always the answer, like a brick wall to curious minds.

  54. #54 Torbj�rn Larsson
    November 20, 2006

    On ‘specified complexity’ I like Chu-Carroll�s analysis: �In information-theory terms, complexity is non-compressibility. But according to Dembski, in IT terms, specification is compressibility. Something that possesses �specified complexity� is therefore something which is simultaneously compressible and non-compressible.� ( http://scienceblogs.com/goodmath/2006/06/dembski� ) In other words, you can�t observe SC from Dembski�s definitions.

    “Salvador Cordova-level stupid”

    Oh, *that* stupid.

    But the questions are fair. So:

    “How can one test the premise that a bacterial flagellum evolved”
    By studying the different types (several) and examples of flagella and similar structures like secretion systems, in bacteries and elsewhere, the evolution becomes obvious. As a side note, after 150 years of success of such models, it is a perfectly sensible null hypothesis. Which mean if you aren’t interested in details you can assume it was evolved until observations make it impossible. (See the answer to your second point.)

    More specifically, here excaptations and homologies explain all but the “Total number of indispensable proteins that are also �unique�: 2″ ( http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives/2006/09/flagellum_evolu.html , http://www.nature.com/nrmicro/journal/v4/n10/full/nrmicro1493.html ).

    Even assuming no further homologies are discovered and the two proteins are somehow dependent to work, the evolution of two such subsequent mutations has already been described and verified. ( http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives/2006/04/evolution_of_ic.html )

    So it is already a slam-dunk. I trust you will explain these facts to all creationists you meet.

    “How can that premise be falsified?”
    No necessary signs of evolution such as homologies or excaptations had been detected. Too late now.

  55. #55 Torbjrn Larsson
    November 20, 2006

    Um. Assuming my previous comment makes it through the spam-filters, on proof-reading it should be “bacterias” and “exaptations”. Time for coffee, it seems.

  56. #56 mynym
    November 20, 2006

    Whatever the differences in how the earliest embryos look, they undergo the same core steps of development, known as gastrulation. And the same genes control that process. In other words, what we see in the earliest stages of vertebrate embryos today are variations on an ancestral theme. Sounds like the standard evolutionary process to me.

    Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny?

    It would seem that those with the urge to merge are reduced to something more like “It sort of seems the same or somethin’.” these days. Are you reading the standard evolutionary process into embryos or deriving it from them?

    It’s ironic that although we don’t really know what is responsible for the form, self-organization and development of an embryo in the present based on current empirical observations, charlatans generally claim to know what happened millions of years ago and use what they imagine about the past to “explain” every single organ that unfolds in the development of every single mammalian embryo. The pattern of exchanging facts, logic and evidence for one’s own “natural” imagination was exemplified by Haeckel to the point that he drew images drawn from little more than his own imagination and expected them to be treated as evidence. That is a typical line of Darwinian thought: “If I can imagine something about this that seems natural to me then my imagination should be treated as evidence. See how my imagination has now overwhelmed my mind? All this evidence is quite overwhelming to me.” Etc.

    As for the phylotypic stage, scientists are still debating why it remains so similar among vertebrates.

    And note that it would be absurd to look through the millions of organisms that exist in Nature searching for any similarity and then treating virtually anything you think you see as evidence for common descent based on what you imagine about the past. Yet that’s what you tend to do as far as similarities go, e.g.: For example, the axis of a developing fly’s body is controlled by genes from the same family of genes that control our own.

    So are we to imagine this as evidence that we are ancestral to the fly or is the fly ancestral to us, or another ancestry? If a small fish at the bottom of the sea has eyes that are identical to a lizard that lives in trees, then what shall we imagin?

    For now you don’t say what we should imagine:As I explain in the article, scientists have done a lot of research into how such genes evolved over time. An ancestral set of body-axis genes (called Hox genes), for example, was passed down to different lineages of animals. …. Plenty still needs to be worked out about this evolution, of course, but all the work so far supports the theory that these genes diverged by the same sorts of natural processes we can see today.

    By all means, let’s get back to what we can see and observe empirically instead of going throughout Nature and including virtually any similarity among organisms as evidence of “common descent” without any regard for just how common it is. As far as what can be verified there’s an old canard that Darwinists have invoked for over a hundred years as far as hard scientia/knowledge and empirical evidence: “It’s just like gravity.” I.e. Darwinism and natural selection as a theory fits so tightly to empirical evidence that it is on equal footing with the theory of gravity as far as being a “natural process that we can see today” and subject to empirical verification. Unfortunately that’s not the case, which is why you’re left with the mists of mysticism cloaked in millions of years instead of hard conceptual statements about populations of organisms that can be encoded in the language of mathematics and verified empirically. I.e. if that old Darwinian canard about gravity were true then you could use mathematics to represent the law of natural selection in order to compute a trajectory of adaptation and evolution in a group of organisms. Before it happens. I only note that because evolutionary biologists generally seem to believe that if physicists were verifying a pet theory* by “predicting” the trajectory of an object by adapting the theory to whatever is observed after it came to rest then they would be practicing a hard form of scientia/knowledge. It’s interesting how Darwinists have often argued that their hypotheses are “just like gravity” yet physicists do not often argue that physics is just like Darwinism or the theories of biologists.

    *I.e. a theory that has been fused to their professional identity: “All physicists think so, and if you disagree then you’re not a real scientist or somethin’.”

  57. #57 Ross
    November 20, 2006

    >So are we to imagine this as evidence that we are ancestral to the fly or is the fly ancestral to us, or another ancestry?

    It is hard to know where to begin, but if someone doesn?t answer this rubbish, a victory will be claimed by the writer.

    From consistent and clear evidence that is provided by gene sequencing, it is found that particular combinations of DNA, found on a specific fruit fly chromosome, code for proteins that in turn control the formation of the head and parts of the thorax, in order from the head to the end of the body farthest from the head. There are 13 such combinations, called Hox genes. Humans have four parallel sequences of very similar Hox genes as they are more complex organisms. The gene at one end controls development of the head in both flies and humans, and so on down the body. That these genes are essentially identical across a wide range of types of animal has been shown by an experiment where a fruit fly Hox gene was removed and then replaced by part of a mouse Hox gene. The fly developed normally. One conclusion from this and many other experiments is that fruit flies and humans have both developed from a single ancestral organism.

    I hope this helps.

  58. #58 joseph knecht
    November 20, 2006

    This moron will probably be president in 20 years. Watch your tongues!

  59. #59 vandalhooch
    November 20, 2006

    mynym said:

    [I.e. if that old Darwinian canard about gravity were true then you could use mathematics to represent the law of natural selection in order to compute a trajectory of adaptation and evolution in a group of organisms. Before it happens.]

    You mean like this: anole selection

  60. #60 mynym
    November 20, 2006

    That these genes are essentially identical across a wide range of types of animal has been shown by an experiment where a fruit fly Hox gene was removed and then replaced by part of a mouse Hox gene. The fly developed normally. One conclusion from this and many other experiments is that fruit flies and humans have both developed from a single ancestral organism.

    You’re reading ancestry into things based on virtually any similarity that you think fits the Darwinian creation myth. You assert: “One conclusion from this…” but if the genes were not essentially identical you’d most likely still read a common ancestry back into organisms based on whatever other similarities you could find among millions of organisms. Evidence would be the creation of genetic information and so new body plans based on random mutations and natural selection or even intelligent selection. As far as evidence of descent drawn from similarity, there are also many similarities that are being avoided by those who begin by assuming common descent and then imagine that the images they create in their minds are actual evidence proving the “origin of species.” E.g., the eyes of the sandlance and the chameleon and numerous other organisms with “virtually identical” morphological characteristics spread over utterly disparate body types. Why don’t they count as falsifications? Despite the illusion of conceptual thought that can be falsified perceptually, why does the Darwinian mind seem to “fit” itself to virtually any empirical observation? No debate about similarity and morophology leading to historical speculations is verifiable in the same way that gravity is, it’s speculation about the past based on the present and an attempt to structure some sort of history with respect to it. The only way to “scientifically” prove the validity of a theory is to specify it as information in the language of mathematics and then verify it in the actual formation of things. Despite their absurd rhetoric Darwinists have not conceptually traced trajectories of adaptation or found general application and verification for equations that represent the notion of “natural selection,” probably because they’re too busy with negative theology and their historically negative dialectic with Christianity. I.e. the Darwinian mind is often the mind of a Christian apostate. It seems that they believe that physicists sometimes argue, “Well, I don’t think that a good Christian God would make gravity this bad, bad way…so that my understanding of gravity is valid. Besides, I can imagine a little story about gravity that happened millions of years ago in a way that I think is natural, which is just like scientific evidence or somethin’ because that’s natural too.”

    I’d imagine that their urge to merge the conceptual with the perceptual doesn’t help them as far as falsification and verification goes. Imagine that…

    You mean like this: anole selection.

    There’s no link there. Ironically Paul Kammerer already showed that organisms change and adapt relatively quickly based on stimuli from the environment, not Darwin’s projection of Victorian era economics onto Nature with all its predation and hardship leading to different survival rates…leading to different rates of reproduction…leading to different types of organisms supposedly “fitting” the survival of the fittest and so on. Nature doesn’t seem to be quite as red in tooth and claw as Darwinists tend to believe anyway.

    You’re going to have to point to the evidence selectively if you try to argue that natural selection has somehow created all of the millions of organisms that exist because there are numerous falsifications of the grand Darwinian creation myth. E.g.,

    [Leo Berg] punctures the fallacy of selective evidence: for example, a toothless egg-eating snake whose vertebral processes serve as ‘esophageal teeth’ is a poor example of evolutionary providence, for other, non-egg-eating snakes have similar structures. And how, he asks, did this snake survive while waiting to become adapted? On the other hand, he finds many evolved structures which are unused, unusable, or even apparently detrimental: teeth which in many fish genera first develop at spawning season, when the time for feeding is past; crossed mammoth tusks which could not have functioned; winged insects which never fly, vegetarian insectivorous plants, and sailed fish which prefer to swim, to name but a few.
    For Berg, this evidence supports development which proceeds according to an inner law–he might say ‘programmed’–regardless of consequences. He distinguishes this law from teleology, vitalism, mechanism and other nineteenth century notions, and substitutes the concept of nomogenesis, or ontogenetic and phylogenetic development by laws predetermining the organism’s response to stimuli.

    (Reviewed Work: Nomogenesis: Evolution Determined by Law. by Leo S. Berg; J. N. Rostovstov
    Reviewed by Lucile E. St Hoyme
    Man New Series, Vol. 4, No. 4 (Dec., 1969), :652)

    Natural selection = the observation of different rates of reproduction which are then defined as “fit,” that’s a historical observation which is trivially true but it is not an assertion of cause based on natural laws (“like gravity”) known to govern the development and evolution of organisms.

  61. #61 Torbjrn Larsson
    November 20, 2006

    mynym:

    “Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny?”
    No, Haeckel’s theory is disproved long ago. What is observed is that after fairly undifferentiated and therefore plastic early stages, the constraints when the tissues start to differentiate makes the fetuses have a marked similarity between related groups of animals. It is illustrated by an hour glass model. ( http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2006/11/pz_myers_is_such_a_liar.php )

    “charlatans generally claim”
    If you can’t see the easy to grasp difference between science and charlatanism, I suggest that you take society’s word for it, which I will take the authority to describe for you:

    There is such a thing as science, it is valuable, it contains its own checks and balances against evidence and aren’t done by philosophical discussions on the web, biology is a science, evolution is the major theory in biology, and it is one of the best verified theories in science.

    No buts about it, just ask your closest national center for science education for these facts.

    I think that will be enough for starters, considering your rejection of common knowledge. The rest of your questions can be answered in detail later, but there is only so much time.

    The sum of the remainder is that all sciences use historical data in the sense that signals aren’t momentaneous. In physics it is especially evident in particle accelerators and stellar observatories, where data are recorded and later sifted to answer specific questions, and in the later case describes far away and long gone events. Just like fossils and geology.

    There is simply no place where you can point and declare “here starts history”. Even so called ‘historical data’ are in principle repeatable, for example there are possibly other fossil of the same species, or other stars of the same type and age. It is a philosophical chimera.

  62. #62 ben
    November 21, 2006

    if that old Darwinian canard about gravity were true then you could use mathematics to represent the law of natural selection in order to compute a trajectory of adaptation and evolution in a group of organisms. Before it happens.]

    If anything IDiots said about ID “theory” were true, you’d be able to use the theory to do something scientific with it, anywhere, just once, ever. But you can’t. All you can do is try to obfuscate and lie, hoping to sway your target audience of the undereducated, overcredulous, and willfully ignorant.

  63. #63 Joe G
    November 21, 2006

    The debate is NOT about whether or not the bac flag “evolved”- the debate is about the MECHANISM(s) involved. IOW the bac flag could have designed to evolve!

    Alleged homologs of the bac flag proteins do not help. The organism/ population still requires the corect assembly instructions as well as the instruction set for the command and control center- you know what makes the bac flag move CW, CCW at what speed and then be able to stop.

    As for the PA court rejecting a strawman of ID, they did so because they listened to the plaintiff witnesses, ie the anti-IDists who know very little if anything about ID, as opposed to listening to the actual ID experts.

    The sad part is if the anti-IDists were 1/2 as skeptical about their position as they are about ID they would reject it.

  64. #64 cleek
    November 21, 2006

    Ironically Paul Kammerer already showed that organisms change and adapt relatively quickly based on stimuli from the environment,

    well, he showed that if you inject animals with India ink, you could fool some people into believing falsehoods about those animals. and then he adapted himself out of the gene pool with a pistol, after he got caught.

  65. #65 mynym
    November 21, 2006

    well, he showed that if you inject animals with India ink, you could fool some people into believing falsehoods about those animals. and then he adapted himself out of the gene pool with a pistol, after he got caught.

    It’s always amazed me how easily those with the urge to merge are taken in by frauds, charlatans of the PZ Myers sort or a little murmuring about how natural and scientific things are.

    E.g. If you can’t see the easy to grasp difference between science and charlatanism….

    Ironically, the main argument of charlatans these days is: “It’s just like science or somethin’, trust me.”

    In the case of the midwife toad it seems to me that the “zeolous advocates” of a pseudo-Platonic view of the world in which genes act as a sort of divine Forms bear correcting:

    [Kammerer's] results inspired determined opposition from disciples of the new Mendelian genetics, particularly from its spokesman William Bateson. After years of exhausting controversy, Kammerer allowed the American herpetologist G. K. Noble to examine his last specimen of modified Alytes. The toad had no nuptial pads; moreover, the black coloration on its left hand had been produced (or at least enhanced) by the injection of India ink.
    Seven weeks after the publication of Noble’s report Kammerer killed himself. This seeming admission of guilt created his legend with its obvious moral on the dangers of zealous advocacy.
    Koestler, with his usual richness of style and intelligence, has convinced me that this common reading is, indeed, legend in the derogatory sense. He combines an analysis of published sources, the testimony of living witnesses, and even some scientific experimentation of his own to argue (i) that the injection was more likely performed by one of Kammerer’s numerous enemies than by Kammerer himself; (ii) that, in any case, it was done after Kammerer’s famous demonstration of the specimen in England in 1923; (iii) that Kammerer probably succeeded in producing nuptial pads in his water-bred Alytes (though Koestler seems unaware that, as I shall mention later, this provides no confirmation of Lamarckian inheritance); and (iv) that Kammerer’s suicide was due as much to the mundane passions of unrequited love and economic failure as to the burden of tragic deceit. Moreover, Koestler has drawn an inference from the debate that is profoundly disturbing because it is probably of general application: the mistrust that established professionals felt for Kammerer arose more from his unconventional personality his ‘artistic’ temperament, his verbal ability, his unpopular politics than from any legitimate doubt about the validity of his methods.

    (Review: Zealous Advocates
    The Case of the Midwife Toad by Arthur Koestler
    Review author: Stephen Jay Gould
    Science, New Series, Vol. 176, No. 4035.
    (May 12, 1972), :623)

    …from [Koestler's] book it appears that a more relevant factor [than the scientific debate] was the post-war economic crisis that destroyed both Kammerer’s world and his livelihood rather than scientific controversy in which he clearly could hold his own. Suicide or breakdown could well have seen the end of the highly-strung personality that peers from these pages, quite apart from the scandal. Particularly since it seems obvious now that Kammerer had nothing to do with the faking.

    (Reviewed Work: The Case of the Midwife Toad by Arthur Koestler
    Review by D. F. Roberts
    Man New Series, Vol. 7, No. 2 (Jun., 1972), :323)(Emphasis added)

    Darwin has always had the most “zealous advocates” as they are called in this case, PZ Myers is similar because he clearly has the urge to merge and yet you cite him as if he defines “science” itself. Challenging Darwinism seems to draw the pattern of attack, censorship, fraud and so on forth. In this case:

    Paul Kammerer was an Austrian biologist… Throughout most of his life he was a distinguished experimental researcher with an international reputation. Nature magazine called his last book “one of the finest contributions to the theory of evolution which has appeared since Darwin.” Surprisingly, however, Kammerer’s work did not support the evolutionary views of Darwin, but on the contrary provides some of the most convincing experimental evidence ever produced of an evolutionary mechanism far more important than the Darwinian mechanism: a mechanism that is at present denied entirely…
    Kammerer searched the animal and plant kingdoms, both on land and in water, looking for individuals he could breed in the laboratory that might exhibit this kind of evolution. He found many such examples. He bred spotted salamanders on different colour soils and found that over successive generations they changed colour to resemble that of the soil on which they were bred: those bred on yellow soil showed a progressive enlargement of the yellow spots on their bodies until they became predominantly yellow, while those reared on black soil showed a diminution of the yellow spots until they became predominantly black. When the offspring of these genetically modified salamanders were moved to the opposite colour soil to that of their parents, their coloration changed back again.
    It is important to appreciate that this kind of genetic evolutionary change is entirely anti-Darwinian in nature. It is an example of directed genetic change (although the mechanism that directs it is entirely unknown); a heresy that all Darwinists vehemently deny is possible.

    (Alternative Science: Challenging the
    Myths of the Scientific Establishment
    by Richard Milton :224-225)

  66. #66 mynym
    November 21, 2006

    If anything IDiots said about ID “theory” were true, you’d be able to use the theory to do something scientific with it…

    These types of sentiments play well in this forum only because most here seem to believe in scientism, yet it is perfectly possible for something to be true (and very important) without being scientific in the least.

    I think that [citing PZ Myers] be enough for starters, considering your rejection of common knowledge.

    It’s curious, why don’t those with the urge to merge count the falsification of the notion that “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny” as a falsification of whatever they mean by “evolution” given that they treated it as a verification before? Myers is probably still back on the old gill-slit canard only because it matches the psychological dynamics typical to those with the urge to merge. I.e. the “zealous advocates” of Darwinism who always seem to want to crawl back in the womb of Mommy Nature while murmuring about how natural they are and so on.

    Note their attitude towards language: “…we have to wonder why human embryos have these strange lines, and why all other vertebrates also have them…and this commonalty[sic] of structure is the evidence for evolution, not the superficial implications of the names.” –Myers, from one of your citations (emphasis his)

    It’s little wonder that those who try to merge the conceptual and the perceptual become stuck in their own hypothetical goo given that they do not define things* in the first place. So their own hypotheses consistently “overwhelm” them because verification and falsifiability are an illusion that is always just out of reach. I.e. if you aren’t willing to name your position and state it in conceptual thinking before verifying it with observations then your theoretical reasoning will never be falsified, yet it will also never be verified.

    *People like Myers could begin with using plain english in defined ways (let alone the language of mathematics) beginning with the term “evolution.” There’s always all this overwhelming evidence as far as “evolution.” Of course there is if you make the term into a pollution of language which can mean anything from a change in the color of moth’s wings to the “evolution” of stars and every change that has taken place in the Cosmos. I leave it to proponents of Darwinism to point out that biologists use the term one way and physicists another because they’re the very people that have blurred the term for the same reason that the “It’s just like gravity.” bit of propaganda exists. It’s easy to find examples of equivocation of this sort.

    Again, it is easy for those with the urge to merge to go throughout Nature looking at millions of organisms seeking any similarities while playing the part of the ancient Greek philosopher who similarly imagined that body parts once flew and rolled around in the past until bodies as we know them “emerged” from his imagined mergings. A degenerate epistemic standard is typical to those who believe that their imaginations about the past are the equivalent “scientific evidence” similar to the scientia of physicists, so any similar body part found virtually anywhere among millions of organisms seems to overwhelm many biologists. It is more difficult to model natural selection through intelligent selection in order to create new body plans, life forms, etc. The notion that there is some limit to organism’s capacity to adapt which makes empirical verification of the “origins of species” impossible (how convenient!) is ignorant because organisms have been observed to change quickly and leads to the mists of mysticism surrounding issues that are supposedy scientific and “just like gravity.” Reasoning based on ignorance and degenerate epistemic standards let modern mystics hide in the mists of time simply by murmuring about millions of years whenever their pet theory seems to be in peril.

  67. #67 Andrew Gainey
    November 21, 2006

    I have an additional rebuttal to Luskin’s part 3 that I didn’t yet see mentioned in your post or in the comments. Luskin said:

    Zimmer thus presents a straw-man argument against intelligent design, based upon his view that a designer must design things to withstand a certain type of malicious physical attack.

    This in itself seems to be a straw-man (no surprise there). I think we can all agree that if the intelligent designer hypothesis were true, then it is still within the realm of possibility that the designer made some flaws (depending obviously on who we pick as the designer). However, there is no prediction of which flaws will be made, or why. Evolution, on the other hand, can often very easily provide explanations for why a certain flaw might be common, but other flaws aren’t. The evolution of the eye can explain how a certain decision in the arrangement of the eye might be trivial early on; one choice is as good as the other. But later it might turn out that one choice was to be a hinderance later on, perhaps even a choice that was obviously better in the early stages.

    So Luskin characterized your criticism as though ID should require a perfect designer, whereas I understood your criticism to mean that ID doesn’t provide any predictions or explanations of imperfection, whereas evolution does. So it’s once again the case that the ID hypothesis is not scientific, because it “fits” anything, including both a perfect and non-perfect eye, but it’s method of fitting is purely arbitrary.

    You did refer multiple times to the numerous details that evolution provides, for example in reponse to the “common design” argument:

    Evolutionary biologists do not just identify ancestral genes involved in building structures such as eyes. They also identify how those genes duplicated and diverged in different lineages of animals, how other genes were co-opted later to build new kinds of eyes.

    But I thought I’d just explicitly point out that the work of discovering these details is also just as relevant as a counter to the “imperfect designer” argument.

  68. #68 cleek
    November 21, 2006

    It’s always amazed me how easily those with the urge to merge are taken in by frauds, charlatans of the PZ Myers sort or a little murmuring about how natural and scientific things are.

    i’m not exactly sure what Mr Myers has to do with a century-old fraud like Kammerer. but i suppose slandering Myers is easier than defending your own citations.

    away with you, fraud.

  69. #69 Josh
    November 21, 2006

    Ironically, the main argument of charlatans these days is: “It’s just like science or somethin’, trust me.”

    Yes, that is the main arguement presented by proponents of ID. I wouldn’t have called them charlatans myself; charlatans generally try to fool other people and it seems ID proponents are desperate to fool themselves (though they also seem desperate to reinforce their own belief). But you are certainly entitled to believe that ID attracts charlatans if you like.

    The theory of evolution is founded on 150 years of observation, experimentation, scrutiny, revision, and logic. The scientific process involved is a powerful tool to understanding our reality. If it were powered simply by imagination as you claim I doubt we would have seen the various technological advancements that are possible because of evolutionary understanding. Modern medicine, GM crops, and genetic algorithms used to design antenna relays for space probes are simply a handful of areas that have benifited. Surely if evolutionary understanding was based simply on make believe we would not have had the success with technologies based on this understanding that we do. Critisism of the theory is certainly understandable, all science should be subject to critisism to weed out incomplete or incorrect theories, but the derision you level against 150 years of brilliant minds does a great disservice to yourself.

    What viable alternitive do you propose? What alternitive idea has evidence backed by observation and logic, has been the successful foundation for modern applications? No offense, but if creationism is your response (under any name), I don’t plan to trust my health to any medicinal techniques developed from a 2000 year old book, written at a time when people thought there were only 4 elements, none of which appear on our current periodic table. Seriously, rather than argue about percieved flaws in evolution, spend your time developing a competing theory that can stand against the test of scientific scrutiny. So far NOT A SINGLE challenge from IDers has weathered any scrutiny. Specific examples given by argueably the leading minds of ID as irreducable complexity while under oath have been disproven, and that was the foundation of the idea.

    You may argue that that is impossible because scientists are predisposed to disregarding anything presented but that isn’t true. It will be incredibly hard to gain traction against a widely accepted theory and the overwhelming burden of proof will be on any upstart idea, as has always been the case, but if there is validity to the new idea it will eventually get traction. It took a long time for the idea that some elements only naturally existed in diatomic molecules to catch on – for the longest time water’s forumla was considered to be HO because of this, but it was eventually excepted. The problem is, rather that trying to bolster your own idea with observable evidence, with experimentation that follows the scientific method, your tactic is to try to belittle evolution with an incomplete understanding and wave your hands in the air claiming your idea must be right as a result. This is not going to prove an effective tactic, and is no more valid than me saying “Here are a bunch of problems with String Theory, so obviously that’s wrong and my idea that matter and energy are both the result of a giant cosmic brick of Valveta decomposing” (though to be fair, string theory has a whole lot more wrong with it than evolution, so my Valveta hypothesis might actually have a better chance catching on than ID in its current incarnation))

    IOW the bac flag could have designed to evolve!

    At that point why argue against evolution? If you admit it happens, regardless of the impetus that started the process, wouldn’t there be worth in understanding the evolutionary process? You can believe in a diety that started the whole creation process, laid the groundwork, set the natural rules, and at the same time investigate what those rules may be. I know plenty of people that are deaply religious and believe everything ultimately leads back to God, but still believe in the big bang, in evolution, in planet formation theory, etc.

  70. #70 vandalhooch
    November 21, 2006

    mynym:

    Here is the link. anole selection

    But after reading through the rest of your, shall we say, thoughts, I doubt you’ll understand it.

  71. #71 Ross
    November 21, 2006

    >We predicted that the introduction of a terrestrial predator would first select for longer-legged lizards, which are faster, but as the lizards shifted onto high twigs to avoid the predator, selection would reverse toward favoring the shorter-legged individuals better able to locomote there. Our experimental studies on 12 islets confirmed these predictions within a single generation.

    I think the anole selection precis is too terse and could be easily misread. The first prediction is that the short legged lizards would be selectively killed off by the predator because they couldnt run away fast enough. That would leave only long-legged lizards, who would be better able to run away from the predator. Individuals don’t evolve, species do, so the population of lizards would move from having, on average, short legs to having, on average, long legs. The next prediction is that the lizards would change their habits to avoid the predator, by moving off the ground to higher twigs. The final prediction is that in this new environment, there would then be selection pressure to favour the offsping of the longer legged lizards that had shorter legs, because long leggged lizards in twigs would be unable to move around as easily. So the population of lizards in the twigs would move from having, on average, long legs to a new generation having, on average, short legs. For this to be proved to happen in one generation there would need to have been several intermediate observations of lizard location and leg length to show the short-long-short progression of the population. However, we are not told this in the precis. There are contributors on this blog who will claim there was no evolution and all that happened was short legged lizards climbed up to the twigs. At least the anti-evolutionist, if he reads the precis, will have got closer to real science than his usual approach of reading and quoting from reviews of books about science.

  72. #72 anomalous4
    November 22, 2006

    Robert O’Brien says:

    Nt f tht blgst s PZ Mrs.

    idlemind says:

    Ah, I see that one of PZ’s trolls has escaped. Pay him no mind.

    Sorry, I just couldn’t resist disemvoweling the fool. Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, I can ignore him.

  73. #73 Robert O'Brien
    November 22, 2006

    Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, I can ignore him.

    That’s quaint, but the fact remains that Myers’ publication record is unremarkable. Clearly, not all evolutionary biologists publish more than DI fellows. (In fact, most would be hard-pressed to compete with Fritz Schaefer’s output.)

  74. #74 Torbjrn Larsson
    November 22, 2006

    JoeG:
    “Alleged homologs of the bac flag proteins do not help.”
    They are not alleged, you can check the data bases and the science behind yourself. And of course it helps, it is a confirmation of evolutionary predictions.

    mynym:
    “Ironically, the main argument of charlatans these days is: “It’s just like science or somethin’, trust me.””
    Just like ID, you mean.

    Again, if you think biologists are charlatans, in spite of remaining scientist community and your own government saying they are scientists, you have some rigid filters against accepting easy to check facts. There is no conspiracy.

    There is of course no meaning to debate anything else, before you realise that biologists are scientists in biology, like phycisists are scientists in physics. With such a blatant denial of reality, no one will believe anything you say anyway.

    Robert:
    PZ has published peer-reviewed papers on evolution. So has some DI fellows. But no one has published peer-reviewed papers on ID.

  75. #75 JosephK
    November 27, 2006

    It looks like the US ID crowd, having suffered defeats in the US, are trying their hand in the UK:

    http://education.guardian.co.uk/schools/story/0,,1957858,00.html

  76. #76 JimC
    December 1, 2006

    but the fact remains that Myers’ publication record is unremarkable.

    I’d put it about average and the point is? The simple fact is his average amount is far more than the entire ID effort.

    And he is just one ‘average’ biologist in terms of publication effort.

  77. #77 Joel
    December 2, 2006

    I think the pinto agrument is pretty absurd. Probably the poorest illustration to date.

    1. Does the pinto start, move, turn, accelerate, combust, exaust, air condition? Of course! Did it need a designer to do that? Yes Indeed.

    2. Does every thing that is designed necessarily work perfectly? (or SHOULD IT?). Of course not. Designed things are designed for a purpose. The pinto’s purpose obviously was not to be a crash dummy…. it was meant to drive without getting smashed into a million pieces.

    3. Did the car explode or a combustible element (i.e. non-car) material? The answer is obviously the gasoline. Why this would be at all relevant to intelligent design is beyond me.

    Secondly, your arguments are inherently limited by your unbending viewpoints in following ways.

    1. Here is your basic argument: Our science is better than their science because there are more of us writing more articles. Therefore our science is better. — not exactly a great logistical format if you get my drift.

    2. You say that, “[this] is, after all, an article about science, ie, the study of the natural world limited to natural explanations.” This not entirely accurate. your study is that of the natural world ASSUMING no non-natural exaplanations.

    3. Because there is no conclusive proof for evolution (i.e. show me one animal changing into another) all you can say is that “Design is always the answer, like a brick wall to curious minds.” That’s like saying your wrong because your stupid. Not exactly convincing.

  78. #78 Mike
    December 2, 2006

    Joel

    show me one animal changing into another

    What exactly would one animal changing into another look like? Are you expecting something with the front half of a dog and the back half of a camel? What would an animal changing from a fish to a tetrapod look like? A bit like a lobe-fin or a mudskipper (depending on where in the transition it is)?

    Animals in transition will still be complete animals. They will still be their own species.

  79. #79 Monado
    December 3, 2006

    Robert O’Brien, my step-daughter, who is still a grad student, has out-produced the discovery institute for peer-reviewed papers, with one paper to an astronomical society, one poster session to a conference on photosynthesis, and one paper on photosynthesis. I think that makes her one paper up.

  80. #80 Keith Robison
    December 4, 2006

    Pretty funny! We are told ID should be taught in biology class because it is science, but probing questions of ID are off-limits because they are theology!!! It is unusual to get a creationist to shed their sheeps clothing, but you have succeeded at it. Bravo!

  81. #81 truth machine
    December 5, 2006

    The debate is NOT about whether or not the bac flag “evolved”- the debate is about the MECHANISM(s) involved. IOW the bac flag could have designed to evolve!

    “could have [been] designed” is not a mechanism, moron.

  82. #82 Torbjrn Larsson
    December 5, 2006

    Joel:

    The Ford Pinto illustration was *Luskin’s*.

    Our science is better than their science because there are more of us writing more articles.

    No, because there are no ID peerreviewed articles at all. Peerreview is an important part of science. If ID can’t produce such biology papers, it isn’t science. And it could not.

    Another sign that ID isn’t science is because of insistence such as yours that non-natural explanations can be a part of science. But it simply doesn’t work, since it stops all explanations to say “goddidit”. We also see that natural explanations is enough. Like it or not, this is an integral part of the methods of science.

    show me one animal changing into another

    As noted this doesn’t make sense. But speciation is observed.

    I’m sure you have been tipped of about talk origins where you can find references to scientific evidence. Here is the entry into speciation: http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CB/CB910.html .

    The London Underground mosquito species seems particularly interesting because it would be fun to go and have a look with own eyes on a this brand new species.

  83. #83 JW Tan
    December 6, 2006

    “The London Underground mosquito species seems particularly interesting because it would be fun to go and have a look with own eyes on a this brand new species.”

    Ever since I read the talkorigins entry I’ve been keeping a lookout for the mosquito on my daily commute. No luck, even in summer. I’ve seen plenty of fleas though.

  84. #84 Lance
    December 12, 2006

    I’m not a scientist. I’m just an electrician. I was taught to believe evolution in school. Our teacher told us that at some point in the past the right mixture of ooze was oozing about and that lightning or something hit it and boom shanka- life! Then in the same class we studied cells and cell parts (just simple high school stuff) and it stuck me as amazing that from chaos such beautiful order and complexity could unfold . I tried to imagine carbon and protiens randomly floating around in water (the universal solvent?) then static electricity striking it and out from the chemicals emerges a bacteria or something. I passed the test and all, but I still could never really get the life from non-life through my un-scientifically trained mind. I don’t have a degree in biology, but can some one explain what happened? Another thing that has struck me as odd, is how do species actually become other species? Does a mouse give birth to another mouse with small unusable wings, then that mouse gives birth to a mouse with bigger unusable wings, and then that mouse gives birth to a bat? How long do un-useful parts stay with a creature until they become useful (or if they are not useful why do the parts not disappear?) From my outsider’s point of veiw, observing your arguments, how can one determine the truth? I’m just a simple electrician (from Kansas, for real- haha). Honestly, what are the current theories? I’m not trying to start an argument, or invite insults to my intelligence… I really am curious. I consider myself a truth seeker. I desire truth whether or not it fits my present paradim. I would be unscientific to admit the possibility that evidence could point me in a direction other than the one I desire or was taught.

  85. #85 Richard Simons
    December 12, 2006

    Lance,

    I’ll leave it to someone else to describe biogenesis to you, except to say that it would have been a long, gradual process between the first organic molecules (amino acids, nucleic acids, sugars, etc) floating around and the first bacteria.

    As for the bats: imagine tree-dwelling shrews (bats are descended from shrew-like insectivores rather than rodents). As they run around the trees they will occasionally fall. Being so small they are unlikely to splat on the ground but they could be injured, caught by a lurking predator or fall into a pool and drown. Any shrew that is able to use its limbs like a skydiver to direct where it’s going to fall would be at an advantage.

    From here, if webs of skin form between the fingers and toes and between the limbs and the body this will give the falling animal a softer landing and more control. It will also give it more control and distance when jumping from branch to branch, useful when escaping a predator or chasing dinner and other shrews (to defend territory and get mates). The development of flaps of skin is quite a common occurrence and is seen in marsupials, squirrels, frogs, lizards and other animals. It is quite likely that webbing between the fingers and toes results from a single mutation so could happen quickly. The final step, to develop flapping flight, seems more difficult as it has happened relatively rarely.

    An essential feature is that all intermediate steps confer an advantage, or at least are not a disadvantage. Evolution cannot get an organism over a ‘hump’. A good example of this is the human appendix, which causes problems but seems to have no use. The reason it hasn’t just got smaller and vanished is that people with smaller appendices are precisely those who are most likely to have problems (it is to do with the reduced blood supply) so there has been selection for people with a small, but not too small appendix.

    I hope this helps.

  86. #86 Robert O'Brien
    December 21, 2006

    Robert O’Brien, my step-daughter, who is still a grad student, has out-produced the discovery institute for peer-reviewed papers, with one paper to an astronomical society, one poster session to a conference on photosynthesis, and one paper on photosynthesis. I think that makes her one paper up.

    Monado:

    Fritz Schaefer has a couple of hundred publications to his credit and he is an ISI highly cited researcher. (I commend your stepdaughter for her productivity as a graduate student, though.)

  87. #87 nausikaa
    December 22, 2006

    Lance the electrician sounds okay. One point, Lance– the origin of life isn’t called evolution, it’s abiogenesis, which is still not well understood. Evolutionary theory is about how life changed and developed in the descendants of the original creatures, who were almost certainly single-celled and possibly didn’t even have DNA, but only RNA. If you want a simple, clear example of evolution, one of Darwin’s main arguments for natural selection, his theory of evolution, was that animals can be easily bred into different breeds by humans– so we have beagle dogs, great danes, etc., as I’m sure you know. Darwin realized that this is proof animals don’t breed true forever. We now know that genes can’t be copied perfectly 100 per cent of the time, but occasionally mutate. Over a long time–and there has been life on earth for over three billion years–you would naturally expect that different lineages of living creatures would end up being quite different. By the way, Darwin himself did not know that the earth was billions of years old, or even that genes existed. Despite what creationists will tell you, modern evolutionary theorists haven’t been concerned with saving Darwin’s ideas. They accept evolution because they see overwhelming evidence for it, and they still think natural selection is an important cause of evolutionary change– although not, as Darwin believed, the sole cause. But when Darwin turns out to be wrong (as in not realizing our inheritance from our ancestors comes in the form of thousands of separate genes) scientists throw out Darwin’s ideas just as cold-bloodedly as they throw out creationists ideas that they think are wrong. That’s why they get so irritated with the ID crowd– the IDers refuse to change their position in the face of conflicting evidence. Please remember, being intelligent doesn’t mean you’re always right. It means you’re always willing to learn.

  88. #88 Ed
    February 10, 2007

    “Fritz Schaefer has a couple of hundred publications to his credit and he is an ISI highly cited researcher.”
    Posted by: Robert O’Brien | December 21, 2006 04:38 PM

    These comparisons of numbers of publications have departed from the central point: there are no peer reviewed scientific publications from the Discovery Institute staff or any others giving evidence from original verifiable experimental or analytical research supporting ID. No original scientific research with reproducible methods, no peer reviewed publications, no verifiability, no science.

    Dr. Schaefer is at the University of Georgia, not the Discovery Institute in Seattle. Whatever kind of affiliation he may have with ISI, it is not as a professional scientist involved in ID research. The closest his area of expertise comes to evolutionary biology is physical organic chemistry. I could find no indication that he has published any peer reviewed scientific research on Intelligent Design in a recognized scientifc journal. There is nothing to cite. That his work in physical chemistry may be highly cited is irrelevant to ID.

    Dr. Schaefer’s scientific standing in physical chemistry lends no more support to the validity of Intelligent Design than my total lack of scientific standing in Physical Chemistry undermines evolutionary theory. At best, taking your word that he believes in ID, he is an established scientist in one field expressing beliefs about the validity of a central theory in another field in which he is not qualified, evolutionary biology.

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