Pharyngula

Wells lies. Again.

When I see Jonathan Wells’ name on anything, I know I’m in for some furious gnashing of the teeth because of the man’s infuriating tendency to blatantly lie with every sentence. That’s the case with his recent baseless criticisms of the peppered moth story; Mike Dunford takes care of him this time around.

Comments

  1. #1 Robin Levett
    August 31, 2007

    Wells lies. Again.

    In other news, the sun rose this morning and experts predict that it will set this evening.

  2. #2 Les Lane
    August 31, 2007

    When I see the name Jonathan Wells I expect Unification Church apologetics. What else could one expect?

  3. #3 Masrk
    August 31, 2007

    Yeah, and Majerus claims to have done all this research, getting up early and looking at trees for hours and looking for moths with his telescope, etc.

    I don’t believe it.

    With this story, I am not taking anything for granted.

  4. #4 Bronze Dog
    August 31, 2007

    Lately, I’ve been growing more and more convinced that there are mustache-twirling villains out there who do evil for evil’s sake. They’re usually defending crap like Wells via misrepresentation, flagrant lying, etcetera.

  5. #5 Ed Darrell
    August 31, 2007

    Hey, a few months ago somebody told me Wells has left the Unification Church. Wells never answers my e-mails. Anybody know anything about it?

  6. #6 Jim
    September 2, 2007

    When we want to know if unguided Darwinian mechanisms caused fish to evolve into men (by way of amphibians, reptiles, and some unknown mammal), we’re hardly enlightened by Majerus’s peppered moth research. Showing (as Majerus apparently did) that Darwinian mechanisms can cause minor adaptive changes in the coloration of moths doesn’t also show that those mechanisms can do the kind of major creative work needed to produce all of life’s diversity and complexity. Majerus’s work doesn’t, for example, show that Darwinian mechanisms brought peppered moths into existence in the first place. His claim that adaptive changes in the coloration of peppered moths “prove” Darwinian evolution can be persuasive only to those who – for philosophical reasons – are already committed to the “truth” of Darwinism. Skeptics are entitled to ask for more compelling evidence.

  7. #7 Steve_C
    September 2, 2007

    Skeptics are compelled to do better research.
    The moth is just one example.

    No crativity whatsoever is needed in evolution.

    Quit being lazy and peruse talkorigins.org for a good couple of days. Pick up a book by Gould. DO SOMETHING other than droing “I don’t see it.”

  8. #8 Stanton
    September 2, 2007

    Jim, do realize that Majerus works with moths, not hominid fossils.
    Do also realize that Majerus is using moth populations to demonstrate how various traits (peppered, more peppered and black colorings) spread through populations, not how humans are descended from fish.
    Do also realize that if you wish to be enlightened on human/mammalian evolution, please read books concerning human/mammalian paleontology.

  9. #9 Jim
    September 2, 2007

    Stanton: “Jim, do realize that Majerus…is using moth populations to demonstrate how various traits (peppered, more peppered and black colorings) spread through populations, not how humans are descended from fish.”

    Precisely. That’s why Majerus’s claim that his peppered moth research “proves” Darwinian evolution is utterly bogus.

  10. #10 windy
    September 2, 2007

    That’s why Majerus’s claim that his peppered moth research “proves” Darwinian evolution is utterly bogus.

    The spread of adaptive variants in a population *is* Darwinian evolution, dumbass.

  11. #11 Jin
    September 2, 2007

    In the cordial, respectful style so characteristic of Darwinism’s defenders, windy wrote: “The spread of adaptive variants in a population *is* Darwinian evolution, dumbass.”

    As you may recall, windy, Darwin called his masterpiece “The Origin of Species,” not “The Spread of Adaptive Variants in a Population.” Darwinism purports to explain much more than the spread of adaptive variants. For example, the theory contends that men evolved from fish and then purports to explain the causes of that presumed evolution. Majerus’s work with peppered moths offers no support for that macroevolutionary tale.

  12. #12 windy
    September 2, 2007

    Listen Jim, Jin or whatever your name is, ways to find the information you ask for were already suggested to you. Since you do not take friendly suggestions but continue to whine, I conclude that you might indeed be a dumbass.

    As you may recall, windy, Darwin called his masterpiece “The Origin of Species,” not “The Spread of Adaptive Variants in a Population.” Darwinism purports to explain much more than the spread of adaptive variants.

    Do you think it’s possible that a theory might concern both small events and large events? And when you start explaining something, you might want to look at the small stuff first?

    But maybe you are right, it’s quite a leap of faith. Sort of like saying that rolling metal balls on an inclined plane is a step to explaining how the planets move! Wouldn’t that be silly?

  13. #13 Stanton
    September 2, 2007

    Jim, you’re an idiot.
    Majerus is not dealing with tetrapod evolution anymore than baking a strawberry cheesecake deals with tossing a salad.
    If you weren’t so arrogantly moronic, you would realize that the reason why Evolutionary Biology says we humans, and all other tetrapods (frogs, dinosaurs, birds, snakes, rats, etc) are descended from fish is because of fossil fishes from the Devonian period that bear strong anatomical similarities to Devonian tetrapod fossils, and that these Devonian tetrapods, in turn, bear immensely powerful resemblances to the Carboniferous tetrapods that succeeded them.
    For you to crow about how Majerus’ peppered moth experiments do not show macroevolution and are not proof of humanity’s descent from ancient fish is as idiotic as saying that the deadliness of strychnine is proof that broccoli tastes bad.
    Do realize that the dark form, variant carbonaria, was first documented in England in the year 1848, and since then, people have recorded that variant’s spread across England and Wales, as well as its decline in recent decades, for over a century.
    Please get this through that thick little skull of yours: the documentation of the varieties of the peppered moth is classic evidence of MICROEVOLUTION, and has very very little to do with human evolution mostly because of the small, but infinitely important fact that the Peppered Moth, Biston betularia, and all of its relatives in the family Geometridae, happen to be in the Phylum Arthropoda, and not Phylum Chordata.
    For creationists to allege that the peppered moth experiments are false and are allegedly of no use to science is the height of hypocrisy, given as how many creationists allegedly allow for microevolution.
    The evidence of human evolution comes from fossils of extinct primates AND gene comparisons with other primates and mammals.

  14. #14 Jim
    September 3, 2007

    Stanton: “Jim, you’re an idiot.” And (with no trace of irony): “If you weren’t so arrogantly moronic…”

    I wonder what it is about Darwinism that causes its proponents – with few exceptions, in my experience – to arrogantly turn to namecalling, ridicule, and condescension in defending their beloved theory. Such argumentation is the refuge of those who have few (if any) good arguments (unless, of course, they’re simply insufferable asses who are incapable of respecting those who hold opinions different from theirs). It’s annoying that Darwinists resort to such childish argumentation with such regularity, but I don’t discourage it. If they want to advertise the bankruptcy of their position, who am I to stop them?

    In any event, I quite agree that Majerus’s research – to the extent that it proved anything – simply proved that Darwinian mechanisms are capable of producing microevolution (or minor adaptive changes). But his claim was that he had proved “evolution,” by which he obviously meant Darwin’s theory (in its modern form). My criticism was to the effect that proving the ability of Darwinian mechanisms to produce microevolution (which is accepted by virtually everyone, including creationists and ID theorists) does not prove the more grandiose macroevolutionary claims of Darwinists – such as the claim that Darwinian mechanisms caused men to evolve from fish. Thus Majerus’s claim was grossly overblown.

    It should also be noted that even if it’s true that the fossil record shows a clear evolutionary history leading from fish to men (a debatable point), the fossils (like gene comparisons) are entirely silent on the mechanism(s) of evolution. It may surprise you to learn that ID theorists don’t dispute that evolution (understood as biological change over time, or as common descent, or as descent with modification) has occurred. They instead take issue with the claim that Darwinian mechanisms (primarily random mutations and natural selection) suffice to account for ALL of life’s diversity and complexity.

    With regard to my stupidity, let the record show that I’m a summa cum laude graduate in civil engineering and a lapsed member of Mensa with an IQ to the north of 150. I’m widely read in both evolutionary theory and ID theory. I’ve found Darwinism to be a satisfactory explanation for microevolution, but an inadequate explanation for macroevolution (i.e., the emergence of biological novelty in the form of new organs, new organisms, new biological systems, etc.). There’s no chance that Darwinists will persuade me that I’m wrong by calling me stupid, although they do tell me a lot about the kind of persons they are.

  15. #15 Stanton
    September 3, 2007

    SO you’re a member of MENSA, big whoopdidoodle. That does not impress me at all, especially since you’ve trotted out that moronic argument of “there is no mechanism for macroevolution.” If you actually did read about Evolutionary Biology, you would have already known that macroevolution occurs through the accumulation of traits through microevolution. The reason why I called you an idiot is because you are wholly incapable of getting it through your head that Majerus was not talking about fish to people, but about how a trait spreads through populations of the peppered moth, Biston betularia.
    Furthermore, I personally think you’re lying through your teeth about being “well-read” about Darwinism, given as how biologists have not used the term “Darwinism” for almost a century since the last of Darwin’s contemporaries died from old age. In fact, the only people who use the term “Darwinism” are scientific historians in order to refer to Charles Darwin’s original ideas, and creationists like yourself who in order to suggest that the proponents of Evolutionary Biologists are cultists.

  16. #16 Stanton
    September 3, 2007

    Really, if there is no evidence for macroevolution as you insist, then how do you explain the appearance of the Honeysuckle Maggot fly, Rhagoletis mendax zephyria, the London Underground Mosquito, Culex molestans, or the Giant Evening Primrose, Oenothera gigas, species that have been documented as appearing within the last 300 years? How do you explain the hundreds upon hundreds of documented fossil lineages, including the brontotheres, from Eotitanops to Megalocerops, the Pontian Sea cockels from the Miocene, or even the lineage of Eusthenopteron to Panderichthys to Tiktaalik to Acanthostega to Ichthyostega?

  17. #17 Jim
    September 3, 2007

    Stanton: “SO you’re a member of MENSA, big whoopdidoodle. That does not impress me at all, especially since you’ve trotted out that moronic argument of ‘there is no mechanism for macroevolution.'”

    You’re dishonestly putting words into my mouth. I’ve neither claimed nor suggested that “there is no mechanism for macroevolution.” All I’ve said is that Majerus’s research with peppered moths fails to prove that Darwinian mechanisms suffice to produce macroevolution (which is clearly what he wanted people to believe), and that the fossils (like gene comparisons) are silent on the matter of mechanism. Your facility in creating a straw man out of what I’ve said does not entail that I’m a moron.

    Stanton: “If you actually did read about Evolutionary Biology, you would have already known that macroevolution occurs through the accumulation of traits through microevolution.”

    Well, yes. That’s how the theory goes. The only thing lacking is corroborating evidence. Majerus’s research with peppered moths doesn’t provide that evidence, as he grandiosely claimed. The evidentiary solidity of Darwinian evolutionary theory was aptly described by UMass biologist Lynn Margulis in this way: “Like a sugary snack that temporarily satisfies our appetite but deprives us of more nutritious foods, neo-Darwinism sates intellectual curiosity with abstractions bereft of actual details – whether metabolic, biochemical, ecological, or of natural history.” Echoing Margulis, James Shapiro (a molecular biologist at U. of Chicago and no fan of ID) candidly observed that “there are no detailed Darwinian accounts for the evolution of any biochemical or cellular systems, only a variety of wishful speculations. It is remarkable that Darwinism is accepted as a satisfactory explanation of such a vast subject – evolution – with so little rigorous examination of how its basic theses work in illuminating specific instances of biological adaptation or diversity.”
    Perhaps you’re willing to accept the validity of Darwinism on the basis of wishful speculations bereft of actual details, but I’m not.

    Stanton: “The reason why I called you an idiot is because you are wholly incapable of getting it through your head that Majerus was not talking about fish to people, but about how a trait spreads through populations of the peppered moth, Biston betularia.”

    Regardless of what I did or did not get through my head, it was gratuitously childish of you to call me an idiot and a moron. In any event, what you’ve failed to get through your head is that I never claimed that Majerus was talking about fish to people. I instead claimed that his research failed to do what he claimed it did; namely, provide PROOF of Darwinian evolution (which, among other things, claims that Darwinian mechanisms caused fish to evolve into men).

    Stanton: “…I personally think you’re lying through your teeth about being ‘well-read’ about Darwinism, given as how biologists have not used the term ‘Darwinism’ for almost a century since the last of Darwin’s contemporaries died from old age.”

    You should tell this to biologists such as Kenneth Miller or James Shapiro who routinely refer to modern evolutionary theory as “Darwinism.”

    Stanton: “How do you explain the hundreds upon hundreds of documented fossil lineages…?”

    I don’t need to explain what hasn’t actually been documented. As Henry Gee (chief science writer for Nature, and an evolutionist) aptly observed: “The intervals of time that separate fossils are so huge that we cannot say anything definite about their possible connection though ancestry and descent….To take a line of fossils and claim they represent a lineage is not a scientific hypothesis that can be tested, but an assertion that carries the same validity as a bedtime story…”

  18. #18 windy
    September 3, 2007

    …does not prove the more grandiose macroevolutionary claims of Darwinists – such as the claim that Darwinian mechanisms caused men to evolve from fish. Thus Majerus’s claim was grossly overblown.

    Nonsense. Obviously he meant it was a proof of evolution among countless others, not the proof of evolution. If you think Majerus offers moths as the only necessary proof of evolution, I agree with Stanton that you are not nearly as well-read in the subject as you think.

    They instead take issue with the claim that Darwinian mechanisms (primarily random mutations and natural selection) suffice to account for ALL of life’s diversity and complexity.

    So the answer is to make the system even more complex by assuming a designer? How do you propose to account for the designer’s existence?

    I’ve found Darwinism to be a satisfactory explanation for microevolution, but an inadequate explanation for macroevolution (i.e., the emergence of biological novelty in the form of new organs, new organisms, new biological systems, etc.)

    Do you think the emergence of humans from earlier apes required a designer? No new organs or biological systems there.

  19. #19 windy
    September 3, 2007

    …and that the fossils (like gene comparisons) are silent on the matter of mechanism.

    Wrong again, Jimbo! Measures of neutrality like Tajima’s D, number of silent mutations versus substitutions, retroviral inserts, pseudogenes, all speak on the mechanisms involved in genome evolution.

  20. #20 Jonathan Vos Post
    September 3, 2007

    Henry Gee (chief science writer for Nature, and an evolutionist) may have aptly observed: “The intervals of time that separate fossils are so huge that we cannot say anything definite about their possible connection though ancestry and descent….To take a line of fossils and claim they represent a lineage is not a scientific hypothesis that can be tested, but an assertion that carries the same validity as a bedtime story…”

    However, you have also failed to prove that you are the same species as either of your grandmothers, unless one of them conceived a child by you. That may be another kind of bedtime story… but not trivial”: how do you prove that we are the same species as a Cromagnon 5,000 years ago? That is, in terms of the species definition of ability to sexually reproduce without absolute barrier. We make a chain of inferences, and accept that we are the same species as our parents, grandparents, and so for n generations for some large value of n.

  21. #21 Jim
    September 3, 2007

    Windy: “Obviously (Majerus) meant (his peppered moth research) was A proof of evolution among countless others, not THE proof of evolution.”

    Majerus’s actual claim (and I quote) was this: “If the rise and fall of the peppered moth is one of the most visually impacting and easily understood examples of Darwinian evolution in action, it should be taught. It provides after all: THE Proof of Evolution.” (emphasis added)

    Windy: “How do you propose to account for the designer’s existence?”

    I don’t. Neither do ID theorists. ID theory is about the detection of actual (or intelligent) design in biological systems; there is no inferential trail from the detection of design to the identity of the designer.

  22. #22 windy
    September 3, 2007

    That was a figure of speech, Jim, not a claim that Majerus didn’t use the definite article. Did you also notice “ONE of the most visually impacting and easily understood examples of evolution in action?” But don’t take my word for it, email Majerus and ask him if he meant moths prove man-to-fish evolution.

    ID theory is about the detection of actual (or intelligent) design in biological systems;

    How’s that working out for them?

    there is no inferential trail from the detection of design to the identity of the designer.

    Why not?

  23. #23 Rey Fox
    September 3, 2007

    “They instead take issue with the claim that Darwinian mechanisms (primarily random mutations and natural selection) suffice to account for ALL of life’s diversity and complexity.”

    Yeah, it needs a sprinkling of pixie dust, that’s all.

    “there is no inferential trail from the detection of design to the identity of the designer. ”

    In other words, cop-out. Sitting on the sidelines of actual science and yelling, “I don’t seeee evolution! Goddidit!” You hold us to all sorts of arbitrary rigor, then don’t pony up a single mechanism or data point for the process of design and the mysterious designer. We are vastly unimpressed.

  24. #24 Stanton
    September 3, 2007

    Jim, if the only reasons why you dismiss macroevolution is the miscontruing of an entomologist’s figure of speech AND the infinitesimally idiotic creationist’s stalking horse of “there is no mechanism for macroevolution,” I stand firm in my calling you an idiot.
    In fact, I’m wondering whether or not MENSA’s standards have been deteriorating.
    You also didn’t respond to my examples of various species that appeared within the last 300 years, either.

  25. #25 Jim
    September 3, 2007

    Jim: “…there is no inferential trail from the detection of design to the identity of the designer.”
    Rey: “In other words, cop-out. Sitting on the sidelines of actual science and yelling, ‘I don’t seeee evolution! Goddidit!'”

    Apparently, Rey, you’ve never actually familiarized yourself with ID theory (although you seem to have absorbed the gross distortions of it made by the likes of PZ Myers). ID theory does not claim that evolution has not occurred, nor does it claim that “Goddidit!” ID theorists contend that the question “Was this biological system designed?” is a legitimate question for science to pursue. The purpose of ID theory is to develop the mathematical, logical, and scientific tools for detecting design in the biosphere. The data can lead only to design. Design obviously implicates a designer, but the biological data can’t tell us who or what the designer was. Theists can (and do) co-opt design theory and identify the designer with the God they worship, but such thinking occurs outside of ID theory, not within it. In ID theory, the designer is simply a theoretical entity, much like quarks, strings, and cold dark matter are theoretical entities in physics. ID, like much of physics, takes an approach to science known as constructive empiricism, in which entities are valued not for their ultimate reality but for their utility in promoting scientific research and insight. In my experience, most critics of ID follow Judge Jones (of Dover fame) in erroneously conflating the theistic implications of ID theory with its propositional contents and methodologies. That’s why they falsely describe ID as “creationism in disguise” or absurdly reduce it to “Goddidit!”

    Stanton: “Jim, if the only reasons why you dismiss macroevolution is the miscontruing of an entomologist’s figure of speech AND the infinitesimally idiotic creationist’s stalking horse of ‘there is no mechanism for macroevolution,’ I stand firm in my calling you an idiot.”

    Marjerus claimed that his research with peppered moths was THE proof of evolution. How do I misconstrue his meaning by taking him at his word? Also, since we don’t actually know that Darwinian mechanisms can produce macroevolutionary events, it’s hardly idiotic to ask for some solid evidence showing that they can. Majerus’s research failed to provide such evidence, which is why I’ve criticized his grossly overblown claim. In any event, a decent person doesn’t instantly take to calling a stranger an “idiot” simply because he disagrees with him. Didn’t your mother teach you any manners?

    Stanton: “You also didn’t respond to my examples of various species that appeared within the last 300 years, either.”

    I’ll let evolutionary biologist Lynn Margulis respond to your claim. In 2002 she wrote: “Speciation, whether in the remote Galapagos, in the laboratory cages of the drosophilosophers, or in the crowded sediments of the paleontologists, still has never been directly traced.”

    I’ll also let British bacteriologist Alan Linton respond with an excerpt from a review he did of Niles Eldredge’s “The Triumph of Evolution and the Failure of Creationism,” 2001:

    “Despite the conciliatory comments in the final chapter, the book’s title is essentially emotive and provocative. Since most theories, if proven to be false, are rejected by scientists, Eldredge claims that, after 150 years, science has failed to disprove the theory of evolution and, therefore, ‘evolution has triumphed.’ In other words, the theory of evolution rests on the failure of science to show that it is false. Nevertheless, he believes the theory can be scientifically tested.
    “But where is the experimental evidence? None exists in the literature claiming that one species has been shown to evolve into another. Bacteria, the simplest form of independent life, are ideal for this kind of study, with generation times of 20 to 30 minutes, and populations achieved after 18 hours. But throughout 150 years of the science of bacteriology, there is still no evidence that one species of bacteria has changed into another in spite of the fact that populations have been exposed to potent chemical and physical mutagens and that, uniquely, bacteria possess extrachromosomal, transmissible plasmids. Since there is no evidence for species changes between the simplest forms of unicellular life, it is not surprising that there is no evidence for evolution from prokaryotic to eukaryotic cells, let alone throughout the whole array of higher multicellular organisms.”

  26. #26 Stanton
    September 3, 2007

    Actually, my mother taught me to always assume that Creationists and IDiots are going to give me bullshit in place of facts, and that people who bullshit me are undeserving of any courtesy.
    I’ve also been taught to be extremely suspicious of the quotes Creationists and ID supporters whip out, as both are infamously notorious for quote-mining.
    And as such, your quote-mining does not convince me. Would it be at all possible if you can explain to me, in detail and in your own words, why I should disregard the extreme anatomical similarities and geological placement of brontothere fossils that suggest that the dog-sized Eotitanops is the ancestor of the elephant-sized Brontotherium? Certainly, such a request would not be beyond the capability of a MENSA-caliber intellect, right?
    Also, please explain why, if there is no traceable mechanism for macroevolution, scientists have been able to recreate the Honeysuckle Maggot Fly in the laboratory by breeding its parent species, the Snowberry and Blueberry Maggot Flies, as well as the Western Sunflower, Helianthus anomalus by breeding its parent species H. annuus and H. petiolaris? Why, then, are we able to deduce that the London Underground Mosquito, Culex molestans is descended from the European Mosquito, Culex pipiens?
    Why was it that Hugo De Vries was able to observe the sudden appearance of the Giant Evening Primrose Oenothera gigas in a patch of Lamarck’s Evening Primroses, O. lamarckiana, one spring, and why were we able to determine that O. gigas‘ genome was doubled that of O. lamarckiana?
    If there is no traceable mechanism for macroevolution, then why have we been able to determine that bread wheat is a polyploid hybrid of at least 6 different wild wheats? Why are we able to determine that domesticated strawberries are octoploid mutants of wild European strawberries?
    Furthermore, how do you explain the existence of ring species complexes? According to your logic, do the California Ensatina salamanders don’t exist?
    I’ve also noticed that you’ve never proposed how macroevolution can not occur. Do realize that biologists state that macroevolution occurs through the accumulation of multiple traits in individuals of a population with each passing generation until the current population X is different enough from the original parent population E that the two populations are considered two distinct species. Creationists have long alleged that this can not occur because there is a barrier that prevents this from happening. However, creationists have never ever elucidated what this barrier is, thus enabling them to dismiss whatever contrary evidence is brought before them, just like what you’re doing now.
    There has been one time when creationists tried to define a mechanism, that would be Intelligent Design. However, it’s been shot full with so many holes that it makes a rotting fishnet look solid by comparison. Every single example of “intelligently designed systems” that Michael Behe used have been so thoroughly debunked that they’ve been demolished. Go google “Cilia Evolution,” or “Immunoglobin Evolution” and see what turns up.
    Do realize that Intelligent Design Theory is not a scientific theory and that its proponents are routinely derided by actual scientists because Intelligent Design proponents A) do not do science, B) have absolutely no interest or motivation in explaining absolutely anything with or about the mechanisms of Intelligent Design, C) do not do science, D) have an agenda that literally calls for the destruction of this country’s educational system, and most importantly, E) do not do science.

    That, and you still have not demonstrated or explained the logic of how an entomologist’s hyperbole can be used to falsify the literal hundreds of libraries’ worth of tetrapod fossils.

  27. #27 Graculus
    September 3, 2007

    The data can lead only to design.

    When you bring some we’ll stop laughing.

  28. #28 Jim
    September 3, 2007

    Stanton: “Actually, my mother taught me to always assume that Creationists and IDiots are going to give me bullshit in place of facts, and that people who bullshit me are undeserving of any courtesy.”

    Well, if you say your mother taught you to behave like an ass, I won’t dispute it. The evidence seems to confirm it.

    Stanton: “Would it be at all possible if you can explain to me, in detail and in your own words, why I should disregard the extreme anatomical similarities and geological placement of brontothere fossils that suggest that the dog-sized Eotitanops is the ancestor of the elephant-sized Brontotherium?”

    I should think you could figure it out for yourself. Anatomical similarities suggest ancestor/descendant relationships, but they don’t confirm them. They certainly don’t confirm that the presumed evolution was caused by Darwinian mechanisms (principally, random mutations and natural selection).

    Stanton: “please explain why, if there is no traceable mechanism for macroevolution, scientists have been able to recreate the Honeysuckle Maggot Fly in the laboratory by breeding its parent species, the Snowberry and Blueberry Maggot Flies, as well as the Western Sunflower, Helianthus anomalus by breeding its parent species H. annuus and H. petiolaris? Why, then, are we able to deduce that the London Underground Mosquito, Culex molestans is descended from the European Mosquito, Culex pipiens?”

    The ability of Darwinian mechanisms to produce new flies from old flies and new mosquitos from old mosquitos is not in dispute. Evolution of that kind might satisfy the arbitrary definition of speciation as the development of
    reproductive isolation, but observing it hardly confirms that Darwinian mechanisms caused men to evolve from fish. Neither does it confirm that the mechanisms causing Culex molestans to evolve from Culex pipiens have the ability to cause Culex whatever to evolve into, say, hummingbirds (by way of however many intermediate, transitional forms might be required).

    Stanton: “Every single example of ‘intelligently designed systems’ that Michael Behe used have been so thoroughly debunked that they’ve been demolished.”

    Behe’s concept of irreducible complexity has been disputed by Darwinists, but it doesn’t follow that his concept has been “thoroughly debunked.” Kenneth Miller, for example, claims that he’s debunked Behe, but he does it by changing the meaning of irreducible complexity. He does a nice job of debunking the straw man he made of Behe’s concept, but no sensible person should be persuaded by such intellectual sleight-of-hand. I’ve read a number of exchanges between Behe and his critics, and I think Behe gets the better end of those exchanges.

    Stanton: “Do realize that Intelligent Design Theory is not a scientific theory and that its proponents are routinely derided by actual scientists because Intelligent Design proponents A) do not do science, B) have absolutely no interest or motivation in explaining absolutely anything with or about the mechanisms of Intelligent Design, C) do not do science, D) have an agenda that literally calls for the destruction of this country’s educational system, and most importantly, E) do not do science.”

    Yep. I’ve heard all of that many times. But having read some two dozen books and numerous essays by design theorists, I know that it’s mostly hyperbolic, paranoid nonsense.

    Stanton: “That, and you still have not demonstrated or explained the logic of how an entomologist’s hyperbole can be used to falsify the literal hundreds of libraries’ worth of tetrapod fossils.”

    Majerus claimed that he had proven evolution, meaning that his peppered moth research proved that Darwinian mechanisms account for all of life’s diversity and complexity. I’ve neither claimed nor suggested that his hyperbolic claim falsifies the tetrapod fossils (whatever that means). The fossil record, whose most prominent features are (as noted by Stephen Jay Gould) stasis (meaning that species show no directional change during their tenure on earth) and sudden appearance (meaning that species appear in the fossil record all at once and fully formed, with no evidence of gradual transformation from precursor species)
    argues against the Darwinian tale of macroevolution proceeding by way of the gradual accumulation of a lot of microevolution more readily than it argues for it.

  29. #29 Jim
    September 3, 2007

    Jim: “The data can lead only to design.”
    Graculus: “When you bring some we’ll stop laughing.”

    Sorry, but I’m not going to do your homework for you. If you want to criticize ID without bothering to learn anything about it (aside from the gross distortions of ID peddled by the likes of PZ Myers), that’s your business.

  30. #30 Stanton
    September 3, 2007

    So, it is beyond your MENSA-caliber intellect to explain why you insist that brontothere fossils do not suggest that Eotitanops evolved into Brontotherium.
    Then again, it is painfully obvious that you know crap about biology or paleontology. If “Darwinian Mechanisms” can not account for the diversity of life, then what does?
    Do you honestly expect us to abandon a theory without replacing it with a superior theory simply because you, yourself, are incapable of wrapping your brain around it?
    Can you show us examples of Intelligent Design Theory in action? The Discovery Institute has not.

  31. #31 Stanton
    September 3, 2007

    Sorry, but I’m not going to do your homework for you. If you want to criticize ID without bothering to learn anything about it (aside from the gross distortions of ID peddled by the likes of PZ Myers), that’s your business.

    In other words, you are wholly incapable of supporting your own arguments beyond semantics and quote-mining.

  32. #32 Graculus
    September 3, 2007

    Sorry, but I’m not going to do your homework for you. If you want to criticize ID without bothering to learn anything about it (aside from the gross distortions of ID peddled by the likes of PZ Myers), that’s your business.

    Projecting like a Cineplex.

    You have to ante up before you can play the game.

    Here’s the ante.

    -Define “irreducible complexity” in objective terms.
    -Produce a metric that can measure it.

    After that, we can play.

  33. #33 Rey Fox
    September 3, 2007

    “The data can lead only to design.”

    So if we’ve apparently already reached the conclusion, then why would we even bother to “develop the mathematical, logical, and scientific tools for detecting design in the biosphere”? Cart before the horse. At least, unless we see some positive data for design, rather than the usual potshots at evolution.

    “In ID theory, the designer is simply a theoretical entity, much like quarks, strings, and cold dark matter are theoretical entities in physics.”

    Except that quarks, strings, and dark matter all have properties that have been observed and defined. The Designer, meanwhile, is just this completely undefined thing that apparently isn’t allowed to be studied and can do anything that we find confusing, but we’re not necessarily saying it’s God, oh no, we pinky-swear on that!

    In real science, were we to find indisputable evidence of design, the next question would have to be who or what the designer is. And then how he/she/it designs. It’s still a cop-out to say any different.

    Oh, and please stop calling it “ID theory”. It’s not even close to being theory.

    “ID, like much of physics, takes an approach to science known as constructive empiricism, in which entities are valued not for their ultimate reality but for their utility in promoting scientific research and insight.”

    What insights could design possibly bring us? Especially when the Designer seems to be out-of-bounds for study? How would we scientifically determine when and how and why the Magic Man flips the switch in a tuberculosis bacterium to make it resistant to antibiotics?

    “ID theorists contend that the question “Was this biological system designed?” is a legitimate question for science to pursue.”

    You mean before or after they try to railroad it into public high schools? And with the help of the religious lobby that you try to disavow any relationship with?

    “Evolution of that kind might satisfy the arbitrary definition of speciation as the development of
    reproductive isolation, but observing it hardly confirms that Darwinian mechanisms caused men to evolve from fish. ”

    Evolutionary change takes place on geologic time scales. The onus is still on you to tell us where the boundary is, beyond which an organism’s genome cannot change.

    And by the way, I thought you said you were leaving this blog after successfully proving what a bunch of meanie-heads we are. What brought you back to witness again?

  34. #34 Stanton
    September 4, 2007

    Anyone else notice how Jim, with his MENSA-caliber intellect, has not bothered to demonstrate any scientific experiments done to further the study of Intelligent Design?
    Then again, it may be far too much to ask of him, given as how the Discovery Institute has been wholly incapable of doing so, either, and that Jim is incapable of explaining why brontothere fossils do not suggest Eotitanops evolving into Brontotherium despite extreme anatomical similarities between the two genera, and between all of the rest of the genera in that family.

  35. #35 windy
    September 4, 2007

    I’ll let evolutionary biologist Lynn Margulis respond to your claim. In 2002 she wrote: “Speciation, whether in the remote Galapagos, in the laboratory cages of the drosophilosophers, or in the crowded sediments of the paleontologists, still has never been directly traced.”

    and

    The ability of Darwinian mechanisms to produce new flies from old flies and new mosquitos from old mosquitos is not in dispute.

    Contradict yourself much? First, Margulis is wrong and speciation has been observed. Now if you admit that speciation within the same “kind” is possible, stop quoting people that say it hasn’t been observed and move on:

    Evolution of that kind might satisfy the arbitrary definition of speciation as the development of
    reproductive isolation, but observing it hardly confirms that Darwinian mechanisms caused men to evolve from fish.

    Since there are no new major organs or biological systems found in man that are not found in living or fossil fish, intelligent design “theory” should be silent on whether men evolved from fish, so why do you keep bringing it up?

    Majerus claimed that he had proven evolution, meaning that his peppered moth research proved that Darwinian mechanisms account for all of life’s diversity and complexity.

    You are still the only one making this dumbass strawman inference.

  36. #36 Jim
    September 4, 2007

    Graculus: “Define ‘irreducible complexity’ in objective terms.”

    Since biochemist Michael Behe developed the concept, I’ll let him define it: “By irreducible complexity I mean a single system composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning.”

    Graculus: “Produce a metric that can measure it.”

    OK. The irreducible complexity of a biological system can be assessed by performing knock-out experiments. For example, Scott Minnich (a Univ. of Idaho microbiologist whose research is centered on the genetics of flagellar biosynthesis, on type III protein secretion in Gram-negative pathogens, and on novel strategies for vaccine production) performed knock-out experiments that demonstrated the irreducible complexity of the bacterial flagellum.

    Stanton: “So, it is beyond your MENSA-caliber intellect to explain why you insist that brontothere fossils do not suggest that Eotitanops evolved into Brontotherium.”

    Apparently you failed to notice that I’ve already agreed that the fossils can suggest ancestor/descendant relationships. But the fossils don’t confirm those relationships. Indeed, the relationships are largely “established” by assuming the truth of Darwinian evolution, yet that’s the very thing that needs to be validated. Zoologist Gareth Nelson (American Museum of Natural History) candidly described the identification of “ancestors” in this way: “We’ve got to have some ancestors. We’ll pick those. Why? Because we know they have to be there and these are the best candidates. That’s by and large the way it has worked. I am not exaggerating.”
    Obviously, labeling ancestors simply because Darwinian theory needs ancestors does nothing to confirm the theory. Such circularity in reasoning can’t confirm anything.

    Stanton: “If ‘Darwinian Mechanisms’ can not account for the diversity of life, then what does?”

    That’s an open question. I don’t have the answer, but then, neither does anyone else. Unlike Darwinists, however, I don’t dogmatically insist that Darwinism has solved life’s mysteries, case closed. Call me naive, but I still cling to the idea that science is (or at least, it ought to be) a self-correcting epistemic enterprise. As forums like this one demonstrate beyond dispute, the last thing the proponents of Darwinism want is any corrective influences exerted by alternative theories, such as ID theory. The dogmatic condition of mainstream evolutionary biology is a sorry spectacle, but blogs like Pharyngula – which put that dogmatism on display – give me hope that the situation will change. Dogmatism exposed may lead to dogmatism defeated. That’s an outcome that anyone who values the integrity of science out to desire.

    Rey: “In real science, were we to find indisputable evidence of design, the next question would have to be who or what the designer is.”

    It may surprise you to learn that ID theorists agree with you on this point (so do I). They don’t, however, think that science, relying on biological data, can provide the answer. They regard the question as one that belongs to philosophers and theologians. (By the way, “Who was the designer?” may not be “the next question.” Another question that quickly follows the detection of design is “How was this design actualized?” That may be a question that ID tackles in the future, but for now it’s focused on showing in a scientifically rigorous way that the apparent design of many biological systems is not merely apparent, rather it’s actual.)

    Rey: “So if we’ve apparently already reached the conclusion, then why would we even bother to ‘develop the mathematical, logical, and scientific tools for detecting design in the biosphere? Cart before the horse. At least, unless we see some positive data for design, rather than the usual potshots at evolution.”

    If you’d like to acquaint yourself with the mathematical, logical, and evidentiary bases for detecting design, I suggest that you read design theorist Wm. Dembski’s “No Free Lunch: Why Specified Complexity Cannot Be Purchased without Intelligence.” Alternatively, you could rely on the persistent misrepresentations of ID peddled by the likes of PZ Myers and never understand ID.

    Rey: “Evolutionary change takes place on geologic time scales. The onus is still on you to tell us where the boundary is, beyond which an organism’s genome cannot change.”

    If your interest in this is sincere, I suggest that you read Michael Behe’s latest book, “The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism.”

    Windy: “First, Margulis is wrong and speciation has been observed.”

    Actually, except for speciation among some flowering plants produced by polyploidy (which is not what Darwinian theory needs), she’s right. The alleged instances of “observed” speciation (such as those mentioned by Stanton) are actually analyses of already existing (or newly discovered) species used to defend the Darwinian hypothesis of how speciation occurs. For example, no one has actually observed speciation occurring among Darwin’s finches, but there’s an inferential trail suggesting that they evolved from an original ancestor from the mainland of Africa. Nonetheless, it ought to be clear that analyzing existing species to test a hypothesis is a far cry from actually observing speciation.

    Jim: “Majerus claimed that he had proven evolution, meaning that his peppered moth research proved that Darwinian mechanisms account for all of life’s diversity and complexity.”
    Windy (with typical cordiality): “You are still the only one making this dumbass strawman inference.”

    If Majerus meant that his research confirmed the ability of Darwinian mechanisms to produce microevolution (or minor adaptive changes), he should have said so. Instead, he said that his research provided THE proof of EVOLUTION. Anyone with even a nodding acquaintance with the subject knows that when the word “evolution” is used in that way, it’s intended to mean Darwinian evolutionary theory, which purports to provide the complete explanation for life’s diversity and complexity.

  37. #37 Jim
    September 4, 2007

    Correction: In my last posting I wrote: “That’s an outcome that anyone who values the integrity of science out to desire.” Obviously, “out” should have read “ought.” My marginally competent proofreader (that would be me) failed to catch the typo.

  38. #38 windy
    September 4, 2007

    Nonetheless, it ought to be clear that analyzing existing species to test a hypothesis is a far cry from actually observing speciation.

    Nonetheless, it ought to be clear that analyzing existing species to test a “hypothesis” is a far cry from actually observing intelligent design.

    Why is it all right for ID to rely on inferences when it demands that science doesn’t?

    Let me also ask again:

    Since there are no new major organs or biological systems found in man that are not found in living or fossil fish, shouldn’t intelligent design “theory” be silent on whether men evolved from fish? Or how does ID explain fish-to-man evolution?

  39. #39 windy
    September 4, 2007

    …the last thing the proponents of Darwinism want is any corrective influences exerted by alternative theories, such as ID theory.

    try

    -endosymbiosis theory

    -neutral theory

    -punctuated equilibrium

  40. #40 Stanton
    September 4, 2007

    Jim, with his MENSA caliber intellect, fails to note that the experiments with knock-out Gram-negative bacteria actually produced fully motile bacteria that had only half of their flagellar protein genes functioning.
    According to Behe’s hypothesis, if there was so much as one flagellar protein gene non-functioning, the bacteria would be completely non-motile.
    This goes back to my observation that all of Behe’s examples have been shot full of holes.

  41. #41 Stanton
    September 4, 2007

    Oh, and if “Darwinism” is so hidebound and dogmatic as you allege, Jim, then how does Intelligent Design explain the anatomical similarities seen amongst brontotheres that suggest a progression from Eotitanops to Brontotherium?
    And if Evolutionary Theory is so incompetent as you allege, then why is it that the Bio-tech industry still subscribes to it and is still taught in universities, and why is it that no Intelligent Design proponent has been able to perform a single, verifiable experiment with Intelligent Design Theory?

  42. #42 Jim
    September 4, 2007

    Windy: “Why is it all right for ID to rely on inferences when it demands that science doesn’t?”

    If you were actually familiar with the positions taken by ID theorists, you’d know that they don’t “demand” that science shun inferences. Indeed, they contend that in a historical science like evolutionary biology, inferences to the best explanations are all that science can deliver.

    Windy: “Since there are no new major organs or biological systems found in man that are not found in living or fossil fish, shouldn’t intelligent design ‘theory’ be silent on whether men evolved from fish?”

    ID theory is silent on that question. Since the theory (unlike Darwinism) doesn’t need the hypothesis that men evolved from fish, it has nothing to say about it.

    Windy: “Or how does ID explain fish-to-man evolution?”

    ID makes no attempt to offer that explanation. Its focus is entirely on the question of whether certain biological systems, structures, processes, etc. can be attributed in a scientifically rigorous way to design. If all you know about ID is what you’ve learned from the likes of PZ Myers or Barbara Forest or Judge Jones, then you likely don’t know that ID theory is quite compatible with Darwin’s idea of descent with modification. ID theorists take issue with the notion that Darwinian mechanisms suffice to explain all of life’s diversity and complexity; they don’t dispute that biological change (or evolution) has occurred.

  43. #43 windy
    September 4, 2007

    ID theory is silent on that question. Since the theory (unlike Darwinism) doesn’t need the hypothesis that men evolved from fish, it has nothing to say about it.

    Aha. First of all, what gives you the impression Darwinism requires men came from fish? That’s like saying that gravitational theory requires that Earth has a moon. Men “could” have come from jellyfish or arthropods except that does not fit with the evidence we have. Yours is a very ass-backwards way of thinking about science.

    ID makes no attempt to offer that explanation.

    Why have you been ragging on the “men from fish” example, then? Since ID allows for common descent and Darwinian mechanisms in most cases, it seems that the best guess ID theorists can offer is that MEN EVOLVED FROM FISH-LIKE CREATURES BY DARWINIAN MECHANISMS? Or do you deny the common descent of men and fish?

  44. #44 Jim
    September 4, 2007

    Stanton: “Jim…fails to note that the experiments with knock-out Gram-negative bacteria actually produced fully motile bacteria that had only half of their flagellar protein genes functioning.”

    I googled that and failed to come up with the experiments you cited. Do you have a reference for them?

    Stanton: “According to Behe’s hypothesis, if there was so much as one flagellar protein gene non-functioning, the bacteria would be completely non-motile.”

    Which is precisely what microbiologist Scott Minnich’s knock-out experiments with bacterial flagella demonstrated (see his testimony at the Dover trial).

  45. #45 Graculus
    September 4, 2007

    OK, we have a definition, now we can deal the cards.

    a single system composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning.

    That describes “irreducible” but doesn’t describe “complexity” at all. A pile of rocks is irreducibly “complex” by this definition.

    OK. The irreducible complexity of a biological system can be assessed by performing knock-out experiments.”

    So there isn’t a measure, it’s yes/no? OK.

    But let’s roll with these.

    “Interlocking complexity” is what biologists were calling this in 1918 and it was a predicted feature of evolution.

    What *objective* measure does Behe use to to differentiate between a system of “interlocking complexity” that has arisen through evolutionaty proceses and one that is the work of a designer?

    I’ve already agreed that the fossils can suggest ancestor/descendant relationships.

    First of all, the “ancestor” thing is a strawman. Most species are labelled “ancestral” not as individual species but as a clade. “This or something very like it”. Quoting a biologist that agrees with biologists on this as some kind of refutation may fool people unfamiliar with evolutionary science, but you might want to take a look around at your surroundings.

    Secondly, are you claiming that species don’t have ancestors? That each one was created ex nihilo at all different times? I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you are going to clarify what you were trying to say.

    Thirdly, we have the fossils, and they do suggest ancestor/descendent relationships. So does the molecular and genetic data, so does the geological data, etc, etc. Predictions made by the ToE are confirmed again and again and again.

    What predictions does Behe make that are not exactly the same as predictions made without his assumption of design?

    How have they been tested?

  46. #46 Jim
    September 4, 2007

    Jim: “…the last thing the proponents of Darwinism want is any corrective influences exerted by alternative theories, such as ID theory.”
    Windy: “try
    -endosymbiosis theory
    -neutral theory
    -punctuated equilibrium”

    OK. I overstated my case. Proponents of Darwinism will tolerate the corrective influence of some theories, just so long as those theories don’t challenge the underlying assumption that unintelligent material causes fully account for life’s origin and development.

    Windy: “Why have you been ragging on the ‘men from fish’ example, then?”

    If you’d been paying attention, you could answer this question for yourself. I introduced the “men from fish” hypothesis in my very first posting on this thread because it exposes Majerus’s unwarranted claim that his peppered moth research provides THE proof of EVOLUTION, by which he obviously meant Darwinian theory, which (among other things) contends that Darwinian mechanisms caused men to evolve from fish. As I said at the outset, if we want to know if unguided Darwinian mechanisms caused men to evolve from fish, we’re not enlightened by Majerus’s peppered moth research.

    Stanton: “…why is it that no Intelligent Design proponent has been able to perform a single, verifiable experiment with Intelligent Design Theory?”

    Without conceding the merits of the assertion in your question, let me turn the question around: What verifiable experiments have Darwinists conducted to confirm their macroevolutionary claims? For example, what repeatable, verifiable experiments have they conducted that demonstrate that Darwinian mechanisms caused men to evolve from fish?

    Stanton: “why is it that the Bio-tech industry still subscribes to (Evolutionary Theory)?”

    Beats me. It’s of no use to them. As Harvard biologist Marc Kirschner said in an interview with the Boston Globe: “Over the last 100 years, almost all of biology has proceeded independent of evolution, except evolutionary biology itself.” Kirschner laments the general uselessness of Darwinism to biological research, but he doesn’t deny it. As he further stated: “Molecular biology, biochemistry, physiology, have not taken evolution into account at all.”
    Chemist Philip Skell (member, National Academy of Sciences) wrote in The Scientist that his “own research with antibiotics during WWII received no guidance from insights provided by Darwinian evolution.” In his essay, he also wrote that he had “recently asked more than 70 eminent researchers if they would have done their work differently if they had thought that Darwin’s theory was wrong. The responses were all the same: NO.” With respect to a review he had made of the major biological discoveries of the 20th century, he concluded: “I found that Darwin’s theory had provided no discernible guidance, but was brought in, after the breakthroughs, as an interesting narrative gloss.”

  47. #47 Rey Fox
    September 4, 2007

    “They don’t, however, think that science, relying on biological data, can provide the answer. They regard the question as one that belongs to philosophers and theologians. ”

    Another cop-out. If the designer interacts with the material world in an observable way, then the designer is part of the material world and is therefore subject to scientific study.

  48. #48 Jim
    September 4, 2007

    Graculus: “A pile of rocks is irreducibly ‘complex’ by this definition.”

    No, it’s not. A pile of rocks may be complex (depending on the number of rocks), but what function does it perform? And if any one of those rocks is removed, would the pile of rocks cease to perform that function?

    Graculus: “What *objective* measure does Behe use to to differentiate between a system of ‘interlocking complexity’ that has arisen through evolutionaty proceses and one that is the work of a designer?”

    I imagine he’d say that “interlocking complexity” and “irreducible complexity” are not the same thing. He’d likely also say that no one actually knows that “interlocking complexity” arose through unguided evolutionary processes. But if you really want to know what he would say, why don’t you read his books? I can’t begin to do justice to his arguments in short postings to a talk forum. The recurrent request of ID foes that I educate them on ID is one of the things that frustrates me about “debates” like this one. Quite typically, I’m the only one in the debate who has actually read the works of ID theorists. While all participants in the debate have likely received an education (or an indoctrination) in Darwinian theory, and while many of them (like me) may have independently studied Darwinian theory, few of them have bothered to study ID theory as elucidated by ID theorists. That’s why I say I’m not going to do your homework for you. I can’t type fast enough to fill in any gaps in your knowledge of ID.

    Graculus: “…are you claiming that species don’t have ancestors?”

    No, but I am arguing that the identification of ancestor/descendant relationships is so plagued by inconsistencies, contradictions, and missing links that claims about such relationships can’t be taken as unassailable statements of reality.

    Graculus: “That each one was created ex nihilo at all different times?”

    Ex nihilo creation is a position taken by creationist, not ID theorists (it really would be helpful if you’d actually learn something about ID). At its core, ID theory is about the arrangement of already-existing matter in biological systems and about what kind of causes (intelligent or unintelligent) suffice to generate the complex specified information that shapes matter into biological systems.

    Graculus: “What predictions does Behe make that are not exactly the same as predictions made without his assumption of design?”

    Like all design theorists, Behe doesn’t assume design. His argument (like theirs) is that analysis of biological systems often leads to design as the best explanation of those systems. If you want to understand how they arrive at design inferences, read their books.

  49. #49 Jim
    September 4, 2007

    Rey: “If the designer interacts with the material world in an observable way, then the designer is part of the material world and is therefore subject to scientific study.”

    True enough, but ID theory doesn’t contend that “the designer interacts with the material world in an observable way.” The theory instead argues that if a designing intelligence has acted in life’s history, then the effects (or designs) produced by that designing intelligence are amenable to scientific investigation. Biological data, ID theorists argue, often lead to design inferences, but the data don’t reveal the identity of the designer. Because so many ID critics erroneously conflate it with creationism, they tend to think of it as intelligent designER theory, when in fact, it’s simply intelligent design theory.

  50. #50 Jim
    September 4, 2007

    Rey: “If the designer interacts with the material world in an observable way, then the designer is part of the material world and is therefore subject to scientific study.”

    True enough, but ID theory doesn’t contend that “the designer interacts with the material world in an observable way.” The theory instead argues that if a designing intelligence has acted in life’s history, then the effects (or designs) produced by that designing intelligence are amenable to scientific investigation. Biological data, ID theorists argue, often lead to design inferences, but the data don’t reveal the identity of the designer. Because so many ID critics erroneously conflate it with creationism, they tend to think of it as intelligent designER theory, when in fact, it’s simply intelligent design theory.

  51. #51 Stanton
    September 4, 2007

    Why is it that you are wholly unable to answer my simple request to show us an example of a scientific experiment done to further the study of Intelligent Design?

    Maybe because there have been no experiments ever done?

  52. #52 Jim
    September 4, 2007

    Stanton: “Why is it that you are wholly unable to answer my simple request to show us an example of a scientific experiment done to further the study of Intelligent Design?”

    I’ve already done that. Scott Minnich’s knockout experiments with bacterial flagella were done within the rubric of ID to demonstrate a core concept of the theory: irreducible complexity. If you want to learn more about design-theoretic research, go to:

    http://www.researchintelligentdesign.org/wiki/Main_Page

  53. #53 Kseniya
    September 4, 2007

    Men didn’t evolve from fish.

    Because so many ID critics erroneously conflate it with creationism, they tend to think of it as intelligent designER theory, when in fact, it’s simply intelligent design theory.

    Now, Jim, you’re a smart fellah, but THAT is idiotic. Or disingenous. Which is it? Your IQ is at least ten points higher than mine, so you tell me.

  54. #54 Jim
    September 4, 2007

    Kseniya: “Now, Jim, you’re a smart fellah, but THAT is idiotic. Or disingenous. Which is it?”

    I’m no longer going to respond to posters who call me an idiot, a moron, a dumbass, etc – which likely means this will be my last submission to the forum. People who write in that way don’t deserve the courtesy of a reply.

  55. #55 JimV
    September 4, 2007

    As another engineer named Jim, I feel impelled to try to balance what you’re saying.

    It started with you objecting to a quote about the new moth study proving evolution. I would like to think the author was saying this in reaction to previous claims by creationists that flaws in a previous moth study disproved the ToE. However. I don’t know what was in his mind at the time, and agree that the bald statement goes too far. Indeed, I think all here would say that no scientific theory is ever totally proved, only confirmed, adapted, or refuted as evidence accumulates.

    However, you go on to cite things like Behe’s IC as refuting macroevolution. As an intelligent engineer, I don’t see how you can claim this. It’s like someone saying that a stone arch can never be built, because until the last stone is in place, the arch is not self-supporting. Obviously the arch is built with scaffolding, and after the arch is built the scaffolding is no longer necessary and is removed. In just that way, evolution can first form redundant structures, then eliminate the “scaffolding” over time to produce an IC structure. As a previous commentator mentioned, this was understood and discussed by evolutionary biologists many years before Behe.

    Also as previously mentioned, examples of intermediate forms have been found in nature which refute Behe’s example of blood clotting, and possible scenarios have been advanced for how his other examples, such as flagella, could have evolved.

    Given a planet billions of years old, with weather and geological activity, the fossils we have found are consistent with what we would expect from evolution. (Can you point to the bones of your own great-great-great grandfather?) Evolution is not totally proved, but everything we see is consistent with it. Given the number of possible better ways an intelligent designer could have designed us, it seems very improbable to me that she would have chosen a kludgy method which looks just like evolution.

  56. #56 Jim
    September 4, 2007

    Jim V: “I would like to think the author was saying this in reaction to previous claims by creationists that flaws in a previous moth study disproved the ToE.”

    I’m unaware of anyone – either creationist or ID theorist – who has claimed that flaws in the previous moth study disproved Darwinism (I know that Jonathan Wells – the subject of “Wells lies. Again.” – never made that claim in his book “Icons of Evolution”). Their actual claim has been that the moth research (either previous or current) doesn’t serve to confirm that Darwinian mechanisms have the vast creative powers that Darwinists attribute to them. The moth study confirms (to the extent that the scientific method ever confirms anything) the ability of Darwinian mechanisms to produce minor adaptive changes (or microevolution), which isn’t in dispute.

    Jim V: “I think all here would say that no scientific theory is ever totally proved…”

    I quite agree. When Majerus declared that his moth research offered THE proof of evolution, he was going well beyond what the scientific method can deliver.

    Jim V: “However, you go on to cite things like Behe’s IC as refuting macroevolution. As an intelligent engineer, I don’t see how you can claim this. It’s like someone saying that a stone arch can never be built, because until the last stone is in place, the arch is not self-supporting. Obviously the arch is built with scaffolding, and after the arch is built the scaffolding is no longer necessary and is removed. In just that way, evolution can first form redundant structures, then eliminate the ‘scaffolding’ over time to produce an IC structure.”

    That’s a possibility, and it makes for another fine just-so story (which Darwinists spin with great regularity), but without any detailed, testable accounts of what those redundant structures were and how they were formed by Darwinian means, I don’t see why the arch analogy should be taken seriously. If you’re suggesting that criticisms of Darwinism can always be rebutted by the imagination of Darwinists, then you’re effectively suggesting that Darwinism can’t be falsified, which – by Popper’s criterion of potential falsifiability – makes Darwinism unscientific.

    Jim V: “Also as previously mentioned, examples of intermediate forms have been found in nature which refute Behe’s example of blood clotting…”

    I suspect you’re referring to systems of blood clotting that are less complex than the vertebrate blood clotting cascade. The existence of such systems doesn’t falsify Behe’s claim that the vertebrate blood clotting cascade is irreducibly complex. As you may know, Behe illustrated the concept of irreducible complexity with a 5-part mousetrap. If any one part is removed, the device ceases to trap mice (i.e., it loses its function). The irreducible complexity of the 5-part mousetrap is not falsified by pointing to less complex mousetraps. For example, you may be familiar with the 2-part mousetrap, which consists of a plastic box and a rotating door that traps any mouse lured into the box. That trap is clearly less complex than the 5-part trap, but that fact has no bearing on whether the 5-part trap is, or is not, irreducibly complex.

    Jim V: “Given a planet billions of years old, with weather and geological activity, the fossils we have found are consistent with what we would expect from evolution.”

    The fossils embedded in the Cambrian strata are quite inconsistent with what we would expect from Darwinian evolution. Those fossils record the sudden appearance of nearly all the major animal phyla, with no trace of any likely precursor organisms. Darwin regarded this as perhaps the most serious challenge to his theory. Typically, the challenge is met by saying that the fossil record is incomplete, but skeptics are warranted in thinking that the problem is not with the fossils, it’s with the theory.

    Jim V: “Evolution is not totally proved, but everything we see is consistent with it.”

    In addition to the Cambrian fossils, I think there are a great many things we see that are inconsistent with Darwinian theory. For example, I submit that the existence of genetic programs, which consist of millions of bits of information that encode thousands of intricate algorithms that control, specify and order the growth and development of billions of cells into complex organisms, is quite inconsistent with the Darwinian notion that life’s complexities were assembled by random mutations acted on by natural selection. One might as well believe that the Declaration of Independence was written by drawing Scrabble tiles from a bag.

  57. #57 Steve_C
    September 4, 2007

    Designer did it makes so much more sense.

    Uhg.

  58. #58 Kseniya
    September 4, 2007

    I’m no longer going to respond to posters who call me an idiot, a moron, a dumbass, etc – which likely means this will be my last submission to the forum.

    (Define “likely”.)

    Ah, so you ARE the same Jim who stirs the pot, then leaves in a huff over bad manners, never to return (for a given value of “never”). Your memory sucks, though, and your reading comprehension is questionable: First, I’ve always engaged you fairly in the past. Second, I didn’t call you anything, other than to imply that you’re smarter than I am. Wanna take another stab at it?

  59. #59 JimV
    September 4, 2007

    IANAB (I am not a biologist)(credit Torbjrn Larsson), so I can only read the experts and try to judge who knows what he is talking about. By that standard and my reading of the following sources, Behe loses.

    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/behe.html (on IC)

    http://www.talkorigins.org/origins/postmonth/feb97.html (specifically on blood clotting)

    Leaving the details for the experts, your following statement bothers me:

    “That’s a possibility, and it makes for another fine just-so story (which Darwinists spin with great regularity), but without any detailed, testable accounts of what those redundant structures were and how they were formed by Darwinian means, I don’t see why the arch analogy should be taken seriously. If you’re suggesting that criticisms of Darwinism can always be rebutted by the imagination of Darwinists, then you’re effectively suggesting that Darwinism can’t be falsified, which – by Popper’s criterion of potential falsifiability – makes Darwinism unscientific.”

    I was using an analogy to counter the mousetrap analogy (“He uses poison to fight poison! Brilliant!”–“The Iron Monkey”), but proponents of the ToE have of course made many testable, falsifiable predictions. (Scott Hatfield and his commentors list several in a recent blog post.) Without time machines, scenarios for past events are not testable – by that standard you could reject all of history and archeology and much of geology and cosmology. The best one could ask of a theory that attempts to explain past events is that the evidence left by those events is consistent with the theory – which the ToE is.

    (See http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CC/CC301.html on the Cambrian explosion)

    You seem to be saying you refuse to believe the ToE until a) someone invents a time machine and videotapes the Readers Digest Condensed version for you or b) somebody runs a lab experiment over the millions of years which the fossil record suggest are required to produce the kind of changes which you would accept as significant.

    I can’t comprehend what nature can or cannot do over billions of years, but I can comprehend that “microevolution” change rates measured in the lab and in the field (as described by Ken Miller in “Finding Darwin’s God”) are orders of magnitude larger than those needed to add up to the major changes seen in the fossil record over geological time.

    If there were an alterate, testable, falsifiable theory that explained all of the evidence better than the ToE, I for one would like to hear it. Until then, having a concept which you agree “is a possibility”, and which explains all of what you call microevolution is much better than to throw up one’s hands and say, “I don’t understand how this was done; maybe something else which I don’t understand either did it.”

  60. #60 Kseniya
    September 4, 2007

    fossils record the sudden appearance of nearly all the major animal phyla, with no trace of any likely precursor organisms

    Sudden? A lot can happen over a period of tens of millions of years. Yes, that’s a short time in the life of the earth, but a very, very long time when compared to the life spans (and, more to the point, to the reproductive cycles) of the creatures of the day.

    And I do suspect that “no trace” is overstating the relative dearth of precambrian fossils…

    The “explosion” does toss out a few big question marks, though, that’s for sure.

  61. #61 Rey Fox
    September 4, 2007

    “They regard the question as one that belongs to philosophers and theologians.”

    I have to say, after about 4,000 years of research, I’m not terribly impressed with their findings. They can’t even agree on who the actual prophets of the god or gods are, let alone whether or not the gods exist. No, if I want questions about objective reality, I’ll ask the scientists. Either that or take peyote and find God for myself.

    “True enough, but ID theory doesn’t contend that “the designer interacts with the material world in an observable way.” The theory instead argues that if a designing intelligence has acted in life’s history, then the effects (or designs) produced by that designing intelligence are amenable to scientific investigation.”

    If we can detect design, why can’t we infer anything about the designer? Still sounds like a dead end to me.

  62. #62 Jim
    September 4, 2007

    Kseniya: “Ah, so you ARE the same Jim who stirs the pot, then leaves in a huff over bad manners, never to return (for a given value of ‘never’). Your memory sucks, though, and your reading comprehension is questionable: First, I’ve always engaged you fairly in the past. Second, I didn’t call you anything, other than to imply that you’re smarter than I am. Wanna take another stab at it?”

    Not really, but I am curious to know how your referring to something I’ve written as “idiotic” implies that I’m smarter than you are. What you gave with one hand, you took away with the other.

    Also, if your own memory is good, you might recall that in my two entries into conversational threads on Pharyngula, I didn’t impugn the intelligence or character of anyone. In return, I was instantly called an idiot, a dumbass, a moron, etc. Naturally that reaction caused my desire to stick to a cordial exchange of views to suffer somewhat, but just who initiated the pot stirring? If disagreeing with most of the views expressed here amounts to stirring the pot, then I’m guilty as charged. But I suggest that the pot stirring – the poisoning of the level of discourse – has been the work of those who can’t disagree without superciliously resorting to sneers, jeers, and ridicule (the standard set by PZ Myers). Apparently the forum exists primarily to allow Darwinian true believers to congratulate themselves on how smart they are and to insult everyone else. Anyone (like me) who expresses doubts about Darwinist dogma, or who sees merit in design theory, is about as welcome here as a turd in the punchbowl. Not that I mind all that much. Any skeptics of Darwinism who browse Pharyngula won’t find any reasons to change their minds. As I previously said, a forum like this primarily serves the browsing public by putting the sadly dogmatic condition of evolutionary biology on display.

  63. #63 Jim
    September 4, 2007

    Kseniya: “Your memory sucks, though, and your reading comprehension is questionable: First, I’ve always engaged you fairly in the past.”

    Un-huh. In your first response to something I’d written, you said that I was arguing from ignorance or from disingenuousnous. How fair of you to characterize me as an ignoramus or a liar.

  64. #64 Stanton
    September 5, 2007

    The fossils embedded in the Cambrian strata are quite inconsistent with what we would expect from Darwinian evolution. Those fossils record the sudden appearance of nearly all the major animal phyla, with no trace of any likely precursor organisms.

    Only an ignoramus or liar would say this about Cambrian fossils, given as how A) many of the Precambrian fossils strongly suggest that many modern-day phyla, including Arthropoda, Mollusca, Annelida, and Cnidaria, had their origins in the Precambrian, B) Cambrian fossils are consistent with Evolutionary Biology, especially since most of them have been examined and classified, C) the evolutionary progression of Cambrian organisms, including the transition into Ordovician times, is extremely well-documented, especially the lineages of trilobites and brachiopods, and D) you refuse to realize that the “explosion” took place over 10 million years: lots of biological events can take place over the course of 10 million years.

    Furthermore, I don’t see Intelligent Design proponents coming up with better explanations for the Cambrian Explosions, in fact, I don’t recall Intelligent Design proponents even so much as touch on the topic of paleontology. You routinely fail to realize that in order for one scientific theory to replace a previous theory, it must be able to explain everything that the previous theory could explain, as well as explain the relative events that the previous theory can not. As far as I know, not a single ID proponent has attempted to explain any paleontological event at all, let alone the Cambrian Explosion.

    Oh, and speaking of which, when I said “experiment,” I meant an experiment that’s been peer-reviewed and with a report of it published in a credible scientific journal, such as Nature. Self-published reports are not credible in the scientific world unless they happen to be for an elementary school science fair.

  65. #65 windy
    September 5, 2007

    As I said at the outset, if we want to know if unguided Darwinian mechanisms caused men to evolve from fish, we’re not enlightened by Majerus’s peppered moth research.

    And you would still be wrong. Majerus’s work does not prove the human lineage stems from fish-like creatures but it helps us understand how natural selection works. You keep equating “Darwinian evolution” with “men from fish” which does make you sound ignorant. By the way, don’t most intelligent design honchos believe men and fish share a common ancestor? Do you?

    You don’t explain how this objection does not apply to all intelligent design ‘research’ as well.

    Majerus: The peppered moth provides evidence of Darwinian evolution.
    Jim: That doesn’t tell us whether men evolved from fish!

    so why not:

    Behe: The bacterial flagellum provides evidence of design.
    Jim: That doesn’t tell us whether men evolved from fish!

  66. #66 Jim
    September 5, 2007

    Jim V: “IANAB (I am not a biologist)(credit Torbjrn Larsson), so I can only read the experts and try to judge who knows what he is talking about. By that standard and my reading of the following sources, Behe loses.”

    Since you seem to be a reasonable person, Jim, why don’t you read some of Behe’s replies to his critics before you make up your mind? Here are references for a few:

    http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/index.php?command=view&id=3415

    http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/index.php?command=view&id=1831

    http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/index.php?command=view&id=579

    http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/index.php?command=view&id=465

    http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/index.php?command=view&id=442

    http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/index.php?command=view&id=441

    http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/index.php?command=view&id=443

    While reading Behe’s critics, you may have noticed that their “rebuttals” largely amount to story-telling. What he asks Darwinists to provide are detailed accounts of how Darwinian mechanisms might have produced irreducibly complex molecular systems. He aptly notes that no such accounts currently exist, although (as his critics rush to respond) there are numerous speculative hypotheses (or just-so stories) offered to fill the void (see message #17 above).

    Jim V: “You seem to be saying you refuse to believe the ToE until a) someone invents a time machine and videotapes the Readers Digest Condensed version for you or b) somebody runs a lab experiment over the millions of years which the fossil record suggest are required to produce the kind of changes which you would accept as significant.”

    That’s not really what I expect, but when (for example) Darwinists spin a tale about the unguided evolution of color vision from a light-sensitive spot, I’d find that tale more persuasive if:

    1) the fossil record provided unambiguous evidence showing that such a transition occurred, and
    2) geneticists could develop some plausible sequence of randomly induced genetic mutations that would have generated adaptive improvements leading from light sensitivity to color vision.

    Jim V: “I can’t comprehend what nature can or cannot do over billions of years, but I can comprehend that ‘microevolution’ change rates measured in the lab and in the field (as described by Ken Miller in ‘Finding Darwin’s God’) are orders of magnitude larger than those needed to add up to the major changes seen in the fossil record over geological time.”

    I’d find this tale more persuasive if Miller (or anyone else) could document random mutations that introduce not just minor adaptive changes that leave an organism essentially unchanged (such as adaptive changes that make bacteria more resistant to antibiotics), but directional changes that begin to evolve the organism into an entirely different kind of organism (such as the kind of changes that would have been needed for some land mammal to evolve into whales). Mathematician/philosopher/scholar David Berlinski has calculated that at least 50,000 significant morphological changes would have been required for a 4-legged land mammal to have evolved into a whale. Most of those changes could not have occurred independently, but would have had to occur in concert with other changes. It’s certainly a logical possibility that whales evolved from some land mammal, but it strains credulity beyond the breaking point to suppose that an unguided process (such as random mutations acted on by natural selection) could have accomplished such a marvelous engineering feat, even given hundreds of millions of years to complete the task. Darwinists, of course, will deride this as an argument from personal incredulity, but I’ve always wondered why their credulity – their willingness to believe anything, no matter how preposterous, about the creative powers of unguided material causes – offers their argument any epistemic superiority over the arguments of skeptics.

    Jim V: “If there were an alterate, testable, falsifiable theory that explained all of the evidence better than the ToE, I for one would like to hear it. Until then, having a concept which you agree ‘is a possibility’, and which explains all of what you call microevolution is much better than to throw up one’s hands and say, ‘I don’t understand how this was done; maybe something else which I don’t understand either did it.'”

    No one’s asking you to throw up your hands and surrender, Jim. As an engineer, you know a lot about design, and I suspect that you would find design theory to be a credible alternative to unguided evolution if you were to delve into the works of design theorists. Contrary to all the misrepresentations of ID you’ll read on forums like Pharyngula, design theory does not dispute evolution (understood as descent with modification). It instead takes issue with the notion that evolution can be entirely attributed to unguided (or unintelligent) material causes. By way of analogy, the Darwinian evolution of automobiles from horse-drawn carriages might occur as random mistakes on the assembly line very infrequently produced more complex (i.e., more technologically sophisticated), more survivable vehicles. The ID evolution of autombiles, on the other hand, would occur as an intelligent agent (or force, or cause) induced the technological changes required to evolve horse-drawn carriages into high-tech autos. Coming back to the real world, you know that the evolution of automobiles was intelligently guided. Shouldn’t science at least consider the possibility that the evolution of life – which is orders of magnitude more complex than automobiles -also required the involvement of intelligence?

    When you’ve finished thinking about that, think about this: How did unguided Darwinian mechanisms bring sexual reproduction into existence? What fortituous series of events caused the simultaneous, randomly-induced evolution of males and females?

    It’s nice talking with you, Jim. From what I’ve seen of this forum, it’s rare to find someone who doesn’t argue like an adolescent brat.

  67. #67 Kseniya
    September 5, 2007

    Jim: Geez, I guess I was kinda cranky the other day. Sorry about that. Let me rephrase…

    I don’t think focusing on the identity of the designer is useful – and neither do you – but probably for different reasons. ID and Evo each have one glaring “hole” which isn’t really a hole because neither attempts to fill the hole. With ID, it’s the identity of the designer(s) (Dover notwithstanding) and with Evo it’s the origin of life. Both focus on the mechanisms which drive diversity. Right?

    However, the two “holes” aren’t created equal. Evo doesn’t rest on the origin of life – but ID rests entirely on the past or present existence of one or more designers. This is why I think you splitting that particular hair (“it’s about the design, not the designer”) is pointless and wrong. At its root, ID is all about the designer(s) who MUST EXIST (or must have existed) for the “theory” to have any foundation whatsoever. So your charge of conflation is groundless, because ID by nature and necessity conflates the appearance of design with the existence of a designer.

    As for the identity of the designers, I agree that ID doesn’t have to care about that (just as Evo doesn’t have to care about genesis). However, the very existence of life itself is self-evident, whereas the existence of the unnamed designers is not.

    That’s what I was trying to say. Sorry for the crummy attitude. I’ll try harder next time. 🙂

    ~K.

  68. #68 Kseniya
    September 5, 2007

    Oh, by the way, speaking of whales, if you insist on spouting questionable “findings” like this, don’t act shocked when not everyone takes your otherwise eloquent arguments seriously:

    Mathematician/philosopher/scholar David Berlinski has calculated that at least 50,000 significant morphological changes would have been required for a 4-legged land mammal to have evolved into a whale.

  69. #69 Stanton
    September 5, 2007

    Jim said:

    Contrary to all the misrepresentations of ID you’ll read on forums like Pharyngula, design theory does not dispute evolution (understood as descent with modification)

    Who also said that

    Since there is no evidence for species changes between the simplest forms of unicellular life, it is not surprising that there is no evidence for evolution from prokaryotic to eukaryotic cells, let alone throughout the whole array of higher multicellular organisms.

    Contradicting yourself again?

  70. #70 Jim
    September 5, 2007

    Kseniya: “At its root, ID is all about the designer(s) who MUST EXIST (or must have existed) for the ‘theory’ to have any foundation whatsoever.”

    I’ve never denied that a designer must exist. Quite obviously design implicates a designer. But it is never necessary to know the identity and nature of the designer to detect design. As I’ve already noted, in design theory, the designer is a theoretical entity whose existence is assumed, but whose identity is unknown. Theists can co-opt design theory and identify the designer with the God they worship, but non-theists may think that the designer is simply an intelligent operative force that is a fundamental aspect of the universe.

    K: “So your charge of conflation is groundless, because ID by nature and necessity conflates the appearance of design with the existence of a designer.”

    If ID is reduced to “Designer = God,” then the theistic implications of design theory are made a part of design theory – which they’re not. ID requires neither a meddled world nor a meddling God. Indeed, it doesn’t even require that God exists. It simply requires the operation of intelligence (of whatever source) in the universe.

    If ID must be conflated with theism, then by the same token naturalistic evolution must be conflated with atheism, thereby reducing naturalistic evolutionary theory to “Darwinism = No God.” But the truth of the matter is that both ID and Darwinism – as scientific theories – have nothing to say about God. They both speak to the God question only by implication. Thus theists see ID as congenial to their faith, while an atheistic Darwinist like Richard Dawkins can say that “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.” If it bothers you that theists try to obtain theistic mileage from ID theory, then you ought to be equally bothered that atheists try to obtain atheistic mileage from Darwinism.

  71. #71 Josh
    September 5, 2007

    I’m coming into this particular thread late, but just two quick observations for today because I’m tired and rather sick of thinking about fossils for one day.

    First, for any researcher to say that his/her/its paper proves the theory of evolution, they are overstating things and are being sort of lax with science. All theories are unproven…this has been gone over and over and over…even in this blog. In science everything is always on the table to being disproven…indeed, in science we are not in the business of proving things…we are in the business of disproving things.

    Second:
    *The fossils embedded in the Cambrian strata are quite inconsistent with what we would expect from Darwinian evolution. Those fossils record the sudden appearance of nearly all the major animal phyla, with no trace of any likely precursor organisms. Darwin regarded this as perhaps the most serious challenge to his theory.*

    The first two statements here aren’t accurate. The second might have been accurate in 1859, but science has…evolved…from Darwin a bit since then.

  72. #72 Jim
    September 5, 2007

    Jim said:

    Contrary to all the misrepresentations of ID you’ll read on forums like Pharyngula, design theory does not dispute evolution (understood as descent with modification)

    Who also said that

    Since there is no evidence for species changes between the simplest forms of unicellular life, it is not surprising that there is no evidence for evolution from prokaryotic to eukaryotic cells, let alone throughout the whole array of higher multicellular organisms.

    Stanton: “Contradicting yourself again?”

    Not really. The first statement was mine, the second was from British bacteriologist Alan Linton. Setting aside that minor point, it should be noted that Linton was discussing evidence for evolutionary theory (or Darwinism) – as he made plain in the preceding part of the quote you clipped. When he spoke of an absence of evidence for evolution, he was no doubt referring to an absence of evidence for evolution by Darwinian means. Even if my interpretation of his remarks is wrong, the regrettable reality is that “evolution” is a weasel word with numerous connotations. Among other things, it is used to mean both biological change over time and the theory (Darwinism) that purports to explain biological change over time. In fact, the word is so slippery that both of the following statements are true:

    1. “Evolution is an unassailable fact.”
    2. “Evolution is not an unassailable fact.”

    According to the law of non-contradiction, both statements can’t be true if the meaning of evolution is the same in both statements. The only way both statements can be true is if the meaning of the word “evolution” is different in the two statements.

    Most commonly, when people hear the word “evolution,” the thing that comes to mind is Darwin’s updated theory of evolution (which I typically refer to as simply “Darwinism” rather than “neo-Darwinism” or “the modern synthesis”). If another meaning is intended, it should be made plain to avoid confusion. That’s why I routinely clarify the meaning I intend for the word to carry. Thus, as I’ve already written, ID theory is quite compatible with evolution (understood as biological change over time, or as descent with modification), but it is often at odds with evolutionary theory (or Darwinism), especially in the macro sense.

  73. #73 JimV
    September 5, 2007

    Well, I have read most of your list of Behe responses, and skimmed the last couple. I think (but IANAB) that it is a fair reading to say at least that the goalposts of IC have been moved from “IC is a mathematically certain disproof of the ToE” to “there are conceptual rebutals to IC, and some of the steps involved have been demonstrated in lab experiments, but no complete example (give or take some semantics) has been actually demonstrated, and the conceptual processes are unlikely to occur in nature.” That is, we have moved from logically-impossible to largely inutuitive probabilistic estimates of what natural evolution could or could not accomplish over millions of years.

    My own intuitive feeling feeling is that most people who object to the ToE on such probabilistic grounds are guilty of the lottery fallacy. That is, they view the existence of the current biosphere, and specifically the human race, and perhaps more specifically themselves, as necessary outcomes in some grand scheme. I thought I saw a hint of that in your previous scrabble/Declaration-of-Independence example. If one threw scrabble tiles long enough, and if nature was somehow selecting among those throws using the occurance of English words, grammer, eloquence, etc., then before millions of years had passed I would expect to see something intelligible – but not specifically the DoE. Similarly, if evolution were replayed starting with replicating chemicals over billions of years, I would not expect to see humans, or elephants, or much else that we see now. I also doubt that we would see DNA in its current form – perhaps there would even be some radically different mechanism of heredity. From that perspective, I have no intuitive problem with with evolution having dealt the hand we see. (It doesn’t look like a royal flush to me.)

    My own experience with designing power turbines for more years than I care to admit gave me insights which again are contrary to yours. Intelligence plays a role, but as the complexity of a design increases, it becomes harder and harder to forecast unintended consequences of design changes, and the design process becomes more and more a matter of trial-and-error, incremental changes to existing designs, cross-fertilization with competitive designs, and survival in the marketplace – very similar to the mechanisms of the ToE.

    You mentioned cars, which we have all seen evolve in our lifetimes. One of the places where I have worked was Cooper Industries, which invented the first steam-driven farm vehicle (tractor), circa the 1850’s. For years prior, Cooper steam engines were dragged on wagons (along with wagons of coal) by teams of six to eight horses to fields, to be used to power threshers. Someone at Cooper had the idea of adding a bevel gear to allow the steam engine to turn an axel of the wagon. Cooper has oil paintings of the before and after situations. The “after” still had two horses hitched to the wagon. They were used for steering. The steering wheel was invented later.

    That is an example of consonant with my own design experience, in which complex machines do not spring forth whole from the mind of a designer, but proceed in small, cautious steps, like evolution. (A Designer, if she existed, would presumably have access to such highly advanced finite-element codes and super computers that her design simulations would eliminate the need for such caution, or so my intuition suggests.)

  74. #74 Jim
    September 5, 2007

    *The fossils embedded in the Cambrian strata are quite inconsistent with what we would expect from Darwinian evolution. Those fossils record the sudden appearance of nearly all the major animal phyla, with no trace of any likely precursor organisms. Darwin regarded this as perhaps the most serious challenge to his theory.*

    Josh: “The first two statements here aren’t accurate. The second might have been accurate in 1859, but science has…evolved…from Darwin a bit since then.”

    “The most famous such burst, the Cambrian explosion, marks the inception of modern multicellular life. Within just a few million years, nearly every major kind of animal anatomy appears in the fossil record for the first time … The Precambrian record is now sufficiently good that the old rationale about undiscovered sequences of smoothly transitional forms will no longer wash.” (Stephen Jay Gould, “An Asteroid to Die For,” Discover, October 1989, p. 65),

    “And we find many of them [Cambrian fossils] already in an advanced state of evolution, the very first time they appear. It is as though they were just planted there, without any evolutionary history.” (Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker London: W.W. Norton & Company, 1987, p. 229),

    You’re quite correct that additional pre-Cambrian fossils have been unearthed since Darwin expressed his concerns, Josh. But few – if any – of those fossilized pre-Cambrian organisms recommend themselves as credible evolutionary precursors of the Cambrian phyla. It’s not enough simply to find organisms that came before; it must be shown that there is a reasonable probability that unguided Darwinian mechanisms could have generated the vast genetic information required to bring the Cambrian phyla into existence. It would also be helpful to Darwinian theory if the fossil record was packed with the innumerable transitional forms that must have existed between the pre-Cambrian and the Cambrian phyla if the former evolved into the latter by way of the gradual accumulation of randomly generated microevolutionary changes. Darwinism still doesn’t have the Cambrian explosion under control, notwithstanding all the handwaving just-so stories Darwinists tell to paper over the problem with rhetoric.

  75. #75 Stanton
    September 5, 2007

    And yet, Jim is unable to show how Intelligent Design proponents have done any better in explaining the creatures of the Cambrian Explosion beyond quoting out of date quotes.
    Obviously, he has not read On the Origin of Phyla, or has heard about the Sirius Passet Laggerstatten.

  76. #76 Jim
    September 5, 2007

    Jim V: “My own intuitive feeling feeling is that most people who object to the ToE on such probabilistic grounds are guilty of the lottery fallacy. That is, they view the existence of the current biosphere, and specifically the human race, and perhaps more specifically themselves, as necessary outcomes in some grand scheme.”

    That may be a position many people take, Jim, but it’s not a position taken by design theorists. They’re not concerned with whether life as it is was a necessary outcome; they’re concerned with the problem of whether unintelligent or intelligent causes can best account for life’s structural and systemic complexities. I think you’d find Dembski’s “No Free Lunch: Why Specified Complexity Cannot Be Purchased without Intelligence” of interest. In the book, Dembski writes at some length on probability (including the probabilistic resources of the universe) as it relates to life’s complexities. He shows that incredulity with respect to the claims Darwinists make for the creative powers of unguided Darwinian mechanisms is not merely personal, rather it’s rationally justified by both probability and the large, but finite, probabilistic resources of the universe. He essentially argues that when the probability of a specified event becomes too low, science must eliminate chance as a credible explanation of the event. Otherwise every event can be attributed to chance. It shouldn’t be necessary to point out that a chance-of-the-gaps explanation is no improvement on a god-of-the-gaps explanation.

    Jim V: “Intelligence plays a role, but as the complexity of a design increases, it becomes harder and harder to forecast unintended consequences of design changes, and the design process becomes more and more a matter of trial-and-error, incremental changes to existing designs, cross-fertilization with competitive designs, and survival in the marketplace – very similar to the mechanisms of the ToE.”

    I don’t see any of that as being very similar to the mechanisms of ToE. All of those design changes – including the ones selected on a trial basis – are deliberately chosen (i.e., they are intentional acts of intelligent agents), not randomly generated. It may be hard to make forecasts as complexity of design increases, but forecasts are still made. The mechanisms of ToE, on the other hand, do not plan ahead.

    Jim V: “…complex machines do not spring forth whole from the mind of a designer, but proceed in small, cautious steps, like evolution.”

    Quite so, but each of those “small, cautious steps” is deliberately taken by a designing intelligence. If complex machines evolved in a way parallel to Darwinian evolution, then each one of those small, cautious steps would have to be randomly generated. Design theory is not committed to the proposition that a given complex biological system had to be assembled all at once (or “spring forth whole from the mind of the designer”), although that is a logical possibility. Design theory is quite compatible with the idea that complex biological systems evolved, but it disputes the Darwinian notion that unguided material causes were sufficient to have produced all of life’s structural and systemic complexities. In particular, it takes issue with the Darwinian notion that the vast amount of biological information that shapes matter into living organisms was composed by an essentially random process.

  77. #77 Jim
    September 5, 2007

    Stanton: “Obviously, he has not read On the Origin of Phyla, or has heard about the Sirius Passet Laggerstatten.”

    I googled Sirius Passet Laggerstatten and came up with one hit – a rose gold diamond pendant. So I’ll bite: what is it?

    Also, what detailed accounts of the evolution of which Cambrian phyla will I find in “On the Origin of Phyla”? And if those accounts are credible, how can I know that the evolutionary events described were produced by Darwinian mechanisms? Perhaps you could provide one of those accounts here.

  78. #78 Stanton
    September 5, 2007

    http://www.peripatus.gen.nz/Paleontology/lagSirPas.html

    “One of the twentieth century’s most distinguished paleobiologists, [James W.] Valentine here integrates data from molecular genetics, evolutionary developmental biology, embryology, comparative morphology, and paleontology into an analysis of interest to scholars from any of these fields. He begins by examining the sorts of evidence that can be gleaned from fossils, molecules, and morphology, then reviews and compares the basic morphology and development of animal phyla, emphasizing the important design elements found in the bodyplans of both living and extinct phyla. Finally, Valentine undertakes the monumental task of developing models to explain the origin and early diversification of animal phyla, as well as their later evolutionary patterns.” – –Stefan Bengtson, Nature

  79. #80 Ichthyic
    September 6, 2007

    I wonder what it is about Darwinism that causes its proponents – with few exceptions, in my experience – to arrogantly turn to namecalling, ridicule, and condescension in defending their beloved theory.

    jim’s full of shit on that point too, since it wasn’t the defense of theory that caused the vehement response, but his own idiotic and inflammatory statements that did.

    of course, a complete inability to comprehend the very things they write is characteristic of ignorant morons everywhere, not just creationists.

    you should try taking a bath, Jim.

    cause, damn boy, you stink.

    now go shake your fist harder and scream ever louder how you’re being repressed by the “darwinian establishment”.

  80. #81 Stanton
    September 6, 2007

    I wonder what it is about Darwinism that causes its proponents – with few exceptions, in my experience – to arrogantly turn to namecalling, ridicule, and condescension in defending their beloved theory.

    Maybe because he presumes to know more about biology than actual biologists?

  81. #82 Kseniya
    September 6, 2007

    Jim, you wrote:

    I’ve never denied that a designer must exist.

    And I never suggested that you had. Note, also, that you’re the one talking about God – not me. Slippery, indeed.

    All I’ve said is that Evo relies on genetic variation and natural selection, both of which have been demonstrated countless times, and that ID relies, at a bare minimum, on the past existence of a designer, whatever it may be, which has not been shown to exist. If evidence of design can be proven to exist, a designer can then be assumed, but ID postulates the designer in advance and seeks not to draw conclusions from the data that exists, but to hammer away at math until the desired outcome is achieved. ID isn’t science, it’s creative accounting.

    So. What about that Wedge Document?

  82. #83 Stanton
    September 6, 2007

    So. What about that Wedge Document?

    He alleges that it’s merely paranoia being spread by Darwinists, Kseniya.

  83. #84 Kseniya
    September 6, 2007

    Stanton: Uh… right. Of course. Geez, why didn’t Jim say that a couple of weeks ago when I brought it up two or three times in one thread? Being so thoroughly ignored damaged my selfish steam.

    Well, considering how Jim has been steadfastly denying that Design theory has anything whatsoever to do with theism, I wonder how he can reconcile this passage from the wedge document with the notion that it’s nothing but Darwinist paranoia:

    Governing Goals:

    – To defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural, and political legacies.

    – To replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God.

    Nope. No theism there. None.

    That text is taken directly from the copy of the Wedge document that can be found on http://www.discovery.org site.

    Check out the twenty-year goals:

    – To see design theory as the dominant perspective in science.

    – To see design theory application in specific fields, including molecular biology, biochemistry, paleontology, physics and cosmology in the natural sciences, psychology, ethics, politics, theology and philosophy in the humanities; to see its influence in the fine arts.

    – To see design theory permeate our religious, cultural, moral and political life.

    (Gee… that kinda smells like Soviet Realism from way over here.)

    Jim, given that these statements come from the Discovery Institute itself, perhaps you’d like to retract this statement you made earlier:

    Theists can (and do) co-opt design theory and identify the designer with the God they worship, but such thinking occurs outside of ID theory, not within it.

  84. #85 windy
    September 6, 2007

    When you’ve finished thinking about that, think about this: How did unguided Darwinian mechanisms bring sexual reproduction into existence? What fortituous series of events caused the simultaneous, randomly-induced evolution of males and females?

    *groan* not the old “how could males and females appear simultaneously” canard!

    To paraphrase Nozaki et al 2006: Males in oogamous volvocaceans such as Pleodorina starrii are homologous to the dominant, MT? mating type of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. Evolution of the male in the family Volvocaceae thus appears to be based on the genetic system controlled by the dominant mating type locus (MT?) of its isogamous ancestor.

    Or, if you prefer, the designer keeps messing with the genes of unicellular algae to create males and females.

  85. #86 JimV
    September 6, 2007

    If you agree with ISO-900x that an engineering design process can be codified into procedures and algorithms, then the correspondence I have outlined above between engineering design and evolution becomes quite close. Simply consider the processes and algorithms of evolution to be part of nature. In that sense, “The Origin of the Species” was the first draft of an ISO manual.

    In regard to Dembski’s NFL thesis, IANAM either, but I know that the originators of the theorem disagree with Dembski’s interpretation of it, and my own math-fu is strong enough to see that Dembski employs the lottery fallacy in specific applications of his “explanatory filter”. For example, as “Good Math Bad Math” has stated, if you deal out a set of hands for Double Hearts (I knew a fellow who would stand on his chair at the lunch-time game to slam a queen of spades down on someone who had previously laid one on him) from a double deck, and regard the results as CSI, then the EF is violated.

    At bottom, and as other commenters have said, all I see “Design Theory” as doing is making arguments of incredulity against gaps in our present knowledge of evolution, and demanding detailed step-by-step demonstrations of evolutionary processes (which took millions of years) for which their own explanation is simply “the Designer did it.” As I first said, saying that something else which you don’t understand did something adds nothing to my scientific understanding.

    I then go on to speculate at the powers and motives of a Designer who could do the things which you claim for her, and wonder why, to paraphrase Mark Twain, she didn’t dream better dreams. (And where is she hiding and why? Perhaps she dreads that big Design Review or the inevitable post-mortem on her design errors.)

  86. #87 Stanton
    September 6, 2007

    I then go on to speculate at the powers and motives of a Designer who could do the things which you claim for her, and wonder why, to paraphrase Mark Twain, she didn’t dream better dreams. (And where is she hiding and why? Perhaps she dreads that big Design Review or the inevitable post-mortem on her design errors.)

    Such as the way the eyes of octopi and squid are superior to the eyes of vertebrates, such as humans, as octopi and squid eyes do not have blind spots because the blood vessels and nervesare attached from the outside, thus negating the opportunity for the retina to detach, unlike those of vertebrates?

  87. #88 Jim
    September 6, 2007

    Jim: “I wonder what it is about Darwinism that causes its proponents – with few exceptions, in my experience – to arrogantly turn to namecalling, ridicule, and condescension in defending their beloved theory.”

    Ichthyic: “jim’s full of shit on that point too, since it wasn’t the defense of theory that caused the vehement response, but his own idiotic and inflammatory statements that did.”

    The following two postings were the sum total of my contributions to this thread before the Darwinists here began calling me “idiot,” “dumbass,” “moron,” etc. I invite any reasonable person to find where my remarks are either idiotic or inflammatory, thus warranting personal attacks on me…

    1. When we want to know if unguided Darwinian mechanisms caused fish to evolve into men (by way of amphibians, reptiles, and some unknown mammal), we’re hardly enlightened by Majerus’s peppered moth research. Showing (as Majerus apparently did) that Darwinian mechanisms can cause minor adaptive changes in the coloration of moths doesn’t also show that those mechanisms can do the kind of major creative work needed to produce all of life’s diversity and complexity. Majerus’s work doesn’t, for example, show that Darwinian mechanisms brought peppered moths into existence in the first place. His claim that adaptive changes in the coloration of peppered moths “prove” Darwinian evolution can be persuasive only to those who – for philosophical reasons – are already committed to the “truth” of Darwinism. Skeptics are entitled to ask for more compelling evidence.

    2. Precisely. That’s why Majerus’s claim that his peppered moth research “proves” Darwinian evolution is utterly bogus.

    Ichthyic: “you should try taking a bath, Jim. cause, damn boy, you stink.”

    I’ve been called ugly by a toad.

    (Memo to Ichthyic: Look up “irony” in your Webster’s.)
    (Memo to me: Make this the last time you sink to this level of discourse.)

  88. #89 Jim
    September 6, 2007

    “One of the twentieth century’s most distinguished paleobiologists, [James W.] Valentine here integrates data from molecular genetics, evolutionary developmental biology, embryology, comparative morphology, and paleontology into an analysis of interest to scholars from any of these fields. He begins by examining the sorts of evidence that can be gleaned from fossils, molecules, and morphology, then reviews and compares the basic morphology and development of animal phyla, emphasizing the important design elements found in the bodyplans of both living and extinct phyla. Finally, Valentine undertakes the monumental task of developing models to explain the origin and early diversification of animal phyla, as well as their later evolutionary patterns.” – –Stefan Bengtson, Nature

    It’s interesting – and telling – that this synopsis of Valentine’s study refers to “design elements.” If Darwinism is true, there are no design elements in living organisms. Design entails intention, and Darwinian evolution doesn’t intend to produce any outcomes. It does what it does without purpose or goals. As I recall, it was Francis Crick who said that biologists must constantly remind themselves that what they are observing in living organisms was not designed. But – aside from a prior commitment to materialistic philosophy – why should they do that? Isn’t science supposed to be a philosophically unrestrained search for explanations of natural phenomena? Shouldn’t science be free to follow the evidence wherever it leads, even if it leads to design?

  89. #90 windy
    September 6, 2007

    I invite any reasonable person to find where my remarks are either idiotic or inflammatory, thus warranting personal attacks on me…
    1. When we want to know if unguided Darwinian mechanisms caused fish to evolve into men (by way of amphibians, reptiles, and some unknown mammal), we’re hardly enlightened by Majerus’s peppered moth research.

    What is it with you and goddamn fish? Non sequitur.

    2. Precisely. That’s why Majerus’s claim that his peppered moth research “proves” Darwinian evolution is utterly bogus.

    Calling legitimate, painstaking research “utterly bogus”. Inflammatory.

    HE. SHOWS. DARWINIAN. EVOLUTION. IN. MOTHS. NOT. IN. FISH.

  90. #91 Jim
    September 6, 2007

    Kseniy: “ID postulates the designer in advance…”

    Actually, it doesn’t. When I said that ID assumes a designer, I meant (as I’ve already said) that in design theory, the designer is simply a theoretical entity. That theoretical entity lurks in the background but nothing can be said about its existence until design is first discerned. And even if design IS detected, the biological data leading to a design inference do not also provide an inferential trail leading to the identity of the designer. We may be able to assess some of the designer’s purposes from analyzing the designs, but that, too, would not lead us to the identity of the designer. The propositions to which ID theory is committed can be briefly stated as follows:

    1. Specified complexity (which includes irreducible complexity and complex specified information) is a reliable indicator or hallmark of design.
    2. Many biological systems exhibit specified complexity and employ irreducibly complex subsystems.
    3. Naturalistic mechanisms or undirected causes do not suffice to explain the origin of specified complexity (in its various forms).
    4. Intelligent design constitutes the best explanation for the origin of specified complexity in biological systems.

    The purpose of ID is to flesh out those propositions with theoretical, mathematical, and evidentiary support. As a new science, it’s definitely a work in progress, not a done deal. Darwinism didn’t mature into the modern synthesis until some 70 years after Darwin published his masterpiece. I think it would be fair to give ID some time to succeed (or fail) on its merits (or lack thereof) rather than dogmatically trying to ridicule it into oblivion

    Kseniya: “So. What about that Wedge Document?”

    I’ve read the Wedge Document. I’ve also read design proponent Phillip Johnson’s “The Wedge of Truth: Splitting the Foundations of Naturalism,” along with some 2 dozen other books by design theorists/proponents. Consequently I can place the Wedge Document in context. It is not – as paranoid foes of ID portray it – a blueprint for turning science into religion, destroying science education, shredding the Constitution, and setting up a dictatorial theocracy. Those who might want to read the Wedge Document, along with Discovery Institute’s response to critics of the document, can find it at:

    http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/filesDB-download.php?id=349

  91. #92 Kseniya
    September 6, 2007

    If Darwinism is true, there are no design elements in living organisms. Design entails intention, and Darwinian evolution doesn’t intend to produce any outcomes

    Evolutionists use the concept of design as a metaphor for how features have evolved to suit the needs of the organism. Surely you know this. Kinda like how ardent IDers use the concept of a designer as a *cough* notheistic metaphor for that all-pervasive “intelligence” that guides evolution and junk.

    Oh yeah, speaking of which, what about that Wedge Document, Jim? I’ve been asking you about it for weeks.

    Majerus’s work doesn’t, for example, show that Darwinian mechanisms brought peppered moths into existence in the first place. His claim that adaptive changes in the coloration of peppered moths “prove” Darwinian evolution can be persuasive only to those who – for philosophical reasons – are already committed to the “truth” of Darwinism. Skeptics are entitled to ask for more compelling evidence.

    I agree with Jim on this. Skepticism is good. However, I’d like to point out that Majerus’s overstatement of the sweeping implications of his work disproves nothing, and that there IS more compelling evidence. I suspect Jim will disagree on the latter, which is why these conversations have a limited lifespan.

    Kudos to JimV for his fine summary of the problem (#86).

  92. #93 Kseniya
    September 6, 2007

    Gah! You beat me to the click. Move to strike my most recent Wedge question from the record, please.

  93. #94 Jim
    September 6, 2007

    Windy: “*groan* not the old “how could males and females appear simultaneously” canard!”

    It’s a legitimate question, which you failed to answer by quoting the following:

    “To paraphrase Nozaki et al 2006: Males in oogamous volvocaceans such as Pleodorina starrii are homologous to the dominant, MT? mating type of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. Evolution of the male in the family Volvocaceae thus appears to be based on the genetic system controlled by the dominant mating type locus (MT?) of its isogamous ancestor.”

    Homologous features in different organisms don’t tell us HOW they became homologous. Homology suggests evolution from a common ancestor (it also suggests common design elements used in a variety of organisms), but it doesn’t tell us anything about the mechanism or the process or the cause of evolutionary change. If you’ve offered the above quote as an explanation of how unguided Darwinian mechanisms produced sexual reproduction, I can only marvel that you think I’m being unreasonable by asking for something a bit more detailed. To my way of thinking, “appears to be” is somewhat lacking in scientific rigor.

  94. #95 Kseniya
    September 6, 2007

    It is not – as paranoid foes of ID portray it – a blueprint for turning science into religion, destroying science education, shredding the Constitution, and setting up a dictatorial theocracy. Those who might want to read the Wedge Document, along with Discovery Institute’s response to critics of the document, can find it at:

    Yeah, that’s where I found it. Jim, I respectfully contend that in the context of the conversation between you and me regarding the wedge doc, you’ve just posted one of the bigged, fattest strawmen in history. (See? I can do it, too. LoL.)

    Seriously, though, what are you doing beyond parroting the DI’s own spin? Skeptics are entitled to question the meaning of statements such as those I quoted above in comment #84, but you persistently decline to address them in any meaningful way.

    Oh, by the way, you just called me paranoid. *cough* :-p

  95. #96 Stanton
    September 6, 2007

    I’ve been called ugly by a toad.

    Actually, many toads are very beautiful animals. The female golden toad had a very pleasing red, black and beige pattern that contrasted with the male’s pumpkin gold, and the European Green and Yosemite toads have delightful green mottling. Furthermore, people who infer that toads are ugly are ignorant of the jewel-like Harlequin frogs, which are the most beautiful members of the entire toad family.

    Furthermore, Jim, you have never ever bothered to explain how Intelligent Design explains the Cambrian Explosion better than Evolutionary Biology.

  96. #97 Steve_C
    September 6, 2007

    ID doesn’t explain anything. It’s a fallacious bunch of nattering.

  97. #98 windy
    September 6, 2007

    I agree with Jim on this. Skepticism is good. However, I’d like to point out that Majerus’s overstatement of the sweeping implications of his work disproves nothing, and that there IS more compelling evidence.

    Don’t get sucked in by Jim’s claims of Majerus’s “overstatement”. A single example proves that Darwinian evolution is possible. Nobody except Jim takes it as a claim that it proves the entire history of evolution.

    Although it’s a legitimate gripe that “proof” is a misleading word in science. But Jim ridicules both biologists that use more careful wording (“To my way of thinking, “appears to be” is somewhat lacking in scientific rigor.”) and those that use more strong wording (“proof of evolution”). There is no pleasing him.

  98. #99 Jim
    September 6, 2007

    Kseniya: “…Jim has been steadfastly denying that Design theory has anything whatsoever to do with theism…”

    No, I haven’t. I’ve quite clearly stated that design theory has theistic implications and that theists can obtain some theistic mileage from the theory. What I’ve been saying is that reducing ID to “Goddidit” misrepresents it because ID -as a scientific theory – is entirely silent on the God question, just as Darwinism – as a scientific theory – is entirely silent on the God question. “Goddidit” is a conclusion that theists might draw from ID theory, but the theory itself doesn’t reach that conclusion. Its scope is limited to detecting design because that is as far as the biological data can lead.

    With regard to the Wedge Document, I won’t address all the concerns you raised (I’ll trust fairminded readers to refer to the reference I previously cited to unpack the purposes of the Wedge Document). I would, however, like to address one of the goals of the ID movement that you cited, to wit:

    – To see design theory as the dominant perspective in science.

    Critics interpret this to mean that the ID movement wants to utterly destroy science’s ability to deliver material explanations for natural phenomena and replace material explanations with theistic, or supernatural, explanations. This interpretation is quite wrong. I’ll let Dembski explain with an excerpt from
    “The Design Revolution”…

    “Let us be clear that intelligent design, conceived now not as a theory but as a tool chest, can accommodate all the results of Darwinism. To be sure, as scientific theories, Darwinism and intelligent design contradict each other since intelligent design claims biology exhibits actual design whereas Darwinism claims biology exhibits only apparent design. But as a tool chest, intelligent design incorporates all the tools of Darwinism. Intelligent design assigns a high place to natural causes and mechanisms. Insofar as these operate in nature, intelligent design wants to understand them and give them their due. But intelligent design also regards natural causes as incomplete and leaves the door open to intelligent causes. Intelligent design therefore does not repudiate the Darwinian mechanism. It merely assigns it a lower status. The Darwinian mechanism does operate in nature, and, insofar as it does, intelligent design can accept what it delivers. Even if the Darwinian mechanism could be shown to do all the design work for which design theorists want to invoke intelligent causation (say for the bacterial flagellum and systems like it), a design-theoretic tool chest would not obviate any valid findings of science. To be sure, much as some tools just sit there never to be used, design would then become superfluous. But a design-theoretic tool chest would not on this account collapse on itself through internal contradiction. The worst that can happen to a design-theoretic tool chest is that design becomes a superfluous component of it. The worst that can happen to a Darwinian tool chest is that scientists, by limiting themselves to it, miss the design that actually is present in nature and thus fundamentally misconstrue reality. The dangers that confront science by adopting a Darwinian tool chest and the naturalism that motivates its choice of tools therefore fare outweight the dangers that confront science by adopting a design-theoretic tools chest.” (end quote)

    If science adopts a design-theoretic tool chest (which is the goal of ID stated above), it will have at its disposal all three explanatory modes: chance, necessity, and design. The current Darwinian (or naturalistic) tool kit permits science to consider only chance and necessity, thereby unnecessarily making science a hobbled epistemic enterprise.
    If science is defined in terms of naturalistic philosophy, it can deliver only naturalistic (or material) explanations, but we have no a priori knowledge that such explanations will fully account for natural phenomena. If, on the other hand, science is defined by its methods (as ID proponents propose), it can deliver explanations that are not constrained by a priori philosophical commitments. Should science be in the business of seeking explanations that we can describe as scientific, or should it be seeking explanations that we can confidently describe as true (or, at least, as likely to be true)? Like ID theorists, I vote for the latter.

  99. #100 windy
    September 6, 2007

    Homologous features in different organisms don’t tell us HOW they became homologous. Homology suggests evolution from a common ancestor (it also suggests common design elements used in a variety of organisms), but it doesn’t tell us anything about the mechanism or the process or the cause of evolutionary change. If you’ve offered the above quote as an explanation of how unguided Darwinian mechanisms produced sexual reproduction, I can only marvel that you think I’m being unreasonable by asking for something a bit more detailed.

    Why not read the article then? Naturally the history of life will never be traced in every detail. What we can make is the most reasonable inference based on the data.

    And again here is the demand of detailed proof from evolution but not from ID. Where is the detailed ID account of the development of sexes in these algae?

  100. #101 Jim
    September 6, 2007

    Jim V: “…Dembski employs the lottery fallacy in specific applications of his ‘explanatory filter’. For example, as ‘Good Math Bad Math’ has stated, if you deal out a set of hands for Double Hearts (I knew a fellow who would stand on his chair at the lunch-time game to slam a queen of spades down on someone who had previously laid one on him) from a double deck, and regard the results as CSI, then the EF is violated.”

    I don’t know who wrote “Good Math Bad Math”, but the author evidently failed to understand Dembski’s explanation of specified complexity (or its subset, complex specified information). As Dembski explains it, you can’t just read specified complexity off of a pattern after the fact; in addition to reading the pattern, it must be shown that the pattern conforms to an independently given specification (i.e., a specification that exists independently of the event that produced the pattern). For example, suppose I hand you a deck of playing cards and ask you to arrange them by suits (spades, hearts, clubs, diamonds) and rank (ace through king). The arrangement I’ve asked for is a specification, and the specification exists independently of whatever event you’re going to use to try to create the arrangement. I leave the room, asking you to call me back when you’ve completed the task. Within minutes, you give me the whistle and I return to find that you’ve successfully produced the complex pattern of cards I specified. What, then, do I offer as the best explanation of your success? Dembski’s explanatory filter would first look at necessity. Is there a natural law that compels decks of cards to assume the specified pattern? Of coure not; we can eliminate necessity as the best explanation. That leads us to chance. Did you randomly shuffle the cards to produce the specified pattern? Well, the pattern represents only one of a possible 52! (or, about 10^68) patterns, so the probability that you produced the pattern by chance is essentially zero. That leads us to design. Is the pattern complex? Yes. Is it specified? Yes. Therefore design is the best explanation for the pattern. You used your intelligence to produce it.

  101. #102 Jim
    September 6, 2007

    Windy: “What is it with you and goddamn fish? Non sequitur

    Jim: “…Majerus’s claim that his peppered moth research ‘proves’ Darwinian evolution is utterly bogus.”

    Windy: “Calling legitimate, painstaking research ‘utterly bogus’. Inflammatory.”

    Good grief. Please read what I wrote for understanding. I called Majerus’s unwarranted claim bogus; I did not call his research bogus.

    Windy: “HE. SHOWS. DARWINIAN. EVOLUTION. IN. MOTHS. NOT. IN. FISH.”

    Precisely. That’s all he showed. That’s why his claim that he had produced THE proof of evolution – by which he obviously meant Darwinism, which contends (among other things) that Darwinian mechanisms caused fish to evolve into men (by way of amphibians, reptiles, and some unknown mammal) – was utterly bogus.

  102. #103 windy
    September 6, 2007

    Precisely. That’s all he showed. That’s why his claim that he had produced THE proof of evolution – by which he obviously meant Darwinism, which contends (among other things) that Darwinian mechanisms caused fish to evolve into men (by way of amphibians, reptiles, and some unknown mammal) – was utterly bogus.

    Right. You are the mind reader. That is clearly what he meant. And after his talk, the entire ESEB conference just up and left because godless evolution had been proven and there was nothing else left to do.

  103. #104 Graculus
    September 6, 2007

    would the pile of rocks cease to perform that function?

    “Function” is a pretty broad word, and there are many “functions” that rock piles perform. Erosion control, vole housing, etc. If they cease to be piles of rock then they no longer perform those functions.

    I imagine he’d say that “interlocking complexity” and “irreducible complexity” are not the same thing.

    I imagine he’d be wrong.

    “a complicated machine … whose effective working was dependent upon the interlocking action of very numerous elementary parts or factors, …. a dropping out of, or even a slight change in any one of these parts is very likely to disturb fatally the whole machinery” – Hermann J Muller, 1918.

    He’d likely also say that no one actually knows that “interlocking complexity” arose through unguided evolutionary processes.

    He’d have to come up with some evidence that they didn’t, otherwise what he has is an opinion, not a “theory” or even a hypothesis.

    But if you really want to know what he would say, why don’t you read his books?

    I’ve read his arguments in the original.

    The recurrent request of ID foes that I educate them on ID is one of the things that frustrates me about “debates” like this one.

    Oh, we aren’t asking you to “educate” us, we’re familiar with the material. It’s a test to see if *you* understand the material, and a faint hope that you will provide novelty. The “arguments” for ID have been thoroughly debunked with varying degrees of politeness, this ground has been gone over so often that even crabgrass won’t grow.

    No, but I am arguing that the identification of ancestor/descendant relationships is so plagued by inconsistencies, contradictions, and missing links

    What you call “inconsistencies” and “contradictions” we see as uncertainties. When a scientist sees an uncertainty they look for more data in order to resolve it. Look at past uncertainties that have been resolved by gathering data. “Missing links” are a strawman, a red herring, and a canard. Intermediate forms exist.

    that claims about such relationships can’t be taken as unassailable statements of reality.

    You claim to have studied some science, this statement demonstrates that you haven’t. Science doesn’t make “unassailable claims on reality”, it seeks the best explaination for reality.

    Ex nihilo creation is a position taken by creationist, not ID theorists (it really would be helpful if you’d actually learn something about ID).

    Nice try, being as I already said I didn’t beleive this was your position. Meh, I’ve been quote-mined at Uncommonly Dense, you’re only worth half a point.

    what kind of causes (intelligent or unintelligent)

    Unintelligent causes are responsible for Intelligent Design? Do tell.

    suffice to generate the complex specified information that shapes matter into biological systems.

    Define “complex”. Define “specified”. Define “information”. Objectively, with metrics, of course.

    It’s a semantical shell game, ID “theorists” use the words in the non-specific sense, then try to use them in the specific sense. Behe uses “complex” as a synonym for “complicated”, when in Chaos Theory the two things are very, very different. There’s nothing wrong with the usage so long as you don’t try to switch them around, however.

    Like all design theorists, Behe doesn’t assume design.

    “Intelligent design does not propose a mechanism, it simply tries to support the conclusion that intelligent activity was involved in producing the structures.” – Michael Behe, 2005.

  104. #105 Steve_C
    September 6, 2007

    Uhg.

    What religious sect are you anyway?

  105. #106 Josh
    September 6, 2007

    His claim was bogus. He didn’t prove evolution. We’re scientists…we don’t really prove things. I know it sounds like hair-splitting, but it matters. His work failed to disprove evolution. If he actually made the claim that he proved it, he was being a bit loose with science…he should know better, although I can imagine why he did it. Jim is correct in the sense that such a claim is…well…bogus. It is just as bogus, however, to say that his work in any way weakened evolution. Perhaps it’s time to move on from this aspect of the discussion?

  106. #107 Graculus
    September 6, 2007

    “Proof is for alcohol and mathematics”

    I suspect that the Majerus claim was not that the moth experiments “proved” evolution, it’s a ID/Creationist “paraphrase”. The strongest term I can find Majerus using is “example”.

  107. #108 Josh
    September 6, 2007

    Ohhh…’example.’ Very scary stuff there. We had better run from the temple of evolution (its a religion, didn’t you know).

  108. #109 windy
    September 6, 2007

    His claim was bogus. He didn’t prove evolution. We’re scientists…we don’t really prove things. I know it sounds like hair-splitting, but it matters. His work failed to disprove evolution.

    Well a bit more than that, it demonstrated natural selection in action. We can quibble about terminology but it’s quite strong evidence.

    If he actually made the claim that he proved it, he was being a bit loose with science…he should know better, although I can imagine why he did it.

    In your sense, peppered moth evolution is just as unprovable as fish-to-man evolution or the origin of phyla. That is not the viewpoint Jim is advocating for.

  109. #110 windy
    September 6, 2007

    I suspect that the Majerus claim was not that the moth experiments “proved” evolution, it’s a ID/Creationist “paraphrase”. The strongest term I can find Majerus using is “example”.

    No, he does say “proof of evolution”. But come on, people. It should be clear that he doesn’t mean it in the sense of “this proves evolution once and for all”.

    http://www.gen.cam.ac.uk/Research/Majerus/Swedentalk220807.pdf

  110. #111 Josh
    September 6, 2007

    Jim wrote: You’re quite correct that additional pre-Cambrian fossils have been unearthed since Darwin expressed his concerns, Josh.

    Actually, I wasn’t talking about Precambrian fossils specifically in that reply at all. I was referring to earlier Cambrian forms, which are much more relevant to the ‘problems for Darwinism’ that the Cambrian explosion is supposed to present.

    But few – if any – of those fossilized pre-Cambrian organisms recommend themselves as credible evolutionary precursors of the Cambrian phyla.

    Huh…really? Upon what are you basing this? That’s a strong statement…I presume you’re pretty well versed on Ediacaran anatomical diversity? I suspect that if I made a statement such as ‘the Bible presents no evidence that Jesus ever turned water into bloody anything’ you might want me to be able to back up that opinion. So, along those lines, which Ediacaran organisms are you thinking of here?

    It’s not enough simply to find organisms that came before; it must be shown that there is a reasonable probability that unguided Darwinian mechanisms could have generated the vast genetic information required to bring the Cambrian phyla into existence.

    Describing Darwinian mechanisms as unguided…well, I suspect you’re trying to say that evolution is random. It isn’t. The mechanisms aren’t guided in the sense that you’re hoping for, but to describe them as unguided is rather too crude. Can you demonstrate that a designer could have generated the * vast genetic information required to bring the Cambrian phyla into existence?*

    It would also be helpful to Darwinian theory if the fossil record was packed with the innumerable transitional forms that must have existed between the pre-Cambrian and the Cambrian phyla if the former evolved into the latter by way of the gradual accumulation of randomly generated microevolutionary changes. Darwinism still doesn’t have the Cambrian explosion under control, notwithstanding all the handwaving just-so stories Darwinists tell to paper over the problem with rhetoric.

    A, Darwinism doesn’t do science…Darwinism doesn’t have anything ‘under control.’ Darwinism at best is a philosophy. It isn’t a discipline. When people ask me what I do, I don’t reply ‘I’m a Darwinist.’ You cannot, as far as I know, major in Darwinism. As far as I can tell, this word is generally used by folks like you to try and make folks like me appear as set up directly against people who label themselves with words like Christian. You know: the Darwinists versus the Theists…Sunday Sunday Sunday! We’ll sell you the whole seat, but you’ll only need the edge!
    B. Rather than Darwinism, what you probably want to say is: geology and paleontology don’t have the Cambrian explosion under control. That statement is accurate, presuming that ‘under control’ actually means anything in science (I’m skeptical).
    C. So what? Physics doesn’t have gravity ‘under control.’ Do you perceive that as a crippling blow to physics? If so, I presume you don’t fly very often?

    Yes, it would be nice if we had a better understanding of the late Precambrian and Cambrian fossil records right now, and that would certainly make folks like you feel better, but our current level of knowledge of Cambrian biotas doesn’t present some crippling blow to evolution. And for you to accuse us of creating just-so stories is a little obnoxious. I suspect that you wouldn’t say that the inconsistencies in the Bible are a chink in the armor that brings down the word of God. By the same token, that the Precambrian and Lower Cambrian fossil records are poorly known doesn’t bring down evolution…nor does it threaten it. Is this an area of paleontology that is substantially less well understood than say the Cretaceous? Yes…sure. So what? Again, that physics has trouble with that pesky gravity stuff doesn’t seem to be hurting the discipline. It doesn’t have people (I hope…) out screaming about gaps in physics and how we need to warn students in high school text books to consider competing ideas as to how pencils fall.

    There aren’t a lot of people who work in the Cambrian, for one. Two, there is not that much sediment of Cambrian age exposed on the surface (compared to numerous other stages). Just those two things alone would cause one to predict that the Cambrian fossil record would be less complete than that of say…the Late Cretaceous. The ‘gaps’ tend to freak you guys out…we like them…more work to do. Before we found animals like Guanlong, we predicted that there were earlier, more basal tyrannosauroids from which taxa like Tyrannosaurus evolved. We didn’t have fossils of these basal tyrannosauroids then…we had a big scary gap…but Guanlong, like the paleontologists, wasn’t bothered.

  111. #112 Josh
    September 6, 2007

    No, he does say “proof of evolution”. But come on, people. It should be clear that he doesn’t mean it in the sense of “this proves evolution once and for all”.

    No, but the reason we should quibble over terminology is that the Creationists will take a statement like this, even if proof is only insinuated, and will run with it. And they will say that he said ‘proof of evolution once and for all.’ It doesn’t help things.

  112. #113 Josh
    September 6, 2007

    Well a bit more than that, it demonstrated natural selection in action. We can quibble about terminology but it’s quite strong evidence…

    …In your sense, peppered moth evolution is just as unprovable as fish-to-man evolution or the origin of phyla. That is not the viewpoint Jim is advocating for.

    If we’re being honest, though…quite strong support is the best we ever do. Science is asymptotic…truth is approached but not achieved, because we always have to leave open the possibility that we’re wrong. I know that it isn’t the viewpoint Jim was arguing for, but in truth, if we’re purists, peppered moth evolution is as unprovable as fish-to-man evolution. It makes our job harder, but the real issue lies in how poorly people are educated in science. The error bars on a given observation (such as the moth study say) might be so ridiculously small as to be not worthy of mention, but they still exist. I cannot misrepresent how science really works in order to help make a case to a creationist that their position on evolution being weak is wrong.

  113. #114 Jim
    September 6, 2007

    Graculus: “‘Function’ is a pretty broad word, and there are many ‘functions’ that rock piles perform. Erosion control, vole housing, etc. If they cease to be piles of rock then they no longer perform those functions.”

    True enough, but if a complex pile of rocks continues to perform the function of erosion control when any one rock is removed, then the pile of rocks is not irreducibly complex.

    Jim: “I imagine he’d say that ‘interlocking complexity’ and ‘irreducible complexity’ are not the same thing.”

    Graculus: “I imagine he’d be wrong.”

    “a complicated machine … whose effective working was dependent upon the interlocking action of very numerous elementary parts or factors, …. a dropping out of, or even a slight change in any one of these parts is very likely to disturb fatally the whole machinery” – Hermann J Muller, 1918.

    OK. I was interpreting the phrase to mean functional complexity dependent upon the interlocking action of very numerous elementary parts or factors. I wasn’t aware that
    the phrase also meant that function would altogether cease with the removal of any one of those parts or factors. I was wrong.

    Gracululs: “Oh, we aren’t asking you to ‘educate’ us, we’re familiar with the material. It’s a test to see if *you* understand the material, and a faint hope that you will provide novelty.”

    You say you’ve read Behe’s “Darwin’s Black Box,” so I’ll take your word for it. But I’m going to go out on a limb and list the ID books that most of my critics here have read. The list follows:

    1) None.

    The critics can let me know if I’ve got it wrong.

    Graculus: “The ‘arguments’ for ID have been thoroughly debunked…”

    In your opinion they’ve been thoroughly debunked. There’s no denying that they’ve been controverted. After all, because ID arguments are controversial, nothing significant has been said in claiming that they’ve been controverted. But, given the significant evidentiary and theoretical problems that still exist with Darwinism, it’s mostly partisan bluster to declare that ID arguments “have been thoroughly debunked.” A theory has been thoroughly debunked when even its advocates are persuaded that it’s wrong, not when its foes persuade themselves that they’ve debunked it.

    Graculus: “Define ‘complex’. Define ‘specified’. Define ‘information’.”

    As I previously said, I’m not going to do your homework for you. If you’re versed in ID literature, you should already know the definitions of those terms that are relevant to design theory.

    Jim: “Like all design theorists, Behe doesn’t assume design.”

    “Intelligent design does not propose a mechanism, it simply tries to support the conclusion that intelligent activity was involved in producing the structures.” – Michael Behe, 2005.

    Contrary to what you apparently think, this doesn’t contradict what I said. Behe is quite clearly saying that the purpose of ID theory is to see if scientific research can lead to (or support) the conclusion (not the assumption) that many biological systems resulted from intelligent causes (or “activity”). As a scientist, he knows quite well that assumptions precede research, but that conclusions are reached (if they are reached at all) only after the research has been done.

    With regard to mechanism, it should be noted that intelligence is creative, not mechanistic. No one – not even Beethoven – could explain how he composed his 9th Symphony, but no one who found a score of the symphony lying out in the desert would doubt that the score (which exhibits specified complexity) was designed. Because it is not a mechanistic theory, ID has different tasks to perform than Darwinism, but it is no less scientific on that account.

  114. #115 Steve_C
    September 6, 2007

    ID starts with a premise that has no foundation based on the evidence.
    A designer is completely unnecessary. All the evidence shows this.
    None of it has shown otherwise.

    ID’s task should be to prove there is a designer… but we know what a tough job that is.

    Get cracking!

  115. #116 Brownian
    September 6, 2007

    A theory has been thoroughly debunked when even its advocates are persuaded that it’s wrong, not when its foes persuade themselves that they’ve debunked it.

    So, because a few morons refuse to see the horizon for the seas, the Flat Earth Theory remains undebunked?

    Wait. Hmm. UN + DE + BUNK = BUNK?

    Okay, I guess I’ll accept your contention that ID is bunk.

  116. #117 Jim
    September 6, 2007

    Graculus: “I suspect that the Majerus claim was not that the moth experiments ‘proved’ evolution, it’s a ID/Creationist ‘paraphrase’. The strongest term I can find Majerus using is ‘example’.”

    Here are Majerus’s exact words:

    “We need to address global problems now, and to do so with any chance of success, we have to base our decisions on scientific facts: and that includes the fact of Darwinian evolution. If the rise and fall of the peppered moth is one of the most visually impacting and easily understood examples of Darwinian evolution in action, it should be taught. It provides after all: THE PROOF OF EVOLUTION.” (emphasis in the original)

    http://www.gen.cam.ac.uk/Research/majerus.htm

  117. #118 Kseniya
    September 6, 2007

    A score of a piece of music transcribed from a recording of windchimes against a backdrop of tugboat horns and thunderstorms would exhibit a similar degree of complexity. How could you know which piece had been composed and which had been produced by natural forces? You wouldn’t – unless you already knew. Arguments based on Beethoven or on “a painting implies a painter” or on the idea of tornadoes creating jets out of junk are nonsense. Beethoven is known to have existed. Ditto Monet. There is no evidence whatsoever for an intelligent force guiding evolution or any other natural process known, and yet proponents of ID insist that this is the more plausible explanation.

  118. #119 Kseniya
    September 6, 2007

    Oh yeah – AFAIK, Jim is correct about the Majerus quote.

  119. #120 windy
    September 6, 2007

    He is correct about the wording, but not about what it means. It doesn’t mean “man came from fish”.

  120. #121 Josh
    September 6, 2007

    Even though it appears rather strongly that we did come from fish…

  121. #122 Kseniya
    September 6, 2007

    Windy, Josh… LOL… yes.

  122. #123 Josh
    September 6, 2007

    Jim, if ID is science, then everything has got to be on the table as to being disproven. How do we disprove the existence of a designer according to the methodologies of ID?

  123. #124 Jim
    September 6, 2007

    Jim: “But few – if any – of those fossilized pre-Cambrian organisms recommend themselves as credible evolutionary precursors of the Cambrian phyla.”

    Josh: “Huh…really? Upon what are you basing this?…So…which Ediacaran organisms are you thinking of here?”

    Since this is apparently your field, Josh, I’ll turn the question back to you. Which Ediacaran organisms present themselves as credible evolutionary precursors of, say, trilobites? What is the evidence showing that those presumed precursors (if there are any in the fossil record) evolved by Darwinian means into trilobites? Why do trilobites appear in the fossil record with their extraordinarily complex eyes already fully formed? Where is the evidence showing that those eyes were formed step by tiny Darwinian step?

    Josh: “Describing Darwinian mechanisms as unguided…well, I suspect you’re trying to say that evolution is random.”

    You’re right, but I’m only repeating what evolutionary biologists like Ken Miller and Douglas Futuyma say about Darwinian evolution. For example, in his textbook “Biology,” Miller wrote: “It is important to keep this concept in mind. EVOLUTION IS RANDOM AND UNDIRECTED.” (emphasis in the original)

    Josh: “Darwinism at best is a philosophy.”

    I quite agree, Josh. Some 150 years after Darwin wrote his theory, the chief prop of the theory (in the macro sense, and in its present form) is materialistic philosophy, not empirical evidence. But when I use the term “Darwinism,” all I intend it to mean is modern evolutionary theory, or neo-Darwinism, or the modern synthesis. Microevolution by Darwinian means has some fairly solid evidentiary support – such as Majerus’s research with peppered moths (assuming his research wasn’t methodologically flawed). But the evidentiary support for the macroevolutionary claims of Darwinists – such as the claim that color vision evolved by Darwinian means from a light sensitive spot, or the claim that men evolved from fish by Darwinian means – is most conspicuous by its virtual absence. Homology, phylogenetic trees, the fossil record, DNA comparisons, etc. all provide evidence that evolution occurred, but they don’t provide evidence that evolution (in the macro sense) was caused by Darwinian mechanisms. To show that Darwinian mechanisms caused all of life’s evolution (both micro and macro), there must be something other than evidence showing that evolution occurred if the question is not to be begged. A mechanistic theory like Darwinism must produce evidence showing that its mechanism can do all the creative work attributed to it. With regard to macroevolution, that work remains undone.

    Josh: “Physics doesn’t have gravity ‘under control.'”

    Quite so. Physicists still don’t know how gravity works, but so far as I know, they don’t claim that any of their theories have that unknown under control. Evolutionary biologists, on the other hand, claim (in so many words) that Darwinian theory (what I call “Darwinism”) has all of the problems presented by the Cambrian explosion under control. That unwarranted certainty is reflected on this forum by references to me as an ignoramus when I pointed out the problems the Cambrian explosion presents to Darwinism.

    Josh: “Do you perceive that as a crippling blow to physics? If so, I presume you don’t fly very often?”

    Not any more. But I have flown a lot. I’m a retired airline captain.

    Josh: “…our current level of knowledge of Cambrian biotas doesn’t present some crippling blow to evolution.”

    Perhaps, but at least you seem to recognize that the Cambrian phyla remain an unresolved problem for Darwinism, unlike those who claim that Darwinism has the problem under control.

    Josh: “…for you to accuse us of creating just-so stories is a little obnoxious.”

    Oh, come on, Josh. I suspect you know quite well that Darwinian literature is chock full of just-so stories. Harvard evolutionary biologist Richard Lewontin brought attention to that when he wrote (in a book review): “We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism.”

  124. #125 Jim
    September 6, 2007

    Kseniya: “A score of a piece of music transcribed from a recording of windchimes against a backdrop of tugboat horns and thunderstorms would exhibit a similar degree of complexity. How could you know which piece had been composed and which had been produced by natural forces?”

    By analyzing those pieces to see if the pattern of notes conformed to any independently given specification(s). A score transcribed from windchimes would be complex, but if it could not be shown that the score conformed to an independent specification (or specifications), no design inference would be warranted.

  125. #126 Brownian
    September 6, 2007

    I’ve never denied that a designer must exist. Quite obviously design implicates a designer. But it is never necessary to know the identity and nature of the designer to detect design. As I’ve already noted, in design theory, the designer is a theoretical entity whose existence is assumed, but whose identity is unknown. Theists can co-opt design theory and identify the designer with the God they worship, but non-theists may think that the designer is simply an intelligent operative force that is a fundamental aspect of the universe.

    [emphasis mine]

    Of course the nature of the designer is important. If ID proponents accept evolution at some level, then they’ve got to draw the line somewhere to differentiate between designed features and undesigned ones (or ones that do not show evidence of design). Where and when that line gets drawn says a lot about the designer. If the designer set everything in motion then recused him or herself for a 3.8 BY vacation, then it’s a deist position. Fine enough. Evolution is not inconsistent with a deist deity, but it doesn’t require one. The position does require deist IDers to accept that macroevolution can happen without the interference of a designer. If macroevolution can’t happen, as some anti-evolutionists contend, then they either have to deny speciation events in the past or present, or they have to posit that the designer stepped in at those points to design new species. That violates the principle of uniformitarianism by suggesting that the designer chooses some life processes to intervene in and not others (nor non-biological processes, unless ID proponents are willing to posit that the designer makes the occasional mountain too). Again, feel free to do that if you wish, but that does say something about the nature of the designer too. For ID to sit back and say “it is never necessary to know the identity and nature of the designer” is at worst disingenuous and at best poor science.

    Call a spade a spade: ID attempts to describe some features as having the characteristics of design. What features do and what features don’t says a lot about the nature of the designer. I can speculate on why IDers won’t do this (the wedge strategy is one; the possibility that the designer that you are forced to posit conflicts with the deity you pray to is another), but whatever their motivations are, their refusal to describe the elements of the designer that their very research purports to invoke is tantamount to academic dilettantism.

  126. #127 Brownian
    September 6, 2007

    Furthermore, oddly enough, many theists have no problem lambasting evolution because they believe it leads to a materialist perspective that somehow causes AIDs, hurricanes in New Orleans, Eminem, and anything else they perceive as a social malady, even though evolution doesn’t make any claims about the past, present, or future existence of a designer but merely contends that one isn’t needed.

    In fact, the Discovery Instute outlined this very claim in their Wedge document. Now they turn around, all pie-eyed and innocent, and say ID makes no claims about the existence of a designer?

    Go sell that one to the Sunday schools, and leave the rest of us alone.

  127. #128 Kseniya
    September 6, 2007

    Jim:

    By analyzing those pieces to see if the pattern of notes conformed to any independently given specification(s).

    Who supplies the specification, and upon what is the specification justifiably based?

  128. #129 Jim
    September 6, 2007

    Josh: “How do we disprove the existence of a designer according to the methodologies of ID?”

    We don’t. ID theory makes no claims about the designer. As I previously wrote, ID takes an approach to science known as constructive empiricism, which values theoretical entities (like the designer implied by ID, or quarks, strings, and cold dark matter in physics) if they lead to scientific research and insight regardless of their ultimate reality. ID theory (which posits that the apparent design in organisms is actual – or intelligent – design) can be falsified by showing that the structures, processes, organs, etc. that comprise those organisms arose by unguided (or unintelligent) means. But how do we falsify the macroevolutionary claims of Darwinism when Darwinists insist that every conceivable Darwinian pathway must be ruled out before the theory fails? By demanding the impossible, they’ve made their theory unfalsifiable, which -by Popper’s criterion – makes it unscientific.

  129. #130 Brownian
    September 6, 2007

    ID theory makes no claims about the designer.

    Wrong. The theory does, even if the theorists deny it.

  130. #131 windy
    September 6, 2007

    Quite obviously design implicates a designer. But it is never necessary to know the identity and nature of the designer to detect design. As I’ve already noted, in design theory, the designer is a theoretical entity whose existence is assumed, but whose identity is unknown.

    Quite obviously evolution implicates an evolutionary mechanism. But it is never necessary to know the identity and nature of the evolutionary mechanism to detect evolution. In evolution theory, the mechanism is a theoretical entity whose existence is assumed, but whose identity is unknown.

    Sounds a bit silly that way, doesn’t it? Luckily, the latter chapter isn’t true. But why do you demand so much less from ID?

  131. #132 Jim
    September 6, 2007

    Kseniya: “Who supplies the specification, and upon what is the specification justifiably based?”

    I’m going to dodge your question, Kseniya. Not because I can’t answer it, but because I firmly believe that if people want to take issue with ID, they really ought to inform themselves on it first. For a brief overview of ID, I’d suggest you read Dembski’s “The Design Revolution: Answering the Toughest Questions about Intelligent Design.”

  132. #133 Kseniya
    September 6, 2007

    Jim: Fair enough.

  133. #134 David Marjanovi?
    September 6, 2007

    OK. It’s almost 1 at night over here. I’ll come back later. Just so much for now: I’m a paleontologist, and I can’t see what problems “Darwinism” is supposed to have with the Cambrian Explosion. Are you aware that it is full of intermediates between arthropods, tardigrades, and onychophores? Between trilobites, chelicerates, crustaceans, and the aforementioned intermediates? Between annelids and brachiopods? Are you furthermore aware that it took some 15 million years and had a prelude that lasted another 15? Furthermore, are you aware that the oldest known mollusk, Kimberella, is again ten million years older? (It’s a very simple mollusk as far as we can tell from its remains, but the radula is there, the creeping sole is there, and the tough dorsal covering is there.)

    Next, please suggest a definition of “species”. For your information, there are at least 25 species concepts out there (not all, but most of them, applicable to all of life), and the biologists can’t agree on one, even though the number of endemic bird species in Mexico (to pick one example) varies by a factor of over two depending on the species concept. Some, unsurprisingly, suggest that species don’t exist, that we can’t cut the tree of life into pieces unless those pieces are arbitrary. But if you can’t suggest a species concept, you can’t start from the assumption that a difference between “microevolution” and “macroevolution” has to exist. So, tell me one, and I’ll point out the holes in it.

    Unlike others here, I won’t doubt your IQ. It is, however, apparent that you have read very little about certain topics that you believe to have understood very well.

  134. #135 David Marjanovi?
    September 6, 2007

    OK. It’s almost 1 at night over here. I’ll come back later. Just so much for now: I’m a paleontologist, and I can’t see what problems “Darwinism” is supposed to have with the Cambrian Explosion. Are you aware that it is full of intermediates between arthropods, tardigrades, and onychophores? Between trilobites, chelicerates, crustaceans, and the aforementioned intermediates? Between annelids and brachiopods? Are you furthermore aware that it took some 15 million years and had a prelude that lasted another 15? Furthermore, are you aware that the oldest known mollusk, Kimberella, is again ten million years older? (It’s a very simple mollusk as far as we can tell from its remains, but the radula is there, the creeping sole is there, and the tough dorsal covering is there.)

    Next, please suggest a definition of “species”. For your information, there are at least 25 species concepts out there (not all, but most of them, applicable to all of life), and the biologists can’t agree on one, even though the number of endemic bird species in Mexico (to pick one example) varies by a factor of over two depending on the species concept. Some, unsurprisingly, suggest that species don’t exist, that we can’t cut the tree of life into pieces unless those pieces are arbitrary. But if you can’t suggest a species concept, you can’t start from the assumption that a difference between “microevolution” and “macroevolution” has to exist. So, tell me one, and I’ll point out the holes in it.

    Unlike others here, I won’t doubt your IQ. It is, however, apparent that you have read very little about certain topics that you believe to have understood very well.

  135. #136 David Marjanovi?
    September 6, 2007

    Erm… as everyone will guess, my comment was directed at Jim (or for that matter any ID proponent). Good night, “see” you tomorrow.

  136. #137 David Marjanovi?
    September 6, 2007

    Erm… as everyone will guess, my comment was directed at Jim (or for that matter any ID proponent). Good night, “see” you tomorrow.

  137. #138 JimV
    September 6, 2007

    Jim: CSI as you have defined it sounds workable. It may have been invented in parallel by ?James Randi as the condition for winning his million-dollar prize (specify in advance ?what you claim your supernatural powers can achieve, and set up the experiment so that ?chance is eliminated). However, in practice I have yet to hear of it being used that way ?by Design Theorists. What I hear is that they point to things that already exist and claim ?they could not have been achieved by evolutionary mechanisms, without considering all ?the other possibilities in the evolutionary deck that could have been dealt, and the fact ?that after billions of years, many things, including quite unexpected ones, would ?necessarily have to be dealt. That is where the lottery fallacy comes in, IMO.?

    The other problem I have with this line of reasoning is that the theorist assumes the ?human race is smart enough so that if no detailed proof of something has yet been ?determined, none exists. Personally, I think that if the human race lasts millions of years, ?there will still be things that its smartest members are not capable of figuring out and ?explaining to the rest of us. Imagine a bunch of chimpanzees around a smoldering log ?after a lightning strike. They will never figure out the theory of combustion, but that does ?not entitle them to conclude that the fire gods did it.?

    ?(Thanks to Kseniya for the kudos; a kind thought, but you and others here are much ?better at writing things clearly than I am.)?

    ?(I have been trying to post this in response to #101 since around 12 PM today but kept ?getting an error message. Sorry if the conversation has moved on. I am now trying from a public library, so this may be my last comment until the webmaster replies to my call for help.)

  138. #139 Jim
    September 6, 2007

    Windy: “Quite obviously evolution implicates an evolutionary mechanism. But it is never necessary to know the identity and nature of the evolutionary mechanism to detect evolution. In evolution theory, the mechanism is a theoretical entity whose existence is assumed, but whose identity is unknown.”

    “Sounds a bit silly that way, doesn’t it?”

    Not really. We don’t need to know what caused evolution (or biological change over time, or descent with modification) to determine that evolution occurred. Evidence for evolution is not evidence for the mechanism of evolution. Evidence that the presumed mechanism of evolution can do all of the creative work attributed to it must be adduced if the question is not to be begged. Showing that the Darwinian mechanism can produce adaptive changes in the coloration of peppered moths does not show that the Darwinian mechanism can do (or did) any macroevolutionary work, such as bringing peppered moths into existence in the first place. Simply extrapolating from microevolution to macroevolution is wishful speculation unwarranted by either sound logic or good science.

    To say that life evolved is to describe, not explain. Descriptions are informative but not explanatory. Suppose, for example, you’re walking along the beach below a cliff and you find a crowd of people standing around the broken body of a dead man. You ask one of them, “What happened?” He replies, “The dead guy fell off the cliff.” Has he explained what happened? Of course not; he’s merely described it. To explain the man’s death, the cause of his death must be determined. Was the cause necessity (do we live in the kind of universe where people necessarily fall to their deaths off cliffs); was the cause chance (did the dead guy accidentally trip and fall over the edge); or was the cause design (did someone deliberately push the dead guy off the cliff)? Once we determine the cause we’ll have an explanation for his death; until then, we won’t. Darwinism’s defenders are constantly citing evidence for evolution (understood as biological change over time, or as descent with modification) as if such evidence explains life’s history (thereby “confirming” Darwinism, or ToE). But it does no such thing. Even if such evidence provided ironclad proof that evolution had occurred, we would only have a description of life’s history, not an explanation of it.

  139. #140 Jim
    September 6, 2007

    Jim: “ID theory makes no claims about the designer.”

    Brownian: “Wrong. The theory does, even if the theorists deny it.”

    Aside from the implicit claim that an intelligent designer (or agent, or force, or cause) exists, just what claims does ID theory make about the designer, Brownian? The claim made by theists – that the designer must have been God – is not a claim made by ID theory. So what claims do you have in mind?

  140. #141 windy
    September 6, 2007

    Evidence that the presumed mechanism of evolution can do all of the creative work attributed to it must be adduced if the question is not to be begged.

    Evidence that the presumed designer can do all of the creative work attributed to it must be adduced if the question is not to be begged.

    (evidence from human designers is not permissible, since they have not existed for most of the history of life.)

    Showing that the Darwinian mechanism can produce adaptive changes in the coloration of peppered moths does not show that the Darwinian mechanism can do (or did) any macroevolutionary work, such as bringing peppered moths into existence in the first place.

    Where is the limit of macroevolutionary work?

    The one species of peppered moth?
    The genus Biston?
    Geometer moths?
    Moths?
    Butterflies?
    ?

  141. #142 Stanton
    September 6, 2007

    Anyone else notice how Jim has yet to demonstrate how Intelligent Design can allegedly explain the Cambrian Explosion better than Evolutionary Theory?

  142. #143 Brownian
    September 6, 2007

    Jim, I thought I’d been clearer in the post where I described some of the characteristics of the designer given when and where IDers see evidence of design, but looking back it may not be immediately evident from my comment.

    No, I’m not talking about IDers saying the designer must be the Abrahamic God or some other such entity (although I’d say that the positing of any designer is by definition theism, but we can agree or disagree to that another time.)

    Specifically, the points at which ID claim that design is observed to occur rather than evolution guided by natural selection and history says a lot about the nature about the designer.

    For instance, if an ID proponent posits that evolution is insufficient to explain speciation but does satisfactorily explain within-species change and ID is a superior explanation for speciation and not within-species change, then, unless they deny that speciation events have occured over the history of life, the Designer has to have the characteristic of a) having existed at those times, and b) having actively interceded in the history of life. This then rules out a disinterested deity who set the laws of the universe in motion and then took a permanent sabbatical, ie, a deist position. Thus, we can claim that the Designer has the nature of actively observing and interceding in the continual evolution (in this case, I use evolution to solely mean “change over time”) of life. That is a claim about its nature, just as a naturalistic worldview claims that the universe has and continues to operate under the same laws (at least spatially and temporally locally); the universe has the nature of universality. Further, since ID does not make claims about the Design of geography, chemistry, or physics, then the Designer has the nature of actively interceding in speciation but not actively interceding in within-species change, geological processes, physics, and chemistry. This implies a Designer that’s either a)uninterested in physics and/or chemistry; or b) unable to influence physics and/or chemistry. If it were not the case that either of these were true, then Design would observable in those fields as well, and therefore ID proponents should be searching for corroborating evidence there as well (Dembsky and Behe’s metrics for determining Design should work in those fields as well, or else their methodology is either flawed or non-universal–the latter being a necessary assumption for such statistical analyses.)

    If such evidence for Design in those sciences exist as well, then that raises questions about a Designer who wants/needs to constantly intercede in such fields rather than create a self-sustaining and changing universe from the get-go.)

    If ID proponents accept the paleontological record with its speciation events as evidence of life’s change over time, then they must accept the implication that the Designer has the nature of being able to influence speciation without leaving any other evidence of its existence. The steps they would then need to take would be to a) find such other evidence, or b) posit a mechanism by which the Designer can do this.

    Finally, unless ID proponents reject a generally causal world in which changes at the physical or chemical level within biological systems affect those biological systems, then they have to explain why the accumulation of changes in morphological features over time does not lead to eventual speciation. This is the macro/microevolution barrier, and it must be contended with.

    If ID proponents are serious about their work being viewed as scientific, then they need to consider the predictions their claims make and set out to actively test such predictions, including those that would invalidate their theory.

    Evolutionary theory has the power to explain how life on earth changed over time in a manner that’s consistent with (and in fact draws its strength from) what we know about physics, chemistry, and the history of the earth. We can quibble about the evidence, but that’s a feat that ID is hard-pressed to do given what it implies about the nature of the Desiger.

  143. #144 Jim
    September 6, 2007

    David: “I’m a paleontologist, and I can’t see what problems ‘Darwinism’ is supposed to have with the Cambrian Explosion. Are you aware that it is full of intermediates between arthropods, tardigrades, and onychophores? Between trilobites, chelicerates, crustaceans, and the aforementioned intermediates? Between annelids and brachiopods? Are you furthermore aware that it took some 15 million years and had a prelude that lasted another 15? Furthermore, are you aware that the oldest known mollusk, Kimberella, is again ten million years older? (It’s a very simple mollusk as far as we can tell from its remains, but the radula is there, the creeping sole is there, and the tough dorsal covering is there.)”

    I have no quarrel with what the fossil record tells us about the existence, structure, and age of the organisms you mention, but I suspect that the “intermediates” among them are identified by reference to the needs of Darwinian theory, which makes their identification self-referential (or circular), a kind of reasoning that confirms nothing. If you didn’t view those “intermediates” through the lens of Darwinian theory, is there something about them that cries out “We are intermediate, transitional forms”? Don’t you first have to assume unguided (or Darwinian) evolution before you can label an organism an intermediate, transitional form? Wouldn’t it be senseless to label an organism an intermediate, transitional form without first assuming unguided evolution? And isn’t Darwinian evolution (in particular, its mechanism) the very thing in question? What would you label those “intermediate, transitional forms” if you were labeling them without reference to the needs of Darwinian theory?

    Let me ask you this, David: Is the platypus an intermediate, transitional form? If so, is it on its way to becoming fully reptilian, or fully mammalian?

    The problem Darwinism has with the Cambrian explosion is that its primary mechanism (random mutations acted on by natural selection) has not been shown to be capable of producing such an explosion of new, complex life forms in such a short (geologically speaking) period of time. In fact, that mechanism has not been shown to be capable of producing new life forms if it is given hundreds of millions of years to operate.

    David: “For your information, there are at least 25 species concepts out there (not all, but most of them, applicable to all of life), and the biologists can’t agree on one…”

    I know. That’s what makes claims that speciation has been observed so unenlightening. If you define species down far enough, you’re bound to observe speciation and find that Darwinian mechanisms can produce it.

    David: “…you can’t start from the assumption that a difference between ‘microevolution’ and ‘macroevolution’ has to exist. So, tell me one, and I’ll point out the holes in it.”

    OK. Adaptive changes that leave organisms essentially unchanged (such as adaptive changes in the coloration of peppered moths, or in the size of finches’ beaks, or in the resistance of bacteria to antibiotics) are microevolutionary changes. Creative changes that cause organisms to evolve from one kind (say, fish) to another kind (say, amphibians) – or creative changes that introduce biological novelty (i.e., new organisms, new organs, new structures, new processes, new systems) – are macroevolutionary changes. If we confirm the ability of Darwinian mechanisms to accomplish the former, we haven’t confirmed the abilities of those mechanisms to accomplish the latter.

  144. #145 Brownian
    September 6, 2007

    Let me ask you this, David: Is the platypus an intermediate, transitional form? If so, is it on its way to becoming fully reptilian, or fully mammalian?

    Sorry Jim, but if you understood the theory of evolution, you’d know off the bat that the answers to that are a) yes (everything’s an intermediate form to something else, unless it dies before reproducing) and b) no, it’s evolving to be whatever the selective pressures operating on it shape its development.

  145. #146 Brownian
    September 6, 2007

    Jim, please define ‘kinds’. It’s a meaningless term that fits the very definition of goal-post shifting.

    The Linnaean system of taxonomy categorises life according to a hierarchy described with levels, but they are arbitrary and tend to shift over time. None of those levels pose insurmountable barriers, however. For example, Genera are merely groupings of species that appear to have more in common with each other than those without. As are paleontological knowledge increases, such levels move to reflect what we believe to be the history of the development of such species.

    If you’re going to posit that the macro/micro divide exists at some level called ‘kinds’, then you’d better define ‘kinds’ and posit the mechanism by which ‘kinds’ can’t change but species can.

    That’s two big errors about biology and evolutionary theory in your last post.

  146. #147 windy
    September 6, 2007

    Don’t you first have to assume unguided (or Darwinian) evolution before you can label an organism an intermediate, transitional form? Wouldn’t it be senseless to label an organism an intermediate, transitional form without first assuming unguided evolution?

    No. Look at the first automobiles, or JimV’s description of the first tractors earlier in the thread.

    For someone who claims to have no problem with common descent, you sure spend an awful lot of time attacking transitional forms. If there is no kind of continuous transition from one kind of organism to another, what the hell kind of sense is it even to talk about common descent?

    But it’s very simple. Since all organisms conform to objectively defined nested hierarchies (unlike cars), common descent must be overwhelmingly, hm, common. “Transitional” forms must then also be common.

  147. #148 Graculus
    September 6, 2007

    A theory has been thoroughly debunked when even its advocates are persuaded that it’s wrong, not when its foes persuade themselves that they’ve debunked it.

    So heliocentrism has not been thoroughly debunked? Velikovskianism? Aliens built the Pyramids? Mayan civilization was an import form West Africa? There are UFO bases at the South Pole? Denver airport is the center of operations for reptiloid aliens that control the world? That the WTC towers were destroyed by controlled demonlition/cruise missiles disguised by holograms/death rays from outer space?

    If you think I’m joking, search the net, there are adherents to each of these. “Debunked” to me, and to most people, means that the evidence has demonstrated that the positions are untenable.

    As I previously said, I’m not going to do your homework for you. If you’re versed in ID literature, you should already know the definitions of those terms that are relevant to design theory.

    I know what they *claim* to mean, but that doesn’t make them meaningful.

    By analyzing those pieces to see if the pattern of notes conformed to any independently given specification(s). A score transcribed from windchimes would be complex, but if it could not be shown that the score conformed to an independent specification (or specifications), no design inference would be warranted.

    And how wopuld you identify an independently given specification without knowing anything about a specifier? If you did not know of the existance of human composers, could you tell the difference between a concerto and a windchime? I know you’ve already dodged this, but it’s not that easy. Dembski admits that his usage is subjective, and I asked for an objective definition.

    My original question still stands, avoided by you. Define “specified”, “complex” and “information”. SHow your work.

    the chief prop of the theory (in the macro sense, and in its present form) is materialistic philosophy

    No, it’s not. It is methodological naturalism, also known as empiricism. The ToE is no more a philosophy than quantum mechanics is.

    Sounds a bit silly that way, doesn’t it?

    Sounds a bit mendacious, because we have evolutionary mechanisms galore. You may have heard of this guy called Charles Darwin, he wrote a book describing mechanisms of evolution. It is the mechanisms that define the ToE, in fact.

  148. #149 Jim
    September 6, 2007

    Stanton: “…you have never ever bothered to explain how Intelligent Design explains the Cambrian Explosion better than Evolutionary Biology.”

    You’ve left several of my questions unanswered, too, but setting that aside, you might find design theorist Stephen C. Meyer’s essay, “Intelligent Design: The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories,” helpful in answering your question. Meyer doesn’t offer an explanation for the Cambrian explosion so much as he offers food for thought. As I’ve previously noted, ID is a science in its infancy, so it’s not yet prepared to deliver much more than tentative explanations.

    Meyer’s essay appeared in the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washingon. It’s the essay that got the publishing editor (Richard Sternberg) in such hot water with the Darwinian establishment, a pathetic turn of events that demonstrated yet again the dogmatic condition of mainstream evolutionary biology.

    You can find the essay at:

    http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/index.php?command=view&id=2177

  149. #150 Ichthyic
    September 6, 2007

    Meyer doesn’t offer an explanation for the Cambrian explosion so much as he offers food for thought.

    so, even your reference doesn’t answer the simple question posed.

    shocker.

    just like every other creationist apologists, you’re long on preaching and short on evidence, theory, and testing.

    you just keep on deluding yourself there, boy, until you figure out (if you ever do) that science actually attempts to answer questions by testing hypotheses, instead of sitting in an armchair and describing the smell of their farts.

  150. #151 Stanton
    September 6, 2007

    As I’ve previously noted, ID is a science in its infancy, so it’s not yet prepared to deliver much more than tentative explanations.

    There is a profound difference between a science in its infancy, and having no motivation or incentive to propose explanations.

  151. #152 Kseniya
    September 6, 2007

    Jim V: I’d say you’re doing a good job of presenting your case clearly and intelligently.

    OT, sorta:

    ?(I have been trying to post this in response to #101 since around 12 PM today but kept ?getting an error message. Sorry if the conversation has moved on. I am now trying from a public library, so this may be my last comment until the webmaster replies to my call for help.)

    You must have banged up against the word/spam filter. If your comment includes a word that’s been proscribed by the filters, you’ll get an error message. The filters seem to be designed more for blocking links to porn sites than for preventing people from saying “fuck”. (See?) The filter seems tuned to specific sex words (like “in?est”) and specific drug references.

    It’s even more picky with the text that appears inside an [a][/a] block, in that it reacts to embedded strings that might be non-delimited naughty word components of URLs. My fave example of this is the time I couldn’t post a link with “Neil DeGrasse Tyson” inside the [a] block because of the embedded “ass” in “DeGrasse”. Strange, but true.

    You can trouble-shoot a post by breaking up suspect words with an underscore (or something) and clicking the Preview button. If you see the preview, you’ve gotten past the filter. If not, you can hit your Back button and keep trying.

  152. #153 Kseniya
    September 7, 2007

    Aside from the implicit claim that an intelligent designer (or agent, or force, or cause) exists, just what claims does ID theory make about the designer, Brownian? The claim made by theists – that the designer must have been God – is not a claim made by ID theory. So what claims do you have in mind?

    See, Jim, THIS kind of thing is what gets so maddening when you repeat it over, and over, and over. This is what seems disingenuous to me (and no, I am no calling you “a liar”; at worst, I think you may be fooling yourself). I am amazed that someone as intelligent as you can fail to see the dissonance in the following:

    1. The “implicit claim that an intelligent designer (or agent, or force, or cause) exists” is a huge, HUGE claim in and of itself. What other claims need be made in order for skeptics such as myself to be justified in questioning the validity of that central, foundational, irreducible claim?

    2. One of the “governing goals” of the DI is explicitly stated as being “To replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God.”

    See that word, “God”? G.O.D. God? GOD? GODGODGODGODGOD?

    Do you see it? Yes or no?

    Ok, even if I concede point #2 (which would require us to agree that whatever the DI says about the wedge document is pure crap) we’re still left with the EXTRAORDINARY CLAIM that one or more designing entities or forces of an unspecified nature MUST exist. That no claim has been made as to the specific identities of those entities does not make the foundational claim any less extraordinary.

  153. #154 Jim
    September 7, 2007

    Jim: “Let me ask you this, David: Is the platypus an intermediate, transitional form?”

    Brownian: “Sorry Jim, but if you understood the theory of evolution, you’d know off the bat that the (answer) to that (is) yes (everything’s an intermediate form to something else, unless it dies before reproducing)…”

    Thanks for lending support to my argument, Brownian. As you aptly note, if ToE is valid, then every organism is an intermediate, transitional form. But since we don’t know that ToE is valid, how do we know that the platypus (or any other organism) is an intermediate, transitional form? Don’t we first have to assume that ToE is valid before we can label the platypus an intermediate, transitional form? And isn’t the validity of ToE (in the macro sense) the very thing in question? If we don’t assume the validity of ToE, what is there about the platypus (or any other organism) that unambiguously indicates that it’s an intermediate, transitional form?

    Also, if every organism is an intermediate, transitional form, then labeling the platypus an intermediate, transitional is unenlightening. We need to know the organisms that it’s intermediate and transitional between before anything meaningful has been said about it being an intermediate, transitional form.

    Brownian: “Jim, please define ‘kinds’. It’s a meaningless term that fits the very definition of goal-post shifting.”

    I suggest that pedantically obsessing on the correct taxonomic terminology does nothing to help us understand whether Darwinian mechanisms can, or cannot, do all the creative work that Darwinists attribute to them. Darwin called his masterpiece “The Origin of Species.” Presumably, if we could show that Darwinian mechanisms can generate new species, we would confirm Darwinism (to the extent that science ever confirms any of its theories). Yet, as David has noted, there are at least 25 definitions of species. Suppose that we define species in terms of reproductive isolation. Suppose, also, that we experimentally produce the reproductive isolation of a new strain of bacteria from a founding population by randomly inducing mutations and applying selective pressure. This, we declare, is a new species of bacteria produced by Darwinian mechanisms; therefore, we have confirmed Darwinian theory. But an observer who was not locked into our definition of species – an observer who was looking at the situation from the perspective of common sense – would no doubt say: “But they’re still bacteria. I thought Darwinian mechanisms were supposed to be capable of generating descendants that are quite different from their ancestors – amphibians from fish, for example. How in the world does this new species of bacteria you’ve produced confirm that claim?”

  154. #155 Jim
    September 7, 2007

    Graculus: “…how would you identify an independently given specification without knowing anything about a specifier?”

    By having knowledge of the specification. If you were the first man on Mars and – during your exploration of the planet – you came across a pattern of rocks arranged to say, “Welcome to Mars, fourth rock from the Sun. We hope you enjoy your stay,” you would instantly recognize that the pattern of rocks conforms to independently existing specifications drawn from the English language. You wouldn’t know a thing about the specifier. You would quite correctly attribute the pattern of rocks to design without knowing a thing about the designer.

    Graculus: “My original question still stands, avoided by you. Define ‘specified’, ‘complex’ and ‘information’.”

    Specified – a pattern is specified if it conforms to a specification that is independent of the event(s) that produced the pattern.

    Complex – a pattern is complex if its probability is low and its information content high (i.e., it is one of many live possibilities).

    Information – that which gives shape to matter, fixing one shape to the exclusion of others.

    “Information is information, neither energy nor matter. No materialism that fails to account of this can survive the present day.” – Information theorist Norbert Wiener, author of “Cybernetics”

    Since Darwinism is wedded to a wholly material account of life, it cannot provide – even in principle – an account of the information that shapes matter into living organisms. I doubt that the theory (at least, its macroevolutionary claims) will survive the Information Age, although it will be propped up for many years to come by the commitment of so many evolutionary biologists to materialistic philosophy.

    Graculus: “The ToE is no more a philosophy than quantum mechanics is.”

    Is ToE open to the idea that an immaterial cause (intelligence) played a role – perhaps the key role – in life’s evolution? If not, then ToE is wedded to materialistic philosophy.

  155. #156 JimV
    September 7, 2007

    To follow up if I may on Kseniya’s point in #151, I don’t think it would be very controversial if Jim simply claimed that there might be further, undiscovered mechanisms of evolution which help account for the phenotype transformations which he considers unlikely to be accounted for by known mechanisms. There have been many advances, including genetics and the discovery of DNA, since Darwin’s time, and there may well be many more to come. The leap from there to an Intelligent Designer is what many of us consider a leap of faith, rather than logic.

    However, there would still be many who consider further mechanisms unnecessary, although not disproved. Similarly, many would consider the formation of round planets from dust by gravitational attraction to be a sufficient explanation, although it takes millions of years and no one has observed it from start to finish. Others might consider that a “just-so story”.

    I’m baaack – still ignorant of why I couldn’t comment here from my home PC yesterday, but unwilling to assign supernatural causes – thanks, Kseniya, for the helpful advice at #150; it may not have been directly relevant since I was able to post the comment unchanged from a library PC, but I learned from it anyway.

    Which brings me to another aspect of design engineering – teamwork. I often wonder how many people who have had much actual design experience are espousing ID (and how many True Scotsmen, for that matter), since as I have said, in my experience it rapidly teaches the limits of intelligent design. Those that do design work also learn that it helps to work as a team (not a committee – there is a big difference), with different people bringing different skills and viewpoints. So Kseniya, windy, Stanton, Josh, …, and Brownian: you’re doing a heck of a job. (Sorry if you’ve heard that one before, Brownian.)

  156. #157 Brownian
    September 7, 2007

    As you aptly note, if ToE is valid, then every organism is an intermediate, transitional form.

    Jim, this is true even if you only accept a few of Darwin’s basic observations: namely that children differ from their parents and that those differences are hereditable.

    I suggest that pedantically obsessing on the correct taxonomic terminology…I thought Darwinian mechanisms were supposed to be capable of generating descendants that are quite different from their ancestors…

    Blah blah blah. Pedantic nothing. The ‘quite different’ you’re speaking of is merely the accumulation of traits over time.

    If you’ve got a ‘quite different’ definition that precludes the above, please share it, otherwise I can’t help you understand why your criticism implies a serious lack of understanding.

  157. #158 Brownian
    September 7, 2007

    Jim: “The data can lead only to design.”
    Graculus: “When you bring some we’ll stop laughing.”

    Sorry, but I’m not going to do your homework for you. If you want to criticize ID without bothering to learn anything about it (aside from the gross distortions of ID peddled by the likes of PZ Myers), that’s your business.

    Jim, take your own advice: your comments, questions, and criticisms are indicative of someone whose knowledge of the theory of evolution is second hand, passed down through the filters of all the ID propaganda you’ve read. Gross distortions indeed.

    You seem to be an erudite, clear thinker. I wish you all the best in your studies, but please pick up and digest a few basic textbooks on the matter before you waste our time with your uninformed criticisms.

  158. #159 Rey Fox
    September 7, 2007

    “If you were the first man on Mars and – during your exploration of the planet – you came across a pattern of rocks arranged to say, Welcome to Mars, fourth rock from the Sun. We hope you enjoy your stay,” you would instantly recognize that the pattern of rocks conforms to independently existing specifications drawn from the English language. You wouldn’t know a thing about the specifier. ”

    The English language is an existing specification, yes. One that we know was invented by northern European humans. That doesn’t mean that anything in biology is an existing specification. So you still haven’t refined the design filter beyond “I’ll know it when I see it.”

  159. #160 Jim
    September 7, 2007

    Kseniya: 1. The “implicit claim that an intelligent designer (or agent, or force, or cause) exists” is a huge, HUGE claim in and of itself. What other claims need be made in order for skeptics such as myself to be justified in questioning the validity of that central, foundational, irreducible claim?

    Please note my use of the word “implicit.” ID theory contends that many biological structures, systems, processes, etc. are the products of actual (or intelligent) design. Clearly, design implicates a designer, but the claims of ID theorists relate to the former, not to the latter. The work of design theorists is to develop the mathematical, scientific and logical tools to support design inferences, not designER inferences.

    Kseniya 2. One of the “governing goals” of the DI is explicitly stated as being “To replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God.”
    See that word, “God”? G.O.D. God? GOD? GODGODGODGODGOD? Do you see it? Yes or no?

    Yes. I’ve never denied that ID theory has theistic implications and that theists can try to obtain theistic mileage from it. DI hopes to leverage those theistic implications so that science can be brought into harmony with a theistic conception of reality, much as it was pre-Darwin. Bringing science into harmony with theism is not the same as turning science into religion. Science would still be able to deliver materialistic explanations, but it wouldn’t be committed (as it is now) to the proposition that materialistic explanations fully account for everything in nature – including the existence, nature, and mental abilities of human beings. The wording chosen to express that “governing goal” was unfortunate, in my view. It conveys an impression of a looming religious assault on science that a wider reading of the works of ID theorists/proponents allays.

    In any event, regardless of whatever theistic mileage theists try to squeeze out of ID theory, the theory itself – just like Darwinian theory – is utterly silent on the God question. Thus it’s arrant nonsense to reduce ID theory to “Goddidit.”

  160. #161 Jim
    September 7, 2007

    Brownian: “Jim…your comments, questions, and criticisms are indicative of someone whose knowledge of the theory of evolution is second hand…”

    Aside from evolutionary scientists doing research in the field, everyone’s knowledge of ToE is second hand. So what? Is only a closeted Darwinian priesthood allowed to comment on ToE?

    Brownian: “…please pick up and digest a few basic textbooks on (ToE) before you waste our time with your uninformed criticisms.”

    I’m going to speculate on which books by ID theorists you’ve read, Brownian. Let me know if the following list is wrong:

    1) None.

  161. #162 Jim
    September 7, 2007

    Jim V: “There have been many advances, including genetics and the discovery of DNA, since Darwin’s time, and there may well be many more to come.”

    Those advances are posing increasing problems for Darwinism. Darwin thought the cell was a simple blob of protoplasm. I wonder if he would have proposed his theory if he knew what we know today about the cell – that it’s an enormously complex “factory” containing an elaborate network of interlocking “assembly lines” – that it’s jam-packed with power plants, automated workshops, recycling units, miniature monorails, sensors, gates, pumps, identification markers, and (in some cases) rotary outboard motors – that a single cell contains (as Richard Dawkins has observed) more information than a complete set of the Encyclopedia Britannica. I wonder how seriously he would have taken the notion that the complex machinery of the cell arose by way of unintelligent material mechanisms.

  162. #163 Brownian
    September 7, 2007

    I’m going to speculate on which books by ID theorists you’ve read, Brownian. Let me know if the following list is wrong:

    1) None.

    Who cares? We’re talking about your knowledge about evolution since you’re the one who’s all hell-bent on criticising evolution, you hypocrite.

    You’re the one who wrote “Sorry, but I’m not going to do your homework for you. If you want to criticize ID without bothering to learn anything about it (aside from the gross distortions of ID peddled by the likes of PZ Myers), that’s your business.” Whatsa matter? Can’t practice what you preach?

    I don’t have the time to hold your hand through the basics of biology. That’s why we’ve got schools and universities.
    All you’ve done is the same ol’, same ol’. You Gish gallop and switch the subject anytime anyone actually asks you questions about your preferred theory (when you aren’t being a little “I’m not going to do your homework for you” snot, that is). We see this all the time from your kind: every one of you clones thinks you’ve got some fancy reasoning that invalidates evolution; it’s always the same, and it’s always flawed. Christianity is wrong; if there is a hell, it’s having to put up with this tedious crap over and over.

    Well, I guess you’ve proved your point. Some ‘kinds’ just don’t seem to evolve at all.

  163. #164 Kseniya
    September 7, 2007

    Jim, we may have to agree to partially-disagree about the DesignER issue. I understand what you’re saying, but I still don’t get why you gloss over the importance of the foundational claim of ID – that the designer EXISTS.

    Simply saying it’s no big deal because design theory makes no OTHER inferences about the designer kinda misses (or dodges) the point. That one inference, implicit or not, is huge – and unsupported. There’s no evidence for it, and Dembski is trying to “prove” design (and, by implication, the existence of a designer) by number-crunching. (Badly, too, or so I am led to believe.)

    Note that nowhere in the above paragraph do I mention God or theism.

    The wording chosen to express that “governing goal” was unfortunate, in my view

    Of course you do, but I must disagree, for in my view it’s to everyone’s advantage to have as many cards on the table as possible. Regardless, neither your opinion, nor mine, makes that wording (which was without doubt the work of a Writer and not the result of unguided natural processes) any more or less significant that what the words themselves mean in the context of the document in which they appear.

    It’s not just that one sentence, either. Neither your opinion nor mine have any bearing on the significance of the 20-year goals of the DI as stated. I’m not sounding any alarms about looming Theocracy, so please don’t put words in my mouth, but The Document says what it says. Its goals are theistic (if not theocratic) and its long term goals are to see design theory – and, inescapably, its clearly stated theistic foundation – applied in natural science, psychology, ethics, politics, fine arts, and to “permeate our religious, cultural, moral and political life.”

    Make of that what you will.

    Thus it’s arrant nonsense to reduce ID theory to “Goddidit.”

    I will agree with that, if you permit me to add that any claim that ID theory, with its obvious theistic implications, is “utterly silent” on the god question, is equally nonsensical. The theory’s disinclination to identify the intelligent force or agent behind the apparent design of nature and life does NOT relieve it of its responsibility for demonstrating (or of its reliance upon) the existence of such a force or agent. It can never be utterly silent on that question, for it is making the claim that there’s something out there that is, on some level, in charge of what goes on here.

  164. #165 Jim
    September 7, 2007

    Kseniya: “I will agree with that, if you permit me to add that any claim that ID theory, with its obvious theistic implications, is ‘utterly silent’ on the god question, is equally nonsensical. The theory’s disinclination to identify the intelligent force or agent behind the apparent design of nature and life does NOT relieve it of its responsibility for demonstrating (or of its reliance upon) the existence of such a force or agent. It can never be utterly silent on that question, for it is making the claim that there’s something out there that is, on some level, in charge of what goes on here.”

    Let’s revisit Mars. This time imagine that you have no knowledge of computers. While you’re exploring the Red Planet you stumble across a device which – unbeknownst to you – is a laptop computer. Amazingly, when you flip what appears to be a power switch, the device comes on. An icon that looks like a little adding machine appears on the screen of the device. You figure out how to activate the little adding machine, and – to your utter amazement – it turns out to be a calculator that performs a wide array of mathematical calculations. By now you’re convinced that the device is the product of design because it gives every indication that its complex arrangement of parts has been specified to perform a function (or functions). Now, did you need to know anything about the designer of the device to arrive at a design inference? Not at all. And are you obligated to prove that the designer exists and to identify him in order to validate your design inference? Of course not. It is never necessary to know a thing about a designer to justify a conclusion of design.

    Having said that, let me ask you this: If design theorists are obligated to demonstrate the existence of the designer before design theory can be taken seriously, aren’t Darwinists also obligated to demonstrate that matter is all there is before Darwinism can be taken seriously?

    With regard to ID and the God question, I’ll list once again the propositions that ID theory is committed to:

    1. Specified complexity (which includes irreducible complexity and complex specified information) is a reliable indicator or hallmark of design.
    2. Many biological systems exhibit specified complexity and employ irreducibly complex subsystems.
    3. Naturalistic mechanisms or undirected causes do not suffice to explain the origin of specified complexity (in its various forms).
    4. Intelligent design constitutes the best explanation for the origin of specified complexity in biological systems.

    Where in those propositions is there any statement about God (keep in mind that an implication is not a statement)? Since ID theory makes no statements about God, how can it be said that ID theory is not silent on the God question?
    All the God-talk that flows from the theistic implications of ID theory occurs outside of the theory, not within it.

  165. #166 JimV
    September 7, 2007

    Darwin thought the cell was a simple blob of protoplasm. I wonder if he would have proposed his theory if he knew what we know today about the cell – that it’s an enormously complex “factory” containing an elaborate network of interlocking “assembly lines” – that it’s jam-packed with power plants, automated workshops, recycling units, miniature monorails, sensors, gates, pumps, identification markers, and (in some cases) rotary outboard motors – that a single cell contains (as Richard Dawkins has observed) more information than a complete set of the Encyclopedia Britannica. I wonder how seriously he would have taken the notion that the complex machinery of the cell arose by way of unintelligent material mechanisms.

    I can’t speak for Darwin, but sign me up. As I’ve said, I can’t claim to know what chemical reactions and evolutionary mechanisms could or could not accomplish over billions of years, but assuming that something else which I understand even less and have no direct evidence for was responsible does nothing for me.

  166. #167 Josh
    September 7, 2007

    By now you’re convinced that the device is the product of design because it gives every indication that its complex arrangement of parts has been specified to perform a function (or functions). Now, did you need to know anything about the designer of the device to arrive at a design inference? Not at all. And are you obligated to prove that the designer exists and to identify him in order to validate your design inference? Of course not. It is never necessary to know a thing about a designer to justify a conclusion of design.

    Where this departs from science largely hinges here on one word: convinced. You become convinced that the device is designed because it gives every indication of having been designed. After that point, you stop being skeptical and start believing it was designed. You never go back and revisit the possibility that you could be wrong, even though the device gives every indication of having been designed. I think to a lot of people over time the world has given every indication to them that it is flat. We don’t currently think that it is. If you want this analogy to touch science, your next step is say…huh…ok…I have postulated this is designed…now…about that designer…is there any evidence for the designer other than the existence of the object itself? We cannot use the existence of the object as evidence because we always have to be prepared for the possibility that even though we’re convinced of something, we could be wrong. Since there isn’t any evidence other than the object…we’re on thin ice…

    Having said that, let me ask you this: If design theorists are obligated to demonstrate the existence of the designer before design theory can be taken seriously, aren’t Darwinists also obligated to demonstrate that matter is all there is before Darwinism can be taken seriously?

    It is before they are taken seriously by the scientific community. There are people out there who already take them seriously. If a scientist is being honest with you, science is silent on the question of whether or not matter is all there is. Science deals with things that we can observe and test.

  167. #168 Brownian
    September 7, 2007

    Having said that, let me ask you this: If design theorists are obligated to demonstrate the existence of the designer before design theory can be taken seriously, aren’t Darwinists also obligated to demonstrate that matter is all there is before Darwinism can be taken seriously?

    No, not anymore than chemists are obligated to demonstrate that matter is all there is before that they claim that sodium and chlorine ions will precipitate out of solution to form sodium chloride crystals or that physicists are obligated to demonstrate that matter is all there is before they can use a game of marbles to demonstrate that momentum is conserved.

  168. #169 Josh
    September 7, 2007

    This might get a little tough to follow. Jim, I’m going to use your convention of name followed by colon followed by comment in quotes. I’m putting all previous comments from either of us in italics. I’ve also separated things into artibrary numbered blocks. Let me know if this isn’t clear. -Josh

    First
    Jim: “But few – if any – of those fossilized pre-Cambrian organisms recommend themselves as credible evolutionary precursors of the Cambrian phyla.”

    Josh: “Huh…really? Upon what are you basing this?…So…which Ediacaran organisms are you thinking of here?”

    Jim: “Since this is apparently your field, Josh, I’ll turn the question back to you. Which Ediacaran organisms present themselves as credible evolutionary precursors of, say, trilobites? What is the evidence showing that those presumed precursors (if there are any in the fossil record) evolved by Darwinian means into trilobites?

    Josh: Well, since you were the one making the strong declarative statement, I don’t think it is my responsibility to give you my take on the answer…you made the statement…I was asking for you to support your position. That being said, however, I’ll throw one out there. I think Spriggina is a very credible possibility as a trilobite precursor. So, again, which organisms were you thinking of that aren’t credible precursors of Cambrian organisms?

    I’m going to hold off on the evidence aspect of this for a moment because this reply is already long and I suspect we’ll be there soon. I will however, through out: Where is the evidence that trilobites evolved by design? Where is the evidence that a designer exists? If the answer is that the mere existence of trilobites in the record means they were designed because they appear to be designed, well that’s fine…but it isn’t science.

    Second
    Jim: “Why do trilobites appear in the fossil record with their extraordinarily complex eyes already fully formed? Where is the evidence showing that those eyes were formed step by tiny Darwinian step?”

    Josh: Trilobites do appear suddenly (in a geological sense) with already pretty well developed eyes. There isn’t any direct evidence for trilobites right now (that I know of) as to earlier stages of those eyes. Based on what I know of the fossil record, I can predict (erect a hypothesis) that more primitive trilobites remain undiscovered in older rocks. As I already sort of put out there, there isn’t all that much Cambrian-aged sediment exposed at the surface and much of what is exposed as been metamorphosed (not the best for finding fossils). Most our knowledge of Cambrian faunas as a whole comes from a few select places in the world with exceptional preservation…much of the rest of the Cambrian record isn’t very good. Moreover, Lower Cambrian stratigraphy is a mess–heck people have been trying to figure out where to even place the bottom of the period since about the turn of the last century. So yes, the very early history of the trilobites is still pretty cloudy. Again I ask…so what? I have already made my position clear that this doesn’t present the huge problem for evolution that you seem to think it does. Science is full of things we cannot explain…yet. But guess what…we can explain more things than we could last week. We haven’t figured out how to cure all cancers yet but you still go to the ER when you cut your finger off with a knife, don’t you? Why? As I take your reasoning, the lack of understanding cancer well enough to fight it should cause us to abandon medicine because of ‘problems.’ In 1905, you could have freaked out that Tyrannosaurus ‘appeared suddenly in the fossil record with wide teeth adapted for crushing and with weird little arms that don’t particularly appear good for much.’ Wow…that’s a huge problem for evolution…I don’t know what we’re gonna go…except maybe spend the next hundred years finding a sequence of tyrannosaurids with ever widening teeth and a marked reduction of forelimb size…guess it wasn’t such a huge problem after all. I find it very interesting that your concerned about the ‘sudden’ appearance of trilobites and their eyes, but don’t particularly feel the need to observe that the trilobite record overall is a rather striking example of increasing complexity through time, with gradually increasingly complex forms appearing as one goes up from the Lower Cambrian into increasingly younger rocks…indeed what evolution would predict (indeed this also lends weight to my hypothesis at the top of this paragraph). If we have part of a linear change in one direction, why is it so hard to predict that, even though we don’t have the evidence right now, the trend might continue in the other direction? Besides, whereas we have lots of data holes still to fill for early trilobites, it isn’t as though this situation plagues Arthropoda as a whole. Sure, about ten years ago the Cambrian was pretty quiet with respect to arthropod origins, but it has been a rather busy decade. Now we have a remarkable sequential sequence of early arthropods, from worm-like things that are basal to the entire Arthropoda through more derived forms that demonstrate the appearance of many of the defining features of the clade (e.g., lever-style musculature; biamous limbs; complex arthropod heads). And this data set doesn’t start in the Cambrian, but extends down into the latest Precambrian. So, no, people aren’t losing sleep over the ‘problems’ trilobites present for evolution…because they don’t present ‘problems’ (problem used here in the spirit in which I think you’re intending it…a crippling fundamental flaw in the methodology). And if you don’t think that increasing knowledge about arthropods in general informs our understanding of trilobite phylogeny, well then we need to have some pretty basic conversations about biology. And crustaceans seem to be coming along right after arthropods in terms of early Paleozoic root organisms for which resolution is quickly improving. If you’re now going to say that none of this is evidence of evolution…well then, this a slightly different discussion regarding evidence. But it will also lead toward a version of Stanton’s favorite question…

    Third
    Josh: “Describing Darwinian mechanisms as unguided…well, I suspect you’re trying to say that evolution is random.”

    Jim: “You’re right, but I’m only repeating what evolutionary biologists like Ken Miller and Douglas Futuyma say about Darwinian evolution. For example, in his textbook “Biology,” Miller wrote: “It is important to keep this concept in mind. EVOLUTION IS RANDOM AND UNDIRECTED.” (emphasis in the original)”

    Josh: Evolution isn’t random. It can involve randomness, and I never said it couldn’t, but as we currently understand it, it isn’t random. And where exactly did Doug Futuyma say that it was? As for the phrase attributed to Miller…as we currently understand evolution, it is wrong. Moreover, Ken Miller testified under oath in his pretrial depositions for the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial in 2005 that in fact he (Miller) didn’t write it anyway. He testified that his co-author, Joseph Levine, inserted that phrase in a chapter that he (Levine) wrote and that Miller simply missed it when he was editing that chapter. Miller felt strongly that the phrase was not accurate and should not have been inserted and indeed it was struck from subsequent editions. In September 2005, his (Miller’s) view on the phrase was, based on his sworn testimony, that it was a mistake. Miller has long been rather outspoken about being a pretty religious guy…I doubt rather strongly that he lied under oath in that case (yes, I realize that the Discovery Institute says he did, but it appears they’re twisting things again…I have some inside information regarding that…). I fully expect that if you email Dr. Miller now, in September 2007, he will echo his 2005 position. He’s easy to find…he teaches at Brown.

    Fourth
    Josh: “Darwinism at best is a philosophy.”

    Jim: “I quite agree, Josh. Some 150 years after Darwin wrote his theory, the chief prop of the theory (in the macro sense, and in its present form) is materialistic philosophy, not empirical evidence. But when I use the term “Darwinism,” all I intend it to mean is modern evolutionary theory, or neo-Darwinism, or the modern synthesis.”

    Josh: I think it would be better and more clear that if we’re talking about evolution, the scientific theory, that we use the actual term, so as to reduce confusion and keep everyone on point. Also, this already a long reply to your post and I predict we’ll be getting into evidence before long, so I’m going to hold off on that one for the moment if that’s ok.

    Jim: “Microevolution by Darwinian means has some fairly solid evidentiary support – such as Majerus’s research with peppered moths (assuming his research wasn’t methodologically flawed). But the evidentiary support for the macroevolutionary claims of Darwinists – such as the claim that color vision evolved by Darwinian means from a light sensitive spot, or the claim that men evolved from fish by Darwinian means – is most conspicuous by its virtual absence.”

    Josh: You’re stating that there is no evidence to support the hypothesis that complex vertebrate eyes evolved from very simple structures like light sensitive organs? Really…?

    Jim: Homology, phylogenetic trees, the fossil record, DNA comparisons, etc. all provide evidence that evolution occurred, but they don’t provide evidence that evolution (in the macro sense) was caused by Darwinian mechanisms.

    Josh: What do they provide evidence of (wincing)?

    Fifth
    Jim: “To show that Darwinian mechanisms caused all of life’s evolution (both micro and macro), there must be something other than evidence showing that evolution occurred if the question is not to be begged. A mechanistic theory like Darwinism must produce evidence showing that its mechanism can do all the creative work attributed to it. With regard to macroevolution, that work remains undone.

    Josh: if it is ok, I’m still trying to write what I want to say here and get it to come out correctly…I hope no one minds if I hold this part off for the moment.

    Sixth
    Josh: “Physics doesn’t have gravity ‘under control.'”

    Jim: “Quite so. Physicists still don’t know how gravity works, but so far as I know, they don’t claim that any of their theories have that unknown under control. Evolutionary biologists, on the other hand, claim (in so many words) that Darwinian theory (what I call “Darwinism”) has all of the problems presented by the Cambrian explosion under control. That unwarranted certainty is reflected on this forum by references to me as an ignoramus when I pointed out the problems the Cambrian explosion presents to Darwinism.”

    Josh: I don’t really think that statement is accurate, especially since I think that most of us who actually study evolution for a living would disagree with many, if not all, of these supposed ‘problems’ you’re asserting are created for evolution by the ‘Cambrian explosion.’ Does the ‘Cambrian explosion’ create questions? Sure…of course. But this is what we hope for in science…when new discoveries result in lots of new questions. We’re not bothered…why are you? Can we not, as the people doing the science, keep our own council as to what constitutes a problem for a given theory and what doesn’t? I don’t write that question to be flip, but seriously…

    Seventh
    Josh: “Do you perceive that as a crippling blow to physics? If so, I presume you don’t fly very often?”

    Jim: “Not any more. But I have flown a lot. I’m a retired airline captain.”

    Josh: (laughing out loud) That was terrific…

    Eighth
    Josh: “…our current level of knowledge of Cambrian biotas doesn’t present some crippling blow to evolution.”

    Jim: “Perhaps, but at least you seem to recognize that the Cambrian phyla remain an unresolved problem for Darwinism, unlike those who claim that Darwinism has the problem under control.”

    Josh: Hmmm…well, I certainly recognize that there are things about Cambrian paleontology that we don’t understand. It appears, though, that you and I disagree that the simple existence of various ‘complex’ Cambrian taxa constitute ‘problems’ for evolution. Are there lots of questions about the Cambrian that remain unanswered…God yes. So what? There are lots of questions about the War of 1812 that currently elude us…history marches on. I agree that if people on ‘our side’ claim that we have the Cambrian figured out, they’re wrong. But if you and someone who works on, Cambrian fossils say, disagree about what constitutes a ‘problem,’ that is a different issue than the person claiming we have the Cambrian ‘under control.’

    Ninth
    Josh: “…for you to accuse us of creating just-so stories is a little obnoxious.”

    Jim: “Oh, come on, Josh. I suspect you know quite well that Darwinian literature is chock full of just-so stories. Harvard evolutionary biologist Richard Lewontin brought attention to that when he wrote (in a book review): “We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism.”

    Josh: I took your comment as strongly implying that the majority of the literature on the topic consists of just-so stories (i.e., that you were simply dismissing the body of work). So, yeah, I take that position as being rather obnoxious. If my impression of the tone of your comment was erroneous, then I swiftly retract my cynical response.

  169. #170 Josh
    September 7, 2007

    Huh…well, ok…Jim…all your comments were in italics in the preview…I tried…seems something got screwed up…hope it be read.

  170. #171 windy
    September 7, 2007

    Darwin thought the cell was a simple blob of protoplasm.

    Actual Darwin quote: “As, however, a cell is a complex structure, with its investing membrane, nucleus, and nucleolus, …”

    But since we don’t know that ToE is valid, how do we know that the platypus (or any other organism) is an intermediate, transitional form? Don’t we first have to assume that ToE is valid before we can label the platypus an intermediate, transitional form?

    No, you only have to assume common descent. (and common descent is not only assumed, but has been tested, and held so far)

    Perhaps you could clarify whether you accept common descent in general in the animal world, in which case we can move on to the mechanisms. If not, we can review the evidence for common descent. As it is now, it’s a bit confusing when you alternately say that ID has no problem with common descent, and then turn around and question the existence of transitional forms.

  171. #172 Kseniya
    September 7, 2007

    Hi Jim,

    It is never necessary to know a thing about a designer to justify a conclusion of design.

    True, and I have not said otherwise.

    Having said that, let me ask you this: If design theorists are obligated to demonstrate the existence of the designer before design theory can be taken seriously, then […]

    I cannot and will not answer that, for two reasons: First, there is no such obligation, and again, I have never said otherwise. They are obligated to produce the evidence of design, and if they succeed in doing so they will have also demonstrated the existence (if not the nature) of a designing influence or entity. The two are inseparable.

    Note that, even then, it would not be necessary to know anything about the designer (though it would surely become a very hot issue of great interest to virtually every human being on earth!)

    Second, as you’ve often said, neither ID or the ToE speaks directly to the god issue. However, Evo does not rest on the assumption that “matter is all there is” – it simply does not REQUIRE supernatural intervention or (currently) undetectable intelligent guiding influences. The same cannot be said for ID.

  172. #173 Josh
    September 7, 2007

    Kseniya,
    That was well said.

  173. #174 Kseniya
    September 7, 2007

    Thanks, Josh, but now I’m going to blow it… LoL..

    I suggest that pedantically obsessing on the correct taxonomic terminology[…]

    Jim, I have to back Brownian on this one. He wasn’t being pedantic, he was insisting on a more precise definition of “kind” as a means of facilitating a discussion about the alleged limitations of evo. We all agree that evolutionary mechanisms can produce incremental changes in populations (cf Majerus) and that these changes can accumulate. But where do you draw the line between micro (demonstrably possible) and macro (allegedly impossible) evolution? What is the threshold?

    Leaving Beethoven, Boeing, Martian calculators, and the Declaration of Independence behind for the moment, let us consider – as a change of pace, at least – something that’s actually alive. Like a frog. Let’s call it Notobatrachus degiustoi.

    Ok, I admit it’s a dead frog, now sadly extinct these past 150 million years, but it used to be alive, and would have appeared, to the human eye, to be a fairly ordinary (if small) frog. In your opinion, Jim, are “unguided” evolutionary processes capable of producing, say, both the huge, venomous Cane Toad and the tiny, innocuous, tree-dwelling Spring Peeper from the raw genetic materials of Notobatrachusthe over the course of 150 million years? Or, more to the point, do you think that evolution from paleofrogs to modern frogs and toads has been demonstrated by the evidence? Surely they are all the same “kind”. Or are the acquisition of size and venom, or the loss of size and the acquisition of the ability to climb trees, beyond the scope of what unguided darwinian mechanisms can produce?

    Now consider the Mudskipper. This is an amphibious fish with eyes on top of its head that runs around on land, breathes air cutaneously like an amphibian, and climbs trees. Perhaps Skippers who are better air-breathers and more mobile out of the water have a slight advantage over their peers. Do you think it impossible that a population of this unusual fish could, over the course of 150 million years, evolve into something very much like a modern frog or salamander? Surely fish and amphibian are not the same “kind”, and yet this particular fish is, in a few striking ways, more like a frog than a flounder…

    Regarding the wind chimes, I contend that I could write a piece, which I might prosaically title Duet for Windchimes and Tugboats, a performance of which would be essentially indistinguishable from a recording of unattended windchimes and tugboats. I further contend that design theory would either be unable to detect the design in my composition, or would incorrectly detect design in the transcription of the unattended recording, and would therefore be unreliable and arguably useless in distinguishing between the products of intelligently managed processes and “unguided” natural processes.

    I’d like to add to Brownian’s more amicable comments, Jim, that you express yourself well and comport yourself admirably. I do regret the shallow, ingracious comments I made the other day at the top of this thread.

  174. #175 Jim
    September 7, 2007

    Josh: “Where this departs from science largely hinges here on one word: convinced. You become convinced that the device is designed because it gives every indication of having been designed. After that point, you stop being skeptical and start believing it was designed. You never go back and revisit the possibility that you could be wrong, even though the device gives every indication of having been designed.”

    Let me ask you this, Josh: Have any of my critics on this forum given even the slightest indication that they’re willing to revisit the possibility that Darwinism could be wrong in some rather significant ways? If Darwinists are willing to admit possible error, why are they so adamant that science must not consider the possibility of design? “Was this biological system designed?” is a perfectly legitimate question for science to ask and to research.

    Josh: “Science deals with things that we can observe and test.”

    I quite agree. And since we can observe and analyze biological systems, there’s no reason (aside from dogmatic commitment to ToE) why we shouldn’t test them for design. The purpose of ID theory is to develop the mathematical, scientific, and logical tools needed to do that.

    Josh: “And if you don’t think that increasing knowledge about arthropods in general informs our understanding of trilobite phylogeny, well then we need to have some pretty basic conversations about biology. And crustaceans seem to be coming along right after arthropods in terms of early Paleozoic root organisms for which resolution is quickly improving. If you’re now going to say that none of this is evidence of evolution…well then, this a slightly different discussion regarding evidence.”

    I’ve already said that the kind of things you mention here are evidence for evolution (understood as common descent, or descent with modification). But they’re not evidence that Darwinian mechanisms produced that evolution. If we confirm evolution (to the extent that science can confirm anything), we haven’t confirmed Darwinism, which is really two theories (a point Ernst Mayr will explain below).

    Josh: “…where exactly did Doug Futuyma say that (Darwinian evolution) was (a random process)?”

    In his textbook “Evolutionary Biology,” Futuyma wrote: “The major tenets of the evolutionary synthesis are that populations contain genetic variation that arises by RANDOM (i.e., not adaptively directed) mutation and recombination; that populations evolve by changes in gene frequency brought about by RANDOM genetic drift, gene flow, and especially natural selection…” (emphasis added)

    Jim: “Homology, phylogenetic trees, the fossil record, DNA comparisons, etc. all provide evidence that evolution occurred, but they don’t provide evidence that evolution (in the macro sense) was caused by Darwinian mechanisms.”

    Josh: “What do they provide evidence of (wincing)?”

    Evolution – just as I said. Evolution (understood as common descent) is a distinct concept from the Darwinian mechanism of evolution (natural selection acting on random mutations). Even Darwin got them confused. As Ernst Mayr wrote (in “One Long Argument: Charles Darwin and the Genesis of Modern Evolutionary Thought,” 1991): “That writers on Darwin have nevertheless almost invariably spoken of the combination of these various theories as ‘Darwin’s theory’ in the singular is in part Darwin’s doing. He not only referred to the theory of evolution by common descent as ‘my theory,’ but he also called the theory of evolution by natural selection ‘my theory,’ as if common descent and natural selection were a single theory…(Darwin) ascribed many phenomena, particularly those of geographic distribution, to natural selection when they were really the consequence of common descent.”

    In his latest book (“The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism”), biochemist/design theorist Michael Behe argues that “the evidence for common descent seems compelling.” He also contends that “there’s also great evidence that random mutation paired with natural selection can modify life in important ways.” But the bulk of his book is devoted to arguing that “there is strong evidence that random mutation is extremely limited” in what it can do. If you’re not as well-versed in molecular biology as you are in paleontology (or even if you are), I think you’d find the book to be both an interesting and informative read.

  175. #176 Jim
    September 7, 2007

    Kseniya: “(ID theorists) are obligated to produce the evidence of design, and if they succeed in doing so they will have also demonstrated the existence (if not the nature) of a designing influence or entity. The two are inseparable.”

    Quite so. As I have repeatedly said, design implicates a designer. But ID theory deals only with the former, not the latter.

    Kseniya: “(ToE) simply does not REQUIRE supernatural intervention…”

    Neither does design theory.

    Kseniya: “…or (currently) undetectable intelligent guiding influences.”

    If design is discerned, the existence of a designing influence will have been implicitly demonstrated – as you wrote above. But we won’t know who or what that designing influence was, or how it actualized its influence.

  176. #177 Kseniya
    September 7, 2007

    Is a game of Monopoly a RANDOM process?

    Futuyma did not say Evolution was a random process, Jim. You’re saying he did. You’re slipping.

    Hey, Jim, did you have trouble posting those last two comments? I posted something after Josh’s 4:07 comment, and it’s still hung up in “moderation” or something. Maybe I said a bad word… 🙂

  177. #178 Josh
    September 7, 2007

    Yeah…that’s you, Kseniya…always with those bad words.

  178. #179 Josh
    September 7, 2007

    Yeah…that’s you, Kseniya…always with those bad words.

  179. #180 Josh
    September 7, 2007

    Yeah…that’s you, Kseniya…always with those bad words.

  180. #181 windy
    September 7, 2007

    Josh:

    I was asking for you to support your position. That being said, however, I’ll throw one out there. I think Spriggina is a very credible possibility as a trilobite precursor. So, again, which organisms were you thinking of that aren’t credible precursors of Cambrian organisms?

    Heh, excellent comeback… and predictably ignored by Jim.

  181. #182 Kseniya
    September 7, 2007

    Geez… rub it in, whydontcha!

  182. #183 Jim
    September 7, 2007

    Josh: “Describing Darwinian mechanisms as unguided…well, I suspect you’re trying to say that evolution is random. It isn’t. The mechanisms aren’t guided in the sense that you’re hoping for, but to describe them as unguided is rather too crude.”

    George Gaylord Simpson (one of the creators of the neo-Darwinian synthesis): “Man is the result of a purposeless and natural process that did not have him in mind.”

    Simpson’s words reflect something that is repeated over and over again in Darwinist literature: that Darwinian evolution has no purpose and no goals. In what sense, then, could it be said that such evolution is guided? If Darwinian evolution has no goals, what is it being guided towards?

    At its very core, Darwinian evolution is a random process because the variations it requires for evolutionary progress are always randomly produced (or so the story goes). Natural selection operates with law-like regularity in preserving advantageous variations, but its operation in no way counters the randomness of the mutations. It’s just as senseless to say that natural selection guides evolution (if that is what you’re suggesting) as it is to say that the law of gravity guides falling apples. Natural selection may ensure that advantageous variations are culled and preserved, just as gravity ensures that apples fall down (not up), but natural selection no more guides the evolution of an organism towards a goal than gravity guides a falling apple to its final resting place. An apple plucked from a tree, sliced, and baked in a pie is a guided apple; an apple falling from a tree and rolling to a stop on the ground is not a guided apple. Similarly, because natural selection does not direct the evolution of an organism towards a goal, it is not guiding the evolution of that organism. The laws of nature constrain, they don’t guide.

  183. #184 Jim
    September 8, 2007

    Kseniya: “…do you think that evolution from paleofrogs to modern frogs and toads has been demonstrated by the evidence? Surely they are all the same ‘kind’.”

    I don’t know that it’s actually been demonstrated by specific evidence for the presumed evolution that you cite, but in general it’s been demonstrated that Darwinian mechanisms can produce minor adaptive changes in organisms, even to the point of producing reproductive isolation (which is one definition of speciation). It’s reasonable to conclude that Darwinian mechanisms can produce frog to frog (or frog to toad) evolution, but it’s unreasonable to extrapolate from that and say that those mechanisms can also cause, say, frog to otter to human evolution (don’t take that evolutionary sequence literally – it’s only meant to demonstrate the Darwinian claim that humans evolved from some unknown mammal, which evolved from some unknown amphibian, which evolved from some unknown fish, and so on and so on – all by way of unintelligent Darwinian mechanisms).

    Kseniya: “I contend that I could write a piece, which I might prosaically title Duet for Windchimes and Tugboats, a performance of which would be essentially indistinguishable from a recording of unattended windchimes and tugboats. I further contend that design theory would either be unable to detect the design in my composition, or would incorrectly detect design in the transcription of the unattended recording…”

    If the sounds heard on the recording were indistinguishable from a recording of unattended windchimes and tugboats, there would be no reason to think that the sounds conformed to an independently given specification (or specifications). Thus there would be no reason to draw a design inference. Dembski’s explanatory filter can produce false negatives (inferring no-design where design is actually present), but (he argues) it won’t produce false positives (inferring design where there is no design).

  184. #185 Jim
    September 8, 2007

    Josh: “I think Spriggina is a very credible possibility as a trilobite precursor. So, again, which organisms were you thinking of that aren’t credible precursors of Cambrian organisms?”

    Like you (apparently), I think all the other pre-trilobite organisms don’t recommend themselves as credible evolutionary precursors of trilobites. So we have one credible precursor (why is Spriggina credible?) and – what, thousands? millions? – of non-credible precursors. To me that sounds like the pre-trilobite fossil record contains few, if any, credible trilobite precursors (which is the claim I made). If the Darwinian tale of evolution occurring by way of the step-by-tiny-step accumulation of minor adaptive changes (induced by random mutations, preserved by natural selection) is true, shouldn’t there be thousands of credible trilobite precursors in the fossil record? Where are they?

  185. #186 Kseniya
    September 8, 2007

    (Wow… weird… my frogs & windchimes comment magically appeared in the chronologically expected spot in the comment list, but it wasn’t there last night. Same goes for some comments by Jim and Windy…)

  186. #187 Graculus
    September 8, 2007

    it’s still hung up in “moderation” or something.

    Sciblogs does that apparently at random. My emails to the webmaster go unanswered.

  187. #188 PZ Myers
    September 8, 2007

    It’s magic!

    No, what happens is that the arbitrary and weird filtering software here plucks out some of your posts and throws them into a moderation queue, and I have to manually approve them. Stuff held up overnight has to wait for me to wake up to get approved.

    I usually check the queue first thing in the morning, and intermittently throughout the day.

  188. #189 Kseniya
    September 8, 2007

    George Gaylord Simpson (one of the creators of the neo-Darwinian synthesis): “Man is the result of a purposeless and natural process that did not have him in mind.”

    Simpson’s words reflect something that is repeated over and over again in Darwinist literature: that Darwinian evolution has no purpose and no goals. In what sense, then, could it be said that such evolution is guided? If Darwinian evolution has no goals, what is it being guided towards?

    It is being guided towards whatever “destination” it eventually reaches. The guide is natural selection. The destination may be extinction, speciation, or what may superficially appear to be morphological stasis (think “coelacanth”) and the journey is guided by natural selection.

    A falling leaf is guided by gravity, air resistance, and the wind. A chunk of driftwood is guided by the wind, the waves, the tides. A river is guided by land features and gravity. There is no “goal” but the journey of each is guided by natural forces. To us, this seems arbitrary and purposeless, but it is not random.

    (So what if I had a box full of frogs, then hung some windchimes over it so that jumping frogs would bump into the chimes… and recorded the croaking, chirping, and chiming… and then looped it and rapped over it? Would I be banned from Pharyngula? I should hope so!)

  189. #190 Jim
    September 8, 2007

    A request of Josh, Kseniya, and Jim V –

    I wonder if you’d take the time to read design theorist
    Stephen C. Meyer’s essay, “Intelligent Design: The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories.” I don’t expect you to agree with everything Meyer says, but what I’d like to know is if you think it was improper of the editor (Richard Sternberg) to approve the peer-reviewed essay for publication in the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, and whether the subsequent abuse heaped on Sternberg by the Darwinian establishment was justified.

    You can find the essay at:

    http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/index.php?command=view&id=2177

  190. #191 Jim
    September 8, 2007

    Jim: “If Darwinian evolution has no goals, what is it being guided towards?”

    Kseniya: “It is being guided towards whatever ‘destination’ it eventually reaches.”

    In that sense, then, it is trivial to describe Darwinian evolution as “guided.” All you’re saying is that such evolution does what it does, with no goals “in mind.” It’s not altogether random (mutations are random, natural selection is law-like), but it’s certainly unguided in any meaningful sense.

  191. #192 Jim
    September 8, 2007

    Kseniya: “I’d like to add to Brownian’s more amicable comments, Jim, that you express yourself well and comport yourself admirably. I do regret the shallow, ingracious comments I made the other day at the top of this thread.”

    I appreciate your “attitude adjustment,” Kseniya. The debate can’t make any progress when it’s just an exchange of insults, exemplified by the title of this thread: “Wells Lies. Again.”

  192. #193 Graculus
    September 8, 2007

    You wouldn’t know a thing about the specifier. You would quite correctly attribute the pattern of rocks to design without knowing a thing about the designer.

    Au contraire, you would know that the designer spoke English. That alone leads to a bunch of things you could know about the designer.

    Specified – a pattern is specified if it conforms to a specification that is independent of the event(s) that produced the pattern.

    In order to do that you need to produce the independent specification in order to compare the result to it and see if it conforms. So, please produce the specifications.

    Complex – a pattern is complex if its probability is low and its information content high (i.e., it is one of many live possibilities).

    What is a “live possibility”?

    Other than that, this looks like Kolmogorov complexity, which is merely a measure of algorithmic entropy.

    Information – that which gives shape to matter, fixing one shape to the exclusion of others.

    Quite poetical… and meaningless. We need an objective definition and metric. Hint: “Information” is not synonymous with “data” or “meaning”.

    It looks very much like you are trying to work “meaning” into Shannon IT. Don’t do that, it’s silly.

    Since Darwinism is wedded to a wholly material account of life, it cannot provide – even in principle – an account of the information that shapes matter into living organisms.

    It can, and is already merrily doing so. Really, I’m not going to do your homework for you.

    Is ToE open to the idea that an immaterial cause (intelligence) played a role – perhaps the key role – in life’s evolution? If not, then ToE is wedded to materialistic philosophy.

    There is a very, very large difference between philisophical materialism and methodological materialism. The ToE, like all science and all sane human beings, is wedded to methodological materialism, not to philisophical materialism. To put it another way, if the ToE is wedded to materialist philosphy, then so are you.

    Do you use magic to start your car? Do you think that spirits scurry along the internet tubes with your postings? Welcome to materialism, enjoy your stay.

  193. #194 Jim
    September 8, 2007

    Graculus: “It looks very much like you are trying to work ‘meaning’ into Shannon IT. Don’t do that, it’s silly.”

    As I understand it, in Shannon IT, any complex pattern or sequence carries information. With regard to biological systems, however, the only relevant information is that which is meaningful (i.e., the information that shapes matter into biological forms). The differences between you and a rock lie in the vast amount of meaningful information that shaped matter into you.

    Graculus: “There is a very, very large difference between philisophical materialism and methodological materialism. The ToE, like all science and all sane human beings, is wedded to methodological materialism, not to philisophical materialism.”

    Why should science be wedded to methodological materialism? If the material evidence leads to design inferences (which imply the actions of an immaterial intelligence), why can’t science follow the material evidence to design inferences? The reason doesn’t lie in an attachment of science to methodological materialism, rather it lies in an attachment to philosophical materialism. Science defined in terms of its methods can employ all three explantory modes: chance, necessity, and design. It is only when science is defined in terms of materialistic philosophy that it is limited to considering only chance and necessity.

  194. #195 Jim
    September 8, 2007

    In a previous posting I wrote: “…don’t take that evolutionary sequence literally – it’s only meant to demonstrate the Darwinian claim that humans evolved from some unknown mammal, which evolved from some unknown amphibian, which evolved from some unknown fish, and so on and so on – all by way of unintelligent Darwinian mechanisms.”

    I neglected to include reptiles between amphibians and mammals. Oops.

  195. #196 windy
    September 8, 2007

    If we look at different kinds of frogs, we see an unbroken nested hierarchy of morphology and genetics.

    If we look at fish, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, apes, and humans, we see an unbroken nested hierarchy of morphology and genetics.

  196. #197 Rey Fox
    September 8, 2007

    “If the Darwinian tale of evolution occurring by way of the step-by-tiny-step accumulation of minor adaptive changes (induced by random mutations, preserved by natural selection) is true, shouldn’t there be thousands of credible trilobite precursors in the fossil record? Where are they?”

    Start digging.

  197. #199 Josh
    September 8, 2007

    I’m still working on other responses…but I’ve got other writing to do this morning, so please forgive me if they come slowly. Also, please forgive this if it seems flip…I wrote it quickly.

    Josh wrote: “I think Spriggina is a very credible possibility as a trilobite precursor. So, again, which organisms were you thinking of that aren’t credible precursors of Cambrian organisms?”

    Jim replied: Like you (apparently), I think all the other pre-trilobite organisms don’t recommend themselves as credible evolutionary precursors of trilobites. So we have one credible precursor (why is Spriggina credible?) and – what, thousands? millions? – of non-credible precursors. To me that sounds like the pre-trilobite fossil record contains few, if any, credible trilobite precursors (which is the claim I made). If the Darwinian tale of evolution occurring by way of the step-by-tiny-step accumulation of minor adaptive changes (induced by random mutations, preserved by natural selection) is true, shouldn’t there be thousands of credible trilobite precursors in the fossil record? Where are they?

    A. You were the one who argued against there being evolutionary precursors for trilobites. You claimed that the pre-trilobite fossil record contains few, if any credible trilobite precursors. I asked you to support the claim. This seems to me to be a very reasonable request. Here people are usually asked to back up claims…it is just a facet of a discussion group where most of the participants are science-minded. To be a sport, I did offer up that I think Spriggina is a very credible possibility as a trilobite precursor. But I never said (nor suggested) I thought this particular genus was the only good candidate that exists, nor indeed did I present any thoughts regarding the phylogenies of any other Ediacaran organisms.

    B. So OK, I guess I am to understand that your answer to my question of which Ediacaran organisms you don’t like as precursors for trilobites is ‘all of them?’ Am I correct here…that you are broadly dismissing all Ediacaran-age organisms as credible precursors? In order to make such a claim, and indeed, in order to make your initial claim, I must presume you know a good deal about the anatomy of Ediacaran-age critters (as well as trilobites)–otherwise, upon what would you be basing the statement? If I assert that Ford pickups are not good choices for those who have a lot of heavy trailer pulling to do, would you not presume that I know enough about pickup engines, transmissions, and hitches for my assertion to be something other than simple opinion?

    C. If *B* is true, then I am (predictably?) curious as to why you need to ask me why I think Spriggina is credible. If you’re informed enough about Ediacaran-age organisms and trilobites to dismiss outright the majority of the taxa as bad candidates, without backing that position up in other way besides just reasserting it, you can certainly predict why I think Spriggina is a good candidate. Why do I need to write it all out? I will, but it seems like a waste of time.

    D. Why should there be thousands of trilobite precursors in the fossil record? This implies that lots and lots of different pre-trilobite organisms were working toward being trilobites…that isn’t really on target.

    E. You think we have thousands or millions of specimens of Ediacaran-age organisms? Oh wait…that position implies thousands of Ediacaran-age TAXA…not just specimens. If you have enough knowledge to assert that there are no credible pre-trilobite precursor candidates of Ediacaran age in the fossil record, then surely I don’t need to point out the factual problems with implying we have thousands of Ediacaran-age taxa.

  198. #200 Stanton
    September 8, 2007

    Other Precambrian trilobite precursors include Bomakellia, Vendia, Praecambridium, Onega, and the “Flinders Soft-Bodied Trilobite.”
    Furthermore, some experts suspect that Vendia is the ancestor of the Cambrian arthropod Skania.

  199. #201 Josh
    September 8, 2007

    Kseniya wrote: “It is being guided towards whatever ‘destination’ it eventually reaches.”

    Jim replied: In that sense, then, it is trivial to describe Darwinian evolution as “guided.” All you’re saying is that such evolution does what it does, with no goals “in mind.” It’s not altogether random (mutations are random, natural selection is law-like), but it’s certainly unguided in any meaningful sense.

    It might not be in any meaningful sense to you, but within the framework of science, it is rather meaningful, thanks. Does the distinction appear subtle? Yes. It it? Not really. Science is about details.

    Why do you keep referring to selection as ‘law-like?’ What does that mean? Where are you getting that?

  200. #202 Josh
    September 8, 2007

    Josh wrote: “Describing Darwinian mechanisms as unguided…well, I suspect you’re trying to say that evolution is random. It isn’t. The mechanisms aren’t guided in the sense that you’re hoping for, but to describe them as unguided is rather too crude.”

    Jim replied: George Gaylord Simpson (one of the creators of the neo-Darwinian synthesis): “Man is the result of a purposeless and natural process that did not have him in mind.”

    Well, that is broadly true. It’s accurate to describe evolution as not having a goal. But that doesn’t actually argue against my statement that describing evolution as unguided is too crude to discuss what is really going on. Also, I would caution how much you want to cite *as law* stuff said by someone who left the scene 37 years ago. It isn’t as though we’ve all been sitting around watching the clouds and smoking dope for the last four decades. As I said in my last post, drawing conclusions from a synthesis of Cambrian paleontology that is even 10 years old would be erroneous today…and as you might have inferred from what I’ve written about the Cambrian, it is reasonable to predict that most of biology has moved rather further in that time from where it was a decade ago than has the study of Cambrian invertebrate fossils.

    Jim continued: Simpson’s words reflect something that is repeated over and over again in Darwinist literature: that Darwinian evolution has no purpose and no goals. In what sense, then, could it be said that such evolution is guided? If Darwinian evolution has no goals, what is it being guided towards?

    There is no purpose and no goal (other than a general trend for taxa to become more ‘fit’), but I think you can describe selection loosely as being guided.

    Jim wrote: At its very core, Darwinian evolution is a random process because the variations it requires for evolutionary progress are always randomly produced (or so the story goes).

    I doubt we understand enough about the world to use the word ‘always’ here. And again, no…it’s not random.

    Jim wrote: Natural selection operates with law-like regularity in preserving advantageous variations, but its operation in no way counters the randomness of the mutations.

    OK, here again is another statement that I’m going to ask you to support, because it runs totally against my understanding of biology. What biological literature are you reading that declares that natural selection operates with ‘law-like regularity’ in any sense and that declares that only advantageous mutations are preserved? Over what time frame are you using the term ‘preserved?’ Can you also provide evidence to support the assertion that selection’s operation in no way counters the randomness of the mutations?

  201. #203 Graculus
    September 8, 2007

    As I understand it, in Shannon IT, any complex pattern or sequence carries information.

    Negative. In Shannon Information any sequence, no matter the length or “complexity”, *is* (does not “carry”) information.

    With regard to biological systems, however, the only relevant information is that which is meaningful (i.e., the information that shapes matter into biological forms).

    “Meaning” is entirely subjective, and not measurable, even in biology. As a demonstration, quantify the difference in meaning between a horse’s hoof and a human toenail.

    The differences between you and a rock lie in the vast amount of meaningful information that shaped matter into you.

    You are caught in a semantical game regarding “meaning” and “information”.

    The difference between me an a rock is that I am a self-organizing system, and the rock is not.

    Why should science be wedded to methodological materialism?

    Because methodological supernaturalism is insanity.

    The reason doesn’t lie in an attachment of science to methodological materialism, rather it lies in an attachment to philosophical materialism.

    Just repeating something doesn’t make it true.

  202. #204 Jim
    September 8, 2007

    Josh: “You were the one who argued against there being evolutionary precursors for trilobites. You claimed that the pre-trilobite fossil record contains few, if any credible trilobite precursors. I asked you to support the claim.”

    Based on statements like that made by Darwinist Richard Dawkins, who claimed that the Cambrian phyla appear to have been “planted” without any evolutionary history, I inferred that paleontologists had found little in the fossil record in the way of likely precursors to the Cambrian phyla (otherwise, why would Dawkins, who would love to see a plethora of precursors, say such a thing?). Therefore, I deferred the question to your expertise. By naming only one credible precursor to trilobites, you helpfully corroborated my claim that few (if any) precursors have been identified. Stanton has since named a few more, without revealing why we should regard them as precursors. Is it enough that Spriggina and the “precursors” named by Stanton have morphological similarities suggesting that they might be ancestral to trilobites? Or should we expect to see in the fossil record a clear lineage before we make such a claim with the air of certainty displayed by Stanton?

    Josh: “Why should there be thousands of trilobite precursors in the fossil record?”

    Because, as you surely must know, Darwinian evolution doesn’t take you directly from Spriggina to trilobites in one giant leap. That would be saltation. Instead, Darwinian evolution allegedly proceeds by baby steps as advantageous mutations gradually accumulate. So, where in the fossil record are all the baby steps between Spriggina and trilobites? Each intermediate, transitional form between the two must have had advantages over its predecessors on the Spriggina-to-trilobite family tree, otherwise natural selection wouldn’t have favored any of those intermediate, transitional forms and added them to the family tree. Where, then, are the many organisms that had to be on the family tree between Spriggina and trilobites?

    (To save me the effort of googling, I wonder if you could answer a couple of questions for me: Did Spriggina and trilobites exist coterminously, or was their existence separated by many years? If so, how many years separated them?)

    Josh: “If you have enough knowledge to assert that there are no credible pre-trilobite precursor candidates of Ediacaran age in the fossil record, then surely I don’t need to point out the factual problems with implying we have thousands of Ediacaran-age taxa.”

    I wasn’t implying anything about the number of taxa; I was asking. But I don’t think I need to point out that if you don’t have a great many Ediacaran-age taxa, the argument that there must be precursors to the Cambrian phyla in the Ediacaran fossils is weakened, not strengthened.

  203. #205 Jim
    September 8, 2007

    Josh: “Why do you keep referring to selection as ‘law-like?’ What does that mean? Where are you getting that?”

    I get it from Darwinists, who insist that while random mutations are the chance element of Darwinian evolution, natural selection is the necessity (or law-like) element.
    Edward Reed, among others, has argued that natural selection may be a law of nature.

    http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0003-0147(198107)118%3A1%3C61%3ATLONS%3E2.0.CO%3B2-F

    Why would you want to argue (as you seem to be) that natural selection doesn’t operate with law-like regularity? If true, doesn’t that weaken the case for Darwinian evolution?

  204. #206 Anton Mates
    September 8, 2007

    Based on statements like that made by Darwinist Richard Dawkins, who claimed that the Cambrian phyla appear to have been “planted” without any evolutionary history, I inferred that paleontologists had found little in the fossil record in the way of likely precursors to the Cambrian phyla (otherwise, why would Dawkins, who would love to see a plethora of precursors, say such a thing?)

    In Dawkins’ own words:

    “I once introduced a chapter on the so-called Cambrian Explosion with the words: “It is as though the fossils were planted there without any evolutionary history.” Again, this was a rhetorical overture, intended to whet the reader’s appetite for the explanation. Inevitably, my remark was gleefully quoted out of context. Creationists adore “gaps” in the fossil record.”

  205. #207 Steve_C
    September 8, 2007

    You guys are really trying. But it’s quite obvious, he’s been completely indoctrinated into the ID point of view. He’s swallowed the hook and he’s already been filleted, fried and served with chips.

    It’s an admirable endeavour. But he’s just as hoodwinked as any fundie. He’s really well versed in the ID propaganda and has only come to know about evolution through those god goggles. He just pretends he’s not wearing them.

  206. #208 David Marjanovi?
    September 8, 2007

    Sorry for the long post. This is one time-consuming thread!

    ——————

    This might get a little tough to follow. Jim, I’m going to use your convention of name followed by colon followed by comment in quotes. I’m putting all previous comments from either of us in italics. I’ve also separated things into artibrary numbered blocks. Let me know if this isn’t clear. -Josh

    I recommend HTML: start quotes with <blockquote> and end them with </blockquote>. That’s what I use, and why it says “you may use HTML tags for style” above the comment window.

    It is possible to nest any number of blockquote tags within each other. <blockquote><blockquote>a</blockquote>a<blockquote> produces

    a

    a

    (I put line breaks in. I don’t know if that’s necessary.)

    ————-

    Jim, you explained how to choose between necessity, random, and design. But you overlooked the fourth possibility: evolution.

    Obviously, evolution doesn’t apply to a deck of cards. Cards don’t reproduce, so they cannot evolve. So when you exclude necessity and random, it follows that design is the answer. But organisms aren’t cards. They reproduce, inherit, and mutate — and those which have certain mutations and lack others have more surviving fertile offspring than the rest.

    Hey, think of languages. Languages are inherited (even though not in the biological way), mutate, and spread. Give Latin 2000 years, and you arrive at French, which is a completely different language. That much is documented. So if you find a language, you can rule out necessity and random, but you don’t have the slightest reason to assume design.

    ——————-

    the chief prop of the theory (in the macro sense, and in its present form) is materialistic philosophy

    Is ToE open to the idea that an immaterial cause (intelligence) played a role – perhaps the key role – in life’s evolution? If not, then ToE is wedded to materialistic philosophy.

    What a bunch of nonsense. The theory of evolution is science, not philosophy.

    It seems you are thinking of methodological naturalism. All science is built on methodological naturalism, which is the assumption that miracles do not happen so often as to make the world wholly unpredictable. Perhaps ironically, but fortunately, that assumption is itself a scientific hypothesis, because it is testable — and it is tested in every single experiment and every single other observation! It still hasn’t been disproved, so it looks like a quite safe assumption.

    You know Popper and the concept of falsifiability. Fine. But how do we decide between two hypotheses that are both testable, tested, and unfalsified, and explain the same amount of evidence? We apply Ockham’s Razor, the principle of parsimony. Of such two hypotheses, the one must be preferred that requires the smallest number of ad hoc assumptions.

    So given the fact that it has been shown that a designer is not necessary (see below), we should, for the time being, not assume that one exists. After all, we simply don’t need to, and the assumption that a designer exists is “a huge, HUGE claim in and of itself” (Kseniya).

    As far as I know, the principle of parsimony is the only reason why the phlogiston theory of combustion was already universally considered disproven before it was possible to play with single molecules and atoms. It had to make more and more ad hoc assumptions (phlogiston has negative mass, yet still somehow doesn’t flee the Earth; oxygen is dephlogisticated air; and so on) that the oxygen theory of combustion simply didn’t need.

    Now, be careful not to confuse methodological naturalism with metaphysical naturalism. Metaphysical naturalism is the assumption that nothing supernatural such as miracles –no matter how little it meddles with observable nature — exists. As its name says, it is metaphysics, it is philosophy. That is not what science is built on.

    This is why not every scientist is an atheist: science doesn’t require it. Even dogmatic Catholicism, according to which every single saint has (by definition) worked at the very minimum one miracle, is (barely, but still) compatible with methodological naturalism and therefore with science. Result: the Papal Academy of Sciences.

    I have no quarrel with what the fossil record tells us about the existence, structure, and age of the organisms you mention, but I suspect that the “intermediates” among them are identified by reference to the needs of Darwinian theory, which makes their identification self-referential (or circular), a kind of reasoning that confirms nothing. If you didn’t view those “intermediates” through the lens of Darwinian theory, is there something about them that cries out “We are intermediate, transitional forms”?

    Oh yes.

    Ignore all fossils and look around yourself. Every species and subspecies is, in many features, intermediate between others. And indeed, the botanist Jussieu thought in the 18th century that nature is a continuum: everything is intermediate, and all lines we draw are arbitrary.

    Now, the interesting thing is that we find intermediates between some groups, but not between others (contrary to what Jussieu had assumed). We have the platypus and echidna, but we don’t have an intermediate between mammals and butterflies. Why is that?

    Common descent is an easy explanation. It’s also a testable explanation, because it makes testable predictions. It predicts intermediates between placentals and marsupials, and between those two together and the monotremes, as well as between those three together and the “reptiles”. Lo and behold, we have plenty of fossils of just such animals.

    Don’t you first have to assume unguided (or Darwinian) evolution before you can label an organism an intermediate, transitional form? Wouldn’t it be senseless to label an organism an intermediate, transitional form without first assuming unguided evolution?

    No, as explained above.

    Let me ask you this, David: Is the platypus an intermediate, transitional form?

    In many respects, yes.

    If so, is it on its way to becoming fully reptilian, or fully mammalian?

    Like everything else, it’s on its way to become ever more unique.

    In many respects, we are intermediate between the chimps + bonobos on the one hand and the gorillas on the other.

    The problem Darwinism has with the Cambrian explosion is that its primary mechanism (random mutations acted on by natural selection) has not been shown to be capable of producing such an explosion of new, complex life forms in such a short (geologically speaking) period of time. In fact, that mechanism has not been shown to be capable of producing new life forms if it is given hundreds of millions of years to operate.

    How would you do that? What would such a test look like?

    What we see confirms to the predictions. We see a wild bush in the fossil record and in today’s world that grows in all directions. That’s what we expect from evolution by mutation, selection, and drift. It’s not what we expect from anything that leads towards progress or suchlike.

    David: “For your information, there are at least 25 species concepts out there (not all, but most of them, applicable to all of life), and the biologists can’t agree on one…”

    I know. That’s what makes claims that speciation has been observed so unenlightening. If you define species down far enough, you’re bound to observe speciation and find that Darwinian mechanisms can produce it.

    How would you define it, then?

    David: “…you can’t start from the assumption that a difference between ‘microevolution’ and ‘macroevolution’ has to exist. So, tell me one, and I’ll point out the holes in it.”

    OK. Adaptive changes that leave organisms essentially unchanged (such as adaptive changes in the coloration of peppered moths, or in the size of finches’ beaks, or in the resistance of bacteria to antibiotics) are microevolutionary changes. Creative changes that cause organisms to evolve from one kind (say, fish) to another kind (say, amphibians) – or creative changes that introduce biological novelty (i.e., new organisms, new organs, new structures, new processes, new systems) – are macroevolutionary changes.

    I regret to say that this is exactly the non-answer I would have expected from a creationist.

    Let’s start with your seventh word: “essentially”. Can you define that?

    Then please tell me which changes are “creative” and which aren’t. To get from Tiktaalik to Acanthostega you need to do very little: modify the way the ends of the paired fins grow (that could be just a small change in the amount of expression of a single gene, though I’m admittedly guessing here), switch off the production of fin rays at their ends (that might even be a result of the same mutation, and if not, a small change in the area of expression of another gene is necessary), and mess a little — just a little — with the proportions of… mainly the skull. That’s it. Why are such changes “creative” while a color change in a moth is not?

    Lastly, you use the term “kind”. As several others have mentioned above, only creationists do that.

    I am not quibbling over the fact that you didn’t use terms like “class”, “order” or “family”. The ranks traditionally used in classification are undefined, and you will not find anyone who denies that they are subjective. The groups are real; the ranks that their names get are not. There is no way to define “class”, and there is no way to define “kind”. Moreover, the term “kind” carries the assumption that there are no intermediates between “kinds”, which is simply not the case.

    If we confirm the ability of Darwinian mechanisms to accomplish the former, we haven’t confirmed the abilities of those mechanisms to accomplish the latter.

    Eh, no. But you have yet to show me that we need to assume that “creative changes” exist in the first place. If you can’t do that, I’ll bring Ockham’s Razor.

    If changes that leave the organisms “essentially unchanged” are demonstrated to occur now, the principle of parsimony says we have to consider them demonstrated at all times. Show me there are “creative changes”, or give up.

    ————

    Suppose that we define species in terms of reproductive isolation. Suppose, also, that we experimentally produce the reproductive isolation of a new strain of bacteria

    What, don’t you know that bacteria don’t do sexual reproduction?

    They do engage in activities termed “parasexual” or “conjugation” — and that is the (one- or two-sided) exchange of DNA with anything. Absolutely anything. It probably doesn’t matter statistically, but you are not isolated against conjugation from any of the bacterial “species” in your gut.

    Ernst Mayr, the most famous proponent of the reproductive isolation criterion as a species concept, said outright that “bacteria do not form species”. (I don’t know if that’s an exact quote.)

    —————

    would no doubt say: “But they’re still bacteria. I thought Darwinian mechanisms were supposed to be capable of generating descendants that are quite different from their ancestors – amphibians from fish, for example. How in the world does this new species of bacteria you’ve produced confirm that claim?”

    If you really believe a frog and a trout are more different than an Oscillatoria cyanobacterium and a Rickettsia alpha-proteobacterium, you have a lot to learn…

    ——————-

    Those advances are posing increasing problems for Darwinism. Darwin thought the cell was a simple blob of protoplasm. I wonder if he would have proposed his theory if he knew what we know today about the cell – that it’s an enormously complex “factory” containing an elaborate network of interlocking “assembly lines” – that it’s jam-packed with power plants, automated workshops, recycling units, miniature monorails, sensors, gates, pumps, identification markers, and (in some cases) rotary outboard motors – that a single cell contains (as Richard Dawkins has observed) more information than a complete set of the Encyclopedia Britannica. I wonder how seriously he would have taken the notion that the complex machinery of the cell arose by way of unintelligent material mechanisms.

    Aaaah… that talking point again. It’s an argument from ignorance. Take the microtubuli in your cells, composed of alpha-tubulin and beta-tubulin. These two proteins are very similar, except that the beta one functions as a GTPase, while the alpha one is a defunct GTPase — it has a pointless inbuilt GTP, so to speak, and can’t destroy it. It is very easy to figure out which mutations — and there are few — were necessary to derive both from a common ancestor that was a functioning GTPase. Then the next step. Behold FtsZ, a protein with an important function in the cell division (it pinches the cell together in the middle) of bacteria (including chloroplasts and many mitochondria) and archaea. It, too, is a globular GTPase that forms long chains which change their curvature and become less stable when the FtsZ hydrolyzes its GTP. Not only that, its precise shape is very similar to that of the two tubulins of eukaryotes. Why should that be?

    —————

    Now the biggie. I mentioned alpha-tubulin with its inbuilt GTP above, a GTP that has to be produced using energy. What a waste of energy. That’s my last question: How does ID “theory” explain stupid design?

    I bet it doesn’t.

    By “stupid design”, I mean things that a halfway reasonable designer would not have done. Our eyes correct for chromatic aberration only in having a very small number of blue receptors — the error is still there, but we don’t see it, at the price of seeing blue very badly. Then there’s the fact that the retina and all is inside-out: light traveling through the eyeball has to traverse a layer of blood vessels and nerves and then the whole retina to strike the light receptors at the back end. The trachea and the oesophagus join in the pharyngeal cavity; as a result, we can die from choking. (The whales have solved this problem: their trachea grows through the pharyngeal cavity all the way up to the nasal cavity. This limits the size of the prey they can eat; after all they don’t chew. A stupid solution to a stupid problem.) Our kidneys first let everything pass that’s water-soluble and then frantically work to transport the valuable stuff from the primary urine back into the blood, using a lot of energy. Our urogenital system… the word says it all. Our knees and intervertebral discs can barely stand the usual stresses of life. And it’s not just us humans, mammals, or tetrapods who’s botched up: about 800 amino acides occurred in living organisms last time I checked, yet only 20 (OK… 22) occur in proteins and are coded for in the DNA. Why this restriction? More amino acids could make a lot more versatile proteins. Then there’s DNA itself. It slowly but steadily falls apart when you keep it in water. What a stupid idea to use that as the carrier of heredity! You spend most of your energy constantly repairing your DNA, especially (but not only) replacing bases that have fallen off. It doesn’t have to be that way: for biochemical experiments that DNA wouldn’t survive, the so-called PNA was developed. It has a protein backbone, and it does not react with water to a noticeable extent. But no, we are stuck with the stupid solution.

    Evolution can explain all of these cases of stupid design, and it can explain why we use DNA and not the even more unstable RNA. (Ask, and I’ll explain them; this post is really long enough.) ID runs into a contradiction at worst and is silent at best, right?

    —————————

    Josh again:

    I think Spriggina is a very credible possibility as a trilobite precursor.

    I disagree. (See? Those evilutionists can’t agree on anything! Obviously they’re all wrong! 😉 ) First, trilobites are arthropods, so when we look for a trilobite precursor, we must look within the arthropods. (Indeed we have found plenty of animals that look very closely related to trilobites, and others that are closely related to both trilobites and chelicerates.) Spriggina has indeed been interpreted by some as an arthropod relative, but it’s probably a vendobiont. The closest known relatives of the arthropods — anomalocaridids and water bears especially — are quite different. Jim, note that the anomalocaridids are part of the Cambrian explosion, and that they are only preserved as fossils under very rare circumstances.

    Trilobites do appear suddenly (in a geological sense) with already pretty well developed eyes. There isn’t any direct evidence for trilobites right now (that I know of) as to earlier stages of those eyes.

    The chelicerates have simpler eyes than the trilobites (and, independently, the insects).

    the trilobite record overall is a rather striking example of increasing complexity through time, with gradually increasingly complex forms appearing as one goes up from the Lower Cambrian into increasingly younger rocks…

    Nope. What increases through time is the range of complexity. 🙂

    ——————

    Like you (apparently), I think all the other pre-trilobite organisms don’t recommend themselves as credible evolutionary precursors of trilobites. So we have one credible precursor (why is Spriggina credible?) and – what, thousands? millions? – of non-credible precursors. To me that sounds like the pre-trilobite fossil record contains few, if any, credible trilobite precursors (which is the claim I made).

    Jim, you seem to have rather odd ideas about the Precambrian fossil record and our knowledge of it. There aren’t millions, there aren’t thousands, there are probably not even 100.

    And why should the Precambrian record be full of trilobite precursors? One (or, rather, an arthropod-tardigrade-onychophore precursor) should suffice, shouldn’t it?

  207. #209 David Marjanovi?
    September 8, 2007

    Sorry for the long post. This is one time-consuming thread!

    ——————

    This might get a little tough to follow. Jim, I’m going to use your convention of name followed by colon followed by comment in quotes. I’m putting all previous comments from either of us in italics. I’ve also separated things into artibrary numbered blocks. Let me know if this isn’t clear. -Josh

    I recommend HTML: start quotes with <blockquote> and end them with </blockquote>. That’s what I use, and why it says “you may use HTML tags for style” above the comment window.

    It is possible to nest any number of blockquote tags within each other. <blockquote><blockquote>a</blockquote>a<blockquote> produces

    a

    a

    (I put line breaks in. I don’t know if that’s necessary.)

    ————-

    Jim, you explained how to choose between necessity, random, and design. But you overlooked the fourth possibility: evolution.

    Obviously, evolution doesn’t apply to a deck of cards. Cards don’t reproduce, so they cannot evolve. So when you exclude necessity and random, it follows that design is the answer. But organisms aren’t cards. They reproduce, inherit, and mutate — and those which have certain mutations and lack others have more surviving fertile offspring than the rest.

    Hey, think of languages. Languages are inherited (even though not in the biological way), mutate, and spread. Give Latin 2000 years, and you arrive at French, which is a completely different language. That much is documented. So if you find a language, you can rule out necessity and random, but you don’t have the slightest reason to assume design.

    ——————-

    the chief prop of the theory (in the macro sense, and in its present form) is materialistic philosophy

    Is ToE open to the idea that an immaterial cause (intelligence) played a role – perhaps the key role – in life’s evolution? If not, then ToE is wedded to materialistic philosophy.

    What a bunch of nonsense. The theory of evolution is science, not philosophy.

    It seems you are thinking of methodological naturalism. All science is built on methodological naturalism, which is the assumption that miracles do not happen so often as to make the world wholly unpredictable. Perhaps ironically, but fortunately, that assumption is itself a scientific hypothesis, because it is testable — and it is tested in every single experiment and every single other observation! It still hasn’t been disproved, so it looks like a quite safe assumption.

    You know Popper and the concept of falsifiability. Fine. But how do we decide between two hypotheses that are both testable, tested, and unfalsified, and explain the same amount of evidence? We apply Ockham’s Razor, the principle of parsimony. Of such two hypotheses, the one must be preferred that requires the smallest number of ad hoc assumptions.

    So given the fact that it has been shown that a designer is not necessary (see below), we should, for the time being, not assume that one exists. After all, we simply don’t need to, and the assumption that a designer exists is “a huge, HUGE claim in and of itself” (Kseniya).

    As far as I know, the principle of parsimony is the only reason why the phlogiston theory of combustion was already universally considered disproven before it was possible to play with single molecules and atoms. It had to make more and more ad hoc assumptions (phlogiston has negative mass, yet still somehow doesn’t flee the Earth; oxygen is dephlogisticated air; and so on) that the oxygen theory of combustion simply didn’t need.

    Now, be careful not to confuse methodological naturalism with metaphysical naturalism. Metaphysical naturalism is the assumption that nothing supernatural such as miracles –no matter how little it meddles with observable nature — exists. As its name says, it is metaphysics, it is philosophy. That is not what science is built on.

    This is why not every scientist is an atheist: science doesn’t require it. Even dogmatic Catholicism, according to which every single saint has (by definition) worked at the very minimum one miracle, is (barely, but still) compatible with methodological naturalism and therefore with science. Result: the Papal Academy of Sciences.

    I have no quarrel with what the fossil record tells us about the existence, structure, and age of the organisms you mention, but I suspect that the “intermediates” among them are identified by reference to the needs of Darwinian theory, which makes their identification self-referential (or circular), a kind of reasoning that confirms nothing. If you didn’t view those “intermediates” through the lens of Darwinian theory, is there something about them that cries out “We are intermediate, transitional forms”?

    Oh yes.

    Ignore all fossils and look around yourself. Every species and subspecies is, in many features, intermediate between others. And indeed, the botanist Jussieu thought in the 18th century that nature is a continuum: everything is intermediate, and all lines we draw are arbitrary.

    Now, the interesting thing is that we find intermediates between some groups, but not between others (contrary to what Jussieu had assumed). We have the platypus and echidna, but we don’t have an intermediate between mammals and butterflies. Why is that?

    Common descent is an easy explanation. It’s also a testable explanation, because it makes testable predictions. It predicts intermediates between placentals and marsupials, and between those two together and the monotremes, as well as between those three together and the “reptiles”. Lo and behold, we have plenty of fossils of just such animals.

    Don’t you first have to assume unguided (or Darwinian) evolution before you can label an organism an intermediate, transitional form? Wouldn’t it be senseless to label an organism an intermediate, transitional form without first assuming unguided evolution?

    No, as explained above.

    Let me ask you this, David: Is the platypus an intermediate, transitional form?

    In many respects, yes.

    If so, is it on its way to becoming fully reptilian, or fully mammalian?

    Like everything else, it’s on its way to become ever more unique.

    In many respects, we are intermediate between the chimps + bonobos on the one hand and the gorillas on the other.

    The problem Darwinism has with the Cambrian explosion is that its primary mechanism (random mutations acted on by natural selection) has not been shown to be capable of producing such an explosion of new, complex life forms in such a short (geologically speaking) period of time. In fact, that mechanism has not been shown to be capable of producing new life forms if it is given hundreds of millions of years to operate.

    How would you do that? What would such a test look like?

    What we see confirms to the predictions. We see a wild bush in the fossil record and in today’s world that grows in all directions. That’s what we expect from evolution by mutation, selection, and drift. It’s not what we expect from anything that leads towards progress or suchlike.

    David: “For your information, there are at least 25 species concepts out there (not all, but most of them, applicable to all of life), and the biologists can’t agree on one…”

    I know. That’s what makes claims that speciation has been observed so unenlightening. If you define species down far enough, you’re bound to observe speciation and find that Darwinian mechanisms can produce it.

    How would you define it, then?

    David: “…you can’t start from the assumption that a difference between ‘microevolution’ and ‘macroevolution’ has to exist. So, tell me one, and I’ll point out the holes in it.”

    OK. Adaptive changes that leave organisms essentially unchanged (such as adaptive changes in the coloration of peppered moths, or in the size of finches’ beaks, or in the resistance of bacteria to antibiotics) are microevolutionary changes. Creative changes that cause organisms to evolve from one kind (say, fish) to another kind (say, amphibians) – or creative changes that introduce biological novelty (i.e., new organisms, new organs, new structures, new processes, new systems) – are macroevolutionary changes.

    I regret to say that this is exactly the non-answer I would have expected from a creationist.

    Let’s start with your seventh word: “essentially”. Can you define that?

    Then please tell me which changes are “creative” and which aren’t. To get from Tiktaalik to Acanthostega you need to do very little: modify the way the ends of the paired fins grow (that could be just a small change in the amount of expression of a single gene, though I’m admittedly guessing here), switch off the production of fin rays at their ends (that might even be a result of the same mutation, and if not, a small change in the area of expression of another gene is necessary), and mess a little — just a little — with the proportions of… mainly the skull. That’s it. Why are such changes “creative” while a color change in a moth is not?

    Lastly, you use the term “kind”. As several others have mentioned above, only creationists do that.

    I am not quibbling over the fact that you didn’t use terms like “class”, “order” or “family”. The ranks traditionally used in classification are undefined, and you will not find anyone who denies that they are subjective. The groups are real; the ranks that their names get are not. There is no way to define “class”, and there is no way to define “kind”. Moreover, the term “kind” carries the assumption that there are no intermediates between “kinds”, which is simply not the case.

    If we confirm the ability of Darwinian mechanisms to accomplish the former, we haven’t confirmed the abilities of those mechanisms to accomplish the latter.

    Eh, no. But you have yet to show me that we need to assume that “creative changes” exist in the first place. If you can’t do that, I’ll bring Ockham’s Razor.

    If changes that leave the organisms “essentially unchanged” are demonstrated to occur now, the principle of parsimony says we have to consider them demonstrated at all times. Show me there are “creative changes”, or give up.

    ————

    Suppose that we define species in terms of reproductive isolation. Suppose, also, that we experimentally produce the reproductive isolation of a new strain of bacteria

    What, don’t you know that bacteria don’t do sexual reproduction?

    They do engage in activities termed “parasexual” or “conjugation” — and that is the (one- or two-sided) exchange of DNA with anything. Absolutely anything. It probably doesn’t matter statistically, but you are not isolated against conjugation from any of the bacterial “species” in your gut.

    Ernst Mayr, the most famous proponent of the reproductive isolation criterion as a species concept, said outright that “bacteria do not form species”. (I don’t know if that’s an exact quote.)

    —————

    would no doubt say: “But they’re still bacteria. I thought Darwinian mechanisms were supposed to be capable of generating descendants that are quite different from their ancestors – amphibians from fish, for example. How in the world does this new species of bacteria you’ve produced confirm that claim?”

    If you really believe a frog and a trout are more different than an Oscillatoria cyanobacterium and a Rickettsia alpha-proteobacterium, you have a lot to learn…

    ——————-

    Those advances are posing increasing problems for Darwinism. Darwin thought the cell was a simple blob of protoplasm. I wonder if he would have proposed his theory if he knew what we know today about the cell – that it’s an enormously complex “factory” containing an elaborate network of interlocking “assembly lines” – that it’s jam-packed with power plants, automated workshops, recycling units, miniature monorails, sensors, gates, pumps, identification markers, and (in some cases) rotary outboard motors – that a single cell contains (as Richard Dawkins has observed) more information than a complete set of the Encyclopedia Britannica. I wonder how seriously he would have taken the notion that the complex machinery of the cell arose by way of unintelligent material mechanisms.

    Aaaah… that talking point again. It’s an argument from ignorance. Take the microtubuli in your cells, composed of alpha-tubulin and beta-tubulin. These two proteins are very similar, except that the beta one functions as a GTPase, while the alpha one is a defunct GTPase — it has a pointless inbuilt GTP, so to speak, and can’t destroy it. It is very easy to figure out which mutations — and there are few — were necessary to derive both from a common ancestor that was a functioning GTPase. Then the next step. Behold FtsZ, a protein with an important function in the cell division (it pinches the cell together in the middle) of bacteria (including chloroplasts and many mitochondria) and archaea. It, too, is a globular GTPase that forms long chains which change their curvature and become less stable when the FtsZ hydrolyzes its GTP. Not only that, its precise shape is very similar to that of the two tubulins of eukaryotes. Why should that be?

    —————

    Now the biggie. I mentioned alpha-tubulin with its inbuilt GTP above, a GTP that has to be produced using energy. What a waste of energy. That’s my last question: How does ID “theory” explain stupid design?

    I bet it doesn’t.

    By “stupid design”, I mean things that a halfway reasonable designer would not have done. Our eyes correct for chromatic aberration only in having a very small number of blue receptors — the error is still there, but we don’t see it, at the price of seeing blue very badly. Then there’s the fact that the retina and all is inside-out: light traveling through the eyeball has to traverse a layer of blood vessels and nerves and then the whole retina to strike the light receptors at the back end. The trachea and the oesophagus join in the pharyngeal cavity; as a result, we can die from choking. (The whales have solved this problem: their trachea grows through the pharyngeal cavity all the way up to the nasal cavity. This limits the size of the prey they can eat; after all they don’t chew. A stupid solution to a stupid problem.) Our kidneys first let everything pass that’s water-soluble and then frantically work to transport the valuable stuff from the primary urine back into the blood, using a lot of energy. Our urogenital system… the word says it all. Our knees and intervertebral discs can barely stand the usual stresses of life. And it’s not just us humans, mammals, or tetrapods who’s botched up: about 800 amino acides occurred in living organisms last time I checked, yet only 20 (OK… 22) occur in proteins and are coded for in the DNA. Why this restriction? More amino acids could make a lot more versatile proteins. Then there’s DNA itself. It slowly but steadily falls apart when you keep it in water. What a stupid idea to use that as the carrier of heredity! You spend most of your energy constantly repairing your DNA, especially (but not only) replacing bases that have fallen off. It doesn’t have to be that way: for biochemical experiments that DNA wouldn’t survive, the so-called PNA was developed. It has a protein backbone, and it does not react with water to a noticeable extent. But no, we are stuck with the stupid solution.

    Evolution can explain all of these cases of stupid design, and it can explain why we use DNA and not the even more unstable RNA. (Ask, and I’ll explain them; this post is really long enough.) ID runs into a contradiction at worst and is silent at best, right?

    —————————

    Josh again:

    I think Spriggina is a very credible possibility as a trilobite precursor.

    I disagree. (See? Those evilutionists can’t agree on anything! Obviously they’re all wrong! 😉 ) First, trilobites are arthropods, so when we look for a trilobite precursor, we must look within the arthropods. (Indeed we have found plenty of animals that look very closely related to trilobites, and others that are closely related to both trilobites and chelicerates.) Spriggina has indeed been interpreted by some as an arthropod relative, but it’s probably a vendobiont. The closest known relatives of the arthropods — anomalocaridids and water bears especially — are quite different. Jim, note that the anomalocaridids are part of the Cambrian explosion, and that they are only preserved as fossils under very rare circumstances.

    Trilobites do appear suddenly (in a geological sense) with already pretty well developed eyes. There isn’t any direct evidence for trilobites right now (that I know of) as to earlier stages of those eyes.

    The chelicerates have simpler eyes than the trilobites (and, independently, the insects).

    the trilobite record overall is a rather striking example of increasing complexity through time, with gradually increasingly complex forms appearing as one goes up from the Lower Cambrian into increasingly younger rocks…

    Nope. What increases through time is the range of complexity. 🙂

    ——————

    Like you (apparently), I think all the other pre-trilobite organisms don’t recommend themselves as credible evolutionary precursors of trilobites. So we have one credible precursor (why is Spriggina credible?) and – what, thousands? millions? – of non-credible precursors. To me that sounds like the pre-trilobite fossil record contains few, if any, credible trilobite precursors (which is the claim I made).

    Jim, you seem to have rather odd ideas about the Precambrian fossil record and our knowledge of it. There aren’t millions, there aren’t thousands, there are probably not even 100.

    And why should the Precambrian record be full of trilobite precursors? One (or, rather, an arthropod-tardigrade-onychophore precursor) should suffice, shouldn’t it?

  208. #210 JimV
    September 8, 2007

    As requested in #188, I have read Meyer article. IASNAB (I am still not a biologist), so I am unqualified to comment on whether it would pass a rigorous peer review. In addition, it is hard to say what impression it might have made on me as a layman had I not been reading various blogs such as “Good Math Bad Math” and “The Panda’s Thumb” over the past few years. Having done so, it was like sitting through a movie after hearing a long “two thumbs down” review by Siskel and Ebert (which would be even more devastating than one by Ebert and Roeper, for those who don’t know).

    I think my impression would have been:

    “This sounds somewhat impressive but very one-sided – what about the thousands of scientists who support the ToE, including Nobel Prize winners – why are their views not represented and papers not cited? I had better do some quick looking for other opinions.”

    In which case I would have found these:

    talkreason_dot_org_slash_articles_slash_Meyer.cfm

    pandasthumb_dot_org_slash_archives_slash_2007_slash_92 second st fa_dot_html#more

    (I have dummied the links because the last time I gave links I was held in moderation overnight, and at my age [insert green bananas joke here].)

    I was thinking of writing about a new theory of mine called, “The Murphy Method, or, The Theory of Intelligent Failure”. It posits that the standard engineering failure mechanisms (fatigue, creep-rupture, stress-corrosion, brittle-fracture, and ductile overload) are insufficient to explain all the collapsing bridges, crashing planes, and exploding space shuttles we see, particularly since we have no direct metallurgical analyses of many of the failures, and are left with just-so stories about o-rings. Is this probable with all the Design Reviews, ISO procedures, Six Sigma procedures, and other tools the engineering profession has? Isn’t it more likely that a malign intelligence, whom I will call “Murphy”, is at work, and yada, yada, yada. I’ll bet I could make it sound impressive to some non-engineers.

  209. #211 David Marjanovi?
    September 8, 2007

    Based on statements like that made by Darwinist Richard Dawkins, who claimed that the Cambrian phyla appear to have been “planted” without any evolutionary history, I inferred that paleontologists had found little in the fossil record in the way of likely precursors to the Cambrian phyla (otherwise, why would Dawkins, who would love to see a plethora of precursors, say such a thing?).

    He’s exaggerating. Perhaps for dramatic effect, probably out of ignorance (not everyone has read the necessary papers, and he’s not a paleontologist, let alone one who works on the Cambrian).

    Hm… I wrote the above before I read comment 203. Looks like I was right. 🙂

    Or should we expect to see in the fossil record a clear lineage before we make such a claim with the air of certainty displayed by Stanton?

    No.

    Imagine a very bushy bush — not really a bush because all branches have the same (and very small) thickness. Take a few cross-sections at not too small intervals. Throw away on average 99.99 % of each cross-section, less from the higher ones and more from the lower ones, roughly. (And that not at random; introduce a complicated bias.) Then compare any two successive cross-sections. What is the probability that you will find any particular branch in both? What is the probability that we should find a direct ancestor of anything we know in the fossil record?

    I haven’t commented the brontothere example yet. I don’t know the details of that particular one, but, if taken literally as an ancestor-descendant sequence, it’s almost certainly wrong. Most supposed ancestors in the… terrestrial vertebrate record before the Pliocene anyway have turned out to have innovations of their own, which makes it an unparsimonious assumption that they are direct ancestors of anything known. That includes, for example, Archaeopteryx.

    If taken less literally, the brontothere example is still a nice illustration: it is what we expect to find.

    Edward Reed, among others, has argued that natural selection may be a law of nature.

    I don’t know who that is, but I don’t need to know that to see that the claim is not very intelligent. Natural selection is already inescapable, based on what we already know. It’s almost a tautology: after a while, most will be descendants of those who have had the most surviving fertile offspring; those have had the most surviving fertile offspring who were best equipped to do so. If reproduction, inheritance, and mutation exist, natural selection is impossible to avoid.

  210. #212 David Marjanovi?
    September 8, 2007

    Based on statements like that made by Darwinist Richard Dawkins, who claimed that the Cambrian phyla appear to have been “planted” without any evolutionary history, I inferred that paleontologists had found little in the fossil record in the way of likely precursors to the Cambrian phyla (otherwise, why would Dawkins, who would love to see a plethora of precursors, say such a thing?).

    He’s exaggerating. Perhaps for dramatic effect, probably out of ignorance (not everyone has read the necessary papers, and he’s not a paleontologist, let alone one who works on the Cambrian).

    Hm… I wrote the above before I read comment 203. Looks like I was right. 🙂

    Or should we expect to see in the fossil record a clear lineage before we make such a claim with the air of certainty displayed by Stanton?

    No.

    Imagine a very bushy bush — not really a bush because all branches have the same (and very small) thickness. Take a few cross-sections at not too small intervals. Throw away on average 99.99 % of each cross-section, less from the higher ones and more from the lower ones, roughly. (And that not at random; introduce a complicated bias.) Then compare any two successive cross-sections. What is the probability that you will find any particular branch in both? What is the probability that we should find a direct ancestor of anything we know in the fossil record?

    I haven’t commented the brontothere example yet. I don’t know the details of that particular one, but, if taken literally as an ancestor-descendant sequence, it’s almost certainly wrong. Most supposed ancestors in the… terrestrial vertebrate record before the Pliocene anyway have turned out to have innovations of their own, which makes it an unparsimonious assumption that they are direct ancestors of anything known. That includes, for example, Archaeopteryx.

    If taken less literally, the brontothere example is still a nice illustration: it is what we expect to find.

    Edward Reed, among others, has argued that natural selection may be a law of nature.

    I don’t know who that is, but I don’t need to know that to see that the claim is not very intelligent. Natural selection is already inescapable, based on what we already know. It’s almost a tautology: after a while, most will be descendants of those who have had the most surviving fertile offspring; those have had the most surviving fertile offspring who were best equipped to do so. If reproduction, inheritance, and mutation exist, natural selection is impossible to avoid.

  211. #213 Ichthyic
    September 8, 2007

    Imagine a very bushy bush — not really a bush because all branches have the same (and very small) thickness.

    more like a shrub?

    are we talking politics or cladistics?

    :p

  212. #214 David Marjanovi?
    September 8, 2007

    …aha… comment 203 is now 204…

  213. #215 David Marjanovi?
    September 8, 2007

    …aha… comment 203 is now 204…

  214. #216 Stanton
    September 8, 2007

    So, if Spriggina, Onega, Vendia, Bomakellia, Parvancorina, Praecambridium, and the Flinders Soft-Bodied Trilobite are not trilobite precursors, then, what does Intelligent Design say they are?

  215. #217 Jim
    September 8, 2007

    Jim: “As I understand it, in Shannon IT, any complex pattern or sequence carries information.”

    Graculus: “Negative. In Shannon Information any sequence, no matter the length or ‘complexity’, *is* (does not ‘carry’) information.”

    http://www.iscid.org/encyclopedia/Shannon_Information

    >Shannon information is concerned with quantifying information (usually in terms of number of bits) to keep track of alphanumeric characters as they are communicated sequentially from a source to a receiver. The amount of Shannon information contained in a string of characters is inversely related to the probability of the occurrence of the string.< If Shannon information is "contained in a string of characters," aren't those characters "carrying" the information? Whatever point you're trying to make, it seems that you're drawing a distinction without a difference. In any event, Shannon information theory and ID theory have different concerns with respect to information. ID theory is concerned with information (specifically, complex specified information) that is biologically meaningful (or useful). From the same source cited above: >Unlike specified complexity, Shannon information is solely concerned with the improbability or complexity of a string of characters rather than its patterning or significance.< Graculus: "'Meaning' is entirely subjective, and not measurable, even in biology." In that case, why bother doing science? If all science can deliver is subjective meaning, what's the point of it? Graculus: "You are caught in a semantical game regarding 'meaning' and 'information'." Not really. "Meaning" and "information" aren't synonymous, but some information is meaningful and some isn't. ID theory isn't concerned with meaningless information.

  216. #218 Jim
    September 8, 2007

    Steve C. “But it’s quite obvious, (Jim’s) been completely indoctrinated into the ID point of view.”

    Unlike my critics, none of whom have been completely indoctrinated into the Darwinian point of view.

  217. #219 Stanton
    September 8, 2007

    Unlike my critics, none of whom have been completely indoctrinated into the Darwinian point of view.

    So how does this explain why Intelligent Design proponents have yet to propose alternative descriptions of prehistoric organisms such as trilobites, ammonites or placoderms?

  218. #220 Ichthyic
    September 8, 2007

    what does Intelligent Design say they are?

    Flintstone chewing gum?

  219. #221 Ichthyic
    September 8, 2007

    Unlike my critics, none of whom have been completely indoctrinated into the Darwinian point of view.

    well, see, that’s the difference, Jim. all of us actually went to school and learned how to evaluate the actual evidence for this theory, and many others, all by ourselves.

    that’s called e-d-u-c-a-t-i-o-n.

    indoctrination is what you get at church.

    do you know what projection, is, Jim?

  220. #222 Ichthyic
    September 8, 2007

    In any event, Shannon information theory and ID theory have different concerns with respect to information.

    not according to the only person to ever attempt to write a book on the subject, Dembski.

    why don’t you ask him what the distinction is?

    that should be a hoot.

    seriously, go over to UD and ask him.

    better yet, you should go to school and learn about information theory before you poot more of your ignorant nonsense you like to call “an argument”.

  221. #223 windy
    September 8, 2007

    Kseniya wrote: “I’d like to add to Brownian’s more amicable comments, Jim, that you express yourself well and comport yourself admirably.”

    I guess, if you like moving goalposts. “Why is there no trace of a Precambrian trilobite precursor? Oh, there may be some? Ok, but why aren’t there thousands of them?”

    I am still at a loss what difference the presence or absence of precursor/transitional fossils makes, if ID-theorists accept common descent anyway.

  222. #224 Kseniya
    September 9, 2007

    By golly, I do enjoy David’s posts…

    So, if […] the Flinders Soft-Bodied Trilobite are not trilobite precursors, then, what does Intelligent Design say they are?

    I don’t know, but I say let’s sprinkle on some Old Bay and call ’em “dinner”!

  223. #225 Ichthyic
    September 9, 2007

    I don’t know, but I say let’s sprinkle on some Old Bay and call ’em “dinner”!

    I hear they taste like chicken.

    or is it chicken taste like them?

    hmm.

  224. #226 Josh
    September 9, 2007

    David wrote (regarding Spriggina as a possible as a trilobite precursor): I disagree. First, trilobites are arthropods, so when we look for a trilobite precursor, we must look within the arthropods.

    That’s not true at all.

    David: (Indeed we have found plenty of animals that look very closely related to trilobites, and others that are closely related to both trilobites and chelicerates.) Spriggina has indeed been interpreted by some as an arthropod relative, but it’s probably a vendobiont.

    A. I agree with everything in David’s parenthetical there.
    B. Yep, Spriggina is not resolved as an arthropod…which is why I chose it (though I’m not necessarily sure that it is ‘probably’ a vendobiont…the jury seems to be out on that point…probably is likely a bit strong). I intentionally provided Jim with a Precambrian organism that doesn’t look to be definitively within Arthropoda, but is very similar to arthropods…’cause I’m pretty sure that is along the lines of what he was asking me to provide. He is asking about the organisms from which trilobites came. I don’t think he cares about phylogenetic similarities and inferences that can be drawn from them. Baby steps.

    David: The closest known relatives of the arthropods — anomalocaridids and water bears especially — are quite different. Jim, note that the anomalocaridids are part of the Cambrian explosion, and that they are only preserved as fossils under very rare circumstances.

    Again, I doubt Jim is going to accept closely related organisms from the Cambrian as refuting his position that trilobites sprang forth on the geologic stage with no precedent.

    David wrote: The chelicerates have simpler eyes than the trilobites (and, independently, the insects).

    I said earlier…not simpler…deliberately. Again, I was trying to keep things as ‘stratigraphic’ as possible. I doubt very much if Jim is going to accept that because a group of organisms which diversified and radiated alongside of trilobites, has simpler eyes than trilobites, says anything at all about trilobites themselves. Unless you know of a demonstrable chelicerate that is demonstrably older than the oldest known demonstrable trilobite, I doubt the point is going to hold any water with him…and even that might not.

  225. #227 Stanton
    September 9, 2007
    I don’t know, but I say let’s sprinkle on some Old Bay and call ’em “dinner”!

    I hear they taste like chicken.

    or is it chicken taste like them?

    hmm.

    Richard Fortey suspects that trilobites may have tasted like horseshoe crabs.
    According to a dinner he had at a seafood restaurant in Bangkok, horseshoe crabs have an unpleasantly metallic taste, with a mildly sweet aftertaste.

  226. #228 Kseniya
    September 9, 2007

    I guess, if you like moving goalposts. “Why is there no trace of a Precambrian trilobite precursor? Oh, there may be some? Ok, but why aren’t there thousands of them?”

    Sure, Windy, you’ll get no argument from me on that point. All I’m saying is that Jim writes well, and keeps it civil in the face of sometimes hard and distainful criticism. From his perspective, this is the lion’s den, yet he keeps the discussion (rather than the epithets) moving – in circles sometimes, yes, and while he may throw trilobites at us, at least he washes off the mud first. 🙂

  227. #229 Stanton
    September 9, 2007

    Kseniya, do realize that Jim has routinely and arrogantly dismissed all of the arguments presented to him, and he has yet to demonstrate exactly how Intelligent Design is better than “Darwinism.”
    Saying that Intelligent Design is just an “infant science” does not excuse its proponents from doing science.

  228. #230 Sven DiMilo
    September 9, 2007

    IQ to the north of 150. I’m widely read in both evolutionary theory and ID theory.

    I just can’t read all these comments…has anybody pointed out that this guy is DaveScot Springer with his hand up a sock?

  229. #231 Sven DiMilo
    September 9, 2007

    Or, maybe not (has he mentioned “frontloading”? “new body plans, organs, tissues, or cell types”?))
    But if not, remarkably convergent in certain details of wording…convergent or (shudders) imitative.

  230. #232 Stanton
    September 9, 2007

    Plus, Sven, Jim has never mentioned how Intelligent Design explains the appearance, rise and decline of Biston betularia var. carbonari, let alone how it explains it better than how “Darwinism” does.

  231. #233 windy
    September 9, 2007

    Plus, Sven, Jim has never mentioned how Intelligent Design explains the appearance, rise and decline of Biston betularia var. carbonari, let alone how it explains it better than how “Darwinism” does.

    They explain it by natural selection, of course. Rather than let them cherry-pick biology, we should point out that we have already established that they are materialist evolutionists, and now we are just haggling over the price.

  232. #234 David Marjanovi?
    September 9, 2007

    Graculus: “‘Meaning’ is entirely subjective, and not measurable, even in biology.”

    In that case, why bother doing science? If all science can deliver is subjective meaning, what’s the point of it?

    I don’t understand that.

    Science is not about meaning. Or what do you mean by “meaning”?

    —————–

    I disagree. First, trilobites are arthropods, so when we look for a trilobite precursor, we must look within the arthropods.

    That’s not true at all.

    Oh, so you’re just saying you aren’t looking for an immediate trilobite precursor? In that case, of course, I agree.

    I was trying to keep things as ‘stratigraphic’ as possible.

    That only works when the fossil record is very good, and in the Cambrian, let alone before that, it isn’t. However, here is an article that should give an impression on how many and how close relatives of the trilobites and chelicerates are known from the Cambrian.

    BTW, how old is the oldest known trilobite?

  233. #235 David Marjanovi?
    September 9, 2007

    Graculus: “‘Meaning’ is entirely subjective, and not measurable, even in biology.”

    In that case, why bother doing science? If all science can deliver is subjective meaning, what’s the point of it?

    I don’t understand that.

    Science is not about meaning. Or what do you mean by “meaning”?

    —————–

    I disagree. First, trilobites are arthropods, so when we look for a trilobite precursor, we must look within the arthropods.

    That’s not true at all.

    Oh, so you’re just saying you aren’t looking for an immediate trilobite precursor? In that case, of course, I agree.

    I was trying to keep things as ‘stratigraphic’ as possible.

    That only works when the fossil record is very good, and in the Cambrian, let alone before that, it isn’t. However, here is an article that should give an impression on how many and how close relatives of the trilobites and chelicerates are known from the Cambrian.

    BTW, how old is the oldest known trilobite?

  234. #236 Stanton
    September 9, 2007

    The oldest trilobites are the fallotaspid redlichiid trilobites, such as the Moroccan trilobite, Fallotaspis.
    They appeared near the start of the Cambrian, and died out almost immediately before the first olenellid redlichiid trilobites, such as Nevadia and Olenellus, appeared around 550 million years ago.

  235. #237 David Marjanovi?
    September 9, 2007

    To answer my own question… Comment 79 contains the link to a nice table. So apparently the oldest trilobites are from the Tommotian-Atdabanian boundary according to the Siberian scale, and not even 530 million years old, which leaves plenty of time within the Cambrian before their first appearance in the fossil record.

    Also, I don’t have access to the article I posted the link to, only the first page. It’s enough for an impression, however. I got it from googling for Olenellida.

  236. #238 David Marjanovi?
    September 9, 2007

    To answer my own question… Comment 79 contains the link to a nice table. So apparently the oldest trilobites are from the Tommotian-Atdabanian boundary according to the Siberian scale, and not even 530 million years old, which leaves plenty of time within the Cambrian before their first appearance in the fossil record.

    Also, I don’t have access to the article I posted the link to, only the first page. It’s enough for an impression, however. I got it from googling for Olenellida.

  237. #239 David Marjanovi?
    September 9, 2007

    The 550 figure must be outdated — the Cambrian only began 542 million years ago. http://www.stratigraphy.org/gssp.html

    Given their calcified armor, we should expect the trilobites to turn up in the fossil record long before their relatives. However, what definition of the base of the Cambrian was used in Morocco?

  238. #240 David Marjanovi?
    September 9, 2007

    The 550 figure must be outdated — the Cambrian only began 542 million years ago. http://www.stratigraphy.org/gssp.html

    Given their calcified armor, we should expect the trilobites to turn up in the fossil record long before their relatives. However, what definition of the base of the Cambrian was used in Morocco?

  239. #241 Stanton
    September 9, 2007

    You’re right about the numbers being out of date.
    According to this report at Peripatus, and a little googling, Falloptaspis also appears in Early Cambrian strata in Siberia, Pennsylvania and Sonora, Mexico.
    http://www.peripatus.gen.nz/Taxa/Arthropoda/Trilobita/TriOri.html

    Also, apparently, the earliest trilobites were not as heavily calcified as later trilobites.

  240. #242 David Marjanovi?
    September 9, 2007

    Scholar.google.com finds this Geological Society of America meeting abstract for Fallotaspis which shows that Fallotaspis is Atdabanian in age, at least in North America. The next pages of results seem to show that, in North America anyway, the base of the Cambrian was put at the base of the Fallotaspis zone in the 1960s and 70s.

    Figure 2 (on p. 6) of this Google Scholar result shows that there is a “pre-trilobite” part of the Cambrian underneath the Fallotaspis zone, which begins in the Atdabanian. Warning: if you click on that link, you start downloading a pdf that has over 5 MB.

  241. #243 David Marjanovi?
    September 9, 2007

    Scholar.google.com finds this Geological Society of America meeting abstract for Fallotaspis which shows that Fallotaspis is Atdabanian in age, at least in North America. The next pages of results seem to show that, in North America anyway, the base of the Cambrian was put at the base of the Fallotaspis zone in the 1960s and 70s.

    Figure 2 (on p. 6) of this Google Scholar result shows that there is a “pre-trilobite” part of the Cambrian underneath the Fallotaspis zone, which begins in the Atdabanian. Warning: if you click on that link, you start downloading a pdf that has over 5 MB.

  242. #244 David Marjanovi?
    September 9, 2007

    Thanks for that link, Stanton. So the oldest known trilobites are 525 to 530 Ma old, but their tracks “extend right down to the earliest Cambrian beds”, and there’s biogeographic evidence for an even earlier origin which would mean the trilobites aren’t part of the Cambrian explosion.

    Two clicks away is this page, which depicts the closest known relatives of the trilobites.

  243. #245 David Marjanovi?
    September 9, 2007

    Thanks for that link, Stanton. So the oldest known trilobites are 525 to 530 Ma old, but their tracks “extend right down to the earliest Cambrian beds”, and there’s biogeographic evidence for an even earlier origin which would mean the trilobites aren’t part of the Cambrian explosion.

    Two clicks away is this page, which depicts the closest known relatives of the trilobites.

  244. #246 David Marjanovi?
    September 9, 2007

    OK, Parvancorina it is then. 🙂
    GSA abstract
    explanation

  245. #247 David Marjanovi?
    September 9, 2007

    OK, Parvancorina it is then. 🙂
    GSA abstract
    explanation

  246. #248 Arden Chatfield
    September 9, 2007

    well, see, that’s the difference, Jim. all of us actually went to school and learned how to evaluate the actual evidence for this theory, and many others, all by ourselves.
    that’s called e-d-u-c-a-t-i-o-n.
    indoctrination is what you get at church.
    do you know what projection, is, Jim?

    Jim would probably reply that ‘materialism’ is a religion, and that we ‘evolutionists’ are therefore all guilty of religious indoctrination. So, unless we open ourselves up to accepting the Book of Genesis as an essential part of science, we’re all ‘religious fanatics’.

  247. #249 Stanton
    September 9, 2007

    Actually, Jim says that Intelligent Design and Creationism are two totally different things…
    It’s just that he has never stated how Intelligent Design does science, beyond alleging that a lack of visible progress is due to it being an “infant science,” nor does he acknowledge the Discovery Institute’s decidedly pro-Creationist motives.

  248. #250 Torbjrn Larsson, OM
    September 9, 2007

    FWIW, if Jim comes back, here is my favorites (not the “best of thread”, but what I liked):


    I imagine he’d say that “interlocking complexity” and “irreducible complexity” are not the same thing. He’d likely also say that no one actually knows that “interlocking complexity” arose through unguided evolutionary processes.

    I know you retracted this later, as Behe’s original IC is identical to interlocking complexity. As some noted, what Behe did was dropping his original definition without a trace and replaced it with the current brand of creationist probability arguments on strawmen of evolution. (Situations or proposed mechanisms that aren’t observed.)


    I don’t know who wrote “Good Math Bad Math”, but the author evidently failed to understand Dembski’s explanation of specified complexity (or its subset, complex specified information).

    As Dembski explains it, you can’t just read specified complexity off of a pattern after the fact; in addition to reading the pattern, it must be shown that the pattern conforms to an independently given specification (i.e., a specification that exists independently of the event that produced the pattern).

    The blogger of GMBM is Mark Chu-Carroll, a computer scientist who enjoys debunking bad math, especially from denialists of different kinds.

    David Marjanovi? cuts to the chase in his answer, specification will not yield a parsimonious explanation in the face of the existing theory.

    But there are specific problems too.

    First, coupled to the discussion of information and complexity, there is no one information or complexity measure that can describe all possible patterns. So you really have to specify and test a relevant one. Which as we know ID proponents doesn’t want to do. Your examples doesn’t describe an ID mechanism for that specification or even an ad hoc specification that applies to all of biology.

    Second, either a mechanism or ad hoc specification is provided which then is indistinguishable from causation from natural processes, or ID is forced to look at “rarefied design”, that which remains when chance or necessity is excluded. But we can’t reliably detect rarefied design due to its low likelihood when all else should be excluded first. [Linking didn’t work, but see the article “The Advantages of Theft over Toil: The Design Inference and Arguing from Ignorance” by Wilkins and Elsberry in Biology and Philosophy, Volume 16, Number 5, November 2001 , pp. 709-722(14).]

  249. #251 Torbjrn Larsson, OM
    September 9, 2007

    FWIW, if Jim comes back, here is my favorites (not the “best of thread”, but what I liked):


    I imagine he’d say that “interlocking complexity” and “irreducible complexity” are not the same thing. He’d likely also say that no one actually knows that “interlocking complexity” arose through unguided evolutionary processes.

    I know you retracted this later, as Behe’s original IC is identical to interlocking complexity. As some noted, what Behe did was dropping his original definition without a trace and replaced it with the current brand of creationist probability arguments on strawmen of evolution. (Situations or proposed mechanisms that aren’t observed.)


    I don’t know who wrote “Good Math Bad Math”, but the author evidently failed to understand Dembski’s explanation of specified complexity (or its subset, complex specified information).

    As Dembski explains it, you can’t just read specified complexity off of a pattern after the fact; in addition to reading the pattern, it must be shown that the pattern conforms to an independently given specification (i.e., a specification that exists independently of the event that produced the pattern).

    The blogger of GMBM is Mark Chu-Carroll, a computer scientist who enjoys debunking bad math, especially from denialists of different kinds.

    David Marjanovi? cuts to the chase in his answer, specification will not yield a parsimonious explanation in the face of the existing theory.

    But there are specific problems too.

    First, coupled to the discussion of information and complexity, there is no one information or complexity measure that can describe all possible patterns. So you really have to specify and test a relevant one. Which as we know ID proponents doesn’t want to do. Your examples doesn’t describe an ID mechanism for that specification or even an ad hoc specification that applies to all of biology.

    Second, either a mechanism or ad hoc specification is provided which then is indistinguishable from causation from natural processes, or ID is forced to look at “rarefied design”, that which remains when chance or necessity is excluded. But we can’t reliably detect rarefied design due to its low likelihood when all else should be excluded first. [Linking didn’t work, but see the article “The Advantages of Theft over Toil: The Design Inference and Arguing from Ignorance” by Wilkins and Elsberry in Biology and Philosophy, Volume 16, Number 5, November 2001 , pp. 709-722(14).]

  250. #252 Torbjrn Larsson, OM
    September 9, 2007

    [The missing ingress in the previous comment:]

    I read this thread with gratification, great comments from David Marjanovi?, windy, Stanton, et cetera. And who will forget JimV’s new theory: “The Murphy Method, or, The Theory of Intelligent Failure”?

    We are getting used to creationists who claims IQ’s “to the north of 150” and still are ignorant. I’m reminded of that genius bartender who suggested that he had explained nature and science by philosophy…

    [Cont.]


    With regard to biological systems, however, the only relevant information is that which is meaningful (i.e., the information that shapes matter into biological forms).

    [Later:] “Meaning” and “information” aren’t synonymous, but some information is meaningful and some isn’t. ID theory isn’t concerned with meaningless information.

    Information isn’t an especially useful characteristic or concern for biology. Also, as for “specification”, information needs models (are semantic) to be useful. And genetic or phenotypic information is contingent on the environment.

    But FWIW we can measure information in some cases. In its technical sense it is slightly related to complexity as for example in Kolmogorov complexity. And as no one complexity measure can characterize all possible structures, Kolmogorov complexity is not well defined. In practice you can pick a specific compression scheme to compare information content, but you can’t do much else with that type of information.

    Specifically, we can identify both Shannon and Kolmogorov information associated with genomes. It isn’t practically useful I think, but doable. Instead of giving references I will give another example.

    Apparently a model for allele frequencies in asexual populations look like Bayes theorem. [See http://golem.ph.utexas.edu/category/2006/12/back_from_nips_2006.html#c006690.%5D And Bayes theorem is a model for trial and error inferences, where it decides which hypotheses should be weakened or strengthened. By this model we could call the populations alleles hypotheses and the population frequencies its current theory of the environment.

    This is information that the population picks up in its genome at selection by the environment. It is contingent as we noted earlier. Changing environment will lose the meaning of the information. Over time it will make the population forget the old environment and learn about the new one.

    Again, not an especially exciting observation except for the analogies we can make. But we can see that even if genomes doesn’t exhibit static and communicable information, it has definable and measurable information.

    But note:
    We can’t point to a specific feature of a system and say “this is the information”. What we can say is that we can observe information change. (In the Kolmogorov complexity case, differences in compression, by some scheme, before and after. In the Shannon information case, data loss over a channel.) In the analogy above it is by observing allele frequencies change.

    Information is a relative, not absolute, measure. It is not an object or a specific feature, nor necessarily static and communicable.

  251. #253 Torbjrn Larsson, OM
    September 9, 2007

    [The missing ingress in the previous comment:]

    I read this thread with gratification, great comments from David Marjanovi?, windy, Stanton, et cetera. And who will forget JimV’s new theory: “The Murphy Method, or, The Theory of Intelligent Failure”?

    We are getting used to creationists who claims IQ’s “to the north of 150” and still are ignorant. I’m reminded of that genius bartender who suggested that he had explained nature and science by philosophy…

    [Cont.]


    With regard to biological systems, however, the only relevant information is that which is meaningful (i.e., the information that shapes matter into biological forms).

    [Later:] “Meaning” and “information” aren’t synonymous, but some information is meaningful and some isn’t. ID theory isn’t concerned with meaningless information.

    Information isn’t an especially useful characteristic or concern for biology. Also, as for “specification”, information needs models (are semantic) to be useful. And genetic or phenotypic information is contingent on the environment.

    But FWIW we can measure information in some cases. In its technical sense it is slightly related to complexity as for example in Kolmogorov complexity. And as no one complexity measure can characterize all possible structures, Kolmogorov complexity is not well defined. In practice you can pick a specific compression scheme to compare information content, but you can’t do much else with that type of information.

    Specifically, we can identify both Shannon and Kolmogorov information associated with genomes. It isn’t practically useful I think, but doable. Instead of giving references I will give another example.

    Apparently a model for allele frequencies in asexual populations look like Bayes theorem. [See http://golem.ph.utexas.edu/category/2006/12/back_from_nips_2006.html#c006690.%5D And Bayes theorem is a model for trial and error inferences, where it decides which hypotheses should be weakened or strengthened. By this model we could call the populations alleles hypotheses and the population frequencies its current theory of the environment.

    This is information that the population picks up in its genome at selection by the environment. It is contingent as we noted earlier. Changing environment will lose the meaning of the information. Over time it will make the population forget the old environment and learn about the new one.

    Again, not an especially exciting observation except for the analogies we can make. But we can see that even if genomes doesn’t exhibit static and communicable information, it has definable and measurable information.

    But note:
    We can’t point to a specific feature of a system and say “this is the information”. What we can say is that we can observe information change. (In the Kolmogorov complexity case, differences in compression, by some scheme, before and after. In the Shannon information case, data loss over a channel.) In the analogy above it is by observing allele frequencies change.

    Information is a relative, not absolute, measure. It is not an object or a specific feature, nor necessarily static and communicable.

  252. #254 Torbjrn Larsson, OM
    September 9, 2007

    [Cont. And now the link script works…]


    and (in some cases) rotary outboard motors

    I would think that a retired flight captain would be more careful with technical details – the flagellum is an inboard engine embedded in the different membranes of different cells.


    Edward Reed, among others, has argued that natural selection may be a law of nature.

    But laws can be statistic. In fact, quantum mechanics is famous for combining deterministic state propagation with statistic outcomes of measurements.

    Similarly selection picks the most fit alleles in a certain situation, but which selection pressures are present is unpredictable, which population and frequency of alleles are present is unpredictable, and AFAIK the fixation process is also statistical. (I.e. with some probability it can fail.)

    Not that evolution is a solid observation among biological life. It is also observed to be robust.

    An early onset is observed in lieu of extinction risks or possible early total extinction. And it has survived other near total extinctions.

    Also, viruses and cells from different extant and extinct domains could have crossed the Darwinian threshold several times from a progenotic state. These crossings seems to be initiated by diverse selfish elements, and shows the competitive [sic!] nature of evolution.

    So evolution is a competitive and robust process which we should expect to be common elsewhere. Maybe we will meet singular existences, biological or mechanical, that aren’t described thusly. But I believe the way to bet is that they are rare and bound on an extinction path.

    So a law could be attempted, even warranted. For simplicity, I suggest “biological systems shows local common descent”. (Global common descent would be another observation. It seems difficult to ascertain if there was one or several progenotic communities which coalesced before passing the Darwinian threshold. Similarly it is wrong if we expect to apply the law elsewhere in the universe.)

  253. #255 Torbjrn Larsson, OM
    September 9, 2007

    [Cont. And now the link script works…]


    and (in some cases) rotary outboard motors

    I would think that a retired flight captain would be more careful with technical details – the flagellum is an inboard engine embedded in the different membranes of different cells.


    Edward Reed, among others, has argued that natural selection may be a law of nature.

    But laws can be statistic. In fact, quantum mechanics is famous for combining deterministic state propagation with statistic outcomes of measurements.

    Similarly selection picks the most fit alleles in a certain situation, but which selection pressures are present is unpredictable, which population and frequency of alleles are present is unpredictable, and AFAIK the fixation process is also statistical. (I.e. with some probability it can fail.)

    Not that evolution is a solid observation among biological life. It is also observed to be robust.

    An early onset is observed in lieu of extinction risks or possible early total extinction. And it has survived other near total extinctions.

    Also, viruses and cells from different extant and extinct domains could have crossed the Darwinian threshold several times from a progenotic state. These crossings seems to be initiated by diverse selfish elements, and shows the competitive [sic!] nature of evolution.

    So evolution is a competitive and robust process which we should expect to be common elsewhere. Maybe we will meet singular existences, biological or mechanical, that aren’t described thusly. But I believe the way to bet is that they are rare and bound on an extinction path.

    So a law could be attempted, even warranted. For simplicity, I suggest “biological systems shows local common descent”. (Global common descent would be another observation. It seems difficult to ascertain if there was one or several progenotic communities which coalesced before passing the Darwinian threshold. Similarly it is wrong if we expect to apply the law elsewhere in the universe.)

  254. #256 Scott Hatfield, OM
    September 9, 2007

    TL, as usual, there’s the promise of more real scholarship in one of your posts than in any ten of mine. So, if it wouldn’t be asking to much, could you email some of the relevant sources/thinkers that led to your conclusions on information’s relevance to biology?

    I’ve got a lot of IDevotees who throw this one at me and I want to try to distill my rebuttal into a few one-liners that can show just how misleading the information argument is, so anything you can shoot my way would be much appreciated.

    My email: epigene13@hotmail.com

  255. #257 Pradeep Satyaprakash
    September 10, 2007

    Thank you all for a most informative and entertaining 2.5 hours of reading and understanding, but most of all, thanks to Jim for entering this evolutionist forum and raising your ID points. I am not that well versed in the debate, but looking at the links and information you all provided in refuting Jim’s assertions, I can learn a lot.

  256. #258 Ralph Kramden
    September 10, 2007

    First, I want to commend Jim for arguing so effectively here. Unlike PZ, I don’t think Jim is a troll. While I think he’s been bamboozled by ID claims, I also think he’s rather articulate and clearly intelligent. Even articulate, intelligent people go off on a wrong track sometimes. While I think he relies too much on quote mining popular articles instead of reading the primary scientific literature, not everyone has the time to dig so deeply.

    Jim has clearly read Dembski’s work and been convinced by it. I’ve read the same work, and found it either hopelessly vague or incorrect in many respects. So I’d like to ask Jim a question about “specified complexity” or “complex specified information” that has been puzzling me for a while.

    When computing the “specified complexity” or “complex specified information” of an event, what probability measure are we supposed to use? Dembski uses two different incompatible measures. In the first, he regards the event as drawn from a universe of equally probable events. For example, in computing the probability of an English text, he uses the analogy of scrabble tiles, and evaluates the probability of (let’s say) a 20-letter phrase as 26 to the minus 20 power. In other words, each letter is equally likely (not even taking into account the non-uniform distribution of the tiles).

    In the second measure, Dembski uses the history of the event to determine its probability. So in analyzing one variant of Dawkins’ “weasel” example, Dembski says something like, “Well, this program always produces the same output, no matter how it is run, so its specified complexity is clearly log(1) = 0”. In this calculation he doesn’t use the uniform probability approach to evaluate the probability of the phrase produced (although later, in the same example, he does!).

    I want to compute the specified complexity of an event. Which method should I choose?

    To make things more precise, let’s consider an example. I observe a sequence of four symbols that occur somewhere in nature. It doesn’t matter where, but let’s say the four symbols are A, C, G, and T.

    I observe the letter A written 20 times: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA.

    What is its specified complexity or complex specified information?

    Now I observe the pattern AAACACCACCCCACCCCCCC.

    What is its specified complexity or complex specified information?

    Now I observe the pattern ACCACACCCACAAACCACCAC.

    What is its specified complexity or complex specified information?

    Please show your work.

  257. #259 Josh
    September 10, 2007

    Josh wrote: That’s not true at all.

    David replied: Oh, so you’re just saying you aren’t looking for an immediate trilobite precursor? In that case, of course, I agree.

    Of course I wasn’t discussing an immediate precursor. Look back through Jim’s comments over the last few days…a basal arthropod wasn’t what he was asking for.

    Josh wrote: I was trying to keep things as ‘stratigraphic’ as possible.

    David replied: That only works when the fossil record is very good, and in the Cambrian, let alone before that, it isn’t.

    That’s very true…I was giving him the GEO100 view of things, but that’s perfectly appropriate for the kind of conversation we were having. There’s nothing that I’ve tried to explain to Jim (barring a mistake on my part of course) that isn’t congruent with the state of the science with respect to the kind of discussion we’re engaged in. Yes, you and I both know very well that the GEO100 answer to most questions is rather different from the GEO400 answer to those same questions, but we have to start frickin’ somewhere…and it is where we usually start. I’m strongly of the opinion that trying to play the parsimony inference game with someone who doesn’t seem to be versed in the basic building blocks of the discipline makes about as much sense as encouraging a college freshman to take graduate-level low-temperature aqueous geochemistry as their first geology class.

    David wrote: However, here is an article that should give an impression on how many and how close relatives of the trilobites and chelicerates are known from the Cambrian.

    Awesome…I didn’t have that one…thanks.

    And yeah…oldest known trilobites…as far as I know…basal Cambrian…close to the bottom, which is currently set at about 542.

  258. #260 Jim
    September 10, 2007

    I’ve had other things to do lately, so I’ve been “out of the loop.” I’ll try to catch up here and in the postings that follow, but I won’t attempt to address all the questions and comments thrown my way. Instead, I’ll focus on those that interest me the most. Respondents who continue to toss around the word “ignorant” (or other not-so-subtle insults) can expect to be ignored.

    Anton: “I (Richard Dawkins) once introduced a chapter on the so-called Cambrian Explosion with the words: ‘It is as though the fossils were planted there without any evolutionary history.’ Again, this was a rhetorical overture, intended to whet the reader’s appetite for the explanation. Inevitably, my remark was gleefully quoted out of context. Creationists adore ‘gaps’ in the fossil record.'”

    Regardless of how he spins them, Dawkins’s remarks highlight the fossil problems the Cambrian Explosion presents to Darwinism. In “The Blind Watchmaker,” he wrote: “The Cambrian strata of rocks, vintage about 600 million years, are the oldest ones in which we find most of the major invertebrate groups. And we find many of them in an advanced state of evolution, the very first time they appear. It is as though they were just planted there, without any evolutionary history. Needless to say, this appearance of sudden planting has delighted creationists. Evolutionists of all stripes believe, however, that this really does represent a very large gap in the fossil record, a gap that is simply due to the fact that, for some reason, very few fossils have lasted from periods before about 600 million years ago.”

    Whether the scarcity of fossils “from periods before about 600 million years ago” is a problem with the fossils or a problem with the theory, it is – notwithstanding Dawkins’s “explanation” of it – an unresolved problem for Darwinism (ToE).

    David: “Jim, you explained how to choose between necessity, random, and design. But you overlooked the fourth possibility: evolution.”

    I was referring to the three explanatory modes: necessity, chance, and design. Evolution, as it is conceived by Darwinism, is not a fourth explanatory mode; it instead relies on chance (random variations) and necessity (natural selection) to produce life’s diversity and complexity. To say that something – life, languages, automobiles, civilization, or whatever – evolved is to describe, not explain. Descriptions can be informative, but they’re not explanatory. That’s why I say that if we “prove” beyond the shadow of a doubt that life evolved, we haven’t explained life’s origin and development. All we’ve done is describe it. To explain life’s diversity and complexity, we need to find the causes that produced them. That’s what both Darwinism (ToE) and ID theory attempt to do. Both theories are quite compatible with common descent, but Darwinism requires common descent while ID doesn’t. Common descent is essentially the starting point for everything else in Darwinism. Therefore, any evidence that calls common descent into question works against Darwinism. But because design theory asserts only that some features of living things are best explained by intelligent causes, common descent is not an issue for it. Design theory can accommodate evidence that works either for or against common descent (although design theorist Michael Behe argues in his latest book that the evidence FOR common descent is quite compelling).

    David: “Hey, think of languages. Languages are inherited (even though not in the biological way), mutate, and spread. Give Latin 2000 years, and you arrive at French, which is a completely different language. That much is documented. So if you find a language, you can rule out necessity and random, but you don’t have the slightest reason to assume design.”

    If necessity, chance, and design are all ruled out, then there is no explation for the evolution (or development) of languages. If we can’t say that languages arose by necessity (i.e., the nature of the universe compels the existence of languages), or if we can’t say that languages arose by chance (i.e., by linguistic “accidents”), or if we can’t say that languages arose by design (i.e., by conscious, deliberate choices made by human beings), then what CAN we say about the evolution of languages?

    David: “Every species and subspecies is, in many features, intermediate between others. And indeed, the botanist Jussieu thought in the 18th century that nature is a continuum: everything is intermediate, and all lines we draw are arbitrary.”

    There are, of course, those (including me) who see life as being quite discontinuous. As molecular geneticist Michael Denton wrote (in “Evolution: A Theory in Crisis”): “The overall picture of life on Earth today is so discontinuous, the gaps between the different types so obvious, that, as Steven Stanley reminds us in…’Macroevolution,’ if our knowledge of biology was restricted to those species presently existing on Earth, ‘we might wonder whether the doctrine of evolution would qualify as anything more than an outrageous hypothesis.'” Most people intuitively sense that the gap between humans and, say, oak trees, is an unbridgeable gap. They could be right.

    As you may know, French biologist Georges Cuvier (the “father” of vertebrate paleontology and comparative anatomy) thought that the divisions in nature are grounded in necessity and that true intermediates cannot exist because such forms would likely be non-functional. In his own words: “Nature…has been settled in…all those combinations which are not incoherent and it is these incompatibilities, this impossibility of the coexistence of one modification with another which establish between the diverse groups of organisms those separations, those gaps, which mark their necessary limits…”

    In any event, while we won’t resolve the issue by appealing to the views of 18th and 19th century biologists, the fact remains that the fossil record is as discontinuous today as it was in Darwin’s day. As Denton wrote: “Whatever view one wants to take of the evidence of paleontology, it does not provide convincing grounds for believing that the phenomenon of life conforms to a continuous pattern. The gaps have not been explained away.”

    David: “Common descent is an easy explanation. It’s also a testable explanation, because it makes testable predictions. It predicts intermediates between placentals and marsupials, and between those two together and the monotremes, as well as between those three together and the ‘reptiles’. Lo and behold, we have plenty of fossils of just such animals.”

    Jim: “Don’t you first have to assume unguided (or Darwinian) evolution before you can label an organism an intermediate, transitional form? Wouldn’t it be senseless to label an organism an intermediate, transitional form without first assuming unguided evolution?”

    David: “No, as explained above.”

    What you explained was that if we assume (or posit) common descent, then we should expect to find intermediates. You corroborated what I said rather than refuting it.

    David: “We see a wild bush in the fossil record and in today’s world that grows in all directions. That’s what we expect from evolution by mutation, selection, and drift.”

    Quite so. If life’s history conformed to the predictions of Darwinism (ToE), it should resemble a “wild bush,” or Darwin’s “tree of life.” The phyla, then, should be greater in the branches of the tree than towards the base of the tree. But that’s not the case with the Cambrian phyla. They appear towards the base of the tree, not in the branches, and the number of phyla – rather than increasing since the Cambrian era as Darwinism predicts – has actually decreased. The Cambrian phyla look more like blades of grass on a lawn than branches in a tree. They are at odds with the expectations of Darwinism.

    David: “Ernst Mayr, the most famous proponent of the reproductive isolation criterion as a species concept, said outright that ‘bacteria do not form species’. (I don’t know if that’s an exact quote.)”

    If that’s the case, how can bacteria be used to show that Darwinism explains the origin of species?

    David: “How does ID ‘theory’ explain stupid design?”

    It doesn’t. One of the more common misconceptions among opponents of ID theory is that the word “intelligent” describes design accomplished in a highly intelligent or masterful way. In point of fact, the word signifies only that an intelligent agent (or force, or cause) has acted, irrespective of how masterfully or intelligently that intelligent agent acted. Intelligent agents can produce lousy designs (witness the Edsel).

    Jim: “Edward Reed, among others, has argued that natural selection may be a law of nature.”

    David: “I don’t know who that is, but I don’t need to know that to see that the claim is not very intelligent. Natural selection is already inescapable, based on what we already know.”

    If natural selection is “inescapable,” then it operates like other natural laws, whose effects cannot be escaped. You’re supporting Reed’s argument while calling him unintelligent for making it.

    David: “(Natural selection is) almost a tautology: after a while, most will be descendants of those who have had the most surviving fertile offspring; those have had the most surviving fertile offspring who were best equipped to do so. If reproduction, inheritance, and mutation exist, natural selection is impossible to avoid.”

    To support my claim that natural selection operates with law-like regularity, I had composed a paragraph on the tautological nature of natural selection, but I decided to delete it. I’ve found that Darwinian true-believers often take great umbrage when a skeptic refers to natural selection as a tautology, and I didn’t see any point in fanning the flames. But since you’ve brought it up, I’ll simply say that I agree.

    David: “Science is not about meaning. Or what do you mean by ‘meaning’?”

    You provided the answer by asking “what do you mean?” Unless science can deliver explanations that have meaning (i.e., understandable content that the explanations are intended to convey), science has no purpose.

  259. #261 Jim
    September 10, 2007

    Kseniya: “I’d like to add to Brownian’s more amicable comments, Jim, that you express yourself well and comport yourself admirably.”

    Windy: “I guess, if you like moving goalposts. ‘Why is there no trace of a Precambrian trilobite precursor? Oh, there may be some? Ok, but why aren’t there thousands of them?'”

    I didn’t say that there is “no trace of a Precambrian trilobite precursor.” I said there is no trace of any LIKELY precursors to trilobites among the pre-Cambrian fossils. A possible precursor – like Spriggina – is not necessarily a likely precursor. It shouldn’t be necessary for me to explain the difference between a possibility and a probability.

    Stanton: “Kseniya, do realize that Jim has routinely and arrogantly dismissed all of the arguments presented to him…”

    Good grief. I’ve done the same thing you’ve done with all the arguments I’ve presented to you: I’ve disagreed with them (or, at least, with most of them). Also, on one occasion I said that I had overstated my case, and on another I said that I was wrong. I’ve yet to see you make any concessions. Which one of us, then, has best exemplified an arrogant presumption of infallibility?

  260. #262 Jim
    September 10, 2007

    Ralph: “When computing the ‘specified complexity’ or ‘complex specified information’ of an event, what probability measure are we supposed to use? Dembski uses two different incompatible measures. In the first, he regards the event as drawn from a universe of equally probable events. For example, in computing the probability of an English text, he uses the analogy of scrabble tiles, and evaluates the probability of (let’s say) a 20-letter phrase as 26 to the minus 20 power. In other words, each letter is equally likely (not even taking into account the non-uniform distribution of the tiles).

    “In the second measure, Dembski uses the history of the event to determine its probability. So in analyzing one variant of Dawkins’ ‘weasel’ example, Dembski says something like, ‘Well, this program always produces the same output, no matter how it is run, so its specified complexity is clearly log(1) = 0’. In this calculation he doesn’t use the uniform probability approach to evaluate the probability of the phrase produced (although later, in the same example, he does!).

    “I want to compute the specified complexity of an event. Which method should I choose?”

    Not all events have only one possible outcome, as Dawkins’s me-thinks-it-is-like-a-weasel evolutionary algorithm does. If an algorithm can’t generate alternative outcomes, it can’t generate information. As F. Dretske wrote (in “Knowledge and the Flow of Information,” MIT Press, 1981): “(N)o information is generated by the occurrence of events for which there are no possible alternatives.”

    Dembski (and ID theory) is not concerned with events that have no possible alternatives. But it is concerned with the probability that specified complexity in biological systems could have been randomly generated. Dawkins’s me-thinks-it-is-like-a-weasel algorithm is irrelevant to both ID theory and Darwinism.

    Ralph: “To make things more precise, let’s consider an example. I observe a sequence of four symbols that occur somewhere in nature. It doesn’t matter where, but let’s say the four symbols are A, C, G, and T.

    “I observe the letter A written 20 times: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA.

    “What is its specified complexity or complex specified information?

    “Now I observe the pattern AAACACCACCCCACCCCCCC.

    “What is its specified complexity or complex specified information?

    “Now I observe the pattern ACCACACCCACAAACCACCAC.

    “What is its specified complexity or complex specified information?

    “Please show your work.”

    Since none of your patterns conform to any specifications that I know of, I’d say that none of them are examples of complex specified information. They appear to resemble sequences of nucleotides. The ability of such sequences to carry any biologically useful information depends on their freedom from any rigidly repeating or predictable patterns. The pattern of letters in the sentences you’re reading is highly aperiodic, which allows the pattern of letters to convey meaningful information (i.e., the pattern has “information content”). This pattern of letters – aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa – may constitute Shannon information, but it conveys no meaningful information. In design theory, unless information is biologically useful (or meaningful), it’s irrelevant.

  261. #263 windy
    September 10, 2007

    Jim in #14:

    It may surprise you to learn that ID theorists don’t dispute that evolution (understood as biological change over time, or as common descent, or as descent with modification) has occurred. They instead take issue with the claim that Darwinian mechanisms (primarily random mutations and natural selection) suffice to account for ALL of life’s diversity and complexity.

    Jim now:

    Jim: “Don’t you first have to assume unguided (or Darwinian) evolution before you can label an organism an intermediate, transitional form? Wouldn’t it be senseless to label an organism an intermediate, transitional form without first assuming unguided evolution?”
    David: “No, as explained above.”
    What you explained was that if we assume (or posit) common descent, then we should expect to find intermediates. You corroborated what I said rather than refuting it.

    Making common descent synonymous with “unguided evolution” seems to be at odds with the former claim that common descent is compatible with ID. The argument seems to be… evolving.

  262. #264 David Marjanovi?
    September 10, 2007

    Congratulations for catching the “outboard motor” mistake!

    ————–

    Of course I wasn’t discussing an immediate precursor. Look back through Jim’s comments over the last few days…a basal arthropod wasn’t what he was asking for.

    Looking back through those comments, I don’t get the impression Jim knows what an arthropod is. In other words, I don’t think he himself knew and understood what he was asking for.

    —————–

    Respondents who continue to toss around the word “ignorant” (or other not-so-subtle insults) can expect to be ignored.

    “Ignorant” is not an insult. It is a statement that your claim to be widely read in the Theory of Evolution is mistaken. If correct (…and you have quite clearly shown that said claim is mistaken), you can do something against it by simply reading more.

    “Stupid” is an insult, because it implies that you can’t do anything against that condition, that you are beyond hope and best ignored.

    Whether the scarcity of fossils “from periods before about 600 million years ago” is a problem with the fossils or a problem with the theory, it is – notwithstanding Dawkins’s “explanation” of it – an unresolved problem for Darwinism (ToE).

    No, it is a problem of the fossil record. Older strata don’t contain different fossils, you see — they contain almost nothing. That’s because only the mineralized parts of organisms usually have any reasonable chance of becoming fossils — and before the Cambrian Explosion, few animals had mineralized parts.

    Also keep in mind that The Blind Watchmaker was written when of the few Early and Middle Cambrian sites that preserve soft-bodied organisms only the Burgess Shale was known. Now we have the Orsten in Sweden, Sirius Passet on the north coast of Greenland (first you need the idea of looking for fossils on the north coast of Greenland!), Chengjiang in southern China, and one in Australia. Now we can say a lot of things about the Cambrian Explosion that Dawkins had no idea of when he wrote The Blind Watchmaker.

    As PZ has also pointed out recently, it’s not quite clear why you try to cast doubt on evolution by a quote by, of all people, Dawkins.

    Oh, BTW, you can see when The Blind Watchmaker was written by its hopelessly outdated dating of the beginning of the Cambrian as 600 million years ago. That date hasn’t been advocated by geologists for decades.

    I was referring to the three explanatory modes: necessity, chance, and design. Evolution, as it is conceived by Darwinism, is not a fourth explanatory mode; it instead relies on chance (random variations) and necessity (natural selection) to produce life’s diversity and complexity. To say that something – life, languages, automobiles, civilization, or whatever – evolved is to describe, not explain. Descriptions can be informative, but they’re not explanatory. That’s why I say that if we “prove” beyond the shadow of a doubt that life evolved, we haven’t explained life’s origin and development. All we’ve done is describe it. To explain life’s diversity and complexity, we need to find the causes that produced them.

    There we have it: the causes are mutation (random), selection (not random), and to a small extent drift (random). Isn’t it obvious that the results of such a process will look neither like those of random alone nor like those of necessity nor like those of design?

    Common descent is essentially the starting point for everything else in Darwinism.

    That is not true. Darwin himself envisaged descent from “one form or a few”. The actual evidence for common descent of all known life is without exception biochemical (e. g. the universal genetic code) and was only discovered late in the 20th century.

    If necessity, chance, and design are all ruled out, then there is no explation for the evolution (or development) of languages. If we can’t say that languages arose by necessity (i.e., the nature of the universe compels the existence of languages), or if we can’t say that languages arose by chance (i.e., by linguistic “accidents”), or if we can’t say that languages arose by design (i.e., by conscious, deliberate choices made by human beings), then what CAN we say about the evolution of languages?

    I think it’s obvious. It’s mutation (random — sound changes, reinterpretations of grammar, and the like) plus selection (changes that make a language too ambiguous to understand are selected against) plus drift (neutral changes can become fixed within a population of speakers by chance). Evolution. The nature of the universe doesn’t compel the existence of languages; random cries will not become a language; conscious decisions are very rare and always have very little impact (see for example how prescriptivists have for centuries been trying to stop their fellow English speakers from ending sentences with prepositions the way Shakespeare and the King James Bible did, and it didn’t work, even though plenty of languages that have prepositions never end sentences with them). Not necessity, not random, not design — evolution.

    Behe made a big mistake when he tried to decide between three modes of explanation and didn’t notice there was a fourth. You have repeated his mistake.

    Most people intuitively sense that the gap between humans and, say, oak trees, is an unbridgeable gap.

    The gap between a choanoflagellate and a glaucophyte, on the other hand… Google for “Choanoflagellata” and “Glaucophyta” if you don’t know what I mean.

    You will also have noticed that both people and oaks are eukaryotes. That means a long, long, long list of commonalities just with respect to bacteria.

    As you may know, French biologist Georges Cuvier (the “father” of vertebrate paleontology and comparative anatomy) thought that the divisions in nature are grounded in necessity and that true intermediates cannot exist because such forms would likely be non-functional.

    Yep. His view quite soon turned out to be an exaggeration. (And that was still in the 19th century. Acting as if science had stopped back then won’t earn you any brownie points.)

    the fact remains that the fossil record is as discontinuous today as it was in Darwin’s day.

    Acting as if the science of paleontology had stopped in 1859 will not earn you any brownie points either. For crying out loud, in 1859 we had the living birds, the living crocodiles, perhaps two or three Mesozoic crocodiles, Archaeopteryx, Megalosaurus, Iguanodon, Hylaeosaurus, and that was it. Now we have hundreds on the dinosaur side as well as dozens on the crocodile side. Just last week… click here. In 1859, we had the living amphibians and amniotes, the living bony fishes, a few fossil lungfish (the extant lungfishes weren’t even recognized as such yet, I think), and that was it. Then we got swamped in temnospondyls, lepospondyls, embolomeres and whatnots on the one side and “osteolepiforms”, porolepiforms, and whatnots on the other, then in 1934 came Ichthyostega, and today Ichthyostega is just a little weirdo on a whole tree of ancient limbed and almost limbed vertebrates, the latest addition being Tiktaalik (don’t tell me you didn’t read about that one).

    As Denton wrote: “Whatever view one wants to take of the evidence of paleontology, it does not provide convincing grounds for believing that the phenomenon of life conforms to a continuous pattern. The gaps have not been explained away.”

    Then Denton is wrong, unless maybe (!) if I’ve misunderstood what he means by “continuous pattern”. Could you provide a little context instead of quote-mining?

    What you explained was that if we assume (or posit) common descent, then we should expect to find intermediates.

    No. I said we find intermediates (an observation made long before Darwin or even Lamarck; that’s why I mentioned Jussieu), and that common descent provides a nice after-the-fact explanation of why we find certain intermediates (like monotremes) but (contra Jussieu) not others (like mammal-hymenoptere intermediates).

    Quite so. If life’s history conformed to the predictions of Darwinism (ToE), it should resemble a “wild bush,” or Darwin’s “tree of life.” The phyla, then, should be greater in the branches of the tree than towards the base of the tree. But that’s not the case with the Cambrian phyla. They appear towards the base of the tree, not in the branches, and the number of phyla – rather than increasing since the Cambrian era as Darwinism predicts – has actually decreased. The Cambrian phyla look more like blades of grass on a lawn than branches in a tree. They are at odds with the expectations of Darwinism.

    Wow. You have misunderstood Gould about his misunderstanding of the Linnaean hierarchy.

    So, firstly, remember that all those terms like “genus”, “family”, “order”, “class”, “phylum”, “kingdom” are undefined and entirely subjective. Anyone can make up a classification giving any rank to any name, and as long as the ranks are nested within each other according to the agreed-upon pattern, nobody can say it’s right or wrong. It happens all the time; compare any two classifications of the same group, and you’ll never find them completely agreeing.

    Secondly, Gould didn’t notice that. He thought that if we call something a phylum, there has to be something that makes us call a phylum. But there isn’t. Instead, it’s based upon vague considerations of diversity, size, and distinctness (in terms of entirely subjectively chosen “important” features). Many of these depend (loosely) on the age of the group in question. And this is why many “phyla” are Cambrian in age — not the other way around. As Dawkins aptly observed, Gould was like someone who thought it eminently notable that on an old tree all the thickest branches are near the ground, and that no new thick branches have grown in 100 years. Gould got suckered by the Linnaean hierarchy.

    Next, “a wild bush that grows in all directions” is exactly what we expect from mutation + selection + drift. If anything else were involved, such as a metaphysical drive towards progress, we’d expect something different — less branching, fewer directions, something closer to a straight line. What we see in the fossil record (and in extant nature as well) is positive evidence that all those late-19th- and early-20th-century theses about “orthogenesis” or “aristogenesis” were wrong. There is no progress, natural selection guides towards better adaptation to the present environment, not to any future one. As expected — from Darwin, not from Lamarck, not from Osborn, not from Schindewolf, not from Lysenko.

    I don’t require that you read The Structure of Evolutionary Theory. (I haven’t read it myself, for starters.) But I do think you should not have made your claim to be “widely read” in the theory of evolution. You have once again demonstrated that you aren’t.

    Note that I’m not calling you a liar or stupid. I think you haven’t noticed how much there is to read on evolution and have jumped to the false conclusion that you’ve read most of it.

    If that’s the case, how can bacteria be used to show that Darwinism explains the origin of species?

    I didn’t say they can be. I said the notion of “species” is itself very vague. Some say outright that “species” is nothing but yet another arbitrary Linnaean rank, just like “genus” or “phylum”. They have a fair number of points.

    Intelligent agents can produce lousy designs (witness the Edsel).

    So you explain stupid design by saying the designer was stupid?

    (BTW, not that it matters, but Behe has another explanation in The Edge of Evolution. You know the old atheist joke, “omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent — pick two”? He has picked two — the first two. He is a dystheist. He states outright that the malaria parasites have been designed in order to harm and kill us.)

    If natural selection is “inescapable,” then it operates like other natural laws, whose effects cannot be escaped. You’re supporting Reed’s argument while calling him unintelligent for making it.

    Sorry for not being clearer. I only have a stricter definition of “natural law”. Take the law of the conservation of mass in chemistry. Is that a natural law? No, it’s only a special case of the law of the conservation of energy. No separate law of nature is necessary to explain natural selection; we already understand it. That’s what I’m saying.

    I’ve found that Darwinian true-believers often take great umbrage when a skeptic refers to natural selection as a tautology, and I didn’t see any point in fanning the flames. But since you’ve brought it up, I’ll simply say that I agree.

    Wait, wait. I wrote “almost a tautology”. Please explain why you disagree with the “almost” part. 🙂

    Unless science can deliver explanations that have meaning (i.e., understandable content that the explanations are intended to convey), science has no purpose.

    Fine, but what does that have to do with finding meaning in nature? Or what have I misunderstood?

    I didn’t say that there is “no trace of a Precambrian trilobite precursor.” I said there is no trace of any LIKELY precursors to trilobites among the pre-Cambrian fossils. A possible precursor – like Spriggina – is not necessarily a likely precursor. It shouldn’t be necessary for me to explain the difference between a possibility and a probability.

    Ah. And why isn’t Parvancorina a likely precursor? How would you decide if it’s “likely” or merely “possible”? And, most importantly, why isn’t “possible” enough? If we only had impossible precursors (…in spite of a good fossil record, which we don’t have for that time…), that would be a problem for the idea that there were Precambrian animals that were more closely related to the trilobites than the spiders are.

  263. #265 David Marjanovi?
    September 10, 2007

    Congratulations for catching the “outboard motor” mistake!

    ————–

    Of course I wasn’t discussing an immediate precursor. Look back through Jim’s comments over the last few days…a basal arthropod wasn’t what he was asking for.

    Looking back through those comments, I don’t get the impression Jim knows what an arthropod is. In other words, I don’t think he himself knew and understood what he was asking for.

    —————–

    Respondents who continue to toss around the word “ignorant” (or other not-so-subtle insults) can expect to be ignored.

    “Ignorant” is not an insult. It is a statement that your claim to be widely read in the Theory of Evolution is mistaken. If correct (…and you have quite clearly shown that said claim is mistaken), you can do something against it by simply reading more.

    “Stupid” is an insult, because it implies that you can’t do anything against that condition, that you are beyond hope and best ignored.

    Whether the scarcity of fossils “from periods before about 600 million years ago” is a problem with the fossils or a problem with the theory, it is – notwithstanding Dawkins’s “explanation” of it – an unresolved problem for Darwinism (ToE).

    No, it is a problem of the fossil record. Older strata don’t contain different fossils, you see — they contain almost nothing. That’s because only the mineralized parts of organisms usually have any reasonable chance of becoming fossils — and before the Cambrian Explosion, few animals had mineralized parts.

    Also keep in mind that The Blind Watchmaker was written when of the few Early and Middle Cambrian sites that preserve soft-bodied organisms only the Burgess Shale was known. Now we have the Orsten in Sweden, Sirius Passet on the north coast of Greenland (first you need the idea of looking for fossils on the north coast of Greenland!), Chengjiang in southern China, and one in Australia. Now we can say a lot of things about the Cambrian Explosion that Dawkins had no idea of when he wrote The Blind Watchmaker.

    As PZ has also pointed out recently, it’s not quite clear why you try to cast doubt on evolution by a quote by, of all people, Dawkins.

    Oh, BTW, you can see when The Blind Watchmaker was written by its hopelessly outdated dating of the beginning of the Cambrian as 600 million years ago. That date hasn’t been advocated by geologists for decades.

    I was referring to the three explanatory modes: necessity, chance, and design. Evolution, as it is conceived by Darwinism, is not a fourth explanatory mode; it instead relies on chance (random variations) and necessity (natural selection) to produce life’s diversity and complexity. To say that something – life, languages, automobiles, civilization, or whatever – evolved is to describe, not explain. Descriptions can be informative, but they’re not explanatory. That’s why I say that if we “prove” beyond the shadow of a doubt that life evolved, we haven’t explained life’s origin and development. All we’ve done is describe it. To explain life’s diversity and complexity, we need to find the causes that produced them.

    There we have it: the causes are mutation (random), selection (not random), and to a small extent drift (random). Isn’t it obvious that the results of such a process will look neither like those of random alone nor like those of necessity nor like those of design?

    Common descent is essentially the starting point for everything else in Darwinism.

    That is not true. Darwin himself envisaged descent from “one form or a few”. The actual evidence for common descent of all known life is without exception biochemical (e. g. the universal genetic code) and was only discovered late in the 20th century.

    If necessity, chance, and design are all ruled out, then there is no explation for the evolution (or development) of languages. If we can’t say that languages arose by necessity (i.e., the nature of the universe compels the existence of languages), or if we can’t say that languages arose by chance (i.e., by linguistic “accidents”), or if we can’t say that languages arose by design (i.e., by conscious, deliberate choices made by human beings), then what CAN we say about the evolution of languages?

    I think it’s obvious. It’s mutation (random — sound changes, reinterpretations of grammar, and the like) plus selection (changes that make a language too ambiguous to understand are selected against) plus drift (neutral changes can become fixed within a population of speakers by chance). Evolution. The nature of the universe doesn’t compel the existence of languages; random cries will not become a language; conscious decisions are very rare and always have very little impact (see for example how prescriptivists have for centuries been trying to stop their fellow English speakers from ending sentences with prepositions the way Shakespeare and the King James Bible did, and it didn’t work, even though plenty of languages that have prepositions never end sentences with them). Not necessity, not random, not design — evolution.

    Behe made a big mistake when he tried to decide between three modes of explanation and didn’t notice there was a fourth. You have repeated his mistake.

    Most people intuitively sense that the gap between humans and, say, oak trees, is an unbridgeable gap.

    The gap between a choanoflagellate and a glaucophyte, on the other hand… Google for “Choanoflagellata” and “Glaucophyta” if you don’t know what I mean.

    You will also have noticed that both people and oaks are eukaryotes. That means a long, long, long list of commonalities just with respect to bacteria.

    As you may know, French biologist Georges Cuvier (the “father” of vertebrate paleontology and comparative anatomy) thought that the divisions in nature are grounded in necessity and that true intermediates cannot exist because such forms would likely be non-functional.

    Yep. His view quite soon turned out to be an exaggeration. (And that was still in the 19th century. Acting as if science had stopped back then won’t earn you any brownie points.)

    the fact remains that the fossil record is as discontinuous today as it was in Darwin’s day.

    Acting as if the science of paleontology had stopped in 1859 will not earn you any brownie points either. For crying out loud, in 1859 we had the living birds, the living crocodiles, perhaps two or three Mesozoic crocodiles, Archaeopteryx, Megalosaurus, Iguanodon, Hylaeosaurus, and that was it. Now we have hundreds on the dinosaur side as well as dozens on the crocodile side. Just last week… click here. In 1859, we had the living amphibians and amniotes, the living bony fishes, a few fossil lungfish (the extant lungfishes weren’t even recognized as such yet, I think), and that was it. Then we got swamped in temnospondyls, lepospondyls, embolomeres and whatnots on the one side and “osteolepiforms”, porolepiforms, and whatnots on the other, then in 1934 came Ichthyostega, and today Ichthyostega is just a little weirdo on a whole tree of ancient limbed and almost limbed vertebrates, the latest addition being Tiktaalik (don’t tell me you didn’t read about that one).

    As Denton wrote: “Whatever view one wants to take of the evidence of paleontology, it does not provide convincing grounds for believing that the phenomenon of life conforms to a continuous pattern. The gaps have not been explained away.”

    Then Denton is wrong, unless maybe (!) if I’ve misunderstood what he means by “continuous pattern”. Could you provide a little context instead of quote-mining?

    What you explained was that if we assume (or posit) common descent, then we should expect to find intermediates.

    No. I said we find intermediates (an observation made long before Darwin or even Lamarck; that’s why I mentioned Jussieu), and that common descent provides a nice after-the-fact explanation of why we find certain intermediates (like monotremes) but (contra Jussieu) not others (like mammal-hymenoptere intermediates).

    Quite so. If life’s history conformed to the predictions of Darwinism (ToE), it should resemble a “wild bush,” or Darwin’s “tree of life.” The phyla, then, should be greater in the branches of the tree than towards the base of the tree. But that’s not the case with the Cambrian phyla. They appear towards the base of the tree, not in the branches, and the number of phyla – rather than increasing since the Cambrian era as Darwinism predicts – has actually decreased. The Cambrian phyla look more like blades of grass on a lawn than branches in a tree. They are at odds with the expectations of Darwinism.

    Wow. You have misunderstood Gould about his misunderstanding of the Linnaean hierarchy.

    So, firstly, remember that all those terms like “genus”, “family”, “order”, “class”, “phylum”, “kingdom” are undefined and entirely subjective. Anyone can make up a classification giving any rank to any name, and as long as the ranks are nested within each other according to the agreed-upon pattern, nobody can say it’s right or wrong. It happens all the time; compare any two classifications of the same group, and you’ll never find them completely agreeing.

    Secondly, Gould didn’t notice that. He thought that if we call something a phylum, there has to be something that makes us call a phylum. But there isn’t. Instead, it’s based upon vague considerations of diversity, size, and distinctness (in terms of entirely subjectively chosen “important” features). Many of these depend (loosely) on the age of the group in question. And this is why many “phyla” are Cambrian in age — not the other way around. As Dawkins aptly observed, Gould was like someone who thought it eminently notable that on an old tree all the thickest branches are near the ground, and that no new thick branches have grown in 100 years. Gould got suckered by the Linnaean hierarchy.

    Next, “a wild bush that grows in all directions” is exactly what we expect from mutation + selection + drift. If anything else were involved, such as a metaphysical drive towards progress, we’d expect something different — less branching, fewer directions, something closer to a straight line. What we see in the fossil record (and in extant nature as well) is positive evidence that all those late-19th- and early-20th-century theses about “orthogenesis” or “aristogenesis” were wrong. There is no progress, natural selection guides towards better adaptation to the present environment, not to any future one. As expected — from Darwin, not from Lamarck, not from Osborn, not from Schindewolf, not from Lysenko.

    I don’t require that you read The Structure of Evolutionary Theory. (I haven’t read it myself, for starters.) But I do think you should not have made your claim to be “widely read” in the theory of evolution. You have once again demonstrated that you aren’t.

    Note that I’m not calling you a liar or stupid. I think you haven’t noticed how much there is to read on evolution and have jumped to the false conclusion that you’ve read most of it.

    If that’s the case, how can bacteria be used to show that Darwinism explains the origin of species?

    I didn’t say they can be. I said the notion of “species” is itself very vague. Some say outright that “species” is nothing but yet another arbitrary Linnaean rank, just like “genus” or “phylum”. They have a fair number of points.

    Intelligent agents can produce lousy designs (witness the Edsel).

    So you explain stupid design by saying the designer was stupid?

    (BTW, not that it matters, but Behe has another explanation in The Edge of Evolution. You know the old atheist joke, “omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent — pick two”? He has picked two — the first two. He is a dystheist. He states outright that the malaria parasites have been designed in order to harm and kill us.)

    If natural selection is “inescapable,” then it operates like other natural laws, whose effects cannot be escaped. You’re supporting Reed’s argument while calling him unintelligent for making it.

    Sorry for not being clearer. I only have a stricter definition of “natural law”. Take the law of the conservation of mass in chemistry. Is that a natural law? No, it’s only a special case of the law of the conservation of energy. No separate law of nature is necessary to explain natural selection; we already understand it. That’s what I’m saying.

    I’ve found that Darwinian true-believers often take great umbrage when a skeptic refers to natural selection as a tautology, and I didn’t see any point in fanning the flames. But since you’ve brought it up, I’ll simply say that I agree.

    Wait, wait. I wrote “almost a tautology”. Please explain why you disagree with the “almost” part. 🙂

    Unless science can deliver explanations that have meaning (i.e., understandable content that the explanations are intended to convey), science has no purpose.

    Fine, but what does that have to do with finding meaning in nature? Or what have I misunderstood?

    I didn’t say that there is “no trace of a Precambrian trilobite precursor.” I said there is no trace of any LIKELY precursors to trilobites among the pre-Cambrian fossils. A possible precursor – like Spriggina – is not necessarily a likely precursor. It shouldn’t be necessary for me to explain the difference between a possibility and a probability.

    Ah. And why isn’t Parvancorina a likely precursor? How would you decide if it’s “likely” or merely “possible”? And, most importantly, why isn’t “possible” enough? If we only had impossible precursors (…in spite of a good fossil record, which we don’t have for that time…), that would be a problem for the idea that there were Precambrian animals that were more closely related to the trilobites than the spiders are.

  264. #266 mojoandy
    September 10, 2007

    I’m loving this thread. Hats off to Jim for his honest participation with a potentially hostile audience, and to those that are countering his points.

    Sorry, I don’t have anything valuable to add, other than my appreciation for everyone helping to clarify these various ID / Evo arguments and their rebuttals through a mostly civil exchange.

  265. #267 Arden Chatfield
    September 10, 2007

    If necessity, chance, and design are all ruled out, then there is no explation for the evolution (or development) of languages. If we can’t say that languages arose by necessity (i.e., the nature of the universe compels the existence of languages), or if we can’t say that languages arose by chance (i.e., by linguistic “accidents”), or if we can’t say that languages arose by design (i.e., by conscious, deliberate choices made by human beings), then what CAN we say about the evolution of languages?

    Quite a lot, actually. It’s called ‘linguistics’. What exactly is your point supposed to be here?

    I do hope you’re not trying to infect another scientific field with ‘goddidit’.

  266. #268 Kseniya
    September 10, 2007

    Ummm…

    I didn’t say that there is “no trace of a Precambrian trilobite precursor.” I said there is no trace of any LIKELY precursors to trilobites among the pre-Cambrian fossils. A possible precursor – like Spriggina – is not necessarily a likely precursor.

    Forget trilobites for the moment. Actually, Jim, what you originally said was quite a bit more sweeping:

    Those fossils record the sudden appearance of nearly all the major animal phyla, with no trace of any likely precursor organisms.

    NO trace of ANY likely precursors to ANY of NEARLY ALL the major animal phyla. I think that claim has been refuted.

    Anyways… It’s not only ok to raise questions about evolution and the “holes” in the theory and the incomplete fossil record et cetera, that’s what scientists DO. If the ToE was somehow “proven”, nobody would be bothering to do any work in the field. Since when is ongoing scientific inquiry evidence that a theory is in crisis?

    Dembskiism has failed to describe or explain ANYTHING about the development of life on earth. Dembskiism has been in a “put up or shut up” state for years now, and guess what? Still nothing. Am I wrong? And yet we’re spending all this time hammering away at the problem of not having a complete Cambrian taxonomy preserved in half-billion-year-old rock, as if that proves the theory is in crisis and that Dembskiism, in all its vacant glory, should be seriously considered as a viable alternative explanation for the development of life. It’s ludicrous.

    By the way, I have concluded that the BSW was not acting improperly when it repudiated the publication of the Meyer paper. This is the paper you claim got the publishing editor “in such hot water with the Darwinian establishment, a pathetic turn of events that demonstrated yet again the dogmatic condition of mainstream evolutionary biology.” I’m starting to think you have a persecution complex about this “Darwinian Establishment”, Jim. The paper was a) inappropriate for the journal, and b) published because Sternberg circumvented normal editorial procedures to get the thing in print. Since when is one journal’s insistence on following SOP a “pathetic turn of events” or in any way demonstrates the dogmatic condition of mainstream evolutionary biology?

    Maybe the mainstream is the mainstream because the fringe is the fringe. Think about it.

    Here is the BSW statement on the paper.

  267. #269 Stanton
    September 11, 2007

    Dembskiism has failed to describe or explain ANYTHING about the development of life on earth. Dembskiism has been in a “put up or shut up” state for years now, and guess what? Still nothing. Am I wrong? And yet we’re spending all this time hammering away at the problem of not having a complete Cambrian taxonomy preserved in half-billion-year-old rock, as if that proves the theory is in crisis and that Dembskiism, in all its vacant glory, should be seriously considered as a viable alternative explanation for the development of life. It’s ludicrous.

    Haven’t you heard, Kseniya?
    The only reason why Dembski and Behe haven’t been able to come up with alternative explanations for the Cambrian Explosion is because Intelligent Design is still in its infancy (for the last 20 years).
    Jim said so, in fact.

  268. #270 Kseniya
    September 11, 2007

    Dang! How could I have missed that? *facepalm*

    Well, my EvoSkepticism is in its infancy, too. I’ll spend the next 20 years reading up on Intelligent Design Creationism Theory and keeping up with EvoDevo, at which time I will render my judgement. Until then I will be forced (by the Thought Police of The Darwinian Establishment, of course) to exhibit an utterly shameful tendency to accept the ToE – and the 150 years of geological, paleontological, biological, molecular, and genetic evidence which supports it – as the best available EXPLANATION for how life has developed here on Earth.

  269. #271 Anton Mates
    September 11, 2007

    Regardless of how he spins them, Dawkins’s remarks highlight the fossil problems the Cambrian Explosion presents to Darwinism.

    Dawkins, celebrated defender of evolution, explains that his words were taken out of context from a book defending evolution, and you dismiss this as spin?

    As PZ said, this is quite silly. Unless Dawkins is the world’s best liar, it’s fairly obvious he doesn’t think the issue he was writing about is a problem for evolution. Why not honestly consider the solution he set out?

    Whether the scarcity of fossils “from periods before about 600 million years ago” is a problem with the fossils or a problem with the theory, it is – notwithstanding Dawkins’s “explanation” of it – an unresolved problem for Darwinism (ToE).

    No. It’s not. Evolutionary theory makes no claim that every era should display a rich fossil record–in fact, it predicts that the earliest eras should have a very sparse fossil record, since it expects the earliest organisms to be small and without hard parts. If, for any number of reasons, readily-fossilizable organisms began to appear fairly rapidly (in geological time) in the early Cambrian, then we should see an “explosion” in the fossil record. The problem evaporates. It remains to be seen exactly why everyone started to armor themselves at that point–a number of plausible explanations have been advanced by people far more expert than I in this subject–but this is clearly not evidence against evolutionary theory.

    And in fact we have evidence that this evolutionary scenario is correct–increasing numbers of Pre-Cambrian fossils are showing that, yes, animals tended to be small and soft and therefore bad at fossilizing.

  270. #272 windy
    September 11, 2007
    Denton wrote: “Whatever view one wants to take of the evidence of paleontology, it does not provide convincing grounds for believing that the phenomenon of life conforms to a continuous pattern. The gaps have not been explained away.”

    Then Denton is wrong, unless maybe (!) if I’ve misunderstood what he means by “continuous pattern”. Could you provide a little context instead of quote-mining?

    No need to mine, Denton is the author of “Evolution: A Theory in Crisis”.

    But here’s a more current view from Denton’s “Nature’s Destiny”:

    “One of the most surprising discoveries which has arisen from DNA sequencing has been the remarkable finding that the genomes of all organisms are clustered very close together in a tiny region of DNA sequence space forming a tree of related sequences that can all be interconverted via a series of tiny incremental natural steps. So the sharp discontinuities, referred to above, between different organs and adaptations and different types of organisms, which have been the bedrock of antievolutionary arguments for the past century (3), have now greatly diminished at the DNA level. Organisms which seem very different at a morphological level can be very close together at the DNA level.”

  271. #273 JimV
    September 11, 2007

    The phyla, then, should be greater in the branches of the tree than towards the base of the tree. But that’s not the case with the Cambrian phyla. They appear towards the base of the tree, not in the branches, and the number of phyla – rather than increasing since the Cambrian era as Darwinism predicts – has actually decreased. The Cambrian phyla look more like blades of grass on a lawn than branches in a tree. They are at odds with the expectations of Darwinism.

    My top-of-the-head, layman’s explanation for that is two words: extinction events. Your phyla-creating, beetle-loving, malaria-improving Stupid Designer doesn’t seem to have control of events outside genomes, such as super-volcanoes and asteroid collisions, and has to start tinkering all over again after each such event. The last was fairly recent in geological time.

    Having read articles at your request, I would be interested in your opinion of the following:

    http://www.talkreason.org/articles/eandsdembski.pdf

  272. #274 Ralph Kramden
    September 11, 2007

    Well, you see, Jim, this shows you don’t really understand Dembski’s claims.

    Because by Dembski, the first sequence I gave:
    AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
    is clearly specified. The specification is “a sequence of 20 A’s”. So contrary to your
    claim, this sequence, pace Dembski, has complex specified information.

    Furthermore, a very very similar sequence, one consisting of 40 D’s and 1 R, was analyzed extensively by Dembski, who used the specification “string of D’s and R’s with at most 1 R” (not an exact quote, I emphasize) in his analysis of the Caputo case.

    So, Jim, I conclude you have accepted Dembski’s claims while having essentially no understanding of them.

    Why am I not surprised?

  273. #275 Jim
    September 11, 2007

    Windy: “Making common descent synonymous with ‘unguided evolution’ seems to be at odds with the former claim that common descent is compatible with ID. The argument seems to be… evolving.”

    Perhaps it seems that way to you because you’ve not understood the argument. It ought to be obvious that it’s senseless to label an organism an “intermediate, transitional form” unless gradual evolution (either guided or unguided) is assumed to have occurred. I’ve emphasized unguided evolution because Darwinism (ToE) absolutely needs intermediate, transitional forms, while ID theory doesn’t. ID theory can accept the actualization of design in incremental steps that would look to us like gradual evolution (which is why it’s compatible with common descent, or descent with modification), and it can accept the actualization of design in large steps that would look to us like saltation (or even like special creation). Intelligent design is not yet committed to trying to ascertain how design was actualized in biological systems; its primary focus (for now, anyway) is on detecting design.

    Darwinism, on the other hand, is committed to the notion that biological diversity and complexity evolved incrementally. Thus Darwinism, unlike ID, MUST HAVE intermediate, transitional forms. If those forms are scarce in the fossil record (as they arguably are), Darwinism hasn’t been disproven, but it’s in trouble. Darwin himself recognized the problem when he asked: “But as by this theory innumerable transitional forms must have existed why do we not find them embedded in countless numbers in the crust of the earth?” An incomplete fossil record might answer Darwin’s question, but it doesn’t solve the problem.

    Central to the problem of identifying intermediate, transitional forms in the fossil record is the circularity of reasoning involved: Because it assumes (or posits) common descent (or descent with modification), Darwinism must have intermediate, transitional forms; Darwinists then identify such forms on the basis of that assumption; they then declare that the forms so identified are evidence for the assumption. The assumption informs the interpretation of the fossil record which in turn “confirms” the assumption. The reality is that such circular reasoning can’t confirm anything.

    Michael Denton addressed the problem in this way:

    “It is clear that there are formidable problems in interpreting evidence for continuity on the basis of skeletal remains. Consequently if the fossil record is to provide any grounds for believing that the great divisions in nature are not the unbridgeable discontinuities postulated by Cuvier, it is not sufficient that two groups merely approach one another closely in terms of their skeletal morphology. The very least required would be an unambiguous continuum of transitional species exhibiting a perfect gradation of skeletal form leading unarguably from one type to another. But the fact is that, as (Steven) Stanley put it: ‘The known fossil record fails to document a single example of phyletic (gradual) evolution accomplishing a major morphological transition and hence offers no evidence that the gradualistic model can be valid.'”

    If Spriggina is the evolutionary precursor of trilobites, where in the fossil record is the “unambiguous continuum of transitional species exhibiting a perfect gradation of skeletal form leading unarguably” from Spriggina to trilobites?

  274. #276 Steve_C
    September 11, 2007

    Jim will never be satisfied with scientific explanations.

    Only supernatural ones.

  275. #277 Stanton
    September 11, 2007

    Obviously, Jim is too arrogant to examine Parvancorina,, and its similarity to the naraoids, or Spriggina‘s sister genus, Marywadea, much like the way he has previously, arrogantly dismissed the Precambrian trilobite/arthropod precursors Bomakellia, Vendia, Onega, and Praecambridium.

    So, if these all weren’t trilobite precursors as suggested by Paleontology, what does Intelligent Design have to say about what they were?
    Oh, wait, it doesn’t say anything about them.

  276. #278 Jim
    September 11, 2007

    David: “Behe made a big mistake when he tried to decide between three modes of explanation and didn’t notice there was a fourth. You have repeated his mistake.”

    There is no fourth mode of explanation, David. If an explanation requires the combination of two of the explanatory modes, that combination is not a fourth mode of explanation. ToE appeals to both chance and necessity, but that doesn’t make evolution a fourth explanatory mode. In fact, to say that something evolved is not explanatory at all; it’s merely descriptive.

    David: “So you explain stupid design by saying the designer was stupid?”

    No, but I am saying that judging that a design is deficient requires us to get into the mind of the designer. Unless we know his objectives, we can’t say that his design failed to meet them. The failure of a design to live up to an observer’s subjective assessment of its excellence (or lack thereof) does not entail that the designer acted stupidly. Arguments made against ID theory on the basis of designs that are judged to be defective lack traction because they miss the point.

    David: “(Behe) states outright that the malaria parasites have been designed in order to harm and kill us.”

    Actually, he argues that the malaria parasite was (in all likelihood) intentionally designed, but that we can’t know that the designer intended to produce all the misery the parasite has brought to the human race. “Maybe the designer isn’t all that beneficient or omnipotent,” he wrote. “Science can’t answer questions like that. But denying design simply because it can cause terrible pain is a failure of nerve, a failure to look the universe fully in the face.”

    David: “Wait, wait. I wrote (that natural selection is)’almost a tautology’. Please explain why you disagree with the ‘almost’ part.”

    Because you wrote: “(A)fter a while, most will be descendants of those who have had the most surviving fertile offspring; those have had the most surviving fertile offspring who were best equipped to do so.” That’s not “almost” a tautology; it is a tautology. Unless I misunderstood it, what you wrote can be said in this way: Natural selection means that the fittest organisms will survive to leave the most offspring, the fittest organisms being those that survive to leave the most offspring. If that’s not a tautology, what is?

    Jim: “Unless science can deliver explanations that have meaning (i.e., understandable content that the explanations are intended to convey), science has no purpose.”
    David: “Fine, but what does that have to do with finding meaning in nature?”

    Nothing, if “meaning” is taken to denote value or worth. That’s not the sense in which I’ve been using the word. When I speak of information that has meaning, I’m speaking of information that has ontological and/or epistemic significance. Biological information, for example, is meaningful if it shapes matter into biological systems; it is not meaningful if it has no biological effects.

  277. #279 Jim
    September 11, 2007

    Kseniya: “By the way, I have concluded that the BSW was not acting improperly when it repudiated the publication of the Meyer paper. This is the paper you claim got the publishing editor ‘in such hot water with the Darwinian establishment, a pathetic turn of events that demonstrated yet again the dogmatic condition of mainstream evolutionary biology.’ I’m starting to think you have a persecution complex about this ‘Darwinian Establishment’, Jim. The paper was a) inappropriate for the journal, and b) published because Sternberg circumvented normal editorial procedures to get the thing in print.”

    From the home page of Richard Sternberg (the approving editor):

    Many distortions and inaccuracies have circulated in the press and on the web regarding the publication of the Meyer paper. The key facts are:

    I hold two PhDs in the area of evolutionary biology, one in molecular (DNA) evolution and the other in systems theory and theoretical biology. I have published more than 30 articles in peer-reviewed scientific books and publications. My current areas of research and writing are primarily in the areas of evolutionary theory and systematics.

    In the case of the Meyer paper I followed all the standard procedures for publication in the Proceedings. As managing editor it was my prerogative to choose the editor who would work directly on the paper, and as I was best qualified among the editors I chose myself, something I had done before in other appropriate cases. In order to avoid making a unilateral decision on a potentially controversial paper, however, I discussed the paper on at least three occasions with another member of the Council of the Biological Society of Washington (BSW), a scientist at the National Museum of Natural History. Each time, this colleague encouraged me to publish the paper despite possible controversy.

    The Meyer paper underwent a standard peer review process by three qualified scientists, all of whom are evolutionary and molecular biologists teaching at well-known institutions. The reviewers provided substantial criticism and feedback to Dr. Meyer, who then made significant changes to the paper in response. Subsequently, after the controversy arose, Dr. Roy McDiarmid, President of the Council of the BSW, reviewed the peer-review file and concluded that all was in order. As Dr. McDiarmid informed me in an email message on August 25th, 2004, “Finally, I got the [peer] reviews and agree that they are in support of your decision [to publish the article].”

    Following my resignation in October 2003, a new managing editor for the Proceedings was selected in May of 2004, and the transition from my editorship to the new editor has taken place over the past few months. By the time that the controversy emerged I was finishing up my last editorial responsibilities. Thus, my stepping down had nothing to do with the publication of the Meyer paper.

    For a fuller discussion of publication issues, go to:

    http://www.rsternberg.net/publication_details.htm

  278. #280 Steve_C
    September 11, 2007

    Did he ever bother to comment in the thread that was actually directed just at him?

    Jim… Go to the “Transitions” post.

    Please.

  279. #281 Josh
    September 11, 2007

    Jim wrote: Intelligent design is not yet committed to trying to ascertain how design was actualized in biological systems; its primary focus (for now, anyway) is on detecting design.

    Hi Jim. Why does no one in the ID community seem to be committed to trying to detect the designer? That seems to be a pretty large problem for ID. A large part of science (at least the actual mechanics of getting science done) is to try and figure out new ways of answering (and indeed asking) questions as much as it is trying to answer the questions themselves.

    For example, for a long time, determining absolute ages for rocks was restricted to obtaining radiometric dates from igneous and occasionally metamorphic materials. Given the limitations this presents when working with sedimentary materials (which contain by far most of the fossil data) that are far removed from stratigraphically useful igneous rocks (this is most sediment), thousands of people have devoted very large portions of their careers to simply trying to devise new ways of obtaining absolute ages from sedimentary materials. The result has been a proliferation of new dating techniques that have dramatically improved geochronology as a whole, and have added tremendously to what we know about the rock record, especially in Quaternary geology and geoarchaeology.

    Since finding solid evidence of a designer, independent of their designs, might help inform how that designer acted and thus might help modify the ways you should look for evidence of design, it seems that this would be a very logical and productive way for folks to spend time. Yet, unless I’ve missed it, it doesn’t seem as though people are focusing much energy in that direction at all.

  280. #282 MartinM
    September 11, 2007

    Because it assumes (or posits) common descent (or descent with modification), Darwinism must have intermediate, transitional forms; Darwinists then identify such forms on the basis of that assumption

    …in what way is the identification of transitional forms based upon ‘Darwinian’ assumptions, as opposed to, say, comparative morphology?

  281. #283 Jim
    September 11, 2007

    Jim V: Having read articles at your request, I would be interested in your opinion of the following:

    http://www.talkreason.org/articles/eandsdembski.pdf

    I’ll let Dembski respond:

    Now and again people write me about why I have not responded at length to Jeffrey Shallit’s criticisms of my work. Here is an explanation that I sent off today to a colleague:

    Dear [snip],

    I’m afraid I don’t take Shallit very seriously as a critic. It is his habit to harrass anyone who endorses my work (including a mathematician at Oxford and an engineer on the faculty at Sydney, questioning not only their competence to assess my work but also their ethics in endorsing it).

    His criticisms tend to focus on trivialities (he spent three years trying to show that a quote widely attributed to Schopenhauer that I cited in my work was not actually written by Schopenhauer — for the quote, go here). As for some number about which he keeps harping that I miscalculated in my book No Free Lunch, it turns out that when it is calculated correctly, it makes my case even more strongly. There are plenty worse to be found in the literature, as for instance the gaffe early on in Simon Conway Morris’s book Life’s Solution, in which exponent and base are reversed (p, 9). I doubt that Shallit has contacted Conway Morris about this.

    Shallit, besides his obsessiveness in criticizing my work and harrassing those who endorse it, seems also to have no compunction in doing things that are frankly unethical. Thus, for instance, when I was co-editing a book for Cambridge University Press with Michael Ruse titled Debating Design, he wrote to Michael asking that an article of his be inserted in the book without my knowledge — in fact, he explicitly asked Michael not to reveal Shallit’s intentions to me. Michael, appropriately, forwarded Shallit’s letter to me, so I have the documentation.

    Most significantly, Shallit’s critique of my work (along with that of his collaborator Wesley Elsberry) is now several years out of date. I just posted on my designinference.com website a paper on specification that moves the topic forward. Several months ago I posted a paper titled “Searching Large Spaces” that fills in the mathematical details of chapter 4 of No Free Lunch. When I informed Shallit of its existence on my website, he wrote back: “I do not intend to waste my time finding more errors in more work of yours.”

    The irony is that Shallit and Elsberry are making a name for themselves by parasitizing my work. Shallit has published one lengthy peer-reviewed article criticizing my work and has another under submission (coauthored with Wesley Elsberry) titled “Information Theory, Evolutionary Computation, and Dembski’s ‘Complex Specified Information’.” That article first appeared on the web in November 2003 and is under submission with some journal (Shallit and Elsberry are not divulging which). That paper is now completely out of date.

    Best wishes,
    Bill Dembski

    http://www.uncommondescent.com/science/jeffrey-shallit/

  282. #284 windy
    September 11, 2007

    “Making common descent synonymous with ‘unguided evolution’ seems to be at odds with the former claim that common descent is compatible with ID. The argument seems to be… evolving.”
    Perhaps it seems that way to you because you’ve not understood the argument.

    Or that you can’t keep your own arguments straight. You asked several times about whether we need to assume unguided evolution for transitionals. Rather disingenuous if you actually meant “common descent” all along.

    …Darwinism (ToE) absolutely needs intermediate, transitional forms, while ID theory doesn’t.

    Absolutely correct.

    ID theory can accept the actualization of design in incremental steps that would look to us like gradual evolution (which is why it’s compatible with common descent, or descent with modification), and it can accept the actualization of design in large steps that would look to us like saltation (or even like special creation).

    In other words, ID is compatible with almost everything. This is not a point in its favour.

    Michael Denton addressed the problem in this way:

    Twenty years ago. Lately he says something more like:

    “So the sharp discontinuities, referred to above, between different organs and adaptations and different types of organisms, which have been the bedrock of antievolutionary arguments for the past century (3), have now greatly diminished at the DNA level. Organisms which seem very different at a morphological level can be very close together at the DNA level.”

    Not that Denton’s judgement is necessarily any better now, but why do you only quote his two-decades old statements?

  283. #285 Jim
    September 11, 2007

    Ralph: “Well, you see, Jim, this shows you don’t really understand Dembski’s claims. Because by Dembski, the first sequence I gave: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA is clearly specified. The specification is ‘a sequence of 20 A’s’. So contrary to your claim, this sequence, pace Dembski, has complex specified information.”

    “A sequence of 20 A’s” is a description, not an independently given specification. And since you presented that sequence in isolation (i.e., without context), it can’t be likened to the sequence in the Caputo case. You might want to read Dembski again, this time for understanding.

  284. #286 Jim
    September 11, 2007

    Josh: “Why does no one in the ID community seem to be committed to trying to detect the designer? That seems to be a pretty large problem for ID.”

    As a matter of procedure, Josh, it makes no sense to ask questions about a designer until design has first been apprehended. We don’t need to know anything about the biography, nature, or intentions of a designer to detect design. Apprehending (or detecting) design in biological systems is the business of design theory; detecting (or identifying) the designer is not. A task that design theory makes no effort to accomplish can’t be a problem for it.

  285. #287 Jim
    September 11, 2007

    mojoandy: “I’m loving this thread. Hats off to Jim for his honest participation with a potentially hostile audience, and to those that are countering his points.”

    Thanks, mojoandy. But I think you can scratch “potentially” from what you’ve written. My entry into the fray was met with assertions that I’m “stupid,” a “moron,” and a “dumbass.” Such an audience is not potentially hostile, it IS hostile. Friendly audiences steer clear of the personal attacks.

  286. #288 JimV
    September 11, 2007

    I’ll let Dembski respond:

    Now and again people write me about why I have not responded at length to Jeffrey Shallit’s criticisms of my work. Here is an explanation that I sent off today to a colleague:

    I’m afraid I don’t take Shallit very seriously as a critic. …

    I’m afraid I couldn’t take Dembski’s “response” seriously, because I couldn’t see where he rebutted a single issue raised in that long paper, nor where he claims to have surmounted any of the challenges the authors made.

  287. #289 Ralph Kramden
    September 11, 2007

    OK, I’ll bite. What’s the difference between a description and an independently-given specification? How can I tell whether something is one or the other? Why is “a string of 20 A’s” NOT a specification, but “a string of 41 D’s and R’s with at most 1 R” is?

    Don’t just refer me to Dembski. I believe I understand what he’s saying, and you don’t, so answer me in your own words.

  288. #290 Rey Fox
    September 11, 2007

    “Such an audience is not potentially hostile, it IS hostile.”

    You know, you can quit trying to shame us now, because it’s not going to work.

  289. #291 Jim
    September 11, 2007

    Steve C: “Jim will never be satisfied with scientific explanations.”

    I haven’t previously responded to any of your postings, Steve, since all you seem to want to talk about is me, usually in derogatory ways. But if I “will never be satisfied with scientific explanations,” why would I have written the following?

    “Microevolution by Darwinian means has some fairly solid evidentiary support – such as Majerus’s research with peppered moths (assuming his research wasn’t methodologically flawed). But the evidentiary support for the macroevolutionary claims of Darwinists – such as the claim that color vision evolved by Darwinian means from a light sensitive spot, or the claim that men evolved from fish by Darwinian means – is most conspicuous by its virtual absence. Homology, phylogenetic trees, the fossil record, DNA comparisons, etc. all provide evidence that evolution occurred, but they don’t provide evidence that evolution (in the macro sense) was caused by Darwinian mechanisms. To show that Darwinian mechanisms caused all of life’s evolution (both micro and macro), there must be something other than evidence showing that evolution occurred if the question is not to be begged. A mechanistic theory like Darwinism must produce evidence showing that its mechanism can do all the creative work attributed to it. With regard to macroevolution, that work remains undone.”

    If Darwinism ever delivers a credible explanation for life’s systemic and structural complexities, I might find it satisfactory. But since all it’s delivered (with respect to its macroevolutionary claims) are wishful speculations devoid of any actual details, I’ve found it quite unpersuasive. The air of certainty presented here by Darwinism’s defenders and their apparent outrage that I dare to question their cherished theory simply demonstrate the sadly dogmatic condition of evolutionary biology. My hope is that ID theory – if it does nothing else – will at least shatter that dogmatism. Biology will be the better for it.

  290. #292 Steve_C
    September 11, 2007

    It’s exactly like religion.

    Just assume there’s a god and believing the bible isn’t an issue.

    It’s an absurd notion.

    ID amounts to acheology that has no desire to find out who made the artifacts, just how they were made.

  291. #293 Stanton
    September 11, 2007

    My hope is that ID theory – if it does nothing else – will at least shatter that dogmatism. Biology will be the better for it.

    Then for the Crimean Penisula’s sake, show us how Intelligent Design explains everything better.
    You are utterly oblivious to the fact that you have not bothered to show us how Intelligent Design explains the rise and decline of peppered moth variants, that you have not bothered to explain how Intelligent Design explains the appearance of the denizens of the Cambrian Explosion. In fact, you have not explained how Intelligent Design can explain anything at all.
    The only dogmatism in this thread is your repeating and rewording of your mantra of “Darwinism [sic] is inferior, Intelligent Design is better!” If you want to prove me wrong, please ELUCIDATE HOW INTELLIGENT DESIGN EXPLAINS BIOLOGY BETTER THAN EVOLUTION.
    That you have currently failed, and continue to fail to do this is the main reason why we are so hostile.

  292. #294 windy
    September 11, 2007

    ID amounts to acheology that has no desire to find out who made the artifacts, just how they were made.

    When did ID explain how anything was designed? ID amounts to archaeology saying “some of these things were made by unknown beings at some point.”

  293. #295 Josh
    September 11, 2007

    OK, Jim…implying that this is a completely hostile environment isn’t accurate, nor is the claim that all of us ‘defenders of Darwin’ have expressed outrage about attacks on a ‘cherished theory’ or that we have all offered our thoughts and evidences wrapped in a blanket of certainty. I for one have tried really hard to reply point by point to your comments and questions (at least to those about which I feel I’m qualified to comment). Have I asked you a couple of questions with an air of surprise or incredulity? Yes, because several of your statements have surprised me. But I’ve at no time intentionally insulted you. Moreover, I have been very careful to point out where uncertainties in various data lie. Describe this place as the lion’s den, fine…but don’t paint all of our emotions with the same brush, OK?

  294. #296 Stanton
    September 11, 2007
    ID amounts to acheology that has no desire to find out who made the artifacts, just how they were made.

    When did ID explain how anything was designed? ID amounts to archaeology saying “some of these things were made by unknown beings at some point.”

    Correction, windy:

    “some of these things were made by unknown beings at some point: we have an idea who did it, but we’re not at liberty to discuss who it was at the moment, nor are we allowed to discuss how they did it, ever.”

  295. #297 Jim
    September 11, 2007

    Rey: “You know, you can quit trying to shame us now, because it’s not going to work.”

    If it doesn’t work, that’s your problem, not mine. When people have good scientific arguments, they make them. When they don’t, they resort to insults. Sneers, jeers, and ridicule can do a lot of emotive work, but they do no suasive work.

    With that, I’m going to bow out. This “debate” is taking too much time of my time, and I’ve lost interest in it.

  296. #298 Brownian
    September 11, 2007

    Poor Jim.

    We’d be a lot less hostile if he weren’t a dishonest hypocrite.

  297. #299 windy
    September 11, 2007

    Homology, phylogenetic trees, the fossil record, DNA comparisons, etc. all provide evidence that evolution occurred, but they don’t provide evidence that evolution (in the macro sense) was caused by Darwinian mechanisms.

    See, here is where you again contradict yourself. Lately you have been arguing that fossils etc. don’t provide evidence that evolution occurred.

  298. #300 Stanton
    September 11, 2007

    With that, I’m going to bow out. This “debate” is taking too much time of my time, and I’ve lost interest in it.

    Are you sure it’s not because Intelligent Design can’t explain ANYTHING?

  299. #301 Steve_C
    September 11, 2007

    Finally!

    Most were making arguments. You just went to the UD well everytime as a response.

    There’s even a brand new post dedicated to you… with reading suggestions.

    Did you bother or even notice?

    You’re ridiculed because you quote Dembski. You’re just a mouthpiece for the DI.

    You’re a creationist. Get used to it.

  300. #302 Brownian
    September 11, 2007

    In case those of you with an IQ south of 150 didn’t get it, Jim put the word debate in single quotes to demonstrate his disdain for us.

    It’s a way of insulting everyone here subtly so he can still pout about being called on his idiocy.

  301. #303 Josh
    September 11, 2007

    Jim wrote: As a matter of procedure, Josh, it makes no sense to ask questions about a designer until design has first been apprehended. We don’t need to know anything about the biography, nature, or intentions of a designer to detect design.

    You don’t need to know anything about the designer to interpret evidence as indicating design. But even if you were to shatter ‘Darwinism’ completely, that biological complexity was designed would not be proven by default. That we cannot conceive of how life got to where it is by some other mechanism than either evolution or creation doesn’t mean that something else didn’t happen that we’re not capable of discerning yet. If ‘Darwinists’ do that…they’re being obtuse. If ID proponents do that, they’re being equally obtuse. One just has to look back through history to see times when stuff that we accept now as ‘true’ was beyond our imagination. It shouldn’t be hard to look toward the future with the same eyes. If ID is supposed to be considered science, then unless you are going to completely change how science is done, ID proponents must always be open to the possibility that they have it all wrong–that is to say, the existence of the designer must be on the table to being disproven. You can interpret the existence of the vertebrate eye as evidence of design, but there are other ways to interpret it…thus ID is ignoring a huge hole in the entire construct by insisting that it doesn’t need to worry about the designer. It does make logical sense to ask questions…lots of questions…regarding the designer. When ID proponents ‘detect’ they’re interpreting evidence. Scientific theories exist to explain observations. If ID must alter how science is done in order to fit itself into science (and you have admitted in multiple places that science needs to change in order to admit ID), then perhaps some thought might logically be put toward how strong the theory is…instead of just insisting that this is a great evolution of the nature of science.

  302. #304 windy
    September 11, 2007

    Jim left? damn, now I can’t say “the thread’s dead, Jim.”

  303. #305 JimV
    September 11, 2007

    You might want to read Dembski again, this time for understanding.

    We all get a bit testy at times. As several commenters have noted, you have handled yourself well in this regard – much better than several of your critics, IMO.

    I think some of the debate points here have involved semantics, and misunderstanding of what people are trying to say. My summary of the two basic positions are:

    A. The ToE is based on the convergence of evidence from geology, paleontogy, physics (radiological dating), and biology, and presents a explanation for the development of life on this planet which is consistent with the evidence. It has been refined since the time of Darwin and his colleagues and predecessors due to new evidence, but not overturned in any significant way. Not all of the evidence for its ocurrance over the the past billions of years still exists (nor should be expected to), but enough of the jigsaw puzzle pieces have been assembled to provide a convincing portrait. Testable predictions have been made from it, and confirmed. It provides a framework for biological research in general, and is directly applicable to fields such as epidemiology.

    B. The evidence supports “microevolution” and some form of common descent, but is insufficient to demonstrate that microevolution over long times can add up to macroevolution. In addition, probabilistic calculations indicate that it is unlikely that microevolution mechanisms can account for all all of life’s development. The most likely explanation is that an Intelligent Designer has intervened to produce or at least guide life on Earth.

    For my part, I find the evidence for A and explanations of A more credible than those for B. I have looked at the sources you asked me to look at, and saw no un(well-)disputed evidence that would rule out A. I don’t claim that B is ruled out either, but don’t see that B could be, depending on what one assumes about the Designer, whereas A could be (if no two species on Earth shared the same hereditary mechanism, for example).

    I agree that these discussions take a lot ot time, and have to end at some point. I am sorry we did not find more to agree on.

  304. #306 MartinM
    September 11, 2007

    “some of these things were made by unknown beings at some point: we have an idea who did it, but we’re not at liberty to discuss who it was at the moment, nor are we allowed to discuss how they did it, ever.”

    Don’t forget Dembski’s concession that there exists ‘apparent’ and ‘real’ CSI, where only the latter implies design, and the lack of any proposed method of distinguishing between the two. So it’s really:

    “some of these things might have been made by unknown beings at some point: we have an idea who did it, but we’re not at liberty to discuss who it was at the moment, nor are we allowed to discuss how they did it, ever.”

  305. #307 Anton Mates
    September 11, 2007

    Perhaps it seems that way to you because you’ve not understood the argument. It ought to be obvious that it’s senseless to label an organism an “intermediate, transitional form” unless gradual evolution (either guided or unguided) is assumed to have occurred.

    Let the record show that Jim never dealt with the fact that organisms were identified as intermediate/transitional well before Darwin, as by Jussieu. Despite David’s repeating this fact ad nauseam.

    Jim, if you ever come back–you don’t need any particular view on common descent to talk about intermediate forms. An organism can be placed, and were placed, as “intermediate” between two groups simply because they share many properties from both. The platypus is furry but lays eggs, gives milk but has no nipples. For these reasons and other anatomical ones, it’s reasonably viewed as intermediate between the traditional “mammals” and the traditional “reptiles.” The alligator is scaly and cold-blooded, yet has an almost-four chambered heart and internal air sacs and swallows stones to aid in digestion and sings to court its mate and builds nests and cares for its young. For these reasons and others, it’s reasonably viewed as the closest living “reptile” to the birds. No Darwinism required.

    If anything, modern evolutionary theory is more hostile to the idea of transitional forms, simply because it predicts that virtually all species in history are not literal intermediates between others, but are at most closely related to them.

    Unless I misunderstood it, what you wrote can be said in this way: Natural selection means that the fittest organisms will survive to leave the most offspring, the fittest organisms being those that survive to leave the most offspring. If that’s not a tautology, what is?

    You confuse “fitness” and “leaving the most offspring.” Fitness is the heritable capability to leave offspring. An animal may be the fittest of its species–genetically tuned for great strength and speed and hardiness and fecundity–but if it catches a nasty disease or falls off a cliff or gets hit by a meteorite, it’s not going to reproduce. This is the basic cause of genetic drift–“survival of the fittest” is statistically likely but not absolutely assured.

    “A sequence of 20 A’s” is a description, not an independently given specification. And since you presented that sequence in isolation (i.e., without context), it can’t be likened to the sequence in the Caputo case.

    You’ve hit upon one reason why “complex specified information” (in one of its multiple conflicting definitions provided by Dembski) is scientifically useless. The sequence cannot be identified as having CSI unless the person who made it tells you what the specification is. Therefore, you can’t claim that any biological structure carries CSI, because no matter what interesting properties it may have, you’re merely describing it–not specifying it.

    From the home page of Richard Sternberg (the approving editor):

    We’ve discussed this before. Note that Sternberg refuses to reveal the identities of his reviewers, as well as the supposed other BSW member who was supportive of publishing the paper. Note further that the editorial council doesn’t seem to know who they are either. Also, McDiarmid did not say that “all was in order,” at least according to the email Sterberg provides. He merely agreed that the reviews–whomever they came from–were favorable. None of this suggests that Sternberg followed proper editorial procedure.

    For futher analysis, see Jason Rosenhouse’s Evolutionblog.

    As a matter of procedure, Josh, it makes no sense to ask questions about a designer until design has first been apprehended.

    This is contrary to scientific procedure in pretty much every field concerned with design. Science always asks questions about the designer before concluding design. In fact, I’ll disagree with Kseniya here–if you don’t have at least a hypothesis concerning the nature and capabilities of the designer, a claim of design is meaningless.

    Suppose you find a stone on a desert island which may have been intelligently crafted into its current shape, or may have been shaped by wind and wave. What do you do? You consider the plausible designers–usually human. You look for chisel marks, because that’s how humans carve stone. You consider the age and location of the stone, and investigate whether humans are likely to have been in the area when it was carved. You consider the shape of the stone, to see if it looks like something humans commonly carve, particularly whatever cultures live closest nearby.

    You don’t look for complexity or specified information or anything like that. It’s just not useful. And you never conclude that it was made, not by humans, but by an unknown designer with unknown abilities, motives, and methods. That’s a vacuous claim.

  306. #308 David Marjanovi?
    September 11, 2007

    If Jim really doesn’t come back, he’d be the first to act out his threat to himself that he would stop learning…

    It ought to be obvious that it’s senseless to label an organism an “intermediate, transitional form” unless gradual evolution (either guided or unguided) is assumed to have occurred.

    Nope, we simply aren’t using the same concept of “intermediate”. I am not talking about phylogenetically intermediate, I’m talking about morphologically intermediate. I’m talking about the pattern, not the process. Where exactly is north on the IQ scale?

    I was not even talking about fossils. Just in today’s living world we find intermediates galore — and while we find some intermediates, we don’t find others. I went on to explain that exactly this is what the ToE predicts.

    ID, on the other hand, expects nothing in particular. We could live in the real world, we could live in Jussieu’s imagination where nature is a flat plate rather than a tree, we could live in a world where each species is totally, fundamentally different from each other species (as in, one using DNA, the next using different sugars, another using different bases, another using who knows what) — all would be equally compatible with ID. Tell me again how ID explains anything by explaining everything and their brother.

    And if this isn’t enough of an explanation for you, Anton has handled it admirably.

    Central to the problem of identifying intermediate, transitional forms in the fossil record is the circularity of reasoning involved: Because it assumes (or posits) common descent (or descent with modification), Darwinism must have intermediate, transitional forms;

    Correct, for those organisms whose fossil record is good enough. Hey, just an example off the top of my head, there are no known fossil poison-dart frogs (intermediate or otherwise), because tiny skeletons don’t last long in the acidic soil of a rainforest, if they ever reach the soil in the first place. And here we’re talking about organisms that have a mineralized skeleton. Are there any fossil earthworms? I don’t know, but I bet not.

    Darwinists then identify such forms on the basis of that assumption;

    Wrong.

    Oh, dude, we don’t go around “identifying intermediate forms”. Have you ever read primary paleontological literature? I posted a link to a free pdf of one such paper last night (Central European time).

    There goes the circle.

    ‘The known fossil record fails to document a single example of phyletic (gradual) evolution accomplishing a major morphological transition and hence offers no evidence that the gradualistic model can be valid.’

    Which resolution exactly do you want for “document”, and what if anything is “major”? If you’re content with a gradual speciation in the fossil record, I can give you that. Pacific diatoms of the last few million years have an excellent fossil record — the sea floor consists of them.

    If Spriggina is the evolutionary precursor of trilobites, where in the fossil record is the “unambiguous continuum of transitional species exhibiting a perfect gradation of skeletal form leading unarguably” from Spriggina to trilobites?

    We have already explained that you can’t expect that from the fossil record of organisms without hard parts (and that well over half a billion years ago).

    There is no fourth mode of explanation, David. If an explanation requires the combination of two of the explanatory modes, that combination is not a fourth mode of explanation. ToE appeals to both chance and necessity, but that doesn’t make evolution a fourth explanatory mode.

    Its results differ both from those of random alone and from those of necessity alone, so of course it is a fourth mode of explanation. Don’t come with semantics.

    Judging from his own example, Behe wouldn’t recognize evolution if he saw it. He would automatically confuse it with design. That’s what I’m saying.

    In fact, to say that something evolved is not explanatory at all; it’s merely descriptive.

    Then let me be more precise: to say that something evolved by mutation, selection, and drift is an explanation.

    No, but I am saying that judging that a design is deficient requires us to get into the mind of the designer. Unless we know his objectives, we can’t say that his design failed to meet them.

    Oh, the designer is not stupid — he’s ineffable!

    You have left science, my friend. Claims of ineffability are not testable, so they aren’t science. Are you trying to do science, or are you trying to do theology? I think you should decide between those two.

    “Maybe the designer isn’t all that beneficient or omnipotent,” [Be]he wrote. “Science can’t answer questions like that. But denying design simply because it can cause terrible pain is a failure of nerve, a failure to look the universe fully in the face.”

    I’m not “denying design” because I don’t like the implications. I just wanted to point out that it’s not true that ID makes no claims about the designer. It cannot help making claims about the designer.

    Besides, Anton has explained why it shouldn’t avoid making claims about the designer.

    Unless I misunderstood it, what you wrote can be said in this way: Natural selection means that the fittest organisms will survive to leave the most offspring, the fittest organisms being those that survive to leave the most offspring.

    Yeah, that one again. You forgot to ask why any organisms leave more surviving offspring than others. It’s because of very concrete reasons: they use their food more efficiently, they gather food more efficiently, they are better at escaping predators, whatever. Each of those possible reasons is testable. It won’t surprise you (I hope) to read that lots of literature exist on the question of whether a particular factor is being selected upon in a particular species.

    I remember reading about a bird species where shorter wings make for more efficient flight in reed (lots of twisting & turning in the air required) and are therefore selected for by natural selection, but sexual selection favors longer wings! Result: a compromise. This was shown using lots of measurements of a whole population and lots of math. Hey, multivariate statistics was invented for population genetics, in other words, for evolutionary biology. (Change of allele frequencies in a population = evolution.)

    —————

    Not that Denton’s judgement is necessarily any better now, but why do you only quote his two-decades old statements?

    Hey, why do you quote opinions instead of results, Jim? Have you noticed how papers tend to have a “Results” section and a “Discussion” section?

    I think it comes from the tradition of creationism — a religious tradition where arguments from authority are not considered logical fallacies.

    —————-

    But since all it’s delivered (with respect to its macroevolutionary claims) are wishful speculations devoid of any actual details, I’ve found it quite unpersuasive.

    Then you should, for example, read Jennifer Clack’s book “Gaining Ground” on the origin of limbed (as opposed to finned) vertebrates. Or Carl Zimmer’s “At the Water’s Edge” for a shorter take on that topic and another on the origin of whales. Or preferably both. You will learn a lot.

    The air of certainty presented here by Darwinism’s defenders and their apparent outrage that I dare to question their cherished theory simply demonstrate the sadly dogmatic condition of evolutionary biology.

    It only looks that way because you mistakenly believe you are “widely read” in the topic. Because you aren’t, you don’t understand what we are talking about, but because you believe you already know it all, you don’t get the idea that you still have something to learn.

    This is not something that should be able to happen to someone with an IQ around 150, wherever “north” is.

  307. #309 David Marjanovi?
    September 11, 2007

    If Jim really doesn’t come back, he’d be the first to act out his threat to himself that he would stop learning…

    It ought to be obvious that it’s senseless to label an organism an “intermediate, transitional form” unless gradual evolution (either guided or unguided) is assumed to have occurred.

    Nope, we simply aren’t using the same concept of “intermediate”. I am not talking about phylogenetically intermediate, I’m talking about morphologically intermediate. I’m talking about the pattern, not the process. Where exactly is north on the IQ scale?

    I was not even talking about fossils. Just in today’s living world we find intermediates galore — and while we find some intermediates, we don’t find others. I went on to explain that exactly this is what the ToE predicts.

    ID, on the other hand, expects nothing in particular. We could live in the real world, we could live in Jussieu’s imagination where nature is a flat plate rather than a tree, we could live in a world where each species is totally, fundamentally different from each other species (as in, one using DNA, the next using different sugars, another using different bases, another using who knows what) — all would be equally compatible with ID. Tell me again how ID explains anything by explaining everything and their brother.

    And if this isn’t enough of an explanation for you, Anton has handled it admirably.

    Central to the problem of identifying intermediate, transitional forms in the fossil record is the circularity of reasoning involved: Because it assumes (or posits) common descent (or descent with modification), Darwinism must have intermediate, transitional forms;

    Correct, for those organisms whose fossil record is good enough. Hey, just an example off the top of my head, there are no known fossil poison-dart frogs (intermediate or otherwise), because tiny skeletons don’t last long in the acidic soil of a rainforest, if they ever reach the soil in the first place. And here we’re talking about organisms that have a mineralized skeleton. Are there any fossil earthworms? I don’t know, but I bet not.

    Darwinists then identify such forms on the basis of that assumption;

    Wrong.

    Oh, dude, we don’t go around “identifying intermediate forms”. Have you ever read primary paleontological literature? I posted a link to a free pdf of one such paper last night (Central European time).

    There goes the circle.

    ‘The known fossil record fails to document a single example of phyletic (gradual) evolution accomplishing a major morphological transition and hence offers no evidence that the gradualistic model can be valid.’

    Which resolution exactly do you want for “document”, and what if anything is “major”? If you’re content with a gradual speciation in the fossil record, I can give you that. Pacific diatoms of the last few million years have an excellent fossil record — the sea floor consists of them.

    If Spriggina is the evolutionary precursor of trilobites, where in the fossil record is the “unambiguous continuum of transitional species exhibiting a perfect gradation of skeletal form leading unarguably” from Spriggina to trilobites?

    We have already explained that you can’t expect that from the fossil record of organisms without hard parts (and that well over half a billion years ago).

    There is no fourth mode of explanation, David. If an explanation requires the combination of two of the explanatory modes, that combination is not a fourth mode of explanation. ToE appeals to both chance and necessity, but that doesn’t make evolution a fourth explanatory mode.

    Its results differ both from those of random alone and from those of necessity alone, so of course it is a fourth mode of explanation. Don’t come with semantics.

    Judging from his own example, Behe wouldn’t recognize evolution if he saw it. He would automatically confuse it with design. That’s what I’m saying.

    In fact, to say that something evolved is not explanatory at all; it’s merely descriptive.

    Then let me be more precise: to say that something evolved by mutation, selection, and drift is an explanation.

    No, but I am saying that judging that a design is deficient requires us to get into the mind of the designer. Unless we know his objectives, we can’t say that his design failed to meet them.

    Oh, the designer is not stupid — he’s ineffable!

    You have left science, my friend. Claims of ineffability are not testable, so they aren’t science. Are you trying to do science, or are you trying to do theology? I think you should decide between those two.

    “Maybe the designer isn’t all that beneficient or omnipotent,” [Be]he wrote. “Science can’t answer questions like that. But denying design simply because it can cause terrible pain is a failure of nerve, a failure to look the universe fully in the face.”

    I’m not “denying design” because I don’t like the implications. I just wanted to point out that it’s not true that ID makes no claims about the designer. It cannot help making claims about the designer.

    Besides, Anton has explained why it shouldn’t avoid making claims about the designer.

    Unless I misunderstood it, what you wrote can be said in this way: Natural selection means that the fittest organisms will survive to leave the most offspring, the fittest organisms being those that survive to leave the most offspring.

    Yeah, that one again. You forgot to ask why any organisms leave more surviving offspring than others. It’s because of very concrete reasons: they use their food more efficiently, they gather food more efficiently, they are better at escaping predators, whatever. Each of those possible reasons is testable. It won’t surprise you (I hope) to read that lots of literature exist on the question of whether a particular factor is being selected upon in a particular species.

    I remember reading about a bird species where shorter wings make for more efficient flight in reed (lots of twisting & turning in the air required) and are therefore selected for by natural selection, but sexual selection favors longer wings! Result: a compromise. This was shown using lots of measurements of a whole population and lots of math. Hey, multivariate statistics was invented for population genetics, in other words, for evolutionary biology. (Change of allele frequencies in a population = evolution.)

    —————

    Not that Denton’s judgement is necessarily any better now, but why do you only quote his two-decades old statements?

    Hey, why do you quote opinions instead of results, Jim? Have you noticed how papers tend to have a “Results” section and a “Discussion” section?

    I think it comes from the tradition of creationism — a religious tradition where arguments from authority are not considered logical fallacies.

    —————-

    But since all it’s delivered (with respect to its macroevolutionary claims) are wishful speculations devoid of any actual details, I’ve found it quite unpersuasive.

    Then you should, for example, read Jennifer Clack’s book “Gaining Ground” on the origin of limbed (as opposed to finned) vertebrates. Or Carl Zimmer’s “At the Water’s Edge” for a shorter take on that topic and another on the origin of whales. Or preferably both. You will learn a lot.

    The air of certainty presented here by Darwinism’s defenders and their apparent outrage that I dare to question their cherished theory simply demonstrate the sadly dogmatic condition of evolutionary biology.

    It only looks that way because you mistakenly believe you are “widely read” in the topic. Because you aren’t, you don’t understand what we are talking about, but because you believe you already know it all, you don’t get the idea that you still have something to learn.

    This is not something that should be able to happen to someone with an IQ around 150, wherever “north” is.

  308. #310 Ichthyic
    September 11, 2007

    It cannot help making claims about the designer.

    Besides, Anton has explained why it shouldn’t avoid making claims about the designer.

    goes beyond “can’t help” and “shouldn’t avoid” into the realm of MUST make claims about the designer.

    otherwise, there is simply no way to even formulate a testable hypothesis to begin with.

    It’s that one, simple fact, that they simply have no factual clues about how a putative designer operates, that forever consigns their conceptions to the dustbin.

    All they have to do is actually FIND the putative designer, study how that designer operates in the world, and presto, they can begin to formulate testable hypotheses.

    I think we’ve been waiting several hundred years for that to occur.

  309. #311 Ichthyic
    September 11, 2007

    This is not something that should be able to happen to someone with an IQ around 150, wherever “north” is.

    cognitive dissonance ‘ll do that fer ya.

    just ask Francis Collins, or Michael Egnor.

  310. #312 Steve_C
    September 11, 2007

    I was never under the impression he was going to learn anything.

    You would give him the science and the explanation and he would just run to UD for a response.

  311. #313 Kseniya
    September 11, 2007

    This is why I had an allergic reaction to Jim when he showed up on this thread: I remembered the last time he was here. It all played out pretty much the same way.

    Still, I don’t take back what I said: He’s smart, he expresses himself well, he’s far better informed about Evo and ID than most of the naysayers who come around here, and his even temperment is admirable under these circumstances.

    So what’s my problem with Jim? With him as a person, nothing. With his arguments, this:

    1. He supports the validity of ID concepts with ID literature, in very much the same way as we’ve seen creos justify the validity of their religious beliefs by citing the Bible. This approach is a “almost a tautology” and never gets around to addressing the (many and profound) criticisms of either Dembskiism or of Beheism. The arguments boil down to this: “Evo is doomed because it’s not perfectly proven; ID is the future because I said so.”

    2. Jim has one particular blind spot, which is this: He cannot see how or why this approach, which tacitly accuses every defender of Evo of being a mindless adherent to a broken philosophy, will sometimes precipitate hostile responses from those who know significantly more about the subject than he does.

  312. #314 David Marjanovi?
    September 11, 2007

    This is why I had an allergic reaction to Jim when he showed up on this thread: I remembered the last time he was here. It all played out pretty much the same way.

    Told you he’ll come back. 🙂

    He cannot see how or why this approach, which tacitly accuses every defender of Evo of being a mindless adherent to a broken philosophy, will sometimes precipitate hostile responses from those who know significantly more about the subject than he does.

    That’s because he seems not to understand, at least not consciously, that anyone knows significantly more about the subject than he does.

  313. #315 David Marjanovi?
    September 11, 2007

    This is why I had an allergic reaction to Jim when he showed up on this thread: I remembered the last time he was here. It all played out pretty much the same way.

    Told you he’ll come back. 🙂

    He cannot see how or why this approach, which tacitly accuses every defender of Evo of being a mindless adherent to a broken philosophy, will sometimes precipitate hostile responses from those who know significantly more about the subject than he does.

    That’s because he seems not to understand, at least not consciously, that anyone knows significantly more about the subject than he does.

  314. #316 mojoandy
    September 11, 2007

    mojoandy: “I’m loving this thread. Hats off to Jim for his honest participation with a potentially hostile audience, and to those that are countering his points.”

    Thanks, mojoandy. But I think you can scratch “potentially” from what you’ve written. My entry into the fray was met with assertions that I’m “stupid,” a “moron,” and a “dumbass.” Such an audience is not potentially hostile, it IS hostile. Friendly audiences steer clear of the personal attacks.

    By Internet thread standards this was a strawberry social of politeness. 298 posts — this topic stretches Godwin’s Law to the limits. (Or is that Godwin’s Theory?)

  315. #317 Kseniya
    September 11, 2007

    By Internet thread standards this was a strawberry social of politeness. 298 posts — this topic stretches Godwin’s Law to the limits. (Or is that Godwin’s Theory?)

    Only Hitler would say such a thing.

  316. #318 Anton Mates
    September 12, 2007

    Are there any fossil earthworms? I don’t know, but I bet not.

    Google saith there’s a couple, embryos even, but they only fossilized in freak environments like heavily mineralized pools of water. Lots of fossil casts, of course.

  317. #319 David Marjanovi?
    September 12, 2007

    Thanks, Anton.

    Still laughing about post 300… 😀

  318. #320 David Marjanovi?
    September 12, 2007

    Thanks, Anton.

    Still laughing about post 300… 😀

  319. #321 Torbjrn Larsson, OM
    September 13, 2007

    Maybe a wrapup, maybe not.

    Jim:

    Dembski (and ID theory) is not concerned with events that have no possible alternatives. But it is concerned with the probability that specified complexity in biological systems could have been randomly generated. Dawkins’s me-thinks-it-is-like-a-weasel algorithm is irrelevant to both ID theory and Darwinism.

    Since you concede that natural selection is an evolutionary mechanism, you should recognize that the weasel algorithm is a relevant evolutionary algorithm. It illustrates how selection speeds up evolution. Note that there are many possible alternatives to the paths taken to fulfilling the fitness constraints.

    It is however not an example of how biological populations and their changing fitness constraints behave. That wasn’t the purpose.

    I’ve found that Darwinian true-believers often take great umbrage when a skeptic refers to natural selection as a tautology, and I didn’t see any point in fanning the flames. But since you’ve brought it up, I’ll simply say that I agree.

    The reason people takes umbrage is that it isn’t quite a tautology. But this argument is besides the point. After you develop a formal theory covering your data, the theory and the data forms a tautology:

    A tautology is a statement which is true by its logical structure. What’s a proof of a statement in logic? It’s a set of basic statements (axioms) which can, by using the inference rules of the logic derive the proven statement. Translate that down a bit and – what’s a proof? It’s a series of statements that demonstrates that a final statement is inevitably true by the logical structure of the proof. So form the proof up into a single statement (by joining steps with appropriate “and” and “or”s), and the proof is a tautology.

    The same holds for scientific theories – except that in general, scientific theories add observations to the set of basic statements.

    His criticisms tend to focus on trivialities

    Demsbki didn’t answer even one of Shalit’s points.

  320. #322 Torbjrn Larsson, OM
    September 13, 2007

    Maybe a wrapup, maybe not.

    Jim:

    Dembski (and ID theory) is not concerned with events that have no possible alternatives. But it is concerned with the probability that specified complexity in biological systems could have been randomly generated. Dawkins’s me-thinks-it-is-like-a-weasel algorithm is irrelevant to both ID theory and Darwinism.

    Since you concede that natural selection is an evolutionary mechanism, you should recognize that the weasel algorithm is a relevant evolutionary algorithm. It illustrates how selection speeds up evolution. Note that there are many possible alternatives to the paths taken to fulfilling the fitness constraints.

    It is however not an example of how biological populations and their changing fitness constraints behave. That wasn’t the purpose.

    I’ve found that Darwinian true-believers often take great umbrage when a skeptic refers to natural selection as a tautology, and I didn’t see any point in fanning the flames. But since you’ve brought it up, I’ll simply say that I agree.

    The reason people takes umbrage is that it isn’t quite a tautology. But this argument is besides the point. After you develop a formal theory covering your data, the theory and the data forms a tautology:

    A tautology is a statement which is true by its logical structure. What’s a proof of a statement in logic? It’s a set of basic statements (axioms) which can, by using the inference rules of the logic derive the proven statement. Translate that down a bit and – what’s a proof? It’s a series of statements that demonstrates that a final statement is inevitably true by the logical structure of the proof. So form the proof up into a single statement (by joining steps with appropriate “and” and “or”s), and the proof is a tautology.

    The same holds for scientific theories – except that in general, scientific theories add observations to the set of basic statements.

    His criticisms tend to focus on trivialities

    Demsbki didn’t answer even one of Shalit’s points.

  321. #323 truth machine
    September 13, 2007

    My entry into the fray was met with assertions that I’m “stupid,” a “moron,” and a “dumbass.” Such an audience is not potentially hostile, it IS hostile.

    The audience here is hostile to a certain sort of arrogant ignorant asshole who is, because of those traits, functionally stupid.

  322. #324 truth machine
    September 13, 2007

    With regard to my stupidity, let the record show that I’m a summa cum laude graduate in civil engineering and a lapsed member of Mensa with an IQ to the north of 150. I’m widely read in both evolutionary theory and ID theory.

    As a lapsed member of Mensa with an IQ north of 170, I’ll note that your sort of stupidity isn’t uncommon among Mensans. Being good at the sorts of abstract problems on IQ tests, and hanging out with people who think they’re superior because of that, produces unwarranted confidence in the validity of one’s own opinions, especially in areas in which one has no expertise. The fact is that your reading in evolutionary theory, regardless of how “wide”, is remarkably shallow, and you have a number of intellectual mechanisms in place that prevent you from reaching correct solutions in that area. That makes you unintelligent in that regard, no matter how good you are at finding the next number in a sequence, identifying the odd man out, etc.

  323. #325 truth machine
    September 13, 2007

    A theory has been thoroughly debunked when even its advocates are persuaded that it’s wrong, not when its foes persuade themselves that they’ve debunked it.

    This is the sort of deep stupidity that IQ tests don’t test for. Non stupid people realize that, for instance, homeopathy is debunked when it is shown to be ineffective. A theory that has been shown to be empirically or logically mistaken has been debunked. What is required to show that it hasn’t been debunked is not mere naysaying, but an actual demonstration of an error in the debunking argument.

  324. #326 truth machine
    September 13, 2007

    ID theory is silent on that question. Since the theory (unlike Darwinism) doesn’t need the hypothesis that men evolved from fish, it has nothing to say about it.

    Yeah, all it “needs” is “poof” to explain the origin of humans.

    IQ tests also can’t test for whether someone is too stupid to grasp what does and does not qualify as a scientific theory.

  325. #327 truth machine
    September 13, 2007

    Proponents of Darwinism will tolerate the corrective influence of some theories, just so long as those theories don’t challenge the underlying assumption that unintelligent material causes fully account for life’s origin and development.

    Regardless of your IQ score, religion makes you stupid.

    Here’s a clue: any assertion of anything other than “material causes” is, semantically, not a scientific theory — it’s a metaphysical claim that cannot, logically, have an evidentiary basis. As for intelligent material causes, there’s simply no evidence of it, and indirect arguments like Behe’s IC, even if they were valid, don’t necessitate inteligent causes. So “proponents of Darwinism tolerate” everything that is relevant.

  326. #328 truth machine
    September 13, 2007

    I’m no longer going to respond to posters who call me an idiot, a moron, a dumbass, etc – which likely means this will be my last submission to the forum. People who write in that way don’t deserve the courtesy of a reply.

    You weren’t invited here in the first place, you moronic dumbass. It was your own project, in which you failed. Why should anyone care if you go away, when they were happier before you showed up in the first place? Over at DailyKos there’s a standard term for this brand of idiocy — GBCW (goodbye cruel world).

  327. #329 truth machine
    September 13, 2007

    That’s a possibility, and it makes for another fine just-so story (which Darwinists spin with great regularity), but without any detailed, testable accounts of what those redundant structures were and how they were formed by Darwinian means, I don’t see why the arch analogy should be taken seriously.

    That’s because you don’t know any biology, and are apparently too stupid to find out, despite that IQ score.

  328. #330 truth machine
    September 13, 2007

    Ichthyic: “jim’s full of shit on that point too, since it wasn’t the defense of theory that caused the vehement response, but his own idiotic and inflammatory statements that did.”

    The following two postings were the sum total of my contributions to this thread before the Darwinists here began calling me “idiot,” “dumbass,” “moron,” etc. I invite any reasonable person to find where my remarks are either idiotic or inflammatory, thus warranting personal attacks on me…
    […] those who – for philosophical reasons – are already committed to the “truth” of Darwinism

    Virtually the entire planetary population of educated biologists (despite your quote mining) accepts the fact of evolution and that the ToE is the best current explanation of biodiversity. Your blather about “Darwinism”, “philosophical reasons”, and “committed to” is idiotic and inflammatory — and oh so familiar from people with your sort of stupidity.

  329. #331 truth machine
    September 13, 2007

    Windy: “HE. SHOWS. DARWINIAN. EVOLUTION. IN. MOTHS. NOT. IN. FISH.”

    Precisely. That’s all he showed. That’s why his claim that he had produced THE proof of evolution – by which he obviously meant Darwinism

    That’s only obvious to someone very stupid and ignorant. In any case, If he showed Darwinian evolution in moths, then he showed Darwinian evolution — basic logic (Fa => ExFx).

  330. #332 truth machine
    September 13, 2007

    He is correct about the wording, but not about what it means. It doesn’t mean “man came from fish”.

    That’s the crux of it. This stupid lying arrogant asshole asserted, in effect, that Majerus claimed to have proven that man came from fish, since he noted that Majerus had claimed proof of evolution, but that he hadn’t proved that man came from fish. It’s one big stinking stupid dishonest straw man.

  331. #333 truth machine
    September 13, 2007

    I have no quarrel with what the fossil record tells us about the existence, structure, and age of the organisms you mention, but I suspect that the “intermediates” among them are identified by reference to the needs of Darwinian theory, which makes their identification self-referential (or circular), a kind of reasoning that confirms nothing.

    You suspect that it’s circular? You suspect that it confirms nothing?

    What a fucking ignorant arrogant asshole.

  332. #334 truth machine
    September 13, 2007

    Is the platypus an intermediate, transitional form?

    Yes, as are you, as is every organism.

    If so, is it on its way to becoming fully reptilian, or fully mammalian?

    It’s “on its way to becoming” whatever it becomes — And it’s already “fully mammalian”, since it’s a mammal. What are you on the way to becoming, fully stupid, fully dishonest, or fully ignorant?

  333. #335 truth machine
    September 13, 2007

    Jim: Darwin thought the cell was a simple blob of protoplasm.

    Windy: Actual Darwin quote: “As, however, a cell is a complex structure, with its investing membrane, nucleus, and nucleolus, …”

    Indeed. High IQ scores don’t prevent people from stupidly repeating lies told them by the Discovery Institute.

  334. #336 truth machine
    September 13, 2007

    Josh: “…where exactly did Doug Futuyma say that (Darwinian evolution) was (a random process)?”

    In his textbook “Evolutionary Biology,” Futuyma wrote: “The major tenets of the evolutionary synthesis are that populations contain genetic variation that arises by RANDOM (i.e., not adaptively directed) mutation and recombination; that populations evolve by changes in gene frequency brought about by RANDOM genetic drift, gene flow, and especially natural selection…” (emphasis added)

    Stupid stupid stupid. Yet another demonstration of the limits of IQ tests.

  335. #337 truth machine
    September 13, 2007

    You guys are really trying. But it’s quite obvious, he’s been completely indoctrinated into the ID point of view.

    Not just their point of view, but their fundamental intellectual dishonesty.

  336. #338 truth machine
    September 13, 2007

    Steve C. “But it’s quite obvious, (Jim’s) been completely indoctrinated into the ID point of view.”

    Unlike my critics, none of whom have been completely indoctrinated into the Darwinian point of view.

    Tu quoque fallacy, the stupidest fallacy of all.

    In this case, it’s like a flat-Earther complaining about all those people “indoctrinated” into believing that the Earth isn’t flat.

  337. #339 truth machine
    September 13, 2007

    All I’m saying is that Jim writes well, and keeps it civil in the face of sometimes hard and distainful criticism.

    Why do people say one thing, and then when it is pointed out that what they said was false, they claim to have only been saying something else? Your claim was that Jim comported himself admirably. But starting out with a dishonest straw man and asserting that virtually every biologist in the world holds the views they do because of “philosophical commitments” and “indoctrination” is not admirable.

  338. #340 truth machine
    September 13, 2007

    if we can’t say that languages arose by design (i.e., by conscious, deliberate choices made by human beings), then what CAN we say about the evolution of languages?

    Quite a lot, actually. It’s called ‘linguistics’. What exactly is your point supposed to be here?

    I do hope you’re not trying to infect another scientific field with ‘goddidit’.

    No, he’s saying that language evolution is a matter of “deliberate choices made by human beings” — a remarkably stupid claim, much like claiming that student participants in psychological studies choose the outcomes of those studies (without even knowing what is being studied). This sort of confusion between a system and its components is a particularly stupid one for an engineer.

  339. #341 truth machine
    September 13, 2007

    I’ll let Dembski respond

    Of course you will, because you’re a dishonest asshole regurgitating garbage that you don’t understand — apparently you don’t even understand the depth of dishonesty of Dembski’s non response, which most people here have seen before.

  340. #342 truth machine
    September 13, 2007

    When people have good scientific arguments, they make them. When they don’t, they resort to insults.

    This, like most of your blather, is stupid, dishonest, and false — a false dichotomy, precisely. But there are many many good scientific arguments for evolution, and nary a one for ID. And all you have really done here is insult the entire biological community, as well as your correspondents here. There are many ways to be insulting without using specific insult words, and the pretense of not being insulting merely because of not using insult words is a game played by many intellectual charlatans of your ilk.

  341. #343 truth machine
    September 13, 2007

    We all get a bit testy at times. As several commenters have noted, you have handled yourself well in this regard – much better than several of your critics, IMO.

    That’s bullshit. His critics handled themselves well by responding to his arguments and not lying. Where do you pansy ases get the idea that being blunt isn’t handling oneself well?

  342. #344 Arnosium Upinarum
    September 13, 2007

    truth machine: I am awed by your tenacity and stamina. Truly.

    Hear that? The crickets are chirping.

    Take care of yourself.

  343. #345 JimV
    September 13, 2007

    That’s bullshit. His critics handled themselves well by responding to his arguments and not lying. Where do you pansy asses get the idea that being blunt isn’t handling oneself well?

    My comment didn’t say or mean that Jim handled himself well in any other regard than the one cited (that of not reacting testily), so your response to it contains a fallacious element itself. That’s probably not blunt enough for you, but we all have our own ways of expressing ourselves.

    I was trying to wrap up the discussion on a civil note. Civil and civilization share a Latin root, and somewhat of a common purpose, IMO. Something like this: by an exteme fluke you and I find ourself alive on the same planet at the same time, giving us the opportunity to either help each other or hurt each other.

    In hindsight, I did wince a little as I reread my comment. Well, they can’t all be gems. (In fact, the wincing happens a lot.)

    To your point on IQ, I have seen Richard Feynman’s listed as 137 or even lower, yet he demonstrated more intelligence by his accomplishments than anyone here, AFAIK.

  344. #346 David Marjanovi?
    September 13, 2007

    Wow, truth machine… why did you send each of your paragraphs as a separate post? Just to bring the thread back into the “top 5/most active” list?

  345. #347 David Marjanovi?
    September 13, 2007

    Wow, truth machine… why did you send each of your paragraphs as a separate post? Just to bring the thread back into the “top 5/most active” list?

  346. #348 Kseniya
    September 13, 2007

    The Truth Machine generates truth statements in discrete, easily digestible logical chunks. All is as it should be.

    But hey. We could shoot for 400, just for the heck of it.

  347. #349 David Marjanovi?
    September 13, 2007

    😀

  348. #350 David Marjanovi?
    September 13, 2007

    😀

  349. #351 Josh
    September 13, 2007

    400 would be easier to achieve if Jim were still here…who else has a topic we can chew on?

  350. #352 Josh
    September 13, 2007

    David and I can pretend we don’t agree on anything and get into a long, drawn out argument.

  351. #353 Stanton
    September 13, 2007

    Has anyone ever tried “Witchity Grubs”?
    I tried a silkworm pupa from a can…
    It wasn’t terrible, tasted a lot like those smoked oysters in cottonseed oil… But, it wasn’t anything worth writing home about, either.

  352. #354 Anton Mates
    September 14, 2007

    You’re a fool and a liar, Stanton, and I imagine you got your opinions on silkworm pupae directly from your boss, Hitler. Pupae are, in fact, inexpressibly delicious. I’ve never had one but I’ve deduced this from first principles.

    Discuss!

  353. #355 windy
    September 14, 2007

    Oh dear, I just read something that completely shattered my dogmatic faith in Darwinism. Did you know that most trilobite fossils don’t have legs? Obviously, natural selection can not explain legless trilobites, so I must conclude that they were intelligently Stupidly Designed. Come back Jim, all is forgiven!

  354. #356 Kseniya
    September 14, 2007

    Silkworm pupae are for trailer-trash godbots! It’s all about waworms, baby. Waxworms.

    Windy, legless trilobites present no problem for my theory of the evolution of hovercraft – they are in fact the evidential foundation of that theory! My theory demonstrates that hovercraft evolved by natural processes, and that at no time did a tornado tear through a Zamboni factory and create one by random chance.

    To any and all who can’t appreciate the elegant beauty of my theory, and who wish to paint me as a psychotic dogmatist, I challenge your claymation form to battle my claymation form – not to the death, but to the pain!

  355. #357 windy
    September 14, 2007

    Windy, legless trilobites present no problem for my theory of the evolution of hovercraft – they are in fact the evidential foundation of that theory! My theory demonstrates that hovercraft evolved by natural processes, and that at no time did a tornado tear through a Zamboni factory and create one by random chance.

    Damn! I must bow to your superior theorizing skillz. But you are a bit out of date. It has been shown that trilobites only look like hovercraft because Stephen Jay Gould drew them upside down. When you turn them around, their resemblance to ordinary soapdishes is evident.

  356. #358 Kseniya
    September 14, 2007

    I’m out of date? Dangit, I knowed I shoulda payed more attenshun in class.

    LMAO @ “soapdishes” !!! 😀

  357. #359 Kseniya
    September 14, 2007

    I’m out of date? Dangit, I knowed I shoulda payed more attenshun in class.

    LMAO @ “soapdishes” !!! 😀

  358. #360 windy
    September 14, 2007

    Of course the SD theory does not permit us to speculate on the motives of the designer, but we Bathists believe that the so-called trilobites are the soapdishes that our Designers used to wash off after the Cambrian explosion. The SD theory in no way requires one to be a Bathist (nudge nudge, wink wink).

    By the way, when can we expect a video of your frogs-and-windchimes rap on Youtube?

  359. #361 Jim
    September 14, 2007

    Truth Machine: “…arrogant ignorant asshole…your sort of stupidity…deep stupidity…too stupid to grasp…religion makes you stupid…moronic dumbass…too stupid…idiotic and inflammatory…people with your sort of stupidity…very stupid and ignorant…stupid lying arrogant asshole…fucking ignorant arrogant asshole…fully stupid, fully dishonest, or fully ignorant…Stupid stupid stupid…dishonest asshole…pansy ases (sic)…”

    I’m curious, Truth Machine: Do your parents know you’re using their computer for on-line conversations?

  360. #362 Josh
    September 14, 2007

    Jim,
    Have you returned or are you an apparition?

  361. #363 Josh
    September 14, 2007

    I agree with the upturned trilobites, but you’re crazy if you think they’re soap-dishes. If they’re soap dishes, how come we don’t find soap in the fossil record?

  362. #364 windy
    September 14, 2007

    Josh, where do you think soapstone comes from? Duhh!

  363. #365 Jim
    September 14, 2007

    Josh: “Jim, Have you returned or are you an apparition?”

    I dropped by to see what’s been happening since I left, but I didn’t find anything of interest to me. Truth Machine’s vulgar, foaming-at-the-mouth rants and his (her?) gross misrepresentations of my thoughts don’t deserve a response, so I’m going to tune out again. I’ll check back in over the weekend to see if anything interesting has come up.

    P.S. A note to David: As you may recall, I argued that if species are defined in terms of reproductive isolation, then demonstrating that the primary Darwinian mechanism (i.e., random mutations acted on by natural selection) can cause such speciation doesn’t also demonstrate that the Darwinian mechanism can do all the macroevolutionary work that Darwinists want to attribute to it (such as the generation of new organisms, new organs, new systems, etc.). When I used bacteria to illustrate my argument, you quite aptly called me to task because reproductive isolation doesn’t apply to bacteria. I usually use fruit flies to illustrate the point, and – aside from a brain fart – I’m not sure why I allowed bacteria to make an appearance in their stead.

  364. #366 Josh
    September 14, 2007

    hmmm…well then I guess when I get a chance I’ll finish the couple of still unfinished replies I owe you and presume that you might read them at some point.

  365. #367 Anton Mates
    September 15, 2007

    windy,

    Did you know that most trilobite fossils don’t have legs? Obviously, natural selection can not explain legless trilobites, so I must conclude that they were intelligently Stupidly Designed.

    They didn’t need legs, silly; they levitated through the power of prayer.

    The interesting thing is that this wasn’t intelligently designed…God had no idea trilobites even existed until a fortuitous mutation allowed them to hack his communication frequency and petition for superior mobility. Once that mutation occurred, of course, it was strongly selected for and quickly spread throughout the population.

  366. #368 Anton Mates
    September 15, 2007

    Jim,

    I dropped by to see what’s been happening since I left, but I didn’t find anything of interest to me. Truth Machine’s vulgar, foaming-at-the-mouth rants and his (her?) gross misrepresentations of my thoughts don’t deserve a response, so I’m going to tune out again.

    So there were, lessee, at least seven detailed, non-insult-laden responses to your last on-topic post, not even counting anything by truth machine. And you choose to avoid dealing with them on the grounds that truth machine was mean to you.

    Thanks for displaying your lack of interest in the actual scientific questions so starkly, I guess.

  367. #369 Twirlip of the Mists
    September 15, 2007

    Crypto: 0
    Language path: Arbwyth->Trade24->Cherguelen->Triskweline,SJK units
    From: Twirlip of the Mists [Perhaps an organization of cloud fliers in a single jovian system]
    Distribution: Threat of the Blight

    That’s it!
    Arthropodia is the key insight.

  368. #370 JimV
    September 16, 2007

    Twirlip (I’m guessing actually Kseniya), well played, and tangentially on topic, due to the “Net of a Million Lies” sub-theme in “A Fire Upon The Deep”. Completely OT: Vernor Vinge seems incapable of writing a novel which I am capable of putting down once I start same.

  369. #371 David Marjanovi?
    September 16, 2007

    P.S. A note to David: As you may recall,

    So you have come back, and you have found something of interest to you. I consider two of my predictions confirmed. :-}

    I argued that if species are defined in terms of reproductive isolation, then demonstrating that the primary Darwinian mechanism (i.e., random mutations acted on by natural selection) can cause such speciation doesn’t also demonstrate that the Darwinian mechanism can do all the macroevolutionary work that Darwinists want to attribute to it (such as the generation of new organisms, new organs, new systems, etc.).

    You are fully correct about this. But you overlooked the other half of science: the principle of parsimony. You have not shown that anything other than mutation and selection is necessary for explaining “macroevolution”. As long as you can’t show that, we will continue to hold that nothing else is necessary.

    Probably you have also overlooked how little is ever completely new. What is a lung? An evagination of the esophagus. What is a jaw? A gill arch* with teeth on it. What are the stapes and the hyoid**? The following gill arch. What is an insect wing? The gill part of an arthropod limb.

    And that’s just what we can see with the naked eye! Then there’s developmentary genetics. Behold Sonic hedgehog: this gene is expressed when any outgrowth of the vertebrate body wall begins to form. That includes limbs, teeth, hair, “reptile” scales including feathers, taste buds, everything. Shh has two close relatives (desert hedgehog and another); by “relatives” I mean “strong similarities in sequence, explicable if the three genes result from gene duplication events” — and indeed, Drosophila has a single hedgehog gene. Clearly, the simplest explanation is descent with modification — without a duplication in arthropods, with two duplications in vertebrates. “Evolution is a tinkerer”: it takes what is there and tinkers with it; it does not create ex nihilo. After all, how should it.

    * That’s two rods of cartilage (joined by a joint) between two gill slits that prevent the slits from deforming, one pair per side of the body.
    ** The horseshoe-shaped bone in the throat, above the Adam’s apple.

  370. #372 David Marjanovi?
    September 16, 2007

    P.S. A note to David: As you may recall,

    So you have come back, and you have found something of interest to you. I consider two of my predictions confirmed. :-}

    I argued that if species are defined in terms of reproductive isolation, then demonstrating that the primary Darwinian mechanism (i.e., random mutations acted on by natural selection) can cause such speciation doesn’t also demonstrate that the Darwinian mechanism can do all the macroevolutionary work that Darwinists want to attribute to it (such as the generation of new organisms, new organs, new systems, etc.).

    You are fully correct about this. But you overlooked the other half of science: the principle of parsimony. You have not shown that anything other than mutation and selection is necessary for explaining “macroevolution”. As long as you can’t show that, we will continue to hold that nothing else is necessary.

    Probably you have also overlooked how little is ever completely new. What is a lung? An evagination of the esophagus. What is a jaw? A gill arch* with teeth on it. What are the stapes and the hyoid**? The following gill arch. What is an insect wing? The gill part of an arthropod limb.

    And that’s just what we can see with the naked eye! Then there’s developmentary genetics. Behold Sonic hedgehog: this gene is expressed when any outgrowth of the vertebrate body wall begins to form. That includes limbs, teeth, hair, “reptile” scales including feathers, taste buds, everything. Shh has two close relatives (desert hedgehog and another); by “relatives” I mean “strong similarities in sequence, explicable if the three genes result from gene duplication events” — and indeed, Drosophila has a single hedgehog gene. Clearly, the simplest explanation is descent with modification — without a duplication in arthropods, with two duplications in vertebrates. “Evolution is a tinkerer”: it takes what is there and tinkers with it; it does not create ex nihilo. After all, how should it.

    * That’s two rods of cartilage (joined by a joint) between two gill slits that prevent the slits from deforming, one pair per side of the body.
    ** The horseshoe-shaped bone in the throat, above the Adam’s apple.

  371. #373 Kseniya
    September 16, 2007

    Twirlip (I’m guessing actually Kseniya), well played

    JimV, thanks, I take your guess as a high compliment, but I did not post that comment and I am not now (nor have I ever been) “Twirlip of the Mists”. I didn’t even understand the reference, but I’ve suddenly become interested in Vernor Vinge on the strength of your recommendation alone. 🙂

  372. #374 Jim
    September 17, 2007

    I have some time to kill while doing an overnight shift at a local homeless shelter, so I thought I’d check back in on Pharyngula. I suppose the following would fall into the category of “random thoughts”….

    1) Steve C: “Jim will never be satisfied with scientific explanations.”

    In addition to what I previously wrote on this point, Steve, you apparently missed it when I wrote the following: “I’ve found Darwinism to be a satisfactory explanation for microevolution…” Why would I write such a thing if I’m never satisfied with scientific explanations? Also, why would I have majored in engineering (another bit of data I made known to you) if I’m never satisfied with scientific explanations? Or why would I have made a career as an airline pilot (another bit of data I made known to you) if I’m never satisfied with scientific explanations? As you surely must know, engineering and aviation rely heavily on scientific explanations.

    2) Ralph: “What’s the difference between a description and an independently-given specification?”

    A description is simply read off the pattern (or the thing) being described; it is dependent on the pattern (the thing). A specification, on the other hand, exists independently of the event (or events) that brought the pattern (the thing) into being. For example, you can describe the pattern of letters in this sentence by simply looking at the pattern and reporting what you see. But you know that the pattern of letters was specified because it conforms to independently given specifications found in the English language.

    3) Ralph: “Why is ‘a string of 20 A’s’ NOT a specification, but ‘a string of 41 D’s and R’s with at most 1 R’ is?”

    A string of 20 A’s could be a specification – for example, by specifying the string prior to the event that brings the string into existence – but it’s not necessarily a specification. If a pattern doesn’t obviously conform to any known specification, it still might be possible to infer from the pattern itself that it conforms to an independently given specification. For example, if the string of A’s consists of an unexplained sequence of 20 Scrabble tiles, we could – depending on the available Scrabble tile resources – reasonably infer that the string of A’s was specified (probability would militate against the string being unspecified). But if we saw an unexplained sequence of 20 A’s on a computer monitor, we couldn’t rule out the possibility that the sequence was created by, say, a toddler repeatedly and unintentionally pressing the letter A on a keyboard, in which case the sequence would not be specified. In the Caputo case, it was reasonable to infer that the 40 to 1 priority placement of Democrat names on ballots was specified.

    4) Josh: “OK, Jim…implying that this is a completely hostile environment isn’t accurate, nor is the claim that all of us ‘defenders of Darwin’ have expressed outrage about attacks on a ‘cherished theory’ or that we have all offered our thoughts and evidences wrapped in a blanket of certainty.”

    Oh, come on, Josh. You’re taking offense on the basis of the composition fallacy (what is true of the part must be true of the whole). It’s simply undeniable that this has been a hostile audience for me, but it doesn’t follow that everyone in that audience has been hostile (or that each member of the audience has displayed the certainty, arrogance, and condescension that are so characteristic of Darwinism’s defenders – an observation repeatedly confirmed by postings to Pharyngula). You’ve been a model of civility (so has Jim V, and – once he came to his senses – Kseniya), but in my experience, most defenders of Darwinism go straight to the insults (witness the instant descriptions of me as an idiot, a moron, and a dumbass in response to my very first comments on this thread). Rather than taking issue with my description of this as a hostile audience, perhaps you ought to take issue with the hostility. That hostility – not my description of it – is what demeans your side of the debate (and ensures that no skeptics will be won over to your side).

    5) Josh: “…even if you were to shatter ‘Darwinism’ completely, that biological complexity was designed would not be proven by default.”

    This is a point that design theorists repeatedly make, Josh, although their critics (with no exceptions that I’ve ever seen) persistently misrepresent the argument for design by reducing it to: “Darwinism, false = ID, true.” Obviously, to the extent that Darwinism and design theory are mutually exclusive, evidence against one strengthens (but doesn’t make) the case for the other. But ID theorists argue that the case for design depends on positive evidence that justifies design inferences, not on evidence against Darwinism.

    6) Josh: “It does make logical sense to ask questions…lots of questions…regarding the designer.”

    Of course it does. But it makes no sense to ask such questions unless design has first been apprehended (or detected). The question “Who designed this thing?” is senseless unless we know (or are quite confident) that the thing was designed. Since ID theory is limited to detecting design, questions about the designer are inappropriate until the case for design has been made (that is to say, until that case has been widely accepted among scientists).

    7) Anton: “Let the record show that Jim never dealt with the fact that organisms were identified as intermediate/transitional well before Darwin, as by Jussieu.”

    In what sense did Jussieu identify those organisms as “intermediate/transitional” forms? As a matter of logic, it is utterly senseless to describe an organism as intermediate and transitional (in an evolutionary sense) unless evolution is assumed. A platypus exhibits both mammalian and reptilian features, but it can’t be described as intermediate and transitional on that basis. We must instead assume that it’s intermediate and transitional between some ancestral form (a reptile, perhaps?) and some form that’s yet to come (a mammal, perhaps?). A platypus may be intermediate between reptiles and mammals on a morphological basis, but we can’t describe it as intermediate AND transitional unless we assume evolution. Darwinism predicts intermediate, transitional forms, but if we identify intermediate, transitional forms on the basis of that prediction, we don’t confirm Darwinism. A theory can’t be consulted to confirm itself. If we allow the predictions of a theory to determine our interpretation of the evidence, we’ve made confirmation of the theory self-referential. Such circularity in reasoning can’t confirm anything.

    8) Anton: “The sequence cannot be identified as having (complex specified information) unless the person who made it tells you what the specification is.”

    Not so, Anton. You’ll have no problem identifying that this sequence of letters has been specified without the specifier telling you what the specifications are. Developing the tools needed to identify specifications in biological systems is one of the tasks of ID theorists.

    9) Anton: “Note that Sternberg refuses to reveal the identities of his reviewers…”

    Quite so. Identifying the reviewers would have been contrary to the protocols of peer review, thus unethical.

    10) Anton: “Science always asks questions about the designer before concluding design.”

    Not so. Design inferences come from analyses of the things whose design is in question, not from knowledge of the designer(s). If the designer must be known before design can be inferred, then SETI researchers are wasting time and resources searching the universe for radio signals that, by virtue of their specified complexity, could be confidently attributed to extraterrestrial intelligence. As you explain it, SETI researches must know that ET exists before they can attribute a radio signal to him, yet ET’s existence is the very thing they want to discover. How? By detecting radio signals exhibiting specified complexity, the hallmark of design. Such signals would implicate a designer (ET) without providing the designer’s exact identity or his biography.

    That’s enough for now. I may pick this back up later tonight, but for now, I’ve got some reading to do.

  373. #375 Jim
    September 17, 2007

    Jim: “If Spriggina is the evolutionary precursor of trilobites, where in the fossil record is the ‘unambiguous continuum of transitional species exhibiting a perfect gradation of skeletal form leading unarguably’ from Spriggina to trilobites?”
    David: “We have already explained that you can’t expect that from the fossil record of organisms without hard parts (and that well over half a billion years ago).”

    Perhaps, but if fish evolved into men by way of the gradual accumulation of adaptive variations, where is the unambiguous continuum of transitional species exhibiting a perfect gradation of skeletal form leading unarguably from fish to amphibians to reptiles to mammals to man? Why does the fossil record persistently fail to demonstrate incremental Darwinian evolution (as Gould, Eldredge, and others have noted)? Why must we always assume that the problem is with the fossils? Why shouldn’t we entertain the idea that the problem is with the theory?

    David:”…we don’t go around ‘identifying intermediate forms’.”

    Then why do you insist that such forms have been identified?

    Torbjrn: “Since you concede that natural selection is an evolutionary mechanism, you should recognize that (Dawkins’s) weasel algorithm is a relevant evolutionary algorithm. It illustrates how selection speeds up evolution. Note that there are many possible alternatives to the paths taken to fulfilling the fitness constraints.”

    Dawkins’s weasel algorithm is irrelevant to Darwinian theory because it has only one possible outcome. The selection function in his algorithm dictates the preservation of randomly generated letters that match the target sequence (“methinks it is like a weasel”). A selection function of that kind is quite un-Darwinian. Rather than mimicking natural selection, it smuggles intelligence into a process that is supposed to operate without any intelligent guidance whatsoever. To the extent that Dawkins’s algorithm demonstrates anything, it demonstrates that a selection function chosen by an intelligent agent to produce a predetermined outcome can quickly produce that outcome; it doesn’t illustrate that natural selection (which has no targets) “speeds up evolution.”

  374. #376 Jim
    September 17, 2007

    Jim: “I argued that if species are defined in terms of reproductive isolation, then demonstrating that the primary Darwinian mechanism (i.e., random mutations acted on by natural selection) can cause such speciation doesn’t also demonstrate that the Darwinian mechanism can do all the macroevolutionary work that Darwinists want to attribute to it (such as the generation of new organisms, new organs, new systems, etc.).”
    David: “You are fully correct about this. But you overlooked the other half of science: the principle of parsimony. You have not shown that anything other than mutation and selection is necessary for explaining ‘macroevolution’.”

    Perhaps, but since Darwinists have not yet shown that mutation and selection (and associated mechanisms, such as gene flow, genetic drift, etc.) are sufficient to explain macroevolutionary events (such as the origin of organismal forms and biological systems that did not previously exist), the case is not yet closed. While abundant evidence for evolution (understood as descent with modification) has been adduced, there is precious little evidence supporting the notion that Darwinian mechanisms suffice to have produced all of life’s diversity and complexity. Aside from the evidence showing that Darwinian mechanisms have produced minor adaptive variations in the coloration of peppered moths, and in the size of finches’ beaks, and in the resistance of bacteria to antibiotics, and in the resistance of insects to insecticides, exactly what is the evidence showing that Darwinian mechanisms are sufficiently creative to have generated all of life’s diversity and complexity? If we demonstrate (as we arguably have) that Darwinian mechanisms can cause minor adaptive changes in the beaks of finches, have we also demonstrated that those mechanisms brought finches into existence in the first place, or that they can cause finches to evolve into something other than finches? Of course not. Such extrapolation is wishful speculation, not rigorous science.

  375. #377 David Marjanovi?
    September 17, 2007

    I’ll come back later today, probably. Just so much… here is a wonderful cartoon on descending from fish.

  376. #378 David Marjanovi?
    September 17, 2007

    I’ll come back later today, probably. Just so much… here is a wonderful cartoon on descending from fish.

  377. #379 David Marjanovi?
    September 17, 2007

    If we demonstrate (as we arguably have) that Darwinian mechanisms can cause minor adaptive changes in the beaks of finches, have we also demonstrated that those mechanisms brought finches into existence in the first place, or that they can cause finches to evolve into something other than finches? Of course not. Such extrapolation is wishful speculation, not rigorous science.

    It seems you keep overlooking the principle of parsimony. No, we haven’t demonstrated that “those mechanisms” did it. We have, however, demonstrated that they are enough to explain all of evolution. If you want to add yet another mechanism, show that it exists; if you can’t, show that it’s necessary (i. e. prove us wrong); if you can’t do that either, give up and realize that you have quit science.

  378. #380 David Marjanovi?
    September 17, 2007

    If we demonstrate (as we arguably have) that Darwinian mechanisms can cause minor adaptive changes in the beaks of finches, have we also demonstrated that those mechanisms brought finches into existence in the first place, or that they can cause finches to evolve into something other than finches? Of course not. Such extrapolation is wishful speculation, not rigorous science.

    It seems you keep overlooking the principle of parsimony. No, we haven’t demonstrated that “those mechanisms” did it. We have, however, demonstrated that they are enough to explain all of evolution. If you want to add yet another mechanism, show that it exists; if you can’t, show that it’s necessary (i. e. prove us wrong); if you can’t do that either, give up and realize that you have quit science.

  379. #381 Josh
    September 17, 2007

    Windy,
    RE: soapstone…I’m sorry…I *totally* missed that one before. Laughing my ass off.

  380. #382 Josh
    September 17, 2007

    Jim wrote: 9) Anton: “Note that Sternberg refuses to reveal the identities of his reviewers…”

    Quite so. Identifying the reviewers would have been contrary to the protocols of peer review, thus unethical.

    Well, not really I don’t think. Peer review probably shouldn’t be set up as though it equals anonymity. Anonymous peer review has its place, and is common. But it is also often the refuge of self-important assholes with persecution complexes and tendencies to hold a grudge (things that tend to reduce objectivity). As such, whereas some journals force us to remain anonymous, it is also fairly common for other journals to extend the option to reviewers to reveal themselves. I almost always sign my reviews if it’s a journal that allows it. If it’s accepted practice to allow reviewers to be identified to the paper’s author(s), how it is somehow unethical to allow wider release of that information?

  381. #383 Jim
    September 17, 2007

    Jim: “If we demonstrate (as we arguably have) that Darwinian mechanisms can cause minor adaptive changes in the beaks of finches, have we also demonstrated that those mechanisms brought finches into existence in the first place, or that they can cause finches to evolve into something other than finches? Of course not. Such extrapolation is wishful speculation, not rigorous science.”

    David: “It seems you keep overlooking the principle of parsimony. No, we haven’t demonstrated that ‘those mechanisms’ did it. We have, however, demonstrated that they are enough to explain all of evolution.”

    When has it been demonstrated that Darwinian mechanisms are sufficient to have caused all macroevolutionary events, such as the presumed evolution of men from fish (by way of amphibians, reptiles, and some unknown mammal)? What repeatable experiments have been done to demonstrate the ability of Darwinian mechanisms to have produced the extraordinary complexity that characterizes living organisms? We’ve shown that Darwinian mechanisms can make minor adaptive changes to already-existing complexity, but when has it been shown that those mechanisms can (or did) generate biological novelty (i.e., new organisms, new organs, new systems, etc.)? How would you answer the following, taken from a paper by design theorist Steven C. Meyer?

    >In a recent volume of the Vienna Series in a Theoretical Biology (2003), Gerd B. Muller and Stuart Newman argue that what they call the “origination of organismal form” remains an unsolved problem. In making this claim, Muller and Newman (2003:3-10) distinguish two distinct issues, namely, (1) the causes of form generation in the individual organism during embryological development and (2) the causes responsible for the production of novel organismal forms in the first place during the history of life. To distinguish the latter case (phylogeny) from the former (ontogeny), Muller and Newman use the term “origination” to designate the causal processes by which biological form first arose during the evolution of life. They insist that “the molecular mechanisms that bring about biological form in modern day embryos should not be confused” with the causes responsible for the origin (or “origination”) of novel biological forms during the history of life (p.3). They further argue that we know more about the causes of ontogenesis, due to advances in molecular biology, molecular genetics and developmental biology, than we do about the causes of phylogenesis–the ultimate origination of new biological forms during the remote past.

    >In making this claim, Muller and Newman are careful to affirm that evolutionary biology has succeeded in explaining how preexisting forms diversify under the twin influences of natural selection and variation of genetic traits. Sophisticated mathematically-based models of population genetics have proven adequate for mapping and understanding quantitative variability and populational changes in organisms. Yet Muller and Newman insist that population genetics, and thus evolutionary biology, has not identified a specifically causal explanation for the origin of true morphological novelty during the history of life. Central to their concern is what they see as the inadequacy of the variation of genetic traits as a source of new form and structure. They note, following Darwin himself, that the sources of new form and structure must precede the action of natural selection (2003:3)–that selection must act on what already exists. Yet, in their view, the “genocentricity” and “incrementalism” of the neo-Darwinian mechanism has meant that an adequate source of new form and structure has yet to be identified by theoretical biologists. Instead, Muller and Newman see the need to identify epigenetic sources of morphological innovation during the evolution of life. In the meantime, however, they insist neo-Darwinism lacks any “theory of the generative” (p. 7).

    >As it happens, Muller and Newman are not alone in this judgment. In the last decade or so a host of scientific essays and books have questioned the efficacy of selection and mutation as a mechanism for generating morphological novelty, as even a brief literature survey will establish. Thomson (1992:107) expressed doubt that large-scale morphological changes could accumulate via minor phenotypic changes at the population genetic level. Miklos (1993:29) argued that neo-Darwinism fails to provide a mechanism that can produce large-scale innovations in form and complexity. Gilbert et al. (1996) attempted to develop a new theory of evolutionary mechanisms to supplement classical neo-Darwinism, which, they argued, could not adequately explain macroevolution. As they put it in a memorable summary of the situation: “starting in the 1970s, many biologists began questioning its (neo-Darwinism’s) adequacy in explaining evolution. Genetics might be adequate for explaining microevolution, but microevolutionary changes in gene frequency were not seen as able to turn a reptile into a mammal or to convert a fish into an amphibian. Microevolution looks at adaptations that concern the survival of the fittest, not the arrival of the fittest. As Goodwin (1995) points out, ‘the origin of species–Darwin’s problem–remains unsolved'” (p. 361). Though Gilbert et al. (1996) attempted to solve the problem of the origin of form by proposing a greater role for developmental genetics within an otherwise neo-Darwinian framework,1 numerous recent authors have continued to raise questions about the adequacy of that framework itself or about the problem of the origination of form generally (Webster & Goodwin 1996; Shubin & Marshall 2000; Erwin 2000; Conway Morris 2000, 2003b; Carroll 2000; Wagner 2001; Becker & Lonnig 2001; Stadler et al. 2001; Lonnig & Saedler 2002; Wagner & Stadler 2003; Valentine 2004:189-194).< (end quote) The entire essay can be found at: http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/index.php?command=view&id=2177

    David: “If you want to add yet another mechanism, show that it exists; if you can’t, show that it’s necessary (i. e. prove us wrong)…”

    The purpose of intelligent design is to show (with mathematical, logical, and scientific rigor) that Darwinian mechanisms do not suffice to explain all of life’s diversity and complexity and that design inferences are often justified by analyses of biological systems. ID does not propose to “add yet another mechanism” because intelligence is creative, not mechanistic. How an intelligent agent (or cause, or force) might have actualized design in biological systems is a legitimate line of scientific research, but such research is unlikely to make much progress until a scientific consensus exists to support it. Developing that consensus is one of the initial tasks of the science of intelligent design.

  382. #384 MAJeff
    September 17, 2007

    Developing that consensus is one of the initial tasks of the science of intelligent design.

    What science?

  383. #385 Jim
    September 17, 2007

    Jim: “Developing that consensus is one of the initial tasks of the science of intelligent design.”

    MAJeff: “What science?”

    Unless you familiarize yourself with intelligent design by reading some of the works of design theorists, you’ll never know. You certainly won’t become sufficiently versed in ID to assess its scientific legitimacy by reading the persistent misrepresentations of it peddled by such ID opponents as Barbara Forrest, PZ Myers, Ed Brayton, Robert Pennock, etc.

  384. #386 Kseniya
    September 17, 2007

    Jim:

    You’ve been a model of civility (so has Jim V, and – once he came to his senses – Kseniya)

    In my defense, I’d like to claim that my initial incivility was a lapse, and that I’m typically pretty civil here. (And elsewhere.)

    FYI, FWIW, I am a her not a he. 🙂

  385. #387 David Marjanovi?
    September 17, 2007

    once he came to his senses – Kseniya

    That’s a she, as you can see simply from her final -a.

    In what sense did Jussieu identify those organisms as “intermediate/transitional” forms? As a matter of logic, it is utterly senseless to describe an organism as intermediate and transitional (in an evolutionary sense) unless evolution is assumed. A platypus exhibits both mammalian and reptilian features, but it can’t be described as intermediate and transitional on that basis.

    You’re still wrong. Something can be intermediate in shape without being intermediate in history.

    Jussieu was, as far as I’m aware (and as one can guess with quite high certainty from the time of his life), a creationist. For him, life was not a tree, it was a tape. Each trait occurred along a certain part of the tape, and all those parts overlapped. (I don’t know if the tape had ends or formed a circle, but in any case it was not branched.)

    For the record, one might well say that, because of its beak, the platypus is intermediate between birds and mammals as well as an intermediate between “reptiles” and mammals. (I don’t know if the platypus was already known to Jussieu, and he was a botanist anyway, so I don’t think he made that argument.)

    Now comes the interesting part. We find only small parts of Jussieu’s tape in nature. However, we find intermediates between those parts — we don’t find a tape, we find a tree. For example, the platypus is not intermediate between the house mouse and the sand lizard; instead, the monotremes as a whole are intermediate between Theria (placentals + marsupials) as a whole and sauropsids (turtles, lizards + snakes, crocodiles, birds) as a whole, and the amphibians as a whole are intermediate between all of the above as a whole and the lungfish as a whole.

    It also turns out that the beaks of the monotremes are actually quite different from bird beaks (and for that matter turtle beaks) in build, and I haven’t mentioned a single fossil yet.

    Given the fact of “microevolution”, it makes sense to interpret this morphological ( = shape) tree as the result of a genealogical tree. But that’s a conclusion; it’s not part of the observation, and it’s not an a priori assumption.

    (You will also have noticed that nobody claims the platypus is our ancestor. Instead, the interpretation goes, Theria and Monotremata share a common ancestor that they do not share with Sauropsida.)

    A platypus may be intermediate between reptiles and mammals on a morphological basis, but we can’t describe it as intermediate AND transitional unless we assume evolution.

    Oh, you only have a different definition of “transitional” than I. OK, I’ll stop using “transitional” when I mean “morphologically intermediate”.

    Perhaps, but if fish evolved into men by way of the gradual accumulation of adaptive variations, where is the unambiguous continuum of transitional species exhibiting a perfect gradation of skeletal form leading unarguably from fish to amphibians to reptiles to mammals to man?

    We have a whole tree full of intermediate species, with ever-increasing resolution. If you aren’t satisfied with that, given the quality of the fossil record (which you seem to consistently overestimate by orders of magnitude), you probably just don’t know what I’m talking about. I’ll go look for some links, and I repeat my recommendation of books like Carl Zimmer’s At the Water’s Edge.

    Why does the fossil record persistently fail to demonstrate incremental Darwinian evolution (as Gould, Eldredge, and others have noted)? Why must we always assume that the problem is with the fossils? Why shouldn’t we entertain the idea that the problem is with the theory?

    Ah, now it gets interesting. Why have neither Gould nor Eldredge ever doubted mutation & selection?

    Because you have misunderstood them. Punctuated equilibrium means that, on timescales of hundreds of thousands of years and less, periods of long periods of stabilizing selection (that is, natural selection working against variation, because the mode of the variation is best adapted to the present environment) are interrupted by short periods of directional selection (that is, natural selection favoring one tail of the Gauss curve, because the mode of the variation is no longer best adapted to the environment, which has recently changed). These short periods they called speciation (which makes sense under some species concepts, and less sense under others).

    Now, tell me if you can read papers on this page. That’s the July 2001 issue of TREE (Trends in Ecology and Evolution), a special issue on speciation. You should, at the very least, read the paper on “Speciation in the fossil record”. If you can’t, tell me your e-mail address, and I’ll send you the pdf.

    Or just read this paper, which is free-access and in HTML, and probably says much the same, including the most important figure, which shows the rarer of the two cases — a gradual speciation, happening among diatoms in the Pacific. Unlike vertebrates, diatoms have an excellent fossil record: much of the ocean-floor mud consists of their skeletons.

    David:”…we don’t go around ‘identifying intermediate forms’.”
    Then why do you insist that such forms have been identified?

    I was trying to say that we don’t go around looking for transitional forms, because we already expect that everything is intermediate. If by “transitional” you only mean “direct ancestors”, then there’s next to no hope of finding any in any group with a fossil record worse than that of diatoms or the like. If you mean “very close to a direct ancestor”, then the collections are full of them.

    Dawkins’s weasel algorithm is irrelevant to Darwinian theory because it has only one possible outcome. The selection function in his algorithm dictates the preservation of randomly generated letters that match the target sequence (“methinks it is like a weasel”). A selection function of that kind is quite un-Darwinian. Rather than mimicking natural selection, it smuggles intelligence into a process that is supposed to operate without any intelligent guidance whatsoever.

    I don’t see where the intelligence is. What the process models is strong and constant natural selection to a very narrowly defined outcome. This is only unrealistic in that the possible outcomes are usually broader — anything that works works. Still, we get the phenomenon of convergence (all over the place — it’s the biggest problem in phylogenetics, and among the most interesting topics in evolutionary biology). The most famous example is that tuna, big sharks, ichthyosaurs, the most strictly marine crocodiles like Metriorhynchus, and dolphins all have the same shape because there aren’t many ways of skinning this particular cat (fast, energy-efficient swimming — as opposed to effective acceleration). I don’t see where Dawkins’ algorithm strongly differs from this case.

    David: “You are fully correct about this. But you overlooked the other half of science: the principle of parsimony. You have not shown that anything other than mutation and selection is necessary for explaining ‘macroevolution’.”
    Perhaps, but since Darwinists have not yet shown that mutation and selection (and associated mechanisms, such as gene flow, genetic drift, etc.) are sufficient to explain macroevolutionary events (such as the origin of organismal forms and biological systems that did not previously exist), the case is not yet closed.

    You still underestimate the principle of parsimony. No case is ever truly closed — but the burden of evidence is on your side. Show me that “microevolution”, accumulated over tens of millions of years, is something other than “macroevolution”.

    exactly what is the evidence showing that Darwinian mechanisms are sufficiently creative to have generated all of life’s diversity and complexity?

    Show me they are not sufficient. I don’t see why they shouldn’t be.

    If we demonstrate (as we arguably have) that Darwinian mechanisms can cause minor adaptive changes in the beaks of finches, have we also demonstrated that those mechanisms brought finches into existence in the first place, or that they can cause finches to evolve into something other than finches?

    What is a finch, other than a titmouse with a thickened beak?

    What am I, other than a short-haired, tall, lanky ape with a babyface?

    What is Tiktaalik, other than Panderichthys without gill lids?

    What is Sapeornis, other than Archaeopteryx with a shrunk tail, lengthened wings, and shrunk 3rd fingers?

    What is Morganucodon, other than a shrunk Chiniquodon with broadened jaw joints and a longer, thinner tail?

    Your use of “bringing into existence” and “something other” is misleading you.

    I almost always sign my reviews if it’s a journal that allows it. If it’s accepted practice to allow reviewers to be identified to the paper’s author(s),

    It is also customary to thank all reviewers in the acknowledgments, whether anonymous or not. Here’s the relevant sentence from the paper I and my thesis supervisor (in this order) published in June:

    The draft was improved by comments from Susan Evans, Norman MacLeod, Roderic Page, Jean-Claude Rage, Armand de Ricqls, Jorge Cubo, and an anonymous referee.

    R. Page is the editor of the journal, and N. MacLeod is the responsible associate editor. (Both basically did peer-reviews of their own, but had no chance of remaining anonymous.) We gave the draft to A. de Ricqls and J. Cubo, who are here in the building, to read before we submitted it. The other three are peer-reviewers, two of whom chose to sign their reviews.

  386. #388 David Marjanovi?
    September 17, 2007

    once he came to his senses – Kseniya

    That’s a she, as you can see simply from her final -a.

    In what sense did Jussieu identify those organisms as “intermediate/transitional” forms? As a matter of logic, it is utterly senseless to describe an organism as intermediate and transitional (in an evolutionary sense) unless evolution is assumed. A platypus exhibits both mammalian and reptilian features, but it can’t be described as intermediate and transitional on that basis.

    You’re still wrong. Something can be intermediate in shape without being intermediate in history.

    Jussieu was, as far as I’m aware (and as one can guess with quite high certainty from the time of his life), a creationist. For him, life was not a tree, it was a tape. Each trait occurred along a certain part of the tape, and all those parts overlapped. (I don’t know if the tape had ends or formed a circle, but in any case it was not branched.)

    For the record, one might well say that, because of its beak, the platypus is intermediate between birds and mammals as well as an intermediate between “reptiles” and mammals. (I don’t know if the platypus was already known to Jussieu, and he was a botanist anyway, so I don’t think he made that argument.)

    Now comes the interesting part. We find only small parts of Jussieu’s tape in nature. However, we find intermediates between those parts — we don’t find a tape, we find a tree. For example, the platypus is not intermediate between the house mouse and the sand lizard; instead, the monotremes as a whole are intermediate between Theria (placentals + marsupials) as a whole and sauropsids (turtles, lizards + snakes, crocodiles, birds) as a whole, and the amphibians as a whole are intermediate between all of the above as a whole and the lungfish as a whole.

    It also turns out that the beaks of the monotremes are actually quite different from bird beaks (and for that matter turtle beaks) in build, and I haven’t mentioned a single fossil yet.

    Given the fact of “microevolution”, it makes sense to interpret this morphological ( = shape) tree as the result of a genealogical tree. But that’s a conclusion; it’s not part of the observation, and it’s not an a priori assumption.

    (You will also have noticed that nobody claims the platypus is our ancestor. Instead, the interpretation goes, Theria and Monotremata share a common ancestor that they do not share with Sauropsida.)

    A platypus may be intermediate between reptiles and mammals on a morphological basis, but we can’t describe it as intermediate AND transitional unless we assume evolution.

    Oh, you only have a different definition of “transitional” than I. OK, I’ll stop using “transitional” when I mean “morphologically intermediate”.

    Perhaps, but if fish evolved into men by way of the gradual accumulation of adaptive variations, where is the unambiguous continuum of transitional species exhibiting a perfect gradation of skeletal form leading unarguably from fish to amphibians to reptiles to mammals to man?

    We have a whole tree full of intermediate species, with ever-increasing resolution. If you aren’t satisfied with that, given the quality of the fossil record (which you seem to consistently overestimate by orders of magnitude), you probably just don’t know what I’m talking about. I’ll go look for some links, and I repeat my recommendation of books like Carl Zimmer’s At the Water’s Edge.

    Why does the fossil record persistently fail to demonstrate incremental Darwinian evolution (as Gould, Eldredge, and others have noted)? Why must we always assume that the problem is with the fossils? Why shouldn’t we entertain the idea that the problem is with the theory?

    Ah, now it gets interesting. Why have neither Gould nor Eldredge ever doubted mutation & selection?

    Because you have misunderstood them. Punctuated equilibrium means that, on timescales of hundreds of thousands of years and less, periods of long periods of stabilizing selection (that is, natural selection working against variation, because the mode of the variation is best adapted to the present environment) are interrupted by short periods of directional selection (that is, natural selection favoring one tail of the Gauss curve, because the mode of the variation is no longer best adapted to the environment, which has recently changed). These short periods they called speciation (which makes sense under some species concepts, and less sense under others).

    Now, tell me if you can read papers on this page. That’s the July 2001 issue of TREE (Trends in Ecology and Evolution), a special issue on speciation. You should, at the very least, read the paper on “Speciation in the fossil record”. If you can’t, tell me your e-mail address, and I’ll send you the pdf.

    Or just read this paper, which is free-access and in HTML, and probably says much the same, including the most important figure, which shows the rarer of the two cases — a gradual speciation, happening among diatoms in the Pacific. Unlike vertebrates, diatoms have an excellent fossil record: much of the ocean-floor mud consists of their skeletons.

    David:”…we don’t go around ‘identifying intermediate forms’.”
    Then why do you insist that such forms have been identified?

    I was trying to say that we don’t go around looking for transitional forms, because we already expect that everything is intermediate. If by “transitional” you only mean “direct ancestors”, then there’s next to no hope of finding any in any group with a fossil record worse than that of diatoms or the like. If you mean “very close to a direct ancestor”, then the collections are full of them.

    Dawkins’s weasel algorithm is irrelevant to Darwinian theory because it has only one possible outcome. The selection function in his algorithm dictates the preservation of randomly generated letters that match the target sequence (“methinks it is like a weasel”). A selection function of that kind is quite un-Darwinian. Rather than mimicking natural selection, it smuggles intelligence into a process that is supposed to operate without any intelligent guidance whatsoever.

    I don’t see where the intelligence is. What the process models is strong and constant natural selection to a very narrowly defined outcome. This is only unrealistic in that the possible outcomes are usually broader — anything that works works. Still, we get the phenomenon of convergence (all over the place — it’s the biggest problem in phylogenetics, and among the most interesting topics in evolutionary biology). The most famous example is that tuna, big sharks, ichthyosaurs, the most strictly marine crocodiles like Metriorhynchus, and dolphins all have the same shape because there aren’t many ways of skinning this particular cat (fast, energy-efficient swimming — as opposed to effective acceleration). I don’t see where Dawkins’ algorithm strongly differs from this case.

    David: “You are fully correct about this. But you overlooked the other half of science: the principle of parsimony. You have not shown that anything other than mutation and selection is necessary for explaining ‘macroevolution’.”
    Perhaps, but since Darwinists have not yet shown that mutation and selection (and associated mechanisms, such as gene flow, genetic drift, etc.) are sufficient to explain macroevolutionary events (such as the origin of organismal forms and biological systems that did not previously exist), the case is not yet closed.

    You still underestimate the principle of parsimony. No case is ever truly closed — but the burden of evidence is on your side. Show me that “microevolution”, accumulated over tens of millions of years, is something other than “macroevolution”.

    exactly what is the evidence showing that Darwinian mechanisms are sufficiently creative to have generated all of life’s diversity and complexity?

    Show me they are not sufficient. I don’t see why they shouldn’t be.

    If we demonstrate (as we arguably have) that Darwinian mechanisms can cause minor adaptive changes in the beaks of finches, have we also demonstrated that those mechanisms brought finches into existence in the first place, or that they can cause finches to evolve into something other than finches?

    What is a finch, other than a titmouse with a thickened beak?

    What am I, other than a short-haired, tall, lanky ape with a babyface?

    What is Tiktaalik, other than Panderichthys without gill lids?

    What is Sapeornis, other than Archaeopteryx with a shrunk tail, lengthened wings, and shrunk 3rd fingers?

    What is Morganucodon, other than a shrunk Chiniquodon with broadened jaw joints and a longer, thinner tail?

    Your use of “bringing into existence” and “something other” is misleading you.

    I almost always sign my reviews if it’s a journal that allows it. If it’s accepted practice to allow reviewers to be identified to the paper’s author(s),

    It is also customary to thank all reviewers in the acknowledgments, whether anonymous or not. Here’s the relevant sentence from the paper I and my thesis supervisor (in this order) published in June:

    The draft was improved by comments from Susan Evans, Norman MacLeod, Roderic Page, Jean-Claude Rage, Armand de Ricqls, Jorge Cubo, and an anonymous referee.

    R. Page is the editor of the journal, and N. MacLeod is the responsible associate editor. (Both basically did peer-reviews of their own, but had no chance of remaining anonymous.) We gave the draft to A. de Ricqls and J. Cubo, who are here in the building, to read before we submitted it. The other three are peer-reviewers, two of whom chose to sign their reviews.

  387. #389 Stanton
    September 17, 2007

    Unless you familiarize yourself with intelligent design by reading some of the works of design theorists, you’ll never know. You certainly won’t become sufficiently versed in ID to assess its scientific legitimacy by reading the persistent misrepresentations of it peddled by such ID opponents as Barbara Forrest, PZ Myers, Ed Brayton, Robert Pennock, etc.

    Anyone else notice how Jim continues to weasel out of explaining what makes Intelligent Design science, and how Intelligent Design is superior to “Darwinism”?

  388. #390 David Marjanovi?
    September 17, 2007

    When has it been demonstrated that Darwinian mechanisms are sufficient to have caused all macroevolutionary events, such as the presumed evolution of men from fish (by way of amphibians, reptiles, and some unknown mammal)?

    Why do you believe they are not sufficient? I just don’t get that. That’s something you haven’t even begun to explain, except maybe for implying an argument from personal incredulity.

    What repeatable experiments have been done to demonstrate the ability of Darwinian mechanisms to have produced the extraordinary complexity that characterizes living organisms?

    We can’t run experiments that run for tens of millions of years. We can’t make those observations in the lab, so we have to make them in the field. We can’t make experiments in astrophysics either…

    but when has it been shown that those mechanisms can (or did) generate biological novelty (i.e., new organisms, new organs, new systems, etc.)?

    I said you need to take in mind “how little is ever new” and illustrated it with a few examples. I’m awaiting your reply.

    How would you answer the following, taken from a paper by design theorist Steven C. Meyer?

    He talks about “novelty” — tell me something that really is new.

    (Besides, he misuses the word “epigenetic”.)

    Microevolution looks at adaptations that concern the survival of the fittest, not the arrival of the fittest.

    Bullshit.

    “Arrival of the fittest”? Please. Suppose a populations, suppose mutations, and suppose an environment. It follows from that alone that part of the population is fit enough and that the rest isn’t.

    As Goodwin (1995) points out, ‘the origin of species–Darwin’s problem–remains unsolved'”

    Pick any species concept, and this becomes bullshit, too.

    The purpose of intelligent design is to show (with mathematical, logical, and scientific rigor) that Darwinian mechanisms do not suffice to explain all of life’s diversity and complexity

    When has it ever tried to do that?

    Oh, you mean “irreducible complexity”? Arc, meet scaffold. Mouse trap, meet paper clip, cutting board, cheese, and biro spring. Flagellum, meet Type III secretion system. Ad infinitum vel nauseam.

    and that design inferences are often justified by analyses of biological systems.

    That it has tried to do, but only by a priori excluding the fourth possible explanation and then afterwards asserting it can’t have been at work.

    ID does not propose to “add yet another mechanism” because intelligence is creative, not mechanistic.

    Then let’s fiddle with the terminology and say “cause” instead of “mechanism”… you know what I mean.

    How an intelligent agent (or cause, or force) might have actualized design in biological systems is a legitimate line of scientific research

    …as long as Ockham’s Razor doesn’t cut it off. Which it does at present.

    Now, let’s return to Stupid Design. You ended up saying the designer isn’t stupid but ineffable, and I noted that thereby you had left science. Any comments? Or are you happy outside science?

  389. #391 David Marjanovi?
    September 17, 2007

    When has it been demonstrated that Darwinian mechanisms are sufficient to have caused all macroevolutionary events, such as the presumed evolution of men from fish (by way of amphibians, reptiles, and some unknown mammal)?

    Why do you believe they are not sufficient? I just don’t get that. That’s something you haven’t even begun to explain, except maybe for implying an argument from personal incredulity.

    What repeatable experiments have been done to demonstrate the ability of Darwinian mechanisms to have produced the extraordinary complexity that characterizes living organisms?

    We can’t run experiments that run for tens of millions of years. We can’t make those observations in the lab, so we have to make them in the field. We can’t make experiments in astrophysics either…

    but when has it been shown that those mechanisms can (or did) generate biological novelty (i.e., new organisms, new organs, new systems, etc.)?

    I said you need to take in mind “how little is ever new” and illustrated it with a few examples. I’m awaiting your reply.

    How would you answer the following, taken from a paper by design theorist Steven C. Meyer?

    He talks about “novelty” — tell me something that really is new.

    (Besides, he misuses the word “epigenetic”.)

    Microevolution looks at adaptations that concern the survival of the fittest, not the arrival of the fittest.

    Bullshit.

    “Arrival of the fittest”? Please. Suppose a populations, suppose mutations, and suppose an environment. It follows from that alone that part of the population is fit enough and that the rest isn’t.

    As Goodwin (1995) points out, ‘the origin of species–Darwin’s problem–remains unsolved'”

    Pick any species concept, and this becomes bullshit, too.

    The purpose of intelligent design is to show (with mathematical, logical, and scientific rigor) that Darwinian mechanisms do not suffice to explain all of life’s diversity and complexity

    When has it ever tried to do that?

    Oh, you mean “irreducible complexity”? Arc, meet scaffold. Mouse trap, meet paper clip, cutting board, cheese, and biro spring. Flagellum, meet Type III secretion system. Ad infinitum vel nauseam.

    and that design inferences are often justified by analyses of biological systems.

    That it has tried to do, but only by a priori excluding the fourth possible explanation and then afterwards asserting it can’t have been at work.

    ID does not propose to “add yet another mechanism” because intelligence is creative, not mechanistic.

    Then let’s fiddle with the terminology and say “cause” instead of “mechanism”… you know what I mean.

    How an intelligent agent (or cause, or force) might have actualized design in biological systems is a legitimate line of scientific research

    …as long as Ockham’s Razor doesn’t cut it off. Which it does at present.

    Now, let’s return to Stupid Design. You ended up saying the designer isn’t stupid but ineffable, and I noted that thereby you had left science. Any comments? Or are you happy outside science?

  390. #392 Stanton
    September 17, 2007

    Now, let’s return to Stupid Design. You ended up saying the designer isn’t stupid but ineffable, and I noted that thereby you had left science. Any comments? Or are you happy outside science?

    Don’t be silly, David, Jim and all other Intelligent Design proponents aren’t going to be happy until the definitions of Science are rewritten so that Intelligent Design is science, while Evolutionary Biology is not.

  391. #393 windy
    September 17, 2007

    Jim, why aren’t there any fossils of the designer?

  392. #394 jeffox backtrollin'
    September 17, 2007

    I do think that men evolved from fish. Well, from eating them, anyway. 🙂

  393. #395 Brownian
    September 17, 2007

    Compare

    Brownian: “Jim…your comments, questions, and criticisms are indicative of someone whose knowledge of the theory of evolution is second hand…”

    Aside from evolutionary scientists doing research in the field, everyone’s knowledge of ToE is second hand. So what? Is only a closeted Darwinian priesthood allowed to comment on ToE?

    and

    Unless you familiarize yourself with intelligent design by reading some of the works of design theorists, you’ll never know. You certainly won’t become sufficiently versed in ID to assess its scientific legitimacy by reading the persistent misrepresentations of it peddled by such ID opponents as Barbara Forrest, PZ Myers, Ed Brayton, Robert Pennock, etc.

    I thought Jim wasn’t going to be around anymore. Or is this the only place he feels comfortable expressing his close-minded hypocrisy?

  394. #396 Kseniya
    September 17, 2007

    That’s a she, as you can see simply from her final -a

    Well, David, the trailing “a”, though generally reliable, isn’t a sure-fire indicator of gender of rusyn/slavic names (former Soviet Premier Nikita Krushchev comes to mind). Of course, anyone familiar with Eastern Europe or Russia would know “Kseniya” to be as ubiquitous and unambiguously feminine as “Elizabeth” is in the West, but I wouldn’t expect that of Jim or anyone else here. 🙂

  395. #397 Jim
    September 17, 2007

    Kseniya: “FYI, FWIW, I am a her not a he.”

    OK. I’ve never met a Kseniya before, so I wasn’t sure. I apologize for guessing wrong.

    Stanton: “Anyone else notice how Jim continues to weasel out of explaining what makes Intelligent Design science, and how Intelligent Design is superior to ‘Darwinism’?”

    The tools of intelligent design include: probability theory, recursion theory, the theory of cellular automata, stochastic process theory, information theory, computer science, molecular biology, microbiology, biochemistry, paleontology, genetics, developmental biology, and philosophy of science (to name just those that come readily to mind). You tell me: Which of those tools is religious rather than scientific?

    Whether design theory is, in some ways, superior to Darwinism remains to be seen, but – given the mounting difficulties our increasing knowledge of biological complexity presents to Darwinism – I think the smart money is on design.

    David: “Something can be intermediate in shape without being intermediate in history.”

    I’ve already acknowledged that, but if an organism is intermediate in shape (or in morphological structure) between two different organismal forms, it doesn’t follow that it must be an evolutionary transition between those two different forms (which is the only sense of “intermediate, transitional form” that is relevant to ToE).

    David: “Why have neither Gould nor Eldredge ever doubted mutation & selection?”

    I’ve neither claimed nor suggested that they have doubts that mutation and selection (the principal Darwinian mechanism) operates in nature. They do, however, have doubts about the gradualistic model proposed by Darwin and adopted by neo-Darwinists. As you no doubt know, such doubts are what led them to develop punctuated equilibrium, which is an ingenious (but unconfirmed) solution to the failure of the fossil record to reflect Darwinian gradualism.

    David: “We have a whole tree full of intermediate species, with ever-increasing resolution.”

    How are those species identified as intermediate and transitional species (in an evolutionary sense) without assuming that evolution occurred? In physics, the theory of relativity has been tested by experiments whose results can be assessed independently of the theory. If those independently assessed results match the predictions of the theory of relativity, they serve to confirm the theory (to the extent that the scientific method ever delivers confirmation). By what independent methods of assessment (i.e., methods detached from the predictions of ToE) are intermediate, transitional forms identified among the fossils? Unless intermediate, transitional forms can be identified without appealing to ToE, they can’t confirm ToE.

    David: “What is a finch, other than a titmouse with a thickened beak?”

    Well, it’s certainly not a dinosaur. On what grounds can we say that the mechanism that causes minor adaptive changes in the size of finches’ beaks is the same mechanism that caused birds to evolve from dinosaurs? Perhaps you’re too professionally invested in ToE to see the evidentiary and theoretical problems with it that are so obvious to me (and to many others).

  396. #398 MAJeff
    September 17, 2007

    shorter Jim: You’ll understand ID is science once you stop listening to scientists.

  397. #399 Jim
    September 17, 2007

    Jim: “When has it been demonstrated that Darwinian mechanisms are sufficient to have caused all macroevolutionary events, such as the presumed evolution of men from fish (by way of amphibians, reptiles, and some unknown mammal)?”

    David: “Why do you believe they are not sufficient? I just don’t get that. That’s something you haven’t even begun to explain, except maybe for implying an argument from personal incredulity.”

    Why do you believe they are sufficient? That’s something you haven’t even begun to explain, except maybe for implying an argument from personal credulity.

    David: “(Meyer) talks about ‘novelty’ — tell me something that really is new.”

    I should think that’s obvious. Darwinism posits that all life evolved by unguided means from some common ancestor, presumably a self-replicating molecule of some kind that somehow came into existence to get the evolutionary ball rolling. Whatever that first life form was, it certainly didn’t possess a heart, or lungs, or a nervous system, or legs, or feet, or wings, or teeth, or eyes, or skin (and so on and so on). When such biological features made their first appearance in life’s history, they were novel biological features. They may not be new now, but they were at their first appearance.

    Steven Meyer: “As Goodwin (1995) points out, ‘the origin of species–Darwin’s problem–remains unsolved'”

    David: “Pick any species concept, and this becomes bullshit, too.”

    I’ve always found “bullshit” to be a quite compelling argument. Well done.

    David: “…let’s return to Stupid Design. You ended up saying the designer isn’t stupid but ineffable, and I noted that thereby you had left science. Any comments? Or are you happy outside science?”

    I’m not the one who keeps bringing up the designer. Neither are design theorists. Indeed, so far as they’re concerned, questions about the identity, nature, and purposes of the designer don’t belong to science, they belong to philosophy and theology.

    Brownian: “I thought Jim wasn’t going to be around anymore. Or is this the only place he feels comfortable expressing his close-minded hypocrisy?”

    I must say that I’m quite impressed by the open-mindedness of Darwinism’s defenders. They are all so open to the possibility that there are some rather serious problems with ToE.

  398. #400 Brownian
    September 17, 2007

    On what grounds can we say that the mechanism that causes minor adaptive changes in the size of finches’ beaks is the same mechanism that caused birds to evolve from dinosaurs?

    Good point. On what grounds can we say that the force that cause my toast to fall on the floor (Omega-3-enhanced-olive-oil-margarine-side down of course) is the same force acting to pull that toast to the bottom of the Grand Canyon should I drop it somewhere at the top?

    There are obvious theoretical problems with such an assumption. I mean, toast falling on the floor is one ‘kind’ of falling, but toast falling all the way to the bottom of the canyon is a completely different ‘kind’ of falling. I mean, I can watch the toast fall to the floor, but there’s no way I could physically watch the toast fall all the way to the bottom of the canyon. Without the assumption of the ToG, how would I even be able to tell the toast at the bottom was the same one I let go of at the top?

    Wow. This kind of thinking sure is rigorous. No wonder so many scientists are too professionally involved in gravity to test their methodologically-bereft assumptions.

  399. #401 Brownian
    September 17, 2007

    Brownian: “I thought Jim wasn’t going to be around anymore. Or is this the only place he feels comfortable expressing his close-minded hypocrisy?”

    I must say that I’m quite impressed by the open-mindedness of Darwinism’s defenders. They are all so open to the possibility that there are some rather serious problems with ToE.

    Sorry Jim. Cast aspersions on the rest of us all you like, but the fact remains that Dembski and Behe would conclude that you are an irreducibly disingenuous hypocrite.

  400. #402 Stanton
    September 17, 2007

    I said:

    “Anyone else notice how Jim continues to weasel out of explaining what makes Intelligent Design science, and how Intelligent Design is superior to ‘Darwinism’?”

    To which Jim replied:

    The tools of intelligent design include: probability theory, recursion theory, the theory of cellular automata, stochastic process theory, information theory, computer science, molecular biology, microbiology, biochemistry, paleontology, genetics, developmental biology, and philosophy of science (to name just those that come readily to mind). You tell me: Which of those tools is religious rather than scientific?

    To which I am replying:

    You have just made a list. You still have not bothered to explain how Intelligent Design works, and you still have not bothered to explain exactly how Intelligent Design is better than Evolutionary Biology. Why haven’t you used these “tools” to demonstrate how Intelligent Design explains why Biston betularia var. carbonaria is declining in Britain, why there is so much diversity among Darwin’s finches, including why there is even a blood-sucking finch, or even how Intelligent Design can explain why the platypus is the way that it is?
    That you continuously worm your way out of demonstrating Intelligent Design’s legendary explanitory power is one of the main grievances we have with you here.

  401. #403 Rey Fox
    September 17, 2007

    “Good point. On what grounds can we say that the force that cause my toast to fall on the floor (Omega-3-enhanced-olive-oil-margarine-side down of course) is the same force acting to pull that toast to the bottom of the Grand Canyon should I drop it somewhere at the top?”

    Let alone the same force causing planetary motion, tides, etc…

  402. #404 Stanton
    September 17, 2007

    One mustn’t forget the forces working on apples, or toast with actual butter, either.

  403. #405 jeffox backtrollin'
    September 17, 2007

    (Catches Brownian’s toast before it hits the bottom of the canyon) Goes good with the fish I’m eating, thanks!! 🙂

  404. #406 Kseniya
    September 17, 2007

    It’s clear that toast-dropping experiments themselves have evolved!

  405. #407 David Marjanovi?
    September 17, 2007

    (former Soviet Premier Nikita Krushchev comes to mind)

    One of the few exceptions, somehow explicable via Greek…

    The tools of intelligent design include: probability theory, recursion theory, the theory of cellular automata, stochastic process theory, information theory, computer science, molecular biology, microbiology, biochemistry, paleontology, genetics, developmental biology, and philosophy of science (to name just those that come readily to mind). You tell me: Which of those tools is religious rather than scientific?

    Assuming an ineffable designer, before even showing (within science theory = philosophy of science) that any designer is needed…

    Whether design theory is, in some ways, superior to Darwinism remains to be seen, but – given the mounting difficulties our increasing knowledge of biological complexity presents to Darwinism – I think the smart money is on design.

    You haven’t mentioned a single difficulty, only alluded to one.

    I’ve already acknowledged that, but if an organism is intermediate in shape (or in morphological structure) between two different organismal forms, it doesn’t follow that it must be an evolutionary transition between those two different forms (which is the only sense of “intermediate, transitional form” that is relevant to ToE).

    I agree. And then I went on to explain that the pattern of which intermediates we find and which we don’t find forms a tree. Why of all possible shapes (Jussieu’s tape…) a tree?

    What we find fails to disprove evolution by mutation, selection, and drift.

    I’ve neither claimed nor suggested that they have doubts that mutation and selection (the principal Darwinian mechanism) operates in nature. They do, however, have doubts about the gradualistic model proposed by Darwin and adopted by neo-Darwinists. As you no doubt know, such doubts are what led them to develop punctuated equilibrium,

    And? You seem to agree with me that it was a discussion within the theory of evolution by mutation, selection and drift, not about it.

    which is an ingenious (but unconfirmed) solution to the failure of the fossil record to reflect Darwinian gradualism.

    As you would know if you had read what I suggested you to read, both punc eq and gradualism have been found in the fossil record (the former being more common). When you say they are “unconfirmed”, you are wrong.

    How are those species identified as intermediate and transitional species (in an evolutionary sense) without assuming that evolution occurred?

    I have explained how they (and all others) are identified as intermediate.

    They are not identified as transitional without assuming that evolution occurred. The other way around: evolution is the most parsimonious explanation for the tree-shaped distribution of intermediates.

    Are you saying the designer is trying to fool us, so that the principle of parsimony doesn’t work? That’s fine — if you don’t pretend it’s science. (Keep in mind that “true” and “scientific” are not synonyms.)

    In physics, the theory of relativity has been tested by experiments whose results can be assessed independently of the theory.

    Then let’s talk a bit more about what science is. Because, you see…

    If those independently assessed results match the predictions of the theory of relativity, they serve to confirm the theory (to the extent that the scientific method ever delivers confirmation).

    …this is not strictly true.

    One very important observation that has tested the theory of relativity is not an experiment: gravitational lenses. We observe Einstein arcs, Einstein crosses, and even an Einstein ring out there, and general relativity explains them, but we can’t make them in the lab, simply because no lab can be big enough. There is no proof that there’s no supernatural being out there that bends the light with its bare hands and makes the various Hubble Deep Fields look like what we’d expect from relativity. There’s not even a proof that there’s no unknown force of nature out there that does the bending and produces the same results. There never is proof in science. Thus, we resort to Ockham’s Razor: we have a theory that predicts all those phenomena; we see all these phenomena; therefore we can explain these phenomena without a single additional assumption. Have you seen Conan the Barbarian? Do you remember the ridiculously huge ax Conan wields? That’s Ockham’s Razor.

    Still, the theory of relativity stays science. It are falsifiable. If we hadn’t found what it predicts — if we hadn’t found any such distortions of light –, this would prove that something, however small, is wrong with the theory.

    Likewise, we observe a tree-shaped pattern of morphological intermediates, with good stratigraphic fit. Whenever the quality of the fossil record allows it (and that can be assessed independently), we find the predicted intermediates at the right time on the right continent. This is exactly what we expect from the theory of evolution. It doesn’t prove it, but Ockham’s Razor means that no other explanation is necessary. Still, the theory is science. It remains falsifiable. Find me a Silurian rabbit, just a single little bunny that is 420 million years old, and it will be in big, big trouble. (Er… not the rabbit.)

    Is ID falsifiable?

    David: “What is a finch, other than a titmouse with a thickened beak?”
    Well, it’s certainly not a dinosaur.

    Hah! Just to get started: It has air sacs, like theropods in general. It is bipedal, like apparently dinosauromorphs in general (that’s an even bigger group than dinosaurs alone). It has 3 fingers in its hands, namely numbers 1, 2, and 3, like tetanuran theropods in general. It has 4 toes per foot, numbers 1, 2, 3, and 4, of which numbers 2, 3, and 4 point forward and are used for walking and running. Its ankle joint runs between the astragalus and calcaneum on the lower leg side and the distal tarsals on the other, like in dinosauromorphs generally (in crocodiles, for example, the calcaneum is on the foot side of the joint, and in mammals, both the astragalus and the calcaneum are). It has feathers, like coelurosaurs generally. It has wing and tail feathers, like maniraptorans generally. It has collarbones fused into a wishbone, like in theropods generally. Its collarbones first of all touch in the middle, like in saurischians generally. And that’s just off the top of my head!

    See? Not only is it a dinosaur, we can place it within subgroups of dinosaurs.

    If you can’t see it, just get more intermediates and look at the whole array. I recommend googling for:

    Ichthyornis
    Gansus
    Yixianornis
    Sinornis
    Jibeinia
    Confuciusornis
    Archaeopteryx
    Rahonavis
    Mahakala
    Microraptor
    Jinfengopteryx
    Caudipteryx
    Sinosauropteryx
    Dilong

    (And that’s not the whole array, only the most spectaculary well-preserved fossils.)

    I can also send you papers (as pdf) on those and more. Spend a few hours reading and looking at pictures! You can’t do science as a third job. 🙂

    On what grounds can we say that the mechanism that causes minor adaptive changes in the size of finches’ beaks is the same mechanism that caused birds to evolve from dinosaurs?

    On the principle of parsimony.

    Perhaps you’re too professionally invested in ToE

    I’m a PhD student; I don’t work, I mean, for money, and because of bureaucratic reasons, I haven’t even started the thesis yet. If common descent (not just the ToE by mutation, selection, and drift!!!) fell down overnight, half of my PhD topic would evaporate, but the other half would still be enough work, and I could always add some functional morphology or whatever. I don’t see why I should feel threatened.

    to see the evidentiary and theoretical problems with it that are so obvious to me

    You keep saying that. You also keep not mentioning even one of them. All you make is an argument from personal incredulity (a logical fallacy) and ignorance (another logical fallacy): “Waaah, they are all so different, they can’t have evolved by conventional means”. Should such a thing happen to someone with an IQ of 150, let alone more?

    Show me one of the “evidentiary and theoretical problems”, and then we can discuss about it. Put up or shut up.

    (and to many others).

    Argument from majority. The third logical fallacy in this sentence.

    [insert automatic reminder on ineffable designer vs science]

  406. #408 David Marjanovi?
    September 17, 2007

    (former Soviet Premier Nikita Krushchev comes to mind)

    One of the few exceptions, somehow explicable via Greek…

    The tools of intelligent design include: probability theory, recursion theory, the theory of cellular automata, stochastic process theory, information theory, computer science, molecular biology, microbiology, biochemistry, paleontology, genetics, developmental biology, and philosophy of science (to name just those that come readily to mind). You tell me: Which of those tools is religious rather than scientific?

    Assuming an ineffable designer, before even showing (within science theory = philosophy of science) that any designer is needed…

    Whether design theory is, in some ways, superior to Darwinism remains to be seen, but – given the mounting difficulties our increasing knowledge of biological complexity presents to Darwinism – I think the smart money is on design.

    You haven’t mentioned a single difficulty, only alluded to one.

    I’ve already acknowledged that, but if an organism is intermediate in shape (or in morphological structure) between two different organismal forms, it doesn’t follow that it must be an evolutionary transition between those two different forms (which is the only sense of “intermediate, transitional form” that is relevant to ToE).

    I agree. And then I went on to explain that the pattern of which intermediates we find and which we don’t find forms a tree. Why of all possible shapes (Jussieu’s tape…) a tree?

    What we find fails to disprove evolution by mutation, selection, and drift.

    I’ve neither claimed nor suggested that they have doubts that mutation and selection (the principal Darwinian mechanism) operates in nature. They do, however, have doubts about the gradualistic model proposed by Darwin and adopted by neo-Darwinists. As you no doubt know, such doubts are what led them to develop punctuated equilibrium,

    And? You seem to agree with me that it was a discussion within the theory of evolution by mutation, selection and drift, not about it.

    which is an ingenious (but unconfirmed) solution to the failure of the fossil record to reflect Darwinian gradualism.

    As you would know if you had read what I suggested you to read, both punc eq and gradualism have been found in the fossil record (the former being more common). When you say they are “unconfirmed”, you are wrong.

    How are those species identified as intermediate and transitional species (in an evolutionary sense) without assuming that evolution occurred?

    I have explained how they (and all others) are identified as intermediate.

    They are not identified as transitional without assuming that evolution occurred. The other way around: evolution is the most parsimonious explanation for the tree-shaped distribution of intermediates.

    Are you saying the designer is trying to fool us, so that the principle of parsimony doesn’t work? That’s fine — if you don’t pretend it’s science. (Keep in mind that “true” and “scientific” are not synonyms.)

    In physics, the theory of relativity has been tested by experiments whose results can be assessed independently of the theory.

    Then let’s talk a bit more about what science is. Because, you see…

    If those independently assessed results match the predictions of the theory of relativity, they serve to confirm the theory (to the extent that the scientific method ever delivers confirmation).

    …this is not strictly true.

    One very important observation that has tested the theory of relativity is not an experiment: gravitational lenses. We observe Einstein arcs, Einstein crosses, and even an Einstein ring out there, and general relativity explains them, but we can’t make them in the lab, simply because no lab can be big enough. There is no proof that there’s no supernatural being out there that bends the light with its bare hands and makes the various Hubble Deep Fields look like what we’d expect from relativity. There’s not even a proof that there’s no unknown force of nature out there that does the bending and produces the same results. There never is proof in science. Thus, we resort to Ockham’s Razor: we have a theory that predicts all those phenomena; we see all these phenomena; therefore we can explain these phenomena without a single additional assumption. Have you seen Conan the Barbarian? Do you remember the ridiculously huge ax Conan wields? That’s Ockham’s Razor.

    Still, the theory of relativity stays science. It are falsifiable. If we hadn’t found what it predicts — if we hadn’t found any such distortions of light –, this would prove that something, however small, is wrong with the theory.

    Likewise, we observe a tree-shaped pattern of morphological intermediates, with good stratigraphic fit. Whenever the quality of the fossil record allows it (and that can be assessed independently), we find the predicted intermediates at the right time on the right continent. This is exactly what we expect from the theory of evolution. It doesn’t prove it, but Ockham’s Razor means that no other explanation is necessary. Still, the theory is science. It remains falsifiable. Find me a Silurian rabbit, just a single little bunny that is 420 million years old, and it will be in big, big trouble. (Er… not the rabbit.)

    Is ID falsifiable?

    David: “What is a finch, other than a titmouse with a thickened beak?”
    Well, it’s certainly not a dinosaur.

    Hah! Just to get started: It has air sacs, like theropods in general. It is bipedal, like apparently dinosauromorphs in general (that’s an even bigger group than dinosaurs alone). It has 3 fingers in its hands, namely numbers 1, 2, and 3, like tetanuran theropods in general. It has 4 toes per foot, numbers 1, 2, 3, and 4, of which numbers 2, 3, and 4 point forward and are used for walking and running. Its ankle joint runs between the astragalus and calcaneum on the lower leg side and the distal tarsals on the other, like in dinosauromorphs generally (in crocodiles, for example, the calcaneum is on the foot side of the joint, and in mammals, both the astragalus and the calcaneum are). It has feathers, like coelurosaurs generally. It has wing and tail feathers, like maniraptorans generally. It has collarbones fused into a wishbone, like in theropods generally. Its collarbones first of all touch in the middle, like in saurischians generally. And that’s just off the top of my head!

    See? Not only is it a dinosaur, we can place it within subgroups of dinosaurs.

    If you can’t see it, just get more intermediates and look at the whole array. I recommend googling for:

    Ichthyornis
    Gansus
    Yixianornis
    Sinornis
    Jibeinia
    Confuciusornis
    Archaeopteryx
    Rahonavis
    Mahakala
    Microraptor
    Jinfengopteryx
    Caudipteryx
    Sinosauropteryx
    Dilong

    (And that’s not the whole array, only the most spectaculary well-preserved fossils.)

    I can also send you papers (as pdf) on those and more. Spend a few hours reading and looking at pictures! You can’t do science as a third job. 🙂

    On what grounds can we say that the mechanism that causes minor adaptive changes in the size of finches’ beaks is the same mechanism that caused birds to evolve from dinosaurs?

    On the principle of parsimony.

    Perhaps you’re too professionally invested in ToE

    I’m a PhD student; I don’t work, I mean, for money, and because of bureaucratic reasons, I haven’t even started the thesis yet. If common descent (not just the ToE by mutation, selection, and drift!!!) fell down overnight, half of my PhD topic would evaporate, but the other half would still be enough work, and I could always add some functional morphology or whatever. I don’t see why I should feel threatened.

    to see the evidentiary and theoretical problems with it that are so obvious to me

    You keep saying that. You also keep not mentioning even one of them. All you make is an argument from personal incredulity (a logical fallacy) and ignorance (another logical fallacy): “Waaah, they are all so different, they can’t have evolved by conventional means”. Should such a thing happen to someone with an IQ of 150, let alone more?

    Show me one of the “evidentiary and theoretical problems”, and then we can discuss about it. Put up or shut up.

    (and to many others).

    Argument from majority. The third logical fallacy in this sentence.

    [insert automatic reminder on ineffable designer vs science]

  407. #409 Jim
    September 17, 2007

    Jim: “On what grounds can we say that the mechanism that causes minor adaptive changes in the size of finches’ beaks is the same mechanism that caused birds to evolve from dinosaurs?”

    Brownian: “Good point. On what grounds can we say that the force that cause my toast to fall on the floor (Omega-3-enhanced-olive-oil-margarine-side down of course) is the same force acting to pull that toast to the bottom of the Grand Canyon should I drop it somewhere at the top?”

    Good grief. There is no extrapolation involved in saying that the same force that causes toast to fall to the floor will also cause toast to fall to the floor of the Grand Canyon. The law of gravity applies to toast regardless of where the toast falls (or how far it falls). The outcome is the same: the toast falls until it can fall no more. But showing that the Darwinian mechanism can produce minor adaptive outcomes (or microevolution) does not also show that the mechanism can produce major creative changes (or macroevolution).

    Also, we can observe toast falling either to the kitchen floor or to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. When have we ever observed the Darwinian mechanism causing a macroevolutionary event – or even inducing a directional change in an organism that might lead to its evolving into a different kind of organism? Your toast-and-gravity analogy doesn’t work.

    Brownian: “Sorry Jim. Cast aspersions on the rest of us all you like, but the fact remains that Dembski and Behe would conclude that you are an irreducibly disingenuous hypocrite.”

    Since I’ve read several works by Darwinists, including Darwin’s “Origin of Species” (twice), how am I being hypocritical in suggesting that ID critics ought to inform themselves on ID by reading the works of ID theorists?

    Stanton: “You still have not bothered to explain how Intelligent Design works, and you still have not bothered to explain exactly how Intelligent Design is better than Evolutionary Biology. Why haven’t you used these ‘tools’ to demonstrate how Intelligent Design explains why Biston betularia var. carbonaria is declining in Britain, why there is so much diversity among Darwin’s finches, including why there is even a blood-sucking finch, or even how Intelligent Design can explain why the platypus is the way that it is?”

    I have repeatedly explained that design theory – as it is currently construed – doesn’t purport to explain “how Intelligent design works.” It instead focuses on detecting design in biological systems. If it succeeds in that regard (meaning that it becomes widely accepted), it will THEN be time to move on to research into how design might have been actualized in biological systems.

    Also, design theory can potentially explain something that Darwinism, which is totally invested in material explanations, cannot explain; namely, the origin of the biological information that shapes matter into living organisms. A theory wholly committed to material causes cannot explain, even in principle, the origin of information (which is immaterial).

    The other questions you raise are not questions that ID addresses. It can’t be expected to provide answers to questions it doesn’t addresss. And you can’t be expected to know what ID theory does or does not address until you’ve actually read some of the works of design theorists. I’m not going to do your homework for you.

  408. #410 Owlmirror
    September 17, 2007

    Jim, I have a few questions. I wonder if you have any good answers?

    You said that you were a pilot. As a pilot, I am certain that you saw many, many clouds; heck, as a mere groundpounder and occasional airline passenger, I have seen lots of clouds myself.

    Did you ever see clouds that looked like something with a recognizably terrestrial, and even biological shape? Vaguely human faces; quasi-rabbits; horse-ish things; anything like that?

    So… would you assert that clouds like those do in fact have “specified” complexity?

    Would you also assert that clouds like those are in fact designed?

    Just curious.

  409. #411 Owlmirror
    September 17, 2007

    Excuse me, my last question should have been more clear:

    Would you assert that clouds that have shapes like animals or other terrestrial things were designed by an intelligence to look that way?

  410. #412 David Marjanovi?
    September 17, 2007

    I forgot Buitreraptor in the list.

    Why do you believe they are sufficient? That’s something you haven’t even begun to explain, except maybe for implying an argument from personal credulity.

    I have explained how little is ever new. I have tried to give you an idea of how closely we can today trace the origin of limbed vertebrates, mammals, birds, and even arthropods.

    Whatever that first life form was, it certainly didn’t possess a heart, or lungs, or a nervous system, or legs, or feet, or wings, or teeth, or eyes, or skin (and so on and so on). When such biological features made their first appearance in life’s history, they were novel biological features.

    That’s what I wanted to read, thank you!

    Now, let’s see… Heart? Highschool biology: earthworms don’t have a heart, but several of their segmental blood vessels contract like a heart. Now let the guesswork begin. Localize the contraction, enlarge the vessel, and you get a heart. To get the contraction, express gut peristalsis in the wrong place. To get gut peristalsis, get a few muscle cells, a few nerve cells, and natural selection… I’m guessing because this is far from my specialty.

    Lungs? That’s closer to my specialty. Breathing air with the gut is easy. If you get air in your gut, you can’t help extracting the oxygen at least (the concentration difference alone does that). If you do that, and be it by accidentally swallowing air, you aren’t dependent on the oxygen content of the water. There are plenty of fish species today that do just that when the oxygen in the water becomes too little. But there is another advantage: Behold the blood circulation of any “fish”. The blood gets from the heart to the gills, then to the whole body, and then back to the heart. At that point, little oxygen is left. You can chase a salmon to death because of this stupid design. (Explained at more length in Carl Zimmer’s At the Water’s Edge.) In the same circulation, much blood goes to the gut shortly before reaching the heart. Get it? Now imagine a mutation that produces an evagination of the intestinal tract (it happened to be the esophagus), such as a crop for example. That is a lung (e.g. of a lungfish or amphibian), and has the massive advantage of speeding air-breathing up, because used air can easily be vomited instead of having to pass the entire gut and coming out at the other end. The trachea comes later (as mentioned, even today’s amphibians lack it, apart from a short stalk between lung and esophagus).

    Nervous system? Sponges have cells that are muscles, nerves, and connective tissue at once. A few gene duplications, and you’re all set.

    Legs and feet? Of vertebrates? Take Tiktaalik, switch off the production of fin rays (that can be done by a single mutation in a single gene), and make the bones near the end grow for a little longer than usual (that can be done by overexpressing another gene, which in turn might require a single mutation in a regulatory gene). Of arthropods? That’s harder (for my ignorance at least), but I already mentioned the hedgehog genes. How did these get their function? I suppose they started their career as growth factors.

    Wings? Of birds? Just arms with wing feathers and enlarged musculature. Of bats? Just arms with extra-long fingers (which is done by overexpression of a single gene — this research has been done) and that webbing (I don’t know where that comes from, but I suspect a bit of fibroblast growth factor overexpression in the right place should do it). Of pterosaurs? Ditto, except a single finger is lengthened. Of insects? Read PZ’s post “Flap those gills and fly!”. (Pharyngula has a working search function.)

    Teeth? Very similar to general vertebrate scales. Much has been written on that topic. Scales in general? Outgrowths of the body wall (see hedgehog), plus mineralization (calcium and phosphate are present, so wait for osteocalcin or amelogenin or whatever protein to appear by mutation and apply selection.

    Eyes? Read more. That has been explained hundreds of times all over teh intarwebz. I really don’t need to repeat that one.

    Skin? What do you mean? Epithelia in general? Cell-adhesion proteins happen — mutation & selection. The dead outer layer? Overexpress epidermal growth factor, and overexpress keratin — two mutations, plus selection against desiccation.

    Did you know that one of the proteins in the eye lenses of chickens is a dysfunctional enzyme that just happens to make transparent crystals?

    I submit (again) that you are only arguing from ignorance which has led to personal incredulity.

    I’ve always found “bullshit” to be a quite compelling argument. Well done.

    Thank you very much. Let me elaborate.

    Biological Species Concept? Wait for a mutation to appear that prevents fertile offspring with organisms that lack that mutation. For example, that can be a chromosome fusion — donkeys and horses have different chromosome numbers, so that mules have an odd number of chromosomes, which means meiosis doesn’t work properly. I really don’t understand where the mystery is supposed to be. Just wait for a mutation, and it will happen — sooner or later. There are cases where it is “later”; google “intergeneric hybrids”.

    Ecological Species Concept? Wait for a mutation that allows exploitation of another niche. Select for individuals that fit into a niche, and against individuals that fit in between ( = fit badly into any niche).

    Morphological Species Concept? Wait for the phenotype to change by mutation (selection of course helps, but is not even necessary, drift will do). Sooner or later it will happen.

    If you want me to go on, I will.

    I’m not the one who keeps bringing up the designer. Neither are design theorists. Indeed, so far as they’re concerned, questions about the identity, nature, and purposes of the designer don’t belong to science, they belong to philosophy and theology.

    A few posts above truth machine’s rant it was explained why you can’t infer a designer and then just stop asking questions without stopping doing science.

    I must say that I’m quite impressed by the open-mindedness of Darwinism’s defenders. They are all so open to the possibility that there are some rather serious problems with ToE.

    We are. That’s why we keep discussing instead of running away screaming. We are waiting for you to mention one such problem. So far (see above), you haven’t — the only problem you have shown is your own lack of knowledge, your own belief to be “widely read” even though you aren’t.

    I’ll try to find Kevin Padian’s Dover testimony for you. It will teach you a lot about the origin of limbed vertebrates.

  411. #413 David Marjanovi?
    September 17, 2007

    I forgot Buitreraptor in the list.

    Why do you believe they are sufficient? That’s something you haven’t even begun to explain, except maybe for implying an argument from personal credulity.

    I have explained how little is ever new. I have tried to give you an idea of how closely we can today trace the origin of limbed vertebrates, mammals, birds, and even arthropods.

    Whatever that first life form was, it certainly didn’t possess a heart, or lungs, or a nervous system, or legs, or feet, or wings, or teeth, or eyes, or skin (and so on and so on). When such biological features made their first appearance in life’s history, they were novel biological features.

    That’s what I wanted to read, thank you!

    Now, let’s see… Heart? Highschool biology: earthworms don’t have a heart, but several of their segmental blood vessels contract like a heart. Now let the guesswork begin. Localize the contraction, enlarge the vessel, and you get a heart. To get the contraction, express gut peristalsis in the wrong place. To get gut peristalsis, get a few muscle cells, a few nerve cells, and natural selection… I’m guessing because this is far from my specialty.

    Lungs? That’s closer to my specialty. Breathing air with the gut is easy. If you get air in your gut, you can’t help extracting the oxygen at least (the concentration difference alone does that). If you do that, and be it by accidentally swallowing air, you aren’t dependent on the oxygen content of the water. There are plenty of fish species today that do just that when the oxygen in the water becomes too little. But there is another advantage: Behold the blood circulation of any “fish”. The blood gets from the heart to the gills, then to the whole body, and then back to the heart. At that point, little oxygen is left. You can chase a salmon to death because of this stupid design. (Explained at more length in Carl Zimmer’s At the Water’s Edge.) In the same circulation, much blood goes to the gut shortly before reaching the heart. Get it? Now imagine a mutation that produces an evagination of the intestinal tract (it happened to be the esophagus), such as a crop for example. That is a lung (e.g. of a lungfish or amphibian), and has the massive advantage of speeding air-breathing up, because used air can easily be vomited instead of having to pass the entire gut and coming out at the other end. The trachea comes later (as mentioned, even today’s amphibians lack it, apart from a short stalk between lung and esophagus).

    Nervous system? Sponges have cells that are muscles, nerves, and connective tissue at once. A few gene duplications, and you’re all set.

    Legs and feet? Of vertebrates? Take Tiktaalik, switch off the production of fin rays (that can be done by a single mutation in a single gene), and make the bones near the end grow for a little longer than usual (that can be done by overexpressing another gene, which in turn might require a single mutation in a regulatory gene). Of arthropods? That’s harder (for my ignorance at least), but I already mentioned the hedgehog genes. How did these get their function? I suppose they started their career as growth factors.

    Wings? Of birds? Just arms with wing feathers and enlarged musculature. Of bats? Just arms with extra-long fingers (which is done by overexpression of a single gene — this research has been done) and that webbing (I don’t know where that comes from, but I suspect a bit of fibroblast growth factor overexpression in the right place should do it). Of pterosaurs? Ditto, except a single finger is lengthened. Of insects? Read PZ’s post “Flap those gills and fly!”. (Pharyngula has a working search function.)

    Teeth? Very similar to general vertebrate scales. Much has been written on that topic. Scales in general? Outgrowths of the body wall (see hedgehog), plus mineralization (calcium and phosphate are present, so wait for osteocalcin or amelogenin or whatever protein to appear by mutation and apply selection.

    Eyes? Read more. That has been explained hundreds of times all over teh intarwebz. I really don’t need to repeat that one.

    Skin? What do you mean? Epithelia in general? Cell-adhesion proteins happen — mutation & selection. The dead outer layer? Overexpress epidermal growth factor, and overexpress keratin — two mutations, plus selection against desiccation.

    Did you know that one of the proteins in the eye lenses of chickens is a dysfunctional enzyme that just happens to make transparent crystals?

    I submit (again) that you are only arguing from ignorance which has led to personal incredulity.

    I’ve always found “bullshit” to be a quite compelling argument. Well done.

    Thank you very much. Let me elaborate.

    Biological Species Concept? Wait for a mutation to appear that prevents fertile offspring with organisms that lack that mutation. For example, that can be a chromosome fusion — donkeys and horses have different chromosome numbers, so that mules have an odd number of chromosomes, which means meiosis doesn’t work properly. I really don’t understand where the mystery is supposed to be. Just wait for a mutation, and it will happen — sooner or later. There are cases where it is “later”; google “intergeneric hybrids”.

    Ecological Species Concept? Wait for a mutation that allows exploitation of another niche. Select for individuals that fit into a niche, and against individuals that fit in between ( = fit badly into any niche).

    Morphological Species Concept? Wait for the phenotype to change by mutation (selection of course helps, but is not even necessary, drift will do). Sooner or later it will happen.

    If you want me to go on, I will.

    I’m not the one who keeps bringing up the designer. Neither are design theorists. Indeed, so far as they’re concerned, questions about the identity, nature, and purposes of the designer don’t belong to science, they belong to philosophy and theology.

    A few posts above truth machine’s rant it was explained why you can’t infer a designer and then just stop asking questions without stopping doing science.

    I must say that I’m quite impressed by the open-mindedness of Darwinism’s defenders. They are all so open to the possibility that there are some rather serious problems with ToE.

    We are. That’s why we keep discussing instead of running away screaming. We are waiting for you to mention one such problem. So far (see above), you haven’t — the only problem you have shown is your own lack of knowledge, your own belief to be “widely read” even though you aren’t.

    I’ll try to find Kevin Padian’s Dover testimony for you. It will teach you a lot about the origin of limbed vertebrates.

  412. #414 Josh
    September 17, 2007

    Jim wrote: A theory wholly committed to material causes cannot explain, even in principle, the origin of information (which is immaterial).

    That statement seems to me to contradict what you said to me in #129, namely that ‘ID theory makes no claims about the designer.’ The statement above definitely seem to imply some claims about the designer. What am I missing?

  413. #415 Josh
    September 17, 2007

    I’ve got Kevin’s Dover testimony on my other computer…if you cannot find it David, let me know.

  414. #416 David Marjanovi?
    September 17, 2007

    Good grief. There is no extrapolation involved in saying that the same force that causes toast to fall to the floor will also cause toast to fall to the floor of the Grand Canyon. The law of gravity applies to toast regardless of where the toast falls (or how far it falls).

    That is quite an extrapolation. Newton is famous for extrapolating from the force that made the mythical apple fall on his head to the force that keeps the moon on its orbit (doesn’t even make it fall down).

    Now, this extrapolation is a testable hypothesis. It has been tested again and again, and never disproven, so it continues to be accepted.

    You mentioned relativity. It got started by Einstein equating, just for the sake of esthetic simplicity, mass-as-relevant-to-gravity with mass-as-relevant-to-inertia. There’s nothing bad about extrapolations, as long as they result in testable hypotheses. To the contrary: they are always more parsimonious than postulating an extra explanation for what is outside the known range.

    When have we ever observed the Darwinian mechanism causing a macroevolutionary event – or even inducing a directional change in an organism that might lead to its evolving into a different kind of organism?

    Give me a grant that runs ten million years…

    It instead focuses on detecting design in biological systems. If it succeeds in that regard (meaning that it becomes widely accepted),

    The argument from majority again. No, if it succeeds, that will mean it will have found instances where the theory of evolution fails to explains a shape, no matter how many people know about that.

    A theory wholly committed to material causes cannot explain, even in principle, the origin of information (which is immaterial).

    Every time we get you into a corner, you pull out decades-old creationist nonsense…

    For it is nonsense, and you know that full well, you’re just desperate. Matter + laws of nature => shape. If you really believe methodological naturalism doesn’t include laws…

    Where does the shape of a crystal come from? From electrostatics. Period. Where does the shape of a water molecule come from? From electrostatics. Period. Where does the shape of DNA come from? From electrostatics. Period. Where does the shape of a protein come from? From electrostatics and thermodynamics. Period.

    Where does the shape of a leg come from? Read a textbook on developmentary genetics… Where does the gene sequence come from? From mutation, selection, and electrostatics.

    Actually, I should replace “electrostatics” by “quantum electrodynamics” throughout the above. Or just by “QED”.

  415. #417 David Marjanovi?
    September 17, 2007

    Good grief. There is no extrapolation involved in saying that the same force that causes toast to fall to the floor will also cause toast to fall to the floor of the Grand Canyon. The law of gravity applies to toast regardless of where the toast falls (or how far it falls).

    That is quite an extrapolation. Newton is famous for extrapolating from the force that made the mythical apple fall on his head to the force that keeps the moon on its orbit (doesn’t even make it fall down).

    Now, this extrapolation is a testable hypothesis. It has been tested again and again, and never disproven, so it continues to be accepted.

    You mentioned relativity. It got started by Einstein equating, just for the sake of esthetic simplicity, mass-as-relevant-to-gravity with mass-as-relevant-to-inertia. There’s nothing bad about extrapolations, as long as they result in testable hypotheses. To the contrary: they are always more parsimonious than postulating an extra explanation for what is outside the known range.

    When have we ever observed the Darwinian mechanism causing a macroevolutionary event – or even inducing a directional change in an organism that might lead to its evolving into a different kind of organism?

    Give me a grant that runs ten million years…

    It instead focuses on detecting design in biological systems. If it succeeds in that regard (meaning that it becomes widely accepted),

    The argument from majority again. No, if it succeeds, that will mean it will have found instances where the theory of evolution fails to explains a shape, no matter how many people know about that.

    A theory wholly committed to material causes cannot explain, even in principle, the origin of information (which is immaterial).

    Every time we get you into a corner, you pull out decades-old creationist nonsense…

    For it is nonsense, and you know that full well, you’re just desperate. Matter + laws of nature => shape. If you really believe methodological naturalism doesn’t include laws…

    Where does the shape of a crystal come from? From electrostatics. Period. Where does the shape of a water molecule come from? From electrostatics. Period. Where does the shape of DNA come from? From electrostatics. Period. Where does the shape of a protein come from? From electrostatics and thermodynamics. Period.

    Where does the shape of a leg come from? Read a textbook on developmentary genetics… Where does the gene sequence come from? From mutation, selection, and electrostatics.

    Actually, I should replace “electrostatics” by “quantum electrodynamics” throughout the above. Or just by “QED”.

  416. #418 Josh
    September 17, 2007

    Jim wrote: But ID theorists argue that the case for design depends on positive evidence that justifies design inferences, not on evidence against Darwinism.

    But you’ve also essentially said that it makes no sense to ask questions about the designer until design is apprehended (which was nice phrasing, by the way). In fact, you wrote: The question “Who designed this thing?” is senseless unless we know (or are quite confident) that the thing was designed… I still disagree, and Windy’s question above echoes (I think) this sentiment. By asking the question “Who designed this thing?”, you might begin hunting for evidence of a designer. This would (if such evidence were found) definitely provide ‘positive evidence that justifies design inferences.’ Indeed, perhaps the strongest possible justification. If you find demonstrable evidence of a designer, does that not make the whole business of ID MUCH stronger? It’s not a chicken and an egg thing…the ID community could be doing both at the same time. One aspect of the work would inform the other. If the biological community were attacking this problem, you can bet they would be trying to hit it from as many possible points as they could simultaneously.

    Also, if it is acceptable for the ID community to use the technique of inferring, then why is the pro-evolution crowd never allowed to infer? Rather, we’re ordered to prove a perfect sequence of ‘transitional’ forms showing tiny little steps in between one species and another, and any lack of currently existing data on our part is held up as a terrible ‘problem’ for ToE.

  417. #419 Brownian
    September 17, 2007

    Good grief. There is no extrapolation involved in saying that the same force that causes toast to fall to the floor will also cause toast to fall to the floor of the Grand Canyon. The law of gravity applies to toast regardless of where the toast falls (or how far it falls). The outcome is the same: the toast falls until it can fall no more. But showing that the Darwinian mechanism can produce minor adaptive outcomes (or microevolution) does not also show that the mechanism can produce major creative changes (or macroevolution).

    I’m sorry, but I don’t understand this magical micro/macro barrier you keep referring to but never explain other than to say it’s the difference between two ‘kinds’. How is it that Darwinistic mechanisms don’t/can’t cause organisms to change enough over time that even a creationist would call them a different ‘kind’?

    By the way, forgive my weakness for engaging you as if you were actually interested in learning.

    Since I’ve read several works by Darwinists, including Darwin’s “Origin of Species” (twice), how am I being hypocritical in suggesting that ID critics ought to inform themselves on ID by reading the works of ID theorists?

    Then you must have read them through the filters of ID, since you’ve demonstrated a number of times that you understand neither the theory of evolution or basic biology.

  418. #420 Kseniya
    September 17, 2007
    (former Soviet Premier Nikita Krushchev comes to mind)

    One of the few exceptions, somehow explicable via Greek…

    ‘Tis true. Of course, Kseniya comes from the Greek, too…

    Xenophilia -> Xenia -> Kseniya

    Here is a question I have yet been unable to answer: Given the Greek origin of my name, can I accurately characterize it as Rusyn and/or Slavic?

    (Jim: No apology necessary for getting it wrong – it happens frequently and you are in good company.)

  419. #421 Kseniya
    September 17, 2007

    When have we ever observed the Darwinian mechanism causing a macroevolutionary event – or even inducing a directional change in an organism that might lead to its evolving into a different kind of organism?

    Jim, I must second Brownian on this. There is no such thing as “a macroevolutionary event.” There is only the accumulation of microevolutionary events. [Rhetorical question alert] What do you want? Proof that a dog gave birth to a cat?

  420. #422 PZ Myers
    September 17, 2007

    On top of that, this piece of toast falling down the canyon has left crumbs in its descent, and we can also see many other scattered pieces of toast at different levels of their fall. We have mathematics that predicts the approximate rate of fall, and existing pieces of toast seem to obey the rules of toast-falling within our best estimates.

    Against that, we have the magical toast-teleporters, who claim the toast appeared at the bottom of the canyon with no intermediate steps. They have no evidence for this, they have no mechanism testable or otherwise, and it’s actually in contradiction of the way we see toast behaving, but that doesn’t seem to stop them from constantly advocating their foolish hypothesis.

  421. #423 Josh
    September 17, 2007

    Uhm, PZ…you just referred to ID as a hypothesis…

  422. #424 JimV
    September 17, 2007

    Jim: I am not following your objection to intermediate forms. It seems to me, as a wiser commenter has alluded to previously, that a steam-driven wagon with two horses hitched to it for steering can be identified as an intermediate between a horse-and-buggy and a Stanley Steamer, whether they were results of 1) natural evolution, 2) design evolution, or 3) separate poofs of creation.

    At this point we seem to be mostly rehashing previous arguments (which have themselves been hashed and rehashed by others). One side says that the fossil record contains A, B, and C, where B is a plausible intermediate between A and C. The other side says A, B, and C could all be separately-created kinds. Scientists then find AB which is a plausible intermediate between A and B. Others say that A, AB, C, and D could all be separately created by an Intelligent Designer for unknown motives. Whales have the skeletal remains of legs, consistent with evolution from an amphibious mammal. Once again, the ID could have designed them that way for unknown reasons.

    Some point out that some tests of micro-organisms, carried out over infinitesimal times on the geological scale, show rates of genomic variation which are very small. However, others (cited previously) point out that other tests of other micro-organisms have found rates which are 50 decimal orders of magnitude larger (for some reason neither Meyer not Behe cites these).

    To rehash another point, I have difficulty entertaining the possibility of method 3 in my first paragraph, because all I have seen or heard of in my life are examples of 1 and 2; and I don’t see a great deal of difference between them.

    In a design team, one person tosses out an idea, a second person shoots it down, and a third person modifies it into something more feasible. We get through variations and selection at an accelerated rate, but use the mechanisms of evolution.

    I suspect the analogy goes even deeper, and that when I’m trying to improve a design or fix a problem, random combinations of neurons are firing in my brain and undergoing a fitness selection. I don’t know this, since I have no nerves in my brain which I can use to consciously monitor the process (which is consistent with evolution, since they would slow the process down and might cause feedback loops), but why not? After all, doesn’t the mathematical theory which Dembski tried to use for “NFL” say something like this: averaged over all possible landscape functions, no search algorithm can outperform a random search?

    As an example, for the past few years I’ve been trying to find a proof for Fermat’s Prime Theorem (all primes of the form 4N+1 are the sum of two squares) in my spare time. No luck so far, but it took Euler seven years so I haven’t given up, and please don’t tell me if you know the proof. Anyway, while looking, I noticed that I could prove what I call V’s Prime Theorem: the integer p divides the quantity [(p-1)! +1] if and only if p is prime. E.g., 5 divides 4! +1, 7 divides 6! +1, and so on. Had that been my conscious goal to begin with, I might consider myself a fairly intelligent designer. Since I stumbled upon it while looking for something else, not so much. I’ll bet Fermat stumbled upon the FPT similarly. A stumble here, a stumble there, and pretty soon we’re talking real evolution.

    P.S. It’s another bad day for posting on my computer. Once again the discussion has moved well past where I would like to have inserted this.

    P.P.S. I appreciate the work you are doing at the shelter.

  423. #425 Owlmirror
    September 17, 2007

    Here is a question I have yet been unable to answer: Given the Greek origin of my name, can I accurately characterize it as Rusyn and/or Slavic?

    I think so. Consider: The names Melissa, Barbara, and Zoe are all from Greek. Yet they’re hugely common in English-speaking countries, so it would hardly be wrong to characterize those names as being English. They have been only mildly modified in spelling and pronunciation.

    “Kseniya” has been similarly modified in spelling and pronunciation, so I think the same sort of logic applies: If a name has been adapted by a population, it is reasonable to characterize it as being from that population.

    See also:
    http://www.behindthename.com/
    and
    http://www.behindthename.com/nm/k3.php
    (KSENIA, KSENIJA, KSENIYA)

  424. #426 Jim
    September 17, 2007

    Owlmirror: “…would you assert that clouds like those do in fact have ‘specified’ complexity?”

    No.

    Owlmirror: “Would you also assert that clouds like those are in fact designed?”

    No.

    Owlmirror: “Would you assert that clouds that have shapes like animals or other terrestrial things were designed by an intelligence to look that way?”

    No.

    David: “Show me one of the ‘evidentiary and theoretical problems’, and then we can discuss about it.”

    I’ve already done that. Among the evidentiary problems I’ve mentioned are:

    1) the Cambrian explosion of life, which is at odds with the Darwinian notion that life evolved by way of the gradual, step-by-step accumulation of minor adaptive changes;
    2) the persistent failure of the fossil record to reflect the continuum of life posited by Darwinism;
    3) the absence of any evidence showing that random mutations can induce the kind of directional changes needed to cause one kind (say, fish) to evolve into a different kind (say, amphibians); and
    4) the failure of the fossil record to reflect the Darwinian tree of life, which predicts that the number of phyla should be more numerous in the branches of the tree than they are at its base (the reality being very nearly the opposite).

    The main theoretical problem with Darwinism is that its total reliance on material explanations makes it incapable, even in principle, of accounting for the biological information that shapes matter into complex organisms. To once more quote information theorist Norbert Wiener (author of “Cybernetics”): “Information is information, neither energy nor matter. No materialism that fails to take account of this can survive the present day.” Darwinism fails to take account of it.

    Jim: “Perhaps you’re too professionally invested in ToE to see the evidentiary and theoretical problems with it that are so obvious to me (and to others).”

    David: “You keep saying that. You also keep not mentioning even one of them.”

    I’ve repeatedly mentioned them (as summarized above). I can’t be held responsible for your failure to pay attention.

    David: “All you make is an argument from personal incredulity (a logical fallacy) and ignorance (another logical fallacy): ‘Waaah, they are all so different, they can’t have evolved by conventional means’. Should such a thing happen to someone with an IQ of 150, let alone more?”

    I also can’t be held responsible for your tendency to make straw men out of my arguments and then ridicule me on the basis of those straw men. I think the argument that the differences between organisms entails that Darwinian evolution fails to account for any evolutionary changes is stupid, which is why I’ve not made that argument. If you persist in arguing against positions that you’ve falsely attributed to me instead of arguing against positions that I actually hold, I don’t expect our conversation will continue.

    With regard to the logical fallacies you say I’ve committed:

    1) It is not mere personal incredulity to have doubts about the sufficiency of unguided mechanisms to produce specified outcomes when probability militates against the ability of those mechanisms to produce the outcomes. Doubts in the face of high improbability are rational, not personal.
    2) I’ve never argued that Darwinism must be rejected on the basis of inadequate evidence for its macroevolutionary claims (as I would have to do to commit the fallacy of argumentum ad ignorantium, or argument from ignorance). I’ve instead argued that the evidence lends little support to the macroevolutionary claims of Darwinism. Surely you can see the difference between saying that a proposition must be rejected due to a lack of evidence (which I’ve not said) and saying that a proposition lacks evidentiary confirmation (which I have said).
    3) I’ve also not argued that the validity of any proposition must be accepted on the basis of majority rule. When I said that many people see evidentiary and theoretical shortcomings in Darwinism, I was simply making an empirically verifiable observation. I wasn’t suggesting that Darwinism must be false on account of the problems many people see in it.

  425. #427 Steve_C
    September 17, 2007

    uhg.

    HE IGNORES THE EVIDENCE.

    It’s pointless.

  426. #428 Kseniya
    September 17, 2007

    JimV:

    P.S. It’s another bad day for posting on my computer. Once again the discussion has moved well past where I would like to have inserted this.

    Oh come on! You’re a Darwinist! We know you were delayed by extended puppy-beating session.

    P.P.S. I appreciate the work you are doing at the shelter.

    Ditto that. Speaking as a future penniless human services worker myself, I mean that sincerely.

    Owlmirror: Thanks, that’s how I always looked at it, but never really felt comfortably certain in saying I have a “Slavic” name. My Kievan grandfather probably couldn’t even have told me. As a linguist friend of mine said, knowing a language is NOT the same as knowing about the language. Same thing, kinda.

  427. #429 Anton Mates
    September 17, 2007

    Jim:

    But if we saw an unexplained sequence of 20 A’s on a computer monitor, we couldn’t rule out the possibility that the sequence was created by, say, a toddler repeatedly and unintentionally pressing the letter A on a keyboard, in which case the sequence would not be specified. In the Caputo case, it was reasonable to infer that the 40 to 1 priority placement of Democrat names on ballots was specified.

    And why was it reasonable? Because the best candidate for the designer, the election commissioner, was a Democrat, and because being placed first on the ballot was advantageous to the Democrats.

    Do you see? We established the existence of a potential designer, his motive for producing such a placement, and his material means of doing so, and based on that we concluded design.

    7) Anton: “Let the record show that Jim never dealt with the fact that organisms were identified as intermediate/transitional well before Darwin, as by Jussieu.”

    In what sense did Jussieu identify those organisms as “intermediate/transitional” forms? As a matter of logic, it is utterly senseless to describe an organism as intermediate and transitional (in an evolutionary sense) unless evolution is assumed.

    You don’t have to do it in an evolutionary sense; you can identify it as morphologically intermediate. That intermediacy then becomes evidence that it’s also evolutionarily intermediate or transitional.

    You know this, of course, because you’ve been arguing that gaps in the fossil record are evidence against evolution. If you honestly thought you could dismiss the evolutionary significance of morphological intermediates based on “circularity,” it wouldn’t matter what fossils were found.

    8) Anton: “The sequence cannot be identified as having (complex specified information) unless the person who made it tells you what the specification is.”

    Not so, Anton. You’ll have no problem identifying that this sequence of letters has been specified without the specifier telling you what the specifications are.

    No. I can tell that that sequence of letters has been specified because I already know that there exist designers who specify similar sequences, and have taught me how they are specified. Those designers are called humans, and they employ the communication code known as the English language. I also know that many English-speaking humans have access to this blog, therefore I find it plausible that one of them wrote the post above.

    Again, you must have some idea of the designer’s properties to infer design. That’s true of your example, and it’s true of Dembski’s examples, and it’s true throughout science.

    9) Anton: “Note that Sternberg refuses to reveal the identities of his reviewers…”

    Quite so. Identifying the reviewers would have been contrary to the protocols of peer review, thus unethical.

    This is not how peer review, even anonymous peer review, works. The identities of the referees are concealed from each other, and from the author, at least until the paper is published. They are not concealed from all but one member of the editorial board itself! That’s not peer review, it’s “Trust me, I know this one really smart guy and he liked it” review.

    10) Anton: “Science always asks questions about the designer before concluding design.”

    Not so. Design inferences come from analyses of the things whose design is in question, not from knowledge of the designer(s). If the designer must be known before design can be inferred, then SETI researchers are wasting time and resources searching the universe for radio signals that, by virtue of their specified complexity, could be confidently attributed to extraterrestrial intelligence. As you explain it, SETI researches must know that ET exists before they can attribute a radio signal to him, yet ET’s existence is the very thing they want to discover. How? By detecting radio signals exhibiting specified complexity, the hallmark of design.

    That’s not how SETI’s research operates. You should read SETI and Intelligent Design, by Seth Shostak, senior SETI astronomer. Also read Frank Drake’s explanation of the “waterhole” concept.

    They’re not looking for complex signals. They’re looking for the sort of signals which a human or something very humanlike would make, and which aren’t known to be made in any other way, and which come from locations where something humanlike might live, along frequencies which something humanlike might prefer to use. SETI makes tons of assumptions about the nature of the designer before they go looking for design. Which, of course, means that they may miss any number of actually-designed signals, because they’re designed in really weird ways by really weird aliens. But, as scientists, that’s how they have to proceed.

    When have we ever observed the Darwinian mechanism causing a macroevolutionary event – or even inducing a directional change in an organism that might lead to its evolving into a different kind of organism?

    Give us empirical definitions of “macroevolutionary event” and “kinds of organism,” and we’ll be better able to tell you whether we have observed anything relevant and whether we should be expect to be able to do so.

  428. #430 Anton Mates
    September 17, 2007

    That’s a she, as you can see simply from her final -a.

    Dude, you just totally called Shiva a girl. Expect to get decreated shortly.

  429. #431 Kseniya
    September 17, 2007

    Actually, Jim, it seems the latest strawman has been constructed by you.

    David claims you’re arguing this:

    They [various and diverse forms of life] are all so different, they can’t have evolved by conventional means

    This, if we understand conventional means to mean so-called “unguided” evolution, is exactly what you’ve been arguing since your very first comment. Or, at best, you’ve provisionally concluded that they “can’t have” because you believe the evidence obtained thus far has not succeeded in supporting the claim that they have.

    Contrast with the alleged strawman that you claim David has erected:

    the differences between organisms entails that Darwinian evolution fails to account for any evolutionary changes

    Surely you can see the difference. Have I missed something?

  430. #432 Owlmirror
    September 17, 2007

    Owlmirror: “…would you assert that clouds like those do in fact have ‘specified’ complexity?”

    [Jim:] No.

    Owlmirror: “Would you assert that clouds that have shapes like animals or other terrestrial things were designed by an intelligence to look that way?”

    [Jim:] No.

    Very good!

    But… On what basis do you rule out that they were designed by an intelligence? There they are, looking intelligently designed. How, exactly, do you know that they are not intelligently designed? How is it that you know that they are mere coincidental masses of water vapor that have, by random confluences of hundreds or thousands of air currents and temperature gradients, formed into shapes that the human eye and brain recognizes as being incredibly similar to those shapes formed by intelligent humans?

  431. #433 windy
    September 17, 2007

    Josh:

    Also, if it is acceptable for the ID community to use the technique of inferring, then why is the pro-evolution crowd never allowed to infer?

    Your question nicely sums up a large chunk of this discussion.

    Why is it all right to infer that trilobites had a designer (and legs), but not all right to infer that they had an ancestor?

  432. #434 ?????? ?????????? ?????????, ??, ???
    September 17, 2007

    Why is it all right to infer that trilobites had a designer (and legs), but not all right to infer that they had an ancestor?

    Great question. Answer? Because random chance could not have produced a human being!

    ?-?

  433. #435 ?????? ?????????? ?????????, ??, ???
    September 17, 2007

    Why is it all right to infer that trilobites had a designer (and legs), but not all right to infer that they had an ancestor?

    Great question. Answer? Because random chance could not have produced a human being!

    ?-?

  434. #436 Stanton
    September 17, 2007

    Also, design theory can potentially explain something that Darwinism, which is totally invested in material explanations, cannot explain; namely, the origin of the biological information that shapes matter into living organisms. A theory wholly committed to material causes cannot explain, even in principle, the origin of information (which is immaterial).

    The other questions you raise are not questions that ID addresses. It can’t be expected to provide answers to questions it doesn’t addresss. And you can’t be expected to know what ID theory does or does not address until you’ve actually read some of the works of design theorists. I’m not going to do your homework for you.

    In your arrogance, you’ve contradicted yourself again while weaseling out of the need for you to explain yourself. If “Design Theory” does not bother to address the questions that Evolutionary Biology, aka “Darwinism,” asks, then you have absolutely no right to so much as infer that Design Theory can explain any biological system, whether cell structure or ecosystems. After all, you were the one who said that “Darwinism” can not explain “macroevolutionary events,” and yet, didn’t bother to demonstrate how “Design Theory” explains them better. The questions I had asked about the black peppered moth, Darwin’s and vampire finches, and the platypus all happen to be the results of (multiple) macroevolutionary events. If you honestly intend to impress us, and convince us of the explanatory superiority of “Design Theory,” do not tell us that you’re “not going to do (our) homework for (us),” as, you fail to realize that it defeats your purpose entirely.
    Saying that “Design Theory” does not ask the same questions as “Darwinism” is driving a stake through the heart of your purpose, also.

  435. #437 David Marjanovi?
    September 17, 2007

    Dude, you just totally called Shiva a girl.

    Only works in languages that have borrowed words with “ks” but not the letter for it. Not in languages that lost the manly life-giving final -s at least 4000 years ago. And even in those it works for long -a (which Shiva doesn’t have).

    —————–

    Rather, we’re ordered to prove a perfect sequence of ‘transitional’ forms showing tiny little steps in between one species and another

    And if I’ve correctly understood Jim, he doesn’t just want that “in between one species and another”, because that would be microevolution — he wants it between one “kind” and another, in spite of never having defined “kind”, ideally all the way between “fish” and man.

    David: “Show me one of the ‘evidentiary and theoretical problems’, and then we can discuss about it.”

    I’ve already done that. Among the evidentiary problems I’ve mentioned are:

    We’ve already shot all of them down several times, just scroll up… but I can always do it once more for you…

    1) the Cambrian explosion of life, which is at odds with the Darwinian notion that life evolved by way of the gradual, step-by-step accumulation of minor adaptive changes;

    This is simply wrong. You act as if the Cambrian Explosion took a few thousand years (or for that matter 6 literal days). It didn’t. Firstly, we are talking about up to forty million years, depending on the definition of the explosion (some “explosion” when you can quibble about when it began and when it was over!). Secondly, we are talking (among other things) about the evolution of hard parts. Most fossiliferous Cambrian rocks contain only or almost only trilobites, not just because trilobites were common, but because almost only the trilobites were capable of being fossilized. Even then, the legs are missing, as are the other parts that are not calcified. Trilobite legs, and animals without hard parts, are only preserved under exceptional circumstances, and that’s from where all the arthropodian and near-arthropodian wonders have flooded us over the last few decades: one place in Canada, one place in China, one in Australia, one in Sweden, and one on the north coast of Greenland, and all that spread across forty million years. Makes one such site every eight million years. That means we have on average nothing except trilobite armor for 8 million years.

    2) the persistent failure of the fossil record to reflect the continuum of life posited by Darwinism;

    Your persistent failure to grasp the fact that dead things rot.

    Fossilization is the absolute exception. It requires special and rare circumstances.

    Where are the fossil arrow worms? Where are the fossil nematodes?

    Once we take that into account, however, what we see is amazingly close to what we expect. For example, in this paper, I and my thesis supervisor calculated the quality of the fossil record of amphibians in the strict sense. The probability that the congruence between the shape of the tree and the order of stratigraphic appearance of the salamanders, frogs, caecilians, and albanerpetontids in question is due to random is less than 0.0001. Drop me an e-mail address, and I’ll send you the pdf. You can download the appropriate appendix yourself. I think the program we used is available for free somewhere online, too.

    3) the absence of any evidence showing that random mutations can induce the kind of directional changes needed to cause one kind (say, fish) to evolve into a different kind (say, amphibians);

    I’ve already told you that there’s no difference in kind between Tiktaalik and Acanthostega. Into how much anatomical detail do you want me to go? (Preferably next week, though, when I’ll have all the relevant papers at my disposal.)

    In the absence of evidence for the idea that macroevolution is anything else than microevolution over serious time spans, all we need is Ockham’s Razor.

    and
    4) the failure of the fossil record to reflect the Darwinian tree of life, which predicts that the number of phyla should be more numerous in the branches of the tree than they are at its base (the reality being very nearly the opposite).

    Wow. You have repeated the dumbest mistake of Gould’s whole life. And even then, Gould didn’t use it to argue against mutation & selection, but needlessly fabulated about possible and impossible body plans.

    I’ll give you Dawkins’ reply: Have you ever noticed that, on an old tree, all the thick branches are near the bottom? Isn’t it strange that no thick branches have grown in the last 100 years? Surely this requires an explanation! Surely this means that something fundamental about the growth of the tree has changed!!!1!

    “Phylum” is what the more traditionally inclined among us call a group when it has reached a certain “size” in number of species or diversity of shape or whatever (these criteria are never made explicit and never quantified). “Phylum” is also what they call anything that doesn’t fit into an already acknowledged phylum, even if it’s a single species: if they don’t want to make paraphyletic groups ( = consisting of an ancestor and some but not all of its descendants), and want to follow the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature, that’s what they are forced to do.

    Absolutely nothing in that code, however, can stop me from publishing a classification where each phylum is hacked into 10 new phyla, or 100, or 1000 (except for those phyla that already contain fewer species than that, assuming I can’t manage to subdivide the species). Likewise, nothing can stop me from publishing a classification where 5 or 10 or 20 closely related phyla are merged into a single one. Though not to this extent, this kind of thing happens all the time. Like all ranks, the rank of phylum is entirely subjective. Phyla are not countable. It is meaningless to say “in the Cambrian there were more phyla than today”.

    The main theoretical problem with Darwinism is that its total reliance on material explanations makes it incapable, even in principle, of accounting for the biological information that shapes matter into complex organisms.

    Read my previous post.

    “Waaah, they are all so different, they can’t have evolved by conventional means!”

    I think the argument that the differences between organisms entails that Darwinian evolution fails to account for any evolutionary changes is stupid, which is why I’ve not made that argument.

    Sorry for not being precise enough, then. By “all” I meant the “kinds”, not the “species”. I know you acknowledge “microevolution”. So I didn’t mean “any evolutionary changes”.

    1) It is not mere personal incredulity to have doubts about the sufficiency of unguided mechanisms to produce specified outcomes when probability militates against the ability of those mechanisms to produce the outcomes. Doubts in the face of high impro