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Corante Blogs examine, through the eyes of leading observers, analysts, thinkers, and doers, critical themes and memes in technology, business, law, science, and culture.

The Press Will Be Outsourced Before Stopped

Vin Crosbie, on the challenges, financial and otherwise, that newspaper publishers are facing: "The real problem, Mr. Newspaperman, isn't that your content isn't online or isn't online with multimedia. It's your content. Specifically, it's what you report, which stories you publish, and how you publish them to people, who, by the way, have very different individual interests. The problem is the content you're giving them, stupid; not the platform its on."
by Vin Crosbie in Rebuilding Media

Travels In Numerica Deserta

There's a problem in the drug industry that people have recognized for some years, but we're not that much closer to dealing with it than we were then. We keep coming up with these technologies and techniques which seem as if they might be able to help us with some of our nastiest problems - I'm talking about genomics in all its guises, and metabolic profiling, and naturally the various high-throughput screening platforms, and others. But whether these are helping or not (and opinions sure do vary), one thing that they all have in common is that they generate enormous heaps of data.
by Derek Lowe in In the Pipeline

Disrobing the Emperor: The online “user experience” isn't much of one

Now that the Web labor market is saturated and Web design a static profession, it's not surprising that 'user experience' designers and researchers who've spent their careers online are looking for new worlds to conquer. Some are returning to the “old media” as directors and producers. More are now doing offline consulting (service experience design, social policy design, exhibition design, and so on) under the 'user experience' aegis. They argue that the lessons they've learned on the Web can be applied to phenomena in the physical and social worlds. But there are enormous differences...
by Bob Jacobson in Total Experience

Second Life: What are the real numbers?

Clay Shirky, in deconstructing Second Life hype: "Second Life is heading towards two million users. Except it isn’t, really... I suspect Second Life is largely a 'Try Me' virus, where reports of a strange and wonderful new thing draw the masses to log in and try it, but whose ability to retain anything but a fraction of those users is limited. The pattern of a Try Me virus is a rapid spread of first time users, most of whom drop out quickly, with most of the dropouts becoming immune to later use."
by Clay Shirky in Many-to-Many

The democratisation of everything

Over the last few years we've seen old barriers to creativity coming down, one after the other. New technologies and services makes it trivial to publish text, whether by blog or by print-on-demand. Digital photography has democratised a previously expensive hobby. And we're seeing the barriers to movie-making crumble, with affordable high-quality cameras and video hosting provided by YouTube or Google Video and their ilk... Music making has long been easy for anyone to engage in, but technology has made high-quality recording possible without specialised equipment, and the internet has revolutionised distribution, drastically disintermediating the music industry... What's left? Software maybe? Or maybe not."
by Suw Charman in Strange Attractor

RNA Interference: Film at Eleven

Derek Lowe on the news that the Nobel Prize for medicine has gone to Craig Mello and Andrew Fire for their breakthrough work: "RNA interference is probably going to have a long climb before it starts curing many diseases, because many of those problems are even tougher than usual in its case. That doesn't take away from the discovery, though, any more than the complications of off-target effects take away from it when you talk about RNAi's research uses in cell culture. The fact that RNA interference is trickier than it first looked, in vivo or in vitro, is only to be expected. What breakthrough isn't?"
by Derek Lowe in In the Pipeline

PVP and the Honorable Enemy

Andrew Phelps: "Recently my WoW guild has been having a bit of a debate on the merits of Player-vs.-Player (PvP) within Azeroth. My personal opinion on this is that PvP has its merits, and can be incredible fun, but the system within WoW is horridly, horribly broken. It takes into account the concept of the battle, but battle without consequence, without emotive context, and most importantly, without honor..."

From later in the piece: "When I talk about this with people (thus far anyway) I typically get one of two responses, either 'yeah, right on!' or 'hey, it’s war, and war isn’t honorable – grow the hell up'. There is a lot to be said for that argument – but the problem is that war in the real historical world has very different constraints that are utterly absent from fantasized worlds..."
by Andrew Phelps in Got Game

Rats Rule, Right?

Derek Lowe: "So, you're developing a drug candidate. You've settled on what looks like a good compound - it has the activity you want in your mouse model of the disease, it's not too hard to make, and it's not toxic. Everything looks fine. Except. . .one slight problem. Although the compound has good blood levels in the mouse and in the dog, in rats it's terrible. For some reason, it just doesn't get up there. Probably some foul metabolic pathway peculiar to rats (whose innards are adapted, after all, for dealing with every kind of garbage that comes along). So, is this a problem?.."
by Derek Lowe in In the Pipeline

Really BAD customer experience at Albertsons Market

Bob Jacobson, on shopping at his local Albertsons supermarket where he had "one of the worst customer experiences" of his life: "Say what you will about the Safeway chain or the Birkenstock billionaires who charge through the roof for Whole Foods' organic fare, they know how to create shopping environments that create a more pleasurable experience, at its best (as at Whole Foods) quite enjoyable. Even the warehouses like Costco and its smaller counterpart, Smart & Final, do just fine: they have no pretentions, but neither do they dump virtual garbage on the consumer merely to create another trivial revenue stream, all for the sake of promotions in the marketing department..."
by Strange Attractor in Total Experience

The Guardian's "Comment is Free"

Kevin Anderson: "First off, I want to say that I really admire the ambition of the Guardian Unlimited’s Comment is Free. It is one of the boldest statements made by any media company that participation needs to be central to a radical revamp of traditional content strategies... It is, therfore, not hugely surprising to find that Comment is Free is having a few teething troubles..."
by Kevin Anderson in strange
In the Pipeline: Don't miss Derek Lowe's excellent commentary on drug discovery and the pharma industry in general at In the Pipeline

The Loom

« Singing Wings, Or Natural Selection's Lesser Known Sibling | Main | 43,000 Scientists: Bush Puts Schoolchildren At Risk »

August 02, 2005

A Question For The President

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Posted by Carl Zimmer

After a day-long road trip from Ohio, I finally had the chance to read the news that President Bush thinks that schools should discuss Intelligent Design alongside evolution, so that students can "understand what the debate is about."

As Bush himself said, this is pretty much the same attitude he had towards creationism when he was a governor. His statements back in Texas didn't actually lead to any changes in Texas schools, and I doubt that these new remarks will have much direct effect, either. But, like Chris Mooney, I'm a journalist, and like him I would have loved to have been in the crowd of reporters when Bush made these remarks.

Mooney would have asked Bush how he squares his comments with those of his own science advisor, John Marburger, who dismisses Intelligent Design out of hand. I would follow up on his question by expanding it to a much bigger scale.

Mr. President, I would ask, how do you reconcile your statement that Intelligent Design should be taught alongside evolution with the fact that your administration, like both Republican and Democratic administrations before it, has supported research in evolution by our country's leading scientists, while failing to support a single study that is explicitly based on Intelligent Design? The National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and even the Department of Energy have all decided that evolution is a cornerstone to advances in our understanding of diseases, the environment, and even biotechnology. They have found no such value in Intelligent Design. Are they wrong? Can you tell us why?

For plenty of other comments, you can follow the links at Pharyngula

Update 8/2 7:45 pm: I might also ask the President to respond to 43,000 scientists who think he's putting schoolchildren at risk.

Update 8/3 5:30 pm: Or 55,000 science teachers who are shocked and disappointed by his remarks.

Update 8/6 9:30 am: Or the nation's astronomers, who think his remarks are bad for all science.

Comments (52) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Evolution | Our Dear Leaders Speak


COMMENTS

1. Ryan Nees on August 2, 2005 06:17 PM writes...

If you were to ask that, I know what his immediate response would be: to make it a priority to federally fund projects based on intelligent design.

This is the same administration that censors its EPA reports to deny the existence of global warming, after all; what is to stop it from funding pseudo-science in the name of political posturing?

Permalink to Comment

2. Charlie Wagner on August 2, 2005 07:42 PM writes...

Carl wrote:

"They have found no such value in Intelligent Design. Are they wrong? "

Yes.

Comparing intelligent design to evolution is like comparing apples and oranges. Evolution is a process. It's the process of change occurring over time and the process by which new structures, adaptations and organisms have appeared where they did not previously exist.
No one on this earth can confidently state that they can describe the mechanism by which these changes occurred. Neo-darwinism (the process that includes mutation, natural selection and genetic drift) is one such proposed mechanism. Intelligent design (the view that some sort of intelligence was required for evolution to occur) is another.
A correct comparison would be between neo-darwinism and intelligent input and it is abundantly clear that it is possible to accept that evolution has occurred (as I do) and to also hold the view that intelligent input was required for evolution to occur (which I also do).
The debate has not been framed correctly and that's where much confusion is generated. Instead of discussing whether or not evolution has occurred (it has), we should be framing the debate around the liklihood of the various possible mechanisms. The notion of intelligent input is just as legitimate from the stand point of scientific investigation, and falls comfortably within the realm of natural science.
Intelligent design does not demand a supernatural designer, only one that is far superior to human intelligence. Can you not imagine that there might be entities in this universe that are as far above humans as humans are above bacteria?
The question of who designed the designer is interesting, but irrelevant to the discussion. It requires us to identify the primary cause for the universe and the life in it, a daunting task to say the least. I prefer to confine myself to questions whose answers are more easily obtained and that fall within the scope of our knowledge and abilities. Identifying intelligent input in living systems is self-evident to me, but to those who require more, the process of science and the scientific method should provide us with some clues. This process is now underway and day by day we are uncovering more information about living systems, especially the genome, and how they are constructed and how they work. This will go a long way to uncovering the mechanism by which the genome and other cellular systems emerged and evolved. Closing the door by declaring that there is no value in research into intelligent design is not the kind of attitude that has advanced science in the past. In fact, it is an attitude that has caused the advancement of knowledge to stagnate, on more than one occassion.

Permalink to Comment

3. Steven Bedrick on August 2, 2005 08:59 PM writes...

"...while failing to support a single study that is explicitly based on Intelligent Design?"

Ssssh! Don't give them any ideas!

Permalink to Comment

4. Charlie Wagner on August 2, 2005 09:18 PM writes...

"...while failing to support a single study that is explicitly based on Intelligent Design?"


There are hundreds, if not thousands of peer-reviewed articles that appear each year in highly regarded scientific journals that support intelligent design. The support is not in the interpretation or the 'spin" but in the data itself. There are a large number of papers published each year that provide prima facie evidence that there is more to what we see than can be explained by random processes and accidental mutations such as are described by neo-darwinian theory. Unfortunately, when interpretations of the data are offered by investigators, they invariably frame their conclusions in terms of the darwinian paradigm of common descent and selection, ignoring any suggestion that these results might have intelligent or purposeful components.

Permalink to Comment

5. Gerald Gibson on August 2, 2005 10:52 PM writes...

Intelligent Design is anything but intelligent. Provide ONE scientific test that can be repeated by other scientists around the world to prove ID. You cannot do this. Just like religion testable proof of any aspect of ID is impossible and so it is not reality. It is nothing more than a hicked up fantasy that is being proped up by a show and a dance instead of testable truth.

Despite what another poster said there is not a single 'respectable' scientific publishing in support of ID. Not one. If there was then other scientists would be repeating the tests described by these so called ID 'scientists' as happens with real science everyday. I can 'say' that aliens or the 'matrix' is behind all life but unless I have some kind of imperical proof then I am at best a tribal witch doctor huckster.

Permalink to Comment

6. Duane on August 2, 2005 11:08 PM writes...

There should be no surprise in what Bush said. Back in 2002 he said,

"I'd make it a goal to make sure that local folks got to make the decision as to whether or not they said creationism has been a part of our history and whether or not people ought to be exposed to different theories as to how the world was formed."

Both the recent comments and his 2002 and other comments on this subject are equally irresponsible. The man not only doesn't know what he is talking about, he doesn't care to know.

For Charlie Wagner, it was the intelligent design creationists who "framed" the debate not the biologists. What possible designer do you propose that is not "supernatural" but has "far superior" intelligence?

Carl, keep up the good work.

Permalink to Comment

7. dave on August 2, 2005 11:31 PM writes...

simply put where is the missing link. oh wait a second there are none..............

http://www.icr.org/pdf/btg/btg-200.pdf

http://www.icr.org/

I think its really funny that bush is saying we should be open minded enough to check out both points of view, and the "supposed" liberal open minded people are getting all upset about it,... totally hillarious, come on guys I thought we were supposed to open our narrow conservative minds a little... lol

any democratic could spew onwards about evolution and nobody cares, but allow a republican and a christian talk about god and its all over, makes me wonder why this country was founded at all... wait a second it was so that they could escape opression and worship god....

wow thats all changed...

Permalink to Comment

8. DaveScot on August 3, 2005 02:05 AM writes...

Gerald Gibson asks "Provide ONE scientific test that can be repeated by other scientists around the world to prove ID."

Let's get some facts straight, Gerald. Modern biology is the study of living tissues. Historical biology is the study of imprints in rocks.

There's a basic problem here in that the imprints left by ancient life in rocks have no ancient DNA in them. Point: no one is able to sequence and compare ancient DNA to modern DNA because no ancient DNA survived in the fossil record.

Thus I will ask a question of you: Can you describe a method of obtaining empirical evidence that verifies that ancient life even used DNA as its basis? Following along in your style I'll answer for you. No, you cannot. There is no surviving DNA from ancient life that can be analyzed and compared to DNA from extant living tissue.

ID at least promises to reliably distinguish chance from design in the genetic constructs contained in living tissues. It's actually more scientific than the narrative description of past evolution that can never be directly observed or repeated.

So there.

Permalink to Comment

9. Martin (orlando) on August 3, 2005 03:05 AM writes...

To those that argue in favor of ID in the name of "fairness":

Suppose a stranger comes over to your house, looks in your garage, and says to you "You have a very nice car. I want it." You tell him that its your car and you want it. So, he proposes that you be allowed to have the car on Tuesdays Thrusdays and weekends, and he take it the other three days. That's "fair", right? Well.. perhaps in a myopic sort of way it is. But, when one looks at the big picture, and realizes that you worked to earn the car, and he did not, its suddenly obvious that the only "fair" answer is that you have full use of the car and he have none.

The debate between evolution and ID is similar. Evolution has successfully undergone intense scrutiny by hundreds of thousands of scientists and scientific tests. ID has not. The only "fair" result is that evolution should be taught in science class, while ID should not.

Permalink to Comment

10. cats on August 3, 2005 03:08 AM writes...

>There are hundreds, if not thousands of peer-reviewed articles that appear each year in highly regarded scientific journals that support intelligent design.

this is a bandit logic. My money is mine, your money is mine too.

Permalink to Comment

11. daen on August 3, 2005 07:06 AM writes...

Great idea, Mr Bush! To make it even more workable, there should also be time made in the classroom for even more creation mythologies than "Intelligent Design"/Creationism : Buddhism, Sikhism, Islam, various Native American, Inuit, Greek, Babylonian, Sumerian, Aztec, Inca, Aboriginal Australian and so on. Why compromise on just a handful? Then kids could spend all their school time sifting through narrative descriptions of how imaginative people can be and they can choose which ones are based on observation, logic, science and fact, and which ones are folklore, and which are a confused blend. Or maybe they can pick based on whether they like the stories better. I'm sure the teachers might even find enough time to make up one or two of their own stories to pepper the mix a bit.

And hard science? Well, who needs maths, physics, engineering or chemistry, anyway? They're boring! It's time much better spent on teaching creation mythologies. I mean, it's not as if the US ever used hard science for anything useful, is it? Like making dams, telephones, cars, spacecraft, computers, medical technologies ...

Permalink to Comment

12. Charlie Wagner on August 3, 2005 09:06 AM writes...

Duane wrote:

"For Charlie Wagner, it was the intelligent design creationists who "framed" the debate not the biologists. What possible designer do you propose that is not "supernatural" but has "far superior" intelligence?"

Although I am not a religious creationist and care little about what the "ID crowd" says on the matter, I think they have made it abundantly clear that it is neo-darwinism that they object to.
The real question revolves around the issue of intelligent input versus random, accidental processes. Could random processes have generated life and its diversity, including all of the highly organized structures and processes, or was some ccomponent of intelligent input required for its evolution?
The nature of the designer is somewhat irrelevant at this early point in the investigation.

Permalink to Comment

13. Bill on August 3, 2005 09:12 AM writes...

I just adore how religious folk point to the parts of any scientific field, particularly that of evolution and neo-darwinism, where all the facts have not been explained, and claim that this makes science false and religious mythology true.

Science is an on-going study of the universe in order to understand it. On-going. We may never understand everything about our universe, but any reasonable scientific community will never stop trying.

Religion, however, claims they already have all the answers; "The Deity Did It." Instead, they claim we haven't been asking the right questions... They want you to ask "why?" instead of "what?", and "why" can only be answerd by one's self. So yeah, ID makes sense. Everyone who says so has come to the conclusion on their own. Therefore it's truth.

Stupid science, always wanting people to see the same thing from the same point of view so it can be a provable fact that works for everyone no matter what and provides a foundation for universal understanding, haha. (that's sarcasm, by the way.)

Permalink to Comment

15. Tim Chase on August 3, 2005 12:24 PM writes...

Steven Bedrick wrote:

"Intelligent design does not demand a supernatural designer, only one that is far superior to human intelligence."

Perhaps, but then you simply beg the question, and have explained nothing. To get beyond this, you will need an even greater intelligent designer to explain the intelligent designer who explains life on Earth. This could result in an infinite regress (which once again would explain nothing), or alternatively, the regress can be made finite, but only by ending in a supernatural designer which is a self-sufficient form of being, having no beginning.

Please see:

The Bait and Switch of Intelligent Design
http://www.americandaily.com/article/8086


There is no science to intelligent design, only two poorly thought-out "theories" which have been thoroughly torn to shreds, a political movement which relies largely upon Young Earth Creationists and Old Earth Creationists for its support, and the intent to "teach the controversy" -- which means recycled Young Earth Creationist criticisms from decades ago.

Please see:

"Master Planned: Why Intelligent design isn't." by H. Allen Orr
http://www.newyorker.com/printables/fact/050530fa_fact
from The New Yorker http://www.newyorker.com

"Intelligent Design (Divine Design)"
http://chem.tufts.edu/AnswersInScience/intelligent.html
from Answers In Science http://chem.tufts.edu/AnswersInScience/index.html

The "New" Creationism
http://slate.msn.com/id/104349/
from Slate Magazine http://slate.msn.com

Irreducible Complexity and Michael Behe on Intelligent Design
http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/behe.html
from Talk Origins http://www.talkorigins.org

Antievolution: Features
http://www.antievolution.org/features/
from Antievolution.org: The Critic's Resource

"Intelligent Design Theory" is so vague that it can be interpretted as either "offering an alternative mechanism for evolution to take place," or as offering a critique of evolution in support of some form of creationism. In fact, it is only by remaining so vague -- with its so-called "leading scientists" admitting only that the earth is "somewhere between 5,000 and 4,500,000,000 years old -- that they are able to keep everyone happy. As such, this clearly has nothing to do with science, and everything to do with politics.

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16. Charlie Wagner on August 3, 2005 12:54 PM writes...

Tim Chase wrote:

"To get beyond this, you will need an even greater intelligent designer to explain the intelligent designer who explains life on Earth. This could result in an infinite regress (which once again would explain nothing), or alternatively, the regress can be made finite, but only by ending in a supernatural designer which is a self-sufficient form of being, having no beginning."

Neo-darwinists have the same problem. All species evolved from pre-existing species. Where did these pre-existing species come from? Naturally, they evolved from other pre-existing species. It's the same problem. Even if you can get back to the first cell, it still begs the question: where did the first cell come from?
We are all better off if we leave the problem of primary cause to the philosophers and keep our feet grounded in provable science.

Permalink to Comment

17. daen on August 3, 2005 01:20 PM writes...

Even if you can get back to the first cell, it still begs the question: where did the first cell come from?

From demonstrably simple basic physical processes. No fuss, no magic ; just relatively simple chemistry and emergent properties of physical systems.

See, evolutionary biology is about reductionism on the one hand, emergent behaviour on the other. And systems biology is a successful attempt to describe what is known about biological systems in a rigorous mathematical framework : ontology, cell-cell signalling, gene product expression, gene circuits, epigenetic effects, and so on. All of these are turning out to be subjectable to mathematical descriptions, which in turn mirrors biochemical and physical processes. I suspect that the next serious leap forward in evolutionary theory will be a synthesis of the two disciplines, producing some new, exciting and testable hypotheses in a mathematical setting.

On the other hand, what can "Intelligent Design" put forward? An intelligent designer. Woo. And simply positing a GOD Of Designers (recurse infinitely, apologise to Douglas Hofstadter) leads neither to viable reductionism (that is, being able to explain a system by subdividing it until you get to the smallest interesting set of interacting parts) nor to emergent behaviour (you just get lost in the stack of GODs). Hence, no science, merely an unresolvable mess of maybes, unamenable to testable hypothesis.

Permalink to Comment

18. tc99mman on August 3, 2005 01:24 PM writes...

Will charlie wagner either reference or briefly describe a research program that would test intelligent input or "identify intelligent input in living systems"? Thousands of such programs are currently underway that test the the synthetic theory of evolution (neodarwinism?).
I really would like to read and understand such a research program for ID.

Permalink to Comment

19. Lanark on August 3, 2005 01:59 PM writes...

Charlie Wagner wrote:

"Could random processes have generated life and its diversity, including all of the highly organized structures and processes, or was some ccomponent of intelligent input required for its evolution?"

Well... How can you say that the structures and processes are 'highly organized'? Highly compared with what? Do you know another form of life than earthly life? You may say that life and evolution is 'amazing' because it's the only thing you know, you can 'see' wonderful structures because that structures are the only you know. Nothing is 'highly', 'amazing' nor 'wonderful' in nature. Nature is as it is, and it's the only thing you know. It has no purpose, nor 'progress' in it, except on our tiny naive minds. It neither is an 'It'. Is. Period.

Permalink to Comment

20. Charlie Wagner on August 3, 2005 02:59 PM writes...

tc99mman wrote:

"Will charlie wagner either reference or briefly describe a research program that would test intelligent input or "identify intelligent input in living systems"? Thousands of such programs are currently underway that test the the synthetic theory of evolution (neodarwinism?).
I really would like to read and understand such a research program for ID."

I laid out a method for detecting intelligent input in my online paper:
http://www.charliewagner.net/casefor.htm

Briefly, it involves the identification of complex, highly organized systems in which multiple structures and multiple processes occur and these structures and processes are integrated together in such a way that they support each other and they support the overall functioning of the system and the organism. In other words, that exhibit means adapted to ends, a signature for intelligence.

On the other hand, there are no such programs to test neo-darwinism, despite your claim. There is nothing underway, or in the literature that investigates the most audacious claim of neo-darwinism, the claim that random mutations and changes in gene frequency resulting from natural selection can generate the highly organized processes, structures and systems of which living organisms are constructed.

Permalink to Comment

21. Jay on August 3, 2005 03:59 PM writes...

I like to look at it this way: If the universe is infinite, then the odds of our solar system, planet, and the human race happening simply by accident approaches infinity.

Obviously that contradicts Intelligent Design, which seems to be an entirely faith based idea (I can't bring myself to call it a theory, ugh), and a cop out for people who can't explain random factors in nature.

Permalink to Comment

22. Tim Chase on August 3, 2005 06:21 PM writes...

Neo-darwinists have the same problem. All species evolved from pre-existing species. Where did these pre-existing species come from? Naturally, they evolved from other pre-existing species. It's the same problem. Even if you can get back to the first cell, it still begs the question: where did the first cell come from?

Hardly. To explain the existence of complexity, intelligent design introduces a designer which is necessarily more complex than that which it was introduced to explain, and by this logic, is itself in need of explanation, but to an even greater degree than that which it was introduced to explain. Moreover, once one abandons naturalistic explanation, one necessarily abandons the realm of empirical explanation and testability.

Evolution can explain the existence of biological systems in terms of simpler biological systems and evolution through mutation and natural selection, for example, the DNA world in terms of a previous RNA world, and RNA-based life in terms of a simpler form of life, quite possibly based upon polypeptides, where such life would have resulted from networks of autocatalytic chemical reactions. A fair amount of work is being done in these directions.

We are all better off if we leave the problem of primary cause to the philosophers and keep our feet grounded in provable science.

Actually, I would speak in terms of "empirical science," where the naturalistic explanations which we seek for empirical phenomena are themselves open to further empirical analysis. Empirical science does not prove, but rather, it arrives at the simplest testable explanation which fits all of the available evidence. Either the "intelligent designer" belongs to the natural realm and is therefore open to further empirical analysis and criticism, or it is a supernatural "intelligent designer." If the former, unlike cells, I have as of yet to see anything offered as empirical evidence for the existence of such a naturalistic designer -- and particularly anything which would suggest that this is in any way the simplest explanation. (Indeed, how could it be the simplest explanation, since the designer must be more complex than the phenomena which it is introduced to explain? Would one argue that the naturalistic intelligent designer has always existed? If so, why not argue that cells have always existed -- since are far more simple?) If the latter (i.e., a supernatural intelligent designer), then such a being necessarily falls outside of the realm of empirical science.

Yes, lets keep our feet grounded in empirical science, where there is evidence to be offered. As an example, I will offer the following evidence for macroevolution:

Whale Evolution/Cetacean Evolution (Atavistic Hind Limbs on Modern Whales)
http://edwardtbabinski.us/whales/
from
Edward T Babinski
http://edwardtbabinski.us/

Smooth Change in the Fossil Record
http://www.don-lindsay-archive.org/creation/fossil_series.html
from
Don Lindsay Archive
http://www.don-lindsay-archive.org/

Transitional Fossil Species
http://www.origins.tv/darwin/transitionals.htm
from
Darwinians and Evolution
http://www.origins.tv/darwin/indexpage.htm

Observed Instances of Speciation
http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-speciation.html
from
The Talk.Origins Archive
http://www.talkorigins.org/

Some More Observed Speciation Events
http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/speciation.html
(Homepage given above)

Ring Species: Unusual Demonstrations of Speciation
http://www.actionbioscience.org/evolution/irwin.html
from
Action Bioscience.Org
http://www.actionbioscience.org/

The Evolution Evidence Page (homepage for website)
http://www.gate.net/~rwms/EvoEvidence.html

The Fossil Record: Evolution or "Scientific Creation"
http://www.gcssepm.org/special/cuffey_05.htm
from
GCSSEPM Special Interests
http://www.gcssepm.org/special/

Permalink to Comment

23. Charlie Wagner on August 3, 2005 09:20 PM writes...

Tim Chase wrote:

"Hardly. To explain the existence of complexity,..."

Whoosh! How did you move from infinite regress to complexity? Complexity has nothing to do with this. First of all, highly complex structures can be generated by purely random pocesses. That's a fact.
But it's not what I was talking about. Infinite regress is just as much a problem for neo-darwinian evolutionists as it is for intelligent designers. You have to explain how it all started.
Since you brought up complexity, allow me to point out that the real issue is organization, which is quite a different matter. Organization requires insight, complexity does not. Insight comes from intelligence, from the ability to solve problems by influencing your environment.

"Yes, lets keep our feet grounded in empirical science, where there is evidence to be offered."

Yes, empirical. That's the word I was looking for. I wasn't happy with "provable" since science is not in the business of proving things.
If you want to invoke Occam's Razor and seek out the simplest explanation, wouldn't "god did it" fill that requirement? After "god did it", what else is there to think about?
There is no reason why the intelligent designer could not be more intelligent than humans and less than supernatural. The problem of complexity (whether there is more or less) is a red herring. There's possibly a whole range of intelligences in the universe and the possibility exists (gasp!) that we are not at the top. But there's also no reason why the intelligent designer could not be part of the natural world, and subject to its laws.
True enough, there is little empirical evidence that this intelligence exists, but a compelling circumstantial case can be made from the available evidence. Have you read my online paper "A Scientific Case for Intelligent Input"? It's on my website.
http://www.charliewagner.com
I appreciate all the links, but I'm not in need of evidence for evolution. Only a fool would declare that it has not occurred. The real question is whether it was unguided, random and accidental or whether intelligent input was required.

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24. J Michael on August 3, 2005 11:35 PM writes...

dave said:
"makes me wonder why this country was founded at all... wait a second it was so that they could escape opression and worship god...."

The Puritans founded a colony, they did not found this country. Most of the colonization of this country was for economic reasons, not religion.

More importantly, evolutionary biology does not seek to oppress theists, and if you think it does, you misunderstand science, and your theology is highly suspect as well.

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25. Tim Chase on August 4, 2005 12:29 AM writes...

Charlie Wagner wrote:

Whoosh! How did you move from infinite regress to complexity?

Well, we were talking about "intelligent design," and the only two (albeit questionable) theorists of any note in the intelligent design movement are Michael J. Behe -- whose arguments revolve around his concept of "irreducible complexity," and William A. Dembski, whose arguments likewise revolve around complexity, or alternatively, information.

If one proposes an "intelligent designer" to account for the existence of "complexity" as they use the term, then the arguments I have proposed against it work just fine. But lets see, do you get any further with your substitution of the word "organized" for "complex"? Well, consider this: will one thing be more highly organized than another? It would seem to be the case that a human being, for example, is more highly organized than a bacterium. Is the existence of organization something which you believe must be accounted for? It appears so. Is organization something which you find it necessary to invoke a designer for? It appears so. And so it appears that you achieve very little through your transubstanation of "irreducible complexity" into "organization."

You state:

If you want to invoke Occam's Razor and seek out the simplest explanation, wouldn't "god did it" fill that requirement? After "god did it", what else is there to think about?

You may very well wish to reduce science to the level of simply saying "God did it," or, "Because God made it that way," but science wouldn't have gotten very far in terms of understanding the nature of electricity or lightning if this were regarded as scientific.

When I invoke simplicity, or Occam's Razor, I am simply recognizing the fact that when one proposes a theory with which one makes certain predictions which are themselves falsified through experiment, it is often possible to "save the theory" through the introduction of ad hoc hypotheses, but this is illegitimate, yet at the same time, one must leave room for auxiliary hypotheses, which are legitimate.

Moreover, one must recognize the fact that evidence confers justification, rather than simply falsifies theories. (The Popperian principle of falsifiability has been largely abandoned by the philosophy of science -- but to get into this in much depth would be something of a digression.)

Nevertheless, a scientific principle must be testable -- it cannot simply be offered as an explanation which is compatible with any and every possible outcome of an experiment regarding the phenomena it is supposed to explain. It cannot be compatible with any conceivable evidence. An explanation which explains anything explains nothing. This is why "Because God made it that way" offered as an explanation of the orbits of the planets is not a scientific explanation, whereas either Newton's or Einstein's gravitational theories are.

Which is why I used the phrase "simplest testable explanation." But you focused on one word and ignored the rest.

As for a natural intelligent designer, one who exists a physical object in our universe and is subject to natural law, like ourselves, yes, it is "possible" that such an intelligent designer (say a chemist from somewhere else in the galaxy) initiated life on earth as some sort of scientific experiment. But what kind of evidence would you have for such a being? Such an incredible hypothesis would require a great deal of evidence. Moreover, proposing this designer as an explanation of life on earth would simply be moving the problem of the origin of life elsewhere.

If you argue that life is of such a nature that it requires an intelligent designer in order to explain its existence (e.g., life is too complex or too organized), then surely this applies to your intelligent designer, assuming he is natural. And if so, then my argument that by invoking an intelligent designer, one has simply fallen into an infinite regress applies.

You state:

Have you read my online paper "A Scientific Case for Intelligent Input"?

You mean the paper you keep pushing at:
http://www.charliewagner.net/casefor.htm

Sorry, Charlie.

I looked at the paper. I am not at all impressed. This doesn't even rise to the level of Behe.

When you state:

Living organisms are all found in the third category. They are biochemical machines that are complex and highly organized. Although their origin cannot be determined with certainty. It must be assumed that since all such known machines are the product of intelligent input, they too must have this as a requirement. Of course, this does not preclude the existence of a yet to be understood First Principle that might explain their origin. The nature of the mechanism and/or the intelligence involved remains undiscovered. All known mechanisms are incapable of generating this kind of organization, which requires insight to implement.

you are simply begging the question.

Then you go on to state:

Based on these observations and experiments, Nelson’s Law is proposed.
In its simplest form, Nelson’s Law states that “things do not organize* themselves without intelligent guidance”.

But the only thing which you have to back this up with is the very same circular reasoning already given. And calling it a law doesn't render it any more respectable -- whether this is your innovation or the innovation of some creationist writer whom you have read, it makes little difference.

Then you attempt to distinguish between "organization" and "order," and give as examples of ordered systems "snowflakes" and "tornadoes," asserting that,

Order is simply a condition of logical or comprehensible arrangement among the separate elements of a group. Like putting files in alphabetical order or using a sieve to separate items by size.

But a tornado or hurricane hardly fits this definition of "order." They are instances of self-organizing, dissipative systems.

Dissipative systems (also refered to as "dissipative structures" --systems which are distant from thermodynamic equilibrium, and which generate entropy, but dissipate more entropy into their environment than they produce) are capable of self-organization. Even a hurricane -- which starts out as a tropical depression (assuming you don't want to trace it back further -- just look up "the butterfly effect"), are capable of self-organization. Distant from thermodynamic equilibrium, such physical systems are oftentimes unstable and capable of amplifying fluctuations which add to the complexity of these systems. Autocatalytic chemical reactions oftentimes form just such dissipative systems. And living organisms are dissipative systems -- which often involve autocatalysts. (For example, ribozyme is a form of autocatalytic RNA, quite capable of acting as a catalyst which facilitates its own production.) In all such cases, physical systems are capable of self-organization.

You state:

I appreciate all the links, but I'm not in need of evidence for evolution. Only a fool would declare that it has not occurred. The real question is whether it was unguided, random and accidental or whether intelligent input was required.

Well then -- you have just dismissed the good majority of those who support the political movement known as "intelligent design" as fools. In contrast, while the proponents at the forefront of the intelligent design movement may be comfortable admitting that evolution might have taken place, but they will typically not come right out and state that evolution has taken place -- for fear of alienating their supporters -- and simply keep their "theories" at a highly abstract, theoretical level. Arguing that the earth is somewhere between 5,000 and 4,500,000,000 years old, for example, they are tying to keep both Young Earth Creationists and the scientifically literate happy at the same time. (So much for advancing the frontiers of science, apparently.) As such, they only further demonstrate the fact that their movement is essentially political, not scientific.

Incidentally, the Discovery Institute (the leading organization promoting Intelligent Design) has freely admitted that they aren't ready for prime time -- to be taught as an alternative to evolution. Instead, they wish to see schools "teach the controversy," by which they mean the "evidence and arguments against evolution." But this simply consists of a rehash of arguments already done to death in Young Earth Creationist literature. So much for science, apparently.

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26. Kirk Hughey on August 4, 2005 03:59 AM writes...

I've always found it interesting that Francis Crick (co-discoverer of DNA structure and a confirmed, even militant, atheist) was so convinced that life could not have originated on earth by strictly physical processes that he opted for directed panspermia- the 'planting' of life on the planet by extra-terrestrial intelligences. Of course this still begs the question of where and how life began in the universe but it does confront the issue of it's origin here by physical process.

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27. Steven Bedrick on August 4, 2005 10:38 AM writes...

>Tim Chase on August 3, 2005 12:24 PM writes...
>Steven Bedrick wrote:

>"Intelligent design does not demand a supernatural designer, only >one that is far superior to human intelligence."
> ...

Ummmm... no, "Steven Bedrick" did *not* write this... not sure how this crazy pro-ID statement got attributed to me, but just to set the record straight, I said nothing of the sort. :-)

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28. Tim Chase on August 4, 2005 10:59 AM writes...

Steven Bedrick on August 4, 2005 10:38 AM writes...

> Tim Chase on August 3, 2005 12:24 PM writes...

> Ummmm... no, "Steven Bedrick" did *not* write
> this... not sure how this crazy pro-ID
> statement got attributed to me, but just to
> set the record straight, I said nothing of the > sort. :-)

My apologies, Steven. I had misunderstood the layout of the board and thought that the name just below an entry was the name of the person who made the entry. What I was responding to was the first entry -- by Charlie Wagner.

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29. Tim Chase on August 4, 2005 11:00 AM writes...

Steven Bedrick on August 4, 2005 10:38 AM writes...

> Ummmm... no, "Steven Bedrick" did *not* write
> this... not sure how this crazy pro-ID
> statement got attributed to me, but just to
> set the record straight, I said nothing of the > sort. :-)

My apologies, Steven. I had misunderstood the layout of the board and thought that the name just below an entry was the name of the person who made the entry. What I was responding to was the first entry -- by Charlie Wagner.

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30. george on August 4, 2005 11:19 AM writes...

Charlie Wagner writes "...it is abundantly clear that it is possible to accept that evolution has occurred (as I do) and to also hold the view that intelligent input was required for evolution to occur (which I also do)..."

Maybe so, but the former has extensive scientific evidence to support it, the latter doesn't and without it, it doesn't belong in a science class, being discussed next to evolution. If so, why not make room for every religious theory on being and drown out all the science.

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31. Tim Chase on August 4, 2005 11:44 AM writes...

Religion and Evolution

J Michael wrote:

The Puritans founded a colony, they did not found this country. Most of the colonization of this country was for economic reasons, not religion.

More importantly, evolutionary biology does not seek to oppress theists, and if you think it does, you misunderstand science, and your theology is highly suspect as well.

Agreed.

Moreover, if one looks at the history of the early colonies, one finds that they practiced all sorts of religious oppression against those who believed differently from themselves within their separate communities. It was largely with this religious oppression in mind that the founding fathers created the Separation between Church and State -- so that the state could not be used as a weapon between people of differing religious beliefs.

Additionally, many evolutionists are religious.

Here are two examples:

"Science and Religion" interview with Kenneth R. Miller
http://www.actionbioscience.org/evolution/miller.html

"Gee Responds to Discovery Institute Use of Quotations" by Henry Gee
http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/articles/3167_pr90_10152001__gee_responds_10_15_2001.asp

Here is an article on the relationship between religion and science which may be of some interest to a few people:

"Religion and Science"
http://www.evcforum.net/cgi-bin/dm.cgi?action=msg&f=32&t=4&m=1

Finally, people might also want to look at:

An Open Letter Concerning Religion and Science
http://www.uwosh.edu/colleges/cols/religion_science_collaboration.htm

Over 5000 clergy of different Christian faiths have recently signed a document in which they state (among other things) that,

"... the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests."

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32. Charlie Wagner on August 4, 2005 12:18 PM writes...

Tim wrote:

"Well, we were talking about "intelligent design,"

Be careful about painting everyone with the same brush. While I agree with Behe and Dembski on many points, we do have significant differences in many areas. I've corresponded with Mike Behe and explained to him my views on "irreducible complexity" and what problems it generates. I do not support "irreducible complexity" as it has been proposed by religious creationists and I dislike being lumped together with other ID proponents with whom I have significant differences of opinion.
As I've written before, "Behe's mousetrap is unevolvable, not because you can't take it apart without it losing it's function, it's unevolvable because you can't put it together in the first place using only random, non-directed, accidental occurrences. The selection of the parts, the configuration in which they're aligned, the assembly into one unit all require intelligent decisions at every step of the way. Similarly, living organisms show the same characteristics. It's not that you can't remove parts and lose total function, it's that you can't explain why these particular parts were selected, why they're integrated together in just such a way and how they were assembled from raw materials without invoking an intelligent agent."

"I am simply recognizing the fact that when one proposes a theory with which one makes certain predictions which are themselves falsified through experiment, it is often possible to "save the theory" through the introduction of ad hoc hypotheses, but this is illegitimate, yet at the same time, one must leave room for auxiliary hypotheses, which are legitimate."

There's a very fine line between "ad hoc" and "auxiliary". If you hold the hypothesis that life evolved over a long period of time through the gradual accumulation of fortuitous mutations (gradualism) and then you learn that the fossil record does not support gradualism, then it would seem to me the theory is falsified. It appears to me that all attempts to "save the theory" are generated by the need to address specific problems with the theory, therefore they are all "ad hoc" (and therefore illegitimate).

"Nevertheless, a scientific principle must be testable --"

Exactly right. Which is why neo-darwinism is not a scientific principle. While mutation is testable and natural selection is testable, the main premise of neo-darwinism, that these effects have the power to create the highly organized processes, structures and adaptations that are found in living systems.

"But what kind of evidence would you have for such a being? "

Right now, it's entirely circumstantial. We observe living systems and we realize that they are biochemical machines that adapt means to ends and integrate structure, process and function into a living system. We know that systems like this do not emerge from random processes, so we begin the search for the cause.

"I looked at the paper. I am not at all impressed. This doesn't even rise to the level of Behe."

I disagree. Perhaps you simply didn't read it carefully enough or understand what I was saying.
Try reading it again for understanding.
It's also important to understand that it's not a proof, it's an analogy. It's only as good as its ability to persuade. I happen to think the analogy is compelling, and not at all circular.

"-- whether this is your innovation or the innovation of some creationist writer whom you have read, it makes little difference."

I don't read creationist writers. Everything I write is my own.

"But a tornado or hurricane hardly fits this definition of "order." They are instances of self-organizing, dissipative systems."

Tornadoes and hurricanes do not exhibit the kind of organization found in machines and living systems. They do not adapt means to ends, they do not integrate multiple structures and processes into a functional system, they do not alter their environment for their own benefit and they can be fully explained by known physical and chemical processes.

"just look up "the butterfly effect"), are capable of self-organization. "

I've been following Lorenz' work and chaos theory for at least 30 years. The word "organization" is not a scientific word until it's defined. It means different things to different people. When I use the word I'm referring to my definition.

"Well then -- you have just dismissed the good majority of those who support the political movement known as "intelligent design" as fools."

I prefer the word "misguided". I am not a part of the "ID movement", I'm a scientist with no religious agenda interpreting what I see according to the scientific method. I have no interest or desire to get sucked into any political debates over evolution or creationism, both of which are currently in a fierce battle for the bottom rung on the ladder of credibility.

"Incidentally, the Discovery Institute..."

I have no interest in the Discovery Institute or it's religious agenda. Neo-darwinism has some significant flaws and these flaws should be examined by thinking scientists and laypersons. Evolutionists are apparently scared s***less about losing ground to religious creationists, but I'm not intimidated by them and I'm not afraid of talking about their views in open forum. Knowledge never hurt anyone, but suppressing criticism and dissent is not worthy of science. It should be answered with facts and evidence. Why does this not happen?


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33. Tim Chase on August 4, 2005 12:44 PM writes...

Academic Article Retracted

The one ligitimate academic paper published by the intelligent design movement is retracted:

Statement from the Council of the Biological Society of Washington regarding the publication of the paper by Stephen C. Meyer in Volume 117(2) of the Proceedings
http://www.biolsocwash.org/id_statement.html

PS I will respond to Charlie a little later. Just thought the above might be of some interest to others.

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34. Jay on August 4, 2005 02:44 PM writes...

Charlie Wagner wrote:

"As I've written before, "Behe's mousetrap is unevolvable, not because you can't take it apart without it losing it's function, it's unevolvable because you can't put it together in the first place using only random, non-directed, accidental occurrences. The selection of the parts, the configuration in which they're aligned, the assembly into one unit all require intelligent decisions at every step of the way.""

I'm guessing since you wrote this, that you do in fact believe it. No offense, but to suggest that something CANNOT happen due to random, non-directed, accidental occurrences is very foolish, and shows a lack of understanding in statistics.

So what if there is some sort of superior being, which is unprovable? Even if there was, there's also no reason to believe that this being would lift a finger to do anything, or that it even meant to design anything in the first place. Many scientists have created new things by accident.

In the end, the only logical explanation is evolution, despite the so-called holes, which I'm confident will be filled given enough time, even if by accident. :-)

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35. Tim Chase on August 4, 2005 04:38 PM writes...

A Review of "The origin of biological information and the higher taxonomic categories" by Stephen Meyer

As I mentioned in a previous post, the one article published in a legitimate academic journal (titled "The origin of biological information and the higher taxonomic categories," author: Stephen Meyer) by the Intelligent Design movement was retracted. I thought it might be worthwhile to include a link to one of the first reviews.

"Meyer's Hopeless Monster"
by Alan Gishlick, Nick Matzke, and Wesley R. Elsberry
http://www.pandasthumb.org/pt-archives/000430.html

At one point, they state:

"We congratulate ID on finally getting an article in a peer-reviewed biology journal, a mere fifteen years after the publication of the 1989 ID textbook Of Pandas and People, a textbook aimed at inserting ID into public schools."

But of course, the congratulations were given somewhat prematurely. For those who missed it, here is the link to the retraction:

Statement from the Council of the Biological Society of Washington regarding the publication of the paper by Stephen C. Meyer in Volume 117(2) of the Proceedings
http://www.biolsocwash.org/id_statement.html

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36. Gerald Gibson on August 4, 2005 08:09 PM writes...

Dave Scot..... Just like a backwards uneducated CONservative. And I know alot of them...I grew up in a few rightwing churches in Indiana ...eww. ya I know... but anyways ...here is some SCIENCE for you ...you know that way of thinking based on TRUTH...not fantasy..

http://oregonstate.edu/dept/ncs/newsarch/2002/Mar02/amber.htm

In 1992 two independent research teams published their remarkable discoveries about ancient genes (DNA) preserved in amber, and the exciting new field of molecular paleontology officially emerged. George Poinar, a University of California entomologist extracted DNA from a 30 million-year- old stingless, tropical bee preserved in Dominican Republic Amber (Medical Science Research Vol. 20, 1992).

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37. Gerald Gibson on August 4, 2005 08:30 PM writes...

Charlie Wagner wrote:

Neo-darwinists have the same problem. All species evolved from pre-existing species. Where did these pre-existing species come from? Naturally, they evolved from other pre-existing species. It's the same problem. Even if you can get back to the first cell, it still begs the question: where did the first cell come from?
We are all better off if we leave the problem of primary cause to the philosophers and keep our feet grounded in provable science.
================================================

Is it REALLY that hard to do a google search???

http://www.accessexcellence.org/bioforum/bf02/awramik/bf02a2.html

You IDs are a bunch or arm chair intellects. You hear some small part of real science and tell yourself that is all there is to and so we scientists are wrong.... try doing a little study i.e. critical thinking ...and you might wake up to the modern world.

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38. Gerald Gibson on August 4, 2005 08:57 PM writes...

Charlie Wagner wronte:

"We know that systems like this do not emerge from random processes, so we begin the search for the cause."

Really? Where are the tests that you have conducted that would give you the confidence to make this statement?


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39. dave on August 4, 2005 09:31 PM writes...

i think all the evolutionists are really getting to the hard questions at hand by name calling and ad hominem attacks.. bravo......

natural selection cannot exist, if a predator needs a specific part of his body to survive, then he would never exist himself cause he would need it firstly to even survive, and if he didnt really need it anyway then why did the others who did not have it die off....?

just logic guys....

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40. Tim Chase on August 4, 2005 10:04 PM writes...

Charles Gibson wrote:

In 1992 two independent research teams published their remarkable discoveries about ancient genes (DNA) preserved in amber, and the exciting new field of molecular paleontology officially emerged. George Poinar, a University of California entomologist extracted DNA from a 30 million-year- old stingless, tropical bee preserved in Dominican Republic Amber (Medical Science Research Vol. 20, 1992).

Thats right -- we do have some of the DNA from ancient species. And we are about to try something rather ambitious:

Neanderthal genome to be reconstructed
07:51 AEST Thu Jul 7 2005
http://news.ninemsn.com.au/article.aspx?id=54673

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41. Tim Chase on August 5, 2005 12:03 AM writes...

My apologies for the delay -- I was able to write shorter pieces earlier, but this took a little more time.

Charlie wrote:

"Be careful about painting everyone with the same brush. While I agree with Behe and Dembski on many points, we do have significant differences in many areas."

In this discussion of Intelligent Design, I myself, and probably most people are principally interested in what is representative of Intelligent Design. You are putting yourself forward as a proponent of Intelligent Design. Fair enough, if you believe in Intelligent Design, you can certainly advocate it. But this in no way makes you representative of the movement. If you wish to discuss certain ideas of yours, feel free to put them forward. We may or may not choose to discuss them. However, your attempts to act as some sort of authority regarding Intelligent Design or as someone who is representative of Intelligent Design are at the very least annoying -- particularly when your views are not representative of the movement, in any way well-known (since claim you found it necessary to personally introduce Behe to your views), and you wish us to assume that you are some sort of expert in the "field" simply because you say so. I believe you are rubbing a number of people the wrong way (including myself), and this is making things a bit more tense than they need to be.

Charlie wrote:

Behe's mousetrap is unevolvable, not because you can't take it apart without it losing it's function, it's unevolvable because you can't put it together in the first place using only random, non-directed, accidental occurrences. The selection of the parts, the configuration in which they're aligned, the assembly into one unit all require intelligent decisions at every step of the way. Similarly, living organisms show the same characteristics. It's not that you can't remove parts and lose total function, it's that you can't explain why these particular parts were selected, why they're integrated together in just such a way and how they were assembled from raw materials without invoking an intelligent agent.

Are you trying to state the view that a new function cannot arise as the result of random mutations? Have you ever considered the fact that bacteria acquires resistance to antibiotics through mutation? That once the mutation occurs, the function of the new allele is to provide resistance to antibiotics? Would you argue that an intelligent designer was involved here? If so, where is this intelligent designer? I could go on for a while with regard to this, but I believe you see my point.

In the case of acquired resistance, the mutation serves the function of defeating antibiotics to which the bacterial population has been exposed. This happens all the time. But evolution is not simply chance -- what is primarily responsible for innovation (at least in neo-Darwinism) is natural selection. Mutations occur, but then natural selection eliminates those mutations which prove detrimental to the survival or reproduction of the species. Further mutations occur to the population which has survived, then natural selection eliminates detrimental mutations again so that they are not passed on to the next generation. Those mutations which are neutral or beneficial are passed on. Natural selection is what is primarily responsible for shaping the evolution of the species. Likewise, under artifical selection for domesticity, within twenty years, foxes were bred to behave more like dogs, and in the process, not only did they become more friendly, but their coats changed and their ears went from being pointed to floppy. In short, they became more dog-like. (Incidentally, while it had been argued that dogs might have evolved from other wild canines, such as hyena, today we know from genetic analysis that all dogs evolved from wolves.)

Charlie wrote:

There's a very fine line between "ad hoc" and "auxiliary". If you hold the hypothesis that life evolved over a long period of time through the gradual accumulation of fortuitous mutations (gradualism) and then you learn that the fossil record does not support gradualism, then it would seem to me the theory is falsified. It appears to me that all attempts to "save the theory" are generated by the need to address specific problems with the theory, therefore they are all "ad hoc" (and therefore illegitimate).

Admittedly, the auxiliary and the ad hoc exist along the same continueem, but arguing that they are the same is a bit like declaring that there is no color "blue" because it exists along the same continueem as "green." An auxiliary hypothesis may be quite reasonable. Moreover, an auxiliary hypothesis may be testable by other means. And even with the addition of an auxiliary hypothesis, a given theory may be simpler and have more predictive and explandatory power than any of its competitors. In which case it would be foolish to abandon the theory simply because of the required addition of an auxiliary hypothesis -- as anyone familiar with the history of science would be well-aware.

Charlie wrote:

Which is why neo-darwinism is not a scientific principle. While mutation is testable and natural selection is testable, the main premise of neo-darwinism, that these effects have the power to create the highly organized processes, structures and adaptations that are found in living systems.

Ah -- an interesting move -- since a highly organized structure (for example, the eye) would take a fair number of mutations in order to evolve, and couldn't possibly happen in an individual's lifetime so that they could observe it. In some ways, this reminds me of the creationists who will allow for microevolution (changes in the populations of alleles in a given species) but deny the evolution from one broadly-defined kind to another (a single-celled creature to a mammal) on the basis of the fact that this hasn't been observed in our lifetime.

However, I believe you are experiencing some difficulty distinguishing between the testable and the observable. (This seems rather odd, given your science background.) There are many conclusions of science which we can test for without actually being able to observe them. For example, we cannot observe subatomic particles directly, but we are able to observe the trails they produce in cloud chambers -- and we can make theories which predict those trails in terms of our understanding of subatomic particles. We cannot observe stellar interiors, but we are able to observe the spectra of matter, or detect the passage of neutrinos -- and we can judge theories of stellar evolution (including the evolution of stellar cores) on the basis of how well the explain that which we can observe. Likewise, we are no longer able to observe the existence of a Roman Empire, but historians have no difficulty acknowledging the fact that Ceasar crossed the Rubicon.

For a list of just some of the predictions which have been made, see:

Is Evolution Science?
http://www.don-lindsay-archive.org/creation/evo_science.html

I looked at Charlie's paper, and told him that I didn't find it particularly compelling.

To this, Charlie wrote:

I disagree.

Perhaps you simply didn't read it carefully enough or understand what I was saying.
Try reading it again for understanding.
It's also important to understand that it's not a proof, it's an analogy. It's only as good as its ability to persuade. I happen to think the analogy is compelling, and not at all circular.

This is an instance of circular reasoning:

Living organisms are all found in the third category. They are biochemical machines that are complex and highly organized. Although their origin cannot be determined with certainty. It must be assumed that since all such known machines are the product of intelligent input, they too must have this as a requirement.

If you had stated that, "Sheep are like wristwatches: just as the organization and function of a wristwatch points to a writchwatch-maker, so the organization and function of a sheep points to a sheep-maker, " that would have been "reasoning by analogy." But this would not have been particularly convincing. However, this is not what you attempted. With, "It must be assumed," you beg the question.

And then you try to declare your conclusion a law:

Based on these observations and experiments, Nelson’s Law is proposed.

In its simplest form, Nelson’s Law states that "things do not organize* themselves without intelligent guidance".

That is an aweful lot for an argument from analogy to bear. A bit like expecting a mouse to give an elephant a piggyback ride. Poor thing.

Charlie writes:

I don't read creationist writers. Everything I write is my own.

Does this mean that your middle name is "Nelson"?

Charlie writes:

The word "organization" is not a scientific word until it's defined. It means different things to different people. When I use the word I'm referring to my definition.

And why should I accept your definition? Particularly when you meant to distinguish "organization" from "order" but tried to subsume such self-organizing structures as hurricanes under "order" when you defined order as "a condition of logical or comprehensible arrangement among the separate elements of a group. Like putting files in alphabetical order or using a sieve to separate items by size"? And what precisely do you intend to do with autocatalytic chemical reactions when they occur both as self-organizing structures outside of biological systems and within?

Anyway, once again, my apologies for the delay in this response.


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42. Tim Chase on August 5, 2005 01:43 AM writes...

Dave wrote:

natural selection cannot exist, if a predator needs a specific part of his body to survive, then he would never exist himself cause he would need it firstly to even survive, and if he didnt really need it anyway then why did the others who did not have it die off....?

If you have a four-sided polygon, and you shrink one of its sides until that side is only a tenth of the length of the other sides, how many sides does it have? Four, I would assume. Now shrink that side until it is only a millionth the length of the other sides? Now how many sides does it have? Still four? Now shrink that side until it is infinitesimal. How many sides does it have? At this point, I believe you will recognize the fact that the answer may be either three or four. Well, something similar can occur in the case of organs.

Consider an organism which, in an environment where there is little predatation, develops a light-sensitive patch of skin. Perhaps it is only a slight light-sensitivity over a very small patch of skin -- but in an aqueous environment where there are no well-developed predators, this may still serve some purposes. For example, near the surface of the ocean, it could indicate which direction is up -- which may be of some benefit if the organism requires light, finds nutrients at the surface of the ocean, or nutrients only at a certain depth. But greater light sensitivity, even by very small increments, will be of even greater benefit -- and those who acquire such abilities through mutation will stand a better chance of passing on their genes to offspring than those who do not. And a transparent cover will afford some protection for this patch, even if the cover is particularly thin, but if it is thicker, even by a small amount, it will afford greater protection. Likewise, if the transparent cover is able to focus the light -- even a small amount so that a very blurry image is perceived, this will be of some benefit in identifying nutrients or mates, but if the ability to focus the light were somewhat stronger, even by a small degree, this would be of greater benefit.

The ability to see will of considerable benefit to many organisms -- predator or prey. The ability to see will be of benefit to herbavores which undergo a change in lifestyle and become carniverous. And it will be of benefit to the prey which attempts to escape from such predators. Furthermore, once a predator/prey relationship develops, there will exist a form of positive feedback, an arms race, if you will, in which an advance made by one side will put further pressure upon the other to evolve more quickly if it is to survive.

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44. Tim Chase on August 6, 2005 01:20 AM writes...

Punctuated Equilibrium Theory

Quick Note: The link from Sharon is definitely worth the visit. There is a quote on the other end which is an absolute gem, and as for the rest -- all I can say is, "Incredible!"

Anyway, don't know how familiar people are with the debate which has gone on between the gradualists and the punctuated equilibria theorists, but I thought I would share a little.

Seems to still be a bit of a touchy subject in some quarters, but this is what I wrote in response to some individuals who took a negative view in general on Stephen J. Gould....

* * *

For me, the big question is whether Stephen J. Gould was correct on the Punctuated Equilibrium Theory. Now as I understand it, with the vast majority of species which reproduce by sexual means, what we find is that there are long periods of stasis, then relatively short periods during which evolutionary change takes place, that is, punctuated equilibria models win-out over gradualism (although the reverse is the case among primitive species which reproduce by means of fission):

“Among more complex organisms, however, the opposite consensus had developed. As paleontologists had known for over a century, most species are stable for millions of years, and change so rapidly that we rarely witness it in the fossil record. Of the hundreds of studies that have been reviewed elsewhere (Gould and Eldredge, 1977, 1986; Gould, 1992), a few stand out (Stanley, 1992). Cheetham (1986) and Stanley and Yang (1987) examined all the available lineages of their respective groups (bryozoans and bivalves) through long intervals of time, using multivariate analysis of multiple character states. Both concluded that most of their species were static through millions of years, with rare but rapid episodes of speciation. Williamson (1981, 1985) examined the details of evolution of molluscs in Lake Turkana, Kenya, and showed that there were multiple examples of rapid speciation and prolonged stasis, but no gradualism. Barnosky (1987) reviewed a great number of different lineages of mammals, from mammoths to shrews and rodents, that lived during the last two million years of the Ice Ages. He found a few examples of gradualism, but many more which showed stasis and punctuation.”

“My own research (Prothero and Shubin, 1983; Prothero, 1992; Prothero, Heaton, and Stanley, in press) examined all the mammals with a reasonably complete record from the Eocene-Oligocene (about 30-35 million years ago) beds of the Big Badlands of South Dakota and related areas in Wyoming and Nebraska (Figure 2). This study not only sampled every available lineage without bias, but also had much better time control from magnetic stratigraphy (Prothero and Swisher, 1992) and wider geographic coverage than the studies by Gingerich cited above. With one exception (gradual dwarfing in the oreodont Miniochoerus), we found that all of the Badlands mammals were static through millions of years, or speciated abruptly (if they changed at all).”

PUNCTUATED EQUILIBRIUM AT TWENTY: A PALEONTOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE
Skeptic vol. 1, no. 3, Fall 1992, pp. 38-47
By Donald R. Prothero, Ph.D.

http://www.skeptic.com/01.3.prothero-punc-eq.html

Now I do not believe that punctuated equilibrium theory is as revolutionary as Gould and Eldredge once tried to make it out to be. But at the same time, I by no means regard it as trivial, either. It has become a part of the wider synthesis of Darwinist evolutionary thought, an important part.

It is time to move beyond the personalities and on with the science.

(NOTE: The above-mentioned article is a good introduction to Punk Eek if you aren't particularly familiar with it. However, there is a great deal more going on in evolutionary biology nowadays than just this -- for example, retroviral epidemics seem to have played a critical role in mammalian evolution in general, and primate evolution in particular.)

* * *

Now a related news item from earlier this year:

Did humans evolve in fits and starts?
17:30 17 June 2005
NewScientist.com news service
Gaia Vince

http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn7539

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45. Charlie Wagner on August 6, 2005 09:55 PM writes...

Tim Chase wrote:

"Does this mean that your middle name is "Nelson"?"

Check the bottom right corner of my web page for my middle name. It's not Nelson.

http://www.charliewagner.com/index2.htm

You know, if you just stick to science and leave all of the ideology and mythology out of it, these questions would become a lot easier to answer and there wouldn't be as much confusion.
There is not one shred of empirical evidence, either observational or experimental, that mutation and natural selection are able to generate the highly organized structures, processes and systems that living otrganisms possess. It's really that simple.
I think science would best be served by abandoning the neo-darwinian mythology and sticking to real science like genetics, molecular biology and paleontology.

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46. Steve Willson on August 7, 2005 09:05 AM writes...

Science is a learning process, not a collection of facts. Science makes predictions based upon theory, then modifies or extends those predictions as new facts come to light. Untrue predictions are discarded. Science is testable, and falsifiable. Evolution is a testable, and falsifiable, theory. It is as well proven as gravity or nuclear fission. We don't know everything about those either, but that doesn't make them false.

Intelligent Design does not make predictions, and is not falsifiable. It postulates a "Great Designer/Supreme Intelligence" who miraculously (and I use the term deliberately) just happens to possess all the attributes of the traditional Judeo-Christian diety, including omniscience and infallabillity. This is not a natural Being being described, but a supernatural one. While there is no way to prove ID is true, there is also no way to prove it is false, and is this very unfalsifiability that removes ID from the realm of science. What possible test could be performed that would disprove ID to its supporters? ID might even be true, but how would we know if the supposed nudges to evolution by the Great Designer are so subtle they are undetectable? I suspect, like the existence of God, we will never be able to prove it scientifically. That's why it's called "faith."

If ID makes it easier for christians to accept evolution as truth, then that's all for the good. Nothing in evolution makes the existence of God impossible; in fact most of my friends who are christians (I am not one) see no inherent contradiction between evolution and God. A truly omnipotent and omniscient God could certainly have created the universe 15+ billion years ago, secure in the knowledge (omniscient, remember?) that in 15 billion years creatures will naturally evolve in a tiny corner of His universe who will call their planet "Earth." I've always felt that any supposed Supreme Being whom our limited intellect can truly grasp is unworthy of the name. How could we limited humans even comprehend what being all-knowing and all-powerful would really mean?

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47. Steve Willson on August 7, 2005 09:54 AM writes...

Charlie Wagner wrote:

"I think science would best be served by abandoning the neo-darwinian mythology and sticking to real science like genetics, molecular biology and paleontology."

"Neo-darwinian mythology"? The sciences you mentioned, and many others, contibute materially to our knowledge of evolution, and vice versa. Without evolution to provide context paleontology is meaningless; just collections of old bones. Molecular biology is illustrating more and more every day how species are related; which is a fundamental precept of evolution. Evolution is not some outré idea tacked onto life sciences as an appendage; it is a major part of the central framework of biology.

Studying paleontology or genetics without taking evolution into account would be as pointless as discussing christianity without mentioning Jesus of Nazareth.

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48. Charlie Wagner on August 7, 2005 11:15 AM writes...

Steve Willson wrote:

"Studying paleontology or genetics without taking evolution into account would be as pointless as discussing christianity without mentioning Jesus of Nazareth."

I don't agree.

Genetics, paleontology and molecular biology are incorrectly used to support the myth of neo-darwinism and those legitimate scientific disciplines would get along quite well without it.

If you had a contest for the stupidest remark ever made by a scientist, Dobzhansky's oft quoted claim that "Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution" would have to be the winner.

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49. Steve Willson on August 7, 2005 12:44 PM writes...

Charlie Wagner wrote:

I don't agree.

Genetics, paleontology and molecular biology are incorrectly used to support the myth of neo-darwinism and those legitimate scientific disciplines would get along quite well without it.

If you had a contest for the stupidest remark ever made by a scientist, Dobzhansky's oft quoted claim that "Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution" would have to be the winner."

And I don't agree with you, nor do 99.9% of biologists and paleontologists on this planet. Nor have you provided any clear reason for Darwinism (neo- or otherwise) to be considered a myth, as to opposed to what it is: The concensus of nearly all scientists as to how life evolved on this planet. Evolution is the concensus because that's what the evidence to date appears to illustrate. If you're going to dethrone evolution, you first need a better candidate to explain how life evolved. Intelligent Design utterly fails to provide that alternative; it is in fact no more than "God did it" wrapped in scientific-sounding jargon. All this "irreducible complexity" crapola is just another way of saying "We don't understand how it happened, so it must not be true." If historians can still argue about how Napoleon lost at Waterloo 180 years ago, how can scientists be expected to understand perfectly how things that occured hundreds of thousands or millions of years ago? Is that even a reasonable expectation?

Does evolution directly explain every little jot and tittle? No, of course not, and it never will. Like all sciences, it's a work in progress. It does not, and probably cannot, address the ultimate origin of life. Evolution proper is only concerned with how that life has changed over time.

And I would rate Dobzhansky's comment as one of the most profound, if rather obvious, statements ever made by a scientist, But then, the profound is often rather obvious. :)

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50. jminnis on August 8, 2005 03:18 PM writes...

Wow, there are a lot of IDiots here. Of course there is a lot of angst among scientists and rationally minded people. When the president of United States thinks superstition should be taught in high school science classes, we are in deep trouble. It is back to the Dark Ages. Free flow of ideas doesn't mean all ideas are equal or should be given equal weight...

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51. Paul on August 13, 2005 02:48 AM writes...

I would like to see the presidents face when he answers the question, "If he would allow for one of his children to go to war put on the gear and possibly die for the sake of stopping terrorism aggest the US and the rest of the world?" this might be a simple stupid question but i think him answering this question live in front of the American public would bring alot of relief for millions of Americans out there, knowing that their president is really behind them.

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52. david on August 13, 2005 09:27 AM writes...

"Scientific theories are coherent, are based on careful experiments and observations of nature that are repeatedly tested and verified. They aren’t just opinions or guesses."

Robert P. Kirshner
President, American Astronomical Society
Harvard College Professor and Clowes Professor of Science at Harvard University

OK and then there is the Big Bang Theory! Experiments? repeatedly tested and verified?
Maybe Kirshner should spend more time trying to reign in the dissenters in his own field then stepping outside his box!

http://www.cosmologystatement.org/

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