Skip to comments.Intelligent designís long march to nowhere
Posted on 12/05/2005 4:06:56 AM PST by PatrickHenry
The leaders of the intelligent design movement are once again holding court in America, defending themselves against charges that ID is not science. One of the expert witnesses is Michael Behe, author of the ID movements seminal volume Darwins Black Box. Behe, a professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University, testified about the scientific character of ID in Kitzmiller v. Dover School District, the court case of eight families suing the school district and the school board in Dover, Pa., for mandating the teaching of intelligent design.
Under cross-examination, Behe made many interesting comparisons between ID and the big-bang theory both concepts carry lots of ideological freight. When the big-bang theory was first proposed in the 1920s, many people made hostile objections to its apparent supernatural character. The moment of the big bang looked a lot like the Judeo-Christian creation story, and scientists from Quaker Sir Arthur Eddington to gung-ho atheist Fred Hoyle resisted accepting it.
In his testimony, Behe stated correctly that at the current moment, we have no explanation for the big bang. And, ultimately it may prove to be beyond scientific explanation, he said. The analogy is obvious: I put intelligent design in the same category, he argued.
This comparison is quite interesting. Both ID and the big-bang theory point beyond themselves to something that may very well lie outside of the natural sciences, as they are understood today. Certainly nobody has produced a simple model for the bigbang theory that fits comfortably within the natural sciences, and there are reasons to suppose we never will.
In the same way, ID points to something that lies beyond the natural sciences an intelligent designer capable of orchestrating the appearance of complex structures that cannot have evolved from simpler ones. Does this claim not resemble those made by the proponents of the big bang? Behe asked.
However, this analogy breaks down when you look at the historical period between George Lemaitres first proposal of the big-bang theory in 1927 and the scientific communitys widespread acceptance of the theory in 1965, when scientists empirically confirmed one of the big bangs predictions.
If we continue with Behes analogy, we might expect that the decades before 1965 would have seen big-bang proponents scolding their critics for ideological blindness, of having narrow, limited and inadequate concepts of science. Popular books would have appeared announcing the big-bang theory as a new paradigm, and efforts would have been made to get it into high school astronomy textbooks.
However, none of these things happened. In the decades before the big-bang theory achieved its widespread acceptance in the scientific community its proponents were not campaigning for public acceptance of the theory. They were developing the scientific foundations of theory, and many of them were quite tentative about their endorsements of the theory, awaiting confirmation.
Physicist George Gamow worked out a remarkable empirical prediction for the theory: If the big bang is true, he calculated, the universe should be bathed in a certain type of radiation, which might possibly be detectable. Another physicist, Robert Dicke, started working on a detector at Princeton University to measure this radiation. Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson ended up discovering the radiation by accident at Bell Labs in Murray Hill, N.J., in 1965, after which just about everyone accepted the big bang as the correct theory.
Unfortunately, the proponents of ID arent operating this way. Instead of doing science, they are writing popular books and op-eds. As a result, ID remains theoretically in the same scientific place it was when Phillip Johnson wrote Darwin on Trial little more than a roster of evolutionary theorys weakest links.
|When Behe was asked to explicate the science of ID, he simply listed a number of things that were complex and not adequately explained by evolution. These structures, he said, were intelligently designed. Then, under cross-examination, he said that the explanation for these structures was intelligent activity. He added that ID explains things that appear to be intelligently designed as having resulted from intelligent activity.|
Behe denied that this reasoning was tautological and compared the discernment of intelligently designed structures to observing the Sphinx in Egypt and concluding that it could not have been produced by non-intelligent causes. This is a winsome analogy with a lot of intuitive resonance, but it is hardly comparable to Gamows carefully derived prediction that the big bang would have bathed the universe in microwave radiation with a temperature signature of 3 degrees Kelvin.
After more than a decade of listening to ID proponents claim that ID is good science, dont we deserve better than this?
I see that you have asserted supposed fact and tried to defend Thomas's conclusions as being grounded in fact, when in fact they are subject to multiple skeptical interpretations.
It is safe to say your hominid fossil history does not in fact support your model. So you are the one needing to change. Mutational frequency simply cannot support the theory of Natural Selection at all.
Here is Remine's own response to the current state of the Haldane Dillema debate:
Evolutionists attempt the following argument (often on the internet, but seldom if ever in print). They claim Haldane's Dilemma "only applies to the conditions assumed by Haldane." They suggest Haldane's Dilemma is "solved" by breaking one of Haldane's starting assumptions. They say Haldane used an old, unenlightened model from 1957, not a model based on modern knowledge.
Their argument is mistaken, for the following reasons: Haldane used principles, and models of genetics and selection, that remain exceptionally predominant today in evolutionary genetics textbooks.
In addition, Haldane used assumptions that favor evolution. When you 'break' such an assumption, not only do you not solve Haldane's Dilemma, you make the problem worse. Some of Haldane's assumptions were used (as still commonly done today) in order to simplify the math and generalize the results. You cannot solve Haldane's Dilemma by breaking one of these particular assumptions, since that merely complicates the problem without solving it. There is always a cost of substitution, no matter what model is used. Evolutionists must identify a model that actually solves Haldane's Dilemma, while remaining plausible on other grounds. They have not done that.
Haldane's old model? Haldane used a multiplicative-fitness model. (Moreover, for the parameters he used, it also approximates an additive-fitness model.) Both of those fitness models are still predominantly used today. Everything in "Haldane's model" is current with today's practice of evolutionary genetics (including Haldane's uses of fitness, fitness models, selection, alleles, genes, dominance, and Mendelian segregation). So if evolutionists throw-out "Haldane's model" they must also throw-out the modern textbooks on evolutionary genetics.
Small selection coefficients? Haldane assumed selection coefficients approaching zero. This gives the absolute minimum total-cost of substitution in each case. If you break Haldane's assumption, and invoke higher selection coefficients, then the cost increases, resulting in fewer substitutions, and Haldane's Dilemma worsens.
The environmental-change scenario? Haldane assumed substitutions begin in a peculiar way, via an environmental-change scenario. The scenario operates as follows. Neutral and slightly harmful mutations (though almost always eliminated outright) sometimes drift upwards in frequency, to arrive at moderate frequencies. Then, when the environment changes, one of these neutral or slightly harmful mutations is converted (it is alleged) into a beneficial mutation. This elevated starting frequency is where Haldane begins to tally the total-cost of the substitution. By giving the substitution a free head-start to an elevated frequency, it lowers the total cost of substitution. This cost-reduction is the only impact of the environmental-change scenario that Haldane allowed into his calculations. If you break Haldane's assumption, then it raises the total-cost of substitution, and worsens Haldane's Dilemma.1
Constant population size? Haldane assumed the population size remains constant throughout a given substitution (though he allowed large varieties of population size, each for a different substitution). That was done partly for mathematical simplification (in the era before computers were readily available to readers). When evolutionists 'break' this assumption, they do not "solve" Haldane's Dilemma. They merely obscure it further. There is always a cost of substitution; it is unavoidable. It is not enough to merely object to Haldane's simplification. Evolutionists must actually s-o-l-v-e Haldane's Dilemma.
Infinite population size? Evolutionists sometimes claim Haldane assumed an unrealistic "infinite population size." That is untrue. If Haldane had done that, then the total-cost of substitution would always be infinite when Haldane calculated its average value is 30. So Haldane obviously did not use an infinite population size. Rather, Haldane used something at the other end of the spectrum. To see it, take a haploid species, and suppose there are two independent alleles, A and B (at independently segregating loci), each with a frequency of one per thousand. By random mating, the genotype AB (containing both alleles, A and B) would have a frequency of one per million. But if the population size is only one thousand individuals, then in a given generation, genotype AB cannot actually exist at a frequency of one in a million.
Instead, either that genotype exists as a whole individual, or it does not exist it either has a frequency of one per thousand, or zero. There is no 'in-between' when dealing with individuals that are quantized into whole-bodies. This difficulty is handled by Haldane, and by virtually all textbooks today, in the same way by using non-quantized individuals. To greatly simplify the math, and to generalize the results, they allow a genotype to exist at its expected frequency (without having to quantize the genotype into, say, 1000 whole-bodies). Put simply, Haldane assumed non-quantized individuals, not infinite population size. If evolutionists want to throw-out that simplifying assumption, then they would have to throw-out virtually all of today's evolutionary genetics textbooks. And it still would not solve Haldane's Dilemma.
There is nothing in "Haldane's model" that evolutionists can object to, without shooting themselves in the foot. A solution to Haldane's Dilemma (if one exists at all) will require moving beyond the models, assumptions, and techniques commonly employed in evolutionary genetics today.
1 Remine's book shows that if the environmental-change scenario is fully accounted (which Haldane did not do), then it worsens Haldane's Dilemma. In any case, Haldane's handling of the matter unrealistically favored evolution.
Not only do you mischaracterize Remine, and the import and status of discussion of Haldan'es Dillemma, you appear to misrepresent a supposed consensus..., i.e., some sort of geneticist-consensus that supposedly "defeats" Haldane's Dillemma. An illustrative example is the very letter Remine received by the peer-reviewers on the publication board of his paper which updated and clarified the Cost Substitution issues:
At Theoretical Population Biology the four reviewers wrote of Walter Remine's paper:
"I agree with a very large proportion of what ReMine says." (Warren Ewens His one disagreement was trivial.1)
"The author champions a clearly-defined concept of cost. .... Its straightforward approach to the issue of the cost of evolution may be valuable. .... Some issues raised in the manuscript are definitely interesting." (Alexey Kondrashov)
"The author's main point .... is a good point" (James Crow, in an extremely brief, half page review)
"I strongly recommend this paper be published. I believe it will revitalize discussion/investigation within an area of population biology which has otherwise become bogged down and neglected. I believe the conceptual framework of 'genetic load' has generally led to an unfruitful morass. ReMine offers a fresh perspective on this old problem. Instead of understanding cost/load in terms of "genetic deaths", ReMine forcefully argues that we should understand this issue entirely in terms of required reproductive excess. He shows this not only clarifies the whole problem conceptually, but allows much cleaner and more generalized computations of cost - in a way that is very clearly connected to the real world. This paper has significantly impacted my own understanding of the problem of substitution cost. Even those who may take exception to ReMine's general approach, should benefit from the resulting stimulation of dialog." (Reviewer #4 at Theoretical Population Biology )
COMMENT: The only consensus conclusion (3 of 4) we can therefore draw from the lack of approval for publication appears that TOE advocates appear to fear a serious mathematical critique.
Then in attempting to sidestep the issues, you dig yourself deeper, as accurately anticipated by Remine:
One must not confuse issues of the number of generations and the duration of generations, however. Remine has lashed himself to a fixed 300 generations per substitution, a figure likely to give "results which are wildly out."
Actually, it is your side, which has to believe in either massive change, or 10 generations per substitution...which has the problem of gross instability (belied by species which remain stable across aeons)...which if true is unavoidably implying we should already be dead as a species.
Are you asserting that is not what Haldane concluded?
I'm not making it up. Scientists model this stuff all the time for better reasons than arguing with kooks like ReMine
Sure looks like you're making it up since you can't recognize a mathematical scientist's valid critiques without your lamely making defamatory and derogatory ad hominems.
It is safe to say your hominid fossil history does not in fact support your model. So you are the one needing to change.
My simple point, utterly ignored, is that the mismatch with Haldane/Remine's model is complete and total. If ReMine is right, the fossil record is wrong. Comparted to that, whatever you're trying to claim about mainstream science versus the fossil record doesn't come up. You don't score any points by pretending not to understand what is being said to you.
We have pretty much the fossil record and geologic column our current models of evolution and geologic expect.
Mutational frequency simply cannot support the theory of Natural Selection at all.
By the way, when you go into an extended quote, you ought to use the <blockquote> tag. Then I can tell when ReMine has stopped talking and it's you again.
Anyway, you yet again paste a huge block of ReMine pumping up ReMine, some of which may or may not address things I've said. I'm really starting not to care.
You then affix some material ReMine seems to be presenting to rail at some paper of his not being published. I can't really tell what's going on and you don't explain yourself very well. Your posts are generally unresponsive to the points I raise.
Talk Origins is a huge site devoted to defening evolution against the irrational attacks of various kooks and witch doctors. Here's pretty much all they have to say about your Haldane's Dilemma.
I could blast it all inline and show you how little it is, but I'll strike a contrast and link it.
So maybe it's just the Great Evolution Conspiracy ignoring poor ReMine, but they aren't ignoring most of the other anti-Es to nearly the same degree.
I am not particularly accusing ReMine of mischaracterizing Haldane, no. Haldane's model was wrong. I would have thought that was clear.
Nope. Just someone, also from Minnesota, actively curious about the subject...and interested in achieving scientific integrity...which appears lacking from the side claiming a monopoly on science.
Your motivational suspicion of me is humorous, albeit obviously not intentionally so.
I toss off something in half an hour and you seem to go away for five days to write these epic blockbuster compilations of evasion and fantasy.
I note in looking over the history of the threads, that you had about five hours to respond to my posts, and likely took a fair chunk of that to do so...not half an hour. I further note that it has only been TWO DAYS since you so posted, (on 12/08/05, and whereas today is 12/10/05 ) my dilatory response...which was necessitated by my working for a living... is not nearly so egregious. Pardon the delay, however. I hope you weren't inconvienced...
As for compilations of evasion, fantasy and keeping off streets, out of whorehouses, etc....if I were to accept such "encomiums"...I would have to remark that it's apparently mutual.
And as for the purported minimal coverage in the evolutionist web site, your point:
So maybe it's just the Great Evolution Conspiracy ignoring poor ReMine, but they aren't ignoring most of the other anti-Es to nearly the same degree.
is likely true in part, to the extent he poses a more seriously discomoding problem for their theory...hence blithe disregard or pretense is strategy one. And by implication therefore, the other TOE-skeptics or ID proponents they focus on are more vulnerable targets. Not greatly convincing of the persuasiveness or scientific fidelity of TOE advocates, who flee rigorous questioning.
This is funny coming from a party basically defending the tentative, first-step errors of an era when computers filled warehouses and were basically unavailable for scientific modeling. The errors must be upheld as truth because the kooks don't like the truth.
Pardon the delay, however. I hope you weren't inconvienced...
I promise you I'm not taking very long on my responses to you. Looking at some of my grammar and spelling in previous posts, I can see that this shows. By comparision you're coming off as obsessive.
[ReMine] poses a more seriously discomoding problem for their theory...hence blithe disregard or pretense is strategy one. And by implication therefore, the other TOE-skeptics or ID proponents they focus on are more vulnerable targets.
If Haldane's Dilemma posed the biggest problem, it would draw the most fire. Efforts to pump life into it represent a really obscure bit of anti-evolutionary adventurism. Half of the YECs believe incredibly fast evolution happened after the ark landed. They can't go along with ReMine, if they think about it. (Although it has been my experience that many of them laughably clutch at ridiculously incompatible straws in their religious horror of evolution.)
Many of the remaining anti-Es realize you have to make some kind of sense against the historical record of faunal succesion. You can't do that with Haldane's Dilemma. It predicts a fossil record we don't have.
Thus, until you came along I hadn't talked about Haldane's Dilemma since the banning of medved some 2-3 years ago. You're basically it on FR now. And you have to be a Johnny-One-Note, because ReMine disowns most of the other anti-Es lest he have to defend them.
Clinging to Haldane's Dilemma is of a piece with creationist demonstrations that bumblebee flight is a miracle because it is aerodynamically impossible. A few people will snatch at anything to justify their irrational rejection of evolution, but most people have some sense that bad models mean "garbage in, garbage out."
I might have expected you'd have a tin ear for my wry hyperbole. I was merely noting your amusing habit of disappearing after a reply, then charging back full of fire and brimstone onto a thread gone dead.
Not if the previously-noted strategy, that you acknowledged, of blithe disregard and pretense is employed.
So where do you think the biggest problem for TOE is manifest?
There are details of mechanism and specific history of lineages still being argued over and gradually filling in as evidence is uncovered. This is not debate over whether evolution from a common ancestor has accounted for the diversity of life on Earth, a proposition which cannot be realistically denied.
This clearly demonstrates that flagellum with 40 proteins (Behe initially wrote 240) is not the lower bound of complexity.
Since lesser number of proteins are possible, it is not "irreducibly complex" as claimed by Behe.
Would you agree that there is a difference between a conceptual and a physical precursor?
The logical point Professor McDonald wished to make was that there are mousetraps that can work with fewer parts than the trap I pictured in my book. Let me say that I agree completely; in fact, I said so in my book (see below). For example, one can dig a steep hole in the ground for mice to fall into and starve to death. Arguably that has zero parts. One can catch mice with a glue trap, which has only one part. One can prop up a box with a stick, hoping a mouse will bump the stick and the box will fall on top of it. That has two parts. And so forth. There is no end to possible variation in mousetrap design. But, as I tried to emphasize in my book, the point that is relevant to Darwinian evolution is not whether one can make variant structures, but whether those structures lead, step-by-excruciatingly-tedious-Darwinian-step, to the structure I showed. I wrote:To feel the full force of the conclusion that a system is irreducibly complex and therefore has no functional precursors we need to distinguish between a physical precursor and a conceptual precursor. The trap described above is not the only system that can immobilize a mouse. On other occasions my family has used a glue trap. In theory at least, one can use a box propped open with a stick that could be tripped. Or one can simply shoot the mouse with a BB gun. However, these are not physical precursors to the standard mousetrap since they cannot be transformed, step-by-Darwinian-step, into a trap with a base, hammer, spring, catch, and holding bar.
Since I agree with Professor McDonald that there could be mousetraps with fewer parts, the only relevant question is whether the mousetraps he drew are physical precursors, or merely conceptual precursors. Can they be transformed, step-by-Darwinian-step into the trap I pictured (essentially the same structure as the fifth trap shown below), as some people have been led to believe? No, they cant.
A evoluntionary pathway has been shown, so Behe's claim fails.
No it hasn't, and Matzke himself refutes this contention from his survey of the existing literature, as I pointed out.
And a little googling reveals: Williams' third rebuttal of Page and conclusion (June 30, 2002). I personally would have preferred to see Page's replies without the intemperate, personal invective directed at Williams. Page's weird anger and nit-picking began to totally obscure whatever substantive argument he was trying to make.
Agreed, although the provocations were sufficient to warrant William's exasperation, it needn't have been expressed. Perhaps we will see a sanitized version of the debate published in print media, unless Dr. Page wants to duck out.