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Dawkins to Wolpert: “Lewis, you are starting to sound like a creationist”

Chuckie’s Ghost visits me regularly and let’s me know what’s happening inside the belly of the beast. Here’s the latest:

The 2007 Genetic and Evolutionary Computation Conference in London included a “social” occasion in which Richard Dawkins, Steve Jones, and Lewis Wolpert all participated in a “debate” in the London Museum of Natural History. It was not a conventional debate in that the conference organizers had solicited questions from the registrants prior to the conference on the web and then selected individuals to ask their questions. The panel then took turns responding.

Although the topic was supposed to be how complexity could arise from evolution, none of the questions ever really got to the point. It will be interesting to see whether the organizers release a copy of the audio or at least a transcript. While the questions were not supposed to address religious issues, the last two questions of the evening did. Dawkins instantly drew on his “God is a virus” analogy and Jones took the opportunity to stress that “only stupid people belive in ID?” The latter comment drew a standing ovation from several of those in attendance.

While Wolpert generally supported the views of both Dawkins and Jones, he also suggested that there were some problems with natural selection bringing about speciation. Dawkins in turn stated that he saw no reason why a mouse could not de-evolve into a sub-species and then re-evolve with wings. Wolpert disagreed, which led Dawkins to say “Lewis, you are starting to sound like a creationist.” Whereupon Wolpert responded, “It is funny that you should say that. [pause] Sometimes in the dark of the night, I wish that it (creationism) were true.”

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19 Responses to Dawkins to Wolpert: “Lewis, you are starting to sound like a creationist”

  1. Dawkins in turn stated that he saw no reason why a mouse could not de-evolve into a sub-species and then re-evolve with wings.

    He sees no reason? How about the huge amount genetic information and engineering required for such a transformation, with a very small population and number of generations? Dawkins has lost touch with reality.

  2. Whereupon Wolpert responded, “It is funny that you should say that. [pause] Sometimes in the dark of the night, I wish that it (creationism) were true.”

    Oh but it is true Wolpert. It is gloriously and wonderfully true. A precious truth to be surpassed by nothing other than the Creator Himself calling us, mere men, His own family!

  3. An evolution convention would be a great place to sell lottery tickets. These people obviouslly have no concept of probability.

  4. Something else for Richard to keep in mind:

    “Science without religion is lame; religion without scuience is blind.” Albert Einstein

    To Gil:

    IF (yup big IF) single-celled organisms can give rise to the diversity observed, then just about anything is biologically possible. I think that is Richard’s point.

    (did I really just defend the Dawkins?- must be getting late. good night)

  5. “IF (yup big IF) single-celled organisms can give rise to the diversity observed, then just about anything is biologically possible.”

    I disagree. I would agree that if single-celled organisms can give rise to the diversity observed _by natural selection_, then just about anything is biologically possible. As Behe has noted (and so have I), ID front-loading actually saves common descent. See here:

    http://baraminology.blogspot.c.....ution.html

  6. Maybe I’m in the minority here, but…

    If ‘standard NDE’ (and that’s a loaded term) is capable of giving rise to IC structures.. well, doesn’t the natural world look downright teleological and purposefully crafted in that case?

    To me, it seems that Behe wins either way. If so called mindless processes can give rise to the IC, or if it can’t, intention and the case for creation seem bolstered either way. In the latter, behind the specific incident of IC. In the former, behind the entire system which is capable of producing the IC.

    But hey, that’s just me.

  7. nullasalus,

    I think your point goes along with the notion that it is impossible for meaning to arise from meaninglessness or intelligence from nonintelligence. So if we end up with meaning and intelligence, we must have started with meaning and intelligence regardless of the process that bridged the two. I agree with that argument.

    However, I think the case for ID by specific acts of creation is such an air tight slam dunk there is no question intelligence intervened to create life.

  8. Jehu,

    “In the latter, behind the specific incident of IC. In the former, behind the entire system which is capable of producing the IC.”

    This has been my view for many years. Partly based on the fact that whatever one thinks of Reality, things are the way they are now, and not some other way. Even my kids can see the power in that, because, as kids do, they tend to ask “why?” Indeed, why are things the way they are now and not some other way? And this makes a guy like me want to take a holistic path to the answer, at the quantum level, going right back to the Big Bang. The discussion can get interesting, I think.

    But closer to your point: ever since I was a teenager, I have wondered that if darwinism is true, why the fossil record wasn’t strewn with all sorts of creatures that had benign “odd”, perhaps useless, features. The Darwinists tell us natural selection only allows the (more ?) “fitting” ones to survive. But this assumes that benign odd, and perhaps useless, features are always less competitive in a way that matters to selection pressures. And it also implies that somehow mutations always came along that “fed” selection with just the right information to make sure that any such “odd”, and perhaps useless, features were selected out before they could be recorded in the fossil record, etc. It all sounds too lucky to be true.

  9. As Behe has noted (and so have I), ID front-loading actually saves common descent.

    There still isn’t any data that would demonstrate that a population of single-celled organisms can “evolve” into anything but single-celled organisms.

    As a matter of fact there isn’t any data which can account for the physiological and anatomical differences observed between chimps and humans.

    The point being that to accpt universal common descent in any form is to do so on faith alone.

  10. I can’t believe that Dawkins still holds to that “mind virus” idea. It’s especially ironic coming from a militant atheist who chides theists for believing in an invisible entity with no empirical evidence.

  11. “Although the topic was supposed to be how complexity could arise from evolution”

    That’s interesting, because unless I’m mistaken, the only evidence we have of complexity arising from Dawkinesque “unguided” evolution is a few computer simulations.

    “Dawkins in turn stated that he saw no reason why a mouse could not de-evolve into a sub-species and then re-evolve with wings.”

    How is it that so many view this man as a “great” scientist? When was the last time anyone read something from him that impressed you? Made you go “wow, he really knows his stuff” All I hear from him is faith-based wishful thinking.

  12. Joseph,

    You said

    “The point being that to accept universal common descent in any form is to do so on faith alone.”

    We had this same discussion last week. Common descent of two species is different from universal common descent. There are too many similarities (nucleotide similarities) of chimps and humans to be coincidence that also can distinguish them from other species. Yes there are many, many differences. The only question is the mechanism for the similarities. Or whether one wants to call it common descent or not.

  13. Jerry:
    We had this same discussion last week. Common descent of two species is different from universal common descent.

    And I would say I accept that, to a point.

    There are too many similarities (nucleotide similarities) of chimps and humans to be coincidence that also can distinguish them from other species.

    Similarities can be explained by Common Design and/or convergence.

    And molecular convergence is a reality in the evolutionary mode of thinking. Google the term “molecular convergence” and you will find Sean Carroll’s name.

    See also “Convergent evolution in primates and an insectivore”.

    Yes there are many, many differences. The only question is the mechanism for the similarities. Or whether one wants to call it common descent or not.

    That is why I maintain that in order for universal common descent to separate itself from the other explanations is that it has to account for the physiological and anatomical differences observed between allegedly closely related populations.

    If it can’t do that then either present all the options or none and just present the data.

  14. “…he saw no reason why…”
    Of course not – he isn’t looking for any. Indeed, evidence to the contrary means nothing to him. He has preconceived that there can be none.

    All Dawkin’s reasoning is based upon his preconceived pretense & wishes that there be no God. Therefore all his “reasonings” go wrong right there.
    His foundation is wrong so the whole structure is faulty.

    The man is incapable of thinking outside his own little box.

    Atheism is certainly a mind virus, if such things exist.

    “The atheists are for the most part imprudent and misguided scholars who reason badly who, not being able to understand the Creation, the origin of evil, and other difficulties, have recourse to the hypothesis the eternity of things and of inevitability…..” – Voltaire

    “It is true, that a little philosophy inclines man’s mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy brings men’s minds about to religion.” – Sir Francis Bacon

    “I always admired atheists. I think it takes a lot of faith.” – Diane Frolov and Andrew Schneider

  15. “I always admired atheists. I think it takes a lot of faith.” – Diane Frolov and Andrew Schneider

    “I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist.” – Norman Geisler

    http://www.amazon.com/Dont-Hav.....1581345615

  16. Hmm. Species reverting seems like a viable experiment for evolution- or is genetic information simutanously lost and gained at the same time? One should be able to mutate towards increaing complexity and so called decreasing complexity- espically in a lab as the environment is controlled.

    Does anyone know if experiments with “de-evolution” have been tried?

    As for memes in the comments. I think memes are psuedoscience also, and can’t seem to think why Dr. Dawkins holds on to the concept other than to enforce his atheism. Seems like he is searching for something to validate his atheism…

  17. 17

    Bill I just want to recommend a book to you if you haven’t read it already. I mention it here because it often cites the proceedings of past GECCO conferences.

    “Intelligent Bioinformatics” by Edward Leedwell and Ajit Narayanan

    No, it’s not an ID book. Basically it’s detailing the use of artificial intelligence in bioinformatics. Essentially the thesis is that random brute force searches are not sufficient tools to make sense of all the biological data being created today, so “artificial intelligence” programs might be more useful. Check it out.

  18. 18

    Oh it’s published by John Wily & Sons Ltd 2005. Also wiley.com.

  19. [...] I reported on July 19, 2007 here at UD that 2007 Genetic and Evolutionary Computation Conference in London included a debate in which Richard Dawkins accused Lewis Wolpert of being a creationist, to which Wolpert responded that sometimes he wished he were a creationist (go here for my previous posting). [...]

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