Home » Darwinism, Science » David Berlinski on Science, Scientists, and Darwinism

David Berlinski on Science, Scientists, and Darwinism

In this Denyse O’Leary UD thread I included a quote from David Berlinski’s infamous The Incorrigible Dr. Berlinski video interview.

I thought UD readers might enjoy some of his other comments on various science and Dawinism topics.

On science as a self-critical enterprise:

The idea that science is a uniquely self-critical institution is of course preposterous. Scientists are no more self-critical than anyone else. They hate to be criticized… Look, these people are only human, they hate criticism — me too. The idea that scientists are absolutely eager to be beaten up is one of the myths put out by scientists, and it works splendidly so they can avoid criticism.

We’re asking for standards of behavior that would be wonderful to expect but that no serious man does expect. A hundred years of fraudulent drawings suggesting embryological affinities that don’t exist — that’s just what I would expect if biologists were struggling to maintain a position of power in a secular democratic society. Let’s be reasonable… the popular myth of science as a uniquely self-critical institution, and scientists as men who would rather be consumed at the stake rather than fudge their data, is okay for a PBS special, but that’s not the real world; that’s not what’s taking place…

On Darwinism and power:

One of the reasons that people embrace Darwinian orthodoxy with such an unholy zealousness, is just that it gives them access to power. It’s as simple as that: power over education, power over political decisions, power over funding, and power over the media.

On appraising Darwinian theory (in particular, incremental gradualism and random changes filtered by natural selection):

…appraising Darwinian theory in the context that realistically portrays it for what it is: a kind of amusing 19th century collection of anecdotes that is utterly unlike anything you see in the serious sciences… Yeah, biologists do agree that this is the correct theory for the origin and diversification of life — BUT, here are some points you should consider as well: 1) the theory doesn’t have any substance to it, 2) it’s preposterous, 3) it’s not supported by the evidence, 4) the fact that biologists are uniformly in agreement could as well be explained by some solid Marxist interpretation of their economic interests.

On the reaction of Darwinists to criticism:

When people haven’t been criticized in a long time they react with a great deal of indignation when they’re criticized for the first time. It’s human nature. Put yourself in the position of a Daniel Dennett or a Richard Dawkins who are used to being the regnant priests of a powerful orthodoxy, and for the first time in their lives someone says, “Hey, you guys are simply not credible.” Of course they’re going to react with outrage and indignation, hurl imprecations at others, resort to objurgations…

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35 Responses to David Berlinski on Science, Scientists, and Darwinism

  1. This is my favorite sampling of Berlinski’s subtle and deliciously ironic work:

    I imagine this story being told to me by Jorge Luis Borges one evening in a Buenos Aires cafe.

    His voice dry and infinitely ironic, the aging, nearly blind literary master observes that “the Ulysses,” mistakenly attributed to the Irishman James Joyce, is in fact derived from “the Quixote.”

    I raise my eyebrows.

    Borges pauses to sip discreetly at the bitter coffee our waiter has placed in front of him, guiding his hands to the saucer.

    “The details of the remarkable series of events in question may be found at the University of Leiden,” he says. “They were conveyed to me by the Freemason Alejandro Ferri in Montevideo.”

    Borges wipes his thin lips with a linen handkerchief that he has withdrawn from his breast pocket.

    “As you know,” he continues, “the original handwritten text of the Quixote was given to an order of French Cistercians in the autumn of 1576.”

    I hold up my hand to signify to our waiter that no further service is needed.

    “Curiously enough, for none of the brothers could read Spanish, the Order was charged by the Papal Nuncio, Hoyo dos Monterrey (a man of great refinement and implacable will), with the responsibility for copying the Quixote, the printing press having then gained no currency in the wilderness of what is now known as the department of Auvergne. Unable to speak or read Spanish, a language they not unreasonably detested, the brothers copied the Quixote over and over again, re-creating the text but, of course, compromising it as well, and so inadvertently discovering the true nature of authorship. Thus they created Fernando Lor’s Los Hombres d’Estado in 1585 by means of a singular series of copying errors, and then in 1654 Juan Luis Samorza’s remarkable epistolary novel Por Favor by the same means, and then in 1685, the errors having accumulated sufficiently to change Spanish into French, Moliere’s Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, their copying continuous and indefatigable, the work handed down from generation to generation as a sacred but secret trust, so that in time the brothers of the monastery, known only to members of the Bourbon house and, rumor has it, the Englishman and psychic Conan Doyle, copied into creation Stendhal’s The Red and the Black and Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, and then as a result of a particularly significant series of errors, in which French changed into Russian, Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Anna Karenina. Late in the last decade of the 19th century there suddenly emerged, in English, Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, and then the brothers, their numbers reduced by an infectious disease of mysterious origin, finally copied the Ulysses into creation in 1902, the manuscript lying neglected for almost thirteen years and then mysteriously making its way to Paris in 1915, just months before the British attack on the Somme, a circumstance whose significance remains to be determined.”

    I sit there, amazed at what Borges has recounted. “Is it your understanding, then,” I ask, “that every novel in the West was created in this way?”

    “Of course,” replies Borges imperturbably. Then he adds: “Although every novel is derived directly from another novel, there is really only one novel, the Quixote.”

  2. Berlinski is sublime. I owe him some of the best, and most intelligent, laughs in my recent experience. His words about the myth of self-criticism in science are pure gold.

  3. I’m a Berlinski fan myself, but I have to say I don’t think his novel-copying analogy is an apt one. What it neglects is the selection process. In the natural world, most copying mistakes (mutations) get winnowed out because the are deleterious; a few persist because they are (a)neutral, (b) only very slightly deleterious, or (c) in very rare cases, beneficial. Without a selection mechanism, the chances of one book “evolving” into another one are indeed infinitesimal.

    However, it would be an even more egregious blunder to try and correct the “Don Quixote” analogy by introducing a forward-looking selection mechanism, such as Dawkins’ famous weasel program, in which “[t]he computer examines the mutant nonsense phrases, the ‘progeny’ of the original phrase, and chooses the one which, however slightly, most resembles the target phrase, METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL.” (The quote is from chapter 3 of “The Blind Watchmaker.”) As a legion of critics have pointed out, natural selection is a blind process; thus the weasel program proves nothing.

    A second problem with Berlinski’s novel-copying analogy is that novels tell a story, with a beginning, a middle and an end. Genes encode highly specific instructions for making organisms, and some genes even act as switches during an organism’s embryonic development. Still, a genome is really more like a recipe than a novel. It is far more plausible to imagine that by randomly varying the ingredients and/or instructions in a recipe, you might accidentally hit upon another dish that tasted good, than to imagine that by randomly varying the letters, words or even sentences in a novel, you might be able to generate another novel that told a different story. That really would be a miracle.

    Finally, I don’t think it’s fair to compare macroevolution to changes in the language of a novel – say, from Spanish to French – arising through random copying errors. At the level of DNA, the genome of each and every species of organism is encoded in the same language.

    So what would be a fairer analogy for evolution? I’d like to suggest one which is based on origami. I think that this is a good analogy, because there are instructions for making a paper crane, and the folds have to be in a specific sequence – rather like the steps in the development of an organism. Let’s imagine a community of monks who are origami fanatics. They start with a paper crane, and they decide to play a game. Each monk is free to randomly vary one of the instructions for making the crane. However, each monk’s experiment is immediately subjected to a harsh test: the new model has to by able to glide through the air for (say) 5 metres, when thrown. If it cannot, it is rejected. (Perhaps 5 metres is a bit optimistic. I don’t know how far an origami paper crane can fly.) As you can imagine, most of the variations prove to be non-starters. However, a lucky few will be aerodynamically up to scratch. These “survivors” will then be subjected to another round of random variation. Now the question is: what is the likelihood that after a million generations of random variations, winnowed by the 5-metre test, we would end up with a paper model of a radically different kind of bird, with new body parts and a completely different design?

    Does anyone out there have the computing resources to simulate one million generations of random variations, culled by the the “5-metre test”? (Does anyone have an origami flight simulator program?) Now THAT would be a good test of the plausibility of NDE. Just curious.

  4. The thing the book copying analogy needs to make it a suitable match to mutation + natural selection is to add that in each “generation” of books that one billion (or trillion or some other huge number) of copies were produced, each with its own unique set of “mutations”, and the new versions distributed to the world’s population, who compared each copy’s “readability” and “fecundity” to the previous version, and returned only those copies which improved things over the previous generation. The “winning” version was then duplicated and distributed to the “testers”, ready for the next iteration.

    Of course, the downfall of this scheme is that even with billions, or trillions, or decillions of copies in each generation, the chance of producing any “better” version by introducing small, random changes in letters, words, sentences, paragraphs, chapters or whatever still remains essentially zero.

    New information does not arise from introducing mistakes.

  5. vjtorley:

    First of all, the Borges analogy is wonderful for its great literary atmosphere and irony, and very appropriate even at a literary level, because Borges was indeed the extraordinary poet of the destructive power of mechanical infinity and repetition, and showed in many of his wonderful works how a purely mechanical concept of random eternal cloning, including physical immortality, is the best way to cancel any human meaning in an ocean of meaningless totality.

    That said, I am still very interested in your discussion about the potential differences between language and function, but I have already tried to start some discussion about that in a previous thread (the last one about the Musgrave challenge). I don’t know if you have read my post there, and in case I would be interested in your opinion.

    Here, I would like to state again that the information in a complex genome is probably much more similar to a novel than you think. Your examples are good (I refer here in particular to the origami one), but they don’t take into account the many higher levels of interaction which are obviously present in biological information. The origami example could be partially valid if the problem were only to build a single functional protein (and even in that case, the fundamental problems of the almost infinite search space, even for a single protein, the “Dembski” problem, and of the non selectable nature of most single transformation steps in regard to function, the “Behe” problem, make a stunning difference). But if you have to build hundreds or thousands of proteins, each contributing not only to its own function, but to the creation of the context in which all the others work, plus all the code (at present unknown) controlling the specific transcription af each protein in each cell, and the infinite transcriptome variations in all cells of a multicellular organism, plus all the details of macroscopic form and structure, plus I don’t know how many other infinitely structured levels of complexity and intelligent information, then the language and novel analogy seems much more appropriate.

  6. I don’t think the Quixote story is really meant to be an analogy, just an amusing story about the absurdity of using copying errors to produce anything of any meaningful complexity.

  7. Does anyone out there have the computing resources to simulate one million generations of random variations, culled by the the “5-metre test”? (Does anyone have an origami flight simulator program?) Now THAT would be a good test of the plausibility of NDE. Just curious.

    It is fairly easy to get compressed paper to glide if thrown with enough force (I recently tried making origami planes for my nephews as stocking stuffers and could only get some of them to fly by throwing them hard enough…but they did go quite a distance.) It may not be as easy (or difficult) to get a self-replicating machine.

    The critical question becomes: how difficult is the task at hand to achieve? Are there many forms that can accomplish a given task, or only a few? In your recipie example, it is easy because there are many combinations that taste “good”; maybe even more than that taste “bad”.

    So the size of the “functional” islands as well as their distribution in “form-space” is all too critical.

    If the islands are too few or too small, or too isolated from one another, we cannot hope to achieve step-wise transformation through valid forms by a random-walk. If they are large, plentiful and connected, then success is all but assured, once we find one iland to begin with.

    Life appears to be isolated on critical levels (see the Meyers and Behe articles on protein space sparseness for example) and as systems engineers, we know that specific contraint-fulfilling complex machines are rare in shape-space, at least in our lines of work. In the sense of Aristotle, there are many more ways to break my code than there are to get it to fulfill its particular function.

  8. If there ever is another trial pertaining to ID the incorrigible Mr Belinski needs to be testifying in it.

  9. GilDodgen:
    I agree. The Borges story was never intended as an exact analogy.

    But it is certainly akin to Darwinian story telling. And for that alone it ought to be required reading for Darwinists.
    Their quaint stories fair no better as reflections on reality. In fact

    I’d say the Borges story is more plausible than staunch gradualist Darwinism – just needs longer time intervals added. ;-)

  10. The hardest things to prove are those that are obvious to everyone. But since they’re obvious to everyone, do such things need to be proved?

    I think Berlinski’s story addresses the evolutionist at this level. Since we all know, both intuitively and from experience, that new books don’t arise from copying errors in old books, shouldn’t we just assume the obvious – that random mutations plus natural selection are not up to the job assigned them – and move on?

    We have more important things to do than prove that 2+2 is not 5. And not 3. And not 7. And not 1.999. We don’t have to respond, in detail, to each and every materialist daydream; normal people know nonsense when they see it. I think an appeal to common experience and a bit mockery – however incomplete as an analogy or an empirical proof – is sufficient in these matters.

    Experience has shown that belaboring the obvious – with more and more technical detail – does not typically rescue the materialist from his self-imposed blindness. We can wrestle with pigs in the mud, but we’ll lose – and the pigs will like it.

  11. Gerry Rzeppa,

    What if the neo-Darwinists are right? It is certainly painfully counterintuitive, I would therefore suggest that proof of the theory be much more rigorous than the scientific community contends. However, if thorough experimental proof could be provided, I would be prepared to buy into the theory.

    Consider the January 31 post “Details of Nuclear Pore Complex with Spin.” The authors have apparently weived a complete tale of how these pores developed. Great, lets see their story be validated in the laboratory.

    If they began with a bacteria, and induced the first mutational event in the chain, then competed the mutated bacteria with the non-mutated bacteria, demonstrating that the mutation could realistically survive — if they continued this pattern each time calculating the chance of the mutation occurring by nature, if they produced a few of these complex devices like the nuclear pore discussed, then I would be ready to consede that these just-so stories are valid. However, there is no need to do the hard work of science when the scientific paradyme is an unchallenged “fact”. All that is needed is a good story.

    Alas, the scientists are going to have to seriously address the question of first life, and the path from reproducing chemicals to a structured, functioning organism before they can truly put the ID monster to bed. At that point ID will be limited to the big bang as suggested by Miller and Denton. I think that experimental biology has a lot of work cut out for it.

  12. My standard, “There’s no Validation without Experimentation.”

  13. “There’s no Validation without Experimentation.” – bFast

    And in many cases, not even then!

    Everyone evaluates evidence – even the most straightforward empirical evidence – based on their own internal “axiomatic” framework. A slight deviation from probability, for example, will be interpreted quite differently by those who believe in paranormal events, and those who don’t. I’m simply suggesting that it is futile to discuss details with others who don’t share at least a goodly portion of one’s own framework.

    “What if the neo-Darwinists are right?” -bFast

    Then I, for one, will be utterly flabbergasted. Their preposterous premises and silly scenarios are so foreign to everything I’ve experienced, and believe in, and live by, that such a discovery would require a complete reconstruction of my entire noodle.

    But I don’t think we have to worry about that. To paraphrase detective Monk, “We advocates of design might be wrong… but I don’t think so.”

  14. Joseph #8:

    If there ever is another trial pertaining to ID the incorrigible Mr Belinski needs to be testifying in it.

    I’d pay serious money to see that.

  15. [...] On science as a self-critical enterprise: [...]

  16. bFast (#11): “What if the neo-Darwinists are right? It is certainly painfully counterintuitive, I would therefore suggest that proof of the theory be much more rigorous than the scientific community contends. However, if thorough experimental proof could be provided, I would be prepared to buy into the theory.”

    God forbid (literally)! Of course such experimental proof, like in the nuclear pore complex example you mentioned, is not possible because no experiment could duplicate the astronomical numbers of organisms and astronomical number of generations over which the process is supposed to have occurred. So in the absence of that evolutionists have an array of empirical evidence that is suggestive of neodarwinism, and endlessly invent plausible (to them) stories of how particular developments occurred in the unknowable historical past. The outline of the fossil record is certainly suggestive, in particular the vast periods of time evidently needed by the overall process. Of course then they studiously ignore another array of evidence that instead directly conflicts with neodarwinism.

    In empirical evidence pertinent to the issue the presence of some and absence of most expected transitionals in the fossil record is a major factor. The thousands of transitional forms expected are persistently missing despite exhaustive searching. But a few apparent transitional forms still have been found. The 6 apparent whale developmental transitionals are an example. I think that some such forms, like Tiktaalik, probably do represent intermediate stages, and need to be accepted as such. But at the same time all the other evidence contrary to neodarwinism still remains. I think the worst problem is the complex interdependency of biological structures, which requires that over a period during which the fossil record shows a given set of complex new biological systems originated, all the specialized organ systems had to be adaptively evolving in parallel utilizing only random genetic variations. While one particular small adaptive change to an organ system was accumulating, many other specific small changes had also to be developing independently at the same time from other random variations. Many of these had to be in the same individual, the ones that were the particular changes that would be needed for compatibility in building the final system.

    Any valid ID theory needs to accommodate all this data. As Gerry Rzeppa put it, “We advocates of design might be wrong… but I don’t think so.”

  17. 4) the fact that biologists are uniformly in agreement could as well be explained by some solid Marxist interpretation of their economic interests.

    ROFLMAO!

  18. Magnan:

    Of course such experimental proof, like in the nuclear pore complex example you mentioned, is not possible because no experiment could duplicate the astronomical numbers of organisms and astronomical number of generations over which the process is supposed to have occurred.

    O, may no! This is absolutely doable. Scientists don’t need to wait for a new nuclear pore to evolve. It is perfectly fair for them to induce the mutations that they have theorized. In each case, they must demonstrate that the organisms with the new mutation are prepared to blossom when mixed in with their pre-mutated cousins. Beyond that, they must calculate how many organism/generations it would have taken for the mutation to naturally occur. This is not beyond the reasonable scope of science. This kind of experimental biology should happen!

  19. I would just like to point out the absurdity in arguing that a scientist’s aversion to criticism represents a flaw in the scientific method.

    Scientific analysis isn’t performed in isolation. Every hypothesis will be formed, tested, and later evaluated by other scientists. Although one person involved may have some personal interest in the subject, others (especially those evaluating) do not have an interest. They will not hesitate to critique whatever problems or errors they find in an experiment. The experiment and those critiques are then examined by the scientific community as a whole, which comes to a consensus on the subject. Even if the experimenter doesn’t want to be criticized (by human nature), it doesn’t matter because they will be.

    But what if no one wants to criticize evolution because of the dogma at stake? This ignores that young scientists are very eager to make a name for themselves by striving to disprove old theories and shift scientific paradigms. Of the thousands of graduate students (or post-Docs) entering biology or chemistry every year, none have been able to overturn evolution in the scientific consensus. And not to mention the thousands of papers published which use evolution as a basis for their validated hypotheses, or experiments in multiple fields of study all point to evolution.

    The point is the scientific method is not hindered by bias.

    For more information
    http://scienceblogs.com/evolvi.....e_a_li.php
    (scroll down for evolution)

    Thank you. Please critique me (but be nice, I’m sensitive).

  20. God forbid (literally)! Of course such experimental proof, like in the nuclear pore complex example you mentioned, is not possible because no experiment could duplicate the astronomical numbers of organisms and astronomical number of generations over which the process is supposed to have occurred.

    But don’t we have “astronomical numbers of organisms” in the real-world data collected in the cases of malaria, HIV and e-coli? In these cases, RM+NS produced only trivial changes and no other evolutionary processes came into play at all, despite strong selection pressures. In the case of e-coli, the data were produced in the lab over the space of about a decade. Isn’t it likely that we’ll have more and more sets of data of this kind as medical science proceeds?

    Why keep telling stories about how a Lexus evolved from a Ford and a Volvo when you can go inside the Lexus factory and actually observe workers assembling parts produced entirely in Japan?

  21. Cameron

    A scientist who discredits the work of another is not winning friends in the process. Ruining the work of another takes away jobs while not creating any new ones. I was recently involved in a discussion of this in another forum with hundreds of scientists. Nearly all agreed that science needs what I termed “official falsifiers” whose sole task is finding flaws in the work of others. Jokes ensued that the holders of that job would need tenure, an armored Humvee, bodyguards, a windowless office, martial arts training, a hotline to the FBI witness protection program, no family, and not be concerned about being hated and scorned by everyone like he was the grim reaper. Jokes aside, it’s a real problem.

    Over and over again I’ve heard ID critics say that ID is all about pointing out the flaws in the modern synthesis and that it offers no testable hypothesis in the place of the modern synthesis. That had always puzzled me because nowhere in the scientific method does it say that if you find fault in a hypothesis you must offer a better hypothesis in its place. Now I understand. It isn’t a requirement of science. It’s a requirement of the practioners of science. If you destroy something which created opportunities for research and funding you had better replace it with something that creates opportunities for research and funding. That way the scientific establishment isn’t diminished. Science has become like government and big business. The people employed in it are protective of their jobs and their main goal aside from protecting their own job is to create more jobs such that the organization grows and their respect and rank within that structure grows too.

  22. 22

    DaveScot,

    I don’t think that’s Cameron’s point. The point is that science advances by establishing points of difference with the previous literature, not simply confirmation. Simple confirmation is boring: it’s the stuff of “archival” journals. Nobody gets tenure by simply confirming what is known. New science is new precisely because it critiques earlier work.

  23. Cameron:

    I’ll try to be as nice as I can, because I think you are sincerely convinced of what you say, but I will critique you just the same.

    While there is obviously some truth in your affirmation that science has room for criticizing and disconfirming, still I am really surprised by your final conclusion that:

    “The point is the scientific method is not hindered by bias”.

    That is really one of the most naive affirmations I have ever heard! Decades of serious reflections in the field of philosophy of science are simply ignored and cancelled in your short sentence…

    I invite you to reconsider what you have said in the light of a deeper evaluation of the fundamental problems of science. I just give you some thoughts, and if you want the discussion can go on from them:

    1) There is no such thing as a universally accepted scientific method. The problem of what the scientific method is is one of the central points in philosophy of science. Just to be brief, consider the simple “title” of one of the most important works of one of the most important philosophers of science, Feyerabend: “Against method”. That should suggest that the problem of method is far from being solved. Popper dedicated most of his thought to trying to define what science is. His approach is very interesting, and usually utilized as dogma by many, but if you are aware of what happened in the field of thought “after” Popper, you may know that his conclusions are certainly not universally accepted, and create new problems while solving some. In other words, the idea that science is a well defined entity, and that scientific method is something that everybody accepts in a definite form, is a complete misconception, which has no foundation in the history of recent thought. It is, indeed, just a dogma of contemporary scientism.

    2) The idea that science, whatever it is, is independent from the culture and the society which generates it is, at best, naive. I think nobody can really think that. It has never been that way. Science, whatever it is, is created by human beings, and human beings act because of specific “motivations”. Love for truth is certainly a possible motivation, but believe me, it is a very rare one (maybe you believe differently, and I can appreciate that if you are very young, but that’s the way it is).

    3) On the contrary, modern scientism is trying to spread the idea (and most people are buying it) that science is always right, that scientists are mainly good and sincere, that the search for truth is the main motivation behind science, in other words that science and the scientific community are the depositaries of the only form of objective truth in human culture. Your concept, that while single scientists may err, the scientific community in general cannot be wrong, is a very simple derivation from those concepts. The interesting thing is that the same kind of concepts have been used many times in the course of history and culture, and they have a specific name: integralism. Science is certainly not the first ideology which tries to self-define itself as the final answer to everything. When many people here in the ID field define scidentism as a new form of religion, believe me, they know what they are saying.

    3) However, good science is not scientism. Good science (and there has always been good science in the history of human thought) is the sincere search for some truth at the right level where that truth can be obtained, and with a full and humble awareness that any scientific knowledge is partial, interrelated with other kinds of knowledge (philosophical, historical, social, humanistic, artistic, psychological, spiritual, ans so on), and always, always, hindered by bias, as any other product of the human mind. That is good science. A science which, instead, has stolen the responsibilities of philosophy, of psychology, of spirituality, and declares itself as the only measure of truth, a science which repeatedly makes the fundamental mistake of confounding facts with theories (an epistemological absurdity which can never be pardoned!), a science which persecutes its critics creating false categories (see the specious definitions of “naturalism” and of “nature”, which have no sound philosophical basis, and hide only the necessity to ensure that no different approach to reality be intellectually and socially accepted) is a bad, very bad science. Today, as always in human history, we have good science and bad science. But, as always in human history, political and intellectual power is in the hands of bad science.

    You see, probably power and good science are not natural friends. Maybe it is because intellectual humbleness is the basis for any serious understanding?

  24. I’ve gotta put my two bits into this one.

    Cameron:

    The point is the scientific method is not hindered by bias

    Just please read the post in UD above entitled “Darwin’s Legacy” where Nature publishes an opinion of the motivation of the ID community. This publication presumably passed review by the scientific community that is “not hindered by bias.” This blog is the best single source of information on how IDers think. Is this presentation of the motivation of the ID community correct? Certainly for some bloggers it is. Even for some bloggers in the article I just sited it is, after all that debate has degraded into a discussion of whether humans are animals or not. However, many of us IDers, sufficient of us to not be discounted, do not buy into evolutionary theory for reasons separate from religion.

    I, as many, am a computer software developer. When I look at DNA, I see software code, plain and simple. Incredulity reigns supreme when I consider that this is the product of random chance and a simple selection filter. This is not a religious motivation.

    Am I unconvinceable? Oh no! Demonstrate the evolution of complex things by experimentation, and I will be convinced. I have discussed elsewhere recently just how such experiments can be done. I just want to see proof that the “just so” stories that explain bacterial flagella, or nuclear pores are in any way practical. I want to see a scientific, experimental, biology rather than a community of tale tellers.

    Id would exist without Christianity. That is the simple bottom line. Nature is willing to publish exactly the opposite conclusion. Nature is biased! Science itself is not unhindered by bias.

  25. 25

    Just please read the post in UD above entitled “Darwin’s Legacy” where Nature publishes an opinion of the motivation of the ID community. This publication presumably passed review by the scientific community that is “not hindered by bias.”

    Um, that opinion piece did not “pass review” in the sense generally understood by terms like “peer review,” so this objection seems odd.

  26. It still is a piece that Nature published dispite fundimental inaccuracies. Does Nature publish any wierd thing as long as it is “opinion”? I guess not! Would Nature publish a counter-opinion by Dembski or Behe? Oh yea, not that either. Nature is displaying fundimental bias. Science is displaying a willingness to be fundimentally dishonest about the nature of ID.

  27. bFast (#18): ” Scientists don’t need to wait for a new nuclear pore to evolve. It is perfectly fair for them to induce the mutations that they have theorized.”

    I see what you mean. I think there would be at least one excuse for not doing this – it requires that a detailed mutation by mutation scenario has been concocted to explain the origin of a complicated new structure/system. I don’t know if this has actually been done for any of Behe’s examples of irreducible complexity, for example. These stories require vaguely outlined gradual cooptions, gradual whittling down of more inefficient designs, etc. etc. I don’t think any of these stories have been worked out in such detail. Of course the claim is that this is impractical and unnecessary because MET is absolute truth anyway.

  28. Magnan:

    it requires that a detailed mutation by mutation scenario has been concocted to explain the origin of a complicated new structure/system. I don’t know if this has actually been done for any of Behe’s examples of irreducible complexity, for example.

    Actually, I understand that there is a mutation buy mutation (co-option by co-option) story re the flagellum. I also understand that the paper on the nuclear pore gets fairly close to that as well. In any case, any less is a charade. Actually, anything less than experimentally validating the story is a charade.

  29. 29

    I’m not saying it’s not “biased,” whatever that may mean in this case. I just don’t think that the bias of an opinion piece is in the same category what Cameron was referring to, which was the scientific method. Now, personally I think the “scientific method” is more diverse than a single name suggests, but whatever. Your comment put an opinion piece and peer-reviewed literature in the same bag, when they should be separate.

  30. I love erlinski and how he really works around the Bs and does it in an artistic yet clear manner-

    Berlinski is my favorite author of the main guys (Behe, Dembski, Meyers, wells,)

    Behe is the hardest hitting writer of the list- Dembski is the most intellectual and philosophical- mathematical- Meyers is the deepest and IMOP the techincally brightest– and Wells has the ability to surprise me with arguments supported by little know facts call him clever-

    All bring differnt qualties to the table and together are a force to be reconed with- but Berlinski is a joy to read becasue he is such a rare bird!

  31. I understand that there is a mutation buy mutation (co-option by co-option) story re the flagellum.

    The 2006 Matzke paper?

    http://www.nature.com/nrmicro/.....93_T1.html

    The flagellum consists of 42 proteins. 23 proteins are “thought to be” indispensable in modern flagella. Out of those 23, 2 are unique. Otherwise 15 other proteins are unique. So that’s 17 unique proteins with no known homologs.

    So, no, the story cannot proceed on co-option alone at this point. Of course, there’s also the little issue of how the components that were co-opted came to be.

  32. I still say that if an experimental biologist shows a mutation by mutation experiment where each mutation is induced but proven to be viable, I am willing to tell Behe that he is full of it. IC is absolutely falsifiable. Let the science be done.

  33. russ (#20): “But don’t we have “astronomical numbers of organisms” in the real-world data collected in the cases of malaria, HIV and e-coli?”

    Yes, but it seems to me we don’t have the astronomical numbers of successive generations required by the theory, although I would really like to find some flaws in this reasoning. At least in the malaria example the number of generations seems to be the limitation. Falciparum has basically two stages in its life cycle – in the mosquito and in the human body. The selection forces are strongly for the CQR variant during drug treatment in a human being. In the mosquito phase of course there is no drug treatment and the selection forces are against the CQR variant, resulting, in a while, with a parasite population of the normal non-CQR strain. So it seems that on average RV + NS is continuously operating to develop the CQR complex of mutations only during an acute infection in any individual while the drug is being administered. Usually Falciparum would seem to have to start all over again from “scratch” (from the normal free-living mosquito variant) in each infected human individual, unless the person is infected by a mosquito having just bitten a malaria patient having CQR malaria. So by this reasoning, over the entire 50 years since chloroquine became available the RV + NS process with P. falciparum seems to have had not much more than the number of parasite generations it took for the course of the disease in any one patient.

    Parasite generation time in the human body is estimated to be about 8 per 48 hours or 4 generations per day. The course of the disease seems to be about 5 weeks or 35 days with no drug treatment, and a rough estimate of duration with drug treatment if CQR develops could be as much as twice that or 70 days. The parasite would then have had less than 70×4 = 280 generations for RV + NS to operate in building and spreading a CQR variant in the victim being administered chloroquine.

  34. [...] Berlinski explains: One of the reasons that people embrace Darwinian orthodoxy with such an unholy zealousness, is just [...]

  35. [...] Berlinski explains: One of the reasons that people embrace Darwinian orthodoxy with such an unholy zealousness, is just [...]

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