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Jerry Coyne, certainly a man who speaks his mind …

Recently, I’ve been writing about Jerry Coyne’s comments on Mike Behe’s most recent paper. Coyne is billed by his U as “internationally famous defender of evolution against proponents of intelligent design.” Good man on fruit flies too.

It occurred to me to pull up my Coyne files, re other things he has said. A most interesting picture emerges – in a world where hordes bravely speak the group’s latest mind, the prof (Department of Ecology and Evolution) gives the impression of speaking his own. I won’t hazard whether that earns him greater trust because I don’t know whether Darwin’s folk trust people who think for themselves, but here goes:

Coyne on the useful idiots of theistic evolution:

- Theistic evolution is compromise. (“Coyne is particularly annoyed by the folks at the Darwin-defending but religion-appeasing National Center for Science Education, for “compromising the very science they aspire to defend.” – quoted in Klinghoffer )

Theistic evolution claims are wearing thin. (“Liberal religious people have been important allies in our struggle against creationism, and it is not pleasant to alienate them by declaring how we feel. This is why, as a tactical matter, groups such as the National Academy of Sciences claim that religion and science do not conflict. But their main evidence — the existence of religious scientists — is wearing thin as scientists grow ever more vociferous about their lack of faith.” – quoted in Iannone)

He also enjoys taking the fun out of Fundamentalism, when not engaging in it himself.

(My best guess is that he pays closer attention to the ID guys, as they offer a serious challenge.)

What Jerry Coyne has said about evolutionary biology: (risky! )

Almost no findings are replicated: (“Almost no findings are replicated, there’s a premium on publishing positive results, and, unlike some other areas, findings in evolutionary biology don’t necessarily build on each other: workers usually don’t have to repeat other people’s work as a basis for their own.”)

Also here : (In science’s pecking order, evolutionary biology lurks somewhere near the bottom, far closer to phrenology than to physics. … The latest deadweight dragging us closer to phrenology is “evolutionary psychology,” or the science formerly known as sociobiology, which studies the evolutionary roots of human behavior. There is nothing inherently wrong with this enterprise, and it has proposed some intriguing theories, particularly about the evolution of language. The problem is that evolutionary psychology suffers from the scientific equivalent of megalomania. Most of its adherents are convinced that virtually every human action or feeling, including depression, homosexuality, religion, and consciousness, was put directly into our brains by natural selection.)

- Randy “Flock of Dodos” Olson thinks Coyne more persuasive about evolutionary biology than Richard Dawkins

Oh, and Coyne on Ann Coulter:

From the Stop the Coult! files: (“The remarkable thing about all this is that Jerry Coyne thinks he needs to take on Ann Coulter. There was a time when a guy like Jerry Coyne would not know who Ann Coulter is, and possibly would not know what a pundette is, unless he had married his cook and she insisted on subscribing to some vile rag that … ” – O’Leary ) Just shows how things change.

Coyne vs. Behe :

But, Jerry, what about all those dogs?

Could Darwinists be running low on insults?

Mike Behe replies to detractor Jerry Coyne …

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16 Responses to Jerry Coyne, certainly a man who speaks his mind …

  1. Stating that religion and science do not conflict “as a tactical matter”? The fact that they do not conflict at all was obvious to Galileo, Sir Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, Nicolaus Copernicus, and Sir Francis Bacon.

    The Bible harmonizes with scientific truths about the natural world. To disregard either one (the Bible or scientific study) is to leave unopened a door to the knowledge of God.

  2. True, there are religious scientists and Darwinian churchgoers. But this does not mean that faith and science are compatible, except in the trivial sense that both attitudes can be simultaneously embraced by a single human mind. (It is like saying that marriage and adultery are compatible because some married people are adulterers.) ~ Jerry Coyne

  3. Bevets,
    Surely no one is conflating ‘science’ (you know, sctual scientific disciplines as distinct from scientism) with atheism? and surely no one is making the mistake of imagining that ‘science’ delivers non-trivial truth (other than accidentally and haphazardly)?

  4. Please accept my apologies for stating the obvious (this is not an ad hominem attack, just a statement of the truth): Jerry Coyne is a scientific half-wit.

    Behe has compiled and published an impressive oeuvre — based on logic, mathematics, empiricism, and all those things Darwinian “scientists” claim to idolize as the basis for their theories — and the evidence is conclusive:

    DESIGN

    Coyne is hopelessly lost in the abyss of 19th-century, pre-information-theoretic ignorance, as was Darwin.

  5. Gil, despite your denials, that is an ad hominem. If anything Coyne suffers from cognitive dissonance. He is no half-wit and such insults add nothing to the debate. If you are going to call Coyne a half-wit, then you should be consistent and call all Darwinian scientists and academics half-wits, which is obtuse and untenable. It’s also an unfair insult.

    Coyne is a lot smarter than most Darwinian scientists and culture elites where it counts, that’s the point Denyse is making. He like a very few honest others, Provine comes to mind notably, gets the atheistic philosophical implications of neo-Darwinism as a complete theory of natural evolution and as importantly, is openly honest about it. As with Provine he doesn’t deny it nor is he going to appease anybody. He’s the kind of Darwinian biologist ID should be championing for both his consistency on the implications of neo-Darwinism and his honesty on this front – he’s the anti-Ken Miller.

  6. Actually, what I like best about Coyne is his honesty about the current state of evolutionary biology: it’s a mess.

    I assume he wants more out of life than an iron rice bowl (doubles as helmet during a [merde]storm but no help in creating workable ideas).

    My folks taught me that, when lost, the first step is STOP barging ahead and look at where one is and how one got here.

    Darwinian magic is no better than the rabbit from hat kind, but at least the rabbit admits he’s not magic.

  7. GilDodgen:

    Coyne is hopelessly lost in the abyss of 19th-century, pre-information-theoretic ignorance, as was Darwin.

    How does information theory pose a challenge to Coyne or Darwin? From what I’ve seen, info theory plays a negligible role in ID arguments.

    Sure, ID proponents tend to log-scale their probabilities, as is the custom in classical info theory, but that’s just a matter of convenience. Durston talks in terms of entropy, which is a very basic concept. And there’s Marks and Dembski’s mistaken attempt to incorporate the concept of relative entropy into their framework. In what other ways has classical info theory been used?

    With regards to algorithmic info theory, it’s hard to see how it has helped ID. Dembski says that less algorithmic information means more CSI, while Meyer characterizes CSI as having high algorithmic complexity. If algorithmic info theory is useful to ID, is it per Dembski’s thinking, or per Meyer’s thinking?

  8. Robb,

    Computer programs don’t write themselves, and living systems are fundamentally based on computational information processing.

    This is not hard to figure out, unless, of course, one has been lobotomized by Darwinian indoctrination.

  9. Robb,

    If you could please show me where I can find Dembski’s and Meyer’s writings on algorithmic info theory, I think I could come up with an answer for you. If not, maybe some higher powers could ask the authors directly.

  10. Hi Collin — I hope you had a very merry Christmas. If my apparently lobotomized brain will permit, I can offer a few references:

    - Dembski’s paper on Specification. See section 4, and note that according Dembski’s mathematical definition at the top of page 24, specified complexity is inversely proportional to descriptional complexity.

    - Chapter 4 of Meyer’s Signature in the Cell. See the section “Shannon Information or Shannon Plus”, where Meyer makes it clear that algorithmically simple sequences do not meet the “complexity” requirement. See, for example, Figure 4.8.

    Thank you for the request. I’m happy to offer specific quotes if you would like.

  11. Robb,

    aside from trivial hill climbing problems, that find a solution within well defined parameters, what evidence do you have that evolutionary algorithms can produce the prescriptive information found inside say the programming of the evolutionary algorithm itself?:

    In computer science we recognize the algorithmic principle described by Darwin – the linear accumulation of small changes through random variation – as hill climbing, more specifically random mutation hill climbing. However, we also recognize that hill climbing is the simplest possible form of optimization and is known to work well only on a limited class of problems.
    Watson R.A. – 2006 – Compositional Evolution – MIT Press – Pg. 272

    Yet Robb why do you cling to the fantasy that such trivial hill climbing, done within well defined parameters, has the ability to create functionally coded information (programming) that far exceeds in integrated complexity any programming that teams of our best software engineers can produce? Do you get paid money for being so stubborn towards what is so blatantly obvious? Does your livelihood depend on you toeing the Darwin party line?

    The Coding Found In DNA Surpasses Man’s Ability To Code – Stephen Meyer – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4050638

    Bill Gates, in recognizing the superiority found in Genetic Coding, compared to the best computer coding we now have, has now funded research into this area:

    Welcome to CoSBi – (Computational and Systems Biology)
    Excerpt: Biological systems are the most parallel systems ever studied and we hope to use our better understanding of how living systems handle information to design new computational paradigms, programming languages and software development environments. The net result would be the design and implementation of better applications firmly grounded on new computational, massively parallel paradigms in many different areas.
    http://www.cosbi.eu/index.php/.....rticle/171

    Darwin as the Pinball Wizard: Talking Probability with Robert Marks – podcast
    http://www.idthefuture.com/201.....ard_t.html

    Here are a few quotes from Robert Marks from the preceding podcast, as well as link to further quotes by Dr. Marks:

    * [Computer] programs to demonstrate Darwinian evolution are akin to a pinball machine. The steel ball bounces around differently every time but eventually falls down the little hole behind the flippers.
    * It’s a lot easier to play pinball than it is to make a pinball machine.
    * Computer programs, including all of the models of Darwinian evolution of which I am aware, perform the way their programmers intended. Doing so requires the programmer infuse information about the program’s goal. You can’t write a good program without [doing so].
    Robert J. Marks II – Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Baylor University
    http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Robert_J._Marks_II

    Astonishingly, actual motors, which far surpass man-made motors in ‘engineering parameters’, are now being found inside ‘simple cells’.

    Articles and Videos on Molecular Motors
    http://docs.google.com/Doc?doc.....#038;hl=en

    Michael Behe – Life Reeks Of Design – 2010 – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5066181

    And in spite of the fact of finding molecular motors permeating the simplest of bacterial life, there are no detailed Darwinian accounts for the evolution of even one such motor or system.

    “There are no detailed Darwinian accounts for the evolution of any fundamental biochemical or cellular system only a variety of wishful speculations. It is remarkable that Darwinism is accepted as a satisfactory explanation of such a vast subject.”
    James Shapiro – Molecular Biologist

    etc.. etc.. etc…

    So Robb why the games?

  12. Robb:

    1: The simple description issue is that for a random sequence of sufficient complexity, essentially the only way to describe it is to quote it.

    2: The algorithm simplicity issue, is that if a simple ordering procedure will specify something [like, repeat the sequence "simple" 1,000 times] then it is not complex.

    3: As Trevors and Abel showed in their contrastive description of Ordered, Random and Functional sequence complexity, FSC is to be contrasted to BOTH ordered sequences that repeat a simple block, and to truly random ones that are in no particular order.

    4: So, the function carried out by a FSC sequence may indeed be simply describable [you don't need to quote the sequence -- e.g. "this post -- which exhibits FSC -- is an English message that corrects your remarks above"], but that is not to be equated to it exhibits OSC [e.g. here, the description specifies the function but does not suffice to reproduce the sequence as repetition of a simple text bloc].

    _____________

    In short, order, randomness and specific and complex functionality are mutually distinct characteristics of sequences.

    GEM of TKI

  13. ba77:

    Yet Robb why do you cling to the fantasy that such trivial hill climbing, done within well defined parameters, has the ability to create functionally coded information (programming) that far exceeds in integrated complexity any programming that teams of our best software engineers can produce? Do you get paid money for being so stubborn towards what is so blatantly obvious? Does your livelihood depend on you toeing the Darwin party line?

    I enjoy being accused of intellectual dishonesty as much as the next guy, but I prefer that it be based on what I said, not on what someone imagines I said. I don’t know what comment you were reading, but I was talking about information theory vis-a-vis ID, not hill-climbing or evolutionary algorithms.

  14. Yet Robb, it may just be me, but I’ve seen you consistently oppose Dembski and Marks work, at least that is how it appears to me. If you indeed do agree with Dembski and Marks that there are strict limits to what we can expect from purely material processes as to the generation of information, and you are merely nitpicking on formalisms of the proof please clearly state so so as to remove all doubt about your underlying motives, but you leave the impression with me, at least, that you think purely material processes can generate unmatched levels of integrative information though no one has witnessed the generation of information above that which was already present:

    notes:

    Michael Behe on Falsifying Intelligent Design – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8jXXJN4o_A

    Is Antibiotic Resistance evidence for evolution? – ‘The Fitness Test’ – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/3995248

    The main problem, for the secular model of neo-Darwinian evolution to overcome, is that no one has ever seen purely material processes generate prescriptive information.

    The Capabilities of Chaos and Complexity: David L. Abel – Null Hypothesis For Information Generation – 2009
    To focus the scientific community’s attention on its own tendencies toward overzealous metaphysical imagination bordering on “wish-fulfillment,” we propose the following readily falsifiable null hypothesis, and invite rigorous experimental attempts to falsify it: “Physicodynamics cannot spontaneously traverse The Cybernetic Cut: physicodynamics alone cannot organize itself into formally functional systems requiring algorithmic optimization, computational halting, and circuit integration.” A single exception of non trivial, unaided spontaneous optimization of formal function by truly natural process would falsify this null hypothesis.
    http://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/10/1/247/pdf
    Can We Falsify Any Of The Following Null Hypothesis (For Information Generation)
    1) Mathematical Logic
    2) Algorithmic Optimization
    3) Cybernetic Programming
    4) Computational Halting
    5) Integrated Circuits
    6) Organization (e.g. homeostatic optimization far from equilibrium)
    7) Material Symbol Systems (e.g. genetics)
    8) Any Goal Oriented bona fide system
    9) Language
    10) Formal function of any kind
    11) Utilitarian work
    http://mdpi.com/1422-0067/10/1/247/ag

    The GS (genetic selection) Principle – David L. Abel – 2009
    Excerpt: Stunningly, information has been shown not to increase in the coding regions of DNA with evolution. Mutations do not produce increased information. Mira et al (65) showed that the amount of coding in DNA actually decreases with evolution of bacterial genomes, not increases. This paper parallels Petrov’s papers starting with (66) showing a net DNA loss with Drosophila evolution (67). Konopka (68) found strong evidence against the contention of Subba Rao et al (69, 70) that information increases with mutations. The information content of the coding regions in DNA does not tend to increase with evolution as hypothesized. Konopka also found Shannon complexity not to be a suitable indicator of evolutionary progress over a wide range of evolving genes. Konopka’s work applies Shannon theory to known functional text. Kok et al. (71) also found that information does not increase in DNA with evolution. As with Konopka, this finding is in the context of the change in mere Shannon uncertainty. The latter is a far more forgiving definition of information than that required for prescriptive information (PI) (21, 22, 33, 72). It is all the more significant that mutations do not program increased PI. Prescriptive information either instructs or directly produces formal function. No increase in Shannon or Prescriptive information occurs in duplication. What the above papers show is that not even variation of the duplication produces new information, not even Shannon “information.”
    http://www.scitopics.com/The_G.....ciple.html
    http://www.us.net/life/index.htm

    Dr. Don Johnson explains the difference between Shannon Information and Prescriptive Information, as well as explaining ‘the cybernetic cut’, in this following Podcast:

    Programming of Life – Dr. Donald Johnson interviewed by Casey Luskin – audio podcast
    http://www.idthefuture.com/201....._life.html

  15. kairosfocus @ 17 — I can’t tell if your point in #1 and #2 is to draw a distinction between descriptive complexity and algorithmic complexity. If so, we can talk about that, but it seems obvious to me that the two are, at the very least, correlated.

    My point was that ID proponents can’t agree on how algorithmic complexity relates to design inferences. Meyer, Trevor, and Abel assume that highly compressible sequences of unknown cause are produced by some unknown regularity, while Dembski does not.

    And my original question remains: How does information theory pose a challenge to Coyne or Darwin?

  16. bornagain77:

    Yet Robb, it may just be me, but I’ve seen you consistently oppose Dembski and Marks work, at least that is how it appears to me.

    I’ve tried to be very clear and specific in everything I’ve said about the work of Dembski and Marks. If you dispute something, why not quote it?

    If you indeed do agree with Dembski and Marks that there are strict limits to what we can expect from purely material processes as to the generation of information, and you are merely nitpicking on formalisms of the proof

    What exactly does “generation of information” mean in Marks and Dembski’s framework? Can humans generate information? Can humans find a small target in a large space without the aid of pre-existing problem-specific information? What part of Marks and Dembski’s math applies to “material” processes but not to “immaterial” processes? And which proof are you talking about?

    please clearly state so so as to remove all doubt about your underlying motives, but you leave the impression with me…

    I don’t see how my underlying motives or your impressions of what I say are relevant. Again, if you disagree with something I’ve said, why not quote it and explain why you disagree?

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