Home » Evolution » Nathaniel Abraham — Competence Without Belief?

Nathaniel Abraham — Competence Without Belief?

The case of Nathaniel Abraham — a biologist who does not “believe” in evolution, got fired for it, and is now suing his erstwhile employer — is getting some play in the press (see Boston Globe and Chronicle of Higher Education). The question this raises is whether it is legitimate to fire someone who knows all that he needs to know about evolution to successfully practice his discipline but still does not believe in evolution. More generally, to be a member of the guild, do you have to believe something that you are capable of successfully applying? One of the commenters at the Chronicle of Higher Education remarked that you can’t continue to employ a mathematician who believes 1 plus 1 equals 3. But what if the mathematician says, “In fact, I believe 1 plus 1 equals 3, but I realize that most of you think it equals 2, and I know why you think that, so, to keep peace in the family, I’ll just play along”? It seems that BELIEF and COMPETENCE are two separate things — one can be competent in handling an idea without believing in it.

Compare the case of Nathaniel Abraham with the case of a high school student reported a long time ago here.

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113 Responses to Nathaniel Abraham — Competence Without Belief?

  1. I’m very interested in Nathaniel Abraham’s case, though I’m not sure what to think yet. In the article I saw it mentioned that one of his coworkers (or superior, I forget which) claimed he asked not to be made to work on the parts of the research that dealt with ‘evolution’.

    I’d like to see how long he was working on the project and how his work shaped up before he ended up being fired. Could be an interesting case.

  2. Is it not a mathematical strategy to assume a false x in order to demonstrate the soundness of a proof? I thought science was about a belief in the utility of testing hypotheses. Ideological servitude demands a belief in the theoretical framework in advance of testing.

  3. When I read about Abraham I immediately thought of John Baumgardner, the YEC geologist, formerly of Los Alamos National Laboratory, who has published in mainstream geology for a long time. I know people who’ve collaborated with Baumgardner, and they’ve never found his views an impediment to their work, though they think his views are definitely wacky.

    But there are some differences. Baumgardner does computer models of whole Earth dynamics. His mot significant contribution, Terra, was for a time the leading model for mantle convection. (Turns out he designed it to test flood geology.) Baumgardner would have no problem putting his name on a publication that ran a model because, well, it’s a model. He does not have to commit to, say, a 4.5 BY age of the earth.

    But Abraham would not be running model simulations. He would be doing research that may involve direct evolutionary claims. I was wondering if the people at Woods Hole thought Abraham might collaborate on a paper and then hold it hostage, refusing to put his name on it unless they changed some wording. I would not have fired him, but I think there is an actual ethical quandry there: an author of a paper stands by the claims of that paper. If he does work meriting authorship but doesn’t believe in the paper, should he recuse himelf?

  4. Compare the case of Nathaniel Abraham with the case of a high school student reported a long time ago here.

    As it turns out, the father of that high school student and I are neighbors (in Southern California terms). We met for lunch, and later I rode my trusty Harley Davidson motorcycle (yes, I’m a biker!) over to his home for a wonderful afternoon of fellowship. We compared notes and shared books, DVD’s, and videos. The father of that high school student is a very bright and perceptive man, who taught his son not to be intimidated by authority and to investigate the evidence for himself.

  5. But Abraham would not be running model simulations. He would be doing research that may involve direct evolutionary claims. I was wondering if the people at Woods Hole thought Abraham might collaborate on a paper and then hold it hostage, refusing to put his name on it unless they changed some wording. I would not have fired him, but I think there is an actual ethical quandry there: an author of a paper stands by the claims of that paper. If he does work meriting authorship but doesn’t believe in the paper, should he recuse himelf?

    If he does work meriting authorship he might be eager to stand by it. It might be the others with qualms. None of this coulda, woulda, shoulda stuff is a good basis for an objection. Let him show his stuff. That censorship proclivity is anti-science and anti-American.

  6. The theory of evolution is useless for research. That is unless you confine it to what can be observed and tested. And that amounts to the Creation Model of Evolution.

    Now if a scientist could demonstrate that some number of accumulated genetic accidents could account for the physiological and anatomical differences observed between say chimps and humans, thereby confirming the theory of evolution, for that lineage at least, then Woods Hole would have a point.

    Didn’t NAS member Philip Skell already report that the ToE isn’t used as far as research is concerned?

  7. And that amounts to the Creation Model of Evolution.

    The whatchamawhoozit?
    [GAWs head spins]

  8. We don’t know the facts in this case, only what has been alleged. However, if the facts are as alleged he will prevail in his lawsuit. Keep in mind two very important things here.

    1. He works for a government agency. Generally speaking, only the government can violate a person’s constitutional rights. Private employment law varies widely from state to state, but in most states a private employer can fire you for pretty much any reason unless you are in a protected class (race, gender, age, etc.). This is important to keep in mind because even if he wins, the win cannot be extrapolated to private employers.

    2. If we assume that his allegations are true — that he was fired because of a belief that he held, not an action that he took or failed to take, not only will he win, it will be a slam dunk. Case after case after case holds that the government may not penalize a person because of his beliefs. So if he is able to prove his allegations, he’ll win.

  9. The question this raises is whether it is legitimate to fire someone who knows all that he needs to know about evolution to successfully practice his discipline but still does not believe in evolution.

    Actuall, I think there are two questions here.

    The first, which you raise and I quote above, can be tweaked slightly to ask whether it is legitimate to fire someone who knows all that he needs to know about theology to successfully practice his discipline but still does not believe in God. I speak, of course, of Hector Avalos, a religion professor at Iowa State, who has been exorcated here for being an atheist.

    The second question is whether it is legitimate for someone to work in a field in which he/she does not subscribe to a major tenant. Or, to put it less obtusely, if Abraham does not believe evolution should he stand on principal and not work on a project that assumes evolution as a starting point?

  10. So, only those who support a theory can work on projects that support that theory? Sounds a bit biased to me, though I do accept some level of competency is required- though a master’s and PhD should be a testament to his ability.

    It is a sad case- I hope there is more to this than simply firing him for disbelief.

  11. The thing is, for the most part is that if 1 + 1 = 3, then it breaks down pretty quickly in common, practical applications.

    It is exactly the opposite of not being right about idle speculations about “where it all came from”. It is precisely not the relationship we are talking about.

    So what application does it have? Absolutely none.

  12. You see the most dangerous thing to an institution is the mind. Not necessarily the actions of the mind but its ability to think for itself. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. But if you have the ability to speak up or out on issues of truth or right and wrong you are not a useful idiot. The power structure hates and fears people like this. In China their communist power structure has gotten so bad they just throw people out of their homes onto the street. This is nothing but institutional fascism and anyone who denies it is in my opinion a pawn and player in this unethical arena of 1984. I mean what is next fire people for not accepting dark matter as the truth about cosmology? Or lets fire someone for beleiving in capitolism, right? The truth is that there is no end to this kind of thing. Only one thing am I totally certain about and that is “freedom denied one- denied all.” Hopefully it wont be long before enough people get burnt by this crap and speak out. This is why we are an ID movement – we have to be to counteract the political idealistic war waged against us not only in the classroom but now in our own minds.

    Don’t believe me?

    http://video.google.com/videop.....;plindex=1

  13. In re specs, 9:

    The second question is whether it is legitimate for someone to work in a field in which he/she does not subscribe to a major tenant [sic: prob means tenet but us dyslexics understand . . .]. Or, to put it less obtusely, if Abraham does not believe evolution should he stand on principal [sic] and not work on a project that assumes evolution as a starting point?

    H’mm, Am H Dict:

    ten·et: An opinion, doctrine, or principle held as being true by a person or especially by an organization. See Synonyms at doctrine. Adds at the head of the thesaurus list: a religious doctrine that is proclaimed as true without proof Then, we see [near-] synonyms:dogma, article of faith, credendum, church doctrine, religious doctrine, creed, gospel . . .

    [sarcasm] Anybody here want to sign up for The First Church of Evolutionary Materialism, Scientist, magisterioum chamber with Pope Dawkins the First presiding at the heresy trial of one certain Nathaniel Abraham, suspected of not signing up to the Evolutionary Materialist credo while pretending to hold scientific qualifications and to practice science? Immediately to follow, a stop-off at the friendly local career-busting strawman burning stake, now immortalised as the Richard von Sternberg memorial stake? [/sarcasm]

    And I thought the point of science was that we observe facts, infer hypotheses and test them empirically then generalise on reliable hyps that — provisionally — they can be viewed as well-warranted frameworks of thought?

    Would it not then be fundamentally irrelevant to the process of hyp testing, whether or no the scientist actually believes it — so long as said scientist is honest with data and competent?

    [Indeed, it seems that if the hyp keeps on coming through with flying colours, he may then revise his opinion. But in further point of fact, the evolutionary materialist cascade of evolutions from hydrogen to humans is in big trouble, as my always linked summarises. Of course, there is a movement out there that if you don't sign up on the evo mat agenda, you cannot possibly be a scientist . . . but that looks more like political correctness to nme than science.]

    And, isn’t it the case that the methodological naturalism used in the very parallel case with Gonzalez to dismiss him as not understanding “science” is in fact on closer inspection a question-begging, counter-historical philosophical imposition, not an integral part of the science proper?

    Ah gawn ketch up pon me beauty [or is that ugly!] sleep . . .

    GEM of TKI

  14. Evolutionists are actually the ones who believe 1 + 1 = 3

    1 RV + 1 NS = 3 for increased complexity of information (CSI)

    IDists are actually the ones who believe the truth that 1 + 1 = 2

    1 RV + 1 NS = 2 for no increase in CSI

  15. KF, I see my question lies in tatters at the feet of your American Heritage Dictionary. Although, I am struggling a bit to understand where your answer is in my corrected spelling and your subsequent sarcasm. Perhaps you could expand on your post more?

  16. BarryA,

    He works for a government agency.

    Um, no. A quick fact check will reveal that the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute “is the world’s largest private, nonprofit ocean research, engineering and education organization” (from the home page). I hope you check your facts a little better before you take the case. :-)

  17. On second thought, BarryA, perhaps you are saying that he is in effect a government employee because WHOI takes government grants? But I seriously doubt you would want the long arm of the federal government to extend that far.

  18. specs, watch our where KF swings that dictionary. A couple of weeks ago he used a 1980 dictionary to argue that science hasn’t been materialist for more than 30 years or so. I couldn’t walk for days after.

  19. If you’re not careful he’ll swing that dictionary and define ‘instinct’ as everything that humans don’t do.

  20. Didn’t NAS member Philip Skell already report that the ToE isn’t used as far as research is concerned?

    You can listen to Casey Luskin’s three-part interview with Phil Skell here (page down):

    http://intelligentdesign.podomatic.com/

    Phil discusses this very topic, which he elucidated in an article he wrote for The Scientist, available here:

    http://www.discovery.org/scrip.....38;id=2816

  21. Dr Dembski,

    The question that you raise is wether a mathematician would be hired if he/she believed 1+1=3. I think the answer is yes. Perhaps this mathematician is working in a different number system where in fact 1+1 does equal 3. For example 1+1 does not equal 2 in the base two number system. Ok, so I would trust that mathematician to know what he/she is doing assuming that he understands that in the base 10 number system 1+1=2

    As another example, the concept of the ether was supposedly dispelled in 1905 when Einstein published his work on the Special Theory of Relativity. However, Einstein was never comfortable with giving up the ether. Indeed, there are still physicists today who believe in the ether. Are they banished out of physics. Indeed not. I for one do not understand the need for an ether (yes, I’m a physicists). Nevertheless, I trust their contribution
    to the body of physics. However, it seems that biologists are more interested in thought control than science.

  22. getawitness, thanks for cluing me in. After I read your comment I wen and looked at the complaint in the case. It is here: http://www.courthousenews.com/.....eXtian.pdf

    I stand corrected. Woods Hole is a private employer; although this particular lab gets almost all of its funds from the federal government.

    As I indicated, for private employers an alternative to a constitutional rights claim is a “protected class” claim. He is making such a claim (see paragraph 26 of the complaint).

  23. DrDan, good point- add the stupid theoy of dark matter in there- these are both pedagree theories that I say ARE given speicial favor and considered betond reproach even though the are likly to change. So i dissagree with you on this. I think once the tide goes one way all the fallowers do what they do best and the institution strongly facilitates that bias – I have seen this many times- but ID has profound metaphysical implications and that is why it is on the extreme end of this spectrum wrongfully so.

  24. BTW, my basic point stands. Even in the context of private defendant litigation, the courts have held over and over again, that an employer may not fire an employee in a protected class on the basis of the employee’s beliefs as opposed to actions or failures to act.

    Here in Colorado this issue came up in a suit against Qwest. Qwest has a policy against discrimination against homosexuals. The plaintiff abided by that policy. He took no action and made no statement that could remotely be considered to be discriminatory against homosexuals. At a “diversity training” seminar he was asked to affirm the proposition that homosexuality is an affirmatively good thing. He refused and was fired. Long story short; Qwest lost.

  25. Of course you’ll say your basic point stands; you’re a lawyer. :-) I bet, though, you wish your earlier post wasn’t so strong about the difference between public and private employers.

    In the Qwest case, I assume the plaintiff did not seek to be recused from “homosexual” aspects of the company, as Abraham apparently did with “evolutionary aspects” of the project?

  26. And that amounts to the Creation Model of Evolution.

    The whatchamawhoozit?
    [GAWs head spins]- getawitness

    That happens quite a bit to clueless people :)

    The Creation Model of Biological Evolution states that all living organisms are descended from the originally Created Kinds.

    Dr Lee Spetner has put forth a “non-random evolutionary hypothesis” that has “built-in responses to environmental cues” as one, main?, mechanism. (Read “Not By Chance” Spetner’s response to “The Blind Watchmaker”)

    Carolus Linneaus was trying to determine the Created Kinds when he formulated binomial nomenclature. At first he thought it at the level of “species” but then changed that to the level of “genus”.

    See also The Current Status of Baraminology

    Hat tip to Gil for posting the stuff about Skell

    To Sally_T:

    “Instinct” is our word for “we don’t know how they got that ability”.

  27. specs: The second question is whether it is legitimate for someone to work in a field in which he/she does not subscribe to a major tenant. Or, to put it less obtusely, if Abraham does not believe evolution should he stand on principal and not work on a project that assumes evolution as a starting point?

    Why do you need to believe in an overarching theory to test a hypothesis- the results of which could support or falsify a particular tenet of the theory? He is not going to devise a test that falsifies evolution. There are too many aspects to the theory. So why is orthodoxy a criteria for the effectiveness of a researcher?

  28. Correction. It was AT&T Broadband, not Qwest. Here’s the story.

    http://www.rutherford.org/arti.....cle_id=485

  29. “That censorship proclivity is anti-science and anti-American.”

    It’s not censorship to fire someone because they say they will not do the job they were hired to do. This guy has no case, and will almost certainly lose.

    If a historian working on the Battle of Bulge discovered that one of the people he was considering for employment on the work didn’t believe it ever happened, I think this is a serious and legitimate reason to think they wouldn’t make a very good or useful addition to the team: particularly if you saw their reasons for not believing as unsound.

    At some point, the people who are defending him must at least acknowledge that it is possible for a creationist to have just plain lousy arguments and justifications for creationism. And in such a case, why wouldn’t that be perfectly relevant to judging their work and ability? Someone who habitually advances and poorly supports bad arguments is not deserving of special affirmative action just because they happen to hold the same beliefs as you do.

    Of course, for most scientists, creationist arguments all seem bad. Some here don’t agree (many ID proponetns think YEC is bogus and unsupportable, for instance). But someone has to make a determination between what arguments are good and what aren’t at some point. Otherwise, you’re basically arguing that the Timecube guy shouldn’t be denied tenure as a physics professor based on his beliefs that the earth is cubic.

  30. Getawitness gloats: “I bet, though, you wish your earlier post wasn’t so strong about the difference between public and private employers.”

    No, the distinction is still valid. Public employees have greater rights in this area than private employees.

    Getawitness asks: “In the Qwest case, I assume the plaintiff did not seek to be recused from “homosexual” aspects of the company, as Abraham apparently did with “evolutionary aspects” of the project?”

    The question is all but meaningless, so I can’t answer it.

    This case is really very simple from a legal perspective.

    On the one hand, if Woods Hole can demonstrate that Abraham refused to perform an essential function of his job, it will win.

    On the other hand, if Woods Hole fired Abraham for no other reason that that he refused to subscribe to a particular belief, it will lose.

  31. Why do you need to believe in an overarching theory to test a hypothesis- the results of which could support or falsify a particular tenet of the theory? He is not going to devise a test that falsifies evolution. There are too many aspects to the theory. So why is orthodoxy a criteria for the effectiveness of a researcher?

    An excellent question, Paul.

    Orthodoxy is not a criteria for effectiveness, but commitment is. It is axiomatic to a professional people manager, like myself, that employees are most effective when they view the goals of the organization as the same, or at least consonant with, their individual goals. Conversely, when an employee perceives his goals as different than that of the organization, you will have a far less productive, and occasionally counter-productive, employee. And that is an employee that requires more intensive supervision. In business, that comes with the territory. In research, having to hover over a fellow researcher is problematic.

    Asking to be assigned off of work involving evolution is tacit acknowledgement by Abraham that he is a problematic employee.

  32. Bad writes: “It’s not censorship to fire someone because they say they will not do the job they were hired to do. This guy has no case, and will almost certainly lose.
    If a historian working on the Battle of Bulge discovered that one of the people he was considering for employment on the work didn’t believe it ever happened, I think this is a serious and legitimate reason to think they wouldn’t make a very good or useful addition to the team: particularly if you saw their reasons for not believing as unsound.”

    You are wrong about the law Bad, and your comparison is not valid.

    As for the law, see my prior comments.

    As for your comparison, in your example belief that the Battle of the Bulge happened (i.e., that it exists) is an essential requirement for the job of studying the Battle of the Bulge. As I understand the facts of the Abrahamson case, BELIEF in the theory of evolution is not an essential requirement of the job.

    This is not to say that if the job required Abrahamson to interpret data and make conclusions under an evolutionary paradigm, he could refuse to do so. He could not. Again, we don’t know the facts, but apparently Abrahamson was willing to do this.

    Bad writes: “At some point, the people who are defending him must at least acknowledge that it is possible for a creationist to have just plain lousy arguments and justifications for creationism. And in such a case, why wouldn’t that be perfectly relevant to judging their work and ability?”

    Because the law is clear on this point. If their “just plain lousy arguments and justifications” are compelled by their sincerely held religious belief and have no impact on their job performance, their right to hold believe these “lousy arguments and justifications” is protected by the laws that protect freedom of conscious.

    Bad writes: “Someone who habitually advances and poorly supports bad arguments is not deserving of special affirmative action”

    Well, this is not about “affirmative action.” This is about freedom of conscious. Again, you can’t fire someone based on their sincerely held religious beliefs that have no impact on their job performance.

    Bad writes: “But someone has to make a determination between what arguments are good and what aren’t at some point. Otherwise, you’re basically arguing that the Timecube guy shouldn’t be denied tenure as a physics professor based on his beliefs that the earth is cubic.”

    Again, your comparison is not valid. A physics professor who asserts bad physics is not performing the essential functions of his job (i.e., teaching good physics).

  33. At the end of the day, the legal principles of this case are easy to demonstrate by an example we all went through.

    When I was in school I studied biology, which, of course, included the theory of evolution. When it came time to take the test, I spewed the evolutionary line back at the teacher. If I answered every question correctly, I was entitled to an “A.” It would have been illegitimate for the teacher to say, “Barry, if you do not affirm that you actually believe in your heart of hearts that the things you have just written on this test are true, I will give you an ‘F.’”

    The question in the Abrahamson case is whether he was willing to spew the evolutionary line when it came time to write his reports. I assume he was; after all, he had been spewing it for decades as evidenced by the fact that he was a credentialed biologist (which is impossible if one does not spew the evolutionary line is school).

    If that is the case, it was illegitimate for Woods Hole to say, not only must you spew the line, you must also affirm that in your heart of hearts you believe the line.

  34. Spelling: when I wrote “conscious” I obviously meant “conscience.”

  35. Specs justification for firing Abrahamson is similar to AT&T’s justification for firing the employee in the case I mentioned above. AT&T said, essentially, that they were justified in firing the employee because he was not a team player.

    Unfortunately for AT&T (and specs if he ever tries to use this theory at his job), the law does not recognize a “he ain’t a team player” exemption to the freedom of conscience. In the AT&T case, if the employee never actually did or refused to do anything that could be interpreted as hostile to homosexuals, he could not be fired merely because he refused to say he believed that homosexuality is a good thing.

    In Specs case if he has an employee who is actually performing well, he cannot fire him simply because he does not toe the party line if his refusal to toe the line is based on a sincerely held religious belief. Specs undifferentiated apprehension that the employee might require extra supervision if he does not “think right” is not sufficient to override the freedom of conscience embodied in the protections of Title VII.

    Specs says suggests that Woods Hole was justified in firing Abrahamson because he was a “problematic employee.” If that is true Woods Hole should have grounded the justification for firing Abrahamson in the fact that he was a “problematic employee,” not in the fact that he was not a true believer of the church of Darwin.

  36. BarryA, the “work” in this case involves publication. Earlier I raised this, but I want to raise it again.

    Typically, in scientific papers, every author must have contributed substantially to the work and must agree to the conclusions as published. This kind of collaboration is an normal and expected part of postdoctoral work. So it may be the case that his beliefs about evolution are essential to the job, or else — as I suggested above — he could effectively hold the work hostage by refusing to sign off on it.

  37. Joseph,

    The Creation Model of Biological Evolution states that all living organisms are descended from the originally Created Kinds.

    Is there a reference to this? Anywhere? Google turns up almost nothing, and most of it seems to be by you.

  38. Dr. Dan,
    your comment made me smile. Good job for trying to cover for the silly math matician. The only problem with your base 2 system is that in a base 2 system 1+1=10 (it still doesnt =3) Sorry, I had to point that out, I love playing with different base systems, I am an education major so I have to!

    I actually just reread through your comment again, and I see you were just suggesting that there could be an alternative answer. I just think that it would have to be a familier system to get a 3 for an answer, and maybe there is, but I do not know it.

    I don’t know about you, but if some mathmatician gave me the answer 3 I still wouldn’t hire them for several reasons. 1, the teacher can’t pick up on a joke question 2, the teacher doesn’t know the answer 3, the teacher may not work well under a stressfull situation (which is expected for any teacher) 4, and most importantly he is going to confuse the hell out of his students!

  39. getawitness writes: “So it may be the case . . .” The operative word there is “may.” It may also be the case that he was doing great work.

  40. specs:
    Orthodoxy is not a criteria for effectiveness, but commitment is. It is axiomatic to a professional people manager, like myself, that employees are most effective when they view the goals of the organization as the same, or at least consonant with, their individual goals. Conversely, when an employee perceives his goals as different than that of the organization, you will have a far less productive, and occasionally counter-productive, employee.

    The goal of any organization, dedicated to scientific rresearch, cannot be the affirmation of evolution or any other theory. It should be to test related hypotheses. There is no evidence of a lack of commitment by Abraham to test hypotheses. BTW, hypotheses are meant to challenge. One could equally question the motives of those who might not welcome an effective challenge to a tenet of their pet theory.

  41. All who are intersted in this topic should actually look at Abrahamson’s SWORN allegations in his complaint (linked above). Two allegations in particular are highly telling:

    “16. Plaintiff’s work with Defendants focused on zebrafish developmental biology, toxicology and programmed cell death areas of reseach which required no acceptance, OR APPLICATION OF, teh theory of evolution as scientific fact.”

    17. Plaintiff at all times, before his employment began while helping to design and construct the lab adn during his employment, performed exemplary work and was often praised and commended by [his supervisor] and other staff members for the quality of his research, commitment and scientific presentations.”

  42. BarryA,

    Yes, “may.” You should use that word more often. Recall your first comment in this thread:

    if the facts are as alleged he will prevail in his lawsuit. Keep in mind two very important things here.

    The first very important point in this very confident, even certain predictioni, turned out to be wrong and (suddenly!) unimportant.

    You could use a little more “may,” BarryA, and a little less “will.”

  43. Allegations in a complaint are just that, allegations. Again, we don’t know the true facts. But if Abrahamson is able to prove his allegations — that he was doing great work and that he was fired for no other reason that that he is a Darwinian infidel – he will win hands down.

  44. getawitness- I provided a link, follow it. (creationists don’t generally refer to it as I do. The call it “baraminology”, hence the link)

    Also not everything is on the internet. You should go to Creation sites such as AiG, ICR and CSR.

    But anyway- what do you think that Creationists have been saying since the time of Linneaus? That all organisms are descended from the originally created kinds, and more recently all terrestrial organisms are descended from the survivors of “The Flood”.

    Back to the OP-

    Wouldn’t this be similar to an atheist teaching religious studies?

  45. Getawitness, [re 42]: An all too typical response from you. When you have been soundly thrashed in the argument, as is the case here, you then resort to ad hominem, misdirection and obfuscation. Sad really.

    Yes, I did not know the facts, as I said, and I assumed that the employer was a government entity, as opposed to a private entity funded by government. If Woods Hole had been a government entity, it would have been important, because Abrahamson would have had more and better remedies. It would have been important, but not determinative. As I later explained, a private employee has recourse (admittedly not as much recourse as a public employee) under Title VII.

    So the point of your comment is what exactly? That I should be more tentative when I say that an employer who egregiously violates his employee’s freedom of conscience rights protected under Title VII will lose (assuming that in fact happened)? I see no need to be tentative about conclusions of which I am certain.

    Note that my conclusions are all legal in nature. I know the law in this area and in fact have brought successful Title VII cases in federal court. When it comes to factual issues I have been tentative. My argument has been consistently “if then” in nature. If the facts are X, Abrahamson will win. If the facts are Y Woods Hole will win. We should all be tentative about the facts, because we simply have no way of knowing if Abrahamson’s allegations are true. I see no need to be tentative about the application of well settled principles of law with which I am very familiar.

  46. Joseph,
    Just out of curiousity are you a YEC?

  47. GilDodgen wrote:
    “We met for lunch, and later I rode my trusty Harley Davidson motorcycle (yes, I’m a biker!) over to his home for a wonderful afternoon of fellowship.”

    Software, classical music, and Harleys? I think your life itself may falsify Darwinism – I’m not sure how yet, but I’m betting it does.

    “But what if the mathematician says, “In fact, I believe 1 plus 1 equals 3, but I realize that most of you think it equals 2, and I know why you think that, so, to keep peace in the family, I’ll just play along””

    What about the scientist who believes Darwinism is false yet continues to support it and write papers which are spun to include it because he/she knows they must “play along”? I think belief and competence can and usually are two separate things. But in the case of materialists, this doesn’t seem to apply. They believe materialism/atheism is true and simply cannot separate belief from competence. To them, belief in materialism equals competence, no matter what empirical data contradicts this belief. To believe in something else is foolish and even punishable. That’s why I get so p*ssed off when I hear how this or that atheist wants to remove some mention of God from the public square. They think those who believe in God are dim-witted rednecks that still exist through some odd evolutionary fluke – in other words, religious thoughts should not be allowed. They want freedom to believe in no-God, but they aren’t willing to grant others the same freedom to believe in God.

  48. BarryA, point taken. (Where have I been “thrashed” here, by the way?)

    Of course, cases get decided contrary to the facts all the time — as most people here feel was the case at Dover. I think we don’t know what will happen even if the facts pan out as alleged.

    But the other side alleges that Abraham asked to be excused from evolution-related work. If that’s true, would it change your view of that case? I’m asking seriously.

  49. What if Nathaniel didn’t believe any scientific theory was true? What I mean is that one could easily envision someone who is an anti-realist concerning the nature of scientific theories. Or suppose Nathaniel said he believed in racial superiority because of evolution. In fact, he can offer to skeptics a bevy of peer-reviewed pieces, not to mention works of Charles Darwin, that claim to establish this. What happens to Nate in one or both these cases?

    Although I find both beliefs to be wrong, it is clear that beliefs qua beliefs are protected ultima facia under Constitution (with certain distinctions too complicated to convey in this venue). See my article here: http://homepage.mac.com/francis.beckwith/HCLQ.pdf

  50. Just out of curiousity are you a YEC?

    I’m not a Bible guy and I’m not a Christian.

    I am a person who realizes there is only ONE reality behind our existence and therefore (try to) keep an open mind by considering all possibilities.

    That said I have read quite a bit by Creationists and I have also read quite a bit by evolutionists and IDists.

    DR Russel Humphreys has a pretty good explanation for a young Earth/ old universe scenario- “Starlight and Time”- that being relativity was key to “God”‘s Creation.

    My “philosphy” regarding YEC is if science is interested in reality and in reality “God” did it pretty much as the Bible describes, then that is how we have to approach it.

    Some YEC claims appear to be bogus, but hey at least they trying. Most evolutionary claims also appear to be bogus and all they are doing is forcing it on us anyway.

  51. BarryA, I’ll continue here since I’m supposed to “focus on the real issue” — which is actually the hypothetical what-if issue — in the other post, and not talk about things like context.

    Has anybody thought to look at the research goals of the Hahn lab, where Abrahams was employed? Probably not, because you didn’t even check the first thing about Woods Hole Anyway, here’s the first paragraph of the Hahn lab research areas description, with stuff about evolution in bold:

    The overall objective of research in our laboratory is to understand the biochemical and molecular mechanisms that underlie the interactions of marine animals with their chemical environment. Our general approach is to examine these mechanisms from a comparative/evolutionary perspective, in order to understand the fundamental features of chemical action and provide a broader understanding of how these ligand-receptor pathways function in diverse biological contexts and in animals other than terrestrial mammals. Our research has been guided by general questions such as: How did chemical signaling pathways evolve in metazoans? What is the role of these pathways in adaptation to long-term chemical exposure? What is the mechanistic basis for differential sensitivity to chemicals among species and populations of aquatic animals?

    Seems clear to me that evolution is central to what they’re doing. What kind of a creationist would want to work in that lab anyway?

    Next step: look at the NIH grant that funded Abraham’s work. You want to bet that it talks about evolution too?

  52. Seems clear to me that evolution is central to what they’re doing. What kind of a creationist would want to work in that lab anyway?

    One who is eager to test underlying assumptions. Adopting an evolutionary perspective is not evidence of evolution nor does it commit one to any specific test outcome. That’s the difference between a perspective and resulting test data.

  53. Dr. Beckwith, not to be a stickler, but Abraham was not protected from Woods Hole by the constitution. That’s the error I made above. Woods Hole is a private institution. No state action. If he has a case, it is under Title VII.

  54. getawitness asks whether it would make a difference if Abraham has asked to be excused from the “evolutionary aspects” of the job, whatever that means.

    It depends. If (1) the “evolutionary aspects” of the job (again, whatever that means) were an essential element of the job; and (2) it was not possible for Woods Hole to accomodate Abraham’s sincerely held religious belief that prohibited him from performing this essential element of the job, this would necessarily mean that Abraham could not perform an essential element of the job. He has no right to a job, an essential element of which he cannot perform.

    Imagine an Orthodox Jew hired to butcher hogs. If the employee says “I’m not allowed to touch hogs” he obviously cannot perform an (indeed, “the”) essential element of the job and there is no way the employer can make a reasonable accomodation to the employee’s belief.

    Again, this is all speculation. I am certainly not going to accept on its face Woods Hole’s self-serving assertion that (1) the “evolutionary aspects” of the job were essential to it; or (2) that Abraham refused to perform within the evolutionary paradigm.

  55. Joseph,
    I am glad you are the open minded person that you are, and I wish more people could be that way. To be honest, I am pretty stubborn and always thought YEC was a joke.

    As random as it is after getting in another online debate about Global Warming with some dude who claims to know alot about geology and tell him I had 3 geology professors claim global warming is a joke (even had a test question on it) I realized that NASA has some things on their website infavor of it, so I feel open to it now, and I also feel that the beauty of science is that it should always be open to new suggestions.

    With this said, I may look up Dr. Russel Humphrey, and read his book if he has one. My main tiff with YEC is they do not believe in the big bang. I think that could possibly some of the best evidence of a creator! Have you checked out any books by Dr. Hugh Ross (he is an oec astronomer)? Maybe we could make a trade or something!

    As for everyone else I know this is pretty off topic, sorry for the interuption I hate to be “that dude”

  56. getawitness,

    Please get-a-clue.

    There is a HUGE difference between “evolution” meaning the change in allele frequency over time within a population and the theory of evolution which states all of life’s diversity arose from some unknown populations of single-celled organisms via culled genetic accidents.

    And yes, according to the theory ALL mutaions are genetic accidents.

    I suggest you go back to comment #20 and read the article Gil linked to (not the podcast).

    See also:

    Equivocation and Evolution

    Then you ask:

    What kind of a creationist would want to work in that lab anyway?

    One who realizes the theory is bogus and therefore not required for the type of research being conducted.

  57. I read the article and your blog. Phil Skell doesn’t impress me. He’s a chemist, not a biologist or a biochemist, and his views on evolution have been roundly trashed by other NAS members who are actually in the relevant fields.

    The credibility of your own blog was badly damaged when it promoted noted huckster and criminal Kevin Trudeau.

  58. getawitness,
    I have to admit it always annoys me when people like you claim that things such as chemistry or genetics are not related evolution (thats only biology right?). It seems that when people get in these binds they just use that as a scapegoat, when in reality these fields are closly linked, how do you explain the origin of life from a purely biology standpoint and avoid chemistry? Since other people in the NAS trah his points of view that means it must be false because people of the same status disagree?

    Let me give you an example by analogy If we were to take a survey of who is a better guitarist Justin King or the guy from Good Charolate. A larger part of society would probably say the guitarist from Good Charolate is better, I would say hell no, Justin King is an amazing Guitarist. Most people don’t know Justin King, and would vote against him for popy Good Charolate. People who who also don’t kow much about guitar might think its too much because they dont understand it. So Just because more people would vote for Good Charolate does that make him better? Just for fun here is a link to watch him! http://youtube.com/watch?v=cRRF_M2T-vY

  59. getawitness,

    Is the following statement true or false? Please answer exactly why you believe it is true or false, with evidence, instead of your usual mud slinging?

    “Darwinian explanations for such things are often too supple: Natural selection makes humans self-centered and aggressive – except when it makes them altruistic and peaceable. Or natural selection produces virile men who eagerly spread their seed – except when it prefers men who are faithful protectors and providers. When an explanation is so supple that it can explain any behavior, it is difficult to test it experimentally, much less use it as a catalyst for scientific discovery.

    Darwinian evolution – whatever its other virtues – does not provide a fruitful heuristic in experimental biology.” Philip Skell

  60. to getawitness,

    1- Skell has done valid research.

    2- No one has ever shown the theory of evolution to be of any merit concerning research- how can it be? No one can account for the anatomical or physiological differences observed.

    3- Kevin Trudeau’s stuff works. That is at least the stuff I have tried. There are many other testimonials to that fact.

    4- The FTC, IMHO, is criminal for allowing what they do to go on. And seeing they are the ones after Kevin your point is moot. What Kevin says actually works but you have to try it.

    So how about it gaw- try demonstrating that the theory of evolution is relevant to any research field. Do that and you may save an the inkling of credibility you have left.

    Also what I posted about equivocation and evolution is a fact. That you try to disparage those facts just demonstrates how close-minded you are.

    However I digress- could you please provide ONE prediction from the theory of evolution that is based on “culled genetic accidents”?

    If you cannot then you should realize why it is useless for research.

  61. Mudslinging?

    Anyway: there are two major statements in the quote. The first one, represented by the first paragraph, I’d agree with. It was said better by Gould and Lewontin in their famous “Spandrels” paper. Of course Darwinian explanations are often too — well, I’d say sweeping rather than supple, and I’d say “adaptive” rather than “Darwinian,” but yeah, more or less, I don’t have a problem with that. Any narrative explanation of complex phenomena is likely to be oversimplifying, just as any laboratory model of the natural world simplifies it as part of the experimental design.

    The second statement, represented by the second paragraph, I’d say is demonstrably false. The evidence is that it’s used as a heuristic by experimental biologists all the time. They find it fruitful for their work, or else they wouldn’t use it. It guides animal models for disease and for drug development; it’s behind proteomics and genomics and gene expression profiling; etc. I know dozens of experimental biologists, biochemists, bioinformatics experts, structural biologists, pharmacologists, and molecular biologists who use evolution as a productive heuristic in their work — and I don’t know that many people. Skell is simply wrong.

  62. It guides animal models for disease and for drug development;- gaw

    Nonsense- how can it if we can’t account for the physiological and anatomical differences observed?

    That we find genetic similarities throughout the kingdoms can also be evidence for a common design or convergence.

    And again saying “evolution” just proves equivocation. IOW that inkling is all but gone.

    I know you aren’t going to like the following because it is on a Creationist’s site but to ignore the facts just proves my point- that you will twist anything to try to make a point:

    Is Bacterial Resistance
    to Antibiotics an Appropriate Example of Evolutionary Change?

    And seeing that the theory is void of predictive power, it is pretty obvious it is useless.

  63. Getawitness:

    Philip Skell states:

    Certainly, my own research with antibiotics during World War II received no guidance from insights provided by Darwinian evolution. Nor did Alexander Fleming’s discovery of bacterial inhibition by penicillin. I recently asked more than 70 eminent researchers if they would have done their work differently if they had thought Darwin’s theory was wrong. The responses were all the same: No.

    I also examined the outstanding biodiscoveries of the past century: the discovery of the double helix; the characterization of the ribosome; the mapping of genomes; research on medications and reactions; improvements in food production and sanitation; the development of new surgeries; and others. I even queried biologists working in areas where one would expect the Darwinian paradigm to have most benefited research, such as the emergence of resistance to antibiotics and pesticides. Here, as elsewhere, I found that Darwin’s theory had provided no discernible guidance, but was brought in, after the breakthroughs, as an interesting narrative gloss.

    Can you please specify one significant breakthrough, out of that broad field of research he alluded too, that was led by the Darwinian heuristic and give the exact details of how Darwinian thought provided the insight into the breakthrough?

  64. getawitness: You seem to be evading Joseph’s larger point. neo-Darwinists purposely define things in murky, generic terms, so they can leave themselves wiggle room when confronted with unassailable facts.
    They do the same thing with the word, “nature.” Darwinists define a natural process as anything that occurs “in nature.” That way they can subsume the term “agency” into a larger, indeterminate unbrella and pretend that intellectual innovation is just one of many natural phenomena–that there is nothing distinct or remarkable about it. You don’t hear them using precise terms like law, chance, or intelligent agency. If they did, a rational discussion would follow–something they will avoid at all costs.

    Besides, I think you are being a little hard on poor old Kevin Trudeau. After all, according to your relativism, he has his “truth,” and you have your “truth.” I don’t think you should be so ingratious to one who is simply looking at the world through his own moral lens. Sure, his moral code is different that yours, but so what? It works for him. Which moral code did he break? You told me that there is no such thing as objective morality. What is this sudden surge of moral objectivism that would prompt you to use such linguistic formulations as “huckster” as “criminal”—tsk tsk. How selective our moral relativism can be.

  65. Specs justification for firing Abrahamson is similar to AT&T’s justification for firing the employee in the case I mentioned above. AT&T said, essentially, that they were justified in firing the employee because he was not a team player.

    Actually Barry that is not what I said, evidenced simply by the fact that I did not even use the word team. You have probably misread my use of the word ‘organization’. So, let me try again and perhaps make it a bit more clear.

    Let me start by saying that, based on the information you have shared, I am in complete agreement with you regarding the AT&T case. When I read the particulars, I just rolled my eyes at AT&T’s stupidity. So, yes, merely holding a belief is not grounds for termination.

    “Not being a team player” is hopelessly imprecise and virtually meaningless. We have all worked with people we would apply that term to. Some create annoyance, but don’t affect the functioning of the organization. Some create minor difficulties that causes some extra work to be done, but it is not an onerous burden. And some are so disruptive that they severely hamper productivity and/or create a hostile work environment. (Let me state here that disruptive should not be interpreted as a reflection on personality. I’ve had some employees that were absolute sweethearts, but for other reasons were disruptive to the organization.) If Abraham falls into this latter class, then I think Wood Hole has grounds for termination.

    For example, it has been said, and I am assuming it true, that Abraham asked to have his work restructured such that he did not have to do work related to the evolutionary aspect of the project. If it was not possible to create a full job tour to accomodate this request, or the accomodation creates an onerous burden on the functioning of the organization, then I think the company may have grounds for termination. No?

    That said, my understanding is derived from my experience with the Americans with Disabilities Act. And, I think I am safe in assuming that, at this time, the US Government doesn’t consider religious belief a disability.

  66. bornagain77,

    Can you please specify one significant breakthrough, out of that broad field of research he alluded too, that was led by the Darwinian heuristic and give the exact details of how Darwinian thought provided the insight into the breakthrough?

    Let me give a very recent one, the first you mentioned: antibiotic resistance. Now, it’s true that much antibiotic resistance seems to come from acquiring genes from other bacteria. There’s no reason why this shouldn’t be so, given how efficient such exchanges are compared to mutation. But bacteria also develop resistance to synthetic antibiotics for which there’s no available gene to confer resistance. Where did the resistance come from? Yes, that old saw, mutation. The Romesburg lab at Scripps Research Institute is using Darwinian principles to model how mutation creates resistance to synthetic antibiotics in E. coli and is developing ways to combat resistance by inhibiting mutation. See Cirz RT, Chin JK, Andes DR, de Crécy-Lagard V, Craig WA, et al. (2005) Inhibition of Mutation and Combating the Evolution of Antibiotic Resistance. PLoS Biology 3(6): e176 doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0030176

    Their first paragraph reads:

    The worldwide emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria threatens to undo the dramatic advances in human health that were ushered in with the discovery of these drugs in the mid-1900s. Today, resistance has rendered most of the original antibiotics obsolete for many infections, mandating an increased reliance on synthetic drugs. However, bacteria also evolve resistance to these drugs, typically by acquiring chromosomal mutations [1–6]. Within the classical paradigm that mutations are the inevitable consequence of replicating a large genome with polymerases of finite fidelity, resistance- conferring mutations are unavoidable. However, recent evidence suggests that bacteria may play a more active role in the mutation of their own genomes in response to at least some DNA-damaging agents by inducing proteins that actually promote mutation [7–15]. If the acquisition of antibiotic resistance-conferring mutations also requires the induction of these proteins, then their inhibition would represent a novel approach to combating the growing problem of drug resistance.

  67. 1+1=3 is not a good analogy at all.

    A better one might be I understand that there is a strong consensus that oil comes from the fossilized remains of plants and animals but I think it might be an abiogenic process.

    Would a knowledgeable person thinking outside the box be rejected for this reason?

    Maybe in today’s academia.

    Should a knowledgeable person thinking outside the box be rejected for this reason?

    Not in a organization that welcomes free inquiry.

  68. tribute7, interesting example. One of the best oil men I know is a YEC who always scoffs at these “millions of years.” ;-)

  69. This oil man thinks it came from the flood? Or that it’s not organic at all? Just curious about the alternative explanation among the YECs these days.

  70. What about a religion teacher? Could someone who doesn’t belong to a certain religion be qualified and do well teaching about it?

    If not, I guess all world religion teachers should find new jobs.

  71. Just curious about the alternative explanation among the YECs these days.

    Abiogenic petroleum origin is not necessarily a YEC position. In fact, it’s most prominent proponent is the late Thomas Gold who was one of the developers of the steady-state theory of the universe.

  72. getawitness,

    Inhibition of Mutation and Combating the Evolution of Antibiotic Resistance.

    Hmmm, mutations are a bad thing, mutations are a bad thing…

    Dang, Dang, Getawitness, just where have I heard this before? where, where, where have I heard this before???

    Oh yeah, Dr. Behe, and a quite a few other IDists, have pointed out that mutations are always a negative thing and no positive mutations have ever been found in any living organisms that have built any meaningful complexity…they (mutations) always end up breaking something!

    But thats a damnable heresy getawitness,,,for according to your superior logic,,, mutations are the exclusive right of the “evolution club” and no one else (especially IDists) is allowed to draw any meaningful inferences from them. We better go stop Dr. Behe right now from studying how mutations affect organisms getawitness, since he is clearly infringing on some evolutionary trademark right or something, because as you have you have clearly shown me now (How could I have been so blind?), any work in inhibiting mutations is a supreme triumph of neo-Darwian thought

    If that is your proof of how almighty neo-darwinian thought allowed a stunning breakthrough in biology Getawitness, It is weak, pathetic, complete and utter garbage!

    Shoot, how in the world does finding a way to stop mutations remain a exclusive right to the neo-Darwinian paradigm? Especially, when IDists have been harping on the fact that mutations are negative for many years now? If he found a way to increase mutations in the bacteria and drive it over the brink into error catastrophe (Genetic Meltdown) would that be a neo-Darwinian thought too?

    Shoot getawitness that whole line of thinking fits much more easily into the ID/Genetic Entropy mo^del of the ID camp, for it states right off the bat that mutations are a bad thing and never ever BS’s anybody otherwise, as your beloved fallacy does.!

    The point being, is that it is common knowledge that deleterious mutations are what is conferring antibiotic resistance to bacteria, and owes as much right to “creationists clearly pointing this fact out for years” than it does to the fact that someone who happened to be an “evolutionist” used this fact to develop a mutation-inhibiting .

    Please Go back to the drawing board and find anther stunning breakthrough for neo-Darwinian thought, for I am severely unimpressed with your present example.

  73. getawitness,

    As the link in comment 61 demonstrates antibiotic resistance and the theory of evolution are not connected.

    But thank you for demonstrating you can ignore reality with the best of them.

  74. Joseph, the link in comment 61 argues but does not demonstrate this. In fact, it says that mutations conferring resistance inevitably lead to loss of function with loss of a regulatory protein. The paper I linked to shows how this is actually beneficial and not, as your link says, a loss of function:

    bacteria play an active role in the mutation of their own genomes by inducing the production of proteins that facilitate mutation, including Pol IV and Pol V, as has been suggested with other forms of mutation [7–15]. In turn, this suggests that inhibition of these proteins, or the prevention of their derepression by inhibition of LexA cleavage, with suitably designed drugs, might represent a fundamentally new approach to combating the emerging threat of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

    I was responding to a request from BA77 for a biological finding using Darwinian paradigms. This is such a finding.

  75. BA77, You’re reading it backwards. From the point of view of E. coli, mutations are a good thing because that’s how E. coli evolves resistance to synthetic antibiotics. The authors are arguing that repressing mutations in E. coli may keep them from gaining that power.

  76. Gee GAW the way you equivocate is amazing!

    Please tell us what that finding has to do with all of life’s diversity owing its collective common ancestry to some unknown population(s) of single-celled organisms via culled genetic accidents?

    Either do that or admit it doesn’t.

  77. tribuney, Wow. I read Gold’s paper “The deep, hot biosphere” in PNAS back in 1992. It was very interesting, as I recall, suggesting that life on earth may have originated in the deep (perhaps at ocean vents) rather than in shallow pools. I had forgotten that that paper also argued against a biogenic origin for petroleum. But as I understand it, such theories about petroleum are pretty much abandoned by now in the geological community.

  78. Joseph, that was never the point of the cite. In fact, I wasn’t talking to you. I was answering a specific question from BA77, leading him promptly to read the paper exactly backwards.

    Meanwhile you continue badgering me but seem to have missed the point that I was not answering your question.

    tribune7, apologies for the typo. Keyboard slip.

  79. GAW,
    Admit you are a NA^ZI pig?

  80. GAW,
    The truth is that you are blatantly ignoring the truth as you have done repeatedly in the past. Sometimes, you have used the same arguments over and over and have been soundly refuted many times, by different IDists, and yet you refuse to learn anything about ID. I guess, the only reason why the moderators allow you to get away with this, is because you provide a counterpoint to debate against.

    But as for myself I feel it hampers more detailed analysis of specific lines of inquiry.

  81. getawitness– the theory has never been accepted by the geological community.

    BUT if someone should conclusively demonstrate they understand what the consensus of the formation of fossil fuel happens to be — and the reasoning behind the consensus –but then confesses to doubting it, should he be run from the room/forbidden to teach etc.?

  82. BA77, I don’t get it. Mutations are good for E.coli. They help it resist antibiotics. That’s shown by the paper. We don’t fight mutations in E. coli because we want to help it; we fight mutations in E. coli because we want to fight it. In fact, as the paper argues, the bacteria sets the stage for beneficial mutations under certain conditions.

  83. StephenB [63], sorry if I seemed to be evading Joseph’s [56] question. He’s just such a hostile character. First [6] he points to a “Creation Model of Evolution” which seems to be entirely his coinage. Then [26] he mocks me for finding the name strange, even though nobody else on the planet seems to use it. The link he posted seems essentially to repeat standard creationist arguments about “kinds” (baramin). He lays out a more substantive argument in [56], that there are different meanings to evolution. No argument here, though I don’t know what that has to do with anything.

    As it happens, I disagree with what Joseph says on his blog, that “any and all evidences for evolution [in a narrow sense] are always used as evidence for evolution [in the broadest possible sense of a 'Blind watchmaker' thesis].” It would take a while to explain the difference, but Joseph doesn’t seem to believe in evolution in at least some of the narrower senses either (i.e., common descent), so I’m not sure what good it would do. What he seems to be arguing, if I can read through the anger, the repetition, and the idiosyncratic vocabulary, is that Abraham may have been asked to believe in this “‘Blind watchmaker’ thesis” view of evolution. But there’s no evidence of that.

    Re Kevin Trudeau: I’m sure some of his advice is fine, as it seems to be folk wisdom. Some is obviously dangerous hogwash, such as that cancer is not caused by the sun but by sunblock.

    FWIW, Joseph, I appreciate your service too.

  84. Admit you are a NA^ZI pig?

    Only when you explain your NA^NY filter.

  85. BA77, I don’t get it. Mutations are good for E.coli. They help it resist antibiotics. That’s shown by the paper. We don’t fight mutations in E. coli because we want to help it; we fight mutations in E. coli because we want to fight it. In fact, as the paper argues, the bacteria sets the stage for beneficial mutations under certain conditions.

    getawitness, you just made a prima facie case for intelligent design. Mutations are not good for any organism. That is why the genomes of all cellular organisms come replete with intricate and complex genomic repair mechanisms. Mutations are nothing more than unrepaired genetic errors. Only a very small percentage of genetic errors see the light of day. Some occassionally benefit an organism. In prokaryotes this often happens when a cellular structure, that interacts with a pathogen, is affected by a mutation.

    If either the rate of genetic errors accelerates in response to environmental pressures or repair mechanisms are adjusted to permit this, one can rightly suspect an adaptive design built into cellular processes involving mutations. IOW- design.

  86. pk4_paul,

    Mutations are not good for any organism.

    No. Mutations can be good for E. coli. E. coli is an organism.

  87. GAW,
    I don’t own the computer I use, so someone else has it set up to prevent por^no from being displayed in front of sensitive eyes.

    I dug out Dr. Behe’s EOE book and found what he had to say about E-coli.

    pg. 141-142

    In the early 1990’s Lenski and coworkers began to grow E.coli in flasks; the flasks reached their capacity of bacteria after about 6 or 7 doublings. Everyday he transferred a portion of the bugs to a fresh flask. By now over thirty thousand generations of E. coli, roughly the equivalent of a million years in the (supposed) history of humans, have been born and died in Lenski’s lab. In each flask the bacteria would grow to a population size of five hundred million. Over the whole course of the experiment, perhaps ten trillion, 10^13, E coli. have been produced. Although ten trillion sounds like a lot(it’s probably more than the number of primates on the (supposed) line from chimp to human), it’s viryually nothing compared to the number of malaria cells that have infested the earth. In the past fifty years there have been about a billion times as many of those as E. coli in the Michigan lab, which makes the study less valuable than our data on malaria.
    Nonetheless, the E coli. work has pointed in the same general direction. The lab bacteria performed much like the wild pathogens: A host of incoherent cahnges have slightly altered pre-existing systems. Nothing fundamentally new has been produced. No new protein-protein interactions, no new molecular machines. As with thalasswemia in humans, some large evolutionary advantages have been conferred by breaking things. Several populations of bacteria lost their ability to repair DNA. One of the most beneficial mutations, seen repeatidly in separate cultures, was the bacterium’s loss of the ability to make a sugar called ribose, which is a component of RNA. Another was a change in a regulatory gene called spoT, which affected in masse how fifty-nine other genes work, either increasing or decreasing their activity. One likely explanation for the net good effect of this very blunt mutation is that it turned off the energetically costly genes that make bacterial flagellum, saving the cell some energy. Breaking some genes and turning others off, however, won’t make much of anything. After a while, beneficial changes from the experiment petered out. The fact that malaria, with a billion fold more chances gave a pattern very similar to the more modest studies on E. coli strongly suggests that’s all Darwinism can do.

    So tell me exactly, GAW, how are these a “beneficial mutations”, as you so eagerly put them (Got to plug Darwinism, with whatever junk you can I guess), going to, in any conceivable fashion (I would say reasonable but I’ve given up on you ever being reasonable), change a bacteria into a fish?

    I need a good bedtime story so go on with your fairy tales.

  88. BA77,

    What the mutations do is evolve resistance to synthetic antibiotics. That’s crucial, because the terrific effectiveness of synthetic antibiotics depends on their novelty. That’s why bacteria can’t “borrow” resistance genes from other bacteria as happens commonly. So for resistance to emerge in these cases, it has to be a novel mutation — because it’s a novel threat.

    Behe is not studying malaria or E.coli in the lab. The Edge of Evolution, while an interesting book, reviews the work of others and makes (IMO) exaggerated claims from that review.

  89. Thanks, by the way, for explaining your filter. It’s amusing to see what words must be modified. “Model”? “Dominate”? The imaginations of the people who made that thing! My goodness.

  90. GAW,
    The bacteria are designed to mutate under stress, and will always be out competed by the original bacteria in the wild once the “stress is removed. This conforms to Genetic Entropy and has never been violated. (See super germs are really superwimps, by answers in Genesis)

    Again how does this prove evolution true if it does not improve over the original e-coli?

  91. Mutations are not good for any organism.

    No. Mutations can be good for E. coli. E. coli is an organism.

    You missed the point. Less than one per cent of genetic changes survive the repair process. The enhanced likelihood of changes surviving during environmental stress is evidence for design.

  92. That’s why bacteria can’t “borrow” resistance genes from other bacteria as happens commonly. So for resistance to emerge in these cases, it has to be a novel mutation — because it’s a novel threat.

    You’re not familiar with horizontal gene transfers? Novel mutations? What textbook did you get that from?

  93. getawitness: (from linked paper): “However, recent evidence suggests that bacteria may play a more active role in the mutation of their own genomes in response to at least some DNA-damaging agents by inducing proteins that actually promote mutation [7–15]. If the acquisition of antibiotic resistance-conferring mutations also requires the induction of these proteins, then their inhibition would represent a novel approach to combating the growing problem of drug resistance.”

    This seems clear to me, and doesn’t conflict with Behe’s TEOE findings with E. coli, HIV and Plasmodium. Certain bacteria may have a mechanism to increase their own mutation rate in order to combat poisons in their environment through selection. This mechanism itself probably is part of the basic bacterial genome design and didn’t originate with modern antibiotics. It would be just another intricate subsystem that NDE would require to be explained gradualistically.

    Any such adaptively increased mutation rate would still be random with respect to fitness, and result just in various induced defects a tiny percentage of which might just happen to be favorable in the presence of the antibiotic. The observed long term results with bacterial cultures have still failed to produce innovative new structures, despite this new mechanism being perhaps part of the bacteria’s armament.

    The immune system incorporates a very sophisticated version of this in deliberately generating antibody site mutations in response to antigens. I didn’t notice Behe trying to deny the use of a form of RV + NS in the immune system. It is actually part of an apparent IC system, which still demands a gradualistic explanation.

  94. pk4_paul, I phrased it poorly. From the Romesberg lab website:

    The worldwide emergence of bacteria that are resistant to available antibiotics threatens to undo the dramatic advances in human health witnessed in the second half of the last century. This development is especially troubling considering that no new class of antibiotic has been introduced in over two decades. As a result, it is critical to understand the molecular origins of resistance. For antibiotics derived from natural products (i.e. vancomycin), resistance is most often due to the acquisition of genes from other bacteria that encode enzymes capable of inactivating the antibiotic, modifying its target, or increasing its export out of the cell. However, enzymes that modify synthetic antibiotics such as quinolones, sulfonamides, and trimethoprim do not exist in nature, and resistance to these antibiotics requires mutation of genes already present in the bacterial genome.

    In other words, resistance to these synthetic antibiotics can’t evolve through horizontal gene transfer.

  95. The funny thing is, BA77 simply asked me to point to a study that made a significant finding using Darwinian principles. I pointed to such a study. The main response is to argue that these findings could be explained by design. Sure, they could. Everything could be explained by design. But the discovery, which may lead to new ways of fighting antibiotic resistance, was made using Darwinian principles. Nobody found anything using an ID approach. Sure you can try to co-opt it after the fact. But the scientists made this findng — and if confirmed, it is signifcant — using evolutionary principles. Which gives the lie to Joseph’s claim that evolution is useless for research.

    Hijack the paper all you want for design. That doesn’t change who found it, and how: evolutionists, using Darwinian principles.

  96. “The main response is to argue that these findings could be explained by design. Sure, they could. Everything could be explained by design. But the discovery, which may lead to new ways of fighting antibiotic resistance, was made using Darwinian principles.”

    Darwinian principles are based on selected but random mutations. The discussed responses of prokaryotes entail non-random responses. That’s the design indicator. Not everything points to design. Just logical indicators.

  97. One more thing getawitness. You point to examples of antibiotic resistence as affirming Darwinism while stating that everything can be used to argue design. Everyone believes in both mutations and antibiotic resistence. Darwinism is an extrapolation based on such things. It looks like everything can be and is used to argue for Darwinism.

  98. getawitness,

    You have NOT shown that the paper used Darwinian principles. In order to do that you have to tell us what that finding has to do with all of life’s diversity owing its collective common ancestry to some unknown population(s) of single-celled organisms via culled genetic accidents?

    Either do that or admit it doesn’t.

    And again I NEVER said that evolution is useless for research. I said the theory of evolution is useless for research.

    There is a HUGE differeence between evolution and the theory of evolution:

    From the “Contemporary Discourse in the Field Of Biology” series I am reading Biological Evolution: An Anthology of Current Thought:

    Evolution can be described with a seven-word phrase: genetic change, over time, within a population. page 6 (bold added)

    Whereas the theory of evolution states that all organisms are related via universal common descent via culled genetic accidents.

  99. Joseph, The paper did in fact use Darwinian principles, but you keep repeating the most expansive notion of the ToE (with your own quirky vocabulary) as though tht shows otherwise. You keep demanding that I must show that “all organisms are related via universal common descent via culled genetic accidents.” There are two issues here: (1) universal common descent, and (2) the mechanism. You don’t even buy common descent, against all evidence, so convincing you of a mechanism is a lost cause. (Here your credulity regarding Kevin Trudeau and YEC “arugments” is telling.) I have begun to think you like anti-establishment views just to be rebellious. I wonder if you also deny the consensus on global warming and HIV/AIDS.

  100. My apologies for this off-topic response but the following must be addressed:

    Re Kevin Trudeau: I’m sure some of his advice is fine, as it seems to be folk wisdom. Some is obviously dangerous hogwash, such as that cancer is not caused by the sun but by sunblock.

    Kevin tells you what hours are the safest to go out and get some sun. He also states that going out at the wrong times can lead to skin disease such as melanoma. It is also verified by science that getting some sun is essential to our bodies.

    Sunblock- unless it is some all-natural, toxin-free brand, then it contains toxins. Science has also verified that, through the process known as osmosis, whatever you put on your skin gets into your body. And science has verified that toxins can and do cause cancer.

    All Kevin is saying is that the more toxins you put into your body the better the odds are that you will get cancer.

  101. Joseph, The paper did in fact use Darwinian principles, but you keep repeating the most expansive notion of the ToE (with your own quirky vocabulary) as though tht shows otherwise.

    Where in the paper did it say that it used Darwinian principles?

    Also my vocab isn’t quirky- it happens to coincide with what is being debated.

    You keep demanding that I must show that “all organisms are related via universal common descent via culled genetic accidents.”

    That is false. I said you have to show that the scientists used that principle for that is the theory of evolution.

    There are two issues here: (1) universal common descent, and (2) the mechanism.

    And where in the paper did it say that we expected X occured due to genetic accidents?

    You don’t even buy common descent, against all evidence, so convincing you of a mechanism is a lost cause.

    The “evidence” for universal common descent is genetic similarities. IOW there isn’t any data, evidence or observations that can account for the physiological and anatomical differences.

    Similarities can also be explained by common design and convergence.

    I wonder if you also deny the consensus on global warming and HIV/AIDS.

    I bet you ignore all the data which shows the warming is NOT caused by humans.

  102. GAW,
    Can’t you be honest about even one thing in science? Do you even know that you are lying to us and to yourself? Or are you truly so deceived as to believe the shallow crap that you spout?

    GAW, You are playing a far dea^dlier game with the truth than you can now realize. A very serious game that has a very serious cost associated with it, that I assure you, you do not want to pay for in the %

  103. BTW, if YECs, using nothing but baraminology to guide them, could reach the same scientific inference as the paper you site, then it proves “Darwinian principles” had nothing to do with it.

    And seeing there are immunologists, biologists and geneticists who are YECs the answer is “Yes”.

  104. BA77, where have I lied? In fact I pointed out that mutation was beneficial to E. coli in the paper I cited. Yet you have said that there’s no such thing as a beneficial mutation. Clearly those are in conflict. Maybe the paper is wrong.

    My copy of Sanford is awaiting me at interlibrary loan, and I’ll pick it up tomorrow and read it. But where have I lied? That’s a pretty strong accusation.

  105. BTW, if YECs, using nothing but baraminology to guide them, could reach the same scientific inference as the paper you site, then it proves “Darwinian principles” had nothing to do with it.

    This is all so confusing to a noob like me. Joseph, are you saying that baraminology would lead to all the same conclusions as Darwinism?

  106. BA77, Maybe I’m misunderstanding you. Earlier you wrote, “The bacteria are designed to mutate under stress, and will always be out competed by the original bacteria in the wild once the stress is removed.” But what you call “stress” is environment. There’s no such thing as increased fitness outside of an environment, so there’s no such thing as an “improved” bacteria outside of an environment. The “stresses” of the environment are always implicated. So if the mutations improved the fitness in the new environment, the mutations improved the fitness, period.

  107. BTW, if YECs, using nothing but baraminology to guide them, could reach the same scientific inference as the paper you site, then it proves “Darwinian principles” had nothing to do with it.

    This is all so confusing to a noob like me. Joseph, are you saying that baraminology would lead to all the same conclusions as Darwinism?-poachy

    I am saying that approaching research with a Darwinian presupposition is useless- ie it does not help the researchers.

    And that is obvious if one can approach the same research without it or with a completely different presupposition and the end result is similar or exactly the same.

    Ya see bacteria “evolving” into bacteria fits nicely into the YEC scenario.

    And when people start using a loss of functionality as evidence for Darwinian evolution, they have lost the debate. That is because you cannot keep taking away and hope to construct more useful complexity.

  108. From the paper getawitness provided:

    However, recent evidence suggests that bacteria may play a more active role in the mutation of their own genomes in response to at least some DNA-damaging agents by inducing proteins that actually promote mutation [7–15].

    That sure sounds like Dr Spetner’s “built-in responses to environmental cues” to me.

    It could also be a form of EAM.

  109. GAW,
    Let’s see GAW, all “beneficial” mutations (as you nearsightedly refer to them) to bacteria, to develop antibiotic resistance, are shown to break something in the bacteria:

    http://www.trueorigin.org/bacteria01.asp

    of special note:

    Table I. Mutation Phenotypes Leading to Resistances of Specific Antibiotics.

    Antibiotic – Phenotype Providing Resistance

    Actinonin -Loss of enzyme activity
    Ampicillin -SOS response halting cell division
    Azithromycin -Loss of a regulatory protein
    Chloramphenicol -Reduced formation of a porin or a regulatory protein
    Ciprofloxacin -Loss of a porin or loss of a regulatory protein
    Erythromycin -Reduced affinity to 23S rRNA or loss of a regulatory protein
    Fluoroquinolones -Loss of affinity to gyrase
    Imioenem -Reduced formation of a porin
    Kanamycin -Reduced formation of a transport protein
    Nalidixic Acid -Loss or inactivation of a regulatory protein
    Rifampin -Loss of affinity to RNA polymerase
    Streptomycin -Reduced affinity to 16S rRNA or reduction of transport activity
    Tetracycline -Reduced formation of a porin or a regulatory protein
    Zittermicin A -Loss of proton motive force

    So you say, a wounded bacterium marches forth to await rescue from a changing environment and to finally develop meaningful complexity?

    Let’s see what actually happens to bacteria that have been subject to the environmental stress for over 250 million years:

    Bacterium fossils, in salt crystals, dating back as far as 250 million years have had their DNA recovered, sequenced and compared to their offspring of today (Vreeland RH, 2000 Nature).

    “Almost without exception, bacteria isolated from ancient material have proven to closely resemble modern bacteria at both morphological and molecular levels.” Heather Maughan*, C. William Birky Jr., Wayne L. Nicholson, William D. Rosenzweig§ and Russell H. Vreeland ; (The Paradox of the “Ancient” Bacterium Which Contains “Modern” Protein-Coding Genes)

    http://mbe.oxfordjournals.org/...../19/9/1637

    and this:

    30-Million-Year Sleep: Germ Is Declared Alive

    By MALCOLM W. BROWNE
    Published: May 19, 1995

    But Dr. Cano and his former graduate student Dr. Monica K. Borucki said that they had found slight but significant differences between the DNA of the ancient, amber-sealed Bacillus sphaericus and that of its modern counterpart.

    http://query.nytimes.com/gst/f.....gewanted=2

    Thus GAW, the bacteria shows only a very slight but significant difference between ancient and modern, which all but rules out contamination. Yet at the same time, the mutation rate, to account for the slight difference, is far to slow to fit into any evolutionary mo^dels.

    OOPS, again on evolution GAW!

    Hmm, I bet the evidence fits, like a tee square, into the ID/Genetic Entropy mo^del though, once the math is thoroughly fleshed out for the ID/Genetic Entropy mo^del.

    Dang GAW, where is this almighty evolution stuff you keep harping about? Mighty bashful stuff you got there buddy!

  110. I just read the whole exchange and I believe GAW and Joseph/BA77 are talking past each other. Let’s see if I can help.

    GAW,

    There are 2 categories:

    1. Claims that everyone agrees upon.

    This includes the fact that under certain conditions a deleterious mutation may have positive benefits. TEO does not include diretionality, so that’s fine. An example is the one protein-binding site developed by HIV:

    the viroporin is not some new molecular machine. There is no evidence that it exerts its effect in, say, an ATP- or energy-dependent manner. Rather, similar to other viroporins, the protein simply forms a passive leaky pore or weak channel. (4,5) This situation is probably best viewed as a foreign protein degrading the integrity of a membrane, rather than performing some positive function.

    BA77/Joseph are probably considering this from an engineering perspective, and they’re looking for non-deleterious mutations which have positive functions.

    2. Claims about Darwinian mechanisms for which there is no positive evidence. Or at least claims where there is debate. This is the “Darwinian paradigm”. Joseph/BA77 probably include universal common descent and other claims in here.

    Joseph/BA77,

    GAW is not making these distinctions. In his mind evidence for category 1 is evidence for category 2 and thus category 2 would be useful for medical research.

  111. Patrick,

    GAW does so on purpose. He(?) cannot take the questions head-on.

    Arthur Murray and Fred Astair would be very proud of him(?).

    1 new protein-to-protein binding site since Darwin wrote “On the Origins or Species…”- and that was in HIV which isn’t even considered a living organism.

    With that very underwhelming evidence on their side is it any wonder why it is paramount to their case to try to talk past the opposition?

    BTW I apologize for my poor choice of words. Now I realize that the only reason gaw and Sally_T are here is to try to get one or more of us to lose our tempers so that we get banned.

  112. My, my so any argument that evolution–as understood–has not provided the differentiation power resemblesBaraminology, it is nothing less than Creationists, because Creationists use arguments based on this concept.

    Well, some atheists still don’t recognize the Big Bang because it “sounds like” Creation ex nilho. So resemblance is not a solid methodology. The resemblance of inevitable conclusions (should they be inevitable) and religious theology is not proof that the idea itself is automatically religious.

  113. JJ-

    Creationists were the first to predict the universe had a beginning.

    How do you think the atheists felt when science confirmed that prediction?

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