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“No Major Conceptual Leaps”

LANGUAGE OF GODI periodically get emails from individuals who are sympathetic to ID but then read Francis Collins’ THE LANGUAGE OF GOD and find themselves wondering what to think. Thus I recently received the following email:

Dear Dr. Dembski,

I … have read, I think, three of your books — the most recent “The Design Revolution”. I have been thoroughly convinced of your position in these books.

I was encouraged by a friend of many years, who was Professor of Science at … for 40 years … to consider the book by Francis S. Collins — “The Language of God”, which I have just read. This was in exchange for his reading “The Design Revolution.” I’ve not heard from him after reading it.

In “The Language of God”, there is this statement on pp 191-192:

“A particularly damaging crack in the foundation of Intelligent Design theory, arises from recent revelations about the poster child of ID, the bacterial flagellum. The argument that it is irreducibly complex rests upon the presumption that the individual subunits of the flagellum could have had no prior useful function of some other sort, and therefore the motor could not have been assembled by recruiting such components in a step-wise fashion, driven by the forces of natural selection. Recent research has fundamentally undercut this position.”

Assuming that you have read this statement, I’m sure you have a ready answer.

What would be your response to thiis?

Thank you.

I replied to him that Collins makes this statement without citation, and that Collins can’t justify it — that he’s “bluffing.” I suggested that he contact Collins himself and also look at the following piece that I posted here at UD some time back: response to Philip Klebba.

This person then did go ahead and contact Collins. Collins responded by sending him the Pallen-Matzke review article on the flagellum (Mark J. Pallen and Nicholas J. Matzke, “From The Origin of Species to the Origin of Bacterial Flagella,” NATURE REVIEWS MICROBIOLOGY 4 (Oct 2006): 784-790.

This paper is remarkable for what it demands (or fails to demand) of evolutionary theory. The key passage is this: “designing an evolutionary model to account for the origin of the ancestral flagellum requires no great conceptual leap.” Of course it doesn’t — one can always imagine some way that natural selection might have brought about the system in question. In the Origin of Species, Darwin played the same game: “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.” To this Darwin immediately added: “But I can find out no such case.”

Requiring no great conceptual leaps or being unable to find a case where Darwin’s theory could not possibly apply is not the same thing as providing evidence. Sure, the proteins in the flagellum may have homologues that serve functions in other systems. And we can imagine that the parts were co-opted over time by selection to produce the flagellum. But so what? We can imagine lots of things. Where’s the evidence that it happened that way? And why isn’t the exquisite engineering that we observe in the flagellum evidence for ID?

Collins, Pallen, Matzke and all other evolutionists who hold that a Darwinian explanation of the bacterial flagellum has been adequately confirmed are bluffing.

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80 Responses to “No Major Conceptual Leaps”

  1. Excellent post Dr. Dembski!

    Notable by absence in the Pallen and Matzke review article is any citation of a peer reviewed research study providing a detailed, testable model for how evolution supposedly built a flagellum. Even more telling is the fact this article purports to lay out a research roadmap of how researchers might approach the problem, implying, of course, that no such research study has yet been done. While it might not require any great conceptual leap for Pallen and Matzke, it must be a huge leap for researchers because in the nearly 13 years since Dr. Behe first published Darwin’s Black Box no one has produced any such study in any peer reivewed journal. The fact that P & M couldn’t provide a single citatation for their review paper is tantamount to admission that no one has a clue how evolution did it. They just know its no great “conceptual leap” to imagine evolution doing it.

    Prove it!

  2. Of course it doesn’t — one can always imagine some way that natural selection might have brought about the system in question.

    Doesn’t a determination of IC require that there be no plausible natural selection scenario for the origin of the system? And without IC, there can be no tractable calculation of CSI. So it seems that imagining a natural selection scenario, while certainly not confirming MET, renders the main ID arguments impotent.

  3. R0b: No, you are going with Ken Miller’s redefinition of Behe’s concept of irreducible complexity (IC). Behe only required of IC that it not be possible to simplify the system and recover the original function, not that it should be possible to simplify and obtain a different function (which is how Miller redefined it). Miller’s redefinition is, of course, self-serving, for it means that nothing could be IC because everything can be imagined to have evolved from simpler systems doing other functions. Behe never said that it was logically impossible for IC systems to form by natural selection from simpler components. But he did argue this was implausible (have a look at pp. 110-113 of DARWIN’S BLACK BOX).

  4. Good work on calling the bluff, I’ve always been convinced that a lot of the explanatory “facts” of Darwin’s theory boil down to imagining things as far as the important details are concerned- Especially the ones that face heavy adversity.

    I could come up with a mathematical model and computer simulation that explains how millions of furious koala bears stampeding across the surface of Australia in specific patterns 5 million years ago could terraform the terrain to what we see today. But obviously such explanations aren’t reflective of reality. The same could be said about many programs that were written to reflect Darwinistic evolutionary mechanisms.

  5. The argument that it is irreducibly complex rests upon the presumption that the individual subunits of the flagellum could have had no prior useful function of some other sort…

    This is a patently false claim and a gross misrepresentation of the challenge of irreducible complexity on Collins’ part, as Michael Behe has pointed out repeatedly to Ken Miller who also persists in misrepresenting the challenge of IC in this way. No claim is made that “the individual subunits of the flagellum could have had no prior useful function of some other sort.” The concept of IC rests on the fact that the removal of any of the parts causes the system to cease functioning.

    As for the “co-option” of naturally-selectable parts to create an IC system, this is just a totally made up, pie-in-the-sky fantasy, with no foundation in evidence or even trivial logic. I wrote a little essay on this for UD, which I include below.

    The claim of the refutation of IC by co-option is so ubiquitous that some people are actually starting to believe it. I therefore feel that it is my civic duty to refute this “refutation” of IC, which turns out to be a trivial exercise.

    1) In order for co-option to produce a bacterial flagellum (for example) all of the component parts must have been present at the same time and in roughly the same place, and all of them must have had other naturally-selectable, useful functions. There is no evidence whatsoever that this ever was the case, or that it ever even could have been the case.

    2) The components would have to have been compatible with each other functionally. A bolt that is too large, too small, or that has threads that are too fine or too coarse to match those of a nut, cannot be combined with the nut to make a fastener. There is absolutely no evidence that this interface compatibility ever existed (between all those imaginary co-opted component parts), or that it even could have existed.

    3) Even if all the parts are available at the same time and in the same place, and are functionally compatible, one can’t just put them in a bag, shake them up, and have a motor fall out. An assembly mechanism is required, and that mechanism must be complete in every detail, otherwise incomplete or improper assembly will result, and no naturally-selectable function will be produced. The assembly mechanism thus represents yet another irreducibly complex hurdle.

    4) Last, and perhaps most importantly, assembly instructions are required. Assembly must be timed and coordinated properly. And the assembly instructions must be complete in every detail, otherwise no function will result. This represents an additional irreducibly complex hurdle.

    Co-option is a demonstrably fantastic story made up out of whole cloth, with absolutely no basis in evidence. And it doesn’t withstand even the most trivial analytical scrutiny. There is not a shred of evidence that this process ever took place, or that it even could have taken place. Worst of all, it requires blind acceptance of the clearly miraculous.

    There is a great irony here. This verifiably ridiculous co-option fantasy is presented as “science,” while a straightforward and reasonable inference to design is labeled pseudoscience. The real state of affairs is precisely the reverse.

  6. Dr. Dembski, thanks for the clarification. So when you speak of imagining some way that natural selection might have brought about the system in question, you’re not speaking of imagining a plausible way.

  7. Darwin played the same game…

    If you play Darwin’s game by his rules your mind can become “overwhelmed” with imaginary evidence which has little to do with empirical reality.

    I’ve always thought that IC is merely an empirical reality that can be observed. What can generally be observed empirically is typically a form of integrated and functional complexity where if a part is taken away then a lack of function results. If so then irreducible complexity isn’t an argument about the past similar to Darwinian reasoning which allows imaginary events in the past to be cited as “evidence” of some sort, instead it’s generally an empirical observation which can be observed in the form and function of organisms here and now. The capacity of some to imagine things about function and so on doesn’t change empirical facts like IC or explain the history of all biological specification, form and species scientifically.

    Explanations generally rooted in imagining things about the past are a type of explanation of the sort found in creation myths, not scientific theories.

  8. So when you speak of imagining some way that natural selection might have brought about the system in question, you’re not speaking of imagining a plausible way.

    I’m curious if you admit that IC is evident in the first place. Many seem to admit that it is and then imagine it away. For example, Dawkins’ argument could be satirized as: “Biology is the study of things that look IC but we should imagine that they are not.” It seems to me that if IC was not evident then it would not be necessary to try to imagine it away.

    At any rate, the standard for Darwinists is not that a mythological narrative of naturalism be “plausible” as you put it, it’s that it be natural. They generally do not mind if an explanation seems implausible to them. As long as it seems natural, almost anything may be imagined. So it seems to me that you’re missing the main issue.

  9. Miller’s mistake was in thinking that all of the hoopla surrounding irreducible complexity meant that it had some significance in deciding whether a structure had evolved. Why else would ID proponents be making such a big fuss over it?

    As actually formulated by Behe, however, irreducible complexity would preclude evolution only if a) the function of a structure were immutable as it evolved, and b) structures could evolve only by adding parts and never by removing them. Neither of these constraints applies to evolution.

    As for Gil Dodgen’s comments regarding co-option, methinks he doth protest too much.

  10. Gil, thanks for your comment.

    Despite my criticisms I still sometimes find myself imagining things about the past as Darwinists generally do. It’s easy to fall into because we tend to be biased toward imagining that we have knowledge. It’s important to try to focus on empirical facts, logic and logistical details in the real world.

  11. I can imagine a situation in which the component pieces of a mousetrap are put into a box that is constantly shaken over a long period of time. I can then imagine that these pieces happen to fall together and form a mousetrap. That doesn’t mean it would, or could, ever happen, but I just imagined it happening. This is the type of argument which passes for science–the scientific method of the imagination.

    Mynym wrote a post awhile back on the subject that I thought was insightful:

    http://www.intelldesign.com/20.....-evidence/

  12. …whether a structure had evolved. Why else would ID proponents be making such a big fuss over it?

    Actually it seems to me that Miller, as a theist, would be in the best position to see the distinction between evolution by blind processes and events unfolding/evolving by design.

    It’s curious though, if “evolution” is not linked to philosophic naturalism then why is there such “a big fuss over” Behe? After all, he accepts evolution, he’s just arguing that intelligent input is necessary for events to unfold as they have. This undermines naturalism, not evolution.

    As actually formulated by Behe, however, irreducible complexity would preclude evolution…

    IC doesn’t preclude evolution, it precludes Darwinism.

  13. TCS @11

    Totally agree. I believe there are physical and functional constraints to prevent such things from happening when you consider the real forces at work. For example I believe it would be utterly impossible even with infinite time for a tornado to assemble a boeing 737. For me it doesn’t take much to come to this conclusion because just imagine the forces at work in a tornado, now imagine the thousands of screws that require finely tuned and specific forces to thread into each and every screw hole. Not only that but the order of assembly would have to be perfect as well, because even if you could get past such physical constraints with the screws, how would the seats get bolted down if the body of the plane is already assembled? They’d have to magically fly through an emergency exit, land in perfect alignment to their respective position on the floor, and then somehow get bolted down via natural forces. Even with that said, I think you have more chance of this successfully happening than for the thousands of biological mechanisms that we see today coming about via RM+NS.

  14. mynym “IC doesn’t preclude evolution, it precludes Darwinism.”

    So you think that evolution cannot subtract components? Why not?

  15. iconofid,

    Because natural selection is the perfect ratchet that hugs every microscopic detail of the bolt its turning and never, EVER slips or changes direction. You’re delusional and a creationist if you believe otherwise.

  16. PaulN iconofid,

    Because natural selection is the perfect ratchet that hugs every microscopic detail of the bolt its turning and never, EVER slips or changes direction. You’re delusional and a creationist if you believe otherwise.

    Which, of course, doesn’t answer my question, but might explain why I have a tail and scales.

    Have IC enthusiasts ever tried to find out if there are systems that could be described as IC in one organism, but which exist in reduced forms in others?

    Wouldn’t that be a good area for I.D. research?

  17. iconofid,

    So you think that evolution cannot subtract components?

    If I remember Behe’s argument correctly (and it’s been a while since I’ve read Darwin’s Black Box), one of the things he looked at was the literature related to the blood clotting cascade—a system which is relatively well-understood and which has been extensively studied. He noted that in this series of many, many steps, if one was subtracted, removed, changed, or switched with another, the whole system failed. Thus, the system is IC.

    Subtracting components is easy. Subtracting components without damaging (or killing) the system is what’s the trick.

    On a side note, one of the reasons I find Behe and his arguments so convincing is that he talks about real systems, with real research histories and what they actually can and cannot do. Many of Behe’s critics counter with high-level prognosticating about stuff like co-option and how “plausible” it is.

  18. iconofid,

    Wait a minute, you have a tail and scales? Man you lucked out. I’m stuck with bunny ears and a duck bill. Doesn’t quite go over well with the ladies, and I also have an inexplicable attraction to lakes, docks, and people with bread in their hand.

    Have IC enthusiasts ever tried to find out if there are systems that could be described as IC in one organism, but which exist in reduced forms in others?

    Wouldn’t that be a good area for I.D. research?

    In all seriousness, yes, I believe it would.

    But then again you’re a creationist and delusional and irrational if you believe random mutation could EVER reduce something in complexity without natural selection terminating it with extreme prejudice.

  19. So you think that evolution cannot subtract components?

    The real question is what can’t evolution do and where is its edge? Ironically it shouldn’t be up to reformers like Behe to go on a search for the edge of evolution, edges should have been specified by proponents long ago.

    What sort of biological observations would falsify or limit “evolution”? If it can add, subtract, keep things the same and explains all biological observations then how can it be verified?

  20. Mynym,

    Ironically it shouldn’t be up to reformers like Behe to go on a search for the edge of evolution, edges should have been specified by proponents long ago.</blockquote

    Sure, we could have left it up to the Nazis to rebuke their own regime as well.

    What sort of biological observations would falsify or limit “evolution”? If it can add, subtract, keep things the same and explains all biological changes then how can it be Falsified?

    Exactly.

  21. Sorry, forgot to close that blockquote tag.

  22. iconofid,

    PaulN: Wait a minute, you have a tail and scales? Man you lucked out. I’m stuck with bunny ears and a duck bill. Doesn’t quite go over well with the ladies, and I also have an inexplicable attraction to lakes, docks, and people with bread in their hand.

    You have my deepest sympathy. We have only the designer to blame.

    But then again you’re a creationist and delusional and irrational if you believe random mutation could EVER reduce something in complexity without natural selection terminating it with extreme prejudice.

    I wasn’t suggesting that the reduced version came second.

    Two things though, Paul. Firstly, the removal of components once they’re obsolete doesn’t necessarily decrease the complexity. It’s like taking away the scaffolding when you’ve finished building the house, and this is one of the clues as to how IC systems can form.

    Secondly, evolution being a march towards complexity for the sake of complexity is a common misconception. Selection is for function, and increased complexity is only selected for when advantageous. Decreases in complexity could also be advantageous.

    We mirror evolution in that respect. If we can simplify a machine and get the same result, it’s cheaper and has less parts that can go wrong.

    (Perhaps this isn’t the best place to use a design analogy!!)

  23. mynym,

    You wrote:

    IC doesn’t preclude evolution, it precludes Darwinism.

    Do you stand behind that statement?

    And what ever gave you the idea that Darwinian evolution is compatible with all possible biological observations? Ever hear of Haldane’s rabbit? Has a “Darwinist” ever told you that toads could give birth to giraffes?

  24. PaulN wrote:

    Because natural selection is the perfect ratchet that hugs every microscopic detail of the bolt its turning and never, EVER slips or changes direction. You’re delusional and a creationist if you believe otherwise.

    …and…

    But then again you’re a creationist and delusional and irrational if you believe random mutation could EVER reduce something in complexity without natural selection terminating it with extreme prejudice.

    Paul,

    Can you name a single evolutionary biologist that holds either of these strawman positions?

  25. iconofid,

    I suppose you’re absolutely right about selection for function instead of complexity, I let my satirical side get the best of me.

    But now that you’ve got me turning the gears in my critical thinking…

    Two things though, Paul. Firstly, the removal of components once they’re obsolete doesn’t necessarily decrease the complexity. It’s like taking away the scaffolding when you’ve finished building the house, and this is one of the clues as to how IC systems can form.

    First off scaffolding is, as of our current position in understanding biological systems, completely theoretical in the biological realm is it not? Have we ever witnessed modern cells or biological systems with scaffolding? This would verify such a clue in the first place right?

    And as far as reducing complexity to increase function I agree with the premise, however I think there’s a catch. One example would be certain strains of bacteria reducing in complexity to gain antibacterial resistance/immunity under selection pressures. The real test is whether the same bacteria would/could regain its original functional complexity if it were re-introduced to its original environment, which is another selective pressure on its own. I don’t disagree with the reduction of complexity for function, because we see this all the time, I argue against the increase in complexity for function in some cases where an increase is required. If the bacterial flagellum did indeed follow the TTSS, then that would logically require an increase in complexity.

    The proof is in the pudding. As of right now the pudding cup is empty.

    We mirror evolution in that respect. If we can simplify a machine and get the same result, it’s cheaper and has less parts that can go wrong.

    Actually we mirror improvements in intelligent design in that respect.

  26. Skeetch,

    Can you name a single evolutionary biologist that holds either of these strawman positions?

    If you gave me enough time on google I probably could(I’m at work right now believe it or not) =P. But obviously(or not) I was exercising satire when I made those statements, so I wouldn’t take them too seriously. However don’t think for a second that IDers and their arguments haven’t been viewed in that light by much of the Darwinist population.

  27. Satire works best when it bears some resemblance to what is being satirized.

  28. Also, I’ve seen video of a college professor in evolutionary biology say “With enough time evolution can change ANYTHING into ANYTHING.”

    I would definitely suggest you search for yourself and make sure that no evolutionary biologists make such statements before calling the cards on that one.

  29. mynym The real question is what can’t evolution do and where is its edge? Ironically it shouldn’t be up to reformers like Behe to go on a search for the edge of evolution, edges should have been specified by proponents long ago.

    What sort of biological observations would falsify or limit “evolution”? If it can add, subtract, keep things the same and explains all biological observations then how can it be verified?

    On current knowledge, “specifying” the “edge” of evolution would be impossible. However, I think you’re talking about its limits, something in which evolutionists firmly believe. We can be sure, for example, that you couldn’t evolve an elephant from a sponge in a few hundred thousand generations, so an elephant in the Pre-Cambrian would blow out the modern theory as an explanation for natural history and the origin of species.

    Michael Behe seems to make the mistake of viewing evolution as having a target. I’ll try to explain.

    If we looked at the original species of cat, the one from which all the family descends, and asked what the chances of its genome evolving into that of a tiger over, say, 12 million years, the answer would be “extremely slim, or remote”. But looking from the present, we know that one group of that cat species did become tigers.

    They could have become one of the other extant species of cats, but there’s a whole, uncountable field of possible cats that have never existed to consider, and they could have become those as well.

    So, when you give evolution a specific long term target, it’s not going to hit it. When we look at the necessary mutations to get our proto-cat to a tiger, they will seem improbable as a sequence, but think of all the other sequences that didn’t happen, and we see that “improbable” doesn’t come into it.

    So, it’s easy to see edges in evolution if you view it as having to head somewhere specific.

    But it doesn’t do that.

  30. Rob

    Dr. Dembski, thanks for the clarification. So when you speak of imagining some way that natural selection might have brought about the system in question, you’re not speaking of imagining a plausible way.

    I can’t speak for Dr. Dembski, but there is a huge difference between conceivable and plausible. The bluff so often made by Darwinists is to conflate the two giving the appearance that any imagined evolutionary scenario is the actual scenario.

  31. PaulN @ 24,
    The real test is whether the same bacteria would/could regain its original functional complexity if it were re-introduced to its original environment, which is another selective pressure on its own.

    Sorry, the real test of what? If cavefish lose their eyes or icefish lose their hemoglobin in order to survive, what do they care for the past or the future?

  32. PaulN First off scaffolding is, as of our current position in understanding biological systems, completely theoretical in the biological realm is it not? Have we ever witnessed modern cells or biological systems with scaffolding? This would verify such a clue in the first place right?

    Scaffolding is a misleading term, although its useful in this respect, and I should have been clearer. Organisms do not, of course, deliberately put up scaffolding to build complex features! Anything can become scaffolding, and would only be described as such in retrospect.

    A very simplified illustration would be:

    Characteristic A arrives, a large feature that gives the organism some advantage. overtime, mutations add B,C,D,E,and F to A, all of which would have been useless on their own, but which improve the function of A. Then, a rare double mutation adds G and H, useless on their own, but capable of combining with B through F in a way that improves the system, and renders A obsolete.

    A becomes “dead wood” and slightly disadvantageous as such, so disappears, and we are left with an inexplicable IC system.

    It’s A that we would call scaffolding, with hindsight.

    I’m trying to illustrate why the fact that subtraction happens makes IC useless as an attack on evolutionary theory.

    Sorry about that!

  33. Pendulum,

    Sorry, the real test of what? If cavefish lose their eyes or icefish lose their hemoglobin in order to survive, what do they care for the past or the future?

    The real test of an organism’s ability to increase in complexity to adapt, or re-adapt in this case to an selective pressures in an environment. I mean this should be the minimal level of proof required, because the genetic information for regaining that original complexity might still be available to draw upon or reshuffle, however how can you explain systems that can increase in functional complexity where the information isn’t present in the first place, requiring completely new DNA code?

  34. iconofid @ 28,
    We can be sure, for example, that you couldn’t evolve an elephant from a sponge in a few hundred thousand generations, so an elephant in the Pre-Cambrian would blow out the modern theory as an explanation for natural history and the origin of species.

    I’d be careful here. Nilsson’s famous calculation for time necessary to form a camera eye from a light sensitive spot was less than half a million years. The point is not that it couldn’t happen, but rather that we don’t know any natural set of selection pressures that could make it happen.

  35. iconofid,

    A very simplified illustration would be:

    Characteristic A arrives, a large feature that gives the organism some advantage. overtime, mutations add B,C,D,E,and F to A, all of which would have been useless on their own, but which improve the function of A. Then, a rare double mutation adds G and H, useless on their own, but capable of combining with B through F in a way that improves the system, and renders A obsolete.

    I very very much understand what you’re saying, and I appreciate you taking the time to elaborate, but again I’m asking for empirical proof of said illustrations and not just more elaborations or reiterations of the illustrations. I say this because Irreducible complexity is an empirical observation, illustrations and imaginations of various conceived Darwinian pathways are not. I believe this goes back to the central theme of this whole post.

    I’m trying to illustrate why the fact that subtraction happens makes IC useless as an attack on evolutionary theory.

    This does indeed clarify alot now that you mention your intentions =). But in respect to what you’ve stated so far, doesn’t the fact that subtraction happens kinda put it’s own damper on evolution when you don’t witness novel additions?

  36. PaulN @ 33,

    Sorry, I don’t follow your argument at all. Let’s say an animal that could see in the near UV (as birds do) lost that ability when for whatever reasons of survival its ancestors become nocturnal. (kind of like the cavefish example, but less dramatic.) A gene has become a pseudo-gene.
    Some time later, a descendant species is back in the daylight, and there is strong selective pressure for better vision. Sure, a mutation or two or three could come along and repair that pseudo-gene, but I think it is actually easier for a duplication and exaptation sequence to deliver the goods. In the duplication/exaptation scenario, the new stretch of DNA is always doing something useful. Even if you did recover function in the pseudo-gene, it might not be exactly the original function. I just don’t see what you’re asking for as a ‘test’ or ‘proof’ is testing or proving much.

    I should say that I’ve never read any research on the prevalence of pseudo-genes returning to function, or how you could tell that a functioning gene was once a pseudo-gene. But I have seen research explaining that random walks can explain the gradual increase in the maximal complexity of species.

  37. Pendulum,

    There are many, many experiments that show “evolution” happening when bacterial cells develop resistances to antibodies or harmful chemicals, but at the same time show that there’s normally a costly tradeoff in other functions. My argument is not whether or not said bacterial cells could regain their original functions by increasing in complexity, but whether or not they actually do. Again, you could come up with as many theoretical situations as you want on how things could happen, but whether or not they reflect what happens in vigorous empirical lab experiments is a different story.

    So basically what I was getting at was this: If you can test and show functional adaptation via reductions in complexity in bacterial cells in lab experiments, then should you not be able to test the opposite(increases in complexity) by reversing the process? I see this as the minimum requirement in proving Darwinian mechanisms because in this specific scenario, you might still have the information available to transition back to a similar form of functionality. The next step is to show how a biological system can increase in functional complexity without already having the information to do so.

  38. StephenB

    “If I remember Behe’s argument correctly (and it’s been a while since I’ve read Darwin’s Black Box), one of the things he looked at was the literature related to the blood clotting cascade—a system which is relatively well-understood and which has been extensively studied. He noted that in this series of many, many steps, if one was subtracted, removed, changed, or switched with another, the whole system failed. Thus, the system is IC.

    Subtracting components is easy. Subtracting components without damaging (or killing) the system is what’s the trick.

    On a side note, one of the reasons I find Behe and his arguments so convincing is that he talks about real systems, with real research histories and what they actually can and cannot do. Many of Behe’s critics counter with high-level prognosticating about stuff like co-option and how “plausible” it is..

    Thanks, Stephen.

    I was hoping someone would mention that very system. In us, reducing the bloodclotting system causes severe disadvanteges, but in our ancestors, according to evolutionary theory, that cannot have been the case.

    Further up the thread I asked whether enthusiasts for IC had ever checked out whether a system that was IC in one organism existed in a reduced version in another. This is one such. Fish have a reduced version of it, and simpler jawless fish, an even further reduced version. It has evolved with our lineage.

    When an increase in complexity arrives in that system, it would initially have been merely advantageous, but not indispensible. It could enable a further advantage to develope later, like an increase in blood pressure in land animals. When that’s there, take away the non-fish feature in the blood clotting cascade, and you’ve got problems.

    So, something that is IC in modern organisms is not necessarily so in their ancestors, when it is surrounded by different features.

  39. Gil:

    first of all thank you for your perfect statement about cooption:

    “As for the “co-option” of naturally-selectable parts to create an IC system, this is just a totally made up, pie-in-the-sky fantasy, with no foundation in evidence or even trivial logic.”

    No one could say it better. And “pie-in-the-sky fantasy” is still a generous understatement!

    At first, when I read about the cooption “argument”, I immediately thought “They cannot mean that seriously!” But unfortunately, they did and they still do.

    By the way, we have briefly addressed the flagellum controversy in the “FAQ” (it should be at point 33). In case someone is interested…

  40. iconofid:

    I am no expert of fish blood clotting, but I do know the human. First of all, you have to consider that mammals blood clotting is formed by two different systems: the tissue (extrinsic) system, which was certainly the oldest one, and the contact (intrinsic) system, which appeared later. If I rememebr well, Behe speaks of the first, and not of the second.

    However, here are a couple of quotes from a recent paper about the puffer fish and the evolution of blood clotting.

    First the abstract:

    “The blood coagulation scheme for the puffer fish, Fugu rubripes,
    has been reconstructed on the basis of orthologs of genes for
    mammalian blood clotting factors being present in its genome. As
    expected, clotting follows the same fundamental pattern as has
    been observed in other vertebrates, even though genes for some
    clotting factors found in mammals are absent and some others are
    present in more than one gene copy. All told, 26 different proteins
    involved in clotting or fibrinolysis were searched against the puffer
    fish genome. Of these, orthologs were found for 21. Genes for the
    ‘‘contact system’’ factors (factor XI, factor XII, and prekallikrein)
    could not be identified. On the other hand, two genes were found
    for factor IX and four for factor VII. It was evident that not all four factor VII genes are functional, essential active-site residues having been replaced in two of them. A search of the genome of a
    urochordate, the sea squirt, Ciona intestinalis, did not turn up any
    genuine orthologs for these 26 factors, although paralogs andor
    constituent domains were evident for virtually all of them.”

    And then the initial quote:

    “Blood clotting follows the same fundamental pattern in all
    vertebrates, from the early diverging jawless fishes to mammals
    (1). In all cases the principal event is the thrombin-catalyzed
    conversion of a soluble plasma protein, fibrinogen, into an
    insoluble polymeric fibrin clot. Thrombin is a serine protease,
    itself the product of a series of proteolytic events. It is well
    established that all groups of fish (cyclostomes, elasmobranches,
    and teleosts) generate thrombin by pathways involving vitamin
    K-dependent factors, exhibit factor XIII-dependent fibrin crosslinking,
    and manifest a fibrinolysis that is inhibited by the same
    agents as inhibit fibrinolysis in mammals (1–3). In contrast,
    thrombin-generated fibrin clotting has not been reported in
    nonvertebrate chordates or other invertebrate animals.”

    That looks like IC to me…

  41. iconofid @38,

    When an increase in complexity arrives in that system

    I’m sorry, I really don’t mean to badger, but the lack of real evidence for these statements is what prevents me from going with the rest of the scenario. Are there any examples that you can refer me to in order to shut me up? I mean when we already have a lot of trouble proving any new novel functional complexity in fruit flies that have undergone grossly increased mutation rates across a vast amount of generations, receiving your statement above becomes difficult.

  42. The fact that prokaryotic/bacterial cells and eukaryotic cells have flagella that have different structures yet serve similar purposes makes it all the more unlikely that any random, chance driven mechanism could account for either.

    The two are composed of different substances-flagellin in prokaryotes and tubulin microtubules in eukaryotes-and eukaryotic flagella have a plasma membrane while prokaryotic flagella do not.

    Its preposterous enough to think of all the proteins that make up the flagellum coming together functionally by chance once let alone twice.

  43. Do you stand behind that statement?

    Irreducible complexity can be observed to be and is already known to be linked to the impact of intelligence on matter, so Darwinian attempts to reduce it to blind processes like natural selection are precluded by the evidence.

    And what ever gave you the idea that Darwinian evolution is compatible with all possible biological observations?

    Nothing gave me that idea. It is to Darwin’s credit that Darwinian evolution is not the equivalent of the hypothetical goo typical to “evolution” in general. However, much of what he specified has been falsified and what has been verified has revealed possible edges to evolution so it seems that notions about creative and progressive “evolution” are generally returning hypothetical goo.

    Ever hear of Haldane’s rabbit?

    Despite the claims that some make about falsification/verification with respect to hypotheses of evolution in general a rabbit would be discarded if possible and if not then the way that evolutionists imagine things about the past would simply evolve. There would be more claims about “Much earlier than previously thought…” and so on. This type of pattern is already evident because “evolution” is still generally unfalsifiable hypothetical goo despite Darwin’s best efforts.

    Has a “Darwinist” ever told you that toads could give birth to giraffes?

    Oddly, Darwinists sometimes cite facts which would greatly help hypotheses of evolution as if they would not fit into their mythological narratives of naturalism. Maintaining a philosophy of naturalism is their main concern, even if they are theists. That’s why they’re so upset with Behe and not Miller, although both are theists one questions philosophic naturalism and naturalistic narratives while the other does not.

    This is just a thought experiment about biological observations. If you were able to design organisms how would you go about communicating yourself as a singular/common designer to those studying your creations while avoiding the notion that they came about by a process of common descent?

  44. PaulN:

    The real test is whether the same bacteria would/could regain its original functional complexity if it were re-introduced to its original environment, which is another
    selective pressure on its own.

    A note on “Dollo’s Law”: once a trait is lost through degradation of the genes required, the sequence of mutations required to bring it back into existence is too improbable to occur.

    “Can Evolution Reverse Itself?”
    http://www.newswise.com/articles/view/547686/

  45. mynym asks:

    This is just a thought experiment about biological observations. If you were able to design organisms how would you go about communicating yourself as a singular/common designer to those studying your creations while avoiding the notion that they came about by a process of common descent?

    Easy. Use common features (and common genes), but distribute them in a way that precludes the inference of a nested hierarchy. Darwinian evolution predicts a nested hierarchy; common design does not.

  46. Mack G.,

    Its preposterous enough to think of all the proteins that make up the flagellum coming together functionally by chance once let alone twice.

    Couldn’t the fact that several different types of flagella exist be used to argue for the opposite conclusion?

    At least three distinct types are known to exist. How many other potential flagellum-type structures could have arisen but didn’t? That’s unknown—but we definitely do know there’s more than one way to do it. Therefore, perhaps it’s not so remarkable that flagella of some sort or another arose.

  47. Re 41:
    If flagella were arbitrary structures that served no purpose I might be inclined to agree, but seeing as how they serve very distinct purposes, I find it hard to believe that the proteins they are comprised of just happened to stumble into their functional structures by chance on more than one occasion.

  48. Thats actually Re 46 not 41.

  49. Charles Darwin found as plausable:

    In North America the black bear was seen by Hearne swimming for hours with widely open mouth, thus catching, like a whale, insects in the water. Even in so extreme a case as this, if the supply of insects were constant, and if better adapted competitors did not already exist in the country, I can see no difficulty in a race of bears being rendered, by natural selection, more and more aquatic in their structure and habits, with larger and larger mouths, till a creature was produced as monstrous as a whale.

    Origin of Species, 1st Ed. Ch IV p 184 (1859)

    Dissenter expresses a few difficulties with Darwin’s hypothesis:

    a few words-baleen, blowhole, blubber, fins, fluke, giving birth and suckling underwater, echo location, physiology of deep diving, whale song, migration navigation. AND all of this to be achieved by natural selection acting on random mutations, the latter of which, as has been discussed, produces only degeneration. Downhill genetic entropy may occasionally be helpful or at least not harmful, as in sightless cave dwelling fish or degenerate and sick haemoglobin which confers resistance to malaria, but random mutation does not build new structures, nor is there the slightest evidence or sound theoretical basis that it ever could. But Darwin saw no difficulty with bears turning into whales. May I suggest that this was because he was blind? Blinded by his infatuation with his beloved ‘theory’.

    Dissenter is a General Medical Practitioner (GP) with a special interest in skin disease, particularly the use of dermoscopy for the early detection of melanoma skin cancer.

    Each of those “small” changes requires numerous effective mutations. Behe shows that the limit of even two necessary mutations occurring together is the practical limit.
    See Edge of Evolution.
    See Behe’s blog, discussing:
    “Waiting longer for two mutations”

    As two coordinated mutations cannot effectively occur, the numerous coordinated changes from bear to whale are, shall we say, astronomically remote?

  50. As two coordinated mutations cannot effectively occur, the numerous coordinated changes from bear to whale are, shall we say, astronomically remote?

    Extremely remote, given that no one today thinks whales descended from bears.

  51. Furthermore, the Darwin quote says nothing about bears turning into whales (with baleen, blubber, echo location, etc) specifically:

    I can see no difficulty in a race of bears being rendered, by natural selection, more and more aquatic in their structure and habits, with larger and larger mouths, till a creature was produced as monstrous as a whale.

  52. given that mutations supposedly happen with no respect for fitness and natural selection is supposed to cull only those organisms that have characteristics that detract from fitness, why dont we find numerous species with traits that are completely useless but in no way detrimental to fitness?

    In other words, if random mutation can produce new traits and structures, why doesnt it ever produce traits and structures that are useless but not harmful. I think that would be great evidence for a truly stochastic process.

    Its like trying to argue that the words in a book arrive there by a completely random process and this random process adds the letters completely randomly with no intelligent input whatsoever but another process culls all profanities that may arise (by accident of course). We should expect such a book to be filled with indecipherable gobblety-gook but imagine our surprise when the final product is decipherable words, sentences, and paragraphs all fitting together to make an understandable book. That’s not at all what one would expect from a process that added letters randomly to a page.

    So it is with life that if it arose and adapted by a stochastic process with natural selection only culling that which was bad, we would expect life to be filled with gobblety-gook.

    If evolution is driven by stochastic mutations that can just make proteins willy-nilly with natural selection only cleaning up the bad, why do evolutionists not expect life to be full of useless but benign adaptations and traits?

    Comparing life to a book leads us to conclude that life most likely would never have arisen by any chance driven process but giving advocates of a chance driven origin of life the benefit of the doubt, they must now explain why a process of pure chance hasnt created a world of life filled with useless but benign features?

  53. Mack G. asks:

    why dont we find numerous species with traits that are completely useless but in no way detrimental to fitness

    We do. Here are just three examples:

    1. The coat of hair that human embryos grow in the womb and then shed before birth.

    2. Hind limbs in whales.

    3. The tiny muscle fibers that give us goose bumps.

  54. I thought those were vestigial traits that once served a purpose and no longer do. Is this no longer the case?

  55. Yes, they are vestigial. Your question was:

    why dont we find numerous species with traits that are completely useless but in no way detrimental to fitness?

    The vestigial traits that I mentioned fit that description.

    If your question is about traits that, unlike vestigial traits, are always “useless”, then yes, there are plenty of those as well. For example, it is very common for mutations to affect the amino acid sequence of proteins without altering their function.

  56. I have a question about homology…

    Doesn’t the issue of homology really exist at the gentic level?

    I have heard Ken Miller’s attempt to debunk IC on homology grounds, but it is as though he implies that the proteins themselves are conserved.

    But obviously, it is the genetics that would be conserved. And the function would follow.

    Are the differences in genetic sequencing between so-called homologies significant enough to pose a challenge? It is my understanding they do…

    These information systems eschew copy errors, so it seems obvious that the issue of homology ignores the difficulties in explaining thechange in information not just for each protein, but the hierarchy of total system information.

  57. Thats not what I asked. I asked why dont we find numerous species with traits that are completely useless but in no way detrimental to fitness? Vestigial characteristics are traits that have lost the purpose they once served. So I dont see how you could possibly have thought that vestigial structures would cover that. Clearly vestigial traits once served a purpose and clearly my post was about characteristics arising that never served a purpose. I wouldnt think I would have to spell it out for you.

    Secondly your claim that it is very common for mutations to affect the amino acid sequence of proteins without altering their function also doesnt address my question which is why dont we find numerous species with traits that arent useful but also not detrimental.

    If random mutations are the source of new information for characteristic building proteins and these mutations occur with no respect to fitness then why dont these mutations ever bring about the manifestation of completely novel but useless but nondetrimental traits? Why dont we have eye, ear, and nose like structures that do absolutely nothing and have never done anything? Why doesnt evolution create structures that do nothing in places where they are useless?

    As long as the trait or structure doesnt detract from reproductive fitness, ns will not cull it from the population. If random mutations occurs with no input then they should just as likely create many things that are totally useless as they should something functional should they not?

    If I gave you a typewriter or a computer and blindfolded you and told you to use one finger and press the keys on the keyboard and when done I would edit out all profanities, would you expect at the end to have a legible page or a page of gobblety-gook? If random mutations simply make random changes and ns edits out whatever is harmful shouldnt we expect to see innumerable useless structures that have arisen along with all the useful and purposeful traits that have arisen?

  58. Mack, it seems to me that you are asking why we don’t find numerous species with traits that aren’t useful but also not detrimental. Is that correct?
    I don’t think skeech is trying to be obtuse – if you drink the koolaid that he’s drinking, you think a so-called neutral change in amino acid sequence of a protein is an example of what you are talking about. But you’re talking about eyeballs that don’t work, right? And not vestigial eyeballs that don’t work, but perfectly good eyeballs that don’t work, maybe because they are in the wrong place or something, and I don’t think the evolutionist can fully answer you on that one. They might try to say that there is a cost to carrying around good eyeballs that don’t work, just the energy to make them I suppose, if I understand the theory correctly, and so you wouldn’t get something that elaborate if it didn’t do something. But then they’d go ahead and say, yes, maybe you WOULD get that kind of thing if it was sexually selected. If chicks dig it, as I like to say. So maybe like a peacock’s feathers? I don’t think that’s the answer to your question, though, because you are asking why we don’t find numerous species with traits that aren’t useful but also not detrimental, and I guess the peacock’s tail would be useful if chicks dig it. So I think you must be right.

  59. gpuccio: I am no expert of fish blood clotting, but I do know the human…

    …It looks IC to me….

    Thanks for the quotes. I’m no expert either, but if that’s the paper I think it is, then you will find that the puffer fish are missing a contact system that we have somewhere in that paper.

    Elsewhere, from memory, lamphreys are missing two components that cause serious problems, like hemophilia, for us.

    My point is that what’s IC in us does not have to be in our ancestors, meaning that step by step evolution of such systems can happen.

    I’m not attempting to prove that they did evolve, merely showing that “IC” arguments do not work to show that they cannot evolve.

  60. iconofid:

    the contact system is exactly the “second” function I spoke of.

    “First of all, you have to consider that mammals blood clotting is formed by two different systems: the tissue (extrinsic) system, which was certainly the oldest one, and the contact (intrinsic) system, which appeared later. If I rememebr well, Behe speaks of the first, and not of the second.”

    In other words, the two systems are two different functions, even if they converge in the final steps.

    More generally, I understand your general arguments, but I don’t find it pertinent to the definition of IC. IOW, we can have different coltting systems in different species, and they can differ as to the number of components, but that does not mean that each is not IC.

    Let’s put it this way: a clotting system is a cascade. You design it as a cascade for various functional reasons, and not only to show that you are a clever designer. So, the cascade allows incremental amplification of the signal, and above all different potential levels of control and feedback.

    Now, you can realize a cascade with 5 components or one with 8 components, and the final effect can be the same. But the reaosns why one is designed one way, and the other another way, and the interactions of the two systems with their general biological environment are completely different.

    In other words, the two systems are different, because they have been designed differently for different contexts. And both are IC: you cannot subtract a component to a cascade, and still have the function. It doesn’t matter that one system is of 5 components, and the other of 8, and that some components can be similar: both are IC, both would lose their function if any component is subtracted. And even if they share some components, that does not mean that one is derived from the other.

    That’s the concept of IC in ID: flagella abd clotting cascades are good examples of that concept. And darwinists have never produce any credible alternative models which can explain those structures.

  61. madsen (#46):

    “Couldn’t the fact that several different types of flagella exist be used to argue for the opposite conclusion?”

    I don’t think so. Convergent evolution is indeed a very strong argument in favour of ID.

    The reasoning is simple: if a strucutre is extremely complex (in the sense of unlikely), then it is already practically impossible that it originates by chance: its originating many times indipendently is therefore “super-impossible”.

    You may say: but the fact itself that the same function can be achieved by different structures should make it more likely. The answer is yes and not. We know well that the target set of any function is not represented by a single solution. That is one important problem in the computation of FSCI for single proteins, and it becomes an even more difficult problem for multi-protein functional systems like the flagellum.

    But the point is, how much do you reasonably expect the functional set to be big, in situations where the search space is at least of the order of 10^1000 or more? (I am referring to multi-protein systems here). With Dembski’s UPB set at 10^150, that means that you would need at least 10^850 dfferent functional structures to just start discussing a possible successful search using all the resources in the universe!

    Therefore, I maintain that convergent evolution is evidence of design. And don’t forget that we have a growing number of well documented examples of convergent evolution, not only for “simpler” structures like the flagellum, but even for extremely complex functions, like flight.

  62. skeech at 53

    Re Mack G’s why dont we find numerous species with traits that are completely useless but in no way detrimental to fitness

    We do. Here are just three examples:. . .

    2. Hind limbs in whales.

    3. The tiny muscle fibers that give us goose bumps.

    Ignorance of design and function does not constitute evidence for lack of design. Regarding #2 & #3:

    2: The pentadactyl structure provides an efficient method of common design with compact genomic coding of “hands” and “feet” with their very complex structure.

    Yet this design is readily configured for very wide range of application with corresponding genes to control symmetric mirror and proportional growth along growth paths to final configurations that are well maintained for that species.

    See further argument by Harun Yahya:
    The Fall of the Homology in Tetrapod Limbs
    He quotes:

    The older textbooks on evolution make much of the idea of homology, pointing out the obvious resemblances between the skeletons of the limbs of different animals. Thus the `pentadactyl’ [five bone] limb pattern is found in the arm of a man, the wing of a bird, and flipper of a whale, and this is held to indicate their common origin. Now if these various structures were transmitted by the same gene couples, varied from time to time by mutations and acted upon by environmental selection, the theory would make good sense. Unfortunately this is not the case. Homologous organs are now known to be produced by totally different gene complexes in the different species. The concept of homology in terms of similar genes handed on from a common ancestor has broken down.291

    “291 Michael Denton, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, Adler & Adler, Bethesda, MA, 1985, pp. 151, 154. (emphasis added)”

    3. Muscles giving “goose bumps” result in hair standing up which reduces convective heat loss.

  63. madsen at 51

    “Darwin quote says nothing about bears turning into whales (with baleen, blubber, echo location, etc) specifically:
    I can see no difficulty in a race of bears . . .till a creature was produced as monstrous as a whale.

    As a point of symantics yes. As to function no. Bones must scale differently than mass.
    See:
    Scaling of the limb long bones to body mass in terrestrial mammals. P. Christiansen, J Morphol. 1999 Feb;239(2):167-90.

    Differential scaling is present, and large mammals on average scale with lower regression slopes than small mammals. Large mammals tend to reduce bending stress during locomotion by having shorter limb bones than predicted rather than by having very thick diaphyses, as is usually assumed. The choice of regression model used to describe data samples in analyses of scaling becomes increasingly important as correlation coefficients decrease, and theoretical models supported by one analysis may not be supported when applying another statistical model to the same data. Differences in limb posture and locomotor performance have profound influence on the amount of stress set up in the appendicular bones during rigorous physical activity and make it unlikely that scaling of long bones across a large size range of terrestrial mammals can be satisfactorily explained by any one power function.

    I believe the structure of a bear cannot even scale to the size of a whale without having aquatic support. That in turn requires all the rest of the whale’s novel functions.

  64. Steveo @44,

    A note on “Dollo’s Law”: once a trait is lost through degradation of the genes required, the sequence of mutations required to bring it back into existence is too improbable to occur.

    “Can Evolution Reverse Itself?”
    http://www.newswise.com/articles/view/547686/

    Thanks for the reference! I wasn’t aware there was a law that further explained the limits on evolutionary change.

    If anything this shows not only limitations on evolutionary possibilities, but limitations on the overall testability of Darwinian mechanisms that supposedly increase novel functional complexity as well, in fact to the point to where you’re now reduced to a one-way evolutionary road: You’re basically forced to test them via linear brute-force methods such as the fruit fly and E. coli experiments, neither of which showed any novel increases in functional complexity. The most we could observe from the fruit flies were an over-hyped extra pair of wings that did not function at all, and in fact terminated the fly’s ability to.. fly- and consequently reproduce for that matter. Following Behe’s observations on Lenski’s experiments, it was more likely that the generation of E. coli that was able to digest citrate in aerobic environments either already had the existing equipment to do so, or that the generation was one of the expressed strains of E. coli found in the wild that can already digest citrate (as was the case in experiments preceding Lenski’s).

    So since we’re reduced to such a narrow method of testing change(according to Dollo’s Law) via RM+NS, and don’t have much to show for the tests that have already been conducted, at what point is the Darwin party going to appeal to a reasonable conclusion based off of what experiments have shown? What is it really going to take for Darwinists to consider their mechanism of change to be falsified in accordance to real observations?

  65. DLH,

    I believe the structure of a bear cannot even scale to the size of a whale without having aquatic support. That in turn requires all the rest of the whale’s novel functions.

    I don’t see how it requires baleen (which not all whales have), echolocation, or whale song. And I still don’t see anything wrong with Darwin’s statement.

    In any case, the sources you have quoted are all over the map. Behe himself presumably accepts that whales descended from terrestrial mammals, as he accepts common descent. That’s apparently Denton’s current position, as he no longer holds the same views he published in Evolution: A Theory in Crisis. As for Harun Yahya, he’s clearly a con man and/or nuts.

  66. Madsen, anyone can dismiss their own logic and critical thinking under the pressure of an authoritative party line. But in matters of truth, no amount of authoritative or dismissive statements will drown out sound logic.

    Berlinksi calculated a minimum of 50,000 adaptive, complex morphological changes required for a terrestrial animal to transition into an aquatic creature. We have trouble experimentally observing anything that would constitute one of those changes.

    As for Harun Yahya, he’s clearly a con man and/or nuts.

    Wow. Show me the evidence for this.

  67. 67

    Harun Yahya is really Adnan Oktar. And Adnan Oktar: Authored a book denying the holocaust. Says ID is a tool of Satan. Convicted of criminal threats and creating an organization with intent to commit crimes.

    According to the indictment of the prosecutor’s office, cited by the daily Cumhuriyet, Oktar’s organisation used its female members to attract young scholars from rich families, with the promise of sex in exchange for attending events. Should one of these female members attempt to leave the group, they were threatened with the release of the tapes.

    Is he really someone to cite?

  68. Hi PaulN,

    Wow. Show me the evidence for this
    [my statement that Harun Yahya is either a con man or nuts]

    From wikipedia:

    In 1986, Adnan Oktar published the book, Judaism and Freemasonry. The book suggests that the principal mission of Jews and Freemasons in Turkey was to erode the spiritual, religious, and moral values of the Turkish people and, thus, make them like animals, as stated in what Oktar refers to as the “Distorted Torah.” Oktar asserts that “the materialist standpoint, evolution theory, anti-religious and immoral lifestyles were indoctrinated to the society as a whole” by Jews and Freemasons.

    His organization, the Scientific Research Foundation, also published a book called The Holocaust Lie in 1996.

    Interestingly, his website also claims that:

    “Intelligent Design” Is Another of Satan’s Distractions

    which you will find here:

    http://www.harunyahya.com/new_.....design.php

    So I’m very surprised to see his name cited approvingly here at UD.

  69. Madsen,

    Unlike you, I see a person’s historical and/or religious beliefs to be irrelevant to the logic and reason found in their ideas. We should judge ideas with logic, not by looking up a person’s past and smearing them. What DLH cited made sense, and was logical, and had nothing to do with Jewish and Freemason conspiracies. Could you say this person has eccentric beliefs outside of his scientific observations? Sure, but that has no logical impact on the scientific observations themselves. In fact I’d argue that sometimes it requires eccentric beliefs to discover new and in some cases groundbreaking scientific discoveries; simply conforming to the mentality of a particular hive mind only bears science that continues to propagate like-minded discoveries.

    Interestingly, his website also claims that:

    “Intelligent Design” Is Another of Satan’s Distractions

    which you will find here:

    http://www.harunyahya.com/new_…..design.php

    So I’m very surprised to see his name cited approvingly here at UD.

    From a simple first glance at his rant it’s easy to see that he’s expressing disproval solely because Intelligent Design isn’t identifying or specifying “Allah” as the creator, not so much because he’s dissatisfied with the scientific credibility such a pursuit. But again, this holds no bearing on whether or not DLH’s citations make sense.

  70. Madsen:

    Behe himself presumably accepts that whales descended from terrestrial mammals, as he accepts common descent.

    While Behe holds to common descent, therefore that whales evolved from terrestrials, he does not imply that they did so without assistance. In the CD/ID (IDers who hold to common descent) there are two general theories: that patterns were encoded into early life that support exhautic development (front-loading), and that there is a cosmic genetic engineero out there (agency). In either case, non-foresighted mutation + natural selection does not provide the explanation. In the front-loaded model, incredible foresight combines with natural circomstances to bring out characteristics, and in the agency model numerous foresighted genetic manipulations are involved.

    That’s apparently Denton’s current position, as he no longer holds the same views he published in Evolution: A Theory in Crisis.

    If you read Denton’s chapter in “Uncommon Dissent”, written after “Nature’s Destiny”, you will find that he retracts virtually nothing from “Evidence…” Rather, “Nature’s Destiny” is the result of looking at the situation from a different philosophical angle altogether. In Destiny, Denton brings the concept of the strong anthropic principle deep into the territory of biology. (In truth I believe that he over-reaches, but most of his findings I find sensible.) Bringing the strong anthropic principle deep into the territory of biology, however, does not preclude the possibilities of either front-loading or agency.

  71. Mack,

    I answered the question that you asked. If you’re unhappy with that, then rephrase your question.

    Why dont we have eye, ear, and nose like structures that do absolutely nothing and have never done anything?

    As feebish pointed out, structures don’t come for free. An organism pays a cost to produce them, putting that individual at a disadvantage. Useless eyes, noses and ears would not be selectively neutral.

    Also, how successful would you expect to be at attracting mates if you had an extra, nonfunctional nose?

    As long as the trait or structure doesnt detract from reproductive fitness, ns will not cull it from the population.

    Natural selection won’t cull it, but mutation will obliterate it, and quickly. Why? Because there is no selective pressure to preserve genes that code for useless traits.

  72. DLH writes:

    The pentadactyl structure provides an efficient method of common design with compact genomic coding of “hands” and “feet” with their very complex structure.

    What’s efficient about a whale producing useless hind limbs? And if common design is so important, why don’t all of the other aquatic animals share the pentadactyl blueprint? A designer who produces designs ranging from prokaryotes to blue whales

    Most tellingly, why would a designer specifically choose — out of all of the possible ways of employing common design — the one method that would make common descent appear to be true? See my comment to mynym here.

    Muscles giving “goose bumps” result in hair standing up which reduces convective heat loss.

    In bears, yes. In humans, no, unless you’re a lot hairier than I am.

  73. The link didn’t work. My comment to mynym is number 45 in this thread.

  74. PaulN,

    I actually do agree with you that racist and “eccentric” people are still capable of using correct logic and arriving at correct conclusions.

    Let’s look a bit more closely at the quote of DLH’s—it seems to me as if the quote presented by Yahya is actually that of William Fix (not William Denton), who, although he is referred to as an “evolutionary biologist” on the Yahya website, actually has an M.A. in “behavioral science”, as far as I can tell. I don’t have his book The Bone Peddlers, but based on some googling it appears he uses it to present his theory of “psychogenesis”, which involves a “celestial” origin of humans. Apparently the known fraud Uri Geller is mentioned to support the case for psychic powers. It seems Fix has also solved the “mysteries” of the pyramids. M’kay.

    I therefore propose that what we are seeing with the Fix quote is likely the same thing that led Yahya to uncritically accept conspiracy theories concerning Jews, Freemasons, and the Holocaust. It’s not his racism or eccentricity per se that are the problem. Yahya simply appears to be very bad at separating truth from fiction.

  75. Madsen,

    While you have explained in further detail what has led you to come to this conclusion, I have to point out that you’re still committing to exactly the same crime, only with more words and attempts to justify it.

    Yahya simply appears to be very bad at separating truth from fiction.

    Here’s where we make progress toward what I’m getting at. What exactly is it that empirically proves the quoted citation to be fiction? I ask this because nothing of your previous statements and judgements logically concludes this.

  76. PaulN,

    You do have a point—I got ahead of myself a bit in the last post, so let me retract the implication I made regarding whether the quote is fact or fiction. My main aim was just to question the wisdom of quoting people such as Yahya and Fix, given the baggage that they come with, and of course the fact that the Fix quote is 25 years old. Surely there are better, more current sources available?

    As to whether the issue Fix raises is actually a threat to evolution, I would start by citing PZ Myers on the Fix quote:

    We do see molecular novelties, of course, but they do not change the fact that structures like the tetrapod limb are built using similar transcription factors, signalling molecules, and receptors. The message of modern developmental biology and molecular genetics is that the similarities at the level of DNA are surprisingly great.

    So he claims that homology in tetrapod limbs is actually supported by the evidence, and that there is no breakdown as Fix said.

  77. skeech at 71

    Natural selection won’t cull it, but mutation will obliterate it, and quickly. Why? Because there is no selective pressure to preserve genes that code for useless traits.

    Illogical. Mutation will stochastically impact the entire organism. If it obliterates those features without strong selection pressure, it will obliterate everything else.

    Considering some 100 mutations per person per generation, there is no way to select out and eliminate one of those.

    Come back after you read and understood all the models proposed by evolutionists cited by John Sanford in “Genomic Entropy”.

  78. Testing to see if ‘skeech plus’ is out of moderation, plus a response to DLH.

    DLH:

    Mutation will stochastically impact the entire organism. If it obliterates those features without strong selection pressure, it will obliterate everything else.

    DLH,

    What you’re missing is that natural selection will weed harmful mutations out of the population, but not neutral mutations.

    Perhaps a concrete example will help you understand. Humans have an inactivated gene (a “pseudogene”) that enabled one of the stages of vitamin C synthesis in our distant ancestors. Because this gene is inactivated, our bodies cannot synthesize vitamin C, which is why we require it in our diets.

    Now imagine a mutation to the coding region of this vitamin C pseudogene. The gene isn’t expressed, so the mutation makes absolutely no difference to the ability of its possessors to survive and reproduce. They produce just as many offspring as they would have otherwise, and so the mutation is not filtered out of the population. It may happen to disappear due to genetic drift, but natural selection does not eliminate it.

    Now consider a second mutation, in a blood-clotting gene — a mutation that causes hemophilia. Hemophiliacs are more likely to die before they reproduce, for obvious reasons. Unlike the mutation to the vitamin C pseudogene, mutations to the blood-clotting gene will therefore tend to be weeded out of the population.

    Even if the mutation rates are exactly the same in those two regions of the genome, neutral mutations will accumulate faster in the vitamin C pseudogene than deleterious mutations will accumulate in the blood-clotting gene.

    To use the jargon, the blood-clotting gene is a “conserved region”. The vitamin C pseudogene is not.

  79. skeech plus
    Wishful thinking with ignorance of near neutral mutations overwhelming any hope of “weeding harmful mutations out”.
    See mutations causing cancers.

    Read Sanford’s Genetic Entropy review of population models.

    See Simulation Wars MendalsAccountant

  80. Skeech says:

    As feebish pointed out, structures don’t come for free. An organism pays a cost to produce them, putting that individual at a disadvantage. Useless eyes, noses and ears would not be selectively neutral.

    What is the cost to produce them?

    Also, how successful would you expect to be at attracting mates if you had an extra, nonfunctional nose?

    Obviously if any one individual was born with a random body part that was out of the norm, then that individual would probably have a hard time finding a mate due to that individual being perceived as different in an unhealthy way.

    My point again is why is the end product of evolution on a grand scale always functional. What is the cost of creating nonfunctional structures?

    You asked why did God create in a manner that is consistent with common descent. Why does evolution create in a manner consistent with design?

    Why didnt evolution create creatures with a two noses and one eye or noses where ears currently are and an ear where the nose is? Why does evolution create as if by design?

    Why didnt evolution create our eyebrows under our eyes instead of above them? Why do we have fingerprints (that aid in gripping) on the side of our hands we use the most instead of on the backs of our hands.

    Why do mutations not create light sensing rods and cones in our ears instead of in our eyes? Why do mutations create light and color detecting rods and cones at all?

    Why are the proteins in the electron transport chain embedded in the membranes of mitochondria in order of ascending electronegativity? Why are electron transport chains right next to ATP Synthase proteins. Why did random mutations create ATP Synthase molecules in the first place?

    Why do random mutations create structures that can detect smells? Why did random mutations place the smell detecting structures in the nose instead of on our tongue? Why didnt tastebuds evolve in our ears?

    Why is it that we eat with our mouths so proteins that detect taste evolved in the mouth, we see with our eyes so proteins that detect light and color evolved in our eyes, we smell by inhaling so proteins that detect smell evolved in our noses? How do completely random mutations just happen to get it right all the time.

    What would the cost be of tastebuds in ears instead of in the mouth or rhodopsin molecules up our noses instead of in our eyes.

    What is this cost you speak of that prevents random mutations from creating useless structures? What was the cost of creating eyebrows under our eyes that made them evolve over our eyes instead of beneath them?

    Random mutations should be able to create absolutely nothing but instead all it does is create beautifully and intricately designed organisms. Why?

    Why did random mutations create the proteins of the electron transport chain? Why did random mutations create enzymes that speed up reactions required for life to exist? Why did random mutations create rough ER and smooth ER and the golgi apparatus and lysosomes and microtubules and peroxisomes and centrioles and ribosomes?

    Why did random mutations create motor proteins like kinesin that carry transport vesicles along microtubules to various parts of the cell? Why did random mutations create motor proteins like myosin that work with actin filaments (why did random mutations create actin filaments) to bring about cell division?

    Im starting to rant so Ill just end this here. The answer to all of these questions is that random mutations can not and do not do these things. Random mutation does not have the creative capacity to produce the incredibly intricate and sophisticated level of DESIGN that we find in nature. Random mutations could not create an eye or a flagellum in a trillion quadrillion times infinity years (notwithstanding what Dawkins or anyone else says). Random mutations accounting for an eye or a flagellum would be like a three year old typing the entire bible blindfolded. Given enough time, the impossible remains impossible.

    Life was designed, random mutations had nothing to do with it. Deal with it.

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