Home » Darwinism, Evolution, Intelligent Design » To Explain the Flagellum — Just Look Up All the Homologies

To Explain the Flagellum — Just Look Up All the Homologies

There’s an interesting exchange tucked away in some comments at the Pandasthumb on what it would take to provide an evolutionary explanation of the bacterial flagellum:

http://www.pandasthumb.org/pt-archives/001126.html#c34823

[Timothy Scriven writes:]

ID so far hasn’t yet completely jumped the shark, but when the first reasonably detailed model of the evolution of the fallgela (major step by major step) comes out they’ll not only jump the shark but get eaten by it as well. Judging by the progress which has already been made on the problem I’d say their about to leap any moment now. I predict that after the evolution of the fallgela is mapped it will be onto the next organism, then the next then the next and that I think ( or rather hope) may be the end of even public support for the movement.

By the way, I think the first researcher to propose a detailed, falsifiable model of the evolution of the fallgela should receive a nobel prize, anyone else agree?

++++++++++++++++++++

http://www.pandasthumb.org/pt-archives/001126.html#c34840

[Nick Matzke responds:]

As much as I would like to agree, given that I wrote this, devising a reasonable model on paper is just a matter of doing the necessary literature research — i.e., actually looking up all of homologies, something no IDist has ever done — and synthesizing it in the context of standard modern evolutionary theory. It’s not a particularly difficult thing to do, it’s just that the number of people who know are sufficiently familiar with both flagellum biochemistry and evolutionary biology is rather small.

Plus, there isn’t a Nobel prize for evolution. There isn’t even a Nobel prize for biology, because old Mr. Nobel didn’t think to endow one.

(And it’s flagellum, singular, flagella, plural. From the Latin word for “whip”, I think. You get points for creativity with “fallgela”, though.)

The point I wish to focus on is Matzke’s claim that the key to explaining the flagellum in evolutionary terms is a literature search of homologies. To see the absurdity of this claim, consider that virtually all human designs these days are put together from components that have appeared in other designed systems (components that are therefore “homologous” to components in preexisting systems). And yet what engineer would think that the problem of solving the design of X is resolved by showing how the components of X are homologous to components making up preexisting systems Y, Z, and W. The problem is not a matter of identifying similar parts, but of coordinating them into n0vel, functional wholes. No literature search of preexisting components will resolve this problem.

Note that Matzke’s additional claim that once the homologies are identified they need to be synthesized “in the context of standard modern evolutionary theory” adds no further insight since this amounts to evolutionary story-telling. The bacterial flagellum is an engineered system and even with all the right components in hand, there is a concept here ( “bidirectional motor-driven propellor”) that needs to be realized. No theory has the specificity to realize this concept. I made this point in my response (go here) to an earlier article by Matzke on the bacterial flagellum.

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32 Responses to To Explain the Flagellum — Just Look Up All the Homologies

  1. 1
    The_Intellectual_Ape

    This post demonstrates a prevalent non sequitur in Darwinists’s thinking. It goes: “Life on Earth has changed over time; therefore, we must assume it happened randomly and without a purpose.”

    Many within the Intelligent Design community agree with the *first half* of the preceding sentence. This obviously says nothing concerning the mechanism of the drastic changes which must have occurred. Darwinists redefine what they mean when they use the term “evolution” in an attempt to avoid major problems Neo-Darwinian Theory (NDT). If there were no problems with NDT, we wouldn’t see scientists like Stephen J. Gould, Johnjoe McFadden, and Lynn Margulis concocting new (and often bizarre) solutions to how life changed on this planet. So too, the Intelligent Design community offers a mechanism – a designing agent. Unless Darwinists realize what they are up against, they have no hope of maintaining the secular religion they hold dear.

  2. 2
    Skeptical_Dualist

    “And yet what engineer would think that the problem of solving the design of X is resolved by showing how the components of X are homologous to components making up preexisting systems Y, Z, and W. The problem is not a matter of identifying similar parts, but of coordinating them into n0vel, functional wholes. No literature search of preexisting components will resolve this problem.”

    Bingo!

    It is a testimony to the intellectual bankruptcy of modern evolutionary theory apologeticists that when the question is posed “How did certain complex features of life develop?” the answer given is a reference to pre-existing organisms containing very similar, though distinct, homologous structures of the complex feature in question.

    The “Intellectual Ape” has it right here too…there is a distinction between knowing that “the nature of life has progressed over time” and being able to answer the question of “how that progression occurred”. This, I believe, is one of the main reasons to anticipate the downfall of modern evolutionary theory (or at least the metaphysical philosophy of it).

    By the way, check out my new blog at http://reflections-on-reality.blogspot.com/

  3. The darwinian storys will become a victim of the shark;-) The “shark” is better known under the term “increasing knowledge” and this includes also a better knowledge about the complex patterns of similarities among organisms. Okay, “future is the undiscovered country” but that’s my opinion on this topic.

  4. To explain ID, *don’t* look up the homologies

    Homologies, homologies…

  5. I think I can whip up a functional gocart made of nothing but washing machine and refrigerator parts. I refuse to believe that any number of tornadoes ripping through any number of appliance junkyards will come up with a gocart. There’s a huge difference between having an array of components dedicated to other functions and assembling them in a complex specified manner for a new function. To add insult to injury I recall reading some rather convincing evidence that the vaunted type II (or whatever) secretory system didn’t come into existence until AFTER the flagella was already in use.

    Hey, can I get credit for inventing the phrase “complex specified manner”? CSM. That’s got a nice ring to it, dunnit? ;-)

  6. Nick Matzke on Panda’s Thumb says:

    “I showed that a reasonably detailed model for the evolutionary origin of the bacterial flagellum was perfectly plausible.”

    Do y’all find unilateral declarations of victory like Nick’s as amusing as I do?

  7. Hey Nick – how do you propose testing your flagellar evolution hypothesis? If it can’t be tested then it’s just more pseudo-scientific narrative posing as real science innit?

  8. One of the problems with the homology argument (in addition to what you described, Bill) is that even if there are cases homology may be a helpful, the homology is interpreted in the wrong direction!

    Credit “Rackne” on Mike Gene’s website:

    http://www.idthink.net/biot/tales/index.html


    The eubacterial flagellum has been cited as an obstacle to Darwinian evolution (Denton 1985; Behe 1996). In response to this, many Darwinists, primarily writing on internet discussion boards, have raised the type III secretory system as illustrating a step in the evolution of the flagellum. The secretory system is employed by bacteria for transporting proteins into other cells, which can either harm the receiver or establish a mutualistic symbiosis, as in Rhizobium and legumes, where the bacteria provides the plant with nitrogen, while the plant supplies nutritients.

    The secretory system has substantial homologues with the flagellum (Hueck 1998), and some critics imagine the simple secretory system as a precursor to the more complex flagellum. This, however, is at odds with the concensus of the scientific community, which is that it was the secretory system that evolved from the flagellum, not the other way around (e.g. Stephens & Shapiro 1996; Macnab 1999; Nguyen 2000), though see Gohpna, Ron & Graur (2003) for a dissenting opinion and Saier (2004) for a response. Contrary to acting as a “steppping stone” in the evolution of flagella, the secretory system is the result of reducing selection, a common fate for organisms living in close symbiotic relationships (Andersson & Andersson 1999).”

    Homology is based on circular reasoning. It is not provable, and has been thrown into severe doubt as an evidence for common descent because of the problem of “convergence”.

  9. Dr. Dembski wrote, in personal e-mail:

    I’ve made an adjustment to my post
    in light of your remark. If you revise
    your remark accordingly and keep it
    civil, I’ll post it. –WmAD

    I’m honored to be included in the discussion and to have made some small impact on the debate. I trust I will always strive to be civil; any failure of civility on my part is because of lack social skill, not a lack of good intention.

    The revised post reads:

    Note that Matzke’s additional claim that once the homologies are identified they need to be synthesized “in the context of standard modern evolutionary theory” adds no further insight since this amounts to evolutionary story-telling.

    It’s true that Matzke’s “Evolution in Brownian Space” is story-telling. This is one of the most important insights of ID, that evolutionary biologist use these “Just-So” stories. These evolutionary trajectories act as the engineer’s back-of-the-napkin sketch, the composer’s sung-in-the-shower ditty, or the actor’s off-the-cuff character improvisation. It’s something to test, refine and discard if proven unworkable. It’s a way to break apart a huge task into smaller bits.

    I made this point in my response (go here) to an earlier article by Matzke on the bacterial flagellum.

    I was aware of “Biology in a Subjunctive Mood” but it doesn’t address my concern. I agree with you that Matzke hasn’t proven that the flagellum evolved. I’ll even go a step farther and say, for the sake of argument, that he’s flat-out wrong in some important, subtle and irresolvable way. What I don’t see is how this helps Intelligent Design.

    ID doesn’t claim (as I understand) that the flagellum (to use an example) didn’t evolve along a particular path. It doesn’t even claim that the flagella didn’t evolve at all. It claims that it could not evolve in any possible way. That is, to re-phrase, that there are no possible evolutionary trajectories, even if evolution didn’t follow any of those trajectories.

    In this light, proving Mr. Matzke wrong is no more supports ID than showing that the sentence “Angry kumquats sanctify iconoclast argyle.” is meaningless supports the theory “All English sentences are gibberish”.

    Instead of pointing out problems in Mr. Matzke’s formulation (which, I admit, might be legion), ID can only advance, as I understand it, by showing that there is no possible path, and that any attempted path is categorically wrong.

    This is what separates a mature Intelligent Design theory from a “God of the Gaps” argument; proving the statement “No possible evolutionary trajectory exists for X“. I’m not sure how such a proof would work or what it could even look like, but as I see it, that’s what’s needed.

    When you say:

    The bacterial flagellum is an engineered system and even with all the right components in hand, there is a concept here ( “bidirectional motor-driven propellor”) that needs to be realized.

    It seems to me that you’re assuming what you’ve set out to prove. Not all things that look designed are Irreducibly Complex: Until all possible trajectories are eliminated, you can’t say, for sure, that there is an actual “concept” there, rather than a fortuitous combination of parts.

    Thank your for you time and attention.

    Duke York

  10. I wish we could just have two sciences; one from a naturalist approach and one from a teleological approach.

    We have a two-party political system, why can’t we have some sort of equivalent in science? A two-philosophy system if you will.

  11. I wish someone would explain to me the difference between God of the Gaps and Darwin of the Gaps.

  12. DaveScot wrote:

    I wish someone would explain to me the difference between God of the Gaps and Darwin of the Gaps.

    Sure — I’ll give it a shot.

    “Darwin of the Gaps” — which I think is a nice coinage, BTW — does look alot like “God of the Gaps.” The only difference is the approach. When you put God in a gap, you’re saying, in effect, that there’s nothing more there to find, that any research into the situation, whatever it is, is a waste of time, because there’s literally nothing there. That “gap” was bridged by a miracle, so you can’t find anything except an empty tomb.

    “Darwin of the Gaps” is different, though. By assuming that the Gap is just the same sort of thing we’ve seen before, the same thing we see now, it lets you make a hypothesis. The first hypothesis might just be a wild guess but it will have some sort of prediction. To tie this in to the topic of the thread, when Matzke (in Evolution inBrownian Space) predicted an ancestoral type III secretory syste might be found in wild bacteria, he was testing his hypothesis. Regardless of whether this question is answered in the affirmative or the negative, we’ll know something more than we did when we started.

    And this is the primary difference between “The God of the Gaps” and “Darwin of the Gaps.” Darwin gives us the tools to either fill the gap in or at least bridge it. God just lets us…

    Um. I really shouldn’t complete that sentence. It’s up to every individual what God is.

    Duke York

  13. “God just lets us” research His creation and by doing so thus “proving the statement ‘No possible evolutionary trajectory exists for X.’” I’m not sure how “Darwin gives us the tools” considering Science itself came about from a Christian worldview. There obviously is a difference in assumptions and goals but to assert that a Christian worldview would hold back Science is incorrect as far as I’m concerned.

  14. Duke York

    First of all let’s get it out up front that “God” and “intelligent agent” are not synonymous. I use the phrase God of the Gaps merely in deference to popularity. For accuracy it should be Design of the Gaps.

    Putting Darwin into a gap doesn’t spur research. It closes the case is what it does. When a suspicious death is ruled to be by natural causes does that spur further investigation into the death or close the book on it?

    In reality putting God in a gap spurs research by those wishing to show it wasn’t God. Absolutely no one would be trying to come up with an evolutionary sequence for the flagella if it hadn’t become an icon of design.

    Furthermore, not a single nucleotide sequence changes as a result of a gap having God or Darwin in it. Whether the flagella was designed or not doesn’t change a single flagellar attribute nor does it change anyone’s desire to reverse engineer it to see how it works.

    A basic bit of deceit practiced by Darwin apologists is saying that because something is assumed to be designed no one will be further interested in it. There is absolutely no basis to say that. Just because something is designed doesn’t mean knowing how it works is useless information – non sequitur. In fact I would put forward that presuming design makes it MORE interesting because that assumption causes us to assume the object of interest has rhyme, reason, and purpose. In other words, if something was worth designing then its worth knowing exactly how it works.

    That said, as an engineer I do have a great bias against spending public time and money on knowledge for the sake of knowledge. There are too many real problems in the world the solution of which will decrease suffering or better the human condition. Seek practical knowledge that benefits humanity. For instance, knowing the Darwinian evolutionary sequence, if there is one, that brought about the flagella will not better the human condition by one iota. Knowing exactly how the flagella works may indeed be valuable information but still I’d rather fund research into reverse engineering cancer cells than reverse engineering flagella. It’s all a matter of setting the right priorities.

  15. Then again, reverse engineering the flagella (biomimetics) might be a requirement for a nanomachine designed to take out cancerous cells.

  16. “reverse engineering the flagella (biomimetics) might be a requirement for a nanomachine designed to take out cancerous cells.”

    True enough but the reverse engineering of flagella has nothing at all to do with whether it’s the product of design or accident. Flagella work the same either way.

    In any case, any engineer worth his salt will tell you necessity is the mother of invention. You don’t run off half cocked spending time and money investigating things for no good reason. I can’t think of any practical reason why the field of evolutionary biology even exists. It shares more in common with stamp collecting than it does with science & engineering.

  17. Gumpngreen wrote:

    Science itself came about from a Christian worldview.

    I’m going to have to respectfully disagree here. You’ve got it exactly backwards. Christianity’s is descended from science’s, not the other way around.

    The success of Christianity is a historical accident brought about by the early church’s presence in the secular, rational society of the late Greco-Roman. Because the Christians 1) were a Jewish sect that had to appeal to mostly-Greek Gentiles and 2) had a historical event to point to (the crucifixion, naturally) they had to play to their audiences Skepticism (and Stocism and Epicurianism) by pointing to Real Things ™. They co-opted the Neo-Platonist’s rational world view to spread their own religion, which is one of the reasons they outdid the cults of Mithras and Isis, who didn’t have the same historicity to use.

    If anything, Christianity and science are siblings, both descended, in part, from classical Greek rationalism.

    If Christianity is the origin of science, why did the advances of science start with the Renaissance, with the rebirth of classical, pagan traditions, information and thought? If Christiantiy is the origin of science, why were the Arabs so far ahead of Christendom when the Catholic church was at its strongest?

    To assert that a Christian worldview would hold back Science is incorrect as far as I’m concerned

    Here here! I couldn’t agree with you more here. Of course, I would add the caveat that a Creationist worldview would hold back science tremendeously, and that there is a vast difference between Christianity and Creationism.

    Duke York

  18. First of all let’s get it out up front that “God” and “intelligent agent” are not synonymous.

    Really? Apart from the Raelians, which of the major players in ID aren’t theologians, Moonies or in some way beholden to evangellical Christianity? Or evangellical Islam, in the case of Harun Yahya?

    Absolutely no one would be trying to come up with an evolutionary sequence for the flagella if it hadn’t become an icon of design.

    Possibly true, since there are so many things to investigate.

    In reality putting God in a gap spurs research by those wishing to show it wasn’t God.

    If this is the only use of Intelligent Design, what is the possible use of teaching it in high school?

    A basic bit of deceit practiced by Darwin apologists is saying that because something is assumed to be designed no one will be further interested in it.

    This isn’t what we’re saying at all: assuming something’s designed takes away a huge range of questions about the thing, leaving you only with simple things like “How does this work?” and “How fast does that thing there turn?” Evolution lets us ask things like “Where did that thing come from?” or “What other, different, things is it fundamentally like?”. The non-evolutionary questions are useful, up to a point, but they only let us describe the thing. The evolutionary questions let us understand it. To turn the topic around, which question is more important about Jesus: “How tall was he?” or “Who is his father?”

    That said, as an engineer I do have a great bias against spending public time and money on knowledge for the sake of knowledge. There are too many real problems in the world the solution of which will decrease suffering or better the human condition.

    I have to disagree with this comment. It sounds like Henry L. Ellsworth, the sorce of the “we should close the Patent Office because everything’s been discovered” urban legend. How do you know which things (that we already know) will slove real problems if we research a little more?

    I won’t mention that Darwin’s discovery was a man’s search for knowledge for its own sake, but that’s just because of the forum I’m on right now.

    What about Einstein’s discoveries? Those were made by a man who just wanted to know stuff without realizing that it would lead man to split the atom.

    What about quantum physics? The computer you’re working on now couldn’t be designed without it, but it came from a bunch of men who just wanted to know why that one little thing wasn’t happenin in some theoretical part of the atom.

    My point is this: the novel, world changing science is never “just more of the same.”

    I can’t think of any practical reason why the field of evolutionary biology even exists. It shares more in common with stamp collecting than it does with science & engineering.

    Except that stamp collecting doesn’t make predictions and run fruitflies through millions of generations to test them (the predictions, that is).

    Duke York

  19. “Apart from the Raelians, which of the major players in ID aren’t theologians, Moonies or in some way beholden to evangellical Christianity?”

    I don’t know. I don’t catalog the personal beliefs of the “major players” and don’t really care what they are. I’m an agnostic myself but that’s irrelevant too. The salient issues are whether there is evidence of design in the machinery of life and whether random mutation plus natural selection is capable of explaining it.

    “If this is the only use of Intelligent Design, what is the possible use of teaching it in high school?”

    I’m trying to figure out what the use is for teaching ANY theory of origins in high school science classes. That said, if intelligent design is something that did indeed play a role in the evolution of life shouldn’t it be taught simply because it is the truth? I always thought science was about following the evidence wherever it leads. If the evidence leads to intelligent design then that’s just the way the cookie crumbles. Tough bananas if that’s inconsistent with your personal beliefs.

    “Evolution lets us ask things like “Where did that thing come from?” or “What other, different, things is it fundamentally like?”.”

    If you find those questions useful or interesting go ahead and ask them. Do you think ID is something that takes over your brain and dictates what questions you are allowed to ask like some George Orwell fantasy on steroids? Don’t be silly. The point, if any, is that evolutionary biologists might not have a ready source of public funding to help answer their questions. Tough nuggies. My tax dollars, my choice. You are free to spend your own money on whatever floats your boat. Just keep your hand out of my pocket to pay for it. What could be more fair than that?

    “which question is more important about Jesus: “How tall was he?” or “Who is his father?””

    You are so transparent trying to appeal to what you presuppose are my religious beliefs. The really funny thing is that you’re barking up the wrong tree. I don’t have any religious beliefs. I never did. I was a Darwinian atheist in the finest Dawkinsian tradition until around 1991 when I read a book about ID. I was instantly transformed into a Darwin doubting agnostic and I’m mad as hell that I was gulled in high school and college into thinking that Darwinian evolution was uncontested, uncontestable fact. See what kind of trouble your assumptions about people’s personal beliefs gets you into? I imagine there’s going to be a lot more people just like me as the word gets out. That’s what Darwinists fear the most – word getting out. If Darwinian dogma can’t even withstand that sticker in the biology books in Dover I can hardly think of a more profound way to demonstrate that it’s a theory in crisis.

    “It sounds like Henry L. Ellsworth, the sorce of the “we should close the Patent Office because everything’s been discovered” urban legend.”

    Wow. Open mouth, insert foot again. I’m the named inventor on 5 U.S. patents granted in the last few years and part of my job before I retired was a weekly assessment of the potential value and patentablility of dozens of patent abstracts for a $40B computer company. You seem to have confused practical research and invention which I highly approve of with spending time and money answering any damn fool question anyone might think of asking. Time and money need to be prioritized to accomplish the most good.

    “What about Einstein’s discoveries?”

    Excellent point. I suggest you ask yourself why you had to make it with a physicist instead of the zoologists you are attempting to defend. Rearranging the deck chairs in phylogenetic trees just doesn’t compare well to hard science. :-)

    “The computer you’re working on now couldn’t be designed without it”

    Funny you should mention that. Some of my inventions from the early 1980′s are incorporated in the computer you’re working on now. There’s really little in the way of quantum physics knowledge explicitely required to design a computer or anything in it. I should know as that’s what I did for a living for decades. The only real bit where quantum physics knowledge was leveraged for practical benefit is in FLASH ROM which uses quantum tunneling to achieve high density non-volatile storage elements.

    “run fruitflies through millions of generations to test them (the predictions, that is).”

    Say, did any of those fruitfly experiments result in the creation of anything that wasn’t a fruit fly? Drosophila isn’t really a fruit fly, by the way. It’s a common mistake. What’s also a common mistake is believing that Drosophila experiments support the notion that random mutation plus natural selection can create novel cell types, tissue types, organs, and body plans.

  20. DaveScot wrote:

    I don’t know. I don’t catalog the personal beliefs of the “major players” and don’t really care what they are. I’m an agnostic myself but that’s irrelevant too. The salient issues are whether there is evidence of design in the machinery of life and whether random mutation plus natural selection is capable of explaining it.

    Really? Unless you’re an extreme polymath who knows multiple disciplines, you’re not going to be able to judge, first hand, all the evidence for or against evolution. The best you can do is judge your own part of it (if you’re a doctor in a particular area) and skim the rest;those of us who aren’t doctors will have to skim and judge the reliability not just of the sources but the presenters of the source. It’s imperative to have a familiarity where the information you’re getting comes from. Does the man telling you need more protien in your diet own a cattle ranch, for example?

    This is, perhaps, the strongest social argument for evolution: both atheists and Christians agree it’s the best explaination for biological diversity.

    I’m trying to figure out what the use is for teaching ANY theory of origins in high school science classes.

    Well, there are quite a few reasons for teaching biological origins in high school, or at least the evolutionary perspective. First off, the record is studded with extinction events, both large and small. This will show the kids that life is not permanent. Like it or not, mankind is the bull in the china-shop right now, and we need to let the kids know that when the last rhino dies, there isn’t anything that’s going to bring it back.

    Second, if you assume evolution, you can make predictions about how your actions will effect the living world. If mankind (and particularly America) had internalized Darwin, we wouldn’t be having nearly the trouble with antibiotic resistance we are now.

    Third, evolution has produced some really, really good designs. This might not be immediately useful to High Schoolers, but introducing them to the idea might get them to go into fields where they can exploit them.

    Fourth, but by no means lastly, biology really only makes sense in light of common descent through unintelligent modification. Before Darwin, biology was “stamp collecting”, as you put it. You find a creature, you give it a species, you put it with whatever genus seems best, you trace it back up Linnean classification. After, though, you have the tools to see not what Linneus’s classification of the thing was, but natures; not how it is named but how it arose.

    Now, let me ask you; what are the good reasons for teaching world history in high school.

    I always thought science was about following the evidence wherever it leads. If the evidence leads to intelligent design then that’s just the way the cookie crumbles. Tough bananas if that’s inconsistent with your personal beliefs.

    Just as a though experiment, could you tell me what possible evidence would lead to the conclusion of a designer? I’m giving you free rein here. Things looking like they were designed are out — the whole point of this “controversy” is about whether things that look designed are designed or not. What other evidence could there be? Seriously, I want to know your thoughts on this.

    You are so transparent trying to appeal to what you presuppose are my religious beliefs.

    I see that I may have offended you here, and I’m sorry. My rhetoric generator sometimes gets ahead of my checker. I was going to say “What’s more important, how tall Abraham Lincoln was, or why he kept the Union together”, but that didn’t carry make the exact point. My intent with the Jesus reference was to highlight that measuring something (that is height, which, admittedly, you don’t need evolution for) is sometimes nowhere near as important as parentage (which is what evolution is all about). I’m sorry if my words got away from me.

    Just as a side-note, I’ve followed almost the exact same trajectory as you, except that I read those ID books and found them unconvincing.

    That’s what Darwinists fear the most – word getting out.

    Um… Huh? The major debate about evolution is about supporters trying to get the word out, make sure that people get the chance to learn it. When you call yourself “Dawkinsian”, you’re giving credit to a man who’s built his career on making sure more people know about evolution. Gould spent his life popularizing the stuff.

    If Darwinian dogma can’t even withstand that sticker in the biology books in Dover I can hardly think of a more profound way to demonstrate that it’s a theory in crisis.

    First off, it’s not dogma. If anyone has any concrete proof against evolution, it would be published. They don’t. Read what the people working in the ID field actually write, and compare it to papers published in evolution. I’m no expert, sure, but the difference is there. Just as an example, look at Well’s recent paper in Rivista di Biologia (Appologies if I misspell the Italian. Or the English ^_^.) He’s making a prediction based on the assumption that centrioles are designed. The trouble is, he’s assuming his conclusion. The whole point of evolution is that things can act as if they’re designed without being designed (or rather, being designed by unintelligent processes). Regardless of if his predictions are born out or not, they can only contribute to the apperance of design, which is evident in both the designed and the “designoid” (to borrow Dawkins’s coinage).

    What’s why I want to know what, in principle, could be evidence for Intelligent Design. That’s what I meant in my first post. Apart from proving a universal negative, what else could there be?

    If Darwinian dogma can’t even withstand that sticker in the biology books in Dover I can hardly think of a more profound way to demonstrate that it’s a theory in crisis.

    The sticker fiasco wasn’t about defending evolutionary science. If you had a generation of Pennsylvian kids who grew up without a good introduction to evolution, it probably wouldn’t hurt it too much. Sure, it might turn off the next great thinker in the field, but if that’s where the kid’s genius lies, they’d probably get there anyway, despite the late start. It might even hurt Pennsylvania’s chance to lure high-tech companies, but, eh, the work will be done in whatever state the work is done in.

    No, most of the struggle against ID takes place in the same place the proponents of ID choose to work: The political arena. You’ve read the Wedge document, right?

    The Dover sticker incident was about two things: one, trying to keep the government from cryptically supporting a minority religious view; and two, making sure that the Dover children are exposed to facts rather than misinformation.

    Wow. Open mouth, insert foot again. I’m the named inventor on 5 U.S. patents

    First off, I’m sorry I offended you above. No matter how many patents you hold, though, you don’t know what the next development in your field is going to be. That’s why we have to strike a stance of humility towards pure research. The most innovative developments come from things we don’t understand, not things we do.

    Some of my inventions from the early 1980’s are incorporated in the computer you’re working on now. There’s really little in the way of quantum physics knowledge explicitely required to design a computer or anything in it.

    First off, thanks for the work on the computer there. I use mine a lot.

    Could you have done it, though, if you didn’t know that electrons came in quantized energy levels? If you didn’t know what those energy levels were? If you didn’t know the structure of silicon’s valence electrons? If you didn’t have the theoretical sophistcation to understand the laser in the CD drive? Could you design any solid state electronic component without knowing how electrons interact with nuclei?

    I admit I’m only a chemical engineer, but I’ve had some quantum, too, and I don’t see how any of those questions could be have “no” as an answer.

    Excellent point. I suggest you ask yourself why you had to make it with a physicist instead of the zoologists you are attempting to defend.

    Well, I made that point with a physicist because all of the major innovations in biology since Darwin have been in support of Darwin and impossible without Darwin. One, I didn’t want to deal with your attitude of dismissal (although I didn’t avoid that ^_^) and two, I didn’t want to assume my conclusion.

    Rearranging the deck chairs in phylogenetic trees just doesn’t compare well to hard science. :-)

    Only because you’ve decided that phylogeny isn’t hard science.

    Drosophila isn’t really a fruit fly, by the way. It’s a common mistake.

    It wasn’t a mistake. That’s what they’re called in common parlance and you understand what I meant and they’re flies and they eat fruit. You’re quibbling over details because you know what’s coming next.

    Say, did any of those fruitfly experiments result in the creation of anything that wasn’t a fruit fly?

    First off, yeah, you have to be sure, when working in a biology lab, that your specimins don’t get to far away the wild type, if you don’t want them to.

    Secondly, you have to define your terms. What’s a fruit fly to you? What would you see as not a fruit fly? In the real world of biology — the one you don’t think kids need to learn about — there is one definition of “Drosophila” that has any real meaning, and that is as a species, or, in other words, a breeding population. If two flies are descended from one ancestor are incapable of interbreeding then they have undergone a speciation and one or both of them aren’t Drosophila. You may stand up and say “but they’re still fruit flies” but that’s just because you know know what fruit flies are.

    Speciation has been observed plenty, both in the lab and in the field. I’ll give you the link:

    http://www.talkorigins.org/faq.....ation.html

    But you’re going to look at the address and decide pre-emptively that it’s not “hard science” and ignore it.

    What’s also a common mistake is believing that Drosophila experiments support the notion that random mutation plus natural selection can create novel cell types, tissue types, organs, and body plans.

    How does it not support that? We’ve seen bacteria evolve novel responces to enviromental stresses that they couldn’t have known before the arrival of man. The only reason bacteria are the best representative of this kind of change we have are is they breed so fast. Why won’t we see the same thing in larger animals if we let the experiment run for the same number of generations?

    You want more? I’ll give you a chance to come with more ad-hoc rationalizations. Go google “teocinte” and tell me why it didn’t express a whole new bodyplan when it became maize.

    Even if you want to challenge that teocinte (teosinte, whatever) wasn’t the direct ancestor of maize, you have to face the fact that indian corn is not a viable species. It lacks the ability to propogate in the wild, without man. Unless you hypothesize that the Corn God gave maize to the first man, at some point some plant had develop this new body plan, and that’s what you’re asking for.

    I have a list of ad-hoc excuses for ready for you, but part of the fun of this forum is doing the work yourself, so I won’t deny you.

    Duke

  21. “Unless you’re an extreme polymath who knows multiple disciplines, you’re not going to be able to judge, first hand, all the evidence for or against evolution.”

    I am an extreme polymath. Auto-didact. Going on 50 years of voracious consumption of any and all scientific literature processed and correlated by an IQ well into the genius range. I had all the hard science in the World Book encyclopedia memorized by the third grade and that was just the beginning. I’ve read, I reckon, 400 issues of Scientific American cover-to-cover and understand most of it. For the last 12 years I’ve been using the world wide web to augment my usual sources and it has accelerated the learning curve by a good order of magnitude. I’m never away from it. I have a PC with a broadband internet even in my boat.

    “Just as a though experiment, could you tell me what possible evidence would lead to the conclusion of a designer?”

    Irreducible complexity and complex specified information.

    “First off, it’s not dogma. If anyone has any concrete proof against evolution, it would be published.”

    If anyone had proof for evolution that would be published as well. The fact of the matter is that no one has observed, in the field or in the laboratory, random mutation + natural selection creating a novel cell type, tissue type, organ, or body plan. RM+NS is a narrative. I consider irreducible complexity as proof against RM+NS. So did Darwin. RM+NS is dogma. Publication is not what it’s cracked up to be. Mendelian genetics, for example, was published and languished in unacknowledged obscurity for over 30 years.

    “That’s what they’re called in common parlance and you understand what I meant and they’re flies and they eat fruit.”

    Common parlance in this case is a common mistake. Drosophila is a vinegar fly. Fruit flys are of the family Tephritidae not Drosophila. Now you know. Use it or lose it, it’s no skin off my nose.

    “you have to be sure, when working in a biology lab, that your specimins don’t get to far away the wild type, if you don’t want them to.”

    Every radical procedure that anyone has been able to dream up has been used to get Drosophila as far from the wild type as possible. None resulted in anything that wasn’t a vinegar fly. Another example is the dog. 20,000 years of selective breeding for unusual traits that would never survive natural selection has not resulted in any anatomical structure uncharacteristic of canines. Any objective analysis of these experiments points to a limitation in what mutation plus selection is capable of creating.

    “Speciation has been observed plenty, both in the lab and in the field.”

    Speciation has been observed by changing the definition of speciation. It used to be defined as the inability of two individuals to produce fertile offspring. I believe Darwinists refer to this as “moving the goal post”. I will only note that speciation, even in the classic definition, was never MY goal post. My goal post has always been and shall forever remain the creation of novel cell types, tissue types, organs, and body plans. These are the true markers of biological diversification. Speciation without novelty in the aforementioned attributes is a simple reshuffling of cards already in the deck.

    “We’ve seen bacteria evolve novel responces to enviromental stresses that they couldn’t have known before the arrival of man.”

    Nonsense. Chemical warfare at the microscopic level has been going on for billions of years. Most if not all the anti-bacterial toxins employed by man were either found in nature or are close analogs of toxins found in nature. No bacteria has been observed to change into anything that isn’t a bacteria to thwart them. Minor tweaks to already existing defense mechanisms is all they do and, evidently, is all they’re capable of doing.

    “Go google “teocinte” and tell me why it didn’t express a whole new bodyplan when it became maize.”

    Teosinte and maize are both still grasses just as wolves and chihuahuas are both still canines. It’s another excellent example of the evident limitation in variability of Mendelian genetics. Thanks for bringing it up.

    Further responses to your trite Darwinisms runs the risk of me boring the owner of the blog and boring Dr. Dembski is the kiss of death. See if you can come up with something new for me to derail as you’re boring me too.

  22. DaveScot wrote:

    I am an extreme polymath.

    I applaud your strong self-image, but surely you realize that the worst posible authority to argue from is yourself.

    Irreducible complexity and complex specified information.

    *sigh* This, again? Did you not read my first post? For such an extreme polymath, I’d've expected better.

    Irreducible complexity is a logical shambles. It’s defined as

    A single system composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning.

    The problem is, what would a system that ceases funtion with the removal of one part look like? Each part of the flagellum has a use separate from the flagellum, so, but definition, it can’t be IC. As well read as you are, I’m sure you’ve seen the various non-IC mousetraps on the web. I’m trying to think what a creature or organ or even man-made machine that’s truely IC would look like. You’re very smart, as we’ve established thru the ciriculum vitae you’ve posted. Could you please show me something that is actually, unequivicable IC?

    Complex Specified Information is even worse. It uses the philsophical equivalent of the Scholar’s Mate or Dividing by Zero, namely it assumes its conclusion. CSI is defined as follows:

    1. If an event E has high probability, accept Regularity as an explanation; otherwise move to the next step.
    2. If the Chance hypothesis assigns E a high probability or E is not specified, then accept Chance; otherwise move down the list.
    3. Having eliminated Regularity and Chance, accept Design.

    Look at step 1 and you’ll see the problem. Evolution is postulated as a regular, algorythmic process for developing design. CSI assumes, in step one, that it doesn’t work, so CSI can’t be used to prove evolution is impossible. CSI no more a logical argument than “Assume there are no elephants in the room. Elephants live in Africa and Asia. Therefore, there are no elephants in the room.” At least, that’s how it seems to me. What am I missing here? That’s part of the reason I came to this site in the first place. What am I missing?

    Teosinte and maize are both still grasses

    Yeah, that’s the answer I thought I’d get. “I don’t have to look it up because I know I’m right and I can’t be bothered to have a discussion.”

    *Sigh* I can’t believe I have to spell this out for you. You asked for four things. I’m going to break them apart grammatically so that we can see them, sort of a slow motion replay:

    1) Evolution has never produced novel cell types.

    2) Evolution has never produced novel tissue types.

    3) Evolution has never produced novel organs.

    and

    4) Evolution has never produced novel body plans.

    Number four is wrong.

    You’ve granted, by not choosing to contest, that teosinte is the ancestor of corn. Maize has a different bodyplan from teosinte. Therefore, evolution has produced a new body plan.

    I never said that corn wasn’t a grass: that’s a trivially simple argument anything descended from teosinte must be a grass, even if the descendant is domesticated corn or a stalk as tall as a redwood or worthy debating partner for DaveScot. Since they have grass as an ancestor, they’re always going to be grass, just as we humans, from a cladist point of view, are primates, mammals and fish. My point is: Maize has a new bodyplan. That’s what you asked for.

    Further responses to your trite Darwinisms runs the risk of me boring the owner of the blog and boring Dr. Dembski is the kiss of death. See if you can come up with something new for me to derail as you’re boring me too.

    Sorry to bore you. Could you please just answer some questions for me, though? I’ve scattered them around these posts, so I’ll pull them together here for you.

    Question 1:

    How is Intelligent Design different from the God of the Gaps?

    …to rephrase…

    How does ID set out to prove a universal negative?

    Your last attempt at an answer this was:

    I wish someone would explain to me the difference between God of the Gaps and Darwin of the Gaps.

    Which, while clever, wasn’t even an answer.

    Question 2

    What would something Irreducibly Complex look like?

    As far as I know, you’ve never attempted to answer this. As far as I know, no one’s ever answered it. The flagellum doesn’t count, since everyone admits that its parts have homologs and therefore uses outside the flagellum.

    Question 3

    What does a different bodyplan look like?

    …If you want to tackle an easier question first, you can start with…

    Why isn’t maize a different bodyplan from teosinte?

    Now, let me add some ground rules to make this more interesting to the folks at home. No pedantry and no braggadocio. You don’t have to derail me, you don’t have to prove you’re smater than I am, you don’t have to show I’m wrong, you just have to do me the curtesy of answering some questions. Can you do that? Is that within the civil conduct that Dr. Dembski wants on this blog?

    Duke York

  23. Uh oh. Duke is using bold text. I’m in big trouble now.

    “the worst posible authority to argue from is yourself.”

    In your case I’ll agree but not in mine. But let me know when you think I’ve invented something out of thin air and I’ll find a reference for you. Just don’t abuse my magnanimous nature in so doing by questioning my every utterance.

    “*sigh* This, again?”

    Yes, IC and CSI again. Did you think you refuted it earlier? That’s funny! Maybe if I *sigh* like you did it would make my point stronger? Does that work for you? It doesn’t work for me.

    Unequivocable IC in nature: Ribosome/DNA. Have at it. Detailed description of how that came into existence bit by bit, nucleotide by nucleotide, amino acid by amino acid, through random mutation & natural selection. The flagellum was Behe’s challenge. Mine’s the ribosome. Neither challenge has come close to being met.

    “Complex Specified Information is even worse.”

    No it isn’t. It’s quite elegant. You obviously don’t know what it is or don’t understand it. Maybe this following link will help. Let me know what parts of it you don’t understand and I’ll try to spoonfeed it to you.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Specified_complexity

    “Maize has a different bodyplan from teosinte. Therefore, evolution has produced a new body plan.”

    No it doesn’t. They’re both grasses. Grasses all have the same body plan.

    “How is Intelligent Design different from the God of the Gaps?”

    I already told you. An intelligent agent is not synonymous with God. You responded by saying IDers were mostly Christians. 80% of the population in the U.S. are Christians. It’s a slam dunk no brainer that any randomly composed organization in the U.S. will be predominantly Christian. Duh! Your answer was meaningless.

    “What would something Irreducibly Complex look like?”

    A ribosome.

    “What does a different bodyplan look like?”

    A sponge, a bacteria, a yeast, an algae, an ape, a lobster, and teosinte all have different body plans.

    http://www.tolweb.org/tree/

    See the pretty pictures? There are seven different body plans.

    “Why isn’t maize a different bodyplan from teosinte?”

    Because they’re both grasses. I already said that. All grasses have the same body plan.

    “No pedantry and no braggadocio.”

    Who are you to tell me what I can and can’t say?

    “you just have to do me the curtesy of answering some questions.”

    I did. You simply didn’t like the answers and you think by asking them over again (and again) you’ll get a different answer on the Nth time. What is this, a police interrogation?

  24. I’ll let you have the last word, Duke. Make it good. And talk to the coach about sending in a first string player next time.

  25. I’ll let you have the last word, Duke. Make it good.

    Thank you. This is the first gracious thing I’ve ever known you do.

    I have nothing more to add to our discussion. The record exists above and I’m proud of how it came out. You haven’t touched my ideas; indeed, you haven’t even shown the slightest inkling of understanding them.

    What shines an even worse light on you, is your attitude towards me. I came into this civilly, respectfully, and I took your abuse for the sake of the discussion. When you started throwing insults, I allowed you to, as one might allow an ape to throw feces, figuring I might learn something in the experience, if only I kept up trying to teach you to use the knife and fork of intellectual discussion. Well, I’ve failed, I’m covered in your waste and you think you’ve won.

    My only regret is that I let myself get bogged down in what you threw up as “conversation”, thinking there was another person on the end of the line instead of a vituperative idiot.

    An honest, intellegent person, reading the log of our conversation, cannot help but agree with me. Of course, I can understand why you think you’ve won (that is, you think you’ve won because you’re neither honest nor intelligent — I wanted to spell that out to make sure you got it) but as I say, the record is above, for posterity, and here on my hard drive (and thank you so much for inventing that, Mr. Engineer!) and I will proudly show it to anyone who wants to see what it looks like when someone treats DaveScot with respect and deference.

    And talk to the coach about sending in a first string player next time.

    Now you add doubts of your sanity. There’s no need to be paranoid. There isn’t a conspiracy against you. You just make your own enemies naturally.

    And, while I admit I am a second-stringer, I still kicked your @$$.

    (You will notice that I didn’t spell out the crude word I used above; this is because I still respect the civility of this board. See how easy it is?)

    Dr. Dembski, when you invited me to re-post my comment, you requested I be civil. I would like to ask you to review the above transaction and see who the un-civil one was. It doesn’t matter if DaveScot agrees with you; he is hurting your cause with anyone who cares about truth and civilized conversation. If you do care about this forum as a device for spreading your point of view, I admonish you to ban DaveScot.

    Let me put it more succinctly: If DaveScot were the only person on earth to agree with you, you would be better off not letting him post on your board.

    And Dave, to you. Since this is the last word on the subject, let me tell you that you are intellectually deficient and morally bankrupt. Now go and crawl off into your corner like the spoiled little boy you are.

    Duke York

  26. Here’s what DaveScot means when he says “I’ll let you have the last word…”

    Did you think I was going to respect a person that would write the
    following:

    http://post-darwinist.blogspot.....rican.html

    Just as a little thing, I think I’m going to coin my own term of wit
    for
    creationists. “Lying Idiots”. That’s nice… I like that….

    Duke
    [email protected]

    If you did you’re a bigger moron than I first thought. You came into
    Dembski’s blog with a chip on your shoulder. I knocked it off. I gave
    you
    the last word and you chose to use it to throw a little ad hominem
    hissy
    fit. Nice work. With friends like you the Darwin apologists don’t
    need
    enemies.

    Have a nice day.

    You’ve extended me the last word, Mr. Springer. Thanks. I’ll take it. This is it. If you reply to this, you are the one who’s breaking the rules of civilized behavior. Any further correspondence on this topic will be added to this list and my file.

    I may have made an ad hominen attack against you, sure, but you started the name calling. The chip I had on my shoulder was just wanting to know more what one of the major lights of Intelligent Design thought about my ideas, which I presented in the most humble I knew how. I was met with arrogance and name calling from perhaps the worst example of a human mind it’s ever been my displeasure to encounter. Someone who questions your theory isn’t hurting you or hurting your theory. He is, rather, doing you a favor of making your theory stronger.

    But this isn’t your theory, Mr. Springer. Your contribution to the human race ended when you got your last patent, if not before. Again, the record above speaks for itself.

    Again, Dr. Dembski, is this the kind of person you want to be associated with? He agrees with you, yes, but if you lie down with a dog like Dave Springer, you will get up with his fleas. You’re a professor of theology now, sir; would you accept this behavior from one of your students? One of your colleagues?

    Duke York

  27. Duke York: You are off this blog for good. I’ve made some adjustments to your account which should keep you off. If you find a way around it, I’ll delete you entirely, which, given the way WordPress works, means that all your posts will be gone too.

    –WmAD

  28. “An honest, intellegent person, reading the log of our conversation, cannot help but agree with me.”

    Ouch. I think the majority of the visitors to this blog just got insulted. Sorry, but your argument (at least in this blog thread) only seems to support certain aspects of evolutionary theory…aspects that I think even many Creationists would agree with.

    I also think both of you went out of line fairly early on in the discussion. Perhaps I’m reading too much into the text but there seemed to be a thinly veiled hostility coming from both of you. The difference is that DaveScot restrained himself while you took one step further first (though that might have been due merely to the back-and-forth nature of forums like these).

  29. It’s considered good etiquette, from the earliest days of Usenet, to take discussions “offline” (to private email or even to designated flame threads), when they devolve into ad hominem attacks and/or otherwise cease to be productive. Judging this was about to happen in this thread I offered DukeYork the opportunity to have the last word in the public forum then took the conversation offline. Evidently DukeYork is either ignorant of internet etiquette or chooses to ignore it and in an even more egregious breach of etiquette he didn’t bother responding to me via email but instead copied the private correspondence here and then responded to it here.

    Sorry to have troubled you, Dr. Dembski.

  30. GumpnGreen

    Anyone who calls creationists “idiots” for their beliefs causes me to be hostile. His character preceded him as prior to this episode I’d made a couple of anonymous comments on Denyse O’Leary’s positive blog article about the Privileged Planet and DukeYork was there casting gratuitous insults without restraint. I baited him when he showed up here and I knew I was doing it so I’m guilty as charged for letting my hostility leak through. Calling myself a polymath (or anything to that effect) never fails to set off flamers’ kneejerk response to put me in my place. DukeYork was no exception. I apologize for my lack of restraint.

  31. The exchange was illuminating nonetheless.

  32. “The problem is, what would a system that ceases funtion with the removal of one part look like? Each part of the flagellum has a use separate from the flagellum, so, but definition, it can’t be IC.”

    “The flagellum doesn’t count, since everyone admits that its parts have homologs and therefore uses outside the flagellum.”

    This is bogus thinking. A spring has use outside of a mouse trap. That’s not the point. The point is that the mouse trap as an integral unit cannot function without the spring’s presence. As such, it is irreducibly complex. Showing that you can replace the spring (or the platform) with a like component that performs the same function gives you a different model of the system in question, and one which is, lo’ and behold, also irreducibly complex. And all that smoke doesn’t get you away from the difficulty of answering how the spring came to be or how the trap functioned without it prior to its appearance, so that NS could do its nifty magic. Ditto for the flagellum.

    BTW, I wish this discussion had not denigrated along the usual paths of name calling and questioning of intelligence.

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