Home » Intelligent Design » “Evolution” is a Political Controversy? (Or, am I Living in an Alternate Multiverse?)

“Evolution” is a Political Controversy? (Or, am I Living in an Alternate Multiverse?)

Here we read: Alan Rogers addresses the political controversy over the theory of evolution…

The comment about “a political controversy” inspired the following.

First of all, the theory of evolution (whatever that means) is so plastic, so poorly defined, and so perfectly designed to be amenable to any subjective or a priori interpretation that it is essentially vacuous as a scientific hypothesis, much less a theory. It is also cleverly designed to be impervious to negation or even challenge, due to its infinite logical and evidential plasticity.

It’s not a political controversy. It is:

1) An evidential controversy (for example, the fossil record, especially the Cambrian explosion).

2) A logical and computational controversy (the insufficiency of random errors producing highly complex, functionally integrated, self-correcting computer code).

3) A mathematical controversy (clearly insufficient probabilistic resources for anything but the most trivial changes based on Darwinian mechanisms).

Politics have nothing to do with any of this. It’s just basic reason, logic, and evidence.

If “evolution” means that living things have changed over time, and they share many characteristics and DNA code, but we don’t have any idea how this could have happened without some kind of intelligent design — then count me as an evolutionist.

Otherwise, Alan Rogers, don’t try to con me with transparent BS. I’m not stupid or poorly educated.

Move along to another potential victim.

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25 Responses to “Evolution” is a Political Controversy? (Or, am I Living in an Alternate Multiverse?)

  1. 1

    If “evolution” means that living things have changed over time, and they share many characteristics and DNA code, but we don’t have any idea how this could have happened without some kind of intelligent design — then count me as an evolutionist.

    While intelligent design neatly and fully explains all conceivable observations, it has one annoying characteristic. Let’s say, just hypothetically, that (like most scientists most of the time), your proposal is incorrect, and intelligent design is NOT involved. The question is, what observation could you make that would indicate this? And the next question is, how would you construct an experiment whose goal was to produce such an observation?

    So I’m certainly not saying you ARE wrong. Your proposal has the virtues of being concise and clear. But if you WERE wrong, how could you tell?

  2. David,

    Computer programs — just like living systems which are au fond information-processing systems but much more, especially humans — don’t write themselves. It’s really just that simple.

    If this is not obvious I can offer no help, hope, or solace.

  3. 3

    3) A mathematical controversy (clearly insufficient probabilistic resources for anything but the most trivial changes based on Darwinian mechanisms).

    In the Lenski e-coli study, we observe 10-12 fixed mutations in 50,000 plus generations, or in about one million human years. Does this suggest that the evolution of chimp/human common ancestor to human over the course of 6 million years can be accomplished by 72 mutations? 150? 300? How does one establish a mathematical framework? Berlinski suggested 50,000 changes from cow to whale. How many mutations would that entail and in what time frame? Is the observed mechanism of mut+sel a satisfactory explanation of all the diversity witnessed on Earth?

  4. 4

    Computer programs — just like living systems which are au fond information-processing systems but much more, especially humans — don’t write themselves. It’s really just that simple.

    But oddly enough, I don’t FEEL analogous to a computer program. Maybe I just don’t process information as well? If I did, maybe I could figure out why something so obvious can’t be tested.

    And if it can’t be tested, that would be a shame. We might discover that DNA is designed but not genes. Or that DNA happened naturally, but got intelligently rearranged into genes and chromosomes. I’m excited by the sheer depth of what we might discover, once we can reliably distinguish between which parts of us are designed and which are not, or how design and non-design might interact dynamically. Such a field of research could support countless careers.

    “Trust me, it’s obvious” is reassuring in one way, but kind of a dead end in another. It tends to leave one still curious.

  5. 5

    In the Lenski e-coli study, we observe 10-12 fixed mutations in 50,000 plus generations, or in about one million human years. Does this suggest that the evolution of chimp/human common ancestor to human over the course of 6 million years can be accomplished by 72 mutations? 150? 300? How does one establish a mathematical framework?

    This sounds like a very good question. Was that 10-12 fixed mutations per e coli per 50,000 generations, or per foot of DNA, or what? If a pre-human has N times as much DNA as an e coli, would there be N times as many mutations?

    And I suppose we’d also need to guard against the unstated assumption here that all mutations are about equal in terms of scope or importance. We know that some DNA sequences are quite amenable to change, while others (those strongly conserved) rarely tolerate even the slightest change – but when they DO change slightly, the downstream effects can be very large.

    So I think a mathematical framework isn’t really feasible today. I wouldn’t be surprised if we could find tens of thousands of differences between parent and child. For all I know, that might be important.

  6. 6

    There are 12 separated populations.

    “Lenski has estimated that only 10 to 20 beneficial mutations achieved fixation in each population, with less than 100 total point mutations (including neutral mutations) reaching fixation in each population.”

    So each population appears to be landing in the same fixed beneficial mutation distribution range of 10-20 per 50,000+ generations. Apparently we don’t see one population taking off with 300 fixed beneficial mutations while another is moping along with 5. There seems to be a consistent fixed beneficial mut+sel rate. So is the observed 10-20 ben fixed mut per population per 50,000+ generations enough to evolve the brain of human/chimp common ancestor to the brain of a human? I would think this would take a ridiculous amount of changes. Can this observed mechanism evolve a cow into a whale, covering Berlinski’s hypothetical 50,000 changes? Explain the body plan diversification of the Cambrian explosion?

    We observe on a daily basis these information leaps though intelligent mechanism to varying degrees of skill and complexity in programming. However, the alternative observed mechanism of mut+sel appears be way behind the curve. But how can anyone know without a reasonable mathematical formula?

  7. Please lets make it a political issue.
    It affects the thinking and learning of the people and is actively used by the bad guys to attack religion.
    The conclusions of creationism(s) are censored in state institutions based on the highest law and so highest deep conclusions of a very Yankee and Southern Protestant peoples in the 1700′s.
    It is time to get political on this.

  8. Yet the conclusions of the Darwinian creation story aren’t censored in state institutions. Why is evolution taught at the secondary level anyways? It’s practical uses are for what? Creating cross-species hybrids? Inventing new vaccines? Neither of those rely on Darwin’s creation story.

    Medicine is a college level specialization. There’s no use for this unsupported abstraction at the secondary level besides indoctrinating people who are most likely spiritual beings that they’re most likely practically animals. It is a creation story. Not necessarily from the beginning, but regardless, abiogenesis is at least implied in textbooks.

  9. Why is darwinian evolution taught at the secondary level is what I meant to say. I wouldn’t have a problem with evo being taught if the other side of the story could be taught too.

  10. 10
    Elizabeth Liddle

    Gil:

    First of all, the theory of evolution (whatever that means) is so plastic, so poorly defined, and so perfectly designed to be amenable to any subjective or a priori interpretation that it is essentially vacuous as a scientific hypothesis, much less a theory. It is also cleverly designed to be impervious to negation or even challenge, due to its infinite logical and evidential plasticity.

    Oddly enough I think you have a good point here, but I don’t actually think it is the fault of the science.

    Let me put what I would have written:

    “First of all, the theory of evolution (whatever that means) is so plastic, so poorly defined, and so perfectly designed to be amenable to any subjective or a priori interpretation that it is essentially vacuous as a proposition to oppose. This means that it is impervious to negation or even challenge, due to its infinite logical and evidential plasticity.”

    Because, as you rightly say “the theory of evolution” tends to be very poorly specified by whoever is using the term.

    But that doesn’t mean that the science is vacuous or non-rigorous! What it means is that “the theory of evolution” is an umbrella term for the entire current model, which posits a few broad principles (all life radiated from a small number of much simpler forms; heritable variance in reproductive success results in adaptation of populations to their environment which themselves are subdivided into many much more specific ones; DNA sequences have phenotypic effects and is largely, but not solely, the carrier of heritable traits; speciation is the result of independent adaptation of two subspecies, etc.

    All subdivisions of the theory can and do generate testable hypotheses, and the results of testing those hypotheses is refinement of the model.

    So while “plastic” sounds like a Bad Thing, it is not. All scientific theories are plastic – that’s what mades them scientific, i.e. provisional, and always secondary to the data – we fit models to data not the other way round.

    And contrary to the way it sounds, that’s what makes it rigorous. The models have to respond to the data, not the other way round.

  11. One thing I think is likely regarding politics over this issue: The materialism that is sublty implied and the moral and philosophical relativism that is so often induced, or assumed, by those who adopt the “theory” in all it’s rigor (ofen on little more than authority) favors a particular set of political outcomes. I think that may have something to do with the frantic attempts to bar a robust critical evalution of evolution in science classrooms.

    (A world view is easiest to inculcate in an unsuspecting subject prior to it’s having developed of a full set of critical faculties… Start as early as possible, use the public schools.)

  12. Actually Lenski’s 10 to 20 beneficial mutations, within 50,000 years, were not truly beneficial in terms of building functional complexity/information, but were found to be ‘trench warfare’ mutations, in that they were only beneficial’ in the extremely narrow sense of conferring an advantage by ‘burning a bridge’;

    Michael Behe’s Quarterly Review of Biology Paper Critiques Richard Lenski’s E. Coli Evolution Experiments – December 2010
    Excerpt: After reviewing the results of Lenski’s research, Behe concludes that the observed adaptive mutations all entail either loss or modification–but not gain–of Functional Coding ElemenTs (FCTs)
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....41221.html

    =============

    Mutations : when benefits level off – June 2011 – (Lenski’s e-coli after 50,000 generations)
    Excerpt: After having identified the first five beneficial mutations combined successively and spontaneously in the bacterial population, the scientists generated, from the ancestral bacterial strain, 32 mutant strains exhibiting all of the possible combinations of each of these five mutations. They then noted that the benefit linked to the simultaneous presence of five mutations was less than the sum of the individual benefits conferred by each mutation individually.
    http://www2.cnrs.fr/en/1867.htm?theme1=7

  13. David W Gibson:

    While intelligent design neatly and fully explains all conceivable observations, it has one annoying characteristic.

    THAT is annoying as ID never claimed to explain all conceivable observations.

    Also IDists have said what would falsify the design inference- just demonstrate that necessity and or chance can account for what we are investigating and the design inference is never reached.

  14. David W Gibson:

    So I’m certainly not saying you ARE wrong. Your proposal has the virtues of being concise and clear. But if you WERE wrong, how could you tell?

    Let me have a try by giving the “undiscovered evidence” that would change my mind (and I CAN change my mind, I was YEC once).
    Using Headlines:

    1) “New Pre-CambrianChinese fossil graveyard reveals common origin and development of dozens of Cambrian Phyla”

    2) “Hacker Reveals Latest I-Pad Apps result of New Mathematical tools employing “Adaptive Random Generation Coding Technique – Order Found in Chaos”

    3) “Biologists Find New Structures Inevitable Result of Single Mutations – Double and Triple mutations no longer required”.

  15. Re Lenski’s (or any other computer-generated space of solutions).

    The results are predetermined before the first line of computer code is run. There is no “creation” going on apart from the original set of rules.

    The set of possible solutions is like a giant tree that the computer programme then explores, based on whatever algorithm (including random and determinative elements) as it moves throughout the tree. What is analyzed is simply the sub-set of the possible solutions that the programme comes up with, based on its optimizing rule set.

    Life on earth is compared to such a simulation, as being the result of the “rules” begin applied under the optimizing power/constraint of natural selection.

    The big difference is that it’s not clear that the tree of life (as embodied in DNA and whatever else passes on information to new generations) is continuous, even in theory; it demands that each “solution” be just one, two, maybe three mutations different from each previous one.

    Computer models have the advantage that they guarantee survival of a signficant fraction of mutated children, no matter how far the mutations are “pushed”. Real-life biology has yet to show that plasticity, and the frequency of disease caused as the result of even single mutations is one evidence that there are hard limits.

  16. 16

    lamarck: “It is a creation story. Not necessarily from the beginning, but regardless, abiogenesis is at least implied in textbooks”

    When I was in the 2nd grade, I remember sitting through a reel film where two 50’s looking scientist guys explained Oparin’s scenario with neat little animations. This was an explicit assertion that we are the chance product of fortuitous blind chemical reactions. This dogma was taught to me in public school, at a very young and tender age. When I ponder this, it becomes clear to me that science class back then was nothing more than atheist chapel. The only difference is that we didn’t sing any songs about Darwin.

    Later in life, when I learned about ID, I took my college zoology textbook and highlighted all the dogmatic statements that were asserted as scientific fact, and I ended up highlighting nearly half of the first chapter. Naturalistic abiogenesis is most certainly explicitly and shamelessly asserted in textbooks.

    It’s high time this issue became a whirlwind in politics. Knowing what we know now, there is no excuse to allow this bold, unabashed indoctrination of our children (at gunpoint) to continue. We have been hoodwinked in the worst way, and our children are the victims.

  17. 17

    M. Holcumbrink “This dogma was taught to me in public school, at a very young and tender age.”

    Same here. I grew up assuming that repeated lightening strikes to the ocean over a billion years created enough chemical reaction to form the first life. This was first taught to me when I was around twelve.

  18. Gil,

    Evolution is a religious controversy. The people who accept that random genetic changes fixed by natural selection adequately (much less definitively) accounts for the development of all life are following a faith-based dogma.

    You have to understand that to argue with them.

  19. David,

    You seem to be confusing ID theory with the theory of intelligent non-design, or perhaps the theory of non-intelligent design, or maybe the theory of non-intelligent non-design (aka Darwinism).

    We’re none of those.

    I suppose you’re also one of those who deny human design, and who deny the appearance of design in living organisms.

    So why are you here?

  20. David- Let’s say, just hypothetically, that (like most scientists most of the time), your proposal is incorrect, and intelligent design is NOT involved. The question is, what observation could you make that would indicate this?

    David, you are equating ID with a faith in God. ID makes specific claims i.e. life has CSI. If life were shown not to have this trait ID (not God) would be falsified.

  21. So while “incoherent” sounds like a Bad Thing, it is not.

    riiiiigggghhhhttttt.

  22. 22

    In most free ranging species (ones not based upon a small founder population) there is a lot of accumulated variation, so it isn’t necessarily new mutations that are needed for further evolution. Many traits are under the control of multiple genes, and many traits are under adaptive control.

    Intelligent design lacks explanatory and predictive power. The shared genes and genetic code across all life forms is some of the best evidence for evolution, but for ID it is just a design choice and a rather poor one at that. Is the “intelligent” part of intelligent design falsifiable?

  23. I still don’t understand, what does the Darwin creation story have to do with evolution? What practical purpose does the story have? It’s not used in medicine. Where is it used? It’s got nothing to do with anything and it’s worse than unsupported, it’s refuted, so no reason to teach it.

  24. 24

    @lamark,

    Evolution doesn’t need to be explicitly taught, the time would probably be better and more practically spent on the central uniting principles of biology … biochemistry. But hopefully, you aren’t talking about a purge of all evolution related language from biology are you? Evolution is implicitly in the classification schema, with species being more closely “related” to other species, some species sharing genes for certain structures, while other species not sharing genes but having similar structures by homology, etc.

    Evolution has it’s weaknesses, but it is hardly “refuted”, in fact, some of the best evidence for evolution is its weaknesses.

  25. This thread started as a response to someone who wrote “Alan Rogers addresses the political controversy over the theory of evolution…”. This led to “Otherwise, Alan Rogers, don’t try to con me with transparent BS. I’m not stupid or poorly educated. Move along to another potential victim.”

    I’m the Alan Rogers you’re discussing here, so let me respond. The blurb had it wrong: my book is not about the political controversy. I tried to focus on the evidence rather than the debate.

    I would agree that there is a controversy about evidence. In my view, this controversy also has a political dimension, because it affects policy about what is taught in schools. But my book didn’t go into that.

    As for conning you with transparent BS, I’ll try not to. Maybe in return you could agree to turn the rhetoric down a half a degree.

    Alan Rogers

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