Home » Intelligent Design » Today at The Design of Life blog: How did caterpillars start to become butterflies?

Today at The Design of Life blog: How did caterpillars start to become butterflies?

Or perhaps one should ask, how did butterflies start to become caterpillars? Caution: Some pretty radical theorizing here.

Also: Today at the Post-Darwinist

Alley Oop, if you lie to me one more time …

Human evolution: It all began in Pasta City, see …

Elite atheist scientists’ views on people of faith: Bash them with a crowbar, or only a baseball bat?

Today at the Mindful Hack:

Research that tells you something you already knew. Givers are happier. Do people give because they are happy or are they happy because they give? Actually, it is more likely a feedback loop – it is mutually reinforcing if you keep it up.

Does religion really poison everything? “Mark Musick of the University of Texas thought, when he started his research on volunteerism worldwide, that education would best predict who volunteers, but he found that attending religious services was the strongest predictor, stronger than either education or income.”

Mario Beauregard is a neuroscientist who has been studying the brain for years. His findings are surprising: he believes he has found a neurological reason to believe in the existence of the soul.

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21 Responses to Today at The Design of Life blog: How did caterpillars start to become butterflies?

  1. Could some Darwinist also explain Ant Evolution please?

    If they have to resort to genome fusion, which sounds more like Dragonball Z too me than reality, to explain butterflies, what do they say about the incredible organization of ants?

  2. I always bring this up every time someone mentions “butterfly” :)
    http://spectrum.ieee.org/feb06/2811

  3. Butterfly evolution is very simple. Those insects that went on to become something useful after building a coccoon and dissolving themselves into a slurry of cells went on to reproduce, and those that didn’t, didn’t. Where’s the problem?

  4. There is a much broader phenomena and that is development after birth. Just look at humans, especially females and see how the body changes over the first 12-16 years. What controls the changes?

    We just assume the body will grow to a certain age but what determines this? And where is the control function for all these changes and why is it so much longer in humans than other animals.

  5. Denyse,

    Mike Arnold, a full professor in the Department of Genetics at the University of Georgia, is a great example of how a young researcher can challenge mainstream evolutionary theory and succeed, both scientifically and professionally. He includes “web of life” in the list of research interests on his vita.

    Prof. Arnold literally wrote the book on Natural Hybridization and Evolution (1997), but points to an article that appeared in Evolution three years prior to his birth, “Hybridization as an Evolutionary Stimulus” (1954). He began his investigation of the topic in 1988, as a postdoctoral researcher. When he was hired as an untenured assistant professor at UGA in 1989, he immediately submitted proposals for further research to the National Science Foundation, and won grants in 1990 and 1991. He gave his first invited talk, “Hybrid Zones and the Evolutionary Process,” to the 1990 International Congress of Systematic and Evolutionary Biology. He has made many invited presentations since.

    You are quite right in indicating that the scientific establishment long resisted the notion that natural hybridization contributes significantly to evolution, but quite wrong in suggesting that present consideration of the possibility is a panicked attempt at patch-up. In the 1950′s, the influential Ernst Mayr argued, as Darwin had, that hybrids had little impact on evolution. When “funny looking” specimens came along, there were several things one might guess they were, other than hybrids. But as methods of genetic analysis improved, evidence accumulated that hybridization might play a greater role in evolution than widely supposed.

    As best this non-biologist can tell, the current interest in hybridization is data-driven. And Prof. Arnold is a point in case that hard data, obtained through hard work, will gain for a divergent view on evolution not only interested audiences, but substantial research funding. His data “have derived from analyses of population genetics, phylogenetics, reproductive biology, pollinator behavior, eco-physiology, molecular evolution and, most recently, linkage/QTL mapping of fitness traits.”

    You remark that “these [butterfly metamorphosis] researchers contemplate replacing Darwin’s ‘tree of life’ – the governing paradigm – with a network.” It appears you’ve missed out on some old science news, and have misinterpreted the abstract. Surely if you’d read the full paper you’d have learned that the authors were saying that an idea that began to gain serious consideration two decades ago, and that now has good empirical support, might be useful in explaining metamorphosis.

    This is a very interesting example of a) the existence of inertia in mainstream beliefs, b) the possibility of gaining attention and funding for divergent notions that are backed by some hard data, and c) institutional support of a young scientist challenging mainstream beliefs. I have to comment, as I have before, that ID advocates do not seek anything as modest as shift of a scientific paradigm, but a radical change in the very meaning of science. To admit non-material (or non-natural, as IDists used to say) causes to scientific explanations would have huge ramifications for all of science, and it is not surprising that funding agencies and academic institutions regard individuals who propose such a thing quite differently than they do divergent thinkers like Mike Arnold.

  6. Er..it would seem that whatever priest or priestess holds the proper scepter to anoint one a “divergent thinker” is decidedly, a very naturalistic one. Darwinism is replete with funded, published divergent theories(I’ll nominate transpermia as a really …far out divergence).

    The only inertia I see here is that which was started 150 years ago and still stays holed up in a bunker while true divergent thinking is taking place. Hard data might just take a stab at giving us a good, solid understanding of how a caterpillar gets to become a butterfly from something resembling soup and boogers.

  7. Semiotic 007,

    you said

    “To admit non-material (or non-natural, as IDists used to say) causes to scientific explanations would have huge ramifications for all of science”

    This is nonsense. It would change nothing except open up some new hypotheses. Which might mean that some people might get their grants while a token few ID projects got funded. There is no way that this would mean current hypotheses would be rejected, only that ID projects would be accepted.

    However, having said that, the resistance to ID has nothing to do with “huge ramifications for all of science” or anything scientific at all but to ideology pure and simple. If you don’t see that then you are blind to what this is all about.

  8. In my previous post I lef out a negative. The correct sentence is’

    “Which might mean that some people might not get their grants while a token few ID projects got funded.”

  9. selectedpete and jerry,

    It seems you are so fixated on ID that you are blind to what might walk in the door alongside ID if science were changed zap-dash to accommodate supernaturalism. Methodological naturalism excludes a lot of hokum IDists want excluded, and I don’t think IDists give nearly enough attention to excluding it while including ID.

    I think there are some worthy philosophical arguments for supernaturalism in science. But the devil is in the details of how to let in the angels without, well, letting in the devil. Would anyone care to point me to a consensus view of philosophers on the matter?

  10. Semiotic 007,

    This is a major breakthrough. You admit there are the possibility of some angels in this whole process. Now it seems that all that is left is to let the angels and devils compete for some of the research grants.

    Let me start with one area that is already being done in current biological research. I believe ID research is being conducted by hundreds if not thousands of researchers every year but is not identified as such. This may tilt the assessment as to who is an angel or who is the devil.

    For example, in the Edge of Evolution, Behe’s main thesis is that naturalistic means are limited in what new things it can produce. That is the basic assumption and it is confirmed by all research studies to date that have been carried out that investigate changes in the genomes of organisms. To support his thesis Behe uses single celled organisms and viruses. The reason he uses these organisms is that they have a history of extremely high number of observable reproduction events. No multi-cellular organism reproduces at the same rates and probably the closest studied organism are fruit flies. Fruit flies also confirm the basic ID assumption of no new novelty.

    Now the interesting thing is complex organisms such as mammals, birds or maybe insects. If it can be shown that the members of a particular family such as ursidae or canidae are not the result of any novelty or new complexity but essentially represent a devolution from an original species then this would be confirming evidence of a basic ID proposition. Such studies are actually going on but not with the objective of validating a ID assumption but the data developed in such studies could be used to validate or falsify these ID assumptions.

    If an ID perspective took place from the start in these studies, better hypotheses would be developed that flowed from the ID perspective and the data generated could be used to confirm or falsify these ID hypotheses. So the really big step for ID would be studies that started out with ID objectives and could be published as either supporting or falsifying the basic ID assertion of no new novelty over time. I am sure there would be eager anti ID researchers who would want to falsify the ID assumptions.

    This is Behe’s area. Dembski’s area is quite different so different types of studies could be developed for his area.

  11. 9
    we’d be going back to the original view held by religious scientists that life and the universe were designed but that afterwards, G-d isn’t constantly playing around with the material universe…that there is a natural order and that we can discover this natural order. That’s really the whole point of methodological naturalism…so that we can come up with testable theories to uncover the truth about the world we live in.

    A theory of mechanics that is unpredictable because it includes the changing “will of G-d” as a factor is obviously of no use to science.

    But neither is a completely natural theory that is unfalsifiable because of chance. You can’t just get a broken naturalistic theory to work by saying it must be true (since it is the only natural theory they can come up with), there must be zillions of other universes and it is just a coincidence that it requires extreme conditions just to get the theory off the ground.

    Methodological naturalism was never intended to give a thin straw for the atheist to grasp.

  12. Semiotic 007

    When you say:
    “It seems you are so fixated on ID that you are blind to what might walk in the door alongside ID if science were changed zap-dash to accommodate supernaturalism.”

    Do you mean possibly an a priori commitment to a certain dogma? You folks don’t seem to like it very much when that paradigm shifts in the other direction of this debate. This is a silly red herring though, because ID does not ask for or need an a priori commitment to anything except…to be heard, and properly addressed.

    When Dembski publishes a new book – it would be “methodological” as you put it, to write a coherent critique on the actual points raised in that book and not to caricaturize it as another flat-earther angry with the “consensus.” Is that too much to ask?

    [If I, SelectedPete, were to pony up the $35 to get a copy of the new Dembski book in your hands, could I trust you to put a good faith effort into really critiquing it point by flat-earth point? Would you actually read it with an appraising eye, and then post your findings to one of the moderators of this site? Could you determine whether this book was written by zombies under the control of Focus on the Family? If so – maybe you could post the one meaningful review by a Darwinist of Dembski’s new book there on Amazon.]

    When you say:
    “Methodological naturalism excludes a lot of hokum IDists want excluded, and I don’t think IDists give nearly enough attention to excluding it while including ID.”

    What exactly do you mean by that? Do you mean “hokum” in the way that I refer to Dawkins’ explanation for the bat? Or, maybe you mean “hokum” in the way that evolutionists comfortably justify their molecules to man story using examples of microevolution…but never any real macro evolution…that’s what I call “hokum.”

    You are most correct that the devil certainly is in the details, but the last I observed, the museums of natural science are still explaining your story using phrases like “A long, long, long time ago – something happened.” It is high time that a theory literally shoved down our throats and our wallets by this so-called consensus, provides us some better detail.

    Consensus? No thank you – I hear Al Gore needs help though…

  13. Jerry, Ari, Selected:

    Well done. With humor and appropriate irony…if only Darwinists could find your touch.

  14. 13 they hope to find it eventually but I don’t think they’ll get anywhere by waiting for the right mutations

  15. 15
    xcdesignproponentsists

    ari-freedom:

    It comes and goes – in a saltatory fashion.

  16. You admit there are the possibility of some angels in this whole process.

    Yes, angels and demons have designs, but work to different ends. Perhaps if we accept that some order in the natural (material, if you insist) universe is caused by supernatural (non-material) “angels,” then we should consider that some disorder in the natural universe is caused by supernatural “demons.” Hindus are comfortable with a similar idea. They fold the angels and demons into Shiva, and they readily say the c-word along with “destruction.” (I’m tempted to segue into the Hinduism-friendly cyclic universe model, but I’ll resist.)

    we’d be going back to the original view held by religious scientists that life and the universe were designed but that afterwards, G-d isn’t constantly playing around with the material universe…

    The religion of the original scientists was Islam. But the Muslims frittered away their science. Perhaps this means they really were not G-d’s Chosen Scientists.

    I suppose you have Newton in mind. Didn’t he spend more time on alchemy than science? Do you realize that he did not draw the clear line between his physical and alchemical investigations that we do today? Is that the “original view held by religious scientists” you would like to see us return to?

    Should mainstream scientists entertain the notion that illness can be caused by demonic possession? (Some years back, I came upon a web page explaining how Darwin was possessed by a demon in Africa, and how this caused his chronic headaches and the psychopathology that led to evolutionary theory.)

    I believe ID research is being conducted by hundreds if not thousands of researchers every year but is not identified as such.

    I hope to see them form a union — and strike.

    You can’t just get a broken naturalistic theory to work by saying it must be true (since it is the only natural theory they can come up with), there must be zillions of other universes and it is just a coincidence that it requires extreme conditions just to get the theory off the ground.

    There’s a trick you can play with probabilities, and it’s such a subtle trick that you can easily fail to realize you’re playing it on yourself. The trick is to assume that any conscious entity asking “how did I get here?” would be like you, and then to astound yourself with the improbability of the universe turning out just right for precisely your kind to exist. Neither you nor I has the least idea how many ways consciousness might manifest. That is, we have no idea how many ways the (single) universe might have turned out such that something in the universe deemed itself the purpose of it all. So you see that I do not need to invoke many worlds, but many consciousnesses.

  17. So..which consciousness of yours should I address Dembski’s book to? I also must stipulate that the same consciousness that receives the book, provide the analysis.

  18. semiotic

    ID neither requires nor leads to non-natural or non-material causes unless one presumes that intelligent agency is not natural or not material. To say that it does is to construct an ID straw man that is not science then proceed to say why the straw man is not science.

    Nothing about the design or assembly of life here on earth requires violation or suspension of any physical laws AFAIK. If you think it does please elaborate on what exactly requires supernatural agency. It appears to require no more than material intelligent agency as no non-intelligent process can be shown capable of design and assembly of complex machinery such as that found in living cells while intelligent agency can be seen to design and assembles complex machinery routinely. In other words it’s an observable fact that intelligent agents can design and assemble complex machinery and pure speculation that anything other than intelligent agency can accomplish the same thing. When I have the luxury of choosing between fact and speculation I usually choose the facts.

    This of course raises the question of who designed the designer(s). Without more data that question is simply not answerable. One might just as easily demand the materialist who eschews intelligent agency acting in the history of the universe explain where matter, energy, and physical law originated and if he can’t do that then by default all his material theories are pseudo-science as they rely on materials and laws with unexplained orgins. We can explain what we can explain with the data at hand. Science begins where the data begins and ends where the data ends. A completely material intelligent agent acting completely within the well understood laws of physics could be the designer of life on earth. The data ends there at least for the nonce. We have no data to use to form any hypothesis about the origin of any designers other than ourselves or the origin of any life other than what we have here on earth.

  19. Semiotic 007,

    I seemed to have misunderstood you when you mentioned angels and devils. You were apparently speaking literally while I was speaking figuratively. I thought you meant angels were legitimate research options and devils were the whackos. That is how I understood it and how I answered.

    Your answer speaks very loud.

    “I hope to see them form a union — and strike.”

    It indicates you have no idea what the debate is all about. We are seeing a lot of sarcasm as a mode of answering. Just for your edification we can divide evolution up into two types, “creative” evolution that produces novelty and Darwinian processes which provide more of the “sameo sameo” stuff it had before. Darwinian processes certainly adds to the richness of life and allows species to deal with new environments and avoid extinction. As such it is very well designed.

    One of the potential aspects of the the Darwinian process is that it is actually devolution or a loss of variation over time. It is essentially what Darwin saw on his trip on the Beagle and led him astray as it has evolutionary biologist in general. Darwin assume there was the potential for infinite variation in the organism and all organisms were essentially plastic and with the right environments could be molded into completely new species. Did Darwin and do current evolutionary biologists mistake devolution for evolution? And that is why I say that thousands of studies are actually testing an ID hypothesis that Darwinian processes do not produce novelty and more than likely produced devolution. We should start seeing the evidence in a few years as more of genomes get mapped and studied.

    But maybe you can be the union leader and organize them and alert them to what they are inadvertently doing. There is still time for you to stop them if you hurry.

  20. DaveScot,

    From my perspective, William A. Dembski is the design theorist, Denyse O’Leary is the journalist, and everyone else whose text appears against a white background is a friend. It is hard enough to track the developments in Dembski’s thinking, let alone those of everyone else under the Big Tent. I treat published design theorists such as Dembski and Behe as canonical sources on ID theory, but not published journalists, and certainly not blogging friends. Surely you can see that as sensible.

    ID neither requires nor leads to non-natural or non-material causes unless one presumes that intelligent agency is not natural or not material. To say that it does is to construct an ID straw man that is not science then proceed to say why the straw man is not science.

    Dr. Dembski’s Intelligent Design Coming Clean defends the position that non-natural intelligence is a source of information in the natural universe. After the Nature of Nature conference, Dembski and other IDists shifted to the position that intelligence is natural, but not material. In 2005, Dembski wrote, “Over the last decade, much of my work has focused on design detection, that is, sifting the effects of intelligence from material causes” [source].

    You are of course entitled to your own views. But I prefer Dembski’s treatment of ID. By the way, you should understand that I am usually just jawing when I post at UD — avoiding work or awaiting inspiration. I know where my competence begins and ends. The only time I’m going to enter into a real argument is when the discussion turns to formal (mathematical) aspects of ID.

    My last post was whimsical.

  21. semiotic

    Re your last; Let’s take a look at something more current from Dembski.

    “The Design of Life” pg. 13-14

    This is good news for intelligent design, which treats intelligence as irreducible to material entities and the mechanisms that control their interaction. At the same time, it does not mean that intelligence should be regarded as something “supernatural”. Supernatural explanations invoke miracles and therefore are not properly part of science. Explanations that call on intelligent causes require no miracles but cannot be reduced to materialistic explanations. Indeed, design theorists argue that intelligent causation is perfectly natural, provided that nature is understood aright.

    This is hardly different from what I wrote and I qualified it to account for the minor difference in opinion over the material (or not) nature of intelligence. Bill might be personally convinced that intelligence has a non-material basis but I’m not convinced of any such thing. I think it’s pretty safe to say that mind-body dualism is not exactly settled science at the present time. In any case he explicitely states that intelligent design explanations require no miracles (violations or suspension of physical law) and that intelligent agency is not non-natural.

    I find it rather amusing that the same scientists who claim that humans are an evolved intelligence, and thus a natural happenstance in the universe, are averse to accepting the possibility that other evolved intelligences aside from humans have affected the history of the universe despite rather strong and growing evidence that complex machines such as those which form the sub-cellular machinery of life don’t self-assemble where none existed before absent an intelligent agent to design the machine and direct the fabrication thereof. Novel machines are routinely designed and fabricated by intelligent agents but not a single one has been observed to self-assemble from inanimate components. So far as we know, if we said it was a law of nature that complex machines with many interdependent components, coded specifications, and coded control programs require intelligent agency for their initial design and fabrication (they can be self-reproducing thereafter) it would be a law with no known exceptions in millions of independent observations – sort of like the law of gravity or the law of biogenesis in that regard.

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