The Genome Politics – Let the Laymen Talk (Experts are quite welcome, too)

@drlorentz put up a post called Leftism as Religion that I highly endorse. I started a branching thread within that about how I see Darwinism as being driven by similar (and very natural, of course) thinking.

Here’s what I said:

This matches the left’s penchant for Neo-Darwinism, too. At least, the version with all the happy talk about how things always just randomly, accidentally just get better and smarter and more complex and more ordered.

Followed by the doc’s:

I’m not familiar with such a version. I don’t think any biologist would agree with that characterization. Don’t confuse biological fitness with improvement. Cockroaches are  neither especially smart nor complex but very fit biologically . The evidence is that they are c. 100 Myrs old and essentially unchanged in that time. Ferns are even older and simpler. Neither species seemed to require improvement.

You’re Cathy-Newman-ing.

Me again:

You’re the first person I’ve heard who says things aren’t evolving – just staying the same. Odd.

It seems that cockroaches had to come from something, right? Was evolution not involved in the process that got us cockroaches?

And then this completely ridiculous comment in reply to my perfectly reasonable statement. (Hey, it’s my post.)

More Cathy Newman. Never said nothing is evolving. Some things are not evolving. See the difference?  Cockroaches have not changed significantly in a long time. I quote myself:

drlorentz:
The evidence is that they are c. 100 Myrs old and essentially unchanged in that time.

That doesn’t mean evolution was not involved before then. Emphasis on “in that time.” The Earth is about 5E9 years old: 50 times longer.

“So you’re saying…”

Edit: Please note the context of the original comment. It was in response to the assertion that biologists claim that “…things always just randomly, accidentally just get better and smarter and more complex and more ordered.” This assertion is manifestly false. Counterexamples were provided.

So, now we are up to date.

I think where we are presently differing is on the issue of what I meant by “always” (see immediately above). Always, to me, means that there is always pressure on the genome to change. For example, biologists tell us that cosmic radiation can cause changes to the DNA at the base pair level. This just means that it happens on a single rung of the DNA helix.

What drlorentz has noted above is that even if this is going on the species isn’t being changed. True, but that’s because there is a Spell Checker. This is my understanding as to why some parts of the genome are very stable over a long time. Either way (from the above link): “The difference is not in the number of new mutations but in the mechanism that keeps these mutations under control.” Cockroaches and sharks have locked the genome down evidently.

I would like to stop there and let the iterations begin. There’s no reason to go further on this until we are all on the same page.

[Background: drlorentz and I have met — it was at the Reagan Library Meetup with Peter Robinson and Pat Sajak. I consider him a good friend. If it seems that we are angry let me assure you all that this isn’t true. I’m completely comfortable with him and I’m quite sure that he and I will keep the heat to the medium level.

Also, @johnwalker and I have had many run-ins on scientific issues over the years and yet he is always cordial and gentlemanly to me personally.]

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67 thoughts on “The Genome Politics – Let the Laymen Talk (Experts are quite welcome, too)”

  1. A superb example of a layman becoming an expert in evolution is Stephen C. Meyer (according to Google, “…an advocate of the pseudoscientific principle of intelligent design…”). Originally a geologist, Meyer became interested in the history and philosophy of science, in which he earned a Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge. He wrote two excellent, scientific books.

    The first is “The Signature in the Cell,” which addresses all the possible mechanisms by which first life – the first self-replicating organisms – arose, including, especially, all the possible “natural” random processes by which complex molecules could possibly have come about spontaneously. The scientific, statistical arguments the book makes in that regard are very persuasive that first life’s appearance (and that event has noting to do with evolution, which can only address already-existing life) could not have occurred by random processes.

    Using the time-tested and accepted  scientific method of analyzing past events (the very method Darwin used) – induction to the best explanation, reasoning from known causes now in operation. After sorting through all the proposed possible other explanations for the emergence of first life, he concludes that intelligent design is the most plausible scientific explanation. An example of such reasoning: suppose a computer were found in an archeological dig dated at one million years ago and one wanted to infer how it came to be. As with all ancient archeology, there are no recorded witnesses to provide an explanation. Knowing how such complex devices come into existence today – they definitively do not arise from spontaneous assembly of the constituent molecules – we have no problem inferring that it must owe its existence to intelligent design, as all other proposed causes are impossible to highly unlikely.

    His second book, “Darwin’s Doubt” lays out the scientific problems faced by the natural selection hypothesis, beginning with the fossil record. This book offers a survey of virtually all theories which have been put forth to address the obvious weaknesses of the rapid emergence of so many different species in the brief geologic time of the “Cambrian Explosion.”

    The only point I want to make about these two superb books is the response of the religious scientific establishment to their reasoned, scientific and measured arguments, none of which cite scripture. Every objection, on the other hand, is zealously religious in nature, citing opinions (not facts) steeped in the received the wisdom of Darwinism, despite the widely-known factual weaknesses thereof. No devotee of “real science” deigns to answer Meyer’s scientific, statistical and logical arguments, which are wrongly dismissed as “pseudoscientific.” There is nothing “pseudo” about the thorough, well-documented arguments in both books. The rabid responses to these rigorously scientific and logical books and the ad hominem attacks on the apostate author, are emblematic of the actual religiosity of leftism. It is unmistakable.

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  2. civil westman:
    A superb example of a layman becoming an expert in evolution is Stephen C. Meyer (according to Google, “…an advocate of the pseudoscientific principle of intelligent design…”). Originally a geologist, Meyer became interested in the history and philosophy of science, in which he earned a Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge. He wrote two excellent, scientific books.

    The first is “The Signature in the Cell,” which addresses all the possible mechanisms by which first life – the first self-replicating organisms – arose, including, especially, all the possible “natural” random processes by which complex molecules could possibly have come about spontaneously. The scientific, statistical arguments the book makes in that regard are very persuasive that first life’s appearance (and that event has noting to do with evolution, which can only address already-existing life) could not have occurred by random processes.

    Using the time-tested and accepted  scientific method of analyzing past events (the very method Darwin used) – induction to the best explanation, reasoning from known causes now in operation. After sorting through all the proposed possible other explanations for the emergence of first life, he concludes that intelligent design is the most plausible scientific explanation. An example of such reasoning: suppose a computer were found in an archeological dig dated at one million years ago and one wanted to infer how it came to be. As with all ancient archeology, there are no recorded witnesses to provide an explanation. Knowing how such complex devices come into existence today – they definitively do not arise from spontaneous assembly of the constituent molecules – we have no problem inferring that it must owe its existence to intelligent design, as all other proposed causes are impossible to highly unlikely.

    His second book, “Darwin’s Doubt” lays out the scientific problems faced by the natural selection hypothesis, beginning with the fossil record. This book offers a survey of virtually all theories which have been put forth to address the obvious weaknesses of the rapid emergence of so many different species in the brief geologic time of the “Cambrian Explosion.”

    The only point I want to make about these two superb books is the response of the religious scientific establishment to their reasoned, scientific and measured arguments, none of which cite scripture. Every objection, on the other hand, is zealously religious in nature, citing opinions (not facts) steeped in the received the wisdom of Darwinism, despite the widely-known factual weaknesses thereof. No devotee of “real science” deigns to answer Meyer’s scientific, statistical and logical arguments, which are wrongly dismissed as “pseudoscientific.” There is nothing “pseudo” about the thorough, well-documented arguments in both books. The rabid responses to these rigorously scientific and logical books and the ad hominem attacks on the apostate author, are emblematic of the actual religiosity of leftism. It is unmistakable.

    Agreed.

    I have read Meyer’s Signature in the Cell and loved it. I have his Darwin’s Doubt on my reading list but I do know a lot about it having met Meyer, listened to 2 long lectures on this subject and watched many Youtube videos (mostly excerpts) on this subject.

    Much like leftists do with conservative ideas they only throw brickbats or ignore them. Much of “science” is this way. There is a reason for essentially decent and real scientists to act this way and that is that they are inundated with so many theories that they can’t investigate them all and this makes them cranky. So, that’s the good ones. Those who are ideological are the ones who are most like leftists.

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  3. civil westman:
    A superb example of a layman becoming an expert in evolution is Stephen C. Meyer (according to Google, “…an advocate of the pseudoscientific principle of intelligent design…”). Originally a geologist, Meyer became interested in the history and philosophy of science, in which he earned a Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge. He wrote two excellent, scientific books.

    SNIP

    Both Google and Wikipedia are very much controlled. Do you know Phillip Roth, the author, attempted to correct the various ramblings of one literary critic who didn’t follow his novel’s chronology and who confused the characters? Wikipedia refused the corrections, saying Roth had no expertise as a critic.

    Later Roth tried to correct autobiographical material on Wikipedia. Again, he was told he was not an authority on Roth  as he had never taught a college course on the works of Phillip Roth!

    As a pesticide researcher, I used to utilize Google for many things. It maintained an impartial catalog of so many subjects that it was invaluable. So if I wanted to trace the history of Pesticide X and how both indie and Corporate-controlled scientists viewed it, I might find that in 2001, indie scientists published reviews of peer reviewed studies showing Pesticide X caused organ failure in rats exposed to it. Then Google also let me realize that three years later, Corporate-controlled scientists did research proving the exact opposite.

    But now, unless I remember the exact names of the original indie scientists, I will only find the works of the Corporate-controlled scientists among the first 15 pages of Google cataloging of the search terms. Even if the first  set of research comes up, it will come up via material offering only as the opposing viewpoints to the indie scientists’ work.

    The same exact thing now occurs with regards to political scandals. Only the “Deep State” approved remarks of various scandals will come up. Even five years ago, it was hard to find data relating to how the Clintons declared they were broke when they left the WH in 2001. Only after they had dealt with the matter and released satisfactory statements showing that they were victims and that they didn’t cause their bankruptcy did the research on their impoverished state  show up. (Of course, how a couple can declare they are bankrupt when one of them is about to receive an advance totalling millions  for one of their books, I don’t know. But that’s not Google or Wikipedia’s fault.)

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  4. Larry Koler:
    I started a branching thread within that about how I see Darwinism as being driven by similar (and very natural, of course) thinking.

    What is curious, though, is that evolution (whether strictly governed by Darwin’s theories, or admitting more recent discoveries such as lateral gene transfer in bacteria, viral insertions in the DNA of species, epigenetics and gene regulation, etc.) is much closer philosophically to libertarian and free market philosophy, while creationism, intelligent design, and the like are aligned with much of leftist thought (central planning, teleological design, top-down optimisation  for utility, etc.)

    Some of the most committed believers in evolutionary epistemology (whether or not they’d ever heard the phrase) I’ve known are radical libertarians and anarcho-capitalists.  They believe that innovation, productivity, abundance available to the most people, and other generally desired goals, emerge spontaneously from the intense competition of independent agents acting in their own perceived self-interest in a free market.  This is precisely what biological evolution is, and it has the same result: highly-optimised species without any top-down plan, and robustness (indeed, antifragility) in the face of perturbations which may be destructive to individual organisms and species.

    The leftist finds all of this messy and chaotic.  How much better for some genius to sit in an attic and scribble thousands of pages in incomprehensible German, laying down a plan which will usher in heaven on earth and an eternal age of peace and prosperity, at least after they’ve killed off a hundred million or so square pegs that don’t get with the system.  This is the very essence of intelligent design, with the leftist (or leftist prophet they follow) replacing the evolutionary force of the market with an intelligently designed plan.

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  5. John Walker:
    Some of the most committed believers in evolutionary epistemology (whether or not they’d ever heard the phrase) I’ve known are radical libertarians and anarcho-capitalists.  They believe that innovation, productivity, abundance available to the most people, and other generally desired goals, emerge spontaneously from the intense competition of independent agents acting in their own perceived self-interest in a free market.  This is precisely what biological evolution is, and it has the same result: highly-optimised species without any top-down plan, and robustness (indeed, antifragility) in the face of perturbations which may be destructive to individual organisms and species.

    This is actually pretty easy. Remember that evolution is based on random or nearly random processes and the evolutionists imagine that this will produce new information. The items you mention are all — each one of them — driven by intelligent agents. That alone is a huge difference.

    Now, whether they knew the final goal or not, at each juncture of possible improvement an intelligent agent made a decision as to which direction to go. He didn’t flip a coin.

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  6. When we talk about freedom, we usually are talking about freedom in a structure. We are free to communicate because language is structured. We can speedily get from point B from A because the transportation system is structured. Computers work because they conform to accepted protocols. I posit the freest societies have these underlying structures. The least free societies undermine these.

    Am I the only one to notice that the left loves to go after language and other structures?

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  7. Life requires there to be a flow of energy, from a higher to a lower state. It turns out, more complexity generates entropy faster than less complexity. Life is a dissipative structure.

    dissipative structure is characterized by the spontaneous appearance of symmetry breaking (anisotropy) and the formation of complex, sometimes chaotic, structures where interacting particles exhibit long range correlations. Examples in everyday life include convectionturbulent flowcycloneshurricanes and living organisms. Less common examples include lasersBénard cellsdroplet cluster, and the Belousov–Zhabotinsky reaction.[1]

    Complex systems arise in nature all the time as noted above. Hurricanes are not alive, but they are a complex system formed from less complex parts. They require a temp gradient and water. In fact, they are discharging the heat of the Earth.

    Now, life, as we know it today, is very complex indeed. In fact, we have seen a tendency towards increasing complexity as it has evolved. This is in line with other non-living systems that we observe in nature. The Solar System today is more complex than it was as a vast nebula waiting for a shock wave to trigger stellar formation. The fusion and motions within the Sun, the activity on the Planets, their great dances and interaction with each other are all much more complex than the accretion disk forming around the Sun. So, there is no reason to assume that life is somehow different, and that its tendency towards complexity is somehow unique. Clearly, there are lots of ways complexity grows. Of course it all comes with a price: Entropy increases overall, faster.

    Now, as to the idea that natural selection is bogus, the problem there is, we see it in action all the time. Now, you may have an alternate explanation to drug-resistant bacteria. I would love to see you spell it out here. However, the moment you say anything close too: the bacteria most resistant are the ones which survived, then you are using natural selection.

    Darwin, also talked about sexual selection, something ignored a lot these days, but very important. He studied birds, so it is not surprising he looked at this. If, for instance, the female of the sex wants bright plumage, then the males of the species will start to develop it, because the ones with the best plumage get to mate more. If you think that animals cannot breed for physical characteristics, then I again ask you to explain breeding of dogs. Be prepared to back up your work.

    So, having dispensed in three paragraphs with your dismissal of natural selection, let’s move on to life arising in the first place. This is a more difficult subject in that we have only one data point of a place where life is. It is possible that life arising takes very special circumstances. In fact, it could be stunningly unlikely. However, so what? Let us say the chances of life starting are one in a trillion years. The universe is not old enough for that. Except, here we are. So, while we try to look for other variables, at the end of the day, no matter how unlikely, it happened.

    That, of course, satisfies no one. So, let me also point out, that even though it is a mystery when life formed and how, that does not mean there is any evidence of a non natural process to create it, which is what you seem to be implying. Now, you did not mention God, but, if you want to say God created life on Earth, I can say, with as much “proof” that in fact, life on Earth came from another universe via a portal, brought as part of the slime of a universe hopping race of slugs. Their universe has different laws, and as such, life was sure to happen.

    I happen to think there are a lot of unusual things about Earth, our Solar System, its place in the Milky War, and our own biology. Eukaryotes (all multi celled life) are symbiotic cells, where somehow, two lifeforms became one. How many times did that happen? No one knows. Maybe only once, and it worked so well, that it just outclassed the older Prokaryotes. We cannot tell, because, we have a single data point.

    Finally, and as a Christian, this is a big one, why on Earth are American Christians so hung up on this? The God I believe in is more than able to create a Universe over 50 billion light years across and still know me personally. I don’t need to think He is limited in some way, nor do I have the gall to question how He choose to set things up.

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  8. Bryan G. Stephens:
    Now, as to the idea that natural selection is bogus, the problem there is, we see it in action all the time. Now, you may have an alternate explanation to drug-resistant bacteria. I would love to see you spell it out here. However, the moment you say anything close too: the bacteria most resistant are the ones which survived, then you are using natural selection.

    This is the easy one so I’ll deal with this first. (It would help if you didn’t write long complicated comments at this early stage. We need to see where the differences are and we want contrast and clarifying examples.)

    Since I know more about this from the Intelligent Design people and they are the ones who convinced me originally, let me just state what most of the ID people believe. There are three major elements to the Neo-Darwinism and only 1 is in dispute:

    1) Common Descent

    2) Natural Selection

    3) Random mutation or some random process

    Number 3 is the only one that isn’t believed in. Common descent is believed by most ID guys but there are some who think there’s evidence for more than one starting point. Natural selection is kind of like a tautology and is not a problem at all. It’s a tautology in that idea that success succeeds is not all that revolutionary an idea. Also, natural selection tends to make the genome more resistant to change.

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  9. Bryan G. Stephens:
    Finally, and as a Christian, this is a big one, why on Earth are American Christians so hung up on this? The God I believe in is more than able to create a Universe over 50 billion light years across and still know me personally. I don’t need to think He is limited in some way, nor do I have the gall to question how He choose to set things up.

    Realize that there are atheists who are proponents of ID. The explicit reason is that nobody at the Discovery Institute insists that people who join are religious.

    I was raised Catholic and they don’t have any problem with Neo-Darwinism and my present religious beliefs don’t have any problem with Neo-Darwinism. I read Michael Behe’s book, The Edge of Evolution and that is what made me understand the problem sufficiently to see that the emperor has no clothes.

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  10. Larry Koler:
    Also, natural selection tends to make the genome more resistant to change.

    This is incorrect as a general statement.  It depends upon the environment which is imposing selection upon the species.  If the environment is benign and unchanging over a long (many generations) period of time, phenotypes which are not highly-optimised to that environment will be selected out—this is sometimes called the “use it or lose it” principle, an extreme example of which is Spigelman’s monster.

    If, on the other hand, the environment is unstable and rapidly changing (this can include not just matters such as climate and food supply, but the appearance of new predators or competing species), evolution will select species which conserve the ability to adapt to the changes.  Those which over-specialise will blow up the next time their environment and/or competitive landscape shifts slightly from the optimum to which they’re adapted.

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  11. Bryan G. Stephens:
    So, let me also point out, that even though it is a mystery when life formed and how, that does not mean there is any evidence of a non natural process to create it, which is what you seem to be implying. Now, you did not mention God, but, if you want to say God created life on Earth, I can say, with as much “proof” that in fact, life on Earth came from another universe via a portal, brought as part of the slime of a universe hopping race of slugs. Their universe has different laws, and as such, life was sure to happen.

    For myself, I am quite satisfied with God as the author of life. He is, for me, the causeless cause.

    BUT, we are down in the mud here and whatever this place is, this is all we get to discuss. We really don’t get to know what is the bottom turtle.

    Neo-Darwinism is on the table and there are many theoretical statements and ideas undergirding it. Many of us think that it’s basically wrong.

    I wish people could read Michael Behe on this topic. He’s quite good at describing the conundrum. However, as a general way of discussing this topic, he talks about irreducible complexity. It’s important to understand this concept. Here’s generally how it works:

    1. If you have a mechanism like a clock it won’t work at all until all the parts are made and are in place.
    2. Let’s say that the likelihood of each part being made is calculable.
    3. And then that the likelihood of each part being moved into place is calculable.
    4. And then that the likelihood of each part being placed at the same (or nearly) as the other parts is calculable.
    5. Then, one can quantify how likely it is to have a working clock on a certain day.
    6. Behe says that, with regard to the body and its use of DNA (this is where we are today in the Neo-Darwinism theory — it’s all been laid at the feet of the DNA and modifications made randomly to it) that the likelihood of random changes is fairly easy to calculate. And that the calculations quite quickly show that we are at 1 in 10^200 or more to expect even simple changes.

    Behe just says that the universe hasn’t been around long enough to expect these things to happen. That’s all he’s saying. By knowing what we know about the DNA (if this is where they want to hang their theory) then these things can be examined and it’s his opinion that we have to look elsewhere if we want to figure out how things evolve.

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  12. Larry Koler:

    Bryan G. Stephens:
    So, let me also point out, that even though it is a mystery when life formed and how, that does not mean there is any evidence of a non natural process to create it, which is what you seem to be implying. Now, you did not mention God, but, if you want to say God created life on Earth, I can say, with as much “proof” that in fact, life on Earth came from another universe via a portal, brought as part of the slime of a universe hopping race of slugs. Their universe has different laws, and as such, life was sure to happen.

    For myself, I am quite satisfied with God as the author of life. He is, for me, the causeless cause.

    BUT, we are down in the mud here and whatever this place is, this is all we get to discuss. We really don’t get to know what is the bottom turtle.

    Neo-Darwinism is on the table and there are many theoretical statements and ideas undergirding it. Many of us think that it’s basically wrong.

    I wish people could read Michael Behe on this topic. He’s quite good at describing the conundrum. However, as a general way of discussing this topic, he talks about irreducible complexity. It’s important to understand this concept. Here’s generally how it works:

    1. If you have a mechanism like a clock it won’t work at all until all the parts are made and are in place.
    2. Let’s say that the likelihood of each part being made is calculable.
    3. And then that the likelihood of each part being moved into place is calculable.
    4. And then that the likelihood of each part being placed at the same (or nearly) as the other parts is calculable.
    5. Then, one can quantify how likely it is to have a working clock on a certain day.
    6. Behe says that, with regard to the body and its use of DNA (this is where we are today in the Neo-Darwinism theory — it’s all been laid at the feet of the DNA and modifications made randomly to it) that the likelihood of random changes is fairly easy to calculate. And that the calculations quite quickly show that we are at 1 in 10^200 or more to expect even simple changes.

    Behe just says that the universe hasn’t been around long enough to expect these things to happen. That’s all he’s saying. By knowing what we know about the DNA (if this is where they want to hang their theory) then these things can be examined and it’s his opinion that we have to look elsewhere if we want to figure out how things evolve.

    I read that in one of the books and they had a graph like a gravity well to show that things have to act upon the genome with force to get the thing to lose its stability, lift over the edge of the well and plummet to some other point on the surface. Here’s something I just found (I know that this is discussed by the biologists):

    Discussion

    To sum up, we have found that natural selection leads to stablized consensus, where the population structure is not only interdependent but also dynamical. For neutral selection, we find that consensus can always be reached, yet none of these consensus states are stable. In fact, neutral selection will drive the population from one consensus state to another from time to time. When selection is present yet weak, the two interactive groups cannot always reach a consensus state. Interestingly, once the consensus is reached, it must be asymptotically stable. Therefore, natural selection here acts as a double-edged sword: it may drive the two populations to non-consensus states, which never occurs when selection is absent; however, once consensus is established by selection, it is evolutionarily stable.

    Let’s just use the above as a way of explaining my point about the feedback loop that seems to be implicit in natural selection.

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  13. Larry Koler:

    Bryan G. Stephens:
    Now, as to the idea that natural selection is bogus, the problem there is, we see it in action all the time. Now, you may have an alternate explanation to drug-resistant bacteria. I would love to see you spell it out here. However, the moment you say anything close too: the bacteria most resistant are the ones which survived, then you are using natural selection.

    This is the easy one so I’ll deal with this first. (It would help if you didn’t write long complicated comments at this early stage. We need to see where the differences are and we want contrast and clarifying examples.)

    Since I know more about this from the Intelligent Design people and they are the ones who convinced me originally, let me just state what most of the ID people believe. There are three major elements to the Neo-Darwinism and only 1 is in dispute:

    1) Common Descent

    2) Natural Selection

    3) Random mutation or some random process

    Number 3 is the only one that isn’t believed in. Common descent is believed by most ID guys but there are some who think there’s evidence for more than one starting point. Natural selection is kind of like a tautology and is not a problem at all. It’s a tautology in that idea that success succeeds is not all that revolutionary an idea. Also, natural selection tends to make the genome more resistant to change.

    I do not understand the selected sentence.

    I have no idea what process you think natural selection makes the genome more resistant to change.

    Intelligent Design has no proof.

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  14. Larry Koler:

    Bryan G. Stephens:
    So, let me also point out, that even though it is a mystery when life formed and how, that does not mean there is any evidence of a non natural process to create it, which is what you seem to be implying. Now, you did not mention God, but, if you want to say God created life on Earth, I can say, with as much “proof” that in fact, life on Earth came from another universe via a portal, brought as part of the slime of a universe hopping race of slugs. Their universe has different laws, and as such, life was sure to happen.

    For myself, I am quite satisfied with God as the author of life. He is, for me, the causeless cause.

    BUT, we are down in the mud here and whatever this place is, this is all we get to discuss. We really don’t get to know what is the bottom turtle.

    Neo-Darwinism is on the table and there are many theoretical statements and ideas undergirding it. Many of us think that it’s basically wrong.

    I wish people could read Michael Behe on this topic. He’s quite good at describing the conundrum. However, as a general way of discussing this topic, he talks about irreducible complexity. It’s important to understand this concept. Here’s generally how it works:

    1. If you have a mechanism like a clock it won’t work at all until all the parts are made and are in place.
    2. Let’s say that the likelihood of each part being made is calculable.
    3. And then that the likelihood of each part being moved into place is calculable.
    4. And then that the likelihood of each part being placed at the same (or nearly) as the other parts is calculable.
    5. Then, one can quantify how likely it is to have a working clock on a certain day.
    6. Behe says that, with regard to the body and its use of DNA (this is where we are today in the Neo-Darwinism theory — it’s all been laid at the feet of the DNA and modifications made randomly to it) that the likelihood of random changes is fairly easy to calculate. And that the calculations quite quickly show that we are at 1 in 10^200 or more to expect even simple changes.

    Behe just says that the universe hasn’t been around long enough to expect these things to happen. That’s all he’s saying. By knowing what we know about the DNA (if this is where they want to hang their theory) then these things can be examined and it’s his opinion that we have to look elsewhere if we want to figure out how things evolve.

    The clock is a lousy metaphor. Our ears used to be gills. The bones in our ears were once used for something else once. Clocks are simple compared to living things.

    I don’t agree with your man’s math, as we know that each person born has on average two mutations.

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  15. civil westman:
    A superb example of a layman becoming an expert in evolution is Stephen C. Meyer (according to Google, “…an advocate of the pseudoscientific principle of intelligent design…”). Originally a geologist, Meyer became interested in the history and philosophy of science, in which he earned a Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge. He wrote two excellent, scientific books.

    The first is “The Signature in the Cell,” which addresses all the possible mechanisms by which first life – the first self-replicating organisms – arose, including, especially, all the possible “natural” random processes by which complex molecules could possibly have come about spontaneously. The scientific, statistical arguments the book makes in that regard are very persuasive that first life’s appearance (and that event has noting to do with evolution, which can only address already-existing life) could not have occurred by random processes.

    Using the time-tested and accepted  scientific method of analyzing past events (the very method Darwin used) – induction to the best explanation, reasoning from known causes now in operation. After sorting through all the proposed possible other explanations for the emergence of first life, he concludes that intelligent design is the most plausible scientific explanation. An example of such reasoning: suppose a computer were found in an archeological dig dated at one million years ago and one wanted to infer how it came to be. As with all ancient archeology, there are no recorded witnesses to provide an explanation. Knowing how such complex devices come into existence today – they definitively do not arise from spontaneous assembly of the constituent molecules – we have no problem inferring that it must owe its existence to intelligent design, as all other proposed causes are impossible to highly unlikely.

    His second book, “Darwin’s Doubt” lays out the scientific problems faced by the natural selection hypothesis, beginning with the fossil record. This book offers a survey of virtually all theories which have been put forth to address the obvious weaknesses of the rapid emergence of so many different species in the brief geologic time of the “Cambrian Explosion.”

    The only point I want to make about these two superb books is the response of the religious scientific establishment to their reasoned, scientific and measured arguments, none of which cite scripture. Every objection, on the other hand, is zealously religious in nature, citing opinions (not facts) steeped in the received the wisdom of Darwinism, despite the widely-known factual weaknesses thereof. No devotee of “real science” deigns to answer Meyer’s scientific, statistical and logical arguments, which are wrongly dismissed as “pseudoscientific.” There is nothing “pseudo” about the thorough, well-documented arguments in both books. The rabid responses to these rigorously scientific and logical books and the ad hominem attacks on the apostate author, are emblematic of the actual religiosity of leftism. It is unmistakable.

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    Thanks @civil_westman

    If the library doesn’t have both these books, I will be ordering them. They sound fascinating.

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  16. Bryan G. Stephens:
    3) Random mutation or some random process Number 3 is the only one that isn’t believed in. Common descent is believed by most ID guys but there are some who think there’s evidence for more than one starting point. Natural selection is kind of like a tautology and is not a problem at all. It’s a tautology in that idea that success succeeds is not all that revolutionary an idea. Also, natural selection tends to make the genome more resistant to change.

    I do not understand the selected sentence.

    I have no idea what process you think natural selection makes the genome more resistant to change.

    Intelligent Design has no proof.

    Take a look at John’s #12 and my reply (#13).

    Also, my interest in ID is not in a replacement theory nor in proof (whatever that might mean in this field). I only use their studies and books and videos for their criticism of Neo-Darwinism. That’s what I got sold on and, at this stage, I am satisfied with their work in this area.

    I am presently reading a book on a replacement theory but I’m just getting started on it.

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  17. Bryan G. Stephens:

    Larry Koler:

    Bryan G. Stephens:
    So, let me also point out, that even though it is a mystery when life formed and how, that does not mean there is any evidence of a non natural process to create it, which is what you seem to be implying. Now, you did not mention God, but, if you want to say God created life on Earth, I can say, with as much “proof” that in fact, life on Earth came from another universe via a portal, brought as part of the slime of a universe hopping race of slugs. Their universe has different laws, and as such, life was sure to happen.

    For myself, I am quite satisfied with God as the author of life. He is, for me, the causeless cause.

    BUT, we are down in the mud here and whatever this place is, this is all we get to discuss. We really don’t get to know what is the bottom turtle.

    Neo-Darwinism is on the table and there are many theoretical statements and ideas undergirding it. Many of us think that it’s basically wrong.

    I wish people could read Michael Behe on this topic. He’s quite good at describing the conundrum. However, as a general way of discussing this topic, he talks about irreducible complexity. It’s important to understand this concept. Here’s generally how it works:

    1. If you have a mechanism like a clock it won’t work at all until all the parts are made and are in place.
    2. Let’s say that the likelihood of each part being made is calculable.
    3. And then that the likelihood of each part being moved into place is calculable.
    4. And then that the likelihood of each part being placed at the same (or nearly) as the other parts is calculable.
    5. Then, one can quantify how likely it is to have a working clock on a certain day.
    6. Behe says that, with regard to the body and its use of DNA (this is where we are today in the Neo-Darwinism theory — it’s all been laid at the feet of the DNA and modifications made randomly to it) that the likelihood of random changes is fairly easy to calculate. And that the calculations quite quickly show that we are at 1 in 10^200 or more to expect even simple changes.

    Behe just says that the universe hasn’t been around long enough to expect these things to happen. That’s all he’s saying. By knowing what we know about the DNA (if this is where they want to hang their theory) then these things can be examined and it’s his opinion that we have to look elsewhere if we want to figure out how things evolve.

    The clock is a lousy metaphor. Our ears used to be gills. The bones in our ears were once used for something else once. Clocks are simple compared to living things.

    I don’t agree with your man’s math, as we know that each person born has on average two mutations.

    I also think the idea of a clock as a model for the interactivity of the genome to be an absurdly over simplification.

    It is worth considering that even 15 years ago, many investigating DNA thought that over 75% of it was “junk DNA.” This is an extremely important period to investigate. Around this same time, there were so many quick moving “scientific breakthroughs” with regards to Big Ag and its bio engineering and/or RoundUp-ping the seeds and crops that all of life depends on. Given that the entire DNA model at the time was wrong about the DNA’s junkiness,  it is not astonishing to find out that currently 15% of all Americans can no longer tolerate gluten. Often if such a person takes  a trip to France and eats wheat that is not heavily inundated with RoundUp, they have no problem digesting such a wheat.

    Many of those who consider themselves well able to eat gluten are also living on the over-the-counter medications like Nexium, Zantac and Prilosec, so that they can deal with the GM and RoundUp food problems. I doubt that any of this is accidental. After all, there are huge financial connections between the GM Big Ag interests, Big Pesticide interests and the Big Pharma interests. It’s not a bug that suddenly Big Pharma is netting tens of billions of dollars in profits from the over the counter dietary aids. It’s definitely  a feature.

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  18. Bryan G. Stephens:
    The clock is a lousy metaphor. Our ears used to be gills. The bones in our ears were once used for something else once. Clocks are simple compared to living things.

    And the metal used in clocks used to be a hunk of metal and before that it was an ore. The reason for a simple example of a clock is that it’s simple and it illustrates irreducible complexity: DNA changes aren’t worth anything until they are put together and perform an improved service.

    And, in humans and other species that use sexual reproduction then you need to have both sexes compatible with the changes, too.

    I don’t agree with your man’s math, as we know that each person born has on average two mutations.

    Well, I didn’t give you any math in order to believe or not believe. I didn’t intend the article to be read in great depth but just to illustrate a concept — that natural selection is a stabilizing element in evolution.

    I guess Michael Behe’s Darwin’s Black Box, is very good at the math part. I haven’t read it yet.

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  19. Why does it have to be either or? If there was a mystery diner that was only open between 3Am and 7Am, and any time you went there, there was a pie or cake out on the counter, available for purchase, on the honor system, as no clerk was ever there, did God create the pie or cake?

    Or did a human create the pie or cake? Which doesn’t rule out that God was part of this.

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  20. John Walker:

    Larry Koler:
    Also, natural selection tends to make the genome more resistant to change.

    This is incorrect as a general statement.  It depends upon the environment which is imposing selection upon the species.  If the environment is benign and unchanging over a long (many generations) period of time, phenotypes which are not highly-optimised to that environment will be selected out—this is sometimes called the “use it or lose it” principle, an extreme example of which is Spigelman’s monster.

    If, on the other hand, the environment is unstable and rapidly changing (this can include not just matters such as climate and food supply, but the appearance of new predators or competing species), evolution will select species which conserve the ability to adapt to the changes.  Those which over-specialise will blow up the next time their environment and/or competitive landscape shifts slightly from the optimum to which they’re adapted.

    And all bets are off as far as some benevolent unfolding of mutations occurring in today’s modern world. For instance,  the midwives working in the four corners’ area of Utah are seeing few babies go to full term, due to the horrific results of the fracking chemicals thrown into the environment that pregnant women must encounter there. Those babies that do end up being born alive have multiple birth defects. Even those who go on to walk and talk have afflictions relating to their intellectual and emotional development.

    One midwife commented that these babies are ” a new type of human being.” And she didn’t mean that in a positive way, either.

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  21. In looking into the topic over at Powell’s online bookstore, I noticed this book:

    Evolution 2.0: Breaking the Deadlock Between Darwin and Design

    by Perry Marshall 
    Since I was taught as a Catholic that there is no need to think that God hand crafted the earth with his great big Godly hands, but rather that the galaxies and solar systems could be brought about by billions of years worth of changes, gaseous materials to planets and suns, all of that as part of God’s design, I never understood the hoopla over the situation.

    And hopefully people like Perry Marshall can scientifically address the situation.

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  22. John Walker:
    What is curious, though, is that evolution (whether strictly governed by Darwin’s theories, or admitting more recent discoveries such as lateral gene transfer in bacteria, viral insertions in the DNA of species, epigenetics and gene regulation, etc.) is much closer philosophically to libertarian and free market philosophy, while creationism, intelligent design, and the like are aligned with much of leftist thought (central planning, teleological design, top-down optimisation for utility, etc.)

    The Left will become increasingly hostile to scientific work in evolutionary biology for reasons outlined above and as I explain in the comment on the thread that spawned this discussion. Rather than quote it here, I’ll just link it. I expect increasing efforts by the Left to suppress work in this field because it’s coming up with answers they don’t like.

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  23. Larry Koler:
    This matches the left’s penchant for Neo-Darwinism, too. At least, the version with all the happy talk about how things always just randomly, accidentally just get better and smarter and more complex and more ordered.

    Just to clarify, my purpose in disputing your initial comment was not to defend evolutionary biology but, rather, to clarify what its tenets are. If you want to disagree with something, first make sure you know what it is. The operative misconception here is the idea that Darwinian or post-Darwinian theory holds that (a) evolution is directed at some sort of optimum and (b) that everything continues “get better and smarter and more complex and more ordered.”

    My own theory about why people get these ideas is the phrase survival of the fittest. Turns out that Darwin was not the originator of this phrase, though he later adopted it. Actually, it doesn’t matter what Darwin thought or did. A superior phrase, if a catchphrase is required, is survival of the fit. Taking away those few letters makes all the difference. Natural selection only needs for a species to be good enough, not perfect, not ever-improving.

    Some of you may be familiar with the aphorism, “Perfection is the enemy of good enough.” Biology takes this to heart. The reason cockroaches and ferns are unchanged is because they are good enough. They are highly successful species that will probably outlast the more complex humans without the need to “get better and smarter and more complex and more ordered.”

    I keep quoting that phrase because it is the key wrong thing in the original comment. I provided evidence that it was wrong repeatedly but was ignored or rephrased (hey, it’s my comment).

    Larry Koler:
    I think where we are presently differing is on the issue of what I meant by “always”

    Nope. It’s that part about “better and smarter and more complex and more ordered.” There may be pressure to change but it doesn’t need to be in the direction of smarter or more complex (better is subjective and hence undefined or tautologically defined). Change might result in a less complex, less ordered structure.

    There is also no optimization. There are plenty of things that aren’t quite right (e.g., the human back) that aren’t going to get better. They are certainly far from optimum. Organisms are merely good enough so they don’t die out. That’s it. There may well be a more optimum fern but the ferns we have are doing just great and have been for a long time. No need to change. Good enough.

    And that’s why it was off topic to the Zman post and progressivism: because progressivism is utopian, leading to a promised land (Zman’s phrase). Natural selection isn’t leading anywhere in particular. Like most religions, progressivism has a paradise while natural selection does not.

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