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Evolution Basics: A New Introductory Course on Evolutionary Biology

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February 7, 2013 Tags: Genetics, History of Life

Today's entry was written by Dennis Venema. You can read more about what we believe here.

Evolution Basics: A New Introductory Course on Evolutionary Biology

Regular readers of the BioLogos Forum will know that over the past few years I have written extensively on various evidences for evolution, often with a focus on genetics evidence. Other posts have focused on scientific arguments put forward from groups such as the Intelligent Design Movement (IDM), or the Old Earth Creationist organization Reasons to Believe (RTB), with a view to showing why I find those arguments unpersuasive. Often these articles are deeply technical—to the point where my friends (perhaps on Facebook, perhaps in a conversation over coffee in the church foyer on Sunday) would comment that, as interesting as it looked, it was just over their heads. Now, these friends are intelligent people, and some are even interested in evolution—but they’re not folks who read extensively on the topic. Nor do they follow the IDM or RTB—they’re just average folks who would like to learn more, but need to start at the beginning and work up slowly – not jump in halfway through, with technical terms and jargon flying around. They need a context for the discussion. They need to explore the basics,  first, before building on that understanding to explore the finer details.

So, I’ve decided to try a slightly different approach for the next while—one that has these sorts of folks in mind. From time to time, you can still expect those more in-depth, technical articles, or perhaps a discussion of some new research that makes the popular press, or even an analysis of some new argument from the IDM or RTB. These will be breaks from the new routine, however. For the most part, we’re going to stick to the basics, much like you would if you took an introductory evolution course at a university. Don’t worry, though: this course doesn’t have any prerequisites! All that’s needed is a willingness to learn.

What you can expect

The goal of this course is straightforward: to provide evangelical Christians with a step-by-step introduction to the science of evolutionary biology.  This will provide benefits beyond just the joy of learning more about God’s wonderful creation. An understanding of the basic science of evolution is of great benefit for reflecting on its theological implications, since this reflection can then be done from a scientifically-informed perspective. From time to time we might comment briefly on some issues of theological interest (and suggest resources for those looking to explore those issues further), but for the most part, we’re going to focus on the science. For folks interested in the interaction between science and Christianity, I heartily recommend Ted Davis’ recent series as a fabulous introduction to the topic.

You can also expect a slow, patient pace. Since this course is intended for folks with little or no background in biology, we’re going to take our time to make sure no one gets left behind. This might be frustrating to folks who already know a fair bit about evolution. Hopefully even more knowledgeable readers will learn some new and interesting details along the way—but the goal will primarily be to help folks who are less well versed in evolution increase their understanding.

You can also expect a survey of many different areas that have some bearing on evolution. We’ll examine geology, paleontology, biogeography, genetics, and a host of other topics in order to provide a “big picture” overview. This broad-brush approach means that any given individual post will not necessarily be “convincing” to folks who have doubts about evolution. Think about assembling a large jigsaw puzzle: placing any individual piece, on its own, doesn’t convincingly demonstrate what the overall picture will show. This course will be like that. Each topic we cover will put a few pieces in place here and there, slowly building towards the final overall picture.

Since evolution is an active science, this process will also highlight where there are “missing pieces” that are still being sought by scientists. All of this is well and good, since the purpose of this course is not so much to convince anyone of the validity of evolutionary theory, but rather to inform readers about the nature and scope of evolution as a scientific theory in the present day. My goal is to provide readers with a basic understanding of what evolution is and how it works. Given that as the primary goal, if one finds the scope of the evidence ultimately convincing (or not) is somewhat beside the point. The intent here is to provide readers with information they can use to make their own, informed decision.

How you can help

First and foremost, you can help by spreading the word about this series to folks you think would be interested in learning more about evolution in a non-threatening environment. Secondly, you can help me by asking questions in the comments. One of the challenges of being a specialist is having the ability to put oneself in the shoes of someone just starting out. What might seem obvious to me may not seem obvious to you, and I hope you’ll feel that no question is too basic or too simplistic. If you’re wondering about something, it’s almost guaranteed that other folks are, too! So, please don’t be shy. I’ll do my best to answer questions in the comments, though I hope that some of our more skilled commenters will (respectfully!) help out here, as well. Finally, you can help by letting me know what broader areas of evolution you find confusing. I have my own ideas about what areas of evolution are commonly misunderstood, but I’d love to hear from readers about what areas they find difficult to understand. I’ll use this input to shape the topics I will cover as we go forward.

Getting started

In the next post in this course, we’ll dive into the course content by introducing two key areas: how scientific theories work in general, and how evolution in particular works as the current organizing theory of modern biology. 

 


Dennis Venema is professor of biology at Trinity Western University in Langley, British Columbia. He holds a B.Sc. (with Honors) from the University of British Columbia (1996), and received his Ph.D. from the University of British Columbia in 2003. His research is focused on the genetics of pattern formation and signaling using the common fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster as a model organism. Dennis is a gifted thinker and writer on matters of science and faith, but also an award-winning biology teacher—he won the 2008 College Biology Teaching Award from the National Association of Biology Teachers. He and his family enjoy numerous outdoor activities that the Canadian Pacific coast region has to offer. Dennis writes regularly for the BioLogos Forum about the biological evidence for evolution.

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Mike Beidler - #76432

February 7th 2013

Looking forward to this course, Dennis!

From my own experience, one of the things I had difficulty comprehending about evolutionary processes was the “time factor,” i.e., the rate at which evolution occurs, and whether there was indeed enough time for evolutionary processes to transform certain populations of earth’s first lifeforms into the variety of flora and fauna we see today.  Without a solid understanding of this, it’s easy to dismiss evolutionary processes by resorting to the common argument that “there’s not enough time!”

Another difficult topic for me was the concept of speciation and how environmental pressures in one locale would work differently on a particular population than an indentically genetic population elsewhere.  Related to this is the concept of evolutionary processes building upon or adapting existing biological components, not creating brand-new structures out of thin air.  This would also lead into a great discussion of evolutionary developmental biology (evo-devo) and embryology, an understanding of which was instrumental to my acceptance of the veracity of evolutionary theory.

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Dennis Venema - #76472

February 8th 2013

Thanks, Commander B! We’ll certainly cover the slow, gradual pace of evolution, and how that fits into the time available. I agree that lots of folks get stuck on misconceptions here. I’ll look forward to your contributions as we proceed. 

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beaglelady - #76658

February 16th 2013

Mike,

The “not enough time” question is from our failure to grasp just how much time life has been evolving (over 3 billion years).  We are mortals with short lifespans, and it’s a difficult concept to get our heads around. 

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brutewolf - #76434

February 7th 2013

I’m excited by this idea.

I think the greatest challenge you face is not simply explaining evolution, but dismantling the most common misconceptions. Even the most accessible science text is useless if the reader is smirking while reading it. In my experience at my own church, the most common scientific challenge most people have to evolution is macroevolution. I’m always looking for new ways to explain it, and look forward to your thoughts. Also, I’ve never gotten more than ten minutes into a conversation without radiometrics coming in to play, or the Noachian flood. I realize those may be beyond an Evolution 101 course, but I hope you’ll include links to respectful explanations. Talkorigins.org is extremely comprehensive, but not always friendly.

My hope is that you’ll have a series where I can simply tell a friend, “Start here…then let’s talk.” BioLogos has needed a good comprehensive series like this. This could have the potential to become the flagship narrative of the website. I wish you well.

Brute Wolf

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Dennis Venema - #76473

February 8th 2013

“My hope is that you’ll have a series where I can simply tell a friend, “Start here…then let’s talk.””

That sort of thing is exactly one of my goals. I’ll appreciate your input as we go along, to help point out areas that we need to cover to make this series meet that goal. 

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melanogaster - #76508

February 11th 2013

“I think the greatest challenge you face is not simply explaining evolution, but dismantling the most common misconceptions…My hope is that you’ll have a series where I can simply tell a friend, “Start here…then let’s talk.”

Hear, hear! The most effective framing would be to make each post about a misconception. Some misconceptions are so huge that they might not fit, of course.

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beaglelady - #76659

February 16th 2013

In my Coursera course on Genetics and Evolution (Duke U.), instructor Professor Noor covers misconceptions about evolution.

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Daniel Eaton - #76435

February 7th 2013

Thank you SOOO much for this, Dennis!  I have two requests.  First, can you address how evolution “adding” information or being contrary to the law of entropy?  These are frequent arguments I hear about/against evolution.  Second, as this looks to be a lengthy series, is there any way BioLogos can can put this (and any other long series) in a downloadable EPUB ebook format?  I’d love to add it to my ebook collection.

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sy - #76443

February 7th 2013

I dont know if Dennis will address your questions, Daniel, but if the course is going to be very basic, it might take a while for him to get there. So just to jump start a bit, I can tell you that the idea that evolution is contrary to entropy is based on a misconception of what entropy is.

It is true that entropy is tendency to increasing disorder, and had been linked to lower complexity. So that raises the question of why we even have living beings, which are highly complex, and exhibit a great deal of order. The answer (and this applies throughout evolution as well) is that entropy is determined by the degree of order of the entire system. In life, these are chemical systems, and while it might seem that the chemical reactions that drive life are very ordered, they actually tend to increase entropy in their local environment (often by effects on surrounding water molecules).

These kind of calculations, related to energy and entropy have been done for most known chemical reactions, and for many enzyme catalysed biochemical reactions. And, (luckily) it turns out there are no contradictions. On the local level, our cells actually produce more entropy as they live, depite their appearance of high organization. So, there is no contradiction between the law of increasing entropy, and the phenomenon of biological complexity, including the effects of progressive evolutionary change.

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Peter Wallace - #76447

February 7th 2013

Yes, thanks. And I, too, would love to see some of these series as downloadable epubs.

Thanks – Peter

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Dennis Venema - #76475

February 8th 2013

Thanks Daniel! We’ll certainly tackle these issues along the way. You might also be interested in the series on biological information I did a while back. 

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marklynn.buchanan - #76446

February 7th 2013

Looking forward to this series very much Dennis.

A further motivation for those who oppose evolution to learn more about it is this - to simply understand those who accept evolution. I try to challenge opponents of evolution to simply understand it - if for no other reason than to talk about it with accurate information. Doesn’t normally work however.

Mark

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Leigh Copeland - #76455

February 7th 2013

I can’t understand how randomness and design are not mutually contradictory.  Are the mutations known to be the effects of causes which we can’t or don’t at present know? Or are they radically random, that is, causeless?  For years I understood and passed on the idea that the project of evolution  science was precisely to explain the variety we see without resorting to an intelligent designer.  It often appears to me that Theistic Evolutionists want to have it both ways: they want God; but they want a God who is indetectible.  Does randomness exist for God? or only for us and our limited understanding?  Sproul says that if randomness exists God doesn’t. 

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brutewolf - #76470

February 8th 2013

As for the coexistence of randomness and providence, I’ve never been troubled by it in any way. Just as Romans 13 tells us that God appoints leaders, albeit through very human means. The health of my children; meeting my wife years ago; circumstances leading to my current medical practice; a tornado that turned north. All of them could be seen as random, but I don’t see it that way.

I’m wanting to address the concept of randomness at some point at my local church. Of those who oppose evolution on the basis of randomness, I’ve never heard them simultaneously address modern observable *apparent* randomness.

Could you help me understand your concern? Perhaps we’re on the same page already. If a Theistic Evolutionist  says that God had no providence in evolution, I’m not sure how he could believe in his providence in governments, the weather, his family, etc. And in that case, he may be a Theistic Evolutionist, but I’m not sure what the point is in his theism.

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Dennis Venema - #76471

February 8th 2013

Thanks for the questions, Leigh. We’ll certainly be dealing with the “randomness” issue from the biology side of the equation. The short answer is that we know what sorts of events cause mutations, yes - and they’re not absolutely random. When an evolutionary biologist uses the term “random” they’re saying that mutations happen without any correlation to their effects on the organism at that time. The idea is that organisms don’t direct certain mutations to happen as a result of needing them. 

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Lou Jost - #76483

February 9th 2013

Dennis, actually many of the events that cause mutations are truly random, in the quantum mechanical sense. This was already recognized by the earliest pioneers of molecular genetics. See the work of H Muller, who won the Nobel Prize for his work on mutations in the 1920s and 1930s; for example see Muller H 1973 “The modern concept of nature.” SUNY Press, NY.

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Leigh Copeland - #76547

February 12th 2013

“organisms don’t direct certain mutations to happen…”. Do evolutionary biologists make the same denial about God?  Does God direct certain mutations?  Does an evolutionary biologist who is a Theistic Evolutionist say that God directs certain mutations?

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melanogaster - #76510

February 11th 2013

“I can’t understand how randomness and design are not mutually contradictory.”

OK, but can you understand that Darwinian evolution only requires genetic variation (polymorphism) within a population? That it simply doesn’t matter whether God created that variation entirely nonrandomly 6000 years ago or whether it arose and continues to arise by mutation?

Can you understand that the randomness bit is a red herring? That mutation is only random with respect to fitness?

“Are the mutations known to be the effects of causes which we can’t or don’t at present know?”

No, we know the reasons.

“Or are they radically random, that is, causeless?”

From where do you get the idea that “random” = “causeless”? If you record my hands shuffling a deck of cards, I can deal you a random hand, but you could still go back through the video and find the causes that led to the specific hand you were dealt.

“For years I understood and passed on the idea that the project of evolution science was precisely to explain the variety we see without resorting to an intelligent designer.”

Why would you pass on such an idea regarding the motives of a group of people? Did any evolutionary biologists tell you this, or was it pure hearsay?

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Lou Jost - #76511

February 11th 2013

Melanogaster, as I said above, many mutations are truly random in the quantum-mechanical sense, quite unlike the shuffling of cards. No amount of prior knowledge about the state of the world would tell you whether or not such a mutation would occur, or not occur, at that particular place and moment in time.

Leigh, the “project” of evolutionary biology is just to accurately explain how life’s diversity arose. There is no good evidence that a designer is needed. I am sure Dennis’ course will speak to this. Genuine randomness and externally-imposed design are indeed mutually contradictory, but since there is no evidence for design, the contradiction is moot.

 

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Ted Davis - #77200

March 7th 2013

Lou,

I do not agree with your claim that “Genuine randomness and externally-imposed design are indeed mutually contradictory,” if by genuine randomness you mean as in QM. That would be a specific interpretation of QM, according to which no cause actually exists for all of the relevant quantum events. That is certainly a possible interpretation of events, but not the only one consistent with QM.

It could also be the case (e.g.), that a designer (imagine something like Maxwell’s demon, if that helps) chooses to determine the outcome of one particular quantum event (among many) or series of events (among many others), such that a particular mutation takes place at a given moment.

Several physicists have advanced this idea, or something similar to it, including William Pollard (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_G._Pollard). For an interesting recent proposal, see the chapter by physicist and theologian Robert Russell, “Special Providence and Genetic Mutation,” in this book: http://biologos.org/resources/books/perspectives-on-an-evolving-creation

If (say) God were to act at the quantum level at certain points in natural history, events would take place that were not “random” in the metaphysical sense of being uncaused, although they would still appear “random” statistically b/c as individual events they would stand out above the “noise” (if I could use that term). For that reason, they would not constitute “evidence for design,” and we agree to that extent. Nevertheless, God could carry out specific intentions in this way, on a regular basis. Theologically this constitutes special divine action without “intervention” in the ordinary sense of that term.

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Ted Davis - #77201

March 7th 2013

I now see that Eddie already got into this. I hadn’t read that far yet, since I’m reading this column for the first time now. At least I gave some specific information (including a source) that he did not provide.

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Eddie - #76529

February 11th 2013

To All:

’ From where do you get the idea that “random” = “causeless”? ‘

I know where Leigh probably got the idea (either directly, or indirectly, through a chain of popularization).  The most common source for this idea is the so-called “Copenhagen interpretation” of quantum physics—which, I am told, is the majority interpretation.  In this interpretation, there are events at the micro-level which occur without sufficient cause, in the classical sense of causality.  The location of an electron, for example, or the timing of a radioactive emission, is often said to be governed by no underlying law, but by a random selection from a set of possibilities, where nature has no bias toward any one of the possibilities.   Champions of this view mean, not that there might be an underlying law but we just can’t detect it, but that there is not and cannot be such a law—the structure of reality requires the radical randomness.  Thus, whereas a dice throw only looks random (if we could calculate all the forces involved, we could predict exactly what the roll would be), a radioactive emission is truly random, and scientists will never be able to predict when the next radioactive emission will occur.  (Though they can predict the overall trend of large numbers of emissions—the phenomenon of half-life.)

Of course, the only “randomness” that neo-Darwinism requires is “random with respect to evolutionary outcome.”  But the other kind of “randomness”—genuine non-sufficient causality at the “quantum level”—is often brought into the picture, exploited to opposite ends by creationists and theistic evolutionists.  The creationists argue that if there is “real randomness” of the kind quantum physics talks about, God is not in control of all events (he might foresee them all, but he’s not in control of them all), and this is heretical; and some TEs, like Robert Russell, argue that “real randomness” means that we can’t tell the difference between a chance quantum event and a quantum event subtly steered by God, so God could be guiding the evolutionary process—literally designing the outcomes, and executing them, mutation by mutation—and science could never tell the difference.  The “God hypothesis” would be empirically indistinguishable from the “chance hypothesis.”  Russell himself believes—as a theologian, not as a scientist (he’s both, incidentally), that God is guiding the process, indetectably.  In taking an explicit position, Russell is definitely in the minority among the most vocal and most published TEs, very few of whom will commit themselves, even when speaking purely personally, as Christians rather than as scientists, on whether they believe that God is guiding the evolutionary process at the mutational level.

I’ve offered these remarks to clarify some of the ideas and positions, not to take sides.  (I reserve the right to take sides on another occasion.)

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Human Ape - #76494

February 10th 2013

Other posts have focused on scientific arguments put forward from groups such as the Intelligent Design Movement (IDM), or the Old Earth Creationist organization Reasons to Believe (RTB), with a view to showing why I find those arguments unpersuasive.

Unpersuasive? Wouldn’t a more appropriate word be “insane”?

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beaglelady - #76502

February 10th 2013

This should be good, Dennis!  I’m also taking Coursera’s  Introduction to Genetics and Evolution, taught by Prof. Mohamad Noor at Duke U.

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hanan-d - #76505

February 10th 2013

Thank you

I too would like to hear more about what seems to be an obvious contradiction (guided vs random). My issue is that guided WOULD make sense, but then you have the problems of “bad design”, such as even Francis Collins brings up in his book (i.e. wisdom teeth, eyeball) and much more.

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

Because if it was guided, why would it be guided to something that is poorly designed.

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melanogaster - #76509

February 11th 2013

“I too would like to hear more about what seems to be an obvious contradiction (guided vs random).”

Then one basic concept you might want to consider is:

1) Genetic variation in populations exists
2) Genetic variation leads to differential reproduction rates
3) The genetics of those populations therefore changes over time.

There ya go! Darwinian evolution in a nutshell. Can you grasp that the variation exists and can be measured, so that it doesn’t matter whether it was created by God 6000 years ago or by mutations (random ONLY in one sense—fitness)?

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robynhood - #76516

February 11th 2013

Perhaps I misunderstand, but isn’t that like asking, “Can you grasp that my tee-shirt exists, so that it doesn’t matter whether it was created by God (ex nihilo) or by child laborers in a third-world sweat shop?”

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beaglelady - #76521

February 11th 2013

Not really, because you have added a moral dimension. Of course it matters if a garment was  made in a sweat shop by a child worker.

btw, I’m glad you came back.

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robynhood - #76522

February 11th 2013

Good observation beaglelady, but I introduced the moral dimension intentionally. It seems there truly are valid moral objections to the idea that God would create via Natural Selection.  Personally, it is the area of TE that I still find difficult to reconcile.  If humanity is something special that God wanted to create (like my tee-shirt), does it matter that it was made via an inefficient process that involved the suffering of countless other life forms before us?  Do the ends justify the means?

In any case, I think hanan-d’s question above was a good one.  I am looking forward to this series also.

btw - thank you - I just decided I ought to read a great deal more than I write. : )

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melanogaster - #76553

February 13th 2013

“It seems there truly are valid moral objections to the idea that God would create via Natural Selection.”

Then those objections should address natural selection itself, not the origin of the variation on which it acts. That’s why randomness is a red herring, especially when one falsely attaches it to Darwin, who never mentioned it.

Does that make it more clear?

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melanogaster - #76554

February 13th 2013

“Perhaps I misunderstand, but isn’t that like asking, “Can you grasp that my tee-shirt exists, so that it doesn’t matter whether it was created by God (ex nihilo) or by child laborers in a third-world sweat shop?”

No, it’s nothing like that at all. To make your bizarre analogy more relevant, my point is that if one is questioning Darwinian evolution, one can only debate what has happened to the T-shirt that everyone agrees exists, say, whether someone cut off the sleeves with scissors. The way in which the T-shirt came into existence is not relevant to whether or not scissors were used to cut off the sleeves.

Do you question whether heritable variation exists among populations of living things?

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robynhood - #76596

February 14th 2013

melanogaster:  Thank you for your comments. I’m afraid I do not quite understand what you are getting at.  It is possible we are not talking about the same thing.  

You seem to be trying to point out the scientific facts about heritable variations and differential reproduction rates, etc.  Is this so you can convince me that one species evolves into another species over time?  If so, then the trouble is that I am already convinced of this.  I have accepted evolution for many years and am not arguing against it.

My “bizarre analogy” was designed as an objection to your comment about it not mattering how something was created.  It may not matter to you personally how variations occur (whether they arise purely from the materialistic laws of nature, or by some action of a personal God) but it certainly matters to some of us.  It is important to not dismiss the concerns of others simply because you do not share those concerns.

Perhaps our difference is that you may be speaking only to the concerns of science whereas I am taking a more philosophical approach?

By the way, I’m curious what you mean when you say that “randomness is a red herring.”  Do you mean that you believe ‘real’ randomness does not exist?  Or do you mean that, because genetic variation is an observable fact, it doesn’t matter (to you) if that variation arrises randomly?

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melanogaster - #76631

February 15th 2013

“I’m afraid I do not quite understand what you are getting at. It is possible we are not talking about the same thing.”

Agreed. You don’t seem to understand the fallaciousness of making randomness a centerpiece of attacks on evolutionary biology.

“You seem to be trying to point out the scientific facts about heritable variations and differential reproduction rates, etc. Is this so you can convince me that one species evolves into another species over time?”

Not at all. Furthermore, the idea that “one species evolves into another” is an entirely separate red herring. This is another gross misrepresentation that is fundamental, but in this case actually is Darwinian. Speciation is about a population splitting into two populations that lose the ability to interbreed, not “one species evolves into another.” Can you see the fundamental difference in this case?

“If so, then the trouble is that I am already convinced of this. I have accepted evolution for many years and am not arguing against it.”

Then I strongly advise against invoking creationist misrepresentations like “one species evolves into another.”

“My “bizarre analogy” was designed as an objection to your comment about it not mattering how something was created.”

It doesn’t matter in a particular context—attacking Darwinian evolution by natural selection (or for that matter, non-Darwinian evolution by drift).

Can you see that if one doesn’t buy common descent, one should be vehemently opposed to any conclusion drawn in paternity DNA testing?

“It may not matter to you personally how variations occur (whether they arise purely from the materialistic laws of nature, or by some action of a personal God) but it certainly matters to some of us.”

All that matters for natural selection is that they exist, and we all know they do. That’s why attacking mutation is a red herring.

“Perhaps our difference is that you may be speaking only to the concerns of science whereas I am taking a more philosophical approach?”

No, I am talking logic.

“By the way, I’m curious what you mean when you say that “randomness is a red herring.” Do you mean that you believe ‘real’ randomness does not exist?”

No, see above.

“Or do you mean that, because genetic variation is an observable fact, it doesn’t matter (to you) if that variation arrises randomly?”

Closer, but my point is that it doesn’t matter in any debates over Darwinian evolution.

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robynhood - #76692

February 16th 2013

melanogaster:  

I am not “attacking” anything… especially not TE views because I find them very reasonable.

You, on the other hand, seem to be attacking almost everything and everyone in this forum.

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Eddie - #76705

February 17th 2013

True, robynhood.  And you should have seen him in his prime!  He has been much more polite in the past few days than he ever was in the old days!  I guess age has mellowed him.

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hanan-d - #76517

February 11th 2013

Sorry, I don’t understand how that answers my question. Im not asking about variations or evolution. I believe in evolution. I want to know how one deals with “bad design” if one believes in guided evolution. 

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beaglelady - #76519

February 11th 2013

You would have to ask an ID proponent to answer that one.

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Eddie - #76530

February 11th 2013

Actually, beaglelady, hanan-d has to ask TEs and young earth creationists, not ID proponents.  Both TEs and YECs have positions on “the problem of evil,” whereas ID, per se, has none.

ID is about design detection, and design detection is compatible with even a malignant God.  ID is interested only in establishing the fact of design, not in justifying the design as good, kindly, pleasant, just, fair, etc.  The torture instruments used by the Inquisition were certainly designed, but they were not very nice.  Only a fool would argue that because these instruments are not nice, they cannot have been designed, but must have arisen as side-effects of unintentional processes.

YECs have to explain why the bodies of tigers are exquisitely fit for tearing, maiming, killing, and flesh-eating if all animals were originally meant to be vegetarian.  TEs such as Ayala and Miller, who have tried to get God off the hook for evil and suffering in nature by blaming it all on the evolutionary process, need to explain why God would use such a process.  ID people need to explain nothing, since there is no moral or theological claim in saying:  “This (structure, organ, organism, body plan, etc.) looks to be designed, not the mere product of chance and natural laws.”  The design inference may be correct or incorrect, but either way it commits one to no theological or moral stance.  It is only when one adds “And I think that the God of Christianity (Judaism, etc.) designed it” that the moral and theological questions come into play.  

So, beaglelady, speaking as a TE, what is your explanation for why God creates through such a pain-causing and inefficient process as Darwinian evolution?  Couldn’t he have done things in a more compassionate way? 

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beaglelady - #76541

February 12th 2013

 ID people need to explain nothing, since there is no moral or theological claim in saying:  “This (structure, organ, organism, body plan, etc.) looks to be designed, not the mere product of chance and natural laws.”  The design inference may be correct or incorrect, but either way it commits one to no theological or moral stance.  It is only when one adds “And I think that the God of Christianity (Judaism, etc.) designed it” that the moral and theological questions come into play.

 

So you have no moral or theological comment, even though you believe that God designed the polio virus?  You can just turn on a dime and throw God under the bus?

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Eddie - #76543

February 12th 2013

You are misunderstanding the point.  If the question is “Is the polio virus designed, or the product of the accidents of evolution?” then that answer is to be found by determining whether the accidents of evolution could have produced such a thing, or whether it bears decisive marks of design.  Moral or theological indignation that the polio virus should exist is beside the point.

If you ask your doctor if you have diabetes, or any other condition, you expect your doctor to say yes, or no, and then give the scientific justification for the diagnosis.  (Your blood test shows a high level of ... your x-ray shows ... etc.)  You aren’t primarily concerned with how badly your doctor feels about your condition.  And if the doctor fails to add “Sorry about the bad news,” you might find your doctor a bit insensitive, but you won’t doubt the diagnosis on that account.

All that ID people undertake—when they are doing ID theory, as opposed to when they are doing religious activities in their personal lives—is to provide a diagnosis—is the universe suffering from design, or not?  They don’t undertake to give people emotional consolation, e.g., “Yes, malaria is designed, and that really sucks, doesn’t it?”  If you want emotional consolation regarding how the universe is, go talk to the clergyman at that church of yours, not to an ID theorist.  You’re asking the wrong question of ID people, so of course you will not get a satisfying answer.

But you are trying to deflect your problem to ID.  TE—which I take it is your position, unless you are secretly an atheist just pretending to be a TE—does take a theological position.  It does attribute the “survival of the fittest”—natural selection—to the will of God.  It does say that God’s plan for creation was to bring new species into the world through a fierce competition for survival, in which most of the species that will ever exist will quickly become extinct; in which parasites will do horrible things to the bodies of their hosts; etc.  In other words, TE makes God just as responsible for evil as any “creationist” view in which God creates things instantly.  Whether the creation process is instantaneous, or takes 6 days, or 4 billion years, the point is that there is plenty of suffering, pain, sadness, violence, etc. in organic life, and that God, as the Sole Proprietor and Chief Executive of the universe, has to bear the responsibility for that, one way or the other, since he could have created a universe in which such things did not exist.

An atheist has to face no “problem of evil,” since he does not believe in the existence of a good God.  He can say:  those are just the bad breaks of the evolutionary process.  But a TE has some big-time explaining to do.  Miller and Ayala’s attempt to put the blame on “evolution” and thus keep God’s hands clean is theologically laughable.  I hope you can do better than Miller and Ayala.

So before you gloat in triumph over ID’s failure to theologically justify evil and suffering (which it doesn’t attempt to do), you had better reflect on TE’s failure to do the same.

Of course, I am not expecting an answer from you, beaglelady, because you have never offered an expository answer of any kind on this site.  You content yourself with snappy comebacks and rhetorical questions.  But if you can’t offer an answer to this question, why are you a TE at all?  Why are you a Christian at all?

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robynhood - #76545

February 12th 2013

Eddie, you make it sound as if all ID advocates are also theologically agnostic (or that they can seperate their ID views from their personal religious beleifs), which I doubt.  If the conclusion by the ID camp is that life is designed, then that implies a designer which naturally raises other questions.  Is this designer a good designer (both morally and functionally?)  Was all the design done at the beginning and then the designer moved on to other projects? - or is the designer still involved in the universe at the present time?  It seems very strange to me that the people involved in the ID movement would have nothing more to add than, “See, it’s designed.”  Perhaps they hold the ideal of speaking only to the design question, but I doubt that ideal is actually realized.

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Eddie - #76549

February 12th 2013

robynhood:

If you are saying that it is hard for people not to think about the designer of nature when they think about the design, I agree.  And when asked about their personal faith, ID people are very up-front in identifying the designer of nature.  And sometimes up-front in theological detail; Bill Dembski has written a whole book on theodicy.

But that doesn’t mean that ID as a theory has to deal with the nature of God, the problem of evil, and so on.  And it doesn’t.  It rigorously excludes such questions.  ID proponents describe themselves as applying mathematics, biochemistry, information theory, etc., in order to detect design in nature.  They are trying to show that at least certain features of nature couldn’t have arisen by chance alone, or even chance plus natural laws alone, but required intelligent planning.

In other words, ID has set itself a very limited task.  It is not an alternate historical account of origins that seeks to give a chronology of the universe from the Big Bang to the present.  Still less is it a theology.

If it could be proved beyond a doubt that malaria, a horrible organism, was designed, that might pose some problems for Christian theology—or it might not.  That’s not ID’s problem.  That’s Christian theology’s problem.  And insofar as ID theorists are also often Christians, they will of course reflect on that problem.  But not as ID theorists.  They will reflect on it as Christians and as human beings.

But keep your eye on the big picture, robynhood.  You asked a very shrewd question about TE up above:

“Personally, it is the area of TE that I still find difficult to reconcile.  If humanity is something special that God wanted to create (like my tee-shirt), does it matter that it was made via an inefficient process that involved the suffering of countless other life forms before us?  Do the ends justify the means?”

I have been asking questions similar to this of TE writings, and TE writers, for a long time now.  I have never received a satisfactory answer.  If the evil and suffering of the universe are arguments against intelligent design (as TEs insist, over and over again), how does a God who creates through neo-Darwinian processes, with all their cruelty, inefficiency, extinctions, etc., pass muster?  Beaglelady has not yet answered this question.  I doubt she has an answer.  Yet she is sure that ID is false and that TE is true.

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hanan-d - #76550

February 13th 2013

So Eddie, I’m trying to keep score. Which side are you on?

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Eddie - #76551

February 13th 2013

I’m on the side of truth.  And that means that criticisms of ID can’t proceed from a double standard.  A TE can’t complain:  “ID can’t account theologically for all the pain and suffering in the natural world!” when TE itself can’t account theologically for all the pain and suffering in the the natural world.

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hanan-d - #76564

February 13th 2013

Well, you present a good question up above. It sounds like you are simply Agnostic, if I may be so bold as to pinhole you down. Sorry.

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Eddie - #76570

February 13th 2013

Nothing in the points I was making depends in any way on my personal religious beliefs, and nothing of those beliefs can be inferred from what I wrote.  I was pointing out the illegitimacy of certain lines of argument.  Beaglelady, who has represented herself here as a TE (and I presume she is being honest in that representation), seemed to be suggesting that ID people have a problem explaining how God could have guided evolution to certain outcomes, and she seemed to be saying that if God were guiding things the world wouldn’t have so much suffering in it.  But that problem applies to theistic evolution as well as ID; in fact, it applies to any theistic religion which insists on the combination of God’s goodness with his omnipotence.  Introducing evolution to solve the problem of evil simply doesn’t work.  Therefore, if one believes in evolution, one should do so on the basis of the evidence for it, not because one thinks it handles the problem of evil better than traditional theism.

I’m not interested here in trying to sell my own religious views, or in trying to refute those of others; I’m trying to show the internal inconsistency of the views of some.  I take it that robynhood was expressing this inconsistency in her question.

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robynhood - #76565

February 13th 2013

Thank you for your reply Eddie.  

If “ID” refers merely to the question, “Does life as we observe it require design?”, then I understand how one could focus on finding a simple ‘yes or no’ answer, even if that answer begs other questions.  That said, I find it hard to believe that ID (as a collection of people involved in an ID movement and trying to get curriculum placed in public schools) would not have some underlying Theological motivation or position.

In any case, I agree that TEs should not fault ID theorists for failing to answer to the problem of evil, if they themselves cannot.  However, you claim that the reason ID advocates can’t answer it is that they don’t even try.  Perhaps this lack of effort is what bothers TEs?  Perhaps it’s that TEs aren’t satisfied with someone claiming that, because they are an ID Theorist, they simply don’t have to answer that question.  This would be an especially unsatisfactory response if one happen to know that the ID Theorist is also a Christian.

And speaking of Christianity, you mention my question about the difficulty TEs face in reconciling Natural Selection and a Loving God.  It seems we both agree this is a problem for TE.  But I think it’s worth mentioning that this problem is small in comparison to a similar problem faced by Christianity more generally.  That is the problem of Hell.  The fact is that billions of creatures suffering over billions of years (but only during their finite lives), amounts to almost nothing when compared to the eternal conscious torment of a single individual in Hell.  If a Christian can believe that a good God would allow never-ending suffering (and I personally cannot), it seems the suffering of the natural world should give them no trouble at all.

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hanan-d - #76566

February 13th 2013

I have witnessed that many commentators keep bringing this issue up of how can TE’s reconcile natural selection with a loving God using guided evolution. It seems to be a pattern. Has anyone on Biologos ever written anything about it? Or do they just ignore this obvious issue over and over again?

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Eddie - #76572

February 13th 2013

robynhood:

We seem to agree on the point about the double standard, which is the main point I was making—and was making in support of your original critical question.

On some other points:

1.  ID and the schools:  ID, as such, has no educational policy.  ID is a theory of design detection, and what happens in schools is no part of that.  However, some ID proponents would like to see changes in the way that origins are taught in schools.  But they vary in what they think should be done, which is not surprising, since ID people have a wide range of views on origins, on the relationship between church and state, etc.  

The main institution supporting ID is the Discovery Institute.  Its official policy is that ID should not be promoted in schools as a teaching about origins, and that, instead, current views of evolution (both biological and chemical) should be taught in a much more critical frame of mind.  Especially students should be made aware of the serious criticisms of neo-Darwinism in the peer-reviewed literature.

Some individual ID people would like to see ID taught in the schools as a competitor with Darwinian evolution.  But such individuals speak for themselves, not for “ID” as a whole.  Most of the leading ID theorists do not want to see ID taught in schools—certainly not mandated by school boards or forced onto the curriculum.  But most don’t think it should be illegal for individual teachers to mention ID notions or writings where that would be pedagogically useful, as long as ID is not pushed by the teacher.

You will doubtless hear from some TEs and atheists about the so-called Wedge document, which allegedly proves that ID has a secret theocratic plot to force ID and even creationism into the schools.   The Wedge document does not represent current Discovery Institute policy, which is as I outlined above.  This can be verified by studying Discovery’s statements on their web site.

2.  ID people “don’t even try” to deal with the problem of evil:  Many of them do try, but when they do so, they explicitly state that they are speaking for themselves, and not for ID, just as a Mayor who supports the Republicans might state that he is speaking as a citizen, and does not necessarily represent the views of everyone in his city.  Thus, Michael Behe explicitly identifies the intelligent designer with the Christian God, a God whom he interprets in a Catholic manner.  But he does not expect other ID theorists to be Catholic or even Christian.  And his arguments for design in nature don’t rely on the Bible or Catholic theology.

As for your point about Hell, it is a good one.  The Bible and the Christian tradition teach some uncomfortable things.  All Christians have some private way of handling those uncomfortable things.  But ID, per se, does not need to get involved in such discussions.  One cannot use information theory or molecular biology to explain why God allows or perhaps causes suffering.  But one can use those sciences to address the question whether nature is designed.  ID does the latter, not the former.  Many TEs, and at the other extreme, many creationists, find ID unsatisfying for this reason.  They want ID to advocate a theology.  I’m glad it doesn’t.  Its value lies precisely in the fact that it doesn’t.

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hanan-d - #76574

February 13th 2013

I know my ignorance is showing, but I wasn’t aware there is serious criticism of neo-darwinism in peer reviewed literature this late in the game. 

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Eddie - #76575

February 13th 2013

hanan-d:

There’s lots.  The criticism is actually quite old; Gould pointed out that the neo-Darwinian assumption of gradualism did not fit with the facts of paleontology.  But there has been much more.  The 1966 Wistar Conference presented the critique of some world-class physicists and engineering professors (from places like MIT and Los Alamos) against the mathematical modelling of neo-Darwinism.  Later, Denton’s first book presented both morphological and biochemical data which were incompatible with neo-Darwinian theory.  There was also the work of Margulis—the leading evolutionary biologist famed for her theory of the origin of the mitochondrion—who was an unsparing critic of neo-Darwinism.  There is the school of McClintock, the most famous current representative of which is James Shapiro (a leading evolutionary theorist at the University of Chicago), who has argued that genetic self-engineering is a more important factor by far than random mutations.  (See his new book, Evolution, which has been out for a couple of years now, though it has never been so much as mentioned by any columnist here.)  There are also several members of the Altenberg group (so named for a famous conference of leading evolutionary biologists of a few years back) who have offered strong criticisms of the neo-Darwinian model.

These people are not rejecting “evolution” but they have serious criticisms of the mainstream understanding of evolution of the 20th century (random mutations plus natural selection).  But none of their criticisms have ever been mentioned on this site, and very rarely have they ever been incorporated into high school science curricula; and the NCSE (National Center for Science Education), a pro-evolution organization whose leadership seems wedded to neo-Darwinism, has done its best to prevent state educational authorities and school boards from instituting policies requiring students to learn criticisms of neo-Darwinism, even when those policies have safeguarded students’ religious freedom by explicitly forbidding the teaching of intelligent design (which isn’t religiously grounded, but is thought to be) and creation science (which is religiously grounded).  Also, all the popular interpretations of neo-Darwinism, pushed by people like Mooney and Shermer and NOVA television specials and the like, are oblivious of current criticism in the peer-reviewed literatue; popularizers don’t read technical literature and don’t know what’s going on.  So if you read popular accounts you will be told that Darwinian evolution is a done deal and only religious fanatics oppose it, when in fact there is serious intra-scientific criticism of the Darwinian model from atheist and agnostic specialists in evolutionary biology.

The moral of the story is:  don’t believe everything you read.    

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hanan-d - #76581

February 13th 2013

Eddie, thank you for replying again, but, once again this may be coming from my ignorance at all the scholarship, but it seems that all the critcism you mentioned is just nit-picking at specifics ASPECTS of evolution. The main model of evolution via Natural Selection is something they all agree on. I mean, where would Gould be in this equation. He was an arch supporter of evolution and derided the anthropic principle (for example)

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Eddie - #76582

February 14th 2013

hanan-d:

You originally asked me for evidence of criticism of neo-Darwinism in scientific literature.  Not evolution.

Evolution is a process.  Neo-Darwinism is an explanation of the process.

The explanation of evolution overwhelmingly favored by the most popular and influential TEs is neo-Darwinism.  And that is even more true of this site than elsewhere in TE-dom.  But just as TEs have been expending enormous efforts to harmonize Christian theology with evolution as understood by  neo-Darwinism, the world of evolutionary biology in the serious science departments of the world has been moving away from neo-Darwinism.

This isn’t a trivial or nitpicking difference.  Neo-Darwinism puts great stock on the creative power of random mutations to generate new body plans, etc.  Thus, probably twenty columns on this site have been wholly or partly devoted to praising “randomness” as God’s great creative device in evolution.  But if a number of critics of neo-Darwinism are right, “randomness” plays a much smaller role than was imagined in the 20th century.  Thus, attempts to find Biblical passages that seem to promote “randomness” and connect them up with evolutionary biology may well end up looking pretty silly.  This is always the problem when theology chases after the natural science of the day.  Natural science always eventually becomes dated.  

Gould believed in evolution but he denied gradualism, one of the main notions of neo-Darwinism.  He also thought that natural selection was over-weighted in relation to mutations (as opposed to Dawkins who is an arch-selectionist).

All of the critics I mentioned believed or believe in evolution.  But all disagree with various aspects of neo-Darwinism.  

If you want a good popular discussion of neo-Darwinism (to supplement the account you will get from Dennis Venema’s series), I suggest you go to a library and get some of the popularizations of George Gaylord Simpson, Ernst Mayr, Carl Sagan, Stephen Jay Gould, Richard Dawkins, etc.  It won’t do you any good to read the critics of neo-Darwinism until you first understand what neo-Darwinism is.  After you have read several good general books on mainstream neo-Darwinian theory, you can then go on to look at some of the critics.  The Wistar conference material is too hard for a non-specialist, as is Shapiro’s book.  But Shapiro has popularized his views in columns in the Huffington Post and elsewhere.  Margulis has been interviewed and the interviews are many places on the web.  There is a popular book out on the Altenberg 16 with a few good interviews with Darwin critics in it.  I’d suggest you look at this kind of material—after you have familiarized yourself with neo-Darwinism.

Hope this helps. 

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GJDS - #76585

February 14th 2013

melanogaster - #76594

February 14th 2013

Neo-Darwinism puts great stock on the creative power of random mutations to generate new body plans”


Eddie, would you kindly offer five examples of such a thing? Because I know no one who would put any stock, much less “great stock,” in this alleged “creative power of random mutations to create new body plans.”

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Eddie - #76595

February 14th 2013

Fruitfly:

I was of course writing in shorthand.  In NDE the random mutations are also presumed to be filtered by “natural selection” and it is the combination of the mutations and the selection which ultimately creates new species, and, over a long enough period of time, entirely new body plans.  But without the creative input from the mutations, natural selection would not have anything dramatically new to filter.  (The existing variation within species is not nearly enough to create new body plans.)  You can read all about it in the works of Gaylord Simpson, Mayr, Dobzhansky, Julian Huxley and others who solidified the neo-Darwinian view.  The classics works on it were written in the 1940s, before you were born, but you can find later popularizations by the main authors and by others.

I do not think offering examples of things would do any good in your case.  On previous occasions, decisive lists of examples were offered to you by intelligent posters here, and were met by either silence or evasion coupled with mockery.  In fact, I came across one such list concerning the use of the phrase “random mutations”—which you had claimed was never used in serious evolutionary literature.  The poster showed decisively that it was, and you were not honest enough to concede the point.  I don’t intend to waste effort, as that previous poster did, trying to convince someone who has already made up his mind.  Have a good evening.

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melanogaster - #76606

February 14th 2013

“I was of course writing in shorthand.”

I think that you mean is what you wrote isn’t true.

“In NDE the random mutations are also presumed to be filtered by “natural selection””

But that makes your claim about what people say false, as no one claims that mutations are sufficient.

“… and it is the combination of the mutations and the selection which ultimately creates new species, and, over a long enough period of time, entirely new body plans.”

So you realise that your use of “new body plans” was false as well?

“But without the creative input from the mutations, natural selection would not have anything dramatically new to filter.”

You’re missing the point. Genetic heritability exists and can be measured empirically. That’s all Darwin talked about.

“(The existing variation within species is not nearly enough to create new body plans.)”

First, you have no evidence to support that claim, and second, we don’t see new body plans produced in real time.

“You can read all about it in the works of Gaylord Simpson, Mayr, Dobzhansky, Julian Huxley and others who solidified the neo-Darwinian view.”

I’m attacking YOUR claim about Neo-Darwinism putting great stock on the creative power of random mutations to generate new body plans. I’m saying that you can’t offer a single example of such a thing, because selection is the primary creative force. Mutation (only random in one sense) merely provides the substrate, variation. We can measure both existing variation and mutation rates in real time.

“The classics works on it were written in the 1940s, before you were born, but you can find later popularizations by the main authors and by others.”

I can’t find a single claim that “Neo-Darwinism puts great stock on the creative power of random mutations to generate new body plans,” so I’m challenging you to produce five instances. But we both know that you can’t even produce one!

“I do not think offering examples of things would do any good in your case.”

You don’t have any examples, Eddie.

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Eddie - #76608

February 14th 2013

fruitfly:

I have lots of examples.  I’ll bring them out when you offer abject confessions of error regarding the previous incidents on this site where you demanded examples, were given them, and refused to concede your error.  And when you offer apologies (to each individual by name) to all those people on this site that (under your previous names) you called liars, hypocrites, cowards, and violators of commandments.  Until then, this conversation is ended.  You can continue to goad, if you wish, but the words will fall on empty air.

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melanogaster - #76632

February 15th 2013

“I have lots of examples. I’ll bring them out when you offer abject confessions of error regarding the previous incidents on this site where you demanded examples, were given them, and refused to concede your error.”

That makes no sense. If you had lots of examples, you would have presented them to make me look foolish, not petulantly hold them back.

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Eddie - #76637

February 16th 2013

You appear to be deaf, or a careless reader.  I already told you that presenting you with examples does no good, since in the past, when you have been crushingly defeated by examples, you have never conceded the point.  This proves that you are not engaged in good-faith dialogue, but are here only to defend a fixed position.  So why should I make the effort?  Go back to the old arguments—you know where they are—reread them, concede defeat, make the apologies for the nasty things you said to people—then you will have your passages.  Not until.  Good-bye.

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melanogaster - #76651

February 16th 2013

“You appear to be deaf, or a careless reader.”

Deaf? First, using “deaf” as an insult is simply vile beyond belief. Second, we’re writing and reading here.

“I already told you that presenting you with examples does no good, since in the past, when you have been crushingly defeated by examples, you have never conceded the point.”

And I already told you that your argument made no sense. But thanks for admitting that you are here to “crushingly defeat” people, not educate others. Even if I was this person you’re so unhealthily fixated upon, why wouldn’t producing the examples show all of the others here that you are right and I am wrong?

“This proves that you are not engaged in good-faith dialogue, but are here only to defend a fixed position.”

You’re projecting again.

“So why should I make the effort?”

To convince the others, of course.

“Go back to the old arguments—you know where they are—”

No, I don’t. Why don’t you show me?

“…reread them, concede defeat, make the apologies for the nasty things you said to people—then you will have your passages. Not until. Good-bye.”

You wrote that the conversation was over in your previous comment, but your weird obsession has apparently caused you to ignore what you wrote.

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hanan-d - #76605

February 14th 2013

Ok, so the criticism is against Neo Darwinism

So, Evolution - Neo Darwinsim = what????

And you are right, I am certainly not familiar with Neo Darwnism to understand what the issue is

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Eddie - #76609

February 14th 2013

hanan-d:

If you aren’t familiar enough with the material to even understand what the issue is, then why were you offering an objection to what I said?

My original motive was to defend your position, because I thought your theological remark sounded thoughtful and wanted to encourage you.  I did not at the time realize that you had almost zero background in the relevant science.  And you can’t integrate theology with science if you don’t understand the science. 

Do the necessary background reading.  I gave you some starting points.

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hanan-d - #76613

February 15th 2013

I think I have as much knowledge as the average layman. My theological remark does not hinge on knowing the science inside and out (at least I don’t think so). The question of whether there is guided evolution vs. random stands on its own. It’s a fundamental question. And if there is what seems as “bad design” then that seems to give more weight to randomness as opposed to guided. 

Regarding Neo-Darwinism, I simply thought that and evolution were basically one and the same. That you can’t have one without the other. But again, my theological question of random vs guided does not hinge on knowing the science as you do. I think any observer can ask my question as well. 

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Eddie - #76619

February 15th 2013

“Regarding Neo-Darwinism, I simply thought that and evolution were basically one and the same. That you can’t have one without the other.”

You thought wrong!  And the error is a major one.

Regarding appearances of bad design, it could be a sign that the evolutionary process is unguided.  But all judgments of “bad design” presuppose a knowledge of possibilities that we do not have.  It may be that certain bad features in nature are necessary in order to have certain good features, but that only God is wise enough to see that, our mortal knowledge being very incomplete.  

In any case, your position is unclear.  Are you saying that, because you see bad design, you think that things originated through a random evolutionary process, and therefore doubt the existence of God?  Or at least doubt that God is in control of the evolutionary process?

I took it that your original comment, like that of robynhood, was expressing some difficulty with the TE position which tries to put together God with random evolution.  And I was agreeing with you and robynhood that this is a good question to ask TEs.  Good luck finding an answer to how TEs put together an omnipotent and providential God with a process which assembles species by a series of genetic accidents.  I’ve been trying to get clarity on that from TE writers for some time now, and have had no success.

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hanan-d - #76621

February 15th 2013

You said:

“Are you saying that, because you see bad design, you think that things originated through a random evolutionary process, and therefore doubt the existence of God”

That is exactly it :(

If on holds randomness, I don’t know how you can hold in God at all. Yet, what we see, LOOKS like it is indeed random.  

As a side not - From reading Collins’ book, he seems to say evolution was guided, not random. My problem is, it looks to be random (ie, bad design) and therefore doubt God.

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Eddie - #76624

February 15th 2013

Collins is very vague about what God actually does in evolution.  I suspect that ultimately his position is not different from Miller’s (though he seems to slightly favor the direct creation of the first life, and the notion of cosmic fine-tuning to make the universe habitable by life).  I think if Collins were asked, point-blank, whether or not God tinkered with mutations to achieve certain results, he would say no.  But he avoids theoretical clarity—in matters of theology—like the plague.  And many TEs do likewise.

And as this is now too skinny, if I say anything more, I’ll put it down below.  Please do the same at your end.

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robynhood - #76625

February 15th 2013

hanan-d:  I also have a reply that I will post at the end of the page.

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David Sirrine - #77375

March 11th 2013

Eddie:

There may be a good reason why you haven’t received a response to your questions. I have wished to comment on several of your assertions and arguments above, but decided it wasn’t worth my time and the frustration of being insulted and attacked as you’ve done with the others who have tried to converse with you.

 

I’ve never engaged in any discussions on this site, so you can’t ask me to go back and apologize before offering your examples. Now please, could you post your five or more examples showing that “Neo-Darwinism puts great stock on the creative power of random mutations to generate new body plans”?


I assure you that I am not a troll, and I’m not disagreeing with everything you’ve said, even this assertion. I suppose I simply see my younger self in you, and so I’m (politely, hopefully) calling your bluff.

 - david

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Eddie - #77404

March 12th 2013

David Sirrine:

I always give people the benefit of the doubt until they prove by word or deed that they are malicious.  I therefore assume that you, seeing the “bite” of my replies to Fruitfly and beaglelady, and not knowing the cause, are taking me to be the offender.  I don’t hold that against you, but let me clarify.

I don’t know how long you have been around here, but I have spent a long time reading the older comments sections here (which used to be up permanently, though now they are taking them down after 180 days, which is unfortunate), and there is a long history, which you are perhaps not aware of, in which Fruitfly viciously attacked and insulted a number of posters here, calling them liars, cowards, hypocrites, and violators of the ninth commandment.  The moderator was apprised of this behavior, and never intervened, though during that same time period both ID and creationist posters were banned who had been models of politeness by comparison.  Fruitfly went away for a while, and the place became civilized again.  But recently he has come back, and the polemical level rose sharply from the moment of his re-appearance.  Recently he has spoken very impudently and condescendingly to the gentlemanly Christian (and pro-evolution) scientist Sy.  And he continues to make personal remarks (not merely scientific objections) concerning Behe and ID people.

Beaglelady has often taunted people with sarcastic one-line replies to substantial discussions offered in good faith.  She has also often said false things about what ID authors have asserted, and when challenged with actual passages of their writing, has refused to retract, and further, has refused to state which ID works she has actually read, as opposed to merely heard about.

So when you are watching my replies (or those of anyone else) to these two individuals, keep in mind the history you have unknowingly walked into.

On the biological question, just to clarify what I meant:  strictly speaking, the creation of new body plans, in neo-Darwinian theory, would not come from random mutations alone, but from the random mutations filtered by natural selection.  But the novelty has to come from the mutations, since natural selection is, by its very nature, only a gatekeeper with a veto, not a creative power in itself (Dawkins notwithstanding).  I hasten to add that I base my understanding not on creationist literature (of which I read little), but on standard accounts of neo-Darwinian theory, as one can find in books on evolution written by secular humanist scientists who are competent in the field.

As I don’t know you, I would request information before engaging in any further conversation.  Despite the fact that this is a Christian web site, the goal of which is to explore different ways of putting together faith and science, many people come here, often from places like Panda’s Thumb, not to advance science-faith discussion, but merely to bash the scientific claims of ID and/or creationist authors.  I would like you to state up-front (a) your broad religious beliefs (Christian, Jewish, Deist, agnostic, atheist, etc.) and (b) your scientific training and (if it exists) current scientific activity, so that I know how to frame my answers more usefully.  That will both save time and avoid potential friction. 

Your remark about your “younger self”—you might explain that, too.  If you are implying that I am a creationist, I am not.  If you are implying that I am anti-evolution, I am not.  But do elaborate.

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melanogaster - #76633

February 15th 2013

So, Evolution - Neo Darwinsim = what????

Good question. The answer is that “Darwinism” and “neo-Darwinism” are Humpty Dumpty words that mean whatever Eddie wants them to mean at a given time, except that Eddie isn’t telling you how the definitions change from one usage to the next.

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robynhood - #76578

February 13th 2013

Eddie, I am posting my reply as a new entry at the end of the current discussion.  I am getting claustrophobic with these margins closing in… : )

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Dennis Venema - #76597

February 14th 2013

Hi Hanan, 

Personally I’m fine with God not micromanaging the evolutionary process. When I look at the sorts of mutations we observe to happen, I don’t find myself claiming that God directly caused each and every one of them. I also don’t think that God micromanages my decisions either - I think I have free will. I don’t think either of these somehow usurp God’s sovereignty. Does God directly cause certain mutations? I don’t know. Scripture stakes no claim for or against this position as far as I can tell. As a scientist, I’ve yet to see anything held out an as example of “Here’s a mutation God HAD to have caused” that I find convincing. The ID movement claims to have found such things (or series of mutations, rather), but I think they err because they do not fully understand how evolution works, and think that several mutations HAVE to occur at the same time, when we have good evidence to support that they can happen sequentially. 

So, some of what you might consider to be “bad design” I view as the reality of God choosing to use a genuine process instead of a contrived one. God seems to be happy to use an evolutionary process, and “vestiges” or “bad design” or whatever one might call these things are part of the package of using the process. 

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Eddie - #76601

February 14th 2013

Dennis:

I’m not sure what “genuine process instead of a contrived one” means, but I agree with you that a defense of the evils of nature might be mounted along the lines you suggest—some evils are the natural by-products of an evolutionary process which overall tends toward good.  

What one can’t argue is what Miller and Ayala have argued, i.e., that evolution somehow “keeps God’s hands clean” of evil.  In fact, if God set up the process, knowing that it would necessarily entail a certain amount of inefficiency and suffering (the Christian God, at least the orthodox Christian God, foreknows all that), then he willfully chose the particular combination of good and evil outcomes that evolution has produced, and is therefore as responsible for the pain and death as for the pleasure and joy that the natural world offers. 

The other thing I would say about your solution is that, while I don’t find it out of line with Christian tradition to say that goods and evils are a “package deal,” the same defense is available to ID people, and in fact to Christians of any stripe.  It is always possible to say that in the wise counsels of God, to which we mere mortals have no access, it may well be that all apparent “bad designs,” when understood within the big picture, are the best possible course God could have taken.  So if some TE says:  “Couldn’t your intelligent designer have made backaches less common?” some IDer can say:  “Couldn’t the God of theistic evolution have set up a different sort of evolutionary process, one that would eventually lead to stronger backs?”  Someone taking either position can argue that there are good reasons God created in the way that he did, even if we can’t understand them all.

Just as a side point, I haven’t ever read any ID writing that claims to have isolated particular mutations which had to have been divinely caused.  I’ve seen only arguments that the overall pattern of change in certain directions is not consistent with all the mutations’ being “random” in the ND sense.  As for two mutations occurring at the same time, I’ve seen Michael Behe on more than one occasion declare that he never set any condition that the two mutations need to occur at one time, and that he has been misinterpreted on that point.

My suggestion for addressing such possible misinterpretations has been made elsewhere on this site, under the new column featuring Deb Haarsma’s vision for the site.  I there, seconding Bilbo, suggested that BioLogos do more often what it did in the Southern Baptist series, i.e., pair columns in a pro-con way, with one TE and one critic each getting equal time to speak.  So, for example, if you wrote a column explaining why you read Behe as demanding two simultaneous mutations, Behe could be given a column to explain what he actually meant about the two mutations.  Such a balanced approach would be very educative for BioLogos readers.  And there is no danger, in Behe’s case, that such a debate would turn into hostilities (any more than the Southern Baptist columns did);  Behe is known as a gentleman and he is known to stick to the scientific point, avoiding all ad hominem remarks.  I would very much like to see such an exchange on BioLogos.

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Dennis Venema - #76602

February 14th 2013

I’ve seen Michael Behe on more than one occasion declare that he never set any condition that the two mutations need to occur at one time, and that he has been misinterpreted on that point.”

Hi Eddie,

Yes, I pretty much agree with what you’ve set out here. Yes, this line of reasoning is available to folks from all camps, since in essence it’s a reply to the problem of evil. My choice to be an EC is based on the science (since I feel the evidence for evolution is strong). 

As for the quote above, I would greatly appreciate links if you have them. I haven’t seen Behe make such statements, and I would like to see them. Thanks.  

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Eddie - #76604

February 14th 2013

I’ll have to dig around to find them.  The problem is that some of them may be in private communications, in which case I won’t be at liberty to post them.  I’m pretty sure I’ve seen similar statements in public writings, though.  If I find the sources, I’ll send them along.

In the meantime, give a thought to my suggestion.  Suppose you were to write a column explaining your objection to the premise of simultaneous mutations, and suppose BioLogos invited Behe to reply. Then you would get a public statement from Behe on whether his objections to Darwinian theory rest on the presupposition of simultaneous mutations, and you wouldn’t have to rely on third parties such as myself, who might misinterpret what Behe has written.  You could get it from the horse’s mouth.  And then the reader would know exactly what Behe was arguing, and exactly where the two of you differed.

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melanogaster - #76629

February 15th 2013

“As for two mutations occurring at the same time, I’ve seen Michael Behe on more than one occasion declare that he never set any condition that the two mutations need to occur at one time, and that he has been misinterpreted on that point.”

But his whole thesis rests on an assumption that comes long before any discussion about mutations, Eddie. Behe assumes, but never bothers to document empirically, that evolution requires all sorts of new binding sites to evolve. This makes explicit, quantifiable predictions about differences between orthologous proteins of different organisms—predictions that Behe, trained in biochemistry, could easily test.

But he won’t, and that says it all.

“Then you would get a public statement from Behe on whether his objections to Darwinian theory rest on the presupposition of simultaneous mutations,…”

Using the term “Darwinian” properly, objections to Darwinian theory could never rest on anything regarding mutations.

“… and you wouldn’t have to rely on third parties such as myself, who might misinterpret what Behe has written. You could get it from the horse’s mouth. And then the reader would know exactly what Behe was arguing, and exactly where the two of you differed.”

Why does Behe, a biochemist, do nothing but argue? Why doesn’t he do any experiments? His fundamental assumption is easily testable. That’s more important than any argument.

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Eddie - #76636

February 16th 2013

Fruitfly:

Under one of your previous fake names on this site, you were challenged to reveal your real name and scientific qualifications (which you declared to be deep and impressive), and to take on Behe publically in scientific debate.  You declined.  Unlike the courageous Dennis Venema here, you will not lay your public reputation as a scientist on the line by facing Behe.  But why should a tenured scientist fear to stand up and face Behe?  

As for your remarks about “Darwinian”—Behe has specified that he means neo-Darwinian, and he understands the claims of neo-Darwinism correctly.  That you do not—remember that you were demolished on this site on the point about random mutations, by a long list of quotations from people very familiar with neo-Darwinian theory—is your problem, not Behe’s.

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melanogaster - #76654

February 16th 2013

I wrote, “Using the term “Darwinian” properly, objections to Darwinian theory could never rest on anything regarding mutations.”

Eddie sort-of replied, “As for your remarks about “Darwinian”—Behe has specified that he means neo-Darwinian, and he understands the claims of neo-Darwinism correctly.”

Unfortunately, neo-Darwinism can’t make any claims, only people can. You still haven’t explained why you used “Darwinian” if you meant “neo-Darwinian.” Perhaps you should depend less on Humpty Dumpty names and talk about actual empirical predictions and empirical tests, but that would make Behe look less large, as he has given up on the empirical part.

That’s why I asked, “Why does Behe, a biochemist, do nothing but argue? Why doesn’t he do any experiments? His fundamental assumption is easily testable. That’s more important than any argument.”

Why don’t you answer?

“…to take on Behe publically in scientific debate.”

That’s not how science works, “Eddie.” Science works by people working in the field and in the lab to increase human knowledge. Behe quit long ago. There’s nothing scientific about him any more.

“That you do not—remember that you were demolished on this site…”

There you go with your violent demolition fantasies again. What are you talking about? Do you realize what your violence-laced rhetoric says about your motivations?

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Eddie - #76664

February 16th 2013

Fruitfly:

How would you know anything about how science works?  Have you done any?  If so, point us to articles or books you have written.  Otherwise, I will assume that you are simply another internet bluffer.

One thing is certain:  even if you know some science, you certainly don’t know much about the history and philosophy of science.  Your historical understanding of neo-Darwinism is nil.

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melanogaster - #76652

February 16th 2013

“Behe is known as a gentleman and he is known to stick to the scientific point, avoiding all ad hominem remarks.”

Here’s the very first thing that Behe wrote when he was challenged about a false claim about HIV in his book:

“Although she [Abbie Smith] calls herself a “pre-grad student,” the tone of the post is decidedly junior high, the tone of someone who is trying hard to compete with all the other Mean Girls on that unpleasant website.”

Nosiree, nothing to see here, folks, a most gentlemanly avoidance of ALL ad hominem remarks!

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Eddie - #76665

February 16th 2013

Puerile, fruitfly, puerile.  You are deliberately and dishonestly suppressing the provocation that Abbie Smith offered, a provocation so great that even the normally calm Behe was ruffled.  And even when he was ruffled, his epithet “Mean Girls” was a very light jab, considering the arrogant youthful insolence with which she treated an older person and a senior scientist.  And even if we allow that Behe once in his life made one ad hominem remark, how do you stack up in comparison?  Are you in a position to lecture him on manners?

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melanogaster - #76694

February 16th 2013

There’s nothing puerile about it and you know it. The provocation, which the arrogant Behe richly deserved, is completely irrelevant to your absolute claim: “Behe is known as a gentleman and he is known to stick to the scientific point, avoiding ALL ad hominem remarks.”

Even if this is the only ad hominem attack Behe ever made, your claim is still false, made worse by your implicit admission of familiarity with this case. Weeks later, Behe finally admitted that Abbie Smith was right and that he was wrong. Is Behe’s false claim still in the book? Hasn’t Behe’s online admission been erased?

“And even when he was ruffled, his epithet “Mean Girls” was a very light jab, considering the arrogant youthful insolence with which she treated an older person and a senior scientist.”

It was sexist. He’s quit being a scientist, he was making a patently false claim in Abbie’s field (the new gene was in a diagram that Behe put in the book!), and students are taught to challenge their elders.

In fact, that’s the signal event demonstrating one’s readiness to defend a PhD thesis—when the student says to her advisor, “No, you’re wrong, because X, Y, and Z,” and the advisor then agrees.

Finally, I end with a quote: “It’s not insulting to challenge people when they claim to know something and expose the fact that they don’t. It of course wounds people’s pride, but that is not the same as insulting someone.”—Eddie in another thread, today.

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Eddie - #76704

February 17th 2013

Science students are not taught to challenge their elders insolently.

It says pretty well everything that anybody would ever need to know about your character that you would defend Abbie Smith’s manner of speaking to Michael Behe.

But if anything else remained to be known, it would be found in your continued ad hominem attacks on Behe from behind your pseudonym.

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melanogaster - #76709

February 17th 2013

“Science students are not taught to challenge their elders insolently.”

You’re not admitting to the amazing insolence and incompetence of Behe’s book, Eddie. At some level you’re grasping it, because you are running away from Lou’s perfectly polite challenge.

“It says pretty well everything that anybody would ever need to know about your character that you would defend Abbie Smith’s manner of speaking to Michael Behe.”

Given the insolence and the magnitude of Behe’s claim and the fact that he was off by a factor of infinity, I thought that it was perfectly pitched. Behe only engaged because he thought he could demolish an undergrad, but he greatly underestimated the depth of her knowledge as he overestimated his own.

“But if anything else remained to be known, it would be found in your continued ad hominem attacks on Behe from behind your pseudonym,”

…said “Eddie,” right after issuing an ad hominem attack while hiding behind a pseudonym. You owe me a heavy-duty irony meter.

You’re also forgetting that I’m objecting on the substance of Behe’s sophomoric claims.

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Eddie - #76732

February 18th 2013

“Behe only engaged because he thought he could demolish an undergrad ...”

False.  Behe prefaced his reply to Smith (who I thought was a grad student, not an undergrad, but that detail doesn’t matter for the point here) with the information that, because of the sub-academic brutality of Smith’s manners, he had no intention of replying to her at all, and only relented when several of his friends and associates prevailed upon him to do so.  Those advisors felt that, despite her insolent manner, her arguments ought to be addressed.  So Behe swallowed his understandable distaste for engaging with someone who was openly cocky and disrespectful, and addressed her arguments.  And beyond his opening complaint about her manners, he avoided all ad hominem remarks and addressed her science.  At no point did he employ her lack of Ph.D. as leverage in his argumentation.  

If his motive had been what you say, he would have (a) jumped on Abbie Smith right away; and (b) slyly slipped into his technical argumentation an ad hominem remark or two concerning her degree status.

If you are going to impute motives to people, you had better get your facts straight.

But then, look who I’m talking to.  A man who won’t reveal himself to Behe, who attacks Behe only from the shadows, is not going to have taken the time to get to know Behe, and what a fine moral and Christian individual he is.  And he won’t have taken the time to ask Behe’s close associates:  “Is Behe the kind of man who would take on a non-graduate just to satisfy his ego by clobbering her in public?”  No, he will just go ahead and impute low motives to Behe—impute to Behe an interest in victory or glory rather than truth.  I would suggest that such a person is reading his own characteristic motivations into the souls of others.

As for my use of a pseudonym, the moment I have procured tenure, I will start using my real name.  Not until.  You have no such excuse.  You must have tenure by now, and even if you don’t, the anti-ID, anti-creationist stance you have staked out for yourself, guarantees that you will face no reprisal from the scientific or professional community.  In fact, it would win you praise.  Your failure to face Behe under your real name and backed by your real scientific accomplishments indicates a lack of confidence that you are his match.


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melanogaster - #76757

February 18th 2013

“…because of the sub-academic brutality of Smith’s manners, he had no intention of replying to her at all, and only relented when several of his friends and associates prevailed upon him to do so.”

Why should we believe that, given that he put an ad hominem attack and evasions above substance?

“Those advisors felt that, despite her insolent manner, her arguments ought to be addressed.”

Which advisors, specifically?

“So Behe swallowed his understandable distaste for engaging with someone who was openly cocky and disrespectful, and addressed her arguments.”

No, he did not address them. He frantically moved the goalposts and made a utter fool of himself. You’re fudging furiously, Eddie, because she didn’t attack his arguments at all. She attacked his crystal-clear, simple fabrications of the data he claimed in the book were highly relevant to his “argument.”

“And beyond his opening complaint about her manners, he avoided all ad hominem remarks and addressed her science.”

Yet you, knowing full well that he resorted to ad hominem remarks, made the patently false claim, “…he is known to stick to the scientific point, avoiding all ad hominem remarks.” The reality is that he did neither.

“If his motive had been what you say, he would have (a) jumped on Abbie Smith right away; and (b) slyly slipped into his technical argumentation an ad hominem remark or two concerning her degree status.”

He didn’t make any “technical argumentation.”

“As for my use of a pseudonym, the moment I have procured tenure, I will start using my real name.”

Your cynicism is breathtaking. If you believed what you argue here, why would you want to participate in a system that awarded tenure based on concealing (according to you) the truth? Wouldn’t that make you complicit in corruption?

“Your failure to face Behe under your real name and backed by your real scientific accomplishments indicates a lack of confidence that you are his match.”

Behe isn’t here. Haven’t you noticed that? Or should we be calling you Mike instead of Eddie?

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Eddie - #76763

February 18th 2013

Behe stated his own reasons for why he replied to Smith.  You have just imputed to him another, lower reason.  You are in essence calling him a liar.  And that’s just another in a string of un-Christian attacks you’ve made on ID folks since you first started posting here a few years ago.  And you have the gall to talk about whether other people’s comments here are adequately Christian?  Do you think that anyone here sees in your postings the spirit of Jesus Christ?

Everyone here will also notice that your argument above is based on the the premise that “two wrongs make a right.”  Instead of conceding that Smith’s opening words and tone to Behe were unconscionable in civilized discourse, and chiding her for them, and then going on to fault Behe for what you think he did wrong, you are essentially arguing that Smith’s arrogant, childish, baiting, insolent, brattish behavior was OK because Behe in your view did something wrong, too.  That is the kind of mentality that produced the war in Northern Ireland for decades.  And it’s completely un-Christian, whether you acknowledge it or not.  You should not be posting on this site.  You are not animated by the spirit of its Christian founders.  

Reply to this comment
melanogaster - #76781

February 18th 2013

“Behe stated his own reasons for why he replied to Smith.”

Behe also stated that HIV had produced nothing new. That was false. Then he began his defense of his false claim with a sexist, ad hominem attack.

“You have just imputed to him another, lower reason.”

Behe also did that to himself when he eventually retreated to arguing that his false claim about HIV wasn’t relevant to his case, which necessarily means that his citation of it in the book was deceptive—even if the believed the false claim to be correct.

Note that this falsifies your first claim that “he is known to stick to the scientific point.” He was attacked for presenting objectively false evidence.

“Do you think that anyone here sees in your postings the spirit of Jesus Christ?”

I think that you should look in the mirror and read that.

“Everyone here will also notice that your argument above is based on the the premise that “two wrongs make a right.”  Instead of conceding that Smith’s opening words and tone to Behe were unconscionable in civilized discourse, and chiding her for them,…”

Not at all. I am still challenging your claim that Behe “is known to stick to the scientific point, avoiding all ad hominem remarks,” which you haven’t admitted is objectively false. It appears that you made that claim knowing full well that he went ad hominem right off the bat this case. No amount of justification, whining, and italicizing “insolence” can make your claim true. What was your reason for making the false claim?

“…you are essentially arguing that Smith’s arrogant, childish, baiting, insolent, brattish behavior was OK because Behe in your view did something wrong, too.”

That is false, Eddie. I have never stated that Behe’s ad hominem attack was wrong. I have stated, and you have proved, that YOUR claim that Behe avoids ALL ad hominem remarks is unequivocally false. Your familiarity with this case suggests that you made the false claim knowingly.

YOU are arguing that Behe’s sexist attack was justified, but that does nothing to support your false claim that he always avoids ad hominem remarks.

“You are not animated by the spirit of its Christian founders.”

Look in the mirror, Eddie.

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Eddie - #76794

February 19th 2013

I conceded long ago that Behe made ONE very mild ad hominem remark.  That has not been your purpose in continuing this exchange—to get me to admit that.  Your purpose in this exchange has been to excuse the vile manners of a spoiled brat—as an indirect means of excusing your own manners on this site, which are similar.

As for looking in the mirror, that is something which, I very much suspect, you have never done during your entire life. If you had, you might have learned the meaning of the word “ashamed.”

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melanogaster - #76816

February 20th 2013

“I conceded long ago that Behe made ONE very mild ad hominem remark.”

I found it to be just as mild as Abbie’s, except for the offensive sexism in it. So my question is, why did you assert that he has avoided ALL ad hominem remarks?

“That has not been your purpose in continuing this exchange—to get me to admit that.”

I think you’re deluding yourself.

You started the exchange by knowingly making an objectively false claim about Behe’s behavior. Whether you admitted that long ago is doesn’t excuse it, it makes your false claim far worse!

“Your purpose in this exchange has been to excuse the vile manners of a spoiled brat…”

Sorry, Eddie, even content aside, there’s nothing that’s more “vile” about Abbie’s challenge on the objective facts (not the argument, as you have falsely asserted) than there was about Behe’s response. If we consider factual content, Abbie didn’t publish a book using a patently false claim as one of its primary supports—Behe did. Behe’s scholarship is the truly vile thing in this matter. He was dead wrong and Abbie was right.

“…—as an indirect means of excusing your own manners on this site, which are similar.”

You keep desperately attributing motives to me in addition to misrepresenting Behe’s behavior. Try to comprehend that I didn’t bring it up as a matter of manners, I brought it up because you denied it. It’s just amazing that you refuse to see that.

As a scholar, what proportion of the HIV literature would one have to read before credibly making the claim Behe did, even assuming that he wasn’t utterly wrong?

There’s a very good reason why Behe doesn’t appear here to defend himself against the strong criticisms levelled against him by Dennis and other bloggers of Biologos.

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Eddie - #76819

February 20th 2013

Your continued defense of the indefensible—and the indefensible was not the scientific argument of Abbie Smith but her obnoxious, low-class manners—is something that will go to your everlasting shame.

I would imagine that the “very good reason why Behe doesn’t appear here” has to do with the odious stench generated by the manners of certain malignant commenters.  And I would also guess that there’s “a very good reason” why Fruitfly—who has led the readers here to believe that he is a scientist with many publications, working in a major research institution—won’t tell anyone here who he is.

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melanogaster - #76823

February 20th 2013

“Your continued defense of the indefensible—and the indefensible was not the scientific argument of Abbie Smith but her obnoxious, low-class manners—is something that will go to your everlasting shame.”

Her manners in calling out Behe’s deceptions were perfectly fine; she baited him perfectly. After all, this is a guy who literally compared himself to Einstein.

Let’s look at Behe’s behavior after finally admitting that he was wrong. The book has been printed since then. Any corrections, Eddie, or is Behe still deceiving the public?

What happened to the Amazon blog on which he admitted being wrong? Abbie Smith has left her challenge up.

I’ll ask you again: at the minimum, what proportion of the HIV literature would a real scholar have to read before credibly making the global negative claims Behe did, even assuming that they weren’t utterly wrong?

“Neither has much else happened at a molecular level. No new gizmos or basic machinery. There have been no reports of new viral protein-protein interactions developing in an infected cell due to mutations in HIV proteins. No gene duplication has occurred leading to a new function.”

I’ll remind you that ALL THREE claims he made are objectively, unequivocally false.

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Eddie - #76833

February 20th 2013

No academic or scientist with any class would “bait” another.  And in any case, the “bait” (i.e., the vulgar and unacceptable personal and professional insult) failed—it completely repelled Behe, and he was not going to reply to the immature brat.  It was only because his friends urged him to address the scientific argument that she made, that he relented and replied to her.

Had she made the scientific argument politely, respectfully, professionally—i.e., with class—Behe would have responded to her as he responded to others who did the same.  The vulgarity of manners was therefore unnecessary.  And your triumphalist back-slapping of Smith for employing the vulgarity is just as vulgar as the original act, and just as revolting to any scholar or scientist with a modicum of personal or professional dignity.  But it appears that shame is not an emotion that you are capable of feeling.  And at that I must leave it, though doubtless you will “bait” me with more of your pathetic self-justifications.

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melanogaster - #76840

February 20th 2013

“No academic or scientist with any class would “bait” another.”

It happens all the time. However, I’ve never heard a scientist of any stature refer to any one as “low class” in the way you snootily referred to Abbie Smith, who, after all, was right while your hero was wrong.

“And in any case, the “bait” (i.e., the vulgar and unacceptable personal and professional insult) failed—it completely repelled Behe, and he was not going to reply to the immature brat. It was only because his friends urged him to address the scientific argument that she made, that he relented and replied to her.”

Then it clearly succeeded. By the way, you haven’t explained what was more vulgar and unacceptable about Abbie’s challenge than there was about Behe’s bratty, ad hominem, sexist opener. Shouldn’t Behe be held to a much higher standard?

“Had she made the scientific argument…”

You keep engaging in this enormous misrepresentation, Eddie. There was no “argument.” This was about objective FACTS, not arguments. Abbie Smith, an Oklahoma undergraduate who studies HIV, was right, Behe, a dilettante in HIV, was wrong.

“… politely, respectfully, professionally—i.e., with class—Behe would have responded to her as he responded to others who did the same.”

False. Behe doesn’t respond to polite, respectful, professional questions. Wanna know how I know this for certain?

“And your triumphalist back-slapping of Smith for employing the vulgarity is just as vulgar as the original act, and just as revolting to any scholar or scientist with a modicum of personal or professional dignity.”

It’s amazing then that you weren’t revolted by Behe’s ad hominem, sexist response—in fact, you falsely claimed that he avoided ad hominem in ALL cases.

“But it appears that shame is not an emotion that you are capable of feeling.”

It appears that you’re projecting again.

“And at that I must leave it, though doubtless you will “bait” me with more of your pathetic self-justifications.”

You don’t seem to notice that we are discussing YOUR and Behe’s attempts at justifying objectively false claims. Where have I engaged in self-justification?

1) Any corrections in printings of the book since then, Eddie, or is Behe still deceiving the public?

2) What happened to the Amazon blog on which Behe admitted being wrong?

3) At a minimum, what proportion of the HIV literature would a high-class, respectful, professional scholar have to read before credibly making the claims Behe did, even assuming that they weren’t utterly wrong?

What’s revolting here is Behe’s false claims about the data and his subsequent failure to correct them. Nothing Abbie Smith has done or could ever do would justify Behe’s behavior, but I’m sure you’ll keep trying!

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hanan-d - #76614

February 15th 2013

Thank you for replying Dennis. 

But what would you say to those that are troubled by it? If they have doubt, doesn’t bad design make things worse? Why would God use a system that throws HIS existence into question?

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beaglelady - #76520

February 11th 2013

Dennis,

When will this course start? And how often will you be posting?

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Dennis Venema - #76593

February 14th 2013

The plan at present is to run these posts every other Thursday. 

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hanan-d - #76524

February 11th 2013

Is Dennis going to reply to my question as well?

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PNG - #76533

February 12th 2013

I don’t know, but there was a 4 part series on Death and Pain in the Created Order that began on Nov. 21 and one of the series with the Southern Baptists was on Evolution and the Problem of Evil (Dec. 28), which provoked quite a bit of discussion.

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Dennis Venema - #76598

February 14th 2013

yes - please see the comment above. 

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robinson.mitchell - #76528

February 11th 2013

Dr. Venema, I think it’s hard to overstate the importance of exactly this kind of course to the dialogue between Evolution and Evangelicalism.  One of the big challenges is the tendency of people in the fields of science and theology to talk past one another.  Each discipline has its own specialized terminology that forms the basic lexicon needed to interact with the field in a meaningful way.  As a seminary graduate, I remember well the first couple of semesters, feeling as if I were in over my head, until finally I had enough understanding of “theological prolegomena” to be able to engage the material being discussed.

Evangelical thinkers are neither uneducated nor dull of wit.  They think with depth, cogency and coherence in their field and are very well educated.  This course will be helpful for many whose background may be in the humanities and liberal arts to engage or re-engage terminology and background of evolutionary biology - the “prolegomena” of evolutionary biology.  It will advance the discussion immensely by helping interlocutors to move past vague generalities and enable them to examine and speak to the scientific specificities.  I look forward to reading the course itself and to the comments it will generate.  I can only exhort my fellow Evangelical thinkers, tolle lege!

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robynhood - #76579

February 13th 2013

Eddie: Thank you again for your reply and further clarification.

Clearly I need to better educate myself about the differences between TE and ID.  (In fact, the reason I’m here is to learn more about the TE position.)  

I understand the distinction you are making about ID limiting itself to what it considers a purely scientific question.  (I believe it has drawn criticism on this front.)  It seems that ID, divorced from all Theological considerations, is simply a hypothesis regarding a designer.  I suppose that’s fair enough. 

The thing I don’t really understand is the difference in position between a TE and an ID who is also a Christian.  If my current understanding is correct, it has to do with the degree to which God has intervened in or ‘guided’ the process of evolution.  TEs view evolution as unguided and following the laws of nature (tending towards Deism?), and the ID+Christian views God as actively directing the mutation process to favor certain outcomes.

I’m sure my outline of the two views is an oversimplification, but if the ID+Christian view is correct, then I wonder (just like hanan-d), “Why such faulty design?”  And if the TE view is correct, I wonder, “Did God really intend to create humankind at all?”  Then… tack on to both views the standard problem of evil, and frankly I’m not quite sure what to make of things.

Finally, regarding the issue of Hell and your comment about Christians having “some private way of handling those uncomfortable things”, I think you are quite right about that.  What passes the lips as doctrine is often secretly rejected by the heart. The only thing I would add it that I find many of the traditional Christian teaching regarding Hell to be not just “uncomfortable” but completely untenable.

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Eddie - #76584

February 14th 2013

Thanks, robynhood.

It is very hard to say whether or not your characterization of ID vs. TE is right.  Part of the problem is that both ID and TE embrace a range of views.  Just as all who vote Republican are not the same (some are Hawks, some are libertarians, some are crunchy cons, some are from the religious right, some are one-issue folks regarding gun control or abortion or the like, etc.), so all TEs aren’t the same and all ID people aren’t the same.

I would say this:  If we go purely by etymology, then all that TE should mean is:  “God created through a process of evolution.”  Period.  No other belief should need to be accepted before calling yourself a TE.  No commitment to randomness, no view on the problem of evil, etc.  And if we go purely by etymology, then all that ID should mean is “Creation did not happen by accident; intelligence was required.”  No denial of evolution should be required.  So, if you examine those bare-bones definitions, you will see that there need be no conflict between ID and TE.  One can believe in an intelligently planned or guided process of evolution, and then one would be an ID and a TE person together.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way, because all kinds of political, cultural, social, and theological issues, conditioned by American religious and social history, and by the personal religious biographies of the players, come into play, and therefore both ID and TE people frequently hold to additional beliefs that are not entailed by the basic meaning of the terms.  It is over those additional beliefs that ID and TE people come into conflict.

Many ID people, for example, deny that evolution has occurred.  Not all, but many.  And many TEs have denied that God plans or directs everything that happens in evolution, or at least, have been very vague when asked whether he does so, and given strong hints that they think he doesn’t.  So you can see why some TEs would reject ID wholesale—they think it denies evolution; and why some ID Christian folk would reject TE wholesale—they think it endorses a heretical notion of God’s lack of governance.

So really you have to compare individual ID proponents with individual TEs on specific issues, to determine where the conflicts lie.

Certainly there are some ID proponents who think that God either pre-planned or actively steered the evolutionary process—Denton, Behe, and others.  But none of those ID persons, to my knowledge, have written about the problem of evil.  That’s probably because they see themselves as scientists, not theologians, and want to stick with what they know, which is how nature works, and finding evidence of design in it.  TE scientists, on the other hand, seem much more willing to dive into theological discussions and even offer strong theological opinions, and to be relatively unconcerned whether or not they have the necessary training in theology to speak about it.  You will thus find a lot of amateur and questionable theology—particularly on the problem of evil, and on the meaning of the term “providence”—coming from TEs whose research careers have been in biology rather than theology.   

For an overview of the problem of evil in the history of Christian thought, Hick’s Evil and the God of Love is a standard starting point.

For an overview of ID, you can get the definition used by ID people from the Discovery web site, and there are many good short articles there for the lay reader, but really the only way to get the feel of it is to read serious ID writings.  I don’t know how much science you know, but unless you have at least a comfortable amount of high-school science you will find ID works tough slogging.  For those who do have that comfort level, I would recommend the following as the easiest book-length introductions:  Darwin’s Black Box, The Design of Life, and Nature’s Destiny.  Shorter pieces can be found in the collections by Ruse and Dembski, called Debating Design, and Dembski has several popular books on the subject aimed at a Christian audience.

An easily accessible TE work is Ken Miller’s Finding Darwin’s God; though the theology and philosophy in the book are dreadful, and the criticisms of ID often unfair, he covers many of the main themes you will see again and again in TE argumentation.  A more theoretically advanced treatment of TE is found in Perspectives on an Evolving Creation, a collection of essays by different TE authors, many of whom know more theology than Miller.

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hanan-d - #76622

February 15th 2013

Eddie,

I see what you mean by “dreadful” From an Amazon Reviewer on Finding Darwin’s God

“Kenneth Miller’s philosophical arguments about why evolution is consistent with the existence of God is not quite as well argued, however. His opinion, in a nutshell, is that God provided the universe with the properties that made the eventual formation of intelligent life extremely likely. The mechanism of evolution made it probable that at least one species would become advanced enough to be able to recognize and have a relationship with a creator, and that evolution was essential in the development of “free will” that would make individuals have a choice in choosing or rejecting the creator. ”

Seems like according to that review, God just threw the dice with a great hope in his heart. How does this work with the biblical concept of God specifically wanting to create man in his image?

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Eddie - #76623

February 15th 2013

hanan-d:

Now you are getting back to your original point, as I hoped you would.

Yes indeed, Miller, and some other supporters of TE, have written about the creation of man in a way that is out of step with the Bible and Christian tradition.  And by that I don’t mean that Miller doesn’t take Genesis literally—there are non-literal readings of Genesis which can still be Christian.  I mean that an account such as the one above takes the theological guts out of the creation of man, as that creation has always been understood.

Remember that Miller is a diehard neo-Darwinist.  His conception of evolution therefore emphasizes the major role which chance plays in the process.  Natural selection is still there, of course, sifting the mutations thrown up by chance.  But what appears is largely a matter of probability—sooner or later you will probably get multicelled animals, sooner or later you will probably get vertebrates, sooner or later you will probably get mammals ... etc.  And sooner or later, in some branch of the animal kingdom—not necessarily the primates, and not necessarily even the mammals or the vertebrates, as some molluscs (e.g., the octopus) might conceivably achieve higher development than the ones we know—you will get a being with an advanced mind.  When God said “Let us make man,” he therefore meant, “Let us generate enough extra planets (“billions and billions”) that sooner or later some intelligent being is likely to arise, and when it does, whether it is bipedal and hairy, or quadrupedal and hairy, or eight-limbed and oozy, let it be called ‘man’.”  For a pure, uncompromising neo-Darwinist, that’s the only way God can guarantee anything—by going with large numbers, plus the odds.

The fact that more theistic evolutionists don’t see a theological problem with this is a real head-scratcher.  In fact, I’ve never read an explicit criticism of Miller’s theology by any theistic evolutionist on this planet.  Does their silence imply consent?  

I’m not saying you shouldn’t read Miller’s book.  It’s well-written, and even entertaining.  He understands Darwin’s Origin of Species, and he provides a classic example of the neo-Darwinian position, which captured the popular mind from about 1940 onward.  I’m just saying that you shouldn’t regard Miller’s philosophical and theological statements as having any authority.  He’s a cell biologist airing some loose theological speculations.  And much of TE writing comes from biologists of various sorts who are airing loose theological speculations.  If you want to know whether a TE’s theological statements are orthodox, you have to check them against what the Christian tradition has actually said.

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robynhood - #76599

February 14th 2013

Eddie, thank you for your reply and for the recommended reading.  I am especially interested in the one by Hick and plan to look into it.  I have read most of what Thomas Talbott has written and personally find his understanding of Christianity to be more tenable than the others I am aware of.

I believe your assessment of the ID/TE landscape is correct.  In fact, it seems that even within a particular denomination of Christianity, there are all sorts of personal variations in belief.  I am sure the references to other TE and ID material will be helpful also - Thank you.

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Eddie - #76610

February 14th 2013

Glad if I’ve been of any help.

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robynhood - #76626

February 15th 2013

hanan-d:  (this is in response to your post #76621 above)

I admire your honesty about having doubts about the existence of God.  Many people will not admit that they have doubts.  Doubt is uncomfortable, but it can lead the way to deeper understanding, so I hope you will not get discouraged as you search for the truth.

I’d like to share an idea that has been helpful to me in facing the same questions you are now asking.  It’s the idea that, if there is a God, perhaps he does not want us to be able to discover him scientifically.  Perhaps if we were able to find a ‘gap’ in the physical world that only God could fill, then we would be almost ‘compelled’ to believe in God.  If science could prove that God existed, could there be any such thing as faith in God? Wouldn’t this take away some freedom that God wants us to have?  I personally think that it would.

In fact, I have often wondered if the discoveries of Quantum Physics brings us to a sort of barrier in scientific knowledge.  We reach a strange and uncertain realm where tiny bits of matter can pop in and out of existence and where it’s not clear if we can observe or know the causes of such events.  Perhaps God wants it this way?  Perhaps it gives him a way to let the world run according to regular physical laws but also leaves room for an influence of some kind, however subtle it may be. 

With this idea in mind, it may be easier to not fear that science will destroy your faith. Maybe science will go on closing gaps until there seems to be absolutely no room for God anymore ...no reason that we could see for his existence.  Will that prove that there is no God?  I don’t see how it could.

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melanogaster - #76630

February 15th 2013

“Perhaps if we were able to find a ‘gap’ in the physical world that only God could fill, then we would be almost ‘compelled’ to believe in God.”

But a God of the gaps is a tiny, diminished god, not the creator of everything we see in the world.

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Eddie - #76634

February 15th 2013

That God may perform the function of filling certain so-called “gaps” does not logically entail that all God does is fill gaps.  In fact, the characterization “God of the gaps”—beloved of TEs and atheists alike—is a polemical characterization, used for the purpose of winning arguments, not for the purpose of shedding light on either the nature of God or the origins of things.

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melanogaster - #76646

February 16th 2013

Project much, Eddie?

Reply to this comment
Eddie - #76647

February 16th 2013

That pathetic reply is devoid of intellectual content, and thus does not refute the objection I made in the first sentence of 76634 above.

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melanogaster - #76655

February 16th 2013

Oh, come on, Eddie. You’re about nothing but polemics and winning arguments, demonstrated your fantasies about someone you so clearly despise being “demolished.”

More importantly, the fact that so many evolution denialists draw a false distinction between “microevolution,” admitting that evolution does work in real time, while denying “macroevolution,” confirms that their God is a small one of the gaps, because they are perfectly willing to leave Him out of “microevolution.” In this case “microevolution” is just about anything that doesn’t connect humans with the other apes.

The only theologically coherent view is that it all is the creation of an omnipotent God.

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Eddie - #76671

February 16th 2013

Your ignorance of the history of evolutionary theory is further in evidence here.  The distinction between micro- and macroevolution was made by Dobzhansky, one of the pillars of neo-Darwinism, and a greater scientist than you will ever be.

You are not competent to discuss “the only theologically coherent view.” You have even less training in theology than you do in the history of evolutionary theory.

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melanogaster - #76696

February 16th 2013

“Your ignorance of the history of evolutionary theory is further in evidence here.”

Really? I don’t see how. I said that they draw a false distinction between the two, a mechanistic one.

“The distinction between micro- and macroevolution was made by Dobzhansky,…”

I know that, Eddie. The distinction he made was as phenomena, not the bright white mechanistic line that is the false distinction to which I referred. I even used the term on this site a few days ago! Try to read the words that are written before unleashing your bombast.

“You are not competent to discuss “the only theologically coherent view.” You have even less training in theology than you do in the history of evolutionary theory.”

Wow, you’re snooty. If you have another view that you think is more theologically coherent than mine, why don’t you present it instead of making such an arrogant dismissal?

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hanan-d - #76703

February 17th 2013

I can tell you and Eddie must be really good friends

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beaglelady - #76687

February 16th 2013

So true, Melanogaster.  the God of the gaps is a placeholder for scientific ignorance, gradually being squeezed out by scientific progress.  It’s pathetic, really—like a large balloon with a very slow leak, gradually drifting out of sight.    

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robynhood - #76693

February 16th 2013

If you believe that I was advocating ‘god of the gaps’ thinking in my post, you may want to read it more carefully.  I was, in fact, suggesting the opposite… that in all likelihood, there are no ‘gaps’.

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melanogaster - #76698

February 16th 2013

I understand what you meant and was merely commenting on it. I find that what we do know about life to be more compelling than what we don’t know.

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robynhood - #76701

February 16th 2013

Fair enough.  Thanks for clarifying.

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Eddie - #76635

February 16th 2013

Good discussion, robynhood.

I agree with you that hanan-d should persist in doubting certain things—as long as it is honest doubt, and not unbelief masking as doubt.  Very few are the religious believers who have not had doubt from time to time in their lives.  If the presence of doubt banished one from the presence of God, God would have very few believers left to him.

But doubt in the good sense is not the hard-nosed, “Oh, Yeah?  Prove it!” attitude characteristic of the New Atheists or the typical European or American skeptic of the past 200 years or so.  (The “skeptics” of the Michael Shermer type aren’t “skeptics” in the true sense at all, but simply unbelievers who market their unbelief as “neutral” skepticism.)  Doubt in the good sense is closer to “faith seeking understanding”—the practice of all thoughtful Christians (Jews, etc.).  As long as hanan-d can keep a genuinely open mind to all that reason and all that revelation present, I do not think hanan-d will go far wrong.  Great doubt, in the souls of those of great intellectual and moral honesty, has in the long run produced some of the greatest people of faith, e.g., C. S. Lewis.

On the point you raise about gaps and God, remember that there is a difference between proving the existence of some unknown designer or maker of the world, and proving the existence of the God of Christian faith.  Even if it could be proved that some sort of maker of life or the universe had to exist, we could only identify that maker with the God of the Bible through faith.  So such arguments would not undermine the need for faith.  They fall under what is traditionally called “natural theology”—the knowledge of God that unaided reason can attain to.  Many of the greatest Christian thinkers, including Aquinas, Calvin, and many of the Fathers, have agreed that natural theology is possible.  However, all of them warn that natural theology cannot bring one to Christ, or to saving knowledge.  So even if an argument to some sort of God from nature were possible, it would not threaten Christian faith.

I’m not arguing that arguments to God from nature are demonstrative; I’m merely saying that, even if they were, they would not be sufficient for salvation from a Christian point of view.  Thus, Christians can be open-minded about whether or not natural theology is possible.  They should not find it threatening.  However, it is very interesting to note that in the TE camp there is a marked hostility to natural theology (perhaps the majority of the loudest public voices), whereas among the ID camp natural theology is quite popular.  (Though no one in the ID camp thinks that natural theology can substitute for personal faith—Jewish or Christian or whatever.)  You will find a number of slighting references to natural theology in columns on this site, and hardly a favorable reference to it anywhere here.

On the quantum thing, yes, many have suggested that God might influence nature in subtle and undetectable ways because of quantum reality.  Among the TEs, perhaps the brightest and best of their number, Robert Russell, has suggested that God guides evolution in undetectable ways underneath quantum indeterminacy.  Among the ID people, Bill Dembski, though not a personal believer in evolution, has granted that a subtle guiding of evolution through such subtle means would be compatible with Christian faith.  I don’t say anything pro or con; I think the jury is out on this suggestion, and I leave it open.

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robynhood - #76695

February 16th 2013

Thank you Eddie.  I agree with much of what you have written here… especially the bit about “honest doubt”.

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Jon Garvey - #76638

February 16th 2013

Eddie,

“God of the gaps” is very easy to pushbeyond the limits of sense, isn’t it? Logically, its antithesis is “superfluous to requirements”, ie God can only exist if he doesn’t do anything except what something else is already doing.

One could, for example, on rational philosophical grounds say, like Aquinas, that all efficient causes require a final cause: in other words, that beyond completely adequate scientific explanations exists the will of God. That would be be the classical theism of 2000 years in a nutshell.

But since the idea of a “final cause” is a gap in the explanation, that argument is excluded not on the usual naturalisytic  metaphysical premise that efficient causes are all you need, but on the grounds that one day science is bound to find a final cause too, so invoking God is “God of the Gaps”. Which is absurd.

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Eddie - #76649

February 16th 2013

Jon:

“God can only exist if he doesn’t do anything except what something else is already doing.”

Lovely, just lovely!

Reply to this comment
robynhood - #76717

February 17th 2013

Jon:  I am intrigued by your comments here regarding causality.  I wish I had the philosophical education to better understand the landscape of beliefs in this area.

It seems that the typical responses to a universe completely describable by science are either to see God in nothing or to see God in everything.

I admit that it’s difficult for me to accept either of these extremes, but they seem the only options given the even greater difficult I have in seeing God in only some things.

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Jon Garvey - #76820

February 20th 2013

robynhood

Apologies for slow response. This thread’s tangled and the RSS feed only seems to tell me about posts sometimes (and not recently!). Only just found this!

Not sure how to reply briefly and helpfully (except by suggesting reading something like Ed Feser on Aquinas). But a big wrong move the Enlightenment made was to divide things artificially between supernatural and natural (with a hidden view to heaving out the “supernatural” altogether!). That’s how you get the “All or Nothing”, “God of the Gaps” or “God didn’t make viruses or mosquitoes” stuff.

Classical theism, not only in scholastics like Aquinas but in its inheritors like Reformed theology (which saw the same thing in the Bible), said that behind all the causes we see in the world is the teleological cause of God, ie the Final Cause - what it’s in the end for.

That’s easy to understand in some cases - God makes a big bang so that the Universe exists, and sustains it in being moment by moment by his power and wisdom. Saying he sustains it doesn’t simply mean he balances it on his finger watching its process play out, or supply the power like an AC supply, but that he is intimately involved in its regularities and irregularities, wisely bringing about his purposes for it - in Christian terms because the sustaining God is Christ, the Logos, whose operating principle is love and his Father’s glory and whose concern is for all he has made.

So lawlike stuff? That’s God’s regularity, providing stability, rationality etc to our existence.

Chance? God’s irregularities whether through chaotic events or indeterminate quantum events, modulating the events around us.

Choices by rational beings? A privilege for those beings, but still ultimately within the encompassing will of God - the wicked plot against Jesus, but accomplish his glorification anyway. Satan rebels against God, but his rebellion is turned to accomplish God’s purpose.

Events independent of God (like “creation free to create itself”)? Nothing but Dualism by any other name - things don’t create themselves, or there would be two or more self-existing Creators, two gods, two powers to worship. It’s the same as making God subject to fate, as the Greeks did - whether that fate is natural law he “can’t” change (like the kings of the Medes), or chance he can’t or won’t predict or control (God the roulette player). It’s also incoherently attributing free will to things instead of persons. In fact, “He is the maker of all things”, and “works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.”

Evolution? A perfectly valid way for God to create, whatever viable mechanism is found for it. But as soon as any part of that process is held to be autonomous, and not subject to God’s purpose, then it denies the picture of God given in the Bible, as well as the God of classical theism whose active purpose is behind all events in one way or another.

So re-visiting your 2nd para:

God in nothing = clearly atheistic, or Deistic which is practical atheism.

God in some things = there’s a second deity about somewhere running the rest! And the things God isn’t in are the things we don’t give thanks for and can’t pray about, that run beyond the control of the wisdom, love and purpose of God. We have to rely on science or magic, I guess.

God in everything = we give thanks for all things, make our complaints direct to God if there seems to be evil, study secondary causes knowing that they’re under his rational control and not running amuck, and acknowledge that there will sometimes be fear and mystery because his ways are higher than ours.

If the God who is in everything is, as the Bible teaches, actually Christ, does that not give some grounds for expecting it’s well-run?

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robynhood - #76835

February 20th 2013

Jon:  Thank you very much for your reply.  I find what you have written here both interesting and helpful.  It has me thinking a lot.

First, thank you for helping me to realize that seeing God in only some things essentially amounts to Dualism.

I find your elaboration of the position that sees “God in everything” extremely interesting.  It seems to harmonize well with many of my current beliefs.  I will have to research this further and I appreciate the reference you offer as a starting point.

I admit that I have great difficulty escaping the post-enlightenment tendency to view reality as divided between “natural” and “supernatural”.  That sort of thinking is so valuable to scientific discovery and our understanding of the world we observe.  Still, I agree that there seems to be something artificial about that distinction, and it seem that reality is perhaps not so simple.

The confusing part for me is reconciling God’s regularity with his ‘irregularity’.  I suppose this is really just another way of stating the problem of evil.  The idea that God is ‘All-in-All’ is philosophically appealing to me, but I am troubled by the apparent logical consequence that God would be the final cause of evil.  The notion of real (if only finite) free-will helps mitigate this problem, along with trying to remember that so-called ‘natural evil’ may not truly qualify as ‘evil’ in the grand scheme of things.  Still, it’s difficult to understand.

Again, that you for taking the time to reply.  Perhaps we will have an opportunity to discuss these ideas again in some future, less-tangled, thread.

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Jon Garvey - #76846

February 21st 2013

An attempt to reply…

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Jon Garvey - #76847

February 21st 2013

Ah - that worked! My reply’s been blocked out all morning.

Thanks for kind words, robynhood.

Cut and paste isn’t working for me, but your words “The notion of real (if only finite) free-will… -> ... difficult to understand” shows more wisdom than many.

Another Enlightenment habit we’ve picked up is to give liup service to the idea that God’s ways are higher than ours, and then calling him to account when they are. So though we can’t even formulate accurately what “free-will” is, we’re happy to tell God what he must allow to it.

There are three strands in Scripture: (a) that God holds us to account for our choices, (b) that he works all things for his good purposes and (c) that he is incapable of evil. You’d have thought that ought to be sufficient for anyone in a faith relationship with him (especially that of a sinner forgiven by sheer mercy).

As sinners we’re bound at times to turn paradox into doubt, especially if bad things happen to us, but we seem often to have institutionalised unbelief into our theology, denying on or other of those three strands to make our logic come out. It’s curious.

Regarding natural evil, it always surprises people to learn that, essentially, there was no such concept in 1500 years of theology before the Reformation, as I found from research I did last year. Imagine one of us angst-ridden moderns getting a time machine back to ask Augustine, or Gregory Nyzianzus, or Aquinas about the theodical problems of carnivores, parasites or tsunamis and getting a blank look and a quizzical, “Where do you see a problem?” Either they were all strangely blind, or they had more spiritual insight than we do!

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Eddie - #76648

February 16th 2013

Dennis (in reply to your request at 76602 above):
 
What confuses many people, I think, is that Behe does argue that, in the specific case of chloroquine resistance, it seems to be the case that simultaneous mutations are necessary.  However, he does not generalize this; he does not say that it would be required for all evolutionary change within a neo-Darwinian model.
 
See The Edge of Evolution, p. 134:
 
“So let’s suppose that of the five or six changes that have to happen to a protein to make a new binding site, a third of them are neutral. They could occur before the other key mutations, as a separate step, without harm.”
 
So Behe acknowledges that where mutations are neutral, simultaneity is not required.  However, not all mutations are neutral.  Some—the majority—are deleterious.  The need for simultaneity would exist in connection with situations where multiple mutations are required, and where each mutation, taken individually, would be deleterious.  Thus, Behe writes:
 
“That leaves three or four amino acid changes that might cause trouble if they occur singly. For the Darwinian step in question, they must occur together.”
 
That is, for the more deleterious mutations—those resulting in instant death or failure to reach reproductive age—simultaneity would be an absolute requirement; and even for the less deleterious mutations, which would impair organismal function and in many cases impair reproduction as well, simultaneity, while not an absolute requirement, would greatly increase the offspring’s evolutionary chances.
 
That’s how I read Behe, anyway.  But I’m not at the level of biological competence of you or of Behe, and I don’t claim full understanding.  It’s possible I’m misreading what he wrote.  But if you think I’m misreading him, don’t talk to the stock boy; talk to the company president.  You can write to Behe at his school and ask him under exactly what conditions he thinks simultaneous mutations would be required.  That should clarify the matter.
 
And if you disagree with the reply you get from Behe, that would then become a perfect springboard for a public debate on BioLogos over the simultaneity of mutations—you and the powers that be could invite Behe to write a more extensive explanation of his position that would be paired up with your critique.  A wonderful educational opportunity for ID and TE supporters alike!
 
 
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Lou Jost - #76663

February 16th 2013

Eddie, Behe is wrong about the need for simultaneity when the individual mutations are slightly deleterious. It can be proved mathematically (and can easily be confirmed by computer simulations) that  deleterious mutations can stick around for a long time (even sometimes replacing favorable genes) due to genetic drift. This happens more often when populations are small or when the mutations are just slightly deleterious. Real geneticists have known this for decades. Behe must know it too, since many biologists have explained this to him many times.

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Eddie - #76668

February 16th 2013

Lou Jost:

Behe has dealt with such objections many times before.  I suggest that you read his detailed response to his critics on his blog over at Uncommon Descent.  And if you are still unsatisfied, nothing stops you from writing to him and asking him for further clarification of the basis of his position.

In any case, I was not defending Behe’s position.  Dennis asked me for evidence concerning what Behe said.  He did not ask me to prove that what Behe said was correct.  I did not undertake the latter; I undertook only the former.  And I have done what I said I would do, so my obligation on this sub-thread is discharged.

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Lou Jost - #76670

February 16th 2013

Eddie, thanks for your reply. Just to be clear, my comments were aimed at Behe’s claims, not your reporting of those claims.

Can you give a citation in Uncommon Descent for Behe’s reply to the genetic drift criticism of his simultaneity argument?

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Lou Jost - #76674

February 16th 2013

Eddie, I tried looking for Behe’s response to this specific argument, and I can’t find anything. A search of his blog shows that he never mentions Ohta’s Nearly Neutral theory, which showed how slightly deleterious (“nearly neutral”) mutations can persist for long periods of time. This falsifies Behe’s probability calculations.

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Eddie - #76675

February 16th 2013

Lou Jost:

I would have thought that Behe would have dealt with the simultaneous mutation question somewhere on the UD Edge of Evolution blog, since surely at least one of his critics there would have raised it in   At one time I read all the critics’ reviews and all of Behe’s replies there, but that was a while back, and I can’t pinpoint the right spot for you.  Sorry about that.

Since Behe grants that there is no problem with neutral mutations hanging around for long periods of time, I would imagine that he would say that “nearly neutral” mutations might do the same.  The question then arises how common “nearly neutral” mutations are, as opposed to clearly damaging mutations.  This is not my field and I won’t make up numbers, so I have to opt out of further discussion on the details.

I would suggest that you write to Behe with your objections.  You appear to me to be a polite person and to avoid edgy, gauntlet-throwing language, unlike most of Behe’s critics in the blogosphere, including certain people here.  I suspect that if you wrote to Behe as a scientific colleague, treating him with personal respect and offering your mathematical criticism, he would write you back with an equally respectful reply, explaining his position on neutral, nearly neutral, etc. and how all of that comes into his calculations.  I can’t promise he will reply, of course; maybe he gets too much mail to deal with individual queries.  But it is a sure bet that respectful and intelligently argued query has a far better chance of getting a reply than a belligerent or insulting one.

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Lou Jost - #76681

February 16th 2013

Eddie, this afternoon I looked for arguments pro and contra on the web regarding this point, and it seems clear Behe’s math really does make the error I mentioned. Here is one discussion of it by Larry Moran:

http://sandwalk.blogspot.ca/2012/01/understanding-mutation-rates-and.html

Larry’s posts are actually quite respectful of Behe, mostly because Behe’s main error is quite common even among evolutionary biologists. The error is that evolution quickly eliminates deleterious mutations. The idea many people have of evolution is that any particular adaptation must have arisen by small intermediate steps, and each step had to have some small advantage, or at least be neutral. Behe’s calculations presuppose this misconception. However, population geneticists have known for decades that this is not true; the probability of elimination of deleterious mutations depends on how large the population is and how strongly deleterious the mutation is. It may not ever be eliminated. We also now know that most mutations are indeed nearly neutral, so most mutations will not be eliminated quickly by natural selection. If nearly neutral mutations can persist for long periods, then the probability of two such mutations occurring in the same organism (Behe’s “Edge of Evolution”) is not the product of the two mutation probabilities, but a much larger probability. It is not the “edge of evolution”.

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Eddie - #76683

February 16th 2013

As I said, Lou, I don’t feel competent to enter into a detailed discussion of such fine points.  I believe that Behe would agree with you that the probabilities are higher with “nearly neutral” mutations than with seriously harmful ones.  But I believe that he would also say that the probabilities of certain constructive morphological or other changes, even if they are a million or a billion times greater, with “nearly neutral” mutations, are still quite low overall, when you take into account the exponents we are dealing with.

So, for example (I’m making it up purely for illustration, and am not defending the numbers), if Behe calculated that the probability of a bat’s sonar evolving by Darwinian means was 1 in 10^40, and his “error” regarding “nearly neutral mutations” meant that he was out by a factor of a quadrillion (10^15), then the probability of the event would still be only 1 in 10^25, which is not exactly the sort of number that would give an objective observer much confidence in the creative power of Darwinian mechanisms.  But such argumentation needs to be worked out in professional scientific literature, not on blog sites.  And that is the problem with the ID/TE/YEC/atheist wars, that they are largely carried out on blog sites, by highly partisan people, rather than by dispassionate scientists who are truly open to either conclusion - design or non-design.

I now excuse myself from further responses regarding the contents of Behe’s argument, or the criticisms thereof.  Best wishes.

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Lou Jost - #76688

February 16th 2013

Thanks Eddie. I’ll send you off with a couple of non-controversial points about these apparently large numbers. First, if there are many different ways to achieve a given result, the probability of any single way has to be multiplied by the number of paths that could get there. This number could be very high. So maybe there a thousand ways to get your adaption; that lowers the probability to 1 in 10^22. Then, leaving aside the bats and thinking about unicellular organisms (where most of the evolution of chemical pathways has taken place), remember the number of organisms is VERY large. The number of unicellular orgamisms just in your own body is in the trillions (10^12). The global abundance just of E coli is estimated to be around 10^20. Total bacterial abundance must be several orders of magnitude higher. If the events needed to produce a beneficial adaptation had a probability of 1 in 10^22, such an event would happen regularly, maybe every decade or century. If it was a really good adaptation, natural selection and horizontal gene transfer would quickly spread it around. So particularly when you are discussing the evolution of cellular metabolic pathways (as Behe often does), those big numbers are not as big as they seem.

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Lou Jost - #76690

February 16th 2013

I just found an estimate of the number of bacteria on earth at any instant, from the University of Georgia. It is over 10^29. So an event with a probability as small as 10^23 happens many time every day!

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Eddie - #76702

February 17th 2013

Yes, I’m well aware of such facts—and so is Behe—but I’m also aware that evolutionary processes require much more detailed treatment than such a crude, back-of-the-envelope calculation.  All numbers must be contextualized within the particular biological system we are talking about, and the particular targets we are talking about reaching—a new binding site, a new protein, a new organ, whatever.

And again, Behe is the man you should be talking to—and Dembski, the man with two Ph.D.s in probability theory.  And Sternberg, the man with a Ph.D in biology and another in systems science.  And Gauger.  And Axe.  And Sanford.  If your math and genetics and molecular biology etc. is on these people’s level, you will want to be talking to them, not to a nobody like me.  

Again, I thank you for the exchange.  

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Eddie - #76706

February 17th 2013

Yes, I’m aware that the number of paths makes a difference.  That is elementary.  You would be very wrong if you think that Behe is unaware of such considerations.  But when one is dealing with exponents like 46 and 35, even a million paths only reduces them to 40 and 29.  And of course no evolutionary biologist can offer any plausible way of calculating the number of possible paths, so we are dealing in speculation when we say there may be a million or a thousand; for all we know, there may be only 8 or 10.  And of course the number of trials in non-unicellular organisms, especially in mammals which in many cases bear only one young at a time, is much, much smaller.  So numbers can be thrown around on both sides.

The bottom line for me is that all criticisms of Behe focus on finding fault with his criticisms of neo-Darwinism, but in the meantime, 150 years after Darwin, and 60 years after the cracking of DNA, and 50 years after the revelation of the complete triplet codon set, there is still no stepwise or even nearly stepwise Darwinian account of the origin of any major organ, system, or body plan.  In other words, as Darwinians man the battlements to show that Behe has not disproved their mechanism, they done precious little to establish the positive case that ND mechanisms can work the wonders they are supposed to be able to work.

And I do not expect that a strong positive case will ever be made, because I do not think that the main mechanism of evolution is what either Darwin or the neo-Darwinians supposed it to be.  I claim no scientific authority for that; call it a hunch.  I think the truth, whatever it is, will be much closer to what Shapiro is suggesting than what the biology textbooks have taught from the time of Sputnik to the present.  Let’s check back in 20 years from now and compare notes.    Best wishes.

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Lou Jost - #76712

February 17th 2013

I look forward to discussing this further as the course progresses. Best regards.

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melanogaster - #76699

February 16th 2013

“I would have thought that Behe would have dealt with the simultaneous mutation question somewhere on the UD Edge of Evolution blog, since surely at least one of his critics there would have raised it in “

I wouldn’t.

“This is not my field and I won’t make up numbers, so I have to opt out of further discussion on the details.”

It seems to me that a curious person, challenged with a hole in his knowledge, would be eager for further discussion. Someone whose goal is demolishing others, OTOH, would opt out of further discussion.

“I would suggest that you write to Behe with your objections.”

What makes you think that many people haven’t already done so, Eddie?

“As I said, Lou, I don’t feel competent to enter into a detailed discussion of such fine points.”

One who is searching for the truth would be eager to discuss.

“I believe that Behe would agree with you that the probabilities are higher with “nearly neutral” mutations than with seriously harmful ones. But I believe that he would also say that the probabilities of certain constructive morphological or other changes, even if they are a million or a billion times greater,…”

As Lou pointed out, a billion is a tiny number when one is talking about bacteria or Plasmodium.

“… with “nearly neutral” mutations, are still quite low overall, when you take into account the exponents we are dealing with.”

No, Eddie, this is simple math. The point is that the probabilities become quite high, not quite low.

“But such argumentation needs to be worked out in professional scientific literature, not on blog sites.”

So why are you proposing that Behe posts here? And has Behe responded substantively to the criticisms leveled in the professional scientific literature?

“And that is the problem with the ID/TE/YEC/atheist wars, that they are largely carried out on blog sites, by highly partisan people, rather than by dispassionate scientists who are truly open to either conclusion - design or non-design.”

I think you’re ignoring the reality that scientists are quite open to your conclusion, it’s just that the evidence doesn’t support it.

“I now excuse myself from further responses regarding the contents of Behe’s argument, or the criticisms thereof. Best wishes.”

Why would you do that? Why wouldn’t you discuss and learn from Lou instead of withdrawing?

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melanogaster - #76666

February 16th 2013

“What confuses many people, I think, is that Behe does argue that, in the specific case of chloroquine resistance, it seems to be the case that simultaneous mutations are necessary.”

That’s silly, because Behe is arguing a global case based on a tiny number of cherry-picked, and in the case of HIV false, cases.

“However, he does not generalize this; he does not say that it would be required for all evolutionary change within a neo-Darwinian model.”

Then what’s the point of him citing it?

 See The Edge of Evolution, p. 134:
“So let’s suppose that of the five or six changes that have to happen to a protein to make a new binding site, a third of them are neutral.”

When are new binding sites needed, Eddie? Can you name two different ones between humans and chimps, other than the multitude that are evolved so quickly that they put Behe to shame?

“So Behe acknowledges that where mutations are neutral, simultaneity is not required.  However, not all mutations are neutral.  Some—the majority—are deleterious.”

That’s completely false, Eddie, but I’ll predict that the falsehood of your premise does not change your assertion that your conclusion is true. The vast majority are neutral.

“The need for simultaneity would exist in connection with situations where multiple mutations are required, and where each mutation, taken individually, would be deleterious.”

No, it would not do so at all, because Behe is ignoring important phenomena like genetic linkage and the fact that fitness is a highly complex trait. As
lou Jost points out, deleterious mutations are very hard to eliminate in a population.

“That is, for the more deleterious mutations—those resulting in instant death or failure to reach reproductive age—simultaneity would be an absolute requirement;…”

Only if Behe’s assumptions about the need for new binding sites and the number of changes necessary are true. Both are easily empirically testable. Why isn’t Behe testing them, Eddie?

“That’s how I read Behe, anyway.”

Yes, you completely ignore the unsupported assumptions he makes and treat them as Gospel!

“But I’m not at the level of biological competence of you or of Behe, and I don’t claim full understanding.  It’s possible I’m misreading what he wrote.”

More likely that he is misrepresenting the state of knowledge in the field.

“But if you think I’m misreading him, don’t talk to the stock boy; talk to the company president.  You can write to Behe at his school and ask him under exactly what conditions he thinks simultaneous mutations would be required.  That should clarify the matter.”

Why? Will he answer?
 
“And if you disagree with the reply you get from Behe, that would then become a perfect springboard for a public debate on BioLogos over the simultaneity of mutations—”

Why wouldn’t we discuss (not debate) Behe’s unsupported assumption that new binding sites must be evolved first before we worry about that?

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Eddie - #76669

February 16th 2013

If you had the courage to reveal your real name, fruitfly, and thus put your scientific reputation on the line (as other scientist-critics of Behe have—Dawkins, Coyne, Orr, Miller, Venema, Falk, Collins, Moran, Myers, Hunt), you could ask Behe all these questions yourself, in a public setting, and he would feel an obligation to meet all rational objections, as he has shown by his detailed replies to Miller, Coyne, etc.  But he is not going to answer to a pseudonymous blogger with bad manners.  Nor should he.  To use your own words, that’s not the way that science is done.

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beaglelady - #76680

February 16th 2013

I don’t think that any mainstream scientist using a real name would be putting his/her reputation on the line by asking Behe questions. What an idea. 

There are good reasons for keeping one’s personal identity private on this blog, though.

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melanogaster - #76700

February 16th 2013

“I don’t think that any mainstream scientist using a real name would be putting his/her reputation on the line by asking Behe questions. What an idea.”

Very strange, as is Eddie’s idea that he should opt out of discussing anything he’s uncomfortable with instead of learning something.

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Jon Garvey - #76711

February 17th 2013

Dennis

I’m grateful for your #76597, which gives the clearest account I’ve seen of how you personally relate evolution to God’s work, with which to interact. I know this matter is off topic given the didactic nature of your OP, but as the thread has already gone in different (not always beneficial) directions maybe this is an appropriate discussion.

Overall you seem agnostic about God’s role in, specifically, mutations, which I think follows necessarily from what I take to be your position that “design” could not be detected scientifically. After all, lack of design is even more impossible to attribute: if it is hard to prove that Paley’s watch had a designer from its functionality, then it is harder to say that the sand it lay on wasn’t deliberately placed there from its lack of function. It might have some unknown function (the watchmaker was a Zen master?) or might be (as I think you may hint) an inevitable product of the chosen manufacturing process - maybe a sand mould in Paley’s case.

“Vestiges” or “bad design” then cannot be scientific evidence for or against God’s planning, unless “good design” is too - and how does one quantify that scientifically? How much “bad design outweighs “good design”? So I take it your inclination away from “micromanagement” is made not on scientific, but on philosophical or theological grounds - maybe the latter, since you cite Scripture’s witness. So I’d be right in thinking that Scripture is the correct arena in which to argue the case here?

However the analogy you make between your free choices and evolution appears to be on dodgy ground. The gift of a rational will can hardly be equated with insentient chemical/biological processes. For me to respect my wife’s freedom to go out in her car is loving and wise, but for me to respect the car’s freedom to go over a cliff because the wheelnuts worked loose is neither loving nor wise. To be a valid parallel, one must say what exactly in nature corresponds to your rational will, and why God would be wise and loving to let it operate independent of his will.

Besides, Scripture is quite plain that our free wills do not operate independently of God. There are didactic passages like:

“In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps” (Pr 16.9).

Or “A man’s steps are directed by the Lord. How then can anyone understand his own way?” (Pr 20.24). Or even:

“Many are the plans of a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” (Pr 19.6)

But narratively, to cite one example of probably hundreds, Acts 4 asserts the free decisions of Herod, Pilate, Israel and the Gentiles against Jesus to be “what your power and will decided beforehand should happen.” How detailed was that will? Presumably at least as detailed as the things to which the same apostles draw attention, eg that Jesus died at Passover, that his clothes were divided by lot, that his bones were (uniquely) not broken. That could be described by the unspiritual as “micromanagement”.

A deep thinker like Aquinas discusses God’s governance of singular events both in relation to human free will and the patterns of nature, to show how removing the gaps in efficient causes by no means lessens God’s purposeful involvement in details. He even covers the issues of “mistakes” in nature and disposes of the accusation of “micromanagement”, as I once summarised here.

So both philosophically and scripturally, I think there are grounds to question your position - the science would seem to be entirely silent on the matter.

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beaglelady - #76718

February 17th 2013

After all, lack of design is even more impossible to attribute: if it is hard to prove that Paley’s watch had a designer from its functionality, then it is harder to say that the sand it lay on wasn’t deliberately placed there from its lack of function.

Has anyone ever suggested that that it’s hard to prove that a watch found on a beach did have a designer?

Reply to this comment
beaglelady - #76720

February 17th 2013

That could be described by the unspiritual as “micromanagement”.

 

So you’re calling Dennis Venema unspiritual.  Nice.

Reply to this comment
Jon Garvey - #76730

February 18th 2013

I don’t think Dennis commented on the Passion, beaglelady, so the connection you make is mischievous.

But would you describe these and the other fulfilments of prophecy around the Crucifixion, the High Priest’s unwitting prophetic words that one man should die for the people, and indeed the whole “determination” (the Bible’s own word) of a local historic event entirely contingent on human choice as “micromanagement”? And would that be a spiritual way of viewing it if you did?

Far more useful to speak to the issues than play catch-out. We ought to leave the polemic point-scoring to the Gnus, whose lack of any substantial arguments to back their fighting talk is beginning, at last, deservingly to marginalise them. Eventually people notice when straight answers are being avoided.

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beaglelady - #76740

February 18th 2013

I don’t think Dennis commented on the Passion, beaglelady, so the connection you make is mischievous.

No he didn’t,  and no thinking Christian would put the events of Holy Week in the same category as everday events. 

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Jon Garvey - #76747

February 18th 2013

beaglelady

I’m a thinking Christian, and think that the events of Holy Week raise exactly the same issues of human will and God’s sovereignty as at any other time.

But if you want to be pious about it, then try Joseph’s brothers actions toward Joseph, and God’s “intending it for good, for the saving of many people.”

Once again I note that it’s easier to score debating points than make any attempt to deal with the  issue raised. “Eventually people notice when straight answers are being avoided.”

Reply to this comment
Eddie - #76749

February 18th 2013

It’s hopeless, Jon.  In three or more years on this site, beaglelady has never offered a substantive theological statement.  She contents herself with theological jabs—one-liners, rhetorical questions laced with sarcasm, etc.  This reticence to state her own position, despite being asked scores of questions and being offered endless opportunity to hold forth at length, strongly suggests that she does not want her position to be known.

And this raises the question:  Why should a churchgoing Christian, who debates regularly on a site devoted to the interaction of science and theology, and offers very sharp comments against the theological views of others, not want her own theological position to be known?

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Jon Garvey - #76755

February 18th 2013

It’s OK Eddie - the question was originally for Dennis, so maybe he’ll respond in a spirit of dialogue.

Meanwhile I was amusing myself by compiling a list of strategies for avoiding substantive answers: you know, “You’re only asking that because you’re really a Fundamentalist/Creationist/Calvinist/White/Male etc…”; “How could you say such a wicked thing about someone?” (Papalinton used to like that one); How dare you tread on holy ground?” etc… but it would be an unworthy thing to do.

Instead I’ll just keep asking the same question and counting the time I don’t get any answers (from August 2011 so far!).

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robynhood - #76768

February 18th 2013

Meanwhile I was amusing myself by compiling a list of strategies for avoiding substantive answers…

Along those lines, have you read C.S. Lewis’ essay entitled “Bulverism” in the collection of essays entitled God in the Dock?  It’s a good one.

BTW, I found your comment above about being marginalised quite funny.

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Jon Garvey - #76787

February 19th 2013

robynhood

“Bulverism” strikes a vague chord in memory - I’ll have to look it up. I also have a hazy memory of reading something about internet diversionary tactics (as used by Gnus in particular) but I may have imagined it. Someone should write a guide, though.

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PNG - #76713

February 17th 2013

Amazing. 129 comments and counting on a post that just announced a coming course. Should be interesting to see what happens after the course starts. 

If Dennis is still reading, I’m wondering if he has any recommendation for a textbook(s) on evolution.

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beaglelady - #76715

February 17th 2013

For Coursera’s Introduction to Genetics and Evolution (taught by Prof. Noor at Duke University), the two recommended textbooks are:

Griffiths et al. 2010. Introduction to Genetic Analysis, 10th edition. W.H. Freeman. ISBN-10: 1429229438.

Freeman & Herron. 2007. Evolutionary Analysis, 4th edition. Cummings. ISBN-10: 0132275848.

(I bought the latter one)

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