Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Cows into Whales

UPDATE:The Bad Idea Blog takes issue with Berlinksi's claim that he calculated at least 50,000 changes were required to change a cow into a whale (he stopped counting) [Berlinksi, whales, and why Intelligent Design can’t get no respect]. If Berlinski took ten seconds to write down each of these changes it would take him 5 days, assuming he wrote for 24 hours each day. How's that for a mathematical calculation!
Here's one of the chief IDiots, David Berlinski, expounding on how difficult it must be to change cows into whales. Berlinksi has a Ph.D. in philosophy and has written several books on mathematics. He is a Senior Fellow at the Center for Science & Culture (CSC).

Here's a free clue for the IDiots: cows didn't evolve into whales. Instead whales are the modern descendants of a primitive carnivore that lived over 50 million years ago. See the video at the PBS site for basic information on the evolution of whales—the sort of information that you'd expect anyone to know if they were going to criticize the scientific explanation for the evolution of whales [Whale Evolution]. Berlinski knows some of this history but he's missing the big picture. Berlinksi and most of his fellow fellows at the CSC don't know much about evolution and how it works. It's all a big mystery to them; but then, that's why they are IDiots.



[Hat Tip: The video was posted on the Discovery Institute website by Robert Crowther, who presumably believes that the evolution of cows from whales (sic) is important.]

39 comments :

  1. If I hear just one more "probabilistic" argument from ANYONE (atheist or creationist) I think I'm going to throw up.

    ReplyDelete
  2. You mean Sanders, "I'm probably going to throw up".

    ReplyDelete
  3. He specifically mentions Ambulocetus. So I guess his argument is, "OK, we've got intermediates. but there are still gaps between them." How bizarre. If some supernatural being were directing the process, why would we expect to find any intermediates at all?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Talking to evolutionists is tricky. There would be no intermediates if they were created (or would not necessarily be). He is talking within the Darwinian Paradigm about what a responsible Darwinist would be looking for. So hard expressing ideas when you guys are so simple minded.

      To the supposed intelligent scientist who created this article, you of course missed his point. Focused on some silly detail as if it somehow solves the problem. Typical evolutionist. Always always it's frustrating to have to try navigating the brainwashing and thought blocks darwinists have in their heads that prevent proper reconsideration of their views. There are always mines that distract them when you trip these with choice of words or some other mistake.

      Delete
  4. The two-part question I'd like to pose face to face to Berlinski or one of the other well-educated intelligent types that make this sort of statement is, "Why do you invest the time and effort in attempting to demonstrate that the best available evidence should not ... indeed, cannot ... be interpreted in the way that the professionals working in the field interpret it? If they are that misguided, why do you even rely on their evidence?"

    One can speculate on the reasons for such stubbornness and illogic, but I'd really like to hear the answer directly from someone like Berlinski.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Ooh, he's done calculations! One problem with the analogy though - if you were going to re-engineer a car to be a submarine you would probably remember to remove the wheels (whales have vestigial hindlimbs). Guess his designer was working to a deadline but couldn't he have built his whale from scratch?

    ReplyDelete
  6. I think it is stupid to think you can discuss ANY topic or break down ANY argument to probabilistic terms.

    ReplyDelete
  7. it's just the newest "scientism" trying to replace true philosophica arguments for more "sciencey"-looking "probabilistic considerations" (crappy, crappy stuff)

    ReplyDelete
  8. If I am not mistaken, which is possible, the putative ancestor of the whale is an ungulate. This is based both on genetic analyses and the recent discovery of an double-hinged astragalus in Pakecetus, which is diagnostic for ungulates. The Mesonychid ancestor is the old explanation.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Please, this person is not a mathematician.

    Math
    Reviews Lookup


    His entries are mostly from popular books or textbooks (no original research).

    ReplyDelete
  10. Cetaceans are the sister group of artiodactyls. Their common ancestor could well have been a predator with no hoofs... not cow-like at all.
    Cows are bovids that, of course, did NOT give rise to cetaceans.
    Actually, the most basal living artiodactyls you could compare to cetaceans are pigs and Hippos. Hello? Hippos spend most of their lives in water. Not so easy to ridicule as a cow, huh.

    One thing unites all these genius mathematicians who say they can "calculate" evolution is not true: They know about as much natural history as a hairdresser.

    ReplyDelete
  11. David Berlinski is indeed one of the major IDiots around, only rivaled by Meyer, Luskin and Cordova in sleaziness and lack of scholarship. I wasn't entirely surprised to find out that he acts as pompous as he writes.

    It was really laughable when he ducked quantitative population statistics under the pretense that it is genetics, not "numbers". He wouldn't last long in a serious discussion.

    to Berlinski or one of the other well-educated intelligent types

    Don't let the propaganda machine of creationism score another victory by deluding you to think he is well educated. The man is a philosopher, for FSM's sake!

    Among other things he can't do well is mathematics, even though he claims to have "spent a year at the Institut des Hautes Etudes talking about catastrophe theory with Thom". It seems he has served as a professor in math.

    But he is in fact no mathematician, and signs his name as "David Berlinski: PhD Philosophy-Princeton: Mathematician, Author" on denialist sites.

    As physicist Mark Perakh notes
    :

    David Berlinski, usually referred to as a mathematician, has authored popular books on mathematics, and papers against evolution, but has no known record of his own contribution to the development of mathematics or of any other science.

    Mark Chu-Carroll at Good Math, Bad Math has discussed his bad math several times. It turns out that a large part of his "math" books are written has a post-modern (!) treatise on the history of math in a philosophical department.

    Berlinski himself recounts a bizarre tale where he tried to teach mathematicians the concept of limits:

    Berlinski is giving a math talk attended by an extraordinarily intelligent mathematician. Here is an extended quote from the middle of his narration: ...

    "Swoboda leans back and sighs audibly, as if for the first time he had grasped a difficult principle. The room, with its wooden pews and narrow blackboard, is getting close.

    I say, “The concept of a limit, as it is applied to functions, is forged in the fire of these remarks.”"


    I would have sighed too.

    ReplyDelete
  12. This is Duane Gish's proposal which requires only a single intermediate:
    http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/articles/images/cej10_1.jpg

    Perhaps Berlinski could explain how design might implement a single change.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Sanders:

    I think it is stupid to think you can discuss ANY topic or break down ANY argument to probabilistic terms.

    Not if you break down an argument so you end up narrowly discussing a probabilistic model, for some reason or other leaving out the testability. Seems that is at the heart of many conflicts, especially involving bayesians which do seem to want to circumvent necessary tests at times.

    For example, string physicist Aaron Bergman has a recent discussion where he has no problem with discussing probabilities on the string landscape (or for multiverses) as such:

    Most people I talk to, however, take a much more pragmatic approach. Given some abstract principle that leads to a measure, some will say that we should consider the choice of principle as part of the theory. Thus, if the experiments turn out other than how we made our bets, the combination of physical theory and measure principle is falsified.

    So such people see a feasible road to falsifiability in a case where others disagree.

    [Instead the stated problem for Bergman is of a technical nature. The proposed measures in these case are most often counting measures which only works over finite sets.]

    ReplyDelete
  14. A good summary of the molecular/morphological evidence is Deciphering whale origins with molecules and fossils
    Trends in Ecology & Evolution, Volume 16, Issue 10, 1 October 2001, Pages 562-570
    John Gatesy and Maureen A. O'Leary

    Hippos are the closest extant relative of cetaceans based on molecular data. Morphological data would suggest the extinct mesonychian ungulates - a group that is carnivorous or piscivorous. Skulls in mammals are highly modified by diet and mesonychians could be convergent. Many suggest a combined order for the Cetacea and the Artiodactyla - Cetartiodactyla with the Cetacea monophyletic, but the Artiodactyla paraphyletic.

    ReplyDelete
  15. If I remember correctly this video of Berlinski was part of the Icons of Evolution DVD the Disco Institute put out, and the "whale evolving from a cow/hippo" mistake is one that creationists make all too often (Denyse O'Leary did it just the other day). Coincidentally, I just wrote a post the other day about what we can tell about the ancestry of whales from their current mode of locomotion.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Larsson, I forgot you had this argument that finding certain coded messsages (I can't remeber where) would be so improbable by "natural causes", it would just make you believe in god. Or something like that, correct me if I am wrong.

    ReplyDelete
  17. To the best of my knowledge, Berlinski has never published a paper in a peer reviewed mathematics journal.

    ReplyDelete
  18. "Thus, if the experiments turn out other than how we made our bets, the combination of physical theory and measure principle is falsified"

    That's OK!
    If things are not as you expected by your probabilistic calculations, it means your calculations were not realistic. It menas there is something you do't know about reality. It is NEVER a direct inference to conclude a supernatural intelligence has intervened.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I don't get how someone can go to such lengths to make such a stupid argument. And yes, I have read the articles about the vacuity of his "mathematics."

    But even leaving that alone, why couldn't someone have been sufficiently embarrassed to whisper in his ear "Stop, David. I just saw a documentary on sea otters. They live their entire mammalian lives on the water without having to go through 50,000 changes."?

    Pinnipeds. Interesting story, shared ancestry with bears. Doing quite well until people came along, too.

    Sea Cows. Not even cows, more like elephants.

    Someone give him an elementary school book on science. I think it would fascinate him. I mean, I would hope so, anyway.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Sanders:

    Larsson, I forgot you had this argument

    This context is all yours. I was addressing the misconception that particular discussions of statistical models are meaningless.

    But on that argument, I am often addressing another misconception, that no gods concepts are testable. This question is OT for the thread however so I suggest we save the argumentation for later.

    ReplyDelete
  21. To be fair, now that I read through the comments on PZ's blog entry on this subject, someone made this point before I did: and they, even using a difference per second, still get a total nonstop thinking time of 14 straight hours!

    His claim is such a grotesquely silly one that you really get a sense of what happens when a man figures he can just sit in his easy chair and say any damn thing at all without ever doing any real research into the subject. I guess you just start to get so lazy that you veer off into fantasyland.

    ReplyDelete
  22. I don't know if it is OT, Larsson. Berlinski's basic argument seems to me no different from what I remember of your own. If something occurrs that is improbable according to your calculations...insert supernatural intelligence.

    ReplyDelete
  23. "Why do you invest the time and effort...?"

    Answer: They're a society of cranks.

    ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crank_%28person%29

    ReplyDelete
  24. David Berlinski is indeed one of the major IDiots around...

    Berlinski considers himself oh-so-clever for not actually commiting himself to the folks who sign his paycheck. According to a Knight-Ridder article of September 27, 2005:
    But in an e-mail message, Berlinski declared, "I have never endorsed intelligent design."

    You see, he doesn't endorse ID, he simply doubts "Darwinism." Get it?

    ReplyDelete
  25. How many individual fossils have been found for whale ancestors? How many of the 500,000 changes Berlinski considers to be necessary involve the skeleton and teeth, and thus would show up in fossils?

    ReplyDelete
  26. Hey Guys, excuse the interruption. May I ask, Why does it seem that your responses to Berlinski and so many others who offer opinions that challenge yours are so full of personal and professional insults.

    I am new to the world of blogging and especially to the world of atheism, materialism and methodological naturalism. I know why that sort of ranting goes on between young-Earthers. But, I am trying to understand why so many of you guys do it too.

    Dragon

    ReplyDelete
  27. Anonymous asks,

    Hey Guys, excuse the interruption. May I ask, Why does it seem that your responses to Berlinski and so many others who offer opinions that challenge yours are so full of personal and professional insults.

    In my case it's because I'm trying to get across the message that these people really are stupid when it comes to discussing evolution. There's no point in trying to be subtle about it because most people will miss the point.

    I leave it to others to try and explain Berlinski's lack of knowledge about something he presumably has studied for several decades and attacks on a regular basis.

    Would you like to offer an explanation? Here's how Richard Dawkins puts it.

    It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet someone who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I'd rather not consider that.)

    In Berlinksi's case we can rule out "insane" so that leaves "igorant" and "stupid" as the most reasonable explanations. Do you prefer "wicked"?

    ReplyDelete
  28. "May I ask, Why does it seem that your responses to Berlinski and so many others who offer opinions that challenge yours are so full of personal and professional insults."

    Anonymous, did you actually read these posts? Do you realize why we are criticizing Berlinski? He basically sat down, did no research at all, and declared entire fields worth of scientists to be liars and morons all based on an utterly preposterous mental exercise that cannot possibly have even done as he claims.

    How are we supposed to respond to something like that? We've ALREADY pointed out in great detail why is arguments are bad. Now we are interested in figuring out how it is that someone can persist in making such deceptive and ridiculous arguments. And I think, frankly, that in doing that we can legitimately be a little snarky about this guy.

    As to attacking his professional qualifications, that's also legitimate in the sense that he is presenting himself as an authority, despite having little apparent knowledge of what he's even talking about. Calling him on that is an important means of calling this misrepresentation of himself to people's attention.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Dragon asked - (paraphrased) Why are you guys so rude.

    Larry said - "In my case it's because I'm trying to get across the message that these people really are stupid when it comes to discussing evolution." Bad essentially said the same thing.

    Larry said - "Would you like to offer an explanation?"

    Dragon says, Yes. I would.

    The way you see science (raw, uninterpreted knowledge of the natural universe) through your humanistic worldview causes you to see evolution. There are many others with intellects, educations, experience and motives as good as yours (excluding biased young-Earthers) that do not see evolution.

    Here's one reason. The cornerstone of all evolution theory is the idea that life emerged from non-life on a prebiotic Earth. Without that reality, all evolution postulates collapse. As a fan (not a professional scientist) and from what I have read, there are many guesses, but only two basic approaches to explain life’s beginning from non-life using an evolutionary model:
    1. Replicator-first; and
    2. Metabolism-first.

    Replicator-first:
    Most briefly put (remember, I'm a fan, not a player), there's a problem called the "homopolymer problem" that devastates all replicator-first models. Referring to chemist Robert Shapiro from the cover article of the June 2007 issue of Scientific American: 'the replicator-first approach to the origin-of-life is a failed paradigm.'

    Metabolism-first:
    According to Shapiro, there are five requirements for all metabolism-first scenarios.
    1. The emergence of a boundary to segregate the proto-metabolic pathways from the environment
    2. An energy source to power the proto-metabolic interactions
    3. A coupling mechanism that links the available energy to the proto-metabolic pathways
    4. The emergence of a chemical network comprised of interconnected cycles of reactions among small molecules
    5. A means for the network to grow and reproduce

    Re:
    #1. Experimental demonstration to support #1., under conditions that realistically simulate those of early Earth, do not exist and therefore cannot be tested or proven.
    #2. Proto-metabolic pathways of metabolism-first scenarios require some sort of chemically assisted acceleration. Origin-of-life researcher Leslie Orgel has indicated that metabolism-first scenarios require an “appeal to magic,” a “series of remarkable coincidences,” a “near miracle.”
    #3. Metabolism-first scenarios suffer from the chemical stability-instability paradox that makes chemical cycles and networks inherently unstable, frustrating all metabolism-first scenarios. On the other hand, chemical compounds stable enough to reasonably withstand degradation cannot enter into chemical cycles and networks because they are not chemically reactive enough.
    #4. It is unlikely that information-rich self-replicating molecules could emerge from a proto-metabolic system, as argued by chemist Andy Pross.
    #5. Antonio Lazcano and Stanley L. Miller identified another problem with metabolism-first scenarios; particularly for those that assert that protometabolic systems resemble the contemporary metabolism found in cells. Lazcano and Miller correctly point out that postulated prebiotic routes for key biomolecules dramatically differ from metabolic pathways that make the same compounds.

    I believe that these points seriously discredit the evolutionary idea about origins on Earth and about the whole theory of evolution. Therefore, why don’t you respectfully focus less on evolution (framed through your personal lens) as the standard of science and more on all the alternatives that the actual data is revealing?

    This is the best I can do without further committing the sin of quote mining or pointing you to someone who is a player.

    Dragon

    ReplyDelete
  30. Dragon says,

    Here's one reason. The cornerstone of all evolution theory is the idea that life emerged from non-life on a prebiotic Earth.

    Bzzzzz! WRONG!

    Thanks for playing. You can pick up your consolation prize on the way out.

    Next contestant?

    ReplyDelete
  31. Dragon:

    The cornerstone of all evolution theory is the idea that life emerged from non-life on a prebiotic Earth. Without that reality, all evolution postulates collapse.

    No. Evolution describes existing populations.

    What you are proposing is analogous to that theories describing gravitation must explain the initial moments of the universe, or they collapse. Guess what, general relativity can't describe that, you need a quantum gravity theory like string theory to do this. Yet GR describes gravitation on existing masses.

    Please go and learn something about how science and its theories works before critiquing any one area on general principles. If physics is less controversial for you, start there. Say with relativity as above.

    Sanders:

    If something occurrs that is improbable according to your calculations...

    That is another argument entirely. But it is based on observations, while Berlinski's is not.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Larry said – “Thanks for playing. You can pick up your consolation prize on the way out.” Because Dragon was wrong in saying, “The cornerstone of all evolution theory is the idea that life emerged from non-life on a prebiotic Earth.”

    Dragon asks – Larry, what is the cornerstone of evolution, then – materialism?

    ReplyDelete
  33. Dragon:

    If Larry deigns to answer - IANAB, but as I described above, the cornerstone is observations and theories of biological poulations.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Dragon asks – Larry, what is the cornerstone of evolution, then – materialism?

    I'd say it was the change in frequencies of alleles in a population.

    You could easily imagine a situation where God created life. That would not negate evolution according to my understanding of it but it would according to yours.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Your blog's informative is very rich in contents. I like your way of
    presentation. At times I disagree with your views but thinking about it who
    presents views that are acceptable to everyone. Keep posting your good
    blogs.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Dragon suggested that the cornerstone of evolution is when non-life turned into life and that evolution theory lacks any valid data to support that cornerstone. Dragon stated that evolution’s Replicator-first and Metabolism-first hypotheses for life-origins have been proposed as ways to support evolution theory but have been deemed scientifically not plausible, even by evolutionists.

    Moran replied, “Wrong!”

    Dragon asked Moran if the cornerstone was materialism.

    Moran replied, “I'd say it was the change in frequencies of alleles in a population.”

    As I (a fan) understand it and very generally speaking, an “allele” is a combination of gene pairs at a given location on a pair of chromosomes (diploid).

    Don’t you (Moran) propose that “allele” occurred in either a Replicator-first or a Metabolism-first scenario to explain the origin of life? And, didn’t my comments about Replicator-first and Metabolism-first illustrate why they are not considered plausible by even evolutionists themselves? Doesn’t evolution theory, therefore, lack a plausible cornerstone?

    Moran also said, “You [Dragon] could easily imagine a situation where God created life.”

    Dragon replies, First; I don’t “imagine” anything, I’m not smart enough. Therefore, I do two things:
    1. Read the works of qualified scientists, both of theistic and atheistic persuasions, and
    2. I look to see which model more closely matches the raw data: a) Evolution or Progressive Creationism.

    Further, If God created life, he would very likely not have used a process (materialistic evolution) that denies his own existence.

    Moran further said, “That would not negate evolution according to my understanding of it but it would according to yours.”

    Dragon replies, It’s not my belief in God that “negates evolution.” What negates evolution is at least these two things:
    1. Quoting Harvard geneticist Professor Richard Lewontin, “We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism.”
    2. The phenomenal advances of science are not producing evidence for randomness and gradualism, but rather for design and a designer.

    Dragon

    ReplyDelete
  37. A research team comprised of researchers from the Tokyo Institute of Technology, etc., concluded from analysis of animal genes a surprising result that cows, hippopotami and whales evolved from a common ancestor. According to the traditional classification, both cows and hippopotami belonged to artiodactyla, but the team proposed a new classification showing that these animals are closer to whales. August 14th issue of British science magazine Nature. I think this is hogwash

    ReplyDelete