Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Skeptical About Adaptationism

 
Over on Evolution News & Views (a creationist blog) Robert Crowther writes.
Every so often the Darwinists get all riled up about the Scientific Dissent From Darwin list, which lists over 700 PhD scientists who publicly affirm: “We are skeptical of the claims for the ability of random mutations and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian Theory should be encouraged.” As statements go, it’s simple and straightforward. And that perhaps is what concerns Darwinists. People instantly understand what it is saying, what the scientists are courageously endorsing, and why it matters. [Doubts About Darwin Stem from Science Not Religion]
Hmmm ... let's test that claim. I agree with the two statements that are quoted. Does everyone understand why?

I do not agree with the title of the list Scientific Dissent from Darwinism because I don't dissent from Darwinism. In fact, I think that natural selection is a proven mechanisms of evolution and it is immensely important in the evolution of life on Earth. What I don't agree with is the idea that random mutation and natural selection alone can account for the complexity of life.

I suppose that's what Robert Crowther means when he says, "People instantly understand what it [the statements] is saying, what the scientists are courageously endorsing, and why it matters." Right?

Of course not. All intelligent people understand that the purpose of the list is to reveal the ignorance of Intelligent Design Creationists who think that questioning one aspect of evolution is equivalent to belief in God. Some of those 700 people may have been tricked into signing the "Dissent" because they did not instantly understand what it meant to a creationist.

I'm glad we've cleared that up.



15 comments :

  1. I'm not sure which is more amusing: the fact they think being a PhD scientist means anything about a persons intelligience (anyone whose been to a conference with their peers will tell you there are an awful lot of stupid Dr's out there) or the fact they think that natural selection is the only route by which evolution occurs. How hard is it to read a basic undergraduate text on evolution?

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  2. Dear Larry,

    "Aiiieeeee! My retnas! It burns us precious!"

    That is what people hear coming from my office each time I visit your website and am met with a massive quote box that is BRIGHT YELLOW. Come Larry, for the love of Science please consider changing those to a color less visually assaulting. If you background color is simply white, then ANY other color will stand out. How about a nice dove gray? Or olive? Or even just a black border and no color fill? You're killing me.... http://html-color-codes.com/

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  3. I quite like the yellow. In general I like the style of the blog; makes a change from the horrible conformity of "scienceblogs"

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  4. The yellow doesn't bother me, but may I suggest that quotes from IDiots and the like (Stephen Harper would qualify too; Stock Day or G.W.Bush doubly so) be offset with a border featuring clown faces or the like?

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  5. Yes, there are other magical mechanisms out there, that are able to turn a single cell life form into a chemistry professor. We just don't what are those mechanisms, but we know they are out there!

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  6. But of course, postulating a magical eternal, all-powerful being who poofed everything into existence is just good science in mats-land. [shakes head sadly]

    Seriously, why do you waste your time trolling here? This blog is read by lots of people with real scientific training, who just find your ignorant comments funny in a pathetic sort of way. What do you imagine you're accomplishing?

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  7. I consider that darwinism is not the notion of common descent with modification (previously popularized by lamarck) , but rather the assumption that 1) natural selection is the main evolutionary mechanism 2) natural selection produces increased or perfected adaptation as a result of an essentially competitive process: "Survival of the fittest" as Darwin himself adopted the phrase. Darwin makes no roundabouts about where he got the ideas from: right wing, "laissez faire" economists such as Malthus and Adam Smith who argued for an unavoidable competition that leads to progress. Darwin simply applied this to biology.

    The adaptive process of natural selection is also Darwin's argument against intelligent design creationism, which was previously defended by reverend Wiliam Paley's natural theology.
    Natural selection, through it perfecting, long-term action, is conceived to render divine intervention unnecessary for explaining the origin of exquisitely perfect adaptations, such as the human eye or middle ear. No designer required.

    In modern science, refuting a theological argument is not of much interest at all, yet some neoatheist commit the mistake of being exceedingly fanatical about the role of natural selection in evolution. Yes, that includes Richard Dawkins & his army of clones.

    I would also add that darwinism is gradualist. Natural selection is process of improvement and perfecting that is all about graduality, the slow-grinding.Competition i unavoidable and small difference are important, they accumulate. In time, they become notable differences. If you do not understand this point, you do not truly understand darwinism.

    In my opinion, darwinism is no longer the framework most evolutionary biologists identify with. Much like Haeckelian biology; that is, despite the fact that darwinism has produced an important legacy of discoveries and research tools. But still false.

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  8. Ah, Mats, good to see you here. I've been quite busy, so I haven't been able to participate in comments as much as I usually like.

    Allow me to try to explain a couple of things. I have no idea whether the explanations or arguments will make any impression on you, but they are offered with all seriousness and goodwill, so I hope you will consider them in that spirit.

    You'll remember I'd asked you a couple of questions about your interpretations of Bible passages - one from Joshua, where it says God caused the sun to stand still in the sky; and several from Genesis, where it speaks of "days" before the sun is created. Your interpretations, if I may characterize them, were that Joshua describes a heliocentric solar system, and that the "days" spoken of in Genesis were 24 hours long.

    There are a couple of points I'd like to call to your attention about these passages and your interpretations.

    1) From the time these passages were written until a few centuries ago, the interpretations you've given would have been considered wildly non-literal, because people were utterly unaware of the Earth's rotation or its orbit around the sun, and they had no accurate clocks to divide this rotational period into 24 hours. Their experiences were of constantly shifting periods of light and darkness as the seasons passed, so the idea of an absolutely fixed length of time called a "day" based on a roughly spherical Earth rotating at 1600kph at its equator would have seemed quite insane to them. We can take from this, I think, that even literalist interpretations of the Bible change over time in response to scientific knowledge (heliocentrism, a roughly spherical rotating Earth) and technology (telescopes, clocks).

    2) Assuming these passages, along with the rest of the Bible, to have been written by scribes who were inspired by God, it does not appear that God gave any priority whatever to conveying precise scientific knowledge. There's nothing in Joshua saying "The sun and moon just appeared to stand still in the sky; it's really a pause in the rotation of the (spherical) Earth that we're talking about here." And there's nothing in Genesis saying "We're referring to 'day' as the rotational period of the Earth." God does not appear to have been concerned at all that well over 70 generations of readers would understand these descriptions of time and the motion of heavenly bodies incorrectly, according to both modern science and your own interpretations. Perhaps God was more concerned about conveying other lessons. See for example the 3rd paragraph on this page: http://www.come-and-hear.com/shabbath/shabbath_31.html

    We can take from this, I think, that the Bible was not intended as a science text. Rather, as noted in point 1 above, the interpretations of even the most devoted literalists change over time to take account of science and technology. Your own interpretations of the Joshua and Genesis passages are quite different than those of legions of devout people who have come before you.

    Thus I ask you to consider thinking of the Bible not as some mere science text, but as a book that can be (and in fact has been) read by even the most devout in the light of ever-changing human scientific knowledge.

    You know about (and interpret the Bible in accordance with) heliocentrism, knowledge for which devout men thought Galileo should be placed under house arrest. Has this prevented you from acting morally? Knowledge - including knowledge of evolution gained by good careful scientists in hundreds of labs around the world every year - creates no insuperable barrier to your acting toward others with the same kindness and understanding you would wish others to direct toward you.

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  9. Yes, there are other magical mechanisms out there, that are able to turn a single cell life form into a chemistry professor. We just don't what are those mechanisms, but we know they are out there!

    Oh, so Mats you're saying that you came from a homunculus?

    By the way, your Man up there has just informed me to remind you to be careful with inane statements like this.

    He has a very long checklist.

    I know that your material body is not frightened by Him, but I was assured that your eternal soul has been shaken to the core.

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  10. Steve says:
    "But of course, postulating a magical eternal, all-powerful being who poofed everything into existence is just good science in mats-land. [shakes head sadly] "

    Actually, I don't think that it's "science" in the same way chemistry is. In fact, that's one of the many reasons I contest the Darwinian nonsense that heliocentrism is just as valid as darwinism. Darwinism is a (imaginative) story about the unrepettable past, not something we can happening in front of our eyes.

    So, evolutionism and Creationism, scrictly speaking, are out of bounds of repeatable science.

    The diference is that one (darwinism) postulates things that, not only we have never seen but go against what we see (unguided creative forces).

    "Seriously, why do you waste your time trolling here? This blog is read by lots of people with real scientific training, who just find your ignorant comments funny in a pathetic sort of way."

    Yet, they don't say what is "pathetic" in asking for evidence for a certain "theory".

    "What do you imagine you're accomplishing?"

    A good laugh? (/sarc)

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  11. Historical sciences are as hypothetical-deductive, constrained, and deterministic as those that may focus more on a lab-bench experimentation approach to collecting data (though historical sciences certainly DO use experimentation as well, within a larger picture).
    It's not just about wearing a labcoat and being at the bench to become a real scientist, Mats. Fossil ARE data, even if we cannot repeat any of them by experiment.
    Plus, the history of science is chock full with experimental trends that were on the wrong track. Just because you are making repeatable experiments does not imply you will be making sound science.

    Archaeology, History, Geology, Paleontology, are all well established discilpliens who have a great accumulation of well-established, completely acknowledged facts.
    Your chances, of changing that accumulated knowledge of these fields in favor of your noachian flood, 6000 year old only, version of earth history...well, they are pretty dim, Mats. Indeed, you have about the same chance of that of changing heliocentrism. You know, that dogma. We evil scientists surely enjoy that one.

    WE agree that ID is not science, but not becuase it refers with unrepeatable events of the past; many irrepeatable facts of the past can be well investigated, 100% scientifically. The problem is that it delas with alleged with a truly unobservable, supernatural non-mechanism (miracle) that CANNOT be explained scientifically

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  12. some neoatheist commit the mistake of being exceedingly fanatical about the role of natural selection in evolution


    How do you connect atheism with specific mechanisms in evolution, and why would atheists care? The main reason to discuss evolution for an atheist would be to explain why theistic claims on biology are wrong. You usually don't need to go into mechanisms, unless a theist starts to display his ignorance on such details.

    @ Mats:

    I don't think that it's "science" in the same way chemistry is.

    Well, duh! And chemistry isn't science in the way physics is, and so on. Each science have its own methods, as they are contingent on the observations that can be made.

    Biology is IMHO more related to astronomy and cosmology, which also studies natural processes where we don't set up the experiments. [Well, at least today. :-P] But natural constraints on experiments happens in all sciences - or we would have a Planck scale accelerator made yesterday to get to a fundamental, unified, theory of physics.

    Biology is the lucky science - it already has its fundamental unified theory in place, it looks like. "Only" the details remain, such as which mechanisms are important in which case.

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  13. it already has its fundamental unified theory in place, it looks like.

    No, that isn't correct, or at least debatable. What I wanted to describe is that currently general relativity and quantum mechanics aren't completely reconcilable. No such problem for evolutionary biology.

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  14. Mats wrote:

    I don't think that it's "science" in the same way chemistry is.

    To which Torbjörn commented:

    Well, duh! And chemistry isn't science in the way physics is, and so on. Each science have its own methods, as they are contingent on the observations that can be made.

    Biology is IMHO more related to astronomy and cosmology, which also studies natural processes where we don't set up the experiments.

    Experiments to demonstrate/refute or observe basic and advanced principles of evolutionary theory are performed every day, so I don't think the point that "It's not experimentally verifiable like some other sciences" should be conceded, or is in fact correct.

    I also doubt Mats would concede the verifiability or truth of various "hard science" facts such as the ages of astronomical bodies, including the sun and Earth, though such facts are gathered and verified with the same technologies (e.g., telescopes) that verify data Mats accepts, such as heliocentrism, or an Earth that rotates on its axis every 24 hours.

    So there is really nothing about the intrinsic nature of such data or the methods by which they are gathered and verified that explains Mats' reluctance. Rather, it is the perceived conflict of these data with the way Mats interprets the Bible - which is quite odd, since as I have written elsewhere in this thread, Mats happily accepts and incorporates into his Bible interpretation some data which have been perceived by millions of devout Christians over centuries as very much in conflict with the Biblical account. It is only certain specific items of scientific data that Mats perceives (or has learned that he ought to regard) as inimical to the Bible and a moral system of living.

    Such an attitude leads ID adherents to rather remarkable conclusions. For example, last year we had Dr. Behe publishing a book in which he argued forcefully and at length that God had directly intervened to make drug therapies ineffective against the microbe that causes malaria, resulting in sickness and death for millions of men, women and children. ID leaders hailed this portrait of a vicious murderer God as a triumph for God-belief and morality!

    As I've said before in this thread, Mats, I hope you will very seriously consider whether scientific knowledge, no matter in what particular subject area, really prevents one from leading a moral existence.

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  15. FWIW, catching up on old threads:

    @ Jud:


    I don't think the point that "It's not experimentally verifiable like some other sciences" should be conceded, or is in fact correct.


    Ehrm, I didn't. I pointed out that [most of] our observations comes from outside the laboratory. They are still experiments as I described, just that we don't set them up.

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