Thursday, December 03, 2015

Facts and theories of evolution according to Dawkins and Coyne

Sometime back in the pre-Cambrian (before blogs) there was a newsgroup called talk.origins—it still exists. In 1993 I wrote a little essay that tried to convince creationists1 of the difference between facts of evolution and evolutionary theory [Evolution is a Fact and a Theory]. I relied heavily on Stephen Jay Gould's essay on "Evolution as Fact and Theory" originally published in Discover magazine in 1981 and re-printed in Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes.

I updated my thoughts on Gould's essay in 2007 [Evolution Is a Fact and a Theory] and added some more comment on the 30th anniversary [Evolution Is a Fact and a Theory].

Lot's of other people have presented their take on the facts and theories of evolution. Here's one from Richard Lenski and another from Ryan Gregory.

Evolution: Fact and Theory (Richard E. Lenski)
Evolution as Fact, Theory, and Path (T. Ryan Gregory)

Everybody has a slightly different take on the meanings of "fact" and "theory." Now Richard Dawkins enters the fray with his own views on the issue [Is it a Theory? Is it a Law? No, it’s a fact.].

He begins by quoting the definition of a scientific theory using a dictionary meaning that's not substantially different from what Gould said in 1981. Dawkins' Oxford version is ...
Theory, Sense 1: A scheme or system of ideas or statements held as an explanation or account of a group of facts or phenomena; a hypothesis that has been confirmed or established by observation or experiment, and is propounded or accepted as accounting for the known facts; a statement of what are held to be the general laws, principles, or causes of something known or observed.
Dawkins is frustrated because we haven't made any progress after half-a-century of trying to teach creationists that this is the proper meaning of "theory." He recommends a different approach ....
The party line among scientists arguing for evolution is to promote Sense 1, and I have followed it until today. But now I want to depart from the party line. I now think that trying to clear up this terminological point about the meaning of “theory” is a losing battle. We should stop using “theory” altogether for the case of evolution and insist, instead, that evolution is a fact.
Oops! This isn't looking good.

There's still a difference between evolution as facts and evolutionary theory. Note that I said "evolutionary theory" instead of "The Theory of Evolution." That's because it's easy to get confused when you talk about something as complex as evolutionary theory by referring to it as "The Theory." Creationist think that the history of life and common descent is what we mean when we say "The Theory of Evolution." They hear this as: "the theory that life evolved and everyone shares a common ancestor."

That not really part of evolutionary theory. The history of life is reconstructed and deduced from real data. Much if it is fact, not theory. It's a fact, not a theory, that humans and chimps descend from a common ancestor that lived about 6 million years ago. Evolutionary theory explains how this might have happened using proven mechanisms like natural selection, random genetic drift, mutation, speciation etc.

I agree with Richard Lewontin when he says ...
It is time for students of the evolutionary process, especially those who have been misquoted and used by the creationists, to state clearly that evolution is a fact, not theory, and that what is at issue within biology are questions of details of the process and the relative importance of different mechanisms of evolution. It is a fact that the earth with liquid water, is more than 3.6 billion years old. It is a fact that cellular life has been around for at least half of that period and that organized multicellular life is at least 800 million years old. It is a fact that major life forms now on earth were not at all represented in the past. There were no birds or mammals 250 million years ago. It is a fact that major life forms of the past are no longer living. There used to be dinosaurs and Pithecanthropus, and there are none now. It is a fact that all living forms come from previous living forms. Therefore, all present forms of life arose from ancestral forms that were different. Birds arose from nonbirds and humans from nonhumans. No person who pretends to any understanding of the natural world can deny these facts any more than she or he can deny that the earth is round, rotates on its axis, and revolves around the sun.

The controversies about evolution lie in the realm of the relative importance of various forces in molding evolution.


R. C. Lewontin "Evolution/Creation Debate: A Time for Truth"
Bioscience 31, 559 (1981) reprinted in Evolution
versus Creationism, J. Peter Zetterberg ed., ORYX Press, Phoenix AZ 1983
We all know about problems with the meaning of "theory." It's often used to refer to hypotheses or even to speculation. Scientists, themselves, don't always stick to the "Sense 1" definition quoted above.

For example, Stephen Jay Gould often spoke of the theory of punctuated equilibria and that's not a "theory" that is widely accepted by most evolutionary biologists. As a matter of fact, some of them don't even accept the "fact" of punctuated equilibria as a dominant history of speciation. This is "Sense 2" of the word "theory."

There are other aspects of evolutionary theory that are so well established they are facts in their own right. It is a fact, for example, that natural selection occurs and it is a fact that mutations occur. The aspect of evolutionary theory that applies is how these mechanisms account for the observed facts of the history of life.

Dawkins wants us to abandon our attempts to make this distinction clear.
In our tussles with creationists it is evolution itself rather than natural selection that bears the brunt of their attacks. So we can set aside the status of natural selection and concentrate on the fact of evolution as something so firmly established by evidence that to deny it would be perverse. It is a fact, beyond all reasonable dispute, that if you trace your ancestry and your dog’s ancestry backwards you’ll eventually hit a common ancestor. It is a fact, beyond reasonable dispute, that when you eat fish and chips you are eating distant cousin fish and even more distant cousin potato.
Hmmm ... fish & chips. Tomorrow is Friday. I agree that no intelligent person could eat fish & chips .... without realizing that you are eating your cousins.

However, there are creationists who don't accept common descent so this strategy isn't going to work with them. If we are ever going to convince YEC's that life has evolved then we are forced to come to grips with the distinction between microevolution and macroevolution and we are obliged to defend the meaning of words like "homology," "evolution," "contingency," "adaptation," "speciation," etc. Most of us don't realize how much of our "facts" are tied to "theory."

Furthermore, there are many creationists who accept various forms of common descent but insist that evolutionary theory cannot account for it. These creationists range from Theistic Evolutionists—who think that God's guidance is subtle—to Intelligent Design Creationists—who think that God's handiwork can be easily detected. All of them believe that the history of life shows evidence of purpose.

You can't dismiss these objections by simply declaring that evolution is a fact. And you certainly can't ignore all those creationists who attack evolutionary theory itself by declaring that all the old "theories" have been disproved or discredited.
Let’s simply give up on trying to explain the special scientific meaning of “theory”. It is begging to be misunderstood by laymen eager to misunderstand, and even scientists are not consistent in their usage. The ordinary language meaning of “fact” (it is a fact that New Zealand is in the Southern Hemisphere) and the scientific meaning (the evidence for evolution is so strong that to withhold assent would be perverse) are close enough to obviate confusion in the mind of all but the most doggedly pedantic philosopher. By all means postpone for another day the question of whether natural selection is also a fact. For now, when arguing with creationists, let’s sweep confusion aside by means of a strategic retreat from the word “theory”. Let’s sacrifice a pawn for strategic advantage and hammer home a clear message that everyone can understand, and which is undeniably true in the everyday sense. Evolution is a fact.
I don't agree with Richard Dawkins. Such a strategy is doomed to failure.

You cannot argue with Michael Behe, Ken Miller, Michael Denton, and Francis Collins by simply declaring that common descent is a fact. They will agree with you! And when debating Young Earth Creationists you can't just declare victory by saying that you have the facts and they don't. We need to show them why we are related to haddock and spuds. That includes the evidence, how we interpret it, and how it fits into modern evolutionary theory. (For starters, you need to explain what we mean by "evolution.")

Jerry Coyne has his own view of the Dawkins essay [Evolution: theory, fact, or both?]. He makes a good point about the Gould description of "fact" which is, "In science, 'fact' can only mean 'confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent.'" Coyne points out that ...
The notion of “fact” that Dawkins uses above also comes of course from Gould’s essay, as shown above. And I think that’s a good definition of scientific fact, with the caveat that “withholding assent” refers to those people who are qualified to judge scientific evidence. (If you don’t use that caveat, then more than 70% of Americans do not give their assent to a purely naturalistic theory of evolution.)
That's a good point but it doesn't just apply to YEC's. Many of us are comfortable with the ideas that evolution is purposeless and our genome is full of junk DNA. I think these are facts. I claim that everyone who is qualified to judge scientific evidence agrees. I usually refer to "knowledgeable scientists" when I argue this point.

Creationists, and ENCODE scientists, will argue that facts are in the eye of the beholder and they are right. The important point here is how to "behold" something correctly.

Here's how Jerry Coyne describes the problem with "theory."
What remains a theory—or even a hypothesis—is the claim that most of evolutionary change is driven by natural selection. As I said above, I think we have enough evidence that what Dan Dennett calls the “designoid” features of organisms—the spines of the cactus, the cryptic coloration of a flatfish, the insect-entrapping shape of a bucket orchid, the fusiform shape of dolphins, and so on—result from natural selection. But we don’t know what proportion of all evolutionary change (and that’s itself ambiguous: do we mean changes in characters, or changes in genes?) is due to selection versus other evolutionary forces like genetic drift. One can make a good case, for instance, that among all alterations in the genome of a lineage, most of the DNA changes are due to drift rather than selection. So I’m happy, with the proper caveats, to regard as a hypothesis the statement that “most of the change in an organism is due to natural selection,” while accepting as a theory (or fact) the statement “nearly all the ‘designoid’ features of organisms are due to natural selection.”
That's interesting.

My take is somewhat different. I say that natural selection is a proven mechanism of fixing alleles in a population and so is random genetic drift. And mutation is what produces variation. These mechanisms are all part of well-developed evolutionary theory, especially population genetics. Modern evolutionary theory agrees that natural selection is a mechanism of adaptation but Neutral Theory and random genetic drift play a role as well. Which process works in the real world?

We can apply our knowledge of evolutionary theory to the facts we observe about the actual history of life. The phenotypic differences between (and within) species are caused by evolution (fixation of alleles and variation) but are they adaptations or accidents? We need facts and evidence to answer those questions and there's considerable debate about the evidence. Evolutionary theory doesn't change while we debate the importance of drift and natural selection and the facts of common descent doesn't change either.

Is most evolutionary change during the history of life due to fixation of alleles by natural selection or by random genetic drift? Either one could be true. What we're asking is, given the unique history of life that we observe, which mechanism predominates using the standard definition of evolution? Does drift dominate in some species and natural selection in others?

I think the answer is clear—drift wins—but evolutionary theory doesn't stand or fail depending on the result of this debate. When the debate is resolved it will be a fact that drift is responsible for most fixations in an evolving genome. On another planet, the reverse might be true.

Jerry likes to focus on the facts when he teaches evolution ...
I always have the feeling that I’m confusing my audience when I explain why evolution is a theory, and then go on to show that what I see as the five pillars of evolution—evolutionary change, relatively gradualistic change of populations (i.e., change over many generations rather than a few), natural selection as the process producing “design” in nature, common descent, and speciation—are actually facts.
Here's where we see the problem. When we talk about the "pillars" of evolutionary change we are talking about evolutionary theory. One of the pillars is random genetic drift but that's not included in Jerry's description. One of the pillars is a serious debate about gradualism as described in Gould's "The Structure of Evolutionary Theory." One of the "pillars" of evolutionary theory is whether natural selection is the only process that produces the appearance of "design," and what we mean by the appearance of design.

In theory, evolution doesn't have to be gradual and the appearance of design can be produced accidentally. So, looking at our unique history of life—the only example we have—which theoretical mechanism best explains the data? Is it really a "fact" that the only examples we have all demonstrate that evolution is gradual? Is it really a "fact" that all examples of "design" are best explained as adaptations? What about speciation" What's the best definition of a species and are observable speciation events mainly the result of drift or selection? (Both are theoretically possible.)

I'm happy to accept that evolution is a fact and that common descent is a fact but I'm pretty sure that Jerry and I would differ on exactly how we explain those facts according to modern evolutionary theory. Richard and I would also disagree. It depends on how you "behold" the history of life.

Jerry concludes with ....
So I’m happy to simply avoid explaining why evolution is both a theory and a fact, and in future lectures will say it’s both, but not go on to the confusing discussion of “theory” unless someone asks in the Q&A. I’d prefer, as this is what I lecture on anyway when giving the evidence for evolution, to claim that the important idea is that evolution (at least the five tenets I give above), is a FACT. And of course in my talks to the public I do mention natural selection and the evidence supporting its pervasiveness.
I guess it depends on one's interests. I will continue to debate and discuss evolutionary theory and try to explain to my students why there is controversy about the meaning of "Darwinism" and why they have to read the "Spandrels" paper. In my course, I will try and explain why some people think that epigenetics and EVO-DEVO are changing evolutionary theory. I'll try and explain why a solid understanding of evolutionary theory—especially population genetics—is necessary in order to understand the junk DNA debate.

And I'll try and explain to creationists why their attacks on outdated evolutionary theory are ridiculous. I would love to teach the average person about real evolutionary theory and not just the fact of common descent.

Modern evolutionary theory explains the facts of life's history in the same way that the theory of gravity explains our solar system. You need to teach both the facts and the theory.


1. It didn't work.

204 comments :

  1. Related: http://www.genomicron.evolverzone.com/2012/08/an-example-of-why-it-is-important-to-distinguish-evolution-as-fact-theory-and-path/

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    1. That's pretty damn good for someone who never posted on talk.origins! :-)

      You can be an honorary howler.

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    2. First, I will never understand why people on either side think evolution has something to do with not believing in God. Naturalists and Physicalists who think that way strike me as being the book end to creationists. They are both wrong.

      Secondly, what does Cyone mean by "purely naturalistic" in saying: "with the caveat that 'withholding assent' refers to those people who are qualified to judge scientific evidence. (If you don’t use that caveat, then more than 70% of Americans do not give their assent to a purely naturalistic theory of evolution.)" I can see a distinction between being a philosophical naturalist (being atheist) and accepting a naturalist theory of evolution but believing in God. I know at some point a Theist will have to accept some kind of divine work but one could accept that God could use evolution as a tool and only have started the process without intervention (I could accept as theologically valid) then a believer in God could accept a "naturalist theory" of evolution w/o being philosophically a naturalist..

      Thirdly a good way to explain the difference, I think, in saying "theory of evolution" vs "evolutionary theory" is that they don't refer to the same thing. "The theory of evolution" is the original hypothesis put forth by Darwin (or whomever--Wallace ect.) while "evolutionary theory" is the ongoing refinement of that hypothesis." Such that The theory is virtually proven but new ideas with in that premise continue to refine the concept. (I reserve the word "proof" for mathematics and alcohol).

      The advantage us liberal arts guys have over you science types is we are not limiting our imaginations. The downside: you see that as a downside.

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    3. Joe Hinman: I will never understand why people on either side think evolution has something to do with not believing in God.

      Well, as I see it, people seem to have two main reasons to believe in gods: (1) wishful thinking as they don't want to die and/or have some parent figure who care for us, has a plan, and will make everything all right, (2) a pre-scientific explanation for how things came to be, why they are the way they are, and how to influence the world in our favour.

      It then seems pretty clear to me that (2) is being undermined every time we come up with more parsimonious explanations for how things came to be, why they are the way they are, and with ways of influencing the world in our favour that actually work.

      Sure one can always come up with an unparsimonious god, with one that is indistinguishable from not existing. But apparently enough people on "either side" recognise that that is intellectually indefensible.

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    4. "If you don’t use that caveat, then more than 70% of Americans do not give their assent to a purely naturalistic theory of evolution.". I'm not sure why you would bring the general public into this. The views of the uninformed masses have no bearing at all on what is scientifically correct.

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  2. Larry, have you considered that the points you're cogitating over may be a little over the heads of people whose idea of an unanswerable disproof of evolution is, "why are there still monkeys?"

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    1. Yes, on some days I think that educating hard-core creationists is hopeless.

      Not today, although I have to admit that the pessimistic days are starting to outnumber the optimistic ones.

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    2. One of the problems with this debate is that it takes place on the internet, and the only people you are likely to hear from are the die-hards, giving you an impression that your words have no effect. Those few who might be lurking in the background, read what both sides write, make their decision eventually and are never heard from again. This leaves the impression that nothing you say works, because only the terminally deluded return to respond.
      We must resist the temptation that it has no effect when we bother to explain these things. There are plenty of accounts from former fundamentalists who changed their minds. We just don't hear from them at a place like this. Listen to the radio show "The Thinking Atheist" with Seth Andres for example, and it becomes obvious that these discussions are having an effect on a lot of people. It is sad to see that Dawkins seems to have given in to the online impression that nothing happens.

      There's this terrible saying that "you can't be reasoned out of a position you weren't reasoned into". That's just wrong. Plenty of people are in fact reasoned out of prior beliefs they weren't reasoned into in the first place. The person typing this very post is one such. I was raised as a christian (very liberal, scandinavian watered-down version, but did believe in god nonetheless) and used to believe life was probably created by god once. I was reasoned out of it. Online.

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    3. The problem is Larry, the fact of evolution is not in dispute. What is in dispute is what kind of evolution is fact.

      This is the misdirection your side is guilty of. Evolution, meaning change in allete frequency over time is clearly a fact.

      Yet, what your side wants to claim is that major changes in animal form came for non-teleological incremental, step-wise changes. This claim is NOT a fact.

      Non-teleological step-wise, incremental change as the cause of major changes in animal form is an unwarranted extrapolation from simple, cyclical changes in allele frequencies over time..

      THAT is what is in dispute.

      All your truck loads of circumstantial evidence will not cover the fact that you have absolutely no empirical evidence to support the claim.

      True, you have had a 150 year head start in gathering circumstantial evidence to try and convince the logically challenged % of the public.

      But no matter, ID is plowing away successfully at the irrational, illogical positions your side takes.

      Technology is not your friend Larry. It is and will continue to pay dividends to ID. The closer we zoom into the genome, the more foolish and embarrasing your non-teleological position gets.

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    4. On the other hand, Mikkel, plenty of folks will be reasoned out of their atheism as well.

      The logic is on the side of teleology and purpose. That is why chistians, turning away in adulthood come back to their senses in retirement....for the simple fact that atheism is in direct contradiction to all human impulses for survival, purpose, hope, meaning.

      Atheism is just philosophical alchemy. You seek to blend these contradictions into some lofty embrace. Yet, being polar opposites never really take to each other.

      The marriage of atheism and human impulses just doesn't work. A flinge maybe, marriage....nah. You have to fake it too often.

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    5. Steve: " ... just philosophical alchemy" and " ... just doesn't work".

      I've always found 'just' is a very convincing argument.

      So I can now 'just' say:

      Theism is just philosophical alchemy.
      and
      The marriage of theism and human impulses just doesn't work.

      There you go. Can't argue with that !

      And that is precisely the problem with 'just' as a argument ...

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    6. The logic is on the side of teleology and purpose.

      Yes, just like the Thermos. It's not Godless vacuum insulation, it's that the Deity *knows* whether there's something hot or cold inside and acts accordingly.

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    7. Steve,

      "Technology is not your friend Larry. It is and will continue to pay dividends to ID. The closer we zoom into the genome, the more foolish and embarrasing your non-teleological position gets."

      What technology has paid dividends to ID-creationism?
      What is the teleological position, and what evidence do you have to support it?

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    8. @steve - "...you have had a 150 year head start..."

      Now that is truly, if haplessly and unintentionally, funny. Because, as we all know, the teleological view wasn't even conceived until, what, about 1968? Gonna go out on a limb here and guess that you probably aren't involved in the project Steve thing, right? Just guessing.

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    9. van kempen,

      the whole reason there is such a concept as theism is because we are self-aware and recognize the impusles within us.

      We are not just content to eat, sleep, screw, and shit (not necessarily in that order mind you)!

      But I guess in the eyes of atheists, that makes us the problem child of nature, the odd genome out! So naturally those impulses will be downplayed by casting them as evolutionary novelties, which of course lacks any evidentuary support.

      Musings, yeah. Evidence...meh.

      In fact there are mountains and mountains of evidence in support of the uniqueness of human capacity to even conceive of such concepts as God, hope, ambition, beauty, faith, etc.

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    10. Ken, teleogy was conceived philosophically thousands of years ago. As was the non-teleological counterpart.

      Non-teleological evolutionary concepts were conceived 150 years but not serioulsy developed until the 40's.

      Teleological evolutionary concepts were conceived 150 years ago but not seriously developed until the 80's.

      So let me correct myself. You guys had a 40 year headstart.

      no matter, ID is in the game for the long haul. and you know it is, or you wouldn't have these blogs, and reply to every thing Meyers, Behe, Dembski, Marks, Ewert, et al have to say.



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    11. Chris B,

      Technology allowed us to understand DNA, map genomes, etc etc.

      None of these discoveries are friends of non-teleological step-wise change. You need to constantly remind yourselves that DNA is not a code, that non-coding DNA is probably mostly junk, etc etc. that none of these things are products of intelligence. Why? Because they are so indicative of design that its so easy to fall off the wagon, and talk in design speak.

      If it quacks like a duck, it is a duck.

      Game, set, match for design.



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    12. the whole reason there is such a concept as theism is because we are self-aware and recognize the impusles within us. [...] So naturally those impulses will be downplayed by casting them as evolutionary novelties, which of course lacks any evidentuary support

      Mirror Test

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    13. Steve, I'm afraid you completely and utterly missed the point I was making ...

      PS: Kempen is a few hundred kilometers away from Kampen ...

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    14. Teleological evolutionary concepts were conceived 150 years ago but not seriously developed until the 80's.

      Can you please explain what those "teleological evolutionary concepts" are and what are those developments you're talking about? And while you're at it, please let us know how those teleological evolutionary concepts explain this

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    15. The "serious development" of the 1980's was the mechanical substitution of "intelligent design" for "creationism" (as symbolised by cdesign proponentsists) to conceal the movement's religious agenda.

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    16. Steve,
      Nothing we have learned about the genome suggests it was "intelligently designed". ID creationists can't even say what they mean by ID, or produce a shred of evidence to support it. You certainly never have.

      "None of these discoveries are friends of non-teleological step-wise change. You need to constantly remind yourselves that DNA is not a code, that non-coding DNA is probably mostly junk, etc etc. that none of these things are products of intelligence. Why? Because they are so indicative of design that its so easy to fall off the wagon, and talk in design speak."

      Nowhere in this incoherent gibberish is there anything approaching an answer to any of the questions I posed above. Here's a clue: before you declare victory, provide some evidence to support your position.

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    17. Nothing we have learned about the genome suggests it was "intelligently designed".

      Unfortunately, professor Dawkins disagrees with you Chris B. He thinks one can find a signature a a designer in genetics and life itself with the exception of one-God.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BoncJBrrdQ8

      So, any designer but one is good for Dawkins why is not for you?

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    18. Steve,
      We also say "the sun is rising". Why? Because the way it looks is so indicative of geocentrism that it is easy to fall off the wagon and talk in geocentrism speak.

      If it quacks like a duck, it is a duck.

      Game, set, match for geocentrism.

      That's how science works, right? Right?

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    19. @Eric - Yeah, Richard Dawkins is a famous ID advocate, and you're obviously a reliable source. :eyeroll:

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    20. He thinks one can find a signature a a designer in genetics

      You are so stupid Eric. I mean really stupid if that's what you interpret from Dawnkins' response there. He was asked how could ID potentially be an answer to the origin of life in the earth, and he simply speculated that some ET life form might have seeded life here on earth. Does that sound ridiculous to you?, well, ID is THAT farfetched. If you want to speculate some sort of transcendent being did it, that's even more ridiculous

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    21. So, Dawkins was wrong or just out of his usual religious capabilities?

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    22. No, no, Eric, you are wrong and out of your depth.

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    23. No, Eric, what Dawkins said was that if an alien intelligence seeded life on earth with a life form they designed, it is possible there would be some discernible signature in the artificial genome we could recognize as 'designed'. This in fact is the premise Dembski and others tried to sell to the gullible. Unfortunately, Dembski never developed any mathematical framework that could tell design from anything else. He eventually gave up and is going on to fleecing money from people in different ways.

      Dawkins did go on say that even if such a scenario turned out to be true, it still would not answer the question of where these alien designers come from.

      The reason Dawkins disagrees with the 'one-god' or whatever you are calling it these days is because there is zero evidence for such a thing. In other words, Dawkins is an atheist. Ben Stein just assumes his magical sky daddy that poofs things into existence is real without ever bothering to present any evidence for his extraordinary claim. Dawkins is just an unreasonable person for not accepting Ben Stein's supernatural spook as a scientific alternative.

      This type of arrogant, intellectually dishonest tripe fills Ben Stein's low quality 'documentary'.

      In any case, your diversion here didn't in any way address my statement:

      Nothing we have learned about the genome suggests it was "intelligently designed".

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    24. Dawkins on "imperfections" in animals...

      Hmmm. Perhaps Eric was quote mining and trying to put words in someone's mouth. How out of character for a cdesign proponentsists.

      I predict the "can't know the mind of the creator" response.

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    25. Maybe. But it's also likely that Eric is too stupid to understand what he reads, so relies on his creationist idols to interpret it for him. He's just the typical mindless handpuppet mouthing creationist propaganda, exactly the person the Discovery Institute counts on to keep writing it cheques so they can pay their "fellows" six figure salaries to do nothing but sit on their asses, write the occasional blog post, and keep the fridge stocked.

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    26. I'm trying to make "comment" look better. Can't figure out how to change the font to Arial. Nothing seems to work.

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    27. The "reply" on the bottom of a sub-thread of comments is a lot more convenient with this format...

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    28. "Ben Stein: Well then who did create the heavens and the earth?

      Prof Dawkins: Why do you use the word ‘who’? You see you immediately beg the question by using the word ‘who’.

      Ben Stein: Well then how did it get created?

      Prof Dawkins: Well, um, by a very slow process.

      Ben Stein: Well how did it start?

      Prof Dawkins: Nobody knows how it started. We know the kind of event that it must have been. We know the sort of event that must have happened for the origin of life.

      Ben Stein: And what was that?

      Prof Dawkins: It was the origin of the first self-replicating molecule.

      Ben Stein: Right and how did that happen?

      Prof Dawkins: I’ve told you, we don’t know.

      Ben Stein: So you have no idea how it started.

      Prof Dawkins: No, no, nor has anyone.

      Ben Stein: Nor has anyone else.

      Ben Stein: What do you think is the possibility that Intelligent Design might turn out to be the answer to some issues in genetics or in Darwinian evolution?

      Prof Dawkins: Well it could come about in the following way. It could be that, eh, at some earlier time somewhere in the universe a civilization evolved by probably some kind of Darwinian means to a very, very, high level of technology and designed a form of life that they seeded onto perhaps this planet.?

      Ehm, now, that is a possibility and an intriguing possibility and I suppose it’s possible that you might find evidence for that if you look at the um detail, details, of biochemistry, molecular biology, you might find a signature of some sort of designer.

      Ben Stein: (voiceover, not part of interview) Wait a second, Richard Dawkins thought Intelligent Design might be a legitimate pursuit.

      Prof Dawkins: Um..and that designer could well be a higher intelligence from elsewhere in the universe.

      Ben Stein: But, but

      Prof Dawkins: But that higher intelligence would itself have had to have come about by some explicable, or ultimately explicable process, he couldn’t have just jumped into existence spontaneously, that’s the point.
      Ben Stein: voiceover)

      So Professor Dawkins was not against Intelligent Design, just certain types of Designers, such as God.

      Comments are not necessary.

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    29. Thanks for confirming your complete inability to comprehend written or spoken English, Eric. Not that there was any doubt, anyway.

      So when do I get the answer to my questions, Eric?

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    30. This is the old Davescot thing, which he was too stupid to realize didn't change the conclusion that evolution was responsible for speciation, just added another venue where it occurred.

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    31. Eric,

      yes, I watched the clip, and my response to it was right on target, as your transcript shows. Intelligent design is certainly a possibility for the origin of life. There's just no evidence whatsoever to support such a hypothesis.

      Or do you have some for us?

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    32. Chris B

      I'm absolutely NOT sorry to hear that you have already made up your mind to be deliberately wicked (skimming falshood)

      I knew you and your "brothers" made up your minds no matter what is the evidence.
      This is actually nothing new; wicked people saw Jesus raising people from the dead and they were still wicked though acknowledging his powerful works.

      Why?

      Delete
    33. Eric: people saw Jesus raising people from the dead

      In a scientific discussion the question is not "Why?" it's "How?" that can be repeatedly tested.




      Delete
    34. As usual, the amusing thing about the ID movement is this: there is little or no actual scientific interest in the possibility of design. It is a pretext to promote the same specific superntural belief system that by the shearest of chance the ID proponent became indoctrinated with, almost always as a child.

      If it really became a serious discussion about an unknown, but non-supernatural, alien species designing life and seeding the earth, 99% of the ID movement would collapse out of disinterest.

      Delete
    35. If it really became a serious discussion about an unknown, but non-supernatural, alien species designing life and seeding the earth, 99% of the ID movement would collapse out of disinterest

      They would actually go to extreme lengths to deny the evidence, just like they do with evolution. Remember these egocentric twats need to be gawd's special creation and the entire universe must be there for us to rejoice at gawd's infinite creation power.

      Perhaps Eric can clarify if I'm mistaken here, and be upfront about his position on ID: would you change your mind on ID if evidence was found that life on Earth was seeded by some intelligent alien civilization?

      Delete
    36. Now that even William Dembski left ID it is fair to say that the movement already collapsed:

      http://pandasthumb.org/archives/2015/11/dembski-moving.html

      Delete
    37. Dazz: Perhaps Eric can clarify if I'm mistaken here, and be upfront about his position on ID: would you change your mind on ID if evidence was found that life on Earth was seeded by some intelligent alien civilization?

      I'll clarify by saying: in that case the movement's "theory of intelligent design" would be scientifically obliged to explain the "intelligent cause" (biological origin of life) of the intelligent alien civilization. Their problems would become exponentially greater. It's already called "panspermia" anyway.

      Delete
    38. Dazz said: They would actually go to extreme lengths to deny the evidence, just like they do with evolution.

      I know this, I was just trying to parse the difference between being actually interested in origins and being interested in promoting one's faith.

      Gary said: ...in that case the movement's "theory of intelligent design" would be scientifically obliged to explain the "intelligent cause" (biological origin of life) of the intelligent alien civilization.

      Yes. In the same way that if god (whatever that is supposed to be exactly - I've yet to encounter a coherent explanation) was the origin of life and the universe, we would be obliged to ask about the origins of that entity.

      It is funny that some religious people think that atheists and/or scientists hate god. Actually, scientists would love god if ever such an entity became evidenced. Imagine the questions: what is this entity, what is it comprised of, where did it come from, how did it do the things it did?

      Imagine the funding that would become available for such research.

      Delete
    39. "...wicked people saw Jesus raising people from the dead...."

      Citation, please.

      Delete
    40. Re: William Dembski's departure from the ID movement: As noted at the link below, as recently as 2013 Dembski was receiving a salary of $115,000 from the Discovery Institute for doing "research" I'm not familiar enough with his CV to know how many publications he had in the peer-reviewed literature to justify that salary. But in any event it would be interesting to know if he was still receiving that salary, or if he had become of victim of "downsizing" at the DI, at the time he announced his move to greener pastures.

      https://sensuouscurmudgeon.wordpress.com/2015/11/20/william-dembski-is-moving-on/

      (I will add that we often wonder what motivates the IDiots to keep at their quixotic task to bring down the theory of evolution. Information like the above makes the question of motivation much less mysterious.)

      Delete
    41. This is the first I heard of William being paid for his involvement.

      From what I just found at the AI forum the Discovery Institute is now producing useful educational videos:

      http://www.kurzweilai.net/forums/topic/dolphins-communicate-in-holograms-and-we-can-decypher

      The ID movement does not need to "bring down the theory of evolution". It only needs to antiquate the oversimplified "natural selection did it" answers that come from Darwinian evolutionary theory, using what becomes ID evolutionary theory where there is a model with multiple levels of self-similar intelligence for modeling all in biology. Darwinian theory cannot even predict whether "evolution" is somehow intelligent or not. It's more limited than you may realize.

      The ID movement that now remains does have a way to get past the collapse of the old movement. The article and video I linked to is good evidence of that more progress has been made than I thought. For the sake of science: I have to welcome the change.

      Delete
    42. SRM: Yes. In the same way that if god (whatever that is supposed to be exactly - I've yet to encounter a coherent explanation) was the origin of life and the universe, we would be obliged to ask about the origins of that entity.

      I never heard a scientifically coherent "God did it" explanation either. So I don't do that.

      Delete
    43. I never heard a scientifically coherent "God did it" explanation either. So I don't do that.

      Yes it would seem you justify my "99%" claim of those who promote some form of ID. I can't say I entirely comprehend, much less agree with, your underlying assumptions and conclusions, but at least they do not seem to be motivated by the simple and predictable consequences of religious indoctrination, as far as I can tell. In this god-soaked world, that should count for something, unfortunately. At least you are thinking.

      Delete
    44. Eric says:

      "I'm absolutely NOT sorry to hear that you have already made up your mind to be deliberately wicked (skimming falshood)"

      How could you have drawn the exact opposite of what I said? First off, I have not 'made up my mind'. I provisionally accept things based on the available evidence. If you have some bit of empirical evidence in support of ID creationism, then present it.

      "I knew you and your "brothers" made up your minds no matter what is the evidence."

      You haven't presented any evidence. Zero. You are the one who has apparently made up his mind regardless of reality. You call me deliberately wicked because I don't agree to your religious beliefs based on no evidence. You don't know anything about me. Calling me deliberately wicked in this exchange is pure religious delusion.

      In my defense, I'm actually a pretty decent person, with a deeply held ethical sense and compassion for other human beings. Yet because I don't believe what you do in the complete absence of credible evidence, I am deliberately wicked.

      Why?

      Delete
    45. SRM: Yes it would seem you justify my "99%" claim of those who promote some form of ID.

      I can agree that I am in the other 1%.

      SRM: I can't say I entirely comprehend, much less agree with, your underlying assumptions and conclusions, but at least they do not seem to be motivated by the simple and predictable consequences of religious indoctrination, as far as I can tell. In this god-soaked world, that should count for something, unfortunately. At least you are thinking.

      Thanks for the compliment!

      I do not see it as “assumptions and conclusions“. In my case the theory is founded on a computer model that is based on well respected beginner level machine intelligence robotics from David Heiserman and simplified human cognition illustration from Arnold Trehub showing the same overall circuit. With many in cognitive science having learned the basics from the same or similar author(s) there is no controversy at all in a forum for discussing models of “intelligence” and what makes some behaviors “intelligent”. For a sense of how it fits into discussion related to modeling genetic systems on up to humans is the two threads I linked to from a topic explaining the latest model and how that fits into what we had for new information. It's a little bit of reading but these days it's good to know what has recently been in the science news that's worth at least skimming through:

      http://www.kurzweilai.net/forums/topic/intelligence-design-lab-5-now-on-planet-source-code

      This model does not need ID to exist. The issue is from the premise that was proposed by the Discovery Institute holding true, as a result of it. If ID never came around the model would not even be an issue. But with standard scientific naming convention leading to the phrase “intelligent cause” my just labeling an illustration with exactly the right words is right away stereotyped as coming from the Discovery Institute.

      The only way for me to get out of this with my scientific integrity intact is to best I can assimilate their premise into the model so that it in time becomes all the ID movement dreamed of, and more. But not by passing out Bibles in science class. Change will come from by high school age being able to understand these most important basics in all of cognitive science and how they apply through biology on into the behavior of matter, which includes where consciousness comes from. It's so totally different from seeing the world as mutation and selection there is no doubt this will become a science and culture changer. More on that (with some holiday cheer for you and all at Sandwalk) in this reply:

      http://www.antievolution.org/cgi-bin/ikonboard/ikonboard.cgi?act=ST;f=14;t=7420;st=15690#entry250227

      I do what I can to within bounds of science use the religious implications in a way that makes the theory as “faith friendly” and exciting as possible, for those who were expecting that to ultimately happen as a result of ID theory becoming scientifically accepted.

      Delete
    46. @ Gary Gaulin:

      You find it remarkable that, in the 21st century, the Discovery Institute has figured out how to issue its propaganda in the DVD format? You're very easily impressed.

      Delete
    47. From what I have seen of the DVD it is just agreeing with the theory I'm developing.

      Delete
    48. Like I said: You're very easily impressed.

      Delete
  3. Most people can't or don't understand how a refrigerator works. Or a mechanical clock. Most people will accept or deny evolution on authority.

    At some point it may be possible to build an animation of evolution at the biochemical level. We already have that with refrigerators and clocks, and they are still too complex for most people.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I am unable to reconcile

    "The history of life is reconstructed and deduced from real data. Much if it is fact, not theory. It's a fact, not a theory, that humans and chimps descend from a common ancestor that lived about 6 million years ago."

    with

    "Theory, Sense 1: A scheme or system of ideas or statements held as an explanation or account of a group of facts or phenomena; a hypothesis that has been confirmed or established by observation or experiment, and is propounded or accepted as accounting for the known facts; a statement of what are held to be the general laws, principles, or causes of something known or observed."

    If you agree with the definition, how does the reconstructed history of life fail to fit that definition? We pick the tree that best explains the data. Accent on "explains". Now as you may know, I think that a fact is nothing more than a particularly well-supported theory. Even the fact that there's an orange tree in my back yard is a theory that explains a pattern of light hitting my retina right now. While "evolutionary theory" is commonly used only for processes, phylogenetic trees are nevertheless theories, and some of them are facts too.

    Now I don't know that any usage of "theory" or "fact" will make any sort of difference in arguing with creationists. Dawkins approach seems no better than any, but no worse either. It won't work, but nothing will work. Creationists remain creationists.

    Finally, could you define what you mean by "evolution doesn't have to be gradual"? I presume we're talking about more than Gould's strawman of a constant rate over all time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ironically the idea that Gould and Eldredge treated gradualism as proposing a constant rate is itself a strawman. Phyletic gradualism in sensu G&E is an exponential distribution for rates of change of quantitative traits, which is what you obtain from Fishers geometric argument. In contrast to the unimodal exponential distribution, PE finds a bimodal pattern.

      If you want to look for somebody who seriously proposes constant rates for morphological evolution, check out
      Pyron, R.A. (2011) Divergence time estimation using fossils as terminal taxa and the origins of Lissamphibia. Systematic Biology 60:466–481
      and the discussion of what that approach entails in terms of a morphological clock in
      O’Reilly et al.(2015) Dating Tips for Divergence Time Estimation. Trends in Genetics, 31:637-650

      Delete
    2. Does anyone propose phyletic gradualism sensu G&E? Where, by the way, did they define it this way? And let's not confuse variation in rates of evolution, whether the distribution is unimodal or bimodal, with PE, which is about the coincidence of change with speciation.

      Delete
    3. Well, yes of course somebody made Fishers geometric argument - namely Fisher in The genetical theory of natural selection.
      The basic result has been modified (see for instance Orr (1998) "The population genetics of adaptation: the distribution of factors fixed during adaptive evolution", Evolution, 52:935-949. Which discusses Kimuras modification - Fisher assumed all positively selected novel mutations would be fixed and using realistic probabilities of fixation under selection and drift gives another model - still unimodal. Orr introduces a model that is yet more detailed there, but again, a unimodal distribution is recovered).
      Both the Kimura and Orr models postdate PE, Fishers model was the standard at the time of GE71.

      The PE hypothesis as I keep pointing out consists of 3 sperate hypotheses:
      PE1: Rates of change of quantitative traits in deep time are bimodally distributed.
      PE2: The higher mode is associated with speciation
      PE3: This is due to small founder populations in which drift plays a bigger role.
      PE1 is the hypothesis that has to be contrasted with gradualism which - no matter whether you pick the then current Fisher model or the later Kimura and Orr models proposes a unimodal distribution. It's worth noting that the unimodal models fit evolution on ecological timescales rather well - it's that they do not change for longer time scales, but that the fossil data does show a bimodal distribution that forms the basis of PE.

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    4. I didn't ask who made Fisher's geometric argument. I asked who advocates this sort of gradualism and where Eldredge and Gould defined gradualism that way.

      I think PE2 is the essential core of PE. PE3 could be jettisoned; it's a remnant of PE's ancestry in Mayr. PE1 is an empirical claim, for which PE2 is a proposed explanation.

      Also, do you have a citation for providing evidence for PE1?

      Delete
    5. Also, I don't think Pyron actually advocates a morphological clock; he just uses it as a useful model.

      Delete
    6. Finally, I don't think Orr is talking about evolutionary rates but about the effect sizes of mutations, which is something quite different. The two are not necessarily linked in any way.

      Delete
    7. a) I'm not sure how the question of who advocates for a uniform distribution of rates of morphological change differs from that of who has published models of morphological change that give uniform distributions. If somebody publishes a model I generally assume that they think the model is correct, or at least approximately correct.
      b) GE77 would be a fine place to start, because it was meant to clarify PE and explicitly makes it about the distribution of the rate of change. E.g.:
      "he model of punctuated equilibria is eminently testable. It would be
      a sad commentary indeed on the status of paleontology if so basic an item as the probability distribution of evolutionary tempos could not be reasonably inferred from the fossil record, and once we learn something
      about the distribution of tempos, we will be able to make strong inferences about modes."
      PE3 is the hypothesis on mode.
      IIRC I have given you a rather long literature list in a past thread on PE patterns in sexually reproducing organisms and the absence thereof in asexual organisms. Should I really keep digging this up?

      Pyron uses it as a model. It is useful only if it at least gives a semblance of reality, because he uses it to infer priors for divergence dates, i.e. he does perform a morphological clock dating and then uses select inferred node ages to calibrate a molecular clock. Usually this method is used for fossils that do not meet the criteria for node age priors. I.e. the use you get from it is that it transforms a set of very problematic data into NAPs. And that would be something I would have issues with even if the model was damn near perfect - but I think we can agree that the morphological traits one would collect in a character matrix do not generally show change with a constant rate, because they are not generally near neutral and the underlying mutations do not appear with a near constant rate and there are bloody not enough of them to make anything close to a decent inference. It's polishing a turd with another turd!
      Orr is talking about the effect sizes because that's what he introduces to the model. Fishers model assumes that you can disregard the effect size of mutations and that all beneficial mutations become fixed, while none of the non-beneficial ones do. Kimuras model assumes that you can ignore the effect size of mutations still in estimating rates of change, but that the loss of slightly beneficial and the fixation of slightly detrimental mutations matters. Orrs model introduces the effect size of mutations to the Kimura model. It still is a model of morphological rates of change.

      Delete
    8. a) I think most people agree that we have no good model of evolution. GTR+I+gamma is not a very good model, but it's good enough for some purposes. A morphological clock is an even worse model, but it's good enough for some purposes. And that's all that anyone claims, as far as I can tell.

      b) If I look in GE77 will I find an explicit claim that phyletic gradualism is defined as a unimodal distribution of evolutionary rates? You have given me a list, but where in that list is an analysis of the distribution of evolutionary rates through the fossil record?

      The question is whether Pyron's model is better than nothing.

      I think Fisher's model (and Orr's) isn't about long-term evolutionary rates at all, but about the rate at which a population adapts to one particular selective regime. We could easily consider this to be about what happens during a punctuation event rather than a description of any expected pattern over geological time. I don't think anyone is proposing that evolutionary rates over geological time reflect movement toward a fixed optimum.

      Delete
    9. a) I would disagree here. We do have a very good model of evolution - but it is extremely unwieldy for practical purposes, so we tend to use approximations. GTR+I+gamma is a pretty solid model for molecular evolution, the main danger is overfitting data (and this gets worse when you partition your sequences first and get separate parameter estimates for each of them). This however is less of a problem when your alignments get big enough. I do not think that the morphological clock model used in tip dating is anywhere near usable. And yes, I would very much claim that it is worse than nothing in this case. If you want to bet on this, I`m up for it. I'm involved in a project where we can test this and if things run smoothly there should be results in march.

      b) If you look in GE77 you will find the claim that PE and PG can be empirically distinguished through the rate distribution and that PE has two modes - stasis and punctuation.

      The thing with the rate models is that if you introduce changing selective regime - for instance you just model optimal values for traits as browinian motion - you still recover the same type of distribution (though the parameters change).

      Delete
    10. If you look in GE77 you will find the claim that PE and PG can be empirically distinguished through the rate distribution and that PE has two modes - stasis and punctuation.

      I think you have just conflated two distinct meanings of the term "mode". Not encouraging.

      I disagree that GTR+I+gamma is a good model of evolution;
      for example, it ignores any dinucleotide effects, base composition changes, gene region differences, indels, etc. It's just good enough for some purposes.

      I await your demonstration that morphological clocks are worse than nothing, and I'm still interested in any study that shows a bimodal distribution of evolutionary rates across some reasonable stretch of time and taxa.

      Delete
    11. I haven't conflated the two meanings. Again, GE77 argues that the two models are distinguishable through the distribution of rates of morphological change in deep time. What do you think PG and PE predict for this distribution?

      Yes, GTR+I+gamma is not perfect. It's still rather good. It's worth noting that gene region differences can be recovered from partitioned data.

      Bimodal distributions were recovered by Eldredge for Trilobites and by Gould for Snails (that was what lead them to propose PE int he first place". There's quite a bit of literature in the 70s on other mollusks as well. I'm not sure what a "reasonable stretch of taxa" means here. PE is about the change in quantitative traits and the only meaningful way to look at this is to compare taxa that are closely enough related to share that quantitative trait. It is not a hypothesis on how these traits arise in the first place.

      Delete
  5. As you have indicated, there are three main camps of creationists (although there is much variation within each; Young Earth Creationists, Theistic Evolutionists, and Intelligent Design Creationists. It is my opinion that two of these groups are intractable and are impossible to reach. The YECs, for obvious reasons. They base their world view on a literal translation of the bible and will twist whatever fact you give them to fit their worldview.

    ID Creationists are just as intractable, but for a different reason. They are just as dogmatic as the YECs, but their entire approach is one of dishonesty. Scientific Creationism was rightly branded as more religion than science. So they simply rebranded. A common practice in business when a company's reputation is hurting. Their dishonesty shines through whenever the issue of the nature of the designer and the mechanism that he/she/it/they use to realize the design. Rather than make any attempt to address it, they claim that it is outside the scope of ID. Which is rather hypocritical considering that they are quick to jump on evolution proponents when they say that origin of life is outside the scope of evolutionary theory.

    If you have a hope of reaching anyone, it is the Theistic Evolutionists. Slim hope, but hope none the less.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wonder if some people who go along with YEC because that's being "good" might be persuaded if there were more emphasis on just how dishonest the YEC pushers like Ken Ham really are. The hucksters talk about the Piltdown hoax as if it's breaking news. In fact, it happened in 1912. They quote long-dead scientists with, "so-and-so SAYS...." when the scientist in question hasn't said anything to anybody on any subject in decades. They misquote and quote living scientists out of context with no regard for what that might do to the scientists' reputations. They bring in all kinds of irrelevancies, like the big bang, or whether Stalin was a "Darwinist." (Which is hilarious in a sick way to anybody who's ever heard of Lysenko.)
      My personal belief is that the so-called ministers pushing YEC are mostly scammers, in it for the money. I wonder if some of their followers would have second thoughts if they understood all the dirty tricks their leaders are using.

      Delete
    2. Re hoary puccoon

      They bring in all kinds of irrelevancies, like the big bang, or whether Stalin was a "Darwinist."


      Similarly, a parallel claim that Frankenberger was a Darwinist. Frankenberger rejected common descent in Mein Kampf.

      Delete
  6. On whether features which people think have the appearance of design* need be due to selection, there was a paper 11 years ago which looked at that via a vis facial diversity in early homo.

    "Recent paleoanthropological discoveries reveal a diverse, potentially speciose human fossil record. Such extensive morphological diversity results from the action of divergent evolutionary forces on an evolving lineage. Here, we apply quantitative evolutionary theory to test whether random evolutionary processes alone can explain the morphological diversity seen among fossil australopith and early Homo crania from the Plio–Pleistocene. We show that although selection may have played an important role in diversifying hominin facial morphology in the late Pliocene, this is not the case during the early evolution of the genus Homo, where genetic drift was probably the primary force responsible for facial diversification."

    "Detecting genetic drift versus selection in human evolution"
    Rebecca Rogers Ackermann, and James M. Cheverud
    PNAS December 28, 2004 vol. 101 no. 52 17946-17951

    * if one of the main reasons for not wanting to say theory is to avoid confusing or giving ammo to creationists, I'd have to say that far more important is to avoid - or be incredibly exacting - any time one feels the urge to say "design" "Designoid" doesn't cut it.

    ReplyDelete
  7. There are multiple meanings of "theory" and "fact", and we aren't going to get people agreeing on them, so we have to be ready to cope with that. If I say "evolution is a theory", meaning something that fits reality pretty well, a bunch of creationists will jump up and say "aha! you've admitted that its Only A Theory, and therefore just an idle speculation".

    If I say "it is a fact that there is a table here before me" then a bunch of philosophers and fans of philosophy will jump up and say "aha! are you entirely sure that there is no chance at all, none whatsoever, that what you see is an optical illusion or a hallucination?"

    If anyone thinks that these different senses are going to disappear and we are going to get everyone to agree on common meanings of these terms, then I suggest that that is an illusion.

    Perhaps the best way to respond when someone says "is evolution a fact?" is to respond that "evolution occurs, and you can't reasonably understand how organisms differ from each other, and how they are similar to each other, without taking it into account". And just let others fight about whether it should then be called a "theory" or a "fact".

    Perhaps the best way

    ReplyDelete
  8. You are confusing education with persuasion.

    The later is relatively easy when all aspects of the theory are met, such as observational and experimental evidence to support it.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Steve says,

    All your truck loads of circumstantial evidence will not cover the fact that you have absolutely no empirical evidence to support the claim.

    I don't know what you mean when you speak of "empirical evidence" with respect to the history of life. What are you expecting? Do you have empirical evidence that gods made bacterial flagella?

    Circumstantial evidence and inference are very powerful. So powerful, in fact, that the onus is on you to come up with a better explanation that accounts for all the data. If you have such an explanation now would be a good time to present it.

    True, you have had a 150 year head start in gathering circumstantial evidence to try and convince the logically challenged % of the public.

    I'd say we haven't done too badly considering that Christians had 1850 years to make their case before Darwin came along. One book was enough to bring all that "evidence" crashing to the ground.

    Do you have a better explanation of the data that will convince a jury?

    But no matter, ID is plowing away successfully at the irrational, illogical positions your side takes.

    In your dreams. Have you been to Europe recently? China? There's no evidence that people are turning to gods in the face of ID success.

    Technology is not your friend Larry. It is and will continue to pay dividends to ID. The closer we zoom into the genome, the more foolish and embarrasing your non-teleological position gets.

    I agree that, with respect to genomes, some people are going to look very foolish in the very near future.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Steve says,

      That is why Christians, turning away in adulthood come back to their senses in retirement....for the simple fact that atheism is in direct contradiction to all human impulses for survival, purpose, hope, meaning.

      You just make things up, don't you?

      There is no "human impulse" for purpose, hope and meaning. Those are values that come from religion and the only people who expect to see purpose in the world and hope for an afterlife are those who have been brainwashed by religion. In secular societies where a large percentage of the population consists of second and third generation atheists you don't see people wandering the streets full of angst and guilt because life has no purpose and they know they aren't going to heaven.

      They don't give a damn about your problems.

      Delete
    2. When you think of it, organized religion is a fiendishly clever strategy. If I wanted to get people to give me a large percentage of their wealth, and feel good about it, what would I do. One option would be to provide them with tangible benefits for the provided wealth such as more food, better shelter, etc. But this would require tat you actually invest in services and redistribute it as needed.

      Another approach would be to play on peoples' fear of death by promising them a front row seat in the after life if they dig deep and the more.

      Delete

    3. purpose, hope and meaning


      No, Larry, these aren't "values that come from religion". The idea that they are external or imposed comes from religion. But others who are non-religious have these, but they are self-generated. Actually, I think in the case of most religious people they're self-generated too, but they just don't see it that way.

      Delete
    4. Larry Moran: "I don't know what you mean when you speak of "empirical evidence" with respect to the history of life. What are you expecting? Do you have empirical evidence that gods made bacterial flagella?

      Circumstantial evidence and inference are very powerful. So powerful, in fact, that the onus is on you to come up with a better explanation that accounts for all the data. If you have such an explanation now would be a good time to present it. "


      It's nice to hear that circumstantial and inferential evidence are very powerful. Then you won't mind that I don't present empirical evidence for design, just circumstantial and inferential evidence.

      First, non-teleological step-wise change only happens as part of a designed system.

      The clearest example is with variation and selection. They are components in a system driven by excess reproduction. It is excess reproduction that provides the frequency and quantity of offspring that will allow enough variation for natural selection to work off of.

      Further, excess reproduction creates an integrated, interdependent biosphere because excess offspring do not only ensure that at least one offspring make it to the next round, the offspring that didn't make it become part of the food chain.

      The foresight required to conceive of excess reproduction as a multi-functional solution to creating an integrated, interdependent system is clear circumstantial and inferential evidence of design.

      Delete
    5. Larry Moran: In your dreams. Have you been to Europe recently? China? There's no evidence that people are turning to gods in the face of ID success. "

      Mmm, Larry I live in Taiwan and have been to China many times. Asian cultures are no friend of non-teleological concepts. The vast majority of Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, Malaysians, Koreans believe in one or more of what you would call silly non-sense like geomancy, fung-shui, chi, etc.

      Europe is waning so their non-teleological piccadillos won't have much an impact. But now Asia waxing big time in economic terms. So the cultural aspects won't be far behind if they haven't invaded western culture already.

      Sure, there is no direct impact from ID on these cultures....yet. But Asia is extremely fertile ground for teleological concepts.

      So don't count your chickens just yet.

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    6. Larry Moran: "You just make things up, don't you?

      There is no "human impulse" for purpose, hope and meaning. Those are values that come from religion and the only people who expect to see purpose in the world and hope for an afterlife are those who have been brainwashed by religion. In secular societies where a large percentage of the population consists of second and third generation atheists you don't see people wandering the streets full of angst and guilt because life has no purpose and they know they aren't going to heaven.

      They don't give a damn about your problems."


      Actually Larry, you have the cart before the horse. It is because of the impulse to purpose and hope that religion exists.

      How the hell could humans give rise to such a concept as God, if they had no impulses other that to eat, sleep, screw and shit (not necessarily in that order either :) )???

      And sure, atheists don't go around wringing their hands. They don't need to. They are already embedded in a comfortable living environment. They can afford to ignore purpose and meaning.

      Delete
    7. Steve,

      The clearest example is with variation and selection. They are components in a system driven by excess reproduction. It is excess reproduction that provides the frequency and quantity of offspring that will allow enough variation for natural selection to work off of.

      Further, excess reproduction creates an integrated, interdependent biosphere because excess offspring do not only ensure that at least one offspring make it to the next round, the offspring that didn't make it become part of the food chain.

      The foresight required to conceive of excess reproduction as a multi-functional solution to creating an integrated, interdependent system is clear circumstantial and inferential evidence of design.


      Consider a situation in which there is no excess reproduction. What happens to the species? Answer: extinction. Now consider a situation in which there is genetically based variation in fecundity within a population. If excess reproduction is advantageous, those with greater fecundity will be selected for, and the population mean will move toward optimum fecundity. No careful design necessary, just variation and selection. Your evidence for design is just evidence for selection.

      Delete
    8. Harshman,

      You are putting the cart before the horse.

      It is for the obvious fact that in the absence of excess reproduction there would be extinction, that excess reproduction must precede and drive variation and selection.

      Without excess reproduction, there is nothing for selection to optimize.

      Further, excess reproduction is not advantageous, it is required for the system to work since excess reproduction does not only drive variation and selection, it contributes to the stability of the food chain.

      So excess reproduction as clear evidence for design still stands.

      Delete
    9. Steve,

      Why do you say excess reproduction isn't advantageous? Of course it is. Fecundity is under selection just like any other life-history characteristic. The only way to prevent selection would be for there to be no genetic variation. Are you claiming that genetic variation in life-history traits doesn't exist? If we imagine a species whose average fecundity puts it below replacement level, it will indeed become extinct unless something happens. But what will happen is that individuals with higher fecundity (if there is any variation) will increase in frequency, increasing average fecundity, and the population will approach closer to replacement level. There is no need for Jesus to mandate excess reproduction. Natural selection will produce it if any variation exists, and if no variation exists we won't see that species because it will be extinct. Further, excess reproduction for the purpose of providing stability for the food chain is a Panglossian notion without any support. Cod don't lay a lot of eggs so most of them can be eaten; they have to lay a lot of eggs because most of them will be eaten. Big difference.

      Delete
  10. One of the "pillars" of evolutionary theory is whether natural selection is the only process that produces the appearance of "design," and what we mean by the appearance of design.

    In theory, evolution doesn't have to be gradual and the appearance of design can be produced accidentally.


    How many examples can you provide (other than life) that natural processes can accidentally produce structures that have an appearance of design?

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    Replies
    1. Here's one example that comes readily to mind:

      http://www.giantscausewayofficialguide.com/

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    2. Here are some more:

      http://www.amusingplanet.com/2012/04/10-famous-balancing-rocks-around-world.html

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    3. How many examples can you provide (other than life) that natural processes can accidentally produce structures that have an appearance of design?

      As far as I know everything that has the appearance of design is the product of purely natural processes. That includes the computer I'm using to type this message and termite mounds in Africa.

      I'm not aware of anything that looks designed but was produced by supernatural beings (non-natural). If you have any evidence for the existence of design-like things that were built by non-natural processes then now would be a good time to reveal your evidence.

      Until you present such evidence, it seems logical to assume that only natural processes exist.

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    4. Larry, that is a cogent argument to most of us. But ID advocates don't regard designs by humans as the result of natural processes, because to them we're supernatural, not natural.

      Delete
    5. Eric, probably the most striking example is snowflakes. The process that results in snowflakes is well understood and completely natural.

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    6. As far as I know everything that has the appearance of design is the product of purely natural processes. That includes the computer I'm using to type this message and termite mounds in Africa.

      Fair enough but do you or don't you infer that your computer was designed? That there is intelligence behind it and that it is not a product of random processes.

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    7. Eric, probably the most striking example is snowflakes. The process that results in snowflakes is well understood and completely natural

      I don't know and understand what well understood means anymore, especially when evolution is on the line. It is too broad a theme and I don't think it is understood at all. That is my voice.

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    8. Joe Felenstein,

      If we are not the results of natural processes, you must have some convincing evidence for an alternative. As a scientist of your caliber you would not just buy some idea and got married to it would you?

      Delete
    9. Eric said "I don't know and understand what well understood means anymore, especially when evolution is on the line."

      Well don't just sit there stewing in your ignorance. Learn some science, then you will understand snowflakes and evolution. It is intellectually lazy and dangerous to let others spoon-feed you.

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    10. Well, at least I know where you belong. I could easily accuse you of the same thing you are accusing me but.. why would I do that? To gain what?

      Delete
    11. Fair enough but do you or don't you infer that your computer was designed? That there is intelligence behind it and that it is not a product of random processes.

      Your confusion comes from the fact that they use the word "natural," not "random," to modify "processes." (See the discussion above re human agency is natural because we are not supernatural beings - unless you want to claim Godhood?)

      So computers are the result of natural, as opposed to supernatural, processes. Humans are the result of natural processes also, but since we did not design ourselves (yet), the evidence overwhelmingly favors a combination of stochastic forces and selection, none of it directed or purposeful.

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    12. Eric, I was not taking the position that humans are supernatural. I was saying that ID advocates take that position. If you read my comment carefully you will see that. So I don't have any obligation to provide evidence for that proposition.

      Delete
    13. Thank you jurmac and Joe. I didn't realize that IDers take that position.

      So, if NASA found on Mars something resembling a robot, made of materials unknown to scientists on Earth, and no designers, how would you describe this structure?

      1. That it only has an appearance of design?
      2. Or that it was designed?

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    14. So, if NASA found on Mars something resembling a robot, made of materials unknown to scientists on Earth, and no designers, how would you describe this structure?

      This would appear to be the ID version of that perennial creationist stumper: if humans evolved from monkeys why are there still monkeys? There must be some community out there that finds these questions clever and challenging.

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    15. Yes, but maybe poor Eric has never heard the answer to that question, which is quite simple: We would conclude the robots had been designed and built by intelligent agents similar to human beings, because we know how robots are created, and know of no other process by which robots come into existence.

      Here's a somewhat similar question that I think would be very helpful to those of us who still don't understand how ID actually functions as a scientific discipline. Unfortunately, though I have asked it several times of proponents of ID, I've never received a good answer. Perhaps Eric will be good enough to give it a try:

      Suppose, in exploring Ganymede, one of the moons of Jupiter, we find a mountain that is an absolutely exact replica of the Matterhorn, down to the last pebble. That such a thing could have arisen thru undirected geological processes alone is so highly improbable, we would have to come to the astonishing, yet unavoidable, conclusion that there has existed in the solar system intelligent beings who were capable of creating entire mountains to exact specifications. And we would not need to know anything about these beings (Where did they come from? What do they look like? Where are they now?) nor anything about the techniques they actually used to build mountains in order to reach this conclusion.

      However, this would still leave unanswered a number of other questions: Was the Matterhorn on Ganymede created as a replica of the one on Earth? Or was the one on Earth created as a replica of the one on Ganymede? Or, perhaps, were both created by intelligent agents according to a pre-specified design?

      We would also now wonder if, perhaps, other mountains on earth also have exact replicas on other planets or moons in the solar system (or were exact replicas of mountains on other planets or moons.)

      Now, since proponents of intelligent design claim to be able to detect "design" in objects strictly by the qualities of those objects themselves, then ID should have the tools to answer these questions. So how would ID scientists go about doing this? For instance, if the Matterhorn (either one) had been created by designers, how would ID scientists have detected this without knowing about the existence of the other replica (Or, alternatively, how would they be able to determine that both mountains had been designed?) How would ID scientists determine whether no other mountains on earth had been created as replicas of other mountains on other planets or moons? How would they determine whether other mountains on Ganymede had also been designed as replicas of mountains elsewhere in the solar system (that have not yet discovered)?

      If the claims of ID as a science are legitimate, then it should be possible to answer these questions. So I look forward to the answers. Eric. Thanks in advance.

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    16. Is this a carefully crafted objet d'art or a naturally formed thing? Many people would have a problem with it.

      If we found on Mars things resembling robots but capable of self-replication using naturally available materials and energy sources, and especially if there were lots of different kinds of robot-like things inhabiting different environments and visibly adapted to them, it would be more reasonable to infer that we have found life on Mars, even if it looked like some products of human design.

      Delete
    17. This one loos a lot like a robot... so pyrite must be designed XD

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    18. Larry says: I'm not aware of anything that looks designed but was produced by supernatural beings (non-natural).

      I do not know of any either. And what you are "aware of" does not make the Theory of Intelligent Design that I represent an unscientific challenge. In fact it's those who brushed the theory off as scientifically impossible who are acting against science.

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    19. Larry, as long as you`re in the mood to do some housecleaning on this blog, I think Gary has long since passed the point where he serves any useful purpose here. All he does is spam us with ads for his half-baked `theory". Just MHO.

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    20. And the pompous creep speaks. The only thing you have are defamatory stereotypes.

      Show your scientific evidence against the theory. I want all to see what you are made of (or maybe I should say "full of").

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    21. Start with the operational definition for "intelligence":

      Behavior from a system or device qualifies as intelligent by meeting all four circuit requirements for this ability, which are: [1] Something to control (a body, either real or virtual representation) with motor muscles (proteins, electric speaker, electronic write to a screen). [2] Random Access Memory (RAM) addressed by its sensory sensors where each motor action and its associated confidence value are stored as separate data elements. [3] Confidence (central hedonic) system that increments the confidence level of successful motor actions and decrements the confidence value of actions that fail. [4] Ability to guess a new memory action when associated confidence level sufficiently decreases. For flagella powered cells a random guess response (to a new heading) is designed into the motor system by the action of reversing motor direction causing it to “tumble”.

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    22. Sorry, Gary, I'm not fluent in Gobbledygook. Maybe that's one of the languages Piotr is expert in.

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    23. If you think you know more about intelligent systems than I do then PROVE IT!

      EXPLAIN HOW INTELLIGENCE WORKS!

      And show your evidence against the never before been programmed model that is under construction here:

      http://www.kurzweilai.net/forums/topic/intelligence-design-lab-5-now-on-planet-source-code

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    24. So, if NASA found on Mars something resembling a robot, made of materials unknown to scientists on Earth, and no designers, how would you describe this structure?

      1. That it only has an appearance of design?
      2. Or that it was designed?


      I would have to go immediately to 3, "The Deity must have poofed them into existence."

      Well no, not really.

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    25. Curiosity has found a piece of Martian rock which looks like Australia. It must have been designed when the sea level was lower than now and the Gulf of Carpentaria was still dry land.

      Delete
    26. @Gary Gaulin

      You don't actually think I bother to read the content of the links you keep spamming us with here, do you? The internet's full of crackpots who are convinced they're the next Einstein or Darwin or whomever. What makes you think you're any more worth my time than the Timecube guy?

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    27. Way to change the topic Piotr, not cool... as an expert in languages you know full well pyrites sounds too much like pirates to ignore those minerals are solid evidence for the great designer: the Flying Spaghetti Monster. The sea level at the Gulf of Carpentaria can easily be explained by a great flood caused by a cooking accident

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    28. You don't actually think I bother to read the content of the links you keep spamming us with here, do you?

      You and all others who refuse to engage in a scientific discussion are hypocrites who are certainly not representing science, you're representing a religiously motivated scam that uses stereotypes to demonize those who don't go along with it.

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    29. Yeah, Gary. We know you're convinced you're right. Crackpots usually are. Joe Hinman down below, meantime, says he's published a book proving that God exists. Maybe you feel compelled to read it, since you think I'm obliged to read the claptrap you publish. Personally, I have no time for either of your work.

      Delete
    30. I just asked Joe a relevant question, lutesuite. And it includes a whole lot more information than you and your friends could ever offer for evidence.


      Delete
    31. Always fascinating to see these instances of "you have to read all these links and all these books before you are allowed to disagree, and if you still disagree after reading then I will send you more links and book suggestions". Apologists love that tactic.

      I wonder, would they themselves, if approached by a random guy who argues that the sky is green, read through twelve books arguing that the sky is green before arriving at the conclusion that the sky is not in fact green? Is it so hard to understand that there has to be at least some prior probability to something being true before it is worth investing that time? Or that whatever cannot successful be argued for in one very good book is unlikely to be supported by the next eleven?

      (And no, I don't think that the greenness of the sky is a fanciful analogy. It has exactly the same plausibility as the hypothetical creator of the world around us being benevolent, for example, and could be argued for in the same way as apologists argue for the latter, through equivocation on the term in question.)

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    32. Piotr,

      Is this a carefully crafted objet d'art or a naturally formed thing? Many people would have a problem with it.

      If we found on Mars things resembling robots but capable of self-replication using naturally available materials and energy sources, and especially if there were lots of different kinds of robot-like things inhabiting different environments and visibly adapted to them, it would be more reasonable to infer that we have found life on Mars, even if it looked like some products of human design


      Would it mean that robot-like structure wasn't designed? latesuite had not doubt that anything resembling a robot even made of materials not found on the Earth would still mean that it was designed:

      latesuite:
      Yes, but maybe poor Eric has never heard the answer to that question, which is quite simple: We would conclude the robots had been designed and built by intelligent agents similar to human beings, because we know how robots are created, and know of no other process by which robots come into existence.

      Would it make a difference if the robot-like structure was capable of making copies of itself? Would it mean that it wasn't designed?

      Delete
    33. Always fascinating to see these instances of "you have to read all these links and all these books before you are allowed to disagree, and if you still disagree after reading then I will send you more links and book suggestions". Apologists love that tactic.

      Is Alex arguing that it is unscientific to study a theory before disagreeing with it?

      I would not be surprised by the scientific laziness to be at this incredible of a level, but I thought I should ask before assume that it's really that disgustingly bad.

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    34. Would it make a difference if the robot-like structure was capable of making copies of itself? Would it mean that it wasn't designed?

      Yes, it would make a difference. Because if it were not capable of self-replication, we could rule out the possibility that it's a highly evolved form of life, and we would have to consider other possibilities, such as design by intelligent living things.

      This is why Paley's watchmaker analogy fails miserably as an analogy. Pocket watches don't self-replicate to produce the next generation of watches. Unlike life, they can't make themselves.

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    35. Gary Gaulin,

      No, I don't. My comment was about argumentum ad nauseam in favour of propositions with a 0% a priori likelihood of being true. Reading comprehension?

      Delete
    36. So, before knowing that the robot-like structure can make copies of itself, would you agree or disagree with latesuite obvious conclusion that it must have been designed.

      Delete
    37. No, I don't. My comment was about argumentum ad nauseam in favour of propositions with a 0% a priori likelihood of being true. Reading comprehension?

      Does that include what I write and you studied in enough detail to understand how the model works and what theory explains before offering a scientific review of its contents?

      As it stands your answer can be taken as agreeing that it is scientifically OK to brush-off all I wrote.

      Delete
    38. Gary Gaulin, as you understand but find it easy to forget, no one has an obligation to disprove your ideas. If you think they are worthwhile, you have the burden of providing evidence for them and demonstrating that they are useful.

      I've read enough of your work to see that your ideas are logically constructed but they depend on assumptions that seem to be untrue. For example, if molecules are not intelligent, your ideas fail. You can quote your Artificial Intelligence definition of intelligence all you want, but that doesn't show that adding the concept of intelligence to our ideas about molecules increases our ability to predict the behavior of molecules in any way. In other words, your theory is a nice, tight, self-reinforcing network of ideas that has minimal connection to actual reality.

      Any biologist who reads enough of your theory to notice this kind of problem is justified in brushing off all that you wrote. I feel bad about writing that because you've obviously put a lot of time and effort into these ideas, but that's how it looks to me.

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    39. For example, if molecules are not intelligent, your ideas fail.

      That is not at all true. I gave a very descriptive operational definition that requires a memory (i.e. RNA or DNA) and other circuit features that make it able to over time learn how to control environments.

      In this forum I so often hear charges of "creationists" and "IDiots" not studying and understanding dozens of books worth of "evolutionary theory" yet what I have in a single not very long pdf document is too much for someone like you. Setting an example like that is so utterly hypocritical you are doomed to fail. Your tactic starts off by proving to rational thinking people that you don't have a clue what you're talking about and don't really care who you throw naive insults at.

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    40. So, before knowing that the robot-like structure can make copies of itself, would you agree or disagree with latesuite*) obvious conclusion that it must have been designed.

      Why should I jump to conclusions and call them obvious before I'd learnt enough? There's a world of a difference between "it looks designed" and "it must be designed".

      Anyway, life can self-replicate and evolve, using natural resources, so the simple "design inference" doesn't work for it.

      *) It's "lutesuite", like a suite intended for lute.

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    41. Eric, is there a reason you're not answering the questions I posed in my last post?

      Delete
    42. Gary,
      instead of focussing on the one line in BWilson's post you seem to have an answer, you should instead focus on these lines:
      "Gary Gaulin, as you understand but find it easy to forget, no one has an obligation to disprove your ideas. If you think they are worthwhile, you have the burden of providing evidence for them and demonstrating that they are useful."

      I've mentioned the same to you. You need to give evidence first before other people will look into your ideas. You can try to hide behind "Setting an example like that is so utterly hypocritical you are doomed to fail." but this doesn't mean you don't have to supply evidence first. Look up Gallileo's gambit, that's what you're hiding behind.

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    43. When evidence (including computer models and easily testable theory) is presented the result looks like this:

      "You don't actually think I bother to read the content of the links you keep spamming us with here, do you?"

      Delete
    44. Let's face some obvious facts:

      If, the robot-like structure discovered on Mars is made of materials unknown to scientists on the Earth and can't replicate itself, it must have been designed.

      If, for no particular reason, the robot-like structure can make copies of itself, then the robot-like structure could not have been designed.... for what reasons?

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    45. I'm not sure why you insist on following this line of argument, Eric. There is a common misunderstanding among some creationists that rejection of ID entails taking the position that "design" cannot be detected in any circumstance. The ridiculous Barry Arrington makes exactly that error in this article:

      http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/an-apology-to-dr-moran/

      But surely you understand that those of us who reject ID creationism are, instead, merely questioning the specific methods ID proponents claim to have devised to detect design and, specifically, their claim to have detected "design" in living things. I don't think Piotr and I are in any disagreement that it would be possible, under certain circumstances, to determine that artifacts found on Mars could have been designed, just as we can detect design in artifacts produced by paleolithic civilizations. But it is also possible that there could be artifacts whose design is undetectable. If living things on earth were "designed", they would be one example, since there has yet to be any demonstration of this "design," despite the creationists' best efforts.

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    46. The phenomenon the ID movement is (via premise) scientifically obliged to explain is called "intelligent cause" not "design":

      The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.

      It might not seem like a big deal but as far as science is concerned the only thing that is relevant to ID is a testable explanation for how the said intelligent cause works. Arguing over a subjective word like "design" moves the goalposts to an irrelevant to theory semantic issue.

      Delete
  11. I think that I would have to take some issue with including Michael Behe as one who accepts common descent. Although he said as much in his Dover testimony, he has also provided a forward to the book "Pandas and People" which implicitly rejects common descent. Comments he has made in the time period subsequent to the Dover Trial seems to indicate that his acceptance is, at best, grudging and includes a number of caveats.

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    Replies
    1. I think that I would have to take some issue with including Michael Behe as one who accepts common descent.

      Then you are wrong. Read ...

      <a href="http://sandwalk.blogspot.ca/2015/11/what-do-pseudogenes-teach-us-about.html'>What do pseudogenes teach us about intelligent design?</a>

      Michael Behe's acceptance of common descent is not significantly different from that of Ken Miller and Francis Collins. All three believe that the gods used evolution to produce the diversity of life we see today but they tweaked it from time to time to nudge it in certain directions. Michael Behe thinks that the gods left direct evidence of their intervention. Francis Collins thinks the evidence is indirect and Ken Miller thinks that the gods hid all evidence of their involvement so that the whole process looks perfectly natural.

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    2. When put it that way, Behe sounds like the most sensible of the three.

      Delete
    3. Re Larry Moran

      If that's the case, how come he writes forwards to creationist books like Pandas and People?

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    4. My guess would be that Behe thinks it's more important that people reject "unguided" evolution, than that they accept the right kind of creation.

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    5. Sorry, last word above should be "creationism."

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    6. If that's the case, how come he writes forwards to creationist books like Pandas and People?

      Because Behe is a creationist? He supports Intelligent Design Creationism.

      Are you having trouble distinguishing "creationism" from "Young Earth Creationism"?

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    7. It does demonstrate the degree of intellectual dishonesty in the ID creationism movement, though, doesn't it? For instance, if someone wrote a book arguing that junk DNA does not exist, would you write the forward just because the author supported evolution?

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    8. Re Prof. Moran

      But at least the version of Pandas and People cited in the Dover trial rejects common descent. Frankly, endorsing a book that rejects common descent without noting that he disagrees with its claim certainly suggests that his acceptance is grudging. As a matter of fact, in his 1995 tome, Darwin's Black Box, he questioned the notion that whales and dolphins evolved from a land mammal as an example of evidence of common descent. Subsequent discoveries such as Ambulocetus and Pakicetus have apparently caused him to grudgingly revise his position on the matter.

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    9. Lawrence wrote: " Ken Miller thinks that the gods hid all evidence of their involvement so that the whole process looks perfectly natural."
      No, Ken Miller (that's me!) does not believe that at all. Rather, I fully accept that evolution is a wholly natural process that operates independently of any supernatural interference, just as you do, Lawrence. I've made this clear many times, which is why my view of the evolutionary process itself is scientific, not "theistic" as you always seem to insist.

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    10. Ken,

      Do you believe that life on Earth evolved in a way that made the eventual appearance of intelligent beings inevitable? Was that an entirely natural process or was it set up that way by supernatural beings?

      If your God plays no role are all in the evolution of life from its origins to today then do you now reject the following description of Finding Darwin's God?

      Honest reasoning, he insists, will not convert evolutionary science into a warrant for materialistic atheism. Rather, he argues that in a truly open-minded assessment of Darwin's evolution, there emerges a living manifestation of the divine wisdom that made possible a universe of living creatures acting on unscripted impulses.

      Even if you adhere to a strictly deist position on evolution, you still believe in a God that had a purpose and determined that it would be fulfilled by producing intelligent beings who would come to know and worship Him.

      But I'm pretty sure you aren't a deist because you believe in a God who has directly interfered in the course of human history and continues to do so today. Right?

      Delete
  12. Completely off topic. Larry features strongly in three of the five most popular threads over at UD for the last 30 days.

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    1. And yet wasn't Beau Stoddard complaining that evolution blogs depend on creationists to create all their traffic? Maybe he'll log in to UD and tell them they owe Larry royalties.

      Delete
  13. Lutesuite, take some time to learn math and comparative analytics.

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  14. Dr. Moran, you might consider this: way back when Pangea was still together and I was an undergraduate, in the more zeal than brains stage of conversion, I felt compelled to accept creationism (well...I'm from Texas--hey I became an atheist when I was 12).what really pulled me back from the abyss was the book The Monkey Business by Niles Eldridge. He respected believers and he did not try to imply that evolution meant no God. When that is off the table it's a lot easier to consider the evidence.

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    1. If you believe in gods then there must be evidence of their existence. Evolution usually doesn't have anything to do with the presence of absence of such evidence unless believers drag it into the debate.

      I do not claim that evolution means no gods. It's not up to me to disprove the existence of beings that I think are imaginary.

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    2. Just the one. I don't believe in God. There is evidence of evolution and there had to be. There doesn't have to be the same kind of evidence for God. Just as science uses abductive reasoning so belief in God can be based u[on the best explanations'

      I don't argue for proof but warrant. I have great evidence. see the trace of God by me. on amazon..

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    3. I did not come here to hawk my wares but since you ask I have ample reason for belief in my book The Trace of God: Rational Warrant for Belief by Joseph Hinman, in which I examine a couple of hundred studies over a 50 year period that show the validity of religious experience. Religion does what it claims tp do, it provides dramatic positive life transformation from certain kinds f experiences.

      Those who claim to produce religious experience from brain chemistry can't prove they do, I deal with that in the book.

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    4. This is from someone who studies brain chemistry, me. Did your findings support or not support the following?

      The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, whereby the behavior of matter powers a coexisting trinity of systematically self-similar (in each other's image, likeness) intelligent systems at the molecular, cellular and multicellular level as follows:

      [1] Molecular Level Intelligence: Behavior of matter causes self-assembly of molecular systems that in time become molecular level intelligence, where biological RNA and DNA memory systems learn over time by replication of their accumulated genetic knowledge through a lineage of successive offspring. This intelligence level controls basic growth and division of our cells, is a primary source of our instinctual behaviors, and causes molecular level social differentiation (i.e. speciation).

      [2] Cellular Level Intelligence: Molecular level intelligence is the intelligent cause of cellular level intelligence. This intelligence level controls moment to moment cellular responses such as locomotion/migration and cellular level social differentiation (i.e. neural plasticity). At our conception we were only at the cellular intelligence level. Two molecular intelligence systems (egg and sperm) which are on their own unable to self-replicate combined into a single self-replicating cell, a zygote. The zygote then divided to become a colony of cells, an embryo. Later during fetal development we made it to the multicellular intelligence level which requires a self-learning neural brain to control motor muscle movements1 (also sweat gland motor muscles).

      [3] Multicellular Level Intelligence: Cellular level intelligence is the intelligent cause of multicellular level intelligence. In this case a multicellular body is controlled by an intelligent neural brain expressing all three intelligence levels at once, resulting in our complex and powerful paternal (fatherly), maternal (motherly) and other behaviors. This intelligence level controls our moment to moment multicellular responses, locomotion/migration and multicellular level social differentiation (i.e. occupation). Successful designs remain in the biosphere’s interconnected collective (RNA/DNA) memory to help keep going the billions year old cycle of life, where in our case not all individuals must reproduce for the human lineage to benefit from all in society.


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    5. And:

      The combined knowledge of all three of these intelligence levels guides spawning salmon of both sexes on long perilous migrations to where they were born and may stay to defend their nests "till death do they part". Merciless alligators will lovingly protect their well-cared-for offspring who are taught how to lure nest building birds into range by putting sticks on their head and they will scurry into the safety of her mouth when in danger. For humans this instinctual and learned knowledge has through time guided us towards marriage ceremonies to ask for "blessing" from an eternal conscious loving "spirit" existing at another level our multicellular intelligence level may sense but cannot directly experience. It is possible that one or both of the parents will later lose interest in the partnership, or they may have more offspring than they can possibly take care of, or none at all, but "for better or for worse" for such intelligence anywhere in the universe, there will nonetheless be the love we need and cherish to guide us, forever through generations of time...

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    6. that actually has nothing to do with what I'm talking about. For the record I'm not an ID guy. God is not a big building contractor in the sky. I'm talking about researcher who uses the helmet and claims to manufacture religious experience by playing with the brain. Since he doesn't use any sort of control instrument he can't prove the veg feelings he stimulates are the same exact feelings that the studies that show mystical experience is transformative have examied.

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    7. ...the same exact feelings that the studies that show mystical experience...

      Where are the studies that prove those mystical experiences exist at all and are actually "mystical", whatever that means?

      You know what? On second thought, for all I care you can keep it to yourself. There's enough crackpotery around already

      Delete
    8. “Where are the studies that prove those mystical experiences exist at all and are actually 'mystical', whatever that means?”
      Where they are is in a bunch of academic journals.


      Wuthnow, Robert (1978). "Peak Experiences: Some Empirical Tests." Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 18 (3), 59-75.

      Noble, Kathleen D. (1987). ``Psychological Health and the Experience of Transcendence.'' The Counseling Psychologist, 15 (4), 601-614.
      Lukoff, David & Francis G. Lu (1988). ``Transpersonal psychology research review: Topic: Mystical experiences.'' Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 20 (2), 161-184.

      Roger Walsh (1980). The consciousness disciplines and the behavioral sciences: Questions of comparison and assessment. American Journal of Psychiatry, 137(6), 663-673.
      also Andrew Greely many more


      The major researcher is Ralph Hood Jr. (U. Ten. Chattenouga)who invented the Mysticism scale. A lot of his work has been published by the Society for the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion.
      How we know they are mystical is a function of verifiction of the M scale. The scale was devised to verifythe thyeory of W.T.Stace In erifying it thye nature of thye experience is also defined.

      “You know what? On second thought, for all I care you can keep it to yourself. There's enough crackpotery around already”
      I thought us backward idiot religiouis [eople were the one's who refuse to look throighy thye telescope. I guess you back Sean
      Carrol's thing that turn about is fair play. Do some historical researc. Genesis of science by Cambridge historian James Hannam.

      Delete
    9. ""Journal of Transpersonal Psychology"... sounds legit, LMFAO

      Delete
    10. Just as science uses abductive reasoning

      Someone's reasoning certainly seems to have been abducted.

      Delete
    11. Abductive reasoning requires applying the criteria of Simplicity, Prior Probability, and Explanatory Power. For mental phenomena, the God explanation is obviously not the simplest, has a prior probability of zero, and it's explanatory power is illusory since it can be used to "explain" either of two totally contradictory mental states, while the "mechanism" is purportedly not available for investigation.

      Delete
    12. yes God is the simplest. atheist who argue like Dawkins equivocate by trying to treat God like a biological organism so they can apply physical la3 to God. The only one I've seen who does not do this is Philipsee and he's a philosopher so he knows better. You only need prior if you do Bayes, you can't apply probability to God (no new info and God is not empirical). Abductive reasoning does not require probability, Charles Sanders Peirce made an abductive God argument without probability.

      Explanatory power when we move beyond the bounds of science is a whole different thing.

      ypu8 are assumingscience is thye only way to think about tinges, its not.

      Delete
    13. Social science bah humbug. sorry , science is not the only use of the mind. that's an ideology. Social science is science too. look through the telescope, it's not a trick there are mountains on the moon.

      Delete
    14. Hinman, we could spot your bullshit from the moon without a telescope

      Delete
    15. Joe Hinman,
      "Religion does what it claims tp do, it provides dramatic positive life transformation from certain kinds f experiences."

      Are all of the world's religions capable of providing dramatic positive life transformation?

      You claim not to believe in God. Does this mean you are incapable of a dramatic positive life transformation?

      Delete
  15. Joe Hinman said: Those who claim to produce religious experience from brain chemistry can't prove they do, I deal with that in the book.

    There is no proof that religious experience is supernatural. There just is not any evidence of supernature at all.

    I don't think your book can change that.

    I postulate that religious experience is universal; is possible anywhere you go in the universe. That leave two options: It is intrapsyhcic, or God is an integral component of the space-time continuum.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Joe Hinman said: Those who claim to produce religious experience from brain chemistry can't prove they do, I deal with that in the book.

      "There is no proof that religious experience is supernatural."

      I did not say anything about the supernatural, you brought it up...the term itself was coined by Dionysius the Areiopagite (500AD) to describe these very experiences. Thy are literally supernatural because that's the original concept. In the enlightenment it began to change as a means of degrading scholasticism.

      "There just is not any evidence of supernature at all."

      I just proved there I. You have to know the concept before you can refute it. I recomend the Rolt Translation of Dionysius.

      "I don't think your book can change that.}

      I just did, me and Rolt.

      "I postulate that religious experience is universal;"
      I already said that.

      "is possible anywhere you go in the universe. That leave two options: It is intrapsyhcic, or God is an integral component of the space-time continuum."

      I'll ask the Doctor what he thinks next time I'm inh the TARDIS.

      Delete
  16. According Dawkins you always must say ''It looks designed '' instead of ''designed'' .
    I think for obvious reasons.

    ReplyDelete
  17. All this need for a high thread proves evolutionism is not like real facts and theories in the spectrum called science.
    If chimps/man being from common descent is a fact and its theory how it cam,e about then how is it a fact? The fact could only be based on theory? ?
    AMEN. A science theory must be established on observation and experiment. in evolutionism this has not taken place. No observation/experiment has been made about anything that evolved before people started talking about it.
    Evolution is just another hypothesis working upon raw data.
    Its not a fact because so many people don't agree with it. there is no reason to.
    All facts/evidence for evolution can be challenged without breaking common understanding of settled fact.
    All evolutionists have to do is present their scientific biological evidence for evolution .
    Saying the case is closed is making the case closed. Sherlock Holmes never accepted case closed by Scotland Yard.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Sherlock Holmes? Do you often generalize from fictional evidence?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wgeb U read Albert Einsteins book on physivs he did started off with Sherlock. its a good reference.

      Delete
    2. Robert, either you or your computer are drunk. Your spelling and grammar are becoming Gaulinesque.

      Delete
  19. It looks like ALL the facts are in. ID inference is whatever Darwinists decide it is going to be. I'm not going to comment further.

    " ...you can't convince one to believe in something he/she already made up their mind against it..."

    ReplyDelete
  20. I’m having a difficult time with the use of the word ‘fact’ when discussing something that happened millions of years ago. I think it has to do with the level of testability implied.
    The ‘millions of years’ is the result of a calculation involving large extrapolations. My experience is that anytime I extrapolate my results go wrong for reasons I could not have known about. The problem with extrapolations into the past is there is no way to ever directly test.

    Somethings that are facts- Monday comes before Tuesday. The capital of South Dakota is Pierre. If we take Futuyma’s definition of evolution we can say that occurs with each birth and death- that is a fact. The results of experiments are facts.

    If I extrapolate and say- ‘when I let go of this ball it will drop to the floor,’ I extrapolate into a future that is smaller than the past of experience and it is testable. I’m much less comfortable with the idea that this will remain true for the next millions of years into the future- while it might well be true, it is not testable in the same way.
    Similarly when we talk of things in the distant past, the calculations are extrapolations based on hypothesis that are not testable in the same way as experiment.

    Maybe I’m being overly pedantic about the term fact. But I would prefer to use the word for things that are true by definition or are testable by direct observation.

    Am I making any sense?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Am I making any sense?

      No.

      It is a fact that the Earth is about 4.5 billion years old. It is a fact that 500 million years ago there were no primates on this planet.

      Delete
    2. A quote from Gould
      "In science, "fact" can only mean "confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent."
      I see you don't agree and are going with 'perverse'.

      Delete
  21. Perhaps a specific example will be helpful-

    The age of the Earth is calculated based on a number of untestable premises and extrapolations.
    http://pubs.usgs.gov/gip/geotime/age.html

    If we assume the Earth and the other solid bodies are the same age, then if we assume the constance of radioactive decay overtime, and if we assume the initial conditions under which the decay of U235 and U238 started were, if we assume our extrapolations are perfect, … then we can say-
    “These calculations result in an age for the Earth and meteorites, and hence the Solar System, of 4.54 billion years with an uncertainty of less than 1 percent. To be precise, this age represents the last time that lead isotopes were homogeneous throughout the inner Solar System and the time that lead and uranium was incorporated into the solid bodies of the Solar System.”

    This is a different sort of thing than the ‘fact’ Calgary is north of Winnipeg.
    I can verify Calgary is north of Winnipeg through observation.

    With the age of Earth calculation I have to take on faith numerous premises that are untestable in principle.
    I have been unwilling to use the word ‘fact’ to describe something that can not be verified by observation. To my mind this helps keep the ‘faith’ out of ‘fact’.

    Am I wrong to keep this distinction?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So do you think it may not be a fact that primates did not exist 500 million years ago on earth?

      Delete
    2. Have you considered that you might just be a deluded ignoramus?

      if we assume the constance of radioactive decay overtime

      Yeah, multiple different radioactive elements changing the rate of decay ALL AT THE SAME TIME AND BY THE SAME AMOUNT. Sounds credible... not.

      Also, there are other independent lines of evidence confirming the constant nature of radioactive decay:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SN_1987A#Light_curve

      If we assume the Earth and the other solid bodies are the same age

      WTF? There are rocks dated over 4B years on Earth, but there's a good reason why meteorites are dated instead, can't you be bothered to google it?

      Delete
    3. Jack Jackson, it is important to test whether extrapolations are correct. And this is done. When possible, geologists use different elements to test the age of a single rock or formation, and/or test multiple crystals within one rock.

      Scientists also evaluate their results within larger contexts. Does the calculated age of the earth fit with the measured age of meteors? With calculations for how solar systems can develop? With changes seen in the fossil record? Do radioactive elements with shorter half-lives than uranium decay at a constant rate? (Yes.) And there are lots of other things to check that I as a biologist don't know about.

      If calculations about the decay rates of uranium isotopes were incorrect, these things wouldn't fit together. But they do. Therefore, the approximately 4.5 billion years age of the earth is one of those things that it would be perverse not to treat as a fact.

      Delete
    4. And in your 'observation' of the 'Northiness' of Winnipeg and Calgary, you manage to do so without any assumptions or extrapolations. I am curious as to how you manage this.

      Delete
  22. bwilson-
    I do appreciate the attempts to check the extrapolations and the ‘converging lines of evidence’ type of argument (I have two brothers that are geologists). It would be appropriate to discuss those lines and evidence as they are. The USGS site I linked to (http://pubs.usgs.gov/gip/geotime/age.html) gives the ‘probable age of Earth’ and is a good example of what I’m talking about.

    The difference between the situations I’m pointing to is that in one case the ‘fact’ can be checked by direct observation (scientific experiment), in another case the ‘fact’ cannot be (no experiment possible to check the claim). I don’t think it ‘perverse’ to see this distinction.

    Would you care to address my actual concern?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No experiment to check the claim? Are you serious?
      You're not thinking critically. You think that assumptions in science are like religious postulates: assert stuff and roll with it. No, assumptions place constraints in science, on models, and experimental results need to confirm those assumptions. So if we observe, directly, that rocks get destroyed by plate tectonics ans we assume that the earth was formed at the same time as the rest of the Solar System, that places a huge constraint on the expected results. It means meteorites should all date pretty much the same age. It means the Moon should too. It means the earth's oldest rocks should date at most as old as those meteorites and the Moon. What do we find by direct dating of those rocks? Exactly that, some 4.5B years old, and rocks in the Earth as old as 4B years old.

      What is your actual concern all about?

      Delete
    2. The odd thing is that bwilson295 summarized some the experimental evidence in the very thread to which Eric was replying. Apparently, when Eric refers to "experimental evidence", he only considers evidence that supports his religious preconceptions.

      Delete
    3. In science, all conclusions are tentative. That has to be kept in mind, because better evidence may come along and change what we know. However, it's not whether the subject is in the present or the past that determines how certain our knowledge about it. For example, eyewitness testimony about present or recently past crimes is notoriously unreliable. I'm about to publish a well-researched, four-year study about variation in stonecrops and how they should be divided into species, and its conclusions (which can in theory be checked) are much less certain than the 4.5 billion year age of the earth.

      We can (and do) check evidence from the past to see if fits together with other evidence from the past. We do make predictions about further evidence we expect to see from the past if our ideas are right. We do make observations to see if that evidence shows up. Our knowledge of the past will never be as complete as our knowledge of the present (I hypothesize) but our knowledge of parts of it can be firm.

      My use of the word "perverse" referred to the Dawkins quote above about a fact being "something so firmly established by evidence that to deny it would be perverse." The 4.5 billion year age of the earth falls in that category.

      Delete
  23. bwilson-
    Good luck with your paper.
    (This is me making joke)—
    I would not recommend starting the paper with “I am more certain of what happened billions of years ago than I am about the results presented here.” Maybe it just a style issue, but…

    More seriously- did you check the link to the USGS site I provided?
    http://pubs.usgs.gov/gip/geotime/age.html
    They give details about the types of research you are referring to. Using that research they are able to “determine the probable age of the Solar System and to calculate an age for the Earth by assuming that the Earth and the rest of the solid bodies in the Solar System formed at the same time and are, therefore, of the same age.”

    (That's not a complete list of the assumptions).

    Please note- I’m differentiating between a ‘probable given certain assumptions’ and a ‘fact’. Am I wrong to do that?

    You seem to be saying we can be more certain of what the decay rate for U238 was 100 million years ago than we can be of what the rate is now. I don’t think that is possible given our extrapolation about the past has to be based on the eyewitness testimony about the experimental results that give us the measured decay rate. All experimental results rely on eyewitness testimony.

    Dazz-
    I don’t think any of the things you are claiming I think. I am not religious.
    My concern is the use of the word ‘fact’ is misleading when it comes to the past.
    As evidence of my concern I linked to the USGS site where the age of the earth is discussed by the experts as ‘probable given certain assumptions’.
    It is because scientists do not accept assumptions without question that I question the use of the term ‘fact’. If a accept the assumptions without question, then I agree- the age is a fact. But because I don’t accept the assumptions without question, I do not call the conclusions ‘fact’.
    Is that more clear?

    luresuite-
    I am making a differentiation between ‘experiments’ and ‘quasi-experiments’.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. All experimental results rely on eyewitness testimony.

      What? And you want me to believe that someone stupid enough to claim such a ridiculous thing is not a religious person? Nice try Jack but didn't work.

      A thousand trillion "testimonies" don't hold a candle to one single repeatable experimental piece of evidence.

      Apparently you're too dumb to understand what those assumptions mean, why they are not simply assumed despite of the arguments already provided to you. So yeah, I'm going to assume you're a YEC... for good reasons

      Delete
    2. You seem to be saying we can be more certain of what the decay rate for U238 was 100 million years ago than we can be of what the rate is now

      *facepalm*

      Delete
    3. I am making a differentiation between ‘experiments’ and ‘quasi-experiments’

      And exactly what is that difference.

      I'm also intrigued as to why you consider it a "fact" that Calgary is further north than Winnipeg. Have you managed to see both cities at the same time, in order to ascertain this "fact"?

      Delete
    4. It would be really silly to think "we can be more certain of what the decay rate for U238 was 100 million years ago than we can be of what the rate is now." And I don't.

      What I was trying to do was to demonstrate that our confidence that a phenomenon is true depends on the strength of the evidence leading to it, not when it occurred or occurs.

      The USGS website is written by geologists. For them the idea "that the Earth and the rest of the solid bodies in the Solar System formed at the same time" is an assumption. (They don't test it.) But is it "just" an assumption? No. For astronomers, this idea is a result of careful observations of the planets and of star formation elsewhere in the galaxy, and careful thought and calculations about how stars and planetary systems can form. For astronomers (and for the rest of us, if we're not perverse) the more or less simultaneous formation of the planets is a well supported fact.

      As for my paper . . . at the moment, my colleagues and I know more about our tiny little subtopic than anybody in the world, and it is time to publish our observations and our conclusions. I am confident that some of our conclusion will stand the test of time, and less sure about others. (The observations should stand, but might prove to be incomplete.) Botanists will use our ideas and see if they "work" or not, and if they don't work, some botanists someday will do another study and refute the ideas that don't seem to fit reality. That's how science goes.

      Delete
    5. Jack,

      Leaving aside that you're a well known creationist idiot, here some answers:

      Please note- I’m differentiating between a ‘probable given certain assumptions’ and a ‘fact’. Am I wrong to do that?

      Of course not. What you're wrong about is thinking that those assumptions are taken in faith or out of thin air. A lot gets verified and thrown away or added as more data accumulates. So is the case for the age of your planet. Quite hard to deny that it is a fact that it is way older than the 6,000 years old you would wish it to be. Billions of years older.

      You seem to be saying we can be more certain of what the decay rate for U238 was 100 million years ago than we can be of what the rate is now.

      No you poor deluded fool. The issue is that for things to work your way, U238 would have to decay so fast that it would have exploded or melted the rock in which the crystals were formed in the first place, rather than be found as if it decayed at a normal rate. Not only that, often more than one isotope is measured. It would have to be quite a coincidence that several isotopes, decaying each at its own rate, gave us the same old age for rocks, when you would wish them to give us 6,000 years. As I said, a lot goes checked. Those assumptions are not accepted out of thin air, somebody's wishes, or faith. It's all about understanding energy, radioactive decay, comparing different isotopes, and much more.

      I don’t think that is possible given our extrapolation about the past has to be based on the eyewitness testimony about the experimental results that give us the measured decay rate. All experimental results rely on eyewitness testimony.

      Don't be such an idiot. Each scientific team has to recalibrate their shit. test that their equipment is working properly, etc. It's not just taken on faith that a single measure gave us the whole story about how each radioisotope decays. These things are measured and measured again.

      You obviously have no idea how science is conducted. It's not like church you idiot. We don't go around claiming that the rate of some isotope's decay is some god's word. We test and test again.

      Delete
  24. bwilson295
    You make an excellent point about how we gain confidence about the truth of phenomena.
    You make a good point about the USGS site, they make the calculation based on assumption, but someone else checks that assumption.
    http://lunarscience.arc.nasa.gov/articles/the-solar-systems-big-bang/
    gives a good summary about the attempts to understand the actual behind the assumption used by the USGS and I believe they use the term correctly.

    You want to say you are confident that the age of the earth is 4.5 billion years old due to the evidence from the various scientific investigations.
    That seems a reasonable statement to me.

    I’m trying to draw a distinction between something that can be tested experimentally and something that can not be. You can’t run an experiment to see how this solar system came to be the same way you can test the weight of a car.

    When a calculation involves extrapolations beyond any experience and can not possibly be tested by repeatable experimental procedures that involve controlling the various inputs, then I have a difficult time putting the resulting calculation in the same category as ‘monday comes before tuesday’ or experimental results that are repeatable and include the ability to control the inputs.

    To me a fact is something known by actual experience or observation. Statements about the distant past would be extrapolations based on facts, but those are not themselves facts.

    Thank you for allowing me to clarify.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You can’t run an experiment to see how this solar system came to be the same way you can test the weight of a car.

      When a calculation involves extrapolations beyond any experience and can not possibly be tested by repeatable experimental procedures that involve controlling the various inputs


      These are incorrect assumptions.

      You are simply much more familiar with the sorts of reliable experiments with controlled inputs that can be run to assess the weight of a car than the much more reliable and better controlled experiments that are done to see how the solar system (and the universe itself) came to be.

      Delete
    2. judmark-
      One way to describe the difference between the types of experiments I’m referring to is ‘controlled experiments’ vs ‘quasi-experiments’.
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Experiment
      Generally ‘controlled experiments’ are considered more reliable because they can be replicated and the inputs can be adjusted and the testing of hypothesis can be done more precisely.
      An example of these types of experiments would be those done at CERN where the inputs and conditions are controlled to the finest degree man has ever managed.
      Quasi-experiments are less reliable because they are not repeatable or do not have the luxury of finely controlled inputs.

      The link I provided and the explanation I’ve given is how I understand the situation. I do not know that quasi experiments are more reliable than those conducted at CERN. I think the opposite is true.
      Do you have any reference that would support your assertion?

      Delete
    3. Can you name a single, non repeatable "quasi-experiment" in which the age of the Earth is based?

      Delete
    4. JJ, high school science text books tend to write about controlled experiments as if they were the best way to approach every scientific question. In this, the text books are oversimplifying to the point of being wrong.

      For example, in my own work I'm often asking "What is the pattern of variation in these plants?" That is best answered by careful observations (including measurements) on many samples. Sampling design becomes important. Selecting appropriate statistical analysis may be important. If the work is done well, it is repeatable. Others can do it again and find out if I was right -- or wrong.

      Sometimes I want to know, "Are these differences caused by genetics or environment?" Then I perform a common garden experiment in which plants of what may be different kinds are grown together and observed (and measured). Common gardens don't have a "control" but do compare two or more different groups. Once again, if I do the sampling, randomizing, and measuring correctly and write the methods up well, someone else can repeat the results and evaluate them.

      The work leading to the discovery that the earth is approximately 4.5 billion years old involves repeated measurements on rocks, perhaps of individual crystals within the rocks. The results are evaluated within the context of the geological history of those rocks. The measurements and evaluations can be repeated by other teams.

      Science uses as its raw material careful, repeatable observations, often refined through experiments, with or without controls as appropriate. Observational studies without controls are often the right way to answer the question of interest, and in those cases they're as valid as controlled experiments can be when controls are needed.

      Delete
    5. bwilson295
      It sounds like you have set up your experiment in such a way that the data collected will be amenable to statistical manipulations such that by doing comparisons between groups you can closely approximate the information you would have obtained had you used a control.

      I won’t argue about if controlled experiments are more reliable than uncontrolled experiments.

      You summarize the data from the USGS site I linked to. It is amazing the amount of work involved in making the estimate and the attention to detail the scientists exhibit. That’s why I linked to that site.
      Did you look at the stuff about how the solar system developed? Amazing how the efforts to work things out go back so many years, the arguments and there resolutions carried out by such brilliant people working tirelessly for decade after decade, a relentless pursuit of the truth.

      My objection to the use of the word ‘fact’ in connection with the age of the earth has to do with the testability of the claims being made and the fact the extrapolations involved in the calculations out to billions of years go beyond any possibility of actual confirmation by observation.

      I’m using definition 3-
      http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/fact
      fact - “a truth known by actual experience or observation; something known to be true:
      Scientists gather facts about plant growth.”

      I think that ‘actual experience’ is implied by the word ‘fact’.
      That’s a succinct way of stating my objection about using the term to describe the current understanding of what happened billions of years ago. Apparently you don’t have the same sense of the word.

      Delete
  25. photosynthesis-
    There seems to be a case of mistaken identity.
    I am not a well known creationist. I don't think I'm well known and I'm not a creationist.
    The idea the earth is 6000 years old seems rather bizarre to me given the information available.

    I improperly used the term ‘eyewitness’ when I should have said ‘observers’. The result of the experiment is observed by the scientist and reported. I used the term ‘witness’ instead of ‘observe’ which is inappropriate to the context.
    I’m trying to be careful about the use of the word ‘fact’ and improperly used the word ‘witness’ when I should have used ‘observer’. I never knew ‘eyewitness’ is more or less a technical law term, I thought it was just the same as ‘observer’. I’m happy to learn this distinction.

    The point I’m trying to make is about the use of the word ‘fact’, not the age of the earth as I hope is clear from the previous comment.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, then your example of Calgary being located further north than does not fit your (idiosyncratic and contrived) definition of "fact." It is not possible for an eyewitness to simultaneously look at both cities and discern which one is further north. I mean, I guess it is now possible thru space travel, that someone sitting in the ISS can do this. But that would then mean that, until space flight was possible, the relative positions of Calgary and Winnipeg would have only been a matter of conjecture. That is, by the convoluted "logic" you are employing here.

      Delete
    2. lutesuite
      I believe one can use a sextant and a watch to make the required measurements.
      You could use a map or a satellite photo. A long list of techniques would work.

      Delete
    3. I'm not familiar with how one would do this with a sextant and a watch. Can you explain how this process works in the absence of any underlying assumptions? For instance, how do we know that all watches measure time in the same manner? Have you actually observed every single watch and ensured that they all keep time perfectly? Is it not true that watches commonly run slow or fast?

      A map is just a picture someone drew. How on earth could that serve as an objective source of scientific evidence?

      I've already conceded that satellite images might be one way of "observing" this. But such technology has only been developed quite recently. Are you saying it was not possible to state it as a "fact" that Calgary is further north than Winnipeg until humans invented satellites?

      Delete