How Richard Dawkins Fights For Evolution

One has observe it in the pages of research, now one has observed it in the realm of debate. Back in 2009, Richard Dawkins thought he was putting it to the creationists and the modern intelligent design movement with his argument about junk DNA.

Here is what he says in his book, The Greatest Show on Earth (pp. 332-333)…

“It stretches even their creative ingenuity to make a convincing reason why an intelligent designer should have created a pseudogene — a gene that does absolutely nothing and gives every appearance of being a superannuated version of a gene that used to do something — unless he was deliberately setting out to fool us.”

Now here, Dawkins believes that pseudogenes are genetic relics that have lost their original protein-coding function which had been possessed by some ancestral creature. Thus, Dawkins contends that pseudogenes provide convincing evidence for evolutionary history rather than an intelligent designer namely, God!

Then Dawkins goes on to say in his book…

“Leaving pseudogenes aside, it is a remarkable fact that the greater part (95 percent in the case of humans) of the genome might as well not be there, for all the difference it makes…useful for. . . embarrassing creationists.”

Dawkins statement was embarrassing not creationists but rather the ENCODE project which back in 2007, two years before his book was published…was the remarkable and unexpected discovery (by evolutionists but predicted by creationists and proponents of intelligent design) that vast regions of non-coding DNA (formerly known as junk) were transcribed into RNA, This included what? Yes! This included a significant amount of pseudogenes!

There were other papers also being published that Dawkins failed to accept at the time like Balakirev and Ayala who wrote two papers back in 2003 and 2004 (here and here) on discovering functions with pseudogenes.

The two papers talk about pseudogenes being involved with gene expression, gene regulation, generation of genetic (antibody, antigenic, and other) diversity.

“Pseudogenes are involved in gene conversion or recombination with functional genes. Pseudogenes exhibit evolutionary conservation of gene sequence, reduced nucleotide variability, excess synonymous over non-synonymous nucleotide polymorphism, and other features that are expected in genes or DNA sequences that have functional roles.”

The modern Intelligent Design Movement had also predicted function in junk DNA even though it was the prevailing viewpoint in evolutionary theory to oppose it…Here is their trailer about this very subject…

Even this gal in her youtube  program, “Ask A Biologist” who is very smart also predicts function with junk DNA…

So there was research refuting one of Dawkins arguments against creationism and yet he decided to try to stick it us.  Ok, fast-forward to 2012…

Wait a minute! Dawkins not only acknowledges that what was considered junk DNA, does in fact have function like pseudogenes and that but evolution predicted it all along….lol My question to Richard Dawkins is when and why he changed his mind? I know why he hasn’t admitted his mistake because he doesn’t want to look weak in front of creationists and his choir. But the reality of it is in black and white.

So this is how Richard Dawkins fights for evolution, he is not totally honest with the public about his position. One has to keep in mind, many of them use a similar slant for debate. I have never seen a top-notch creation scientist debate like Richard Dawkins does and that is because they are honest! It’s not like creation scientists don’t make mistakes, they are human too which is something Richard Dawkins should think of himself, human who makes mistakes! He is wrong about evolution!

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31 thoughts on “How Richard Dawkins Fights For Evolution

  1. Olorin and Dawkins should have ALL of their pseudo genes removed if they were consistent evolutionists.

  2. Dawkins statement was embarrassing not creationists but rather the ENCODE project which back in 2007, two years before his book was published…was the remarkable and unexpected discovery (by evolutionists but predicted by creationists and proponents of intelligent design) that vast regions of non-coding DNA (formerly known as junk) were transcribed into RNA, This included what? Yes! This included a significant amount of pseudogenes!

    Non-coding DNA and junk DNA were never considered to be synonymous. Like most creationists, you’ve been misled by the claims of creationist authors who don’t know anything more about molecular biology than you do. It had already been established that there were non-coding regulatory sequences by 1972, when Susumu Ohno proposed the existence of junk DNA based on a positive argument that still has not been refuted.

    Hardly remarkable. Nonfunctional RNA transcripts are then degraded by the cell and this was known before Dawkins wrote The Greatest Show on Earth (e.g. Wyers et al. 2005). Contra ENCODE, you can’t assume function just because some DNA is transcribed, or even that some RNA is translated. Mere biochemical activity may be a sign of function, but it can also be a sign of transcriptional error, non-specific binding, etc. etc. The cell is awash in highly active macromolecules, so it’s not surprising when a couple of them transiently show an affinity for each other that has no functional reason. Rather than being an argument for “intelligent design”, this undermines it by showing how little like a machine the cell actually is.

    Furthermore, nobody at ENCODE has addressed the positive arguments for why the majority of DNA must be junk, which include the mutational load in mammals (this is Ohno’s argument referenced above) and the efficacy of selection in small populations (this argument comes from Michael Lynch).

    Now, all biological reality aside, there’s also the fact that there’s nothing in evolutionary biology which is even challenged by this argument. The creationists must be delighted: they’ve convinced their legions of gullible and witless followers that a theory that has natural selection as a major mechanism is unable to account for biological function! If they can convince you of this then they can make you believe anything. In fact, any honest history of the proposal and acceptance of junk DNA, aside from pointing out that scientists didn’t just lazily call all non-coding DNA junk, would be obligated to point out that the proponents of junk DNA had an uphill battle to convince biologists that there ever was such a thing, as the prevailing attitude among biologists was that if the DNA weren’t serving a function then natural selection would have swept it away. This is still the attitude among many biologists, although the pluralists and neutralists are now among the majority of molecular biologists and population geneticists. Dawkins, being an ethologist (scientist studying animal behavior), may well only be dimly aware of the reasons behind proposing junk DNA, the problems with calling any biochemical activity an indicator of function, etc.

    I have never seen a top-notch creation scientist debate like Richard Dawkins does and that is because they are honest!

    *bursts into laughter*

    BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!!!

    Oh my, that was the funniest thing I’ve read all day. Whose side is it that quote mines scientists so that readers draw conclusions that are often completely the reverse of the points the scientists were making? Whose side is it that persistently lies about the content of scientific findings?

    This whole ENCODE business demonstrates how thoroughly unscientific “creation science” and intelligent design creationism really are. If they “predicted” this alleged “result” (in fact, there’s nothing in ENCODE’s data dump that supports the contention that 80% of the genome is truly functional in any way that this word is used and understood), then why didn’t they beat ENCODE to its alleged “demonstration” and win a feather in their cap for ID? Yet again, creationists are proud to cling parasitically to the work of mainstream scientists-—or in this case, the unfounded hype surrounding the work—and say, “Look! Look! We predicted that!”

    P.S. If 80% of the genome is functional, then what is the function for defective transposons? They account for more or less half of the genome, so it’s a mathematical certainty that at least a majority are included in the 80%. Answer that, and you’ll go a long way to demonstrating function in the genome.

  3. Forgot to include the citation:

    Wyers, F., Rougemaille, M., Badis, G., Rousselle, J.C., Dufour, M.E., Boulay, J., Régnault, B., Devaux, F., Namane, A., Séraphin, B., Libri, D. and Jacquier A. (2005) Cryptic pol II transcripts are degraded by a nuclear quality control pathway involving a new poly(A) polymerase. Cell 121:725-37.

  4. Non-coding DNA and junk DNA were never considered to be synonymous. Like most creationists, you’ve been misled by the claims of creationist authors who don’t know anything more about molecular biology than you do.

    So I suppose that the following sites are creationist [1, 2, 3] Larry Moran also states that there are non-IDists who don’t know the difference [4]. So to make it clear, Moran states:

    Junk DNA is DNA that has no function. It is not non-coding DNA. Lots of non-coding DNA has a function (regulatory sequences, origins of replication, centromeres, telomeres, SARs, etc. etc).

    Mere biochemical activity may be a sign of function, but it can also be a sign of transcriptional error, non-specific binding, etc. etc.

    Agreed

    Rather than being an argument for “intelligent design”, this undermines it by showing how little like a machine the cell actually is.

    Not necessarily [5]. If one were to only look only at the pseudogenes, it seems that this is evidence for evolution. If one were to only look at the functional genes, they seem to be evidence for an intelligence. On a cellular level, the processes seem too complex to be the work of chance, time and natural selection. However, looking at the pseudogenes again, evolution postulates that these are inert because they encounter a mutation which results in their function being turned off. Evolution has not explained how and by what mechanism this occurs. Additionally, evolution also postulates that these inert pseudogenes gain new function through further mutations. As such, even evolutionists assign function to pseudogenes.

  5. Furthermore, nobody at ENCODE has addressed the positive arguments for why the majority of DNA must be junk, which include the mutational load in mammals (this is Ohno’s argument referenced above) and the efficacy of selection in small populations (this argument comes from Michael Lynch).

    Could you expand on this? I don’t understand what you’re trying to get at.

    If they “predicted” this alleged “result” (in fact, there’s nothing in ENCODE’s data dump that supports the contention that 80% of the genome is truly functional in any way that this word is used and understood), then why didn’t they beat ENCODE to its alleged “demonstration” and win a feather in their cap for ID?

    Who again gets taxpayers money to do research?

    If 80% of the genome is functional, then what is the function for defective transposons?

    Please do educate.

    Frankly, jumping to conclusions on the limited data from ENCODE is bad for everyone, especially creationists. The data might suggest something different as research progresses.

    [1] http://www.news-medical.net/health/Junk-DNA-What-is-Junk-DNA.aspx
    [2] http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn18680-junk-dna-gets-credit-for-making-us-who-we-are.html
    [3] http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/250006.php
    [4] http://sandwalk.blogspot.com/2006/12/idiots-dont-understand-junk-dna.html
    [5] I am not a geneticist so my take on this is from my limited view.

  6. So I suppose that the following sites are creationist [1, 2, 3]

    No, and I never claimed that other places never get it wrong. The fact that you can point to other people writing stupid and ill-informed things doesn’t mean that those stupid and ill-informed things become more accurate by repetition. What I said was that Michael had been misled by the claims of creationists who knew no more molecular biology than he does. And that is perfectly accurate—nowhere else would he have gotten the idea that creationists predicted the non-existence of “junk DNA” while so-called “Darwinists” (which I presume means evolutionary biologists) predicted its existence.

    Larry Moran also states that there are non-IDists who don’t know the difference [4].

    I know that too. Some of them work on the ENCODE team.

    If one were to only look only at the pseudogenes, it seems that this is evidence for evolution. If one were to only look at the functional genes, they seem to be evidence for an intelligence.

    Considering that there exists a theory that accounts for biological function, known as the theory of evolution by means of natural selection, how on Earth is the mere existence of function evidence for “an intelligence”?

    On a cellular level, the processes seem too complex to be the work of chance, time and natural selection.

    I’ve never met an IDist—including Michael Behe—who had any clue what was actually going on at the cellular level and knew enough about the mechanisms of evolution to be able to evaluate an evolutionary scenario for the complexity they claim to find. Behe makes the mistake of assuming that natural selection is about the gradated stepwise addition of parts to a predetermined goal and inconsistently also assumes that natural selection has to happen in one leap. He doesn’t know anything about adaptive landscapes and how genetic drift can fix neutral or nearly-neutral alleles that remove a population from one adaptive peak, move it across a fitness valley, to a higher adaptive peak. He also seems rather disinclined to look at the mechanisms of protein evolution like genetic duplication and divergence, even though it explains the evolution of things like the vertebrate clotting cascade. (Maybe that’s why he’s disinclined to look.)

    In fact, protein families are behind a lot of the complexity at the level of cellular processes. Evolution has an explanation: they arise by duplication and divergence from an ancestral protein. This leads to a prediction that homology should be found between the members of the protein family and these proteins should be able to be fit on a gene tree. The creationist explanation is god—oh, I mean the designer—put them there. But if they were placed there like a bulb in a flowerpot, then why the homology among members of the protein family? Did the designer get lazy and decide to copy-and-paste? And why the homology between the protein family as a whole and proteins of different function?

    However, looking at the pseudogenes again, evolution postulates that these are inert because they encounter a mutation which results in their function being turned off. Evolution has not explained how and by what mechanism this occurs.

    Um…you just said it: mutations cause the gene to stop transcribing/translating. Sometimes it’s because the promoter region is damaged, but usually it’s because of a premature stop codon.

    Additionally, evolution also postulates that these inert pseudogenes gain new function through further mutations. As such, even evolutionists assign function to pseudogenes.

    Sometimes they do, but very rarely. Most of the time they accumulate mutations that make the gene even less likely to regain function. Those who point to these rare cases of functions being found for some processed pseudogenes generally don’t look at the majority of pseudogenes that lack any function.

    Could you expand on this? I don’t understand what you’re trying to get at.

    Better yet, I’ll let Larry Moran expand on this:
    http://sandwalk.blogspot.com/2009/11/genetic-load-neutral-theory-and-junk.html

    Who again gets taxpayers money to do research?
    Anybody can apply for a grant; it’s not a private fiefdom of those who accept evolutionary biology. However, in order to win a grant, you have to write out a grant proposal in which you state what you expect to find, your reasoning behind expecting to find it, and the test you mean to apply to your hypothesis. This is where most IDists fall down because they don’t have a model, they don’t have a mechanism, and they certainly can’t envision doing any tests.

    Anyway, taxpayer funded grants are unnecessary. There is always the private sector and directed donations. The Discovery Institute is rolling in cash, which they could apply to fund scientific research but they don’t. And if there were any merit to creationism/intelligent design, then it would be conceivable that they could found their own creationist biotech firm. Those guys don’t care about ideology, but results. It just so happens that what gets results in this field is evolutionary biology, which is why many companies tout their use of evolutionary principles to their clients and investors. If creationists could actually do it better, as they always claim they can, then they would attract investors of their own.

    Please do educate.

    It’s basically what it says on the label. Defective transposons are transposons that no longer transpose. They just sit there. Now they do have promoter regions that rarely can be co-opted to serve as promoters for gene transcription if they land in the general region of a gene. But that doesn’t explain the vast majority of them (again, like the pseudogenes) that simply sit passively in the genome. However, if 80% of the genome is functional, then a function will have to be found for the majority of these genetic elements.

  7. What I said was that Michael had been misled by the claims of creationists who knew no more molecular biology than he does.

    I know but it is very easy for those who are not trained on one area to make mistakes in said area. To that end, if there are ENCODErs who don’t know the difference, then one should not expect Michael to know as well. He may have been misled by evolutionists instead of creationists.

    Considering that there exists a theory that accounts for biological function, known as the theory of evolution by means of natural selection, how on Earth is the mere existence of function evidence for “an intelligence”?

    Natural selection prunes and affects survivability, full fledged and properly operating function relates to information. High level information always proceeds from a mind/creator/intelligence. Even low level information like snowflakes require an intelligence to recognize and categorize said information content.

    Behe makes the mistake of assuming that natural selection is about the gradated stepwise addition of parts to a predetermined goal and inconsistently also assumes that natural selection has to happen in one leap.

    While I have not read much on Behe, I would assume he would know that evolution is ad hoc.

    He doesn’t know anything about adaptive landscapes and how genetic drift can fix neutral or nearly-neutral alleles that remove a population from one adaptive peak, move it across a fitness valley, to a higher adaptive peak.

    Could this be because he is a bio-chemist and not a geneticist?

    In fact, protein families are behind a lot of the complexity at the level of cellular processes. Evolution has an explanation: they arise by duplication and divergence from an ancestral protein. This leads to a prediction that homology should be found between the members of the protein family and these proteins should be able to be fit on a gene tree.

    Yes, but this is only part of the picture. How did the ancestral protein arise by natural processes? How did life come from non-life? It is all well and good to postulate that it could have been done by evolution, as I have asked Olorin, what repeatable experiments show that it was done by evolution processes without the need for extrapolation?

  8. The creationist explanation is god—oh, I mean the designer—put them there. But if they were placed there like a bulb in a flowerpot, then why the homology among members of the protein family? Did the designer get lazy and decide to copy-and-paste? And why the homology between the protein family as a whole and proteins of different function?

    The most common answer is common designer and I would add, code recycling. Why should one re-write what works? Homology can mean common ancestry but how exactly does one scientifically test this?

    Um…you just said it: mutations cause the gene to stop transcribing/translating. Sometimes it’s because the promoter region is damaged, but usually it’s because of a premature stop codon.

    Face palm.

    Anybody can apply for a grant; it’s not a private fiefdom of those who accept evolutionary biology.

    Yes, but who automatically gets money for their research? Would their organizations even allow them to pursue creationism driven research if they got grants?

    This is where most IDists fall down because they don’t have a model, they don’t have a mechanism, and they certainly can’t envision doing any tests.

    I would say that they have incomplete models and mechanisms. Detecting design is quite nebulous until you have a really rigorous definition of what is information or in their case, specified complexity.

    The Discovery Institute is rolling in cash, which they could apply to fund scientific research but they don’t.

    Are they really? Even if they were, they are relative recent and not quite organized. They were proclaiming victory even before they became mainstream news material. They seem to be doing research

    If creationists could actually do it better, as they always claim they can, then they would attract investors of their own.

    I don’t think that’s the case in the US where creationism and ID have a stink attached. Creationism in the US seems to be quite disorganized. But you do have a very important point. If you have a better model, it should have better predictive power.

    Now they do have promoter regions that rarely can be co-opted to serve as promoters for gene transcription if they land in the general region of a gene.

    Are you sure it is rare? Can’t they be used for transcription if they encounter a LINE with the necessary rt enzyme? Or is that rare as well?

  9. He may have been misled by evolutionists instead of creationists.

    Except that he doesn’t get his information from “evolutionists”. That would require a degree of intellectual curiosity and willingness to read information unfiltered by creationist distortion that Michael has never shown.

    Natural selection prunes and affects survivability, full fledged and properly operating function relates to information. High level information always proceeds from a mind/creator/intelligence. Even low level information like snowflakes require an intelligence to recognize and categorize said information content.

    Ah, so there really is a Jack Frost. Good to know.

    In order to make this something other than the series of baseless assertions that it currently is, you will have to demonstrate that natural selection is incapable of adding information, which requires the refutations of papers like Kimura 1961 that demonstrate otherwise. You will also have to define and quantify “high level information”, distinguishing it from “low level information”, and show that every instance of “high level information” in nature is the result of “mind/creator/intelligence” without assuming what you’re trying to prove.

    Could this be because he is a bio-chemist and not a geneticist?

    Even biochemists should have a basic competence in genetics (Larry Moran, for example, is certainly more than competent in this field), especially if they’re proposing to overturn one of the most well-confirmed theories of the last two centuries.

    Yes, but this is only part of the picture. How did the ancestral protein arise by natural processes? How did life come from non-life?

    I don’t know. It’s not a matter that has anything to do with evolution except in two possible scenarios: one is that all currently living species were there from the beginning (straight-up creationism) or the ancestral life form was “front loaded” with genes for all the future organisms. Both of these are inconsistent with evidence and reasoning and may be rejected.

    It is all well and good to postulate that it could have been done by evolution, as I have asked Olorin, what repeatable experiments show that it was done by evolution processes without the need for extrapolation?

    That’s a ridiculous question. What evidence is there that the planets stay in their course by the force of gravity without extrapolation? Extrapolation from known causes to past—or even current—events is the basis of all science. What you’re basically asking for is that we rule out that a miracle occurred, which is impossible provided the miracle sufficiently resembles something that can be achieved by natural causes alone. I could say angels push the planets in their courses in ways indistinguishable from what we would expect if it were only gravity operating, but that kind of hypothesis is scientifically useless.

    The most common answer is common designer and I would add, code recycling. Why should one re-write what works?

    But that’s exactly what your “common designer” does do. Not only does your “common designer” alter the sequences of the proteins in a protein family in such a way that they fall neatly into a nested hierarchy that makes it look like they evolved, but your “common designer” also apparently chooses to rewrite the code when it comes to those features that evolutionary biologists say evolved convergently, like eyes in vertebrates and molluscs. The alpha-crystallin of vertebrates is a homolog of a heat shock protein while the omega-crystallin of molluscs is a homolog of aldehyde dehydrogenase. If your “common designer” was so concerned about saving his time (even though if he’s god he has all the time in the world, and all the capabilities) then why would he not also choose to save time in designing lens crystallins? Design a single crystallin and pop it in both lineages would seem to be the most efficient route. And why should he have copied his lens crystallin sequence from proteins with such divergent functions? Can’t he design a crystallin independently of any other protein?

    Homology can mean common ancestry but how exactly does one scientifically test this?

    Phylogenetics seems to work well. If the tree topology is not well-supported, that shows up in statistical tests. Ironically, creationists have done us great service by demonstrating how statistical methods can genuinely distinguish between poorly supported trees by doing “baraminology research” that uses humans as an outgroup (Robinson and Cavanaugh 1998). The bootstrap support for their trees was quite poor indeed. :-D

    Face palm.

    I can only interpret what’s in front of me. To say “Evolution has not explained how and by what mechanism this occurs” is incredibly vague. Are you asking for how genes are disabled? I told you. Are you asking how mutations happen? Depends on the mutation. Is any of this something you couldn’t learn by consulting a decent molecular biology textbook? Not at all. As long as you’re going to ask vague questions, expect answers that don’t satisfy you.

    Yes, but who automatically gets money for their research?

    That’s easy: nobody.

    Would their organizations even allow them to pursue creationism driven research if they got grants?

    No, there are organizations out there that turn down grant money when it’s offered to them. Of course their institutions would allow it. If alternative medicine and therapeutic prayer can attract grants and institutional support, despite the fact that neither are any better supported than creationism, then there’s no reason a legitimate proposal with genuine empirical content from a creationist shouldn’t.

    I would say that they have incomplete models and mechanisms. Detecting design is quite nebulous until you have a really rigorous definition of what is information or in their case, specified complexity.

    It’s also quite nebulous because they don’t identify their designer. Without a mechanism, they cannot make empirical predictions based on ID at all. But identifying the mechanism of design would force them to come out and admit publicly what they all know to be true privately: intelligent design is just the latest version of “creation science”.

    Are they really? Even if they were, they are relative recent and not quite organized. They were proclaiming victory even before they became mainstream news material. They seem to be doing research.

    The Discovery Institute is 18 years old. It didn’t take that long to get scientific research out of the Salk Institute. The difference is, of course, that the Salk Institute was deliberately created to foster scientific research, while the Discovery Institute was deliberately created to foster creationist propaganda and a political, rather than scientific, backlash against evolutionary biology.

    Are you sure it is rare? Can’t they be used for transcription if they encounter a LINE with the necessary rt enzyme? Or is that rare as well?

    You seem to be describing Alus (again, when you’re vague, I can only operate by my best guess), which are reverse translated by the mediation of a LINE, because regular Alus lack the sequences necessary for reverse transcription and insertion at a new point in the genome. Again, like other classes of defective transposons, Alus have occasionally been demonstrated to have an effect on function, but these cases are vanishingly rare.

  10. Forgot the references again:
    Kimura M. (1961) Natural selection as the process of accumulating genetic information in adaptive evolution. Genetical Research, 2(1): 127-140.
    Robinson DA, Cavanaugh DP. (1998) A quantitative approach to baraminology with examples from the primates. Creation Research Society Quarterly 34(4): 196–208.

  11. Nullifidian,

    “Except that he doesn’t get his information from “evolutionists”. That would require a degree of intellectual curiosity and willingness to read information unfiltered by creationist distortion that Michael has never shown.”

    You mean I don’t agree with them. And here you are, someone who believes that a made-up explosion called the Big Bang was different from all explosions that people have actually observed. An explosion they say, created matter and thus…things supposedly evolved all the way up to junk-DNA. However, explosions that we observe in the real world don’t produce matter. Your not going to blow up your car to create a new transmission. I don’t care how many explosions a lab can produce because they assume the big bang did it, you will get the same destructive force rather than creating matter.

    “And that, said Dr. Bradley Bernstein, an Encode researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital, “is a really big deal.” He added, “I don’t think anyone predicted that would be the case.”

    My post has to do with the prevailing theory which predicted junk DNA. Hasn’t it long been the assumption that there are elements within DNA which are the junk remnants of our evolutionary history, and that there must be a lot of them? And weren’t they supposed to be located in the 95% of our DNA that does not produce proteins?

    Is Richard Dawkins lying when what he said in 2012, that evolution predicted function with junk DNA? Isn’t the data which is supposed to be the object of the prediction rather than the data making the predictions?

  12. You mean I don’t agree with them.

    No, I meant what I said: you don’t even look at them. I still remember discussing the article that first brought me to your site, and by saying you didn’t bother to read it, I’m actually extending to you the benefit of the doubt. If you had read it, then you would be guilty of grievously misrepresenting the paper to make it say the opposite of what it, and the article it was reviewing, was about.

    And here you are, someone who believes that a made-up explosion called the Big Bang was different from all explosions that people have actually observed.

    You have no basis for assuming anything about what I think regarding the Big Bang. However, it is true that the Big Bang was unlike an explosion… because the Big Bang was not an explosion.

    My post has to do with the prevailing theory which predicted junk DNA. Hasn’t it long been the assumption that there are elements within DNA which are the junk remnants of our evolutionary history, and that there must be a lot of them?

    The short answer is: no. The long answer is: hell no.

    The prevailing theory of genome structure was that it was going to be a highly orderly and functional system with genes lined up one against the other and with relatively little non-coding DNA that, if it existed at all, would be found to be functional. Maybe a few people predicted pseudogenes based on such things as the inability to synthesize vitamin C, but most people believed that natural selection would act to sweep out truly redundant and nonfunctional DNA from the genome. That is why, beginning in the early 1970s, those arguing for widespread junk DNA on the basis of positive arguments for its existence had an uphill battle to convince the rest of the scientific world. To the extent that it succeeded, it was also because these arguments supported neutral theory, which was itself fighting a prevailing selectionist attitude. Neutral theory and junk DNA established their scientific bona fides again and again until even the selectionists had to relent, but they still exist and they’re eager to tear down junk DNA at the earliest opportunity.

    And weren’t they supposed to be located in the 95% of our DNA that does not produce proteins?

    Junk DNA certainly wasn’t thought to consist of coding DNA.

    Is Richard Dawkins lying when what he said in 2012, that evolution predicted function with junk DNA?

    No, he’s simply taking the selectionist line. The selectionists have been banging on for the last forty years, ever since Ohno and Comings first proposed it, about how the all or the vast majority of the genome would be found to be functional, that junk DNA was an illusion, etc. etc.

    As I said above, if your creationist leaders can convince you that a theory that has natural selection as a major mechanism is incapable of accounting for biological function, then they can convince you of absolutely anything.

    Isn’t the data which is supposed to be the object of the prediction rather than the data making the predictions?

    No for two reasons. First, the data does not establish that the majority of the genome is functional. It never did. The only way ENCODE got to claim that it had discovered 80% function was to define function in terms of biochemical activity, which is not how anybody else in biology defines “function”. Thus the demonstration that the majority of the genome has function—in the sense that its sequence is constrained by organism-level function—is still to be made.

    Second, predictions and retrodictions are functionally equivalent in science—the only thing that changes is the order of discovery. If retrodictions were not acceptable to scientists, then no new theories and hypotheses would ever be advanced if they hadn’t sprung forth, like Athena from the brow of Zeus, fully formed out of the mind of the scientist. All hypotheses are initially based on what one has already observed. If the hypothesis is capable of accounting for existing observations, then the time exists to put it to the test by either predicting what hasn’t occurred or what hasn’t yet been found. Watson and Crick weren’t being non-scientists when they used X-ray crystallography to deduce the structure of DNA, and then predict things about DNA synthesis that cells had already been doing for roughly four billion years.

    Finally, one last observation: I really love the dilemma junk DNA puts creationists in. They can either throw in their lot with the hyper-selectionists who dispute junk DNA just as fiercely, but then they have no legitimate basis to complain that functionality in the genome refutes “Darwinism” (whatever that is), or they can take a stand against the hyper-selectionists by joining with the neutralists and pluralists, but then they have to admit that the genome is a mess of nonfunctional and parasitic DNA. Since I’ve already made one Classical analogy, I’ll give you another: you’re between Scylla and Charybdis. ROTFLMAO!!

  13. In order to make this something other than the series of baseless assertions that it currently is, you will have to demonstrate that natural selection is incapable of adding information, which requires the refutations of papers like Kimura 1961 that demonstrate otherwise.

    Kimura (1961) does not show how natural selection adds information, it shows the amount of information that could be added assuming evolution is true. Ayala [1] states:

    A second, more basic flaw is that Kimura is not measuring how much genetic information has been accumulated in any given organism. Rather, he assumes that genetic information gradually accumulates with time and then proceeds to estimate the rate at which genetic information could have accumulated. The assumption that more recent organisms have more genetic information and that, therefore, they are more progressive than their ancestors is unwarranted and completely invalidates Kimura’s attempt to measure evolutionary progress. Moreover, there is, at least at present, no way of measuring the amount of genetic information present in anyone organism …

    You will also have to define and quantify “high level information”, distinguishing it from “low level information”, and show that every instance of “high level information” in nature is the result of “mind/creator/intelligence” without assuming what you’re trying to prove.

    To me, high level information in an evolutionary context is that which is added to DNA through successive, random, naturally selected mutations resulting in new functions previously unknown in said organism. Low level information is repeated patterns like 01010101010101 ad infinitum or something simple like a snowflake à la Jack Frost. One does not need to show that every instance of high level information requires a mind because all information requires interpretation from the receiver which is always the product of a mind or intelligence. I know of no known communication receiver which receives and decodes information where the receiver is not designed i.e. shows specified complexity or high level information content.

  14. I don’t know. It’s not a matter that has anything to do with evolution except in two possible scenarios: one is that all currently living species were there from the beginning (straight-up creationism) or the ancestral life form was “front loaded” with genes for all the future organisms. Both of these are inconsistent with evidence and reasoning and may be rejected.

    I don’t follow your reasoning. Evolution postulates that life came from non-life. Yet it has not shown exactly how this is possible in even one case. Thus evolution even if it can describe in minutia how all the biology works, it would still fail as a scientific explanation for the chemical aspect not to mention the cosmological absurdity of a singularity.

    That’s a ridiculous question. What evidence is there that the planets stay in their course by the force of gravity without extrapolation?

    Yes but we can performed testable experiments with scaled models. This is actually simple compared to what evolution proposes. Evolution proposes that everything naturalistic is the product of evolution after the big bang. Thus to be scientific even if using extrapolation, one would need multiple repeatable experiments in cosmology, chemistry, geology and biology. An extrapolation would need to actually show a scaled working model of how something works but I know of no experiment where mutations produce entirely new functions. You gave Kimura but he did not show how it occurred. If you have some other hypotheses, I would love to hear it.

  15. Extrapolation from known causes to past—or even current—events is the basis of all science.

    Yes, iff you can show a scaled working model. Evolution is too complex to be in the same league as a simple model of gravitational forces of attraction which would only require one equation with 4 variables.

    What you’re basically asking for is that we rule out that a miracle occurred, which is impossible provided the miracle sufficiently resembles something that can be achieved by natural causes alone.

    Hardly, this is what evolutionists desire to do by assuming that a natural process is sufficient that there is no need for an intelligence involved (theism) or uninvolved (deism).

    I could say angels push the planets in their courses in ways indistinguishable from what we would expect if it were only gravity operating, but that kind of hypothesis is scientifically useless.

    Yes but no one save the most simplistic of creationists would argue something in that vein.

    But that’s exactly what your “common designer” does do. Not only does your “common designer” alter the sequences of the proteins in a protein family in such a way that they fall neatly into a nested hierarchy that makes it look like they evolved, but your “common designer” also apparently chooses to rewrite the code when it comes to those features that evolutionary biologists say evolved convergently, like eyes in vertebrates and molluscs.

    The common designer does not make things look like they evolved, you assume it to be so on pure naturalism. The common designer does not care what evolutionary biologists think about supposed convergence. The issue is that it is also possible from what we know about how things work; that homology could be the work of a common designer.

  16. The alpha-crystallin of vertebrates is a homolog of a heat shock protein while the omega-crystallin of molluscs is a homolog of aldehyde dehydrogenase. If your “common designer” was so concerned about saving his time (even though if he’s god he has all the time in the world, and all the capabilities) then why would he not also choose to save time in designing lens crystallins? Design a single crystallin and pop it in both lineages would seem to be the most efficient route. And why should he have copied his lens crystallin sequence from proteins with such divergent functions? Can’t he design a crystallin independently of any other protein?

    Have you ever seen a created object ask its designer why it was designed as it is? To ask these questions is to make oneself higher than the designer.

    Phylogenetics seems to work well. If the tree topology is not well-supported, that shows up in statistical tests. Ironically, creationists have done us great service by demonstrating how statistical methods can genuinely distinguish between poorly supported trees by doing “baraminology research” that uses humans as an outgroup (Robinson and Cavanaugh 1998). The bootstrap support for their trees was quite poor indeed. :-D

    Phylogenetics assumes that commonality in coding = common descent. But as stated before, there is no reason to assume that a common designer could not have code recycled. Also, correlation does not always show causation. There seems to be some problem with cline assignment and homology [2]. That said, where can I find the phylogenetic degree of similarity between different organisms?

    I can only interpret what’s in front of me. To say “Evolution has not explained how and by what mechanism this occurs” is incredibly vague. Are you asking for how genes are disabled? I told you. Are you asking how mutations happen? Depends on the mutation. Is any of this something you couldn’t learn by consulting a decent molecular biology textbook? Not at all. As long as you’re going to ask vague questions, expect answers that don’t satisfy you.

    No no, I’m face-palming myself for asking answers.

  17. That’s easy: nobody.

    University lecturers get free financing where I’m from. Perhaps it’s different elsewhere.

    No, there are organizations out there that turn down grant money when it’s offered to them. Of course their institutions would allow it. If alternative medicine and therapeutic prayer can attract grants and institutional support, despite the fact that neither are any better supported than creationism, then there’s no reason a legitimate proposal with genuine empirical content from a creationist shouldn’t.

    Alternative medicine has a long history and is used by the world’s two largest countries. Therapeutic prayer is a single issue. Creationism, like evolutionism, isn’t. Not to mention the small grant size for therapeutic prayer wouldn’t be enough to finance something like ICR’s RATE.

    But identifying the mechanism of design would force them to come out and admit publicly what they all know to be true privately: intelligent design is just the latest version of “creation science”.

    I’m not too sure about that since despite having creationists in their broad tent, many speak poorly about creationism calling it simplistic. One article by David Klinghoffer was especially acerbic, I think even more so than towards evolutionists. And, they have self-described atheists under their tent as well.

    You seem to be describing Alus (again, when you’re vague, I can only operate by my best guess), which are reverse translated by the mediation of a LINE, because regular Alus lack the sequences necessary for reverse transcription and insertion at a new point in the genome. Again, like other classes of defective transposons, Alus have occasionally been demonstrated to have an effect on function, but these cases are vanishingly rare.

    Yes, sorry I did mean Alus. Good to know about the rarity.

    [1] Ayala, Franciso. 1982. “The Evooutionary Concept of Progress” in Almond et. al (eds). Progress and Its Discontent. Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 114.
    [2] http://www.icr.org/article/rapidly-unraveling-thread-between-dna-human-evolut/

  18. Nullifidian,

    “Leslie Orgel and Francis Crick wrote that “much DNA in higher organisms is little better than junk,” and its accumulation in the course of evolution “can be compared to the spread of a not-too-harmful parasite within its host.” Since it is unlikely that such DNA has a function, Orgel and Crick concluded, “it would be folly in such cases to hunt obsessively for one.”

    The prediction for the modern intelligent design movement (not creationism)…“intelligent agents design objects for a purpose, and therefore intelligent design predicts that biological structures will have function.”

    You say…

    “The prevailing theory of genome structure was that it was going to be a highly orderly and functional system with genes lined up one against the other and with relatively little non-coding DNA that, if it existed at all, would be found to be functional.”

    If it was the “prevailing theory”as you put it, then why did two biologists in Nature (285:617,618) plead with scientists that they should not give up on discovering function with “junk DNA?” Cavalier-Smith believed it was “premature” to dismiss non-protein-coding DNA as junk, and Gabriel Dover wrote that “we should not abandon all hope of arriving at an understanding of the manner in which some sequences might affect the biology of organisms in completely novel and somewhat unconventional ways.”If they were that concerned then it wasn’t isolated rather widespread, because if was such an up hill battle to sway the scientific community in the last 40 years concerning the assumption of junk DNA would not find function in the future there would be no logical reason to make such a plead to their fellow scientists!

    Scientific American gives reasons why people should accept junk DNA (you might refer to them as, “selectionists”) in response to the ENCODE discovery…

    1. The understanding that evolution is an inherently messy and inefficient process that often produces junk. This junk may be retained if it’s not causing trouble. (Then it uses circular reasoning…“If evolution is messy, chemistry is equally messy.”)

    2. The realization that the vast differences in genome sizes are much better explained by junk DNA than by assuming that most DNA is truly functional.

    3. The understanding that mutational loads would be prohibitive had most of our DNA not been junk.

    Then the article concludes…

    “The dustup from the ENCODE findings suggests that scientists continue to find order and purpose in an orderless and purposeless universe which can nonetheless produce structures of great beauty.”

    Discovering order along with purpose is a confirmation of intelligence creating the design in nature (not agents, rather only God). A mindless process has no purpose, natural selection is not a tool nor can it put in orders for specified new information to not only create new parts but make things run smoother, thus avoiding junk, it doesn’t have objectives for various designs, nor does it take measured risks either!

    And another thing, if it was so prevailing for the last 40 years, why the term Junk DNA? Why not use a term like “unknown function” DNA? Or something similar to that?

  19. Kimura (1961) does not show how natural selection adds information, it shows the amount of information that could be added assuming evolution is true.

    Can you demonstrate that with reference to the original paper, and not what a secondary source said about it?

    To me, high level information in an evolutionary context is that which is added to DNA through successive, random, naturally selected mutations resulting in new functions previously unknown in said organism.

    I asked you for a quantitative definition. Otherwise how am I to determine that a gain in “high-level information” has happened?

    Also, your definition is incredibly restrictive, which is yet another indication that ID creationists give of not knowing anything about how evolution works at the level of the genome. For example, why “successive”? Why not “simultaneous”? Why not “as the result of exon shuffling”? Why not “as the result of recombination”? Why not “as the result of horizontal gene transfer”? Why not “by a single mutation that abruptly alters function?” These (and others) are all ways that evolution can occur at the genomic level, and you wave them away without any justification why.

    Random is also tricky, because not all mutations are random in their location–there are mutational hotspots occasionally–but they are random with respect to organismal fitness. Perhaps I’m being overcautious, but not many people understand that, not even leading IDists.

    And “naturally selected”? Why naturally selected when the majority of evolution at the genomic level is due to genetic drift? Does every “successive” mutation have to be fixed by natural selection? Why?

    I know of no known communication receiver which receives and decodes information where the receiver is not designed i.e. shows specified complexity or high level information content.

    “Specified complexity” is an term that has not been rigorously defined–in fact, it is often defined inconsistently even by Dembski himself–and the way you’ve defined “high-level information content” cannot be generalized outside of the genome, so assuming that the genome is the result of design is the very definition of begging the question.

    I don’t follow your reasoning. Evolution postulates that life came from non-life.

    No it doesn’t.

    Evolution proposes that everything naturalistic is the product of evolution after the big bang.

    No it doesn’t. Evolution is not an alternative cosmogeny; it is simply a theory for explaining the diversity of life on Earth and the fact of heritable changes in populations over generations.

    An extrapolation would need to actually show a scaled working model of how something works but I know of no experiment where mutations produce entirely new functions.

    Experimental evolution of novel functions under laboratory conditions has been going on before I was born, and I’m in my thirties now. Richard Lenski’s lab just gave us another example by evolving a population of E. coli that can metabolize citrate in the presence of oxygen, something that they can ordinarily only do in the absence of oxygen, and since it was the only thing being grown in the lab, it can be ruled out that this series of mutations was imported by horizontal transfer.

    The common designer does not make things look like they evolved, you assume it to be so on pure naturalism.

    No, I conclude it to be so based on the evidence.

    The issue is that it is also possible from what we know about how things work; that homology could be the work of a common designer.

    No, that is not also possible from what we know about how things work. It makes no sense of the evidence at all. I already gave the example of lens crystallins. When human designers design windows, they may use materials of different tensile strengths and thicknesses, but fundamentally it’s all glass or polymers. There is no reason why a designer should choose to go around sticking lens crystallins that are all functionally equivalent but different in sequence and structure just where we expect these features to have evolved independently by convergent evolution. There is no reason why these lens crystallins should be related to proteins of different functions like aldehyde dehydrogenase. We’ve confirmed that there is no enzymatic function here, so why not just design a crystallin independently of these different proteins with wildly divergent functions? It’s like taking a slab of concrete and then adapting it to function as a glass window.

    Have you ever seen a created object ask its designer why it was designed as it is? To ask these questions is to make oneself higher than the designer.

    You’ve just given an excellent capsule reason why intelligent design creationism is not and will never be science. In science these are the things we have to ask, because it’s based on what we observe. We need to reason about our observations and come to a conclusion. Evolution explains this very well. We know from the fossil record that the first chordates were blind, so if vertebrates and molluscs share a common ancestor, these eyes (despite superficial similarities) must be the result of convergent evolution. Now, we expect convergent evolution to produce striking but imperfect similarities, since there’s no gene flow that would induce these separate evolutionary events to follow precisely the same trajectory, and that’s what we see. We also expect to see that, in the case of lens crystallins, proteins of different functions would be recruited for the same task, because evolution can only work with what it has.

    Evolution has an explanation. Intelligent design waggles its finger at us, telling us not to be rude and to stop asking so many impertinent questions.

    Phylogenetics assumes that commonality in coding = common descent.

    So? If the support for an evolutionary lineage were poor, then the statistical methods we use to test tree topologies would demonstrate it.

    But as stated before, there is no reason to assume that a common designer could not have code recycled.

    But that makes no sense! If code is recycled, then it’s recycled. There should be 100% homology among all living organisms into which the designer inserted this code. And if the code is inserted, then it should be inserted and not related to other codes of entirely different functions. Instead we see widespread homology between proteins of different functions, and we see divergences among the proteins that are related to how long ago they diverged from a common ancestor. You might be inclined to claim that they’ve just been specially tailored to the functions of the organisms, except that the majority of these divergences happen to occur in non-functional residues.

    Why would a designer look over his creation and think, “Hey, those antimicrobial and antifungal proteins I’ve created would make a great scorpion toxin!”? The evolutionary logic explains it: it’s all about different adaptations of the function of permeabilizing membranes. And even if the designer did think this, why would he then tinker with these scorpion toxins so that they act on two different mechanisms? The agitoxin-2 of the deathstalker (Leiurus quinquestriatus) binds with a potassium ion channel, and toxin-2 in the Mexican scorpion (Centruroides noxius) binds with a sodium ion channel. Different functions, different substrates, but they’re undeniably the same protein with the same tertiary structure. Proposing “code recycling” explains nothing here.

    There seems to be some problem with cline assignment and homology [2].

    I read that article, and I was embarrassed on behalf of the author. How can one take an article seriously when its author advances the claim that “But since people and chimpanzees eat the same food, breathe the same air, and drink the same water, wouldn’t much of their DNA be the same?” By that logic, we should be equally as close, phylogenetically, to rabbits as chimpanzees.

    And among the out-of-date and out-of-context quotes, they include this gem: “If molecular data [such as comparing DNA] have provoked strong reactions among researchers interested in the evolution of whales, that is nothing compared to the hornet’s nest stirred up among palaeoanthropologists [those who study `human evolution’]”

    Unfortunately for them that strong reaction among researchers of cetacean evolution was resolved in favor of molecular biology by the discovery of new whale fossils with hind legs (and there’s something to explain right there: whales with hind legs) that placed them in the artiodactyls, just as the molecular data had predicted. Now the whole lineage is called the Cetartiodactyla. Creationism has a long record of failure in light of new evolutionary research.

    Alternative medicine has a long history and is used by the world’s two largest countries.

    Not that long a history. It depends on the kind of alternative medicine. Naturopathy is barely older than a century, homeopathy is barely older than two. And homeopathy has gotten institutional support to research from the NCCAM, even though we know from physical principles that people are are drinking distilled water. It’s a placebo.

    Therapeutic prayer is a single issue. Creationism, like evolutionism, isn’t.

    So? You can still narrow down a subject in order to get a grant. In fact, that’s required. A grant whose proposal read nothing more than, “I wanna study evolution!” would be treated as joke at any grant-providing institution.

    Not to mention the small grant size for therapeutic prayer wouldn’t be enough to finance something like ICR’s RATE.

    Hardly that critical, since RATE didn’t do original research and had nobody on the team with professional experience in geochronology.

  20. “Leslie Orgel and Francis Crick wrote that “much DNA in higher organisms is little better than junk,” and its accumulation in the course of evolution “can be compared to the spread of a not-too-harmful parasite within its host.” Since it is unlikely that such DNA has a function, Orgel and Crick concluded, “it would be folly in such cases to hunt obsessively for one.”

    So, what’s wrong with this? In fact, you should have never mentioned this passage, because it undermines your later claims, as we will see.

    The prediction for the modern intelligent design movement (not creationism)…“intelligent agents design objects for a purpose, and therefore intelligent design predicts that biological structures will have function.”

    Which is indistinguishable from what is predicted by the selectionist model, and is vague and uninformative. Not that I blame you for being vague. The last time a creationist tried to make a specific prediction of function, it was Jonathan Wells claiming that centrioles kinda sorta look like turbines, and turbines rotate, so the rotation of centrioles must be the cause of the polar ejection force. (As an aside, this demonstrates the truth of a contention I’ve often made that intelligent design is little more than pareidolia—like people who claim to see the Virgin Mary in a traffic cone and Jesus in Marmite). That prediction flopped embarrassingly.

    If they were that concerned then it wasn’t isolated rather widespread, because if was such an up hill battle to sway the scientific community in the last 40 years concerning the assumption of junk DNA would not find function in the future there would be no logical reason to make such a plead to their fellow scientists!

    Then by the same token, why did Orgel and Crick issue that plea to their fellow scientists to not waste their time “hunting obsessively” for function in the genome, unless the hypothesis of widespread function was the dominant one? I told you you were going to regret quoting that article.

    And in fact, that’s exactly what was going on. Orgel and Crick’s article was the genomic equivalent of the Gould and Lewontin “spandrels” paper: a plea to a community of scientists who were obsessed by the concept of finding function in every last genetic element. What your site doesn’t tell you is that those two quotes come from letters in response to the Orgel and Crick paper, thus their plea was to Orgel and Crick and the other advocates of “junk DNA” and not a generalized plea to the scientific community.

    Scientific American gives reasons why people should accept junk DNA (you might refer to them as, “selectionists”)

    I refer to those who think that natural selection is the exclusive agent of evolutionary change as selectionists.

    in response to the ENCODE discovery…

    1. The understanding that evolution is an inherently messy and inefficient process that often produces junk. This junk may be retained if it’s not causing trouble. (Then it uses circular reasoning…“If evolution is messy, chemistry is equally messy.”)

    No it doesn’t. You misread the paragraph. He introduced the idea that evolution is messy, but the bulk of the rest of the paragraph is about how it is messy, by outlining the nonfunctional genetic elements. The presence of things like defective transposons and pseudogenes has to be accounted if one wants to claim the majority of the genome is functional.

    2. The realization that the vast differences in genome sizes are much better explained by junk DNA than by assuming that most DNA is truly functional.

    3. The understanding that mutational loads would be prohibitive had most of our DNA not been junk.

    And these are two solid arguments that have yet to be refuted by either the selectionists or the intelligent design creationists. In Jonathan Wells’ book on junk DNA, he doesn’t even mention the mutational load argument for junk DNA.

    Then the article concludes…

    “The dustup from the ENCODE findings suggests that scientists continue to find order and purpose in an orderless and purposeless universe which can nonetheless produce structures of great beauty.”

    Discovering order along with purpose is a confirmation of intelligence creating the design in nature (not agents, rather only God).

    Again, you are completely missing the author’s point. Finding order and purpose can also be a sign of pareidolia, as I mentioned above, and that is what the author is claiming is going on here. The scientists are looking for order and purpose in a system that is neither orderly nor purposeful.

    A mindless process has no purpose, natural selection is not a tool nor can it put in orders for specified new information to not only create new parts but make things run smoother, thus avoiding junk, it doesn’t have objectives for various designs, nor does it take measured risks either!

    At least you’ve got that right, although it could eliminate junk in principle if there were a strong selective reason for it, such as rapid replication. Many scientists argue that this is what happened to many prokaryotes and some examples of organisms with small C-values in the eukaryotic world.

    And another thing, if it was so prevailing for the last 40 years, why the term Junk DNA? Why not use a term like “unknown function” DNA? Or something similar to that?

    Because the issue was never unknown function, but the absence of function! You’re still clinging to the creationist lie that scientists just lazily declared anything they didn’t know the function of as junk, even though you’ve already shown in your own post that there are positive arguments for junk DNA, and those arguments continue to go unaddressed.

    Let me give you a piece of helpful, well-intentioned advice: if you read anything about evolutionary biology on a creationist or intelligent design website, chances are that what you are reading is false. You need to evaluate their claims and their quotes (or quote mines) against what scientists really say now and what they said then.

  21. Bravura, Nullifidian!

    Creationists spew forth a of miasma of misrepresentations and quote-mines , then demand that scientists clean up their mess.

    You may have also noticed that creationists lack any sense of what is reasonable or unreasonable in science. Often puzzling until one realizes whence it springs. Then it’s risible.

  22. Can you demonstrate that with reference to the original paper, and not what a secondary source said about it?

    Sadly I don’t have access to the paper but the abstract states as much [http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=1743332]

    I asked you for a quantitative definition. Otherwise how am I to determine that a gain in “high-level information” has happened?

    That is quantitative. It must be mutations which produce a novel function.

    Also, your definition is incredibly restrictive, which is yet another indication that ID creationists give of not knowing anything about how evolution works at the level of the genome. For example, why “successive”? Why not “simultaneous”? Why not “as the result of exon shuffling”? Why not “as the result of recombination”? Why not “as the result of horizontal gene transfer”? Why not “by a single mutation that abruptly alters function?” These (and others) are all ways that evolution can occur at the genomic level, and you wave them away without any justification why.

    Successive does not rule out simultaneous. The process is not necessary as long as the result is increased information through mutations which give a new, previously unknown function. Thus I don’t wave anything away but give much room for how it may occur.

    Random is also tricky, because not all mutations are random in their location–there are mutational hotspots occasionally–but they are random with respect to organismal fitness. Perhaps I’m being overcautious, but not many people understand that, not even leading IDists.

    No problem, random and/or non-random then.

    And “naturally selected”? Why naturally selected when the majority of evolution at the genomic level is due to genetic drift? Does every “successive” mutation have to be fixed by natural selection? Why?

    No problem again, natural selection and/or genetic drift

    so assuming that the genome is the result of design is the very definition of begging the question

    If the genome was not designed (purpose, planning, or intention that exists or is thought to exist behind an action, fact, or material object), then why do people study it?

    No it doesn’t.

    Then where did life come from? Asteroids? Quantum oscillations?

    No it doesn’t. Evolution is not an alternative cosmogeny; it is simply a theory for explaining the diversity of life on Earth and the fact of heritable changes in populations over generations.

    Nope, that’s biological evolution. Evolution as a general theory encompasses cosmological and chemical evolution as well.

  23. Experimental evolution of novel functions under laboratory conditions has been going on before I was born, and I’m in my thirties now. Richard Lenski’s lab just gave us another example by evolving a population of E. coli that can metabolize citrate in the presence of oxygen, something that they can ordinarily only do in the absence of oxygen, and since it was the only thing being grown in the lab, it can be ruled out that this series of mutations was imported by horizontal transfer.

    So exactly what mutations occurred in this experiment? And what was done as a control to make sure that this ability was not simply switched off in the original population? Also, what other experiments before Lenski showed new functions experimentally?

    No, I conclude it to be so based on the evidence.

    There is no one who does not bring preconceived notions even to evidence. Alternatively, creationists could say the same thing. It’s about the interpretation, not the evidence.

    No, that is not also possible from what we know about how things work. It makes no sense of the evidence at all. I already gave the example of lens crystallins.

    And I also gave the example of code recycling which has nothing to do with saving time but everything to do with functionality. Programmers always code recycle so it is a possibility. To say it is not a possibility is to assume naturalism.

    There is no reason why a designer should choose to go around sticking lens crystallins that are all functionally equivalent but different in sequence and structure just where we expect these features to have evolved independently by convergent evolution.

    This is presupposing to know everything there is about vertebrate and invertebrate eye functionality. It could be because one is better suited for a particular cladistic environment.

    There is no reason why these lens crystallins should be related to proteins of different functions like aldehyde dehydrogenase. We’ve confirmed that there is no enzymatic function here, so why not just design a crystallin independently of these different proteins with wildly divergent functions? It’s like taking a slab of concrete and then adapting it to function as a glass window.

    That’s an improper analogy. The base function is window not glass window. Both a concrete window and a glass window act as windows. The issue is why would one have a concrete or glass window i.e. what unique functions are needed.

  24. You’ve just given an excellent capsule reason why intelligent design creationism is not and will never be science. In science these are the things we have to ask, because it’s based on what we observe.

    The issue is not about the asking, it is about you presupposing what someone else did (or didn’t do) while not knowing anything about said designer. But perhaps I am being hasty. So assuming that the biblical designer exists and he created the universe, what are 5 testable attributes of said designer that haven’t been discussed so far?

    We need to reason about our observations and come to a conclusion.

    We need to reason correctly and find the truth even if it goes against present reasoning.

    Evolution explains this very well.

    And so does a designer.

    We know from the fossil record that the first chordates were blind, so if vertebrates and molluscs share a common ancestor, these eyes (despite superficial similarities) must be the result of convergent evolution. Now, we expect convergent evolution to produce striking but imperfect similarities, since there’s no gene flow that would induce these separate evolutionary events to follow precisely the same trajectory, and that’s what we see. We also expect to see that, in the case of lens crystallins, proteins of different functions would be recruited for the same task, because evolution can only work with what it has.

    Were the first chordates always blind or did they lose function? What environmental pressures caused said convergent sight evolution? How can one test that evolution can only work with what it had when we do not know what material it had nor what pressures it had at what specific time and for what specific period(s)? All you are doing is extrapolating without a testable mechanism for new functionality and thinking that its science.

  25. Evolution has an explanation. Intelligent design waggles its finger at us, telling us not to be rude and to stop asking so many impertinent questions.

    Evolution may have an explanation but is it correct? ID and creationism also have explanations and have never hampered asking scientific questions. My point is that I don’t believe you are any position to be asking those questions due to your lack of understanding the nature of the designer but as per above, you can show that I am incorrect.

    So? If the support for an evolutionary lineage were poor, then the statistical methods we use to test tree topologies would demonstrate it.

    You are assuming that the methods employed are themselves correct and that homology = common descent.

    But that makes no sense! If code is recycled, then it’s recycled. There should be 100% homology among all living organisms into which the designer inserted this code.

    Hardly, there would be some commonality, not 100%.

    And if the code is inserted, then it should be inserted and not related to other codes of entirely different functions. Instead we see widespread homology between proteins of different functions, and we see divergences among the proteins that are related to how long ago they diverged from a common ancestor. You might be inclined to claim that they’ve just been specially tailored to the functions of the organisms, except that the majority of these divergences happen to occur in non-functional residues.

    A recycled code can be related to another code for another function but would have less similarity. Most codes follow similar patterns (homology) but that does not mean because there is an ‘else if’ command in different functions that they are necessarily homologous. This just shows that the designer is following the programming syntax. And why can they not happen in non functional genes? What precludes this?

  26. Why would a designer look over his creation and think, “Hey, those antimicrobial and antifungal proteins I’ve created would make a great scorpion toxin!”? The evolutionary logic explains it: it’s all about different adaptations of the function of permeabilizing membranes. And even if the designer did think this, why would he then tinker with these scorpion toxins so that they act on two different mechanisms? The agitoxin-2 of the deathstalker (Leiurus quinquestriatus) binds with a potassium ion channel, and toxin-2 in the Mexican scorpion (Centruroides noxius) binds with a sodium ion channel. Different functions, different substrates, but they’re undeniably the same protein with the same tertiary structure. Proposing “code recycling” explains nothing here.

    You don’t seem to understand how programming works. If a coder recycles his codes, there is nothing stopping him from making slight modifications according to the function he desires. Additionally, the biblical designer permits good functions to mutate into bad functions due to sin. Thus present biodiversity. Scorpions remain at base scorpions, but they can have differences. There is nothing preventing the above scenario from occurring on creationism.

    Unfortunately for them that strong reaction among researchers of cetacean evolution was resolved in favor of molecular biology by the discovery of new whale fossils with hind legs (and there’s something to explain right there: whales with hind legs) that placed them in the artiodactyls, just as the molecular data had predicted. Now the whole lineage is called the Cetartiodactyla. Creationism has a long record of failure in light of new evolutionary research.

    Sidestepping. The issue was that there seemed to be some problem with cline assignment and homology, not whether the author was outdated. Also, I asked: where can I find the phylogenetic degree of similarity between different organisms? If we could see the coding and the cladistic algorithms, that would go a long way in bolstering your arguments.

    Hardly that critical, since RATE didn’t do original research and had nobody on the team with professional experience in geochronology.

    Why does it need to be original? It just needs to be correct. And the issue is cost, not qualifications.

    And what other papers are there beside Kimura which supposedly show the evolution of new functions?

  27. Sadly I don’t have access to the paper but the abstract states as much

    Actually, neither the abstract nor the paper supports Ayala’s criticism. Ayala’s mistake lay in assuming that measuring complexity of organisms today compared to that of a single-celled organism in the distant past and averaging the change for the purpose of his equation meant that Kimura believed that a constant increase in complexity was how evolution occurred. Instead, it’s just an average. To give another example to perhaps make it clearer, or more muddy (but I hope not), the average rate of evolutionary change in the fossil record has been measured at 0.6 darwins (a unit of measure of evolutionary change invented by J.B.S. Haldane). To argue as Ayala has done would be to assume that calculating this average figure means that the person who calculated it believes that all evolutionary change uniformly happens at this rate, instead of many different rates that average out to this figure.

    That is quantitative. It must be mutations which produce a novel function.

    Quantitative means that it can be calculated. Standing over me yelling “MORE! MORE! MORE!” is not actually quantitative. This is why I dislike having conversations with creationists. It’s an endless snipe hunt with you people. You want me to present evidence that evolution leads to MORE genetic information, but you can’t define “genetic information”, you can’t quantify how much there is or how much evolution should be able to provide, and you don’t show why you require that evolution should produce any. There are models for calculating the amount of information in a string of DNA—the main reason why I cited the Kimura paper was to give a practicable demonstration of that using Shannon information—but creationists don’t use those. If they did, they’d have to admit that every gene duplication is an addition of information, because it now takes more information to fully characterize the string of nucleotides. Instead, they invent bizarre and generally irrelevant definitions of biological information, which they then proceed to throw at biologists with the demand “EXPLAIN THIS!” when it’s never been shown (and cannot be shown) that their novelty definitions have anything to do with biology.

    But if you’re sincere about finding a mechanism of generating new functions, then gene duplication and divergence is one of them. This process is called neofunctionalization (other outcomes are subfunctionalization, where the duplicate becomes a sub-unit of the protein family; superfunctionalization, where the duplicate protein enhances the activity of the original; and nonfunctionalization, where the protein acquires disabling mutations and becomes a pseudogene). In the case of the Lenski E. coli experiment, one of the critical mutations that allowed the creation of this novel metabolic pathway was the neofunctionalization of a regulatory gene.

    If the genome was not designed (purpose, planning, or intention that exists or is thought to exist behind an action, fact, or material object), then why do people study it?

    Because it’s there. I don’t think there’s any aspect of the natural world that exists (save perhaps for some species that’s yet to be discovered—and there will be people looking for them) that doesn’t have at least a few scientists studying it. It’s all grist to our mill, and we don’t have to believe that it was designed in order to find it a worthy object of inquiry.

    Then where did life come from? Asteroids? Quantum oscillations?

    Quite frankly, nobody knows yet.

    Nope, that’s biological evolution. Evolution as a general theory encompasses cosmological and chemical evolution as well.

    There is no such thing as “evolution as a general theory”. When people speak of the theory of evolution, they always mean evolutionary biology. Cosmological theories have their own names, like the Big Bang Theory, Inflationary Theory, etc. So does origins of life research (e.g. the RNA world). To call these all “evolution” is just to create confusion, which is probably the result you’re after.

    So exactly what mutations occurred in this experiment? And what was done as a control to make sure that this ability was not simply switched off in the original population? Also, what other experiments before Lenski showed new functions experimentally?

    Considering that you didn’t even bother to read the link that I provided, which would have answered these questions, you have some cheek demanding that I provide you with more references that you’re going to ignore.

    Here’s the link again. When you feel like reading it, let me know:
    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/loom/2012/09/19/the-birth-of-the-new-the-rewiring-of-the-old/

    There is no one who does not bring preconceived notions even to evidence. Alternatively, creationists could say the same thing. It’s about the interpretation, not the evidence.

    When I challenge you for the creationist interpretation of observed facts, you do more hand-waving than a French mime in a glass box.

    And I also gave the example of code recycling which has nothing to do with saving time but everything to do with functionality. Programmers always code recycle so it is a possibility. To say it is not a possibility is to assume naturalism.

    And I gave you several reasons why “code recycling” makes no sense of the observed data. Rather than address them, you engaged in bloviation.

    This is presupposing to know everything there is about vertebrate and invertebrate eye functionality. It could be because one is better suited for a particular cladistic environment.

    You’re misusing the term “cladistic”. Please don’t try to sound scientifically informed, because it comes off very badly.

    Furthermore, I am not “presupposing to know everything there is about vertebrate and invertebrate eye functionality”, but rather I am making a conclusion about what we do know, which is enough. If molluscs needed their lenses to express aldehyde dehydrogenase to survive, then they’d be screwed because they don’t. It’s not hard to check if a crystallin has an active or inactive enzymatic function (provided, of course, that it is derived from an enzyme) and omega-crystallin is one of the ones that doesn’t. And in any case, you still haven’t explained why the crystallins are derived from proteins of different function when, according to your “code recycling” hypothesis, the designer should have just be able to stick one crystallin in all of these different lineages (a result that would have been hard to explain given the convergent evolution of eyes).

    The issue is not about the asking, it is about you presupposing what someone else did (or didn’t do) while not knowing anything about said designer. But perhaps I am being hasty. So assuming that the biblical designer exists and he created the universe, what are 5 testable attributes of said designer that haven’t been discussed so far?

    It’s your hypothesis. It is your responsibility to identify the characteristics of this alleged ‘designer’ and demonstrate its existence separate from the thing you’re trying to explain (otherwise it amounts to begging the question). So far everything you’ve said has indicated that human designers are a good analogy for the “biblical designer”. And I am pointing out that human designers may be a good analogy for the “biblical designer”, but positing what a human designer would do explains little to nothing of biological reality. So now you object that I’m making “assumptions” about the designer, even though I’m simply following your lead, so they’re your assumptions too.

    If you’re going to take this tack, then I demand that you demonstrate the existence of this designer separate from the thing to be explained (just as we can demonstrate the existence of humans separate from cars, computers, and the antikythera mechanism). Then show me what the capabilities of this designer are, and more importantly what it is incapable of, how much time it had to do the designing, and everything else relevant to understanding the finished product. If you can’t do this, then your argument amounts to nothing more than yet another pitiful teleological argument of the sort that Hume demolished in Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion.

    We need to reason correctly and find the truth even if it goes against present reasoning.

    Present reasoning is the means of reasoning correctly. We’ve had several millennia of formalizing and optimizing our ability to reason logically, and if your argument cannot stand up in light of that reasoning then I’d suggest that the fault may lie with your argument rather than how we reason about it.

    And so does a designer.

    BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!

    If this is how a designer “explains” things, then I’d hate to see what you regard as inexplicable. You’ve done nothing but waive your hands around and chant “design” and “code recycling” while ignoring the specifics of what it is you’re supposed to be explaining.

    Were the first chordates always blind or did they lose function?

    Irrelevant. Whether there are earlier sighted chordates or all the first chordates were blind, the fact remains that when it came to building eyes, the vertebrates had to start from scratch, using only the existing biochemical “ingredients” available.

    What environmental pressures caused said convergent sight evolution?

    I can’t know that for certain without having been there, but “predation” is a reasonable answer. Whether one is prey or predator (and many animals are both) seeing what’s passing by or heading straight for you is an advantage.

    Now, allow me to ask you an equivalent question: how did the designer create eyes in these different lineages?

    How can one test that evolution can only work with what it had when we do not know what material it had nor what pressures it had at what specific time and for what specific period(s)?

    Easily answered with another question: are you saying that evolution is capable of working with what it does not have? That it is capable of anticipating environmental needs and coming up with will be useful at a future time? Sorry, we’ve been through that, and evolution doesn’t work that way. The first experimental evidence that showed that mutations do not anticipate environmental needs comes from S.E. Luria and Max Delbrück, and further research including fitness recovery tests (where not all lineages do recover fitness, contrary to what would be expected if some form of Lamarckism were operating) and even that E. coli experiment (again!) have confirmed it.

    All you are doing is extrapolating without a testable mechanism for new functionality and thinking that its science.

    There is no nice way to say this, so I won’t even bother: you’re talking BS. You’re assuming that your own near-total ignorance of evolutionary processes and mechanisms translates into a universal ignorance of these things. No. I do have a solid empirical basis for saying what I’m saying to you now, and the fact that you’ve never heard anything like this before is not evidence that I’m wrong, but evidence that you’ve been stuck too long inside the creationist echo chamber, which has had the most depressing effect on your level of knowledge.

  28. Evolution may have an explanation but is it correct?

    If it is incorrect, then refute all of evolution and help yourself to a Nobel Prize. But it would be necessary to familiarize yourself with what evolution is first and what evidence supports it.

    ID and creationism also have explanations and have never hampered asking scientific questions.

    “Have you ever seen a created object ask its designer why it was designed as it is? To ask these questions is to make oneself higher than the designer.”

    Telling me that asking reasonable questions about why lens crystallins are distributed in the way they are, and have the observed characteristics that they do, is insolent and offensive to a supernatural entity is the ultimate science-stopper. If we all lived by your lights, then we’d all be wandering around in a pearly haze of superstition, too afraid to look closely at the natural world for fear of being impertinent and courting the wrath of god in the form of a bolt out of the blue. (By the way, why doesn’t the “design inference” apply to lightning strikes anymore, as it did before the 18th century?)

    My point is that I don’t believe you are any position to be asking those questions due to your lack of understanding the nature of the designer but as per above, you can show that I am incorrect.

    Obviously I “lack knowledge” of the designer, because one cannot have knowledge of something that’s never been demonstrated to exist! Right now, the “designer” is an infinitely plastic term that you’re using to cover over the gaps in your knowledge. It has no characteristics other than that, so you are free to invent whatever balderdash you like in order to place your “designer” beyond the reach of empirical investigation. This is apologetics, not science. If you were actually sincere in promoting design as a scientific concept, then you’d start by identifying your designer, explaining what it is and isn’t capable of and tacking the natural world to show how a designer explains the observations better than evolution.

    You are assuming that the methods employed are themselves correct and that homology = common descent.

    I don’t need to assume; the statistical methods used to test tree topologies are accurate. It’s easy to confirm: just create one random set of hypothetical sequences and one set of hypothetical sequences that have been “evolved” from an ancestral sequence, and then see if your statistical tests don’t find lower support for trees constructed out of the random sequences than those that “evolved”. That’s why these methods test common descent rather than assuming it.

    Hardly, there would be some commonality, not 100%.

    How much?

    A two-word question is all that’s needed to put an end to your hand-waving. You don’t know how much commonality there will be, nor can you even explain a basic phylogenetic tree: why chimps and humans are more commonly designed than humans and rats, why these are more commonly designed than humans and chickens, why these are more commonly designed than humans and frogs, why these are more commonly designed than humans and fish, and these are more commonly designed than humans and fruit flies. What shall we call it? Mega-common design? Super-ultra-duper common design?

    A recycled code can be related to another code for another function but would have less similarity. Most codes follow similar patterns (homology) but that does not mean because there is an ‘else if’ command in different functions that they are necessarily homologous. This just shows that the designer is following the programming syntax.

    Unfortunately, there is no biological parallel for this “programming syntax”.

    And why can they not happen in non functional genes? What precludes this?

    I didn’t say non-functional genes, I said “non-functional residues”. They’re different things. You are clearly not equipped to be having this discussion at all. But let me explain: in each functional gene there are sequences of diminished or absent function that may be parts of introns (that get spliced out prior to translation into a protein) or which simply have the “function” of serving as scaffolding. If we were approaching this question from a design perspective, we would assume that the designer wouldn’t make extra work for himself creating differences in these non-functional and less-functional sequences, since they don’t have an affect on the “output”. And yet, we see mutations accruing at roughly the same rate in pseudogenes, introns, and fourfold degenerate sites, while protein-coding regions differ much less, and we generally see higher mutation rates on the outside of proteins than in the hydrophobic core, or active sites, of proteins. So if the “code is being recycled” with some “tweaks” for greater functionality in these respective lineages, why do we see that the mutations that accrue the fastest are the ones with little to no effect on function?

    Don’t tell me: it’s because the designer works in its mysterious way, its wonders to perform.

    You don’t seem to understand how programming works. If a coder recycles his codes, there is nothing stopping him from making slight modifications according to the function he desires. Additionally, the biblical designer permits good functions to mutate into bad functions due to sin. Thus present biodiversity. Scorpions remain at base scorpions, but they can have differences. There is nothing preventing the above scenario from occurring on creationism.

    Yes, but all scorpion toxins have the same function: to kill the organism. There is no reason why potassium ion channel-blocker couldn’t work just as well for the Mexican scorpion or a sodium ion channel-blocker couldn’t work for the deathstalker. So again we have the “designer”, who having saved time by recycling its “code” from a defensin, then decides to exert itself by crafting toxins that operate according to two different mechanisms, even though each one is just as deadly as the other.

    Oh, but it might have been due to sin! Oh, that’s even better. How can “sin”—which is something that humans supposedly do, after all—reach into and reorganize the scorpion genome? Do extra-sinful people carry extra mutations in their genome? Do they have offspring with extra mutations? And since sin can apparently jump from humans to animals, do their pets and their pets’ offspring exhibit more mutations than those of holier people?

    Sidestepping. The issue was that there seemed to be some problem with cline assignment and homology, not whether the author was outdated.

    “Cline assignment” is meaningless babble, and you don’t think it impacts the merit of the author’s arguments if one of the key quotes used talks about a problem that’s been resolved by further investigation? That’s basically all that article is: a series of quote-mines from the scientific literature, not a stand-alone argument attacking phylogenetics.

    Also, I asked: where can I find the phylogenetic degree of similarity between different organisms? If we could see the coding and the cladistic algorithms, that would go a long way in bolstering your arguments.

    “Coding and cladistic algorithms” is also babble, and if you want get the details of how a given phylogeny was arrived at, then read the scientific literature. The thing that will tell you the degree of similarity between organisms is (assuming a DNA-based or protein sequence-based phylogeny) a multiple sequence alignment. When I strip out all the sciencey-sounding babble, what you’re asking for are things that are commonplace in evolutionary biology. Therefore, I can only conclude that you haven’t bothered to study much to any of it from a mainstream perspective. As a beginner, a layman’s intro to phylogenetics might help, so I recommend Where Do We Come From?: The Molecular Evidence for Human Descent by Jan Klein and Naoyuki Takahata. Fantastic book, and it’s being (has been?) re-released this year. Since it’s published by the academic publisher Springer-Verlag, it’s rather expensive, but you might be able to find a cheap used copy or a library copy of the first edition.

    Hardly that critical, since RATE didn’t do original research and had nobody on the team with professional experience in geochronology.

    Why does it need to be original? It just needs to be correct. And the issue is cost, not qualifications.

    And what other papers are there beside Kimura which supposedly show the evolution of new functions?

  29. Whoops. Meant to respond to those last ones:

    And the issue is cost, not qualifications.

    “Cost” is why you write grant applications. If IDists sincerely believed that their hypothesis would yield new insights in research, then one would expect that they’d go about trying to defray the costs by applying for grants. But grant applications require that you actually be able to describe the nature and expected result of your research, and “design” is utterly useless at generating hypotheses.

    And what other papers are there beside Kimura which supposedly show the evolution of new functions?

    Kimura doesn’t address the evolution of new functions—he addresses the increase in genetic information. Just because you regard “new function” and “more information” as equivalent doesn’t mean that they are.

    I cannot possibly list all the papers that demonstrate the evolution of a novel function—here your best bet would be to go to a textbook like Laszlo Patthy’s Protein Evolution, and even that won’t give you all the examples—but I can give you one:

    Deng C et al. (2010) Evolution of an antifreeze protein by neofunctionalization under escape from adaptive conflict. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 107(50): 21593-21598.

  30. One final observation: I’m really getting bored with this conversation. It is apparent that you don’t understand even the basics of evolutionary biology, that you use terminology you don’t understand, that you have no serious, empirical, and scientific basis for positing design (instead your continued references to a “biblical designer” shows that your reasons are entirely religious), and you are incapable of coming up with a substantive argument for or explanation of how your designer works.

    I’ve already wasted too much time here. I’m not being paid to be your private biology tutor. Unless your next set of responses are vastly more scientific and relevant and you cease engaging in special pleading and begging the question, then I won’t even bother to respond. But if you’re just here to demonstrate that you have a faith ‘strong enough’ to resist thinking or learning anything about biological reality, then I simply do not have time for this.

  31. Bon courage, Nullifidian.

    Putting up with the willful ignorance, equivocations, non sequiturs, offhand dismissals of evidence, and everlasting demands for greater detail are frustrating. In Scott Weitzenhoffer’s words, “Debating creationists on the topic of evolution is rather like trying to play chess with a pigeon — it knocks the pieces over, craps on the board, and flies back to its flock to claim victory.”

    Creationism is not an intellectual movement. It is hardly even a religious movement. Its purpose is to make its adherents feel secure in the face of a flood of knowledge they cannot understand, social change they cannot control, and views that they fear will crush their faith.

    But, still. Why spend time and effort fighting it? Because creationism demeans two things that I care very much about—

    . . . . . . . 1. Creationism perverts science.
    Creationism enforces an unalterable theory about the world. Therefore, it is constrained to lie about contradictory evidence, and to crush all other theories. Creationism thus inhibits understanding and control of the physical world for the benefit of mankind.

    . . . . . . . 2. Creationism belittles God.
    Biblical literalism forces God into a mold bounded by a narrow understanding. For me reading about a new discovery in evolution or cosmology reveals a new appreciation of the subtlety and wisdom of God. For creationists, God is a cheap parlor magician who can subsist only on explained miracles: a “God of the gaps.”

    .

    Since creationists are driven by fear rather than by curiosity, they will not be swayed by reason. To paraphrase Dante, “Lasciate ogne scienza, voi ch’intrate”.[1] So again: Why bother?

    I think there are a number of lurkers who may be persuaded, but are reluctant to comment—or even to ask questions. Also, Michael frequently digs up new research papers which, laughably, usually show the opposite of what he intended. Being retired, I sometimes miss the intellectual challenge of analyzing legal arguments for mistakes and logical failures. (Altho retirement has its own time demands. Rehearsals and concerts limit free time. Last week, I started a new instrument, just to be a beginner all over again. Also, medical issues make staying on the right side of the grass a fair amount of effort. But it’s all fun—exciting, actually.)

    So, bon courage battling the pigeons.

    ======================

    [1] Sorry, the speranza/scienza (hope/science) pun just doesn’t work in English.

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