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Rossiter on Swamidass: Goalposts? What goalposts?


Waynesburg University (Pennsylvania) biology prof Wayne Rossiter, author of In the Shadow of Oz, offers a response to a claim by Washington University (St. Louis) Joshua Swamidass that design in nature cannot be demonstrated (here.):

He [Swamidass], like most others, chooses willfully to equivocate on the term and repeatedly move the goal posts.

Goalposts? Who told Rossiter there were goalposts? Swamidass writes,

“Rather, if specific mechanisms of evolution are true, they make testable predictions about how biological systems behave today. We can test these predictions in biological systems experimentally, and there is an immense body of work that does just this, finding that predictions from some mechanisms are wrong (e.g. neo-Darwinian positive-selection dominated change) and of others are correct (e.g. neutral theory and common descent). This [is] one of the big reasons that I (as a biologist) say there is very strong evidence for evolution.”


Whoa! What!?!? Science has demonstrated that the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution has failed, and it has validated neutral theory and common descent? Call the Royal Society, the National Academy of Sciences, and the publisher of every general biology textbook on the market. They didn’t get the memo!

They did get the memo but they chose to ignore it. The Royal Society’s rethinking evolution meeting this fall will be a fizzle on that account, even though there is ample warrant for rethinking the mechanisms of evolution.

One way of putting the matter is that for a theistic evolutionist, neo-Darwinism is tactically untrue. It would hardly be surprising if a person in Swamidass’s position chooses later to announce that Christians should accept neo-Darwinism for the sake of Jesus. Because evidence doesn’t matter anyway. Not even to the Royal Society any more.

Swamidass is a proponent of neutral theory, and Rossiter writes:

For him, “evolution” is not a discussion of the diversification of form and function. Which is to say, evolution is not a theory that attempts to explain how novel forms come to exist. It doesn’t need pointing out, but this is not what most laypersons or biologists mean when they say “evolution.”

No indeed. Tom Wolfe explained what they mean in The Kingdom of Speech:

… more than a theory. It had become embedded in the very anatomy, the very central nervous system of all modern people. – Tom Wolfe on Evolution as a Theory of Everything:

“Evolution” explains how we vote and shop and why we tip in restaurants and why we do or don’t kill our grannies. And it is simply dishonest to approach the question without that background fully in mind. Inthe context, “neutral theory” is simply Darwinism after the drownproofing course.


Why am I harping on this? Because Swamidass thinks that the detection of shared neutral genetic features somehow harms intelligent design theory (which he then dishonestly equates with creationism):

“More importantly for ID, if neutral theory is true (and it certainly looks like it is), the likelihood ID can make their scientific case is severely damaged. This is one reason why most ID proponents dispute all the evidence for neutral theory. If it was true, all the ID math we have seen falls apart.”

I don’t really know what to say here, because, as presented, the argument is entirely incoherent. More.

Some arguments don’t need to be coherent, Rossiter. They just need to dominate in the right places and be funded by the right people.

See also: Wayne Rossiter on teaching Darwin’s unquestionable truths

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Swamidass is still fighting the good fight — each of his previous "arguments" against ID were based on misconceptions of ID — and tries a new one:
“Put another way, if many ID arguments in molecular biology were true, then cancer as we know it would be mathematically impossible, or regularly require the direct intervention of God to initiate and be sustained. I’m not sure which option is harder to believe.”
I suppose that laughing would be inappropriate. Origenes
Hello all. I appreciate the thoughtful feedback from Dr. Rossiter, and the notice here at UD. In particular, thank you to the person who notified me of hist post. I will respond to him on his blog, and invite all the interested to join us there. https://shadowofoz.wordpress.com/2016/09/15/a-response-to-dr-swamidass/ Prof. S. Joshua Swamidass

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