Evolutionary biology Intelligent Design

At Evolution News: An Evolutionary Mathematician Flunks Biology

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Physicist Brian Miller writes:

Jason Rosenhouse, a mathematician who teaches at James Madison University, is the author of the recent book The Failures of Mathematical Anti-Evolutionism. The purpose of the book is to discredit the mathematical and algorithmic arguments presented by ID proponents against the plausibility of undirected evolution crafting complex novelties. Rosenhouse focuses much of his critique on William Dembski’s design-detection formalism based on specified complexity. Dembski responded in detail to Rosenhouse’s arguments, highlighting Rosenhouse’s confusion over Dembski’s theoretical framework and its application to biological systems (herehere). Rosenhouse in turn responded to Dembski’s critique. His counter-response, published at Panda’s Thumb, reveals that his opposition to Dembski is not based on any flaws in the substance of Dembski’s work but instead on Rosenhouse’s unassailable faith in the limitless creative power of natural selection. 

Rosenhouse’s Response

Rosenhouse responds to Dembski and his colleagues by asserting that their research has no relevance to biological evolution. This, in his mind, is for several key reasons. First, he claims that probabilities cannot be reliably assessed for the origin of biological structures:

Anti-evolutionists routinely present spurious probability calculations meant to refute evolution. In a lengthy chapter on probability, I explain that a proper calculation must take place in the context of what mathematicians refer to as a “probability space”. For our purposes, this means that you must have a good grasp on the range of possible outcomes, as well as an understanding of the probability distribution appropriate to those outcomes. In the context of the evolution of complex adaptations, we never have what we need to do this. As Harvard biologist Martin Nowak put it, “You cannot calculate the probability that an eye came about. We don’t have the information to make this calculation.”

Imagination Superseding Evidence

Rosenhouse’s response to Dembski ultimately fails since it is based on what he imagines to be true about biology instead of what has been empirically demonstrated. The assertion that probabilities cannot be evaluated for biological systems is highly misleading. Exact probabilities are typically impossible to compute but calculating upper bounds to probabilities is often tractable. 

Douglas Axe demonstrated for the beta-lactamase enzyme that the upper bound for the enzyme’s larger domain is 1 functional sequence in every 1077 randomly selected ones. Rosenhouse attempts to discredit this estimate by citing Arthur Hunt’s critique, but he fails to acknowledge that Axe and others showed that such negative assessments reflect misunderstandings of his research and the technical literature (hereherehere, here).

In addition, Ola Hössjer, Günter Bechly, and Ann Gauger published a mathematical model for the time required for coordinated mutations to appear in a population. Their model demonstrates that for most animals the time available for major transitions is insufficient for even a few new regulatory sequences to emerge. Yet the evolution of a structure as simple as a lens for a vertebrate eye requires dozens if not hundreds of such specified sequences (herehere). An upper bound to the probability for such a large quantity of specified complexity to arise is minuscule. 

Parallels with Human Engineering

In addition, engineers working with biologists have concluded that living systems demonstrate the same specified patterns as is seen in human engineering. For instance, leading experts in bacterial flagella have not simply concluded that these molecular machines resemble rotary motors. Instead, they concluded that they are rotary motors (hereherehere). And flagellar navigation systems perform perfect robust adaptation, which is only achievable by two classes of control modules (herehere). The conclusion that such biological systems display specified complexity is indisputable. 

Finally, the view that nature provides the information for evolutionary searches conflicts with a torrent of recent literature that demonstrates that evolutionary/adaptive processes almost exclusively tweak preexistent structures or choose from a preexistent library of traits (hereherehere). Genetic information is never gained in significant quantities, but it is at best maintained and often lost (hereherehere). In short, Rosenhouse’s belief in the creative power of evolutionary processes is based not on hard data but on his faith in the philosophy of scientific materialism and on circular reasoning

Full article at Evolution News.

Arguments and counter-arguments serve a purpose in arriving at a truthful conclusion. But what if one side simply jumps ship when the waves of counter-argument become unassailable?

26 Replies to “At Evolution News: An Evolutionary Mathematician Flunks Biology

  1. 1
    BobRyan says:

    Math and science prove Darwin wrong. There is nothing random about either.

  2. 2
    chuckdarwin says:

    “unassailable waves” of counterargument? “torrent” of recent literature? Grandiosity is one of the first steps down the hallway to madness….

  3. 3
    Lieutenant Commander Data says:

    madness

    In your worldview there is no madness because there is no “ought to”, everything is the result of chaos and randomness.
    Only in theism exist “ought to”( rules of Ruler) and concept of madness-as deviation from rules- and your worldview is considered madness. I don’t say you are crazy the Ruler Himself say so and I agree with Him. 😉

  4. 4
    Caspian says:

    CD @2
    The hypothetical question at the end of this posting did not specify which point-of-view the “unassailable” waves of counter-argument might be countering. As more and more data becomes available, which point-of-view, unguided naturalism or design, is gaining support by the available evidence? How has this trend played out over the last several decades?

  5. 5
    relatd says:

    Caspian at 4,

    What are you confused about? Intelligent design is sweeping away assumptions made by the blind-unguided chance crowd. The ‘jumping ship’ comment refers to Darwinists who might, in light of the evidence for design, go over to the ID side based on the evidence.

  6. 6
    chuckdarwin says:

    Caspian/4
    The comment doesn’t need to specify bias, it’s explicit on the masthead of the blog: “Serving The Intelligent Design Community.” It’s also clear from the history of comments that you and your predecessor make/made at the end of most of the OPs, a kind of stock and trade sign off “well what makes more sense, folks, ID or natural random processes?”
    In any event, my only point was to comment on the self-defeating hyperbole that seems endemic to so much of IDer’s writings and other media. That, and the incestuous self-promotion that permeates the Discovery Institute articles, lead one to question the seriousness of the ID crowd…..

  7. 7
    relatd says:

    CD at 6,

    “… question the seriousness of the ID crowd…..”

    Not serious enough for you Chuck? Or is this just one of your “Fire bad. ID bad.” posts?

    “incestuous self-promotion”? Yes, I see it from you and other supporters of the “gosh, we don’t actually know how it happened but blind, unguided chance works for us” salesmen here.

  8. 8
    doubter says:

    Chuckdarwin@2&6

    The usual contentless unsubstantive attempts to rhetorically trash ID research and scientific confirmations, without going to the trouble of actually engaging with in detail and defeating the technical points made in the article; or perhaps this is due to just being unable to do that.

    The following are specific technical statements made in the article, about Rosenhouse’s claims. Until you respond to and actually engage with the following statements in some sort of plausible detail, your verbiage will remain empty bombast. We’re waiting.

    Exact probabilities are typically impossible to compute but calculating upper bounds to probabilities is often tractable.

    Douglas Axe demonstrated for the beta-lactamase enzyme that the upper bound for the enzyme’s larger domain is 1 functional sequence in every 1077 randomly selected ones. Rosenhouse attempts to discredit this estimate by citing Arthur Hunt’s critique, but he fails to acknowledge that Axe and others showed that such negative assessments reflect misunderstandings of his research and the technical literature..

    In addition, Ola Hössjer, Günter Bechly, and Ann Gauger published a mathematical model for the time required for coordinated mutations to appear in a population. Their model demonstrates that for most animals the time available for major transitions is insufficient for even a few new regulatory sequences to emerge.

    In addition, engineers working with biologists have concluded that living systems demonstrate the same specified patterns as is seen in human engineering.

    Finally, the view that nature provides the information for evolutionary searches conflicts with a torrent of recent literature that demonstrates that evolutionary/adaptive processes almost exclusively tweak preexistent structures or choose from a preexistent library of traits (links to references here, here, here).

  9. 9
    chuckdarwin says:

    Relatd/6
    We can all take comfort knowing that in a couple more years, ID will simply be another goofy curiosity consigned to the trash bin of history….

  10. 10
    asauber says:

    CD @ 9

    Where will you Troll then? Cooking sites? 🙂

    Andrew

  11. 11
    relatd says:

    Andrew at 10,

    Don’t give him any ideas…

  12. 12
    martin_r says:

    From the article

    You cannot calculate the probability that an eye came about. We don’t have the information to make this calculation.”

    I have to agree with this Darwinist … that is very true … you guys( Darwinists), you have no idea what it takes to engineer a camera/camera eye, let alone to engineer a fully automated self-assembly process of a camera eye. It is an engineering SCIFI. You guys (Darwinists) just have to believe in crazy absurd just-so stories developed by biologists, natural science graduates, who claim that some blind unguided process figured it out …. No engineers needed. Such an absurd absurd idea/theory/religion

  13. 13
    Alan Fox says:

    We can all take comfort knowing that in a couple more years, ID will simply be another goofy curiosity consigned to the trash bin of history….

    I think I said something similar in 2008 or thereabouts.

    http://alanfox.blogspot.com/20.....e.html?m=1

  14. 14
    asauber says:

    “I think I said something similar in 2008 or thereabouts.”

    AF,

    How’d that pan out? 🙂

    Andrew

  15. 15
    relatd says:

    Andrew at 14,

    Given enough time… uh… given enough…

  16. 16
    Alan Fox says:

    @Andrew

    Well, there’s UD still going…

    And?

  17. 17
    asauber says:

    “And?”

    AF,

    I haven’t done a survey, but I suspect there are billions of people who currently perceive design in nature.

    What do you think?

    Andrew

  18. 18
    jerry says:

    Where will you Troll then? Cooking sites?

    ChuckDarwin is the best supporter of ID and UD we have here.

    He’s 100% wrong (actually he got one thing right once) so this portends well for ID.

  19. 19
    relatd says:

    Jerry at 18,

    (actually he got one thing right once)?

    That’s… that’s IMPOSSIBLE 🙂

  20. 20
    martin_r says:

    Alan Fox @13

    We can all take comfort knowing that in a couple more years, ID will simply be another goofy curiosity consigned to the trash bin of history….

    This statement perfectly illustrates how confused Darwinists are. These people just can’t see / don’t want to see what is coming…
    Alan, it will be exactly the other way around …. One day, Darwinian theory of evolution will become famous as the biggest failure in the history of science. Alan, you can bet on it. One day, students will make jokes of people like Dawkins or Coyne …

  21. 21
    ET says:

    Strange that the more we know and uncover, the better Intelligent Design looks.

    Intelligent Design still offers the only scientific explanation for our existence.

  22. 22
    ET says:

    Neither Alan Fox nor chuckdarwin can come up with a scientific explanation for our existence. Evolutionary biologists don’t even know what determines biological form!

  23. 23
    William J Murray says:

    Rosenhouse made a pretty amazing admission against his own interest when he said:

    You cannot calculate the probability that an eye came about. We don’t have the information to make this calculation.

    If that is true, the idea of natural forces generating a novel feature like the eye is pure, speculative fantasy.

  24. 24
    Bob O'H says:

    The assertion that probabilities cannot be evaluated for biological systems is highly misleading. Exact probabilities are typically impossible to compute but calculating upper bounds to probabilities is often tractable.

    Douglas Axe demonstrated for the beta-lactamase enzyme that the upper bound for the enzyme’s larger domain is 1 functional sequence in every 10^77 randomly selected ones.

    That would establish a lower bound on the probability, not an upper one. If the proportion of sequences that are functional is 10^77, then the fixation rate under drift is 10^-77. Under selection, of course, it’s higher.

  25. 25
    Querius says:

    It’s surprising that Dr. Rosenhouse didn’t apparently acknowledge the work others have already done in estimating probabilities for mutational change, including

    J.B.S. Haldane: Haldane’s Dilemma
    https://uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/haldanes-dilemma-what-does-science-really-say/

    Michael Behe
    https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/The-Edge-of-Evolution/Michael-J-Behe/9780743296229

    In his book, Dr. Behe focuses on the genetic battle between humanity and malaria. In one place, he makes some back-of-an-envelope calculations for about how long it would take malaria to overcome a particular human mutation preventing malaria, which works out reasonably close.

    -Q

  26. 26
    doubter says:

    Querius

    It’s surprising that Dr. Rosenhouse didn’t apparently acknowledge the work others have already done in estimating probabilities for mutational change

    If Rosenhouse really didn’t even mention in his book the malaria work by Dr. Behe I don’t think that is surprising at all. You just don’t seem to have enough cynicism regarding human nature.

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