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Darwin lobbyist knows there’s no language in the genome, channels Berra’s blunder

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1963 Corvette StingrayFile:1963 Corvette Sting Ray.jpg

First, another blast from the past – Berra’s blunder:

If you compare a 1953 and a 1954 Corvette, side by side, then a 1954 and a 1955 model, and so on, the descent with modification is overwhelmingly obvious. This is what paleontologists do with fossils, and the evidence is so solid and comprehensive that it cannot be denied by reasonable people.

– T. Berra, Evolution and the myth of creationism,1990, pg 117-119

Absolutely, Dr. Berra, and it cannot be denied by reasonable people that the 1954 Corvette was the son of the 1953 Corvette and inherited his genes. And many generations of Corvettes followed, father to son, father to son, each inheriting the best of the naturally selected genes …

Automotive engineers are liars.

A friend offers this priceless 2007 remark from Joe Felsenstein on why genetic information requires no intelligence:

In this article, I want to concentrate on the main arguments that Dembski has used. With a few exceptions, many of the points I will make have already been raised in these critiques of Dembski — this is primarily an attempt to make them more accessible. Stephen Meyer, who heads the Discovery Institute’s program on ID, describes Dembski’s work in this way: We know that information — whether, say, in hieroglyphics or radio signals — always arises from an intelligent source. …. So the discovery of digital information in DNA provides strong grounds for inferring that intelligence played a causal role in its origin. (Meyer 2006) What is this mysterious “digital information”? Has a message from a Designer been discovered? When DNA sequences are read, can they be converted into English sentences such as: “Copyright 4004 bce by the intelligent designer; all rights reserved”?

Or can they be converted into numbers, with one stretch of DNA turning out to contain the first 10 000 digits of p? Of course not. If anything like this had happened, it would have been big news indeed. You would have heard by now. No, the mysterious digital information turns out to be nothing more than the usual genetic information that codes for the features of life, information that makes the organism well-adapted. The “digital information” is just the presence of sequences that code for RNA and proteins — sequences that lead to high fitness.

File:1965 Corvette Sting Ray.jpg
1965 Corvette Stingray, grandson of '63.

Just like those 1950s Corvettes, it all just sort of happened. And the Darwinism that explains it is mostly paid for under protest by people who don’t believe it. Only natural selection could have brought about all these sweet rackets.

63 Replies to “Darwin lobbyist knows there’s no language in the genome, channels Berra’s blunder

  1. 1
    GilDodgen says:

    Or can they be converted into numbers, with one stretch of DNA turning out to contain the first 10 000 digits of p?

    Sorry to be so blunt, but this guy is a miserable clown. Calculating PI is a trivial exercise when compared to the engineering and information processing required to fabricate the simplest protein.

    Berra’s Blunder is a grand testimony of the transparent illogic employed by Darwinists in a desperate attempt to defend the illogical.

    I continue to be mystified by the fact that highly intelligent, superbly educated, seemingly reasonable people — even those with advanced academic degrees (perhaps that explains the atrophy and degeneration of their basic reasoning powers; this seems to be the inevitable result of academic “training” in anything but the hard sciences) — cannot seem to recognize that the Darwinian mechanism of random errors accumulated by natural selection as an explanation for all of life’s complexity and functionally integrated technology is a completely illogical, mathematically absurd, and empirically falsified hypothesis.

  2. 2
    David W. Gibson says:

    Some of this confuses me.

    If you compare a 1953 and a 1954 Corvette, side by side, then a 1954 and a 1955 model, and so on, the descent with modification is overwhelmingly obvious.

    Yep, no question about it. The Corvette, with a few significant exceptions, has changed incrementally. Occasionally, of course, the Corvette has been revamped substantially.

    Absolutely, Dr. Berra, and it cannot be denied by reasonable people that the 1954 Corvette was the son of the 1953 Corvette and inherited his genes. And many generations of Corvettes followed, father to son, father to son, each inheriting the best of the naturally selected genes …

    Does Berra say this? I always thought that sons (and genes) were biological phenomena. I know that automotive, and maybe other, advertisers borrow biological metaphors from time to time, saying that the latest model incorporates “DNA” or “genes” from other models, but what they’re referring to, at best, is lessons engineers learn from what has worked in prior models. They are certainly not saying that automobiles breed! And sometimes, all they mean is that some members of the design team from other models contributed to this one, or maybe that the same company made them.

    No, the mysterious digital information turns out to be nothing more than the usual genetic information that codes for the features of life, information that makes the organism well-adapted. The “digital information” is just the presence of sequences that code for RNA and proteins — sequences that lead to high fitness.

    This statement seems fairly clear to me. Just as auto advertisers borrow metaphors from biology, so biologists borrow metaphors from computers. Metaphors can be excellent shortcuts in communicating concepts, but surely nobody would consider these metaphors to be accurate descriptions of the underlying mechanisms.

    Just like those 1950s Corvettes, it all just sort of happened.

    I don’t understand this phrase. The underlying mechanisms for both biological inheritance and engineering refinements are well understood. And they are completely different mechanisms. Neither one “just sort of happened”, unless this is intended to convey that both automotive engineers and evolutionary biologists are somehow unaware of the principles of their professions.

    As a programmer, I have taken fairly simple code and extended it, speeded it up, added new features, sometimes for years. This didn’t “just happen”. I’m left with the impression here that someone is taking two entirely different processes, finding some conceptual similarities at a high level of abstraction, and concluding that the underlying detailed processes must be somehow the same.

    Am I misunderstanding this?

  3. 3
    David W. Gibson says:

    cannot seem to recognize that the Darwinian mechanism of random errors accumulated by natural selection as an explanation for all of life’s complexity and functionally integrated technology is a completely illogical, mathematically absurd, and empirically falsified hypothesis.

    Again, my own limited understanding handicaps me. I was taught that mutations are not “errors”, they are instead sources of variation. And that the variation is not correlated with usefulness, so most of the variation isn’t very useful. But I would not like to think that my son, who does not look exactly like me and has abilities I never had, is the result of “error”. Differences are not “errors”, and sometimes they’re admirable or desirable. He has far more musical talent than I ever did, and I sincerely hope his children someday have it as well. This is an “error”? It’s even possible (it already seems likely) that this talent attracts thei girls.

    I’m not competent to say whether his musical ability represents a “functionally integrated techology”. He’s just a boy who picks up music quickly. I don’t know why his ability might be considered “mathematically absurd” – the world seems to have a great many people with musical talent. And that talent is pretty obvious. You’d have to be pretty tone-deaf to “falsify” it.

    Is musical ability heritable? I’ve read that it does tend to run in families

  4. 4
    bornagain77 says:

    David Gibson you remark:

    I’m left with the impression here that someone is taking two entirely different processes, finding some conceptual similarities at a high level of abstraction, and concluding that the underlying detailed processes must be somehow the same.

    This is not ‘high level abstraction’ David!

    Information Theory, Evolution, and the Origin of Life – Hubert P. Yockey, 2005
    Excerpt: “Information, transcription, translation, code, redundancy, synonymous, messenger, editing, and proofreading are all appropriate terms in biology. They take their meaning from information theory (Shannon, 1948) and are not synonyms, metaphors, or analogies.”
    http://www.cambridge.org/catal.....038;ss=exc

    Further notes:

    The Digital Code of DNA – 2003 – Leroy Hood & David Galas
    Excerpt: The discovery of the structure of DNA transformed biology profoundly, catalysing the sequencing of the human genome and engendering a new view of biology as an information science.
    http://www.nature.com/nature/j.....01410.html

    Human DNA is like a computer program but far, far more advanced than any software we’ve ever created.
    Bill Gates, The Road Ahead, 1996, p. 188

    The Coding Found In DNA Surpasses Man’s Ability To Code – Stephen Meyer – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4050638

    Even the leading “New Atheist” in the world, Richard Dawkins, agrees that DNA functions exactly like digital code:

    Richard Dawkins Opens Mouth; Inserts Foot – video
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2......html#more

    10 Ways Darwin Got It Wrong
    Excerpt: As molecular biologist Jonathan Wells and mathematician William Dembski point out: “It’s true that eukaryotic cells are the most complicated cells we know. But the simplest life forms we know, the prokaryotic cells (such as bacteria, which lack a nucleus), are themselves immensely complex.,,, There is no evidence whatsoever of earlier, more primitive life forms from which prokaryotes might have evolved” (How to Be an Intellectually Fulfilled Atheist (or Not), 2008, p. 4). These authors then mention what these two types of cells share in terms of complexity:

    • Information processing, storage and retrieval.
    • Artificial languages and their decoding systems.
    • Error detection, correction and proofreading devices for quality control.
    • Digital data-embedding technology.
    • Transportation and distribution systems.
    • Automated parcel addressing (similar to zip codes and UPS labels).
    • Assembly processes employing pre-fabrication and modular construction.
    • Self-reproducing robotic manufacturing plants.
    So it turns out that cells are far more complex and sophisticated than Darwin could have conceived of. How did mere chance produce this, when even human planning and engineering cannot?
    http://www.gnmagazine.org/issu.....-wrong.htm

    Systems biology: Untangling the protein web – July 2009
    Excerpt: Vidal thinks that technological improvements — especially in nanotechnology, to generate more data, and microscopy, to explore interaction inside cells, along with increased computer power — are required to push systems biology forward. “Combine all this and you can start to think that maybe some of the information flow can be captured,” he says. But when it comes to figuring out the best way to explore information flow in cells, Tyers jokes that it is like comparing different degrees of infinity. “The interesting point coming out of all these studies is how complex these systems are — the different feedback loops and how they cross-regulate each other and adapt to perturbations are only just becoming apparent,” he says. “The simple pathway models are a gross oversimplification of what is actually happening.”
    http://www.nature.com/nature/j.....0415a.html

    Cells Are Like Robust Computational Systems, – June 2009
    Excerpt: Gene regulatory networks in cell nuclei are similar to cloud computing networks, such as Google or Yahoo!, researchers report today in the online journal Molecular Systems Biology. The similarity is that each system keeps working despite the failure of individual components, whether they are master genes or computer processors. ,,,,”We now have reason to think of cells as robust computational devices, employing redundancy in the same way that enables large computing systems, such as Amazon, to keep operating despite the fact that servers routinely fail.”
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....103205.htm

    Bioinformatics: The Information in Life – Donald Johnson – video
    http://vimeo.com/11314902

    On a slide in the preceding video, entitled ‘Information Systems In Life’, Dr. Johnson points out that:

    * the genetic system is a pre-existing operating system;
    * the specific genetic program (genome) is an application;
    * the native language has codon-based encryption system;
    * the codes are read by enzyme computers with their own operating system;
    * each enzyme’s output is to another operating system in a ribosome;
    * codes are decrypted and output to tRNA computers;
    * each codon-specified amino acid is transported to a protein construction site; and
    * in each cell, there are multiple operating systems, multiple programming languages, encoding/decoding hardware and software, specialized communications systems, error detection/correction systems, specialized input/output for organelle control and feedback, and a variety of specialized “devices” to accomplish the tasks of life.

    Hope that helps David:

    The Staggering Complexity Of The Cell – EXPELLED – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VhXYU1YP7iI

  5. 5
    GilDodgen says:

    Is musical ability heritable? I’ve read that it does tend to run in families.

    The mixing and matching of existing genetic information (which obviously occurs) is not what Darwinism attempts to explain. It attempts to explain the origin of completely novel, never-before-seen information.

    As far as musical ability is concerned, I believe I got some of that, but it definitely doesn’t run in the family. It appears to have appeared out of nowhere in my family lineage.

  6. 6
    Collin says:

    Your son certainly isn’t a result of “error.” There is a natural variation in heredity. But that variation orbits around a norm that is fairly tightly controlled. Somehow our DNA has evolved error detection programs that detect mistakes in the code. But I don’t think that variation falls within the “errors” that are detected. Variation is “supposed” to happen and is generally beneficial or neutral. But I assert that variation never goes far from an ideal form without serious health problems for the species. Take a look at the health problems of Daschunds, chuhahuas and Bull dogs. They have been forced away from their “mean” and experience special health problems.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C....._disorders
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daschund#Health
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bull_dog#Health

  7. 7
    Cabal says:

    Just curious,

    Have the commenters in this thread read Felsensteins report themselves?

  8. 8
    Chris Doyle says:

    You make a good point, Collin, and it is one that gets nowhere near enough attention. All of the observational and experimental evidence points towards something like “genetic homeostasis”: a natural and impenetrable barrier that marks the edge of any given species.

  9. 9

    Well, strictly, Darwinism doesn’t “attempt” to explain any genetic information. Darwin didn’t know about genes, and what ideas he had about the origins of variance were largely wrong.

    Modern biology, however, does seek to explain “the mixing and matching” of genetic information, for example in sexually reproducing species, and does so successfully – the mechanisms of crossover are pretty well understood. Moreoever, those mechanisms do explain “completely novel, never-before-seen information” if by that you mean brand new alleles. There are many mechanisms that result in brand new alleles, one of which is the splicing together of homologous sequences mid-gene. So if maternal Grandmother has allele ABAB and maternal Grandfather had ACAC, then Mother may pass on ACAB to offspring – a brand new allele.

    Moreoever, the recombination process may often result in sequences like ABABAB, as well of course as substitutions, such as ABAD.

    So there are plenty of mechanisms during the reproduction process by which new alleles can be generated, and, of course, because entire sequences can be duplicated, some of those new alleles can serve as brand new genes.

    Re musical ability: I’m sure that many of the constituent capacities for musicianship are heritable, but of course there are a great many, including rhythmic sense, pitch sense, motor facility, capacity for dedicated practice and concentration, and more subtle factors, connected (is my hunch) with the prosodic elements of language.

    So it’s not surprising the whole thing should occasionally come together “out of nowhere” as it were. But early experience may be important too, and, of course, opportunity to learn. Did your mother sing to you, or even read to you? Did she read rhyming poetry? Did she give you early opportunities to learn?

    Both my parents were music-lovers, and my mother played piano, my father the clarinet. Neither were terribly good, although my father’s brother was an excellent amateur horn player, and of their parents, my grandmother played the piano, and my grandfather the cello so badly that the army orchestra he started wouldn’t let him play in it!

    So there’s plenty of phenotypic variation 🙂

  10. 10

    Exactly. “Errors” is a misleading term, especially in the context of sexually reproducing organisms. The reproduction process in all organisms is not 100% faithful, and this means that offspring, even in cloning species, do not share 100% identity with their parents. You can call that an “error” in the narrow sense that it would be an error if someone one had the goal of a perfect copy. As it is, it’s just what happens, just as it isn’t an “error” that not all snowflakes are alike. The mechanism that produces snowflakes is stochastic, and thus results in variety – same applies to the mechanisms that produce offspring from parents.

    However, the phenotypic variation, as Gil says, isn’t all due to brand new alleles – genes interact with each other, as well as with the environment, so how you turn out is a function of the cocktail you inherit, in the environment in which you inherit it, not just the individual alleles you get from each parent.

    Although you will probably have some brand new ones, and one day, they may come in handy for your descendents 🙂

  11. 11
    David W. Gibson says:

    This is not ‘high level abstraction’ David!I don’t think you are arguing that Corvettes are biological, or that they breed or have genes or DNA, are you?

    At one point in my career, I worked with a type of computing system called “neural networks”. They were given this label because of some conceptual similarities with biology, and how biological systems learn. The results could also be said to be comparable in some ways – inexact, often quite creative. But certainly we were not working with actual neurons, chemical synapses, etc. We were simply emulating a process at an abstract level, but the underlying implementation was STILL discrete software instructions executing in a von Neumann architecture.

  12. 12
    David W. Gibson says:

    I’ve heard of error correction. I recall an interesting article a while back that talked about “optimal” error correction, which isn’t at all the same thing as perfect error correction. There seems to be a sort of “Goldilocks rate” at which errors are corrected. Correct too many, speciation and adaptation are inadequate. Correct too few, and viability is too low.

    I’m uncomfortable with the notion of an “ideal form”. I would think that just looking around, we can see millions of successful species. So are there millions of “ideals”? Might it not be better to regard any successful new variation as a new ideal?

    (And I understand that as dog breeds vary increasingly far from the original stock, the range of environments in which they can thrive is reduced. Serious health issues means they can only thrive in an environment that provides continuous health care. Limited indeed!)

  13. 13
    bornagain77 says:

    David you ask:

    I don’t think you are arguing that Corvettes are biological, or that they breed or have genes or DNA, are you?

    No!, I am just maintaining the ‘hard line’ that as far as the origination of the ‘functional information’, that is required to make any ‘small leaps’ in corvette complexity or any ‘large leaps’ in biological complexity, the input of a ‘mind’ is, as far as we can tell, ALWAYS required…. As well, why should Darwinists even use such a deceptive comparison in the first place to claim proof for Darwinism when every one can clearly see corvettes are designed??? Why don’t they produce the actual empirical evidence of functional complexity/information being increased gradually instead of playing such games??? Why don’t they just falsify Abel’s null hypothesis for functional information generation and be done with the ‘ID controversy’ altogether???

    Three subsets of sequence complexity and their relevance to biopolymeric information – Abel, Trevors
    Excerpt: Shannon information theory measures the relative degrees of RSC and OSC. Shannon information theory cannot measure FSC. FSC is invariably associated with all forms of complex biofunction, including biochemical pathways, cycles, positive and negative feedback regulation, and homeostatic metabolism. The algorithmic programming of FSC, not merely its aperiodicity, accounts for biological organization. No empirical evidence exists of either RSC of OSC ever having produced a single instance of sophisticated biological organization. Organization invariably manifests FSC rather than successive random events (RSC) or low-informational self-ordering phenomena (OSC).,,,

    Testable hypotheses about FSC

    What testable empirical hypotheses can we make about FSC that might allow us to identify when FSC exists? In any of the following null hypotheses [137], demonstrating a single exception would allow falsification. We invite assistance in the falsification of any of the following null hypotheses:

    Null hypothesis #1
    Stochastic ensembles of physical units cannot program algorithmic/cybernetic function.

    Null hypothesis #2
    Dynamically-ordered sequences of individual physical units (physicality patterned by natural law causation) cannot program algorithmic/cybernetic function.

    Null hypothesis #3
    Statistically weighted means (e.g., increased availability of certain units in the polymerization environment) giving rise to patterned (compressible) sequences of units cannot program algorithmic/cybernetic function.

    Null hypothesis #4
    Computationally successful configurable switches cannot be set by chance, necessity, or any combination of the two, even over large periods of time.

    We repeat that a single incident of nontrivial algorithmic programming success achieved without selection for fitness at the decision-node programming level would falsify any of these null hypotheses. This renders each of these hypotheses scientifically testable. We offer the prediction that none of these four hypotheses will be falsified.
    http://www.tbiomed.com/content/2/1/29

    The main problem, for the secular model of neo-Darwinian evolution to overcome, is that no one has ever seen purely material processes generate functional ‘prescriptive’ information.

    The Capabilities of Chaos and Complexity: David L. Abel – Null Hypothesis For Information Generation – 2009
    To focus the scientific community’s attention on its own tendencies toward overzealous metaphysical imagination bordering on “wish-fulfillment,” we propose the following readily falsifiable null hypothesis, and invite rigorous experimental attempts to falsify it: “Physicodynamics cannot spontaneously traverse The Cybernetic Cut: physicodynamics alone cannot organize itself into formally functional systems requiring algorithmic optimization, computational halting, and circuit integration.” A single exception of non trivial, unaided spontaneous optimization of formal function by truly natural process would falsify this null hypothesis.
    http://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/10/1/247/pdf
    Can We Falsify Any Of The Following Null Hypothesis (For Information Generation)
    1) Mathematical Logic
    2) Algorithmic Optimization
    3) Cybernetic Programming
    4) Computational Halting
    5) Integrated Circuits
    6) Organization (e.g. homeostatic optimization far from equilibrium)
    7) Material Symbol Systems (e.g. genetics)
    8) Any Goal Oriented bona fide system
    9) Language
    10) Formal function of any kind
    11) Utilitarian work
    http://mdpi.com/1422-0067/10/1/247/ag

    The Law of Physicodynamic Insufficiency – Dr David L. Abel – November 2010
    Excerpt: “If decision-node programming selections are made randomly or by law rather than with purposeful intent, no non-trivial (sophisticated) function will spontaneously arise.”,,, After ten years of continual republication of the null hypothesis with appeals for falsification, no falsification has been provided. The time has come to extend this null hypothesis into a formal scientific prediction: “No non trivial algorithmic/computational utility will ever arise from chance and/or necessity alone.”
    http://www-qa.scitopics.com/Th.....iency.html

    The GS (genetic selection) Principle – David L. Abel – 2009
    Excerpt: Stunningly, information has been shown not to increase in the coding regions of DNA with evolution. Mutations do not produce increased information. Mira et al (65) showed that the amount of coding in DNA actually decreases with evolution of bacterial genomes, not increases. This paper parallels Petrov’s papers starting with (66) showing a net DNA loss with Drosophila evolution (67). Konopka (68) found strong evidence against the contention of Subba Rao et al (69, 70) that information increases with mutations. The information content of the coding regions in DNA does not tend to increase with evolution as hypothesized. Konopka also found Shannon complexity not to be a suitable indicator of evolutionary progress over a wide range of evolving genes. Konopka’s work applies Shannon theory to known functional text. Kok et al. (71) also found that information does not increase in DNA with evolution. As with Konopka, this finding is in the context of the change in mere Shannon uncertainty. The latter is a far more forgiving definition of information than that required for prescriptive information (PI) (21, 22, 33, 72). It is all the more significant that mutations do not program increased PI. Prescriptive information either instructs or directly produces formal function. No increase in Shannon or Prescriptive information occurs in duplication. What the above papers show is that not even variation of the duplication produces new information, not even Shannon “information.”
    http://www.bioscience.org/2009.....6/3426.pdf
    http://www.us.net/life/index.htm

  14. 14
    Collin says:

    Millions of ideals? Why not? Take human designs. Each machine, computer program or whatever is created to be an ideal solution for a problem. A true ideal is never reached, but solutions become better and better. My belief is that species are designed to be self-contained, internally consistent/complimentary “solutions” based on older designs. I just don’t think you come up with a new species (or maybe I should use the word “kind”) without intelligent guidance. You have variation around a mean in order to take into account some variation in the environment, but only to an extent (skin color to take into account lack of sunlight, for example). But a giraffe’s cardiovacular system? DID NOT EVOLVE on its own.

  15. 15
    NickMatzke_UD says:

    Here’s Felstenstein’s reply:
    http://pandasthumb.org/archive.....lobby.html

    You might want to read his book also:

    http://www.google.com/search?h.....erring+phy

    …it is assigned for people’s qualifying exams in many Ph.D. programs.

  16. 16
    David W. Gibson says:

    No!, I am just maintaining the ‘hard line’ that as far as the origination of the ‘functional information’, that is required to make any ‘small leaps’ in corvette complexity or any ‘large leaps’ in biological complexity, the input of a ‘mind’ is, as far as we can tell, ALWAYS required….

    This strikes me as being an argument from analogy. Humans design cars. Life forms look designed. Therefore, life forms ARE designed through an agency analogous to human design. But this is almost like saying that clouds can look like human faces, we know humans have faces, therefore clouds are human! I can see there are points of similarity. I don’t understand why two entirely different processes must necessarily produce such different results that no similarities can be found. People are great at noticing patterns.

    Corvettes have grown larger over time. People grow larger over time (from year to year). So if they have growth in common, should we conclude intelligent design is the only possible agency for growth? Or have we simply noticed another similarity?

    As well, why should Darwinists even use such a deceptive comparison in the first place to claim proof for Darwinism when every one can clearly see corvettes are designed???

    I doubt most people would be deceived. They can see the incremental changes to Corvettes and the incremental changes in their children, without immediately concluding that Corvettes breed, or that a team of mechanical engineers conceived their children. I think the natural world is quite full of phenomena that change over time through gradual incremental processes.

    And as someone here pointed out earlier, gradual biological change places real limits on the the degree of novelty possible in a single generation. Corvettes, on the other hand, have often experienced significant novelty from one design year to the next. Whole new power trains, etc. So my reading is, incremental changes in Corvettes is being used as a way to highlight the very different sets of constraints placed on these very different processes.

    Why don’t they produce the actual empirical evidence of functional complexity/information being increased gradually instead of playing such games???

    Oddly, I was under the impression that this has been done fairly extensively – although I also read that about half of new species are actually LESS functionally complex than their predecessors. If a parasite can jettison functions by piggybacking on those of the host, I’m not sure whether this change represents a loss of information. Quite often, the parasite has traded a simpler physical form for a more complex lifecyle. So which one contains the information?

    Why don’t they just falsify Abel’s null hypothesis for functional information generation and be done with the ‘ID controversy’ altogether???

    I’m not familiar with this hypothesis, so your request sounds quite reasonable – assuming that a good operational definition of “functional information” is agreed on before the effort is made, so that nobody can say “No, that’s not functional information” afterwards.

  17. 17
    Collin says:

    It was Berra who was originally making the argument by analogy. He was saying that evolution is obviously true, just look at the evolution of Corvettes! When we all know that the evolution of corvettes was done with the aid of intelligence. And by the way, species to come with whole new “drive trains” in the fossil record. The Cambrian explosion shows us that.

  18. 18
    Collin says:

    “do come” not “too come” sorry.

  19. 19
    David W. Gibson says:

    OK, if each successful new species represents a new ideal, then there would seem to be no limit on the number of possible ideals, assuming by “ideal” we mean “workable”. If instead we take “ideal” to mean “perfect”, I sometimes wonder whether this sort of “perfect” is capable of being operationally defined, especially in dynamic systems.

    I just don’t think you come up with a new species (or maybe I should use the word “kind”) without intelligent guidance. You have variation around a mean in order to take into account some variation in the environment, but only to an extent (skin color to take into account lack of sunlight, for example). But a giraffe’s cardiovacular system? DID NOT EVOLVE on its own.

    I’m aware of the theological position that ALL phenomena result from mind-directed processes. But as I understand it, this theological position makes no attempt to distinguish between processes that might require “more mind” or “less mind”.

    You seem to be arguing that skin color variations require less mind, but cardiovascular systems (or only one such system?) require more mind. I’m not clear what criteria you are using to draw this distinction, or even whether it makes sense to envision a “spectrum of mind involvement”, and then try to select arbitrary points along this spectrum.

    However, I DO think it would make theological sense to distinguish between human designs and non-human designs (or consider human designs to be “second-generation”, such that humans were designed, and they in turn create more designs.)

    Finally, I can’t quite grasp how evolution is NOT a design process, anymore than erosion producing spires and arches isn’t a design process. Understanding how each of these processes work seems to be conceptually distinct from the theological position that there is a mind behind everything (or some things? Most things? More mind behind some than others? The theology isn’t quite clear to me.)

  20. 20
    David W. Gibson says:

    And by the way, species to come with whole new “drive trains” in the fossil record. The Cambrian explosion shows us that.

    Yes, but not in a single model year. I read that the “Cambrian explosion” took place over at least 5 million years, that it started with the advent of “hard parts” that fossilized (and who knows how long bodyplan radiation had been happening before that), and that the environment at the time was “empty” enough to permit rapid radiation of forms (rapid being millions of years). Increase the sampling rate to evern 100,000 years, and you would see VERY gradual change.

    So I obviously didn’t make myself clear. I’ve never read any understanding of the Cambrian as a time when entirely new body plans popped into existence without predecessors. The radiation process was still gradual and incremental on a time scale of, say, the current existence of the human species. Let’s say our species has existed for half a million years (to be generous). If you were able to sample all life forms throughout the Cambrian every half million years, I think you would see incremental changes on that time scale, not a “new body plan of the year”.

  21. 21
    David W. Gibson says:

    Oops, the last sentence of the first paragraph belongs at the end of the second. Sorry about that.

  22. 22
    bornagain77 says:

    David as to this comment:

    I’m not familiar with this hypothesis, so your request sounds quite reasonable – assuming that a good operational definition of “functional information” is agreed on before the effort is made, so that nobody can say “No, that’s not functional information” afterwards.

    If you are interested in how all this plays out I suggest that you follow Cxasey Luskin’s series of eight articles that he currently has coming out against Venema’s critique of ID. Here are the first three, with the following five to soon appear on ENV in the near future:

    Intelligent Design and the Origin of Biological Information: A Response to Dennis Venema
    Casey Luskin September 8, 2011
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....50571.html

    Part 2 of 8

    Why Did One Theistic Evolutionist Part Ways with BioLogos?
    Excerpt: Venema’s arguments focus on the origin of information via Darwinian processes — after the origin of life. The arguments he makes, while missing the point of Meyer’s book, are relevant to many other ID claims. They are, for that reason, worth investigating.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....50621.html

    Part 3 of 8

    What Is a Proper Test of Intelligent Design?
    Excerpt: In subsequent responses to Dr. Venema, we’ll assess whether the empirical examples cited by Venema are actually within the “edge of evolution” and if they show, as he suggests, that natural selection and random mutation can produce “functional, information-rich genes and proteins.”
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....50631.html

  23. 23
    bornagain77 says:

    David you state:

    I read that the “Cambrian explosion” took place over at least 5 million years, that it started with the advent of “hard parts” that fossilized (and who knows how long bodyplan radiation had been happening before that),

    Yet;

    “The Cambrian Explosion was so short that it is below the resolution of the fossil record. It could have happened overnight. So we don’t know the duration of the Cambrian Explosion. We just know that it was very, very, fast.”
    Jonathan Wells – Darwin’s Dilemma Quote

    Jonathan Wells – Cambrian Explosion – video
    http://www.cross.tv/55196

    The ‘real work’ of the beginning of the Cambrian Explosion may in actuality be as short as a two to three million year time frame (Ross: Creation as Science 2006) which is well within what is termed the ‘geologic resolution time’. ‘Geologic resolution time’ simply means the time frame for the main part of the Cambrian Explosion apparently can’t be shortened any further due to limitations of our accurately dating this ancient time period more precisely.

    It is amazing the level of denial that evolutionists will display when confronted with this evidence for a complete lack of transitional fossils to the Cambrian explosion, yet Dr. Wells points out that, even if we grant the most generous assumptions for time to the evolutionists, we still run into insurmountable problems:

    Storming the Beaches of Norman – Jonathan Wells
    Excerpt: Even if the Cambrian explosion had lasted 40 million years, as Westrop had claimed, there would not have been enough time for unguided processes to produce the enormous amount of specified complexity in the DNA of the animal phyla.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....orman.html

    And, despite what many evolutionists believe, recent discoveries are only amplifying this problem for them:

    More Pow in the Cambrian Explosion – May 2010
    Excerpt: Scientists have found more fossil evidence for sudden emergence of animal body plans in the Cambrian strata.
    http://www.creationsafaris.com.....#20100511a

    The unscientific hegemony of uniformitarianism – David Tyler – 2011
    Excerpt: The summary of results for phyla is as follows. The pattern reinforces earlier research that concluded the Explosion is not an artefact of sampling. Much the same finding applies to the appearance of classes.
    http://www.arn.org/blogs/index.....niformitar

    Materialistic Basis of the Cambrian Explosion is Elusive: BioEssays Vol. 31 (7):736 – 747 – July 2009
    Excerpt: “going from an essentially static system billions of years in existence to the one we find today, a dynamic and awesomely complex system whose origin seems to defy explanation. Part of the intrigue with the Cambrian explosion is that numerous animal phyla with very distinct body plans arrive on the scene in a geological blink of the eye, with little or no warning of what is to come in rocks that predate this interval of time.” —“Thus, elucidating the materialistic basis of the Cambrian explosion has become more elusive, not less, the more we know about the event itself, and cannot be explained away by coupling extinction of intermediates with long stretches of geologic time, despite the contrary claims of some modern neo-Darwinists.”
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....mater.html

    and, contrary to the Darwinian claim that ‘only hard parts were fossilized’ in the Cambrian explosion;

    Challenging Fossil of a Little Fish
    What they had actually proved was that Chinese phosphate is fully capable of preserving whatever animals may have lived there in Precambrian times. Because they found sponges and sponge embryos in abundance, researchers are no longer so confident that Precambrian animals were too soft or too small to be preserved. “I think this is a major mystery in paleontology,” said Chen. “Before the Cambrian, we should see a number of steps: differentiation of cells, differentiation of tissue, of dorsal and ventral, right and left. But we don’t have strong evidence for any of these.” Taiwanese biologist Li was also direct: “No evolution theory can explain these kinds of phenomena.”
    http://www.fredheeren.com/boston.htm

    Macroscopic life in the Palaeoproterozoic – July 2010
    Excerpt: The Ediacaran fauna shows that soft-bodied animals were preserved in the Precambrian, even in coarse sandstone beds, suggesting that (the hypothetical transitional) fossils are not found because they were not there.
    http://www.arn.org/blogs/index.....proterozoi

    Response to John Wise – October 2010
    “So, where then are those ancestors? Fossil preservation conditions were adequate to preserve animals such as jellyfish, corals, and sponges, as well as the Ediacaran fauna. It does not appear that scarcity is a fault of the fossil record.”
    Sean Carroll developmental biologist
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....38811.html

    Deepening Darwin’s Dilemma – Jonathan Wells – The Cambrian Explosion – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4154263

    thus David, the actual evidence testifies against your claim that the Cambrian was not sudden, and against your claim that sort bodied fossils were not preserved.

  24. 24
    David W. Gibson says:

    bornagain77:

    I hope you will forgive me for not being anywhere near as knowledgeable as you about this. What I have read suggests that during most of the Cambrian, radiation was no more rapid than during other periods of rapid radiation. Wikipedia says

    The presence of Precambrian animals somewhat dampens the “bang” of the explosion: not only was the appearance of animals gradual, but their evolutionary radiation (“diversification”) may also not have been as rapid as once thought. Indeed, statistical analysis shows that the Cambrian explosion was no faster than any of the other radiations in animals’ history.[4] However, it does seem that some innovations linked to the explosion — such as resistant armour — only evolved once in the animal lineage; this makes a lengthy Precambrian animal lineage harder to defend.[91]

    My reading on this is that there is much left to learn, and firm conclusions about this period would not rest comfortably on available data.

    However, I confess I am a bit put off by your selection of sources. You cite Jonathan Wells several times, evolutionnews quite a few times, arn.org, creationsafaris.com, etc. Does it make you uncomfortable that ALL of your sources share the same philosophical orientation? Just speaking for myself, if I were to confine my reading solely to sources ratifying what I prefer to think, I would at least be aware that I was seeking to support an adversarial position, rather than seeking to understand What’s Really Going On Here.

    As I see it, the danger of building such a case while a great deal of sincere and informed puzzlement exists and relevant evidence continues to emerge is quite high. You might be quite correct that the Cambrian period (or at least some of it) falls well up on the “spectrum of mind-involvement”. But, as is always the case in science, you might wish to regard your conclusions as tentative, and give thoughtful weight to each new discovery.

  25. 25
    bornagain77 says:

    David, well it is not a ‘puzzlement’ for me because I don’t ‘need’ atheistic materialism to be true no matter what the evidence says!!!, the only ‘puzzlement’ is in the fact that the Cambrian Explosion is completely unexpected to Darwinists, yet fits extremely well within a Theistic framework that count the days of Genesis as extremely long periods of time. Moreover, the more evidence that is collected the more of a ‘problem’ that it becomes for Darwinists. Which certainly not a good sign, scientifically speaking, for Darwinists. You can belittle my sources if you want (as if Darwinists can even account for ‘doing science’ within their materialistic framework), but do you really blame Darwinists for being so silent on the Cambrian matter when the facts are so embarrassing for them in the first place??? This propensity of Darwinists, to hide, and mislead, the clear evidence for the Cambrian Explosion, is best exemplified by Walcott’s ‘filing away’ of the Burgess shale fossils in the Smithsonian for several decades;

    Evolution: Rationality vs. Randomness
    Excerpt: The reality of this explosion of life was discovered long before it was revealed. In 1909, Charles D. Walcott, while searching for fossils in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, came upon a strata of shale near the Burgess Pass, rich in that for which he had been seeking, fossils from the era known as the Cambrian. Over the following four years Walcott collected between 60,000 and 80,000 fossils from the Burgess Shale. These fossils contained representatives from every phylum except one of the phyla that exist today. Walcott recorded his findings meticulously in his notebooks. No new phyla ever evolved after the Cambrian explosion. These fossils could have changed the entire concept of evolution from a tree of life to a bush of life. And they did, but not in 1909. Walcott knew he had discovered something very important. That is why he collected the vast number of samples. But he could not believe that evolution could have occurred in such a burst of life forms, “simultaneously” to use the words of Scientific American. This was totally against the theory of Darwin in which he and his colleagues were steeped. And so Walcott reburied the fossils, all 60,000 of them, this time in the drawers of his laboratory. Walcott was the director of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C., the largest array of museums in the world. It was not until 1985 that they were rediscovered (in the draws of the Smithsonian). Had Walcott wanted, he could have hired a phalanx of graduate students to work on the fossils. But he chose not to rock the boat of evolution. Today fossil representatives of the Cambrian era have been found in China, Africa, the British Isles, Sweden, Greenland. The explosion was worldwide. But before it became proper to discuss the extraordinary nature of the explosion, the data were simply not reported. It is a classic example of cognitive dissonance, but an example for which we have all paid a severe price.
    http://www.geraldschroeder.com/Evolution.aspx

    further notes that might be more to your materialistic liking (or perhaps not);

    Plant or Animal? Mysterious Fossils Defy Classification
    Excerpt: “Animals in the Ediacaran Period are almost universally bizarre, and it is very difficult to place them in any modern animal phyla,” Xiao told LiveScience.
    http://www.livescience.com/128.....ation.html

    The Avalon Explosion:
    Excerpt: Ediacara fossils [575 to 542 million years ago (Ma)] represent Earth’s oldest known complex macroscopic life forms,,, A comprehensive quantitative analysis of these fossils indicates that the oldest Ediacara assemblage—the Avalon assemblage (575 to 565 Ma)—already encompassed the full range of Ediacara morphospace. (i.e. they appeared abruptly in the fossil record and retained their same basic shape and form throughout their tenure in the fossil record before they went extinct prior to the Cambrian explosion.)
    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/.....19/5859/81

    The new animal phylogeny: Reliability and implications:
    Excerpt: “The new molecular based phylogeny has several important implications. Foremost among them is the disappearance of “intermediate” taxa between sponges, cnidarians, ctenophores, and the last common ancestor of bilaterians or “Urbilateria.”…A corollary is that we have a major gap in the stem leading to the Urbilataria. We have lost the hope, so common in older evolutionary reasoning, of reconstructing the morphology of the “coelomate ancestor” through a scenario involving successive grades of increasing complexity based on the anatomy of extant “primitive” lineages.”
    From Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, in 2000 –
    http://www.pnas.org/content/97.....frrxyih/gM

    The Biological Big Bang model for the major transitions in evolution – Eugene V Koonin – Background:
    “Major transitions in biological evolution show the same pattern of sudden emergence of diverse forms at a new level of complexity. The relationships between major groups within an emergent new class of biological entities are hard to decipher and do not seem to fit the tree pattern that, following Darwin’s original proposal, remains the dominant description of biological evolution. The cases in point include the origin of complex RNA molecules and protein folds; major groups of viruses; archaea and bacteria, and the principal lineages within each of these prokaryotic domains; eukaryotic supergroups; and animal phyla. In each of these pivotal nexuses in life’s history, the principal “types” seem to appear rapidly and fully equipped with the signature features of the respective new level of biological organization. No intermediate “grades” or intermediate forms between different types are detectable;
    http://www.biology-direct.com/content/2/1/21

    A New Model for Evolution: A Rhizome – May 2010
    Excerpt: Thus we cannot currently identify a single common ancestor for the gene repertoire of any organism.,,, Overall, it is now thought that there are no two genes that have a similar history along the phylogenic tree.,,,Therefore the representation of the evolutionary pathway as a tree leading to a single common ancestor on the basis of the analysis of one or more genes provides an incorrect representation of the stability and hierarchy of evolution. Finally, genome analyses have revealed that a very high proportion of genes are likely to be newly created,,, and that some genes are only found in one organism (named ORFans). These genes do not belong to any phylogenic tree and represent new genetic creations.
    http://darwins-god.blogspot.co.....izome.html

    More Questions for Evolutionists – August 2010
    Excerpt: First of all, we have 65% of the gene number of humans in little old sponges—an organism that appears as far back as 635 million years ago, about as old as you can get [except for bacteria]. This kind of demolishes Darwin’s argument about what he called the pre-Silurian (pre-Cambrian). 635 mya predates both the Cambrian AND the Edicarian, which comes before the Cambrian (i.e., the pre-Cambrian) IOW, out of nowhere, 18,000 animal genes. Darwinian gradualism is dealt a death blow here (unless you’re a ‘true believer”!). Here’s a quote: “It means there was an elaborate machinery in place that already had some function. What I want to know now is what were all these genes doing prior to the advent of sponge.” (Charles Marshall, director of the University of California Museum of Paleontology in Berkeley.) I want to know, too!
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....utionists/

  26. 26
    Collin says:

    Mr. Gibson,

    One of my biggest hangups with evolution is the coincidence of complimentary systems developing at the same time. I mentioned the giraffe and its cardiovascular system. Have you read this article by Wolf-Ekkehard Lönnig?
    http://www.weloennig.de/Giraffe.pdf

    It turns out that when a giraffe bends down, the blood pressure increases so much that its arteries would rupture if it wasn’t “equipped with a coordinated system of blood pressure controls. Pressure sensors along the neck’s arteries monitor the blood pressure and activate contraction of the artery walls (along with other mechanisms) to counter the increase in pressure.” see page 9 of that article. It seems hard to believe that successive slight modifications would create this coordinating system of blood pressure controls while the giraffe’s neck was slowly getting longer. Instead, evolution would just kill the mutant and favor more fit species.

  27. 27
    David W. Gibson says:

    bornagain77:

    David, well it is not a ‘puzzlement’ for me because I don’t ‘need’ atheistic materialism to be true no matter what the evidence says!!!, the only ‘puzzlement’ is in the fact that the Cambrian Explosion is completely unexpected to Darwinists, yet fits extremely well within a Theistic framework that count the days of Genesis as extremely long periods of time. Moreover, the more evidence that is collected the more of a ‘problem’ that it becomes for Darwinists. Which certainly not a good sign, scientifically speaking, for Darwinists. You can belittle my sources if you want (as if Darwinists can even account for ‘doing science’ within their materialistic framework), but do you really blame Darwinists for being so silent on the Cambrian matter when the facts are so embarrassing for them in the first place???

    I see several possibilities here.

    1) Is it possible some aspect of the evolutionary process is not fully understood? I would say certainly it’s possible, but evidence is lacking. Is it possible that radiation CAN occur that fast given sufficient environmental opportunities? I don’t know.

    2) Is it possible that evolutionary processes themselves operated differently 500-600 million years ago? Same answer – certainly it’s possible but there’s no evidence.

    3) Is it possible that some entirely different process, such as Divine Intervention, was responsible for the evidence we have? Again, same answer – certainly it’s possible, but how could we tell?

    4) Is it possible that additional evidence will turn up that will resolve apparent problems? Sure, and in fact new evidence is found for most everything fairly regularly. I’m aware that terrestrial plants, and after that angiosperms, exhibited this same rapid radiation when some biological innovation (from whatever source) suddenly opened up vast numbers of new niches. At the resolution available to us, all of these occurred at about the same speed.

    So I hope that patience will be rewarded, knowing that it may not be.

    (And I was not “belittling” your sources. I was observing that they all, without exception, support the explanation you find most appealing. If I adopted this same approach, I would recognize it as confirmation bias, whether or not it produced the correct explanation.)

    As for “silence”, as far as I can tell there is very extensive, entirely public discussion, research, dispute, and analysis available relating to every discovery. If by “silence” you mean biologists haven’t all given up on natural explanations in the face of unexpected evidence, this is what I think you should hope for. I know if I thought I had an answer to the Cambrian radiation, I would be disappointed if researchers stopped researching before my answer was either solidly supported or no longer supportable.

    I think you should count yourself lucky that you already have an answer you find satisfying. Especially that you have an answer so complete and extensive. Finding direct evidence for your answer strikes me as a challenge. When I search for answers, if they’re not in the first place I look, this has been a lousy guarantee that they’ll be in the second place either. Where many answers are possible, eliminating one narrows the field very little. If only one answer can be considered acceptable anyway, then evidence loses much of its relevance.

  28. 28
    David W. Gibson says:

    This is a good point – complex systems require coordinated functions. And I suspect you are correct that you are looking at rare events. I read that way over 99% of species have gone extinct, and that immediately beneficial mutations show up quite rarely, and generally need to happen in the right place at the right time. For all I know, long necks have nearly always reached some local maximum for the very reasons you present, with a single exception where some peculiarity of the cardiovascular system just happened to be ready, or close to ready.

    Given that (again as far as I know) this only happened once, out of who knows how many “tries”, I think it never happening at all was probably more likely. But the same can be said of any complex system. My mind boggles trying to envision all of the organisms that COULD have developed (that is, which the physics and chemistry of life do not rule out) but never did. Conversely, given a few billion years of trial and error, one would be amazed NOT to see some number of unlikely results.

    I see life forms, especially complex life forms, as being like lottery winners – almost nobody wins despite the millions of tickets sold. Those who DO win, and they occur fairly regularly, win big.

  29. 29
    bornagain77 says:

    Well David, despite you naively innocent belief that atheistic materialists engage in ‘very extensive, entirely public discussion, research, dispute, and analysis available relating to every discovery.’ The history of the fact is that atheistic materialists have done their level best to ‘hide’ the Cambrian Explosion from public knowledge. Besides the Walcott travesty which I mentioned above, of the ‘filing away the Cambrian Explosion from public view for several decades (in the government run, and thus publicly owned, Smithsonian), we have the little matter of the Richard Sternberg affair that clearly reveals the atheists materialistic ‘agenda’ to suppress the truth from the public;

    A “peer reviewed” paper was published in 2004, pointing out the obvious impossibilities of evolutionary processes producing such an explosion of complex functional information in the Cambrian explosion (or any time frame for that matter). Yet, just for questioning that unguided Darwinian evolution could do as such, the paper brought forth much persecution of the editor, at the Smithsonian, who dared allowed the heretical publication of ‘doubting the sufficiency of neo-Darwinian evolution’ to produce such massive amounts of complex functional information in the Cambrian explosion. The persecution was so severe it caught the attention of a Congressional Investigation Committee.

    Here are websites and a video clip describing that persecution:

    Smithsonian Controversy – Richard Sternberg
    http://www.richardsternberg.org/smithsonian.php

    Get Expelled – Richard Sternberg – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2HS03sGrehI

    “Expelled Exposed” Exposed: Your One-Stop Rebuttal to Attacks on the Documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed
    http://www.ncseexposed.org/

    Here is an excerpt of that completely inoffensive peer reviewed paper which ruffled so many neo-Darwinian feathers:

    Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories By: Stephen C. Meyer; Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington
    Excerpt: “To say that the fauna of the Cambrian period appeared in a geologically sudden manner also implies the absence of clear transitional intermediate forms connecting Cambrian animals with simpler pre-Cambrian forms. And, indeed, in almost all cases, the Cambrian animals have no clear morphological antecedents in earlier Vendian or Precambrian fauna (Miklos 1993, Erwin et al. 1997:132, Steiner & Reitner 2001, Conway Morris 2003b:510, Valentine et al. 2003:519-520). Further, several recent discoveries and analyses suggest that these morphological gaps may not be merely an artifact of incomplete sampling of the fossil record (Foote 1997, Foote et al. 1999, Benton & Ayala 2003, Meyer et al. 2003), suggesting that the fossil record is at least approximately reliable (Conway Morris 2003b:505).”
    http://www.discovery.org/a/2177

    David, perhaps you feel comfortable ‘making excuses’ for such despicable behavior, but as for myself, I’ve seen enough to know that there is far more going on here than ‘merely science as usual’. It is indeed a clash of completely opposing worldviews!!!

  30. 30
    David W. Gibson says:

    Well David, despite you naively innocent belief that atheistic materialists engage in ‘very extensive, entirely public discussion, research, dispute, and analysis available relating to every discovery.’ The history of the fact is that atheistic materialists have done their level best to ‘hide’ the Cambrian Explosion from public knowledge.

    That’s curious. I had no difficulty finding more information on it than I could read in months, even in abstract form. I concede that I have no way of knowing what is hidden, since it’s hidden!

    The Sternberg case seems muddled, which of course does not prevent it from being highly polarizing. What I read is:

    A) Sternberg lost his job at the Smithsonian for publishing a paper they didn’t like.
    B) Sternberg was never an employee of the Smithsonian.
    Who to believe?

    A) Sternberg lost his position as editor of the journal for publishing this paper.
    B) The editor job rotated, and this was Sternberg’s last scheduled turn anyway.
    Who to believe?

    A) Sternberg had the paper peer reviewed.
    B) Sternberg circumvented the standard review process.
    Who to believe?

    A) Sternberg was shunted to a less desirable office.
    B) Remodeling shunted everyone in the building to another office.
    Who to believe?

    A) The paper Sternberg published was “disowned” because it didn’t meet “evolutionist orthodoxy”.
    B) The paper was a review paper of material outside the topic area of the journal.
    Who to believe?

    I’ve read through the Wikipedia writeup (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S.....ontroversy), after which I don’t know what to think, except that there seems to be a lot of hyperbole and mud-slinging by both sides. Since I can’t find any “despicable behavior” by either side, I’m uncomfortable with the whole affair. I worry that a situation where nobody did anything wrong, got escalated into a pissing match for reasons quite external to the events themselves.

  31. 31
    bornagain77 says:

    Perhaps this will help David:

    Smithsonian Controversy – Richard Sternberg
    Subsequently, there were two federal investigations of my mistreatment, one by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel in 2005 , and the other by subcommittee staff of the U.S. House Committee on Government Reform in 2006. Both investigations unearthed clear evidence that my rights had been repeatedly violated. Because there has been so much misinformation spread about what actually happened to me, I have decided to make available the relevant documents here for those who would like to know the truth.
    http://www.richardsternberg.org/smithsonian.php

    Now David, Who to believe??? Who to believe??? Should we believe the committees who found ‘clear evidence that Sternberg’s rights had been repeatedly violated’ or the hordes of atheists trying to hide the despicable behavior of their comrades??? Well David, if you are genuinely interested, (which I’m starting to severely question your sincerity in this matter), in seeing if atheists can be so petty as to persecute anyone who disagrees with their neo-Darwinian worldview, I suggest you actually watch the movie ‘Expelled’;

    EXPELLED – Starring Ben Stein – Part 1 of 10 – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fj8xyMsbkO4

    Here are some more resources on the ‘atheist bias’;

    Slaughter of Dissidents – Book
    “If folks liked Ben Stein’s movie “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed,” they will be blown away by “Slaughter of the Dissidents.” – Russ Miller
    http://www.amazon.com/Slaughte.....0981873405

    Slaughter of the Dissidents – 1 of 2 – Dr. Jerry Bergman – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NMBbtJt6_UU

    Slaughter of the Dissidents – 2 of 2 – Dr. Jerry Bergman – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sUExU_nKFCo

    Evolution Is Religion–Not Science by Henry Morris, Ph.D.
    Excerpt: Evolution is promoted by its practitioners as more than mere science. Evolution is promulgated as an ideology, a secular religion—a full-fledged alternative to Christianity, with meaning and morality,,, Evolution is a religion. This was true of evolution in the beginning, and it is true of evolution still today.
    Darwinian atheist Michael Ruse – A Prominent Philosopher

    Here is an atheist professor who openly proselytizes his religion in his classroom, thus violating the establishment clause of the constitution:

    Dr. Will Provine on Religion and Creationism – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nnMjaw8zUxQ

    On the Fundamental Difference Between Darwin-Inspired and Intelligent Design-Inspired Lawsuits – September 2011
    Excerpt: Darwin lobby litigation: In every Darwin-inspired case listed above, the Darwin lobby sought to shut down free speech, stopping people from talking about non-evolutionary views, and seeking to restrict freedom of intellectual inquiry.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....50451.html

  32. 32
    David W. Gibson says:

    This propensity of Darwinists, to hide, and mislead, the clear evidence for the Cambrian Explosion, is best exemplified by Walcott’s ‘filing away’ of the Burgess shale fossils in the Smithsonian for several decades

    I wondered about this, which your source made out to look highly suspicious. So I did some reading. I discovered that Walcott was an inveterate collector, of anything that struck him as odd. He didn’t know what to make of it (and at the time, nobody did), so he filed his collection away. Walcott was not a theorist, and the context within which his collection could make sense simply didn’t exist at the time.

    What I learned, kind of in passing, is that a very surprising number of discoveries are made in museum drawers! There are plenty of fossil collectors in the world, few of whom have the knowledge to organize and classify what they find. So they just save them. Eventually, the accumulating base of both evidence and theory combine to construct a tentative model. And suddenly, these old collections are found to fit and fill in these models – something not possible before the model itself emerged.

    I find the interpretation you present to be highly misleading, viewed in this way. The allegation that Walcott “hid” something he “knew” would present problems for a theory nowhere near fleshed out enough for his collection to make sense at the time, is inconsistent with Walcott’s methods, inconsistent with the development of the theory, but entirely consistent with the fairly frequent situation where museum collections suddenly make sense.

    It was Simon Conway Morris who, in 1973, first realized what it WAS that Walcott had collected.

    And these things, I think, are interesting. It’s entirely possible that museums today have a goodly number of puzzling finds, not yet fitting into a theoretical context that has yet to be developed.

    I do wish to thank you for inspiring me to start reading about this. It’s an excellent illustration of the feedback process between evidence and theory.

  33. 33
    bornagain77 says:

    David, perhaps it was a case of ‘cognitive dissonance’ on Walcott’s part, but none-the-less, despite the level to which Walcott suppressed that which was so surprising to him that it caused him to collect 60,000 specimens, it is certainly a clear example of a inherent materialistic bias for which we have all paid a severe price in the setting back science for several decades, much like the materialistically imposed vestigial organs and Junk DNA did.,,, Perhaps you should view Darwin’s Dilemma to see how crushing this ‘problem’ is for neo-Darwinists;

    Darwin’s Dilemma – Excellent Cambrian Explosion Movie
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kyZjQFN_DUw

    Darwin’s Dilemma Faq Page: Questions about the Cambrian Explosion, Evolution, and Intelligent Design
    http://www.darwinsdilemma.org/pdf/faq.pdf

    Exotic Cambrian Animals and Plants and Ediacaran biota- Animated videos
    http://www.lightproductionsvid.....imals.html

    “Darwin’s Dilemma examines some of the most important fossil discoveries ever made and with them, a mystery deeper than Charles Darwin ever imagined. For the fossil record of the Cambrian Explosion does not reveal the gradual development of life forms as Darwin posited in his work, but a period in which compound eyes, articulated limbs, sophisticated sensory organs and skeletal frames burst into existence seemingly out of nowhere.” – Anika Smith – Discovery Institute

  34. 34
    David W. Gibson says:

    Should we believe the committees who found ‘clear evidence that Sternberg’s rights had been repeatedly violated’

    This is an excellent question, especially considering the committee itself:

    In the course of his defense Sternberg claimed he was the subject of religious discrimination due to his belief in intelligent design by the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History, where he served as an unpaid research associate. This resulted in Republican representatives, Institute affiliates and intelligent design advocates Mark Souder and Rick Santorum authoring a report supporting Sternberg’s claim of discrimination. The report was commissioned by Souder in his capacity as subcommittee chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform but published by Souder as an individual representative without it gaining any official standing by the Committee, which never formally accepted it.

    Now, let’s say that it had been a committee of Democrats, with affiliates from Harvard rather than the Discovery Institute, commissioned by advocates of evolutionary theory rather than by creationists. In THAT case, would you suspect bias? Or would you “objectively” conclude that Sternberg was never treated improperly?

    What you’ve given me is a report commissioned by an intelligent design advocate, who produced a report never even accepted by an admittedly heavily stacked committee.

    What I’m trying to understand is What Happened? I can’t help but be concerned that your motivation is entirely different – otherwise, you might even consider presenting the Smithsonian’s side of the story.

  35. 35
    ScottAndrews says:

    Great reading on Sternberg’s site. The US Office of Special Counsel’s findings essentially say that Sternberg’s position does not entitle him to legal protection from some of what took place, but states repeatedly that his claims appear to be true.

    After stating that the investigation would be closed,

    My decision is not based upon the substance of your allegations; in fact, our preliminary investigation supports your complaint.

    Later,

    Our investigation also shows that there is a strong religious and political component to the actions taken after the publication of the Meyer article.

    And,

    Our preliminary investigation indicates that retaliation came in many forms. It came in the form of attempts to change your working conditions and even proposals to change how the SI retains and deals with future RAs. During the process you were personally investigated and your professional competence was attacked. Misinformation was disseminated throughout the SI and to outside sources. The allegations against you were later determined to be false. It is also clear that a hostile work environment was created with the ultimate goal of forcing you out of the SI.

    Do the kids in school know that this is how it’s done? Is there a chapter in the 4th grade text on stifling opposing viewpoints? Do they have practice sessions where one kid proposes an unpopular but reasonable idea and the rest poke him with sticks and call him names until he recants? They should, since that’s how it works.

  36. 36
    bornagain77 says:

    Well, if you are so enamored with the Smithsonian’s integrity as to be fair in all thing scientific, perhaps this little matter of a recent judgement of $110,000 against CSC will put a little doubt in that trust you place in the Smithsonian’s integrity as to tolerate descent from neo-Darwinian atheism:

    The Smithsonian Gets Involved: “Cease and Desist” because ID is “Against SI/MNH Policy”
    CSC is a museum affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution. In this case, the anti-ID Smithsonian Institution marshaled its considerable influence over its affiliate, virtually mandating that CSC cancel AFA’s event, a command happily followed by CSC. Staff members at the Smithsonian Institution were incensed that the CSC, one of their affiliate science museums, would rent a facility for a pro-ID event. SI spokesperson Linda St. Thomas exemplifies this intolerance:,,,

    This is one of our fears about affiliates. As you know, we cancelled an event about Intelligent Design (creationism) at MNH a couple years ago. It is against SI/MNH policy which is science and not religion. However, I have seen hundreds of twitters saying that SI is holding this premier, even though it is an affiliate in Calif. Can you tell them to cease and desist?

    But David, something tells me that defenders of neo-Darwinism can do no wrong in your eyes. What is that saying about love being blind to flaws???

  37. 37
    bornagain77 says:

    here is the link to the above quote;

    Evidence Revealed in California Science Center Lawsuit Shows Intolerance and Efforts to Suppress Intelligent Design
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....50191.html

  38. 38
    David W. Gibson says:

    I already said I found fault with both sides in the Sternberg affair.

    And as I understand it, the Smithsonian has internal policies they try to apply consistently. You may not agree with their policies – and I doubt the Discovery Institute would sponsor a Smithsonian presentation either. Are they intolerant, or do they simply have policies? If the DI restricted presentations at its facilities to those it found philosophically compatible, I would find no fault with that either. I’d regard it neither as intolerant nor as censorship.

    Oh, and I notice that once again, your presentation is filtered through evolutionnews. I find extremely strongly biased sources very rarely present all the sides to any story. Why, for instance, would CSC rent a facility for a pro-ID event, if this is against policy? Could it be they didn’t know the policy? Or possibly they weren’t fully apprised of the nature of the event?

    But I do appreciate your honesty in providing your source. And in not insisting that Souder’s efforts were in any way investigative. I’ve met people of all scientific, philosophical and religious persuasions. None of them were blind, but they nonetheless didn’t agree with one another.

    Nor do I think you are blind, I only observe that you confine your sources to those supportive of your views, despite the risk that you might be fed one-sided, misleading, or incomplete accounts of the material. Even if you choose to take an adversarial position, it helps to broaden your exposure just to know your enemy better.

    But we wander very far from the original topic, which as I recall had to do with evolutionary mechanisms.

  39. 39
    David W. Gibson says:

    David, perhaps it was a case of ‘cognitive dissonance’ on Walcott’s part, but none-the-less, despite the level to which Walcott suppressed that which was so surprising to him that it caused him to collect 60,000 specimens, it is certainly a clear example of a inherent materialistic bias

    Not at all. Walcott was a collector. He squirreled away FAR more specimens than that; he collected fossils of any and all kinds from everywhere he went. He was not ‘cognitively dissonent’, any more than any other collector. He did not “suppress” anything, he simply collected it. Collectors do that.

    I know quite a few collectors, sometimes of some rather strange things. They enjoy having collections. I don’t see their collections as “materialistic bias”, though sometimes I don’t see much more than a whole lot of, say, antique telephones. Not my bag, you know?

    From what I read, science was not set back at all. Conway Morris had a unique insight. The Burgess Shale had been excavated several times since Walcott, and THEY didn’t know what they were looking at at the time either. Sometimes it takes a while for theory to catch up with evidence, before the evidence means anything.

    You might stop to reflect that, just maybe, those you oppose are not fighting you, and they might not share congruent motivations with you. Consider a footrace where the timekeeper is concerned with who crosses the finish line when, and Johnny’s mother thinks he’s out to punish her because Johnny didn’t win. The timekeeper wants the race run according to the rules. Johnny’s mother doesn’t really care about times or rules, she cares about winning. Different goals and motivations.

  40. 40
    bornagain77 says:

    Well, unfortunately for those running the Smithsonian, who want to present only their extremely strongly biased atheistic neo-Darwinian (philosophically compatible) view of reality, they are, unlike the Discovery Institute, a government institution. And thus must abide strictly to the constitution of the United States of America, which forbids such suppression of freedom of speech of its citizens from the government. Frankly, it is a shame I have to point such a obvious point out to you. But alas, as I said before, ‘Love is blind’.

  41. 41
    bornagain77 says:

    Well, unfortunately for you once again, the facts just don’t line up with ‘the spin’ you want to put on the facts. The ‘mystery’ of the Cambrian Explosion was known even to Darwin, and Walcott had found clear evidence, which he certainly was not ignorant of as you want to pretend, that confirmed Darwin’s worst fears, as well as severely compromised Darwin’s hope that the Cambrian was merely an artifact of incomplete sampling. Had Walcott properly used his position as Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, to which he was appointed in 1907, he could have made the Cambrian Explosion a major attraction of the Smithsonian’s natural history exhibits and forever compromised neo-Darwinism’s suffocating grip on this area of science. No, the more I look at it, the more certain I am that Walcott knew exactly what he had and started a tradition of suppressing evidence that, apparently to a recent court decision, carries on at the Smithsonian to this day!

  42. 42
    David W. Gibson says:

    Well, unfortunately for you once again, the facts just don’t line up with ‘the spin’ you want to put on the facts. The ‘mystery’ of the Cambrian Explosion was known even to Darwin, and Walcott had found clear evidence, which he certainly was not ignorant of as you want to pretend, that confirmed Darwin’s worst fears, as well as severely compromised Darwin’s hope that the Cambrian was merely an artifact of incomplete sampling.

    You are right that Darwin was aware of the Cambrian explosion, and that Walcott was as well. You are also right that even today, it presents mysteries. Solving them, however was not Walcott’s motivation. He was a collector. He left explanation of ALL he collected, not just these fossils, for others to explain later.

    Had Walcott properly used his position as Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, to which he was appointed in 1907, he could have made the Cambrian Explosion a major attraction of the Smithsonian’s natural history exhibits and forever compromised neo-Darwinism’s suffocating grip on this area of science.

    Now YOUR spin is getting in your way. Walcott COULD have done many things other than what he did. You are attributing to him a devious motivation without any real indication, other than that Walcott was a collector and not a theoriest. You yourself COULD dedicate yourself to solving any remaining problems. Should we then accuse you of “suppressing” what you MIGHT learn if you tried? Should you be considered guilty of deliberate concealment?

    No, the more I look at it, the more certain I am that Walcott knew exactly what he had and started a tradition of suppressing evidence that, apparently to a recent court decision, carries on at the Smithsonian to this day!

    If your assessment is correct, then it has long been the case (and remains the case) that museum drawers everywhere are full of “suppressed evidence”. And as already mentioned, the Smithsonian, like the DI, has policies about what they present, and this is perfectly legitimate. If you wish to make that case that in following these policies, BOTH the Smithsonian and the DI are engaged in suppression, fine. They are alike in this respect

    (And your understanding of the development of theory is somewhat new to me. My understanding is, if there is a well-supported theory according to all but one line of evidence, and the theory can’t explain that one line very well, what happens is that the theory is extended according to what fits the evidence best. The resulting theory is required to explain THAT evidence while STILL explaining all the rest. What works well is not discarded. You are trying to reject the concept of transportation because of a flat tire!)

  43. 43
    Joseph says:

    Elizabeth-

    According to the current theory of evolution ALL genetic changes are accidents/ mistakes/ errors. If you don’t like that take it up with the evolutionary high priests.

  44. 44
    bornagain77 says:

    Well David, I can see that you are dead set on spinning things as favorably for atheism/darwinism as you can, Thus I’ll let you wallow in all the lies you want and shall respond no more to your inanity.

  45. 45
    David W. Gibson says:

    ScottAndrews:

    As you may suspect, Steinberg’s site gives Steinberg’s side of the story. I admit he does a good job of it – in fact, so good it’s uncanny. Is there just possibly another side to the story? Or is this purely a case of stifling an opposing viewpoint?

    On more (and more balanced) reading, the situation becomes much less clear-cut. Perhaps a hypthetical parallel case would illustrate:

    Let’s say you get a turn (just one turn) to be editor of the sports page of your school newspaper. But instead of reporting on sports, you use your chance to criticize your math teacher, whom you intensely dislike. And let’s say that all of your criticisms are accurate and correct.

    Now, part of your responsibility is to run your story past the athletic department, but either you don’t run it past anyone or you have it approved by people who are flunking math (it’s not clear to me exactly what review process Steinberg used).

    After the paper is published, the school administration protests that you have abused your responsibility. You accuse them of discrimination – an accusation with some tangential support, because the math teacher IS lousy. And you appeal to a committee with no official school administration authority – a committee which just happens to be composed of others who despise the math teacher. Sure enough, the committee finds that all you wrote is true, so you MUST be suffering discrimination.

    But the committee itself, on second thought, decides not to publish their “findings”, so one of the members of the committee does so at his own expense. He hates the math teachers as much as you do, and can position his “findings” as being the result of a formal investigation.

    So here is where things get confusing. What, if anything, did you do wrong? The school administration says that what you did wrong was to write about the math teacher when your position was explicitly to be sportswriter. And that articles critical of the faculty violate school policy anyway. YOU claim that the administration is suppressing quality investigative journalism in an effort to stifle legitimate complaints about poor teachers.

    So here we have a case where everything both sides say, is true. The controversy polarizes into a dispute between those who feel school policy is legitimate and was violated, and those who hate the math teacher. As for who won the game, this is long lost in the noise.

  46. 46
    DrBot says:

    According to the current theory of evolution ALL genetic changes are accidents/ mistakes/ errors.

    I’m not aware of anything in evolutionary theory that says that the goal of reproduction is an exact copy. What is required for evolution to happen is actually reproduction with variance, so genetic changes serve a purpose – i.e. they are not accidents, mistakes or errors in the sense that they are unintended – but they are all random with respect to fitness.

    There is an important difference between randomly generated, but necessary, variety and just unwanted errors.

    Evolution depends on variety so by definition variety in its self is not an error, or to put it another way – you don’t understand evolutionary theory.

  47. 47
    David W. Gibson says:

    But alas, as I said before, ‘Love is blind’.

    Yes, you’ve made yourself very clear in this respect.

    Meanwhile, I’ve been looking at the Cambrian explosion to try to figure out exactly what the problem is. After all, there at least three such “explosions” in the fossil record, so pretty clearly this sort of thing happens. In what way is the Cambrian different?

    As I read it, the sticking point has to do with body armor. There was ample time for all the various body plans to develop. But how could so many of those plans have adopted hard parts as quickly as they did?

    Maybe there was some kind of horizontal transfer, but this seems unlikely. Maybe some common ancestor of the armored organisms started it off, but it hasn’t been found. Maybe the armor feature was independently developed due to an arms race, across several lines of descent. But this also seems unlikely. And of course, maybe Divine Agency decided armor was a good idea and provided it accordingly, all at once. But positive evidence of this is unobtainable, so “support” for it ultimately becomes either “I can’t think of anything else” or “I knew it before I started.”

    Given currently available evidence, the Divine Agency explanation fits best – we DO see body armor showing up across phyla with no predecessor yet discovered. But as always in science, this explanation is tentative (or should be, anyway) and subject to change with each new discovery. And it should be noted that this explanation is inconsistent with an explanation that fits all other observations of biological change over time. When two entirely distinct proposals purport to explain the same data set, this is always positive because it suggests lines of research capable of deciding between them.

  48. 48
    ScottAndrews says:

    David Gibson,

    The paper I quoted above was not written by or for Sternberg. It was a finding of the US Office of Special Counsel.

    I don’t really know what happened, and I’m not doing my own investigation. But the findings of a preliminary outside investigation are noteworthy, given that they spoke to the individuals involved and read the e-mails.

    The legality of what did or didn’t happen is irrelevant. The point is that a respected establishment with the supposed purpose of advancing science acted contrary to that purpose. How is any student reading a textbook supposed to know whether they’re learning the best available science or merely the last theory standing after some bureaucrat took out whatever didn’t suit his ideology?

    Censorship of science is what’s at stake, whether or not it’s legal.

  49. 49
    Joseph says:


    According to the current theory of evolution ALL genetic changes are accidents/ mistakes/ errors.

    DrBot:

    I’m not aware of anything in evolutionary theory that says that the goal of reproduction is an exact copy.

    Non-sequitur.

    What is required for evolution to happen is actually reproduction with variance, so genetic changes serve a purpose – i.e. they are not accidents, mistakes or errors in the sense that they are unintended – but they are all random with respect to fitness.

    They are all random, ie errors/ mistakes/ accidents, period:

    What Causes Mutations?:

    Mutations in DNA sequences generally occur through one of two processes:
    1. DNA damage from environmental agents such as ultraviolet light (sunshine), nuclear radiation or certain chemicals

    2. Mistakes that occur when a cell copies its DNA in preparation for cell division.

    Causes of Mutations:

    1. DNA fails to copy accurately
    Most of the mutations that we think matter to evolution are “naturally-occurring.” For example, when a cell divides, it makes a copy of its DNA — and sometimes the copy is not quite perfect. That small difference from the original DNA sequence is a mutation.

    2. External influences can create mutations
    Mutations can also be caused by exposure to specific chemicals or radiation. These agents cause the DNA to break down. This is not necessarily unnatural — even in the most isolated and pristine environments, DNA breaks down. Nevertheless, when the cell repairs the DNA, it might not do a perfect job of the repair. So the cell would end up with DNA slightly different than the original DNA and hence, a mutation.

    DNA Replication and Causes of Mutation:

    DNA replication is a truly amazing biological phenomenon. Consider the countless number of times that your cells divide to make you who you are—not just during development, but even now, as a fully mature adult. Then consider that every time a human cell divides and its DNA replicates, it has to copy and transmit the exact same sequence of 3 billion nucleotides to its daughter cells. Finally, consider the fact that in life (literally), nothing is perfect. While most DNA replicates with fairly high fidelity, mistakes do happen, with polymerase enzymes sometimes inserting the wrong nucleotide or too many or too few nucleotides into a sequence. Fortunately, most of these mistakes are fixed through various DNA repair processes. Repair enzymes recognize structural imperfections between improperly paired nucleotides, cutting out the wrong ones and putting the right ones in their place. But some replication errors make it past these mechanisms, thus becoming permanent mutations. These altered nucleotide sequences can then be passed down from one cellular generation to the next, and if they occur in cells that give rise to gametes, they can even be transmitted to subsequent organismal generations. Moreover, when the genes for the DNA repair enzymes themselves become mutated, mistakes begin accumulating at a much higher rate. In eukaryotes, such mutations can lead to cancer. (bold added)

    Yes evolution requires/ depends on variation and ID is not anti-evolution. ID just says that not all changes are accidents/ errors/ mistakes.

    So to put it another way you don’t understand evolutionary theory and you do not understand ID.

    Thanks for clearing that up.

  50. 50

    If I make a copy of something, intending it to be an exact replica, and it isn’t, I say it has an error.

    If I make a copy of something, intending it to be a variant, and it isn’t, I say that it has an error.

    Whether a feature of a copy is an error or not depends on the intention of the maker. Evolutionary theory doesn’t posit an intentional maker, so “error” is a meaningless term. What it does posit is that replication with variance, where that variance confers differential reproduction, will result in adaptation.

    So there is no reason for me take anything up with any high priests of evolution, which is just as well, because, of course, there aren’t any.

  51. 51
    Joseph says:

    Geez Elizabeth how many references do I have to provide to support my claim?

    And just who are you to say that an error requires the intention of the maker?

    Again evolutionary theory posits all mutations are unplanned-> accidents/ errors/ mistakes are unplanned. According to Mayr variation belongs to chance.

    And of course there are high priests of evolution- Dawkins and Coyne are two of the living priests…

  52. 52

    How can there be an “error” when there is no-one to say whether the answer is “correct”?

    Yes, variation is probably “down to chance” or rather, arise from stochastic processes (not quite the same thing).

    But the resulting variation in reproductive success is not “down to chance” in any thing like the same sense. Mutations are highly unpredictable. Adaptation is highly predictable.

    And I simply don’t get your metaphor – in what sense are Dawkins and Coyne “high priests”? They certainly have no authority.

  53. 53
    David W. Gibson says:

    Censorship of science is what’s at stake, whether or not it’s legal.

    I agree. Science as an enterprise rests on being as open as possible. Censorship of science is dangerous and insidious, especially if it’s done for ideological reasons.

    One question this raises is, does peer review act to censor science, or to improve it? Few of the papers submitted to most scientific journals end up being published. The peer review process exists to improve both research and presentation of that research, and to weed out material which fails to follow scientific standards. The risk, of course, is that the peer review process occasionally throws out some wheat along with the chaff.

    So I did some more reading into the Sternberg case, and the more I read, the more convoluted things get. Consider Sternberg’s peer review itself.

    One aspect of peer review is troublesome. As a matter of policy, the reviewers are always kept anonymous. If they were not, the focus would quickly shift away from the science itself, and onto the personalities, histories, and qualifications of the reviewers. But keeping the reviewers anonymous creates the opportunity for an unscrupulous editor to “game the system”. The primary deterrent to this is, the editor who does so jeopardizes his job.

    Now, here’s what I have read about the Sternberg case. I won’t vouch for the reliability of all I’ve read, of course:

    1) Sternberg was a rotating editor producing his last issue. He was unpaid. His job was not in jeopardy.

    2) Sternberg and Meyer are both creationists, and presumably motivated to place a creationism-friendly paper into the scientific literature.

    3) Sternberg and Meyer are known to have been in contact before the paper was submitted. Whether they discussed this possibility, neither will say. As they shouldn’t, I agree.

    4) Meyer’s paper was both off-topic for that particular journal, and was a literature review paper rather than a research paper.

    5) That journal, like most such journals, has a fairly consistent stable of reviewers they use. None of the reviewers in that stable was used for this paper.

    6) Nearly all of Meyer’s paper had been published before, mostly verbatim, in creationist outlets. Where it had nonetheless been critiqued by non-creationist scientists and found to be misleading, drawing conclusions not justified by the contents. Whether or not such critiques were valid, the chances of Meyer’s paper passing review by the normal reviewers was extremely small.

    7) Getting creationism-friendly work into peer-reviewed scientific literature is an admitted creationist goal, and creationists have milked maximum mileage out of their few successes. Clearly, this is being done in the Sternberg case as well.

    So let’s look at it as a lawyer might. Sternberg clearly had the motive, the method, and the opportunity to circumvent the standard review process. Circumstantial evidence says he did so. Did he do it to avoid “censorship”? That’s a gnarly question, getting back to whether peer review IS censorship. Is a literature review paper “science”, especially a non-original review? That seems kind of borderline. Did Sternberg do this primarily for scientific purposes, or for ideological purposes? I’m not qualified to say, beyond the obvious observation that doing so is compatible with Sternberg’s known ideology.

    Did the SI act “contrary to the purposes of advancing science”? Considering that Meyer’s paper was a rehash of material he’d already published, and a literature review, this strikes me as a weak claim.

    How is any student reading a textbook supposed to know whether they’re learning the best available science or merely the last theory standing after some bureaucrat took out whatever didn’t suit his ideology?

    I don’t think there is a simple answer to this. But in practice it’s answered by initially presenting (to 9th graders) some explanation of the method of science, and some of the most well-established and best-evidenced scientific findings. These are established, for better or worse, through a consensus of the recognized experts in each discipline. Where even the best supported theories encounter ideological resistance, political battles are fought.

    I have read that in much of the country, teaching even the most well-established aspects of evolution to children upsets too many parents. In the interests of administrative tranquility, in most such jurisdictions evolution is simply not covered. Does this qualify as censorship? Good question. The suggestion that children “make up their own minds” about a complex scientific topic to which they have not even been exposed strikes me as disingenuous. I don’t regard these as trivial issues.

  54. 54

    Few of the papers submitted to most scientific journals end up being published.

    I would agree that most journals probably reject more manuscripts than they accept. However, I would doubt that most papers fail to be published somewhere, unless the authors lose faith in their own case. Many good papers are rejected by high quality journals, not because they are poor but because competition is very high. Usually the editors make the reviews available to the authors anyway, for use when considering submission elsewhere, and of course sometimes the paper will be reviewed by the same reviewer, by which time it may either have been improved in the light of the reviewer’s comments, or may be accepted by an editor who is less pressed for space.

    A paper has to be pretty irredeemable for it be be unpublishable somewhere. The most important part of the review process is after publication, which is why one important aspect of peer-review is ensuring that the paper has sufficient detail for full evaluation and replication by others.

    The peer-review process is messy and frustrating, but while radical ideas can sometimes be harder to convince reviewers and editors with, harder still are replications, which in some ways are more important!

  55. 55
    Joseph says:

    How can there be an “error” when there is no-one to say whether the answer is “correct”?

    Take it up with the evolutionary biologists. Geez there are papers on error-correction and repair.

    Yes, variation is probably “down to chance” or rather, arise from stochastic processes (not quite the same thing).

    Again, take it up with the evolutionary biologists.

    Adaptation is highly predictable.

    In what way? Does all adaptation come from mutation?

    And I simply don’t get your metaphor – in what sense are Dawkins and Coyne “high priests”? They certainly have no authority.

    On the contrary- both have quite a bit of pull, ie authority, within the evolutionary ranks.

  56. 56

    Take it up with the evolutionary biologists. Geez there are papers on error-correction and repair.

    You seem to have forgotten where this discussion started. Yes there are papers on “error-correction” and “repair” because clearly a multicelled organism that cannot faithfully reproduce its own cells is going to be in trouble (and sometimes is). So “error-repair” mechanisms will be selectable. Similarly, populations with very high mutation rates will tend not to evolve, so mechanisms that limit the production of variance will again, tend to be selected at population level.

    We are talking about production of variance. Why use the metaphor “error” to describe something useful? If you want to use the metaphor for an event that is likely to be harmful to the organism or to the population, fine, but in that case, don’t apply it to events that are likely to be useful.

    Yes, variation is probably “down to chance” or rather, arise from stochastic processes (not quite the same thing).

    Again, take it up with the evolutionary biologists.

    If you think evolutionary biologists would disagree with me, please cite where.

    Adaptation is highly predictable.

    In what way? Does all adaptation come from mutation?

    All adaptation comes from variance. Variance comes from change. Mutation means change.

    And I simply don’t get your metaphor – in what sense are Dawkins and Coyne “high priests”? They certainly have no authority.

    On the contrary- both have quite a bit of pull, ie authority, within the evolutionary ranks.

    Can you provide any evidence for this?

  57. 57
    Joseph says:

    1- There isn’t any evidence that stochastic processes can produce error-correction mechanisms

    2- Most mutations break things and by breaking them they are “useful” in that the organism survives. So yes, errors can be useful in that sense.

    3- The use of “error” is not a methaphor in evolutionary biology. Evolutionary biology needs them.

    4- In what way is adaptation predictable?

    5- Behavioural variance is still variance and more likely to rule the day then waiting for some useful error.

    Mutations in DNA sequences generally occur through one of two processes:
    1.DNA damage from environmental agents such as ultraviolet light (sunshine), nuclear radiation or certain chemicals

    2.Mistakes that occur when a cell copies its DNA in preparation for cell division.

    See also- Errors Are a Natural Part of DNA Replication

  58. 58
    ScottAndrews says:

    teaching even the most well-established aspects of evolution to children upsets too many parents.

    Realistically, parents should realize that schools will occasionally teach their children things they don’t agree with. Neither schools nor parents can be right all the time.

    The trouble is that too many of the “well-established aspects of evolution” are really accepted, not established. This includes the deceptively simple notion that undirected variation and selection can produce innovative variation.

    But I’m not going to rail against the school system. My son is armed with the knowledge that smart people who write books can be wrong, and lots of smart people can be wrong together. He’s prepared to think for himself.

  59. 59

    1- There isn’t any evidence that stochastic processes can produce error-correction mechanisms

    Yes, there is. Lots. DrBot gave one a few weeks ago.

    2- Most mutations break things and by breaking them they are “useful” in that the organism survives. So yes, errors can be useful in that sense.

    This makes very little sense. Mutations in somatic cels are generally not “useful” to the organism, and so repair mechanisms will be selectable. However, most mutations in germline cells are neutral – don’t “break” anything. And neutral mutations can propagate by drift, leading to variance in the population that renders it robust to environmental change, i.e. provide the “fuel” for adaptive evolution.

    3- The use of “error” is not a methaphor in evolutionary biology. Evolutionary biology needs them.

    Yes, it’s a metaphor, though nonetheless useful, as long as you don’t press them into contexts where they are not applicable, for example in the context of the generation of new alleles.

    4- In what way is adaptation predictable?

    In the usual way. Look at the Galapagos finches, or Endler’s guppies. Specific environmental changes result in specific adaptations.

    5- Behavioural variance is still variance and more likely to rule the day then waiting for some useful error.

    Yes, behavioural variance is variance. It’s also heritable.

  60. 60
    Joseph says:


    1- There isn’t any evidence that stochastic processes can produce error-correction mechanisms

    Elizabeth Liddle:

    Yes, there is. Lots. DrBot gave one a few weeks ago.

    No, there isn’t. There isn’t even any way to test the claim. But please feel free to revisit DrBot’s post.

    2- Most mutations break things and by breaking them they are “useful” in that the organism survives. So yes, errors can be useful in that sense.

    This makes very little sense. Mutations in somatic cels are generally not “useful” to the organism, and so repair mechanisms will be selectable. However, most mutations in germline cells are neutral – don’t “break” anything. And neutral mutations can propagate by drift, leading to variance in the population that renders it robust to environmental change, i.e. provide the “fuel” for adaptive evolution.

    Geez Dr Behe just had a paper published that demonstrated exactly what I said- loss of function mutations seem to be the rule and neutral mutations have NEVER been observed to accumulate in such a way as to construct new and useful multi-part systems.


    3- The use of “error” is not a methaphor in evolutionary biology. Evolutionary biology needs them.

    Yes, it’s a metaphor, though nonetheless useful, as long as you don’t press them into contexts where they are not applicable, for example in the context of the generation of new alleles.

    Except it isn’t a methaphor and it is what evolutionary biologists say.


    4- In what way is adaptation predictable?

    In the usual way.

    IOW you don’t have any idea.

    Look at the Galapagos finches, or Endler’s guppies. Specific environmental changes result in specific adaptations.

    So now the environment drives the changes? That is NOT in the theory of evolution.

    You cannot predict what mutation will appear and you cannot predict what will be selected for at any point in time.


    5- Behavioural variance is still variance and more likely to rule the day then waiting for some useful error.

    Yes, behavioural variance is variance. It’s also heritable.

    Yes but it also trumps genetics, doesn’t help the theory of evolution at all and as a matter of fact should be evidence against it.

  61. 61
    uoflcard says:

    I think you guys are talking about different things. The argument originated with Gil’s comment #1 where he said:

    cannot seem to recognize that the Darwinian mechanism of random errors accumulated by natural selection as an explanation for all of life’s complexity and functionally integrated technology is a completely illogical, mathematically absurd, and empirically falsified hypothesis.

    He says “error”, but more importantly he uses the adjective “random”. Replace “error” with “variance” and Gil’s point still stands.

    In comment #3, responding to Gil, David Gibson says:

    I was taught that mutations are not “errors”, they are instead sources of variation.

    This, perhaps unintentionally, misses Gil’s main point, which wasn’t that organisms are trying to make perfect copies of themselves, rather that the Darwinian mechanism is random change + natural selection, and it is a preposterous mechanism for creating complex, specified, deeply integrated technology beyond the current capabilities of modern man.

    In 3.2, Elizabeth says:

    You can call that an “error” in the narrow sense that it would be an error if someone one had the goal of a perfect copy. As it is, it’s just what happens, just as it isn’t an “error” that not all snowflakes are alike. The mechanism that produces snowflakes is stochastic, and thus results in variety – same applies to the mechanisms that produce offspring from parents.

    Responding in 3.2.1, Joseph says:

    According to the current theory of evolution ALL genetic changes are accidents/ mistakes/ errors. If you don’t like that take it up with the evolutionary high priests.

    3.2.1.1, DrBot responds to with:

    There is an important difference between randomly generated, but necessary, variety and just unwanted errors.

    Well, there is no difference, with respect to Gil’s original point, and I think Joseph’s thought process was along the lines of Gil’s. Joseph isn’t saying that it is an accident that offspring are different than their parents, but that the differences are accidents/random (according to Darwinian evolutionary theory).

    The rest of the conversation seems to be Joseph talking about genetic mutations and Elizabeth talking about intended (yet random) variance of sexually reproduced offspring.

    In 3.2.1.2, Elizabeth says:

    Evolutionary theory doesn’t posit an intentional maker, so “error” is a meaningless term.

    There is no intent in biology? Mechanisms “correcting” mistakes during replication aren’t “intending” to correct the mistakes? When they miss a single varation out of thousands that they corrected, we can’t call that an error? How is error meaningless in that context? And what of the citations Joseph provided of biologists using the term? I understand that variation during sexual production is not an “error” (although the results are stochastic), but why are you fighting for a universal ban of the word “error” in evolutionary theory when, as clearly cited in this thread, evolutionary biologists use the word as well as write papers about and build careers researching error-control mechanisms?

    Joseph, I think I disagree with your statement that adaptation is not predictable, at least when we have a situation where we know that a trait of a species varies in functionality with respect to an environmental factor. With the Galapagos finches, we know their beaks vary in size (I think they were designed to do this). We can then predict that when the nuts on the island are easier to eat with the larger beak, the larger beaks will become more prevalent.

    Perhaps you are talking about what specific genetic sequence will be generated and selected, in which case I would agree would not be predictable since the variation is stochastic.

  62. 62
    uoflcard says:

    David…

    ba77:

    No!, I am just maintaining the ‘hard line’ that as far as the origination of the ‘functional information’, that is required to make any ‘small leaps’ in corvette complexity or any ‘large leaps’ in biological complexity, the input of a ‘mind’ is, as far as we can tell, ALWAYS required….

    David:

    This strikes me as being an argument from analogy. Humans design cars. Life forms look designed. Therefore, life forms ARE designed through an agency analogous to human design. But this is almost like saying that clouds can look like human faces, we know humans have faces, therefore clouds are human! I can see there are points of similarity. I don’t understand why two entirely different processes must necessarily produce such different results that no similarities can be found. People are great at noticing patterns.

    It’s not an argument from analogy because we do not observe an abstract representation of functional information in biology; we observe actual complex, specified, functional information. This is in opposition to your cloud analogy, where we interpret a stochastic cloud formation as something like a human face. Your analogy would be much more accurate if you said that we can infer a human if we observe an actual human face, since the only place we have ever observed an actual human face is on a human (at least a functional human face…). We know that visual formations that can be interpreted to look like human faces can arise from many different mechanisms (cloud formation, toast charring, mud splatters, an actual human being, reflection of an actual human being..). So if I say “I observed something that could be interpreted to be a human face”, you cannot confidently infer an actual human. But the only way of originating functional information, from our observations, is from intelligence (at least human-level intelligence). Therefore, the complex, specified, functional information in biology should be inferred to be the result of intelligence. That is a general thesis of ID.

  63. 63
    ScottAndrews says:

    David,

    Life is more like a lottery in which 100 trillion tickets are sold, and there are 10^30 possible winning numbers.

    If you want to hit a dartboard on the moon, it’s more about aim than how many darts you throw.

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