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Darwinian tradition of making grandiose claims based on piddling results

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The study by Bridgham et al (2006) published in the April 7 issue of Science is the lamest attempt yet — and perhaps the lamest attempt that’s even possible — to deflect the problem that irreducible complexity poses for Darwinism…

This continues the venerable Darwinian tradition of making grandiose claims based on piddling results.

— Michael Behe

Behe’s article is at The Lamest Attempt Yet to Answer the Challenge Irreducible Complexity, and Paul Nelson explains in laymans terms what is happening at How to Explain IC (Step One) and Say it Ain’t So, Joe Thronton Purges His Web Pages. I encourage the reader to see Nelson’s take.

But that is what Bridgham et al. do not seem to understand. They think they are explaining the origin of a single receptor-ligand pair, the mineralocorticoid receptor (MR) protein and the steroid hormone aldosterone. But that is biological nonsense. It is nonsense, moreover, strictly on the grounds of evolutionary theory itself.

Let’s suppose the newly-evolved cellular receptor, MR, interacts with a hormone ligand, aldosterone. This is a novel molecular relationship. Now, will natural selection preserve it?

Who knows? Without more information — that is, without more details about the cellular or organismal effect of that novel binding — the bare function “aldosterone binds to MR” is biologically vacuous.

Compare: Pound a nail, we tell you. Where and why? you ask. Never mind that, we say, just go pound a nail. So you hammer a threepenny nail through the power supply of this blog’s server.


We could stop here, with a one-step lab manual, but we are having so much fun that we thought we would give you steps two and three next week. Stay tuned.

–Paul Nelson

I think IDthefuture is going to roast that “study”. Should be fun.

First of all, some opening comments, it is not well known, but Bill Dembski has been mildly critical of Michael Behe’s definition of IC. One will see Bill’s suggested alternative definition in his book, No Free Lunch. Both myself and Mike Gene believe it is too difficult of a position to say that ALL IC systems can not evolve via Darwinian means, but IC does pose a very formidable and substantial barrier to Darwinian evolution, and that the abundance of certain IC systems would be sufficient to put design as legitmate alternative to naturalistic evolution. That said, I think Behe is right to call this a piddling example and this paper is knocking down a strawman. In Behe and Snokes paper on single protein IC systems, they deal with the exponentially difficult correlation of the number of amino acid positions to the number of trials required to achieve a protein with an appropriate characteristic. The examples that Behe and Snoke explored attempted to quantify the improbability when there were a number simultaneous changes needed and when there was low to negative selective advantage to the intermediates. 1 amino acid substitution is piddling, 2 is somewhat piddling, however because of exponenial growth, once one gets to 8 or more, it’s starts to no longer be piddling. Thus they helped to clarify the idea of what it means to have “SEVERAL well matched parts”, rather than just some vague notion of what SEVERAL means. Behe’s definition uses the phrase, “several well matched parts”. In my book, 2 amino acid residues do not constitute “several well matched parts”, but that is what the supposed rebuttal dealt with. 2 amino acid components! A crude worst case search to find the combination is 1 out of 20^2 = 400, which is quite achievable. Consider that I wanted to break a password that had only 2 alphabetic characters. That would be feasible, I need 26^2 trials. However, to imply that because one can resolve a password with 2 alphabetic characters that therefore a password of 10 characters would easily be achieveable is misleading. In the same way, the researchers have abused the idea of what “several” means in the definition of IC. Further, Musgrave misrpresented Behe by implying Behe contradicted himself by rejecting the rebuttal because it dealt with a single protein, when the reason was the system lacked several well matched components. Of course, one might argue that 2 amino acids are “several well match parts”, but that is quite a stretch! Behe might have argued his case better by comparing it to the proteins he and Snoke were describing, where the conception of the word SEVERAL was a quantified in greater detail. scordova
"Attempts to explain away IC are transparent acts of desperation on the part of those whose lives, sense of purpose, and/or incomes are invested in a dying philosophy, masquerading as science." IC is the chink in the armor of naturalistic evolution. The foundational premis of RM+NS to explain IC (minus the 'irriducible' qualifier)is false. Due to the fervor and blind commitment to that premis over the years, the fallout will be considerable, and may result in a calamity for science. Rather than destroy science, as some would postulate, it may result in a new set of standards resulting in a kind of objectivism that will ultimately benefit research. 'Design' can be proven to be a viable alternative. But will it? The question of how to accomplish this, and still conform to the foundational principles of scientific inquiry remains. leebowman
Attempts to explain away IC are transparent acts of desperation on the part of those whose lives, sense of purpose, and/or incomes are invested in a dying philosophy, masquerading as science. GilDodgen
Isn't it fun to see how this study is being trotted out as the death knell for IC. But wait, weren't we told years ago that IC was already roundly trounced by 'hundreds if not thousands' of peer reviewed research studies? You know, the ones that Behe supposedly overlooked when he wrote Darwin's Black Box...those studies? So what's so special about this study? If IC has already been roundly refuted, then what's the big deal about this study? Seems to me that Bridgham et.al. weren't aware that IC was long ago laid to rest and this study wasn't really needed to, um, 'falisfy' IC. The Panda's Thumb crowd has been having a field day with this study. Why? What's the big deal if IC was already dead on arrival years ago? Something is clearly amiss. Either rumors of the death of IC were greatly exaggerated or someone doesn't understand the real challenge IC poses for Darwinian evolution. Then there is the small problem of the scientific status of IC. Supposedly, IC as a concept within ID isn't really scientific because (so we're told) it isn't testable, isn't falisfiable, makes no predictions, yadda yadda etc etc... But wait again. This study is being touted as the falsification of IC. How can that be, if IC isn't really scientific? The famous Avida computer game, er, I mean simulation study supposedly also falsified IC. How can that be if IC isn't testable or falsifiable? Sure seems to be testable and potentially falsifiable to me and therefore scientific...which, by the way, is exactly what Behe has claimed all along. The Darwinians can't have it both ways. If IC isn't scientific, then why tout studies like the Bridgham et.al. one as falsifying IC? If IC is scientific, then why keep pretending it isn't. I wish they'd make up their minds. The only problem for the Darwinian crowd is that we still do not have a single, peer reviewed study in any scientific journal that actually has falsified IC. There is not even one research study in any peer reviewed journal in the ten years since Behe's book was published that provides a detailed, testable model of how any of the IC systems Behe described in his book could have come about through RM/NS. Not one. Zip...zero...nada. And this latest attempt by Bridgham et.al. fares no better for all the reasons Behe has already pointed out. The game is simple for the Darwinians: provide a detailed, testable model of how evolution...that is to say RM and NS...built any of the IC systems Behe described in the book. Which part of detailed and testable is not understandable? Instead, they change the rules by changing the definition (sneakily at that)of what constitutes an IC system, just as we see in the Bidgham et.al study. Worse, the Darwinians try to make it appear as if Behe himself is the one who re-defines IC. (Just take a look see at the some of posts at PT about this study) What a sham!! And its all "just science" right?!!??!! Unbelievable!! DonaldM
Cornell's ID Group has been Debating this: http://designparadigm.blogsome.com/2006/04/08/bankrupting-id/#comments Also, I have a post clearing up some misconceptions about Irreducible Complexity: http://baraminology.blogspot.com/2006/04/irreducible-complexity-what-it-is-and.html johnnyb

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