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Dennis Venema’s Adam and the Genome: Has materialism distorted the perspective?

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From Brian Miller at ENST:

In a previous article I described how scientific training can condition some scientists’ minds to resist the evidence in nature for intelligent design. Now, I will demonstrate the effects of this process using as a case study the book Adam and the Genome: Reading Scripture after Genetic Science, co-authored by Dennis Venema. I must begin by stating that I have never met Dr. Venema, but I have met several of his colleagues, and from my encounters with them I have no reason to doubt that Venema desires to operate with complete integrity and to present scientific claims and arguments that are of the highest academic quality. The challenge he faces lies not with his character or knowledge but with the materialist framework that has distorted his perspective.

Along the same lines, Venema cites research that demonstrates how mutations generated new “functions” in various organisms. For instance, he describes a virus that developed the ability to bind to a new protein in E. coli labeled OmpF. However, he greatly exaggerates the magnitude of the change. The binding did not represent a truly novel innovation, but it resulted from the virus simply gaining a few mutations which enhanced in an already present protein an existing ability. He makes similar misguided claims about research he marshalled to challenge the evidence for the rarity of proteins. What Venema fails to appreciate is that increasing numbers of evolutionary biologists have come to recognize that the types of microevolutionary developments he identifies cannot accumulate to produce large-scale changes such as a fish turning into an amphibian. One central challenge is that such transformations require, among other needs, the rewiring of networks of genes which guide the development of an organism, but such alterations are always harmful. Arguing that the trivial changes he cites could accumulate to generate a major innovation is like a dog owner who was able to train his German Shepard to fetch a stick in a day then claiming he proved that he could train it to play Mozart on a piano in a month. More.

Many people have a hard time with the fact that changes reach a ceiling, and sometimes quite a low one. Those people make faithful Darwinists, irrespective of their other convictions.

See also: Are Adam and Eve genetically possible? The latest: Richard Buggs (yes) replies to Dennis Venema (no)

6 Replies to “Dennis Venema’s Adam and the Genome: Has materialism distorted the perspective?

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    as to:

    “The challenge he faces lies not with his character or knowledge but with the materialist framework that has distorted his perspective.”

    And it is also obvious that Venema has no clue that the reductive materialistic framework that undergirds Darwinian thinking, that he takes as a unquestioned given, has now being overturned by advances in Quantum Biology. Simply put. Venema. and other Darwinists. are not even on the correct theoretical foundation to begin with in order to properly understand molecular biology..

    Darwinian Materialism vs. Quantum Biology – video
    https://youtu.be/LHdD2Am1g5Y

    Jim Al-Khalili, at the 2:30 minute mark of the following video states,
    “,,and Physicists and Chemists have had a long time to try and get use to it (Quantum Mechanics). Biologists, on the other hand have got off lightly in my view. They are very happy with their balls and sticks models of molecules. The balls are the atoms. The sticks are the bonds between the atoms. And when they can’t build them physically in the lab nowadays they have very powerful computers that will simulate a huge molecule.,, It doesn’t really require much in the way of quantum mechanics in the way to explain it.”
    At the 6:52 minute mark of the video, Jim Al-Khalili goes on to state:
    “To paraphrase, (Erwin Schrödinger in his book “What Is Life”), he says at the molecular level living organisms have a certain order. A structure to them that’s very different from the random thermodynamic jostling of atoms and molecules in inanimate matter of the same complexity. In fact, living matter seems to behave in its order and its structure just like inanimate matter cooled down to near absolute zero. Where quantum effects play a very important role. There is something special about the structure, about the order, inside a living cell. So Schrodinger speculated that maybe quantum mechanics plays a role in life”.
    Jim Al-Khalili – Quantum biology – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zOzCkeTPR3Q

  2. 2
    Seversky says:

    Along the same lines, Venema cites research that demonstrates how mutations generated new “functions” in various organisms. For instance, he describes a virus that developed the ability to bind to a new protein in E. coli labeled OmpF. However, he greatly exaggerates the magnitude of the change. The binding did not represent a truly novel innovation, but it resulted from the virus simply gaining a few mutations which enhanced in an already present protein an existing ability.

    What is a “truly novel innovation”, apart from being a tautology?

    And how many times is it necessary to point out that the claim is not that RN/NS will always produce “truly novel innovations”, only that it can. If circumstances are favorable. Evolution can only work with whatever resources are at hand at the time. If the necessary bits and pieces for potentially beneficial mutations are not in the genetic “toolbox” then then that organism may be just plumb out of luck. There are no guarantees.

    Arguing that the trivial changes he cites could accumulate to generate a major innovation is like a dog owner who was able to train his German Shepard to fetch a stick in a day then claiming he proved that he could train it to play Mozart on a piano in a month.

    Yet again with the Hoyle fallacy. Nobody’s claiming a German Shepherd can be trained to play the piano in a month any more than they are claiming a tornado in a junkyard can whip up a 747. But what if the dog owner had a billion years to train German Shepherds – or whatever the might evolve into – to play Mozart?

    I have heard many stories of students rejecting their faith after taking evolution classes, even if the professor attempted to put a theistic spin on the concepts. In contrast, I have seen people in the process of abandoning their faith suddenly return after they learned what leading experts in such fields as paleontology, embryology, and systems biology are actually saying to each other about the growing challenges to the standard evolutionary model. And, their faith is strongly reinforced when they learn about the positive evidence for design that even secular scientists are acknowledging.

    Science should not be about reinforcing or undermining faith. It should only be about trying to explain and understand the universe in which we find ourselves through no choice of our own.

    My hope is that Dennis Venema will find a more objective outside party to help him see past his materialist blinders.

    My hope is that Miller will find something to see past his religious blinders. I doubt that either will happen, however.

  3. 3
    LocalMinimum says:

    Seversky @ 2:

    What is a “truly novel innovation”, apart from being a tautology?

    It is functionality for which bits and pieces had to be placed in the genetic “toolbox”.

    If the necessary bits and pieces for potentially beneficial mutations are not in the genetic “toolbox” then then that organism may be just plumb out of luck

    So, how do we get the right bits and pieces in the toolbox? Even if we had an example of a system which can be made purely out of smaller, independently useful functions (and which can be made out of such, and so on to LUCA’s toolset) it would have to be a commonly represented category, not a limited set of academic curiosities (do we even have one such item?)

    For every bit that can’t be found in the toolbox, you need to mutate it in one go; or just happen it all lying around in an unselected for junk pile, AND find it at the right time, which is hardly better.

    Even if we made biology set into a perfectly modular Lego set of useful components at every scale, configuration requirements would still yield large leaps, in that you’d have to have everything in some limited set of positions, and this has to be coded in.

    But what if the dog owner had a billion years to train German Shepherds – or whatever the might evolve into – to play Mozart?

    Are you in doubt as to there actually being a limit to dog training, or are you resting on begging the question on and inserting the subject of the analogy directly into the analogy?

  4. 4
    Eric Anderson says:

    Seversky @2:

    And how many times is it necessary to point out that the claim is not that RN/NS will always produce “truly novel innovations”, only that it can. If circumstances are favorable.

    Where did Dr. Miller claim that RM/NS will always produce truly novel innovations? He is addressing a very specific example that Venema has gone on about.

    Furthermore, you are selling the evolutionary claim short. The claim of evolution is actually much more than it can. The claim is that it did. Over and over. Numerous times. In every single line of descent of every single organism existing on the planet.

    That is so very much more than it can happen. It is a claim that “favorable” circumstances abound. That innovation is rampant. That remarkable novel innovations are being churned out in spades.

    All in blatant contrast to the actual observational evidence.

    Evolution can only work with whatever resources are at hand at the time. If the necessary bits and pieces for potentially beneficial mutations are not in the genetic “toolbox” then then that organism may be just plumb out of luck. There are no guarantees.

    Yes, the organism may just be plumb out of luck. And that is precisely the question, isn’t it? What evidence do we have that these favorable circumstances exist, that the resources at hand are enough to do the work, that the beneficial mutations are in the genetic toolbox?

    We know what the claims are, what is required for evolution to work. That isn’t the issue. The issue is that there is precious little empirical evidence that what is required exists in reality.

    Yet again with the Hoyle fallacy. Nobody’s claiming a German Shepherd can be trained to play the piano in a month any more than they are claiming a tornado in a junkyard can whip up a 747. But what if the dog owner had a billion years to train German Shepherds – or whatever the might evolve into – to play Mozart?

    Ah, yes, the last refuge of the committed materialist — time. Just what is it that you think additional time brings to the table? What is it that makes a German Shepherd unlikely to play the piano in a month suddenly become something we should take seriously if there are a billion years.

    The reality is that time brings very little to the table, especially if the underlying circumstances are not favorable in the first place, as you note.

    To be sure, if we throw lots of time at a trial-and-error process it might occasionally stumble upon a minor improvement, perhaps a coordinated mutation or two here and there. But additional time isn’t going to help solve the problem of producing real biological novelty.

    Time doesn’t help the evolutionary story much. At least not in terms of actual substance. It does help the story a great deal in that a lot of years, lots of zeroes, seems very impressive to people who don’t think through the issues carefully. Throwing lots of time into the mix doesn’t help much substantively, but it does serve to make the evolutionary story more believable — turning the preposterous into something that we can imagine (as we bow in reverence to all those billions of years) might, perhaps, somehow, be possible.

  5. 5
    Origenes says:

    Seversky @2

    The Limits of Random Mutation:

    The highest probabilistic resources are found in bacteria, due to the huge population size and high reproduction rate.
    These probabilistic resources, with a hugely optimistic estimate, are still under 140 bits.
    This means that any sequence with 160 bits of functional information is, by far, beyond any reasonable probability of being the result of RV in the system of all bacteria in 4 billion years of natural history, even with the most optimistic assumptions.
    10% of all human proteins (about 2000) each have an information jump from pre-vertebrates to vertebrates of at least (about) 500 bits.
    source GPuccio.

  6. 6
    Eric Anderson says:

    Update over at ENV: looks like Venema has reluctantly conceded to Buggs that Venema’s claim is not well supported.

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