Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

Do The Facts Speak For Themselves?


In this UD post I suggested that the facts (in particular, those presented by Michael Behe in The Edge of Evolution) speak for themselves. I was challenged by a commenter with: “If the facts speak for themselves, why does Behe need to write a book-length argument to make their case?”

My response is that the facts have to be presented before they can speak for themselves, and Behe presents lots of facts of which I was not aware. One of the most telling facts is that since widespread drug treatments first appeared, more than 10^20 malarial cells have been born, and no new protein-protein interactions have evolved. Furthermore, the broken genes that confer chloroquine resistance disappear once drug therapy is removed. My claim is that these facts certainly do speak for themselves, and they say that Darwinian claims about the creative power of random mutation and natural selection are bogus.

By the way, as Behe points out, 10^20 is more than all the mammals that have ever lived (deep time is not the issue when it comes to evolution, but the number of individuals and generations), yet Darwinists would like us to believe that mutation and selection turned a primitive simian ancestor into Chopin, when this process hasn’t been demonstrated to have the power to produce a novel protein-protein interaction with 10^20 chances.

These facts reveal why Darwinists must resort to tactics like literature bluffing. They don’t have much else. These facts also suggest that design should be the default position, and those proposing fantastic hypotheses like the universal creative power of Darwinian mechanisms should be on the defensive, and bear the burden of proof and demonstration.

So, am I off base, or do the facts speak for themselves?

I finally found Behe's response on the whale/dolphin/puffer fish blood clotting system issue. A poster on Intelligent Design The Future already did the research work - it was in Behe's testimony in the Dover case. In it, he deals explicitly with Miller's alleged rebuttal of the IC of the blood-clotting cascade, which includes the claim that since puffer fish (and other animals like whales) lack certain components of the human blood clotting cascade, this proves that it is not irreducibly complex. Quote from the transcript at http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/filesDB-download.php?command=download&id=581, starting on page 25: Q. .....and Doolittle and Davidson, et al, to argue against the irreducible complexity of the blood clotting system. Do you agree with his assessment of those studies? A. No, I do not. Q. And you have some diagrams to explain this further, sir? A. Yes, I do. This is a slide from Professor Miller's presentation showing work from Jiang and Doolittle. And he also shows a diagram of the blood clotting cascade. And notice again, it's a branched pathway with the intrinsic pathway and the extrinsic pathway. And Professor Miller makes the point that in DNA sequencing studies of something called a puffer fish, where the entire DNA of its genome was sequenced, and scientists looked for genes that might code for the first couple components of the intrinsic pathway, they were not found. (My comment: in the case of whales the claim is that the gene for Hageman factor (part of the beginning of the intrinsic pathway) is nonfunction, the equivalent to absent.) And so Professor Miller demonstrated that by -- if you could push to start the animation -- Professor Miller demonstrated that by having those three components blanked out in white. Nonetheless, puffer fish have a functioning clotting system. And so Professor Miller argued that this is evidence against irreducible complexity. But I disagree. And the reason I disagree is that I made some careful distinctions in Darwin's Black Box. I was very careful to specify exactly what I was talking about, and Professor Miller was not as careful in interpreting it. In Darwin's Black Box, in the chapter on blood clotting cascade, I write that, a different difference is that the control pathway for blood clotting splits in two. Potentially then, there are two possible ways to trigger clotting. The relative importance of the two pathways in living organisms is still rather murky. Many experiments on blood clotting are hard to do. And I go on to explain why they must be murky. And then I continue on the next slide. Because of that uncertainty, I said, let's, leaving aside the system before the forkin the pathway, where some details are less well-known, the blood clotting system fits the definition of irreducible complexity. And I noted that the components of the system beyond the fork in the pathway are fibrinogen, prothrombin, Stuart factor, and proaccelerin. So I was focusing on a particular part of the pathway, as I tried to make clear in Darwin's Black Box. If we could go to the next slide. Those components that I was focusing on are down here at the lower parts of the pathway. And I also circled here, for illustration, the extrinsic pathway. It turns out that the pathway can be activated by either one of two directions. And so I concentrated on the parts that were close to the common point after the fork. So if you could, I think, advance one slide. If you concentrate on those components, a number of those components are ones which have been experimentally knocked out such as fibrinogen, prothrombin, and tissue factor. And if we go to the next slide, I have red arrows pointing to those components. And you see that they all fall in the area of the blood clotting cascade that I was specifically restricting my arguments to. And if you knock out those components, in fact, the blood clotting cascade is broken. So my discussion of irreducible complexity was, I tried to be precise, and my argument, my argument is experimentally supported. (My comment: this is on page 86 of DBB. He describes the functions of Hageman factor earlier on page 84 in a general overview of the BCC, but his specific claims of IC are on page 86.) Q. Now just by way of analogy to maybe help explain further. Would this be similar to, for example, a light having two switches, and the blood clotting system that you focus on would be the light, and these extrinsic and intrinsic pathways would be two separate switches to turn on the system? A. That's right. You might have two switches. If one switch was broke, you could still use the other one. So, yes, that's a good analogy. Q. So Dr. Miller is focusing on the light switch, and you were focusing on the light? A. Pretty much, yes. .......... Q. So is it your opinion then, the blood clotting cascade is irreducibly complex? A. Yes, it is. Unquote I still think the human BCC system is likely to be entirely IC. Has any research shown that deleting Hageman factor is not lethal in higher mammals like mice? If it is, how did gradual NDE changes result in the different whale and puffer fish systems. It doesn't matter in which direction the change occurred. magnan
SOO if anyone can answer this question about dolphins disproving irreducible complexity it would be much appreciated. Also, I suggest for the sake of ID that someone smarter than me tackle this question. We should be (on this website) in the business of effectively shooting down darwinist challenges to Behe's new book. dougcampo
also, if dr. behe has not directly responded to the dolphin question yet. i'm sure it is because he is pressed for time. dougcampo
magnan let me know what happens with this. i'm curious. dougcampo
Hey Magnan. I was thinking, maybe you should try emailing Dr. Behe. I'm sure he will answer whatever questions you may have. dougcampo
dougcampo I looked at the references Dr. Behe alluded to. There are a couple of detailed replies to various scientific critics on the irreducible complexity of the human blood clotting cascade, but they don't have anything relating to the whale blood clotting system issue. It would be nice to have the details of why the claim isn't so. magnan
Thanks, to everyone who responded on the blood clotting question. The info has been very helpful. orion orion
After reading some more about the dolphin immune system argument. It seems to me like this 1998 has it's own gaps and inconsistencies. In fact it's almost if Behe's critics were scrambling to find something, anything, to discredit him. It's mudslinging. dougcampo
magnan. I actually just received an email back from Dr. Behe about this. This is what he wrote; Hi, Doug. No, it's not true. You should read my essays replying to critics at www.crsc.org. One of them addresses the blood clotting question. Others address a variety of topics. Best wishes. dougcampo
Concerning the dolphin immune system argument. I found the reference, used by a Darwinist to supposedly shoot down irreducible complexity. He claimed this study showed that members of the whale family lack one of the factors that Behe considered part of the irreducibly complex blood clotting system (BCC). This is Semba U., Shibuya Y., Okabe H., Yamamoto T. (1998). "Whale Hageman factor (factor XII): prevented production due to pseudogene conversion"; Thromb Res 90 (1), 31-7; PMID 9678675, at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&list_uids=9678675&dopt=Citation . Abstract: "In Southern blot analysis of the Hind III-digested whale genomic DNA obtained from the livers of two individual whales, we detected a single band with a size of five kilobase pairs which hybridized to full length guinea pig Hageman factor cDNA. We amplified two successive segments of the whale Hageman factor gene by polymerase chain reaction (PCR), and sequenced the PCR products with a combined total of 1367 base pairs. Although all of the exon-intron assemblies predicted were identical to those of the human Hageman factor gene, there were two nonsense mutations making stop codons and a single nucleotide insertion causing a reading frame shift. We could not detect any message of the Hageman factor gene expression by northern blot analysis or by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) analysis. These results suggest that in the whale, production of the Hageman factor protein is prevented due to conversion of its gene to a pseudogene. The deduced amino acid sequence of whale Hageman factor showed the highest homology with the bovine molecule among the land mammals analyzed so far." Behe describes the complicated human blood clotting cascade in pages 84-85 of DBB. Apparently, activation of Hageman factor is the beginning of the "intrinsic pathway", sticking to the surface of cells near the wound, and is a critical factor in a number of later stages. Activated Hageman factor is also required in the functioning of the "extrinsic pathway" of the BCC. It occurrs to me that this study hardly shows that the human BCC is not irreducibly complex. To do this it would be necessary to show that the human BCC is still viable if Hageman factor is "knocked out". This presumable can't to shown, because Hageman is so critical to the first and several later stages of clotting and to both pathways. To be accurate, the study merely "suggests" that whales may have a modified BCC not using Hageman factor, perhaps because for tight regulation it is not needed at a wound when in seawater as opposed to air. Anyway, even if Hageman really is nonfunctional in whales, this study hardly shows that the whale BCC is not irreducibly complex, or that this modification to the intricate BCC occurred by a random walk. Hageman appears to be so critical to the system that a number of other specific changes must have been required at the same time to allow the whale BCC to remain viable at the change. That would certainly be required if we were to "knock out" Hageman factor in mice, for example. These coordinated changes would be needed to be specially designed by the genetic engineers to prevent the mice from bleeding to death or succumbing to massive spontaneous clotting. So this argument by Behe's critics is as usual a sort of smoke screen and literature bluffing. magnan
Following up: In the thread at IDTF, Scott goes on to observe of the Flagellum, in response to Bio Prof, and worth citing here as an indication of a credible case of IC. [Just one major case is enough to overturn NDT's core theses on the mechanism of evolution; of course in TEoE, Behe gives specifics on the empirically shown probabilities to successfully mutate proteins, in the case of malaria etc, with a test space of 10^20 organisms, probably more than the number of mammals that have ever lived, much less those enough to create BCCs in divergent paths.]:
[BP] --In addition, you have no empirical evidence at all for ID. No one has even done the experimental work to even establish "the flagellum" is IC (although shown repeatedly not to be).--- [S] Wrong. Scott Minich, an expert in this area who has been studying the flagellum for some 2o years disagrees. He and his team and conducted 'knock-out' experiemts on the flagellum. In each experiment, they knocked-out one of the 40 proteins that are said to be necessary for its function. And what did they find? Knocking ANY ONE of those proteins out destroys the function of the flagellum. That is an emprical demonstration of IC. Miller (and others) proposal that, since the flagellum shares 10 components with the TTSS, the flagellum itself is not IC is fallaciuous. A subsystem's independant function does not account for the function of the larger system. Additionally, there are the remaing 30 UNIQUE protein components of the flagellum, found NOWHERE ELSE in nature. From whence were these co-opted?
The thread is definitely worth a look. kairosfocus
PPS: Also, cf here for a general remark by Behe at ARN, July 21, 2000, on the BCC in response to various critques. As well, on hte broader issue of IC, cf Research ID wiki here and here. kairosfocus
PS: "Predictably," my remark is in the mod pile on the BCC issue. Link the discussion here, esp Scott's comment of 06:33PM Wednesday on June 13, 2007. kairosfocus
H'mm: I see the mods were cleared all at once. Okay. (I was beginning to wonder if I was in the doghouse and missed the reason for it . . .) I see as well that Orion has highlighted the point: "in general, presuppositions do channel our interpretation of the facts, sometimes those facts slosh out of the course and ’speak for themselves’. . . " Gill left off on one thing. Some of the probabilities are so large that the number of zeroes required to write them down by far exceed the number of atoms in the known universe ~ 1^80. On the Blood clotting cascade example, an interesting back-forth is at ID the Future, June 11, 2007 04:31PM "Behe stirs the waters . . ." and Orion and Doug Campo may wish to look in particular at Scott's comment of 06:33PM Wednesday on June 13, 2007, which extensively excerpts Behe's testimony at Dover on the issue. (The fact that DI posts this on its web site is itself eloquent testimony on the balance of the case on the merits . . .) In essence Scott says that there is a [probably inadvertent] strawman at work:
"Miller, in his 'puffer fish/whale/dolphin reubuttal' of the IC of the blood-clotting cascade is not even addressing the argument Behe makes in DBB. Behe anticipated the objection in the book (so much for his not knowing the literature) and took pains to clarify that his argument focuses on a very specific section of the pathway. Miller, completely ignoring Behe's argument (or ignorant of it), chooses instead to address a section of the pathway that Behe explicitly excluded from his analysis."
--> I leave it to those competent in Biochem to give more details pro or con. --> But I also note that Scott [is that you, Dave?] in his comment of 09:59AM Wednesday on June 13, 2007, notes to Bio Prof:
"1- You have just demonstrated that a central contention of the evolution lobby, that ID is not science since it is not testable, is flat-out false. Behe proposed that blood-clotting is IC. And here you and your evolutionary cohorts are TESTING IT AND (PRESUMABLY[)] FALSIFYING IT. Thus, at the very least, you are proving that ID is testable and thus scientific. 2- IF blood-clotting is thus (vis-a-vis Factor XII) proved to be not IC, the MOST that can be said is that blood-clotting is not IC. This would in no way prove that IC does not exist in biological organisms at all."
So, the issue is at most disproving of ONE of Behe's many detailed claims. If just one bio-system turns out to in fact be credibly IC, NDT falls. (Cf here, inter alia, the flagellum and the debate over it, including Miller's premature claims over the TTSS.) GEM of TKI kairosfocus
Some perspective is needed here. The forest is not being seen for the trees. For the sake of argument let's grant that there might be some hypothetical transitionals for the immune system and other low-level biochemical systems. (This is all complete conjecture, however.) But eventually we're talking about highly sophisticated information-processing machinery, a complex factory the likes of which human engineers have not even conceived, coordinated on countless levels of hierarchical subintegration. We're not talking about the highly improbable; we're talking about improbabilities so huge that orders of magnitude must be expressed with exponents that require expression in orders of magnitude. https://uncommondesc.wpengine.com/intelligent-design/writing-computer-programs-by-random-mutation-and-natural-selection/ GilDodgen
I just checked out S. Allens comments about the Edge of Evolution on Amazon.Com. S. Allen is psychotic. dougcampo
Seriously though. Could someone more qualified please answer Orion's question? dougcampo
Orion. I think that a dolphin's immune system works just find without the component Behe said was required is bogus. Now I could be wrong about this, so can someone help me answer Orion's question? Orion, there is so much bull shit out there about Dr. Behe's work. People who oppose his work will say anything in an attempt to discredit him. So take Behe criticism with a grain of salt. dougcampo
While I agree that, in general, presuppositions do channel our interpretation of the facts, sometimes those facts slosh out of the course and 'speak for themselves'. Also, I noted in an earlier entry that someone asked about S. Allen's comments about Behe's book on the Amazon blog. I have a question too. S.Allen states that, "His claims that the blood clotting cascade were irreducibly complex were shown to be false when it was pointed out that the dolphin's immune system worked just fine without a component that Behe said was required." I've read this before and have been unable to find an adequate response. Could someone help me out please. orion orion
Above I should have said "an infinite chain of facts, each requiring..." Lurker
At some point in the logical chain of reasoning, the facts MUST 'speak for themselves' or else you're stuck with an infinite chain of reasons, each requiring an explanation. The difference between one person and another is the point at which they stop the reasoning process and say "it's completely obvious" Lurker
I believe the original issue still has life: when do facts "speak for themselves?" ANS 1: When one is forced to use inconsistent critical analysis standards or misleading rhetorical tactics to reject otherwise credible facts and their implications, then the facts have compellingly spoken "for themselves." [IMHCO Behe in TEoE, seems to be putting RM + NS-driven darwinian style macro evolution to that point.] ANS 2: Now, as we look at the world of "facts," we are looking at the issue of abductive reasoning, not demonstrative, logical-mathematical proofs. That is, in scientific and similar contexts, we are really asking, which possible explanation/ model/ theory [E/M/T] among the live options is currently -- thus also, BTW, provisionally -- the "best." That brings up factual adequacy, coherence and explanatory elegance [vs being either simplistic or ad hoc] as criteria of evaluation. In that world of discourse, the sort of selective hyper-skepticism in ANS 1 is a dead giveaway; it is plainly at work in the case of TEoE. ANS 3: When a proposed E/M/T would be compelling relative to the credible facts were a consistent standard of assessing facts and/or their implications to be applied, then it is plainly the best. That means that when one has to resort to selective hyper-skepticism and/or world view-level question begging to reject certain facts and/or their implications,then the facts have indeed spoken for themselves. (Cases in point on the ID vs NDT debate are not hard to find. Behe is simply making explicit and public what is evident to those who can do the basic probability numbers on what it would take to create the sort of genetic novelty to do major innovations in DNA-based life forms through RM + NS. And, BTW, NS is also by and large a random chance based process: having a better chance at reproduction due to better fit to an environment is not a deterministic process but a chance-based, probabilistic one!) kairosfocus
Personally, I have my own doubts about universal common descent. I'm just wondering what Dr. Dembski thinks. I know, say for instance Hugh Ross. He accepts the Big Bang, an old universe and earth, but also believes (as I understand it) in the special creation of all forms of life at different times in real time. So does Dr. Dembski believe in special creation or that the plans for different groups of animals were front-loaded? dougcampo
As for people being banned. If people who come to this blog just to disrupt discussion and ID research aren't blocked. Then how can we ever have reasonable discourse. Thank to whoever mediates this blog for keeping it a fairly civil, nice little corner of the internet. :) ALSO. Could someone answer my question? If Dr. Dembski doesn't think the evidence supports universal common descent (see IDEA Center interview), what does he propose in it's place? dougcampo
bobwilson - Hermagoras was banned from UD. I have yet to have that privilege, hence I am not banned and can comment. I hope these facts speak for themselves. :-) Bob Bob O'H
Patrick, Thanks for the suggestion. I'll try to put one up as soon as I get back from a trip. I'm leaving in the next hour. regards, Salvador scordova
Yeah, it's hard for a non-scientist layman. I understand how arguments work or should work, but don't have the technical understanding. I haven't read Behe's book--I only have enough available RAM for the ID issue to visit this site and so what it discusses makes up the sum of my knowledge of the ID-POV, unfortunately. Thankfully, that's more than the average person already. rswood
sal, That charge is likely to be repeated again and again so perhaps make it a front page blog? After all, it appears to be the only argument I've seen that touches upon core issues. Patrick
rswood, Feel free to ask for clarifications on my comment here: Comment 38, Ken Miller, Honest Darwinist. I think that shows what S. Allen does not understand. scordova
Last night I went to Borders book store. After looking around a bit I remembered about Dr. Behe's new book. The Edge of Evolution. Now I think Dr. Behe is brilliant and also one of the nicest people I have had the pleasure of speaking to. I feel that the Darwinist community is threatened by his ideas, and more importantly, by this new book. What worries me, is that the average person on the street is being confused by the garbage Behe's critics are spewing. RSWOOD for instance. Most people, I fear are content to just believe what the so-called experts say. Anyway, when I found the book, I was really pleasantly surprised. Dr. Behe is not only brilliant scientifically and technically, he also a really good writer who manages to weave personal anecdote and humor into what is sometimes (for me atleast) somewhat tedious reading. dougcampo
"In Behe’s Amazon commentaries, he is challenged by one S. Allen in his premise that resistance to CQ requires mutations in two places simultaneously. 'The reality is that the published literature clearly shows that the mutations for CQ resistance occur gradually, one mutation at a time.'"---rswood Please write S. Allen and tell him to read pp.48-49 and pp.56-57 of TEOE: he might learn something. The probability argument is unassailable. PaV
In Behe's Amazon commentaries, he is challenged by one S. Allen in his premise that resistance to CQ requires mutations in two places simultaneously. "The reality is that the published literature clearly shows that the mutations for CQ resistance occur gradually, one mutation at a time." That seems an important point to iron out clearly. I didn't read the article he posted as reference, nor could I probably make sense of it. The probability argument is powerful, but its premise needs to be made unassailable. As it stands, it seems to be under seige. rswood
On the subject of facts, evidence, and the differences between the ID position and the Darwinian position: One must have some sympathy for Darwinists, because they have painted themselves into a corner. They cannot admit that even a single, solitary aspect of biology is the product of design, or their entire thesis collapses catastrophically. ID proponents, on the other hand, can admit that Darwinian mechanisms play a role in biology, and they most certainly do, almost by definition. But as the facts of biological reality have come to bear, which they have in the last half-century, Darwinists are in an indefensible position. This explains the hysterical and vitriolic responses to Behe and those of us in the ID movement. GilDodgen
Not sure what point Bob O'h is trying to make - if Hermagoras is being censored then why is Bob's post to his blog still here? bobwilson
"To answer this question you have to ask what is the flexibility of the genome to random mutatations? The fact is that the genome is not flexible to random mutations." bornagain77 As DaveScot said in an earlier post, NS is a conservative force, not a creative one. Fred Hoyle came to the same conclusion about NS. In a sense, Behe has taken a page out of Hoyle's "The Mathematics of Evolution" in that he, like Hoyle, steadfastly compares his calculations with actual physical experiences. I wonder how remarkable it is that Hoyle's bottom-line is that the MOST that NS can do is to move the genome two "steps" (you can think here of SNP's) away from where it presently finds itself. Reminds one of a CCC limit, doesn't it? PaV
Empirical evidence has ultimate authority in science. Darwinists can point to similarities all day long but that doesn't answer the fundamental question of if the change between major species possible at all. To answer this question you have to ask what is the flexibility of the genome to random mutatations? The fact is that the genome is not flexible to random mutations. The detrimental mutation rate to DNA is so high (and complete) that a principle of Genetic Entropy can now be scientifically deduced to the level of parent species. That's what the facts of science dictate! bornagain77
Let's put it this way guys: Some facts scream Some talk loud Some talk Some whisper Some give just a breath Some are silent for centuries Reminds of the words, "It is the glory of God to keep a thing secret: but the glory of kings is to have it searched out." (God being omniscient doesn't need to learn anything) But in all cases, Darwinists and atheists are deaf. When they begin to really listen for what facts are saying their blind and fruitless faith in nothing begins to loosen it's grip and they are on their way to becoming IDists. So let's put it this way, "The truth will set you free". :-) Borne
Bob O'H, I solved the problem. I changed browsers from firefox to Safari on my Mac and the site then accepted the comment. jerry
Bob O'H, I tried 4-5 times to leave a comment on Hermagoras's blog with no luck solving the submitting comment maze. Is there any trick other than writing a comment and then press submit? jerry
Okay Summarising, from two comments in mod pile [?], there is a point where facts do speak for themselves. That is the point where one is forced to resort to selective hyperskepticism to reject a claim or explanation one does not like. That is, one is forced to behave inconsistently on rules of evidence and reasoning with otherwise comparable claims, if one wishes to reject this particular explanation of claim. Behe seems to be presenting yet another case in point on that! GEM of TKI kairosfocus
H'mm: Comment in the mod pile, probably due to the link . . . I add here that Simon Greenleaf in his Testimony of the Evangelists, has a very interesting summary on rules of evidence that is a useful complement to his fellow lawyer, Finney -- as Borne has excerpted above from his introductory skeletal notes on lectures on theology. I pulled them together here, in discussing selective hyperskepticism, which is the context in which "facts DO speak for themselves." [To wit, when you are forced into selective hyperskepticism to reject a claim, the facts have spoken loud and clear. Behe's new book is beginning to look like yet another case in point . . .] GEM of TKI kairosfocus
H'mm: Do facts really speak for themselves? Answer: so long as we are in the end accountable before the credible material facts, in the end, they MUST. (That is, while facts do under-determine scientific theories, common-sense ideas and even worldviews, there comes a point where empirical/factual inadequacy is decisive. That 's why the flat earth or geocentric theories are not with us anymore.] This all goes back to the issue of inference to best (current) explanation or reasoning by abduction; which is a bit divergent from "demonstrative proof'." That is: EXPLANATIONS => FACTS not, "FACTS" [or accepted claims] => CONCLUSIONS. In other words in abduction, paraphrasing Dembski, there is a counterflow between the direction of empirical support and that of logical implication. (This is vital, and goes to the heart of comparative analysis of worldviews, scientific models/theories and common sense explanations. We tend to trust those explanations that are more factually adequate, more coherent and elegantly simple but not either simplistic or ad hoc. Of course this is not proof -- and it is part of why I often observe that science in the end is a faith venture, too -- the results are trusted not demonstrated and are provisional, subject to correction. Cf here.) So the "facts" support the theory or model or explanation, while the explanation implies the facts. [BTW that is how prediction power arises -- predictions are of novel facts, and we give higher credence to theories that explain the known facts and accurately predict new ones. But again, this is not a demonstrative proof -- and that is one reason why claims of "proof" in a strong sense do not belong in science. Those who wish to cling to say NDT-style macro evo absent such proof, or reject ID absent such proof, are being selectively hyperskeptical.] Therefore, when enough credible material facts pile up that cannot be explained by a given theory,one can only sustain it by selective hyperskepticism. At that point, the facts have indeed spoken for themselves, when one is in the peculiar position of having to exert inconsistent rules of evidence to sustain one's belief (or unbelief . . .)! GEM of TKI kairosfocus
That's what I think Gil meant about the "facts speak for themselves".
You express me better than I express myself.
I'm not given to hyperbole, but I must say, taken as a whole, TEOE strikes me as possibly being as powerful and influential a book as "The Origins of Species".
I think this could very well be the case. Darwin's Black Box shook up the Darwinist camp. Look at all the effort that has been put into trying to refute Behe's arguments in that book. But as Behe comments in The Edge:
An updated search of the science journals, where experts in the field publish their work, again shows no serious progress on a Darwinian explanation for the ultracomplex cilium. Despite the amazing advance of molecular biology as a whole, despite the sequencing of hundreds of entire genomes and other leaps in knowledge, despite the provocation of Darwin's Black Box itself, in the more than ten years since I pointed it out the situation concerning missing Darwinian explanations for the evolution of the cilium is utterly unchanged. (pg. 95)
While Darwin's Black Box shook things up, The Edge is a genuine earthquake. GilDodgen
And, to go on, when Behe treats of the human side of this life-and-death struggle between malaria and humanity, he indicates that the only kinds of resistance that humans have developed to malaria involve only SNP’s: not two; just one.
Hey PaV, are you taking into account the step-wise formation of C-Harlem in the above statement? That is the result of 2SNPs and has appeared at least once, in Harlem (hence the name). It is discussed by Behe of an example of cumulative selection in the chapter on human malarial response. Atom
Sorry, in line #11, my last post should read: "This is another way of critics saying that biological organisms ...." PaV
I'm wondering if what Gil meant by the "facts speak for themselves" is that Behe marshals extremely important "facts" in his argument. I was intending at some point to post on "The Edge of Evolution"(TEOE); but instead, this thread might do. What is extremely important about TEOE is precisely the science that Behe brings to bear. One of the deficiencies of ID theory, as it is mathematically proposed, is that huge probabilities of simultaneous occurence can quickly, and easily, be broken down into smaller probabilities. This is another way of saying that biological organisms are "not" IC, but that there are pathways of intermittent steps that can lead up to what is considered IC. We're then left to argue probabilities and irreducibility. Behe has learned from these experiences. So, this time around, he is not proposing anything that is "theoretical" (e.g., IC), but actual "facts": facts about sickle-cell anemia, facts about malaria, facts about HIV, etc., etc. This is the strength of his book. I'm not given to hyperbole, but I must say, taken as a whole, TEOE strikes me as possibly being as powerful and influential a book as "The Origins of Species". It's power comes from the use of actual evidence, actual statistics, actual examples of Darwinism at work. He brilliantly points out that any given malarial parasite can, using any of the proposed Darwinian mechanisms, evolve resistance to known malarial drugs. He then calculates the probability of such an event, (in the case of chloroquine, two, amino acid changes=[roughly]2SNPs) and then matches that to historical data dealing with the presence of malaria in human populations where chloroquine has been introduced. The number of malarial cells produced by human populations (given the number of infections, the average number of malarial cells present in a human, the average reproduction rate, and the time from introduction of the chloroquine and the detection of resistance to the drug) for ten known cases of developed resitance worldwide over the last half century of use gives us what Behe terms a CCC, a chloroquine complexity cluster: On the other hand, resitance to choloquine has appeared fewer than ten times in the whole world in the past half century. Nicholas White of Mahidol University in Thailand points out that if you muliply the number of parasites ina person who is very ill with malaria times the number of people who get malaria per year times the number of years since the introduction of chloroquine, then you can estimate that the odds of a parasite developing resistance to chloroquine is roughly one in a hundre billion billion. In shorthand scientific notation, that's one in 10^20. ..... Let's compare the two numbers for the odds of achieving resistance to atovaquone, where just one mutation is needed, versus chloroquine, where (presumbably---since if a single mutation could help, chloroquine resistance would originate much more frequently) two are needed. The odds are, respectively, one in a trillion (10^12) [Which Behe earlier earlier calculates for atovoquone using actual experimental and population data] and one in a hundred billion billion (10^20). The ratio to the two numbers shows that the malarial parasite is a hundred million times (10^8) less likely to develop resistance to chloroquine than to atovaquone. This is reasonable since the genome size of the malarial parasite is in the neighborhood of a hundred million nucleotides. The implication is that if two amino acids in a protein have to be changed instead of just one, that decreases the likelihood of resistance by a factor of about a hundred million." Let that sink in for a while. We, here at UD, calculate these kinds of probabilities. They're easy to calculate knowing what we do about genetics. But here we have actual, real-life numbers that bear out these kinds of calculations. That's what's so exciting about his book: in the experimental land of parastic infection---about which huge amounts of data, both microbiological and infection wise, exist---the kinds of probabilites that ID proposes are borne out. And, to go on, when Behe treats of the human side of this life-and-death struggle between malaria and humanity, he indicates that the only kinds of resistance that humans have developed to malaria involve only SNP's: not two; just one. Since the number of human beings that have existed since the onset of malaria is well below the CCC of 10^20, it is then only reasonable that we don't find any kind of mutation other than a single SNP leading to resistance to malaria. Viewing the human side of the malarial battle in this way serves to confirm Behe's prior numbers, and, what Behe says is "the limit of evolution". (pp. 57-59) Any fair-minded reader should be struck by the powerful inference Behe's "extended argument" makes regarding Darwinism. That's what I think Gil meant about the "facts speak for themselves". IOW, has any reviewer quibled with these numbers? Has any reviewer found a logical error in Behe's approach? I've read most of the reviews and Behe's responses. It's clear the reviewers refuse to engage his central argument. So, in the face of the reviewer's silence on these matters........ let the "facts speak for themselves"! PaV
I agree with todd when he said I think facts speak for themselves, for such is the nature of fact! To say it another way, how do you know the facts are indeed facts? Answer: isn't it obvious? Lurker
Thanks jimbo. Your comment on the impact Miller's Finding Darwin's God had on you is fascinating. Jehu
Behe's critics have so far carefully not engaged his central argument from evidence, concerning the malaria protozoan and its development of resistance to drugs and human-evolved counteractions like sickle cell. Another part of his central thesis from evidence was decades of ecoli research, generally resulting in degeneration of the genome, not innovations. The critics obviously can't deny the evidence, and can't immediately see any way to explain it away. So they mainly try to take the public's eye off the ball and criticize other aspects of the book, demolish straw men of their own choosing, use character assasination, etc. Their idea is to concentrate on the public culture war rather the science, and pronounce from on high based on hallowed authority. From my point of view, I tend to take the Devil's advocate position and try to think of ways that Behe's argument from evidence could be argued to be mistaken, if for no other reason than to anticipate the critics. Because sooner or later they will at least start to actually deal with the argument. The only potential argument I can think of is that somehow the plasmodium protozoan is so perfectly "designed" and at the same time of such limited complexity compared to higher animals that there are simply no possible viable new cellular mechanisms, protein structures, etc. that could offer significantly improved drug or sickle cell resistance. If this were the case, even Darwinistic processes couldn't generate something impossible within basic constraints of the existing biological system. They might argue this, but I think it is ridiculous and impossible to prove as a negative. Also, unfortunately, it can't be disproved without actually designing and genetically engineering a complicated new defensive innovation. However and most importantly, it would defeat itself since the question then is how did any new species of protozoan originate. As a second tier strategy the critics then may try to dismiss the argument from evidence with unicellular organisms as not relevant to higher animals, mammals, humans. But then to be credible they would need to explain why. Maybe because with higher animals recombination offers a vastly greater source of genetic variation than mutations alone, and because individual life spans are much longer allowing many more mutations to accumulate in each individual's germ cells in each generation. That is, mutation rates per individual per generation are much greater. Both of these potential arguments are invalid. The malaria organism is a protozoan that does go through meiosis or sexual reproduction (and therefore chromosomal recombination). Secondly, estimates of mutation rates in the literature show that the rate for humans is about 10,000 times that for protists, but that factor is down in the noise compared with the population and generation number ratios. Behe's argument isn't affected. Any other potential arguments of any substance? magnan
I'm another who actually changed my mind. I was a big fan of Dawkins, Dennett and the like - I even shared their disdain for SJ Gould as being a heretic from the true Darwinian faith. I remember when "Darwin's Black Box" came out in 1996, I didn't bother to read it, instead relying on reviews that told me Behe had been conclusively debunked, nothing to see here, etc. It was finally a philosophical crisis - the inability to accept that meaning could arise from meaninglessness - that led me to seriously investigate Christianity, which surprised me (who had read all the standard deconstructionist popular Bibile scholarship by that time) with it's basis in pretty solid historical evidence. Of course, I was in a bind, since it seemed clear that one could not accept the materialist world of Darwin and the claims of Christianity (or, for that matter, any worldview that involved transcendence - not even a nontheistic Buddhist can really agree with Darwinism, despite what Sam Harris seems to think). Oddly enough, one of the key helpers in resolving this conundrum was Ken Miller. "Finding Darwin's God" was like a bridge - it convinced me that one need not accept a hard-and-fast materialism, especially in the age of the Quantum, to maintain a rational, scientific view of the universe. Of course, once I was no longer committed to absolutist materialism, I could look at some of the facts of biology without needing to fit them into a materialist "story". And once you do that, Darwinism starts to look really, really silly. Every time I tracked down what was supposed to be some knock-down, drag-out proof of the NeoDarwinian synthesis, I found massive question begging and sheer self-delusion. Actually reading Behe, and then rereading his critics, I found that despite their huffing and puffing, they were unable to seriously refute a single one of his claims. So I guess I would have to half agree, half disagree: the facts do speak, but only to those prepared to listen... jimbo
I think some facts speak for themselves, some more than others. I think Gil's point is that in the observed 10^20 generations of Darwinian/unguided processes, no new protein-protein interactions have evolved. This is a fact, to the best of our current knowledge, unless someone can show otherwise. Now it is reasonable to conclude that the unguided processes are incapable of producing such features regularly. At best, perhaps they do so infrequently. But this means that most of the 10,000 such interactions are not plausibly the result of this infrequent mechanism. Atom
The ego is so invested in this "artistic creation" it is perceived as part of the self and any attack is perceived as a personal attack on the self. Hence, hardly anyone will change their world view or metaphysical philosophy, regardless of evidence.
I am an exception to this rule, as I was once a thoroughly convinced atheist and Darwinist. Then I read Michael Denton's Evolution: A Theory in Crisis at the behest of a friend I respected. I found Denton's evidence, logic and argumentation to be overwhelmingly convincing. Everything went downhill from there. :-) I'm now the polar opposite of what I once was, concerning worldviews. GilDodgen
I think facts speak for themselves, for such is the nature of fact! One could instead say the truth speaks for itself and not change meaning. However, facts only speak for themselves and not to the larger inference. Fact: DNA breaks down without the cell membrane to protect it. Fact: The cell cannot exist without DNA instructions These are facts because various scientists used their minds armed with knowledge of material facts about nature to develop technology allowing these and other truths about the micro biotic world to be revealed. And here I'd like to allow logic to speak for itself: If DNA is required for the cell and the cell is required for DNA how is random chemical happenstance remotely plausible without a preexisting commitment to non telic cause? Mitosis requires both pieces and both pieces consist of thousands of sub units, ultimately constructed via DNA sequences It is not reasonable to conclude anything but intelligence, given the facts as stated and the odds such an arrangement could arise de novo without purposed arrangement. (given factual input, are statistical odds facts?) Anyway, great thread. todd
I think the ID/Evo debate is really a religious debate with scientific subjects. The belief in ID or Evo a person has in many cases depends on a goal of limiting or extending the expression of Christinity. I am a Christian who believes evolution is bogus and ID better science; but Dawkins is a self-satisfied athiets because of evolution. The obsessive critic of Dembski, Jeffrey Shallit, is Jewish. Facts do not speak for themselves in this debate. There are extremely high barriers on all sides preventing rational analysis. Peter
The concept of the Reality Tunnel developed by Timothy Leary and promulgated by R. A. Wilson may be another perspective on this. From Wikipedia: "The theory states that, with a subconscious set of mental "filters" formed from their beliefs and experiences, every individual interprets this same world differently, hence "Truth is in the eye of the beholder". This is not necessarily meant to imply that there is no objective truth; rather that our access to it is mediated through our senses, experience, conditioning, prior beliefs, and other non-objective factors. The individual world each person occupies is said to be their reality tunnel. The term can also apply to groups of people united by beliefs: we can speak of the fundamentalist Christian reality tunnel, the scientific materialist reality tunnel, or the libertarian reality tunnel. A parallel can be seen in the psychological concept of confirmation bias - our tendency to notice and assign significance to observations that confirm our beliefs, while filtering out or rationalizing away observations that do not fit with our prior beliefs and expectations. This helps to explain why reality tunnels are usually transparent to their inhabitants. While it seems most people take their beliefs to correspond to the "one true objective reality," Robert Anton Wilson emphasizes that each person's reality tunnel is their own artistic creation, whether they realize it or not." The ego is so invested in this "artistic creation" it is perceived as part of the self and any attack is perceived as a personal attack on the self. Hence, hardly anyone will change their world view or metaphysical philosophy, regardless of evidence. Rather, he will either deny the evidence exists or reinterpret it or explain it away to fit his "reality tunnel". Unfortunately this basic human dynamic characterizes everyone, not just Darwinists. That being said, we can at least step outside a little to recognize these forces in ourselves and still strive to surmount them and be as objective as possible. As ID advocates in this culture war, we know that our ID "reality tunnel" corresponds much more to actual reality, but a little reservation or realization of lack of absolute certainty needs to go along with this. Our opponents are true believers of the worst sort who can brook no straying from the true teaching much less engage in such objectivity. magnan
As Hermagoras can't post here any more, it's worth pointing out that he's replied on his own blog. Bob Bob O'H
BTW Behe is doing a great job of answering the critics of his new book on Amazon. I think he should include his responses as an appendix in a second edition. dacook
"The volume of facts is a large factor. If the available data set is small the facts may be compatible with multiple conflicting viewpoints. But as the number of facts increase the number of viable options decrease." Actually this isn't true. There will be an infinite number of theories that fit any given set of facts no matter how large. this is the problem of underdetermination of theory by data. This actually turns out to be a real conundrum in the philosophy of science. There are ways to deal with this and rules of thumb people use to whittle the number down, but based on the "Facts alone" there is no way to cut out the number of competing theories. Jason Rennie
Gil, I will tell a true but funny story. I was in a Ph.D. program at Duke in mathematics and about 10 of us were in a logic class. A common expression used in mathematics when you are proving a theorem is to use the expression "intuitively obvious" when going from one step to the next and the reason is supposed to need no explanation. The professor had covered the front black boards and was through 2 more on the side of the room when he used this expression to explain his current step. A student asked him if it was intuitively obvious indicating that he, the student, did not understand the rationale. Most of us were just busying copying stuff down and had no idea how the proof was going. The professor spent 10 minutes looking at every line of his proof from the first board through the 5 th board and then proclaimed that it was intuitively obvious and went on. He was playing with us and annoyed that someone had challenged him but it indicated that sometimes things are not intuitively obvious to all of us. jerry
But of course facts are not animate beings with intelligence who can actually speak to you, so what we mean by the metaphor is that sometimes the facts make things so blatantly obvious that very little inferential acumen is necessary. Behe presents such facts so, as y'all point out, it's prejudice and dishonesty that subverts the proper inference. Some languages, for what it's worth, have a grammaticalized epistemic modal that linguists label an EVIDENTIAL. What it means, in some languages I work with, is that the evidence is obvious. It's like, say, the man lies there dead on the flour all covered in blood with a knife in his chest. Our grammaticalized evidential comes across in English something like, "They MUST HAVE killed him." Rude
BTW, given what I just wrote, I agree that the facts do speak for themselves once you understand their implications and the rules of evidence and proof. Borne
What constitutes evidence and what is proof? From Charles G. Finney on the laws of Evidence:
1. Evidence is that which elucidates and enables the mind to apprehend truth. 2. Proof is that degree of evidence that warrants or demands belief--that does or ought to produce conviction. 3. Every degree of evidence is not proof. Every degree of light upon a subject is evidence. But that only is proof which under the circumstances can give reasonable satisfaction. Sources of evidence. This must depend upon the nature of the thing to be proved. 1. Consciousness may be appealed to upon questions that are within its reach, or on questions of experience, but not on other questions. 2. Sense may be appealed to on questions within the reach of our senses, but not on other questions. ... IV. Kinds and degrees of evidence to be expected. KINDS of Evidence. 1. No impossible or unreasonable kind is to be expected, e.g.: The evidence of sense is not to be demanded or expected when the thing to be proved is not an object of or within the reach of sensation. 2. Nor of consciousness when the question is not one of experience and does not belong to the exercises of our own minds. 3. It is a sound rule that the best evidence in kind shall be adduced, that the nature of the case admits: for instance, (1.) Oral testimony is not admissible where written testimony may be had to the same point. (2.) Of course oral traditions are not to be received where there is written history to the same point. (3.) But oral testimony is admissible in the absence of written, as then, it is the best that the nature of the case admits. (4.) So oral traditions may be received to establish points of antiquity, in the absence of contemporary history. ... DEGREE OF EVIDENCE. 1. Not, in general, demonstration; as this would be inconsistent with a state of probation under a moral government. 2. Not, in general, such a degree of evidence as to preclude the possibility of cavil or evasion, for the same reason. But, 1. Such an amount of evidence on all fundamental questions as to afford reasonable satisfaction to an honest and inquiring mind. 2. Such an amount of evidence upon the face of creation itself as should gain the general assent of mankind to the facts of the Divine existence and of human accountability. 3. That the evidence could be more or less, Latent, Patent, Direct, Inferential, Incidental, Full, and Unanswerable according to its relative importance in the system of Divine truth. V. When objections are not, and when they are fatal. NOT FATAL. 1. Not when they are not well established by proof. 2. Not when the truth of the objection may consist with the truth of the proposition which it is intended to overthrow. 3. Not when the affirmative proposition is conclusively established by testimony, although we may be unable to discover the consistency of the proposition with the objection. 4. Not always fatal because unanswerable. BUT AN OBJECTION IS FATAL, 1. When it is an unquestionable reality, and plainly incompatible with the truth of the proposition against which it lies. 2. When the higher probability is in its favor. 3. When the objection is established by a higher kind or degree of evidence than the proposition to which it is opposed. E.g. Consciousness is the highest kind of evidence: an objection founded in, or supported by consciousness will set aside other testimony. 4. The testimony of sense is not always conclusive in the face of other testimony, and an objection founded in, and supported by sensation is not always fatal. 5. An objection is fatal, when it fully proves that the proposition in question is not merely above, but plainly contrary to the affirmations of reason.
from HERE I've found Finney's lectures on this subject of great use for any kind of debate. Armed with a good knowledge of the laws of evidence, one can more confidently, knowledgeably and successfully debate on any subject as long as the facts are known and understood. Many of the problems we face in the ID/Evo controversy are due to a lack of understanding of the laws of evidence. Darwinists in general seem to know almost nothing of the laws of evidence. They hand out evidence and call it proof. But their evidence is by no means sufficient to be called proof at all. Indeed it does not comply in the least. ID has the right amount of evidence to be tantamount to proof - enough to convince any unprejudiced or unbrainwashed mind. Borne
I think Patrick's observation is most insightful, and I contend that the 10^20 data set is sufficiently large to preclude Darwinian mechanisms as an explanation for all aspects of living systems, which is the claim made by Darwinists. By the way, I do appreciate the friendly and thoughtful challenges. I think this is a key question when it comes to origins. We might ask, Where is the edge of evidence? In other words, when do the facts legitimately speak for themselves and preclude certain interpretations? This edge certainly exists, and there are many examples of it in the history of science (e.g., the abandonment of geocentrism, phlogiston theory, attempts to create perpetual-motion machines -- the list is endless). GilDodgen
What if we disagree on what is primae facie evidence?
Then it really wouldn't be "primae facie," because reasonable people didn't agree. If you made the claim that the evidence was in fact prima facie, and I thought it wasn't, I'd require you to make a case for your claim before I'd accept it. Which act would by definition make it not prima facie as we'd then be in the realm of argumentation. Of course you could claim that I wasn't a reasonable person. This is how Richard Dawkins gets out of engaging in real debate with those who disbelieve Darwinism. He stlll hasn't made a case for this claim, however. dacook
It should be noted that evolutionists presuppose evolution to be true first, then gather evidence (mostly similarities of some sort) to support it. Whereas IDists presuppose that either evolution or intelligence (the only two reasonable options) is the reason for an organism. Thus the Idists is much freer to evaluate the evidence accurately and to draw more valid conclusions than the evolutionists who is totally blinded to any other option than his preconcieved philosophical bias. bornagain77
dacook What if we disagree on what is primae facie evidence? Collin
The volume of facts is a large factor. If the available data set is small the facts may be compatible with multiple conflicting viewpoints. But as the number of facts increase the number of viable options decrease. Patrick
Much as I respect GilDodgen, I am also going to have to weigh in on the contrary side of the question. To demonstrate simply, the most basic argument structure consists of: Evidence=>Inference=>Claim Someone makes a Claim. To back up this claim they cite some Evidence. They must then make a case for why this evidence supports their Claim. This is Inference. The Case is the argument for their Inference, or interpretation of the evidence as supporting the Claim. "The facts speak for themselves" is only true in special, very obvious cases called "Prima Facie," or "on the face of it" meaning it's just so obvious that no reasonable person could possibly disagree. I the field of biological origins and development, we often agree on what the evidence IS. However, marked divergence occurs after that. Inferences and Claims from the same evidence often go in opposite directions. Witness the fossil record, for just one obvious example: Steven Gould looked at the discontinuity in the record, inferred that there must be sudden jumps in evolutionary progress interspersed with long periods of no change, and made the claim of "punctuated equilibrium." Others look at the fossil record and infer transitional forms from things they find and claim standard Darwinian evolution. Still others (Hoyle) look at the same fossil evidence and infer periodic infusions of new DNA information to account for the evidence. Others infer "front loading," where the codes were there all the time and were expressed at some trigger to account for the sudden changes. Creationists may use the same fossil evidence to infer sequential creation. This is perhaps oversimplified, but I think makes apparent that the facts do not always, or even usually, speak for themselves, but must be interpreted for meaning. And therin, as they say, lies the rub. dacook
Evidence is interpreted by the individual. I think most evidence is biased by our presuppositions. I have a professor who talks about the dead man syndrome. It goes like this: A man walks into the doctor's office and says he is dead. The doctor disagrees and attempts to prove otherwise. The doctor asks "Do dead men bleed" and the patient responds "No." So, the doctor pricks the patient's finger and he bleeds. The patient exclaims "I was wrong! Dead men do bleed!" Obviously, if people presuppose something, I think most people will fit their evidence to adhere to what they want. This is why Behe's book gets a lot of attention, it is apparently attacking presuppositions. Their problem is that the facts aren't speaking for them (materialists). Hope that makes an ounce of sense :-P bork
As much as I like your posts and agree with most everything you say, Gil, I disagree here on a basic level. I believe that the facts do not speak for themselves because there are philosophical and metaphysical requirements that must be met before they will be allowed to speak. If they do speak for themselves, to whom do they speak? There are huge controversies as to what constitutes evidence, and how a person's presuppositions will shape what he sees, how he sees it and how he will interpret it. As I think your post is more about the evidence than the presuppositions, however, I agree with you on the facts that Behe has presented and find the message deafening - but only because you and I allow those facts to speak to us. Charlie

Leave a Reply