Intelligent Design

How Evolution Created Evolution

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Did your high school biology teacher tell you that evolution is a fact because, after all, species are observed to adapt and evolve in nature? At the time it may not have occurred to you that moths changing color and the beaks of birds changing shape hardly demonstrate that entirely new forms and designs can appear without a trace of evolutionary history. It also may not have occurred to you that those examples of adaptation, observed in the field, occur suspiciously quickly. Wasn’t evolution supposed to take millions of years? But even if those problems did occur to you, what you were probably unaware of is that, ironically, adaptation is not evidence for evolution–it is evidence against evolution.

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18 Replies to “How Evolution Created Evolution

  1. 1
    BillB says:

    I notice straight away that you have converted this prediction from a research paper:

    efficient epigenetic inheritance is likely to evolve (i) if …

    into the following:

    So long as there is an advantage to a new design, then it will appear.

    Which part of the phrase likely to evolve are you having problems with?

    You seem to be assuming that because epigenetic mechanisms exist that any observed adaptations must therefore be a result of them and not of natural selection. As far as I know not all adaptations are a result of epigenetic mechanisms and I’m afraid no amount of wishful thinking will change that.

  2. 2
    Lenoxus says:

    It also may not have occurred to you that those examples of adaptation, observed in the field, occur suspiciously quickly. Wasn’t evolution supposed to take millions of years?

    You seem to be saying “Small changes happen in a small amount of time, so how in the world could large changes occur over a large amount of time?”

    A weed eating monster would have a great time in my backyard–I wonder why one hasn’t appeared?

    “Weed” is a human term, not a botanical one, for those plants we personally don’t want to see in our backyards. Pick any given plant, though, and you are likely to find a creature that eats it, unless the plant has developed a sufficiently effective poison or similar defense. It’s a war out there! (If you want a creature that eats “weeds”, you’re left with humans.)

    What the whole argument of that page seems to boil down to is: Scientists are finding out about and detailing the mechanisms in variation that go beyond genetic mutation, therefore evolutionary theory is in trouble.

    Of course, finding non-genetic mechanisms is exactly what ID demands of biology in the first place — at least, that demand is implicit in its insistence that random mutation is not enough to account for the necessary variation.

    Yet whenever those mechanisms do come in, IDers kind of sneer about them, as though, by not being what Darwin wrote about, these mechanisms are in some way tantamount to the non-naturalism ID promotes, or perhaps that they are simply made up (an accusation made concerning, for example, exaptation). Why does the existence of non-strictly-Darwinian naturalistic mechanisms pose a problem for naturalistic science?

    And why is design not a just-so story?

  3. 3
    Lenoxus says:

    I take back my very last question there, as I have heard answers to it already (essentially relying on “all causes are change, law, or agency”) and I don’t really expect new ones. If you’ve got something though, like evidence that the Fibonacci sequence is ciphered into non-coding DNA, be my guest. 🙂

  4. 4
    Cornelius Hunter says:

    BillB (1):

    Was my point that obscure? The claim that the epigenetic mechanisms are “likely to evolve” is a just-so story–that’s my problem with it.

    It is not based on scientific evidence indicating these sorts of mechanisms arise on their own; it is based on the assumption that evolution is true, so they must have (somehow) arisen on their own.

    The only question is: under what types of conditions would they arise? The evolutionist only assumes the burden of showing that there exist some conditions under which the mechanisms would be beneficial.

    Given such conditions, he concludes the mechanisms are “likely to evolve.” This is story telling, not science.

  5. 5
    Cornelius Hunter says:

    Lenoxus (2):

    If you want a creature that eats “weeds”, you’re left with humans.

    See, another reason to reject evolution!

    What the whole argument of that page seems to boil down to is: Scientists are finding out about and detailing the mechanisms in variation that go beyond genetic mutation, therefore evolutionary theory is in trouble.

    Yes.

    Yet whenever those mechanisms do come in, IDers kind of sneer about them, as though, by not being what Darwin wrote about, these mechanisms are in some way tantamount to the non-naturalism ID promotes, or perhaps that they are simply made up (an accusation made concerning, for example, exaptation). Why does the existence of non-strictly-Darwinian naturalistic mechanisms pose a problem for naturalistic science?

    Two reasons. First, it is yet another example of a falsified prediction. Second, it is yet another example of greatly expanding the creative powers of blind variation to the point of absurdity.

  6. 6
    Lenoxus says:

    Cornelius Hunter:

    Two reasons. First, it is yet another example of a falsified prediction. Second, it is yet another example of greatly expanding the creative powers of blind variation to the point of absurdity.

    Thank you very much for that courteous response. I enjoy getting to know how different mindsets work (including my own!).

    If I’m not mistaken, just as I have a vague sense that evolution is capable of giving us, for example, all the organisms that follow the standard vertebrate body plan, you have a (perhaps less vague) sense that “blind variation” is simply incapable of much the change we see — a sense based in part, I assume, on the work of Dr. Dembski — even where such change can’t necessarily be shown to be IC.

    When you say, “greatly expanding the creative powers of blind variation to the point of absurdity”, that gives me a good sense of your viewpoint — in essence, any explanation will be problematic if it depends on blind variation, regardless of whether it could be shown to otherwise work; we can still ask, where did the information originally come from? And isn’t the amount and predictability of such variation, supposedly from blind processes, itself kind of suspicious?

  7. 7
    Cornelius Hunter says:

    Lenoxus (6):

    When you say, “greatly expanding the creative powers of blind variation to the point of absurdity”, that gives me a good sense of your viewpoint — in essence, any explanation will be problematic if it depends on blind variation, regardless of whether it could be shown to otherwise work;

    No. The problem is not evolution’s speculative appeal to blind variation, per se.

    The problem is the lack of scientific explanation beyond that. In evolutionary thought, there is a failure to reckon with the extreme degree of heroics that are required on the part of nature.

    As illustrated with that quote from the paper, evolutionists assume no burden to ensure their explanations are likely or even reasonable.

    And when challenged, they can fall back on the multiverse, or they can simply say that evolutionary events are low probability, period. So what? The threshold for what passes as a reasonable explanation in evolutionary thought is incredibly low.

  8. 8
    Lenoxus says:

    First, it is yet another example of a falsified prediction.

    Reading this again piqued my interest… you seem to believe that one prediction of Darwinian evolution is that genetics and genetics alone explains variation. (Or at least, that this is a prediction of the new synthesis, given that Darwin himself never know about DNA.) Fair enough, I won’t debate that one way or another…

    What I’m wondering is, would it be fair to say that ID predicts that design and design alone explain variation? Or does it only explain the arrival of those forms too complex for naturalistic origins? Are there any ways of determining those forms besides Behe’s?

  9. 9
    Lenoxus says:

    As illustrated with that quote from the paper, evolutionists assume no burden to ensure their explanations are likely or even reasonable.

    That’s a good point on which I will meditate when I get the chance.

    Oh heck, why waste good meditating time now?

    Clearly, it is reasonable to believe that, for example, modern-day cetaceans are the product of some process of change from landgoing creatures. It seems that we can divide hypotheses on how this occured into telic and non-telic camps; it further appears that neither notion is truly thoroughly falsifiable. Given that a designer could be behind any given process, its absence cannot be utterly proven, nor its presence falsified. Its presence could be proven simply by demonstrating an act of overt design, but ID appears to focus on eliminative explanations — situations where non-design is an insufficient account.

    I’ll be the first to admit that naturalists do indeed often jump from one (I-think-well-founded) naturalistic hypothesis to another in order to patch together a nearly-complete account of biological history. However, I think this is philosophically reasonable, for all the reasons that methodological naturalism are reasonable.

    (A man running from police goes into a blind alley and disappears. Do we postulate a well-hidden door in one of the alley walls, some other naturalistic hypothesis, or that the man was carried/vanished away by non-naturalistic means? My money’s on the first two, even though the third is in the realm of possibility.)

    This is fun!

  10. 10
    ScottAndrews says:

    Lenoxus:
    Your characterization of ID, that people just go about randomly attributing things to designers when it suits them, suggests that you’ve never really given the subject any consideration.
    How can you propose to debate a matter while cheerfully advertising that you don’t even care to learn about it?

    This is fun!

    It’s our own fault if we’re dumb enough to play along for your amusement.

  11. 11
    Lenoxus says:

    I didn’t mean “this is fun” in the sense that I’m smart and ID is dumb. I just meant not to let my own rhetoric get too negative. I think it’s fun to learn how ID works, in the sense of anthropological exploration. It could very well convert me yet.

    Your characterization of ID, that people just go about randomly attributing things to designers when it suits them, suggests that you’ve never really given the subject any consideration.

    I don’t think there’s any random attribution going on; I think that the attribution (as far as I can tell) is largely based on elimination of and (perhaps justified!) incredulity at naturalistic explanations. For example, Behe’s proposed falsification of ID consists of the demonstration of the natural evolution of a particular form. Dembski’s central “positive” ID argument is his explanatory filter. Neither one proposes actual positive physical evidence of the mechanisms of design, just an argument that design is what you have left once you’ve ruled out chance and necessity.

    With my parenthetical analogy, you’re supposed to imagine a thoroughly blind alley with no apparent natural way out. My own opinion is that you wait a long, long, long time before attributing the escape to non-directly-detectable non-natural forces, because there’s still so much to learn about the alley in question (and about how natural forces work!).

  12. 12
    CannuckianYankee says:

    Leonoxus,

    “My own opinion is that you wait a long, long, long time before attributing the escape to non-directly-detectable non-natural forces, because there’s still so much to learn about the alley in question (and about how natural forces work!).”

    I tie this in with what you stated in an earlier post on Methodological Naturalism. It doesn’t work as you suppose in the instances where ID contends with Darwinian explanations. It doesn’t work because the very Darwinian explanations in question, do not work, and they cannot work. If ID can demonstrate that in certain instances RM + NS cannot work, all the waiting in the world is not going to give you what you are looking for. You must abandon Methodological Naturalism as incomplete in these instances. In order for a person to truly know what is possible in science, he/she cannot really limit the game to MN. I think Dr. Hunter has done a good job in showing the metaphysical assertions that are ongoing in this kind of approach. A real scientific approach is to make no limiting assertions, but to go WHEREVER the evidence may lead.

    BTW, how long of a time must you wait? You didn’t really specify. This also seems to be an arbitrary avoidance of the contrary evidence to RM + NS.

    There are really only two choices in the matter here – unplanned natural forces at work, or planned and purposeful forces at work. If you rule out the unplanned natural forces, you are left with the latter. This is exactly what ID does, but it also relies on other positive evidences, such as the appearance of design.

    So if you couple the appearance of design with the incoherence and immense improbability of natural forces acting alone, plus, the only known mechanism for the arrival at complex specified systems being that which we know are designed by humans, you get a fairly parsimonious support for actual design, as opposed to merely apparent design.

  13. 13
    CannuckianYankee says:

    Lenoxus,

    BTW, are you reading, or have you read Dr. Meyer’s book Signature in the Cell?

    I haven’t finished it yet, but am close. Dr. Meyer does not leave any loose ends in the book. He answers all of the objections quite sufficiently. If you haven’t read it yet, I think you would benefit from a careful read.

    I think you will find it “fun.”

  14. 14
    Gaz says:

    ScotAndrews (10),

    “Your characterization of ID, that people just go about randomly attributing things to designers when it suits them, suggests that you’ve never really given the subject any consideration.”

    Does this mean that there is, amongst IDers, a generally accepted set of biological features, or organisms, that IDers consider have been designed, and another set that they accept have NOT been designed? If so, can you say what those respective sets consist of?

  15. 15
    ScottAndrews says:

    Lenoxus:

    I think that the attribution (as far as I can tell) is largely based on elimination of and (perhaps justified!) incredulity at naturalistic explanations.

    You say that as if there were naturalistic explanations to eliminate or disbelieve. There’s nothing to be incredulous of. Why should nonexistent explanations be given equal footing? The inference to design is consistent with all available evidence, and nothing else has been offered for consideration. Nothing.

  16. 16
    William J. Murray says:

    Lenoxus,

    You might ask yourself why it seems reasonable to you to prefer one explanation over another, when you have (apparently) virtually no significant understanding of either.

    Ask yourself this: do you know what kind of “chance” is involved to encode a single, moderately long functioning sequence of RNA instructions or protein over any period of time? Say, 150 sequences? That can fold into a stable 3D shape and “do work” (function)?

    Until you can understand the answer to that question, with all due respect, you are just uttering programmed (if polite) rhetoric that has no basis in any understanding of fact.

  17. 17
    William J. Murray says:

    Lenoxus,

    Further, do you understand how information theory proscribes the advent of FSCI by any appeal to chance and necessity? In other words, it isn’t that “chance and necessity” have little chance to do what Darwinists claim; by all modern understanding of information theory, chance and necessity can by themselves no more generate the necessary FSCI (functionally specified complex information) than gravity and erosion can by themselves fashion a space shuttle.

    It’s not just unlikely; you are appealing to what for all intents and purposes is scientifically and mathematically impossible (as impossible as anything gets in science) and asserting that it seems reasonable to you.

  18. 18
    Joseph says:

    Lenoxus,

    You are just plain wrong when you say:

    Neither one proposes actual positive physical evidence of the mechanisms of design, just an argument that design is what you have left once you’ve ruled out chance and necessity.

    1- Design is a mechanism and directed mutations is a specific design mechansism, as is artificial selection.

    2- Design is NOT all that is left once chance and necessity has been ruled out

    3- The third node of the EF mandates that a design criteria be met before the design inference is reached.

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