Intelligent Design

Miller’s “Evolutionary Design” – an oxymoron or Trojan horse?

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“Evolution” is defined so broadly as to prevent refutation. That requires that the whale of “macroevolution” (simple organism to human beings) must be swallowed along with the gnat of “microevolution” – any mutation or change = “evolution”.

Now Kenneth Miller is attempting to transform the Design vs Evolution argument, by claiming nature reveals “evolutionary design” – purely based on “nature” – without an intelligent cause.
Will the public recognize this as an oxymoron?
OR
Will it welcomed as the Trojan horse that undermines Intelligent Design?
————————
There Is ‘Design’ In Nature, Biologist Argues

“ScienceDaily (Feb. 18, 2008) — Brown University biologist Kenneth Miller has to hand one victory to the “intelligent design” crowd. They know how to frame an issue. “The idea that there is ‘design’ in nature is very appealing,” Miller said. “People want to believe that life isn’t purposeless and random. That’s why the intelligent design movement wins the emotional battle for adherents despite its utter lack of scientific support.”

“To fight back, scientists need to reclaim the language of ‘design’ and the sense of purpose and value inherent in a scientific understanding of nature,” he said.
In a Feb. 17, 2008 symposium at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in Boston,* Miller will argue that science itself, including evolutionary biology, is predicated on the idea of “design” — the correlation of structure with function that lies at the heart of the molecular nature of life. . . “

“Miller will use arguments from his new book, Only a Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America’s Soul to be published by Viking Press in May, for his AAAS talk. Miller will argue that the scientific community must address the attractiveness of the “design” concept and make the case that science itself is based on the idea of design — or the regularity of organization, function, and natural law that gives rise to the world in which we live.

“He points out that structural and molecular biologists routinely speak of the design of proteins, signaling pathways, and cellular structures. He also notes that the human body bears the hallmarks of design, from the ball sockets that allows hips and shoulders to rotate to the “s” curve of the spine that allows for upright walking.
“There is, indeed, a design to life — an evolutionary design,” Miller said. “The structures in our bodies have changed over time, as have its functions. Scientists should embrace this concept of ‘design,’ and in so doing, claim for science the sense of orderly rationality in nature to which the anti-evolution movement has long appealed.”

“In a Feb. 17, 2008 symposium at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in Boston,* Miller will argue that science itself, including evolutionary biology, is predicated on the idea of “design” — the correlation of structure with function that lies at the heart of the molecular nature of life.”

See full article: Brown University (2008, February 18). There Is ‘Design’ In Nature, Biologist Argues. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 21, 2008, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2008/02/080217143838.htm

74 Replies to “Miller’s “Evolutionary Design” – an oxymoron or Trojan horse?

  1. 1
    tribune7 says:

    Miller must not be very confident in the survivability of the existing paradigm.

  2. 2
    Mapou says:

    Miller: That’s why the intelligent design movement wins the emotional battle for adherents despite its utter lack of scientific support.

    Phrases like “utter lack of scietific support” are, of course, those of a demagogue. It immediately indicates dishonesty on the part of Miller.

    The very concept of design requires intention and intention requires anticipation. A blind non-intentional process like Darwinian evolution cannot possibly design anything because that would require the ability to be proactive. Miller comes across as a politician/con artist/liar.

  3. 3
    Jaz says:

    Miller’s idea of design: ” the correlation of structure with function that lies at the heart of the molecular nature of life” is a distortion. He is calling the effect “design”, but design is the whole process of cause-and-effect, with emphasis on the cause.

    After all, there are design engineers, but not design manufacturers (manufacture implies there is a design already).

  4. 4
    bFast says:

    I think that there is something very relevant in the following study: “Identical Twins’ DNA Varies” http://www.livescience.com/hea.....s-not.html

    There is discussion around the maximum number of mutations per generation that NDE can withstand. I contend that NDE cannot withstand more than one mutation in active DNA per generation. Other suggest that we can withstand about 3, but no more. This study would suggest that we have a lot more than 3 mutations per generation. As such, it is an NDE stopper.

  5. 5

    Oxymoron or Trojan Horse?

    *tsk*

    No. Neither. A borrowing. Hitching a ride on a popular term for full effect to see how far you can ride said wave.

    A pre-emption of terminology.

  6. 6
    Phil W says:

    DLH wrote: “Now Keith Miller is attempting …”

    You meant “Kenneth Miller”, right?

    {DH Thanks – Corrected. Dyslexic confusion with another author.}

  7. 7
    mike1962 says:

    The more I study the innards of cells, the most I believe that those who deny the involvement of an intelligent agency in it’s machinery and processes are just insane.

    Just show people the evidence and let the chips fall.

    The Emperor has no clothes.

  8. 8
    mike1962 says:

    Miller: That’s why the intelligent design movement wins the emotional battle for adherents despite its utter lack of scientific support.

    “Science”, to them, is conveniently defined to rule out a design inference.

    I think the key to “winning the public” is to simply show people the evidence, particularly of the cell’s inner workings.

    The internals of cells show many hallmarks of engineering foresight, a hallmark of the intelligent design inference. Modern engineering and information processing terms are well suited for these little guys. Not because they are merely like little factories and machines, but because they indeed are.

    Is it an argument from incredulity?

    You’re d**n right it is.

    Time to start labeling fools what they are.

    Show the public the evidence, and let the chips fall where they may.

  9. 9
    alan says:

    WHY do the scientists that are design friendly bases on the evidence ban together on guys like this and do something like sign a petition or something stating that this fellow “Miller” does NOT speak for us. Seems we don’t make arguments or editorials as a group to get this lie exposed – lots of free press to take it out there.

  10. 10
    bFast says:

    mike1962:

    Show the public the evidence, and let the chips fall where they may.

    I wholeheartedly agree with you. If the biological community can show me how life started; if they can show me how life migrated from soup to single-cell, especially how life adapted to protein development; if they can show me experimental proof that irreduceably complex things really can naturally occur (try producing a flagellum via stages of single mutation events); if they can show me real calculations demonstrating the Walter ReMine is incorrect; if they can make sense of the evidence that some conserved DNA seems to have no obvious function to organisms; if they can show that NDE can filter the multiple mutations per organism that the data requires, then I will happily agree with the scientific community that there is a strong case for the neo-Darwinian model.

  11. 11
    jerry says:

    DLH,

    You have Miller referred to as Keith Miller in the second paragraph. He is a geologist who has also written books on evolution. I believe everything here refers to Ken Miller, the biologist.

    {DH Thanks – Corrected. Dyslexic confusion with another author.}

  12. 12
    jerry says:

    I didn’t realize that Phil W had beaten me to the punch about Keith Miller. By the way Keith Miller thinks that the Cambrian Explosion supports Darwinian processes.

    He is a TE who contributes to the ASA site and has edited a long book on evolution. So he might be considered the topic of a thread in the future.

  13. 13
    PannenbergOmega says:

    I thought Keith Miller was Catholic.

  14. 14
    PannenbergOmega says:

    oops Ken Miller.

  15. 15
    PannenbergOmega says:

    “That’s why the intelligent design movement wins the emotional battle for adherents despite its utter lack of scientific support.”

    What is he talking about ‘utter lack of scientific support.’ This comes from the archetypal Darwinist hack.

  16. 16
    crandaddy says:

    What Miller apparently doesn’t realize (or doesn’t want to admit) is that unless he embraces the total package of real intentionality-derived design that ID sells, he’s stuck with design as merely a fiction. As long as he clings to his materialism, the most he can say that it looks very much as if it were designed, but he can never claim actual design on materialistic grounds.

    But, of course, people have always known that life looks designed! This is nothing more than a rhetorical selling point.

  17. 17
    Mung says:

    Miller will join seven other experts to discuss ways to craft communication efforts around evolution, stem cell research, climate change and nanotechnology that are sensitive to religious communities while remaining true to the belief that any “design” in nature is solely a result of blind materialistic forces leading to greater numerical quantities of purely chance originated variations in which no purpose, intelligence or planning was even conceptualy possible.

  18. 18
    Mung says:

    Is Miller becoming an ID proponent?

    After spreading so many lies about ID and the claims of ID proponents, it seems highly unlikely.

    So now the tactic is to defuse the design argument, but Miller is not the first (e.g., The Tinkerer’s Accomplice, by Turner).

    The choices are clear:

    There is indeed an appearance of design in biology.

    That there is such an appearance seems to be almost universally recognized.

    Which leaves us with two options:

    The appearance of design is illusory.

    The appearance of design is real and actual, not merely an appearance.

    It seems that some biologists are beginning to see the design in life as real and actual, and not an illusion.

    But who, or what, is “the designer”?

    Can Kenneth Miller change his stripes? Without a miracle, I think not.

  19. 19
    GilDodgen says:

    Miller said, “People want to believe that life isn’t purposeless and random.”

    People WANT to believe that life isn’t purposeless and random? What does this suggest? It suggests that life is purposeless and random, but people are deluded into thinking that it isn’t.

    Miller is a complete enigma to me. He claims to be a Catholic Christian, but denies the foundational tenets of his faith, that humankind was created with design and purpose.

    What’s going on with this guy? Is it book sales? Is it fame, pride, being in the spotlight, being adored by those who want to use him to demonstrate that purposeless Darwinism is thoroughly compatible with Catholicism?

    The Catholic church really should issue a comment on this guy, since he has effectively set himself up as a spokesman for the Catholic faith, and he is a very poor representative.

  20. 20
    DLH says:

    Kenneth Miller holds warm fuzzy feelings about a “creator” as some nebulous cause behind a mechanistic evolution by which he believes all life came to be. Miller is adamantly opposed to any “intelligent designer” as a source of information in biology.

    E.g., See Kenneth Miller’s testimony in “Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District:
    Trial transcript: Day 1 (September 26), AM Session, Part 1

    “Richard Dawkins, for example, has been eloquent in saying that for him, understanding that life and the origin of species has a material cause frees him from the need to believe in a divine being.”

    “I don’t know if I’ve been as eloquent as Richard Dawkins, but I have worked very hard in my own way to say that for me, the notion that we are united in a great chain of being with every other living thing on this planet confirms my faith in a divine purpose and in a divine plan and means that when I go to church on Sunday, I thank the creator for this wonderful and bounteous earth and for the process of evolution that gave rise to such beauty and gave rise to such diversity that surrounds us. Those are my sentiments, in the same way that Dawkins’ are his. But I’m not speaking scientifically, and I’m not speaking as a scientist, and that’s, I think, the critical distinction.”

    Trial transcript: Day 1 (September 26), AM Session, Part 2

    “And what you see on this table are a series of mechanisms by which new genetic information can arise. You’ll notice the top one, the area up here talks about exon shuffling. The next one, gene duplication, then retroposition, mobile genetic elements, lateral gene transfer, gene fusion and fish, and, finally, de novo gene origination. Every one of these is a distinctly different molecular mechanism that results in the generation of new genetic information. None of them requires a designer, curiously.. . .”

    “But if one proposes to students the existence of an intelligent designer who used his skill and craft and cunning to encode this information and to produce perfectly-designed organisms, the fact that most of them go extinct is an embarrassment. And, in fact, you know, an intelligent designer who designed things, 99.9 percent of which didn’t last, certainly wouldn’t be very intelligent.”

  21. 21
    DLH says:

    crandaddy

    As long as he clings to his materialism, the most he can say that it looks very much as if it were designed,. . .

    I agree with your statement. However, it appears Miller will try to rewrite the definition to say that the complexity we see in biology IS “evolutionary design” formed purely by materialistic causes as “confirmed” by “science”.

    With the large platform of his biology textbooks, there is a major danger that many will accept that unthinkingly.

  22. 22
    bFast says:

    From post # 18, Miller:

    and, finally, de novo gene origination. Every one of these is a distinctly different molecular mechanism that results in the generation of new genetic information. None of them requires a designer, curiously.

    Hmmm, de nuvo gene origination doesn’t require a designer? Not bad eh?

  23. 23
    StephenB says:

    I would say that the term “Trojan Horse” is an apt metaphor. Miller’s special TE stratagem becomes more and more disingenuous: Twist the meanings of words as a PR ploy to mislead the public about evolution; describe the process as “guided,” “unguided,” or both, depending on the demographics of the audience; invoke religion and God to appear oh, so reasonable; define purposelessness and randomness in teleological terms; insist that “design” is “inherent in the evolutionary process” but is, nevertheless, illusory and undetectable; declare ID as pseudo-science while hijacking its main principle.

    TE’s (I prefer Christian Darwinists) seem to be in two main categories. Some believe that [a] God was involved as a first cause, working in and through secondary causes, biological processes, and what “appears” as random events or [b] that God established only the original conditions for human evolution, leaving the details to be worked out by chance. Either of these stories could be true, of course. We don’t know what happened. The problem is that these ideologues will not allow ID to come to the table and tell their story. In that sense, they are all on the same team.

    I sincerely hope that some the enablers from the ID camp will stop trying to “understand” these people and take off the gloves. I’ve said it before, and I will say it again. The real damage to ID comes not from obvious kooks, but from the soul selling, split-the-difference, have-it-both-ways Christians. Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens are gnats to be swatted away; Miller and his ilk are roaring lions that devour potentially pro-life Christians and convert them to fierce anti-ID zealots.

  24. 24
    StephenB says:

    Sorry, obviously I meant pro-ID (not pro-life) Christians.

  25. 25
    DLH says:

    bFast
    Miller’s statements are a classic example of Orwell’s Doublethink in 1984

    The keyword here is BLACKWHITE. Like so many Newspeak words, this word has two mutually contradictory meanings. Applied to an opponent, it means the habit of impudently claiming that black is white, in contradiction of the plain facts. Applied to a Party member, it means a loyal willingness to say that black is white when Party discipline demands this. But it means also the ability to BELIEVE that black is white, and more, to KNOW that black is white, and to forget that one has ever believed the contrary.. . .

    DOUBLETHINK means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.

    ——————
    Such is the power of Darwinian thought control.

  26. 26
    nullasalus says:

    You’d think, as a supposed TE, Miller’s attitude would be ‘let’s argue that ID as a science is incorrect, but that the design people see in nature may well be real and the result of secondary causes’. Instead he’s playing what is basically a shell game with words.

    Interesting tact for a scientist to take. Science and truth needs spin? Or maybe this fight isn’t about the science. Maybe it never was.

  27. 27
    O'Leary says:

    Gil, basically, nearly a billion people worldwide have some relationship or other with the Catholic Church that causes them to be called or to call themselves Catholics. If the Vatican got involved every time one of them said something dumb or outrageous near a mike, no one would get anything else done.

    Usually, the Church gets involved when the person in question has TEACHING authority (and even then mainly when they are someone important and causing a lot of trouble).

    As for Miller, he is a popular Darwin flak with no teaching authority. If people believe him, they do so on their own advice and must accept any consequences. – cheers, Denyse

  28. 28
    Joseph says:

    Let’s see-

    Is there any scientific data which demonstrates that living organisms arose from non-living matter via non-telic processes? No

    Is there any scientific data that can connect the genetic differences to the observed physiological and anatomical differences (for example between two allegedly closely related species such as chimps & humans)? No

    “Evolution” is defined so broadly as to prevent refutation.

    It’s called Equivocation & Evolution

  29. 29
    StephenB says:

    —–Gil writes, “The Catholic church really should issue a comment on this guy, since he has effectively set himself up as a spokesman for the Catholic faith, and he is a very poor representative.”

    Miller is just the tip of the iceberg. Consider Travis, From Florida State, who was included in DHL’s earlier post on “evolving” definitions. The Church as its own fifth column on the inside, a large group of dissidents who don’t accept Church teachings but prefer to publicize their Catholicism nevertheless. The name of the game is to exploit their status as nominal Catholics. They often promote radical secular causes, and it serves their purpose to appear less secular and less radical that they really are. Also, their arguments are not very persuasive. So, they use the Chruch to gain a little extra credibility by saying “but I’m a Catholic, so how can I be a secularist ideologue.” Obviously, they are not concerned about the fact that they damage the credibility of the same institution that they are using for cover.

  30. 30
    PannenbergOmega says:

    Ok that answers my question. Like Gil, I thought the Church could issue a statement saying Miller doesn’t speak for us, or something like that.

    Have a great weekend folks.

  31. 31
    StephenB says:

    —–Joseph writes, “Evolution” is defined so broadly as to prevent refutation.

    Yes, indeed, this is a major strategy that Darwinists use all of the time. Notice also their reciprocal strategy of deconstructing and reconstructing well-defined terms from ID scientists. Thus, their undefined terms leave us with no target to hit while our own painstaking precision provides them with concrete and meaningful paradigms that can be remade into vulnerable strawmen.

  32. 32
    Joseph says:

    StephenB- I should have quoted DLH more clearly- ““Evolution” is defined so broadly as to prevent refutation.” Is the first sentence of the OP.

    In addition I have always said that perhaps the theory of evolution isn’t what is being debated- rather it is what evolutionists are doing with it that is being questioned.

  33. 33
    jerry says:

    Evolutionary biology is usually very clear on its definition of evolution. It is any change in the allele frequency of a population over time.

    Many here don’t like that definition but it is the official definition of the modern evolutionary theory (MET). It is ID people as well as others who promote the various other definitions to fit the popular understanding of evolution or their argument at the moment.

    If a Darwinist uses a different definition then the MET one then should be called on it but since ID has a myriad of interpretations it would be hard to do so.

    If ID accepted the MET definition there would be more discipline in the discussions and arguments but no one here does. So expect people talking past each other as a result.

  34. 34
    YEC says:

    “Evolutionary biology is usually very clear on its definition of evolution. It is any change in the allele frequency of a population over time.”

    Every time an organism is born or dies the allele frequency of a population changes. If that’s what evolution is, then noone would be arguing about it.

  35. 35
    jerry says:

    YEC,

    We are talking about the frequency within a populations of sometimes hundreds of millions and for human beings, billions. Thus, a single person would make zero difference in the entire human population. But there are cases where sub-populations are isolated and single births with an unwanted mutation can eventually affect the entire population.

    If you accept this definition then every issue in the evolution debate can be framed according to it including macro-evolution and the origin of multi-cellular organism which is where most of the debate is. There seems little to debate within micro-evolution as Darwinian processes are readily accepted there. If you want to quibble with the definition then you will have to take on the whole genetics, medical and biological communities. There are some here who have such a mentality.

  36. 36
    StephenB says:

    Jerry, I think you missed YEC’s point. He is saying that no one would ever quibble over that definition, because there is nothing in it to cause IDs, YECs, TEs, or NDE’s to disagree. It’s where you go from there that makes all the difference.

    My point is a little different. Many of the TE’s are borrowing from the ID vocabulary of teleology and design to make naturalistic evolution seem unnaturalistic. Miller is by no means the only one who is doing it. To me, that is tampering with definitions. I hold the TE’s who do it responsible for muddying the waters, not the IDers who must sort through it and set the record straight.

    TE’s (Edward Oakes, Stephen Barr, Ken Miller among others) accuse ID scientists of confusing “final cause with design.” But the confusion is theirs and, for Miller at least, it appears to be willful.

  37. 37
    jerry says:

    StephenB,

    There is a specific definition of evolution from which all discussion can take place. Above my comment there was dismay at no common definition. If everybody accepts this definition then why not use it and join the scientific community. No one could then say there isn’t any definition and we would all be on the same page.

    If we use this definition, then we are a step closer to not talking past each other. However, I do not believe that most here want to be on the same page as the scientific community and really don’t care if we talk past the scientific community. But until we are, criticism will fall on deaf ears and all we do is preach to the choir.

  38. 38
    DLH says:

    The National Academy of Science defines:

    Evolution: Change in the hereditary characteristics of groups of organisms over the course of generations. (Darwin referred to this process as “descent with modification.”)

    Microevolution: Changes in the traits of a group of organisms that do not result in a new species.

    Definition of Science : The use of evidence to construct testable explanations and predictions of natural phenomena, as well as the knowledge generated through this process.

    Macroevolution The Russian entomologist Iuri’i Filipchenko (or Philipchenko) coined the terms macroevolution and microevolution in 1927 in Variabilität und Variation (in German).
    Dobzhansky defined in English:

    “we are compelled at the present level of knowledge reluctantly to put a sign of equality between the mechanisms of macro- and microevolution”

    Modern Synthesis, Genetics and the Origin of Species, (1937) New York: Columbia University Press. In 1994, the NAS set up sessions on MicroEvolution and Macroevolution at the Arthur M. Sackler Colloquia Macroevolution continues to be used by evolutionists. e.g. see the book: Macroevolution: Diversity, Disparity, Contingency: Essays in Honor of Stephen Jay Gould, Editors Elisabeth S. Vrba & Niles Eldredge, ISBN: 1891276492.

    Stephen C. Meyer and Michael Newton Keas in Meanings of Evolution review the:
    “Principal Meanings of Evolution in Biology Textbooks:
    *1. Change over time; history of nature; any sequence of events in nature
    *2. Changes in the frequencies of alleles in the gene pool of a population
    *3. Limited common descent: the idea that particular groups of organisms have descended from
    a common ancestor.
    *4. The mechanisms responsible for the change required to produce limited descent with
    modification; chiefly natural selection acting on random variations or mutations
    *5. Universal common descent: the idea that all organisms have descended from a single
    common ancestor.
    *6. Blind watchmaker thesis: the idea that all organisms have descended from common
    ancestors through unguided, unintelligent, purposeless, material processes such as natural
    selection acting on random variations or mutations; the idea that the Darwinian mechanism
    of natural selection acting on random variation, and other similarly naturalistic mechanisms,
    completely suffice to explain the origin of novel biological forms and the appearance of
    design in complex organisms.”

    John Wilkins similarly discusses:
    Macroevolution: Its Definition, Philosophy and History

    Thus with Kenneth Miller, keep distinguishing between Intelligent Design by intelligent agents versus Macroevolution, rather than “evolution”.

    PS Feb 23, 2008 added NAS definition of “Evolution”

  39. 39
    jerry says:

    DLH,

    I have seen the list of definitions you posted at least 50 times before and it is why there is no common understanding of the term. Number 2 is the official term that evolutionary biology uses and as I said above there is no reason not to accept it as the official one and refer to the others as ways the definition get misused or how they are used in polite conversation.

    Only #2 is precise enough for a scientific definition and the others as such just get in the way. So I suggest that we abandon these other 5 definitions so that we can be precise. Meyers and Keas have done a disservice by listing them as alternatives. I understood one of the reasons for constructing the list was to show how the term gets misused. But they should have listed #2 as the only true definition.

    Now I do not expect people here to abandon their favorite definition because they have too much emotional attachment to some of the other definitions. However, none besides #2 is a scientific definitions.

    I do not like the definition of micro evolution because there are micro evolution processes that lead to new species. There is really no good definition of micro evolution or macro evolution. In fact if you read some of the definitions there is a gap between the two which is not defined. Douglas Futuyma’s text book on evolutionary biology calls each a vague concept and I agree.

  40. 40
    bFast says:

    Jerry, that is the dumbest thing I have ever heard!

    Universal Common Descent is considered to be “the fact of evolution”. Universal Common Descent is vastly more than change in allele frequency. Change in allele frequency doesn’t even begin to address the question of where alleles come from.

    Lastly, ID, at least Behe style, only challenges the blind watchmaker thesis. If the blind watchmaker thesis is not what scientists are referring to when they talk of evolution then they should quit persecuting the obviously mainstream Behe.

  41. 41
    gpuccio says:

    jerry:

    “Evolutionary biology is usually very clear on its definition of evolution. It is any change in the allele frequency of a population over time”.

    I am a little confused. In what sense would a simple change of allele frequency be “evolution”? That is scientific, linguistic and rational nonsense! Let’s call it allele frequency variation, which is its due name.

    Evolution can be defined in myriads of ways, and believe me, it’s not only IDists who use different definitions, but darwinists first of all, both implicitly and explicitly. But I can think of no definition which does not give at least a connotation of “direction”, in a sense which has to be defined in the various contexts. Simple change has never been called “evolution”, not even by the dumbest otpimist! Simple change is just that, change, variation, mutation, difference, or whatever you like.

    As popular wisdom goes, things change. That would be difficult to deny. I think Heraclitus was already aware enough of that. We had not to wait for Darwin.

    But when you have to give a “meaning” to change, to define its direction, then, literally, things change. So, evolutionary biologists can say what they like, but in my world the appropriate use of words is the necessary foundation of a sincere mind. Words are bullets, and they are often even more harmful.

    By the way, I really can’t in any way give a meaning, any kind of meaning, to the apparent flux in Miller’s consciousness. My distaste for TEs and for their champions is growing ever greater, if possible.

  42. 42
    jerry says:

    “that is the dumbest thing I have ever heard!”

    I give the definition of evolution that genetics, biology and evolutionary biology use and it is one of the 6 definitions that Meyers and Keas give and it is the only one that can be used in scientific context and it is called “that is the dumbest thing I have ever heard!”

    I love it.

    gpuccio,

    “But I can think of no definition which does not give at least a connotation of “direction””

    There is no concept of direction in evolutionary biology. You are confusing the lay man’s general understanding of the term with the science. If tomorrow, a bacteria wiped out all multi-cellular life on the planet, that would be evolution. Unfortunate, but evolution. It may be a direction but not the one understood by the layman.

    And don’t say I am disputing that there has been a direction to the unfolding of life because I am not. All I am doing is pressing for some common sense definition of terms so that those here can be consistent with the scientific community.

    And don’t say you do not care what the scientific community says. That is nonsenses. All here would welcome acceptance by members of science and we tout it when someone gives tacit approval. There is even a list of scientists who have sympathy for ID which many are proud of.

    ID shoots itself in the foot by its reflexive attitude against the standard theory of evolution when this theory probably explains 90+% of life on the planet. When ID gets smart, it will start being accepted more.

  43. 43
    Patrick says:

    jerry,

    I agree about the need for precision. The problem is that although you’re correct about the scientific definition of evolution the common usage of the term (even including many scientists) can refer to a variety of things. That’s why I prefer to avoid the usage of the term and instead refer to “Darwinism” in order to make a distinction. Of course, that term has its own problems since some people reject it or consider its definition to be different. I also prefer to make distinctions between components that should rightly be considered a theory and hypotheses as provisional conjectures (many of which amount to storytelling).

    So onto the main problem. In the public domain the easily acceptable scientific definition of evolution is being conflated with other subjects.

    For example, in teaching practice evolution will be implicitly conflated with Darwinism in the new Florida standard (unless there is another section that gives a more precise definition?).

    Evolution and Diversity: A. Evolution is the fundamental concept underlying all of biology and is supported by multiple forms of scientific evidence. B. Organisms are classified based on their evolutionary history. C. Natural selection is the primary mechanism leading to evolutionary change.

    I don’t care about quibbling over the “just a theory” nonsense (which just gives validation, since a theory generally has supporting evidence [which is an argument itself, since some prefer to stick to a theory “merely” being a logically structured attempt at an explanation, and not even mention evidence]). Section A is so vague it does a disservice to Florida students and I know at least a couple Darwinists who’d argue against Section C.

  44. 44
    gpuccio says:

    jerry:

    sorry to respectfully disagree on many points:

    “I give the definition of evolution that genetics, biology and evolutionary biology use and it is one of the 6 definitions that Meyers and Keas give and it is the only one that can be used in scientific context and it is called “that is the dumbest thing I have ever heard!””

    Still, it is the dumbest thing I have ever heard. I don’t like authority in any form, least of all definitions. Calling evolution any form of random change is only a bad use of words.

    “There is no concept of direction in evolutionary biology. You are confusing the lay man’s general understanding of the term with the science”

    Not true. There is the precise direction of reproductive advantage, or, if you want, of fitness. Not that I agree with that, but that’s the standard theory. And it definitely is a direction, that is a specific parameter by which scientists are trying to explain biological changes. Change can be completely random, and un that case it has no direction. Ot it can be explained according to a directional parameter, and in that case it could be classified as evolutional or involutional according to that parameter. What is evolution according to one direction, could be involution or neutral change according to another direction. If, as you say, there is no concept of dierction in evolutionary biology, then what is the sense of the theory of natural selection? Selection without direction? Purely random variation? I must miss something…

    “It may be a direction but not the one understood by the layman.”

    I am not especially interested in what is understood by the layman, no more than I am in what is understood by the scientist. I am interested in the real meaning of things, whoever understands them.

    “And don’t say I am disputing that there has been a direction to the unfolding of life because I am not. ”

    Well, do we agree on that at least?

    “All I am doing is pressing for some common sense definition of terms so that those here can be consistent with the scientific community.”

    Easy enough. Try this. Evolution is a generic term which means nothing unless we specify it better. “Darwinian evolution”, or “neodarwinian evolution” or “non directed evolution” (and others) are common expressions, none of which I have reasons to prefer, to define those (scientific) theories which, in essence, try to explain biological information purely (or most) in trems of RV + NS, excluding any role of design. And, for design, I mean the product of a conscious intelligent mind, which is the only possible definition, whatever Miller thinks.
    Where is the problem? These are the precise definitions we need.

    “And don’t say you do not care what the scientific community says. That is nonsenses.”

    I care, but not necessarily agree.

    “All here would welcome acceptance by members of science and we tout it when someone gives tacit approval.”

    Not me. I just would welcome intelligent and sincere acceptance of ID by anybody, because I believe that it is the best model. That’s just it. I care for what I believe, and respect all persons just the same, whatever their social or scientific status.

    “There is even a list of scientists who have sympathy for ID which many are proud of.”

    I am not proud. I am happy that they have made the most reasonable choice.

    “ID shoots itself in the foot by its reflexive attitude against the standard theory of evolution when this theory probably explains 90+% of life on the planet. ”

    I absolutely don’t believe that “the standard theory of evolution” “probably explains 90+% of life on the planet”. I believe it explains almost nothing. That’s why I post here, in the ID field, and not elsewhere. It’s not just to chat about something and spend time. I feel that this debate is very important, and I have full cognitive commitment to the principles of ID, that practically “all” relevant biological information is the product of design, starting from the first bacteria to humans. If that’s shooting myself in the foot, well, of that I am proud.

  45. 45
    Patrick says:

    Getting back to the title of this subject, a “trojan horse” analogy is quite apt in regards to the current discussion. You just know that even though the wooden horse is named “evolution” it’s going to be filled with Darwinists. When it comes to education in practice the teachers won’t be merely teaching “change in the allele frequency of a population over time”. I think the best way to handle this is to break everything down. Students learn about evolution, which is stated to not be under contention by anyone. Then they teach Darwinism’s various competing concepts separately.

  46. 46
    jerry says:

    Patrick,

    I agree with nearly everything you say except I think you are too tenuous. One implication of my recommendation is that if a science curriculum strays from the commonly accepted definitions and findings then they should be nailed. If the opposition to the standards in Florida is not operating under any rigorous set of definitions and findings, then opponents are conceding the field to whatever the opposition wants. I believe ID contributes to this by being imprecise.

    The arguments are then based on emotions as opposed to facts. But one side is winning the emotional war and I maintain the best way to win it is with facts and logic.

    One small way to help win the battle is to use good definitions that work from a scientific point of view and not let public perceptions enter the science standards.

    If the definition in the science standards is the accepted definition then the statement “When it comes to education in practice the teachers won’t be merely teaching “change in the allele frequency of a population over tim.” should not be allowed to stand. If a teacher teaches otherwise then they should be made to change and told they are not to let their personal viewpoints enter the discussion.

    It is time to turn science back on them and ask them to comply.

  47. 47
    gpuccio says:

    Patrick:

    the harmful ambiguity of the definition we are discussing becomes obvious when you relate it to the fundamental epistemological difference between facts and theories.
    Indeed a “change in the allele frequency of a population over time” is definitely something which can be observed, and therefore a fact. So, if you define with a single word, “evolution”, the description of that fact, then you are allowed to say: “Evolution is a fact”, which is what all darwinists are ready to say. Try to say, instead: “it is a fact that we can observe variations of allele frequency in populations over time”. That is such a trivial affirmation, that it loses all the flavour of a scientific argument. Tha fact is that facts usually don’t require any special additional name. They can just be described according to what is observed.
    Theories, on the contrary, are usually defined by a name, which sinthesizes the many assumptions in them. In that sense, there may be many different “theories of evolution”, and in each of them the word “evolution” is probably defined in different ways. But theories are not facts, and never will be.

    Now, while we can observe change of allele frequency in a population (indeed we always do), the mathematical form of those chanhes must be described by some theory. For instance, I could affirm that most of those changes are due to random errors (first assumption) and that some random statistical distribution can well fit them (second assumption), and then call all that “genetic noise”, and incorporate that in my theory. Instead of “genetic noise”, I could call it “standard evolution”, or just “Frank O’ Hara”, and nothing would change. The substance of the meaning would be specified not by the word I use (no matter how many people share it), but by the theory according to which it has been defined.

    In other words, an ambiguous concept, like that behind the word “evolution”, is a ruin for clear reasoning.

    I don’t think that “evolution” can have any clear meaning ouside of a specified theoric context. Everyone who utters the word is usually thinking of what has happened millions of years ago, which is not a fact (we can’t observe it), and requires a theoretical frame to be discussed. We know many different theoretical frames for that, and one (the best) is ID. So, we have to define “evolution” in the ID frame, if we want to use the word (for instance, the definite increase of CSI in the biological world). Now, “that” definition would really describe what happened millions of years ago, but still it is a definition framed in a theoretical context.

  48. 48
    jerry says:

    gpuccio,

    I actually believe that 99.99% of species on the planet can be explained by Darwinian processes. I actually believe this supports ID as much as anything else. It is actually good design.

    Where did all the chiclids come from? There are several thousand species. Where did the 50,000 beetle species come from? Where did all the bird species come from? Why can dogs mate with wolves? Why can tigers mate with lions? Why can grizzly bears mate with Polar Bears? Why can cows mate with American Bison? Why did the British Starling morph into a different body after being introduced to the Western hemisphere? Why does its body size differ a little by geographical region?

    I could go on and on but you can see the picture. Do you believe that all these species appeared by a design event? I actually do since I believe that variation and natural selection is great design to allow species to adapt to varying environments. By the way all these example and probably thousands more support Behe’s thesis in the Edge of Evolution. They do not produce complexity or novelty but they do produce a richness of life that is driven by environmental changes and the ability of the gene pool to adapt.

    Now do not assume that because I believe a large number of the species arrived due to naturalistic causes that I agree that the original gene pools that spawned all these species happened by naturalistic means. So please do not put words in my mouth that I do not say as is common here.

    If you think all these species I have mentioned above are due to a design event, then you are welcome to your beliefs but few in science will pay any attention to you if you espouse such a belief. Whereas if you say that Darwinian processes explain most of life on earth, the science community will say what is the ID problem then. And then you can use science to explain why this process is limited and does not explain everything. They then will be forced to consider the science instead of treating ID proponents as religious zealots which is now happening.

    I won’t respond to everything you but here are a few comments I strenuously disagree with.

    you said

    “Still, it is the dumbest thing I have ever heard. I don’t like authority in any form, least of all definitions. Calling evolution any form of random change is only a bad use of words.”

    Science can not proceed without definitions. How would you proceed to do science without them. You would never get one paper even read let alone accepted. So how is using standard definitions the dumbest thing you ever heard. I suggest you come up with a definition that replaces the accepted one and show why it is superior. Good luck. If you succeed your place in the scientific community will be secure.

    I never said that evolution is random change though some of it proceeds due to apparently random processes. Do you deny genetic drift? Do you deny mutations? There are some random components to allele frequency change but certainly not all. The whole process is constrained by the extent of the gene pool.

    you said

    “Not true. There is the precise direction of reproductive advantage, or, if you want, of fitness. Not that I agree with that, but that’s the standard theory. And it definitely is a direction, that is a specific parameter by which scientists are trying to explain biological changes. Change can be completely random, and in that case it has no direction. Ot it can be explained according to a directional parameter, and in that case it could be classified as evolutional or involutional according to that parameter. What is evolution according to one direction, could be involution or neutral change according to another direction. If, as you say, there is no concept of direction in evolutionary biology, then what is the sense of the theory of natural selection? Selection without direction? Purely random variation? I must miss something…”

    There is no necessary direction to evolution. As gene pools get refined by environmental conditions and much of the gene pool eliminated, is that direction. This happens all the time. Such processes if done too often will produce a gene pool that can not handle a new environment and the organism goes extinct. That is evolution but without a specific direction. Yes, extinction is a form of evolution, one where all the gene frequencies go to zero. A silly example but a real one.

    Behe often talked about the trench warfare model versus the arms race. The trench warfare model is a different direction from the arms race so if there is a direction, what is it? A change by itself cannot be called a direction because this implies some sort of goal. Not all evolution has a goal. Genetic drift is a random event and has no goal or direction. So direction cannot be part of the definition of evolution.

    If you want to insist that evolution has direction, then Behe’s research says just the opposite. All those zillions of reproductive events and no apparent direction. Selection does not necessarily imply direction because what is fitter in one environment could be counter productive in another. Again the warfare model does not seem to have a direction.

    Please tell me of all the birds in the world what is the direction they have been taken in the last 100 million years? How about fish?

    No, direction should be kept out of the definition of evolution and the best definition for evolution is the currently accepted one in the science community. Direction happens a lot but it does not mean evolution has to have direction. If you disagree with the entire science community then I think it incumbent upon you to produce your own and defend it. And if direction is part of it, then define direction.

  49. 49
    gpuccio says:

    jerry:

    in #48 you certainly give more specific arguments, and I will try similarly to better define my ideas.

    1) First of all, the species problem. There are teo different aspects of that. Species are certainly the most abundant, bur also the lowest, classification in life. Personally, I don’t believe that even the species level can be explained by darwinian evolution, but let’s admit the possibility. After all, Behe admits that darwinian evolution “could” have a role at the species level, although he does not affirm that: he just leaves there an upper limit. But, obviously, most of the relevant biological information is not built at the species level. It originates rather at the higher level, from phyla downward. And, about those levels, even Behe, who is perhaps the most conservative among ID theorists, denies any role to darwinian evolution. So, even if we accept (and I don’t) that the differences at species level, and only those, are due to non directed processes, it would be improper to affirm that 95% of life can be explained that way, because that would explain only the final, minor differences, and not the major information (cellular functions, body plans, etc.).
    But let’s talk species. Have you any idea of how much genetic distance, functional genetic distance, can be found between different species? Nobody really knows, also because the real code which explains those difference is not known. The distinguished italian biologist Giuseppe Sermonti (that one, a person that I am proud to have on my side, but not certainly because he is a biologist) says that we have no idea of what makes a fly a fly, a horse a horse, and so on. The arrogant biology of our times is utterly powerless in front of the mysteries of body plan, of form, and so on.
    I want to remark here that behe, from a molecular point of view, has put the limit of darwinian evolution for a protein to 2-3 unrelated aminoacids change.
    So no, definitely I don’t believe that even the species level is generated by the mechanisms invoked by evolutionists. Not for a moment. I believe that it, too, is the product of design.
    Why would that be strange?.You are, in my opinion, sidetracked by some of the darwinist ideas, which you have come to accept, while there was no reason to do that. One of these wrong ideas refers exactly to the concept of direction, and is at the core of our discussion. Darwinists have affirmed for decades, without having any evidence of that, that the main driving principle of evolution (whatever it is, as you see I am avoiding to use the word without a context) is reproductive advantage, which is at the core of “natural selection”. That’s the standard theory, and many people (maybe including you) have believed that, maybe with different degrees.
    I don’t believe that. Like Behe, I believe that, excluding few trivial and limited cases, like those discussed by Behe, in the range of random variation (1-2-3 aminoacid changes), all the rest is due to design.

    And there is another point that I have often tried to express in some of my posts: in my opinion, survival is not the main purpose of design, and of the “evolution” of biological design (defined as the progressive increase of CSI in living beings, definitively a quantifiable “direction”). Rather, I believe that gthe purpose of the increasing complexity of design in living beings is the necessity of expressing at constantly higher levels the fundamental qualities of life, and then of consciousness and intelligence. And, as a side direction, the enjoyment of creativity, the love for a rich, beautiful variety of forms which shares much with our conception of art.
    Those are principle truly common in human design. Human design becomes gradually more complex because of the necessity of expressing higher functionalities, and/or higher beauty.
    Consider computer operating systems. They become more complex in order to do more and better, and in becoming complex they often become unstable. So life, becoming more complex, is usually weaker. In that sense, design which becomes more complex “needs” to implement higher instruments of survival, otherwise the main purpose of higher function could not be expressed. So, in human as in biological design, the main purpose is expression of function, and the ancillary one is survival.
    In that sense, “evolution” becomes a really appropriated word: living beings “evolve”, that is become more complex and capable of doing new and higher things, and in the process face many challenges, including the problem of surviving “notwithstanding” the higher complexity they have acquired.
    That would explain why bacteria and archea are still the best adapted living beings, and by far those in greatest number and with the best reproductive advantage, and yet “evolution” did not stop there.

    2) I wanted to address your other points, but I have not time now. After all, the first was the most important. I don’t share your want that ID be accepted by mainstream scientists: ID is a really revolutionary paradigm, which contradicts too many fundamental dogmas of modern scientistc religion. They will never accept it “bit by bit”. Only if and when the vacuity of the materialist scientistic dogma will be really understood and expose, ID will be able to be naturally accepted as the only remaining paradigm for science.

    Finally, just a word about genetic drift. I have never understood darwinists’s enthusiasm for that concept (indeed, only part of them are relly enthusiast; the others, the more traditional, use genetic drift only when they run short of objections to ID). Neutral mutations and fixation by genetic drift are just what they appear: random, useless, meaningless variations which, as all purely random mechanisms, cannot accomplish anything. Only the linguistic fury of darwinists who pretend to give the name of “evolution” to any random variation could, by deception, entrust them of any significant role. We must remember that genetic drift , if it really happens as often as its supporters think, can fix “any” random, neutral mutation with the same probability. So, its effect is perfectly equivalent to that of random mutations: anything can happen, it is still a perfectly random search.
    Moreover, for genetic drift to take place, the interested allele must already be present in a significant proportion: in other words, it must not only be there, but be there in some quantity, otherwise its hopes of being fixed by genetic drift are really trivial. So, a new allele, be it “functional” or not, should first be formed, then somewhat expand due to unknown forces, and then hope to be lucky enough to be fixed by genetic drift and “substitute” the previous one. And still it would probably be the same function.
    Believing that single random mutations, fixed by genetic drift, can explain CSI is total folly. In comparison, natural selection at least, although a false explanation, has a minimum of sense.

  50. 50
    bFast says:

    Jerry:

    I give the definition of evolution that genetics, biology and evolutionary biology use and it is one of the 6 definitions that Meyers and Keas give and it is the only one that can be used in scientific context and it is called “that is the dumbest thing I have ever heard!”

    I love it.

    It might not be you that is dumb, it might be Meyers and Keys, I don’t care, but that is the stupidest definition of evolution I have ever heard.

    I agree with you that we need to “good definitions that work from a scientific point of view.” However, this definition doesn’t come close to working! All that this definition does is define the effect of natural selection (natural selection being a subset of the theory of evolution, where you really don’t have a complete theory until you inroduce mutations of some sort.) While the only thing that natural selection does is change the frequencies of alleles in the gene pool of a population, it is not the only thing that does. (Though I say only, that doesn’t mean that I disrespect natural selection as a meaningful force within evolution.) Other forces, such as genetic drift (not normally seen as natural select, though not really a force, but an effect) also adjust allele frequencies, so does artificial selection.

    Alas, “changes the frequencies of alleles in the gene pool of a population” is horribly incomplete as a definition of evolution. Science needs useful definitions. This is not one of them, not by a long shot.

    As far as Behe’s question, “where is the edge of evolution,” I think that this is the right question to ask. I also agree with you that the natural forces of random variation and natural selection are fully capable of producing new species. As such, I honestly believe that the majority of species are the product of these forces, without specific agency.

  51. 51
    DLH says:

    Jerry at 39
    Stephen Meyer brings out the different ways evolution IS being used by evolutionists or Darwinists.

    To see a few more, try
    definition evolution on the web (Google).

    One limitation of definition #2 is that it includes any variation in EXISTING alleles. e.g. blue eyed blond Scandanavians vs black haired brown eyed Chinese. That has nothing to do with speciation as those “races” can still interbreed (given the plane fare etc.)

    At #38 I added The National Academy of Science definition:

    Evolution: Change in the hereditary characteristics of groups of organisms over the course of generations. (Darwin referred to this process as “descent with modification.”)

    This is broader than #2 in including “groups”.

    It is fascinating to consider that this NAS definition of “evolution” would fit ideally in with “Intelligent Design”.

    Consider:
    1) Human hereditary disease: The most voluminous real life quantitative “evidence” for “Change in the hereditary characteristics ” is all the hereditary diseases documented at
    OMIM Online Mandelian Inheritance in Man. – Currently standing at 18,454
    records.

    2) Human racial population records: All the records of “racial” changes are primarily due to human migration and consequent changes in alleles due to geographic separation – (not speciation.)

    3) Animal breeding The corresponding evidence is all the records accumulated by breeding animals over the centuries. e.g. all the “show” animals and “Arabian” horses. etc.

    4) Hybrid grains: One of the largest commercial efforts is all the hybrid grains formed and their records.

    5) Flies Fourth is the artificial mutations caused in laboratory fruit flies.

    It is interesting that all of #2, #3 and #4 are due to intelligent causes – even in #5, almost all the mutations would not have occurred without the active laboratory conditions and “environmental” stresses!

    Almost ALL (if not exclusively ALL) the diseases documented in #1 humans, are from mutations resulting in a DEGRADATION of function. i.e., a key ID prediction.

    Furthermore, many of the variations in frequency of genetic changes observed in humans in 2) will be due to SOCIAL and RELIGIOUS selection, NOT “natural selection”. i.e., again “intelligently selected”. Compare the priestly casts – Jewish Cohen, and Hindu Brahman. Similarly the respective royal and noble genetic lines of Europe, China etc. Those with Downe’s syndrome will be actively selected against – not because of physical reproductive incapacity reasons but for social reasons.

    The NAS definition further says nothing about speciation nor common descent, nor about gradual small changes, nor about saltational (“wishful monster”) changes.

    So spread the word – the National Academy of Science’s definition of “evolution” for schools is best documented by variations in population genetics directly caused by Intelligent Design.

    I also second bFast’s observation on the importance of Behe’s question, “Where is the edge of evolution?”.
    Behe’s study and the above data emphasize that the most common principle organizing biology is NOT “evolution”, but Mandelian genetics. That is quantitative and controlling factor, with relatively few small occasional changes.

  52. 52
    StephenB says:

    Jerry: It is your contention that MTE has developed its own “magisterial” definition of evolutionary biology and that it is the one that you have proposed. I don’t agree with you, for the same reasons others have been discussing. Still, let’s go ahead and assume for the moment that you are right. So what? Everyone on both sides agrees with what’s in that definition, and everyone on both sides is fussing over what is not in it. What good, then, is a definition that is too vague to provoke any kind of debate?

    For the moment, I am less concerned with imprecise definitions that can lead to honest misunderstandings and more concerned with willful distortions that are calculated to mislead and muddy the debate waters. That is, or at least was, the theme of this thread and it doesn’t seem to interest you at all. DHL has provided concrete evidence of one TE who is twisting the language to create a false impression about what he and his fellow travelers really believe. Further, he is training others in his camp to do the same. That is the problem for the moment and I wish that you would help us address it because I know that you are equipped to do so.

    In my judgment, we should not be trying to “understand” or “sympathize” with these people, we should be trying to defeat them. Only rarely it is a mutual misunderstanding that causes these conflicts. There may be a few ID advocates that don’t fully understand the MTE thesis, but I haven’t come across too many on this blog. Even at that, there is always the chance that they are right and I am wrong. Indeed, they may actually know something that I don’t know, as remote as that possibility may be (insert smiley face). I am not sure, for example that I totally agree with Paul Nelson, at one end of the debate or that I am completely on board with Dave Scot at the other end, but I wouldn’t dare suggest that they are less knowledgeable than I am, because I would be deluding myself l if I believed that. At times, you seem to exhibit a sense of apodictic certainty about matters that can only be known with greater or lesser degrees of probability.

    In any case, mutual misunderstanding is not our biggest problem. For the most part, we know what our adversary is about and, for the most part, they know what we are about. Our most disingenuous adversary, the TE’s, know that their campaign to misuse the word “design” is a shameless attempt to cover up their radical naturalism and make it appear as something else. They also know, in spite of their protests, that ID is empirically based and that it does not depend on religion in any way. That is why their strategy is to lie, oppress and persecute rather than to simply have a good laugh.

    There is no middle ground in this debate; one side is going to go down. As I have said before, Darwin’s fiercest and most dangerous warriors are the TEs. Because of their self-professed religious sensibilities they can create the impression of being above the fray, when they are, in fact, prepared to fight to the death. That is why they enter the arena with their religious flags flying. The idea is to come across as a disinterested, middle-of-the-road researcher— as if to say, “How could I be a Darwinist ideologue, I am, after all a Christian.” No, sorry. Until, they allow us a place at the table, “Darwinist ideologue” sounds good to me. I’ll buy the Christian part when they pull out a chair and say, “sit down and talk awhile.”

  53. 53
    Mapou says:

    StephenB: There is no middle ground in this debate; one side is going to go down. As I have said before, Darwin’s fiercest and most dangerous warriors are the TEs. Because of their self-professed religious sensibilities they can create the impression of being above the fray, when they are, in fact, prepared to fight to the death. That is why they enter the arena with their religious flags flying. The idea is to come across as a disinterested, middle-of-the-road researcher— as if to say, “How could I be a Darwinist ideologue, I am, after all a Christian.”

    I could not agree with you more. They are closet atheists and Darwinists, no doubt about it. The deviousness of the enemy must never be underestimated.

  54. 54
    jerry says:

    bfast,

    You seem to be understand better what I am trying to say than gpuccio. Meyers and Keas were only repeating the accepted definition in genetics, biology and evolutionary biology. It is a definition that can be used in any example of evolution that can be dreamed up. Granted that many of the changes may sound trivial but it is all inconclusive.

    It says nothing about the origin of alleles. So if a new allele shows up in a gene pool it is obviously going from 0% to some positive number and is an example of evolution even in the scheme of things it is a trivial change. There is however, no need for a new allele to appear for evolution to take place. That is why I used the examples of chiclids, beetles, birds, cows, buffalo, dogs, wolves etc. A reshuffling of the alleles by some process over time can produce a cow in one environment and a buffalo in another and not one new allele may have been introduced. I obviously do know for sure that there are no new alleles but I can imagine it happening without the loss or gain of any allele. The frequency of the alleles has changed but not the necessity for any new alleles. The main difference between a cow and a buffalo is probably the combination of alleles in each.

    So for this example of reshuffling alleles, the definition works and it works for examples that are more complicated where there are some new alleles. These new alleles do not have to be complicated but could just be SNP’s that may produce a different color fur or a variant of a protein that may work better in cold or hot environments (longer or shorter hair). I an not claiming that these changes are novel or complex but are generally trivial in terms of evolutionary biology. They may have a small advantage in a different environment and lo and be hold we see a tiger in India and a lion in Africa or different camels in different environments but these differences can be analyzed in terms of allele frequency differences. Again I have no idea if the differences have any real importance in terms of the types of alleles but are just different combinations of the alleles in a gene pool. Nowhere do I postulate novel or complex alleles which I agree with Behe are beyond the edge of evolution. Your example of the HAR1F allele is an example that seems to be definitely beyond the edge of evolution and part of what makes us human. It is an allele frequency difference between us and the chimp. The chimp being zero and the human being 100%. Now within the chimp and the human there may be variants of this allele so the frequency distributions would have to be taken into account in each.

    Then we come to the example where there is real complexity and novelty between species. As an example, take the bat. It has wings and sonar. I assume it has some very novel alleles that other mammals do not have. It would be very interesting to find out that it has only the same alleles as other mammals with only slight mutations. But I doubt that, but someday the genome will be analyzed and the relevant parts identified. Again there will be a frequency difference of alleles and I suspect completely novel alleles which are 0% in other mammals but positive in the bat. But there is another possibility. See next paragraph.

    There is a lot of “ifs” in all this. Some of the genetic differences that make one species differ from another may not be in coding alleles. They could be in the other part of the genome. Right now there is little if anything known about this. The bat example above could be that the differences are also in the non coding part of the genome. This knowledge of non coding regions will probably change for humans since there is all sorts of efforts to look at multiple genomes of humans which will look probably beyond the coding regions.

    There was a publication on this yesterday in most of the newspapers about how Caucasians have less variation than Africans and more harmful genes. But this was looking I assume entirely at the coding regions. As time goes on, we will learn about differences in the non coding regions. So I suspect we will also learn more about gene pools in various species besides humans in the near future and the comparison of the cow and the buffalo and various chiclids will reveal just what makes a species different in both the coding and non coding regions.

    And we might learn that what makes a species different has nothing to do with breeding. But whatever it is, the definition of one species from another will be able to be analyzed based on gene frequencies in its gene pool or to differences in the non-coding regions.

    And if the current definition proves inadequate then a new definition will arise that is more robust but I bet it doesn’t have the concept of direction in it. It is not necessary and is actually constricting. It doesn’t mean that direction, properly defined, cannot be an area of study. Direction has so many dimensions to it just as intelligence does that it is best left out of any definition and be a conclusion. It should not be included in a basic definition of evolution.

  55. 55
    DLH says:

    StephanB and Jerry
    Please define MTE.
    I presume TE refers to Theistic Evolution.
    What does M refer to? Mutational?

  56. 56
    jerry says:

    StephenB,

    You say a lot of things that I disagree with. Let me take a few of them

    1. “I am less concerned with imprecise definitions that can lead to honest misunderstandings and more concerned with willful distortions that are calculated to mislead and muddy the debate waters. That is, or at least was, the theme of this thread and it doesn’t seem to interest you at all.”

    What are the first words of this post? They are “‘Evolution’ is defined so broadly as to prevent refutation” I disagree with this big time. I have pointed out the accepted definition in the world of science and it is very concrete and in my post to bfast, it can be used in any example of evolution you can imagine. Show me another definition that can make this claim. It is robust, simple and widely accepted. So why should I not also accept it.

    If this definition is universally accepted then many of the arguments DLH is making may disappear if we too accept them. The intransigence of the people here to accept this definition may be an indication of some basic problems. I have not seen a superior definition offered. If we follow the evidence and the accepted way of analyzing it, there may be less problems. We wouldn’t be talking past each other using different languages.

    Look at the definition that DLH said came from the NAS. It is “Change in the hereditary characteristics of groups of organisms over the course of generations.” If that isn’t the same definition as the accepted one, let me know.

    2. “For the moment, I am less concerned with imprecise definitions that can lead to honest misunderstandings and more concerned with willful distortions that are calculated to mislead and muddy the debate waters.”

    If there is precise definitions then there is less chance that someone can get away with a distortion. They can be called on it.

    3. “In my judgment, we should not be trying to “understand” or “sympathize” with these people, we should be trying to defeat them. Only rarely it is a mutual misunderstanding that causes these conflicts.”

    The best way to defeat them is with truth and accuracy. And that includes proper definitions, especially the ones they use and which are appropriate. If we use our own made up definitions which are not as good, then we are in a battle before substance is ever on the table. We use too much bad logic here. The main one is that because Darwinian processes cannot be the cause of all life forms on the planet, it the source of none.

    How often have you seen the obligatory rant against Darwinism in the form of rv + ns is false. Well it is false for some very specific cases but it is not false for most of life and that is what the average person looks at. The survival of the fittest is such an easy concept to understand and observe in nature that when someone comes along and says it is wrong and at the same time espoused a religious sentiment, guess what is the normal reaction. It is “Take a hike, you religious nut.”

    4. “Our most disingenuous adversary, the TE’s, know that their campaign to misuse the word “design” is a shameless attempt to cover up their radical naturalism and make it appear as something else.”

    I have given up arguing about TE’s with you. I understand their underlying rationale and told you. I don’t agree with them but I also don’t look at them as the focus of ID’s efforts. It should be the same audience they are after and ID is doing a poor job at it. That is the average person. Miller is a peculiar case because I believe he is a fraud. Because of his financial interest, he should remove himself from the debate or donate all his profits to charity.

    I am no fan of Ken Miller and if you go back on threads for over a year you will find I have been particularly harsh on him. Also I look at the people at ASA as a bunch of wimps who are disingenuous and willfully dishonest. But a few are not and are very good people.

    I also have the feeling that you are particularly upset because Miller is a Catholic and so are you and so are Oakes and Barr and the guy from Florida and it seems like Schoenborn has switched sides. However, Behe is a Catholic and so is the guy who runs the Discovery Institute. So there are many on both sides.

    5. “There is no middle ground in this debate; one side is going to go down”

    I agree and it would be sooner rather than later if ID ever got its act together. But I do not see that happening soon unless a funding source appeared which does not have religious associations tied to it.

    6. “There may be a few ID advocates that don’t fully understand the MTE thesis, but I haven’t come across too many on this blog.”

    I have to disagree. Most understand the erroneous extrapolation of Darwinian processes to macro evolution but I find many who do not understand the basic ideas. Otherwise, why the obligatory shots at rv + ns. Many also have their pet theories. It is just that my pet theory is the currently accepted theory of evolution with some modifications which are extremely important from ID thrown in, mainly from Behe. An as far as I can see neither Behe or Dembski has ever written anything to contradict the ideas I propose which is why I always cite them when discussing it. I am not saying that I understand everything, far from it. I continually learn and people like Dave and Patrick and gpuccio who are great at summarizing the obvious which I am not good at. I love Dembski’s posts and writing too. He a very clear writer. I love Behe’s books and his comments on his blog at Amazon.

    You are one of the better writers on this blog especially when it comes to religious and morals and I wish I could write as well as you.

    7. “At times, you seem to exhibit a sense of apodictic certainty about matters that can only be known with greater or lesser degrees of probability.”

    Hardly, I constantly correct my views based on new information but I trust my self to understand what is logical or not and what is supported by the evidence. I constantly read and watch science videos and am continually learning. Today I watched a video on stem cells and cloning and am starting to get a vague idea about it.

    But if I believe in something, I do not back down until shown the fallacy of my point of view. I often make absolute statements to provoke discussion. If I over state something, it does not mean I have absolute certainty but want to contradict what I see is a bad argument by someone else. Great word (apodictic). Never heard it before

    This is the end. It is too long and I have to order the pizza for dinner.

  57. 57
    jerry says:

    DLH,

    Modern Theory of Evolution. (MTE) or Modern Evolutionary Theory (MET.) As opposed to neo Darwinism and the modern synthesis which date from the earlier part of the 20th century. It may not be the best term but it includes all the implications of DNA which the other two didn’t.

    People here like to use neo Darwinism but many in evolutionary biology object to it because it refers to ideas that have been super seeded. MTE may not be the best nomenclature but I use it. Wikipedia seems to prefer modern evolutionary synthesis but I have seen objections to that too.

    Like a lot of things there does not seem to be a precise definition.

  58. 58
    gpuccio says:

    jerry:

    I don’t know where you take the notion that the difference between two species, even two “similar” ones like tiger and lion, may be due to a pure “reshuffling” of existing alleles. That seems really a very weird concept, and not based on any evidence.

    The differences between species are really much bigger than you think, in terms of genomes, molecular biology, antigenic determinants, enzymes, metabolism, body form, embriology, and so on. It’s not a case that, “in general” (I know there are imporetant exceptions), the defining characteristic of different species is that they cannot interbreed. That does not seem a trivial difference at all.

    I think you are heavily undervaluating genetic variety. In my opinion, that’s why it seems so easy to you that those difference may be due to darwinian mechanisms: you just don’t have a correct perception of the differences. You make species appear like trivial adaptational differences, but they are much more.

    Believe me, if you agree with Behe that darwinian evolution cannot really, if not in exceptional cases, create a new protein-protein interaction, especially a functional one, then speciation is definitely beyond its range.

  59. 59
    Mapou says:

    Jerry: People here like to use neo Darwinism but many in evolutionary biology object to it because it refers to ideas that have been super seeded. MTE may not be the best nomenclature but I use it.

    Name it what you want. In the end, it’s still design without a designer, watch without a watchmaker, program without a programmer, code without a coder, symphony without a composer and a million monkeys banging on a typewriter. Fecal matter is still fecal matter even after you spray it with Channel No. 5. 😀

  60. 60
    gpuccio says:

    Mapou, I think that really sums it up! 🙂

  61. 61
    StephenB says:

    DLH: Thanks for the fraternal reminder. I think I must have transposed letters. What I should have written, had I been sufficiently alert was MET to mean modern evolutionary theory. I use that term as a tribute to Jerry’s concerns, because from my vantage point, neoDarwinist will do nicely.

  62. 62
    jerry says:

    gpuccio,

    Lions and tigers can apparently breed. So are the different species? Would they not have similar genomes?

  63. 63
    jerry says:

    gpuccio,

    A lot of what is called speciation is just devolution of a common gene pool. I gave you several examples, wolves, dogs; lions, tigers, other wild cats; cows, American bison or what we call buffalo; polar bears and grizzly bears. I am sure there are hundreds/thousands more.

    These are all referred to as species but can inter breed. So what is a species. The average person would say that a tiger and lion were separate species but according to the breeding definition they are not. They come from a common gene pool.

    This is the best argument for design I know of.

  64. 64
    DLH says:

    Jerry
    Compare the usage #2 of evolution:

    *2. Changes in the frequencies of alleles in the gene pool of a population

    with the NAS definition:

    Evolution: Change in the hereditary characteristics of groups of organisms over the course of generations. (Darwin referred to this process as “descent with modification.”)

    Technically, I do not see how a “change in frequencies of alleles” would require any mutations or change in or addition to / removal of the alleles themselves.

    Thus the cyclic El Nino/La Nina drought/rain in the Galapagos Islands can result in cyclic shifts in the Darwin Finches to larger / smaller beaks. By the rapidity and cyclic nature of these changes indicates that they are “variations in frequency of alleles”, – that are already there. This rapid cyclic variation suggests there are not any actual mutations causing the changes, though it is often touted as evidence for evolution.

    Thus I hold the NAS definition is actually closer to the common expectation of “evolution”.

    Though I found both definitions fit the predictions and consequences of Intelligent Design as noted above in #51.

  65. 65
    Lutepisc says:

    Jerry, you wrote:

    “Our most disingenuous adversary, the TE’s, know that their campaign to misuse the word “design” is a shameless attempt to cover up their radical naturalism and make it appear as something else.”

    I have given up arguing about TE’s with you. I understand their underlying rationale and told you. I don’t agree with them but I also don’t look at them as the focus of ID’s efforts. It should be the same audience they are after and ID is doing a poor job at it. That is the average person.

    Jerry, I take your point here. I am “an average person.” Before reading Darwin’s Black Box, I was a TE. I am a clergyperson in a mainline Christian denomination, and my training is in theology, not biology. Theologically, I find a non-literal interpretation of the opening chapters of Genesis to be replete with crucial existential themes about our human situation and our relationship with our creator. My training taught me (and I believe) that Genesis is not meant to be a scientific treatise, and reading it that way misses its point. I was taught to defer to scientists regarding scientific matters, and since “all truth is God’s truth,” science and theology can ultimately be reconciled. As a clergyperson, my unique contribution to unpacking the creation narrative in Genesis is to attend to the fundamental theological themes which are outlined there (very insightfully, I might add!). I have had little training in biology, and have deferred to biologists, just as I would defer to physicists and chemists regarding their disciplines.

    Ultimately, the issues are going to have to be fought out on the biologists’ turf.

    This is not an unusual position for Catholic and mainline Protestant clergypersons. I am one of the more than 10,000 signers of “The Clergy Letter.” (I now regard that as a credential when detractors label my ID leanings “fundamentalist.”) I am not a fundamentalist, and I am not a creationist.

    I believe mainline Protestant denominations could do a better job than they are doing of understanding the basic issues here, and conveying them to our membership. My own denomination is often guilty of buying the popular press’ conflation of ID and creationism. Our denomination’s position with regard to Genesis has never been creationist, so our own internal publications have had TE leanings. To me, this is regrettable. Someone like Denyse O’Leary could do a valuable service by connecting with denominational journalists and ensuring that the issues are properly understood and represented, to the extent that is possible. Most of the time, we don’t get them right in our official publications. People like Miller and Collins are presented as our models and heroes.

    My hope is that at some point the issues can be openly processed in academia. Right now, they can’t. That’s why I’m counting on a film like “Expelled” to identify the disparities in the discussion, and help to level the playing field.

  66. 66
    bFast says:

    Jerry, I think it a bit stretchy to suggest that “change in allele frequency” includes change from 0 to non-zero. Further, as you point out, there is DNA stuff, (possibly non-DNA genetic stuff) that is not “genes”, not “alleles” yet may affect heredity. I find the NAS definition, “Change in the hereditary characteristics of groups of organisms over the course of generations” to be much more effective.

    However, both of these definitions absolutely skirt the point! There is nothing in Behe-style ID that is outside of the NAS definition, yet the NAS and other scientific communities absolutely reject Behe’s message. The only definition of evolution that is not compatible with Behe’s message is the blind watchmaker’s thesis. The latter, therefore, is the definition of evolution that the scientific community is using when they are rejecting Behe’s message.

  67. 67
    jerry says:

    DLH,

    you said

    “Technically, I do not see how a “change in frequencies of alleles” would require any mutations or change in or addition to / removal of the alleles themselves.”

    Neither do I. It could involve new alleles or the lost of alleles but it doesn’t have to.

    The finch beak cycle is technically evolution according to the definition of evolution but it is a meaningless one. The fact that the textbooks use it and it is touted undermines the Darwinist case for meaningful evolution which would be the creation of real complexity or novelty.

    Essentially is this the best they have. It is like admitting defeat to even use it.

  68. 68
    jerry says:

    Lutepisc,

    I feel uncomfortable talking about theology. I am a Christian, believe in the traditional God of the bible but prefer Galileo’s quote about the bible telling us “How to go to heaven, not how the heavens go.”

    My interest is science and I have an educational background in mathematics and physics. My biology is self taught and was mainly due to my interest in evolution. Until 9 years ago I happily accepted Darwinian ideas till I started reading something about the growing dissent. I went to a meeting here in New York City where Dembski and Behe and others were presenting and was impressed. The main thing that impressed me was that there was not one mention of religion. If there was I would have been out of there immediately.

    That is why I continually harp here on getting the religious aspects out of ID. I was hesitant about it and I know the typical person is too. I believe that ID would be more effective on the religious life of the country if there were no religion associated with it. But religious people glom onto ID and want to express their religious views about it which I then view as counterproductive to what they wish for.

    I also believe that ID has a lot of baggage in addition to its religious associations. And one of them is what I have been arguing on in this thread. Namely, that Darwinian methods can explain a lot of what happens in life but that does not go down very well here where the attitude of many is that anything Darwinian is evil. To me that is not good science and as such it is a mill stone when trying to convince others of the value of ID.

    So I believe we have a paradox. To get to a religiously positive outcome, one has to prevent any association with religion in what you are doing. If one makes a religious association, one may be prevented from reaching a religiously positive outcome. Seems strange, but I happen to think it is true.

  69. 69
    jerry says:

    bfast,

    Suppose a gene pool of bears does not have an allele that would lead to white fur. If a mutation happened to one of the alleles to create a new allele that produced white fur then the frequency of this allele would go from 0% to some positive number. Every new allele created by a mutation would be an example of going from 0% to a positive number and every allele eliminated would be going from a positive number to 0%.

  70. 70
    bFast says:

    Jerry, I well understand what you mean — how one gets from a frequency of zero to a frequency > zero. It remains to be a weak definition at this point; not insurmountable, but weak. The NAS definition is much stronger.

    What remains however, is that neither of these definitions challenges Behe’s message, yet the scientific community would prefer to blacklist Behe as a creationist rather than recognize him as a theistic evolutionist. Why? Because this is not the definition of evolution that the scientific community is using, they are using the Blind Watchmaker Thesis! What good is a definition when the definition is abandoned by those who made it at every turn.

  71. 71
    jerry says:

    bfast,

    you said

    “What good is a definition when the definition is abandoned by those who made it at every turn.”

    You can disagree but I believe using a correct definition has several advantages. You can call them on it every time they do not use it. Then they look like the persons who are being unscientific.

    Darwinists are the ones who insist there is no direction in evolution so when one uses direction as part of their argument then they should be called on it. Every time someone mentions that there is universal common descent then they should be told that is something to be proved and as of today there is no proof. All they will offer is homology and some common DNA sequences but the latter is only evidence for a limited common descent. I just used this reasoning on another thread and the objector has yet to come back. It will be interesting to see where it will go if he does come back.

    Using correct definitions will force the ID people to be more focused with their arguments. I do not see this now. The discussions here are all over the lot. We should call out our own when bogus arguments are used. But out of politeness most here do not. So we get a mish mash.

    I do not see any big differences between the NAS definition and the accepted definition of genetics etc. The NAS definition is

    “Change in the hereditary characteristics of groups of organisms over the course of generations.”

    Both use the word “change.” “Hereditary characteristics” are the same thing as alleles. “Groups of organisms” are a population. And “over the course of generations? means over time.

    So as far as I am concerned they are the same. You could argue that “hereditary characteristics” refers to more than just alleles but I bet the NAS was just trying to simplify the definition for the lay man or the beginning student who would not have a clue about alleles. If you take the point of view that “hereditary characteristics” is expansive and meant to include elements in the non coding regions then change the definition to

    Evolution is “a change in the frequency distribution of hereditary characteristics in a population over time.” Go with this and I won’t have any problem. But as of the moment the only hereditary characteristics we are sure of are alleles.

  72. 72
    StephenB says:

    Mapou: Thank you for your kind words.

  73. 73
    StephenB says:

    bfast:

    You have made a telling point. The biological community has established its “official” scientific definition for modern evolutionary theory. Therefore, [A] If Behe’s approach harmonizes with this definition, then [B] eiher Behe is a modern evolutionary theorist in good standing or [C] The biological community neither believes in nor will honor its own definition.

    From your proposition, we can take it to the next step. [A] Since the biological community has ostracized Behe from its roster of bona fide evolutionary theorists, [B} the biological community neither believes in nor conform its practices to its own definition of evolution. Therefore, [C] the conflict between the ID community and the MET community is less about a misunderstanding between two parties and more about a dishonest gambit coming from one party.

    What is the point, then, of entering into a good faith dialogue with those who do not exhibit good faith?

  74. 74
    DLH says:

    StephenB
    Keep pointing out the materialistic presupposition of excluding any possibility of an intelligent cause to biology.

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