Mr. Darwin Can’t Get a Break

 

It can’t be easy to be Charles Darwin right now. (I mean, for reasons beyond the obvious.) A meticulous researcher and a serious and deeply respectful man, Mr. Darwin spent years carefully documenting and refining his seminal* theory of evolution through natural selection, delaying its presentation until similar discoveries by fellow British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace prompted him to go public and secure his claim as the father of evolutionary theory.

(And what is it with our British cousins, that they should produce simultaneously two men of such insight?)

Imagine for a moment if Galileo, whose encounter with the Catholic Church has been described in this fine piece by our own @Roderic, was today the target of pseudo-scientific sniping for Galileo’s enthusiastic support of the heliocentric model, and that a cottage industry of questionable academic rigor persisted in attempting to tear that theory down. Ponder a world in which the work of Isaac Newton (another big name in British science) was deemed risible by a gaggle of modern critics, despite his having discovered much of classical physics and — oh, yes — co-invented the calculus because plain old math wasn’t quite up to his needs.

Think about that, because that’s what Mr. Darwin has to put up with every single day.

Okay, there’s nothing wrong with questioning science. In fact, to do science is to question science: that’s what science is all about. But while doing science always entails questioning science, the act of questioning science is not always doing science (if that makes sense: it’s one of those p implies q does not imply that not-p implies not-q situations).

A couple of days ago the British newspaper The Telegraph ran a story about a criticism of Darwin mounted by the woke folks at Sheffield University in the UK. That story is paywalled at The Telegraph, but Breitbart is covering it here. The gist of the story is that the school deems evolutionary biology the stuff of white supremacy. The Telegraph quotes the school as writing “It is clear that science cannot be objective and apolitical…. [T]he curriculum we teach must acknowledge how colonialism has shaped the field of evolutionary biology and how evolutionary biologists think today,” and as calling for the “whiteness and Eurocentrism of our science” to be deconstructed.

It’s bad enough that Darwin’s work is attacked via pseudo-science from the right, as I mentioned recently in this piece (paywalled behind Ricochet) about the work of Stephen Meyer. Now the great naturalist is in the left’s crosshairs as well.


What caught my eye about the Breitbart piece (which was linked indirectly by Glenn Reynolds over at Instapundit) was, first, that it is about Darwin, a man I admire and with whom I share a birthday, but also that it mentioned Sheffield University. That august institution came up here recently in this piece I wrote about a quack woke geophysics lecturer at Sheffield calling for an end to the structural racism of the geoscience field. Or something.

 

* I have read that “seminal” is no longer considered appropriate, when discussing contributions in science. I can’t imagine why not.

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  1. OmegaPaladin Moderator
    OmegaPaladin
    @OmegaPaladin

    Darwinian evolution (and its descendants) just does not have the power to generate functioning systems from nothing, since it is unplanned and undirected.   I’m perfectly willing to see a path of common descent, but someone rigged the game to keep drawing a royal flush at each deal.  Nowhere is that more apparent than at the origin of life.  Your first replicator is still an incredibly complex structure, and the first thing approaching a metabolism is going to have to involve very tight tolerances.  Making this would involve years of painstaking careful synthesis by a team of top flight researchers.  Each molecule has numerous locations it could bind the others, most of which are a total failure for the life to be.

     

    • #31
  2. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Stina (View Comment):
    To the bolder part, I can see so much CRT in that.

    Cathode Ray Tube?

    Stina (View Comment):
    I really have to wonder how much pain the pro-evolution, atheist, “IFLS”, lefty crowd must feel with reconciling all these ideas into a cohesive belief system.

    Individual Flying License Sausages?

    International Foreign Language School?

    Inspiring and Facilitating Library Success?

    Critical race theory is built on the premise that a certain group of people in this country are not capable of operating in a Euro-centric civilization. You could say they have not evolved enough, therefore American civilization is racist because they can’t succeed in it.

    IFLS – I F***ing Love Science.

    • #32
  3. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Stina (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Stina (View Comment):
    To the bolder part, I can see so much CRT in that.

    Cathode Ray Tube?

    Stina (View Comment):
    I really have to wonder how much pain the pro-evolution, atheist, “IFLS”, lefty crowd must feel with reconciling all these ideas into a cohesive belief system.

    Individual Flying License Sausages?

    International Foreign Language School?

    Inspiring and Facilitating Library Success?

    Critical race theory is built on the premise that a certain group of people in this country are not capable of operating in a Euro-centric civilization. You could say they have not evolved enough, therefore American civilization is racist because they can’t succeed in it.

    IFLS – I F***ing Love Science.

    The sausage one was better.

    • #33
  4. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Flicker (View Comment):

    Kozak (View Comment):

    GeezerBob (View Comment):
    The answer is that they don’t have it in their genetic makeup

    Of course they do. They have it in the genes coding for faster zebras. In those creating group behaviors that help protect against predators. In their camouflage that makes individuals zebras hard to pick out of a herd. Mendel and modern genetics are complimentary of Darwin, giving a mechanism for his theory.

    Zebras also have an innate kick with their hind hooves while running, split-second timed to hit the chasing lion in the face. I saw a film of a lion getting his jaw broken and the narrator saying, this lion wild die, as it will not be able to hunt or eat.

    This is why the smart lions go after the young or injured . . .

    • #34
  5. Henry Racette Moderator
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Stina (View Comment):

    I’m actually surprised by this post. I always thought some aspects of evolution WERE pseudo-science, especially being based in unproven theory where Origins of Man happily resides.

    Evolutionary theory is pretty well supported by both the evidence and the reality of genetics and biochemistry.

    Hmm. This stuff?

    I read the linked comment, but probably don’t understand the point you wanted to communicate. Would you care to state it concisely?

    More concisely than that? That was a marvel of concision, I thought.

    I’m sure it was. But it was also almost 300 words in response to one sentence of fewer than 20. Maybe you could give me a brief thesis statement?

    Maybe I could try another time when I have an actual keyboard handy.

    ;)

    But why don’t you start by telling me what evidence you’re actually talking about that involves genetics?

    Are you asking for evidence that the passing on of traits from one generation to the next is achieved through the mechanism of genetics, and that genetic mutation results in variation across generations? Darwin needed variation and inheritance for his theory to work; DNA, of which he knew nothing, provided both.

    The essential concepts are on the effects of natural selection, variation, and inherited traits. I don’t think we’ve deviated in any significant ways from those key insights, at least not in ways that call the original thesis into question.

    Classical Darwin was extremely gradualistic; contemporary evolutionary theory is not. Classical Darwinism had natural selection, but did not point to mutations as the major source of the material for natural selection to work with; that’s from the 1950s neo-Darwinian synthesis, as I recall.

    Darwin was ignorant of the mechanisms of inheritance and mutation, but he understood that there was a variety in the population; that selection favored some variants over others; and that variations tended to be inherited. It’s unsurprising that he assumed a gradual process, since he knew nothing about spontaneous mutations within the population, and probably assumed a vast store of variation that was intermittently expressed. That doesn’t detract from the three key insights, nor from the essential validity of his theory.

    Those are two important differences; they don’t qualify classical Darwinism as a pseudo-science; they might qualify it as a different scientific paradigm.

    I think too much is made of the thing Darwin didn’t understand, and that the gaps in his knowledge are often used in an attempt to discredit his fundamentally accurate conclusions.

    Ok.

    I don’t know how that responds to what I said, but ok.

    It’s a closing observation. You mentioned ways in which you think Darwin’s theory differs from modern evolutionary theory, and I was suggesting that the foundation of his theory remains intact, though people sometimes overemphasize the details he didn’t get right.

     

    • #35
  6. Henry Racette Moderator
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):

    Darwinian evolution (and its descendants) just does not have the power to generate functioning systems from nothing, since it is unplanned and undirected. I’m perfectly willing to see a path of common descent, but someone rigged the game to keep drawing a royal flush at each deal. Nowhere is that more apparent than at the origin of life. Your first replicator is still an incredibly complex structure, and the first thing approaching a metabolism is going to have to involve very tight tolerances. Making this would involve years of painstaking careful synthesis by a team of top flight researchers. Each molecule has numerous locations it could bind the others, most of which are a total failure for the life to be.

     

    Yes, we don’t know how life originated. Some share your view that it’s simply impossible that there is a naturalistic explanation. That argument of irreducible complexity has been going on for more than a hundred and fifty years, as examples of what couldn’t possibly have arisen through natural processes have gradually fallen by the wayside.

    The problems with leaping to the divine to fill in the gaps in our scientific knowledge are numerous. One big one is that it doesn’t really answer anything. It purports to tell us who, but doesn’t answer the question we’re asking, which is “how?”

    You say “nature couldn’t do it.” So I ask you, “how did a divine creator do it?” What was the mechanism?

    It isn’t merely an argument from ignorance, it’s an argument that guarantees the perpetuation of ignorance.

    • #36
  7. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    Stad (View Comment):

    Flicker (View Comment):

    Kozak (View Comment):

    GeezerBob (View Comment):
    The answer is that they don’t have it in their genetic makeup

    Of course they do. They have it in the genes coding for faster zebras. In those creating group behaviors that help protect against predators. In their camouflage that makes individuals zebras hard to pick out of a herd. Mendel and modern genetics are complimentary of Darwin, giving a mechanism for his theory.

    Zebras also have an innate kick with their hind hooves while running, split-second timed to hit the chasing lion in the face. I saw a film of a lion getting his jaw broken and the narrator saying, this lion wild die, as it will not be able to hunt or eat.

    This is why the smart lions go after the young or injured . . .

    That’s what I do when I hunt Zebras. 

    • #37
  8. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    Henry Racette (View Comment):
    That argument of irreducible complexity has been going on for more than a hundred and fifty years, as examples of what couldn’t possibly have arisen through natural processes have gradually fallen by the wayside.

    I am unaware that it has fallen by the wayside. I thought Abiogenesis was still a mystery to people but more and more knowledge has come online about how we went from apes to people. 

    • #38
  9. Henry Racette Moderator
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):
    That argument of irreducible complexity has been going on for more than a hundred and fifty years, as examples of what couldn’t possibly have arisen through natural processes have gradually fallen by the wayside.

    I am unaware that it has fallen by the wayside. I thought Abiogenesis was still a mystery to people but more and more knowledge has come online about how we went from apes to people.

    What I wrote is that examples of so-called irreducible complexity have gradually been demonstrated to be plausibly natural is origin. Not all of them, obviously. But the track record for irreducible complexity arguments is not strong.

    • #39
  10. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):
    That argument of irreducible complexity has been going on for more than a hundred and fifty years, as examples of what couldn’t possibly have arisen through natural processes have gradually fallen by the wayside.

    I am unaware that it has fallen by the wayside. I thought Abiogenesis was still a mystery to people but more and more knowledge has come online about how we went from apes to people.

    What I wrote is that examples of so-called irreducible complexity have gradually been demonstrated to be plausibly natural is origin. Not all of them, obviously. But the track record for irreducible complexity arguments is not strong.

    Fair point. Maybe abiogenesis is going to be the one that is irreducibly complex as the Christians say but they don’t have a good record. 

    • #40
  11. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    As far as “putting on a pedestal” goes, I wouldn’t advocate that for anyone in science, if by it we mean to put their work beyond criticism. That doesn’t make sense, and is profoundly anti-scientific.

    On the other hand, if by it we mean to acknowledge the contributions of great thinkers then, yes, I’ll put Darwin on a pedestal — and Newton, and Leibnitz, and Kepler, and Galileo, and Einstein, and many other men (and a very few women) who have made conspicuous contributions to our knowledge. That doesn’t mean their ideas were perfect or complete, merely that they were groundbreaking, important, and valuable.

    The key contribution Darwin made is to propose a naturalistic process by which the observed diversity of life might occur. Rather than assuming either serendipity or divine arrangement, he suggested that a process of natural adaptation based on variation and selective pressure could explain it. The weight of subsequent research suggests that he was right.

    That insight and the efforts he made to catalog and document his theory are enough to earn him a place in history.

    Whatever Darwin might have said about the origin of life itself, the religious implications of his theory, etc., is beside the point.

    Newton deserves to be recognized for his contributions to classical mechanics, among many other things. The fact that he didn’t anticipate relativity is irrelevant. Einstein gets credit for that, and is recognized accordingly; his discomfort with quantum mechanics doesn’t discredit his enormous contributions to physics.

    And Darwin, who knew nothing of genetics or molecular biology, gave us the theory of evolution, one of the most profound and important theories in science.

    Plus, you know. That birthday thing.

    The greatness of a given scientist is probably best measured in how much false knowledge is replaced with real knowledge. 

    The goodness of a given scientist is the willingness to nip at the heels of the fortunate great. 

    • #41
  12. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Stina (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Henry Racette:

    The gist of the story is that the school deems evolutionary biology the stuff of white supremacy. The Telegraph quotes the school as writing “It is clear that science cannot be objective and apolitical…. [T]he curriculum we teach must acknowledge how colonialism has shaped the field of evolutionary biology and how evolutionary biologists think today,” and as calling for the “whiteness and Eurocentrism of our science” to be deconstructed.

    It’s bad enough that Darwin’s work is attacked via pseudo-science from the right, as I mentioned recently in this piece (paywalled behind Ricochet) about the work of Stephen Meyer. Now the great naturalist is in the left’s crosshairs as well.

    The critique of classical (not contemporary) Darwinism as involved with racism and notions of white supremacy has been happening on the right for decades. Maybe a century. Maybe more.

    It’s not like Darwinism and evolution of humans wasn’t used as a defense of enslaving Africans at all (because lesser evolved humans).

    Its not much of a stretch to cancel Darwin. I’m actually surprised it took as long as it did.

    I’m accustomed to the small-minded bigots of wokeness having their way with the humanities, and with the hodge-podge of pseudo-study fields (gender studies, women’s studies, ethnic studies, etc.). Those fields have long since given up, or never had, any pretense of being academic meritocracies. But I don’t like seeing this nonsense corrupt the sciences.

    Agreed.

    But this isn’t strictly new. Bad worldviews have always corrupted science. See above. See Freud and Marx. See scientism now. See the leftist politics that motivates climate research–a true point even if global warming theory is also true.

    It is a fundamental error of the left to confuse the evil use of tools with tools being evil. 

    • #42
  13. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Stina (View Comment):

    I’m actually surprised by this post. I always thought some aspects of evolution WERE pseudo-science, especially being based in unproven theory where Origins of Man happily resides.

    Evolutionary theory is pretty well supported by both the evidence and the reality of genetics and biochemistry.

    Hmm. This stuff?

    I read the linked comment, but probably don’t understand the point you wanted to communicate. Would you care to state it concisely?

    The essential concepts are on the effects of natural selection, variation, and inherited traits. I don’t think we’ve deviated in any significant ways from those key insights, at least not in ways that call the original thesis into question.

    Classical Darwin was extremely gradualistic; contemporary evolutionary theory is not. Classical Darwinism had natural selection, but did not point to mutations as the major source of the material for natural selection to work with; that’s from the 1950s neo-Darwinian synthesis, as I recall.

    Darwin was ignorant of the mechanisms of inheritance and mutation, but he understood that there was a variety in the population; that selection favored some variants over others; and that variations tended to be inherited. It’s unsurprising that he assumed a gradual process, since he knew nothing about spontaneous mutations within the population, and probably assumed a vast store of variation that was intermittently expressed. That doesn’t detract from the three key insights, nor from the essential validity of his theory.

    Those are two important differences; they don’t qualify classical Darwinism as a pseudo-science; they might qualify it as a different scientific paradigm.

    I think too much is made of the thing Darwin didn’t understand, and that the gaps in his knowledge are often used in an attempt to discredit his fundamentally accurate conclusions.

    (Just started a new series on Thomas Kuhn for the YouTube channel. Woo hoo!)

     

    The science of evolution evolves. 

    • #43
  14. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    Tier Zoo is pretty great. 

    • #44
  15. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Evolutionary theory is pretty well supported by both the evidence and the reality of genetics and biochemistry.

    Hmm. This stuff?

    I read the linked comment, but probably don’t understand the point you wanted to communicate. Would you care to state it concisely?

    More concisely than that? That was a marvel of concision, I thought.

    I’m sure it was. But it was also almost 300 words in response to one sentence of fewer than 20. Maybe you could give me a brief thesis statement?

    Maybe not. It may be off-topic, but I can’t tell because you won’t tell me what evidence you’re even talking about.

    Maybe I could try another time when I have an actual keyboard handy.

    ;)

    But why don’t you start by telling me what evidence you’re actually talking about that involves genetics?

    Are you asking for evidence that the passing on of traits from one generation to the next is achieved through the mechanism of genetics, and that genetic mutation results in variation across generations? Darwin needed variation and inheritance for his theory to work; DNA, of which he knew nothing, provided both.

    I’m asking what evidence you were referring to.

    Aug.:

    Classical Darwin was extremely gradualistic; contemporary evolutionary theory is not. Classical Darwinism had natural selection, but did not point to mutations as the major source of the material for natural selection to work with; that’s from the 1950s neo-Darwinian synthesis, as I recall.

    Darwin was ignorant of the mechanisms of inheritance and mutation, but he understood that there was a variety in the population; that selection favored some variants over others; and that variations tended to be inherited. It’s unsurprising that he assumed a gradual process, since he knew nothing about spontaneous mutations within the population, and probably assumed a vast store of variation that was intermittently expressed. That doesn’t detract from the three key insights, nor from the essential validity of his theory.

    Those are two important differences; they don’t qualify classical Darwinism as a pseudo-science; they might qualify it as a different scientific paradigm.

    I think too much is made of the thing Darwin didn’t understand, and that the gaps in his knowledge are often used in an attempt to discredit his fundamentally accurate conclusions.

    Ok.

    I don’t know how that responds to what I said, but ok.

    It’s a closing observation. You mentioned ways in which you think Darwin’s theory differs from modern evolutionary theory, and I was suggesting that the foundation of his theory remains intact, though people sometimes overemphasize the details he didn’t get right.

    Ok. In that case, I guess I’ve given my closing observations on that particular topic, since it seems you have nothing to say about them. (I’ve nothing to say about yours either.)

    • #45
  16. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    The problems with leaping to the divine to fill in the gaps in our scientific knowledge are numerous. One big one is that it doesn’t really answer anything. It purports to tell us who, but doesn’t answer the question we’re asking, which is “how?”

    . . .

    It isn’t merely an argument from ignorance, it’s an argument that guarantees the perpetuation of ignorance.

    Who does that?

    I don’t think I’ve ever even seen an argument from ignorance on the subject. Meyer, for one, is using a completely different argument form. So are Dembski and Behe.

    • #46
  17. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):
    That argument of irreducible complexity has been going on for more than a hundred and fifty years, as examples of what couldn’t possibly have arisen through natural processes have gradually fallen by the wayside.

    I am unaware that it has fallen by the wayside. I thought Abiogenesis was still a mystery to people but more and more knowledge has come online about how we went from apes to people.

    What I wrote is that examples of so-called irreducible complexity have gradually been demonstrated to be plausibly natural is origin. Not all of them, obviously. But the track record for irreducible complexity arguments is not strong.

    Example?

    • #47
  18. Henry Racette Moderator
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Evolutionary theory is pretty well supported by both the evidence and the reality of genetics and biochemistry.

    Hmm. This stuff?

    I read the linked comment, but probably don’t understand the point you wanted to communicate. Would you care to state it concisely?

    More concisely than that? That was a marvel of concision, I thought.

    I’m sure it was. But it was also almost 300 words in response to one sentence of fewer than 20. Maybe you could give me a brief thesis statement?

    Maybe not. It may be off-topic, but I can’t tell because you won’t tell me what evidence you’re even talking about.

    These threads get confusing. I’ll try to clarify my comment.

    Evolutionary theory — the adaptation of organisms based on variability of offspring, natural selection, and inherited traits — is well-supported by the evidence. The mechanisms of evolution are understood at the molecular level: we know how DNA works, how it encodes proteins, how mutations occur and influence genetic expression, how the genome is inherited in the offspring. These are the mechanisms required for evolution to occur. We know that organisms vary in fitness in a particular environment, and that this variability influences the reproductive success of organisms.

    This is evolutionary theory in a nutshell. We have ample evidence that these processes work. That’s what I meant.

    Is there any specific aspect of that with which you take exception? I’ll be happy to find documentation for you if there is, but I’d like to know specifically what, if anything, you feel skeptical about. For example, if you doubt that mutations occur, or that they can influence the viability of an organism in either a positive or negative way, I’ll try to document that for you. If you’re skeptical that traits are inherited, I’ll do my best to convince you of that. If you don’t believe in selective pressures within an environment, I’ll give that some attention.

     

    Maybe I could try another time when I have an actual keyboard handy.

    ;)

    But why don’t you start by telling me what evidence you’re actually talking about that involves genetics?

    Are you asking for evidence that the passing on of traits from one generation to the next is achieved through the mechanism of genetics, and that genetic mutation results in variation across generations? Darwin needed variation and inheritance for his theory to work; DNA, of which he knew nothing, provided both.

    I’m asking what evidence you were referring to.

    Please see above. I’m talking about the evidence for the genetic mechanisms of genetic differentiation through selective pressures.

     

     

    • #48
  19. Henry Racette Moderator
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):
    That argument of irreducible complexity has been going on for more than a hundred and fifty years, as examples of what couldn’t possibly have arisen through natural processes have gradually fallen by the wayside.

    I am unaware that it has fallen by the wayside. I thought Abiogenesis was still a mystery to people but more and more knowledge has come online about how we went from apes to people.

    What I wrote is that examples of so-called irreducible complexity have gradually been demonstrated to be plausibly natural is origin. Not all of them, obviously. But the track record for irreducible complexity arguments is not strong.

    Example?

    Well, the assertion that the eye has the characteristic of irreducible complexity is kind of a classic. The first documented instance of the eye being identified as something that could not have evolved incrementally, since its every component must necessarily be fully functional at every stage of its development, occurred in The Continuity of the Schemes of Nature and Revelation by Charles Pritchard in 1866. In fact, we have a great many examples of light-sensing organs, some lacking lenses, some lacking corneas, some little more than light-sensitive patches on skin. There are a great many “eyes” in nature, some extraordinarily primitive, some quite advanced, and many filling the ranges between.

    There is a reason that sophisticated men like Michael Behe no longer cite the eye as a good example of irreducible complexity. Biology has outpaced the skeptics.

    It’s worth noting, incidentally, that Behe himself said:

    Demonstration that a system is irreducibly complex is not a proof that there is absolutely no gradual route to its production. Although an irreducibly complex system can’t be produced directly, one can’t definitively rule out the possibility of an indirect, circuitous route.

    That is an acknowledgement that, while it’s possible that so-called “irreducibly complex” systems might arise through naturalistic processes, it just doesn’t seem very likely.

    What the irreducible complexity folk offer is sometimes referred to as an “argument from personal incredulity.” That’s fine as a basis for doing further research, but a poor basis on which to make an enormous assertion of fact, such as that an all-powerful being answered all the tough questions for which science has yet to provide us a naturalistic explanation.

    That was Richard Dawkins’ phrase for it. I’m not a fan of Richard Dawkins, as I think he makes exactly the same mistake as the intelligent design people, but in the opposite direction. I prefer “argument from ignorance,” which is precisely what the intelligent design people are doing when they invoke irreducible complexity, since what they’re saying is “since we don’t have a natural explanation for that process right now, we will posit a supernatural one that requires no further explanation from us.”

    It’s unscientific, and the people who propound it are not doing science.

     

    • #49
  20. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Evolutionary theory is pretty well supported by both the evidence and the reality of genetics and biochemistry.

    Hmm. This stuff?

    The answer, it seems, is “No, not that stuff.”

    I read the linked comment, but probably don’t understand the point you wanted to communicate. Would you care to state it concisely?

    More concisely than that? That was a marvel of concision, I thought.

    I’m sure it was. But it was also almost 300 words in response to one sentence of fewer than 20. Maybe you could give me a brief thesis statement?

    Maybe not. It may be off-topic, but I can’t tell because you won’t tell me what evidence you’re even talking about.

    These threads get confusing. I’ll try to clarify my comment.

    Evolutionary theory — the adaptation of organisms based on variability of offspring, natural selection, and inherited traits — is well-supported by the evidence.

    No one disagrees with that. The guys at Answers in Genesis agree with that.

    The mechanisms of evolution are understood at the molecular level: we know how DNA works, how it encodes proteins, how mutations occur and influence genetic expression, how the genome is inherited in the offspring. These are the mechanisms required for evolution to occur. We know that organisms vary in fitness in a particular environment, and that this variability influences the reproductive success of organisms.

    This is evolutionary theory in a nutshell. We have ample evidence that these processes work. That’s what I meant.

    Is there any specific aspect of that with which you take exception?

    Of course not.

    • #50
  21. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Example?

    Well, the assertion that the eye has the characteristic of irreducible complexity is kind of a classic. The first documented instance of the eye being identified as something that could not have evolved incrementally, since its every component must necessarily be fully functional at every stage of its development, occurred in The Continuity of the Schemes of Nature and Revelation by Charles Pritchard in 1866. In fact, we have a great many examples of light-sensing organs, some lacking lenses, some lacking corneas, some little more than light-sensitive patches on skin. There are a great many “eyes” in nature, some extraordinarily primitive, some quite advanced, and many filling the ranges between.

    There is a reason that sophisticated men like Michael Behe no longer cite the eye as a good example of irreducible complexity. Biology has outpaced the skeptics.

    Ok.  Good example. (Far as I know.)

    It’s worth noting, incidentally, that Behe himself said:

    Demonstration that a system is irreducibly complex is not a proof that there is absolutely no gradual route to its production. Although an irreducibly complex system can’t be produced directly, one can’t definitively rule out the possibility of an indirect, circuitous route.

    That is an acknowledgement that, while it’s possible that so-called “irreducibly complex” systems might arise through naturalistic processes, it just doesn’t seem very likely.

    You’re not going to characterize an argument as an argument from ignorance on the grounds that the person making it is less than 100% certain there is no other explanation, are you?  That’s not the argument from ignorance form of argument.  That’s just probabilistic reasoning.

    What the irreducible complexity folk offer is sometimes referred to as an “argument from personal incredulity.” That’s fine as a basis for doing further research, but a poor basis on which to make an enormous assertion of fact, such as that an all-powerful being answered all the tough questions for which science has yet to provide us a naturalistic explanation.

    That was Richard Dawkins’ phrase for it. I’m not a fan of Richard Dawkins, as I think he makes exactly the same mistake as the intelligent design people, but in the opposite direction. I prefer “argument from ignorance,” which is precisely what the intelligent design people are doing when they invoke irreducible complexity, since what they’re saying is “since we don’t have a natural explanation for that process right now, we will posit a supernatural one that requires no further explanation from us.”

    It’s unscientific, and the people who propound it are not doing science.

    Whoa!  Slow down there.

    Are you saying that the argument to irreducible complexity is an argument from ignorance?  Or are you saying the argument from irreducible complexity to intelligent design is an argument from ignorance?

    • #51
  22. Henry Racette Moderator
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Example?

    Well, the assertion that the eye has the characteristic of irreducible complexity is kind of a classic. The first documented instance of the eye being identified as something that could not have evolved incrementally, since its every component must necessarily be fully functional at every stage of its development, occurred in The Continuity of the Schemes of Nature and Revelation by Charles Pritchard in 1866. In fact, we have a great many examples of light-sensing organs, some lacking lenses, some lacking corneas, some little more than light-sensitive patches on skin. There are a great many “eyes” in nature, some extraordinarily primitive, some quite advanced, and many filling the ranges between.

    There is a reason that sophisticated men like Michael Behe no longer cite the eye as a good example of irreducible complexity. Biology has outpaced the skeptics.

    Ok. Good example. (Far as I know.)

    It’s worth noting, incidentally, that Behe himself said:

    Demonstration that a system is irreducibly complex is not a proof that there is absolutely no gradual route to its production. Although an irreducibly complex system can’t be produced directly, one can’t definitively rule out the possibility of an indirect, circuitous route.

    That is an acknowledgement that, while it’s possible that so-called “irreducibly complex” systems might arise through naturalistic processes, it just doesn’t seem very likely.

    You’re not going to characterize an argument as an argument from ignorance on the grounds that the person making it is less than 100% certain there is no other explanation, are you? That’s not the argument from ignorance form of argument. That’s just probabilistic reasoning.

    What the irreducible complexity folk offer is sometimes referred to as an “argument from personal incredulity.” That’s fine as a basis for doing further research, but a poor basis on which to make an enormous assertion of fact, such as that an all-powerful being answered all the tough questions for which science has yet to provide us a naturalistic explanation.

    That was Richard Dawkins’ phrase for it. I’m not a fan of Richard Dawkins, as I think he makes exactly the same mistake as the intelligent design people, but in the opposite direction. I prefer “argument from ignorance,” which is precisely what the intelligent design people are doing when they invoke irreducible complexity, since what they’re saying is “since we don’t have a natural explanation for that process right now, we will posit a supernatural one that requires no further explanation from us.”

    It’s unscientific, and the people who propound it are not doing science.

    Whoa! Slow down there.

    Are you saying that the argument to irreducible complexity is an argument from ignorance? Or are you saying the argument from irreducible complexity to intelligent design is an argument from ignorance?

    I’m saying that the argument from irreducible complexity is a claim that a given function could not have arisen through known naturalistic processes. The moment that is used as a justification for a positive claim of a non-naturalistic explanation, it becomes an argument from ignorance.

    • #52
  23. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    I’m saying that the argument from irreducible complexity is a claim that a given function could not have arisen through known naturalistic processes. The moment that is used as a justification for a positive claim of a non-naturalistic explanation, it becomes an argument from ignorance.

    Ok, so not the argument to irreducible complexity. Just the argument from irreducible complexity to intelligent design.

    Good!

    Now, first, I don’t recall Behe making an ID argument in Darwin’s Black Box.  Just an argument to irreducible complexity, and from there no more than an argument against the gradualist (macro-)evolutionary paradigm.

    Second, would you say that an argument from irreducible complexity to intelligent design goes more or less like this?

    There are irreducibly complex systems in nature.
    Such systems could have been designed by an intelligence.
    We have no idea how they could have occurred naturally and mechanistically.
    Therefore, they are probably designed by an intelligence.

    • #53
  24. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Example?

    Well, the assertion that the eye has the characteristic of irreducible complexity is kind of a classic. The first documented instance of the eye being identified as something that could not have evolved incrementally, since its every component must necessarily be fully functional at every stage of its development, occurred in The Continuity of the Schemes of Nature and Revelation by Charles Pritchard in 1866. In fact, we have a great many examples of light-sensing organs, some lacking lenses, some lacking corneas, some little more than light-sensitive patches on skin. There are a great many “eyes” in nature, some extraordinarily primitive, some quite advanced, and many filling the ranges between.

    There is a reason that sophisticated men like Michael Behe no longer cite the eye as a good example of irreducible complexity. Biology has outpaced the skeptics.

    Ok. Good example. (Far as I know.)

    It’s worth noting, incidentally, that Behe himself said:

    Demonstration that a system is irreducibly complex is not a proof that there is absolutely no gradual route to its production. Although an irreducibly complex system can’t be produced directly, one can’t definitively rule out the possibility of an indirect, circuitous route.

    That is an acknowledgement that, while it’s possible that so-called “irreducibly complex” systems might arise through naturalistic processes, it just doesn’t seem very likely.

    You’re not going to characterize an argument as an argument from ignorance on the grounds that the person making it is less than 100% certain there is no other explanation, are you? That’s not the argument from ignorance form of argument. That’s just probabilistic reasoning.

    What the irreducible complexity folk offer is sometimes referred to as an “argument from personal incredulity.” That’s fine as a basis for doing further research, but a poor basis on which to make an enormous assertion of fact, such as that an all-powerful being answered all the tough questions for which science has yet to provide us a naturalistic explanation.

    That was Richard Dawkins’ phrase for it. I’m not a fan of Richard Dawkins, as I think he makes exactly the same mistake as the intelligent design people, but in the opposite direction. I prefer “argument from ignorance,” which is precisely what the intelligent design people are doing when they invoke irreducible complexity, since what they’re saying is “since we don’t have a natural explanation for that process right now, we will posit a supernatural one that requires no further explanation from us.”

    It’s unscientific, and the people who propound it are not doing science.

    Whoa! Slow down there.

    Are you saying that the argument to irreducible complexity is an argument from ignorance? Or are you saying the argument from irreducible complexity to intelligent design is an argument from ignorance?

    I’m waiting for replicated results. 

    • #54
  25. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    TBA (View Comment):
    I’m waiting for replicated results. 

    Same. It isn’t science to assume humans evolved from micro organisms. It’s a theory and untested hypothesis at best. Until it is repeatable, it isn’t science.

    • #55
  26. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Stina (View Comment):

    TBA (View Comment):
    I’m waiting for replicated results.

    Same. It isn’t science to assume humans evolved from micro organisms. It’s a theory and untested hypothesis at best. Until it is repeatable, it isn’t science.

    I think it counts if it’s a theory that makes some testable predictions, or if it can be tested indirectly. You can’t repeat the theory that dodo birds lived in . . . wherever they used to live. But there are some ways to test it.

    • #56
  27. Shawn Buell, Jeopardy Champ! Contributor
    Shawn Buell, Jeopardy Champ!
    @Majestyk

    Flicker (View Comment):
    In other words, you have faith.

    No, I merely  have confidence that based upon how things have proceeded thus far that progress will continue apace.

    This doesn’t even seem like an audacious claim given that the practical application of this knowledge has begun to bear fruit in forms like mRNA vaccine technology… Which is interesting because RNA’s likely role in the earliest forms of life is the subject of intense interest among evolutionary biologists.

     

    • #57
  28. Henry Racette Moderator
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    I’m saying that the argument from irreducible complexity is a claim that a given function could not have arisen through known naturalistic processes. The moment that is used as a justification for a positive claim of a non-naturalistic explanation, it becomes an argument from ignorance.

    Ok, so not the argument to irreducible complexity. Just the argument from irreducible complexity to intelligent design.

    Good!

    Now, first, I don’t recall Behe making an ID argument in Darwin’s Black Box. Just an argument to irreducible complexity, and from there no more than an argument against the gradualist (macro-)evolutionary paradigm.

    Second, would you say that an argument from irreducible complexity to intelligent design goes more or less like this?

    There are irreducibly complex systems in nature.
    Such systems could have been designed by an intelligence.
    We have no idea how they could have occurred naturally and mechanistically.
    Therefore, they are probably designed by an intelligence.

    You’re making a distinction, with your from and to, that I’m not willing to make. Science must proceed from the assumption that a naturalistic explanation exists, whether or not we can see it. Those who assert that there is no naturalistic explanation are abandoning science, whether they go on to claim a vague theistic creator, a straight Judeo-Christian God, or just wave their hands and say “well, nature couldn’t have done it.”

    Both humility and self-discipline are required of scientists. The “and here a miracle happens” explanation is an option available to theologians, but not to scientists, because the assertion of miracles breaks the rules under which science operates: miracles can’t be replicated, can’t be explained, and can’t be falsified. A scientist faced with a seemingly inexplicable outcome should have the humility to acknowledge that there are natural processes he doesn’t understand, and the self-discipline to resist the urge to invoke magic and walk away from science.

    The domain of science does not include the option of miracles.

    • #58
  29. Henry Racette Moderator
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    One of the things that troubles me about the intelligent design argument is that it doesn’t actually answer the questions it is invoked to address. Those questions are questions of “how?” How did the universe come into being? How did life begin? How did organisms reach their current state of diversity?

    What intelligent design tries to provide is a who. It says nothing about how, so much neglecting the question that I’ve never heard anyone even pretend to attempt to explain how the hypothesized intelligent designer might have implemented his design.

    By presuming a who, the intelligent design advocates seem to believe that the how — the great question of science — is made irrelevant. Why do they think that? Perhaps because they intuitively understand that science stops dead with the invocation of a metaphysical creator: the assertion not only abandons science, but rejects the rules of science and makes any further inquiry pointless.

    • #59
  30. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    Henry Racette (View Comment):
    By presuming a who, the intelligent design advocates seem to believe that the how — the great question of science — is made irrelevant. Why do they think that? Perhaps because they intuitively understand that science stops dead with the invocation of a metaphysical creator: the assertion not only abandons science, but rejects the rules of science and makes any further inquiry pointless.

    I have noticed that Intelligent designers are often more interested in G-d than the physical universe. That’s a problem. 

    • #60
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