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Michael Behe - The Edge of Evolution (Nov-9-07)
Posted: 01 February 2008 04:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 61 ]
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Mr. Tweedy - 01 February 2008 04:19 PM

Change: Hurl Molotov at building.  Building burns.  Loose pigeons on building.  Building collects poo.  Subject building to cold.  Pipes in building contract with an eerie creaking sound.  In each case, the building is somehow different, but these differences are not inherently related to the structure of the building nor do they contribute to its overall functionality.

Build: Cute down tree.  Melt sand for glass.  Bring wood and glass to building site.  Measure and cut wood.  Nail cut pieces into frame.  Score and snap glass to fit frame.  Assemble glass and frame.  Nail assembly into hole in the side of the building.  Apply caulk.  Apply trim.  Apply external shingles.  Paint.  Apply internal curtains.  The building now has a new window, a part that is inherently related to and ads to the functioning of the building as a whole.

Yes, I know what the words mean in ordinary language, but how do these relate to biological evolution?

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Posted: 02 February 2008 06:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 62 ]
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Like I said, Doug, I don’t intend to argue for ID here.  I know it won’t work and I know what arguments you’ll use.  You’ll claim that changes can add up to systems.  I’ll point out that any system (like, say, the one that unzips DNA, makes RNA from it, shuttles the RNA out to Golgi apparatus and generates proteins from it) would require numerous discrete steps to be built, most of which would not be beneficial of themselves and hence would not be preserved by natural selection.  You will point to an example of another system that bears some similarities to the one we’re talking about and claim that the similarities somehow prove you point.  I will point out the huge number of unlikely steps to get from to the other.  Ultimately, you will appeal to ignorance, saying that no one really understands how whatever system we’re talking about came to be, but we will find out eventually.  I should believe in evolution in the meantime.

There, I already lost.  ID is defeated again.

I do still have my question, though: What, specifically, did Behe say that was so stupid?  And my point: Behe is not arguing god of the gaps.

[ Edited: 02 February 2008 06:43 AM by Mr. Tweedy ]
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Posted: 02 February 2008 07:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 63 ]
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Wrong post. Sorry.

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Posted: 02 February 2008 10:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 64 ]
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Some reviews of Behe are summarized and linked to HERE. Also apparently Behe claimed that blood clotting proteins were irreducibly complex, a claim which was proved wrong in this paper. Further, Behe’s testimony was essentially shredded by Judge Jones in the Kitzmiller trial: “Professor Behe remarkably and unmistakably claims that the plausibility of the argument for ID depends upon the extent to which one believes in the existence of God. ... We therefore find that Professor Behe’s claim for irreducible complexity has been refuted in peer-reviewed research papers and has been rejected by the scientific community at large.”

Irreducible complexity is precisely a claim of the God-of-the-gaps. It claims that there is a complex system the evolution of which we do not yet understand, and that therefore God must have created it. The fact that Behe may see large numbers of these gaps rather than fewer makes no salient difference to the structure of his argument. It also makes no difference that he mendaciously claims not to be referring to God as the creator of these systems. That is simply a rhetorical ploy for political ends.

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Posted: 02 February 2008 10:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 65 ]
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Mr. Tweedy - 01 February 2008 02:30 PM

Hmm…

I suspect I will be decried as a “troll” for saying this, but I read “The Edge of Evolution” and thought it was brilliant…

Obviously I’m not going to convince anyone here that ID is valid, and I’m not going to try.  But I will ask one question and make one point, both inspired by themes that seemed consistent throughout this thread.

Question: What is this “rope” so many people have mentioned with which Behe hanged himself?  I thought he did a fine job defending himself.  Which of his words were the pulling of this gallows lever?  I didn’t hear the click.

Point: Behe’s argument is not “god of the gaps,” and I think that anyone who claims it is has failed to understand it.  Behe is not saying that a designer did those few fleeting things that evolution has not accounted for.  He is saying that evolution accounts for nothing.  He is denouncing it.  He is saying that it’s all one huge gap from start to finish.  His contention is that no biological system can be accounted for by random mutation plus natural selection and that a designer is needed to explain all of them.  Now, you might say that’s an amazingly stupid claim, but it isn’t “god of the gaps.”

I think Behe himself has indicated that the explanation he favors is an intelligent designer (see the Amazon.com editorial review in the link below), and from my perspective the fundamental flaw in his approach is the mistaken logical path
a. he can’t explain an observation in nature.
b. he assumes no one else can and no one else ever will—he convinces himself (but no consensus of scientists) that one thing or another is ‘irreducibly complex’ and that this means it cannot arise naturally.
c. Therefore God did it.

I bought his earlier book [ Darwin’s Black Box] and was ultimately disappointed as I read more broadly and found that there was a lot of information contradicting Behe’s claims about the flagellum being ‘irreducibly complex’.  etc. etc.  [ This amazon.com page actually has a blog by Behe allowing him to defend himself against criticism on other WWW sites. He also gives a plug for the Point of Inquiry interview.]

His recent book The Edge of Evolution {which I haven’t read but may check out from the library} may serve a useful purpose in listing what he thinks are challenges to Darwinian theory and evolution. I’d like to find a WWW site which lists these ‘challenges’ and then documents references answering Behe’s concerns.  This is where the “god of the gaps” label comes from—it sounds like the ideas is to assign God to everything Behe can’t explain rather than have other scientists work on it (?)

I myself am open to the idea that features on life on earth could have orginated elsewhere in the galaxy and even have been created by an alien intelligence.  This idea is somewhere between the simpler idea that it all originated naturally (and we’ll eventually figure it out) and the self-contradictory idea that this alien intelligence is an omniscient, omnipresent God who cares deeply about humankind and reveals himself in a sporadic and inept way.

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Posted: 02 February 2008 11:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 66 ]
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Jackson - 02 February 2008 10:53 AM

I myself am open to the idea that features on life on earth could have orginated elsewhere in the galaxy and even have been created by an alien intelligence.  This idea is somewhere between the simpler idea that it all originated naturally (and we’ll eventually figure it out) and the self-contradictory idea that this alien intelligence is an omniscient, omnipresent God who cares deeply about humankind and reveals himself in a sporadic and inept way.

Sure, it’s possible that features of earth-based life originated elsewhere, or even were created by some alien intelligence. However that only pushes the same problem back: the alien intelligence would itself have had to evolve by mechanisms of Darwinian selection. It had to start somewhere.

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Posted: 02 February 2008 11:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 67 ]
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dougsmith - 02 February 2008 11:01 AM
Jackson - 02 February 2008 10:53 AM

I myself am open to the idea that features on life on earth could have orginated elsewhere in the galaxy and even have been created by an alien intelligence.  This idea is somewhere between the simpler idea that it all originated naturally (and we’ll eventually figure it out) and the self-contradictory idea that this alien intelligence is an omniscient, omnipresent God who cares deeply about humankind and reveals himself in a sporadic and inept way.

Sure, it’s possible that features of earth-based life originated elsewhere, or even were created by some alien intelligence. However that only pushes the same problem back: the alien intelligence would itself have had to evolve by mechanisms of Darwinian selection. It had to start somewhere.

I of course agree with you 100%—although for example the alien intelligence might be a non-DNA/non-RNA life form.  My point is not that this is at all likely but that it’s much more likely than the ominscient-omnipresent-God-Creator-of-the-universe idea—precisely for the reason you cite—the alien intelligence arose by natural causes.

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Posted: 02 February 2008 12:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 68 ]
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No, I am still afriad you (all) do not understand Behe’s argument.  He is not coming from a standpoint of mystification and throwing out a default proconception to explain what he does not understand.  He is coming from a standpoint of knowledge and offering what he sees as the most plausible explanation of given observatios.  (From Dawkins’ NY Times review of “Edge,” I’m pretty sure he doesn’t undersatnd it either.)  Of course, your not understanding Behe’s argument does not make his argument true.  But it does mean that you should put a little more effort into digseting his ideas before you eschew them.  One should understand what one is rejecting.

This dialog has caused a question to occur to me, and I’m sure you have a good answer for it.  You alledge Behe simply sticks his designer in whatever gap exists in our understanding.  God in the gaps.  But how is that different from what Darwinists do?  You admit that there are many gaps in your own understanding, yet you are fully confident that Dawinian processes are responsible for the phenomena you observe.  When you see a problem you don’t understand, you say “Darwin did it” as a defalut answer.  How is that different from what you accuse Behe of?  Isn’t that just Darwin in the gaps?

(Applogies for any spelling errors.  I’m writing this on my Wii and it hasn’t got spell-check.)

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Posted: 02 February 2008 01:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 69 ]
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Mr. Tweedy - 02 February 2008 12:39 PM

No, I am still afriad you (all) do not understand Behe’s argument. 

This dialog has caused a question to occur to me, and I’m sure you have a good answer for it.  You alledge Behe simply sticks his designer in whatever gap exists in our understanding.  God in the gaps.  But how is that different from what Darwinists do?  You admit that there are many gaps in your own understanding, yet you are fully confident that Dawinian processes are responsible for the phenomena you observe.  When you see a problem you don’t understand, you say “Darwin did it” as a defalut answer.  How is that different from what you accuse Behe of?  Isn’t that just Darwin in the gaps?

I’m not sure who this is addressed to. I think based on the track record of scientific progress in the last several hundred years, the argument that “we are stuck and we will never figure out a natural cause for this observation of Michael Behe” seems extremely short-sighted.  NEVER is a such a long time, and by some objective metrics the rate of increase in knowledge is increasing.  I don’t think that I myself need to invoke “Darwin” as an explanation for something I don’t understand—rather I am confident based on existing data that many of the items on Behe’s list will be explained to the satisfaction of a consensus of scientists.

What we might do, objectively, is generate Behe’s list and then track the date of an explanation.  I’m not sure how we agree that there is a consensus that there is a satisfactory explanation (in some cases Behe will agree, which makes it easy). 

Here is an example WWW site debunking an example Behe assertion
that

  [In page 179 of Darwin’s Black Box Michael Behe claims:]

“There has never been a meeting, or a book, or a paper on details of the evolution of complex biochemical systems.”

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/behe/publish.html

The Behe list has hemoglobin, flagellum, etc….

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Posted: 02 February 2008 01:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 70 ]
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Mr. Tweedy - 02 February 2008 12:39 PM

You alledge Behe simply sticks his designer in whatever gap exists in our understanding.  God in the gaps.  But how is that different from what Darwinists do?  You admit that there are many gaps in your own understanding, yet you are fully confident that Dawinian processes are responsible for the phenomena you observe.  When you see a problem you don’t understand, you say “Darwin did it” as a defalut answer.  How is that different from what you accuse Behe of?  Isn’t that just Darwin in the gaps?

This reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of the scientific method. I think you would do well to read the Neil Tyson article I cited before, HERE. Back during late antiquity we didn’t even understand how the planets moved. Divine forces were proposed to explain the regularities in heavenly motion. Then when this was understood better, the “gaps” in our knowledge closed somewhat, and divine motivation was discarded. Around the turn of the 20th Century, biological life was not well understood, and there were all sorts of supernatural explanations of the distinction between living and nonliving things, particularly involving the notion of “élan vital” or vital fluids. Now that biochemistry is well understood, there is no need for supernatural distinctions to be made.

The scientific method has been enormously powerful in explaining phenomena which were previously either unexplained or explained incorrectly. The claim that any given “gap” in our knowledge can be filled by experiment and reasoning is a well-justified hypothesis, based on several centuries of advancement, both in our understanding and in the predictive adequacy of our theories.

One fundamental misunderstanding of the ID crowd is to assume that evolution by natural selection is somehow a different sort of scientific explanation than all the rest. It is not. The only reason evolution is tendentiously misconstrued is because of blinkered Biblical literalism.

[ Edited: 02 February 2008 01:30 PM by dougsmith ]
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Posted: 02 February 2008 01:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 71 ]
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... I should add, just for the sake of clarity, that the hypothesis that “God did it” has as of yet not explained or predicted anything. This is why the “God of the gaps” is a nonfunctional explanation. It leads to no workable theory and no predictive power. It is not a scientifically adequate explanation of anything.

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Posted: 02 February 2008 02:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 72 ]
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Indeed Doug.  “God did it” answers no questions at all.  It halts us from asking them.

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Posted: 02 February 2008 02:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 73 ]
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I did not question the scientific method.  I questioned the assumptions that Darwinian processes are responsible for all unexplained biological phenomena.  You see a novel feature and conclude a priori that “this evolved” even if haven’t the slightest idea how that might have happened or even how the feature works or what it does.  You even stated on this thread that you are confident that alien life–something of which no one has any knowledge or experience–must evolve by Darwinian processes.  What justifies this complete confidence that this particular theory will never fail to explain any and all phenomena, including phenomena which have no yet been encountered?

dougsmith - 02 February 2008 01:27 PM

The only reason evolution is tendentiously misconstrued is because of blinkered Biblical literalism.

You are aware that Behe accepts universal common descent as well an ancient universe started by a Big Bang?  Behe is not a Biblical literalist, nor are all deniers of evolution.


How does “God did it” keep us from asking questions or exploring the Universe?  Does “Henry Ford did it” keep me from asking questions or learning about how a factory assembly line works?  Does “Frank Lloyd Wright did it” keep me from studying architecture?  Before 1859 there was no hypothesis other than “God did it” to explain the universe.  Are you saying that no science was done before 1859?

This is a bit of atheist rhetoric that has never made any sense to me.

[ Edited: 02 February 2008 09:26 PM by Mr. Tweedy ]
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Posted: 02 February 2008 03:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 74 ]
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Mr. Tweedy can you edit that last post—the quotes are all jumbled. It was Doug that said “the only reason evolution is tendentiously misconstrued is because of blinkered Biblical literalism”

In a separate post, would you like to start a list of “key Behe challenges” we can work from.  I’d like to start with your list.

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Posted: 02 February 2008 04:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 75 ]
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Mr. Tweedy - 02 February 2008 02:29 PM

I did not question the scientific method. ...  What justifies this complete confidence that this particular theory will never fail to explain any and all phenomena, including phenomena which have no yet been encountered?

The problem is that by asking this question you just are questioning the scientific method. I claim the same confidence that evolution would explain alien life that I would that laws of thermodynamics would hold in distant galaxies. The scientific method assumes that the laws which hold here hold everywhere. This, of course, is not totally provable, and it is defeasible: it is possible to come up with evidence that would prove otherwise, for example. But we have some evidence that the laws which hold in New Jersey also hold in Tokyo.

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