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Michael Behe - The Edge of Evolution (Nov-9-07)
Posted: 02 February 2008 04:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 76 ]
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Mr. Tweedy - 02 February 2008 02:29 PM

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?

The motto of the Royal Society (“nullius in verba”).  translates roughly as “don’t make anyone’s word for it”—that is, prove it to yourself.

Stephan J. Gould [(in discussion at Royal Society) ]

The point is that Science doesn’t rely on ‘authority’

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Posted: 02 February 2008 05:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 77 ]
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An assembly line and a building require a designer. Evolution does not. That’s the beauty of the theory of evolution by natural selection. But what some of us see beautiful, to others can appear dangerous and fearful. The theory of evolution is not really the problem here, is it, Mr. Tweedy? Is it the fear of death? Do you fear the absence of a protector? Tame your demons, Mr. Tweedy! Go and buy a real biology book…

[ Edited: 02 February 2008 05:23 PM by George ]
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Posted: 02 February 2008 07:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 78 ]
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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. 

Mr. Tweedy, if we ‘google’ the words “Mr. Tweedy” and “Behe” it seems like you’ve brought this topic up in other discussion groups.  So are you trying here to get a fresh perspective—is that the idea? 

http://forum.escapeartists.info/index.php?topic=1290.100

I think it was good for D.J. to interview Behe, although I think it tends to give him credibility, because D.J. doesn’t in general interview cranks.

This is the definitive review of the Edge of Evolution from the New Republic.

http://richarddawkins.net/article,1271,The-Great-Mutator,Jerry-Coyne-The-New-Republic

Here on http://www.talkreason.org is a point-counterpoint on the review, with Behe’s defense:


http://www.talkreason.org/articles/Coyne.cfm

In this WWWsite Coyne specifically addresses some of the items on Behe’s ‘list of challenges’.  You will have to read it yourself to see if you think Behe accepts a single point of criticism.

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Posted: 02 February 2008 09:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 79 ]
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Jackson - 02 February 2008 07:24 PM
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. 

Mr. Tweedy, if we ‘google’ the words “Mr. Tweedy” and “Behe” it seems like you’ve brought this topic up in other discussion groups.  So are you trying here to get a fresh perspective—is that the idea? 

http://forum.escapeartists.info/index.php?topic=1290.100

I think it was good for D.J. to interview Behe, although I think it tends to give him credibility, because D.J. doesn’t in general interview cranks.

This is the definitive review of the Edge of Evolution from the New Republic.

http://richarddawkins.net/article,1271,The-Great-Mutator,Jerry-Coyne-The-New-Republic

Here on http://www.talkreason.org is a point-counterpoint on the review, with Behe’s defense:


http://www.talkreason.org/articles/Coyne.cfm

In this WWWsite Coyne specifically addresses some of the items on Behe’s ‘list of challenges’.  You will have to read it yourself to see if you think Behe accepts a single point of criticism.

Since for some reason you think it’s relevant, the Escape Pod member who goes by “Darwinist” informed me that this podcast had done an interview with Behe and thought I might be interested in listening.  He provided me with a link.  I am now a subscriber and have listened to several episodes.  They inspired many comments, a few of which I have posted (and not just on this thread).  Discussion of podcast episodes is, I believe, is the purpose of this forum?

If you consider it trollish to go to a public place where a subject that interests you is being discussed and discuss it, then I guess I fit the bill.  The standards for trolls are pretty lax, I guess.  If you now subscribe to Escape Pod (which you should; it’s a good show) and post comments in their forum, then you too will be a troll, by your own criteria.

I’ll check out those links you all have posted.


P.S. I dig the Royal Society’s slogan.  If I ever decide I need some tattoos, I’ll keep “nullius in verba” in mind for the left forearm.

[ Edited: 02 February 2008 10:02 PM by Mr. Tweedy ]
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Posted: 03 February 2008 06:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 80 ]
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Mr. Tweedy - 02 February 2008 09:58 PM

If you now subscribe to Escape Pod (which you should; it’s a good show) and post comments in their forum, then you too will be a troll, by your own criteria.

I’ll check out those links you all have posted.

P.S. I dig the Royal Society’s slogan.  If I ever decide I need some tattoos, I’ll keep “nullius in verba” in mind for the left forearm.

I actually used to download the Escape Pod stories a lot, and contributed $$ as well (the equivalent of a subscription to Analog was what I thought was fair).  I thought it was great that they broadcast Isaac Asimov’s Nightfall to mark a milestone.
I had never looked into the related forums, however.

I was led to the Point of Inquiry podcast by browsing iTunes and the ‘big names and well-known authors’ on the list (like Dawkins).

I think the term you refer to is kind of an ad hominem label and not useful, for the reasons you’ve explained clearly.  I apologize.

I am interested in understanding the best examples Behe has for ‘holes’ in the Darwinian theory which have not been explained—particularly those for which there is a consensus that ‘yes there’s a problem here’.

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Posted: 03 February 2008 11:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 81 ]
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Apology accepted.

I’ve got “God Delusion” and “Blind Watchmaker” on hold at the library.  I will also read through the links you (all) provided.  Maybe we’ll compare notes in a few weeks.  I can’t recomend any ID books for you to read because, asside from “Edge,” I haven’t read any.

You should realy go back to Escape Pod.  They’ve had some great stories in their post-centenial episodes.

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Posted: 03 February 2008 01:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 82 ]
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Mr. Tweedy - 03 February 2008 11:32 AM

Apology accepted.

I’ve got “God Delusion” and “Blind Watchmaker” on hold at the library.  I will also read through the links you (all) provided.  Maybe we’ll compare notes in a few weeks.  I can’t recomend any ID books for you to read because, asside from “Edge,” I haven’t read any.

You should realy go back to Escape Pod.  They’ve had some great stories in their post-centenial episodes.

I purchased Darwins’ Black Box and enjoyed it. He is a good writer. I later found out that other experts did not agree with his statements and that certain things were incorrect (like there had been a lot of work done to explain how the rotating flaggelum can arise naturally). 

I would like to see an objective, patient discussion of the points Behe raises - do not know of any better links than what I’ve sent.  I also would like to see some independent partial support of some of Behe’s comments—like “yeah, that is a good question you are raising, we don’t have the answer yet”.  I think such discussions are out there.

I’ll check back at Escape Pod—thanks—

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Posted: 03 February 2008 01:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 83 ]
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Mr. Tweedy - 03 February 2008 11:32 AM

I’ve got “God Delusion” and “Blind Watchmaker” on hold at the library.

FYI: there are a number of other books that are quite good about the evolution/creationism debate. I haven’t read them, but HERE is a list of resources that includes books. HERE are a list of book reviews that includes Behe’s.

Michael Shermer of Skeptic magazine used to be a creationist and an evangelical Christian. He also has a recent book about evolution, HERE. There are also plenty of other similar options.

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Posted: 06 February 2008 09:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 84 ]
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dougsmith - 02 February 2008 04:03 PM
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.

Can you explain this to me?  You’ve said that evolution is not essentially different from any other scientific theory and here compare it to thermodynamics.  But it seems to me that this in not the case at all.

Thermodynamics (and all other scientific theories) provide laws which describe how nature behaves.  These laws can be tested and proven to work by making predictions based on them and then performing experiments to see if the predictions hold true.  For instance, Newton’s law of gravity predicts that a heavy body and light body will fall at the same rate.  Experimentation confirms the prediction.  Hence the law is validated.

Evolution does not make predictions and offers no laws.  There is no component of evolutionary theory that describes how a population of organism will evolve if subjected to a given stimulus.  The theory does not make such statements as “organ A will evolve if population B is subjected to stimulus C.”  To the contrary, evolution is considered inherently unpredictable.

A scientist in New Jersey can use thermodynamics to predict what will happen in Tokyo or a distant galaxy because thermodynamics has laws that hold universally.  A scientist cannot use evolution to predict what organism will be living in Tokyo or a distant galaxy because evolution lacks laws.

Evolution gives a retrospective explanation of what has happened.  This is not in the same class of science as physics or chemistry or even psychology, which are primarily concerned with developing frameworks to predict what will happen.  This seems to me to be a fundamental difference that isolates evolution from other scientific theories.

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Posted: 06 February 2008 11:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 85 ]
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What you have done here, Mr. Tweedy, is submit a classic straw man argument.

Thermodynamics (and all other scientific theories) provide laws which describe how nature behaves.

Which is precisely what the Theory of Evolution does.

These laws can be tested and proven to work by making predictions based on them and then performing experiments to see if the predictions hold true.

Check. Charles Darwin predicted, using biogeographical arguments, that our species originated in Africa. Fossils and genetics both confirmed this long after Darwin died.

There is no component of evolutionary theory that describes how a population of organism will evolve if subjected to a given stimulus.

Of course not. Evolution is the natural process of passing on random traits. Some of those traits enhance an organism’s ability to cope with its environment, some do not. Those organisms which gain an advantage tend to reproduce more and pass on their genes.

A scientist in New Jersey can use thermodynamics to predict what will happen in Tokyo or a distant galaxy because thermodynamics has laws that hold universally.

Please explain how anyone can use thermodynamics to predict what will happen on the other side of the world, much less the other side of the universe.

Evolution gives a retrospective explanation of what has happened.  This is not in the same class of science as physics or chemistry or even psychology, which are primarily concerned with developing frameworks to predict what will happen.  This seems to me to be a fundamental difference that isolates evolution from other scientific theories.

Actually, the biggest difference between the Theory of Evolution and other scientific theories (psychology is not science) is that Charles Darwin not only developed an elegant theory which explains why organisms evolve, he also proposed the mechanism that drives evolution (heritable variation with natural selection). Newton described the effects of gravity, but did not propose any mechanism for why gravity works. Like Newton, Einstein’s theories are merely descriptive, they do not include an explanation of the underlying mechanism behind gravity. In that way Darwin’s theory is even more complete than Einstein’s.

[ Edited: 06 February 2008 11:02 AM by DarronS ]
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Posted: 06 February 2008 11:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 86 ]
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Mr. Tweedy - 06 February 2008 09:56 AM

Evolution does not make predictions and offers no laws.

I’m not sure where you are getting your information. I have to assume it’s from some very poorly informed people.

Evolution by natural selection is a law that explains the presence of adaptive characteristics. E.g., HERE:

Natural selection is the process by which favorable traits that are heritable become more common in successive generations of a population of reproducing organisms, and unfavorable traits that are heritable become less common.

As for predictions, check HERE, HERE, and HERE for two lists of examples and a recent artlcle.

Quoting the article:

... If Darwin was right, for example, then scientists should be able to perform a neat trick. Using a mathematical formula that emerges from evolutionary theory, they should be able to predict the number of harmful mutations in chimpanzee DNA by knowing the number of mutations in a different species’ DNA and the two animals’ population sizes.

“That’s a very specific prediction,” said Eric Lander, a geneticist at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Cambridge, Mass., and a leader in the chimp project.

Sure enough, when Lander and his colleagues tallied the harmful mutations in the chimp genome, the number fit perfectly into the range that evolutionary theory had predicted. ...

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Posted: 06 February 2008 12:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 87 ]
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—Accidental Duplication—

[ Edited: 06 February 2008 01:01 PM by Mr. Tweedy ]
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Posted: 06 February 2008 12:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 88 ]
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dougsmith - 06 February 2008 11:27 AM
Mr. Tweedy - 06 February 2008 09:56 AM

Evolution does not make predictions and offers no laws.

I’m not sure where you are getting your information. I have to assume it’s from some very poorly informed people.

Hmm…  I guess I must have badly misinterpreted your meaning here:

dougsmith - 01 February 2008 01:32 PM

His point is that no matter what final state we get to, no matter what collection of biological features we have, each one will appear in retrospect to have been vanishingly unlikely. Or as SJ Gould would say, if you turned back the clock and re-ran the whole thing again, it’d be vanishingly unlikely to get precisely the biological features you see around you now.

As for the question of useful features ... again, what makes a feature useful is its particular environment, which includes its competition. A feature that might appear suboptimal in our environment (Down’s Syndrome, let’s say) might in fact be a “winning hand” in some other environment. Perhaps all the other humans are infertile, for example.

I took you to mean that it is impossible to predict what features will evolve, what features will be beneficial or what the evolutionary response will be to a given stimulus.  I guess you must have meant something else…

fotobits - 06 February 2008 11:00 AM

What you have done here, Mr. Tweedy, is submit a classic straw man argument.

If so, I assure you it is unintentional.  (I am, after all, one of the many victims of American public education.)

fotobits - 06 February 2008 11:00 AM

Charles Darwin predicted, using biogeographical arguments, that our species originated in Africa. Fossils and genetics both confirmed this long after Darwin died.

Well, that was more or less what I meant (be I right or wrong).  One cannot predict a past event.  One can predict that evidence of a past even will be found, but that is not the same thing as predicting the event itself.

The origin of humans is a past event.  Deducing what probably happened in the past and making predictions about what will happen in the future are not at all the same thing.  This is what I mean by evolution not having predictive power.  It makes claims in the same vein as archeology.  By studying ancient pottery, an archeologist may make deductions about what happened 10,000 years ago, but his findings will not amount to archeological laws that allow him to predict the outcomes of future events, as the laws of chemistry allow a chemist to accurately predict that salt will form when chlorine and sodium are combined.

fotobits - 06 February 2008 11:00 AM

Please explain how anyone can use thermodynamics to predict what will happen on the other side of the world, much less the other side of the universe.

If I heat an iron bar to 950 degrees, it will glow red.  Iron bars heated in Toyko will also glow read.  Iron bars heated heated to 950 in the dark of intergalactic space will also glow red.  Because this is a fixed property of iron, I can predict with confidence that all iron bars anywhere in the universe will behave in this way if subjected to this stimulus.

fotobits - 06 February 2008 11:00 AM

(psychology is not science)

That is a comfort.  I will continue to ignore the opinions of the APA with renewed confidence.

fotobits - 06 February 2008 11:00 AM

Like Newton, Einstein’s theories are merely descriptive, they do not include an explanation of the underlying mechanism behind gravity. In that way Darwin’s theory is even more complete than Einstein’s.

Einstein does not explain gravity?  Newton’s theory was merely descriptive, but I was under the impression that Einstein envisioned space as a sort of 4-dimension mesh which is distorted by the presence of mass.

——————-

Apologies to everyone if it seems like I’m just trying to be difficult.  If you see flaws in me, please chalk them up to honest ignorance and naivete, not belligerence or slyness.  I’m trying to be as open as I can here.

[ Edited: 06 February 2008 12:55 PM by Mr. Tweedy ]
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Posted: 06 February 2008 01:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 89 ]
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Mr. Tweedy - 06 February 2008 12:50 PM

I took you to mean that it is impossible to predict what features will evolve, what features will be beneficial or what the evolutionary response will be to a given stimulus.  I guess you must have meant something else…

Well, the evolution of novel features depends on two things. Firstly it depends on chance mutations. We can’t predict which chance mutations will happen.

Secondly it depends on how the phenotype produced by those new mutations interacts with the environment. That is, it depends on the “fitness” of the feature.  We can predict (in a general way) which sorts of features are more likely to be beneficial. For example, if larger sized seeds become difficult to get and smaller sized seeds more abundant, we can predict that birds will evolve smaller beaks to deal with them.

E.g., HERE.

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Posted: 06 February 2008 01:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 90 ]
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I hate to be nit-picky, but that is not an example of evolution.  Bigger or smaller beaks are not novel features and they aren’t the result of mutation.  A bird with a large or small beak is not a mutant anymore than person with big or small feet is a mutant.  There are such variations within every population of organisms and the dominance of given variant will fluctuate with the changing of seasons.  If big seeds become more available, then average beak size will increase to match.  If small seeds become more available in a later year, then beak sizes will shrink back to their previous size or even shrink to a smaller size.  Etc.

This is predictable, yes, but it is not evolution.  This merely shows that the phenotypes of species are flexible.

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