John M. Lynch posted Entry 991 on April 30, 2005 10:15 PM.
Trackback URL: http://www.pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.fcgi/989

For some years now, we have been hearing about Paul Nelson's forthcoming monograph On Common Descent, which one assumes will stem from his now nearly seven year old PhD in philosophy Common Descent, Generative Entrenchment, and the Epistemology in Evolutionary Inference. As the DI/CSC website notes, "[h]is forthcoming monograph, On Common Descent, critically evaulates the theory of common descent, and is being edited for the series Evolutionary Monographs." The Wedge document notes:
William Dembski and Paul Nelson, two CRSC Fellows, will very soon have books published by major secular university publishers, Cambridge University Press and The University of Chicago Press, respectively. ... Nelson's book, On Common Descent, is the seventeenth book in the prestigious University of Chicago "Evolutionary Monographs" series and the first to critique neo-Darwinism.
Ignoring that the book has been in press for nearly seven years now (surely a record!), these references had been puzzling me for some while. Though trained as an evolutionary biologist, I had never read "the prestigious University of Chicago 'Evolutionary Monographs' series" and had never seen it referred to in research papers. Indeed, I had - wrongly - assumed that the Evolutionary Monographs series had something to do with the University of Chicago Press. Checking the UCP website revealed no such series. So, off to the library I went.

Read more at Stranger Fruit.

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Comment #27544

Posted by Paul A. Nelson on May 1, 2005 8:12 AM (e)

John,

The adjective “prestigious” was inserted by a long-departed publicity staffer at the Discovery Institute, as was the error about the U of C Press. Both disappeared from the Discovery webpage after Leigh Van Valen complained to me about it. As for your other gripes about Evolutionary Monographs, I don’t care about “prestige” or looks and neither does Leigh. His own journal, Evolutionary Theory, has been a simple affair since it first appeared in 1976: no fancy typesetting or binding (to keep costs down), but very provocative ideas nonetheless. Tom Frazzetta, Soren Lovtrup, Mae Wan Ho, and other rebels have published there; as I recall (need to check this), Leigh’s “Red Queen” hypothesis made its first appearance in Evolutionary Theory.

The story of On Common Descent runs as follows. Late in 1997, as I was preparing to defend my dissertation, Leigh and I were talking in his office one afternoon, and – quite unmotivated by me – he said, “You know, I could publish this” (referring to the dissertation MS as it stood at the time). The plan was then for me to revise the dissertation in the light of my committee’s comments, and to turn it in for additional editorial review.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the printer. A topic that (in 1997) was largely the province of one lonely ID philosopher of biology, namely, How would we know if the theory of universal common descent were false? began to bubble away in the literature. Carl Woese published his broadside “The universal ancestor” in PNAS in 1998, saying there never was such an organism, and then the hydrant opened. (I’ve compared trying to revise and edit On Common Descent to standing in front of a wide-open fire hose.) W. Ford Doolitle, Michael Syvanen, Elliott Sober, Malcolm Gordon (at UCLA), and others said, in major publications, “Hey, what if there never was a single Tree of Life? What then?” And the genomics revolution turned up an array of anomalies wholly unanticipated when I started on my dissertation (e.g., the appearance of widespread lateral gene transfer, and so-called ORFan sequences). Back to the computer keyboard.

All that would have been manageable, however. What really slowed me down was my finding (actually, my increasing certitude) that two widely-held theses about Common Descent were false. Moreover – I learned this in lecturing on the topic around the country and in Europe – most bench biologists were completely unprepared to rethink those theses. If I wanted those biologists to think as they were reading my monograph, and not simply react, I needed to restructure the whole argument in a way that they could follow. Back to the computer keyboard once more.

Leigh Van Valen has been very patient throughout this whole process. Others have not: I regularly receive email from people badgering me for the MS or a publication date. But as I’ve said elsewhere on this blog, I have one chance to get this right. Common Descent is not a minor theory tucked away in some quiet corner of biology. It is the geometry or topology that gives structure to what Leigh calls “the evolutionary half of biology,” and (boy have I learned this from my lecture audiences) widely identified with empirical or biological reality itself by scientists.

Discovery has been unhappy with my slow and pointedly deliberate pace: I was demoted from “Senior Fellow” to “Fellow” a couple of years ago because the monograph hadn’t yet been published. But given the choice of demotion at DI and mockery at blogs like this, versus carefully doing a good job with a rich and difficult topic, I’ll take the latter option every time. I’m trying to write something that is (a) readable (even fun), (b) biologically accurate, and © makes a difference to the actual practice and content of historical biology.

If readers say, “Well, that was worth waiting for,” I’ll be pleased. Anything worth doing is worth doing right.

Comment #27547

Posted by SteveF on May 1, 2005 8:29 AM (e)

Will ‘On Common Descent’ contain positive evidence for intelligent design?

As an aside, I take it that we can conclude that the Wedge blurb quoted above is a bit of spin in the PR war?

Comment #27549

Posted by Ed Darrell on May 1, 2005 9:41 AM (e)

If the idea is valuable, if one does not wish to be dogmatic about it and one actually works against dogmatism, one may find that there are many opportunities to “get it right.” Look at Hawking. Look at Edison. Look at Darwin, whose range of writings on how things really work, from coral atolls through speciation, the workings of insectivorous plants, and the importance of worms, demonstrates that one may constantly rethink in the light of new information and more careful observation.

Linus Pauling won a Nobel in chemistry, was close to one in physiology and won a second in Peace. An interviewer once asked him what one does when one wins a Nobel. “Change fields,” Pauling said.

Get the idea out there. If it floats, it floats.

Comment #27550

Posted by Ed Darrell on May 1, 2005 9:45 AM (e)

P.S. – There is a fellow Paul Nelson should be aware of at the University of Kentucky who points out that we have solid evidence that some viruses could not share common ancestors. He’s got the lab results to show it.

The difficulty is, of course, that this does nothing for intelligent design, really, and also does nothing against Darwinian evolution.

Comment #27553

Posted by "Rev Dr" Lenny Flank on May 1, 2005 10:15 AM (e)

I’m trying to write something that is (a) readable (even fun), (b) biologically accurate, and © makes a difference to the actual practice and content of historical biology.

That’s nice.

Does your, uh, magnum opus contain a scientific theory of intelligent design, a description of how this scientific theory of intelligent design explains the origins and diversity of life, and how we can test this scientific theory of intelligent design using the scientific method?

Why not?

Comment #27556

Posted by Andrea Bottaro on May 1, 2005 10:58 AM (e)

I can see where Paul’s difficulty lies: it starts with the conflation of “universal common descent” sensu strictu (the fact that the every extant living organism must be linearly and wholly descended through a single, identifiable genealogy from a single identifiable common ancestor), with the more general theory of common descent, which says that known life forms on this planet are the product of a mechanism of descent with modification (as opposed to, say, special creation, or continuous spontaneous generation) and therefore are related, to various degrees, to other extant and extinct organisms all the way back to the beginning of life. The latter is in fact what Darwin himself claimed his theory to be about at the end of The Origin of Species (leaving even the door open for the possibility of a few independent lineages!), and that what it still is, in its essential nutshell.

To falsify common descent (sense 1) one would just have to show some even minimal, but reproducible incongruence of gene trees, or that the organismal tree could in principle not be rooted. But of course biology has a way to confound simplistic models: Woese’s theory of a communal common ancestor and the discovery of horizontal gene transfer showed that common descent (sense 2) holds even when one includes the stage of evolution in which the concept of species and even separate organisms did not apply (which, in retrospect, was almost an inescapable necessity of the abiogenesis process - how stupid not to have thought of that, uh?), and warned us not to confound common descent of organismal lineages with common descent of genetic lineages (is that Dawkins giggling from the back of the room?).

So Paul’s difficulty now is that to falsify common descent, at this point, we would have to imagine a world very different from the one we live in: a world of organisms with many independent inheritance systems, genetic codes and biochemistries, a world that - as far as we know - does not exist. It seems almost as absurd as imagining a world in which heliocentrism, or atomic theory, could be “falsified”. There is a conclusion to be drawn from this, but Paul is not ready to draw it. So, it’s back to the computer keyboard for him, again and again.

PS: I don’t think it is fair to demand from Paul to include evidence for, or a comprehensive theory of ID in his book, that’s not what the book is about. He has already enough of a sisyphean task on his hands.

Comment #27557

Posted by steve on May 1, 2005 11:11 AM (e)

Paul’s on the right track. If it could be shown that not every single organism shared a common ancestor, the evil Darwinism would crumble. Oh wait

There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.

Glad that wasn’t a decade of My life.

Comment #27558

Posted by RBH on May 1, 2005 11:13 AM (e)

Three of the four comments above ask if Nelson plans to offer a theory of intelligent design in his book. It seems clear that’s not the topic of the book, and Nelson has in the past been honest about the lack of such a theory. I’m as willing as anyone to hammer ID for its lack of an actual explanatory theory (the bullshit one reads about ID being an “inference to the best explanation” is just that: vacuous bullshit), and I’ve personally fought the wars on the ground both locally and at the state level with time and money. But it’s also incumbent on us to recognize what Nelson’s object in the book is, and not badger him for not doing something else.

RBH

Comment #27559

Posted by RBH on May 1, 2005 11:17 AM (e)

Well, there were only four comments when I started writing my previous comment.

RBH

Comment #27563

Posted by john m. lynch on May 1, 2005 11:42 AM (e)

Paul,

Thanks for the information. I, too, would like to echo RBH’s comment regarding folks realizing what your manuscript is - and is not - about.

I have no problem with you working on the manuscript since 1997 in an attempt to get the argument right. I guess the main gist of what I was saying was actually that On Common Descent should have been sent to another publisher - particularly if it stemmed from your UC PhD. Frankly, the appearance of your critique in Evolutionary Monographs is not likely to change anyones mind. I would also hope that you have a group of hostile peers reading what you write :)

Comment #27566

Posted by "Rev Dr" Lenny Flank on May 1, 2005 12:44 PM (e)

PS: I don’t think it is fair to demand from Paul to include evidence for, or a comprehensive theory of ID in his book, that’s not what the book is about.

OK. Which ID book **IS** about that.

Oh, wait — NONE of them are.

I wonder why that would be …. .

Comment #27573

Posted by Sir_Toejam on May 1, 2005 1:31 PM (e)

His backpeddaling to explain why he hasn’t published yet doesn’t wash.

he could have easily published his thesis “as is”, because that’s all it frickin’ is: A THESIS!!!!

Is Paul trying to tell us he is turning his thesis into some kind of grand unification theory??

ridiculous.

if he were serious about publishing anything, he would have published his thesis, then released further articles as “new evidence” or trends appeared that affect his original conclusions.

bah.

Comment #27574

Posted by Sir_Toejam on May 1, 2005 1:37 PM (e)

“I’m trying to write something that is (a) readable (even fun), (b) biologically accurate, and © makes a difference to the actual practice and content of historical biology.”

well, i seriously doubt Paul will be able to address (b) and © with any degree of credibility, which leaves (a).

uh, to be “readable” one actually has to be able to READ it to begin with.

better hurry up, Paul.

Comment #27575

Posted by PvM on May 1, 2005 1:43 PM (e)

As others have pointed out already, the idea that common descent should trace back to a single common ancestor rather than multiple common ancestors, is a common strawman found in ID creationist arguments (check out Salvador or the IDEA club webpages for instance). Add to this the misunderstanding of the Cambrian explosion and we notice how ID’s thesis becomes “phyla arose independently in the Cambrian” without any further explanation. Since however science is not constrained by faith, it has uncovered how phyla are related and trace back to pre-cambrian periods. While ID loves to refer to Valentine, they even have a DVD where Valentine discusses the origin of phyla, they do not represent Valentine’s position which is that the origin of phyla can be well understood in Darwinian evolutionary terms. Yet the quote mining of Valentine seems to continue.
Not very original but that is all ID has to offer, a ‘critique’ of evolutionary theory based on random quotes without any coherent explanation to offer.

Comment #27583

Posted by Alex Merz on May 1, 2005 2:52 PM (e)

To amplify on Andrea Bottaro’s excellent comment (#27556)…

The notion of strong common descent from a single ancestor and without lateral transfer of genetic information is not, of course, necessary to any part of the neodarwinian modern synthesis. The essential elements are mutation, particulate inheritance, and selection among individuals within a population. As a result, the genotypes of the organisms in a population change over time.

The finding that horizontal gene transfer is an important source of evolutionary novelty means only that there is additional mechanism that can accelerate the accumulation of genotypic diversity within populations. In other words, the wheel need not always be reinvented. On one level, this is electrifying. On another, it’s not at all surprising.

The importance of horizontal gene transfer in bacteria has been clear for decades; the availability of genomic sequences has allowed the detailed exploration of horizontal transfer, but this aspect of the genomic data surprised few among those of us who were actually paying attention to microbial molecular genetics. By the time that the extent of horizontal genetic transfer in microbial populations was understood, the molecular mechanisms of these transfer events (transformation, transduction, conjugation, recombination, transposition) were pretty thoroughly understood.

To cite just one example: my dissertation advisor, Maggie So, reported the first clear case of a bacterial virulence factor on a movable DNA element in 1979 (So M. et al., The E. coli gene encoding heat stable toxin is a bacterial transposon flanked by inverted repeats of IS1. Nature 277:453-6). As it happens, this was the very first virulence factor to be cloned using recombinant DNA techniques. It soon became clear heat labile toxin, shiga toxin, and cholera toxin had all originated from a single gene that had moved into new populations by lateral transfer.

In this context, I find Nelson’s suggestion that something fundamental changed twenty years later with Woese’s 1998 paper to be strangely naive. It’s as though he’s unaware of the last forty or fifty years of work on DNA transformation, transposition, transduction, etc. (In fairness, some of the more classically-minded evolutionary biologists took too long to acquaint themselves with this literature, too; but Nelson still seems to be surprised!)

Nevertheless, we’re still dealing with the usual mechanisms of selection, mutation, gene flow and recombination, and genetic drift, all occurring within (and now to some limited but important extent, between) populations of individual organisms. It’s only the relative importance of gene flow that has changed, and it has done so in ways that would make classical neodarwinian mechanisms more, not less, efficient.

Does this somehow make invocation of a Designer more (or less) important? If it does, I’ve not seen anyone try to make that case, and I can’t see how it could be made.

Maybe that’s what is taking Nelson so long?

Comment #27585

Posted by SteveF on May 1, 2005 3:02 PM (e)

I agree that it is slightly unfair to ask Paul to add to his already weighty workload. However it is frustrating to see the bulk of the ID case involving attacks on Darwinism and not positive evidence for ID. Paul seems to be one of the brightest of the ID bunch; given this I personally would have like to have seen him devote his talents to pro ID (directly) rather than anti evolution (ID indirectly).

Just my 3 penneth (aka 2 cents).

PS; as a genuine suggestion, why doesn’t Paul write something a little less lengthy. Something thats conceptually the same but shorter and could be submitted to a journal like TREE.

Comment #27587

Posted by chip poirot on May 1, 2005 3:33 PM (e)

What I find frustrating is not just ID’s refusal to offer a concrete theory. What I find equally frustrating, if not more so, is the absolute refusal of ID proponents to even develop a valid critique of Darwinism.

As I read Paul Nelson’s defense it struck me (as other posters point out) that there could very well be multiple trees and Darwinism would be expanded, not destroyed.

It also struck me that no one was ever claiming, as far as I could tell, that we were all literally descended from **one organism**. I always assumed that it was a group of organisms.

Everything I read in ID seems intent on exaggerating the minor and yet very fascinating developments in evo-devo, or mechanisms like lateral gene transfer, or endo-symbiosis to try and falsify Darwinism.

Maybe my problem is that I don’t know enough biology yet know too much philosophy of science. It strikes me that Darwinism might (and I say this speculatively) be on the verge of another synthesis of the type that occurred with the work of Haldane, Fisher, Wright, Mayr and Dobzhansky when a clear mechanism of heredity was added to Darwin’s theory of natural selection. Perhaps we are about to broaden the hard core of Darwinism (then again, perhaps not).

But if so, that does not refute Darwinism or lead to ID.

Ahh, the mischief that Thomas Kuhn has wrought…

Comment #27590

Posted by Reed A. Cartwright on May 1, 2005 3:41 PM (e)

Nelson wrote:

And the genomics revolution turned up an array of anomalies wholly unanticipated when I started on my dissertation (e.g., the appearance of widespread lateral gene transfer, and so-called ORFan sequences). Back to the computer keyboard.

One of my committee members works on genomics and lateral gene transfer. According to her, the initial reportings of “widespread” lateral gene transfer have been discounted because the trees lacked enough resolution to detect lateral gene transfer. In other words, because taxa were often unrepresented, missing data was being reported as lateral gene transfer.

Comment #27611

Posted by Steve on May 1, 2005 5:47 PM (e)

Nelson’s “work” does not seem to relate to any ID theory. Is anybody over at the DI working on an actual theory of ID? After the beatings they’ve taken, have they just given up?

What’s their position on the existence of ID “theory”? Do they say it exists, or do they say it will soon exist?

Comment #27616

Posted by Andy Groves on May 1, 2005 6:24 PM (e)

When I contacted someone in Leigh Van Valen’s department at UChicago about this monograph several years ago, they wrote back saying that a new volume in the series hadn’t been published in years, that there were certain financial problems with the journal, and that the University has forbidden any more issues to be published until these financial matters are sorted out.

I’m sure I told Paul about this when I briefly spoke with him in Boston in 2003. Has anything changed, Paul?

Comment #27618

Posted by Harq al-Ada on May 1, 2005 6:31 PM (e)

I don’t understand how certain viruses not having a common ancestor has any bearing on common descent. I would think that viruses WOULD NOT HAVE a common ancestor with cellular organisms of any kind, that they are a so different from prokaryotes and eukaryotes that biologists are unclear as to the validity of even calling them life forms. Viruses are very simple and utterly dependent on a more complex host to reproduce (a cell.) It seems that viruses could have, like certain organismic traits, evolved multiple times in symbiosis with different cells throughout biological history.
Anyone with a biology background feel free to correct me. I may be completely wrong in my understanding.

Comment #27634

Posted by Sir_Toejam on May 1, 2005 8:06 PM (e)

Mark this, I’m no viral genetecist, but i’ll take a shot at it.

hmm. well as i recall, the argument might come from folks using the postion that non-lytic viral DNA can be encoded as oncogene content, which can then be normally transcripted by the host cell, and can also undergo meiotic recombination, and mutation, along with the host DNA. at any given time (depends on the trigger) the viral DNA (provided it didn’t get busted somewhere along the way, i guess) could “reactivate” and start a whole new lytic cycle of the virus again, possibly taking new mutated copies of itself, along witht the host DNA, and infect other individuals.

In theory, this could create a horizontal transmission mechanism that would complicate tracking direct lineages via DNA.

However, i don’t recall anybody publishing results indicating this in practice. I’m a bit out of the loop on that tho, as i haven’t perused the primary literature on this subject in over 15 years.

cheers

Comment #27638

Posted by Nick (Matzke) on May 1, 2005 8:18 PM (e)

In reply to random people:

Having read Nelson’s PhD., I think it is safe to say that he is not merely trying to argue that common descent is false at the domain level – i.e., the bacteria, archaea, and eukaryotes are specially created. This position is instead held by Julie Thomas/Mike Gene.

Rather, Paul Nelson is trying to find to find a silver bullet to kill common descent arguments in general, from the domains right down to human-chimp ancestry. He started by going after “universal common descent” arguments – i.e. the issue of the near-universal genetic code, but these days he seems to be focusing on development.

(Paul, if you are listening, your only chance is if you can find a way to identify the created “kinds” rigorously and repeatably. Good luck!)

Comment #27642

Posted by Alex Merz on May 1, 2005 8:46 PM (e)

Rather, Paul Nelson is trying to find to find a silver bullet to kill common descent arguments in general, from the domains right down to human-chimp ancestry. He started by going after “universal common descent” arguments — i.e. the issue of the near-universal genetic code, but these days he seems to be focusing on development.

Does Nelson oppose the admissibility of DNA fingerprinting evidence in paternity cases? If not, at what taxonomic level does his opposition kick in?

Comment #27656

Posted by Art on May 1, 2005 10:22 PM (e)

Harq al-Ada,

I think the idea behind bringing up the lack of common ancestry of different groups of viruses (such as, off the top of my head, those represented by SV40 and tobacco mosaic virus) is that this refutes the oft-heard claim that common ancestry in and of itself is not falsifiable.

Comment #27671

Posted by Marek14 on May 2, 2005 12:17 AM (e)

Couldn’t a virus evolve from a part of another genome, like jumping gene, if it acquires genes to encapsule itself?

Comment #27673

Posted by Sir_Toejam on May 2, 2005 12:30 AM (e)

hmm. well bacteria can produce plasmids to exchange DNA, in a certain sense, these plasmids could essentially be classified as viruses.

Plasmids pretty much act in the way you are implying; like “jumping genese”.

Comment #27674

Posted by Sir_Toejam on May 2, 2005 12:36 AM (e)

in fact, there have been several articles i see that document at least potential gene flow from genetically modified crops into local microorganisms.

one most recently in Nature:

Colin MacIlwain, “Stray seeds had antibiotic-resistance genes,” doi:10.1038/434548a, p 548 v 434, Nature, 31 Mar 2005.

I had forgotten what an interesting topic horizontal gene flow was. I hope someone who is more knowledgeable kicks in with some commentary.

Comment #27675

Posted by Sir_Toejam on May 2, 2005 12:39 AM (e)

sorry, here is a link to the actual article from nature i referenced:

http://www.nature.com/cgi-taf/DynaPage.taf?file=/nature/journal/v434/n7033/full/434548a_fs.html

cheers

Comment #27676

Posted by Sir_Toejam on May 2, 2005 12:43 AM (e)

er, not that i want to take away from the topic of the thread. we could take this to “after the bar closes” if John thinks it more appropriate.

Comment #27677

Posted by john m. lynch on May 2, 2005 2:31 AM (e)

> er, not that i want to take away from the topic of the thread. we could take this to “after the bar closes” if John thinks it more appropriate.

Probably a good idea!

Comment #27687

Posted by Bayesian Bouffant, FCD on May 2, 2005 9:31 AM (e)

Carl Woese published his broadside “The universal ancestor” in PNAS in 1998, saying there never was such an organism, and then the hydrant opened.

Sounds like the old ‘my manuscript got soaked by a fire hydrant on the way to the printers and I had to re-do the whole thing’ excuse. I used that one just last week.

Comment #27688

Posted by Bayesian Bouffant, FCD on May 2, 2005 9:40 AM (e)

If common descent is false, it’s amazing how well studeis based on the premise succeed:

Reconstructing large regions of an ancestral
mammalian genome in silico
Mathieu Blanchette, Eric D. Green, Webb Miller and David Haussler
Genome Research 14:2412-2423, 2004

Evaluating hypotheses of basal animal phylogeny
using complete sequences of large and small subunit rRNA
Mónica Medina, Allen G. Collins, Jeffrey D. Silberman, and Mitchell L. Sogin
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2001 August 14; 98(17): 97079712.

on virus evolution:
The Structure of the Bacteriophage PRD1 Spike Sheds Light on the Evolution of Viral Capsid Architecture
Michael C. Merckel, Juha T. Huiskonen, Dennis H. Bamford, Adrian Goldman, and Roman Tuma
Molecular Cell, Vol 18, 161-170, 15 April 2005

Comment #27690

Posted by Paul A. Nelson on May 2, 2005 9:53 AM (e)

To all,

1. No, I’m not offering a theory of biological design in On Common Descent. Lenny, you know your New Testament pretty well: see Matthew 6:24b (the second half of the verse).

2. Homology inferences – of the sort that anchor Common Descent – have a logical structure that is exquisitely vulnerable to changes in probability estimation. I don’t want to say more, but it turns out that “a few forms or one” makes a very big difference indeed, given a naturalistic framework for the origin of life (which Darwin didn’t have, remember; for him, the origin of life was a divinely-caused event).

3. I have sent the MS to hostile reviewers. Whether a wider biological audience thinks Evolutionary Monographs is prestigious or not isn’t something I can do much about: I just want people to read what I’ve written, once it’s published.

4. Bill Dembski and I have been working on a shorter article, with some of the monograph’s main points, which we plan to submit to the best peer-reviewed biology journal we can find.

5. And so, back to work.

Comment #27691

Posted by Paul A. Nelson on May 2, 2005 9:58 AM (e)

Biblical miscitation! My cathecism teachers would hang their heads in shame.

I meant Matthew 6:34b.

Comment #27693

Posted by SteveF on May 2, 2005 10:25 AM (e)

Paul,

I know you probably don’t want to delve into a big debate about the content of your manuscript (and I’m certainly not equipped to engage in such a debate). However I do have one question; are you effectively saying that the only real problem (and obviously you would think this a big problem) with common descent is that it is based around a naturalistic framework?

Within naturalism, CD is a valid, well supported premise. Or is CD descent simply rubbish, irrespective of any metaphysical concerns? This is what I imagined your attack on CD would consist of - its a crappy notion and bad science regardless of how you think science should be carried out. This is certainly the path I hoped you would take (for what its worth), not just the usual ID attack on naturalism.

If metaphysics is the main thrust of your manuscript, then I wouldn’t expect it to be paid much heed by the mainstream scientific community. What with them accepting methdological naturalism and all.

Comment #27694

Posted by steve on May 2, 2005 10:40 AM (e)

Comment #27690

Posted by Paul A. Nelson on May 2, 2005 09:53 AM (e) (s)

2. Homology inferences — of the sort that anchor Common Descent — have a logical structure that is exquisitely vulnerable to changes in probability estimation.

More ID Statistics on the way? (eyeroll)

Comment #27695

Posted by Aureola Nominee, FCD on May 2, 2005 10:46 AM (e)

More ID Statistics on the way? (eyeroll)

I hope not of Heddleian quality…

Comment #27697

Posted by Jim Harrison on May 2, 2005 10:56 AM (e)

ID types bitch that scientific research is based on metaphysical or methodological naturalism, a body of doctrine whose content is never specified. You don’t get taught naturalism in chapter one of the textbook: at best, naturalism is something abstracted from the practice of actual researchers. More often, it is the invention of polemicists in ideological debates. Meanwhile there is nothing notional about the presuppositions of the ID people. Willy-nilly they are going to find that the evidence supports Christian theology.

You’re never going to figure out much about nature if you go into the game assuming you already know the answers. Which is why it is so silly to make genetics into apolegetics.

Comment #27699

Posted by mike syvanen on May 2, 2005 11:22 AM (e)

Obviously PN does not understand the arguments that have recently been presented against the notion that it is no longer necessary to postulate the existence of a last common ancestor (LCA). It in no way argues against the notion of common descent.

The idea against the LCA does not necessarily derive from the occurrence of horizontal gene transfer, though it is this process that makes it unneeded.

In its simplest formulation common ancestry is a collective of different lineages, many of which had independent origins. These different lineages have learned over time to communicate with each other via mechanisms of HGT. Indeed, this communication is the basis for the biochemical unities (of metabolism, amino acid usage, genetic code, etc). I have argued these points most explicitly in papers 1 and 8 at http://www.vme.net/hgt/.

These ideas represent a fundamental shift in our thinking about common descent. The movement of genes horizontally not only means that individual gene trees are reticulate, but also (if it was possible to formulate an organism tree independent of its genes) that the trees of organisms, or the soma, is also reticulate. This is not an idea that is yet accepted nor one that is very well articulated by anyone.

Comment #27700

Posted by Michael Finley on May 2, 2005 11:24 AM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'quote'

Comment #27702

Posted by Great White Wonder on May 2, 2005 11:33 AM (e)

Paul Nelson

4. Bill Dembski and I have been working on a shorter article, with some of the monograph’s main points, which we plan to submit to the best peer-reviewed biology journal we can find.

Can you provide us with the short list of possible journals where you’ll be submitting your article, Paul?

Or is the search for the “best peer-reviewed biology journal” also expected to take a decade?

Comment #27703

Posted by Ed Darrell on May 2, 2005 11:44 AM (e)

Hmmmm. I’ve been troubled for some time about Dembski’s stealing from Shannon notions about information, partly because that makes all the information calculations analogous to what really goes on rather than direct measurement, but largely because an electronic model for information in a wire is, to me, wildly inapt to describe what happens when a cell divides and the “information” captured in DNA is “transmitted” to a daughter cell.

But if we’re arguing by analogy, as all IDists argue, shouldn’t we at least hold their feet to the fire in the analogies they use?

Recall that both Wallace and Darwin found inspiration from the economist Thomas Malthus and his description of food supply shortages with respect to expanding populations.

Recall that the major beef of all IDists is the spontaneous generation of order, even higher order, among living things.

Is spontaneous generation of order really all that rare?

No, it turns out. Not only is spontaneous order not rare, but economics has fairly well-developed ideas about how spontaneous order occurs, and why it is necessary in “organic” environments where conditions are dynamic.

And, if we turn to economics, we find all sorts of support against the ID claims that spontaneous order cannot occur, that information of useful form cannot spontaneously generate, and more.

Consider this:

The theory of spontaneous order has a long tradition in the history of social thought, yet it would be true to say that, until the last decade, it was all but eclipsed in the social science of the twentieth century. For much of this period the idea of spontaneous order—that most of those things of general benefit in a social system are the product of spontaneous forces that are beyond the direct control of man—was swamped by the various doctrines of (to use Friedrich A. Hayek’s phrase in Law, Legislation and Liberty) ‘constructivistic rationalism.’ No doubt the attraction of this rival notion of rationalism stems partly from the success of the physical sciences with their familiar methods of control, exact prediction, and experimentation. It is these methods which have an irresistible appeal to that hubris in man which associates the benefits of civilization not with spontaneous orderings but with conscious direction towards preconceived ends. It is particularly unfortunate that the effect of constructivistic rationalism should have been mainly felt in economics. This is unfortunate not merely because attempts to direct economics have repeatedly failed but also because the discipline of economics has developed most fully the theory of spontaneous order.

(Barry, Norman. (University of Buckingham.), “The Tradition of Spontaneous Order,” Literature of Liberty, vol. v, no. 2,, Summer 1982, pp. 7-58. Go see here: http://www.econlib.org/library/Essays/LtrLbrty/bryTSO.html

And that’s the problem with intelligent design. It proposes to replace “methodological materialism” with “constructivist rationalism.” In economics, constructivist rationalism has already been tested, found wanting, and rejected by free market economists: No designer can keep up with the number of decisions that have to be made in simple systems, let alone complex ones.

What do you think: Does “constructivist rationalism” adequately explain intelligent design?

Comment #27707

Posted by Chip Poirot on May 2, 2005 12:00 PM (e)

I’m not sure how we got to economics, but as an economist with a strong interest in evolutionary theories (both biological and social) I’d like to suggest a note of caution here. We should, for many reasons, be cautious (not necessarily opposed to) transferring concepts and problems from economics wholesale to biology and vice versa.

I suppose I do consider myself a “methodological materialist” though I am not sure I would tend to think of free market economists that way. Most tend to be radical a priorists. Or, you do have those free market economists who do (did) in fact use a form of constructivism (Hayek, McCloskey).

That much said, I agree that ID theorists are misusing (or confusing) emergence with Design. Notably, “emergence” is not really a term that comes from economics. “Emergence” is really a biological concept that has been taken over by economists in varying ways.

Perhaps I should stop now before this degenerates into an off topic rant.

Comment #27708

Posted by Chip Poirot on May 2, 2005 12:07 PM (e)

A further couple of notes:

Ed confuses Design with constructivist rationalism. There is no a priori reason the two should be identical and many reasons they should not be. Design theorists seem to like (sometimes) to use constructivism to deligitimize Darwinism and argue it is based on “naturalism”. But really, ID theorists are not (or should not really be) constructivists-they should be ontological realists who think reality is in the mind of the Designer and ordained by the Creator.

Secondly, at least according to the Wedge document, ID is favorably inclined to free market economics.

Comment #27710

Posted by David Heddle on May 2, 2005 12:13 PM (e)

I hope not of Heddleian quality …

Yes, we wouldn’t want an actual scientist to post on PT, and spoil all the fun.

Comment #27711

Posted by Ed Darrell on May 2, 2005 12:19 PM (e)

But Hayek’s big treatise was opposed to constructivism, wasn’t it? That’s his whole point on free markets.

Yes, you’re right – we need to be very cautious here. But the ID folks are not cautious at all, and their claims that “there must be a ponydesigner here somewhere” get traction with the general public.

At the same time, however, their ideas are much opposed to the free market that actually exists in most ecosystems, and which most people who buy the wrong stuff on information would reject in economics.

Those who live by the bad analogy, may die the same way, in other words.

Let’s be clear: Intelligent design is not an argument from science, is not a set of arguments based in science, but does make crude appeals to the political sympathies of others to gain traction. That traction is undeserved scientifically, and using economics as an analogy demonstrates why. ID’s basic argument is “a cell is too complex to arise spontaneously.” No cell is as complex as the economy of California, or Texas, however – and we have put our eggs solidly in the basket that those complex economies not only arose spontaneously, but must avoid most (better to many conservatives, all) intelligent intervention in order to keep running best. I’m merely noting that the chief arguments of intelligent design have been soundly rejected by economists. It is the onus of ID advocates to tell us why biologists should accept the cast-off arguments of economics. Historically, that’s not been good for either discipline

You and I know that cells are not economic units, Chip. But I’m looking for a way of looking at the ID arguments that makes the flaws more clear. Help me out!

Comment #27712

Posted by Aureola Nominee, FCD on May 2, 2005 12:23 PM (e)

Heddle:

When can we expect your own monograph on non-quantitative probability theory, sir?

Comment #27714

Posted by Ed Darrell on May 2, 2005 12:28 PM (e)

Chip,

The Wedge document says lots of stuff contrary to the facts. Claiming ID is inclined to free market economics is just fluff – ID claims are explicitly counter to any notion of an “invisible hand” of a market, and in the case of constructivistic rationalism, ID explicitly claims that there is an entity that can (and should) control the systems.

One may call a dog’s tail a leg, but dogs still have four legs. Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it so. The Wedge document may claim ID supports free marketry, but ID advocates urge government control of the curriculum in the first place – that’s not a healthy start for free marketeers. What else would be controlled, next?

Comment #27715

Posted by Great White Wonder on May 2, 2005 12:36 PM (e)

Aureola

Heddle:

When can we expect your own monograph on non-quantitative probability theory, sir?

Hopefully after his monograph entitled, “How to Distinguish Absurd Miracles from Legitimate Miracles.”

Comment #27717

Posted by Chip Poirot on May 2, 2005 12:41 PM (e)

Ed,

I think we are going to have move this discussion somewhere.

But I will say this. Part of the problem is that the way you and the source you cited uses the term “constructivism” is simply confusing. Constructivism has come to mean something entirely opposite from centralized, directed design. Constructivism does imply a sense of conscious, purposive creativeness on the part of agents, but that does not mean that they construct the whole thing altogether at once from start to finish.

Personally, I would call Hayek a “constructivist” because he emphasized 1)the fact that people do act purposefully in interpreting and acting on information 2) he did not think that one could have a complete, total picture of the system.

There is a lot more that can be said here, but its out of place. Feel free to e-mail you and I will be happy to try and explain it, or at least, direct you to a source.

I am sympathetic with your efforts to critique ID, of course, but I think you should just let Hayek be Hayek.

Comment #27718

Posted by David Heddle on May 2, 2005 12:42 PM (e)

No, perhaps fater GWW posts his cv, so we can see all of his/her peer reviewed publications. Lenny too. And PZ for good measure, he’s been a prof for a long time, he should have quite the publication record. I mean, peer reviewed papers is what you guys keep clamoring about.

Comment #27720

Posted by Jim Harrison on May 2, 2005 12:45 PM (e)

Mr. Findley characteristically misses the point. He writes: “The idea that scientists induce naturalism from the practice of science is either a misunderstanding of the limits of induction or of the scope of naturalism.” But I wasn’t claiming that scientists arrive at the notion of naturalism by induction. “Naturalism” is not a concept that has anything to do with the real working of the sciences and scientists don’t use it when they are acting as scientists. It’s like a wheel unconnected to the rest of the machine. The concept appears in nonscientific discourse about the sciences. In the context of these debates, naturalism is just a counter in an ideological game. While it would be convenient if evolutionary biology and despised bodies of theory flowed logically from the master error of “naturalism,” they pretty obviously don’t. Naturalism is as irrelevant to real biology as the Five Books of Moses.

Comment #27721

Posted by Aureola Nominee, FCD on May 2, 2005 12:49 PM (e)

Heddle:

People are as people do.

Scientists are people doing science.

Apologists are people doing apologetics.

When the same guy does science he’s a scientist; when he does apologetics he’s an apologist.

The only problems I see arise when some people try to confuse the issue and pass their apologetics for science or vice versa.

Comment #27725

Posted by Jim Anderson on May 2, 2005 1:45 PM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'url'

Comment #27727

Posted by David Heddle on May 2, 2005 1:56 PM (e)

The last is pretty easy

Unless you are looking for something published in this millennium.

Comment #27731

Posted by Great White Wonder on May 2, 2005 2:20 PM (e)

Heddle, when you demonstrate where I have expressed my scientific opinion that a foundational universally accepted fact in a given field of science is WRONG, then you can properly ask me for my credentials.

Until then, I’m just another Ph.D. in molecular biology who has nothing but contempt for ID charlatans (and their first cousins: psychics and palm readers).

There’s many many thousands more like me but not all have the good fortune (?!!!) to be strapped in front of a computer where we can read and debunk creationist drivel at our leisure, and continue outlining our book documenting the welcome demise of “ID theory” along with its screeching peddlers.

Comment #27732

Posted by David Heddle on May 2, 2005 2:23 PM (e)

GWW, Until I can see your cv, then, basing all on the evidence of your comments, I will continue in my belief that you are not a scientist at all. Perhaps an “apologist” as Nominee wrote, whatever that is.

I too have nothing but contempt for frauds.

Comment #27733

Posted by Aureola Nominee, FCD on May 2, 2005 2:30 PM (e)

Heddle:

Of all people, you don’t know what an apologist is?

Well, let me help you: an example of an apologist is a person who puts up a website advocating a specific religious position.

That this person may also be a scientist when doing science does not imply that anything (s)he says in defence of a specific religious position has anything to do with science.

Comment #27735

Posted by Henry J on May 2, 2005 2:51 PM (e)

I counted 8 entries in that search list for the first 4 years of this millennium.

Comment #27736

Posted by David Heddle on May 2, 2005 3:03 PM (e)

Henry J,

I counted 8 entries in that search list for the first 4 years of this millennium.

With PZ as an author? Are you sure?

Comment #27739

Posted by Alex Merz on May 2, 2005 3:11 PM (e)

David Heddle wrote:

No, perhaps fater GWW posts his cv, so we can see all of his/her peer reviewed publications. Lenny too. And PZ for good measure, he’s been a prof for a long time, he should have quite the publication record. I mean, peer reviewed papers is what you guys keep clamoring about.

Well, David, let’s see.

I can’t speak for GWW, but…

Michael Behe’s last peer-reviewed paper was in 2004, but before that, 1998. Same as PZ. Of course, Behe’s in a research-oriented department, while PZ’s is teaching-oriented.

As for two other contributors on this thread, here’s mine, and here’s Michael Syvanen’s.

By the way, David, when did you last publish a paper that *you* were primarily responsible for, i.e., as either lead or corresponding author? I ask only because your CV suggests that it might have been sometime in the last century. Sauce for the goose, etc., etc.

Comment #27741

Posted by Jim Anderson on May 2, 2005 3:18 PM (e)

Heddle snarks:

Yes, we wouldn’t want an actual scientist to post on PT, and spoil all the fun.

and then moves the goalposts:

Unless you are looking for something published in this millennium.

Sorry, Mr. Heddle, actual scientists do post here.

Comment #27744

Posted by Sir_Toejam on May 2, 2005 3:21 PM (e)

mike syvanen said (wrt to hor. gene transfer):

“These ideas represent a fundamental shift in our thinking about common descent. The movement of genes horizontally not only means that individual gene trees are reticulate, but also (if it was possible to formulate an organism tree independent of its genes) that the trees of organisms, or the soma, is also reticulate. This is not an idea that is yet accepted nor one that is very well articulated by anyone.”

Thanks for chipping in, Mike. I was hoping someone out there had some more detailed views on this.

I personally think it is worthy of a new discussion thread.

would you be willing to start one over on the section: after the bar closes?

cheers

Comment #27745

Posted by David Heddle on May 2, 2005 3:30 PM (e)

Alex,

The last paper I was the first author on was in 1998 (although one is in production). I have been in a nuclear physics collaboration with over 100 collaborators. I am in good company among those whose name is not first on those papers. Furthermore, I have been out of academia and in the private sector since 2000. One thing is for sure: if I had not published regularly, I wouldn’t have gotten tenure or a promotion. If you ask me, a prof in a science who can’t average a paper a year should be fired. At the very least, he should refrain from displaying the type of arrogance that is tolerable only in the highly productive.

Sorry, Mr. Heddle, actual scientists do post here.

A few, it would seem.

Comment #27747

Posted by Henry J on May 2, 2005 3:32 PM (e)

Okay, some of them were I guess references from somebody else’s paper. That left 3 that had his name on the second line of the search result entry.

Development and axonal outgrowth of identified motoneurons in the zebrafish
PZ Myers, JS Eisen, M Westerfield

Primary neurons that express the L2/HNK-1 carbohydrate during early development in the zebrafish
WK Metcalfe, PZ Myers, B Trevarrow, MB Bass, CB

Growth cone dynamics during the migration of an identified commissural growth cone
PZ Myers, MJ Bastiani -

Comment #27751

Posted by David Heddle on May 2, 2005 3:41 PM (e)

Henry J,

Look again; click on the links to see the actual copyright of the article.

Development and axonal outgrowth of identified motoneurons in the zebrafish
PZ Myers, JS Eisen, M Westerfield 1986

Primary neurons that express the L2/HNK-1 carbohydrate during early development in the zebrafish
WK Metcalfe, PZ Myers, B Trevarrow, MB Bass, CB 1990

Growth cone dynamics during the migration of an identified commissural growth cone
PZ Myers, MJ Bastiani - 1993

Comment #27752

Posted by Alex Merz on May 2, 2005 3:43 PM (e)

David Heddle wrote:

If you ask me, a prof in a science who can’t average a paper a year should be fired. At the very least, he should refrain from displaying the type of arrogance that is tolerable only in the highly productive.

So, you think that Michael Behe should be fired.

What are you going to do about it?

Comment #27753

Posted by Sir_Toejam on May 2, 2005 3:44 PM (e)

@heddle

there is really only one thing to say.

troll.

Comment #27756

Posted by David Heddle on May 2, 2005 3:53 PM (e)

Alex,

If he is not publishing, then he should be fired. That is absolutely my opinion. I’m not going to do anything about it. Dead wood (if that’s what he is) with tenure is ubiquitous.

Toejam:

@heddle

there is really only one thing to say.

troll.

Toejam, you brought out the “T: word–how clever! Did you hold that trump card a while before you played it? Was it hard to resist? Did you rub your hands with glee when you hit “post”?

Comment #27760

Posted by Sir_Toejam on May 2, 2005 4:15 PM (e)

yes, david. I enjoyed it immensely. I’d enjoy it even more if you either:

a) accepted the definition for your posts, and went away.

~or~

b) actually posted something of substance.

~or~

c) the thread starter would simply move your drivel to where it belongs.

Comment #27761

Posted by Andrea Bottaro on May 2, 2005 4:17 PM (e)

I don’t think it makes any difference whatsoever how many papers people have published, and in which century. PZ is a scientist in a predominantly teaching institution, and his work is predominantly teaching (just reading on Pharyngula the amount of course-work he carries gives me the heebie-jeebies). It is pretty obvious that he is an excellent teacher and popularizer of science, and that he is more than up to speed with current biological literature. It is also equally obvious that David Heddle, though he may well be a published scientist in nuclear physics, clearly has little clue of biology, and even less interest in actually learning any. Finally, I doubt any of the biologists here would be so arrogant as to expect to teach David Heddle nuclear physics, or to tell him with a straight face that the entire field of nuclear physics is bogus. An understanding of the limits of one’s knowledge and expertise, in my opinion, can be a more indicative trait of a good scientist than a long list of publications. Just my $0.02.

Comment #27771

Posted by Alex Merz on May 2, 2005 5:19 PM (e)

A pedant point, David: I don’t think that “ubiquitous” is the word you were looking for.

But do you really think that vigorous ongoing research should be required of all science faculty? It seems to me that in many settings (such as a primarily undergraduate college), outstanding teaching may be, and should be, the major component of a professor’s work. Note that I am not in such a department; we’re very much research-driven. But such department certainly exist and serve the essential functions of training engineers, doctors, and scientists. I don’t see this as a problem.

Comment #27773

Posted by steve on May 2, 2005 5:22 PM (e)

Anyway, to get back to the discussion about the supposedly upcoming monograph from Paul Nelson. The cryptochristian movement known as ID has been around for two decades now. Several times they’ve put forth arguments which resembled garbled scientific hypotheses, with poorly defined terms (like CSI). Usually they just pick something about the results and practice of evolutionary science, and argue that it’s flawed. Rather than generate a theory to explain data, they argue for ignorance. “I don’t believe that’s ironclad,” they say, “therefore forget it, it’s worthless”. I expect Nelson’s monograph will be cut from this cloth. Maybe something like “Horizontal gene transfer really makes it hard to determine lineage, therefore common descent is not ironclad, therefore it’s worthless, forget it.”

Comment #27774

Posted by Alex Merz on May 2, 2005 5:23 PM (e)

A pedant point, David: I don’t think that “ubiquitous” is the word you were looking for.

But do you really think that vigorous ongoing research should be required of all science faculty? It seems to me that in many settings (such as a primarily undergraduate college), outstanding teaching may be, and should be, the major component of a professor’s work. Note that I am not in such a department; we’re very much research-driven. But such departments certainly exist and serve the essential functions of training engineers, doctors, and scientists. Knowledge transmission is every bit as central to the mission of colleges and universities as knowledge creation, IMO.

Comment #27775

Posted by SteveF on May 2, 2005 5:27 PM (e)

Any chance of this thread meandering back on topic?

Comment #27777

Posted by Michael Finley on May 2, 2005 5:34 PM (e)

But do you really think that vigorous ongoing research should be required of all science faculty? It seems to me that in many settings (such as a primarily undergraduate college), outstanding teaching may be, and should be, the major component of a professor’s work.

To teach at such a school is one of my dreams. My undergraduate alma mater is such an institution.

My other academic dream is at the other end of the spectrum: All Souls college at Oxford is a college consisting of professors and no students. They are there to research, write and share each other’s company over port. All Souls is probably out of the question for my average talents, so I’ll have to dream primarily about the former.

Comment #27781

Posted by Sir_Toejam on May 2, 2005 5:54 PM (e)

“I expect Nelson’s monograph will be cut from this cloth. Maybe something like “Horizontal gene transfer really makes it hard to determine lineage, therefore common descent is not ironclad, therefore it’s worthless, forget it.””

hmm. John, i guess discussion of horizontal gene transfer was a bit more on topic than i anticipated.

;)

Comment #27782

Posted by David Heddle on May 2, 2005 5:55 PM (e)

toejam,

were you so upset when for no reason (I’ve just been lurking for at least 2 weeks w/o posting) I was the subject of a snide remark (#27695)? Or is it only off-topic posts on the other side of the fence that get you going?

As for teaching and research, they have a positive correlation. So even at primarily teaching institutions, science faculty should conduct research.

Andrea, you couldn’t be more wrong. The only reason I come here is to learn some biology. But since most of what gets posted here is politics and smear campaigns, it really isn’t the best place.

Comment #27784

Posted by Sir_Toejam on May 2, 2005 6:40 PM (e)

test

Comment #27785

Posted by Sir_Toejam on May 2, 2005 6:44 PM (e)

“The only reason I come here is to learn some biology”

prove it. show us something you have learned about biology from PT.

troll.

Comment #27793

Posted by Great White Wonder on May 2, 2005 7:20 PM (e)

steve divines the future

Usually they just pick something about the results and practice of evolutionary science, and argue that it’s flawed. Rather than generate a theory to explain data, they argue for ignorance. “I don’t believe that’s ironclad,” they say, “therefore forget it, it’s worthless”. I expect Nelson’s monograph will be cut from this cloth. Maybe something like “Horizontal gene transfer really makes it hard to determine lineage, therefore common descent is not ironclad, therefore it’s worthless, forget it.”

This is de rigeur for bigmouthed religious promoters, regardless of the subject.

They love to grab your arm and lead you through the various “logical fallacies” and “inherent contradictions” of your “worldview”. Then when they think they’ve got you choking on smoke, they’ll force the antidote on you: LORD GOD ALMIGHTY.

According to the modern cults, everything is plain as paint and utterly consistent. You just have to know the lingo to fill in the gaps where all the non-believing heathens shrug their shoulders and say “I dunno.”

Swallowing Paul Nelson’s bait means never having to say “I don’t know” again. On the other hand, you may be asked to pretend that you don’t know who the mysterious alien beings are that huddle conspicuously at the center of Nelson’s beloved “ID theory.”

I’m waiting for the network TV premier of “Icons of Intelligent Design” where biological “miracles” like the bacteria flagella are presented by “your hosts” Pastor Rufus Nutworth and psychic John Edward. Rufus will “explain” how the organism “must have been designed” and John Edward will confirm Rufus’ explanation by asking some formerly God-fearing dead people exactly what God had in mind.

The season finale will feature Big Bill Dembski and Paul “Nice Guy” Nelson “debating” Ernst Mayr and Charles Darwin, with John Edward’s help. The debate will be mediated by legendary truth-seeker, Geraldo Rivera.

Comment #27797

Posted by Sir_Toejam on May 2, 2005 7:30 PM (e)

@gww:

“I’m waiting for the network TV premier of “Icons of Intelligent Design” where biological “miracles” like the bacteria flagella are presented by “your hosts” Pastor Rufus Nutworth and psychic John Edward. Rufus will “explain” how the organism “must have been designed” and John Edward will confirm Rufus’ explanation by asking some formerly God-fearing dead people exactly what God had in mind.”

Have you seen the new show “X animals” on animal planet? It’s a wonderful show all about that well documented scientific endeavor, crypto-biology.

:p

I don’t think we are too far from what you are describing, unfortunately.

Comment #27799

Posted by Sir_Toejam on May 2, 2005 7:33 PM (e)

bump

Comment #27800

Posted by "Rev Dr" Lenny Flank on May 2, 2005 7:34 PM (e)

1. No, I’m not offering a theory of biological design in On Common Descent.

OK. Who *IS*, and where can I see it.

Lenny, you know your New Testament pretty well: see Matthew 6:24b (the second half of the verse).

The verse Paul refers to:

24 ¶ No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”

Which does ID serve, Paul – God or Mammon?

I was under the impression that intelligent design “theory” is not religious in nature and has nothing to do with the Bible or any religious doctrine.

Or are IDers just lying to me when they tell me that …. . ?

Comment #27801

Posted by "Rev Dr" Lenny Flank on May 2, 2005 7:38 PM (e)

Biblical miscitation! My cathecism teachers would hang their heads in shame.

I meant Matthew 6:34b.

Freudian slip, Paul? It did lead to a good question for you, though —- which does ID serve, Paul. God, or Mammon.

Comment #27803

Posted by "Rev Dr" Lenny Flank on May 2, 2005 7:42 PM (e)

Yes, we wouldn’t want an actual scientist to post on PT, and spoil all the fun.

Hi, David. Welcome back.

Why are your religious opinions any more authoritative than anyone else’s. Other than your say-so.

Thanks.

Comment #27804

Posted by "Rev Dr" Lenny Flank on May 2, 2005 7:45 PM (e)

No, perhaps fater GWW posts his cv, so we can see all of his/her peer reviewed publications. Lenny too. And PZ for good measure, he’s been a prof for a long time, he should have quite the publication record. I mean, peer reviewed papers is what you guys keep clamoring about.

I’d like to see one that presents a scientific theory of intelligent design, and tells us how to test it using the scientific method.

Can you suggest such a paper?

Why not?

Comment #27805

Posted by "Rev Dr" Lenny Flank on May 2, 2005 7:50 PM (e)

Well, let me help you: an example of an apologist is a person who puts up a website advocating a specific religious position.

One that isn’t any more authoritative than any OTHER religious position.

Despite all of David’s arm-waving, the simple fact remains that his religious opinions are just that, his opinions. They are no more holy or divine or infallible or authoritative than anyone else’s religious opinions. No one is obligated in any way, shape, or form to follow his religious opinions, to accept them, or even to pay any attention at all to them.

Alas, David is sometimes too self-righteous, prideful and holier-than-thou (literally) to remember that. Hence, I need to periodically remind him, and everyone else. As the slave whispered into Caesar’s ear during his Triumph procession in Rome, David —– “You are just a man”.

Comment #27822

Posted by Alex Merz on May 2, 2005 10:10 PM (e)

David: you can read. So read. Read some of the comments on this very thread which address issues in biology. If you have questions, ask. If you have comments, shoot. And before you know it, you’ll be accomplishing your goal to “learn some biology,” right here at The Panda’s Thumb.

Comment #27891

Posted by Andy Groves on May 3, 2005 12:24 PM (e)

Discovery has been unhappy with my slow and pointedly deliberate pace: I was demoted from “Senior Fellow” to “Fellow” a couple of years ago because the monograph hadn’t yet been published. 

Publish or perish……

Comment #27896

Posted by Russell on May 3, 2005 1:07 PM (e)

Heddle Clucked:

The only reason I come here is to learn some biology. But since most of what gets posted here is politics and smear campaigns, it really isn’t the best place.

Perhaps not. Do let us know when you find a more appropriate place. Oh, and don’t let the door hit you in the face on the way out!

Comment #29116

Posted by Ed Darrell on May 9, 2005 3:42 AM (e)

Anyway, to get back to the discussion about the supposedly upcoming monograph from Paul Nelson. The cryptochristian movement known as ID has been around for two decades now. Several times they’ve put forth arguments which resembled garbled scientific hypotheses, with poorly defined terms (like CSI). Usually they just pick something about the results and practice of evolutionary science, and argue that it’s flawed. Rather than generate a theory to explain data, they argue for ignorance. “I don’t believe that’s ironclad,” they say, “therefore forget it, it’s worthless”. I expect Nelson’s monograph will be cut from this cloth. Maybe something like “Horizontal gene transfer really makes it hard to determine lineage, therefore common descent is not ironclad, therefore it’s worthless, forget it.”

My experience is that, even in the “social sciences,” if there is scholarship afoot, it keeps leaking into real publications.

One can look back at the medical journals in the 1980s to see how many blind paths about HIV/AIDS were pursued, especially before any virus had been explicitly implicated.

Solid science research tends to answer small questions – even if the only answer is, as Edison once lamented, to tell that a particular hypothesis didn’t work (Edison noted that the years of failure to produce a lightbulb had at least produced a list of thousands of things that would not work as a filament).

Steve, I suspect the real problem is that Nelson is not working in a a lab. The problem with the Discovery Institute is that there is no discovery there. Apologies to Gertrude Stein.