Reed A. Cartwright posted Entry 1191 on July 7, 2005 12:23 PM.
Trackback URL: http://www.pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.fcgi/1189

Today the Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, wrote an op-ed in the New York Times about evolution and the Catholic faith: “Finding Design in Nature”.  On a quick read the op-ed appears to place the Catholic Church in league with “intelligent design” creationism.  (I’m sure you will hear such victory cheers from the neo-Paleyists.)  However, this quick read is deceiving, since the author made some mistakes when choosing his words for a US audience.

Before getting upset at what the Archbishop wrote, consider this:

The Archbishop is not writing to align Catholic theology with the anti-evolution movement.  Instead he is writing to reaffirm the Catholic faith’s commitment to theistic evolution and to eliminate any confusion that it is committed to atheistic evolution.  (I have no idea why he thought that this needed to be done.)

Compare and contrast the Archbishop’s words to “Creationism talk suggests need to revisit Catholic education” in this week’s Catholic Telegraph from Archdiocese of Cincinnati.

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Comment #37105

Posted by Hiero5ant on July 7, 2005 12:48 PM (e)

Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the term “neo-paleyist” one coined by Richard Dawkins to describe his own position – or has that term been otherwise appropriated?

Comment #37108

Posted by Reed A. Cartwright on July 7, 2005 12:50 PM (e)

I have no idea. I picked the term up from Ian Musgrave, who uses it to refer to id creationists.

Comment #37110

Posted by Joseph O'Donnell on July 7, 2005 12:57 PM (e)

I prefer to call IDists either creationists (Supernatural IDists) or turtlers (Alien IDists).

Comment #37111

Posted by Hiero5ant on July 7, 2005 1:04 PM (e)

I have him using the phrase to describe himself in ‘Universal Darwinism’ (1983), but referring back to a characterization made in Maynard Smith’s ‘The Status of Neo-Darwinism’ (1969).

Comment #37112

Posted by Reed A. Cartwright on July 7, 2005 1:06 PM (e)

I chose it to contrast with the Cardinal’s usage of “neo-Darwinism”.

Comment #37117

Posted by Longhorn on July 7, 2005 1:24 PM (e)

According to Christoph Schonborn,

Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense – an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection – is not.

There are some problems with this statement.

First, Schonborn shouldn’t have used the term “neo-Darwinian” in that way. That is not the way many people use the phrase “neo-Darwinian.” Most scientists don’t even use the term “neo-Darwinian.” Most just say “evolution.” Some use the phrase “synthetic theory.” Many scientists who do use the term “neo-Darwinian” don’t factor in things like “unguided,” “unplanned,” or any functional equivalent. They use the word to mean something like the following:

1. All organisms to live on earth are descended from a common ancestor, and that all organisms, including animals, plants, and microorganisms, ultimately go back to a single origin of life on earth.

2. Genetic and phenotypic variation and what Darwin called “Natural Selection” resulted in the existence of the organisms to live on earth subsequent to the first primordial cells. Mendel’s ideas on genetic are important.

3. No organism has been massively different than its parent(s).

4. Evolution took place over millions and millions of years.

Now, Schonborn might be saying that a deity intervened on one or more occasions to cause the existence of some organisms, some parts of some organisms, or to cause some organisms to reproduce. If that is his hypothesis, he should offer it clearly. Specifically, he should indicate exactly what event(s) he thinks the deity proximately caused. That would help us gauge whether his claim is reasonable. We could get a mental image of the alleged event. But since he didn’t do that, I’ll work with what I have.

I’m not sure what Mr. Schonborn means by “an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection.” We don’t yet know the series of events that resulted in the space, matter and time that we associate with the known universe. We don’t yet know the exact series of events that resulted in the first self-replicating molecules on earth. But Mr. Schonborn seems to be saying that after the first self-replicating molecules on earth started replicating, a deity and/or extraterrestrial specifically intervened on planet earth on one or more occasions to cause the existence of some organisms, some parts of some organisms, or to cause some organisms to reproduce. I want more elaboration from Schonborn. But if that is what he means, he is probably mistaken. First, clearly a deity or extraterrestrial did not turn dust – poof! – directly into two elephants (one male and one female). Second, the claim as a whole is probably inaccurate. Taken together, the following data enables us to determine that he is probably mistaken:

1. Self-replicating molecules that were on earth about 3.8 billion years ago evolved (through reproduction) into all the organisms to live on planet earth. In other words, elephants and bacteria share common ancestors.

2. There is very good reason to believe that the existence of billions and billions of organisms (and parts of organisms) has been proximately caused by events other than a deity or extraterrestrial specifically intervening and causing the existence of the organism or the part of the organism. For instance, I was born by my mother.

3. Given the kind of intervention that Mr. Schonborn probably has in mind, a deity or extraterrestrial probably has not specifically intervened to proximately cause the existence of any part of any organism that has been on earth in the last 500 years. For instance, a deity or extraterrestrial probably did not intervene to cause me to have the left ear that I have.

4. A deity is not known to have ever specifically intervened to proximately cause the existence of any organism, or any part of any organism.

5. No event is known to have been proximately caused by a deity or extraterrestrial.

6. There is good reason to believe that billions and billions of events have been proximately caused by events other than the specific intervention by a deity or extraterrestrial. For instance, dead leaves fall from trees.

Schonborn, doesn’t really offer any evidence to show that what he thinks happened actually happened. He does say this: “Any system of thought that denies or seeks to explain away the overwhelming evidence for design in biology is ideology, not science.” I’m not sure what he means by “the overwhelming evidence for design in biology.” That something is interesting does not enable us to determine that a deity specifically intervened and – poof! – caused the thing to exist. I’m fairly interesting, and I was born by my mother.

Comment #37118

Posted by Steve on July 7, 2005 1:40 PM (e)

Behe is already crowing.

Comment #37119

Posted by Lurker on July 7, 2005 1:41 PM (e)

Over at IDTF, Behe writes, “Not to put too fine a point on it, he essentially says in so many words that neo-Darwinism is wrong and ID is right. He writes that the conclusion that life is designed is not a matter of faith, but a matter of physical evidence. He says the denial of that evidence is itself ideology; in other words, the denial of the evidence is the faith, the affirmation of the evidence is rational.

I think this is enormously important. (Me Catholic.) I strongly suspect that this op-ed was instigated by Pope Benedict himself. It seems very unlikely that Austrian Cardinal Schönborn would publish an op-ed in the New York Times expounding Catholic understanding of evolution, taking on the Darwinists, and quoting Benedict himself without at least the Pope’s tacit approval, and more likely his active encouragement. I take this to mean that Benedict thinks this issue is very important, and is very interested in setting matters straight.

Having the weight of the Catholic Church publicly behind ID and against Darwinism will make it much harder for the Scopes Trial caricature to stick to ID. Now it isn’t just the proverbial band of yahoos from Tennessee (and a tiny number of confused academics) who don’t get it. Now it’s the largest Christian denomination in the world, one that makes distinctions between the entirely separate issues of the age of the earth, common descent, and Darwinian randomness.”

Behe doesn’t get it. This problem of “getting evolution” is still largely a Christian, not a scientific, problem. Nothing the Archbishop writes comes close to making a scientific case against evolution. Equivocations and misrepresentations constitute a bulk of the editorial. Not even the Archbishop seems to understand clearly what he would like Christians to understand clearly.

Let’s take for granted that Behe is right. The Catholic Church is now fully behind ID. Is Behe now conceding that scientists can only consider sciences that have the full Blessing of the Church?

Comment #37120

Posted by James Vogel on July 7, 2005 1:43 PM (e)

And since the article is so unclear, it’s very easy for Behe and co. to spin it as a victory, even if (as Reed has gone a good way toward convincing me) it’s not, as such. And it’s a spin that will play very well in the media, given the size, power, and social presence the church has.

Comment #37122

Posted by Reed A. Cartwright on July 7, 2005 1:47 PM (e)

In my opinion, I think that the Cardinal is a victim of the Wedge and not a proponent of it.

Comment #37124

Posted by Lurker on July 7, 2005 1:49 PM (e)

What annoys me about this is the rhetorical spin that denying design is an “abdication of human reasoning.” Excuse me, but what fucking arrogance. If anyone wants to cite dogmatism in this modern times, he should not have to look further than Behe’s uncritical, easy acquiescence to an Archbishop’s opinion article. Design is true and neo-darwinism false… because the Church says so!

Comment #37127

Posted by Marco Ferrari on July 7, 2005 2:04 PM (e)

Pardon me if I chime in with a fairly brutal question. It has long been my opinion that theistic evolution is an oxymoron, and the op-ed by the cardinal Schönborn just strengthens my thoughts. As far as I understand his writing, the “thing” lacking in neo-darwinian evolution (or whatever else he choose to call it) is the teleology of the process. Catholic churc thinks that with various tools (why not mutations and natural selection?) a deity deflects the course of blind evolution toward a superior being; guess who this is.
On the other hand, all evolution books and experiments tell us that the process is directionless (nobody knows what the next environment, and therefore selection pressure, will be).
I feel these two positions cannot be held at the same time. How wrong am I?

Comment #37129

Posted by Reed A. Cartwright on July 7, 2005 2:20 PM (e)

Although science can tell us that natural causes are sufficient to explain something, it cannot tell us that supernatural causes are not involved. People may choose to synthesize their faith with scientific findings by believing that something else occured in addition the known natural causes. It might not be as “parsimonious,” but it is what makes sense to them.

Such people tend to not confuse science and faith.

Comment #37130

Posted by Russell on July 7, 2005 2:25 PM (e)

I’m not at all confident that Reed’s interpretation of Schoenberg’s intent is more accurate than Behe’s. I guess if I had some reason to defer to the Cardinal’s - or any other religious authority - on matters of science, I would be troubled by his little essay. But I don’t.

There are a number of, sorry, just plain stupid things in this essay that I’m not so charitable as to chalk up to “poor choice of words”:

1. Slurring mainstream scientists as “defenders of neo-Darwinian dogma”. Really! This from a Catholic Archbishop! Does this man have an impish sense of humor, or is he blind to the irony?

2. “… evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense - an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection - is not [true].” This looks like a scientific pronouncement from someone explicitly telling us what is science and what is not. So, how did he scientifically come to this conclusion?

3. Quoting JohnPaul II now: “To speak of chance for a universe which presents such a complex organization in its elements and such marvelous finality in its life would be equivalent to giving up the search for an explanation of the world as it appears to us.” I don’t know - or care - exactly what the late pope was getting at here but, in this context, Schoenborn appears to be endorsing the ID take on nature. Accusing the critics of ID of “giving up the search for an explanation” is, once again, ironic to say the least.

4. “neo-Darwinism … invented to avoid the overwhelming evidence for purpose and design found in modern science”. I believe the mind-numbing stupidity of this remark speaks for itself.

5. “Scientific theories that try to explain away the appearance of design as the result of “chance and necessity” are not scientific at all, but, as John Paul put it, an abdication of human intelligence.” Is that what modern biology is all about?

Really. I’m curious to see whether the Vatican is going to endorse this foolishness, or explain what the Cardinal meant to say.

Comment #37133

Posted by Kumar on July 7, 2005 2:39 PM (e)

Reed:

I disagree with your take on the op-ed. Rather, I think the Catholic Church is agnostic on common descent (“…may have…”). And the op-ed suggests that even if common descent is correct, god did it.

The Catholic Church as believers in ‘theistic evolution’? Theists, yes of course. But the op-ed seems to suggest that the Church has no settled opinion on evolution (i.e., common descent).

An obvious point, I’m sure: Whatever the spin put on this op-ed by the ID crowd, it’s best to stick to the (massive)evidence for evolution via natural selection.

Comment #37136

Posted by fusilier on July 7, 2005 3:12 PM (e)

As a Peri-Vatican II Catholic, currently a Eucharistic minister in my parish, and a professional biologist, I am very disturbed by this article.

I am forced to read this as a step backwards from the position of John Paul II and Pius XII. It is quite clear that those two Popes were making a distinction between matters of scientific inquiry and matters of faith and morals. It is not clear, but very suggestive, that the Archbishop’s article is conflating the two.

Comment #37137

Posted by Longhorn on July 7, 2005 3:16 PM (e)

Marco posts:

Pardon me if I chime in with a fairly brutal question. It has long been my opinion that theistic evolution is an oxymoron, and the op-ed by the cardinal Schönborn just strengthens my thoughts. As far as I understand his writing, the “thing” lacking in neo-darwinian evolution (or whatever else he choose to call it) is the teleology of the process. Catholic churc thinks that with various tools (why not mutations and natural selection?) a deity deflects the course of blind evolution toward a superior being; guess who this is.
On the other hand, all evolution books and experiments tell us that the process is directionless (nobody knows what the next environment, and therefore selection pressure, will be).
I feel these two positions cannot be held at the same time. How wrong am I?

Marco, good question. First, some mutations were caused in part by the organism being exposed to certain levels of radiation. So, how are you using the word “directionless?”

Second, certain claims are logically inconsistent. The claim God turned dust – poof! – directly into two elephants is logically inconsistent with the claim that all organisms on earth descended from one single cell that lived on earth about 3.8 billion years ago.

I can’t tell if the claims are offering are logically inconsistent. You would have to give me more information.

Here would be two claims:

1. A deity or extraterrestrial specifically intervened on planet earth on one or more occasions in the last three billion years; the deity did not turn dust – poof! – directly into any organisms, but it did something; it caused a part of an organisms like an ear, or nose or a throat or a tail; this intervention caused an organism to be born with a trait that helped it produce the number of offspring that it did; for instance, it was born with a dark coat – such as a black panther.

2. A deity or extraterrestrial never specifically intervened on planet earth to cause an organism to live, live longer or produce more offspring.

Those are logically inconsistent – given what I mean by them. Are we justified in believing that either of them is true? Well, first we know that a deity did not turn dust – poof! – directly into two elephants (one male and one female). But did a deity or extraterrestrial specifically intervene in a more subtle way on one or more occasions? I want more information. It would make it easier for me to assess the claim. Sometimes claims are too vague for one to be justified in believing that they are true or false. But, given that language, probably no deity or extraterrestrial specifically intervened on planet earth on one or more occasions over the last 3.8 billion years to cause the existence of any organisms that have lived on earth or any parts of any organisms that have lived on earth or to cause some organisms to reproduce. Now could Cupid have hit one of my parents with an arrow to cause them to reproduce with each other? Probably not.

Comment #37139

Posted by Steve Reuland on July 7, 2005 3:16 PM (e)

Behe wrote:

Having the weight of the Catholic Church publicly behind ID and against Darwinism will make it much harder for the Scopes Trial caricature to stick to ID.

Right… ‘cause the Catholic Church has a long history of open-mindedness, progressivism, and rejection of religious orthodoxy. Unlike those yahoos in Tennessee.

Comment #37142

Posted by Steve on July 7, 2005 3:25 PM (e)

I’m with the dissenters here. I took the article to lunch and read it, thought about it, and then read it again. I’m sorry, but that article offers way too much “aid and comfort” the IDers for me to believe that is was simply the result of “poor word choice”. Further, with poor word choice I expect words that don’t quite fit in a sentence, in this article I didn’t find anything like that.

From the article:

Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense - an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection - is not. Any system of thought that denies or seeks to explain away the overwhelming evidence for design in biology is ideology, not science.

I’m sorry, but this just sounds like one step removed from the arguments of Behe, Dembski, et. al. That the process of evolution is not unguided, unplanned and/or random, but that there are at a minimum times when the Designer intervenes. Exactly how is what the Archbishop writing different? If it is I just don’t see it.

I think Mr. Cartwright needs to be a bit more up front about how this essay doesn’t necessarily reflect a change in the Catholic Church’s views on evolution. After all we have a new Pope and he is pretty much the sole authority and if he says, “Change it” the response is, “How?”

Comment #37144

Posted by Longhorn on July 7, 2005 3:31 PM (e)

Reed wrote:

Although science can tell us that natural causes are sufficient to explain something, it cannot tell us that supernatural causes are not involved.

Reed, “science” can’t tell us anything. “Science” can’t talk.

People can justifiably believe that an event that one person believed occurred did not occur. I justifiably believe that Cupid did not hit my parents with arrows to cause them to fall in love with each other and reproduce. Am I certain that Cupid didn’t do that? Well, maybe not. But I’m very justified in believing that that didn’t happen.

People may choose to synthesize their faith with scientific findings by believing that something else occurred in addition the known natural causes. It might not be as “parsimonious,” but it is what makes sense to them.

How are you using the words “faith” and “scientific findings?” It might “make sense” to a person to “synthesize their faith with scientific findings by believing that something else occurred in addition the known natural causes.” But they also might believe that an event occurred that did not. For instance, some people believe that planet earth is about 6,000 years old. Some people they have been abducted by aliens. They probably haven’t been.

Some people believe that a deity specifically intervened at a discrete moment in time to cause a bacteria to – Zap! – have a flagellum attached to its butt. That probably didn’t happen.

Such people tend to not confuse science and faith.

How are you using the word “science” and “faith?” People often believe that a given event occurred, and it didn’t. Or at least I’m justified in believing that it didn’t. For instance, some people believe that Methuselah lived to be 969 years old, relative to the velocity that earth is moving right now. But Methuselah didn’t live to be that old. At least he probably didn’t.

Comment #37147

Posted by Reed A. Cartwright on July 7, 2005 3:41 PM (e)

Steve,

This op-ed doesn’t change the Catholic Church’s views on evolution because according to the Cardinal they haven’t changed. The op-ed reaffirms several important statements made by the Catholic Church about science and Catholic faith over the last few decades.

My understanding of these statements is that the Catholic Church agrees with the results of science, but declares that God was behind it in some way. Of course the Catholic Church in these statements strongly disagree with anyone who would take the results of science and claim that God was not behind it in some way. Perhaps the best description of this philosophy is dogmatic (militant?) theistic evolution.

Comment #37148

Posted by Reed A. Cartwright on July 7, 2005 3:45 PM (e)

Longhorn,

Please don’t expect me to defend theistic evolution since I am not a theistic evolutionist.

I will point out that people who synthesize faith and science usually do so by resticting their faith to non-materialistic claims, thus preventing conflict between faith and science.

Comment #37149

Posted by Longhorn on July 7, 2005 3:46 PM (e)

Let’s return to this sentence by Cardinal Schonborn:

Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense - an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection - is not. Any system of thought that denies or seeks to explain away the overwhelming evidence for design in biology is ideology, not science.

Schonborn seems to be saying that it is “not true” that an “unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection” caused the existence of the organisms to live on earth. Well, is he right? We don’t know the series of events that caused the matter, space and time that we associate with the known universe. But Schonborn might be talking about specific intervention on earth on the part of a deity after the first self-replicating molecules started replicating. Did a deity intervene in that way? Well, there are some things that a deity clearly did not do. For instance, a deity did not turn dust – poof! – directly into two elephants. But did a deity intervene in other ways? It would helpful to have more information from Schonborn. I don’t know what he means by “unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection.” But given what he may mean, he is probably mistaken.

Comment #37150

Posted by Henry J on July 7, 2005 3:50 PM (e)

Re “For instance, some people believe that Methuselah lived to be 969 years old”

I wonder if those people also think he drowned?

Comment #37155

Posted by Longhorn on July 7, 2005 3:59 PM (e)

Reed, thanks for the reply.

You wrote:

I will point out that people who synthesize faith and science usually do so by resticting their faith to non-materialistic claims, thus preventing conflict between faith and science.

Reed, what do you mean by “faith” and “science?” And what do you mean by “restricting their faith to non-materialistic claims?”

I know someone who thinks a deity turned dust directly into two elephants. I think you would say that that is a “non-materialistic claim.” And this person is mistaken. Or, if you balk at the expression of certainty, it is overwhelmingly probable that he is mistaken.

There are some beliefs that are not logically inconsistent with what we understand about the universe, for instance, “a deity caused the Big Bang.”

Comment #37156

Posted by Steve Reuland on July 7, 2005 4:05 PM (e)

If you ask me, the good Cardinal seems to be taking the ID side explicitly. But as usual, the chief problem is that he fails to define what he means by “design”, which leaves us all wondering what exactly he’s getting at. Most people (and certainly most Christians) would not say that evolution is in opposition to “design” in a purely metaphysical sense, but rather opposed to it in a direct sense, as in God (or the aliens) physically altering structures and planting organisms de novo onto the Earth. For this there is exactly zero evidence, and plenty of evidence in favor of alternate hypotheses. Whether or not evolution was guided in some sort of grand sense, perhaps beyond our knowledge, is another story.

The ID movement, true to its anti-scientific nature, was careful to adopt a term which could easily bamboozle people by obscuring, not clarifying, what the actual issue is. The good Cardinal may be a victim of the Wedge, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t drink the Kool Aid.

Comment #37159

Posted by Steve on July 7, 2005 4:17 PM (e)

My understanding of these statements is that the Catholic Church agrees with the results of science, but declares that God was behind it in some way. Of course the Catholic Church in these statements strongly disagree with anyone who would take the results of science and claim that God was not behind it in some way. Perhaps the best description of this philosophy is dogmatic (militant?) theistic evolution.

I guess I just don’t see much of difference between this and the IDers position. If God took a direct hand in doing something…couldn’t it be making sure the flagellum [sic] develops as the IDers seem so hung up on? Further, couldn’t one go from this position to the position that such interventions could be observable/detectable? If so, it strikes me as basically supporting the ID view, not repudiating it.

Comment #37160

Posted by Reed A. Cartwright on July 7, 2005 4:21 PM (e)

Steve,

Sure one could make those leaps. But not making them is what distinguishes a theistic evolutionist from a creationist and a reputable scientist and a crackpot.

Comment #37161

Posted by BlastfromthePast on July 7, 2005 4:22 PM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'B'

Comment #37162

Posted by Lurker on July 7, 2005 4:28 PM (e)

BlastfromthePast,

Some forms of reasoning are more trustworthy than others. You can be sure that yours do not matter much to me at all.

Comment #37163

Posted by Reed A. Cartwright on July 7, 2005 4:30 PM (e)

Don’t turn this into a bonfire or I will ship the lot of you to the BW.

Comment #37164

Posted by Vic Stenger on July 7, 2005 4:34 PM (e)

I have long maintained in my writings that Darwinism is incompatible with Christianity. See

Has Science Found God? Prometheus Books, 2003, chapter 11 at

http://www.colorado.edu/philosophy/vstenger/Found/11Premise.pdf

“The Premise Keepers”published in Free Inquiry Vol. 23 No. 3 Summer 2003, at

http://www.colorado.edu/philosophy/vstenger/Found/Premise.pdf

And for a short summary

http://www.colorado.edu/philosophy/vstenger/Incompatibility.html

Comment #37165

Posted by frank schmidt on July 7, 2005 4:35 PM (e)

A couple of things:

1. “Neo-Darwinist” has become a straw man, shouted out by the IDC’ers. Schonbrun’s artice buys into the straw man. Wonder who he’s been talking to…

2. He has also apparently bought into the ID’ers view of “random” mutation as totally undirected. In fact, as has been pointed out repeatedly on these pages, it’s impossible to tell this by observation. All we know is that the mathematical model of randomness fits.

3. Although Schonbrun is regarded as an urbane man, I doubt that he has scientific credentials, in Biology or any other scientific discipline.

4. Church politics affects everything a Vatican-based Cardinal says. It’s going on here. In this case, I suspect that he is trying to get in good with his boss, the Pope, by (1) affirming an antimaterialist position, a favorite of JPII and BenXVI,(2) sticking it to the evolution-theology proponents, i.e., the Jesuits who are regarded as followers of Teilhard and therefore not really Catholic. Don’t forget that Ben. XVI censored a large number of (primarily Jesuit) Catholic theologians for entertaining too many “liberal ideas,” e.g. liberation theology and birth control. (3) Schonbrun may be angling for the job as the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (Ben’s old job, I think). (4) Gossip has it that Schonbrun is thought to be too “European” and since the troglodytes in the Vatican think European = secular, he’s trying to dispell this worry. (He might then be in better position to be elected Pope in a few years.)

MHO only - I don’t talk to clergy on a regular basis.

Comment #37166

Posted by RBH on July 7, 2005 4:37 PM (e)

Chris Mooney doesn’t concur with Reed’s charitable reading of the OpEd.

RBH

Comment #37170

Posted by BlastfromthePast on July 7, 2005 5:04 PM (e)

Steve Reuland wrote:

If you ask me, the good Cardinal seems to be taking the ID side explicitly. But as usual, the chief problem is that he fails to define what he means by “design”, which leaves us all wondering what exactly he’s getting at

I think the critical term vis-a-vis “design” is the word “finality” that the Cardinal uses, which, in philosophical jargon would be “final cause”, that is, the entire process of causality begins with the “end result” in mind.

The Cardinal also wrote:

To speak of chance for a universe which presents such a complex organization in its elements and such marvelous finality in its life would be equivalent to giving up the search for an explanation of the world as it appears to us. In fact, this would be equivalent to admitting effects without a cause. It would be to abdicate human intelligence, which would thus refuse to think and to seek a solution for its problems.”

Richard Dawkins would ask Darwinian “believers” to hold that if they found a watch, that they shouldn’t attribute the watch’s qualities to that of design. Now I know there’s this whole thing about reproduction and cumulative selection; but finally, he’s saying that although Nature looks designed, it is, in fact, not. And that’s not any different than saying this found watch came about simply through mechanical means absent any intelligent input whatsoever. On the face of it, this is a ridiculous claim. I don’t think Cardinal Schonboern is saying anything differently than what I’ve just said. To say “design” is not “design” becomes absurd. It would be to “abdicate human intelligence.” Or are we going to have to quibble with what the meaning of “is” is?

Comment #37172

Posted by BlastfromthePast on July 7, 2005 5:08 PM (e)

Lurker in response to Blast wrote:

Some forms of reasoning are more trustworthy than others. You can be sure that yours do not matter much to me at all.

That’s curious, Lurker, because your form of reasoning doesn’t seem to be trustworthy at all.

Comment #37174

Posted by Flint on July 7, 2005 5:10 PM (e)

Like everyone else here, I think I can read the tea leaves. And my reading says:

1) This is at least tacitly orchestrated by the new Pope. Vatican-based archbishops DO NOT suddenly produce important Church policy positions in the New York Times all on their own. The new Pope is known to be rigidly orthodox at best, and most likely highly reactionary.

2) The ambiguity and flexibility of interpretation of the wording is no accident. Regardless of whose name is attached to the final product, we can be quite sure each phrase was labored over, thoroughly debated, and went through many drafts.

3) The Pope almost surely feels threatened by advances in biology. One need not be a biologist to recognize that scientists are successfully explaining biological history without involving the Christian God. The Pope, being who he is, can hardly help but notice the foundations of his Faith melting away from under his feet. As far as Ratzinger is concerned, his predecessor verged on the worst of all possible sins – allowing his God to become irrelevant where He matters most.

4) It is not politically expedient to discard outright the prior Pope’s rapprochement with evolution, especially with him still warm in his grave and with sainthood being engineered over in the PR department. Yet his friendship with scientific theory represents a serious undermining of God’s activities and Creation. So it becomes necessary to produce as quickly as possible something that “doesn’t change the Church’s position” in terms as close to abandoning that position as can be crafted without actually doing so. Such wording leaves plenty of scope for “clarification” based on which way the wind is seen to blow.

5) The very fact that this op-ed piece was written and published at this time is not a good sign. It’s neither an accident nor a coincidence. I suspect the goal is to judge the reactions to what is clearly an effort to backtrack, and seek to manage and herd the faithful (some of whom, as we’ve just seen, can’t distinguish faith from reason) away from a Godless reality as far as possible in the little time an 80-year-old might have to do so, and make it as inconvenient as possible for the Church to repair the damage under the next administration without appearing to waffle and equivocate.

Comment #37175

Posted by Reed A. Cartwright on July 7, 2005 5:11 PM (e)

BFTP,

Your argument is flawed because we know that watches are designed, not from the watches themselves, but from the watchmakers that live among us.

Comment #37176

Posted by Greg Peterson on July 7, 2005 5:17 PM (e)

The reason the watch stands out on the heath is precisely because it is the only thing that is obviously designed, by the only intelligent designer we know: humans.

We really do have to define what is meant by “design,” or perhaps come up with a better word, because I am in awe of the complexity and beauty of the (yes, I know, cliched) snowflake, but I do not believe that billions of brilliant little angels are sculpting them from scratch.

And then there is the whole problem of denying that a watch can come about by non-intelligent means while claiming that an infinitely more complex being–a god–can simply exist quite apart from any causative explanation. Which is it? Can complex entities just exist somehow, or must there be an infinite regress?

I see in nature exactly NO argument for intelligent design, and a robust, overwhelming argument for contingency. While it would be insane to claim to know much more than I do, I find it much less sane to claim to know something that is contrary to the obvious state of things.

Comment #37177

Posted by Russell on July 7, 2005 5:26 PM (e)

More problematic than the Cardinal’s neglecting to define “Design” is, as Frank Schmidt points out, the fundamental strawman basis of “Neo-Darwinism”. This is a very characteristic creationist ploy, and it’s disheartening to see a high official of the Roman church use it: sweep up your supposed opponents under an undefined rubric, then attribute all kinds of beliefs and positions to it. Notice the total lack of any quotes or references to actual people?

And speaking of such creationist tactics:

Blast wrote:

Richard Dawkins would ask Darwinian “believers” to hold that if they found a watch, that they shouldn’t attribute the watch’s qualities to that of design.

I doubt that Blast really believes that. In which case, does writing it reflect a less than zealous commitment to truthfulness?

Comment #37179

Posted by BlastfromthePast on July 7, 2005 5:44 PM (e)

Reed Cartwright wrote:

BFTP,

Your argument is flawed because we know that watches are designed, not from the watches themselves, but from the watchmakers that live among us.

And if the watch were found on the moon, then what?

Comment #37182

Posted by BlastfromthePast on July 7, 2005 5:51 PM (e)

Greg Peterson wrote:

We really do have to define what is meant by “design,” or perhaps come up with a better word, because I am in awe of the complexity and beauty of the (yes, I know, cliched) snowflake, but I do not believe that billions of brilliant little angels are sculpting them from scratch.

Design is not tantamount to complexity. Dembski’s “specified complexity” makes that clear. And it is not beauty. Afterall, the Edsel was “designed”.

Comment #37184

Posted by Lurker on July 7, 2005 5:52 PM (e)

I think the only way to resolve the Archbishop’s comment for myself is that the Catholic notion of “human intelligence” is not the same as mine.

In my view of human intelligence, a person does not need a priest without scientific training to understand the merits of a scientific theory.

In my view of human intelligence, contingent events do not forbid one from attaching meaning, even deeply religious meaning, to them.

In my view of human intelligence, accidents do not require one to stop searching for a cause.

In my view of human intelligence, positive evidence that watches are designed requires positive evidence of a designing watchmaker.

In my view of human intelligence, one should be able to conceive of a deity who uses pure chance in evolutionary mechansims, forsaw all possible evolution outcomes, considered them all created in her image, and loved her creations regardless of the ultimate path chosen.

If abdicating these views means abdicating the Catholic notion of human intelligence, then so be it. It will not be the first time the Catholics have lost people who were disillusioned with their views.

Comment #37185

Posted by Jim Harrison on July 7, 2005 6:02 PM (e)

Expecting rationality from Rome is about as sensible as hinking the pit bull won’t bite you this time. If the church finally admitted that the sun was in the middle, it did so out of expediency, not because it decided that it owed anything to truth. Catholicism is no falser than any other religion, but it’s political structure—an absolute monarchy maintained in total secrecy—is the perfect recipe for duplicity and obscurantism. Remember Lord Acton’s remark? “Power tends to corrupt. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Lord Acton, a loyal lay Catholic, was alluding to the papacy. Non Catholics ought to be at least that realistic instead of treating Rome with deference and sentimentality.

Comment #37187

Posted by Lurker on July 7, 2005 6:05 PM (e)

I agree. It was perhaps wishful thinking to throw around quote-mines from JP2’s writings without eventually getting the attention of the Church, and a repudiation. Once again, it is the Christian dilemma: can Christians ever reconcile their faith with a discipline that discovers aspects of reality independently of their faith? Today, we hear another voice suggesting, quite clearly, no.

Comment #37188

Posted by Longhorn on July 7, 2005 6:11 PM (e)

BlastfromthePast, any similarities between watches and humans does not enable us to determine that a deity caused humans to exist. Because there are some important differences between watches and humans. First, billions and billions of humans have come into being through sexual reproduction. That is how I got here. I was born by my mother. Humans are alive; watches are not. We’ve seen humans make watches and similar things such as clocks. I’ve never seen a deity make anything.

Let’s say we were to find a watch on Pluto. We would be justified in believing that a being left it there. Like maybe an extraterrestrial – like a being from another planet. But a deity? I don’t think so. Do you think so?

Comment #37189

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 7, 2005 6:11 PM (e)

Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense — an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection — is not.

Glad to hear it.

Is the Catholic church prepared to send its officials to Dover to testify about the anti-“materialist” religious motive that lies behind the entire ID movement?

Comment #37190

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 7, 2005 6:14 PM (e)

Hi, Blast. Welcome back.

Last time you were here, I aksed you a simple question after you shot off your mouth to me. For some odd reason, you ran away without answering. Now that you are here again, would you mind answering, before you run away again?

Thanks.

Here was my question:

*ahem*

YOU are the one who wrote:

Goldschmidt noted that the total amount of DNA within cells of lower and higher animals is roughly the same, and he speculated that all of the information for all of the proteins that organisms need are to be found in this DNA material—it just simply gets shifted about. I think the implications for ID are rather clear …..but, of course, if I am forced to spell it all out for you, I can.

*I* called your loudmouthed bluff by responding:

Please do. In as much detail as possible. Dont’ skip any steps.

I very much prefer it whehn IDers make specific statements that can be tested, rather than waving their arms about vague assertions such as “transpeciation” and “chromosomal changes”.

Please tell us precisely what you think happens during speciation, and precisely why it indicates that there is a designer at work in any stage of the process. Please be as precise, detailed and complete as possible.

What does the designer do, precisely, in your view.

What mechanisms does it use to do whatever the heck you think it does.

Where can we see these mechanisms in action today.

I’ve been asking for DAYS now to see a scientific theory of ID. here’s your chance. Right in front of the whole world.

The floor is all yours.

Well, Blast, what’s the problem here. YOU offered to tell em all about it; *I* took you up on your offer.

Wassamatter, is your mouth just bigger than your balls?

Any time you are ready to live up to your own words and “spell it out for me”, I’m waiting.

And I am STILL waiting …. …… .

I assume, as part of your answer, you will explain to me where we can find a gene for chlorophyll in any animal, or at least find a gene for cobra venom in a rattlesnake……

Comment #37192

Posted by KiwiInOz on July 7, 2005 6:18 PM (e)

BFTP - if a watch was found on the moon then I’d suggest that Neil dropped it. But if it was an obelisk then it has to be aliens.

Comment #37195

Posted by Longhorn on July 7, 2005 6:30 PM (e)

According to Michael Behe: “Cardinal Schonborn writes that the conclusion that life is designed is not a matter of faith, but a matter of physical evidence. He says the denial of that evidence is itself ideology; in other words, the denial of the evidence is the faith, the affirmation of the evidence is rational.”

Schonborn never says that “the conclusion that life is designed is a matter of physical evidence.” But I can see how one can reasonably draw that conclusion. However, I don’t know whether I should believe that “life is designed.” It’s too vague. I’m confident that I was born by my mother. I’m confident that I share common ancestors with bacteria that are alive today. Am I justified in believing Behe when he says “life is designed?” No. The claim is too vague. The person should present more elaboration and data. That will help me.

What does Behe think happened? That will help. I can get a picture in mind and think about. I think some people are being obtuse, and it’s taking a lot of time and frustration. Just say what you think happened. It may be that what you think happened should not be taught in biology class in public schools.

Comment #37197

Posted by BlastfromthePast on July 7, 2005 6:38 PM (e)

KiviInOz wrote:

BFTP - if a watch was found on the moon then I’d suggest that Neil dropped it. But if it was an obelisk then it has to be aliens.

It’s wonderful how you’re thinking your way through things, but am I to believe that aliens can only make obelisks and not watches (would they have numbers 1 thru 12?). :)

Comment #37198

Posted by Longhorn on July 7, 2005 6:51 PM (e)

I wrote:

Schonborn never says that “the conclusion that life is designed is a matter of physical evidence.” But I can see how one can reasonably draw that conclusion.

That didn’t come out right. I meant that one can reasonably draw the conclusion that Shonborn meant that “the conclusion that life is designed is a matter of physical evidence.”

Was I designed? Well, what does that mean? Did a deity turn dust – poof! – directly into two elephants? No. Of course not. Self-replicating molecules evolved into all the organisms that have lived on earth, including me.

But did a deity specifically intervene and – Zap! – cause some bacteria to grow flagella? No. That is ridiculously unlikely. I’m not justified in believing that it happened.

Just taken on its face the claim “Longhorn was designed” is not a claim I am justified in believing is true. First, it is too vague.

Comment #37199

Posted by Steviepinhead on July 7, 2005 6:56 PM (e)

Gosh, Blast, did you somehow OVERLOOK Lenny’s questions AGAIN.

Why should any of us pay any attention to your, ahem, “reasoning” until you do the blog the courtesy of responding to Lenny’s few simple questions, huh?

See you again in a few weeks, Blast, once you’ve convinced yourself that your inability to respond has been forgotten.

Except of course it won’t be. Lenny NEVER forgets.

Comment #37205

Posted by Bruce Thompson on July 7, 2005 7:24 PM (e)

Could it be the Archbishop snuck in the back door of the Smithsonian to see the Privileged Planet? Where he heard Gonzales say “there’s some about the universe that can’t be explained by the impersonal aspects of nature and the mere colliding of atoms with atoms and so you have to reach for something beyond the universe to try to account for it” narrator: “Such an approach lies at the foundation of modern science.”

One small step for man one giant leap back for mankind.

Comment #37213

Posted by KiwiInOz on July 7, 2005 8:06 PM (e)

BFTP - as Arthur Dent found, his watch was of great comfort, but totally useless on another planet. Sundials on the other hand may be more useful.

Respectfully though, I would be interested in your answers to the Reverend Doctor’s questions. I’ve started holding my breath …. Now.

Comment #37214

Posted by Chuck Austerberry on July 7, 2005 8:17 PM (e)

According to testimony from philosopher and Intelligent Design advocate Angus Menuge at the May 2005 Kansas evolution hearings, scientists like me who find evolution compatible with theism are “confused.” Menuge claims that Christianity is “committed to there being detectable design in nature.”  In today’s NYT op-ed, Archbishop Schonborn points to similar language in the catechism of the Catholic church.

But … must such design be *scientifically* detectable?  Might it be detectable through rational philosophy (another type of reason), but not through science alone?

According to many leading theologians such as John Haught (Roman Catholic) and John Polkinghorne (Anglican), science alone can’t determine whether or not biological life was designed. Design by an agent from beyond our universe (the only universe we can access via science) is a metaphysical question that, while including scientific evidence and thought,  also goes beyond science.

Maybe the Vienna cardinal, and/or the new pope, is/are indeed trying to put some sort of squeeze on Catholics like Haught, Francisco Ayala, Kenneth Miller, and Elizabeth A Johnson. I hope there are bishops willing and able to defend these people, but in any case, I hope they remain Catholic and if necessary wait for the pendulum to swing back again.

Science, in its modern sense, wasn’t around when Thomas Aquinas was doing his work. Where the catechism says “The existence of God the Creator can be known with certainty through his works, by the light of human reason,” I think Thomistic philosophy is meant to be included, not science alone. Certainly the quotations of John Paul II sound very Thomistic to me (finality, for example, comes straight from the Aristotelian-Thomistic concept of “final causes”).

If you’ve read this far, you might also read Elizabeth A Johnson’s piece at
http://www.aaas.org/spp/dser/evolution/perspectives/johnson.shtml

I appreciate Reed’s sense that today’s op-ed in the NYT, or at least the Catholic church’s position as a whole, is not necessarily as supportive of ID as Behe is claiming.

Cheers

Chuck

Comment #37219

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 7, 2005 8:33 PM (e)

I have long maintained in my writings that Darwinism is incompatible with Christianity.

Um, then why, again, are so many Christians, evolutionists?

And vice versa?

Comment #37225

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 7, 2005 8:43 PM (e)

Lenny NEVER forgets.

That’s only because I … well … NEVER get answers to my simple questions.

Comment #37226

Posted by snaxalotl on July 7, 2005 8:43 PM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'quote'

Comment #37230

Posted by snaxalotl on July 7, 2005 9:13 PM (e)

Any time science has conflicted with religious claim, the reasonably sophisticated religions have always backed down and said “that’s what our religion said all along, unfortunately some of our number had a confused interpretation”. This has led traditional religion to avoid scientific claims. But despite claims of faith being a virtue, faithful people struggle with their doubts. If scientific verification of their beliefs comes along, they quickly change their tune from “I only require faith” to “Ha! I always KNEW I was right”. Catholicism is too sophisticated to deny common descent by a big margin, but if ID can weave itself into something plausible to typical catholics then, as a ‘scientific proof’ that evolution undirected by intelligence is not quite enough to explain what we see, it is also ‘scientific proof’ of some aspects of their faith, and you should expect to see many or all catholics jump on that bandwagon.

Comment #37235

Posted by harold on July 7, 2005 9:34 PM (e)

Longhorn et al -

I have been reading this line of comments rather quickly, so forgive me if I missed anything.

Although I totally reject the label “theistic evolutionist”, since I consider the term “evolutionist” improper even for an active biologist (I realize that a few embrace it, but I don’t like it), and am not crazy about “theist” either, I am certainly what would be refered to as a “theistic evolutionist” by many who post here. Lest the rest of my post confuse some, let me make it clear that I not only believe that life evolved and evolves, but that to deny this is akin to denying any other clearcut scientific reality, such as gravity’s tendency to pull things that fall from trees to the surface of the earth (absent any intervening solid surface of highly viscous liquid).

I hasten to add that the God I believe in does not make use of “eternal damnation”* for anyone, certainly not for generally decent people who happen to be gay or consider themselves “atheists” (however, someone could believe in this and still share my logical position). *Also, technically, I don’t KNOW this, but neither does Jerry Falwell, Pat Roberston, or any other mere human - only God could possibly know who, if anyone, is to be “damned”. My personal take is either “no-one” or
“there will be some surprises”, with a preference for “no-one”.

I also add that I agree, it is almost certainly silly to conceive of God as “reaching in” and changing DNA base pairs or otherwise tweaking evolution in a crude short term way (with the caveat that this belief would not necessarily be incompatible with a productive and creative scientific career). Science should avoid conjecturing actions by God in the physical world, for the obvious reasons that are stated repeatedly on this forum.

There is certainly no conflict between my religious beliefs and science. Science makes use of information available to the human senses (including information that can be deduced from what we can perceive about physical things we can’t directly perceive, of course) to interpret the physical universe. Science has trememdous power to explain the physical universe, especially at scales other than the very very large and the very very small. It tends to erode belief in so-called “supernatural” beings like leperachauns and ghosts, who are really just imaginary natural beings with limitations and frequent interactions with the physical world (when they are assumed to exist, that is).

At the same time, one of the strong points of science is its perfect, instinctive, and cheerful acceptance of its own limitations. And its ability to be incredibly creative and powerful within those limitations.

I don’t know exactly how to express this, but - God is simply laughably beyond perception and analysis by scientific techniques, or analogies to human motivations. Trying to study God with science is like trying to study particle physics by sacrificing a chicken and reading its entrails. Except that it’s much less likely to work.

It’s my personal suspicion that God has built a Zeno’s paradox mechanism into the universe (or multiverse), so that we get closer and closer to “understanding everything”, but always find something counter-intuitive, incomprehensible, or otherwise unsatisfying. Perhaps “string theory” (which is not necessarily a ‘theory’ the way evolution and relativity are, at least not yet) will give more insight to the few who can understand it, but they’ll still only be another half way to the wall. Even math (which doesn’t suffer from the same limitations as science, or the rest of science if you insist, and easily deals with “supernatural” entities like the square root of two and so on - and I don’t mean to be flippant by calling the square root of two supernatural, it is) ends up proving to itself that it can’t really prove “everything”. This isn’t at all the “god of the gaps” argument. It’s saying that the gaps are inevitable, even if we go through another period of thinking that there are no gaps (as we foolishly almost did circa 1900). The gaps eternally recede but never entirely disappear.

It’s not a conflict - it’s a total lack of connection. Science BY DEFINTION doesn’t deal with God. The only God it can conflict with is an invented human God who jumps around in the physical world like Zeus turning into a swan and impregnating a maiden. I’m not sure I’m getting this across. It’s like, “well, duh, of course you can’t ‘see’ God with a microscope or a telescope, and of course God isn’t ‘pushing’ down the leaves or ‘changing’ the base pairs of some bacterium’s genome”. Why would you expect to ‘see’ God that way?

So why do science if it has limits? Because it gives us a massive amount of healthy pleasure, and it helps us to understand a lot of useful things. Why make art? In a very broad sense, science is art - it’s a set of behaviors that emerges from the human brain, or mind (or even soul) if you prefer, primarily because it gives us enjoyment (that is certainly what motivated the earliest scientists) even though it isn’t necessary, in an obvious way, for short term survival or reproductive success. And it enriches our experience and, actually, contrary to the claims of its enemies, actually helps to enhance our “spiritual” and “philosphical” lives. We SHOULD learn about the world we live in.

Moving on…I sure wish some of the creationists would answer Rev Flanks’ questions. They’re straightforward enough. However, I’ll grant that it could take time to formulate a testable answer to them. Perhaps BFP and his colleagues are working on their presentations…I’ll check this site over the next few days.

Comment #37236

Posted by Henry J on July 7, 2005 9:44 PM (e)

Re “But … must such design be *scientifically* detectable?”

As scientific detectability depends on there being enough occurrences to establish a consistent pattern, I don’t see a logical requirement that deliberate engineering of life (aka “I.D.”) would be detectable. Of course, if it’s too subtle to leave a detectable pattern, then it can’t be studied unless/until we get methods that can detect it. So imo we should put the “deliberately engineered life” (aka “I.D.”) on the shelf until such time as we have actual methods that actually do detect an actual consistent pattern that implies something was engineered. But maybe that’s just me?

Henry

Comment #37252

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 8, 2005 6:50 AM (e)

Moving on … I sure wish some of the creationists would answer Rev Flanks’ questions. They’re straightforward enough. However, I’ll grant that it could take time to formulate a testable answer to them. Perhaps BFP and his colleagues are working on their presentations … I’ll check this site over the next few days.

I’ve been asking such questions to creationists for over TWENTY YEARS now. I still haven’t gotten any intelligible answers.

I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting, if I were you ….

Comment #37258

Posted by yellow fatty bean on July 8, 2005 7:30 AM (e)

BlastfromthePast wrote:

And if the watch were found on the moon, then what?

Oo oo oo…… And what if the watch was like an old-timey pocket watch …. except that the numbers went all the way to 17, and were counter-clockwise ….and there was an inscription on the inside …..and it said “A. Lincoln”

Comment #37260

Posted by GT(N)T on July 8, 2005 7:50 AM (e)

“Um, then why, again, are so many Christians, evolutionists? And vice versa?”

Because we tend to compartmentalize? When Joe puts on the white lab coat he’s functionally an atheist, later that evening when he’s saying blessing at the dinner table, he’s a theist. The contradiction never crosses Joes mind.

If we do recognize a contradiction in our lives we tend to rationalize. “There is no contradiction between science and faith in god”, “science is confined to natural explanations, God is supernatural”, “God is an emergent property, science is part of that source.”

Personally, I think ‘theistic evolutionists’ (I’m a bit squeamish about the phrase too, but it is discriptive) are closer to creationism on the great philosophical continuum than they are to naturalism. I see little real difference between the beliefs of Behe and Miller.

We’re living in interesting times.

Comment #37261

Posted by Flint on July 8, 2005 8:11 AM (e)

Maybe were bumping up against methodological issues again. To some people, life looks designed; to others, it looks evolved. Some people attempt to have it both ways, by deciding that evolution itself was designed.

But we can examine the mechanisms of evolution in great detail, and have been doing so for quite a while. And as time passes that body of detail expands faster than any single person can keep up with, yet it remains entirely consistent. Denying that evolution happens has become untenable in practice. The practice continues to add richness and depth to the theory at an impressive (and useful) rate.

The design part remains stubbornly beyond our methods. Despite the theoretical and philosophical efforts of some of humanity’s best minds, the strongest “support” for design stays unchanged: because some people WANT life to be designed, have convinced themselves that it couldn’t have come to be in any other way, and regard this position is so reasonable and self-evident the veriest dunce couldn’t miss it.

The conviction that goddidit provides 100% psychological utility, and contributes nothing to our understanding, our research, our hypotheses or our theories. I’m convinced that it never WILL contribute anything scientifically useful. But even the nonexistent can never be established to be nonexistent, and without question some (most?) people vastly prefer that they exist for some wonderful “higher” purpose. The design position serves this purpose, and it’s a powerful one.

Comment #37263

Posted by frank schmidt on July 8, 2005 8:33 AM (e)

GT(N)T:
If we do recognize a contradiction in our lives we tend to rationalize.

I don’t think that’s true at all. As Gould pointed out, there is no science of beauty. Does that mean that one cannot appreciate a painting or music and still be a scientist? Or is this an area that science can make only limited contributions, and that’s just fine?

And again:

I see little real difference between the beliefs of Behe and Miller.

Then you should read what they both say about religion and science. There is a vast difference. Behe makes a “God of the Gaps” argument which Miller rejects, for both scientific and theological reasons.

Just as we are rightly incensed by Creationists’ ignorant caricatures of science, religious people are put off by scientists’ caricatures of religion. A little more respect, please.

Comment #37269

Posted by Ron Zeno on July 8, 2005 9:19 AM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'url'

Comment #37274

Posted by Aagcobb on July 8, 2005 9:32 AM (e)

“It’s not a conflict - it’s a total lack of connection. Science BY DEFINTION doesn’t deal with God. The only God it can conflict with is an invented human God who jumps around in the physical world like Zeus turning into a swan and impregnating a maiden. I’m not sure I’m getting this across. It’s like, “well, duh, of course you can’t ‘see’ God with a microscope or a telescope, and of course God isn’t ‘pushing’ down the leaves or ‘changing’ the base pairs of some bacterium’s genome”. Why would you expect to ‘see’ God that way?”

Excellent point. It seems to me the God of the IDists is a little god, like a wizard performing magic or a genetic engineer tinkering with organisms. If God is omniscient and omnipotent, from his pov the entire universe would be complete, from beginning to end, the moment he conceived it, and why would he conceive of an imperfect, incomplete universe which required him to perform magic to achieve his goals? In this view, creation and evolution are both true, and there is no conflict between science and faith, since man both evolved over billions of years (from our pov, as creatures of this universe confined within the limits of space/time) and was created instantaneously (from the pov of a timeless, omnipotent God). Creationists seem to prefer a scaled down, anthropomorphized god they can look at as a kindly father figure, and of course the only reason IDism exists is to cater to creationists.

Comment #37277

Posted by Lurker on July 8, 2005 9:48 AM (e)

I would make the alternate assertion that all attempts to this day to use God as a scientific explanation have proven sterile. It does not have to be a priori (i.e. by definition) that science rules out God explanations. Indeed, how would one codify the Commandments of Science? No, the point is that the history of science has shown that God explanations have never proven satisfactory for natural phenomena. Scientists, being pragmatic people most of the time, chose subsequently not to explore God explanations as their first order of business.

Comment #37280

Posted by GT(N)T on July 8, 2005 10:03 AM (e)

Frank, I think one can be a scientist and still appreciate the beauty of Bach. I think one can be a scientist and appreciate the beauty of Genesis. But if one is a scientist AND a believer in the literal truth of Genesis, I suspect one will experience dissonance. One way to deal with that dissonance is through rationalization.

I have read both Miller and Behe. There are, of course, differences. But each accepts aspects of evolution, each believes in God, and each believes that God is somehow important in making man what he is. I stand by my statement, I see little difference between the two.

As for religious people being put off by caricatures of religion, I don’t think I did that. Religion plays an important role in the lives of many people. It gives comfort and meaning. I don’t begrudge them that comfort or meaning. I do believe that conflict between science and religion is inevitable. Those that are in both camps will, I fear, one day feel the need to choose between the two.

Comment #37288

Posted by Tim Broderick on July 8, 2005 10:48 AM (e)

I haven’t read all the comments - I’m not concerned with the debate of theistic evolution, that’s a philosophy arguement.

I want to put forth one thing - Behe is wrong to think the Catholic Church is on the side of “Intelligent Design.”

What the Catholic Church is doing is affirming the concept of an infinite god - one who exists at the same time in the past, present and future. How can there truly be chance if the outcome is already known? Again, that’s philosophy, not science.

That article does nothing to overturn or challenge science. It simply addresses the philosophical implications of it, and rejects a conclusion that leaves god out of the equation. Why is that surprising?

That’s the doctrine of the church. It certainly has nothing to do with anything being irreduceably complex.

That’s the way to refute Behe.

Comment #37293

Posted by Flint on July 8, 2005 11:23 AM (e)

Tim Broderick:

I suggest that the important question here is WHY would the Catholic Church, at this particular time with a new Pope of very different orientation than his predecessor, choose to have published in the New York Times (of all places) a statement having truly major implications for Church policy, considering (1) that position was already clear and nobody was calling for any clarification; and (2) the new statement is muddy, ambiguous, and very easily interpretable as a retreat from the embracing of science inherent in the existing policy?

It ought to be pretty obvious that the new Pope has begun the process of generating plausible deniability necessary before any substantive repositioning can be effected. There is simply no other reason for op-ed piece to exist, that I can see.

Comment #37304

Posted by Tim Broderick on July 8, 2005 12:30 PM (e)

Flint:

I think you’re right to be suspicious of the motivations behind the op-ed. I think it’s a mistake to assume the Church is aligning itself with the ID movement here in the states.

Saying that philosophically things didn’t happen by “chance” but that science does discover the material mechanisms that an infinite god used is far, far different than claiming that science can’t learn more about a system or can’t propose a reasonable theory on how something evolved because it’s irreducibly complex.

That’s the key. The IDers have proposed a theory, they have to live with it. The church is addressing philosophy. Until they propose that philosophy be taught in science class, it has no bearing on this debate.

In the overall scheme, I believe we’re seeing the church become more doctrinaire, more conservative. One could speculate on why - I personally think it’s a response to changing demographics of the institution and an attempt to regain moral authority lost due to the world-wide abuse scandal (this didn’t just happen in the U.S.).

Comment #37311

Posted by Flint on July 8, 2005 1:44 PM (e)

Tim:

No, I don’t think the Church is aligning itself with the ID movement, and I don’t think any of Behe’s jargon is relevant. Instead, I think the Church is concerned that their God has been assigned too remote or indirect a role in the Creation of (ahem) us. The broad-scope philosophy that their God created the entire universe beginning to end all at once, knowing that humans would strut their hour upon the stage and vanish, so transient you’d miss it if you blinked (cosmologically speaking), has some doctrinally serious drawbacks. It makes us seem insignificant and unimportant, it makes clear that we are not the purpose of the universe, and it undermines the common conception of a hands-on God who answers prayers by constantly diddling with probabilities if not engineering outright miracles.

So I think the existing Church position bordered too close on rendering their God irrelevant, unnecessary. So off we go in the direction of saying “yes, well, natural process might explain what we actually see, but such explanations omit the doctrine that our God is micromanaging every moment, without which natural process would fall far short of sufficient.”

Comment #37315

Posted by Sympneology on July 8, 2005 2:05 PM (e)

If the Catholic church believes its own scriptures then it must believe that humans, at least, are designed by gods or extraterrestrials (in the sense that racehorses and greyhounds are designed by humans, i.e. by selective breeding). See Genesis 6:1-4.

It is known that most of the stuff in Genesis was incorporated into the Torah during the exile in Babylon and consequently contains a lot of Sumerian/Chaldean mythology. This mythology contains a lot of references to a superior race of human beings who interbred with the locals and taught them all the arts and sciences.

It is probable that this is the source of the Judaeo/Christian/Islamic concept of God. The superior beings were called the Elohim, from which came the name El (surviving in names like Michael) and Allah. Later, having decided to have only one god, they called him JHVH.

The creation myth probably originated with these beings since Genesis 1:1 says that “In the beginning The Elohim created the heaven and the earth.” It would have been natural for the primitive modern humans to attribute great powers to these people, just as the New Guinea natives did to Europeans with their “cargo” cults.

Instead of fighting a rearguard action to defend science from the ID/creationists, it would be better to outflank them by attacking the foundations of religion with research into the origins of theism itself. This research would also need to examine the origins of language and the very beginnings of human self-consciousness. I would confidently expect that it would show that nothing supernatural or extraterrestrial was involved, but that civilisation is far older than has generally been thought.

Comment #37316

Posted by Tim Broderick on July 8, 2005 2:11 PM (e)

Come to think of it, this is GREAT news.

This article:

- Redefined “Intelligent Design” as theistic evolution, completely changing the idea as defined by Behe and the DI. Remember, ID as defined by Behe et al seeks to point to specific material evidence of a designer in the form of irreducible complexity - the church makes no claim to that. It says that materialistically it all happened the way science as discovered it happened, but that with an infinite god there is no chance involved.

- Placed “Intelligent Design” firmly in the area of religion and philosophy, leaving science to be taught in science classes. And it does so in a way by suggesting a definition of Intelligent Design that directly conflicts with ID via Behe. To suggest that god had to directly intervene in a universe he created means he was unable to create a universe that would reflect his intentions. That would mean a flawed, limited god. An infinite god would have no need of intervention, knowing that the processes put in motion would result in what he wanted. That means Behe’s ID conflicts with the nature of the Catholic god - and neither can be proven correct or incorrect in a science classroom.

Break out the champaign! ID is religion!

Comment #37319

Posted by Marco Ferrari on July 8, 2005 2:28 PM (e)

So maybe Miller and Behe have different positions on evolution by natural selection (well not maybe. Certainly). I know what Behe’s God is doing (or did); but what about Miller’s God? Has he done something in the past? I don’t know, tinkering with the right mutations to “create” the man?
And what about Miller position on man’s place in the universe? Are we the purpose of creation, or not? I gather metodologically speaking this doesn’t make a big deal of difference, but philosophically?
Until I understand these points (it’s my fault, no doubt) I’ll keep saying theistic evolution is an oxymoron. And, apart from NOMA, religious people have no tenable position in evolution.

Marco

Comment #37321

Posted by Adam on July 8, 2005 2:45 PM (e)

Tim and Flint:

I think you’re assuming the Pope and the Vatican bureaucracy has more control over its Bishops than it really does. The Vatican does not operate like the Whitehouse. It does not have a communications director that makes sure everyone stays on message. Bishops frequently go off and make statements or write articles that do not refeclt what the pope thinks.

Often, they’ll turn to the mass media as a way of lobying the Vatican to take their position on an issue on which Curia is split. Sometime’s they’ll do it to curry favor with someone powerful who thinks they way they do.

I suspect this op-ed is an example of the first phenomenon. From his statements, that Benedict is on the fence on the issue relating to evolution. The Cardinal is attempting to push him a little bit to the ID side. I hope he does not succeed.

Comment #37333

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 8, 2005 5:56 PM (e)

“Um, then why, again, are so many Christians, evolutionists? And vice versa?”

Because we tend to compartmentalize?

So they are all just “confused” …… . ?

Comment #37334

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 8, 2005 6:01 PM (e)

I would make the alternate assertion that all attempts to this day to use God as a scientific explanation have proven sterile. It does not have to be a priori (i.e. by definition) that science rules out God explanations. Indeed, how would one codify the Commandments of Science? No, the point is that the history of science has shown that God explanations have never proven satisfactory for natural phenomena. Scientists, being pragmatic people most of the time, chose subsequently not to explore God explanations as their first order of business.

On the other hand, science cannot answer such simple questions as “is murder wrong?” or “should we make guns or butter?” All attempts, to this day, to use science to answer moral or ethical questions have proven just as sterile.

Science is a method. It is not a worldview, not a religion, not a philosophy, and not a way of life. And those who attempt to turn it into one, are just as guilty of abusing and misusing science as are the creationuts.

Comment #37335

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 8, 2005 6:03 PM (e)

Break out the champaign! ID is religion!

Indeed. Is the Catholic church therefore prepared to send its officials to Dover to testify about the anti-“materialist” religious motive that lies behind the entire ID movement? And how would Behe like it if they did?

Comment #37358

Posted by frank schmidt on July 8, 2005 10:56 PM (e)

From today’s NY Times:

Mark Ryland, a vice president of the [Discovery] institute, said in an interview that he had urged the cardinal to write the essay. Both Mr. Ryland and Cardinal Schönborn said that an essay in May in The Times about the compatibility of religion and evolutionary theory by Lawrence M. Krauss, a physicist at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, suggested to them that it was time to clarify the church’s position on evolution.

The cardinal’s essay, a direct response to Dr. Krauss’s article, was submitted to The Times by a Virginia public relations firm, Creative Response Concepts, which also represents the Discovery Institute.

Mr. Ryland, who said he knew the cardinal through the International Theological Institute in Gaming, Austria, where he is chancellor and Mr. Ryland is on the board, said supporters of intelligent design were “very excited” that a church leader had taken a position opposing Darwinian evolution. “It clarified that in some sense the Catholics aren’t fine with it,” he said.

Bruce Chapman, the institute’s president, said the cardinal’s essay “helps blunt the claims” that the church “has spoken on Darwinian evolution in a way that’s supportive.”

Seems like someone has been flim-flammed.

Comment #37457

Posted by nmorin on July 11, 2005 6:18 AM (e)

A Catholic blog by Amy Welborn is discussing the same topic. I find astonishing the complete surety with which some people claim “Darwinism” is on the ropes. I wish I were that sure about topics that I know intimately, let alone just in passing.

Comment #37553

Posted by BlastfromthePast on July 11, 2005 7:36 PM (e)

rdlf= wrote:

Wassamatter, is your mouth just bigger than your balls?

Any time you are ready to live up to your own words and “spell it out for me”, I’m waiting.

Lenny, when you demonstrate that you can engage in civil discourse, then I will respond–but only then.

But as for “spelling it out for you,” just read Goldschmidt (apparently one of your favorites), then simply apply what he is suggesting about the genome (that all phenotypes are contained in genomes, which, obviously doesn’t stack up completely nowadays) with ID in mind: i.e., his “systemic mutation” is a “re-sorting” of already present “packages” of specified, complex information resulting in a “hopeful monster.” This is all rather straightforward–one should be able to intuit it in seconds.

Since you’re so into explanations; and, as the modern synthesis is so powerful an explanatory mechanism, please explain to me how a land mammal “evolved” into a cetacean through RM and NS. And please be specific. Don’t give me each of the immense numbers of small little steps taken, just the nine forms that represent each of the 10% of the journey positions.

If you can’t do it, then I would hope you’ll give up all this ‘specify’ this, that or the other stuff.

Comment #37556

Posted by Steviepinhead on July 11, 2005 7:46 PM (e)

Lenny is always perfectly civil, Blast.

Except when dealing with those who speak with forked tongues.

Go flicker somewhere else.

Comment #37557

Posted by BlastfromthePast on July 11, 2005 8:30 PM (e)

Steviepinhead wrote:

Lenny is always perfectly civil, Blast.

Except when dealing with those who speak with forked tongues.

So, you’re willing to admit that Lenny is uncivil?

Comment #37586

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 12, 2005 7:35 AM (e)

Wassamatter, is your mouth just bigger than your balls?

Any time you are ready to live up to your own words and “spell it out for me”, I’m waiting.

Lenny, when you demonstrate that you can engage in civil discourse, then I will respond—but only then.

Translation: “I can’t answer your question, and I’m pissed off that you keep asking.”

So you won’t answer my quesation because I’m a big emanie, Blast? How about if SOMEONE ELSE asks, Blast? Will you answer THEN? Or will you come up with some other pathetic esxcuse for not answering?

Would someone else here, please, ask Blast my simple question? Ask as politely and inoffensively as possible — I don’t want Blast to have any further excuse for not answering.

My questions again:

*ahem*

What did the designer do, specifically.

What mechanisms did it use to do whatever the heck you think it did.

Where can we see any of these mechanisms ina ction today?

Where can we see chlorphyll genes in animals? Where can we see genes for cobra venom in rattlesnakes? Where can we see “frontloaded genes” in, well, ANYTHING?

I look forward to your not answering these simple questions, Blast. Again.

Comment #37587

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 12, 2005 7:38 AM (e)

But as for “spelling it out for you,” just read Goldschmidt (apparently one of your favorites), then simply apply what he is suggesting about the genome (that all phenotypes are contained in genomes, which, obviously doesn’t stack up completely nowadays) with ID in mind: i.e., his “systemic mutation” is a “re-sorting” of already present “packages” of specified, complex information resulting in a “hopeful monster.” This is all rather straightforward—one should be able to intuit it in seconds.

I’ve already pointed out why this is wrong, but am happy to do so again.

Goldschmidt (who was writing decades before DNA and genes were even crudely understood) assumed that genes were non-particulate, that is, that one could take half of Gene A, combine it to half of Gene B and get an entirely new Gene C.

As we now know, genes are particulate. Which make sGoldschmidt’s entire line of reasoning utterly irrelevant. It is simply impossible to form any new alleles by “recombining” portions of existing ones.

Blast, of course, doesn’t understand enough fourth-grade genetics to understand why Goldschmidt was wrong.

Comment #37669

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 12, 2005 5:33 PM (e)

Since you’re so into explanations; and, as the modern synthesis is so powerful an explanatory mechanism, please explain to me how a land mammal “evolved” into a cetacean through RM and NS. And please be specific. Don’t give me each of the immense numbers of small little steps taken, just the nine forms that represent each of the 10% of the journey positions.

Ahhh, I see — so I’m too big a meanie for YOU to answer MY questions, but NOT too big a meanie for YOU to ask ME questions. Is that how it goes?

Google “Pakicetus”, “Ambulocetus”, “Dalanistes”, “Rodhocetus”, “Takracetus”, “Gaviocetus”, “Dorudon”, and “Basilosaurus”.

I know, I know — you never heard of any of them, right? Just like you never heard of _Caudipteryx_. Or Waddington or Baldwin, until I told you about them …. .

Comment #37916

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 13, 2005 6:14 PM (e)

Run away already, Blast …. . ?

Comment #37976

Posted by BlastfromthePast on July 13, 2005 10:00 PM (e)

RDLF wrote:

I’ve already pointed out why this is wrong, but am happy to do so again.

Goldschmidt (who was writing decades before DNA and genes were even crudely understood) assumed that genes were non-particulate, that is, that one could take half of Gene A, combine it to half of Gene B and get an entirely new Gene C.

As we now know, genes are particulate. Which make sGoldschmidt’s entire line of reasoning utterly irrelevant. It is simply impossible to form any new alleles by “recombining” portions of existing ones.

Blast, of course, doesn’t understand enough fourth-grade genetics to understand why Goldschmidt was wrong.

Lenny, I don’t see how your answer has anything to do with what I wrote.

This isn’t a question of whether inheritance is blended or particulate. And the kind of particulate genes that Goldschmidt opposed were genes as “beads on a chain.” Goldschmidt had an understanding of the chromosomes as something akin to a continous band of coded material (he used the analogy of genes being like the amino acid chains that make up a protein molecule)–a very advanced notion at a time when DNA and the genetic code was years away from being discovered.

And I’m sure that you, like Goldschmidt, don’t believe that genes are no more than “beads on a chain.”

RDLF wrote:

Ahhh, I see —- so I’m too big a meanie for YOU to answer MY questions, but NOT too big a meanie for YOU to ask ME questions. Is that how it goes?

Google “Pakicetus”, “Ambulocetus”, “Dalanistes”, “Rodhocetus”, “Takracetus”, “Gaviocetus”, “Dorudon”, and “Basilosaurus”.

I know, I know —- you never heard of any of them, right? Just like you never heard of _Caudipteryx_. Or Waddington or Baldwin, until I told you about them … . .

I suppose I should be surprised at how childish you can be at times, and, I must admit, I am. Leaving that to the one side, let me point out that I asked for “intermediate forms”, forms that are 10% apart. None of the species that you mention are intermediates. Isn’t that interesting? Basilosaurus–wrongly named–is considered the progenitor of a number of the ensuing forms you name; but, Basilosaurus was already a whalelike animal. So, sadly, Lenny, you’ve failed. And, as to Caudipteryx, that species only complicates the picture of how dinosaurs gave rise to birds.

So, Lenny, I’m still waiting for your answer.

RDLF wrote:

Run away already, Blast … . . ?

Obviously I haven’t run away–although I am on vacation.

Comment #37994

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 13, 2005 11:58 PM (e)

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Comment #37995

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 13, 2005 11:59 PM (e)

So, Lenny, I’m still waiting for your answer.

Speaking of which:

*ahem*

What does the designer do, specifically.

What mechanisms does it use to do whatever the heck you think it does.

Where can we see these mechanisms doing anything today?

Run away, Sir Robin.

Comment #37996

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 14, 2005 12:01 AM (e)

Hey Blast – where can we see chlorphyll genes in animals? Where can we see genes for cobra venom in rattlesnakes? Where can we see “frontloaded genes” in, well, ANYTHING?

sound of crickets chirping>

Yep, that’s what I thought ……

Comment #38183

Posted by BlastfromthePast on July 15, 2005 1:39 PM (e)

RDLF wrote:

Hey Blast – where can we see chlorphyll genes in animals?

Chlorophyll is found in chloroplasts; and for an explanation of all that, I recommend Margolis’ book, Acquired Genomes.

RDLF wrote:

Where can we see genes for cobra venom in rattlesnakes?

You’ll have to wait for genome studies to “see” the genes. If they were already expressed, we’d know about them, wouldn’t we?

FDLF wrote:

Where can we see “frontloaded genes” in, well, ANYTHING?

How about bird feathers? They show up in the fossil record pretty much as in modern birds.

RDLF wrote:

Lenny, is that the sound of your mind working? ;)

Comment #38186

Posted by Flint on July 15, 2005 1:53 PM (e)

What is a frontloaded gene, anyway? I’m familiar with preadaptations (Gould calls them exaptations) where genes are “inherited” by a species before they are actually adapted to some new purpose, but these genes historically served some other entirely useful purpose.

Are “frontloaded” genes intended to be genes carried around for the eventual development of some entirely new structure or function? Are they supposed to be invisible to selection, but at the same time preserved indefinitely (by some other mechanism not yet identified) until needed?

What exactly is the hypothesis here?

Comment #38197

Posted by Ron Zeno on July 15, 2005 4:06 PM (e)

Cardinal clarifies (and backtracks):
“‘the cardinal believes that evolutionism as an ideology is to be rejected’ because it cannot explain the existence of the soul and the spiritual world.”

http://www.the-tidings.com/2005/0716/evolution.htm

Comment #38199

Posted by Reed A. Cartwright on July 15, 2005 4:34 PM (e)

Blast wrote:

You’ll have to wait for genome studies to “see” the genes. If they were already expressed, we’d know about them, wouldn’t we?

We have scores of genomes sequenced, where are these genes? Is there any particular genome you want to stick your neck out as having the future evidence that your argument depends on?

Comment #38203

Posted by Flint on July 15, 2005 5:12 PM (e)

Reed:

I have another question now. Is it possible, from looking at a sequenced genome, to identify not-yet-actualized characteristics? Not what those characteristics might actually BE, even, but just whether or not they exist? My understanding is that actual characteristics are determined by a complex interaction of genes, RNA, development environment, activation timings, etc. which couldn’t possibly be extracted with current knowledge just from examining the genome. What am I missing?

Comment #38221

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 15, 2005 7:26 PM (e)

You’ll have to wait for genome studies to “see” the genes.

The complete genomes of a large number of species have already been completely sequenced.

Please feel free to point out the “frontloaded genes” in any of them.

Or, you can run away again, and I’ll ask again later.

Comment #38223

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 15, 2005 7:32 PM (e)

Hey Blast — where can we see chlorphyll genes in animals?

Chlorophyll is found in chloroplasts

No shit.

According to your “frontloading” BS, any and all genes found in any of the descendents MUST, of necessity, also be found in the ancestors.

Acdcording to your “frontloading” BS, plants and animals are descended (through “recombination”) from a “frontloaded” common ancestor.

Therefore, according to your “frontloading” BS, both plants and animals should have all the same genes (jsut in different combinations).

So show me the frontloaded gene for chlorophyll in any animal.

Want to claim that plants and animals are both descended from the same “frontloaded” ancestor? Fine. Then (1) show me **any** organism that you think shares a common “frontloaded” ancestor with **any other** organism, and (2) show me where the supposedly unique genes from one are actually found, already “frontloaded”, in the other.

Example —– if snakes are all descended from a “frontloaded” snake-ancestor that already possessed “frontloaded” versions of all possible snake genes, then show me the gene for rattlesnake venom in the genome of a cobra. Or a garter snake. Or a boa constrictor.

My question isn’t too complicated for you, is it …. ?

Comment #38225

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 15, 2005 7:35 PM (e)

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Comment #38226

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 15, 2005 7:46 PM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'kwickxml'

Comment #38227

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 15, 2005 7:48 PM (e)

Cardinal clarifies (and backtracks):
“‘the cardinal believes that evolutionism as an ideology is to be rejected’ because it cannot explain the existence of the soul and the spiritual world.”

No kidding.

I’ve heard that nuclear physics doesn’t explain the rules of baseball very well, either ……

Comment #38236

Posted by Flint on July 15, 2005 11:16 PM (e)

Lenny:

Yes, yes, yes, I know all that. I’m (admittedly) assuming that creationists are neither ignorant nor stupid. They have a genuine problem to explain. How do they do so?

I tried to clarify my problems with my question to Reed. CAN we show that frontloading is false? Do we have enough knowledge of the role of genes, RNA, environment, developent and the like to rule it out? I grant that it strikes me as a silly notion, put forth for no other reason than to deflect objections to religious doctrine. But are we capable of showing that religious claims are incorrect at the genetic level? Maybe not?

Comment #38241

Posted by SEF on July 16, 2005 2:46 AM (e)

The frontloaders also have the problem that different life-forms have different numbers of genes (or quantities of genetic material) and this can go up as well as down in lineages. Whereas frontloading only allows for casting off stitches not casting on new ones. So they can only knit a bottom-heavy triangular (or trapezoidal or fragmented and unravelling) cloth of life.

Comment #38258

Posted by BlastfromthePast on July 16, 2005 10:11 AM (e)

Since I seem to be the author of “frontloading,” let me say a little something about the idea. First, it’s not a “creationist” idea–since I don’t consider myself a creationist as in YEC. And it isn’t something I picked up in reading about ID. It’s simply something that seems to make sense to me along the lines of information theory–and, let me add, the sudden appearance of the modern feather seems to me a good representation of, if you will, “frontloading”. Secondly, the idea of “frontloading” is simply an intuition, and I don’t consider it anymore than that–I’m not competing with Darwin as a theorist. Thirdly, on the basis of frontloading being simply an intuition, there remains a question of just how much frontloading is present in the genome: do genomes contain ALL the information of ALL species? Or does frontloading contain ALL the information for a Class, or Order, or Family, etc.? It would seem to me that if we’re dealing with a true informational system, then that information will, of necessity, be frontloaded; however, it is entirely possible (as, for example, appparently happens with the mitochondria and the chloroplast) for the “information” of one organism to be sort of “folded-into” another organism. I would suspect Nature might be a combination of both. But determining whether any of this is correct, awaits further scientific inquiry.

To speak now allegorically, I think that Nature is perhaps like the painting of Adam and God that adorns the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel–the finger of God touching the finger of Adam; but with this difference: we, as humans investigating Nature, can only see the two fingers touching, and are left to “guess” that one belongs to Adam (the material realm) and one to God (the realm of Mind). In other words, I don’t think that Nature will, beyond all doubt, point unfailingly to the Creator. Yet, his handiwork will always be discernable for those who have “eyes to see.”

I add this last part simply to show that I don’t consider myself on some kind of religious crusade–to PROVE that God exists. Rather, I just think that the presumption that life has its origin in Thought and Intelligence will give us a better paradigm for investigating and understanding Nature.

Anyway, I’m enjoying the discussion from a distance. But as I enjoy golf much more than blogs, I can’t promise a prompt response for the next week or so.

Comment #38267

Posted by qetzal on July 16, 2005 12:31 PM (e)

Flint wrote:

CAN we show that frontloading is false?

I’ve wondered the same thing.

Assume all of the genes for a given lineage were ‘frontloaded’ into the remote ancestor of that lineage. What does that really mean? Does the ancestral globin gene represent frontloading of all modern globin genes? Some might say yes, arguing (incorrectly, of course) that duplication and modification of the ancestral globin gene isn’t really creating “new” information.

But that kind of ‘frontloading’ isn’t incompatible with evolution. It is evolution.

So, let’s assume instead that frontloading means the ancestor of a lineage carries genes that are ‘designed’ to perform some future function in some (but presumably not all) descendants. These frontloaded genes aren’t doing anything useful in the ancestor, they’re just there to be passed down to offspring until it’s time to turn them on. Also, I presume these frontloaded genes were either introduced de novo into this ancestor, or can be traced back to an earlier frontloading event (possibly all the way back to an original, fully-frontloaded organism).

Now, we look at the genomes of various extant organisms and observe there are many, many, many genes that are present in some species and not in others. Evolution explains such genes by saying they only evolved in a given lineage. All lineages that diverged prior to evolving that gene will necessarily lack it. THis predicts that genes should fall into consistent nested heirarchies, which is well supported by existing evidence.

Frontloading presumably argues the opposite. Many (or all) of the lineages had the gene to begin with. The ones that now lack it must have lost it after they diverged from those that retained it.

I think if the latter phenomenon were widespread, you would expect to find many cases of genes that don’t fit the standard nested evolutionary hierarchies. E.g., a gene specific for deer antlers (assuming such a thing exists) might show up in a repressed state in lions and bears, but not tigers. However, I think this also assumes that loss of frontloaded genes from lineages that don’t need them is a random phenomenon.

Blast’s post shows the difficulty of disproving frontloading by this approach. It’s always possible to argue that frontloading only occured in a few special cases that we haven’t yet detected (frontloading of the gaps?), or that loss of frontloaded genes is a “directed” process, so that the end result is made to look indistiguishable from evolutionary prediction.

I conclude that frontloading is similar to ID. It’s straightforward to disprove certain formulations of either, but as long as their proponents can invoke an omnipotent frontloader/designer, they can always formulate unfalsifiable versions.

BTW, Blast, I agree that frontloading is not a YEC idea, but it’s still a creationist idea.

Comment #38268

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 16, 2005 12:38 PM (e)

CAN we show that frontloading is false?

It’s not our task to do so. The nutballs are the ones amking the assertions. It’s up to THEM to demonstrate them.

It’s not OUR fault if they cannot.

Comment #38269

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 16, 2005 12:40 PM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'kwickxml'

Comment #38270

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 16, 2005 12:42 PM (e)

But determining whether any of this is correct, awaits further scientific inquiry.

No it doesn’t. It was disproven over 100 years ago. Just ask Goldschmidt.

Do try and keep up, would you?

Comment #38279

Posted by Arden Chatfield on July 16, 2005 1:41 PM (e)

CAN we show that frontloading is false?

I agree with Lenny, that science taking the time out to solve questions like this just encourages a trend which is bad enough as it is, whereby the ID/creationist gang makes whatever asinine assertion they want and somehow it’s always up to science to prove it’s NOT true. Somehow the burden of proof magically never falls on the ID/C crowd.

Of course, I realize that the reason these guys are never obliged to prove their own ideas is because they don’t do research, but that’s no reason to do their work for them.

Comment #38281

Posted by RBH on July 16, 2005 2:16 PM (e)

Blast wrote

How about bird feathers? They show up in the fossil record pretty much as in modern birds.

Well, no they don’t:

ABSTRACT In this special issue on the Evo-Devo of amniote integuments, Alibardi has discussed the adaptation of the integument to the land. Here we will discuss the adaptation to the sky. We first review a series of fossil discoveries representing intermediate forms of feathers or feather-like appendages from dinosaurs and Mesozoic birds from the Jehol Biota of China. We then discuss the molecular and developmental biological experiments using chicken integuments as the model. Feather forms can be modulated using retrovirus mediated gene mis-expression that mimics those found in nature today and in the evolutionary past.

and

Two major advances in the last decade have shaken this classical view: (1) a series of fossil discoveries representing intermediate forms of feathers or feather-like appendages from the Jehol Biota of China, and (2) molecular and developmental biological experiments using chickens as a model organism. Feather forms can be modulated using retrovirus mediated gene mis-expression that mimics those found in nature today and in the evolutionary past. Together the results favor an evolutionary sequence of feather filaments splitting to form primitive barbs without barbules - radially symmetric downy feathers with plumulaceous barbs- bilaterally symmetric plumulaceous feathers - bilaterally symmetric pennaceous vanes - bilaterally asymmetric vanes (Fig. 5B).

Work in the molecular biology laboratories has allowed us to start to identify molecular pathways involved in each of these ‘‘evolutionary novelty’’ processes (Fig. 5B; Yu et al., 2002; Harris et al., 2002).

RBH

Comment #38379

Posted by BlastfromthePast on July 17, 2005 1:20 PM (e)

quetzal wrote:

So, let’s assume instead that frontloading means the ancestor of a lineage carries genes that are ‘designed’ to perform some future function in some (but presumably not all) descendants. These frontloaded genes aren’t doing anything useful in the ancestor, they’re just there to be passed down to offspring until it’s time to turn them on. Also, I presume these frontloaded genes were either introduced de novo into this ancestor, or can be traced back to an earlier frontloading event (possibly all the way back to an original, fully-frontloaded organism).

That’s as good a description of “frontloading” as can be given. Very fair.

Let me just note that I’m sort of led to ‘frontloading’ because of the implications of ID. They’re sort of hand and glove.

Your analysis of gene ‘nesting’ I think is a helpful way of evaluating the idea, although I suspect it will take the fully explored and documented genomes of a number of species from a number of families to get a sense of its utility–or even existence–one way or another.

About the example of the feather, it seems to me that within the last year there was an article about the feather that suggested that the structure of the more primitive feather already contains details that are needed for the fully formed modern feather. Thus, it appears that the feather, when it first emerges, is almost “anticipating” what will ensue.

Comment #38383

Posted by BlastfromthePast on July 17, 2005 1:58 PM (e)

Does anyone know of a good resource on “directed mutations”? I know Cairns, et. al, had an article in Nature years back. Is there anything current on that?