PZ Myers posted Entry 1261 on July 28, 2005 02:13 PM.
Trackback URL: http://www.pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.fcgi/1259

William Dembski exemplifies the empty void of Intelligent Design creationism in his criticisms of Michael Ruse's review of Sean Carroll's Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo and the Making of the Animal Kingdom. Ruse's review was positive (as was mine—it's an excellent introduction to the discipline), but he takes a jab at the creationists at the beginning:

A major problem with the critics of science is that they have a problem with problems.

Let me be a little less cryptic. The critics—notably the creationists, and more recently their smoother descendents, the intelligent design theorists—are always whining that science has unfinished or unsolved problems.

This did not sit well with Dembski, who goes on to write a complaint that demonstrates that Ruse was exactly right in every particular, and also demonstrates several other creationist traits, such as an inability to read with understanding and quote mining.

In his review of Endless Forms Most Beautiful, Sean Carroll’s new book on evo devo, Michael Ruse faults intelligent design (ID) for harping on evolution’s unsolved problems. Moreover, Carroll as well as Ruse suggest that evo devo has now resolved one of the major problems on which design theorists have been harping.

Go ahead—read Ruse's review or Carroll's book. There is no blanket claim of a complete solution of anything, and Dembski is making stuff up. Instead, you will find that what we've got is a productive strategy for addressing evolutionary problems.

Wrong on both counts. Intelligent design does not have a problem with problems. It has a problem with bogus solutions that Darwinists like Ruse and Carroll dress up as real solutions to the problems of biological origins.

Note that while he's claiming he doesn't have a problem with problems, there is one figure in the article of developing squid (and truth be told, that tease was the only reason I read Dembski's article) with the question, "Can evo devo explain squid evolution?". To my disappointment, that's all he says about it—he raises the question, as if that is enough to indict evo-devo, and he certainly does not offer a research program of any kind.

The answer to the question, of course, is yes. Evo devo is not a collection of answers, but a set of approaches and principles that help us tackle difficult problems like the evolution of squid. It says that if we want to understand how organisms evolve, we need to understand the mechanisms by which genetic information is translated into form and function…the process of development. It's awfully hard to disagree with that, but Dembski tries. Or rather, he seems to think that bringing up unsolved problems in squid evolution is enough to show that evo devo has failed.

Look, if we want to understand how modern animals evolved from older forms, we should try to understand:

  • How genes produces morphology.
  • The genetics underlying large scale differences in form, between squid and fruit flies, for instance.
  • The mechanisms that generate striking morphological differences between closely related species, as we see in African cichlids.
  • The genetic basis of morphological variation within populations.

Evo devo does not declare that it has all the answers, it proudly announces that it has the right questions and a good toolkit to address them. Those are all questions that scientists are trying to answer, too; the Intelligent Design creationists don't even bother to ask interesting questions. Generalize his tantalizing opening question to "How can we explain squid evolution?". I can say how scientists would work to explain it. Dembski thinks just asking the question ends the search and does not bother to offer an Intelligent Design creationist's research strategy.

Where Dembski is at his most contemptible, though, is when he mangles the scientific literature to get an answer he wants. Here's an example of creationist quote mining:

But that raises a fundamental problem. Elizabeth Pennisi, in a report about evo devo for the journal Science, dated Nov. 1, 2002, stated the problem this way: “The lists [of conserved genes give] no insight into how, in the end, organisms with the same genes came to be so different.”

Wow. That sure sounds like an admission of failure. Those scientists must be stymied.

It's a grossly misleading excerpt, however. This was taken from a report explaining how developmental biologists were excited about the promise of new strategies in evo devo, and listed several examples of successes. All you have to do is read on a few sentences further to see the way the work is going.

The lists gave no insight into how, in the end, organisms with the same genes came to be so different. And given the evolutionary distance between, say, a fruit fly and a shark, "there isn't really an experimental manipulation to let you get at what the genes are actually doing," says Rudolf Raff, an evolutionary developmental biologist at Indiana University, Bloomington (IUB).

The solution, say Jeffery and others, is to focus on genetically based developmental differences between closely related species, or even among individuals of the same species. This is the stuff of microevolutionists, who care most about how individuals vary naturally within a population and how environmental forces affect this variation.

Uh, what's that? They aren't arguing that there is no insight at all, but merely that by working on smaller differences in more closely related species, they have a better handle on how to attack the problem? Hmmm. Further, the next page of the article summarizes recent dramatic successes with this approach, such as in understanding the evolution of cavefish eyes, the nematode vulva, and butterfly eyespots, where examination of differences between closely related species has enabled us to track exactly how genetic changes have led to the differences in form.

Dembski doesn't understand how science in general works, and even after consulting his incompetent colleague, Jonathan Wells, he definitely doesn't understand developmental biology. This passage is painful in its ignorance.

To sum up, developmental geneticists have found that the genes that seem to be most important in development are remarkably similar in many different types of animals, from worms to fruit flies to mammals.

Initially, this was regarded as evidence for genetic programs controlling development. But biologists are now realizing that it actually constitutes a paradox: if genes control development, why do similar genes produce such different animals? Why does a caterpillar turn into a butterfly instead of a barracuda?

This phrase, "biologists are now realizing that it actually constitutes a paradox", is simply false. There is no paradox at all there, and it doesn't trouble us at all. If you observed surveyors at work, and noticed that they marked off two plots of land of identical size, surveyed with similar instruments, and staked out with the same tools, and then bulldozers and carpenters and bricklayers and plumbers and electricians show up at both, but then later discovered that a gas station and convenience store was built on one, while a three-bedroom ranch house was built on the other, would you announce that there was a paradox here? Of course not. You're not an idiot.

What developmental geneticists have discovered is that different organisms use remarkably similar toolkits to assemble their form, and that what matters is how those tools are deployed during development. It's the patterns of regulation and interaction between those genes, which do differ in interesting ways, is what generates differences between species. And that's why Sean Carroll can legitimately argue that evo devo is a worthwhile focus for research.

Commenters are responsible for the content of comments. The opinions expressed in articles, linked materials, and comments are not necessarily those of PandasThumb.org. See our full disclaimer.

Comment #40089

Posted by bill on July 28, 2005 2:40 PM (e)

Ah, but Dembski isn’t interested in science. He’s only interested in planning his next Waterloo, at which he’s very good.

Comment #40091

Posted by Bruce Thompson GQ on July 28, 2005 2:44 PM (e)

As I read Dembski’s article, all I could say was No, no, no your missing the point. No, no, no your wrong. No, no, no you misunderstood the article, so many “no’s”. It’s frustrating to watch someone twist and mangle an idea and try to use the literature to support their preconceived notion.

Comment #40093

Posted by Art on July 28, 2005 2:51 PM (e)

This thread on ARN discussed the ludicrousness of the Dembski/Wells position almost 4 years ago. In addition to the difference between scientists and IDeologues when it comes to the posing and pursuit of scientific questions, it’s interesting to see that, in contrast to the field of evo-devo (which has made large, bold strides in these 4 years), ID thought has changed not a single, solitary iota.

Note in the thread the inevitable resort to “you haven’t explained everything, thus evolution NO!” that pops up.

Comment #40095

Posted by ShutUpMoron on July 28, 2005 2:53 PM (e)

“Of course not. You’re not an idiot.”

Awesome. That’s a great line.

Comment #40106

Posted by Paul A. Nelson on July 28, 2005 3:16 PM (e)

PZ wrote:

This phrase, “biologists are now realizing that it actually constitutes a paradox”, is simply false. There is no paradox at all there, and it doesn’t trouble us at all.

Try this. Google “hox paradox.”

Or look at Sean Carroll’s book Endless Forms, discussed above. Carroll writes (pp. 71-72):

The discovery that the same sets of genes control the formation and pattern of body regions and body parts with similar functions (but very different designs) in insects, vertebrates, and other animals has forced a complete rethinking of animal history, the origins of structures, and the nature of diversity. Comparative and evolutionary biologists had long assumed that different groups of animals, separated by vast amounts of evolutionary time, were constructed and had evolved by entirely different means. The connection between members of some groups —- among the vertebrates, for example, or between vertebrates and other animals with a notochord — was well established. But between flies and humans, or flatworms and sea squirts…no way! So prevalent was this view of great evolutionary distance that in the 1960s the evolutionary biologist (and an architect of the Modern Synthesis) Ernst Mayr remarked: “Much that has been learned about gene physiology makes it evident that the search for homologous genes is quite futile except in very close relatives…” This view was entirely incorrect. The late Stephen Jay Gould, in his monumental work The Structure of Evolutionary Theory, saw the discovery of Hox clusters and common body-building genes as overturning a major view of the Modern Synthesis. Gould states, “The central significance of our dawning understanding of the genetics of development lies not in the simple discovery of something utterly unknown…but in the explicitly unexpected character of these findings, and in the revisions and extensions thus required of evolutionary theory.”

Data suggesting that one’s theory (the Modern Synthesis) needs a “complete rethinking” have the flavor of a genuine paradox. Which explains why the phrase “hox paradox” is widespread in the evo-devo literature.

Comment #40112

Posted by harold on July 28, 2005 3:38 PM (e)

Paul A. Nelson -

Your post does not address the substance of what PZ Meyers said. It merely quibbles, irrelevantly, as to whether anyone has ever used the term “paradox” to describe hox genes. By its nature, it suggests an incapacity on the part of its writer to address the substance of the post.

You do provide a source for your quote box (thank you). But within it, this is unsourced…

“Ernst Mayr remarked: “Much that has been learned about gene physiology makes it evident that the search for homologous genes is quite futile except in very close relatives…” “

If Ernst Mayr remarked this, I strongly suspect that the remark has been taken out of context. It is trivially wrong. Humans and bacteria have many homologous genes for basic metabolic functions, for example. Of course, if Ernst Meyer merely put his foot honestly in his mouth, once, it means little. But if your source is twisting Meyer’s words, that may mean a great deal.

The fact that homologous genes underly basic aspects of development supports common descent. The opposite would not (distorted quotes from Meyer notwithstanding).

Meanwhile, if there were NOT conserved genes underlying development, you would claim that this “supported intelligent design”. But if there ARE, you will merely claim that this, too “supports intelligent design” with the rubric “common design”. (Neither of these would be true, of course, it’s just that the latter supports common descent more strongly than the former.) Thus, intelligent design is worthless for explaining or understanding hox genes, and makes no testable claim with respect to hox genes.

Indeed, if we were to practice “intelligent design”, we wouldn’t even know that hox genes exist.

Comment #40117

Posted by SteveF on July 28, 2005 3:47 PM (e)

Paul,

You are a good sort by all accounts. Do you agree that William A Dembski has been engaged in ‘quote mining’ and that his article is misleading as a consequence?

Comment #40120

Posted by bill on July 28, 2005 3:53 PM (e)

Admiral Paul Nelson stands on the deck of the sinking HMS ID, holds his teleoscope up to his blind eye and exclaims “I see no evidence!”

Meanwhile, below decks, Swabbie Dembski wearing an Abba costume mans the bilge pump while belting out “Waterloo.”

Comment #40123

Posted by Paul A. Nelson on July 28, 2005 3:56 PM (e)

The existence of the so-called “hox paradox” – the deployment of homologous genes and their protein products in the development of classically non-homologous structures, such as vertebrate and arthropod eyes – has been one of the most widely-discussed topics in evo-devo over the past decade.

PZ knows this, as does anyone who follows or studies evo-devo.

The quote from Ernst Mayr is taken from Sean Carroll’s book, and (as Carroll argues) represents the neo-Darwinian, or Modern Synthesis, understanding of the genetic basis of homology.

Comment #40125

Posted by PZ Myers on July 28, 2005 3:58 PM (e)

Yes, Paul, and if you actually read the articles that you can find when searching for the “hox paradox” in the scientific literature, you’ll find that typically what is said is, “hey, there’s this idea called the ‘hox paradox’, but it actually isn’t paradoxical at all”, and you definitely won’t find them suggesting that this is a serious problem for evolution.

Wagner et al. answer it quite simply in this way in PNAS:

It is now widely accepted that the divergent body plans are based more, but not exclusively, on differences in the regulation of a conserved set of genes rather than different gene complements.

Victoria Prince out your way at the U Chicago has a very nice article on the subject, which uses the ‘paradox’ as a springboard to discuss differences in the Hox genes and their pattern of regulation as an evolutionary explanation.

I would hope you wouldn’t try to claim that Sean Carrol sees Hox genes as an obstacle to our understanding of evolution. You’ve read his book, and he’s asserting something entirely contrary to that.

Do you guys search the scientific literature for words like “paradox”, “problem”, and “controversy” just so you can pluck them out of context and invent imaginary hurdles for evolution to jump?

Comment #40127

Posted by Steven Thomas Smith on July 28, 2005 4:01 PM (e)

Mr. Nelson,

Googling “hox paradox” as you suggest, then reading the papers that address this question, confirms precisely what PZ said.

From “Resolving the Hox Paradox,” Science, Vol. 292, Issue 5525, 2256–2257, 22 June 2001:

The first approach to resolving the Hox Paradox was to deny that distantly related animals are really so different after all. The notion of cryptic anatomical similarity became a touchstone for biologists intent on uncovering the conserved genetic underpinnings of animal development. The logical conclusion of this approach was the conceptual reconstruction of Urbilateria, the latest common ancestor of all bilaterians (which is to say nearly all animals). Under the assumption that similar gene expression denotes conserved gene function, Urbilateria became a rather complex beast—with eyes, a heart, appendages, and a segmented body.

But doubts slowly crept in. By the mid-1990s, it was clear that virtually all developmental regulatory genes control several different processes, some of which plainly evolved within insects and mammals. If regulatory genes can acquire new developmental roles, then their domains of expression cannot be taken at face value as indicating anatomical conservation. On reflection, some of Urbilateria’s reconstructed features, such as segmentation, began to look less certain.

This realization has led to a second approach to resolving the Hox Paradox, based on the notion that although developmental regulatory genes are evolutionarily conserved, their interactions are not.

From “Hox cluster duplications and the opportunity for evolutionary novelties,” PNAS 100(25):14603–14606, December 9, 2003:

The first so-called Hox paradox was the discovery that homologous genes ‘‘code’’ for fundamentally different body plans. It is now widely accepted that the divergent body plans are based more, but not exclusively, on differences in the regulation of a conserved set of genes rather than different gene complements (2—4). This commentary discusses a second Hox paradox: Why is it that in the evolution of chordates (vertebrates) the number of Hox gene clusters has increased several times (Fig. 1), often in association with major radiations (5, 6), whereas no evidence exists for such a trend in invertebrates (7)? It is hard to believe that this difference should be due to differences in the frequency of genome and chromosome duplications between vertebrates and invertebrates. In this commentary, we argue that vertebrate Hox clusters, in the absence of duplication, are structurally less evolvable than their invertebrate counterparts. The constraint on Hox cluster structure may be temporarily lifted after cluster duplication, which may make an association between Hox cluster duplications and adaptive radiations more likely in vertebrates than in invertebrates.

If you intended to imply that a search engine would reveal a different conclusion, please tell us what it is and provide a link.

Comment #40128

Posted by harold on July 28, 2005 4:01 PM (e)

This is a strikingly illogical statement for a proponent of ID to make…(attributed to Dembski in the above post)…

“But biologists are now realizing that it actually constitutes a paradox: if genes control development, why do similar genes produce such different animals? Why does a caterpillar turn into a butterfly instead of a barracuda?”

It is certainly interesting that highly conserved genes would be active in development, across different lineages. I don’t find it a ‘paradox’. A ‘paradox’ is something contradictory. It is certainly an exciting spur to future research, but again, that isn’t what ‘paradox’ means.

But it also strikes me as rather overwhelming evidence of common descent. Why would an ID advocate trumpet it as a problem for the theory of evolution?

Comment #40130

Posted by Bruce Thompson GQ on July 28, 2005 4:06 PM (e)

I don’t mean to be sarcastic and don’t wish for this to come across that way but without boring everyone with a long comment, I can only respond

ID The paradigm always stays the same

Comment #40131

Posted by Paul A. Nelson on July 28, 2005 4:07 PM (e)

PZ, would you agree (as Carroll argues) that the neo-Darwinian understanding of the relationship of genes to development and morphological form turned out to be wrong?

Comment #40132

Posted by harold on July 28, 2005 4:07 PM (e)

Paul Nelson -

You’ve established the point that the misnomer “hox paradox” has been widely used. It has also been demonstrated that users of the term often acknowledge that it is something of a misnomer.

Do you agree that conserved genes active in development, across lineages, supports common descent?

Do you have an alternate, testable, scientific explanation for this observation? What is it and how can we test it?

Comment #40133

Posted by bill on July 28, 2005 4:08 PM (e)

This is a strikingly illogical statement for a proponent of ID to make…

Harold, I’m shocked that you are able to detect a “strikingly” illogical statement from any other statement made by a proponent of ID.

Have you been tinkering with your Irony Meter?

Comment #40135

Posted by Graculus on July 28, 2005 4:14 PM (e)

OK, let me get this straight.

Dembski says that only God an Intelligent designer could produce different creatures from such similar genes, right?

Now, the genes are still similar, right?

So is Dembski arguing that every single reproductive event is the result of direct intervention from God the Designer?

That does seem to be where it is leading, logically.

Comment #40136

Posted by David Margolies on July 28, 2005 4:15 PM (e)

Back 60 or so years ago, most geologists did not believe in plate techtonics because they saw no way that continents could actually move about. So there was the south america/africa similarity paradox: how could the almost exact geometric fit between the two continents be explained given they were always so far apart. The answer came when the theory of plate techtonics, which showed how continents could move about and further that continents did move about, was developed.

From Paul Nelson’s description of the Hox paradox, it seems that people assumed that growth regulatory genes developed independently and at different times in different evolutionary lines. This assumption seems to have arisen without much examination: since different evolutionary lines separated early, when else would those functions have appeared. (This in contrast to matabolism, which would have to develop early and is similar in most all cellular beings – I think Mayr, who, it seems, is being quoted by Sean Carroll, was likely talking about development genes.)

Now new infomation indicates that development genes also arose early and are widely shared. This doubtless produces a “paradox” (how can these genes work the same in wildly different animals?) but one that I suspect will lead to a resolution that will result in much better understanding on evolution.

Could Paul Nelson do something more quote practicioners of evolutionary science and claim the quotes are against the authors? Could he ask some meaningful and relevant questions that might just allow the rest of us to understand what he believes the relevant issues are?

PS: “paradox” means either puzzle or logical inconsistency. That Africa and SA fit together was a pardox to traditional (continents do not move) geology, which had to be abandoned. If evolutionary biology requires that development genes evolved late in each evolutionary line, then the hox genes are a paradox in that sense. If that is not a requirement, then they are just a puzzle. Dembski seems to be using the term in the logical inconsistent sense. Carroll in the puzzle sense.

Comment #40138

Posted by Pete Dunkelberg on July 28, 2005 4:18 PM (e)

Harold, it is true that one can’t just take a crationist’s word for a quote, but you still have to check.

Nelson’s quote, in the box, is correct. Carroll’s source for Mayr is:
_Animal Species and Evolution_, Harvard press 1963, page 609. Scientists were just beginning to be able to sequence and compare proteins, much less segments of DNA.

Comment #40140

Posted by harold on July 28, 2005 4:20 PM (e)

Bill -

Well, of course, proponents of ID make many illogical statements. This one is STRIKINGLY illogical because, while employing the “outraged by a their own straw man” tone of creationists (“why doesn’t a caterpillar turn into a barracuda…”), it actually presents rather straightforward evidence for common descent, and mentions an interesting area of research. In fact, stripped of its tone of exaggeration, it is a logical question for SCIENTIST to ask.

Comment #40142

Posted by Rilke's Granddaughter on July 28, 2005 4:21 PM (e)

Paul Nelson:

PZ, would you agree (as Carroll argues) that the neo-Darwinian understanding of the relationship of genes to development and morphological form turned out to be wrong?

In what way is this relevant? Many hypotheses have been found to be incorrect or inaccurate.

You still have failed to deal with PZ’s point: that Dembski deliberately mis-quoted, and that the so-called “hox paradox” no longer exists.

Dembski’s behavior is dishonest, yours is only disingenuous.

Comment #40145

Posted by Paul A. Nelson on July 28, 2005 4:27 PM (e)

Attempts to resolve the hox paradox do not agree. One attempt holds that classically non-homologous structures (e.g., the limbs of arthropods and vertebrates, both of which express the gene distalless during development) really are homologous after all. Hence, the paradox is only apparent.

Eric Davidson disagrees:

In response to this paradox [the Hox paradox], an almost automatic response has been that though they may look different these body parts are actually homologous; that there are basic and still hidden pattern formation processes underlying their development, and that these were already present in the bilaterian common ancestor. Conservation must be the reason that the same genes are used in the development of each part in diverse bilaterians, so this argument goes….But if we sum all the assertions of this sort we produce an impossible and illogical image of the bilaterian common ancestor. It would have been equipped with brain, seeing eyes, moving appendages, beating heart, etc. Something is very wrong with this picture because the way these body parts develop in diverse branches of the Bilateria actually share little in the details of their respective pattern formation processes. If the common ancestor had appendages, for example, it could not easily be ancestral to insect and mouse appendages both, because the structures and processes through which these develop are completely different.

E. Davidson, Genomic Regulatory Systems (Academic Press, 2001, p. 189).

Davidson favors a different solution to the paradox (which I don’t have time to summarize right now). In any case, the paradox is a genuine puzzle. Whether it threatens “evolution” depends on how that infinitely elastic word is defined.

PZ and I have talked some about this, one-on-one, and plainly we disagree. I’ll have to leave it there for now.

Comment #40146

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

David Margolies -

I have never encountered the usage of “paradox” to mean “puzzle” that you describe. I have only heard it to mean “logical inconsistency”. However, I have no reason to doubt that you are correct. You also present a justification for considering the existence of hox genes to be paradoxical, relative to what might have been expected under some prior hypotheses.

And so, with regard the the term “hox paradox”, I think we can say…

1) The term has been used. Paul Nelson is correct in this regard.
2) In this context, the term is subjective. Some situations of pure logic may constitute a paradox in an objective sense, but…
3) To some of us, the existence of hox genes does not seem paradoxical.
4) The issue of whether anyone ever CALLED hox genes a ‘paradox’ is relatively trivial, and does not address the substance of the PZ Meyers post.

Comment #40148

Posted by harold on July 28, 2005 4:35 PM (e)

Paul Nelson -

If you’re still here…

Scientists believe the basic mechanism of evolution to be genetic variability acted on by natural selection. The RESULT of this may be described, tersely but quite accurately, as a “change in the frequency of alleles”, with the understanding that much else usually changes as well.

This conception is not rigid, but it isn’t especially elastic, either.

While the use of relatively conserved hox genes in development of different morphologic features is fascinating, and may disagree with earlier hypotheses of development, it is also strongly consistent with the theory of evolution from common descent, as described above.

If you disagree, can you explain why, very specifically?

Comment #40149

Posted by David Margolies on July 28, 2005 4:40 PM (e)

Harold, I was using “puzzle” as an abbreviation for 2 a: in the Merriam-Webster Collegiate: “2 a: a statement that is seemingly contradictory or opposed to common sense and yet is perhaps true.” And I note the Wikipedia uses the word “puzzling” – this from the beginning of the entry in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paradox:

“A paradox is an apparently true statement or group of statements that seems to lead to a contradiction or to a situation that defies intuition. Typically, either the statements in question do not really imply the contradiction, the puzzling result is not really a contradiction, or the premises themselves are not all really true (or, cannot all be true together).”

Comment #40155

Posted by harold on July 28, 2005 4:59 PM (e)

David Marolies -

Well, language is a slippery thing. It certainly seems to be a matter of subjective preference whether or one chooses to refer to hox genes as a “paradox”.

That last definition is especially mind-bending - it seems to suggest that a paradox isn’t really contradictory, but merely seems to be so. But then what do we call a real contradiction?

What’s interesting is that science leads to paradoxes all the time, relative to how the human mind processes information. But not at the scale of biology.

It would be quite reasonable to describe much of advanced physics as paradoxical, even though it’s empirically verifiable. Of course, some may choose to subjectively deny that any of it is a paradox.

I hope Paul Nelson answers my question.

Comment #40157

Posted by Pete Dunkelberg on July 28, 2005 5:07 PM (e)

Paul Nelson wrote:

PZ, would you agree (as Carroll argues) that the neo-Darwinian understanding of the relationship of genes to development and morphological form turned out to be wrong?

Note that “neo-Darwinism” has no fixed meaning. Here Paul evidently means the Modern Synthesis. The Synthesis is moderately well defined as the understanding of evolution at a certain time, but it had essentially had no idea how development worked at the genetic level. The term “neo-Darwinism” predates the synthesis by quite a bit; on the other hand it can mean anything up to and including our current understanding of evolution.

Now we know that genes in general are expressed or not based on complex regulatory sequences which are usually next to the gene. This is notably true for genes active in building bodies. Dembski pulls a quote to the effect that a mere list of genes doesn’t tell you how they are employed. Of course not. That’s the point. You have to know at least how they are regulated.

Comment #40159

Posted by Carlos on July 28, 2005 5:11 PM (e)

The Ernst Mayr quote that Mr. Nelson takes from Sean Carroll’s book is also used by Gilbert’s Developmental Biology, 6th Ed. It seems to originate in the book Animal Species and Evolution, E. Mayer 1966.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/bv.fcgi?rid=dbio.section.5475

Further searching yields a 1963 publication of the book.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0674037502/qid=1122587914/sr=8-2/ref=sr_8_xs_ap_i1_xgl14/102-3907674-8402547?v=glance&s=books&n=507846

My first post :-)

Comment #40160

Posted by Hiero5ant on July 28, 2005 5:12 PM (e)

Paul Nelson –

As long as you’re here, I would like to know: do you unequivocally repudiate and disown the HIV/AIDS denial directed at children by the magazine on whose advisory board you sit?

From a moral standpoint, I consider this much more important than a blog spat over who is quotemining whom.

Comment #40161

Posted by Steven Thomas Smith on July 28, 2005 5:17 PM (e)

The Discovery Institute has demonstrated itself to be seriously confused about the twin paradox and its resolution—why not the hox paradox and its resolution too?

Comment #40163

Posted by David Margolies on July 28, 2005 5:17 PM (e)

Harold,

Reading further in the Wikipedia definition it says: “The word paradox is often used interchangeably with contradiction; but where a contradiction by definition cannot be true, many paradoxes do allow of resolution…”, that is, we do not need “paradox” to mean “logical contradiction” because “logical contradiction” does just fine.

Indeed, it seems to me that “paradox” more often than not indeed means “apparently contradictory”. Consider the “birthday paradox”, that in a room with 23 (random) people, the chances are 50% that two share a birthday (though not a birth year). See http://efgh.com/math/birthday.htm (where it shows that the term is used). Or it means a type of unsolved problem (but it does not mean the problem is not capable of solution).

I agree with you about it being “a matter of subjective preference whether or one chooses to refer to hox genes as a ‘paradox’”. My point is this seems to be another case where opponents of evolution are seizing on a statement or term used by biologists as a way to show evolution is in trouble again, but the use of the word “paradox” here (again) just does not justify that.

Comment #40164

Posted by Stephen Erickson on July 28, 2005 5:20 PM (e)

Simply naming a phenomenon a “paradox” is no admission of the problem’s intractability. Simpson’s paradox is a simple mathematical juggling act, there is nothing mysterious about it, even though it seems puzzling at first glance. Same, it seems, with the Hox paradox, although that is far from my area of expertise.

Comment #40165

Posted by Robert on July 28, 2005 5:22 PM (e)

I think the “paradox” is not so paradoxical when you actually look at the molecular mechanisms involved. This is exactly what happened as the “Modern Synthesis” began to incorporate (or be overridden by) modern molecular and developmental genetics.

Mayr and Dobzhansky are both credited with the notion searches for homologous genes would be fruitless except in closely related organisms. For his take on the historical perpective and how advances do NOT contradict evolution, see “The Evolutionary Synthesis” Mayr, 1980.

Lets take some examples:
PAX6 encodes a protein that is required for eye development from Fruit flies to mice. How can this be, since compound fly eyes look so different than our own? (THIS is the crux of the paradox! Right?) PAX6, which is nearly identical in all animals, turns on all the genes of fly development, some of which are similar in many species, and many of which are not. Thus, a conserved transcription factor, changed little since our last common ancestor, regulated a suite of genes, some of which account for distinct eye morphology. Geneticists c.a. the 1950’s might not have imagined this possible-expecting a “fly-eye” gene, and a “vertebrate-eye” gene. The understanding we share common sets of genes, and the ability to see the ancestry changes in the ones with distinct function really enhances our view of evoulution.

Same thing with many conserved genes-many code for dorsal versus ventral, right versus left, and segmentation. From this conserved body plan, different pathways and differentially evolved genes specify hand versus claw, web, etc.

Comment #40167

Posted by Robert on July 28, 2005 5:39 PM (e)

TYPO “turns on all the genes of fly development”
should read :turns on all the genes of EYE development”

I will say one more thing: the Hox literature is full of great examples of how homologous pathways of development have diversified.

Thats why conserved genes of pattern formation can evolutionarily preceed the organ they now are required for. I would LOVE to know what the warrent for the last statement of this paragraph is. It seems quite contradicted by the literature:

“…impossible and illogical image of the bilaterian common ancestor. It would have been equipped with brain, seeing eyes, moving appendages, beating heart, etc. Something is very wrong with this picture because the way these body parts develop in diverse branches of the Bilateria actually share little in the details of their respective pattern formation processes”

Comment #40168

Posted by ts on July 28, 2005 5:41 PM (e)

Wrong on both counts. Intelligent design does not have a problem with problems. It has a problem with bogus solutions that Darwinists like Ruse and Carroll dress up as real solutions to the problems of biological origins.

So let’s, for a moment, pretend that Ruse and Carroll don’t even exist, thus no solution was offered. All we have then is a problem. Since “intelligent design” – read: IDists – have no problem with problems, they have no reason for being, and should join Ruse and Carroll in nonexistence.

Comment #40169

Posted by Steve on July 28, 2005 5:46 PM (e)

But it also strikes me as rather overwhelming evidence of common descent. Why would an ID advocate trumpet it as a problem for the theory of evolution?

Hmmm…I’m going to hazard a guess here: Becuase they are woefully ignorant of modern evolutionary biology?

Comment #40173

Posted by George on July 28, 2005 5:49 PM (e)

Here are some definitions of “paradox”

“That which is apparently, though not actually, inconsistent with or opposed to the known facts in any case.”

“A seemingly contradictory statement that may nonetheless be true”

“A statement contrary to received opinion”

I think the simple answer to why the words “hox paradox” are used is because the rhyme. Makes for a nice catchy why to describe interesting science on development.

Comment #40174

Posted by Stephen Erickson on July 28, 2005 5:49 PM (e)

This is very interesting stuff. Is it correct to say that evo devo places more of an emphasis on the evolution of the “regulome” than the “genome”?

Comment #40175

Posted by ts on July 28, 2005 5:51 PM (e)

Where Dembski is at his most contemptible

Indeed. Consider:

Dembski wrote:

“The lists [of conserved genes give] no insight into how, in the end, organisms with the same genes came to be so different.”

The proper use of [] would have been

“The lists [of conserved genes] gave no insight into how, in the end, organisms with the same genes came to be so different.”

Dembski’s changing “gave” to “give” is no accident. He intentionally misrepresents a limitation of one technique as a failure in principle to solve a problem.

Comment #40177

Posted by ts on July 28, 2005 5:55 PM (e)

But it also strikes me as rather overwhelming evidence of common descent. Why would an ID advocate trumpet it as a problem for the theory of evolution?

Hmmm…I’m going to hazard a guess here: Becuase they are woefully ignorant of modern evolutionary biology?

I think it’s more that they count on their audience to be woefully ignorant. ID isn’t science, it’s politics and propaganda. They have a goal, and anything seen as furthering the goal is good and right in their minds.

Comment #40178

Posted by PZ Myers on July 28, 2005 5:56 PM (e)

I didn’t even catch his sneaky change of tense.

And yes, to the evo-devo crowd, regulation is where the cool stuff is.

Comment #40182

Posted by ts on July 28, 2005 6:09 PM (e)

some IDeologue wrote:

Data suggesting that one’s theory (the Modern Synthesis) needs a “complete rethinking” have the flavor of a genuine paradox.

No, something is not “a genuine paradox” if it has since been resolved. And to write, as Dembski does, as if the resolution were the paradox is extremely dishonest.

Comment #40183

Posted by Robert on July 28, 2005 6:10 PM (e)

Evo devo places more of an emphasis on the evolution of the “regulome” than the “genome”-
I would say the appreciation of the former is growing-but we don’t ignore the genetics either. There are great cases for both.

Take Distal genes-flies have one expressed in their epidermis and bran, and we have 6 closely related ones, expressed differentially in the nervous system-specifying forebrain from hind, etc. In this case, there is a genomic diversification combined with a regulatory expansion.

Other cases are strictly regulatory: Chickens (and us!) don’t have webbed feet because a gene, BMP4 induces cell death in the webbing (also used in lots of other tissues for the same function)during development. Ducks have the same gene, but don’t express in in the webbing, hence webbed feet.

I think understanding gene regulation (and the new field of Epigenetics) goes a long way in explaining some homologous genes used for diverse functions.

I think part of the confusion is that a gene, mutated in flies, that gives them 6 antenna, is termed a “gene for antenna.” Why do humans have the same gene? No antenna here! That gene may merely identify the position for antenna. In evolution, its role may be co-opted for any number of things-change its expression location, and the genes under its control, and you may have a hearing-canal specific gene.

But to answer your question, I think the regulome does answer a lot of the ‘paradox.’ Humans have genes homologous to fly wing-specific genes because we use them in new ways (or old) but CRITICALLY, in new places and times developmentally.

Comment #40187

Posted by Randy on July 28, 2005 6:25 PM (e)

Paul (Nelson),

I don’t care what the big whigs want to say in order to pump up sales or grants, there is no HOX paradox. the same hox gene in the same organism can promote or inhibit development of structures, its all a matter of context.

Comment #40188

Posted by steve on July 28, 2005 6:33 PM (e)

So, Paul, you guys are now harping on the Hox Paradox.

Remember a few years ago, when your side harped on Irreducible Complexity? Said it was a lethal problem for evolution? How’d that work out for you?

Comment #40189

Posted by ts on July 28, 2005 6:33 PM (e)

That last definition is especially mind-bending - it seems to suggest that a paradox isn’t really contradictory, but merely seems to be so. But then what do we call a real contradiction?

We call it a contradiction. Such paradoxes as the Liar’s Paradox are not real logical contradictions; if they were, then logic itself would be invalid. Rather, they generally indicate a hidden faulty assumption, sometimes very deeply hidden, that leads to the contradiction. The problem of the Liar’s Paradox has to do with treating truth as a predicate. The problem with Russell’s Paradox has to do with our informal concept of “set”; numerous attempts have been made to produce a consistent formal concept, none of which (AFAIK) are entirely satisfactory. The problem with the Sorites Paradox (e.g., a hairless chin is beardless; adding one hair to a beardless chin doesn’t make a beard; by induction, there are no beards) has to do with the vagueness of predicates such as “is a beard”. And so on.

Comment #40190

Posted by ts on July 28, 2005 6:38 PM (e)

would you agree (as Carroll argues) that the neo-Darwinian understanding of the relationship of genes to development and morphological form turned out to be wrong?

To the IDeologue, if some aspect of evolutionary theory turned out to be wrong, intelligent design is proven. Scientists, OTOH, don’t accept that syllogism, and thus have no problem with agreeing that some understandings turned out to be wrong.

Comment #40194

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 28, 2005 7:04 PM (e)

Data suggesting that one’s theory (the Modern Synthesis) needs a “complete rethinking” have the flavor of a genuine paradox. Which explains why the phrase “hox paradox” is widespread in the evo-devo literature.

That’s nice.

Hey Paul, last time you were here, I asked you some simple questions, and for some odd reason, you never answered.

So I’d like to ask again.

*ahem*

(1) You have already declared that there is no scientific theory of Intelligent Design. So I’m curious —– if there is no such thing as a theory of intelligent design, then why does the intelligent design movement call itself … well … the intelligent design movement? Why don’t they call themselves something more accurate, like the “we think evolution is godless” movement. Does the ID movement call itself the ID movement simply to bamboozle people into thinking it has an actual alternative theory when it really doesn’t? Does the ID movement call itself the ID movement to try and gain all the rhetorical advantages of claiming to have an alternative theory without the disadvantages of actually having to PRODUCE one?

(2) IDers like you keep blithering to me about “Darwinist materialism”. What, precisely, about “evolution” is any more “materialistic” than, say, weather forecasting or accident investigation or medicine. Please be as specific as possible.

I have never, in all my life, ever heard any weather forecaster mention “god” or “divine will” or any “supernatural” anything, at all. Ever. Does this mean, in your view, that weather forecasting is atheistic (oops, I mean, “materialistic” and “naturalistic”; we don’t want any judges to think ID’s railing against “materialism” has any RELIGIOUS purpose, do we)?

I have yet, in all my 44 years of living, to ever hear any accifdent investigator declare solemnly at the scene of an airplane crash, “We can’t explain how it happened, so an Unknown Intelligent Being must have dunnit.” I have never yet heard an accident investigator say that “this crash has no materialistic cause; it must have been the Will of Allah”. Does this mean, in your view, that accident investigation is atheistic (oops, sorry, I meant to say “materialistic” and “naturalistic; we don’t want any judges to know that it is “atheism” we are actually waging a religious crusade against, do we)?

How about medicine. When you get sick, do you ask your doctor to abandon his “materialistic biases” and to investigate possible “supernatural” or “non-materialistic” causes for your disease? Or do you ask your doctor to cure your naturalistic materialistic diseases by using naturalistic materialistic antibiotics to kill your naturalistic materialistic germs?

Since it seems to me as if weather forecasting, accident investigation, and medicine are every bit, in every sense,just as utterly completely totally absolutely one-thousand-percent “materialistic” as evolutionary biology is, why, specifically, is it just evolutionary biology that gets your panties all in a bunch? Why aren’t you and your fellow Wedge-ites out there fighting the good fight against godless materialistic naturalistic weather forecasting, or medicine, or accident investigation?

Or does that all come LATER, as part of, uh, “renewing our culture” … . . ?

(3) I asked you if you repudiate the extremist views of the primary funder of the Center for (the Renewal of) Science and Culture, Howard Ahmanson, and if so, why do you keep taking his money anyway? You responded by declaring that Ahmanson isn’t as nutty nowadays as he used to be. Since I have yet to see any public statement by Ahmanson repudiating any of his previous beliefs (though I did see some puff-pieces attempting to present him as a “kindler, gentler ayatollah-wanna-be”), I asked you to (a) point me to such a public statement on his part, and (b) explain to me what parts, specifically, of his previous extremist views he has repudiated, and why, and, more importantly, what parts he has NOT repudiated, and WHY NOT.

I’m sure your failure to respond last time was just an oversight on your part, and not simply an attempt to run from questions you don’t like. So I will hold my breath waiting for you to respond this time.

And in the event that you once again experince an oversight and don’t answer, don’t worry —- I’m very happy to repeat my questions, again and again and again, every time you post anything here, as many times as I need to, until you answer.

Comment #40197

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 28, 2005 7:11 PM (e)

Nelson’s quote, in the box, is correct. Carroll’s source for Mayr is:
_Animal Species and Evolution_, Harvard press 1963, page 609. Scientists were just beginning to be able to sequence and compare proteins, much less segments of DNA.

1963?

****1963******????????????????????

Many of us on this list weren’t even BORN in 1963 !

THAT’S the best IDers can do? A regurgiquote from **1963** ?

Well, it’s a comfort to know that the IDers have not given up their creation “scientist” forefathers’ penchant for quote-mining half-century-old science articles and presenting them as if they were state-of-the-art science.

Hey Paul, do you also quote people from 1963 who declare it impossible to land on the moon?

Comment #40199

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 28, 2005 7:13 PM (e)

Attempts to resolve the hox paradox do not agree.

How dreadful. Attempts to form a scientific theory of ID also do not agree. Indeed, IDers can’t even seem to agree on whether there ****IS**** any scientific theory of ID ….

Goose, say hello to gander ….

Comment #40200

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 28, 2005 7:18 PM (e)

Whether it threatens “evolution” depends on how that infinitely elastic word is defined.

Hey Paul, speaking of “infinitely elastic”, what would you say about a “scientific theory”, such as, uh, ID, that concludes (1) the universe is 6,000 years old. Or, maybe it’s 4.5 billion years old. Makes no difference; (2) humans definitely are not evolved from apelike primates. Or maybe they are. makes no difference. (3) Living species are related through common descent. Or, maybe they’re not. Makes no difference. (4) the Intelligent Designer might be a space alien. Or maybe it CANNOT be a space alien. Makes no difference.

Would you refer to such a, uh, “theory” as “elastic”, Paul? I know *I* certainly would …. …. .

Comment #40201

Posted by bill on July 28, 2005 7:19 PM (e)

I have never understood why creationist IDiots like Paul Nelson post comments on the PandasThumb.

Really now, this is the hotbed of Darwinist Pressure Groups if there ever was one, and, yet, Paulie drops his creationist grenades among those best equiped to defuse them.

Could it be that he has no other place to go? Is he lonely?

Considering the “Discovery” Institute site doesn’t accept comments, nor does IDiots-the-Future, nor does UncommonDescentIntoMadness, I suppose this is the only free market of ideas that will even acknowledge that Admiral Nelson exists.

I can only imagine that Nelson et al post their lunacy on this site for sport because creationists offer no intellectual stimulation whatsoever. One could say they’re brain dead. At least at PandasThumb there’s life. Evolved, naturally.

Comment #40212

Posted by Stuart Weinstein on July 28, 2005 7:58 PM (e)

The Rev writes “Hey Paul, do you also quote people from 1963 who declare it impossible to land on the moon?”

LoL.. In case anyone thinks this a silly question its not; there was some concern that the lunar surface was covered in a thick layer of fine powder.

Dembski claims ID has no problem with problems.. then Nelson refutes him in a heart beat claiming the HOX paradox is a problem and then goes to town on it.

So what if it is? Science is allowed to be wrong. And who made the fundamental discoveries re HOX genes? Anyone at the DI?

Paul,

What research program does the DI propose to learn more about and unravel this “paradox”?

Comment #40221

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 28, 2005 8:23 PM (e)

I have never understood why creationist IDiots like Paul Nelson post comments on the PandasThumb.

Two reasons (the same ones, I suspect, why “Isaac” Dembski also lurks here):

(1) it feeds that massive martyr complex that they all have

and

(2) they are EXACTLY the sort of self-absorbed arrogant egotistical pricks who absolutely must know every single word that anyone says about them anywhere

Comment #40223

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 28, 2005 8:32 PM (e)

there was some concern that the lunar surface was covered in a thick layer of fine powder.

And it became a favorite creationut quote-mine for forty years. Some STILL trot it out.

Sort of like the “Cambrian Explosion”, which was an ICR favorite three decades ago, long before Meyer tried to trot it out in his, uh, “peer-reviewed science paper” (snicker, giggle).

I’ve not heard any argument from IDers that was not first made decades ago by the ICR-ite “creation scientists”. Not a single one.

I sure hope someone at Dover is going to show the judge a nicely-printed chart, listing all the ID “arguments” on one side, and all the ICR predecessors on the other. “Cambrian explosion”? An ICR favorite. “Moths don’t prove evolution”? ICR diddit first. “Haeckel’s drawings”? Old news to ICR. “Irreducible complexity”? ICR was arguing “what good is half an eye” while Behe was still pooping his diapers. “Evolution is atheistic”? Heck, that’s been ICR’s refrain since its beginning.

THEN let’s see the IDers try to argue their “ID isn’t creationism” bullcrap with a straight face.

Comment #40224

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 28, 2005 8:36 PM (e)

Dembski claims ID has no problem with problems.. then Nelson refutes him in a heart beat claiming the HOX paradox is a problem and then goes to town on it.

Indeed, if DI doesn’t care about “problems”, one wonders why their “ID” consists of nothing more than a big long laundry list of all the “problems” they say they see in evolution ….

So what if it is? Science is allowed to be wrong. And who made the fundamental discoveries re HOX genes? Anyone at the DI?

Nope. They are all too busy giving sermons before church audiences, and writing religious tracts.

And preparing for their impending disembowelment in court.

Comment #40238

Posted by Paul A. Nelson on July 28, 2005 10:11 PM (e)

Lenny, Sean Carroll quoted Mayr 1963, not me. I cited Carroll’s 2005 (Endless Forms) discussion of Mayr’s position.

Check your email tomorrow morning for my reply to your other questions. I just lost a long blog comment I was drafting and am too tired to reconstruct it now. But I’ll try to do so in an email and you can post that here.

Comment #40244

Posted by shiva on July 28, 2005 10:59 PM (e)

Paul,

Exactly! “I cited Carroll’s 2005 (Endless Forms) discussion of Mayr’s position.” Sean quoted Mayr and you quoted Sean quoting Mayr. How clever! So we may expect that Id’ers won’t cite 50-100 year old quotes (selectively) and claim that the “theory” isn’t working today.

Oh yeah - the dog ate my homework.

Comment #40245

Posted by PvM on July 28, 2005 11:03 PM (e)

This seems typical ID behavior. Another good example if Valentine who is often quoted by ID creationists to argue that there is a problem with the Cambrian. In his latest book, Valentine makes it quite clear that he believes that the Cambrian explosion is quite in line with Darwinian theory.

New knowledge often resolves much of the ignorance in which ID finds so much solace.

Comment #40246

Posted by steve on July 28, 2005 11:04 PM (e)

Paul, you should know that theories aren’t replaced with ignorance. They’re replaced with better theories. If you guys don’t have a better, more useful theory than evolution, you lose. So you got a theory of ID yet?

Comment #40249

Posted by Joseph O'Donnell on July 28, 2005 11:52 PM (e)

Exactly! “I cited Carroll’s 2005 (Endless Forms) discussion of Mayr’s position.” Sean quoted Mayr and you quoted Sean quoting Mayr. How clever! So we may expect that Id’ers won’t cite 50-100 year old quotes (selectively) and claim that the “theory” isn’t working today.

Funny you point that out, because I had just noted on my blog it’s one tactic common of people who have no solid basis in an argument. Essentially find a review or paper that quotes an earlier paper and cite the newer source as the originator of the quote (and agreeing with it). It’s a form of quote mining but mining quotes that have been quoted from their original source secondarily later down the track.

Comment #40254

Posted by ts on July 29, 2005 1:23 AM (e)

some IDeologue wrote:

Lenny, Sean Carroll quoted Mayr 1963, not me.

But he didn’t do so in order make you moronic invalid point. As PZ Myers wrote, “would you announce that there was a paradox here? Of course not. You’re not an idiot.” He wasn’t talking to you.

Comment #40255

Posted by RGrover875 on July 29, 2005 1:26 AM (e)

I’m new to this issue, but in my early and cursory examination thus far it seems to me that for ID advocates (some of whose intelligence and even brilliance cannot be denied), the Intelligent Designer/GOD is nothing more than that which cannot be currently explained. Such an Intelligent Designer/GOD has been for centuries or longer, and continues daily, to get smaller and smaller and less and less…a continually “shrinking” Designer/GOD. Which means, of course, that we can rule out an “unchanging” Designer/GOD. Which would include the god of Christianity.

Personally, I DO believe in Intelligent Design and a very brilliant and creative Intelligent Designer. It is clear to me, however, that She has some very serious issues and problems, including Manic-Depressive Illness and Multiple Personality Disorder. The sooner we can introduce the study of ID into the public school curriculum, wedged or otherwise, the quicker, just maybe, me might be able to get Her some of the help that the She so obviously and desparately needs.

Comment #40256

Posted by ts on July 29, 2005 1:45 AM (e)

Sean Carroll wrote:

The discovery … has forced a complete rethinking … Comparative and evolutionary biologists had long assumed … So prevalent was this view of great evolutionary distance that in the 1960s [that] Ernst Mayr remarked … This view was entirely incorrect…. Stephen Jay Gould … saw the discovery of Hox clusters and common body-building genes as overturning a major view of the Modern Synthesis… Gould states, “The central significance of our dawning understanding of the genetics of development lies not in the simple discovery of something utterly unknown…but in the explicitly unexpected character of these findings, and in the revisions and extensions thus required of evolutionary theory.”

So, here we have a story of developments in the theory of evolution, triggered by new evidence and resulting in rethinking of unexamined or poorly grounded assumptions. Non-idiots understand that this is how science works. And then there are people like Paul A. Nelson, who think that there would be any significance to PZ Myers agreeing that “the neo-Darwinian understanding of the relationship of genes to development and morphological form turned out to be wrong”.

Bill Dembski writes “It has a problem with bogus solutions that Darwinists like Ruse and Carroll dress up as real solutions to the problems of biological origins.” Bogus solutions? Dressed up as real solutions? What sort of real solution is “godoranalienbutreallygoddidit”? George Gilder has the honesty to admit that ID has no content. What does Paul A. Nelson have to say about it? Someone here wrote “Paul, You are a good sort by all accounts.” What a hoot. Quote mining, misrepresentations, extraordinary intellectual dishonesty, and an active desire to destroy science education and replace it with supernaturalism do not add up to “a good sort”.

Comment #40257

Posted by Brian on July 29, 2005 2:00 AM (e)

I find the constant anologies to human designed items to be silly if not simplistic.
Dembski quotes West:

(“Consider the analogy of an ignition switch in a vehicle. One might find similar ignition switches in vehicles such as automobiles, boats, and airplanes — vehicles which are otherwise very different from each other. Perhaps, in some sense, an ignition switch can be called a “master control”; but except for telling us that a vehicle can be started by turning on an electrical current, it tells us nothing about that vehicle’s structure and function.”)

If people find this sort of half baked anology meaningful, then things are worse of then I thought.
If west thought about it, there is a part number that would tell a person the vehicle it most likely came from then the rest look up in Chiltons.
What is more if this is an attempt of evidence of how an “intelligent agent” plays into biology,
then I’m on my way to the “ID Pep Boys” for a new right knee.

Comment #40264

Posted by Kristjan Wager on July 29, 2005 3:19 AM (e)

I am in complete agreement Brian.
The fact that all the design people overlook is that we think a watch/engine etc. is designed because we know that these things are designed. If we were primitives with no connection to civilization, we would not think a watch designed, as we would have no framework from which to reach that conclusion.

In other words, if I see a watch, I believe that a watchmaker must have been involved. If I see a human, I believe a mother and a father must have been involved.

Comment #40274

Posted by Ed Darrell on July 29, 2005 4:03 AM (e)

Initially, this was regarded as evidence for genetic programs controlling development. But biologists are now realizing that it actually constitutes a paradox: if genes control development, why do similar genes produce such different animals? Why does a caterpillar turn into a butterfly instead of a barracuda?

This is the money line from Dr. Dembski’s article, it seems to me. It suggests that biologists really have no idea how similar genes are used toward different ends in the development of an embryo.

It may be accurate in small ways, but it is grotesquely wrong in its suggestion. If Dr. Dembski wishes to know why a caterpillar turns into a butterfly instead of a barracuda, any Texas-approved high school biology text could tell him the basics so that he could see how such systems work.

I hope that no science publication would let such a misleading statement get into publication. I hope than any theological publication would, once it realized the problem, issue a correction.

Comment #40283

Posted by ts on July 29, 2005 5:10 AM (e)

Dembski’s example is staggeringly stupid. Does he think a caterpillar evolves into a butterfly? Or is he proposing intelligent ontogeny? Does he think caterpillar development is an entirely random process such that they could turn into just anything? Or does he think that caterpillars turn into butterflies by magic? If not, then he must admit that, even if the process were entirely unknown, it is entirely natural and mechanistic. And that totally undercuts intelligent design. Did I say staggeringly stupid? I think that’s an understatement.

Comment #40284

Posted by ts on July 29, 2005 5:20 AM (e)

Staggeringly stupid and staggeringly dishonest, along with the rest of his “movement”. Consider this latest from Dembski – an email he has approvingly posted on his blog which, in the middle of pushing for a cultural shift via a hip hop band, asks for it to be judged on its scientific merit.

http://www.uncommondescent.com/index.php/archives/210

[T]he message on Darwinian Evolution is getting out to the young people. Check out this hip-hop band’s song called “Agency”. It is an all out attack on Macro-evolution, Chemical Evolution, Common Descent, even Scientific Naturalism, on the whole. The song also states that “ID is a more possible explanation” and is very friendly to the ID movement and general ID thesis. This rapper is genuinely angry about the rhetoric employed by Darwinists-basing most of their arguments against ID on ad-hominem attacks and “Creationist” labels, in their refutation of ID, rather than addressing the scientific merits of the theory .

If the pop-culture is starting to understand the gross inadequacies of Neo-Darwinism to explain the origins and the diversity of life in this universe, perhaps a paradigm shift is closer than we think.

The band is called FM108 and tackles issues of biological origins, in addition to issues of criminal justice, particularly wrongful convictions and a variety of other pressing world issues. For more info contact me at: [snip]

Hear the song “Agency” by FM108 @ http://www.newmusiccanada.com/genres/artist.cfm?mode=longBio&Band_Id=13736

Comment #40287

Posted by steve on July 29, 2005 6:47 AM (e)

If the pop-culture is starting to understand the gross inadequacies of Neo-Darwinism to explain the origins and the diversity of life in this universe, perhaps a paradigm shift is closer than we think.

But of course. Who knows more about the future of science than christian rappers? Biologists? That’s crazy talk.

Comment #40288

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 29, 2005 6:55 AM (e)

Lenny, Sean Carroll quoted Mayr 1963, not me. I cited Carroll’s 2005 (Endless Forms) discussion of Mayr’s position.

Don’t bullshit us, Paul.

Check your email tomorrow morning for my reply to your other questions.

I’m holding my breath, Paul.

Comment #40292

Posted by harold on July 29, 2005 7:18 AM (e)

Paul Nelson -

I asked a question earlier, but I guess you missed it. I’ll post it again.

Scientists believe the basic mechanism of evolution to be genetic variability acted on by natural selection. The RESULT of this may be described, tersely but quite accurately, as a “change in the frequency of alleles”, with the understanding that much else usually changes as well.

This conception is not rigid, but it isn’t especially elastic, either.

While the use of relatively conserved hox genes in development of different morphologic features is fascinating, and may disagree with earlier hypotheses of development, it is also strongly consistent with the theory of evolution from common descent, as described above.

If you disagree, can you explain why, very specifically?

I’ll add another question - if you refuse to answer, can explain that?

(Also, a minor correction to the question. While natural selection is clearly required for the high degree of adaptation and specialization of life we see today, genetic variability alone can and will produce evolution under certain circumstances.)

Comment #40293

Posted by Paul A. Nelson on July 29, 2005 8:00 AM (e)

Here is the passage from Sean Carroll (Endless Forms, 2005, pp. 71-72) again, with the Mayr quote, exactly as it appears in Carroll’s book:

The discovery that the same sets of genes control the formation and pattern of body regions and body parts with similar functions (but very different designs) in insects, vertebrates, and other animals has forced a complete rethinking of animal history, the origins of structures, and the nature of diversity. Comparative and evolutionary biologists had long assumed that different groups of animals, separated by vast amounts of evolutionary time, were constructed and had evolved by entirely different means. The connection between members of some groups —- among the vertebrates, for example, or between vertebrates and other animals with a notochord —- was well established. But between flies and humans, or flatworms and sea squirts…no way! So prevalent was this view of great evolutionary distance that in the 1960s the evolutionary biologist (and an architect of the Modern Synthesis) Ernst Mayr remarked:

“Much that has been learned about gene physiology makes it evident that the search for homologous genes is quite futile except in very close relatives. If there is only one efficient solution for a certain functional demand, very different gene complexes will come up with the same solution, no matter how different the pathway by which it is achieved. The saying “Many roads lead to Rome” is as true in evolution as in daily affairs.”

This view was entirely incorrect. The late Stephen Jay Gould, in his monumental work The Structure of Evolutionary Theory, saw the discovery of Hox clusters and common body-building genes as overturning a major view of the Modern Synthesis. Gould states, “The central significance of our dawning understanding of the genetics of development lies not in the simple discovery of something utterly unknown…but in the explicitly unexpected character of these findings, and in the revisions and extensions thus required of evolutionary theory.”

Here’s a précis of this passage:

1. The Modern Synthesis predicted a certain relationship among genes, development, and anatomical form. As an example of that prediction, Sean Carroll quotes Mayr 1963.

2. Data contradicted the Modern Synthesis’s prediction. It was “entirely incorrect.”

3. Thus, biologists need to rethink the relationship of genes, development, and form. Carroll cites Gould 2002 as supporting this point.

I’ve got dozens of ev bio textbooks on my office shelves expressing the same position as Mayr 1963. Any biology student who was an undergrad when PZ Myers and I went through university (the early 1980s, prior to the Hox revolution) would have been taught this view. And that’s why the Hox data were so unexpected, as Carroll argues.

I confess I cannot understand how my citing of this passage, which is characteristic of much of recent evo-devo literature, is seen as “quote-mining” Ernst Mayr, but then much of what happens here at PT is bewildering.

Comment #40300

Posted by harold on July 29, 2005 8:56 AM (e)

Paul Nelson -

I did not accuse you of “quote-mining” Ernst Mayr, but rather, suggested that a source you quoted may have done so (I didn’t use the exact term “quote-mine”, either). That point has been cleared up, and we now all agree that the quote from Mayr appears to be accurate. Mayr appears to have had some hypotheses about development, in 1963, which have since been found to be at least partly incorrect. In 1963, Mayr’s hypotheses appear to have been part of something that some people, at that time, refered to as the “Modern Synthesis”. You also established the fact that, although many of us do not find the existence of hox genes paradoxical, the term “hox paradox” has been used.

None of this is relevant to the question you keep evading. I’ll repeat it once more.

Scientists believe the basic mechanism of evolution to be genetic variability acted on by natural selection. The RESULT of this may be described, tersely but quite accurately, as a “change in the frequency of alleles”, with the understanding that much else usually changes as well.

This conception is not rigid, but it isn’t especially elastic, either.

While the use of relatively conserved hox genes in development of different morphologic features is fascinating, and may disagree with earlier hypotheses of development, it is also strongly consistent with the theory of evolution from common descent, as described above.

If you disagree, can you explain why, very specifically?

I’ll add another question - if you refuse to answer, can explain that?

(Also, a minor correction to the question. While natural selection is clearly required for the high degree of adaptation and specialization of life we see today, genetic variability alone can and will produce evolution under certain circumstances.)

Comment #40301

Posted by Andrea Bottaro on July 29, 2005 9:04 AM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'li'

Comment #40304

Posted by D. Stump on July 29, 2005 9:30 AM (e)

3. Thus, biologists need to rethink the relationship of genes, development, and form. Carroll cites Gould 2002 as supporting this point.

Biologists have rethought the relationship of genes, development, and form, and that’s what you find in Carroll’s book, PZ’s critique of Dembski, the Science and PNAS articles pointed out to Nelson, and a wealth of additional material about evo-devo in the literature (along with any good up-to-date basic biology textbook). The research goes on, and that is what makes evo-devo such an exciting field.

Dembski’s claim that “biologists are now realizing that it actually constitutes a paradox” is silly and incorrect because he absolutely ignores (or is completely ignorant of) the research that has recently been done in this area. His statement might have been accurate 20 years ago, but not now. Nelson’s defense of Dembski further ignored these recent advances in understanding.

What’s irritating about this is that Dembski is passing on his poor understanding of biology.

Comment #40306

Posted by Steve LaBonne on July 29, 2005 9:49 AM (e)

D. Stump, your comment contains a point mutation and a large insertion. It should read, “Dembski is pissing on biology.” ;)

Comment #40311

Posted by Paul A. Nelson on July 29, 2005 10:08 AM (e)

Lenny,

Holding your breath for several hours is unwise.

About your other questions. Actually, I did answer them before (see this string of comments, #28357), but you didn’t like my replies, so you asked other questions after I left the discussion. This game can go on forever, with the interrogator (you) asking new questions, whatever I say – but heck I’ll hit the tennis ball back one more time.

You asked:

Does the ID movement call itself the ID movement simply to bamboozle people into thinking it has an actual alternative theory when it really doesn’t? Does the ID movement call itself the ID movement to try and gain all the rhetorical advantages of claiming to have an alternative theory without the disadvantages of actually having to PRODUCE one?

“The ID movement” is just a name for a group of people with similar ideas. When I began thinking about design years ago, there was no “ID movement” denoted by that name, but the ideas were percolating away nonetheless (e.g., in the writings of Charles Thaxton). The name – the label – is largely a matter of convention. It’s the ideas themselves that attract, or repel, people.

Think about it this way. If I broiled what I said was “a really fine steak” for you, but served you shoe leather, it’s the shoe leather, and not what I called it, that would matter. Or, conversely, if you said to me that B.B. King’s music was “sucky Muzak dreck, don’t bother with it,” as a fan of blues I’d discount your description or label. (Btw, I only serve USDA choice or prime to guests, if you’re ever in Chicago. Shoe leather is strictly for thought experiments.)

In short, it doesn’t really matter what one calls “the ID movement,” which explains why pejoratives such as “IDiots,” “intelligent decline,” “creationism-lite,” “creationism in designer clothing,” and the like, have had little discernable effect on the growth of the ID community.

You wrote:

I have never, in all my life, ever heard any weather forecaster mention “god” or “divine will” or any “supernatural” anything, at all.

Nor have I. But climatologists and atmospheric scientists weigh the effects of intelligent agency all the time. Consider global warming and its possible causes. To be sure, humans aren’t “supernatural,” at least in the sense that I think you mean, but disentangling atmospheric effects due to intelligent agency (e.g., gas emissions from industrial activity) from so-called “natural” causes is an important area of ongoing research. If agency is suggested by evidence, science takes up the question. ID theorists think biological evidence suggests the role of intelligent agency; most biologists disagree; and so we find ourselves with a vigorous dispute.

As for the “supernatural” in science —- let’s say the use of theology in scientific reasoning —- evolutionary biology itself is a salient counterexample. Open almost any introductory evolutionary biology textbook, and you’ll see something like the following:

A whale’s flipper, a man’s arm, a bird’s wing, and a dog’s foreleg…perform functions about as different and varied as styles of locomotion in vertebrates can be, yet all are built of the same bones. Why would God have used the same building blocks, and distorted and twisted them in such odd ways, if He had simply set out to make the best swimming, running, and flying machines? The common structure must reflect common descent from an ancestor possessing these bones. Evolution is proved by its imperfections.

(from Salvador Luria, Stephen Jay Gould, and Sam Singer, A View of Life (Benjamin/Cummings, 1981, p. 581). This is a college biology textbook. The authors are explaining why evolution is true.

The theological content of evolutionary biology stems directly from the Origin of Species, a text itself rooted in English natural theology, as Abigail Lustig (UT-Austin) recently argued in her publication “Natural Atheology” (Darwinian Heresies, Cambridge Univ. Press, 2004, pp. 69-83). If I may, immodestly, quote from Lustig (p. 76):

The philosopher Paul A. Nelson has recently analyzed…the retention of design arguments in modern biology, perspicaciously criticizing on philosophical grounds two of the standard Darwinian strategies used to disprove the argument from design: the argument from imperfection or suboptimal design (appendixes); and the argument for common descent on the basis of homology (wings and flippers). He points out the inherent conflict involved in using a theological strategy to argue for the primacy of methodological naturalism, pointing out that both of these arguments against the argument from design depend upon a number of a priori, underived theological assumptions about the nature of God; for example, the argument from suboptimal design (the panda’s thumb, to take Stephen Jay Gould’s famous example) rests upon the undemonstrable assumption of an independently derivable optimal design. Nelson concludes that these arguments are a weakness in current evolutionary biology, and recommends that “evolutionary theorists should reconsider both the arguments and the influence of Darwinian theological metaphysics on their understanding of evolution.”

Is the theological content of evolutionary biology “scientific” or not?

Lastly – your Howard Ahmanson obsession. I’ve spent a little time with Howard (had a memorable long dinner with him in Irvine, CA, one night), and we talked about movies, wine, and whatnot. I’ve never heard or read anything from Howard that comes even remotely close to “extremism,” whatever that is. You are circulating hearsay, Lenny, if it rises even to that.

What actual evidence do you have, in Howard Ahmanson’s own words, of his positions?

Comment #40313

Posted by Bruce Thompson GQ on July 29, 2005 10:23 AM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'quote'

Comment #40314

Posted by Paul A. Nelson on July 29, 2005 10:25 AM (e)

To the others in this discussion,

I’d like to continue, but posting here at PT is an indulgence I really shouldn’t allow myself. As of September 2005, I’ll have a personal webpage and blog up and running, where I hope to elaborate on topics such as the Hox paradox/maybe a little paradox/not a paradox at all (pick your flavor). Come and visit [the URLs will be available at www.idthefuture.com in a few weeks]. I’ll be enabling unrestricted comments, as long as people behaves themselves and don’t put their shoes on the furniture.

Lenny – I’m outa this discussion. Visit my blog when it’s up, and we can continue the back-and-forth over there.

Comment #40315

Posted by Lurker on July 29, 2005 10:25 AM (e)

Paul,

How is the argument for common descent on the basis of homology dependent on a number of a priori, underived theological assumptions about the nature of God?

Comment #40318

Posted by ts on July 29, 2005 10:31 AM (e)

Paul A. Nelson wrote:

Actually, I did answer them before (see this string of comments, #28357)

I don’t think it’s wise to post a link that shows what an incredibly dishonest person you are.

Comment #40319

Posted by ts on July 29, 2005 10:46 AM (e)

ID theorists think biological evidence suggests the role of intelligent agency

I can just imagine a climatologist saying that they see evidence of intelligent agency in weather patterns, but they have no idea of the nature of the agent or any other detail of what mechanism was involved or what role the agent played in affecting climate. Uh, no, climatologists have the evidence of human behavior in front of them and relate it to observations about weather to see if there’s a causal connection, you IDiot.

Comment #40320

Posted by rdog29 on July 29, 2005 10:48 AM (e)

Re: #40284

Wow. Musical celebs embracing ID. Now THERE’S credibility for ya.

Perhaps Dembski would also like to embrace Scientology, since it works so well for Tom Cruise?

Comment #40324

Posted by ts on July 29, 2005 10:57 AM (e)

If I may, immodestly, quote from Lustig

This resembles nothing so much as felching. I hope it was as good for Ms. Lustig as it was good for you.

Comment #40330

Posted by ts on July 29, 2005 11:16 AM (e)

What actual evidence do you have, in Howard Ahmanson’s own words, of his positions?

Actions speak louder than words. But this article covers both:

http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2004/01/06/ahmanson/index2.html

Here are some of Ahmanson’s words:

“My goal is the total integration of biblical law into our lives.”

And here are some of his wife’s words:

When I asked if this meant she and her husband would still want to install the supremacy of biblical law, she replied: “I’m not suggesting we have an amendment to the Constitution that says we now follow all 613 of the case laws of the Old Testament … But if by biblical law you mean the last seven of the 10 Commandments, you know, yeah.”

She doesn’t say which version of ten commandments, but the last seven presumably include lying, adultery, coveting, not honoring your parents, and keeping the Sabbath holy – all of which the Ahmansons want to make amendments to the Constitution. I guess there are some IDiots who don’t think that’s an extreme position.

Comment #40337

Posted by rdog29 on July 29, 2005 11:45 AM (e)

So the effects of human activity get combined with the effects of natural (i.e., non-human) processes to produce climate patterns.

At least climatologists have an idea of what types of subtsances humans introduce into the atmosphere, how much, at what rate, and at what locations. Thus they at least have a starting point to estimate the effects of human activity.

Now does ID Theory propose an “analogous” estimate as to the mechanism and “insertion point” of the effects of the Intelligent Agent, or is it just “poof, there it is”?

Talk about elastic!

Comment #40342

Posted by JohnK on July 29, 2005 12:04 PM (e)

Lurker wrote:

Paul, How is the argument for common descent on the basis of homology dependent on a number of a priori, underived theological assumptions about the nature of God?

I speculate that Nelson’s point is that homology (of, say, his wings and flippers example) is not an argument against creationism (assumptions re the nature of God’s purposes) and thus not uniquely for common descent.
The homology of things like the vitamin-C synth gene broken in the same place in all anthropoids is a bit of a slipperier argument for him.

Ultimately these claims that all “a priori, underived theological assumptions” are completely off the table, boils down to the trusty, incomprehensible Unknown Purposes and, when it’s handy, a radical postmodern stance against “objective” justification of any evaluation. No one can ever claim anything about “design” efficacy, etc.
The cost of this claim? No ID science.

Comment #40346

Posted by Wesley R. Elsberry on July 29, 2005 12:34 PM (e)

Lustig via Nelson wrote:

rests upon the undemonstrable assumption of an independently derivable optimal design

No, it doesn’t. One does not need an undemonstrable absolute, as Paul claimed in 1997. See my response.

Nelson’s discussion of perfection and imperfection raises many important points, but failed to address the main issue: the comparative method allows for identification of suboptimal design. The instantiation of components achieving particular functions gives us a basis for comparing the systems which provide for similar functionality. In those cases where such systems meet an engineering criterion of modularity, it is eminently reasonable to ask why module p was employed in one instance, but kludgy module p’ was employed in another. We don’t have to be able to identify the optimal in order to identify what is suboptimal.

Nelson argues from a mathematical viewpoint that we can’t use the suboptimality argument against a theological notion of a “reasonable” creator. He gives an equation for illustration:

ObD / OptD = DesShort

Where
ObD is Observed Design
OptD is Optimal Design
and DesShort is the Design Shortfall

Because we can’t obtain OptD, we must forego use of this manner of argumentation, according to Nelson.

However, I can derive a different equation that demonstrates the possible utility of the comparative method:

ObD_a / ObD_b = DAR

Where
ObD_a is the figure of merit for Observed Design “a”
ObD_b is the figure of merit for Observed Design “b”
and DAR is the Design Astuteness Ratio

This is a more appropriate metric to critique. There are no unknowns hiding here, and no necessity for finding or even worrying about an “optimal” design. That both ObD_a and ObD_b are or may be suboptimal does not detract from the utility of the comparison.

I had figured I missed a window of opportunity since I didn’t put something together for Biology and Philosophy closer to the time when Paul got his paper published there. But if Paul’s clear error is being propagated via others (as the Lustig quote shows), perhaps Sterelny would be open to a short and sweet rebuttal.

Comment #40350

Posted by C.J.O'Brien on July 29, 2005 12:53 PM (e)

Nelson quotes Lustig, paraphrasing Nelson:

these arguments against the argument from design depend upon a number of a priori, underived theological assumptions about the nature of God; for example, the argument from suboptimal design (the panda’s thumb, to take Stephen Jay Gould’s famous example) rests upon the undemonstrable assumption of an independently derivable optimal design.

Hmmm. I see a bit of wiggle between “theological assumptions” and “the…assumption of…optimal design.” Further, let’s be clear about arguments of sub-optimality, and allow for prima facie optimality. (This is necessary, if we are not to make the “theological assumptions” that could only be “derived” from some speculations about the capabilities and motivations of the purported intervening entity, which are not forthcoming, making the entire line of reasoning somewhat disingenuous, but I digress…)

If we have a structure or system that is 1. prima facie sub-optimal, and 2. the (provisionally) sub-optimal features are consistent with modification of a pre-existing structure or system, we’re supposed to buy the argument that we haven’t ruled out the possible constraints on the Designer that might make prima facie sub-optimality only apparent, and not actually sub-optimal?

In short, arguing that something wasn’t designed because it is sub-optimal, without knowledge of the potential constraints that might pertain to the process of design isn’t the whole story. Nelson leaves out the most persuasive part of the argument: the corallary. i.e. that not only is it sub-optimal, but it is sub-optimal in exactly the way it would be were it the product of natural selection.

Comment #40354

Posted by C.J.O'Brien on July 29, 2005 12:58 PM (e)

Nice. As I was posting, I see Mr. Elsberry has perfectly complemented my (just-invented) notion of prima facie optimality with a metric by which it can be estimated.

And JohnK’s point is well taken, as well: as usual, in trying to have it both ways, the IDer gives away the store, where “the store” is any hope of an empirical research program.

Comment #40364

Posted by Steviepinhead on July 29, 2005 1:30 PM (e)

Nelson mumbled:

If agency is suggested by evidence, science takes up the question. ID theorists think biological evidence suggests the role of intelligent agency; most biologists disagree; and so we find ourselves with a vigorous dispute.

Then why don’t any of you Divine Design-ists shut your gobs, roll up your sleeves, turn on the lights in the lab, and take up the darn question then? Get off your press-releasing, philosophizin’ butts and do a little research for once in your lives!

Sheesh!

Comment #40365

Posted by ts on July 29, 2005 1:31 PM (e)

The ToE is a positive theory; it doesn’t depend upon “disproving” design arguments for its validity, so even if such counterarguments were based on theological assumptions, it wouldn’t follow that “evolutionary biology” has “theological content”. And then we have Lustig writing “He points out the inherent conflict involved in using a theological strategy to argue for the primacy of methodological naturalism” – huh? It’s methodological naturalism, not metaphysical naturalism. Since it’s methodological, there’s no need to argue for it, or it’s “primacy”. We employ methodological naturalism because our goal is to produce natural models and explanations, so we can make accurate predictions about natural phenomena and effectively manipulate the natural world, while Nelson and Lustig are off in cloudcookooland.

Comment #40376

Posted by 386sx on July 29, 2005 2:36 PM (e)

C.J.O'Brien wrote:

In short, arguing that something wasn’t designed because it is sub-optimal, without knowledge of the potential constraints that might pertain to the process of design isn’t the whole story.

I don’t even think that’s the right story. I think it’s more like somebody yells out “God did it,” and then somebody asks “if God did it, then how come…,” and then Mr. Nelson gets to yell out “Ah hah, theological strategist!” Lol, one has to wonder why he doesn’t say that those who question Intelligent Design are “Intelligent Design Strategists.”

C.J.O'Brien wrote:

Nelson leaves out the most persuasive part of the argument: the corallary. i.e. that not only is it sub-optimal, but it is sub-optimal in exactly the way it would be were it the product of natural selection.

Well, there you have it. Highlight the philosophical distractions and ignore the meat and potatoes - the classic strategy of what George Gilder is pleased to say “does not have any content”.

Comment #40393

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 29, 2005 5:43 PM (e)

Does the ID movement call itself the ID movement simply to bamboozle people into thinking it has an actual alternative theory when it really doesn’t? Does the ID movement call itself the ID movement to try and gain all the rhetorical advantages of claiming to have an alternative theory without the disadvantages of actually having to PRODUCE one?

“The ID movement” is just a name for a group of people with similar ideas. When I began thinking about design years ago, there was no “ID movement” denoted by that name, but the ideas were percolating away nonetheless (e.g., in the writings of Charles Thaxton). The name — the label — is largely a matter of convention. It’s the ideas themselves that attract, or repel, people.

Think about it this way. If I broiled what I said was “a really fine steak” for you, but served you shoe leather, it’s the shoe leather, and not what I called it, that would matter. Or, conversely, if you said to me that B.B. King’s music was “sucky Muzak dreck, don’t bother with it,” as a fan of blues I’d discount your description or label. (Btw, I only serve USDA choice or prime to guests, if you’re ever in Chicago. Shoe leather is strictly for thought experiments.)

In short, it doesn’t really matter what one calls “the ID movement,” which explains why pejoratives such as “IDiots,” “intelligent decline,” “creationism-lite,” “creationism in designer clothing,” and the like, have had little discernable effect on the growth of the ID community.

You, uh, didn’t answer my question, Paul.

My question was very specific. If there is no such thing as a theory of ID, why does the ID movement call itself the ID movement? You say “it really doesn’t matter what one calls the ID movemnet”. If so, why name it after something that doesn’t exist? Is it, or is it not, to imply that it DOES exist, even though it actually doesn’t.

I still await your answer to that simple question.

Comment #40394

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 29, 2005 5:46 PM (e)

I confess I cannot understand how my citing of this passage, which is characteristic of much of recent evo-devo literature, is seen as “quote-mining” Ernst Mayr

So you are “bewildered” that people don’t like your second-hand quoting … ?

Oh well, as Eldredge once said, creation ‘scientists’ are poor scholars.

It’s not at all surprising that the creation “scientist” offpsring, the ID movement, are equally poor scholars.

Comment #40397

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 29, 2005 5:51 PM (e)

I have never, in all my life, ever heard any weather forecaster mention “god” or “divine will” or any “supernatural” anything, at all.

Nor have I. But climatologists and atmospheric scientists weigh the effects of intelligent agency all the time. Consider global warming and its possible causes. To be sure, humans aren’t “supernatural,” at least in the sense that I think you mean, but disentangling atmospheric effects due to intelligent agency (e.g., gas emissions from industrial activity) from so-called “natural” causes is an important area of ongoing research. If agency is suggested by evidence, science takes up the question. ID theorists think biological evidence suggests the role of intelligent agency; most biologists disagree; and so we find ourselves with a vigorous dispute.

That wasn’t the question, Paul. I’ll ask again.

IDers are the ones bitching that science, and biology in particular, is “materialistic” and “naturalistic” and rejects any “supernatural” explanations.

It seems to me that weather forecasting, accident investigation and medical practice are ALL equally “materialistic” and “naturalistic” and reject “supernatural” explanations (note that NONE of the “intelligent agencies” involved in any of these is in any way NOT “materialistic” or “naturalistic”, Paul).

So I’ll ask again; why, if weather forecasting and accident investigation are every bit as “atheistic” and “materialistic” as evolution, aren’t you out there fighting the good fight to get God back into weather forecasting aqnd accident investigation. Why aren’t you out there fighting the “materialistic naturalistic biases” of weather forecasting or accident investigation. Why does “atheism” in evolution get your undies all in a bunch, but “atheism” in weather forecasting doesn’t.

Or does that all come later, as part of, uh, “renewing our culture” … ?

Comment #40398

Posted by Dene Bebbington on July 29, 2005 5:51 PM (e)

ts wrote:

“Staggeringly stupid and staggeringly dishonest, along with the rest of his “movement”. Consider this latest from Dembski — an email he has approvingly posted on his blog which, in the middle of pushing for a cultural shift via a hip hop band, asks for it to be judged on its scientific merit.”

A hip-hop band come down on the side of ID. Well, that’s me convinced. Let’s get rid of scientists and decide these matters by crap music.

Comment #40399

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 29, 2005 5:55 PM (e)

Lastly — your Howard Ahmanson obsession. I’ve spent a little time with Howard (had a memorable long dinner with him in Irvine, CA, one night), and we talked about movies, wine, and whatnot. I’ve never heard or read anything from Howard that comes even remotely close to “extremism,” whatever that is. You are circulating hearsay, Lenny, if it rises even to that.

What actual evidence do you have, in Howard Ahmanson’s own words, of his positions?

And, once again, you’ve not answered my question. (Gee, I’m shocked.)

I’ll ask again.

Can you point me to any published public statement by Ahmanson wherein he disavows any of the positions he held as cash cow and chief cheerleader for the Chalcedon Foundation nutballs?

If you want to tell me that he has repudiated his positions and is no longer as nutty as he HAS been for the past 20 years, then please tell me (1) which of his former positions he has repudiated and why, and (2) which of his former positions he has NOT repudiated, and why NOT?

Offhand, Paul, I’d say that placing the US under “Biblical law”,to include such things as stoning “sinners”, well, pretty extremist. I find it illuminating that you do not.

Comment #40400

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 29, 2005 5:59 PM (e)

Lenny — I’m outa this discussion.

I don’t blame you, Paul. I wouldn’t want to defend your positions either.

Please be assured that I will repeat my questions next time you come back here.

Visit my blog when it’s up, and we can continue the back-and-forth over there.

Thanks, but I’ve seen what passes for, uh, “back and forth” at ID-run blogs. I prefer to post in places where the iron hand of the ayatollah’s censor doesn’t rule.

So we will continue this discussion next time you come back here.

Comment #40406

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 29, 2005 6:23 PM (e)

For those in the audience who might not know who this Howard Ahmanson charatcer is, I offer the following from my website:

Some idea of the Dicovery Institute’s real aims can be revealed by looking at its funding sources. Nearly all of the Discovery Institute’s money comes in the form of grants from wealthy “conservative” fundamentalist Christians. They got around $350,000 from the Maclellan Foundation, a fundie lobbying group in Tennessee. Their single biggest source of money, though, is Howard Ahmanson, a California savings-and-loan bigwig. Ahmanson’s gift of $1.5 million was the original seed money to organize the Center for Science and Culture, the arm of the Discovery Institute which focuses on promoting “intelligent design theory”. By his own reckoning, Ahmanson gives more of his money to the DI than to any other poilitically active group – only a museum trust in his wife’s hometown in Iowa and a Bible college in New Jersey get more. In 2004, he reportedly gave the Center another $2.8 million. Howard Ahamnson, Jr sits on the Board Directors of Discovery Institute.

Ahmanson is a Christian Reconstructionist – a fringe group of fundies who argue that the US Constitution should be abandoned and the US should be “reconstructed” under “Biblical law”. They are the Christian equivilent of the Muslim fundamentalists who want to form “Islamic states” under “Islamic law”. Ahmanson is long associated with JR Rushdooney, one of the original founders of the Reconstructionist movement — and one of the original financial backers of Henry Morris and the ICR (Rushdooney paid most of the publishing costs for Morris’s first book, “The Genesis Flood”. Similarly, the Discovery Institute’s Phillip Johnson dedicated his book “Defeating Darwinism” to “Howard and Roberta” – Ahmanson and his wife.)

Ahmanson has given several million dollars over the past few years to anti-evolution groups (including Discovery Institute), as well as anti-gay groups, “Christian” political candidates, and funding efforts to split the Episcopalian Church over its willingness to ordain gay ministers. He was also a major funder of the recent “recall” effort in California which led to the election of Terminator Arnie.

Some of Ahmanson’s donations are channeled through the Fieldstead Foundation, which is a subspecies of the Ahmanson foundation “Fieldstead” is Ahmanson’s middle name). The Fieldstead Foundation funds many of the travelling and speaking expenses of the DI’s shining stars.

Although the creationists like to speak about “academic freedom” and about allowing students to make a “choice”, statements by creationists and their fundamentalist supporters make it clear that this is just rhetoric. The fundamentalists have a deep and barely-concealed contempt for democracy and free choice–an attitude which is not surprising given their world-view, which is based upon unquestioned obedience to an inerrant Bible and the infallible authority of those who interpret it. Jerry Falwell, in a moment of remarkable candor, once remarked that “Christians, like slaves and soldiers, ask no questions.” (cited in Vetter 1982, p. 17) Democracy, then, with its messy guarantees of freedom of thought and popular control over authority, is dangerous to the fundamentalists and their world-view. Pat Robertson bluntly says, “I think ‘one man, one vote’, just unrestricted democracy, would not be wise”. (700 Club, March 18, 1992, cited in Boston, 1996, p. 166) “Our Founding Fathers,” Falwell declares, “would not accept the tyranny of a democracy because they recognized that the only sovereign over men and nations was Almighty God.” (cited in Young, 1982, p. 184) Charles Stanly of Moral Majority made this anti- democratic attitude even more plain: “We do not want a democracy in this land because if we have a democracy a majority rules,” (cited in Young 1982, p. 65) while Rich Anguin of the Minnesota Moral Majority adds, “Freedom of speech has never been right. We’ve never had freedom of speech in this country and we never should have.” (cited in Young, 1982, p. 65)

Gary Potter, a Weyrich partner and head of Catholics for Political Action, states his theocratic goals with chilling clarity: “When the Christian majority takes over the country, there will be no Satanic churches, no more free distribution of pornography, no more abortion on demand, and no more talk of rights for homosexuals. After the Christian majority takes control, pluralism will be seen as immoral and evil and the state will not permit anybody the right to practice evil.” (cited in Conway and Siegelman, 1984, p. 115-116) Gary North, of the Institute for Christian Economics, echos that true Christians should “get busy in constructing a Bible-based social, political and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God.” (cited in Bill Moyers, “God and Politics, PBS, 1987)

And this contempt for political democracy is reflected by the creationists as well. Kelly Segraves, the co-founder of the Creation Science Research Society, declares, “Humanism is a far-reaching social program that aims for the establishment throughout the world of democracy (lowest common denominator mob rule), peace and a high standard of living.” (Segraves, Creation-Science Report, January 1980, cited in LaFollette, 1983, p. 182) Apparently, Segraves views democracy, peace and a high standard of living as the work of the Devil, and is determined to use creation “science” to help stamp these evils out.

In essence, the fundamentalists and their creationist allies want to do for the United States what the fundamentalist Taliban did for Afghanistan and the Ayatollahs have done for Iran–they want to run the country in accordance with their interpretation of “God’s will”. As they make clear, they are perfectly willing to dismantle most of American democracy in order to save us all from Satan. Rev. James Robison puts it like this, “Let me tell you something else about the character of God. If necessary, God would raise up a tyrant–a man who might not have the best ethics–to protect the freedom and the interests of the ethical and the godly.” (cited in Vetter 1982, p. 6) And there seem to be no dearth of fundamentalists willing to volunteer to become that “tyrant”.

The most militant of the Ayatollah-wanna-be’s are the members of the “Reconstructionist” movement. The Reconstructionists were founded by Rouas J. Rushdoony, a militant fundamentalist who was instrumental in getting Henry Morris’s book The Genesis Flood published in 1961. According to Rushdoony’s view, the United States should be directly transformed into a theocracy in which the fundamentalists would rule directly according to the will of God. “There can be no separation of Church and State,” Rushdoony declares. (cited in Marty and Appleby 1991, p. 51) “Christians,” a Reconstructionist pamphlet declares, “are called upon by God to exercise dominion.” (cited in Marty and Appleby 1991, p. 50) The Reconstructionists propose doing away with the US Constitution and laws, and instead ruling directly according to the laws of God as set out in the Bible—they advocate a return to judicial punishment for religious crimes such as blasphemy or violating the Sabbath, as well as a return to such Biblically-approved punishments as stoning.

According to Rushdoony, the Second Coming of Christ can only happen after the “Godly” have taken over the earth and constructed the Kingdom of Heaven here: “The dominion that Adam first received and then lost by his Fall will be restored to redeemed Man. God’s People will then have a long reign over the entire earth, after which, when all enemies have been put under Christ’s feet, the end shall come.” (cited in Diamond, 1989, p. 139) “Christian Reconstructionism,” another pamphlet says, “is a call to the Church to awaken to its Biblical responsibility to subdue the earth for the glory of God … Christian Reconstructionism therefore looks for and works for the rebuilding of the institutions of society according to a Biblical blueprint.” (cited in Diamond 1989, p. 136) In the Reconstructionist view, evolution is one of the “enemies” which must be “put under Christ’s feet” if the godly are to subdue the earth for the glory of God.

In effect, the Reconstructionists are the “Christian” equivilent of the Taliban.

While some members of both the fundamentalist and creationist movements view the Reconstructionists as somewhat kooky, many of them have had nice things to say about Rushdoony and his followers. ICR has had close ties with Reconstructionists. Rushdoony was one of the financial backers for Henry Morris’s first book, “The Genesis Flood”, and Morris’s son John was a co-signer of several documents produced by the Coalition On Revival, a reconstructionist coalition founded in 1984. ICR star debater Duane Gish was a member of COR’s Steering Committee, as was Richard Bliss, who served as ICR’s “curriculum director” until his death. Gish and Bliss were both co-signers of the COR documents “A Manifesto for the Christian Church” (COR, July 1986), and the “Forty-Two Articles of the Essentials of a Christian Worldview” (COR,1989), which declares, “We affirm that the laws of man must be based upon the laws of God. We deny that the laws of man have any inherent authority of their own or that their ultimate authority is rightly derived from or created by man.” (“Forty-Two Essentials, 1989, p. 8). P>The Discovery Institute, the chief cheerleader for “intelligent design theory”, is particularly cozy with the Reconstructionists. The single biggest source of money for the Discovery Institute is Howard Ahmanson, a California savings-and-loan bigwig. Ahmanson’s gift of $1.5 million was the original seed money to organize the Center for Renewal of Science and Culture, the arm of the Discovery Institute which focuses on promoting “intelligent design theory” (other branches of Discovery Institute are focused on areas like urban transportation, Social Security “reform”, and (anti) environmentalist organizing).

Ahmanson is a Christian Reconstructionist who was long associated with Rushdooney, and who sat with him on the board of directors of the Chalcedon Foundation – a major Reconstructionist think-tank – for over 20 years. Just as Rushdooney was a prime moving force behind Morris’s first book, “The Genesis Flood”, intelligent design “theorist” Phillip Johnson dedicated his book “Defeating Darwinism” to “Howard and Roberta” – Ahmanson and his wife.

Ahmanson has given several million dollars over the past few years to anti-evolution groups (including Discovery Institute), as well as anti-gay groups, “Christian” political candidates, and funding efforts to split the Episcopalian Church over its willingness to ordain gay ministers and to other groups which oppose the minimum wage. He was also a major funder of the recent “recall” effort in California which led to the election of Terminator Arnie. Ahmanson is also a major funder of the effort for computerized voting, and he and several other prominent Reconstructionists have close ties with Diebold, the company that would manufacture the computerized voting machines if they were used. There has been some criticism of Diebold because it refuses to make the source code of its voting machine software available for scrutiny, and its software does not allow anyone to track voting after it is done (no way to confirm accuracy of the machine). This ease of possible “vote-fixing” may or may not be connected to the belief of Diebold’s Reconstructionist backers that only “Christians” should be allowed to vote.

Comment #40408

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 29, 2005 6:26 PM (e)

I’ve never heard or read anything from Howard that comes even remotely close to “extremism,” whatever that is.

I encourage everyone here to Google the words “Howard Ahmanson Reconstructionist”, and decide for yourself how nutty Mr Ahmanson really is.

Comment #40414

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 29, 2005 6:48 PM (e)

“The ID movement” is just a name for a group of people with similar ideas.

What sort of ideas, Paul. Since you’ve already told us that ID isn’t science, perhaps you’d be so kind as to tell us what the heck it *IS*, then.

Or would telling us that “ID is just a name for a group of people with conservative Christian objections to evolution”, be too explicit for the lawyers to like, Paul.

If ID isn’t science, Paul, then what is it. Is it … religion, perhaps? And are IDers simply lying to us when they claim it’s not?

I look forward to your not answering that simple question either.

Comment #40483

Posted by rdog29 on July 30, 2005 12:00 PM (e)

Lenny has provided a truly chilling scenario of far right wing Christian lunacy.

This desire to return to a supposedly glorious and unspoiled past is reminiscent of another unsavory political movement, namely Nazism. They too wanted to create a society and culture befitting their, um, “worldview.” And of course “non-conforming” science was not allowed.

Maybe I’m just over-reacting, but Nazism also started off as a far right wing, kooky fringe movement.

Comment #40495

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 30, 2005 12:36 PM (e)

Maybe I’m just over-reacting, but Nazism also started off as a far right wing, kooky fringe movement.

Oddly, if you go to all the neo-Nazi and Klan websites, you will find something interesting; NONE of them, not a single soltary one of them, cites “Darwin” or “evolution” as any justification for their views. ALL of them, every single one of them, however, talks about “God” and the “Bible”.

Remember that, next time some IDer or creationut yammers to you about “Darwinism produced racism and Naziism”.

Comment #40497

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 30, 2005 12:44 PM (e)

Ahmanson is also a major funder of the effort for computerized voting, and he and several other prominent Reconstructionists have close ties with Diebold, the company that would manufacture the computerized voting machines if they were used. There has been some criticism of Diebold because it refuses to make the source code of its voting machine software available for scrutiny, and its software does not allow anyone to track voting after it is done (no way to confirm accuracy of the machine). This ease of possible “vote-fixing” may or may not be connected to the belief of Diebold’s Reconstructionist backers that only “Christians” should be allowed to vote.

Note that, since this passage was written, Diebold DOES make the computer voting machines.

Note that before that election, Diebold CEO Walden W. O’Dell, said in a Republican Party fund-raising letter, ‘I am committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year,’.

Note also that in this, the first election where Diebold’s computers were widely used, the election results did not match ANY of the exit polls.

Note that Bush, the fundie favorite, won that election.

Hmmmm …. …. ……

Comment #40512

Posted by CJB on July 30, 2005 2:34 PM (e)

It bothers me, as an evolutionist who was trained in the 70s and 80s, that so many here are so strident in denying that the “Hox paradox” is/was a real issue. It may have come as no surprise to developmental geneticists, but it certainly was to the comparative morphologists, ecologists, paleontologists, and population geneticists who composed most of evolutionary biology practitioners from the 60s through the 80s. Further, the asserted primacy of regulatory changes in generating character change poses real difficulties to rather ossified notions of “character” and homology, an implication of which the quote above from Davidson correctly identifies.

But folks, this is EXACTLY what separates science from non. Science confronts new observations and when necessary, rethinks old notions. Vituperative defensiveness (to paraphrase, “there is no paradox, never was, and anyone who’d think otherwise is an idiot”) is beneath you, and in this case, inappropriate. Celebrate that your field is not in fact a rigid orthodoxy as alleged.

Comment #40519

Posted by melior on July 30, 2005 3:47 PM (e)

Can you guess what I found when I Googled Christ and paradox?

Christianity, it appears, is simply riddled with paradoxes. One can only conclude it must be rejected as false, using the logic above.

Comment #40534

Posted by ts on July 30, 2005 5:34 PM (e)

Lenny has provided a truly chilling scenario of far right wing Christian lunacy.

And Paul Nelson has indicated how intellectually (or ordinarily) dishonest IDists act as enablers.

Comment #40535

Posted by ts on July 30, 2005 5:36 PM (e)

so many here are so strident in denying that the “Hox paradox” is/was a real issue.

I challenge you to provide a single quote that supports the claim that anyone here as denied that the Hox paradox was a real issue.

Vituperative defensiveness (to paraphrase, “there is no paradox, never was, and anyone who’d think otherwise is an idiot”)

Intellectually honest people quote, they don’t paraphrase. Leave that to the IDists.

Comment #40536

Posted by ts on July 30, 2005 5:46 PM (e)

I meant to bold was above. One of the chief complaints here, as evident to one willing to read carefully, is Dembski’s and Nelson’s messing with tenses and timelines.

PZ Myers wrote “This phrase, “biologists are now realizing that it actually constitutes a paradox”, is simply false. There is no paradox at all there, and it doesn’t trouble us at all.”

That’s true, there is no paradox – in the sense of some sort of apparent logical inconsistency. There are of course unresolved problems – such are the life blood of scientific research.

Comment #40537

Posted by PZ Myers on July 30, 2005 5:54 PM (e)

There’s also the devious twisting of the meaning of words by ID creationists. You’ll see a scientist mention something like the Hox paradox or the C-value paradox, by which they mean, “Hmmm. Here’s a curious and unexpected datum; what does it tell us about biology?” The creationists throw out the word in the sense of “Hey! Here’s an unresolved conflict in evolutionary biology, which means the whole shebang is bunkum!”

The latter is plainly a lie. None of these things upset evolution at all, and are more enlightening than paradigm-busting.

The C-value paradox is an even cooler example. It’s called a paradox, but the only thing it perturbs is the bias that humans are supposed to be the pinnacle of evolutionary complexity.

Comment #40550

Posted by CJB on July 30, 2005 7:03 PM (e)

ts, you wrote:

I challenge you to provide a single quote that supports the claim that anyone here as denied that the Hox paradox was a real issue.

ts, please read PZ’s initial entry. Toward the end, and immediately following Dembski’s mangling of the Hox paradox, he writes:

This phrase, “biologists are now realizing that it actually constitutes a paradox”, is simply false. There is no paradox at all there, and it doesn’t trouble us at all.

Note that PZ does not say, Dembski got the Hox paradox wrong; he says there IS no paradox AT ALL THERE. That is a clear denial.

Please don’t impugn my intellectual honesty. Idiot appears at least 10 times, moron several more times (at least one by you), in the replies above most in the intemperate IDiot formulation. But the clearest example is again PZ’s initial entry, with his (rather tenuous) architectural analogy to the Hox paradox. He concludes that no one would think the appearance of these two different structures constitutes a paradox, because “You’re not an idiot.” Leaving only idiots who think it does. In as much as he is analogizing this to the Hox paradox, we may safely assume he reserves the same conclusion for anyone thinking there is a Hox paradox. That is, after all, the function of analogy and presumably the intent of his parallel construction. Or so my old rhetoric teacher would claim.

Now, I would guess that PZ would admit to there being a Hox paradox (not Dembski’s formulation of it of couse), and that, while not undermining EB by any stretch, these discoveries require rethinking some hoary old issues in EB (eg specific homologies among major lineages, as well as the conceptual meaning of character and homology, which are not completely resolved to everyone’s satisfaction). I believe he was simply getting a bit carried away, and as I said previously, over-defensive.

Finally ts, you really should argue on the merits and refrain from ad hominem attacks. They do you and your cause no good at all. Please take this as charitable advice from someone who’s willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. Your teachers and future colleagues probably won’t.

My original point was that the Hox paradox and EB’s response to it illustrates the best of what science is about. If you wish to take issue with that, please do.

Comment #40594

Posted by RBH on July 30, 2005 11:13 PM (e)

This remark of Dembski struck me:

The promise of evo devo is that genetically induced changes early in development, though small and easily attainable in themselves, might nonetheless lead to macroevolutionary changes.

I’ve recently read both Endless Forms Most Beautiful and Wallace Arthur’s Biased Embryos and Evolution, and that sure wasn’t the take-away message I got from either of them. Am I missing something? Or is Dembski once again indulging in his usual ‘make something up and the rubes will believe it’ rhetoric?

RBH

Comment #40601

Posted by steve on July 31, 2005 12:10 AM (e)

Or is Dembski once again indulging in his usual ‘make something up and the rubes will believe it’ rhetoric?

for $200/hr, wouldn’t you?

After all, those are hooker rates.

Comment #40610

Posted by Dene Bebbington on July 31, 2005 5:56 AM (e)

It seems that Ahmanson has tempered his views a bit:

‘The Christian view of man is that we’re not perfect. You don’t give to things that base themselves on the optimistic view that human beings are going to be doing it right,” Mrs. Ahmanson explained. When I asked if this meant she and her husband would still want to install the supremacy of biblical law, she replied: “I’m not suggesting we have an amendment to the Constitution that says we now follow all 613 of the case laws of the Old Testament … But if by biblical law you mean the last seven of the 10 Commandments, you know, yeah.”’

from:

http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2004/01/06/ahmanson/

Comment #40614

Posted by ts on July 31, 2005 6:26 AM (e)

This phrase, “biologists are now realizing that it actually constitutes a paradox”, is simply false. There is no paradox at all there, and it doesn’t trouble us at all.

Which is true, and which does not support your claim.

Please don’t impugn my intellectual honesty.

Any intellectually honest person knows that they aren’t always. Your intellectual honesty lapsed, and I pointed it out. If you want to call the truth “impugning”, that’s just more of the same.

Idiot appears at least 10 times

None of which occurred in a context that supports your intellectually dishonest “paraphrase”.

He concludes that no one would think the appearance of these two different structures constitutes a paradox, because “You’re not an idiot.” Leaving only idiots who think it does.

Indeed.

In as much as he is analogizing this to the Hox paradox, we may safely assume he reserves the same conclusion for anyone thinking there is a Hox paradox.

Yes, that’s right. Only an idiot would think, at this point in time, that this is an apparent logical inconsistency.

Finally ts, you really should argue on the merits and refrain from ad hominem attacks.

Someone wrote “so many here are so strident in denying that the “Hox paradox” is/was a real issue”, and “Vituperative defensiveness … is beneath you”. That’s ad hominem crap that has nothing to do with the the subject at hand, as is your lecturing me, so sod off.

Comment #40617

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 31, 2005 6:53 AM (e)

It seems that Ahmanson has tempered his views a bit:

No he hasn’t – he’s just become a bit more sophisticated in presenting them, and tries to paint himself as “kinder and gentler”. He flat-out refuses to condemn the view that some sinners should be stoned to death:

Howard Ahmanson says he also doesn’t think stoning is the answer, yet he stops just short of condemning the idea.

“I think what upsets people is that Rushdoony seemed to think - and I’m not sure about this - that a godly society would stone people for the same thing that people in ancient Israel were stoned,” he said. “I no longer consider that essential.

“It would still be a little hard to say that if one stumbled on a country that was doing that, that it is inherently immoral, to stone people for these things,” Ahmanson said. “But I don’t think it’s at all a necessity.”

http://www.politicalamazon.com/cr-ahmanson.html

On this same site, there is an article that explains WHY Ahmanson has been so anxious to soft-pedal himself (and why DI has been so anxious to soft-pedal him):

When you are Howard F. Ahmanson Jr., you give away money and you never
expect to see it again.

But then a $3,000 contribution to the Republican running for governor
of Hawaii returned to Ahmanson - with no explanation, just a brief note
of thanks but no thanks.

The reason for the rejection seemed perfectly clear to Ahmanson and his
wife, Roberta Green Ahmanson.

Most of the gifts from their private philanthropy generate little
notice. But a handful of groups and individuals they support have drawn dark
clouds of controversy around them.

So some - such as Linda Lingle, now governor of Hawaii - find it easier
to reject the money than risk being tainted by the Ahmanson name.

“We figured it had to be this,” Howard Ahmanson says over breakfast,
referring to their public perception - or misperception as they see it.

His hunch was on the mark.

A group called Hawaii Citizens for Separation of State and Church had
protested Lingle’s acceptance of Ahmanson’s contribution, describing him
as a “Christian supremacist” who backed an Old Testament-style penalty
of death by stoning for homosexuals, adulterers and incorrigible
children.

“The views of the contributor were quite different from the views of
the campaign,” says Bob Awana, Lingle’s chief of staff. “We just thought
in the heat of battle, getting ready for an election only 10 days out,
it could have turned into a lightning rod - and we didn’t want it to.”

The return of the Lingle check in late 2002 sounded an alarm for the
Ahmansons. As their names surfaced again and again - linked to hot-button
issues from opposing gay clergy in the Episcopal Church to science
texts challenging Darwin’s theory of evolution - the alarms grew louder.

“When a politician sends money back, it’s serious,” Roberta Ahmanson
says.

The Ahmansons came to believe they had an image problem, which they
blame on the distortion, intentional or not, of their views by others.

They also came to believe that they held some responsibility to explain
themselves and their beliefs, so that people might understand them and
their work, which they see as a calling to do good in the world.

“It brought home that having our name attached to things could harm
causes that we care for, because we hadn’t talked to the press and hadn’t
made ourselves vulnerable,” Roberta Ahmanson said.

I don’t see any indication that Ahmanson has changed any of his views at all – he’s just become more image-conscious about presenting them. Like DI, Ahmanson knows all about the importance of “image” in a PR fight.

Comment #40626

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 31, 2005 7:56 AM (e)

Some recent articles about Discovery Institute, and Ahmanson:

http://www.dailytrojan.com/media/paper679/news/2004/04/07/Opinions/With-Philanthropists.Like.These.Who.Needs.Enemies-653151.shtml?page=3
http://tinyurl.com/7edfh

http://www.lawandpolitics.com/minnesota/default.asp?section=ARTICLES&module=ITEM&id=156
http://tinyurl.com/848pb

Excerpts:

Some of USC’s political connections are more than a little frightening.

Take the Daily Trojan for example, which last month sold space in the Opinions section to conservative ideologue David Horowitz. Horowitz gave the paper $900, and in return he was given all of page 5 on which to run a 1,034-word canned editorial about the Palestinians. Of course, students don’t pay a penny and still get to write about Palestinians, but the prospect that someone can buy space in the Opinions section is a little perturbing. Granted, the top of the page indicated the article was actually an advertisement. Even so, it would have been easy for students to overlook the small text and simply assume it was another article.

Or take Howard Ahmanson Jr. If you look at the huge rock slab of donors in the foyer to the library, you’ll see the Ahmanson Foundation featured prominently. It’s probably a fair guess that he also gave quite a lot of money to our Ahmanson Science Center, being that we named it after him.

What’s especially funny about this, our naming a science center after Mr. Ahmanson, is that he does not even believe in evolution. Last year alone, he gave nearly $3 million to the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture, an intelligent design (read: anti-evolution) think tank.

The Conscience of an (ex-)Conservative

A blow-by-blow report of a dissolution of a political marriage
by Philip Gold

Leaving an organization can be hard. Leaving a movement, harder. And leaving an idea � unless you realize that the movement has deserted the idea, and that it�s time to say so � traumatic.

The proximate cause of my recent departure from Discovery Institute, Seattle�s main conservative think tank, was my opposition to President Bush�s Iraq war. But I also left because I could no longer abide the purposes of the movement. Over the last several years, I�ve become sadly convinced that American conservatism has grown, for lack of a better word, malign.

Comment #40652

Posted by NelC on July 31, 2005 1:32 PM (e)

Paul Nelson says that when someone serves you shoe leather, claiming it’s steak, the important thing is that it’s shoe leather, not what the chef calls it.

Funny, in my world most people would regard the word as being inextricably linked with the deed in this case, and would regard the chef as a liar or outright fraud because of it.

Comment #40654

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 31, 2005 2:33 PM (e)

Paul Nelson says that when someone serves you shoe leather, claiming it’s steak, the important thing is that it’s shoe leather, not what the chef calls it.

Funny, in my world most people would regard the word as being inextricably linked with the deed in this case, and would regard the chef as a liar or outright fraud because of it.

But then, you are talking about people who serve us religion, claiming it’s science, and say that the important thing is that it’s what the chef calls it, not what it is.

Nelson says there’s no scientific theory of ID. Given that, I am still wondering, then, just what the heck ID *is*, if it isn’t science. Is it steak, or is it really just shoe leather.

Alas, Nelson seems to have run away, again, without telling me.

Comment #40663

Posted by ts on July 31, 2005 4:42 PM (e)

Alas, Nelson seems to have run away, again, without telling me.

But he said he would email you the answers. Surely it can’t be that Paul Nelson is a liar.

Comment #41155

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on August 3, 2005 6:53 PM (e)

But he said he would email you the answers. Surely it can’t be that Paul Nelson is a liar.

Alas, it seems that he is.

And I hope I get the opportunity to ask him about it later. Publicly.