Nick Matzke posted Entry 2189 on April 7, 2006 07:11 PM.
Trackback URL: http://www.pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.fcgi/2184

Several bloggers have dissected the Discovery Institute Media/Judge/Transitional Fossil Complaints Division’s pitiful response to the Nature report on the new fish-tetrapod transitional fossil, Tiktaalik roseae. The author, Rob Crowther, is just coming off his failed conspiracy theory on Dover and the ACLU, so I guess he might still be a little shaky. Compare these two statements, from the beginning and ending of the same paragraph of Crowther’s original post:

These fish are not intermediates, explain Discovery Institute scientists I queried about the find.

What is clear is that forms like Tiktaalik are a melange of primitive and more developed features.

They’re not intermediates – they’re just…intermediate!

UPDATE: As I was writing this, Crowther updated the piece. He must have seen the same problem I did. Look at the same two sentences now:

These fish are not neccesarily intermediates, explain Discovery Institute scientists I queried about the find.

They are not intermediates in the sense that have half-fish/half-tetrapod characteristics. Rather, they have a combination of tetrapod-like features and fish-like features. Paleontologists refer to such organisms as mosaics rather than intermediates.

Note the “not necessarily” added to the first sentence, and the complete re-writing of the end of the paragraph. But let’s call this what it is: a stupid word game. The IDists, in a miserable attempt to defend their untenable scientific position, are playing with the fact that in cladistics, characters are often atomized down to very small differences (a bump in a bone here, two bones just touching there, this feature slightly longer relative to this other feature), and so are labeled “0” or “1” depending on whether or not a specific criterion is met. The Discovery Institute then goes and alleges that nothing is ever intermediate, because the characters are always “0” or “1”! But features like limbs and skulls can have hundreds of such characters each, and taken as a whole they clearly can be half-and-half between “fish” (keep in mind that this is a paraphyletic group, not a real taxon – tetrapods group with “fishes”) and tetrapods. We can see this fact cleverly hidden in the abstract of the second Nature paper:

Here we describe the pectoral appendage of a member of the sister group of tetrapods, Tiktaalik roseae, which is morphologically and functionally transitional between a fin and a limb.

…and in the conclusion:

The pectoral skeleton of Tiktaalik is transitional between fish fin and tetrapod limb. Comparison of the fin with those of related fish reveals that the manus is not a de novo novelty of tetrapods; rather, it was assembled in fishes over evolutionary time to meet the diverse challenges of life in the margins of Devonian aquatic ecosystems.

Regarding respiration ability:

Tiktaalik is transitional in the evolutionary shift from the pharyngeal and opercular pumps employed by fish to the buccal and costal pumping mechanisms of tetrapods.

Regarding the Discovery Institute’s claim that paleontologists make a distinction between “intermediate” and “mosaic”, let’s see the paper:

Major elements of the tetrapod body plan originated as a succession of intermediate morphologies that evolved mosaically and in parallel among sarcopterygians closely related to tetrapods, allowing them to exploit diverse habitats in the Devonian. The geological setting in which Tiktaalik was found supports the view that shallow water habitats on Late Devonian floodplains of the Euramerican landmass were the locus for the fish–tetrapod transition. New discoveries of transitional fossils such as Tiktaalik make the distinction between fish and the earliest tetrapods increasingly difficult to draw.

These paleontologists clearly don’t see any distinction between “mosaic” and “intermediate” (or “transitional”).

Part 2: What Intelligent Design People Actually Think

We can get a much clearer view of what IDists actually think by looking at an earlier work, written when they were much less shy about staking out definite positions on what they thought the data said. Let’s look at what Of Pandas and People has to say on the origin of tetrapods. Here is the entirety of the Pandas section on the origin of amphibians (classical Linnean amphibians, I should say):

Amphibians

Let us turn from mammals to amphibians. Darwinists believe that the first amphibians (the labyrinthodonts, la-huh-RIN-thuh-dontz) evolved from early fish known as crossopterygians (KRAW-SAHP-tuh-RIJ-nz) or lobe-finned fish. A very similar lobe-finned fish swims the Indian Ocean today. Look at the comparison of the oldest known amphibian skeleton, Ichthyostega (IK-the-o-STAY-ga), with a crossopterygian fish shown in Figure 4-8.

If crossopterygians really did evolve into amphibians, tremendous changes must have taken place. Fins must have been transformed into forelimbs (see Figure 4-8). The skull had to change from two parts to a single, solid piece. The hip bones had to enlarge and become attached to the backbone. Numerous changes must also have occurred in organs, muscles and other soft tissues. For example, the air bladder of the fish had to be transformed into the lungs of the amphibian.

Though just a few of the many examples possible, these are enough to show how large the differences between early fish and amphibians really were. How many different transitional species were required to bridge the gap between them hundreds? Even thousands? We don’t know, but we do know that no such transitional species have been recovered. Moreover, we have no fossil evidence of the evolution of the crossopterygians from other fish. Two large gaps thus exist in the fossil record between ordinary Devonian fish (325 million years ago) and amphibians; one between ordinary fish and crossopterygians, and an even larger gap between these lobe-finned fish and amphibians. (Of Pandas and People, 1993, p. 104, bold added)

Remember that last bit if anyone ever asks you why we say each new transitional fossil gives creationists two new gaps. (Also notice other sillinesses – e.g., air-bladders have long been known to have evolved from primitive lungs, not the reverse, because the basal lineages of fish actually have lungs – Darwin got this backwards in the 1800’s in the Origin of Species, and it causes continual confusion).

Pandas also clearly states that “intelligent design” does rely on gaps, and predicts no intermediates:

4. Sudden Appearance or Face Value Interpretation

The known fossil record is assumed reasonably complete. The gaps show that while some species may have arisen by gradual change, at least the major taxa did not, and perhaps many species didn’t either. The fossil record shows that most organisms remain essentially unchanged. The conclusion to be drawn is that major groups of plants and animals have coexisted on the earth independent of each other in their origins, which must be explained in some way other than Darwinian evolution.

Scientists should not accept the face value interpretation of the fossil record without also exploring the other possibilities, and even then, only if the evidence continues to support it. The imperfect record and incomplete research interpretations above are attempts to make the fossil record compatible with the Darwinian view of origins, which teaches step-wise evolution from one form of life to another. Both of these views acknowledge that the present existence of gaps in the fossil record is not in agreement with what is expected by Darwinian theory The question many scientists are asking is, How long should we continue to entertain these possibilities in the absence of evidence? Should other possibilities be ignored?

The intelligent design hypothesis is in agreement with the face value interpretation and accepts the gaps as a generally true reflection of biology and natural history. A growing number of scientists who study the fossil record are concluding that the structural differences between the major types of organisms reflect life as it was for that era. This view proposes that only the long-held expectations of Darwinian theory cause us to refer to the in-between areas as gaps. If this is so, the major different types of living organisms do not have a common ancestry. Such a conclusion is more consistent with currently known fossil data than any of the evolutionary models.

[…]

Darwinists object to the view of intelligent design because it does not give a natural cause explanation of how the various forms of life started in the first place. Intelligent design means that various forms of life began abruptly through an intelligent agency, with their distinctive features already intact – fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks, and wings, etc. Some scientists have arrived at this view since fossil forms first appear in the rock record with their distinctive features intact, and apparently fully functional, rather than gradually developing. No creatures with a partial wing or partial eye are known. Should we close our minds to the possibility that the various types of plants and animals were intelligently designed? This alternative suggests that a reasonable natural cause explanation for origins may never be found, and that intelligent design best fits the data. (Of Pandas and People, 1993, pp. 98, 99-100, bold added)

This passage, from the first “intelligent design” book, and the only textbook the movement has produced, tells us several things:

1. ID does rely on gaps in the fossil record
2. ID does deny common ancestry.
3. ID does rely upon supernatural explanations.

On the other hand, the discovery of critters like Tiktaalik, just one of several recent transitional tetrapods, also tells us several things:

1. Even assuming that Pandas had the fossils right in 1993, which it didn’t, it was clearly not true that the fossil record was “reasonably complete,” because we just found another important fossil in 2006.

2. It is not true that “the major taxa did not” arise by “gradual change.”

3. It is not true, at least for tetrapods, that “major groups of plants and animals have coexisted on the earth independent of each other in their origins”, and therefore it is not true that their origins “must be explained in some way other than Darwinian evolution.”

4. It is not true that “a growing number of scientists who study the fossil record are concluding that the structural differences between the major types of organisms reflect life as it was for that era.”

5. It is not true that the conclusion that “the major different types of living organisms do not have a common ancestry” is “more consistent with currently known fossil data than any of the evolutionary models.”

6. At least for tetrapods, it is not true that key features like limbs and respiration arrived “fully-formed”, because they are not fully-formed in Tiktaalik. They are, however, functional, even though they are intermediate. Only creationists have the benighted idea that transitional structures cannot also be functional at the same time – well, only creationists, and the people at the Discovery “we’re not creationists, we swear!” Institute.

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Comment #95438

Posted by Jack Krebs on April 7, 2006 9:27 PM (e)

Excellent post, Nick.

Comment #95440

Posted by Dave Thomas on April 7, 2006 9:35 PM (e)

Great stuff Nick! I also noticed today that the Crowther piece had been “updated.” I was banging out the April NMSR newsletter last night (Thursday), and grabbed a couple of juicy quotes from the piece. But today, they were changed or missing.

Samples:

Before:

These fish are not intermediates, explain Discovery Institute scientists I queried about the find.

After:

These fish are not neccesarily intermediates, explain Discovery Institute scientists I queried about the find.

Before:

They are not intermediates in the sense that they are half-fish/half-tetrapod. Rather, they have some tetrapod-like features.

After:

They are not intermediates in the sense that have half-fish/half-tetrapod characteristics. Rather, they have a combination of tetrapod-like features and fish-like features.

Before:

There’s a problem with the Darwinist position that runs even deeper than this, however: If Darwinian evolution is an undisputed fact, as its chief defenders routinely claim, why is this fossil find being billed as such an crucial piece of evidence?

After:

-deleted-

These IDiots are hard to keep up with!

Dave

Comment #95443

Posted by k.e. on April 7, 2006 9:52 PM (e)

Great to watch

After denying all the previous evidence with a wave of the hand you would think it would just get easier.

But no, the lie must be re-manufactured every time they open their mouths.

I hope that is obvious to everyone.

Comment #95444

Posted by apollo230 on April 7, 2006 9:54 PM (e)

I am an ardent supporter of intelligent design, but I state this emphatically and sincerely: common ancestry is a pleasing and well-verified concept that I enthusiastically endorse. Those who would assault an idea that powerful are sending a toy sailboat against a battleship. For the record, not all ID people are willing to throw evolutionary theory (head and tail) overboard. I only have misgivings about the sweeping creative potential assigned to random variation. The rest of the package: ancient earth, common ancestry, and the idea that if something works, it’s passed on to the next generation, is as good a bloodline of evidence as any science has.

I have also taken genuine pleasure in the Tiktaalik discovery. It is a significant bridge between the fishes and the land-lubbers, and I do congratulate the scientists on their discovery.

And by the way, the Pianka affair has become a shameful witch-hunt. Let those who are without sin cast the first stone.

Happy Easter (or Passover) to all.

Best regards,

apollo230

Comment #95445

Posted by Andrea Bottaro on April 7, 2006 9:55 PM (e)

You don’t even need to go all the way back to Pandas to find that ID does not jive with fossil intermediates. For instance, IDEA Center has a handy FAQ about the “predictions of Intelligent Design”, and what is #2?

Forms containing large amounts of novel information will appear in the fossil record suddenly and without similar precursors.

And this is not just a product of some little tike at the IDEA Center: this was written by Casey Luskin, with help from Jonathan Witt, and good enough to be hosted on the DI’s Mother Ship site.

Clearly, if emergence of new fossil forms “suddenly and without similar precursors” is a prediction of design, every transitional form found should count as a failed prediction, or shouldn’t it?

Comment #95449

Posted by Gary Hurd on April 7, 2006 9:58 PM (e)

As folks know, I like to closely observe creationist thought and practice as I can find. Here are some ethnographic observations of creationist reaction to the newly announced fossils:

“This is nothing more than another species that lived a few thousand years
ago. The evidence for creation still outweighs the speculations of
evolution.”

“Yes they are always saying that.
And a few years or decades or day later….they decide its really just a bird, or just a
croc…. But it could just as well be a creature God created that way! And if you notice
one the first things they trotted out was how this would be a blow to Creationists! It
seems its so important to them to get God out of the picture they just had to mention that.

I am not buying it!”

“I was wondering how long it might be before we discover that an extinct
fish, and an extinct alligator died one on top of the other here?

Thus far, every other “missing link” has been discredited in similar
fashion.”

“Arguements and debates are usually pointless. The professors have so
much tied up in their flawed analysis of evolution that it would be major egg on their
face to reverse their stance.

Those who wish to, believe in evolution. I will stick with the creation
version.”

Comment #95452

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on April 7, 2006 10:10 PM (e)

It
seems its so important to them to get God out of the picture they just had to mention that.

ButID/creationism doesn’t have anything to do with religion or God. No sirree Bob. It’s just them lying atheist darwinists who say so. And biased activist judges.

Comment #95462

Posted by Red Right Hand on April 7, 2006 10:47 PM (e)

Nice post Apollo230. Happy Easter to you too.

Comment #95468

Posted by brightmoon on April 7, 2006 11:08 PM (e)

read jenny clack’s book Gaining Ground for some background about this

it was kinda interesting to find out that the lack of a gill cover and the support bones for it let the scapulacoracoid (and attached limbs)decouple from the back of the skull ..we still have a scapula (and attached arm)..the coracoid in humans is mostly cartilege…..

one caveat about jenny’s book you really need to know some basic human anatomy to get thru it …ive been recommending the Anatomy Coloring Book for years now ……errr, i DID say basic …..of course Grays Anatomy is still in print too

Comment #95469

Posted by Sir_Toejam on April 7, 2006 11:19 PM (e)

Let those who are without sin cast the first stone.

ok, *toss*

did i hit you?

you can make up whatever fantasies help you sleep at night, there Apollo, and none of us will care.

unless you decide to call them science and try to teach them to kids.

Comment #95492

Posted by a maine yankee on April 8, 2006 4:53 AM (e)

In the NY Times—4/8

“By reconstructing ancient genes from long-extinct animals, scientists have for the first time demonstrated the step-by-step progression of how evolution created a new piece of molecular machinery by reusing and modifying existing parts.”

See link below:

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/07/science/07evolve.html

“Dr. Behe described the results as “piddling.” He wondered whether the receptors with the intermediate mutations would be harmful to the survival of the organisms and said a two-component hormone-receptor pair was too simple to be considered irreducibly complex. He said such a system would require at least three pieces and perform some specific function to fit his notion of irreducibly complex.

What Dr. Thornton has shown, Dr. Behe said, falls within with incremental changes that he allows evolutionary processes can cause.

“Even if this works, and they haven’t shown that it does,” Dr. Behe said, “I wouldn’t have a problem with that. It doesn’t really show that much.””

Would a time machine make any difference?

Comment #95501

Posted by FastEddie on April 8, 2006 6:47 AM (e)

What ever happened to the IDiot’s party line was that evolution was generally okay, just that at the molecular level there was “a challenge to Darwinian evolution?” Now they don’t even acknowledge obvious macroevolutionary evidence. They are becoming more like standard Hovind creationists every day.

Maybe donations from respectable sources are drying due to since Dover and the DI is having to appeal more to YECs.

Comment #95514

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on April 8, 2006 8:14 AM (e)

Maybe donations from respectable sources are drying due to since Dover

I am wondering when Howie will close his checkbook. That will be a fatal blow.

Howie expects results for his money. He doesn’t fund losers.

Comment #95547

Posted by harold on April 8, 2006 11:17 AM (e)

Apollo23 -

Based on your comment, I doubt if you are actually a supporter of “intelligent design”.

Many people I meet, who completely accept mainstream science, assume that “intelligent design” means something like the Vatican position - the honest acceptance of science and the simultaneous honest belief in a higher power.

It does not. The term “intelligent design” refers to ideas that are completely incompatible with science, and indeed, logic. To summarize a few - 1) The claim that some living systems possess some undefinable type of “complexity”, visible only to ID advocates, with means that they could not possibly have evolved, and that, therefore, their evolution must not ever be studied 2) the claim that we can draw an analogy from things that are clear artifacts of human creation, such as Mount Rushmore, and things that obviously are not, such as living cells 3) ignoring the fact that much that is clearly and intricately “designed” by living organisms is designed by insects, birds, fish, and other organisms that may not qualify as “intelligent”, for that matter, and 4) the fundamental claim that anything which cannot be explained in this very instant, in perfect detail, by science, must have the exact magical explanation that ID advocates prefer.

I’m not sure what you mean by saying that you doubt the “sweeping creative potential of random variation”. It should be obvious that any nucleic acid sequence can arise by random variation, subsequently acted on by selection, of any prior sequence. However, putting this aside, your post would seem to indicate that you accept the scientific evidence as to how the physical diversity of life on earth arose. Undoubtedly, you must simultaneously hold some independent spiritual belief.

I would urge you to reconsider whether you support “intelligent design”, however.

Comment #95551

Posted by Angie on April 8, 2006 11:29 AM (e)

Regarding mosaic vs intermediate… I imagine the papers authors are using mosaically to describe how the limb was assembled, bit by bit rather than all pieces changing at the same rate. This is different, I think, than what the IDists are taking this to mean. I agree that saying the limb is a mosaic is the same thing as saying it is intermediate.

Comment #95553

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on April 8, 2006 11:47 AM (e)

Based on your comment, I doubt if you are actually a supporter of “intelligent design”.

Me too.

Most Christians, once they get a good close look at ID and understand what it’s really all about, conclude that it’s full of crap.

I think Apollo *thinks* he suppors ID, when in fact he’s actually supporting something diametrically opposed to ID.

ID does, of course, feed unceasingly on that bait-and-switch.

Comment #95557

Posted by Arden Chatfield on April 8, 2006 12:00 PM (e)

The DI wrote:

What is clear is that forms like Tiktaalik are a melange of primitive and more developed features.

I think we’re underestimating the Discovery Institute. Their ‘scientists’ have been working long and hard, and they’re about to introduce a formidable new competitor to Evolution: Melange Theory!!

Comment #95558

Posted by Sir_Toejam on April 8, 2006 12:07 PM (e)

Their ‘scientists’ have been working long and hard, and they’re about to introduce a formidable new competitor to Evolution: Melange Theory!!

are you sure it’s not their blamange theory, and we should all fear being turned into scotts?

I’m sure the blamanges are the intelligent designers, after all.

Comment #95560

Posted by Sir_Toejam on April 8, 2006 12:10 PM (e)

I guess that is more accurately termed “blancmange”.

the theory depends on your home tongue.

Comment #95565

Posted by Corkscrew on April 8, 2006 1:25 PM (e)

Apollo230: just out of curiosity, what would it take to convince you of the creative power of random mutation? I’m about to start fiddling with genetic algorithms with the goal of providing a few examples of this creative power - what sort of thing would you find appealing?

Kudos for comparative lack of daftness :)

Comment #95566

Posted by Ed Darrell on April 8, 2006 1:29 PM (e)

Here’s where Crowther’s piece goes off the tracks:

These fish are not neccesarily intermediates, explain Discovery Institute scientists I queried about the find.

Isn’t that a little like asking your calculus teacher to explain why the Balkans have been such a flashpoint for wars over the past 200 years?

In other news, Crowther might seek to explain how to improve your gas mileage by consulting the Discovery Institute’s experts at cake baking …

Comment #95569

Posted by Air Bear on April 8, 2006 1:36 PM (e)

I think Nick is being a bit unfair by quoting from Pandas . As we saw from Dover, Pandas was just a creationist book with cut-and-replacements of creationism into ID.

Modern ID has backed off considerably, at least in some venues. Whoever writes uncommondescent is saying, for now:

http://www.uncommondescent.com/index.php/archives/1004

ID does not preclude evolution per se; it challenges the notion that evolution happened by blind chance.

which puts them in the same camp as theistic evolutionists.

We’ll have to see if they contradict this admission a month from now.

Comment #95570

Posted by Sir_Toejam on April 8, 2006 1:44 PM (e)

which puts them in the same camp as theistic evolutionists.

not quite.

as i understand it, theistic evolutionists simply say a creator “got the ball rolling”, and evolution did the rest.

What your implication of the “modern synthesis” of ID (sorry that is just too funny), is saying is that they are arguing that the ball is continually being “shoved” one way or the other by and invisible hand, but whatever it rolls over still obeys “natural” laws.

Not the same thing.

However, it has been amusing too see ID become ever more “inclusive” as their rejection of obvious evidence has become clearer and clearer over time.

Comment #95572

Posted by Stephen Elliott on April 8, 2006 2:12 PM (e)

Posted by Air Bear on April 8, 2006 01:36 PM (e)

We’ll have to see if they contradict this admission a month from now.

A month? They are capable of contradicting themselves in a paragraph.

Comment #95578

Posted by Bruce Thompson GQ on April 8, 2006 2:31 PM (e)

Apollo230 –
One of problems with ID is it’s big tent approach. It’s perceived perception of reality tries to encompass all views about biological complexity from simple guided evolution to strict YEC without the religious trappings. Unfortunately the big tent was erected below high tide and groups are running for high ground. The YECists started running for higher ground at the Creation Mega conference when Georgia Purdom publicly criticized ID. Main stream protestant churches and the Catholic church have repeated their position that evolution and their religious views are not in conflict. This leaves a small but vocal minority publicly advocating ID. The backdoor attempts at inserting their views into high school science classes is contrary to good science and good government. Evolutionary theory has been built above the high tide. It’s tent encompasses a number of different views but with a common theme that has a basis in tangible reality.

The key is perceived versus tangible reality.

From the outside ID looks all warm and fuzzy, but start poking holes and you find hot air. Poke enough holes and as the hot air escapes and the warm fuzzy peach begins to collapse.

Mixed metaphors?
Ethylene dioxide, a component of which is ethylene a simple carbon molecule possibly present in the prebiotic atmosphere, is used to ripen fruits and vegetables in tents at specific temperatures (scroll down for ripening tents).

Delta Pi Gamma (Scientia et Fermentum)

Comment #95582

Posted by Wesley R. Elsberry on April 8, 2006 2:45 PM (e)

Whoever writes uncommondescent is saying, for now:

http://www.uncommondescent.com/index.php/archive…

ID does not preclude evolution per se; it challenges the notion that evolution happened by blind chance.

So how come ID advocates challenge things like the peppered moth experiments, the status of transitional fossils, etc., etc., ad nauseum?

My guess is that they do not mean it when they say that ID and evolutionary biology are compatible. At talks in Berkeley last month, William Dembski asserted several times the statement made above. He also in the same talk said that ID and natural causes are mutually exclusive and exhaust all the possibilities, therefore evidence against evolution is evidence for design.

Comment #95583

Posted by steve s on April 8, 2006 2:50 PM (e)

I would love to see a post collecting all the various contradictory things ID supporters have said ID is.

Comment #95584

Posted by Wesley R. Elsberry on April 8, 2006 3:06 PM (e)

See Steve Reuland’s The Quixotic Message.

IDists…
On Intelligent Design…

* ID is whatever we say it is, and we don’t agree.

* Greater and greater numbers of scientists are joining the ID movement, which is why we keep referring to the same three year after year. [1]

* ID is not creationism, and can be perfectly compatible with evolution. This is why we’re asking schools to teach the “evidence against evolution”.[2]

* We’re not creationists, except for those of us who are, but the rest of us won’t confirm that we’re not. But if you call us creationists, we’ll complain to no end. [3]

* The correct stance on issues like an ancient Earth, the common ancestry of organisms, and natural selection can be worked out later, after we’ve convinced the public that they should be rejecting at least one of these. [4]

* ID is a widely accepted theory in the scientific community. Just last year, over 100 scientists signed a statement which does not support ID, but does say that they are “skeptical” of Darwinism. The opinions of tens of thousands of other scientists don’t count, because they’re all biased. [5]

* ID is a program for research into the science of design, nothing more. Part of our research plans are to produce coloring books for preschoolers, and to make ourselves more likeable at parties. [6]

* ID is a scientific theory for detecting purpose and teleology in nature. But don’t ask us what that purpose is, because that’s a religious question that’s separate from ID.

* The Designer could be anything from God to a space alien. But the Raelians, who believe it was a space alien, are being illogical.

Those numbers in square brackets link to a supplemental page that dcouments in more detail why the statement holds as given.

Comment #95586

Posted by Sir_Toejam on April 8, 2006 3:18 PM (e)

I would love to see a post collecting all the various contradictory things ID supporters have said ID is.

while Wes touches on it, it literally would take an entire field of study and several books to document all of the inconsistencies that have appeared since the words “intelligent design” were coined.

Comment #95587

Posted by Shaffer on April 8, 2006 3:23 PM (e)

What?! You mean that the whole ID movement doesn’t actually care one way or the other about evolution itself, but that it’s actually just propping up evolution as a strawman for attacking atheism? Nah… couldn’t be!

You’d think that the anti-evolution wingnuts and the ACLU would make natural allies, then … seeing as how the ACLU has a consistent track record of supporting lawsuits filed against overzealous teachers in public schools that have actually taught atheism…

Comment #95614

Posted by Arden Chatfield on April 8, 2006 5:30 PM (e)

I think Nick is being a bit unfair by quoting from Pandas . As we saw from Dover, Pandas was just a creationist book with cut-and-replacements of creationism into ID.

Modern ID has backed off considerably, at least in some venues.

No, there is no standardization in ID. Every ID theory that anyone has ever suggested is still being advocated by someone somewhere. And every time some ID advocate tells you “Oh, we don’t believe THAT, we believe THIS” they’re lying – there’ll be equal numbers of people believing both things. We’re talking about people who can’t agree on whether the earth is 5,000 or 5 billion years old. We’re talking about people who variously say that no evolution happens, that only a little evolution happens, that evolution USED to happen but it doesn’t anymore, or that is, uh, DOES happen. (But Darwin was still wicked!) And more. There IS NO standard theory of ID. Not even halfway standard. That’s one reason why it’s unfit for schools – there’s no there there.

As always, see this: http://craptaculus.com/eac/ID/id-faq.shtml

The whole underlying unchanging goal of ID has always been to get the Book of Genesis into science classes. If ID is let in, then straight creationism will follow, Noah’s Flood, 5,000 year old earth, the whole package. That’s their plan.

Comment #95616

Posted by natural cynic on April 8, 2006 5:42 PM (e)

sir toejam:
as i understand it, theistic evolutionists simply say a creator “got the ball rolling”, and evolution did the rest.

What your implication of the “modern synthesis” of ID (sorry that is just too funny), is saying is that they are arguing that the ball is continually being “shoved” one way or the other by and invisible hand, but whatever it rolls over still obeys “natural” laws.

I think that there needs to be a better definition of “theistic evolution”. It seems to me that both of you definitions could be considered part of a big tent of theistic evolution. Some might argue that a theistic intervention only occurred at the abiogenesis/creation of life interface while others seem to have argued for a much stronger teleological position that life has been nudged along according to apparent natural laws to the present form. This theistic intervention would be only what appears to us as something occurring naturally - IOW when there is some kind of a fork in the road, the path taken may appear to us as random, but it was actually according to the wishes of some deity.

Where this idea differs from ID is the nature of the decision point. ID seems to include some kind of decision that a priori cannot appear to be naturalistic. What a “modern synthesis” (by Behe at least) of ID seems to be saying is that evolution can occur in a sense of travelling along a road, however occasionally a wall is sometimes encountered instead of a bifurcation. It then takes some kind of outside intervention by the introduction of “irreducible complexity” to overcome the wall - with irreducible complexity being something that cannot be naturalistically interpreted. This would only be one form of ID within its big tent.

What I see is almost a continuum from Last Tuesdayism to YEC(small tent) to OEC to ID(bigger tent that may include aspects of OEC & YEC) to theistic evolution(another big tent) to a pure naturalistic evolution.

Of course the heretics of Last Wednesdayism have to sit next to the Last Tuesdayists, but they just can’t occupy the same little tent.

Comment #95618

Posted by steve s on April 8, 2006 6:08 PM (e)

those links are so great.

Isn’t Intelligent Design just Creationism?

* Definitely not. Creationism says that an Intelligent Creator created life. Intelligent Design says that an Intelligent Designer designed life. And just because most of our proponents are creationists, promote creationism, and do not understand any part of the theory of evolution or even Intelligent Design does not mean we are promoting Creationism.

Comment #95619

Posted by Inoculated Mind on April 8, 2006 6:11 PM (e)

Wesley, you seem to have either attended Dembski’s Berkeley presentation, or you have listened to it on audio. I didn’t make it that weekend, although I thought about it, and I was interested to hear some of his ““””logic.”””” (more quotes for emphasis)

I also know that the Berkeley ID club has sold audio copies of the lecture, do you or anyone else here have audio copies of the lecture?
Send me an email, please!

Comment #95620

Posted by Joseph O'Donnell on April 8, 2006 6:22 PM (e)

Of course the heretics of Last Wednesdayism have to sit next to the Last Tuesdayists, but they just can’t occupy the same little tent.

They are just dirty splitters anyway. It’s all about unforseen saturdayism now.

Comment #95639

Posted by Chris Nedin on April 8, 2006 7:41 PM (e)

“They are not intermediates in the sense that have half-fish/half-tetrapod characteristics. Rather, they have a combination of tetrapod-like features and fish-like features. Pal[a]eontologists refer to such organisms as mosaics rather than intermediates.”

Oh no they don’t.

“the statement that the animal was intermediate might mean that it was a mixture and that the transition affected some parts of the animal and not others, with the result that some parts were similar to those of one type, other parts similar to another type, and few or no parts intermediate in structure. In such a case the animal might be regarded as a mosaic in which the pieces could be replaced independently one by one, so that the transitional stages were a jumble of characters, some of them similar to those of the class from which the animal evolved, others similar to those of the class in which the animal was evolving. If now it be asked what kind of transition is shown by Archaeopteryx, the answer is perfectly clear. It is a mosaic in which some characters are perfectly reptilian and others no less perfectly avian.” (de Beer 1954)”

de Beer, G. A. 1954. Presidential Address to the Zoology Section of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, Oxford, Sept. 2nd 1954. The Advancement of Science, 15: no. 42.

In fact, the argument that intermediates have to be half and half and that mosaics don’t count, is vintage Duane Gish. I thought the Disco Institute was trying to hide it’s creationist roots.

Comment #95652

Posted by apollo230 on April 8, 2006 10:10 PM (e)

Thanks, Red Right Hand, Harold, Corkscrew and Bruce Thompson for your responses! I read them with attentive interest.

A few personal thoughts regarding the IDealist/Darwinist debate for those who care to read:

Intelligent design clearly builds its case on William Paley’s argument:
1) Find watch in nature
2) Note adaptations of parts to telling of time
3) Conclude human designer
4) Note adaptations of anatomical structures to specific functions (structural match of means to ends)
5) Conclude designer involved in crafting of living systems

This logic is persuasive to some, but not to others. Why is Paley’s reasoning not a consistent selling point? My guess is:

1) Paley implies disembodied designer in prior step 5.
2) Actual presence of disembodied designer NOT in most inventories of human experience (and if someone has seen God, they cannot upload their experience to others’ brains to prove it)
3) Random variation and culling (natural selection) appear to be the only visible forces in nature that act on gene pools.
4) Hence, Darwinist interpretations (built on these empirical experiences) abound, and these sensibilities champion the Darwinist evolutionary mechanism.

Intelligent design makes an extraordinary claim of a disembodied Carpenter. Such extraordinary claims demand extraordinary proof (Sagan). The case for intelligent design is sealed only at the point of actual, face-to-face encounter with the Engineer. No vague experiences or dogmatic assertions are admissible. ID theorists can joust with Darwinists all they want, but they will not prevail on design inferences alone (however persuasive they may be). Doubting Thomas es or Darwinists, driven by the sheer force of human nature, will demand that they touch the Creator before they buy into ID.

There is a discovered country that firmly states the reality of evolution and common descent. Believers in ID ignore this at their own peril. However, there remains a reservoir of unknown phenomena - fodder for future scientists, no doubt - that may (or may not) include an intelligent designer. In our search for truth, we should remain empirical at all times, but it may also be wise to remain tentative in our judgments. I offer these two quotes by the physics Nobel-laureate Dr. Richard Feynman as closing thoughts (these statements will be seen as cutting one way or another depending on one’s personal loyalties!):

“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool.”

“If we will only allow that, as we progress, we remain unsure, we will leave opportunities for alternatives. We will not become enthusiastic for the fact, the knowledge, the absolute truth of the day, but remain always uncertain… In order to make progress, one must leave the door to the unknown ajar.”

Best regards,
apollo230

PS. Hey, Corkscrew, if you are going to start messing with genetic algorithms, see if you can conjure up some Smurfettes - just be sure that neither recipe or products end up in Gargamel’s clutches! :)

Comment #95682

Posted by Anton Mates on April 9, 2006 1:44 AM (e)

apollo230 wrote:

Intelligent design clearly builds its case on William Paley’s argument:
1) Find watch in nature
2) Note adaptations of parts to telling of time
3) Conclude human designer
[snipped]

Which already diverges from reality. Have you ever actually found a watch on the beach (or another human artifact lying around somewhere) and said “Ah! This functions to do X! Therefore, a conscious designer made it!”? I certainly haven’t. A watch looks made because it looks like it was made by humans. Its materials are not commonly found in nature, it incorporates unusual shapes like perfect circles and right angles, it features various symbols found in human languages, and so forth. The fact that it has a function? A far less important issue in recognition.

Off the top of my head, compare to these:

You find a watch which is missing its internal mechanism. Now it doesn’t do squat to tell time, of course. Do you no longer think it’s human-made?

You find (in a cave, say) a stalactite which is dripping water into a pool at a very regular rate, gradually filling it up. Serves to keep time just as well as a watch. Do you assume someone made it? (Related to this–pulsars, spinning neutron stars which generate radiation jets sweeping around through space, keep time more accurately than most watches. The researchers who discovered them half-jokingly speculated that they were alien beacons of some sort, but of course they turned out not to be.)

You find a watch lying on a bed of grass. You know enough biology to know about the functions of various physiological systems within grass (and you know that grass ultimately “functions” to make more grass). Do you really have remotely the same degree of conviction that the watch and the grass were both designed?

I just don’t think Paley’s argument accurately reflects human psychology, let alone some sort of logical truth.

Comment #95692

Posted by Corkscrew on April 9, 2006 6:01 AM (e)

I second Anton Mates - no-one in the history of the human race has ever made a rarefied design inference. Instead, they make a bunch of concrete inferences (“this watch was made by a skilled human watchmaker using human-manufactured parts for the purpose of allowing humans to measure time accurately and easily”, or “this watch evolved” or “this watch just magically appeared) and then compare them for a bunch of factors, particularly plausibility of the premises and plausibility of the outcome given those premises. Scientists will generally add usefulness to the list of important factors - predictivity is king.

Once you’ve decided on the best concrete conjecture, you can then see which class it falls into and derive a rarefied inference. Trying to do it the other way round is putting the cart before the horse.

This is part of the reason that scientists are so against ID - we’re fairly sure that the vast majority of its proponents already have a concrete conjecture in mind, and His name starts with G and ends with D. As such, it’s fairly disingenuous (deliberately or otherwise) to claim that you’re only making the rarefied inference.

The other reason is that evolution is so bloody effective. Evolutionary ideas have actually been used to make strong confirmed predictions about what we’ll find next, both in the fossil record (as with Tiktaalik) and in living organisms (eg. the fact that one human chromosome is identical to two chimp chromosomes, the fact that humans have broken vitamin-C-manufacturing genes, and a whole bunch of others). Moreover, genetic algorithms have already been used to produce quite ridiculously efficient systems of a variety of sorts from engines to problem-solvers.

Anyway, less talking, more hot Smurfette evolution action.

Comment #95695

Posted by Richard Wein on April 9, 2006 8:07 AM (e)

I think Nick is being a bit unfair by quoting from Pandas . As we saw from Dover, Pandas was just a creationist book with cut-and-replacements of creationism into ID.

That would be a valid point if it weren’t for the fact that several leaders of the ID lobby (including Behe) have contributed to and defended Pandas.

Comment #95700

Posted by Phillipok on April 9, 2006 9:59 AM (e)

The evolutionary relationships of common descent constitute a historical causal order in which new types first appear by modification of previously existing types. The theory facilitates predictions. Gaps are good, not bad – they are an important type of prediction.

The researchers that found Tiktaalik did so because they could predict where to look. If they had found fossils of dinosours or humans in Devonian rocks, that would have knocked down the whole evolutionary theory.

Now if, as Scherer maintains, “basic type biology” predicts that there are “no molecular evolutionary mechanisms bridging the gaps between basic types”, then there is nothing that connects basic types in a unified history. There is no theoretical reason why one basic type should first appear when it does. You can have Tiktaalik first appearing after dinosaurs, and dinosaurs first appearing after humans. And of course there are no gaps. So there is little for ID to predict.

That is a great theoretical weakness of ID relative to evolutionary theory, imho.

Comment #95701

Posted by Phillipok on April 9, 2006 10:04 AM (e)

The evolutionary relationships of common descent constitute a historical causal order in which new types first appear by modification of previously existing types. The theory facilitates predictions. Gaps are good, not bad – they are an important type of prediction.

The researchers that found Tiktaalik did so because they could predict where to look. If they had found fossils of dinosaurs or humans in Devonian rocks, that would have knocked down the whole evolutionary theory.

Now if, as Scherer maintains, “basic type biology” predicts that there are “no molecular evolutionary mechanisms bridging the gaps between basic types”, then there is nothing that connects basic types in a unified history. There is no theoretical reason why one basic type should first appear when it does. You can have Tiktaalik first appearing after dinosaurs, and dinosaurs first appearing after humans. And of course there are no gaps. So there is little for ID to predict.

That is a great theoretical weakness of ID relative to evolutionary theory, imho.

Comment #95745

Posted by Henry J on April 9, 2006 4:56 PM (e)

To add to Anton’s comments, the Paley argument is basically an argument by analogy. But for an analogy to be a good argument, the things being compared have to share all the properties that are relevant to the argument.

Cells are made by reproduction of earlier cells, machines are built by beings (or other machines) outside of themselves.

Cell parts are built by rearrangement of molecules within the cell, machine parts are built by others.

Cells are quite messy and irregular, machines tend to be made of distinct parts with fairly regular shapes.

Cells tend to have lots of overlap between systems, where a change in one place will impact several systems. Human built machines tend to have separate systems, so that one part can be changed with minimal impact to other systems.

Conclusion: cells and machines have different properties, in at least four of the areas relevant to the argument.

(A that’s from an amateur - a biologist might be able to produce an even longer list.)

Henry

Comment #95818

Posted by Rusty Catheter on April 10, 2006 4:22 AM (e)

Hmmmm

I seem to remember that particulate inheritance was noticed some time back. Why would anybody suggest that intermediates in an evolving lineage be anything other than “mosaics” of altered and unaltered characteristics/features. Sounds like someone, somewhere is trying to set up a straw man based on blended inheritance. Tiresome what?

Rustopher.

Comment #95820

Posted by Wesley R. Elsberry on April 10, 2006 5:56 AM (e)

I did attend the Dembski lectures at Berkeley, and I bought the lecture CDs each night as well. The Berkeley IDEA Club is selling CDs of the lectures at $5 each. I was told that they would post the Q&A sessions from each night on their website, though I don’t see them there yet.

Comment #95832

Posted by Morgan-LynnLamberth on April 10, 2006 10:03 AM (e)

Evolution operates step-wise,leading from the species level to the phyla level. Scientists have difficulty figuring out which fossils go in the different levels. The god explanation just say : god did it, no real explanation. And it violates Occam’s razor. Natural selection,genetic drift and other mechanisms really explain, not introduce the god-mystery that never can explain anything.[Support mental health.] REASON SAVES!

Comment #95842

Posted by Morgan-LynnLamberth on April 10, 2006 10:28 AM (e)

The creationists don’t appreicate that step- wise activity produces mosaics[intermediates]from one level to the next. The changes accumulate such that the higher levels occur .Does such and such a fossil belong to homo erectus or to homo sapiens or is it somewhere in between? Is a fossil in this genus or does it start a new one?

Comment #96076

Posted by lamuella on April 11, 2006 6:40 PM (e)

Ed Darrell wrote:

Isn’t that a little like asking your calculus teacher to explain why the Balkans have been such a flashpoint for wars over the past 200 years?

That’s a little unfair to calculus teachers, who actually know a lot about a specialized discipline, admittedly a completely different one.

Talking to Discovery Institute “scientists” about evolution is more like talking to reflexologists about diagnosing drug resistant tuberculosis.

Comment #99574

Posted by Glen Davidson on May 1, 2006 11:13 AM (e)

Conclusion: cells and machines have different properties, in at least four of the areas relevant to the argument.

(A that’s from an amateur - a biologist might be able to produce an even longer list.)

Don’t forget one very important difference–cells are made up of information and “parts” that are derived from apparently related organisms of the past. Quite unlike human designs, there is no broad “borrowing” of workable solutions to problems, rather there is a strict derivation (with limited exceptions) that produces that “nested hierarchies” that we see among organisms.

Indeed, this is what Darwin demonstrated, which largely eliminated intelligent adherence to “Paleyism”. The four you mentioned are certainly good, though, and relate to the reasons (especially reproduction) why Aristotle and many others never thought that organisms were machines. The lack of any evidence “purpose” beyond reproduction, the “self-possession” of life one might say, is another considerable reason not to view life as a collection of machines.

Life (humanity, esp.), according to the old myths, was given the earth to remake, life was not itself seen to be a mere remaking of matter via clever mechanists.

It wasn’t until mechanics and physics were unleashed during the Age of Enlightenment that very many people could reconcile themselves to the idea that life might be merely a collectivity of machines. Many still did not, of course, since life on the face of it does not appear machine-like, plus these people knew the difference between machines made for a purpose, and self-possessed animals reproducing themselves through the ages.

Glen D
http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

Comment #105922

Posted by Mike Flacklestein on June 15, 2006 6:25 PM (e)

I live at 22541 Commonwealth in Seattle. Been up here before?

Comment #114327

Posted by TramadoL54921 on July 22, 2006 8:06 PM (e)

I feel like an empty room, but eh. Nothing seems worth doing. I haven’t gotten much done today.

Comment #114367

Posted by TramadoL47308 on July 23, 2006 1:29 AM (e)

I’ve just been staying at home waiting for something to happen, but I don’t care. Basically nothing seems worth thinking about. I can’t be bothered with anything recently.

Comment #114372

Posted by TramadoL90643 on July 23, 2006 1:50 AM (e)

My life’s been basically bland today. More or less nothing seems worth thinking about. My mind is like an empty room. I’ve more or less been doing nothing to speak of. Not much on my mind recently.