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No. of Recommendations: 92
Ten years after the publication of Darwin's Black Box, I finally agreed to read it. As you know, I felt that I was pretty familiar with Behe already, having followed the intelligent design movement for years, read his arguments online, read detailed criticism on other sites, and listened to his testimony in front of the Texas State Board of Education in 2003. Still, I felt that the issue of who's read what had become a distraction in discussions with Bryan, so I thought I'd better get it out of the way.

Here were my preconceptions about the book. As I understood it, Behe is probably the smartest person in the Intelligent Design (ID) movement. He is a real, actual biochemist. He has published peer-reviewed scientific papers, although not on the subject of ID. He knows science and scientific language. He also, not coincidentally, differs hugely from self-professed creationists in the sense that he accepts evolution almost in its entirety. He believes, or at least doesn't contradict, that macro-evolution occurs and that the earth is billions of years old.

Although Behe thinks that evolution is reasonable, he disagrees with mainstream biologists in the sense that he denies that evolution alone -- random mutation combined with natural selection -- are enough to account for all the diversity of life on earth. He believes that certain biochemical systems exhibit what he refers to as "irreducible complexity". Irreducibly complex things cannot have evolved, proposes Behe, and that leaves the alternative that they were "designed". Behe picks several systems as examples of irreducible complexity, which should be well-known by most who have followed the ID political movement: blood clotting, the cilium, etc.

All this is what I knew before reading the book. Early reading bore me out in these impressions. In Behe's own words:

"For the record, I have no reason to doubt that the universe is the billions of years old that physicists say it is. Further, I find the idea of common descent (that all organisms share a common ancestor) fairly convincing, and have no particular reason to doubt it. I greatly respect the work of my colleagues who study the development and behavior of organisms within an evolutionary framework, and I think that evolutionary biologists have contributed enormously to our understanding of the world." (pg 5)

So as far as Behe's concerned, it's fine to think that everything is descended from a common ancestor; so humans do indeed share genes with chimpanzees, with apes, with all mammals, with all vertebrates, and so on.

Furthermore, evolution operates just fine on the macroscopic level, for most things. Here is Behe on the evolution of the famous Darwinian bugaboo, the eye:

"Somehow, for evolution to be believable, Darwin had to convince the public that complex organs could be formed in a step-by-step process.

He succeeded brilliantly. Cleverly, Darwin didn't try to discover a real pathway that evolution might have used to make the eye. Rather, he pointed to modern animals with different kinds of eyes (ranging from the simple to the complex) and suggested that the evolution of the human eye might have involved similar organs as intermediates.

[Behe then recaps Darwin's example.]

Using reasoning like this, Darwin convinced many of his readers that an evolutionary pathway leads from the simplest light-sensitive spot to the sophisticated camera-eye of man. But the question of how vision began remained unanswered."
(pg 16)

After this, Behe gives a fairly technical biochemical explanation of vision in terms of photons and proteins and such. His point as I understand it is this: on a macroscopic scale, sure, evolution can account for the construction of complex machinery from chemical parts. But the existence of the chemical parts themselves are a mystery beyond the reach of blind natural processes.

This is what the "black box" means in the title. The cell is treated as a black box by evolutionists. In math and computer programming lingo, a "black box" is a routine that does a certain job reliably. You stick something in, and you get something out. You don't necessarily know HOW the routine does it's job, because it's hidden inside the box. But as long as it gives you the right results, you don't care.

So Behe means that the cell might as well be magic as far as macrobiologists are concerned. And that's what he builds his case on. As a biochemist, Behe says he's uniquely qualified to see that, in a nutshell, the cell IS magic. You look inside the cell, you see all this intricate machinery that couldn't have evolved, so you marvel at the brilliance and foresight of an "intelligent designer" who must have planned the thing.

Before looking at his arguments, I'd like to take a moment to address the style of the book. It's a little bewildering. Much of the book is written in a highly patronizing simplistic manner. Behe illustrates his points with analogies to Calvin and Hobbes cartoons, Foghorn Leghorn predicaments, Rube Goldberg machines, and hugely tedious detailed descriptions of everyday activities. Don't get me wrong, often a book on a complicated subject can benefit from the occasional light-hearted cartoon or cutesy analogy. But Behe doesn't just throw out the cutesy analogy and move on; he spends page upon page explaining his analogies in insulting baby talk. For example, in chapter 3, he writes about the process of swimming:

"Suppose, on a summer day, you find yourself taking a trip to the neighborhood pool for a bit of exercise. After slathering on the sunblock, you lie on a towel reading the latest issue of Nucleic Acids Research and wait for the adult swim period to begin. When at long last the whistle blows and the overly energetic younger crowd clears the water, you gingerly dip your toes in. Slowly, painfully, you lower the rest of your body into the surprisingly cold water. Because it would not be dignified, you will not do any cannonballs or fancy dives from the diving board, nor play water volleyball with the younger adults. Rather, you will swim laps.

Pushing off from the side, you bring your right arm up over your head and plunge it into the water, completing one stroke. During the stroke, nerve impulses travel from your brain to your arm muscles, stimulating them to contract in a specific order..."
(pgs 57-58)

Behe goes on for three pages like this. And then when he finishes this drivel, he takes another two pages to explain that what he meant to say was, "You may think that the act of swimming is simple, but it's not."

But interspersed with these obnoxiously simplistic passages, there are plenty of passages stuffed full of dense, unreadable technical language like this:

"Conversion of plasminogen to plasmin is catalyzed by a protein called t-PA. There are also other proteins that control clot dissolution, including α2-antiplasmin, which binds to plasmin, preventing it from destroying fibrin clots." (pg 88)

Or this:

"Enzyme I requires an ATP energy pellet to transform ribose-5-phosphate (the foundation) into Intermediate II. The enzyme has an area on its surface that can bind either ADP or GDP when there is an excess of those chemicals in the cell. The binding of ADP or GDP requires a valve, decreasing the activity of the enzyme and slowing the synthesis of AMP." (pgs 157-158)

Now, I'm not scientifically illiterate. It's just that biochemistry happens to be way outside my field. If you're going to go with a level of description that requires the use of Greek letters, then count on losing a significant chunk of your audience.

This leads me to wonder: who is Behe's intended audience? If this were a biochemical treatise meant for biochemists, then he could have submitted it to a scientific journal, but he didn't. I've never heard the book promoted anywhere except on daytime Christian talk shows and in right wing columns. No offense intended to those forms of media, but most of their audience is probably not going to have any more luck deciphering "ADP" and "GDP" and "alpha-sub-2" than I did. And anyway, if he were going after very scientifically literate readers, then he would have done well to scrap the lengthy explanations of Calvin and Hobbes, as biochemists who know the material would certainly find them as pointless as I do.

But if the readers don't already get biochemistry, then he clearly does not expect them to follow the scientific lingo. In fact, it looks to me like he actually wants most readers to skip over the technical stuff. Whenever he slips into technical mode, he sets off the entire section with little boxes at both ends. The first time he uses this technique, he makes the following comment:

"The following five paragraphs give a biochemical sketch of the eye's operation. (Note: These technical paragraphs are set off by [] at the beginning and end.) Don't be put off by the strange names of the components. They're just labels, no more esoteric than carburetor or differential are to someone reading a car manual for the first time. Readers with an appetite for detail can find more information in many biochemistry textbooks; others may wish to tread lightly, and/or refer to Figures 1-2 and 1-3 for the gist." (pg 18)

Also, at various points in the book he writes things like "I assume I've lost most readers in the labyrinth by now..." (pg 149) And at one point he actually ridicules those who attempt to give understandable explanations to a lay audience.

"I apologize in advance for the complexity of the material, but it is inherent in the point I wish to make. Richard Dawkins can simplify to his heart's content, because he wants to convince his readers that Darwinian evolution is 'a breeze.' In order to understand the barriers to evolution, however, we have to bite the bullet of complexity." (pg 48)

Balderdash. I've read a fair portion of what Dawkins has written, and at no point do I remember him saying that evolution is "a breeze". I have no doubt that Dawkins has written some equally dense papers for his colleagues. My subject is computer programming, which is very far off from the work that Behe does. If I were going to write a book on programming, I could easily lose casual readers with detailed explanations of recursive search algorithms, segmented CSB+-trees, and context-free grammars. I could even, if I chose, use Greek letters. But if I were trying to reach an audience of interested novices, I probably wouldn't do that.

What I'm saying is that there's a simple way to explain a subject and a complex way to explain the same. Behe intentionally chose to go the incomprehensible route. If he did it for the reason I think he did -- to prove that biochemistry is a hard subject that requires a lot of specialized schooling to follow -- then he was wasting his time. I already believe that biochemistry is hard. If I thought it was easy then I might have become a biochemist. Instead of filling up pages of diagrams that most people would only glance at, he could have devoted some of that page space to fleshing out his arguments better.

But I suspect that there is something else going on here. I think Behe really does NOT expect most people to read the parts in boxes, but merely to be impressed by the big words and fancy abbreviations. The average reader would just look at the technical parts and say "Gee whiz, you're smart, Dr. Behe!" Most of the main thrust of his arguments are by analogy, and the GeeWhiz passages are just meant to convey the impression that the analogies are valid because they were made by someone smart.

Back to the substance of the book. To make the case that "black boxes" (cells) require a designer, he fleshes out his notion of "Irreducible Complexity", with one example in each of chapters 3-6. Since I'm not a biochemist or anything close to one, so I'm just not very qualified to speak about whether Behe is right that the evolution of these systems is really as big a mystery as he says they are. Luckily, people who are qualified have long since stepped up to the plate to write at length about Behe's examples, so I'll defer to their explanations.

Chapter 3: The cilium
http://www.evowiki.org/index.php/Evolution_of_flagella
Chapter 4: Blood clotting
http://www.talkorigins.org/origins/postmonth/feb97.html
Chapter 5: Vesicular transport
http://www.cbs.dtu.dk/staff/dave/Behe.html#IC (search the page for "vesicular")
Chapter 6: The immune system
http://www.talkdesign.org/faqs/Evolving_Immunity.html

Each link gives a biologist's response to the stated claim. Note that the link for chapter 5 is actually a pretty lengthy deconstruction of the whole book.

Since the "irreducibly complex" (IC) nature of these particular systems has already been addressed very capably on other sites, I want to address Behe's overall concept of IC as the test for design. In its simplest form, the argument runs like this: Consider a system X that has dependent parts A and B. If you remove part A, then X will cease to function. If you remove part B, then X will also cease to function. Since either A or B must have evolved first, it stands to reason that at some point, X must have existed without one or the other. The resulting system would be useless. Therefore, it cannot have evolved in steps. It must be designed.

To really emphasize how silly the argument is, let's suppose that "X" = "The human body", "A" = "head", and "B" = "torso". Logically, the IC argument means "If the human body evolved, then at some point in history it must have been either a blundering torso with no head, or a disembodied head with no torso. How preposterous! Neither of those could survive! Since there cannot be a head with no torso or a torso with no head, God must have planned the head AND the torso to work together from the beginning!"

In this form, it should be pretty obvious where the fallacy is. The head and body coevolved. At an early enough point, you don't find a body with no head; you find a body that performs the functions of the head with no clear separation between them. Earlier than that, you reach organisms that just don't do head-like things like seeing, hearing, or thinking, yet they survive just fine.

So it's not enough to say "You can't remove parts A or B." To prove the case of irreducible complexity, you also have to prove that there is no simpler form of A or B that does the same job, only a bit worse. And beyond that, there's the scaffolding issue, i.e., some body types had features that supported the adaptation of other features, but then went away.
http://www.don-lindsay-archive.org/creation/evolve_irreducible.html#scaffold

Obviously no one would bother denying that there are a great many complex systems that exist in living organisms. That is exactly why the theory of evolution exists: because it explains the very complexity we observe, better and more thoroughly than any other concept proposed. Does evolution also explain complex chemical compounds such as those that make up the cell? Almost certainly, according to the theory of auto-catalytic cycles proposed by Stuart Kauffman and others.
http://www.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/LifeSciences/?view=usa&ci=0195095995
According to this principle, a large enough variety of chemicals may be almost guaranteed to produce complex systems that continue to create more copies of themselves. It also shouldn't be overlooked that prokaryotic (simple) cells had about a 2.8 billion year headstart on evolution before the first eukaryotic (complex) cells arrived on earth. That's more than twice as long as the rest of all evolutionary history.


There was one analogy in the book that particularly didn't sit right with me. Behe tries to explain that even though one complex system may appear to be a "descendant" of another system, there is no logical path to get from one to the other. For example, you could say that motorcycles are just juiced up bicycles. But there are no small, incremental changes that could be made to bicycles that would turn them into motorcycles.

Well, Behe is absolutely right to say this. Motorcycles didn't evolve from bicycles. For one thing, a motorcycle has a gasoline powered motor. The gas powered motor wasn't specifically made for motorcycles; it was invented separately and has been applied to all kinds of other inventions that share no intellectual ancestry with the motorcycle. Another example that Behe didn't mention would be the computer chip. Today, you find ridiculously powerful computer chips in appliances like thermostats and alarm clocks. The power of those chips is largely wasted in such appliances, but they are used there anyway because they can be cheaply mass-produced, now that the development has already been done for computers.

That's one way that motorcycles and alarm clocks are different from living organisms. Designers transfer parts from one invention to another easily, but that just doesn't happen in nature, as far as we've observed. Far from being a problem with evolution, this is one of the ways that evolution has been confirmed. The theory predicts that no such borrowing of spare parts will occur. Different animals can receive the same feature from a common ancestor, or they can separately evolve apparently similar body parts. But they cannot transfer precise information across the family tree if the common ancestor didn't have that information. If an animal had a feature that was clearly co-opted from an unrelated species -- such as, if an ostrich suddenly gained a perfect copy of human hands with opposable thumbs -- that would tend to discredit evolution. But we don't see that sort of thing happen. This is one of the ways that evolution is falsifiable, which is one of the reasons why it's a legitimate science.

So finally we get to the idea of Intelligent Design, in a chapter which is surely the precursor to a lot of the pro-ID arguments that we've heard in the last ten years. In one of the most famous passages in the book, Behe says:

"Imagine a room in which a body lies crushed, flat as a pancake. A dozen detectives crawl around, examining the floor with magnifying glasses for any clue to the identity of the perpetrator. In the middle of the room next to the body stands a large, gray elephant. The detectives carefully avoid bumping into the pachyderm's legs as they crawl, and never even glance at it. Over time the detectives get frustrated with their lack of progress but resolutely press on, looking even more closely at the floor. You see, textbooks say detectives must 'get their man,' so they never consider elephants.

There is an elephant in the roomful of scientists who are trying to explain the development of life. The elephant is labeled 'intelligent design.'"
(pgs 192-193)

That is all well and good, except that it is a patently bogus bit of sleight-of-hand. At no point in Behe's book does he ever actually produce any elephants. Instead, he just insists "Now that I've ruled out the mainstream scientific explanation, the only alternative is elephants."

Worse, Behe never offers any reason to suspect that his elephant (the "intelligent designer") actually exists. A more appropriate analogy would be if the detectives were swarming around a 19th story apartment in New York, with a mysterious murder but no visible signs of an elephant whatsoever. While the detectives are trying to do their job, Behe is saying "See, I told you that theory would hit a dead end. It must be elephants that did it!" And "THAT clue didn't pan out either, did it? Why don't you just admit that it's elephants?" When the detectives point out that no witnesses have seen an elephant, and that there is no clear way that an elephant could have gotten up the stairwell or elevator in the first place, he accuses them of anti-elephant bias.

In this situation, the burden of proof is clearly on Behe to give a reason why elephants should be even considered as a hypothesis. It's not that the detectives have ruled out elephants entirely; it's just that until there is compelling evidence to suggest that an elephant was there, "getting their man" is a much simpler approach to the crime.

In order to make a case for a designer, Behe has to do more than reject natural selection as an explanation; he has to actually provide a reason to think that a designer was available at the scene. In one passage, Behe writes about genetic engineering, saying,

"The fact that biochemical systems can be designed by intelligent agents for their own purposes is conceded by all scientists, even Richard Dawkins... Since Dawkins agrees that biochemical systems can be designed, and that people who did not see or hear about the designing can nonetheless detect it, then the question of whether a given biochemical system was designed boils down simply to adducing evidence to support design." (pg 203)

That is hardly a "concession" at all. I can't imagine anybody disagreeing that intelligent beings like us CAN use our intelligence and our current state of technology to alter a gene, or that this ability will be further enhanced in the future.

It is, however, a complete red herring. From "some genes can be designed" Behe makes the logical leap to "all genes were designed." This is like saying that because some vegetables are grown by farmers, it logically follows that ALL vegetables are grown by farmers, and none of them grown in the wild.

What is missing from Behe's argument is the fact that people can design genes, but only if there are any people around to do it. A hundred years ago, the capability to "intelligently design" genes did not exist, at least among humans. And obviously people could not have designed the genes of the first cells. So the burden of proof is on Behe to show that there existed any "designer" back then who was capable of genetic engineering. He asserts that there was, but he's begging the question. Since Behe refuses to speculate on the identity of this designer, we're back to square one. Either present evidence that such a universal gene-tinkerer exists, or just acknowledge the fact that natural explanations are all we have to go on at this time.

Although Behe taunted scientists for letting the cell remain a "black box", Behe's solution to the matter is to propose that a particular kind of pre-human intelligence exists -- certainly not a trivial claim in any way. This intelligence is older than the oldest multi-cellular life on earth, and is capable of performing genetic engineering on a scale far beyond any human ingenuity so far. How does this designer work? Where did it come from? How do we explain the inherent complexity involved in the designer's existence? We don't know, and it's not our business to ask questions about it. So to get rid of these tiny black boxes, Behe just creates the biggest black box of all out of nothing.
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Although Behe taunted scientists for letting the cell remain a "black box", Behe's solution to the matter is to propose that a particular kind of pre-human intelligence exists -- certainly not a trivial claim in any way. This intelligence is older than the oldest multi-cellular life on earth, and is capable of performing genetic engineering on a scale far beyond any human ingenuity so far. How does this designer work? Where did it come from? How do we explain the inherent complexity involved in the designer's existence? We don't know, and it's not our business to ask questions about it. So to get rid of these tiny black boxes, Behe just creates the biggest black box of all out of nothing.

Very nice summation and excellent in-depth review of Behe's book. I admire you for your effort in reading his book and then providing a cogent review, with references, for our benefit.

g2w
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Kazim,

I gave you a rec for effort as well. You at least have the intellectual integrity to actually read the other side's best work, then went the extra mile to write up your comments on it. Well done.

I'll reply to your critique later.

Bryan
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Excellent work Kazim.
Thank you for that. I learned abit.
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Great review. I especially liked the head/torso point. Problem is, I've seen creationists use a similar analogy to make their own point: "The brain and heart are mutually dependent. Remove one and the other dies, so how did they evolve separately?"
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"The brain and heart are mutually dependent. Remove one and the other dies, so how did they evolve separately?"

Plenty of examples of circulation without a brain. (Worms, etc.)
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Great review. I especially liked the head/torso point. Problem is, I've seen creationists use a similar analogy to make their own point: "The brain and heart are mutually dependent. Remove one and the other dies, so how did they evolve separately?"

Yeah, well, in that case they are doing you a favor by making the sillier version of the argument for you. Making the case that certain features can co-evolve and gradually become more complex in sync with each other is another matter entirely.

Once you can make that argument, though, it's nice to be able to look at another example of irreducible complexity, and say "Now we can reduce it to the brain/heart question, which has already been answered."
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Designers transfer parts from one invention to another easily, but that just doesn't happen in nature, as far as we've observed. Far from being a problem with evolution, this is one of the ways that evolution has been confirmed. The theory predicts that no such borrowing of spare parts will occur. Different animals can receive the same feature from a common ancestor, or they can separately evolve apparently similar body parts. But they cannot transfer precise information across the family tree if the common ancestor didn't have that information.

I'm not sure this is correct. According to a biologist friend of mine, there is a lot more non-sexual cross-species passing around of genes in nature than earlier believed. Viral transmission is one modality, now exploited by genetic engineers to insert entire genes into foreign organisms, but also commonly occurring in nature. There are other modes as well. I'm not any kind of biologist, but based on what I heard this particular point is very much in question.

Loren
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{{After this, Behe gives a fairly technical biochemical explanation of vision in terms of photons and proteins and such. His point as I understand it is this: on a macroscopic scale, sure, evolution can account for the construction of complex machinery from chemical parts. But the existence of the chemical parts themselves are a mystery beyond the reach of blind natural processes.}}


I am currently taking a grad level class on Physical Biochemistry. We have studied somewhat how organisms see. It is a mixture of quantum mechanics, calculus, chemistry and biology. To me, it is truly amazing. I have to say that the more I have studied Biochemistry, the more my faith in God has been reafirmed.



c
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Kazim wrote:

Designers transfer parts from one invention to another easily, but that just doesn't happen in nature, as far as we've observed. Far from being a problem with evolution, this is one of the ways that evolution has been confirmed. The theory predicts that no such borrowing of spare parts will occur. Different animals can receive the same feature from a common ancestor, or they can separately evolve apparently similar body parts. But they cannot transfer precise information across the family tree if the common ancestor didn't have that information.

LorenCobb replied:

I'm not sure this is correct. According to a biologist friend of mine, there is a lot more non-sexual cross-species passing around of genes in nature than earlier believed. Viral transmission is one modality, now exploited by genetic engineers to insert entire genes into foreign organisms, but also commonly occurring in nature. There are other modes as well. I'm not any kind of biologist, but based on what I heard this particular point is very much in question.

There is indeed a fair amount of this. Bacterial conjugation is probably the best known, but viral swapping is also common and well known. And it is believed at least some places, for instance, that placental mammals got their start (and significant genes) from a virus.

Even so, it leads to predictable, testable, and falsifiable consequences. As organisms move up the evolutionary tree in complexity, it becomes increasingly difficult and less likely for these sorts of things to occur. Co-evolution of parasites and their hosts is also well known, in all variety of degrees, not too rarely evolving into obligatory symbiosis.

On a separate note, my favorite counterexample to the bogus "irreducible complexity" argument is the parallel argument that natural arches therefore cannot exist. (Of course, alas, if the world is only 6,000 years old, then perhaps they were "created".)

RJ
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On a separate note, my favorite counterexample to the bogus "irreducible complexity" argument is the parallel argument that natural arches therefore cannot exist.

Ok, I have to ask . . . what is the parallel argument?


Bryan
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I am currently taking a grad level class on Physical Biochemistry. We have studied somewhat how organisms see. It is a mixture of quantum mechanics, calculus, chemistry and biology. To me, it is truly amazing. I have to say that the more I have studied Biochemistry, the more my faith in God has been reafirmed.

And what does your professor think?
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I'm not sure this is correct. According to a biologist friend of mine, there is a lot more non-sexual cross-species passing around of genes in nature than earlier believed. Viral transmission is one modality, now exploited by genetic engineers to insert entire genes into foreign organisms, but also commonly occurring in nature. There are other modes as well. I'm not any kind of biologist, but based on what I heard this particular point is very much in question.

That's a good point, although I think it applies more to genetic transfers at the level of bacteria and viruses rather than to wholesale swapping of limbs and organs of complex, multicellular organisms.
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On a separate note, my favorite counterexample to the bogus "irreducible complexity" argument is the parallel argument that natural arches therefore cannot exist.

Ok, I have to ask . . . what is the parallel argument?


(Meaning, an argument about arches, which offers parallel to Irreducible Complexity.)

http://www.lecb.ncifcrf.gov/~toms/paper/ev/behe/
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Meaning, an argument about arches, which offers parallel to Irreducible Complexity

Interesting idea. Thanks for the link.

Behe's definition, in context, applies to biological systems.

Bryan
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Behe's definition, in context, applies to biological systems.

I think you missed the analogy.

Suppose a system can't function with the removal of parts (IC, by definition). But if parts are added to it, the system may still function. This system with more parts might now be reducible in ways that the simplier system could not.

All IC means is that the system couldn't have evolved directly from a simplier form. It doesn't prevent the system from evolving from a more complex system. Nothing requires Evolution to only work from simpler systems to more complex systems.




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All IC means is that the system couldn't have evolved directly from a simplier form. It doesn't prevent the system from evolving from a more complex system. Nothing requires Evolution to only work from simpler systems to more complex systems.

The bolded portion is the fundamental flaw with the IC argument. It is fatal: any "irreducibly comples" system has one or more corresponding "redundantly complex" systems that can be its progentiors through deletion of parts. The deletion of parts typically comes through change in function.

The Venus Fly Trap is an excellent example. It is irreducibly complex; without both a hinge and fringes, it cannot trap flies. At the same time, a sundew uses glue to catch flies, so the glue is a irreducible part of a sundew's flycatcher. But imagine how natural selesction might favor a sundew: fringes would increase the surface area of glue, and a hinge reflex would quickly bring more glue to bear on a caught fly. Both have adaptive value, but they are not necessary. It would not need a hinge reflex or fringes. However, once it got them, once it had redundant parts to its fly-catcher, it could conceivably be of adaptive value to save resources by making less and less glue (the sundew family lives in typically nutrient-poor soils, that's why they catch flies in the first place). So the glue, once an irreducible component, became redundant with the perfectly reasonable innovations of fringes and a hinge reflex--and once the redundant glue was eliminated, you were left with yet another irreducibly complex system. The whole path, from one IC system in a sundew to a different IC system in a Venus Fly Trap, was accomplished through steps having clear and obvious adaptive value which natural selection is perfectly competent to perform.

- Joe
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Suppose a system can't function with the removal of parts (IC, by definition). But if parts are added to it, the system may still function. This system with more parts might now be reducible in ways that the simplier system could not.

All IC means is that the system couldn't have evolved directly from a simplier form. It doesn't prevent the system from evolving from a more complex system. Nothing requires Evolution to only work from simpler systems to more complex systems.


Let me get this straight. You start with an IC system ("IC by definition"). Then you add parts to it, which could eventually be lost again.

Does anyone see a problem with this scenario (if you want to maintain that RM/NS does it all)?

You start with an IC system . . .

Bryan
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{{And what does your professor think?}}

Fortunately, I have had high quality professors who keep their personal views out of the classroom for these classes. So I am very glad to say, I do not know.


c
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The Venus Fly Trap is an excellent example.

Joe, all you have demonstrated is that in your mind, you can create one IC system out of another one.

2 problems with that: mind-pictures are not enough to establish something in science, and where the heck did the original IC system come from?

Behe and Dembski and Wells do not argue that IC systems can't evolve.

Bryan
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I am currently taking a grad level class on Physical Biochemistry. We have studied somewhat how organisms see. It is a mixture of quantum mechanics, calculus, chemistry and biology. To me, it is truly amazing. I have to say that the more I have studied Biochemistry, the more my faith in God has been reafirmed.


Me too. I hope you'll stick around awhile, we could use someone with your background to add to the discussions.

Bryan
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Joe, all you have demonstrated is that in your mind, you can create one IC system out of another one.

2 problems with that: mind-pictures are not enough to establish something in science, and where the heck did the original IC system come from?



maybe all the analogies are becoming confusing rather than enlightening.
As I understand it the matter comes down to this.

1. ID says an IC structure, e.g. the flagellum, could not obtain its components (the 40 or so different proteins needed ) by means of random change/natural selection because as long as the entire set is not complete, the subset serves no function and is rather a waste of primary material and energy for the cell.

2. From 1, ID concludes that the flagellum could not come into existence by means of random change/natural selection.

But the step from 1 to 2 above is not straightforward. It implies that these proteins in the intermediate stages are being created just for the ultimate purpose of forming a flagellum and that they cannot have any other useful function in the cell. I think it is reasonable to question that implication and propose that there can be pathways to get those 40 proteins there by having them perform other functions so that the collection of those flagellum-precursor-proteins are not just useless wastes of space.

In that respect mind-pictures are totally relevant. We are trying to show that the step from 1 to 2 needs to take into account the possibility of different (indirect - not flagellum-related ) pathways to obtain the final collection of IC proteins that can form a flagellum and that ID needs to explain why such pathways are not possible. Lacking this, I don't think it is reasonable to jump from statement 1 to statement 2.


T.
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All IC means is that the system couldn't have evolved directly from a simplier form. It doesn't prevent the system from evolving from a more complex system. Nothing requires Evolution to only work from simpler systems to more complex systems.

I've never cared for the 'scaffolding' argument because it suffers from the same problem that IDists have when they assert the designer could be natural. My response is: that's great, but if evolution is too complex to make us, then how did it make the designer without supernatural help? (Answer: it couldn't at which point it's clear that ID = supernatural) By the same token, you can say that a simpler form can evolve from a more complex one, but then how did the more complex one get there?

This is not to say that scaffolding has never happened, only that it can't be an ultimate response to the IC argument. Nor is it to say that some structures are IC as evolution theory provides the best answer for how allegedly IC structures arose.
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I've never cared for the 'scaffolding' argument because it suffers from the same problem that IDists have when they assert the designer could be natural. My response is: that's great, but if evolution is too complex to make us, then how did it make the designer without supernatural help? (Answer: it couldn't at which point it's clear that ID = supernatural) By the same token, you can say that a simpler form can evolve from a more complex one, but then how did the more complex one get there?

This is not to say that scaffolding has never happened, only that it can't be an ultimate response to the IC argument. Nor is it to say that some structures are IC as evolution theory provides the best answer for how allegedly IC structures arose.


The key word is "irreducible", not "complexity". Behe acknowledges that evolution happens. What he does is argue that some specific systems are unevolvable, not because they are complex, but because there is no evolutionary path to get there. Scaffolding is one way that irreducible things can actually evolve.

For instance, let's say that you have three possible parts, A, B, and C. They go through an evolutionary pathway like this:

A -> AB -> ABC -> BC

Now we find that BC is irreducible. C cannot do its job without B. B cannot do its job without either A or C, but either one will do. A, however, can work independently. It does sort of the same job as BC, but not nearly as well as any of the other versions. So BC is irreducible, but AB is not. That's scaffolding.

To build an arch, you would:
1. Build the scaffold (A)
2. Pile up the sides around the scaffold (AB)
3. Place the top of the arch on the sides, still supported by the scaffold (ABC)
4. Remove the scaffold (BC)
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Let me get this straight. You start with an IC system ("IC by definition"). Then you add parts to it, which could eventually be lost again.

Does anyone see a problem with this scenario (if you want to maintain that RM/NS does it all)?


Part of the confusion is because we are looking backwards in time at the history of an organism. Behe himself does this in his definition of IC, "removal of any one of the parts [from a working system]".

Let me rephrase in a better time-order. Behe actually means by IC is there isn't a possible, precursor system that new parts could be added to to produce the current system. He would say there is no evolutionary pathway to the current system, because any simpler system isn't functional.

As I said, Evolution isn't forced to build complex systems from simpler systems. A complex system could evolve from an even more complex system. The even more complex system could be a reducible system. There could be an evolutionary pathway though the more complex system.


You start with an IC system . . .

The I in IC stands for "irreducibly". That doesn't mean 'no evolutionary pathways'. It is possible for an IC structure to formed by evolution.


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I understand the scaffolding argument. However it assumes a lot of complexity that I just don't think is needed to explain how certain features (like the bacterial flagellum) evolved (unless there are linked intermediate forms that demonstrate the scaffold).
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I understand the scaffolding argument. However it assumes a lot of complexity that I just don't think is needed to explain how certain features (like the bacterial flagellum) evolved (unless there are linked intermediate forms that demonstrate the scaffold).

Scaffolding may not be exactly what happened in the case of the flagellum. That's not really the point. The point is that Behe defines Irreducible Complexity to have a particular meaning, and then claims that IC structures cannot have evolved in small incremental steps. Scaffolding is simply one example of how an IC structure can evolve, and apparently *does*, in some cases.

There are other examples, such as that a system which serves one function sometimes evolves to perform some totally different function. The specifics don't really matter that much; the point is that Behe claims that IC (as he defined it) precludes evolution. One counterexample is enough to disprove the claim. It may be that there are other definitions of IC that do rule out evolution, but Behe hasn't proposed one, nor has he come up with a test for proving that anything is IC.
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Scaffolding may not be exactly what happened in the case of the flagellum. That's not really the point. The point is that Behe defines Irreducible Complexity to have a particular meaning, and then claims that IC structures cannot have evolved in small incremental steps. Scaffolding is simply one example of how an IC structure can evolve, and apparently *does*, in some cases.

There are other examples, such as that a system which serves one function sometimes evolves to perform some totally different function. The specifics don't really matter that much; the point is that Behe claims that IC (as he defined it) precludes evolution. One counterexample is enough to disprove the claim. It may be that there are other definitions of IC that do rule out evolution, but Behe hasn't proposed one, nor has he come up with a test for proving that anything is IC.


I understand that's not the point and for the record, I don't think scaffolding is what occurred in the case of the flagellum. (Ian Musgrave has an excellent chapter in Matt Young/Taner Edis' "Why Intelligent Design Fails" that describes observed intermediates sharing numerous chemical and structural similarities between the secretory flagella which Behe has not labeled IC and the motile flagella which he has.)

There may be cases of scaffolds that have occurred and can be observed. My point is that this doesn't authoritatively dismiss Behe's claim of IC for that instance - it only forces him to back up a step. If I'm Behe, my response when presented with strong evidence of scaffolding would be to drop the IC label from the initial structure and apply it to the scaffold. Thus the initial claimed IC structure may no longer be considered IC, but its precursor is and the concept of IC itself is not harmed. Behe justs jumps to the next 'turtle' and so on, ad infinitum. Saying that a structure was scaffolded only moves the line further back.

On the other hand, if a probable or plausible pathway can be demonstrated whereby a structure can be shown to have evolved (as with the flagella), there is nowhere to back up to.
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On the other hand, if a probable or plausible pathway can be demonstrated whereby a structure can be shown to have evolved (as with the flagella), there is nowhere to back up to.


Would you ingest a new chemical compound just because some scientist says he thinks it is "plausible" that it could cure your gout?

Wouldn't you require a little more scientific approach, say testing (at minimum), and a thorough understanding of the chemical interactions of the compound and the cells in your body (at best)?

Why is "scaffolding" and the like given such a huge pass? Why is scaffolding (which to my knowledge has no observed evidence), or "plausibility" (which has no exact scientific measure) allowed to settle this issue?

Bryan
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{{Nothing requires Evolution to only work from simpler systems to more complex systems.}}


Are you aware of such a progression? I have not studied where an organism de-evolved into a simpler organism.


c
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Why is "scaffolding" and the like given such a huge pass? Why is scaffolding (which to my knowledge has no observed evidence), or "plausibility" (which has no exact scientific measure) allowed to settle this issue?

Huh ? Huge pass ? settle the issue ? Do you think the scaffold's "pass" is any "huger" than that given to the "intelligent designer" ? What's the scientific measure for the designer again ? At least the scaffold defenders are looking out for occurrences of scaffolding which is more than can be said about the designer defenders who don't think it"s necessary to go search for the designer itself.

Is the ID rejection of evolution based on anything more than the perceived UNplausibility of the complexity of simple lifeforms ?

T.
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Are you aware of such a progression? I have not studied where an organism de-evolved into a simpler organism.

Pogonophores (deep sea vent worms) lack a digestive tract because of symbiotic chemosynthetic bacteria. Same with tapeworms because of their parasitic lifestyle. Lots of examples in parasitology.

- Joe

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Why is "scaffolding" and the like given such a huge pass? Why is scaffolding (which to my knowledge has no observed evidence), or "plausibility" (which has no exact scientific measure) allowed to settle this issue?

Because the claim is that it is impossible for such structures to have evolved.

To falsify this, all that is needed is to provide some possible way.
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Would you ingest a new chemical compound just because some scientist says he thinks it is "plausible" that it could cure your gout?

Wouldn't you require a little more scientific approach, say testing (at minimum), and a thorough understanding of the chemical interactions of the compound and the cells in your body (at best)?


Let's not forget that evolution is the default position already. It is a hugely successful and well-confirmed theory for many different reasons. It is the rule, not the exception, and even Behe wouldn't disagree with this.

That we're all descended from a common ancestor is seriously not disputed by just about any serious scientist, including Behe.

The idea that evolution works everywhere else but is impossible in a few special cases, which therefore require the use of (unobserved) supernatural forces, is the extraordinary claim.

Why is "scaffolding" and the like given such a huge pass? Why is scaffolding (which to my knowledge has no observed evidence)

The loss of useless parts is observed, as Joe pointed out. That's all scaffolding is.
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I have not studied where an organism de-evolved into a simpler organism.

Whales--hind legs de-evolved into a big flipper.
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{{Nothing requires Evolution to only work from simpler systems to more complex systems.}}

Are you aware of such a progression? I have not studied where an organism de-evolved into a simpler organism.


Just so we understand each other, the organisms don't 'de-evolve'. They are evolving, by simplifying some of their systems. A simplier system may be better suited for an organisms need. For example, legs on dolphins and whales simplifed into fins. Also consider at wings on ostriches and penguins.

The penguin wing is very useful for swimming. It may have evolved from a more complex wing that allowed for flight. I'm not a biologist, so don't ask me for a proof. Behe is the one using IC to eliminate the possibility of evolution in a system. IMHO, he's only considered the case for evolution from a simpler system, not evolution from a more complex system. For IC to hold water, he needs to address the pathway from more complex systems.



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Would you ingest a new chemical compound just because some scientist says he thinks it is "plausible" that it could cure your gout?

No, but then ingesting chemicals carries physical risks not posed by ingesting theories.

"plausibility" (which has no exact scientific measure) allowed to settle this issue

Given the inability to observe a historical event, I'll take an explanation that relies on phenomena that has been observed in other instances over one that pre-supposes a being which has never been seen or heard from, nor has left any identifiable trace of itself anywhere.

The issue isn't "settled" - there just isn't any other reasonable explanation.
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Would you ingest a new chemical compound just because some scientist says he thinks it is "plausible" that it could cure your gout?
>>>>>>>
No, but then ingesting chemicals carries physical risks not posed by ingesting theories.


having had The Gout .... i'd try almost anything someone said might plausibly cure it.



"plausibility" (which has no exact scientific measure) allowed to settle this issue
/////////
Given the inability to observe a historical event, I'll take an explanation that relies on phenomena that has been observed in other instances over one that pre-supposes a being which has never been seen or heard from, nor has left any identifiable trace of itself anywhere.


that's the thing..... the Believers HAVE heard from him.
if you start with the firm conviction there is a god who could have designed everything, you're plausibility-standard for thing he didn't design is higher.


-
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The penguin wing is very useful for swimming. It may have evolved from a more complex wing that allowed for flight. I'm not a biologist, so don't ask me for a proof.

current belief is they descended from a Gull-like bird ...definitely flyers...
'proof' iirc is in the foot bones


-j
...... thanks to the movie, i did some googling around
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Pogonophores (deep sea vent worms) lack a digestive tract because of symbiotic chemosynthetic bacteria. Same with tapeworms because of their parasitic lifestyle. Lots of examples in parasitology.

Can you cite a journal article or a study, published or unpublished, that has explained, in detail, how the vent worms were formed by RM/NS from some organism that had a digestive tract? Or any of the examples you cite?

Isn't it true that the literature is replete with speculation on what may have happened, but nothing that would constitute a detailed explanation?

Bryan
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To falsify this, all that is needed is to provide some possible way.


There is no other branch of science where imagination counts as evidence.
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The idea that evolution works everywhere else but is impossible in a few special cases, which therefore require the use of (unobserved) supernatural forces, is the extraordinary claim.


This is where you go seriously off. Behe makes it clear that it's not a few special cases. More on that later.

The loss of useless parts is observed, as Joe pointed out. That's all scaffolding is.

It is not observed. It is speculated. If it were observed, we wouldn't be having these discussions. Scaffolding is just another evolutionary "meme" without testable, verifiable evidence.
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There is no other branch of science where imagination counts as evidence.

It's a matter of simple logic.

For any claim that something is impossible.
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The penguin wing is very useful for swimming. It may have evolved from a more complex wing that allowed for flight. I'm not a biologist, so don't ask me for a proof. Behe is the one using IC to eliminate the possibility of evolution in a system. IMHO, he's only considered the case for evolution from a simpler system, not evolution from a more complex system. For IC to hold water, he needs to address the pathway from more complex systems.


Here's whats wrong with your picture. The complex system, in this case a wing, must come from a simpler system. And it must be in stages. You don't get a wing sprouting full-blown on the back of a salamander.

So in theory, a penguin wing could have come from a fully functionaly wing of some predecessor. But that only pushes the problem back. Where did the predecessor get it's wing?

But that's not the real problem with your critique. Behe doesn't really address things like wings. He's dealing with the molecular level, the bottom level of building cells from biochemicals. He's saying, there's stuff there crammed into the cell that could not have evolved step-by-step from some simpler thing. He leaves open the question of whether something like a wing evolved by natural processes.

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No, but then ingesting chemicals carries physical risks not posed by ingesting theories.

I disagree. But that's for another board maybe.

The issue isn't "settled" - there just isn't any other reasonable explanation.

No other "naturalistic" explanation anyway.
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He's saying, there's stuff there crammed into the cell that could not have evolved step-by-step from some simpler thing.

Exactly. He maintain's that it is impossible. To disprove this kind of claim, all you need to do is provide one possible way.



He leaves open the question of whether something like a wing evolved by natural processes.

But according to Kazim's review, he doesn't leave it open. He says that it did evolve by natural processes. Am I wrong?
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But according to Kazim's review, he doesn't leave it open. He says that it did evolve by natural processes. Am I wrong?

No, you're not, I believe he is
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There is no other branch of science where imagination counts as evidence.

Which is another way of saying he's right. If the claim is that it is impossible, then all that is required to disprove it is to show that it is possible.
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The complex system, in this case a wing, must come from a simpler system.

Dude, you are just wrong, and you haven't paid attention to a word we've said. The wing is in fact one of the best examples to refute your claim, and that you naively put it forth yourself shows that you aren't engaging the rest of us, you are just regurgitating talking points. You know just as well as everyone else here that the wing in the evolutionary paradigm is a derived arm--it has gotten simpler, not more complex! It has reduced bones, less musculature (in the arm itself), it has lost almost all its carpals, certainly there are no useful digits left.

And it must be in stages. You don't get a wing sprouting full-blown on the back of a salamander.

The terms for this are "straw man," and, "slippery slope." You should be ashamed of yourself. Once again, you know better than to accuse the evolutionary paradigm of suggesting this. Will you please stop insulting us?

- Joe
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The loss of useless parts is observed, as Joe pointed out. That's all scaffolding is.

It is not observed. It is speculated. If it were observed, we wouldn't be having these discussions. Scaffolding is just another evolutionary "meme" without testable, verifiable evidence.

It has been observed indirectly. (Examples are already given in this thread : penguin fins, whale fins, parasite organs, cave fish eyes etc...) Why would you simply reject observations like this ? Sometimes celestial objects are discovered by indirect observation also. Even though the object cannot be "seen" because all its radiation is blocked or too weak to be captured by telescopes, astronomers sometimes notice deviations in the motion of other visible bodies. Often they will be able to propose the presence of an invisible body by calculation and comparison of the theoretical results with the observed perturbations. An astrologist could of course claim that the perturbations are caused by supernatural forces. He is perfectly free to refuse all natural solutions, no matter how logical and consistent with the theory of general relativity they are, as long as the hidden body is not "seen". If on top of that, he himself cannot produce any concrete observation for his own supernatural explanation, he should not be surprised if the rest of the astronomical world is reluctant to accept his claim.
Probably most or all sciences use indirect proof at some level. It's a perfectly valid method to gather data.


T.
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Probably most or all sciences use indirect proof at some level. It's a perfectly valid method to gather data.

Meant to say "indirect observations", not "indirect proof".

T.
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Behe doesn't really address things like wings. He's dealing with the molecular level, the bottom level of building cells from biochemicals. He's saying, there's stuff there crammed into the cell that could not have evolved step-by-step from some simpler thing.

Behe doesn't consider the case where stuff crammed into the cell that could have evolved step-by-step from some more complex things. The 40 protein parts in the flagella motor might be an example of an IC system, as Behe claims. But Behe never addresses the possibility that the motor might have evolved from a 60 protein system in a proto-flagella.

You'll ask: "But that only pushes the problem back. Where did the predecessor come from?" IT DOESN'T PUSH THE PROBLEM BACK. You are redefining the problem. The 'problem' at hand is whether or not the flagella was designed or evolved. Behe claims, because of IC, the flagella could not be a result of evolution. Yet it could have evolved from a more complex system. I'm not trying to prove the flagella evolved, only that it is possible to have evolved. I only need to show that IC doesn't eliminate evolution, therefore isn't sufficient to prove ID.


Here's another way to look at it. I think everyone here (YEC, OED, Darwinist, etc) believes in the possibility of mutations. Can a 60 protein non-IC flagella motor mutate into a 40 protein motor? What does that do to Behe's 'proof' that the 40 protein flagella was designed?
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Dude, you are just wrong, . . .

I've looked at what I wrote, and see it wasn't worded very well. Thanks for pointing that out.

You should be ashamed of yourself. Once again, you know better than to accuse the evolutionary paradigm of suggesting this. Will you please stop insulting us?

It was a simple statement of fact. It was not meant to imply that you or anyone else believe this. I am not making personal attacks against you.

Bryan
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I am not making personal attacks against you.

This is not what I meant. What is insulting is not engaging in the conversation, using it only as a platform for saying the same things again and again without interacting with what we are saying. It despises the time we invest in correpsonding with you.

The wing-sprouting-from-a-salamander was a poor example both logically and socially to support your assertion that change must be gradual. Logically because it is an appeal to the bottom of a slippery slope, socially because it mocks us. It might solicit a giggle in Sunday School class but here is just says you don't consider us to be worth being polite to.

- Joe
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you don't consider us to be worth being polite to

I'm trying to be polite to you. I have ignored insult after insult from just about everyone. Lately, its been from you.

I will not apologize for disagreeing with you. If I say the same things over and over, it's because the same things are being asserted over and over.

I have a choice . . . repeat why the assertions are wrong, or ignore them. Which would be more polite in your view?

Bryan
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Bryan,

You've said it before and I think you're right: we're destined to always disagree. I won't bother you anymore.

- Joe
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{{Pogonophores (deep sea vent worms) lack a digestive tract because of symbiotic chemosynthetic bacteria. Same with tapeworms because of their parasitic lifestyle. Lots of examples in parasitology.}}


Maybe we are talking past each other. Humans have an appendix, which is a vestigal organ from when human ancestors used to eat more vegetation and less meat. Is this an example of progression from complex to more simple that you are thinking about. As I am unfamiliar with parasite anatomy and genome, I do not feel qualified to discuss parasites.


c
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{{The loss of useless parts is observed, as Joe pointed out. That's all scaffolding is.}}


I had a different understanding of scaffolding. The loss of useless parts is observed and is predicted by thermodynamics. What I question is the formation of useless parts, which initially the scaffold would be. This is thermodynamically very unfavorable.


c
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{{Whales--hind legs de-evolved into a big flipper.}}


Don't the whale hind legs retain the same complexity even as a flipper? I thought that all of the bones and muscles and ligaments are present in whale flippers as are present in human legs. Is that not accurate?


c
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{{The penguin wing is very useful for swimming. It may have evolved from a more complex wing that allowed for flight. I'm not a biologist, so don't ask me for a proof. Behe is the one using IC to eliminate the possibility of evolution in a system. IMHO, he's only considered the case for evolution from a simpler system, not evolution from a more complex system. For IC to hold water, he needs to address the pathway from more complex systems.}}


I have not read the book, but based on Kazim's synopsis, Behe is talking more at the molecular level and this thread has been discussing higher level examples, such as limbs.


c
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Cattelman,

I'm suggesting that the pogonophore has lost its digestive tract i.e. become less complex. Before it became symbiotic with the bacteria, it needed a gut. Once the bacteria provided nutrients, it dispensed with the gut.

- Joe
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Don't the whale hind legs retain the same complexity even as a flipper? I thought that all of the bones and muscles and ligaments are present in whale flippers as are present in human legs. Is that not accurate?

Not the hind ones, they are just about gone. The baleen whales at least hardly have a pelvis left, let alone hind legs. All that are left are little slivers of bone.

- Joe
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I had a different understanding of scaffolding. The loss of useless parts is observed and is predicted by thermodynamics. What I question is the formation of useless parts, which initially the scaffold would be. This is thermodynamically very unfavorable.

Not if the parts aren't useless when formed. Environments change.
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I had a different understanding of scaffolding. The loss of useless parts is observed and is predicted by thermodynamics. What I question is the formation of useless parts, which initially the scaffold would be. This is thermodynamically very unfavorable.


But the point is that the scaffold wasn't useless. It was there first and had a useful function. It then got improved (or became part of a new function) with new components, then it became obsolete and got deleted.
Evolution has no "plan". It will not build a scaffold with the intention to build something else in the future. The scaffold is therefore not really a fitting analogy. (as has been remarked here before)
I'll try another analogy. Suppose an ancient society built a road. At a point it had to cross a river and they made a ferry there.
Much later these people learned how to build bridges. They built a bridge over the river and consequently abandoned the ferry as it was no longer useful.
It would be wrong to assume that the road and the bridge had to be built at the same time. It certainly makes no sense to make two half-roads that lead to a river without connecting them does it ? Neither does it make sense to build a bridge in the middle of nowhere. Therefore the road and the bridge are IC components. But they're not. The system evolved from a somewhat inefficient, but functioning, ferryconnection to a better bridge connection and the ferry was just in the way and got scrapped. Unfortunately all traces of the ferry have gone. Perhaps one day archaeologists will find some old pieces of wood buried in the riverbank to show them the real picture.

T.
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I have not read the book, but based on Kazim's synopsis, Behe is talking more at the molecular level and this thread has been discussing higher level examples, such as limbs.


Exactly!
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Nutflush: Just so we understand each other, the organisms don't 'de-evolve'. They are evolving, by simplifying some of their systems. A simplier system may be better suited for an organisms need. For example, legs on dolphins and whales simplifed into fins. Also consider at wings on ostriches and penguins.

This is the definition of evolution according to an evolution website that agrees with you:

Evolution is a process that results in heritable changes in a population spread over many generations.

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/evolution-definition.html

This, however does not describe how the simplest life form at the beginning of evolution becomes a very complex life form. There must be an addition of genetic information and not just a change or loss of information. How did the legs form in the first place that you propose evolved into fins on whales? Evolution is not about "simplifying", unless as some have proposed it is merely a short-term simplification that leads to a later complex system. However, it must be proven that a reverse simplification can occur.

The same website gives this definition of evolution as what not to use:

"evolution: The gradual process by which the present diversity of plant and animal life arose from the earliest and most primitive organisms, which is believed to have been continuing for the past 3000 million years."

I think this definition was closer to Darwin's theory, but has evolved with criticism (harsh environment) into something much more vague and ambiguous. Evolutionists, what about this definition defies the meaning of evolution? Isn't this what scientists are trying to discover, missing links and evolutionary mechanisms?

Rob
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bdhinton:This is where you go seriously off. Behe makes it clear that it's not a few special cases. More on that later.

Why does Behe stop there? Are not all aspects of life utterly complex and not just the IC systems that he describes? How come evolution can randomly form some living structures, but not all?

Rob
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bdhinton:This is where you go seriously off. Behe makes it clear that it's not a few special cases. More on that later.
************


Why does Behe stop there? Are not all aspects of life utterly complex and not just the IC systems that he describes? How come evolution can randomly form some living structures, but not all?

Rob


Very good question Rob. Behe is only concerned with what he can prove is designed. He says many things may be designed, he just can't prove it using the method he describes. He has no problem with microevolutionary changes.

Bryan
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I have not read the book, but based on Kazim's synopsis, Behe is talking more at the molecular level and this thread has been discussing higher level examples, such as limbs.


Exactly!

No I think the discussion goes on on several levels. We want to reject the hypothesis that an IC structure (i.e. a structure that becomes useless if any one of the components is removed) cannot evolve in small functional steps. IC is a general concept that transcends the molecular level because Behe himself uses the mousetrap to explain it.

Therefore, to reject this hypothesis ( about the impossibility of IC's coming in place incrementally ), it is perfectly valid to use any sort of IC structure.

T.

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This, however does not describe how the simplest life form at the beginning of evolution becomes a very complex life form.

This discussion was begun around the concept of 'irreducibly complex' and not all of evolution. There are other phenomena that are needed to explain that.
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To falsify this, all that is needed is to provide some possible way.

There is no other branch of science where imagination counts as evidence.


Pardon my lateness, but I wanted to follow up on this because it seems to me that you have it exactly backwards Bryan.

A reading of most actual science, including the evidence and the conclusions supporting it would show the extreme efforts and care taken to establish one explanation as the most plausible. For example, you'll recall the chapter of "Why Intelligent Design Fails" discussing the specifics of bacterial flagella that I once encouraged you to read. The article puts forth many details about the different types of flagella that we see, including secretory flagella of types I through IV, details (both genetically and morphologically) of the similarities between secretory flagella and the motile one that Behe has generated so much debate with, and functional intermediates between a completely secretory structure and one with motile functionality.

In addition, the author, Ian Musgrave, has produced a bibliography of published and recognized papers supporting each of his facts, each paper the result of painstakingly detailed work. The total direct effort involved in producing such detail must have totaled in thousands of hours - to say nothing of the research preceding it upon which it relies.

Only in a world of denial can efforts such as these be dismissed as "imagination".
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To falsify this, all that is needed is to provide some possible way.

There is no other branch of science where imagination counts as evidence.

Pardon my lateness, but I wanted to follow up on this because it seems to me that you have it exactly backwards Bryan.

A reading of most actual science, including the evidence and the conclusions supporting it would show the extreme efforts and care taken to establish one explanation as the most plausible. For example, you'll recall the chapter of "Why Intelligent Design Fails" discussing the specifics of bacterial flagella that I once encouraged you to read. The article puts forth many details about the different types of flagella that we see, including secretory flagella of types I through IV, details (both genetically and morphologically) of the similarities between secretory flagella and the motile one that Behe has generated so much debate with, and functional intermediates between a completely secretory structure and one with motile functionality.

In addition, the author, Ian Musgrave, has produced a bibliography of published and recognized papers supporting each of his facts, each paper the result of painstakingly detailed work. The total direct effort involved in producing such detail must have totaled in thousands of hours - to say nothing of the research preceding it upon which it relies.

Only in a world of denial can efforts such as these be dismissed as "imagination".


Chris, you misconstrue my argument. Yes, Musgrave provided details of proposed intermediate forms for the flagellum. That's not imagination, and I never claimed it was.

What is pure imagination, speculation, are the leaps between the proposed forms, much like Behe's disappearing buttes in the canyon. Musgrave only provided what Darwin did for the eye, albeit with much more detail of the buttes. But he never provided a step-by-step detailed description of how one of those so-called intermediates could transform into another.

If you can't provide the same level of detail for the leaps, as you do for the structure of the intermediates, then you are just spinning fairy tales.

If you had read Behe, you'd know what an explanation should look like (though apparantly it doesn't help some people), and why Musgrave's work doesn't come close.

Bryan
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If you can't provide the same level of detail for the leaps, as you do for the structure of the intermediates, then you are just spinning fairy tales.

If you had read Behe, you'd know what an explanation should look like (though apparantly it doesn't help some people), and why Musgrave's work doesn't come close.

I think that you and Behe both realize a demonstration of proof od a complete and detailed pathway leading to the flagellum is currently not within any biolab's possibilities. Neither is it very hopeful that we could presently find enough fossils of the earliest microbes with enough molecular details to satisfy your request. I think the chance that your requirement can be met is extremely low, at least for the near future.
Until that time, do you really want to censor intermediate results and related discussions ? Suppose I wrote a book today called "Behe's black box" where I claim that "the only acceptable explanation for ID is a detailed analysis showing how the IC flagellum was introduced in a bacterium. Was the bacterium a totally newly created organism ? Did the designer add DNA to an existing microbe, which microbe was that ? When did it happen ? Did he inject the DNA magically or did he use a virus created in a lab somewhere ? Until you have all those details, please shut up because you are just spinning fairy tales."

No scientist would ever make such an unreasonable demand, because science, like biological evolution, evolves stepwise, has dead-ends on the one hand and successful ideas that sometimes branch into unexpected new fields of knowledge on the other hand.
If you challenge science to come up with an explanation, then let science follow its path and see where it gets you. Deriding science because they don't magically conjure a complete answer out of their sleeve is silly IMHO. If science produces an interesting possible pathway based on a number of observations and hypothesis, then it must be discussed and commented to enable further progress. Saying "this is not good enough" to avoid the discussion is quite unscientific. That is also the reason why science continually challenges you, ID-ers, for tests, predictions or experiments to provide more details about the processes involved in design.

(JMHO of course) T.
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If you can't provide the same level of detail for the leaps, as you do for the structure of the intermediates, then you are just spinning fairy tales.

Fairy tales? ROFL.

No explanation or evidence of Evolution will ever be good enough for you. Yet you give ID a free pass because it meshes with your religious views. I think it is fine to believe in ID and think evolution is a fairy tale. Everyone is entitled to their own beliefs.

But I find it insulting for you to pretend you have an open mind. When you continue to judge evolution with completely different scientific standards than ID, it it just highlights your bias. Bias is ok, I respect SpinBob because is honest with others here. But to be biased, while pretending you aren't, is just being dishonest.


Wayne
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No explanation or evidence of Evolution will ever be good enough for you.

That's baloney. I accept the evidence of microevolutionary changes that can be observed and repeated. That's evidence of evolution, and I've never said it wasn't good enough for me . . . to prove that RM/NS can produce such changes.

But I find it insulting for you to pretend you have an open mind.

More baloney. Find a post where I said I wasn't biased. I find it insulting that you resort to ad hominems instead of factually-based arguments. And that you think you are impartial enough to make such a charge with no hypocracy.

Bryan
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{{I'm suggesting that the pogonophore has lost its digestive tract i.e. become less complex. Before it became symbiotic with the bacteria, it needed a gut. Once the bacteria provided nutrients, it dispensed with the gut.}}

I do not know that is less complex. It seems to me that it has traded one complexity, a digestive system, for another complexity, a symbiotic relationship with bacteria. A similar example is ruminants, they have created a symbiotic relationship with microorganisms and in trade off they have reduced ability to digest carbohydrates using their internally produced enzymes.


c
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{{I'll try another analogy. Suppose an ancient society built a road. At a point it had to cross a river and they made a ferry there.
Much later these people learned how to build bridges. They built a bridge over the river and consequently abandoned the ferry as it was no longer useful.
It would be wrong to assume that the road and the bridge had to be built at the same time. It certainly makes no sense to make two half-roads that lead to a river without connecting them does it ? Neither does it make sense to build a bridge in the middle of nowhere. Therefore the road and the bridge are IC components. But they're not. The system evolved from a somewhat inefficient, but functioning, ferryconnection to a better bridge connection and the ferry was just in the way and got scrapped. Unfortunately all traces of the ferry have gone. Perhaps one day archaeologists will find some old pieces of wood buried in the riverbank to show them the real picture.}}


I think you just made the case of intelligent design. Only an intelligent "being" could design something.


c
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{{Only in a world of denial can efforts such as these be dismissed as "imagination".}}

My post is not directly related to the topic at hand, but rather to science in general.
Not at all. Imagination is very important in scientific discovery. Scientists have to open their minds to posibilities. Every hypothesis, while based on fact is simply a belief that will be tested by experimentation. That belief can be developed with imagination.


c
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I think you just made the case of intelligent design. Only an intelligent "being" could design something.

Perhaps you should recap the thread as I think you may have lost track of what we were trying to illustrate, namely that what looks like an IC structure (take one component away and the whole becomes useless) can be assembled stepwise from components that all have functions initially.

A road has a function in itself
A boat has a function in itself
A bridge could have evolved from a big boat (if it's a small river and the boat needed to ferry over had to become ever bigger because more and more people were using the road, the transformation to a platform that spans the entire river would happen sooner or later)

The completed system of road and bridge on the other hand (whose funcion is to provide a pathway between places on both sides of the river) suddenly becomes useless if you take away either the road or the bridge, but as you can see that doesn't mean that both components had to be created at the same time or else that some component would have to lie there, waiting idly and useless until the time the second component was made.

I am not convinced that identifying a structure as IC implies that it cannot have formed in small, functional steps. That is Behe's big mistake IMHO.

T.
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My post is not directly related to the topic at hand, but rather to science in general.
Not at all. Imagination is very important in scientific discovery. Scientists have to open their minds to posibilities. Every hypothesis, while based on fact is simply a belief that will be tested by experimentation. That belief can be developed with imagination.


Don't get me wrong, I think imagination plays a critical role in science; many great discoveries were made by playing "what if", or else an inspiration coming to someone in the middle of the night kind of thing. So I agree with what you said.

But imagination plays no role in verification of a theory. For that you need testability.

Bryan
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But imagination plays no role in verification of a theory.

I disagree. There certainly has been plenty of imagination in the effort to debunk the Theory of Evolution.
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What a lot of food for consideration, and I come so late to this discussion. Yet I cannot help responding when ID comes up. I'm a little tired, so I am not going to look up various references, but just enter the discussion with a few off-the-wall comments.

1. I have never seen any scientific evidence for ID, not in the courts, not in books, and not here. Logic is nice. In fact logic is essential in science to forming valid hypotheses. But logic is not scientific evidence.

2. I have not seen a good example of why evolution is not capable of producing something that Behe calls irreducibly complex. Just look at the odds of winning the lottery; yet it happens more often than not. Multiply those odds by the number of generations that simple life (since we have put aside macroevolution) could have had since the beginning of life. Why can't RM/NS operate at the biochemical level under those parameters?

3. I'm a scientist, not a financial person, so maybe some of you financial wizards will disagree. But I find the financial market in this world to be very, if not irreducibly, complex. But it started out very simple, and was even reasonably simple a few centuries ago. Now look at it. It has evolved into something that probably nobody can understand completely (well, ok maybe Warren Buffet would). And certainly nobody can put it all together and irrevocably determine what is going to happen (we would not need the Motley Fool, and that would be unacceptable). And if irreducibly complex means you cannot take away one part of the beast and have the beast function, then I would say the market IS irreducibly complex if you take away the stocks upon which the derivatives rely. So this complex market evolved from something simple. Why not the same for organisms?

4. I also happen to believe in God. I find no contradiction between God and evolution. But ID is simply saying that God did it ("it" depending upon which form of ID is under debate). That does not fit science. In one sense, ID is simply a statement of belief in God. I have no problem with that, but it is not science.

5. On a slightly different aspect, evolution provides abundant evidence that things used in one organism for one purpose, serve as a platform for those things to be used for another purpose. The first "nerve" cells, if like the current simplest nerve cells, respond to touch. But there is much unused DNA in any gene, and these same kinds of simplest nerve cells can, with a very limited amount of mutation, develop the ability to respond to light or heat; and in fact many simpler "nerve" cells have. These are not "new" kinds of "nerve" cells, they just have an added function resulting from mutations of DNA.

If you want to use the road analogy, then build the road and have a ferry across the river. Now plant small trees to line the road and keep the crosswinds down. Now have those trees grow large, grow old, and die. When the dead trees next to the river fall down across the river, you suddenly have a bridge. Put some planks down and you can run a wheeled cart across. In effect, you have taken one form -road and ferry-, added some extra evolutionary working material - trees, like excess DNA - and let things fall where they may.

6. Of course, we do not know all of the various steps. Asking evolutionary biologists to now have all of the answers and calculations is like asking Aristotle to know all the characteristics of and differences between fish and whales. He correctly knew they were different, but it would have been premature for him to know all of the details.

Citellus
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