Thursday, March 29, 2007

Creationist error

'P-Zed' Myers at Pharyngula (whom Richard Dawkins calls "America's pre-eminent scientific blogger") posts what he says is "a straightforward example of creationist error":
It’s a classic example of the genre, and well illustrates the problem we have. The poor fellow has been grossly misinformed, but is utterly convinced that he has the truth.
I have to say, it will look somewhat familiar to readers of this blog. You'll enjoy P-Zed's scientific 'smack' down.

Oh, and P-Zed is delighted to know that Richard Dawkins read out part of his (P-Zed's) own arguments in an Oxford debate on evolution, creationism and the existence of God. Says P-Zed:
You can listen to it online—I think I'm going to have to have Dawkins read all of my posts aloud, since he makes them sound so much better.
I'm just as delighted, since both Dawkins and PZ Myers appear in the latest Free Radical (subscribe here), and a copy of the magazine should be in both of their hands by now.

RELATED: Science, Religion, Philosophy, Free Radical

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27 Comments:

Blogger Berend de Boer said...

And indeed, good smack down, but eh, most people who believe in evolution, believe the things their text books told them, such as the pepper moth story, and dozens of other falsehoods.

It's easy to smack down a layman, and you can give yourself a pat on the back (perhaps), but isn't it more interesting to engage knowledgeable people?

What does it mean when a creationist smacks down a lay evolutionist? Absolutely nothing I would say. And vice versa.

3/29/2007 03:04:00 pm  
Blogger AngloAmerican said...

Who are these knowledgeable people? seriously.

3/29/2007 06:12:00 pm  
Blogger Berend de Boer said...

there are none of course angloamerican, if you don't agree with default neodarwinist gradualism you're ipso facto stupid.

3/29/2007 07:51:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, that's alright then.

For a moment I was wondering if you knew any creationists that understood biology. But you must not, because why would someone with an answer choose to not front up with it.

3/29/2007 09:11:00 pm  
Blogger AngloAmerican said...

if you don't agree with default neodarwinist gradualism you're ipso facto stupid.

Not necessarily…

The challenge is to come up with a compelling alternative theory. A theory even half as compelling as Darwin’s would be seriously respectable. The theory that life is so complex that only an intelligent super being could have done it “suffers from an utter lack of positive evidence in its favour and thus is as valid of a scientific theory as the notion that a Flying Spaghetti Monster created the world”.

You see even if Darwin’s theory of evolution eventually turns out to be utterly wrong, on the available evidence we have in our possession today, it is the only plausible theory we have.

3/29/2007 10:23:00 pm  
Blogger Matt B said...

Berend

Based on your comment here I'd say you believe in exactly the thing PZ Myers is smacking down.

You yourself have been owned.

3/29/2007 11:30:00 pm  
Blogger AngloAmerican said...

Interesting You Tube video on the subject of Intelligent Design by Brown University’s Kenneth Miller.
Well worth watching as it exposes the Intelligent Designers as fundamentalist creationists in a very listenable and watchable way - I just finished watching it. Ken Miller is a man of faith too.

3/30/2007 12:03:00 am  
Blogger libertyscott said...

Of course you could believe in ghosts instead of evolution

3/30/2007 02:25:00 am  
Blogger AngloAmerican said...

I'm not sure it is fair to comment on comments made on completely different web sites but from the link provided by Matt B above part of a comment by Berend:

I say: if there is similarity, it hints at a single designer, doesn't it? The design worked well. Just like the work of composers, painters and architects is recognisable.

Similarities could be hints of a design team rather than a single designer - what's with the obsession with a single designer? No similarities like viruses and bacteria or insects and mammals could indicate different designers. No manufacturers mark could indicate no designer. Strange similarities like all mammals having the same number of neck bones could hint at poor design or limited imagination - it's very awkward for a giraffe to reach the ground to drink because it has the same number of neck bones as a mouse yet the brontosaurus had more than enough neck bones for the job. Maybe there was a different designer of brontosauruses? The fossil record hints at a lot of experimentation going on hinting that the intelligence that designed all things was less than omniscient which is interesting.

Even God appears to have evolved going on the record in the Bible. First a nature god who comes down to earth and walks around gardens, then a destroyer of worlds god, then a tribal God, a war God, a hands off God, a half human God and then a general purpose saviour God for all. You can clearly see a process of development from primitive to sophisticated going on in the Bible story.

3/30/2007 07:18:00 am  
Blogger Berend de Boer said...

matt b, I think we have discussed before the subject of your reading skills. Read it again. Carefully.

Extra DNA is prove of evolution, just look at the humans with extra DNA, certainly evolved far beyond the normals.

3/30/2007 07:30:00 am  
Blogger Berend de Boer said...

angloamericann wrote: A theory even half as compelling as Darwin’s would be seriously respectable.

Right, that's why pc rejoices on a post where a scientist can smack down a layman who isn't able to formulate his arguments. If that's the best one can do...

But back to your compelling theory. We have Darwin's prediction: many transitional fossils. 150 years later we only have a handful of contested examples.

We have another prediction: dunk-JNA. Looks like that goes into the bin as well.

Where is the serious proof for gradual neodarwinistic evolution if there was serious proof? You guys wax and wax on about science and experiments.

I mean we don't even have serious proof about the proposed mechanism: mutation, recombination, etc.

Where is the fruit fly that has gained some extra functionality? Just get on in the laboratory and breed some fruit flies with new functionality will you?

Now here some facts: we've been breeding fruit flies since about 1910. Around 3,000 mutations are known. None of them turned the thing into something other than a fruit fly.

But let's make things easy: just breed back something that was lost, ok? So we can at least settle the question of the proposed mechanism.

By the way, if anyone of you starts to feel some doubts after reading someone who wants to see some laboratory prove (and you know none will be forth coming), just listen to Billy Graham or Pat Roberts, oops, wrong evangelists, sorry, I mean Ken Miller or Richard Dawkins again.

Keep up the faith.

3/30/2007 09:48:00 am  
Blogger AngloAmerican said...

So are we all agreeing then that the Theory of Intelligent Design is not a scientific theory? That it is a ploy by conniving Christian fundamentalists to insert their dogma into the teaching of science?

It's not much help being so sceptical about things without a reasonable counter theory. ID raises more questions than it answers. Evolution's questions are not really on that level of earth shattering importance. Quibbles about aspects of evolution do not shake the entire philosophical base as acceptance of IE would. Most of us are comfortable with the fact that Evolution doesn't come with too much baggage.

3/30/2007 10:55:00 am  
Blogger Berend de Boer said...

Amen brother angloamerican. Philosophical basis, not too much baggage, exactly the things we need in a scientific theory.

Experimental proof is for sissies.

3/30/2007 01:55:00 pm  
Blogger Matt B said...

Berend de Boer

Here's some evidence in response to your claims, which are in bold. I've relied on talkorigins quite a bit but their claims come with references to the scientific literature so that shouldn't be a problem.

No fruit fly has gained some extra functionality in the laboratory

This is false.
http://www.genetics.org/cgi/content/abstract/172/4/2351 “In Vivo Analysis of a Gain-of-Function Mutation in the Drosophila eag-Encoded K+ Channel”
http://www.genetics.org/cgi/reprint/124/1/145.pdf “Aristafiedioid: A Gain of Function, Homeotic Mutation in Drosophila melanogaster”
http://hmg.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/15/4/543 “Transgenic Drosophila models of Noonan syndrome causing PTPN11 gain-of-function mutations”
http://www.northwestern.edu/cscb/jcpdfs/rorth98.pdf “Systematic gain-of-function genetics in Drosophila”

In other species:

Drosophila melanogaster populations were observed to evolve reproductive isolation as a result of contrasting microenvironments within a canyon (Korol et al. 2000). (see http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CB/CB910_1.html)

Speciation has been observed in historical times in a new mosquito species, a new cell culture which evolved from a cervical carcinoma in 1951, and several new plant species have evolved (reference: http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CB/CB910.html):

Mutations producing new functions have also been observed naturally:
* the ability of a bacterium to digest nylon (Negoro et al. 1994; Thomas n.d.; Thwaites 1985);
* adaptation in yeast to a low-phosphate environment (Francis and Hansche 1972; 1973; Hansche 1975);
* the ability of E. coli to hydrolyze galactosylarabinose (Hall 1981; Hall and Zuzel 1980);
* evolution of multicellularity in a unicellular green alga (Boraas 1983; Boraas et al. 1998);
* modification of E. coli's fucose pathway to metabolize propanediol (Lin and Wu 1984);
* evolution in Klebsiella bacteria of a new metabolic pathway for metabolizing 5-carbon sugars (Hartley 1984);
Source: http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CB/CB101_2.html

There is a simple reason why more fundamental changes in body shape of species have not been observed in human history, which is that this is a gradual process and there has not been enough time for these changes to evolve. It would be a mystery if those changes had been observed given known mutation rates. Evidence that these changes have occurred over longer time frames is readily available from genetic information and the fossil record.

Also see “New biological functions” http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CB/CB904.html, “New body parts” http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CB/CB920.html, “No macroevolution” http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CB/CB901.html,

There are only a handful of transitional fossils, and these are contested.

This is simply incorrect. A very large, categorized list of transitional fossils is here. http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-transitional.html. The categories are:
# Transitions from primitive fish to sharks, skates, rays
# Transitions from primitive fish to bony fish
# Transition from fishes to first amphibians
# Transitions among amphibians
# Transition from amphibians to first reptiles
# Transitions among reptiles
# Transition from reptiles to first mammals (long)
# Transition from reptiles to first birds

My brief perusal indicates 10-30 specific examples in each category.

Also see http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CC/CC200.html for a long list of internet and literature references on transitional fossils.

Junk DNA looks like it is going in the bin

It appears junk DNA may have more functions than previously thought, but on its own it isn’t clear how that weakens the case for evolution. Junk DNA is addressed here: http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CB/CB130.html

3/30/2007 02:27:00 pm  
Anonymous Wicket said...

Junk DNA looks like it is going in the bin...

I think that Sue Bradford has got junk DNA, and someone needs to put her in one of the city council's rubbish bin.

3/30/2007 08:38:00 pm  
Blogger Berend de Boer said...

matt b, don't confuse speciation with new genetic functionality. Creationists actually claim rapid speciation as proof I recently learned, so I'll omit discussion of these, as new species are not relevant to the discussion. It's the genus that matters (I think creationist these days use the word Baramin actually).

But I agree that the article that TalkOrigins links to is quite incorrect.

But I didn't say a word about speciation. I'm talking about new genetic functionality (and again, not enhanced survival)

From a cursory glance from the list of bacteria, I recognise many as examples of loss of genetic material, causing some survival advantages issues in artificial environments type.

So what you mean with "new functions" is actually genetic loss, leading to some enhanced survivability.

But I want to see prove of the key point: gradual mutations leading to new genes leading to new functionality. I.e. fruit flies that lost the ability to fly, get it back again.

You can lose genetic material and win. That happens a lot. But that doesn't prove that mutations can lead to new genes with new functions.

Don't confuse advantageous deleterious mutations with actual new functionality.

The transitional fossil list of TalkOrigins simply can't be taken seriously. You note it's pretty short?

3/30/2007 10:14:00 pm  
Blogger Berend de Boer said...

Hi matt, just looking at the PTPN11 article, it looks clearly a mutation you don't want to have. You can say "you gain function", but that is really stretching the word "gain".

And this wasn't a "natural mutation" by the way, but a man-made: "we generated transgenic fruitflies".

I hope you dig up some real example matt. But I suggest not to take TalkOrigins to seriously.

3/30/2007 10:22:00 pm  
Blogger AngloAmerican said...

There's a wiff of disingenuity around here - I wonder if Berend requires experimental proof of everything he believes in. I leave all this technical stuff to the scientists myself as it's a bit boring to read.

3/30/2007 11:48:00 pm  
Blogger Matt B said...

> Creationists actually claim rapid speciation as proof I recently learned

Why are you even mentioning creationists? I didn’t say a word about them.

> But I agree that the article that TalkOrigins links to is quite incorrect.

Which one? I count 52 references on that page. And what exactly is the problem with it?

> But I didn't say a word about speciation. I'm talking about new genetic functionality (and again, not enhanced survival)

Not about enhanced survival or speciation. Got it. That leaves the majority of the references which talked about gain-of-function mutations, which is what you asked for.

> From a cursory glance from the list of bacteria, I recognise many as examples of loss of genetic material, …

Where’s the evidence for this? You have just finished berating Angloamerican for his lack of experimental proof, so I fully expect you to back up that claim.

>…causing some survival advantages issues in artificial environments type.

So now you do want to talk about enhanced survival.

> But I want to see prove of the key point: gradual mutations leading to new genes leading to new functionality. I.e. fruit flies that lost the ability to fly, get it back again.

I referenced four articles talking about fruit flies that have had gain-of-function mutations. It makes no sense at all to constrain the test to a gradual accumulation of mutations so large that the experiment could not possibly have been completed in the time available, particularly when smaller scale changes demonstrate the principle you say doesn’t exist. You asked for new genes leading to new functionality. That is precisely what that research demonstrates.

> You can lose genetic material and win. That happens a lot. But that doesn't prove that mutations can lead to new genes with new functions.

I’ve cited four articles that demonstrate gain-of-function mutations in the laboratory of the species you asked for in response to your request for “Where is the fruit fly that has gained some extra functionality? Just get on in the laboratory and breed some fruit flies with new functionality will you?” That is exactly what those articles did. How could that not now be good enough?

> The transitional fossil list of TalkOrigins simply can't be taken seriously. You note it's pretty short?

Excuse me, what specifically makes this hard to take seriously? It has over 200 examples, it is referenced to the scientific literature, and it is not a complete list.

> it looks clearly a mutation you don't want to have. You can say "you gain function", but that is really stretching the word "gain".

You have just finished telling me not to confuse genetic functionality with enhanced survival and you go and make that exact mistake. You absolute pillock.

> And this wasn't a "natural mutation" by the way, but a man-made: "we generated transgenic fruitflies".

It was you asked for laboratory examples: “Just get on in the laboratory and breed some fruit flies with new functionality will you?” That is what you said. Don’t turn it around now that it doesn’t suit.

3/31/2007 12:26:00 am  
Blogger Berend de Boer said...

Come on matt b, you will now claim deleterious mutations as prove for gradual neodarwinistic evolution?

You can call anything a gain-of-function, but words have a meaning matt. Calling a tail a leg, doesn't make it a leg.

But if this is the best you can do, QED.

3/31/2007 07:42:00 am  
Blogger Berend de Boer said...

matt b, the article I refer to is the Henry M. Morris article. The TalkOrigins page I linked to has it as the subject of the page, i.e. it is the top link on the TalkOrigins page.

3/31/2007 07:45:00 am  
Blogger Matt B said...

Berend De Boer

I'd like to know what gives you the right to demand evidence from others and yet make assertions without any evidence whatsoever and dismiss evidence that is put before you with a wave of the hand.

3/31/2007 10:34:00 am  
Blogger Greg Bourke said...

What I love about evolution-creation debate is that everybody is an instant expert. Moreover, both sides romanticise like mad.
Team Dawkin pretends science is some monolithic enterprise full of objectivity and desire for truth, whereas the Creationist team paints the opposition as demons and refuses to assess objectively things as simple as exposed sea shells in the mountains earthquakes and ask, "do I really think that the Earth is 5000 years old?"

However, most important is this:
This debate is Victorian, it's not Modern.

It's a debate for competitors that believe in the revelation of knowledge and degrees of certainty.

Yet we are both arguing in a post-modern social millieu that pretends to not beleive in any authority or truth telling system. Science included. Science especially.

Let's say science wins this argument well, so what? Why? Because science is to post-modernism as creationism is to science.
2 cents.

3/31/2007 04:12:00 pm  
Blogger Matt B said...

Yet we are both arguing in a post-modern social millieu that pretends to not beleive in any authority or truth telling system. Science included. Science especially.

As the old saying goes, show me anyone who actually believes that in a 747 at 35,000 feet, and I'll show you a hypocrite.

3/31/2007 09:45:00 pm  
Blogger AngloAmerican said...

That’s an interesting comment Greg and I think you might be right. Each side accuses the other of being all religious about things and taking on faith the foundations of their particular POV.

I actually don’t have a problem with being accused of being religious about evolution. I’m the most religious atheist I know actually. For me evolution is more a philosophy than a science. So there is debate about the nitty-gritty details of it all – I expect there would be. For me it was astonishing that evolution was even conceivable. I then progressed to the realisation that there actually could be no other way. It is The Way.

3/31/2007 10:01:00 pm  
Blogger AngloAmerican said...

That's a really good point Matt B. I wish I'd thought of that.

3/31/2007 10:08:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Loving the debate you crazy monkeys... oooo aaaaaa ahahaha

8/27/2008 12:43:00 am  

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