A conservative news and views blog.

Location: St. Louis, Missouri, United States

Monday, November 21, 2005

Intelligently Designed Letters

George Neumayr, writing in TAS, has stirred up (again) a bare-knuckle brawl over Darwinism.
There were numerous letters to the Editor, and I`ve reposted several here because they agree with me (and it`s my blog, so there!)

KW, if you`re out there, you are welcome to dispute these-I won`t have much time to argue with you (I`ve got a small NATION coming for Thanksgiving, and I just may go down to my place in the country to enjoy my holiday in peace and solitude, leaving my guests to fend for themselves!):

1.)George Neumayr has written a good summary of the state of the argument, but I submit that this argument is not really of much interest.

Darwin made a very creative hypothesis -- that evolution explained the development of life and that evolution itself was defined as random mutation culled by natural selection. A very strong hypothesis. But is it true? That is the question. Simply asserting over and over that it is true does not advance the science.

I think that virtually all observers concede that natural selection operates on some level. Darwin's finches are excellent examples of this type of evolution. If the climate changes then normal variation already present in the species will be selected for a certain characteristic -- longer beaks in this case. But the beaks are not new beaks, nor of an extraordinary length, but merely a selection of the beaks that already occur randomly in the species.

In this sense, Darwin is undoubtedly true. But does this type of variation and natural selection account for what Darwin originally wrote his book about -- the creation of new species? There are many problems with Darwin's hypothesis when extended to this level.

One of them is that biological engineering must be different from all other engineering with which we are familiar. In all engineering which we observe, when one moves from one functional form to another, there is a "disassembled" condition when the object is less useful than either its beginning or its end state. This does not mean that Darwinian engineering in impossible, simply that it must be demonstrated, not asserted. How is it that a leg turning into a wing doesn't become a useless leg long before it becomes a useful wing? It might be possible, but asserting it does not make it so.

Darwin also does not account for sexual reproduction. How is it that when small beneficial changes occur there is a mate with the same beneficial changes that connects with the first organism and produces progeny with this mutation?

All our experience of engineering is that a system is balanced in all its parts. You cannot change one part without making simultaneous adjustments in all the other parts -- if the leg is longer, then the other legs must be longer, the pelvis must change, the backbone must change and so forth. Posing this question is not the same thing as saying such changes are impossible but it is incumbent on the theory to demonstrate how they occur. Asserting that they must occur is not an argument, at least not a scientific one.

I believe that the Darwinists have used some jiu-jitsu on the Intelligent Designists by immediately challenging them as to who the designer must be. The answer is "you know who" and we are back to a shouting match. For starters, let's just ignore who the designer is. Why get involved in that? The question is, is there design? That is enough for now.

Essentially the Darwinian argument is a reductionist one -- since Darwinists assume there cannot be intelligent design, then there is no other way for life to have developed other than through evolution by random mutation / natural selection. That lets them write books endlessly repeating the same point and still making cocktail hour. How about some math? How much random mutation must occur per unit time to get the changes we observe? Has there been enough time once this calculation is made?

Darwinism is a hypothesis, and that's all it is. The hard work of proving the hypothesis has yet to be done. It is entirely possible that Darwinism will turn out to be a relatively uninteresting subset of a much larger phenomenon -- true but not the whole truth. Let's see the chemistry, let's see the math, let's see the mechanisms of evolution. Enough bombast.
-- Greg Richards

2.)Words such as "blind chance," "random," and "probability" denote mental constructs, and there is no agreement among philosophers that they also denote real phenomena. Most mathematicians (I am one) distinguish between mathematical models and reality. Stochastic models are applied to phenomena otherwise too complex to describe. Philosophical discussions of science often cloud the distinction. Such subtlety is mostly lost in the popular debate about evolution and theology. When scientists (even eminent ones like Darwin) draw conclusions about philosophical notions (e.g. cause, effect, being, origin) based on their work, they do so perilously.
-- J. Felt

3.)I think turnabout is fair play here. If in Mr. Miller's opinion Darwinism is intrinsically atheistic that's fine. But the corollary to that is that Darwinism itself cannot be science. The study of physics for example makes no claims for or against the existence of a deity, or least I have never heard a physicist make such a claim. It merely states the rules and postulates of quantum physics.

So here we have authorities postulating that evolution is inherently atheistic. The problem I have with this is the very science of the evolutionary theory. First it can't define the means with any precision as to how the "chance" occurs. It can't define the factors that make a mutation superior to the parent organism in the environment. And it at this point can't define genetic sequencing that makes all this happen. And so this postulate is branded as science. Then to top it all off much of the experts hold a view that fosters antireligious viewpoints, also in the cause of science? If evolution is truly a science then should not the Darwinist hold the same standards of the Physicist? Neither willful proving or disproving a deity?

I will grant that much of the Old Testament is colored in the perceptions of its times. As well many passages were probably bent to a political purpose. So I don't always hold to the literal translation when there is evidence that might the event as recorded somewhat improbable. But it is odd that slowly archeology is uncovering more and more than hold the events to have at least occurred in the times and places found in the Iliad and the Bible.

Evolution may never be reconciled with religion. But I think evolutionary theory, of which there is evidence it occurs, has a very long road to hoe before it is declared science.
-- John McGinnis
Arlington, Texas



Blogger Alnot said...

Good article Tim and I agree with the author. Science should be about what you can prove and the Darwinists do not have it. Intelligent design should stand on what it can prove wether you are in either camp.

11:23 AM  
Anonymous kwwilliams said...

It's always kind of fun to look at how badly critics of evolution misunderstand it.

Wings, for example. Does a flying squirrel find its legs "useless" because they are half a wing? No.

Does the first occurrence of a mutation always come in pairs? Of course not. The first possessor of a beneficial mutation mates with another individual that doesn't possess it. It isn't until brothers and sisters or cousins breed that you get individuals that both possess the beneficial mutation breeding.

Math? There is a lot of math. Whenever scientists make estimates about how long ago two species had a common ancestor, they are doing a calculation based on mutation rates. Usually, the problem isn't finding enough time for mutations to occur ... it is trying to determine why things took as long as they did. The mutation rate of a complex organism is pretty high. Every human, for example, possesses about 50 mutations: errors made when the DNA for the sperm and egg that you came from were formed. Most of these are recessive, so they will start to express themselves several generations from when they occur, when descendants that are second or third cousins (or fourth, fifth, sixth ...) breed.

Asserting that changes "must" occur would not be science at all. Asserting that changes "did" occur certainly can be. A slight lengthening of one bone may not be useful until there is a corresponding change. Unless it is a crippling change, the mutation that caused it will still occur, drifting around in the population. When the other changes occur, they eventually combine. Nothing "must" happen, but digging through the history, things "must have" happened.

Mr. McGinnis is confused about what the "a" in "atheism" means ... it doesn't mean "anti-", it means "without." Science is inherently atheistic ... it doesn't start from the precepts of any religion.

2:00 PM  

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