James Barham on Mary Jane West-Eberhard and teleology

UD has featured a post by James Barham on the work of Mary Jane  West-Eberhard.  I shall be questioning Barham’s conclusions.

Unlike the subject of my previous column in this series, James A. Shapiro, she does not present her ideas as revolutionary or as a mortal threat to the Darwinian worldview.

In my opinion (as a non-biologist), she is entirely correct about that.

And yet, I shall argue that West-Eberhard—who is a researcher at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, as well as a professor of biology at the University of Costa Rica—has made a foudational contribution to a new and revolutionary approach to evolutionary theorizing that bids fair (whatever her expressed intentions) to turn mainstream Darwinism on its head.

Perhaps it challenges the strawman version of Darwinism that creationists and ID proponents love to criticize.  But I don’t see it as any challenge at all to Darwinism. Continue reading

The theistic world view

There was apparently an October 2010 conference at Biola U., under the title “God & Evolution.”  Videos for some of the talks are now available, and I have listened to three of them.  The ones that I listened to were talks by Denyse O’Leary, John G. West and Jay W. Richards.

The talk by Denyse O’Leary was the first that I listened to, and it is startling.  The other two are mild by comparison.  Early in her talk, O’Leary says:

The problem with Darwinism is that it is a cultural mood.  It is not really a theory in science.  If you look at the actual science literature, what’s available to show Darwinism is negligible, piddling; the major claims are not met. Continue reading

Granville Sewell Doubles Down

As much as I hate to drive any traffic to Uncommon Descent, Granville Sewell has clarified his misunderstanding of the Second Law there recently.

Of particular note is his response to the argument that “The second law only applies to thermal entropy, and what is happening in this video does not result in a net decrease in thermal entropy, so there’s no conflict with the second law.”

In fact, it is universally recognized that the second law of thermodynamics applies to more than thermal entropy, it applies to other types of entropy, for example, the “X-entropy” associated with any other diffusing component X: as pointed out in my AML paper, these types of entropy are defined by the same equations as thermal entropy, and are equally quantifiable. And it is widely applied in physics texts to less quantifiable types of “entropy.”

I would be interested in references to the physics texts in which his concept of entropy is “widely applied” but he seems to have inadvertently disabled comments on his post. Perhaps it will provoke discussion here instead.


Yesterday, I upgraded some plug-ins, and one of them contained an error.  As a result, yesterday member contact details were visible on the members page.  I have temporarily deleted everything on that page, and will restore it to how it was later, now that they have corrected the error.  I have now installed the correct update, and restored the page.

In future I will immediately check all visible pages after an update to prevent this happening again.  Apologies to all for not being quicker off the mark, and thanks to Rich for the tip-off.

Is Any Form Of Atheism Rationally Justifiable?

Definition of God:   First cause, prime mover, objective source of human purpose (final cause) and resulting morality, source of free will; omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent inasmuch as principles of logic allow. I am not talking in particular about any specifically defined religious interpretation of god, such as the christian or islamic god.

Definition: Intellectual dishonesty occurs when (1)one deliberately mischaracterizes their position or view in order to avoid having to logically defend their actual views; and/or (2) when someone is arguing, or making statements against a position while remaining willfully ignorant about that position, and/or (3) when someone categorically and/or pejoratively dismisses all existent and/or potential evidence in favor of a conclusion they claim to be neutral about, whether they are familiar with that evidence or not.

Continue reading

Gil Dodgen on “Transparent Lunacy”

In a recent UD post, Gil has been more specific than he often is, so I thought I would respond here:

The resolution of the debate about the creative powers of natural selection is dead simple and utterly trivial to figure out.

  1. Natural selection throws stuff out. Throwing stuff out has no creative power.
  2. Existing biological information, mixed and matched, can be filtered by natural selection, as in sexual reproduction, but nothing inherently new is created.
  3. Random errors can produce survivability quotients, but only in circumstances in which overall functional degradation supports survival in a pathological environment (e.g., bacterial antibiotic resistance), and only given massive probabilistic resources and a few trivial mutational events capable of producing the survival advantage.
  4. Random errors are inherently entropic, and the more complex a functionally-integrated system becomes, the more destructive random errors become. Anyone with any experience in even the most elementary engineering enterprise knows this.

To his first, I cite this:

Continue reading

Cornelius Hunter vs William Dembski?

Cornelius Hunter has posted an odd argument:

Is there evidence for evolution? Sure, there is plenty of evidence for evolution. But there are significant problems with evolution. There is plenty of evidence for evolution just as there is plenty of evidence for geocentrism. But the science does not bode well for either theory.

So the evidence for evolution follows this general pattern: Even at its best, it does not prove evolution to be a fact. And furthermore, the evidence reveals substantial problems with evolution.

So how can evolutionists proclaim evolution to be a fact with such fervor? There seems to be a glaring mismatch between the evidence and the truth claims of evolutionists. The answer is that evolutionists use contrastive reasoning. Evolution is not claimed to be a fact based on how well it fits the evidence, but rather on how poorly the alternative fits the evidence. Evolution is proved by the process of elimination.

In other words, Hunter is arguing directly against Dembski:.

In eliminating chance and inferring design, specified complexity is not party to an argument from ignorance. Rather, it is underwriting an eliminative induction. Eliminative inductions argue for the truth of a proposition by actively refuting its competitors (and not, as in arguments from ignorance, by noting that the proposition has yet to be refuted)

Continue reading

Is purpose necessary to acquire any apparently purposeful effects?

For purposes of this discussion.

Chance = non-teleological causes that happen to result in particular effects via regularities referred to as “lawful” and stochastic in nature.

Purpose = teleological causes that are intended to result in particular effects; the organization of causes towards a pre-defined future goal.

My question is: can chance causes generate all of the effects normally associated with purpose,but without purpose? IOW, is purpose necessary to produce all, most, or some apparently purposeful effects, or is purpose, in effect, only an associated sensation by-product or side-effect that isn’t necessary to the generation of any particular effect normally associated with it?