Darwin’s Doubt

In a previous post here at TSZ Mark Frank asked why people doubt common descent.

A more interesting question is why did Charles Darwin doubt common descent?

Stephen Meyer has written two books which I think adequately answer both questions.

Those two books are:

Signature in the Cell

Darwin’s Doubt

In this thread I am willing to discuss either book, but I’d prefer to limit discussion to Meyer’s most recent book, Darwin’s Doubt

While Signature in the Cell concentrated on the origin of life, Darwin’s Doubt concentrates on the “Cambrian Explosion,” the sudden appearance of numerous distinct phyla and their subsequent diversification.

Neo-Darwinism offers no realistic account of origins, with the difference being that Darwinists can in the case of the origin of life assert that their theory does not apply while that excuse fails to apply to the appearance of different animals in the Cambrian and their subsequent diversification.

Just to prove I can – [Edited 09/15/2013]

Deleted from the OP – [Edited 09/201/2013] – Just to prove I can. “The arguments are the same for both:”


A Challenge to ericB, gpuccio, UprightBiped, et al

The origin of the genetic code seems to be a hot issue in the ID community. Take a look at this and tell us what you think.


The genetic code shapes the genetic repository. Its origin has puzzled molecular scientists for over half a century and remains a long-standing mystery. Here we show that the origin of the genetic code is tightly coupled to the history of aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase enzymes and their interactions with tRNA.

A timeline of evolutionary appearance of protein domain families derived from a structural census in hundreds of genomes reveals the early emergence of the ‘operational’ RNA code and the late implementation of the standard genetic code. The emergence of codon specificities and amino acid charging involved tight coevolution of aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases and tRNA structures as well as episodes of structural recruitment.

Remarkably, amino acid and dipeptide compositions of single-domain proteins appearing before the standard code suggest archaic synthetases with structures homologous to catalytic domains of tyrosyl-tRNA and seryl-tRNA synthetases were capable of peptide bond formation and aminoacylation.

Results reveal that genetics arose through coevolutionary interactions between polypeptides and nucleic acid cofactors as an exacting mechanism that favored flexibility and folding of the emergent proteins. These enhancements of phenotypic robustness were likely internalized into the emerging genetic system with the early rise of modern protein structure.

I realize their conclusions are speculative. So feel free to point out where they are wrong.

Atheism and Christian Culture

I just posted a comment on UD which I thought might be worth expanding on and sharing. The context was this OP from News (Denyse). In it she wrote:

Does any reader know of an atheist who plays Christmas carols every year in front of his family and lab staff, and who reads T. S. Eliot aloud to his wife and daughter on his deathbed? I certainly don’t. I’d be willing to bet Professor Coyne that John Franklin Enders, who has been called “The Father of Modern Vaccines,” believed in God and didn’t view religion as a cause of sickness.

I was very surprised by this. She seems to be assuming that all atheists are cut off from their religious heritage. We are not all Richard Dawkins (although he has always valued the contribution of religion and Christianity to our culture and knows the Bible better than many Christians). I like to go church from time to time and appreciate the role it places in our community. My wife, also an atheist, is a long-standing member of the choir. I absolutely accept the importance of Christianity in moulding who I am and the society I live in and I don’t think of this as a bad (or good) thing. We all live in some context. So why wouldn’t carols, TS Eliot and even the Bible be an important part of my life – just like Shakespeare and the Greek myths?

Atheism is not a religion. I suspect some theists don’t quite understand the implications of this. Atheists have no rituals,no festivals,no classic literature,no community identity,no common beliefs beyond a lack of belief in the supernatural.  If you are an atheist then typically your atheism is not an important part of your life. The new atheists seem to be trying to change that. I don’t see why. It seems artificial. There are plenty of other elements to our culture which are more deeply engrained and satisfying than not believing in something. (In fact I signed up as a Bright briefly but I found there was nothing in it for me).

It would be interesting to know how many other atheists here share this attitude.

S. Cordova doesn’t want you to hear…he’s right – No Positive Case for IDism

Not long ago I was suggested to add here at TSZ a post that was (what do they call that?) fracked – scrambled – made into nonsense at UD by Salvador T. Cordova.

Now, Salvador has sent my words to spam and included the names of ‘welcome’ critics, some of whom post here at TSZ. Quite sadly, I am just not welcome at UD by big-hearted Sal the creationist-IDist, who’s finally sold IDism out. Here’s the thread: http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/am-i-the-only-id-proponent-that-doesnt-like-the-phrase-positive-case-for-id/

What’s funny about it is that I was actually agreeing with Salvador, and with Mike Gene, who rejects the scientificity of Uppercase Intelligent Design Theory. Sal is surely onto something when he says “there isn’t a positive argument for Design.” So, just a warning, if you want to get spammed at UD or sent away from one of ‘even-handed’ Sal’s threads, whatever you do, just don’t compliment him or tell him he’s right!

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Crappy reporting at UD

Okay, Darwinism IS a religion … and a crappy one, too

writes Denyse O’Leary in what goes for – and by – “news” at Uncommon Descent.

There have been truly horrible twitter attacks on Caroline Criada-Perez and Labour MP Stella Creasey for succeeding with their lobby for a female face on the new £10 note, replacing Charles Darwin. But O’Leary, who must be the most incompetent reporter of “news” ever to have a byline, and who seems to do nothing more than google “Darwin” to find items that could be used to smear a perfectly serviceable scientific theory, spins this story as a story about the depths “Darwinists” will sink to in support of their “religion”.

I doubt if any of the misogynist cranks who attacked Criada-Perez and Creasey were “Darwinists” at all.  In fact, if I had to guess, I’d suspect right-wing zealots who think women belong back in the kitchen, and have no business writing novels, let alone having a say in who should be on a bank-note.  But that would be speculation,  not “news”.

Shame on you, Denyse, as a professional woman yourself, to spin a misogynists-are-evil story into a Darwinists-are-evil story. Go find some real battles to fight – there are enough of them.  And try doing some actual reporting instead of spinning.


Challenge to Theists: Morality

I challenge theists to present their moral structure in this thread – what principles their moral system is based on (if any), how they come to understand/decide what they “ought” to do; whether or not they are “obligated” to act morally, and if so, to whom/what is that obligation owed, and why anyone should care or act according to their moral system. Or, if their moral system doesn’t follow any of these conventions, then explain their moral system/views.

Challenge to Atheists: Morality

I challenge atheists to present their moral structure in this thread – what principles their moral system is based on (if any), how they come to understand/decide what they “ought” to do; whether or not they are “obligated” to act morally, and if so, to whom/what is that obligation owed, and why anyone should care or act according to their moral system. Or, if their moral system doesn’t follow any of these conventions, then explain their moral system/views.

UD commenter ericB issues a Challenge!!!

I thought I would give a comment by a poster with the handle “ericB” a little more publicity as it was buried deep in an old thread where it was unlikely to be seen by passing “materialists / evolutionists”.


Calling all evolutionists / materialists! Your help is needed! Alan Fox has not been able to answer a particular challenge, but perhaps you know an answer.

The issue is simple and the bar is purposely set low. The question is whether there exists one or more coherent scenarios for the creation of a translation system by unguided chemicals. Continue reading

Is there a Scientific Theory of Intelligent Design?

In a recent exchange at Uncommon descent I was referred by the “ineffable” Philip Cunningham (BA77) to an article at Evolution News and Views by the Discovery Institute attorney, Casey Luskin. Onward links lead me on to his Amazon review of Meyer’s “Darwin’s Doubt”. The article appears to be a response to a comment appended to the review by Nick Matzke [ETA Apparently the commenter Nick is not Nick Matzke, as Nick Matzkze points out below.]:

What’s the “scientific theory of ID”? Who or what is the designer and how can we tell? What did it do and how can we tell? How did it do it and how can we tell? Where did it do it and how can we tell? When did it do it and how can we tell?

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Of herrings and miracles

Never one to turn down an opportunity for learning, I took the opportunity to read VJ Torley’s analysis of a clip of Stephen Fry on the wonderful ‘miracle of the herrings.’

Since I already know that people (even game show researchers and VJ Torley) can get facts wrong, and I am confident that most at TSZ don’t give a flying fish about the infallibility of Stephen Fry or anyone else, I’ll stick to what Torley’s article reveals regarding miracles, canonization, the Catholic Church, life, and everything.

1. The miracles performed by a candidate for sainthood don’t have to be authentic miracles.
2. One “miracle” is not sufficient to be declared a saint. Two inauthentic “miracles” are the minimum.
3. The probabilty of an erroneous witness report isn’t too high.
4. If only Hume had realised that witnesses are generally reliable, he would never had made his argument against the authenticity of miracles.
5. From 3, the probability that the testimony of a reliable witness is in error is 0.001
6. It takes 8 independent witnesses to warrant belief in a miracle.

Allowing me to conclude:

Sensory illusions are rare.
The statue of Fortuna really did speak (Plutarch’s Life of Coriolanus 37-38)
Asclepius healed thousands.
Melinda Braithwate in the fourth year (eighth grade) really would have ‘done it’ for a pound.
Darren Clowes really was eaten by wolves (also eighth grade).
Belief in many manifestations of the divine is warranted.

…I am now a Hindu.

Thanks VJ Torley!

My only confusion is as to why saints have to be attributed miracles at all, if the miracles don’t have to be real ones.

The stolen “Stolen Concept Fallacy” fallacy.

The Fallacy of the Stolen Concept was coined by Ayn Rand, to point out the absurdity of arguing against a position when the argument depends upon that position – setting up a kind of indirect (and hence not so obviously paradoxical) version of Epiminedes-style “this sentence is false”. For example, to argue that all consciousness is really dreaming requires that there be some state one could recognise as ‘waking’, in order that dreaming could be distinct from it. One steals the concept of ‘waking’ (on whose existence ‘dreaming’ depends) in an attempt to argue there is no such thing.
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Is there an ‘Intelligent Design’ Community of Philosophers? A Response to Neil Rickert’s Hypothesis

Here is what started this conversation:

“At risk of being a bit off-topic, let me add that there is a far larger “intelligent design” community. I am talking about philosophy, particularly academic philosophy. Philosophers, as a group, tend to look at things from what I consider a[n] intelligent design perspective. That perhaps comes from Plato. Perhaps it is a natural way of thinking. To be clear, that particular intelligent design community is honest and largely non-political, unlike the religious version. And yes, there are “fine tuning” ideas coming from that community.” – Neil Rickert (http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/?p=2926&cpage=2#comment-27860)

I asked him:

“could you elaborate on this: “Philosophers, as a group, tend to look at things from what I consider a[n] intelligent design perspective”? … which philosophers, specifically who … which you suggest display a “natural way of thinking” about ‘intelligent design’?

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The (il)logic of intercessory prayer

Suppose the standard OmniGod exists: omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent.

Now suppose that Mary contracts a serious illness.  Her family and friends pray for her health.  This makes them feel better, and it also makes Mary feel better.  The knowledge that others are praying for her may even affect her body in a way that contributes to her recovery.

The question is whether those prayers have any effect on God’s actions.  Being an OmniGod, he will always do the right thing, without fail, regardless of whether anyone asks him to do so.  How can prayer ever change what God does, if he always does the right thing in all circumstances?

In other words, is it ever possible that God is prepared to let Mary die, but decides to intervene simply because her family and friends pray for her recovery?

Theists out there: Do you believe in the power of intercessory prayer? If so, how do you resolve the problem described above? Ex-theists, I’m also interested in hearing about how you dealt with the problem back when you were still among the flock.

Ball State University – my answer to vjtorley

I expect that most here have heard about the situation at Ball State University (in Muncie, Indiana), where a physics professor was apparently including some Intelligent Design in a science class.  There was a public fuss.  And, more recently, the president of Ball State wrote a letter to the faculty about the situation.  It seems to have been a classy letter.  She described the issue as one of academic integrity, rather than one of academic freedom as a few commentators had suggested.  She apparently agreed that there were first amendment issues, as others suggested.  But she saw academic integrity as the main issue.  Incidentally, I also thought academic integrity was the issue.

The ID people don’t like what she wrote, because she was blunt about ID not being science.  Over at UD, vjtorley has a post “An open letter to BSU President Jo-Ann Gora” where he raises some questions that he would like the Gora to answer.  I’m giving my answers here, rather than in a comment at UD, because I think the issues warrant more discussion, and I’m sure others here will want to join in. Continue reading

Mounting skepticism….


The spike in files and hits in January was the hack, followed by a drop in traffic, not surprisingly!  Since the fix and the move to the new hosting service, things have been getting steadily busier, with average daily visits for each month steadily increasing (monthly visit totals are the yellow bars).

Lovely to see such vigorous discussion!  Thanks, guys!