Common Descent Munged

I come from the Michael Behe school if ID. I accept common descent, by which I mean universal common ancestry. It seems to be the consensus view in science, it seems reasonable to me, and I don’t have any compelling reasons to doubt it.

But could I actually defend my belief in common ancestry if asked? All living organisms share certain features in common. Organisms leave offspring. Therefore, universal common ancestry. That sounds pretty weak, I admit. I need to do better.

I don’t believe that new organisms appear out of thin air, so to speak. I accept that the organisms of today are the offspring of prior organisms. Even young earth creationists accept common descent prior to the flood and common decent after the flood, though they resist the idea of universal common ancestry. I still haven’t figured out how and where they draw the lines though, so why should I draw a line that I cannot defend. Therefore common ancestry. That still sounds pretty weak, I admit. I still need to do better.

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Common Design vs. Common Descent

I promised John Harshman for several months that I would start a discussion about common design vs. common descent, and I’d like to keep my word to him as best as possible.

Strictly the speaking common design and common descent aren’t mutually exclusive, but if one invokes the possibility of recent special creation of all life, the two being mutually exclusive would be inevitable.

If one believes in a young fossil record (YFR) and thus likely believes life is young and therefore recently created, then one is a Young Life Creationist (YLC). YEC (young earth creationists) are automatically YLCs but there are a few YLCs who believe the Earth is old. So evidence in favor of YFR is evidence in favor of common design over common descent.

One can assume for the sake of argument the mainstream geological timelines of billions of years on planet Earth. If that is the case, special creation would have to happen likely in a progressive manner. I believe Stephen Meyer and many of the original ID proponents like Walter Bradley were progressive creationists.
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The Imminent Demise of Evolution. Imminent since 1878.

In recent reading, Dembski and other ID proponents make the claim that evolution (or major supporting concepts for it) is increasingly being abandoned by scientists, or is about to fall. This claim has many forms and has been made for over 185 years.


It seems that some current commenters on the site are unaware of the long history of such claims.

To those commenters, I would ask – when do you predict evolution will fall?

1878: “There are some signs of this whimsical theory of Evolution soon taking another phase. Carl Vogt has given hints that perhaps they have, after all, made a mistake as to the line of descent. It may be found, he conjectures, that Man is not descended from the Ape family but from the Dog! “Other theories may soon be heard of–for the human mind is restless under the burthen of mystery.” Thomas Cooper, Evolution, The Stone Book and The Mosaic Record of Creation, (London: Hodder and Stoughton), p. 186-187

2008: “It is not too early to chart the intellectual course to the 22nd century. The 21st century may well mark a gradual disaffection with Darwinism, comparable to the 20th century’s loss of support for Marxism.”  Steve Fuller, Science vs Religion? Intelligent Design and the Problem of Evolution, Cambridge: Polity Press, 2007, page 126

2017: “One would think that scientific, experimental evidence convinced Darwinists to change their mind… Unfortunately, just like many of my posts and comments have revealed, no such evidence has emerged…. ” TSZ

That last one there is from J-Mac, who apparently thinks evolution is on it’s deathbed but is also presumably unaware of the long long history of people making similar claims…

So, evolution denies, what year will it fall and why? What will be the final straw?

The Mystery of Evolution: 7. Falsifying the Evolution-The Prelude to Something Greater

UPDATE: So far NO IDEAS as to how the theory of evolution can be falsified have been proposed…To make things worst, nobody so far picked up any of MY SUGGESTED IDEAS how to falsify evolution – now clearly numbered from 1-4. 

It makes one wonder what the bases are for believing in the theory of evolution if no one seems to even want to at least try to falsify it…

Please keep in mind that by falsifying evolution you can refute many claims by the proponents of ID!!! Isn’t it what Darwin’s faithful want to do?

This OP is just a prelude to hopefully many future ones, where I would like to focus on the specific examples of how to falsify the theory of evolution…

This OP gives everyone an opportunity for the input on no doubt the many available ways how to experimentally falsify evolution…

As most of you know, Darwinists and post-Darwinists, for unknown reasons, are reluctant to experimentally prove their beliefs, so by the series of the OPs on the many possible ways of falsifying evolution, we can hopefully encourage Darwinists and the like, to do so for their own good… I could definitely help with that…

Here are some ideas on how to falsify evolution that I have come across so far:

How a walking mammal can evolve into an aquatic one?

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The Mysteries of Evolution: 6. Endosymbiosis-The second miracle of life after the origin of life

This is one of the most fundamental mysteries of evolution and the origins of multicellular life often called endosymbiosis, which is supposed to explain the origin of eukaryotic cell.

It doesn’t!  Here is why…

What I found perplexing, or even disturbing, is that although it is presented as scientific fact of evolution, as evolution itself often is, there is absolutely not one fact to support that endosybiosis happened or could have happened…

And this the fact…

How could that be?

First of all, the difference between prokaryotic and eukaryotic cell is so staggering that even proposing such quantum leap in evolutionary change goes beyond macroevolutionary claim…

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Would you call it murder?

SPECIAL UPDATE: The priest has answered my queries by email, and the story is even more horrifying than I had imagined. Readers can find out the latest news by scrolling to the end of my OP.

STOP PRESS: I have just been sent a copy (which I won’t be publishing, for privacy-related reasons) of the complaint filed by the wife. The priest’s story is true. Readers can find out more in the comments section.

People have various opinions about end-of-life decisions. The issues are complex, and reasonable-sounding arguments can be marshaled on both sides. However, few people would deny that a doctor who not only refuses to treat a patient with a life-threatening condition, despite his and his family’s explicit request for treatment, but administers a lethal dose of a drug to the patient, with the intention of hastening the patient’s death, is morally guilty of murder. Recently, I read of a case in Canada which might fit this description, if the account given is accurate. In this case, the account comes from the blog of a Catholic priest, Fr. X, a parish priest in Quebec. Catholic writer and social activist George Weigel, author of a best-selling biography of Pope John Paul II who also happens to be a member of Fr. X’s congregation during the summer months, has written an article in the religious journal First Things which discusses the case (It’s a Culture War, Stupid, August 22, 2017). Here’s an excerpt from Fr. X’s blog entry. I would invite readers to weigh in with their opinions on whether this case is morally equivalent to murder:

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Invited responses to my nylonase research and the question of “New Proteins Without God’s Help”

Susumo Ohno (who coined the term “junkDNA”) published a paper in 1984 through the National Academy of Sciences that was used by the NCSE, Ken Miller and Dennis Venema to claim “proteins can evolve without God’s help”. At the request of John Sanford, a courtesy associate research professor at Cornell, I was recruited to write a paper to refute Ohno’s evolutionary hypothesis on nylonases. I wrote it under John’s guidance based on his intuitions about genetics, his life-long specialty of 40 years and for which he became famous as attested by the fact he is one of the few geneticists who had their work featured in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

The actual paper is now in review, but it is not intended to be published in any journal, but will be released in a variety of channels shortly. It is hoped the material can be used by others to actually create papers that enter peer review. The motivation for releasing the paper in this way is to counter Venema’s book while it is still hot off the press.
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Free Speech, pseudonymity and the Web

Where to draw the line between the right to say what we sincerely believe and the right of others not to be insulted, belittled, threatened? Where to draw the line on protecting those who post pseudonymously on the internet?

The Internet has created opportunity. The opportunity for those living under repressive regimes to communicate, to organise, to advertise the fact of their oppression internationally. But also the opportunity for oppressive regimes to trace and document this activity and track down dissidents. And the opportunity for groups with extreme views to advertise and organise racist rallies.

I’m conflicted. My conflict is between ensuring the right of anyone to speak their mind and the responsibility of owning up to those views.

Where to draw the line?

Save them, smash them, relocate them or critique them?

I’m not going to write about the tragic events in Charlottesville in this post. I think the VICE News video says it all. It should be obvious that in this particular march, the violence that occurred came overwhelmingly from the alt-right, many of whom came to the march armed with pepper spray and hidden assault weapons (see the end of the video), although I note for the record that a few protesters on the Left did as well. I am frankly mystified by President Trump’s reluctance to condemn the white nationalist marchers en masse and by his bizarre assertion that there were some people “protesting very quietly” at the torchlight march on the night before the rally (which has been debunked by Paul Blake of the BBC), but I doubt whether racism is his underlying motivation: after all, the marchers shouted Nazi slogans against the Jews, and the President’s own daughter and son-in-law are Jewish. Perhaps the man is morally timid, and reluctant to condemn even bad people who might vote for him. Or perhaps the President views racism as self-evidently absurd, requiring no further comment in the 21st century. Or perhaps he fears that by demonizing the 500 or so marchers who took part in the alt-right rally in Charlottesville, he will only succeed in making them look more appealing to alienated juvenile delinquents, thereby consolidating their base of support. I don’t know. In any case, this is not a post about Trump, whose White House seems to be facing a meltdown of its own making.

Instead, what I’d like to write about in this post is the question of what Americans should do with the 718 monuments and statues (709, according to the BBC) situated on public property throughout the country, mostly in the South, although there are also a few in former Union States, including Iowa, Kansas and Pennyslvania, and there’s even one in Massachusetts. The Southern Poverty Law Center has published a paper calling for their removal, and a summary of their responses to counter-arguments can be found on pages 38 to 39.

I’d like to begin by asking viewers how they feel about this video, showing a statue of a Confederate soldier being pulled down in Durham, North Carolina, on Monday (courtesy of World Viral Videos):

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Working out a gentleman’s agreement between TSZ and my publishing activities

As much as the TSZ regulars may have sharp disagreement with many of my views, I actually have a vested interest in seeing TSZ survive and prosper and attract participation with talent and brains. TSZ is valuable because of the quality of the participants, namely, professors (like Joe Felsenstein, Jeff Shallit), textbook authors (like Larry Moran), specialists (Tom English, John Harshman, Mark Frank, Mike Elzinga, etc.), academics, practicing scientists, etc. I suspect JohnnyB and VJTorley might have comparable reasons for their participation at TSZ.

The purpose of me posting here is to see what sort of INFORMAL gentleman’s agreement can be worked out to the mutual benefit of TSZ and my publishing efforts.
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Betting on the Weasel

… with Mung.   In a recent comment Mung asserted that

If Darwinists had to put up their hard earned money they would soon go broke and Darwinism would be long dead. I have a standing $10,000 challenge here at TSZ that no one has ever taken me up on.

Now, I don’t have $10,000 to bet on anything, but it is worth exploring what bet Mung was making. Perhaps a bet of a lower amount could be negotiated, so it is worth trying to figure out what the issue was.

Mung’s original challenge will be found here.  It was in a thread in which I had proposed a bet of $100 that a Weasel program would do much better than random sampling.  When people there started talking about whether enough money could be found to take Mung up on the bet, they assumed that it was a simple raising of the stake for my bet.  But Mung said here:

You want to wager over something that was never in dispute?

Why not offer a meaningful wager?

So apparently Mung was offering a bet on something else.

I think I have a little insight on what was the “meaningful wager”, or at least on what issue.  It would lead us to a rather extraordinary bet.  Let me explain below the fold …

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There are only two sides, and you are on one or the other of them

We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.

— Donald J. Trump

He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.

— Martin Luther King, Jr.

I condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the involvement of President of the United States in the evil of racism. The counter-protesters in Charlottesville lapsed into evil, to be sure. Meeting violence with violence, they handed their adversaries a huge victory. But their error does not make them the moral equivalent of white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and Klansmen. Seizing on their error to construct such an equivalence, as Donald Trump has done, is positively obscene. “Grab them by the pussy” pales in comparison.

Determining Probability

There’s been some debate here at TSZ recently about probability and the interpretation of probability.

I took some flak (my personal subjective opinion) for attempting to distinguish between calculating probabilities and estimating probabilities.

Yet in recent reading I came across this bit of text:

How do you determine the probability that a given event will occur? There are two ways: You can calculate it theoretically, or you can estimate it experimentally by performing a large number of trials.

– Probability: For the Enthusiastic Beginning. p. 335

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A Reason To Doubt Design In Nature

I’ve never found the ID arguments for the design of biological organisms all that compelling for a number of reasons. The dubious math, the fallacious arguments, the disingenuous bait and switch to Christian apologetics, and so forth. But even beyond that, there was something about objects in nature – organisms themselves – that just don’t seem designed to me. There is something different about them compared to man-made objects, but for the longest time I just could not put my finger on what I felt the difference was. And then it hit me last night: replaceable parts.

All man-made objects – every single one – is either designed specifically to be discarded or has components that are designed specifically to be replaced. Why? Because tool users learn really quick that tools and/or certain parts of tools wear out. So as designers, we <i>anticipate the need for maintenance</i>.

No such anticipation or planning for maintenance can be found in nature. None. If something breaks in an organism, either that organism learns to live without it or it dies. Or, in the case of humans, that part gets replaced by human designed or human configured replacements (as in my case). But even in the later case, humans have to create a work-around, because biological parts actual <i>resist</i> being replaced. You can’t just replace human parts with other human parts willy-nilly. In most cases, the new parts just won’t work, or worse, they’ll be rejected by the body’s immune system. But of particular note, there’s no surplus of replacement parts anywhere; no storage unit somewhere with a bunch of eyes or hearts or toes or hair or kidneys or…anything. Not even bark or leaves or antennae or scales. Nothing. There’s replacement part supply or even creation in nature.

Of course, this makes perfect sense given evolution and other similar natural processes. It makes no sense if there were an actual biological designer behind it all.

The Mysteries of Evolution: 4. How did we get here…

…from: “having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one”?

Welcome all after vacation!

I have been reviewing many different articles recently and it hit me like a bolt of lighting: How did materialist who promote the Darwinian theory of evolution get to spontaneous emergence of life from what Darwin himself wrote in the Origin of Species:

“There is grandeur in this [natural selection] view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved”

One would think that scientific, experimental evidence convinced Darwinists to change their mind… Unfortunately, just like many of my posts and comments have revealed, no such evidence has emerged…. So, my question is: what prompted the Darwiwnists to change the fundamental idea about the origins of life originally written by Darwin himself, if no evidence for such a change exists?

Why Gradualism?

In Why Evolution is True, Jerry Coyne writes that gradualism is one of the six tenets of “the modern theory of evolution” (which he equates with Darwinism – see page 3).

Eugene Koonin writes that the tenet of gradualism is known to be false (The Logic of Chance p. 398).

Yet gradualism is obviously still quite popular here in “The Skeptical Zone.”

Surely gradualism is not a logical requirement or entailment of the theory of evolution. Neither is it supported by the evidence.

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