The Big Tent of Babel

The intelligent-design movement is, by design, a big tent accommodating almost everyone who has something to say against “Darwinism.” How kooky is too kooky for admission? Well, the Raelian movement’s Message from the Designers may be out, but the Unification Church’s message from Moon is definitely in.

Evolution News and Views (ENV), ID’s blog of record, is consequently a wellspring of incoherence. It recently posted a lame argument by geneticist Wolf-Ekkehard Lönnig that survival is “too random” for natural selection to “work.” Geneticist (of high renown) Joe Felsenstein has just responded at The Panda’s Thumb. He mentions that the Discovery Institute also released a podcast interview of Lönnig. Checking it out, I find this teaser by David Klinghoffer, the editor of ENV:

The question of whether evolution is “random” is a perennial. Darwinists respond to the challenge, often delivered casually, by exasperatedly pointing out that the natural-selection component of evolution is hardly a matter of chance. Actually, though, as geneticist Wolf-Ekkehard Lönnig explains in an ID the Future podcast interview with Discovery Institute’s Paul Nelson, this is not quite true…

But we also have, at the moment, this from one of ENV‘s “Top Articles” in the “Scientific Research” category:

Yes, of course, natural selection is a “nonrandom” process as Dawkins correctly insists. Rates of reproductive success correlate to the traits that organisms possess. Those with fitness advantages will, all other things being equal, out-reproduce those lacking those advantages. Got it. Understood.

In short, natural selection “works as advertised” in mainstream evolutionary theory. The author? Stephen C. Meyer, director of the Discovery Institute’s Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture.

89 Replies to “The Big Tent of Babel”

  1. OMagain
    Ignored
    says:

    otangelo: Of those, only a tiny fraction of those are functional

    What’s the function?

  2. Allan Miller
    Ignored
    says:

    otangelo,

    Take a chain of N amino acid residues. Since there are 20 amino acids in proteins, there are 20N possible combinations. […]

    Oh, fer chrissakes!

  3. Mung Mung
    Ignored
    says:

    Allan Miller: How is this any different from the random ‘selection’ of gametes – the millions of eggs and billions of sperm – in the average multicellular eukaryote?

    Do you really need me to answer this for you? Isn’t it obvious that evolution is essentially based on serendipity?

    Ah sweet chance. Why does the anti-ID crowd hate you so?

  4. Mung Mung
    Ignored
    says:

    Joe Felsenstein: To help me evaluate which argument is loony, let me get this clear. You don’t think that differences in fitness between genotypes have any effect?

    Your claim was, and I quote “…natural selection sorts things out in a highy directional way, such as making a bird fly faster rather than slower.”

    If you want to back off that claim I won’t stop you.

    Natural selection does not make birds fly faster, or slower. A faster flying bird may in fact be “less fit” than a slower flying bird. Some birds, as you well know, don’t fly at all. So what “direction” is speed of flight headed, exactly?

  5. Mung Mung
    Ignored
    says:

    Allan Miller: Oh, fer chrissakes!

    Well, it is Sunday.

  6. colewd
    Ignored
    says:

    Allan Miller,

    I think, on the contrary, that ‘complexology’ is being seized upon by opponents to try and make capital. Biochemistry is no more complex than it was 50 years ago. We know a lot more detail, but there is nothing that could not, in principle, evolve. People spend considerable research hours investigating the evolution of the very things that were unknown 50 years ago.

    I agree the complexity is the same but much of that complexity is being discovered over time. Trying to figure out the evolutionary path and mechanisms beyond finding some precursors is exceedingly difficult. The Nobel prize for DNA repair was in 2015. How much of the eukaryotic cell do you think we understand at this point?

  7. Rumraket Rumraket
    Ignored
    says:

    Mung: Your claim was, and I quote “…natural selection sorts things out in a highy directional way, such as making a bird fly faster rather than slower.”

    If you want to back off that claim I won’t stop you.

    Natural selection does not make birds fly faster, or slower. A faster flying bird may in fact be “less fit” than a slower flying bird. Some birds, as you well know, don’t fly at all. So what “direction” is speed of flight headed, exactly?

    That is fantasticly stupid. It was a simple example of natural selection causing accumulating change in a phenotype, it was not supposed to constitute a claim that natural selection will always be working to make birds fly faster. It’s like you’re trying not to get it.

    Scratch that. You are trying to not get it, and making yourself look stupid in the process. But why? You aren’t stupid, so why work so hard to appear it?

  8. OMagain
    Ignored
    says:

    colewd: How much of the eukaryotic cell do you think we understand at this point?

    What sort of designer do you think would have had the capability to create such a cell? Would we be equivalent to them in, say, 1000 years more technological advancement? What’s your estimate?

  9. Allan Miller
    Ignored
    says:

    Mung,

    Do you really need me to answer this for you?

    No, of course not, it was a rhetorical question [as of course was yours]. The fact that only a couple of gametes survive from the millions/billions (according to gender) that are produced has never been a problem for evolutionary theory. What’s perhaps disappointing is that people on the ‘con ‘ side think biologists are so fucking stupid as to not have realised that there is a random contest for representation in the next generation (as well as a biased one).

    Isn’t it obvious that evolution is essentially based on serendipity?

    Yes and no.

    Ah sweet chance. Why does the anti-ID crowd hate you so?

    Ah, sweet Designer Whim. What a vastly preferable paradigm.

  10. Allan Miller
    Ignored
    says:

    Mung,

    Well, it is Sunday.

    I’ll say it again tomorrow.

  11. Allan Miller
    Ignored
    says:

    colewd,

    How much of the eukaryotic cell do you think we understand at this point?

    What does it matter? The pertinent question is, how much of the understanding of the eukaryotic cell (or, for that matter, the prokaryotic cell) has posed a probem for evolutionary theory, as it has been uncovered? I’m not seeing anything from anywhere other than the Creationist community, who were always a bit lukewarm on the matter.

  12. colewd
    Ignored
    says:

    OMagain,

    What sort of designer do you think would have had the capability to create such a cell? Would we be equivalent to them in, say, 1000 years more technological advancement? What’s your estimate?

    I honestly am too ignorant to even start with a swag here 🙂 My estimate based on consensus of several research scientists is we understand less than 1% at this point so having an opinion how to design one is down the road. Just to give you a feel for this, in 2012 a researcher from Cornell had identified 5 proteins involved in the RAS transcriptional pathway by 2013 he had identified 9 additional proteins. He had been studying this pathway exclusively for 20 years. I also think we need substantial advancement in the understanding of atoms and subatomic particle behavior because there is no way to create a protein sequence from trial and error even if you use monte carlo techniques.

  13. Allan Miller
    Ignored
    says:

    colewd,

    I also think we need substantial advancement in the understanding of atoms and subatomic particle behavior because there is no way to create a protein sequence from trial and error even if you use monte carlo techniques.

    Really? Subatomic particles?

    It’s curious how, despite there being ‘no way’ to create a protein sequence from trial and error, protein sequences are created in exactly that way, in the lab.

  14. Allan Miller
    Ignored
    says:

    An idle Monday morning thought: if I were a Designer, I wouldn’t waste too much time making an impressively-engineered Creation in order to make myself known. I’d create an ordinary world, and make people who were easily impressed.

  15. OMagain
    Ignored
    says:

    colewd: there is no way to create a protein sequence from trial and error

    Yet: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v410/n6829/full/410715a0.html

    . Starting from a library of 6 × 1012 proteins each containing 80 contiguous random amino acids, we selected functional proteins by enriching for those that bind to ATP. This selection yielded four new ATP-binding proteins that appear to be unrelated to each other or to anything found in the current databases of biological proteins.

  16. petrushka
    Ignored
    says:

    I’m going to guess that’s more than 6072.

  17. OMagain
    Ignored
    says:

    petrushka:
    I’m going to guess that’s more than 6072.

    lol, yes, 6 x 10 to the twelfth power.

  18. OMagain
    Ignored
    says:

    colewd: there is no way to create a protein sequence from trial and error

    colewd, is it possible to create a protein sequence of length 1 by trial and error? 😛

  19. petrushka
    Ignored
    says:

    Without going into latex, that can be written as 6×10^12 and posted anywhere..

    Requires modification to copy and paste quotes.

  20. Robin Robin
    Ignored
    says:

    walto:
    Robin,

    I think they have the same intuition that Lamarck had–that it just couldn’t be that we’d get, you know, Shakespeare, with nothing but natural selection and random mutation driving the boat.But it’s mostly just confirmation bias.I mean, I can’t believe it’s possible that, of all the cars in the world and all the other possible places to poop, that particular large bird just happened to crap on mine.And why did I step on the one tiny bit of black ice in my driveway and dislocate my kneecap?How the hell could that happen….by accident?!X>{

    What I mean is that it’s a psychological need, IMO, stemming from fear of death (which I’m totally on board with, incidentally), desire to be cared for, need to be “special”–that sort of thing. It’s not really reason-driven, I don’t think.

    Yep. Totally agree. The old, “buuuut…buuut…if it’s all just random, then I’m not a special snowflake and there’s no purpose!!” *Le sigh*…

  21. Frankie Frankie
    Ignored
    says:

    Natural selection is non-random in a very trivial sense-> not all variations have the same chance of survival. NS is a result of 3 inputs-> mutation/ variation; heritability and fecundity- each is either entirely up to chance or has a chance component. Inputs drive the outputs.

    Natural selection is impotent.

  22. OMagain
    Ignored
    says:

    Frankie: Natural selection is impotent.

    How does Intelligent Design change that?

  23. colewd
    Ignored
    says:

    Allan Miller,

    It’s curious how, despite there being ‘no way’ to create a protein sequence from trial and error, protein sequences are created in exactly that way, in the lab.

    Yes as OMagain said, a protein sequence of one works just fine:-) The sub atomic particle discussion is based on the relationship of quantum mechanics and protein interaction.

  24. OMagain
    Ignored
    says:

    colewd: Yes as OMagain said, a protein sequence of one works just fine:-)

    One is fine?

    What number is not fine? 2? 10? 200? 300?

    And noted you simply ignore the refutation of your point that they cannot be created randomly.

  25. OMagain
    Ignored
    says:

    colewd: Yes as OMagain said, a protein sequence of one works just fine:

    Reality contradicts you: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v410/n6829/full/410715a0.html

    Who will change, you or reality?

  26. Allan Miller
    Ignored
    says:

    Frankie,

    Natural selection is non-random in a very trivial sense-> not all variations have the same chance of survival.

    Great – that’s the only sense that matters.

  27. Allan Miller
    Ignored
    says:

    colewd,

    The sub atomic particle discussion is based on the relationship of quantum mechanics and protein interaction.

    Whatever that might be, it appears to be irrelevant to the combinatorial issue.

  28. Frankie Frankie
    Ignored
    says:

    Allan Miller:
    Frankie,

    Great – that’s the only sense that matters.

    And it is the one that proves natural selection is not the creative force evolutionists are selling it as. It is the one that says natural selection is as non-random as the pattern formed by rolling 1000 colored balls on the floor.

    Natural selection is nothing more than contingent serendipity. In order for natural selection to produce the diversity today we would have had to have started with a greater diversity.

  29. OMagain
    Ignored
    says:

    Frankie: In order for natural selection to produce the diversity today we would have had to have started with a greater diversity.

    Demonstrate this mathematically and I will donate $10 to the charity of your choice.

  30. Allan Miller
    Ignored
    says:

    Frankie,

    And it is the one that proves natural selection is not the creative force evolutionists are selling it as. It is the one that says natural selection is as non-random as the pattern formed by rolling 1000 colored balls on the floor.

    If natural selection tends to concentrate one variant and eliminate alternatives, to the point of fixation/extinction, and so on iteratively for all alleles, that is not nothing, much though you dearly wish it to be.

  31. Allan Miller
    Ignored
    says:

    Frankie,

    In order for natural selection to produce the diversity today we would have had to have started with a greater diversity.

    Diversity is conditioned by cladogenesis/extinction rates, not NS. So, wide of the mark comme toujours

  32. Richardthughes Richardthughes
    Ignored
    says:

    Frankie:
    Natural selection is non-random in a very trivial sense-> not all variations have the same chance of survival. NS is a result of 3 inputs-> mutation/ variation; heritability and fecundity- each is either entirely up to chance or has a chance component. Inputs drive the outputs.

    Natural selection is impotent.

    Same logic tells us “no-one can make money with casinos”.

  33. petrushka
    Ignored
    says:

    Frankie ignores the observed fact that every individual carries a number of unique mutations.

    In humans, it is about a hundred mutations, about 10 percent of which are in parts of the genome known to be functional.

    That means that in the human population, there are around 80 billion mutant alleles (counting just the ones known to be in functional areas of the genome, by Larry Moran’s strict definition). If we take the creationist definition of functional, that’s 800 billion.

    That’s 800 billion variants per 70 years or so for the human population.

    That’s 80 trillion in the YEC span of human existence.

  34. Frankie Frankie
    Ignored
    says:

    Allan Miller: known

    Way to move the goalposts. I am saying that NS reduces diversity.

  35. Frankie Frankie
    Ignored
    says:

    petrushka,

    Frankie ignores the observed fact that every individual carries a number of unique mutations.

    No, I do not and there isn’t anything I said that would lead you to that. Obviously you are just making shit up because you don’t have anything of substance to say.

    That means that in the human population, there are around 80 billion mutant alleles (counting just the ones known to be in functional areas of the genome, by Larry Moran’s strict definition).

    And humans evolving into humans helps you how?

  36. OMagain
    Ignored
    says:

    Frankie: I am saying that NS reduces diversity.

    Why are there still bacteria?

  37. Frankie Frankie
    Ignored
    says:

    Allan Miller:
    Frankie,

    If natural selection tends to concentrate one variant and eliminate alternatives, to the point of fixation/extinction, and so on iteratively for all alleles, that is not nothing, much though you dearly wish it to be.

    If. In reality it isn’t like that. And merely having an allele reach fixation is very trivial when we are discussing what can build complex adaptations.

    That is the kind of evolution that fits baraminology

  38. petrushka
    Ignored
    says:

    OMagain: Why are there still bacteria?

    Because variation continues at a steady pace in all populations. Darwinian selection is a rather minor actor.

  39. stcordova
    Ignored
    says:

    Joe Felsenstein:

    If Dr. Lönnig wants to understand these matters more, I recommend to him that he visit a gambling casino

    Lots of good math to learn in studying gambling games and playing with advantage. Rather than first going to a casino however, suggest the book by MIT professor turned gambler turned billionaire hedge Fund Manager, E. O. Thorp:

    The Mathematics of Gambling

    in spite of the wild uncertainty of individual gambles, he might be surprised at how often he would lose his pocket money playing games that are mostly random, but slightly biased in favor of the house.

    Usually biased in favor of the house, but not always, Thorp figured out when, and there have been a few others like Don Johnson

    During a 12 hour marathon at the Tropicana, Johnson recalls three consecutive hands where he won 1.2 million including one hand where he profited 800,000. Johnson bet 100,000 and received two eights which he split. Surprisingly, another two eights came and he split again wagering a total of 400,000. He received a three, a two, another three, and another two on the four hands allowing him to double down on each hand. He was now wagering a total of 800,000. The dealer busted and Johnson ended up winning 800,000 in profit…

    Johnson was able to beat Tropicana out of nearly 6 million, The Borgata out of 5 million, and Caesars out of 4 million. His total profits neared 15.1 million and seriously hurt casino profits. Though not banned from the Tropicana and Borgata, these two casinos stopped Johnson from playing under those conditions and limits, while Caesars effectively banned him from playing.[3]

    PS

    I was effectively banned from playing at the Borgata — sore losers.

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