The Blind Watchbreaker would dispose of lunches even if they were free — mootness of anti-NFL arguments

[cross posted at UD: The Blind Watchbreaker would dispose of lunches even if they were free — mootness of anti-NFL arguments]

Our colleague Elizabeth Liddle has described the process of human design as trial and error, tinkering and iteration. Like Dawkins, she has argued nature (like human designers) is able to construct biological designs via trial and error, tinkering and iteration. However, when nature is properly compared and contrasted with the way humans go about creating designs, it is apparent Dawkins’ claim of a blind watchmaker is false.

I refer to Elizabeth’s description because she articulated some aspects of the blind watchmaker hypothesis better than Dawkins, but in so doing actually helped highlight why Dawkins’ blind watchmaker is refuted by the evidence.

[this is a follow up post to Selection falsely called a mechanism when it should be called an outcome]

THE CHALLENGE OF OOL AND SUFFICIENT COMPLEXITY FOR SELECTION TO WORK
Darwinists will often say, “Origin-of-life (OOL) is a different issue than biological evolution”, to which I say “fine, so how again will mindless chemical soups construct a blind watchmaker in the first place?” Margulis suggests the step from dead chemicals to an evolvable cell is more difficult than from a primitive cell to a human.

Hence, as long as OOL remains unsolved, the question of mindless origins remains unsolved, and in the scheme of things, demonstrating mindless OOL is at least as great a problem if not a greater problem than demonstrating mindless biological evolution.

When we see a dead organism, we see how the biological chemicals evolve — they evolve farther from life not closer too it. A dead cell will have better biological materials in it than all the world’s best OOL labs can synthesize from scratch, and yet, a dead cell evolves away from life, not toward it.

Even Darwin himself conceded the first life was a created, not evolved.

the first creature, the progenitor of innumerable extinct and living descendants, was created.

Authors of the highest eminence seem to be fully satisfied with the view that each species has been independently created. To my mind it accords better with what we know of the laws impressed on matter by the Creator,

Charles Darwin
Origin of Species
Chapter 14

Genetic algorithms are put forward as evidence for Darwinian evolution. But for Genetic Algorithms to create novel designs, consider that at a bare minimum one needs electricity, transformers, transistors, VLSI circuits, chip makers, computer factories, computers, memory banks, operating systems, machine language, assembly language, compilers or interpreters, compilable and semantically sensible programs to implement the Genetic Algorithm, etc. Genetic algorithms are trivial in complexity compared to the collective societal complexity required to make the computer genetic algorithm possible in the first place. For genetic algorithms to work in human affairs, they need intelligence, hence GAs are anything but evidence of blind mindless processes.

Would I say that a mindless printer printing a document is evidence that mindless forces can create literature from scratch, or a video game creating novel adventures for gamers evidence that mindless forces can create intelligently designed stories from scratch? No, because printers and video games need intelligence to create them in the first place. So Darwinists shouldn’t be putting forward GAs as evidence that intelligence is not needed for the emergence of complexity. If we were fair in applying the analogy of man-made GAs, printers, and video games to biology, the fact that these systems need a huge amount of intelligently designed complexity to implement them suggests that even for Darwinian evolution to take place, there needs to be a substantial amount of intelligent design.

NATURE DISPOSES OF LUNCHES VIA MASS EXTINCTION AND SELECTIVE EXTINCTION
Dembski and Marks argue that mindlessly formed fitness functions perform no better than chance on average unless the fitness functions are intelligently designed and the search space has special properties making it amenable to selection. For example, the travelling salesman problem can be solved via genetic algorithms, but long passwords, complex encryption cannot be. But even in the case of the travelling salesman problem, the genetic algorithm cannot be haphazardly slapped together, it needs intelligent design. These limitations on genetic algorithms are described by the No Free Lunch (NFL) theorems.

But even supposing lunch is free, nature disposes of free lunches in the form of mass extinction in the past and selective extinction in the present. See: The price of cherry picking for addicted gamblers and believers in Darwinism.

We know of mass extinction in the past. Raup estimates the following:

Approximately 250,000 fossil species have been cataloged. According to Raup’s figures (based on estimates of average species longevity and standing diversity over the age of the earth), between 5 and 50 billion species may have lived during earth’s long history, of which at most 40 million or so exist today.

Raup

Though the 55 billion figure seems ridiculously inflated to me, there is little question of mass extinction in the past. In recent times, and in the near future, the score sheet for Darwinism in terms of appearances (wins) and disappearances (loss) of species is:

Wins: 0
Losses: thousands
Net: -thousands

The empirical evidence says even if lunches were free, nature would eventually dispose of them anyway (see: Death of the Fittest), hence not only are Darwinists up against the ropes because of NFL theorems, even if Darwinists found a way to weasel some credibility for Darwinism through extreme deviation from expectation of NLF (see here, here, here, here ) these deviations would still be moot, as evidenced by nature disposing of the lunches it has…

Genetic algorithms where complexity is gradually eliminated and all the creatures go extinct would seem to be a more accurate model of biological reality rather than Avida and Weasel, but such reality-based simulations are dismissed by Darwinists unless of course they are arguing in favor of conservation and eugenics and against anthropogenic global warming.

SELECTIVELY DISADVANTAGED DESIGNS
Related to mass extinction and selective extinction, is the problem of selectively disadvantaged designs.

Broken parts in anti-biotic resistant bacteria, blindness in cave fish, sickle cell anemia, etc. are examples of how nature destroys designs rather than creating them. As Behe pointed out in a peer-reviewed paper, the first rule of adaptive evolution is destruction of functioning designs, not creation of them.

Nature is under no obligation to preserve designs, and can be seen to actively destroy them. Like a boat in dire straights, the crew will sometimes jettison the cargo in order to adapt to the environment. So it is with natural selection, designs are often disposed of in exchange for reproductive success. Expediency takes priority over innovation. Free lunches are disposed of even when generously available.

PARTIAL OR FAILED DESIGNS ON THE ROAD TO SUCCESSFUL DESIGNS
Partially formed ideas can persist in the mind or workshop of the designer. Even failed prototypes are informative to the designer as to which design route not to take in the next iteration. Ill-formed designs in the mind of a designer do not immediately terminate the possibility of further improvement of the design. The ability of a design to persist even when it is dysfunctional is crucial to the design process.

But nature is no so kind with dysfunctional designs. In nature, especially if a function is vital, partially formed or failed variants are dispensed with. Variants could be lethal to the organism, thus natural selection rather than fostering innovation, precludes it. As has been said by other scientists:

many genomic features could not have emerged without a near-complete disengagement of the power of natural selection

Michael Lynch
opening, The Origins of Genome Architecture

and

a relative lack of natural selection may be the prerequisite for major evolutionary advance

Mae Wan Ho
Beyond Neo-Darwinism

and

The internal contradiction in its [natural selections’] major theoretical cornerstone — Fisher’s fundamental theorem

traits having been subjected to heavy selection pressures, because of their importance in the lives of the organisms, should be less variable than less important traits….
traits that have been most important in the lives of organisms up to this moment will be least likely to be able to evolve further!

Stanley Salthe
Critique of Natural Selection

As Stephen Gould wisely said, “what good is half a wing?” Non-functioning wings ought to be a liability that selection would eliminate. The false presumption by Dawkins is that in going from simple primitive forms to final complex forms, the intermediate forms are more functional than the simple forms. But that assumption is false, except possibly for some pathological examples. As an illustration, consider evolving a new kind of heart with different plumbing, the intermediate stages would be lethal….

Important transitionals are not found in the fossil record because in principle they could not exist. Natural selection hinders innovation, it doesn’t foster it. The transitionals are not found in the fossil record maybe because they were never there.

Thus, it is wrong to presume selection implies a road to higher complexity and innovation. It does not. Part of the reason for this false belief is selection is falsely called a mechanism when instead it should be called an outcome. [Note: no Darwinist has even challenged that essay, was it because the points were too unassailable? :-)]

Intelligence has foresight, natural selection doesn’t. A tinkering intelligence will see the value of exploring partially formed or ill-formed designs in his mind or workshop. Blueprints and incomplete ideas can stay alive on the shelf for long periods before being revisited. Da Vinci conceived of a submarine about 400 hundred years before the submarine came to serious fruition. The conception of an airplane may have been at least 1000 years before the Wright brothers, through many failures, created controlled powered flight. The failed intermediate airplanes didn’t stop them from improving, whereas in nature, if the path to improvement must be through non-functioning forms, selection will not construct flying machines. Wilbur Wright, in the midst of despair after one of his failed experiments said:

Not within a thousand years will man ever fly.

But intelligence often has purpose, sometimes relentless purpose, whereas mindless nature does not. So what if beetles lose their wings and pterodactyls go extinct, nature, unlike Wilbur Wright and Werner von Braun, has no reason to reassemble phoenix from ashes of failed experiments and reach for the stars….

THE EFFECT OF MUTATIONS IN THE MIND VERSUS MUTATIONS IN THE WILD

Mutating ideas in the human mind or even in Genetic Algorithms doesn’t necessarily kill the idea. For example, I uncovered a very embarrassing fact in Avida 1.6. I had this population of Avida organisms, and I cranked up the simulated cosmic radiation level to the maximum. I likened the cosmic bombardment simulation to putting a creature in a microwave/x-ray oven for 3 weeks and then demanding the creatures reproduce — and the creatures kept happily reproducing!

In one of the most exhausting debates between a Creationist and Darwinist I’ve ever witnessed on the net, Richard Hoppe and I, politely and civilly argued for weeks. He had me up against the ropes because I was unfamiliar with Avida, but then I got a break when I demonstrated Avida creatures kept replicating even under intense simulated cosmic radiation. In the real world, survival (much less upward evolution) under such intense radiation won’t happen, but in the make-believe GA world of ideas anything is possible! ( you must be logged into ARN, then follow this link: RBH vs. Sal: Natural Selection Goes the Wrong Way).

Hence, ideas don’t die even if they are mutated into functionless zombies. Ideas can be dead and then later brought back to life in the mind. What constitutes survivability for ideas in the mind is arbitrary. But this is not the case in nature. Mutations in the wild can lead to deterioration and death, not innovation toward more integrated complexity.

Hence, even supposing there are free lunches in man-made genetic algorithms, nature doesn’t work like a man-made genetic algorithm. In nature, physics and chemistry determine what ideas and designs can live on to the next generation, whereas in the mind or in genetic algorithms, there is no such requirement.

DIRECTED MUTATIONS VERSUS RANDOM MUTATIONS
Like a locksmith or lock factory creating a key for a lock, the keys are crafted with the lock in mind versus taking random lumps of metal and mutating it with random strikes of a hammer or cuts with a grinding tool and via random trial and error arriving at a working key. Because a real watchmaker has an architecture in mind, he reduces the search time to find or create the matching parts versus using random swings of a sledgehammer on random materials to make a watch. Even with man-made genetic algorithms, the fitness functions are carefully crafted, they are anything but randomly hammered fitness functions.

By way of contrast, mutation and selection in the wild, like a blind watchbreaker, will find a way to diverge from a design solution (such as with mass extinction, blindness in cavefish, antibiotic resistant bacteria, wingless beetles, etc.). When a lunch might possibly be free through a little foresight (such as matching locks to keys, or parts of a watch with the whole of the watch), nature won’t take the free lunch, because it has no reason to craft fitness functions that will take advantage of a free lunch. All of Darwinist railing against NFL theorems are moot if nature takes random fitness functions or anti-design fitness functions over ones that would work.

In accelerated mutation experiments, we see where mutation leads — usually to disaster, not greater complexity. On what grounds should we suppose slower mutation rates will necessarily build integrated complexity? This is like saying we’ll smash watch parts with a hammer only once every 10 years instead of every 10 seconds, the final result is the same, a broken watch. In biology, the slow mutation rates allow populations to sometimes eliminate defects, and recover, but the point is, if fast mutation leads to no new innovation, on what logical grounds should slow mutation lead to new innovation either? Slow mutation only keeps the population from dying, it is misleading to suggest that slow mutation necessarily leads to innovation. Slow mutation and population persistence may allow for more trials, but if selection destroys necessary (but dysfunctional) intermediates, at best, slow mutation rates hide the problem mutation poses for Darwinism, it doesn’t eliminate it.

SUMMARY
It is understandable that we might be inclined to think nature works like a watchmaker when we see mutation followed by occasional adaptation. Superficially, selection in the wild appears to parallel the way we think and design, but the apparent parallel disappears upon closer inspection.

Darwinist statistics on the success of natural selection are distorted by confirmation bias. Darwinists focus primarily on nominal adaptations rather than including complete extinctions in the fossil record and ongoing extinction in the present day. Secondly, the adaptations are often of the dysfunctional variety (broken pumps in bacterial antibiotic resistant bacteria, winglessness in beetles) or trivial variety (coloring of peppered moths of thickness of beaks in finches). Further, selection is falsely called a mechanism when it should be called an outcome to the exclusion of other mechanisms that create complexity (such as bacterial or even human genetic engineering).

And if biological complexity in the wild is declining, in addition to the above considerations, it is clear, mindless nature is not a blind watchmaker but rather a blind watchbreaker. It is thus a moot point if free lunch can be discovered via Darwinian processes since nature seems to ignore or dispose of the lunches it already has. Nature has no inherent reason to select life over death (in fact the laws of physics dictate that nature should be more likely to select death and dysfunction rather life and function). This fact is borne out by empirical observation.

Ideas can survive mutations in the mind of the designer because even ill-formed ideas can remain in the mind until they are improved, but ill-formed designs in the wild will not survive to find further improvement. The process of directing mutations by designers (tinkering) is nothing like the process of random mutation in the wild which are empirically demonstrated to destroy function.

If Elizabeth Liddle, Richard Dawkins or others argue natural selection works like blind watchmaker, consider this essay. Nature is not a blind watchmaker it is a blind watchbreaker. If you can grab a free lunch, grab it, because the blind watchbreaker won’t.

63 thoughts on “The Blind Watchbreaker would dispose of lunches even if they were free — mootness of anti-NFL arguments

  1. You’re starting to confuse me, Sal. You link to a prior post entitled “Selection is falsely called a mechanism when instead it should be labeled an outcome” which itself links to a post entitled “Was Blyth the True Scientist and Darwin merely a plagiarist and charlatan)”.

    Blyth was a ‘true scientist’ because he preceded Darwin on a process/outcome/whatever that you do not consider up to the task that Darwin set it? 🙂 The Darwin Denigration Industry proceeds apace. He was Wrong! And he stole his (Wrong) ideas! And he beat puppies and had a eugenecist for a cousin!

    You must realise that evolution stands or falls completely independently of the character of one C. Darwin, or the semantic labelling of the reproductive bias among varying types?

  2. Darwinists will often say, “Origin-of-life (OOL) is a different issue than biological evolution”, to which I say “fine, so how again will mindless chemical soups construct a blind watchmaker in the first place?”

    Should physicists give up on doing physics because they don’t know how quarks originated?

    Hence, as long as OOL remains unsolved, the question of mindless origins remains unsolved, and in the scheme of things, demonstrating mindless OOL is at least as great a problem if not a greater problem than demonstrating mindless biological evolution.

    That’s an example of where creationists and ID proponents sound whacky. Most scientists don’t care whether or not life had a mindless origin. The focus of science is on describing what we see in a way that is as useful as possible. The idea that scientists are hell bent on imposing a philosophy of mindlessness is just a ridiculous creationist myth.

    Nobody denies that the automobile was designed by minds. A scientific account of automobiles is completely mechanistic, because mechanistic explanations are the most useful. Saying that the automobile was designed by minds won’t help when the damn thing won’t start. But the mechanical explanation will be very helpful.

    It is not that scientists are excluding minds. Rather, it is that scientists are including only what is useful.

    Genetic algorithms are put forward as evidence for Darwinian evolution.

    They are evidence that some parts of the Darwinian account work about as described. Nobody (other than whacky creationist critics) is suggesting that they are an attempt to replicate all of the natural world.

    Would I say that a mindless printer printing a document is evidence that mindless forces can create literature from scratch, or a video game creating novel adventures for gamers evidence that mindless forces can create intelligently designed stories from scratch?

    Just put the damned toner into the printer, and it will start working again. This is mechanical.

    If you require a complete account of the history and design of the printer before you can even load the toner, then you might as well scrap printers and go back to the dark ages.

    Science is concerned with things like putting toner in the printer. The other stuff is philosophy or theology, but not science. Keep it out of the science classroom. Just load the toner, and things will start working again.

    For example, the travelling salesman problem can be solved via genetic algorithms, but long passwords, complex encryption cannot be.

    So what?

    Evolution is a way of solving what can be solved. Nobody claims that it is capable of solving what cannot be solved.

  3. Boy oh boy, what a collection of unsupported assertions and PRATTs. “What good is half a wing”? Really? The obvious answer that, in the right environment, it’s a lot better than no wing. What good is half a wing? is a good short overview. Not that Slimy Sal will learn anything from it.

  4. Let’s say a god (take your pick from the hundreds of thousands) created the first life. Now explain how that would falsify the theory of evolution. You won’t, Sal, because it wouldn’t. Will you therefore stop conflating OOL and ToE? Probably not.

    The Gil Dodgen-level inability to abstract algorithm from hardware is also noted. This is your argument:

    1) Algorithms implemented by humans are implemented by humans.
    2) Therefore there are no natural processes that algorithms successfully model.

    Of course, your argument also dismisses the possibility of physics.

  5. Half-winged creatures.

    Useless bastards can’t even flap those flaps. Huh! Even less use would be half of half a flap. Or half of … impossible to see how Natural Selection could generate such a design. Especially when it is only an ‘outcome’: dying less frequently than the flapless. :mrgreen:

  6. Our colleague Elizabeth Liddle . . .

    Lizzie isn’t your colleague, she’s out of your league.

    Dawkins’ blind watchmaker is refuted by the evidence.

    Not by any evidence or argument in the remainder of your post, the bulk of which has been refuted for some time in the Index of Creationist Claims.

    This is a good case in point:

    Dembski and Marks argue that mindlessly formed fitness functions perform no better than chance on average unless the fitness functions are intelligently designed and the search space has special properties making it amenable to selection.

    The No Free Lunch theorems state that no search algorithm performs better than blind chance when averaged across all landscapes. Even if we ignore the fact that the NFL theorems do not apply to evolutionary mechanisms because those mechanisms themselves impact the environment, the last part of your sentence is not supported by those theorems.

    The evolutionary mechanisms we observe work in the real world we observe. If they didn’t, we wouldn’t observe them. The fact that these mechanisms would not work in a different environment is immaterial — we have just one environment. The NFL theorems are simply inapplicable.

    All Dembski and Marks are doing is expressing incredulity that we find ourselves in an environment in which evolutionary mechanisms work, ignoring the fact that if the environment were different we wouldn’t be here to be incredulous about it. This is nothing more than the anthropological or fine-tuning argument wrapped in mathematical notation.

    How about presenting a positive hypothesis for intelligent design creationism and some testable predictions that could serve to falsify it instead of dredging up the tired old creationist anti-science canards?

  7. The most generous conclusion is that Mr Cordova is not as well-read as he ought to be before he ventures on an essay like that.

    There may, of course, be other reasons why he is still fighting battles long since lost by IDCists.

  8. cordova:

    Even Darwin himself conceded the first life was a created, not evolved…

    The Darwin quotes you give to “back up” this claim are egregiously quote mined. To be as charitable as possible, this is terribly misguided.

    Here are some quotes, in context, taken from Darwin’s letters:

    But I have long regretted that I truckled to public opinion & used Pentateuchal term of creation, by which I really meant “appeared” by some wholly unknown process.—It is mere rubbish thinking, at present, of origin of life; one might as well think of origin of matter

    and

    Though no evidence worth anything has as yet, in my opinion, been advanced in favour of a living being, being developed from inorganic matter, yet I cannot avoid believing the possibility of this will be proved some day in accordance with the law of continuity.

    The sources of these quotes, along with a lengthy discussion of Darwin’s view of the OOL, can be found in this article: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2745620/

  9. “Death of the Fittest” – this has to be one of the dumbest arguments. Mass extinction events support Intelligent Design but not Evolution . Seriously? I’m willing to bet that Behe, Meyer, Dembski, et. al. would never make such a statement.

  10. It’s simple and the answer is twofold:
    1. What is today driven by evolved enzymes responsible for various cellular mechanisms like, growth, metabolism and division, was primodially driven by local environmental cycles.
    Instead of having enzymes and metabolism driving growth and division(which requires a large number of proteins and genes etc. etc.), it was simply driven by the physical mechanics intrinsic to thermal and pressure driven convection flows.

    2. There is more function in random space than creationists think. That’s basically it.

    So creationists make two mistakes with the above style arguments. One is that they can’t imagine how you can have a “living entity” that is different from the extant one (with it’s requirement of many enzymes and elaborate genome to drive it’s life-cycle). One that is driven and powered by a local environmental cycle instead of the internal metabolism of a cell.

    Second, creationists make the mistake of thinking you need some full and specific working sequence to work with, that you can’t just randomly hit one by chance. That assumption has no support. In particular, the Szostak lab have done tonnes of experiments showing how random RNA’s and proteins have all sorts of interesting, OOL-related functions. See their work from the nineties and early 2000’s.

    There’s too much for me to bother going through all of it. And that’s just the Szostak lab. Plenty of other people have done similar work. Allan Millar has cited relevant studies here before by Yarus et al finding small peptides(as in dipeptides, TWO amino acids) and RNA’s only 5 bases long, with important biochemical functions.

    In actual fact, many experiments have found functional sequences from randomized starting conditions, both long and short. Both RNA and protein sequences.

    Of course, since various metabolism first scenarios are getting increasing experimental support, one idea among them is that primitive metabolism driven by various metal catalysts were actually the first enzymes, instead of long stretches of RNA and protein sequence. Throw the evidence that a significant portion of the planet was covered in hydrothermal vents for up to 100 million years on top and you’ve got a pretty large and long-term origins experiment.

    Long story short: Environmentally driven metabolism, growth and division eventually managed to assemble working polymer macromolecules (like RNAs and peptides which to begin with were short, thermodynamically favorable pieces a few amino acids and bases long, aided by metal catalysts) that further aided these environmentally-dependent living entities by giving them various competitive advantages and speeding up their metabolism.

    At such a time when the vents slowly and gradually began to die out, the entities gradually evolved the ability to take care of all of their own “cycles” needed for growth and division(their polymers were duplicated, shuffled and mutated, new and better functions were found), as the environmental ones became ever weaker, the evolving processes in response grew ever stronger, ending up capable of running on their own.
    They now only needed an external powersource and nutrient source to drive them: Chemoautotrophs(which, incidentally, phylogenetics tells us we all descend from).

  11. As usual, Sal is parroting the 50 year old ID/creationist mantra that says, “Scientists can’t explain the origins and evolution of life as we ID/creationists misconceive and misrepresent it.”

    It is true that ID/creationists can’t understand the origins and evolution of life; but that is not the fault of the science community. ID/creationist misconceptions and misrepresentations are designed to be unanswerable.

    They are designed to fit preconceived sectarian dogma and to taunt scientists into debates so that ID/creationists can get a free ride to “respectability” on the backs of scientists without doing any work.

    Sal still doesn’t understand that little high school level physics/chemistry calculation that scales up the charge-to-mass ratios of protons and electrons to kilogram-sized masses separated by distances on the order of a meter. So any further “discussion” is a waste of time.

  12. Yeah, typical of the more-idiotic types of anti-evolution anti-Darwin rhetoric. Since we can’t expect them to actually read and comprehend the science, can we at least ask that they read their own posts for consistency? Naw …

    The other thing that stood out to me is the vile hypocrisy of YECcer Cordova pretending that mass-extinction events in life’s loooong history somehow support his side. What kind of slimy tactic is that? Cordova’s words boil down to “I totally do not believe that multiple mass-extinction events over half a billion years ever happened. (Because, Noah, you anti-christian materialists!). But if the extinctions did happen, they totally would prove my creationist belief is correct. Neener neener.”

    No excuse for such fundamental dishonesty.

    Pick one or the other, YECcer.
    EITHER
    the multiple extinctions visible in the half-billion year fossil record really did occur – you must publicly renounce your crazy YECcism – and then you can use the extinctions as a possible argument against mutation-plus-selection being sufficient for life to recover and re-radiate following such events.
    OR.
    the Earth is bible-young, the half billion years never happened, the multiple mass extinctions never happened – you get to hang on to your YEC faith – but then you can’t use the never-happened mass extinctions as a possible argument.

    Pick one.

  13. The NFL theorems? You mean those that are completely irrelevant to evolution? Ahhhh, I see.

  14. Fucking hell, the op makes so many egregious errors, sweeping generalizations and just outright falsehoods it’s ridiculous. Particularly ironic is that he cites several earlier articels and assays of his own, from this very site, not having taken any of the criticisms on board that he recieved in response to them.

    He seems to think he simply established his previous assertions and that they’ve remained right since that.

    What use is it to even have a discussion with an individual who just outright ignores past criticisms in this way?

    Take this nonsense: ” All of Darwinist railing against NFL theorems are moot if nature takes random fitness functions or anti-design fitness functions over ones that would work.”
    He says this, immediately following a concession that antibiotic resistance can and does evolve. That simple concession simply outright demolishes his entire case. The simple fact is that evolution finds solutions in phenotypical space, and selection fixes them in populations. That’s why antibiotic resistance can and does evolve. That is the fundamental principle. Mutate it until something functions advantageously, then fix that advantage in the population by means of natural selection.

    His entire post is an attempt to say that natural selection doesn’t work, he then mentions cases where it does in fact work. What the …

  15. Sal, I’m still struggling to follow this post. Can you link to where I said whatever it is you think:

    actually helped highlight why Dawkins’ blind watchmaker is refuted by the evidence.

    ?

  16. […]small peptides(as in dipeptides, TWO amino acids) and RNA’s only 5 bases long, with important biochemical functions. […]

    Aminoacylation of a ACC trinucleotide stem, a crucial step in RNA-mediated peptide synthesis, even takes place in the absence of any enzymes at all. I’d like the paper better if there were some nice pictures.

    Those phosphatised intermediates render the net reaction thermodynamically favourable, whereas the simplistic amino acid soup runs up against the genuine problem that the equilibrium is against the peptide bond.

  17. damitall2:
    The most generous conclusion is that Mr Cordova is not as well-read as he ought to be before he ventures on an essay like that.

    There may, of course, be other reasons why he is still fighting battles long since lost by IDCists.

    Oh, I’m sure that our old buddy Sal is quite well read. Sometimes self-delusion involves being overly generous in one’s conclusions. We try our best to support Lizzie’s admonition to assume that all posters here are well-intentioned, but Sal does his best to make that assumption a real struggle.

  18. underthetable:
    The NFL theorems? You mean those that are completely irrelevant to evolution? Ahhhh, I see.

    Well, even the NFL has evolved since they instituted the Instant Replay rule.

  19. A detailed response has been furtling in my mind, but I begin to feel like I’m rising from my chair after the doorbell has rung for the third time, with nothing but distant giggles for my trouble on the previous two.

  20. Sal has anticipated our strategy, dammit! Those without FSH on their irony meters are advised to stand well back; older models may well malfunction.

    Readers are invited to monitor the responses by the Darwinists.

    There are various strategies that have been used against me in the past to engage what I put on the table:

    1. ad hominem
    2. misrepresentation
    3. mis direction
    4. start argements over definitions just to get distractions going
    5. equivocation
    6. red herrings
    etc.

    There is a manual of rhetorical maneuvers to use when defending an indefensible argument:
    Manual

    The trick is identifying which maneuver is in play and then engineering a succinct and clever response. Succinct responses are not so easy.

    But sometimes when a rhetorical maneuver is used, it ends up backfiring as happened with this example: The Law of Large Numbers vs. KeithS, Eigenstate and my other TSZ critics

  21. Is that from Sal?

    What I would say is that “start argements over definitions” is not “just to get distractions going”, and that the assumption that it is, is at the core of pretty well all misunderstandings between IDers and ID opponents.

    Tight definitions are absolutely critical to science.

    It’s what Dembski for one has yet to learn. And indeed, it seems, every author of theNew Perspectives papers have yet read.

    And yet, ironically, see 5!

    Sheesh.

  22. Is that from Sal?

    Yep – #6 in the UD version of this piece, in which he announces the cross-post here.

  23. posted at UD:

    I didn’t actually notice this thread for a while (and notice it has now been cross posted at TSZ).

    I’ll try to comment later, but it takes a while to read, not because it is long, but because it seems extremely confused. But I will comment (cross posted at TSZ) on Sal’s comment at 6:

    What I would say is that “start argements over definitions” is not “just to get distractions going”, and that the assumption that it is, is at the core of pretty well all misunderstandings between IDers and ID opponents.

    Tight definitions are absolutely critical to science.

    It’s what Dembski for one has yet to learn. And indeed, it seems, every author of theNew Perspectives papers have yet read.

    And yet, ironically, see 5!

    Sheesh.

    To be more specific, I am frequently frustrated (and I do appreciate it works both ways) by what I see as rampant, although I am sure inadvertent, equivocation in ID arguments, namely the re-use of a word with a precise definition in one context in a different context where the meaning has changed. “Information” and “random” and “chance” and “evolve” are particularly problematic in this regard (and more recently “entropy”, “order” and “thermodynamics” seem to have joined the list).

    So it is odd that we are continually accused of “equivocation”, but when we attempt to define our terms in context, are accused of “start[ing] arguments over definitions”!

    To take one obvious case in the OP:

    Sal writes:

    When we see a dead organism, we see how the biological chemicals evolve — they evolve farther from life not closer too it. A dead cell will have better biological materials in it than all the world’s best OOL labs can synthesize from scratch, and yet, a dead cell evolves away from life, not toward it.

    Even Darwin himself conceded the first life was a created, not evolved.

    In the first of these two paragraphs, Sal uses the word “evolve” simply to mean “change”. In the second, he uses it in the Darwinian sense, which the subject of the verb must be a population of things, not an individual thing. But he links the two paragraphs with the word “yet” as though the second somehow contradicts the first.

    It doesn’t, because of Sal’s equivocation with the word “evolve”. And yet, if anyone points this out, they will now doubt be greeted with rolled eyes, and accused of starting an argument about definitions.

    If we want to make a scientific argument, we have to have clear operational definitions of our terms, however non-intuitive, and even counter to normal English usage they are.

    That is to prevent inadvertent equivocation, and thus a fallacious conclusion.

  24. What I would say is that “start argements over definitions”is not “just to get distractions going”, and that the assumption that it is, is at the core of pretty well all misunderstandings between IDers and ID opponents.

    I disagree with your final statement here. Some misunderstandings between IDers and their opponents are centered on definitions and their importance. Others, however, involve IDer ignorance of simple facts, inability to construct logical arguments, and unwillingness to seriously engage the scientific literature or their critics. Their intellectual shortcomings are wide-ranging and richly varied, and any attempt to confine them to a single category does IDers an injustice.

  25. when one takes arbitrary snippets of the bible and interprets them however one wants in order to advance a viewpoint, like YECs do, then it is hardly a surprise when the same thinking is applied to any other document out there.

  26. so sal, during these mass extinctions, what can you say about the stuff that didn’t die, and what would happen after all those other species died off.

  27. “How about presenting a positive hypothesis for intelligent design creationism and some testable predictions that could serve to falsify it instead of dredging up the tired old creationist anti-science canards?”

    I’ve said there are good reasons for rejecting ID, if you reject it fine, but Darwinism isn’t a good reason to reject ID because natural selection does not have the same goals as a designing intelligence.

    Darwinists argue that nature created the bird, yet today we see nature destroying them (and man is part of nature). It would seem, even if one is not an ID proponent or creationist, that the mechanism that created the birds is no longer in operation today, and that mechanism was not natural selection.

    Darwin said natural selection will preserve and add up the good. That is empirically false. Mass and selective extinction, plus “selection” of dysfunction are powerful counter examples.

    Not one of the commenters here have demonstrated natural selection will select in favor of dysfunctional transitionals. All of you apparently assume all intermediates between major forms are selectively favored. So in going from a 3-chambered heart to a 4-chambered heart with a completely different set of connections, how again are the transitionals steps are all selectively favored without killing the organism?

    “How about presenting a positive hypothesis for intelligent design creationism and some testable predictions that could serve to falsify it instead of dredging up the tired old creationist anti-science canards?”

    How about giving a believable Darwinist story for such reasonable questions, and these debates will be over. The problem isn’t just lack of evidence for Darwinism, but claims that aren’t functionally (in an engineering sense) believable.

    Salthe was right to say, the most vital organs will be least likely to evolve.

    Over at Cornelius Hunter’s blog I remember Elizabeth criticizing Cornelius for not invoking natural selection in the creation of various features. I’m criticizing the apparent belief by Dawkins and others that mindless nature can really be watchmaker.

  28. IMO, and the part that Dembski misses (or, at best, glosses over) is precisely the part that most resembles evolution: the iterative feedback from the environment that results in the incremental adjustment of the prototype so that it ever more closely fulfils some function.

    Elizabeth Liddle
    http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/?p=620

    This essay is response to statements of that variety.

  29. Neil Rickert: The focus of science is on describing what we see in a way that is as useful as possible. The idea that scientists are hell bent on imposing a philosophy of mindlessness is just a ridiculous creationist myth.

    This should be carved on Mount Rushmore.

  30. Natural Selection doesn’t have goals. Doesn’t have foresight. Doesn’t “engineer.” So what is your point?

  31. Not one of the commenters here have demonstrated natural selection will select in favor of dysfunctional transitionals. All of you apparently assume all intermediates between major forms are selectively favored.

    There’s a lot to unpack, even in that short excerpt.

    Of course if a particular organism is inviable it will not survive. If it possesses significantly deleterious genes, they will not survive in the population. There is indeed a belief/assumption/contention among ‘materialists’ that evolution has historically negotiated such pitfalls. Any particular problem you point up may not have a good answer. This does not really undermine evolution per se, if the data is simply silent on the matter. A lack of plausible intermediates between the amphibian heart and the reptilian (you did not come up with that yourself, didja? :)) is also a lack of a plausible means by which a Designer performed the re-plumbing. You can’t just insert your favourite theory in the shadows.

    Genomics and morphology reveal genetic continuity between reptiles and ambhibians with a high degree of statistical confidence. We cannot, of course, see how those genes were actually buffeted by the selective forces in the populations in question, but there is good evidence that a process of descent has been in operation.

    But what should lead us to conclude that evolution in the general case cannot operate? For example, once you have an organism with fur, mammary glands, eyes, kidneys, 4-chambered hearts etc, what leads us to think that their divergence, correlated with fossil and phyologenetic ages, is anything other than the independent changes occurring in separated gene pools? Picking up a particular issue, and attempting to dispense with NS in its entirety off the back of it, is precisely the confirmation bias of which you accuse your detractors.

    It is not quite correct to say that ‘we’ assume that all transitions are selectively favoured. It is sufficient that NS does not act too strongly against, not that it must act for, a particular change. I think one issue here is that you see species or higher taxa as a kind of series of lakes, with pinch-points across which lineages are envisaged as scuttling frantically between the ‘major’ forms. Whereas my own conception is of of a long pipeline, of variable width and flow rate; at any point pipes are isolated from each other, discrete, but there is not that same discontinuity into history as well. The ‘transition’ is continuous and variable in rate, and some forms, some body plans, are more persistent and/or more capable of radiation than others.

  32. stcordova:
    “How about presenting a positive hypothesis for intelligent design creationism and some testable predictions that could serve to falsify it instead of dredging up the tired old creationist anti-science canards?”

    I’ve said there are good reasons for rejecting ID, if you reject it fine, but Darwinism isn’t a good reason to reject ID because natural selection does not have the same goals as a designing intelligence.

    First, evolutionary mechanisms don’t have goals.

    Second, I take this as a refusal to provide a positive hypothesis for intelligent design creationism and some testable predictions that could serve to falsify it. If you cannot do so, that strongly suggests that your reasons for promoting IDC are not based in science but in religion. How about at least being honest about that?

    Darwinists argue that nature created the bird, yet today we see nature destroying them (and man is part of nature).It would seem, even if one is not an ID proponent or creationist, that the mechanism that created the birds is no longer in operation today, and that mechanism was not natural selection.

    No, what it would seem is that you have no understanding of the theory of evolution and more interest in proselytizing than in educating yourself.

    Darwin said natural selection will preserve and add up the good.That is empirically false. Mass and selective extinction, plus “selection” of dysfunction are powerful counter examples.

    Not one of the commenters here have demonstrated natural selection will select in favor of dysfunctional transitionals.All of you apparently assume all intermediates between major forms are selectively favored.

    Not even remotely true. You need to learn about neutral drift.

    So in going from a 3-chambered heart to a 4-chambered heart with a completely different set of connections, how again are the transitionals steps are all selectively favored without killing the organism?

    More twaddle already addressed in the Index of Creationist Claims. If your goal is to get on the gravy train of the creationists speaker circuit, the least you could do is come up with new nonsense.

    “How about presenting a positive hypothesis for intelligent design creationism and some testable predictions that could serve to falsify it instead of dredging up the tired old creationist anti-science canards?”

    How about giving a believable Darwinist story for such reasonable questions, and these debates will be over.The problem isn’t just lack of evidence for Darwinism, but claims that aren’t functionally (in an engineering sense) believable.

    You clearly lack the educational background to make a credible estimate of those probabilities. Your incredulity is based on your utterly irrational creationist beliefs.

    I note that this is the second time in the same comment that you have refused to provide a positive hypothesis for intelligent design creationism and some testable predictions that could serve to falsify it. Will you deny me three times?

  33. “I note that this is the second time in the same comment that you have refused to provide a positive hypothesis for intelligent design creationism and some testable predictions that could serve to falsify it. Will you deny me three times?”

    You can assume for the sake of argument in this discussion ID is false, and I said it is legitimate to reject ID because of direct testability. See:
    http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/good-and-bad-reasons-for-rejecting-id/

    At issue is whether the Blindwatchmaker claim is correct.

    Your tu quoque does not refute the difficulties laid out.

    “Not even remotely true. You need to learn about neutral drift.”

    Neutral drift isn’t a mechanism of selection is it? If you advocate neutral drift as a mechanism, then you’ve proven my point, selection inhibits innovation, it doesn’t foster it. Score another point for my OP.

    The companion essay to this was Selection is falsely called a mechanism when it should be labeled an outcome.

    The fact that selection in the wild occasionally selects for existing complexity does not imply selection was the mechanism that caused the formation of the complexity. That is a non-sequitur.

    “More twaddle already addressed in the Index of Creationist Claims. If your goal is to get on the gravy train of the creationists speaker circuit, the least you could do is come up with new nonsense.”

    Assume for the sake of argument it is nonsense, so how again do we go from a 3 chambered to 4 chambered heart? Do you have a 3.5 chambered heart along the way. What about the change in plumbing. How is it sensible even in principle?

    Simple question: did 3.5 chambered hearts exists or did 3-chambered hearts make a per saltum leap from 3 to 4? If you don’t know, say so.

    Then if you don’t know, then how can you assert selection was the cause. You yourself just started to appeal to neutral evolution. That’s evidence even you find it difficult to accept the selectionist story! Score another for the OP!

  34. At issue is whether the Blindwatchmaker claim is correct.

    Speaking only for myself, I do not make any “Blindwatchmaker claim”. I’m not a Dawkins fan, and I admit that I have not read that particular Dawkins book. However, I do not agree with him, that biological organisms look designed. To me, they do not look designed.

  35. Petrushka wrote:
    “Natural Selection doesn’t have goals. Doesn’t have foresight. Doesn’t “engineer.” So what is your point?”

    If natural selection doesn’t engineer, it isn’t a watchmaker then, is it?

  36. Allan
    “It is not quite correct to say that ‘we’ assume that all transitions are selectively favoured. It is sufficient that NS does not act too strongly against, not that it must act for, a particular change. ”

    So evolution happens in spite of selection, not because of it. Score another for the OP!

  37. So evolution happens in spite of selection, not because of it.

    No, sometimes evolution happens independently of natural selection. Quite often, in fact. Do you have any familiarity with anything that has happened in the field of evolutionary biology in the last 50 years?

  38. stcordova:
    At issue is whether the Blindwatchmaker claim is correct.

    It’s not a claim, it’s a metaphor. Have you even read the book?

    “Not even remotely true. You need to learn about neutral drift.”

    Neutral drift isn’t a mechanism of selection is it?If you advocate neutral drift as a mechanism, then you’ve proven my point, selection inhibits innovation, it doesn’t foster it.Score another point for my OP.

    I know you’re just trying to score rhetorical points and have no real interest in understanding the science, but one should try to maintain appearances. You’re not going to step into Gish’s shoes (and speaker fees) without at least pretending to care about the evidence. (Don’t worry, pretending is more than enough for the rubes you’re aiming to fleece.)

    “More twaddle already addressed in the Index of Creationist Claims. If your goal is to get on the gravy train of the creationists speaker circuit, the least you could do is come up with new nonsense.”

    Assume for the sake of argument it is nonsense, so how again do we go from a 3 chambered to 4 chambered heart?Do you have a 3.5 chambered heart along the way.What about the change in plumbing.How is it sensible even in principle?

    Let me Google that for you.

    Simple question:did 3.5 chambered hearts exists or did 3-chambered hearts make a per saltum leap from 3 to 4?If you don’t know, say so.

    I didn’t know, but a few minutes research on publicly available pages provides some plausible scenarios and far more peer reviewed papers than you’ll actually read.

    Do you honestly think that you have come up with questions that have not been considered previously by many people vastly more educated in the relevant fields than you? That’s a lot of arrogance for someone who supposedly follows a creed that values humility.

  39. You’re making that some/most/all error again – some changes merely evade negative selection, therefore that’s all selection does?

    There are two sides to selection: positive and negative. Positive acts to increase frequency, negative acts to decrease, but neither is essential in order to change frequency. It is *sufficient* (and necessary) that a change should get past the sentinel of negative selection. It is not *essential* that all change be accompanied by a positive selective component.

  40. stcordova:
    Allan
    “It is not quite correct to say that ‘we’ assume that all transitions are selectively favoured. It is sufficient that NS does not act too strongly against, not that it must act for, a particular change. ”

    So evolution happens in spite of selection, not because of it.Score another for the OP!

    There really is no reason for that level of volitiona obtuseness. Yes, evolution happens both due to and in spite of selection, depending on the circumstances. Heck, it isn’t even fully dichotomous. Selection can happen FOR some things and AGAINST others. And sometimes drift can outweigh selection in small populations.

    There can even be multiple levels of selection operating on many different features of an organism simultaneously, and sometimes the negative selection on one feature can be outweighed by the positive selection on another.

    I really don’t understand this desire to commit to absolutist, all-or-nothing, black-and-white thinking. Reality just isn’t that simple. Many factors are operating simultaneously, some have greater effects than others, and they change over time as environments change and species adapt.

    Stephen Jay Gould gave an easy to grasp exampe with desert mice. They live in bright desert sand, almost all the mice are bright. They’re well camouflaged, they blend in well with the sand. Now, occasionally a dark allele will arise in the desert mouse population. But carriers of this allele will stand out agains the backdrop of the desert sand and therefore be easy targets for predators. We say there is selection in operation FOR bright mice and AGAINST dark mice. Carriers of the dark allele consistently have less offspring, averaged over generations, than carriers of the bright allele. They never come to dominate the population, selection works against them. The population stays bright on average.

    However, on the edge of the desert, there is an area with cliffs and rocks. These cliffs are dark, they have many caves and cracks in them which are filled with shadows. A subpopulation of mice have wandered off into the cliffs. They’re almost all bright desert mice, but a few of them are dark. Here, the bright mice stand out against the backdrop of the dark cliffs and so make easy targets for predators. The dark mice do very well here, they have more offspring, averaged over many generations, than their bright compatriots. Eventually, this new subpopulation becomes almost fully dark. The situation is now reversed, there is selection here FOR the dark allele and AGAINST the bright allele.

    Ok, that’s all fine and well, everybody can follow the reasoning there. But then we throw the species of predators prey in the mix too and find there are more selection pressures operating. In the desert, the mice need to dig a lot to find beetles of some sort hiding in the sand. Their forelimbs and paws are well adapted to digging in desert sand. Maybe they’re short and their paws are wide with short fingers, kind of like a wide shovel.

    But in the cliff area, the mice need to climb a lot, and they can’t dig into the rock. Their limbs aren’t well adapted for this, at least initially. But, occasionally an allele for longer fingers arises in this population (like it would have in the desert population, but selection would have operated against it there). But now in the cliff population the “long fingers” allele managed to arise in a carrier with a bright allele. So, this specific individual is bright, but lives on dark rocks, but is a significantly better climber, so it can move faster and even go places where it’s desert siblings can not. Two kinds of selection is now operating on this mouse, what will happen?

    Well shit, turns out it depends. It just might be the case that, despite it being bright, it still does better than it’s darker rivals. Eventually, the cliff population comes to consist of bright individuals with long fingers. At least for a time. Selection as “fixed” a non-optimal allele. The selection pressure for color was weaker than the selection pressure for hand morphology.

    It could also be that there is no specific selection pressure for hand morphology, that all sorts of shapes and sizes for their hands are all pretty much neutral. Here the game is ruled by drift then, whatever happens to get fixed in the population is up for grabs, can’t be predicted.

    And so on and so forth. On it goes, a whole host of factors influence the route evolution takes. And yes, sometimes that means you get sub-optimal solution because drift and/or multi-level selection has fixed (nearly) neutral alleles in the population, together with others. This phenomenon can repeat many times and eventually you end up with speciation if there’s no interbreeding between the desert and cliff populations.

    Instead of this ridiculous desire to dismiss the entirety of evolution as “only selection, only for one thing, only in one direction, with 100% efficiency”, try to deal with the actual real world instead, with it’s many shades and nuances. Reality over dogma and volitional ignorance – it works.

  41. Sal is pretty much like most, if not all, of the ID/creationist community in that he cannot think in terms of physical and chemical processes. He has no quantitative ranges of comparison because, like all ID/creationists, he doesn’t understand science at even the high school level. He still can’t do high school level physics and chemistry calculations.

    Instead, he has to have authoritative facts that can be pitted against other “authoritative facts” in order to decide which “facts” are “true.”

    Evolution and the origins of life are impossible in ID/creationism Land because ID/creationist atoms and molecules are no different from junkyard parts, coins, and strings of letters. And every ID/creationist “knows for a fact” that junkyard parts don’t spontaneously form 747s, strings of letters don’t arrange themselves into a work of Shakespeare, and coins don’t come up 500 heads in a row. THEREFORE atoms and molecules can’t form complex assemblies; and THEREFORE no origins of life and no evolution.

    Life as we know it exists in an energy window in which water is a liquid; kT lies roughly in the range of 0.02 to 0.03 eV. That FACT doesn’t have any meaning to ID/creationists because none of them understand how atoms and molecules bond; atoms and molecules simply behave like coin flips, junkyard parts, and Scrabble letters.

  42. stcordova: Not one of the commenters here have demonstrated natural selection will select in favor of dysfunctional transitionals. All of you apparently assume all intermediates between major forms are selectively favored.

    Just dipping in here, and Allan has already commented.

    No, we do not assume this. We do not assume it at all. Darwin may have done, but Darwin hadn’t thought about drift, not surprisingly, as much of the relevant work on statistics has been done since his time.

    We know that neutral mutations can and do propagate through a population, and that even deleterious mutations can do the same. And for every additional organism with a neutral or deleterious mutation there is an additional opportunity for a subsequent mutation to come along and render it positive. And we know this happens (from Lenski’s e-coli work, for instance, and from models).

    You are many decades out of date on this, Sal 🙂

  43. Do you honestly think that you have come up with questions that have not been considered previously by many people vastly more educated in the relevant fields than you?

    Good question. Rhetorical, but good.

  44. Malaria resistance is a fine example of a mutation that is simultaneously deleterious and beneficial.

  45. I find this to be a universally good question. In my 68 years I have “invented” many interesting and useful gadgets and products. Most were either already on the market or were available within a few months of my idea (meaning they were in development years before).

    My best idea ever was Google Books. I was a few years ahead of the product announcement, but I’m sure that Google worked on it for a decade before it went public.

    so I assume that anything I think of is not really new.

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