Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Motivated reasoning isn't science, so long as we don't like your motives?

I'm Skeptical wrote:

"So is the denial of design (or perhaps the failure to mention design) a necessary condition for doing science?"

No. What's necessary for doing science is to follow scientific method. Victor, you don't seem to understand why ID is shunned by the scientific community. It isn't because it is based on religious beliefs. It is because of the fact that it isn't science. 

In science, you have to be driven by the evidence. The folks from DI are driven by their beliefs. They search for evidence to support what they already believe. That's not scientific method, because it leads them to ignore evidence that doesn't fit their objective. If you ignore evidence, you can't hope to move scientific understanding forward.


OK, let me see. I think most of us would say that Richard Lewontin is a scientist, right? Here's what he wrote. Now you may agree with it or not, that's not the point. The point is, that if you are driven by your beliefs, you'll ignore evidence that doesn't fit your objective, right? You've seen the quote, surely. 

Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism.
It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.
The eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say that anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything. To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that Miracles may happen.

Now,  based on this, how can anyone use the reasons you provided for denying that ID is science, and also say that Lewontin is also doing science. Or is it that you can't reason from pre-established beliefs so long as they are materialist pre-established beliefs? 

48 comments:

im-skeptical said...

If I understand this quotation correctly, it sounds as though he treats materialism as a kind of religion. He makes it sound as though science is a matter of faith, and its postulates are just as irrational as the supernatural claims of religion. This plays right into the hands of religious believers who can say "I told you so".

How did Darwin come to he theory of evolution by natural selection? It must have quite a departure from 'common sense' in those days. But it wasn't because he was defending his faith. It was because of evidence. The evidence led him to the theory. And that's what science is about.

Steve Lovell said...

Skep,

I need to get back to work, so I'll be brief for now ...

In your view how do scientists decide what experiments to do?

im-skeptical said...

Scientists formulate a hypothesis that attempts to explain observed facts. They make predictions of phenomena or behavior based on those hypotheses. They conduct experiments to test whether those predictions bear out.

Of course many scientists believe in their hypothesis and want to see it win out over others. But in the long run, evidence wins. The DI people fail on the very first score: their hypothesis doesn't match the available evidence, which strongly points away from design. They fail on the second score: they don't make testable predictions of what should be observed from their hypothesis. The world is waiting for them to put their CSI hypothesis under scrutiny. What does it predict that would be different from Darwinian evolution? And then how do you go about testing that to see whether it bears out? At best, we have a few weak inferences: This flagellum can't *possibly* have evolved, so it must have been designed.

Steve Lovell said...

So you agree that the hypothesis is formulated first. So the evidence doesn't lead to the theory. It's the other way around, which at least seems to contradict what you said initially.

Ilíon said...

*gasp*

VR, you certainly seem to be saying -- admittedly, with far more verbiage than I typically use -- that 'im-skeptical' is intellectually dishonest, that he's a hypocrite with respect to reason, that he is, in a word, a fool.

im-skeptical said...

Steve,

"So you agree that the hypothesis is formulated first."

No. I don't. The hypothesis explains what has been observed. Please read what I said. For the DI people, the hypothesis comes first, and then they try to find evidence to support it. And their hypothesis is not consistent with much of what is already known. But for science, it's observed facts that lead to a hypothesis.

David Brightly said...

Or is it that you can't [can?] reason from pre-established beliefs so long as they are materialist pre-established beliefs?

Lewontin isn't reasoning from pre-established beliefs. See my comments under Arguments that don't mix....

Steve Lovell said...

Skep,

"Read what I said".

I did. Here it is again:

"Scientists formulate a hypothesis that attempts to explain observed facts. They make predictions of phenomena or behaviour based on those hypotheses. They conduct experiments to test whether those predictions bear out." [Emphasis added]

Once formulated, the hypothesis or theory directs the scientist as to where to look for evidence. That's how they decide what experiments to carry out. How they came up with the theory in the first place is irrelevant. But even if you suppose otherwise, I think the ID-ist can legitimately say that that is what he's doing too.

Moreover, if you think that how they came up with the theory in the first place is relevant, then you're guilty of the genetic fallacy or, to use Lewis's phrase, "bulverism".

To paraphrase Chesterton:

"It looked not so much as if [ID] was bad enough to include [m]any vices, but rather as if any stick was good enough to beat [ID] with. What again could this astonishing thing be like which people were so anxious to contradict, that in doing so they did not mind contradicting themselves?"

I don't have much problem with people attacking ID as bad science. I'll leave that to the scientists to discuss. I'm interested in the subject but I'm not really qualified to contribute much to that discussion.

But attacking it as both scientifically discredited and as not being science is mere incoherent babble.

Suppose that someone is interested in the subject of ID and wants to test this in some experiments. They devise and carry out some experiments. And the results are not as predicted by the theory that the object being studied is X.

Where X is replaced by either

(a) intelligently designed, or
(b) not intelligently designed


Could it really be that one outcome of the experiment would count as science while the opposite outcome wouldn't?

I'm not saying that when such experiments are performed, they all come out in favour of ID. Not even that any do. What I am saying is that you can't have your cake and eat it too. If they would both be science, then let's let the scientists on both sides do battle and see who wins. If neither would be science, then let's not pretend that science has decided whether or not ID is viable.

And as per my comments elsewhere, the same logic applies if we replace "science" with the name of any other empirical discipline.

im-skeptical said...

Steve,

With all due respect, I'll try to explain one more tome. Hypotheses are an attempt to explain what is observed. The observations precede the hypotheses, the the hypothesis should take into account what we already know. If the hypothesis doesn't explain things we already know, then it is worthless. That's the first problem with ID.

The hypothesis is used to make predictions, which are then tested with experiments and further observation. In this phase of the process, you are not simply looking for more evidence to back up your hypothesis, you are trying to test it by showing whether the predictions are correct. This is another problem with ID's claim to being science. Where are their predictions? How are they going to show that CSI is anything more than scientific-sounding words?

"Suppose that someone is interested in the subject of ID and wants to test this in some experiments."

This is nonsense. What is the hypothesis? What are the predictions that result from the hypothesis? How do you test them? If you can't give a straight answer to those questions, then what you're doing is not science.

William said...

Although in general, for a specific experiment, it is hypothesis then data, for hypothesis formation it is often current theory AND sometimes meta-theory, plus current data --> new hypothesis --> data to confirm or dis-confirm.

The interesting part for ID is that ID is a meta-theory, that is it is not a scientific theory so much as a non-scientific theory about what might be behind such hypotheses.

im-skeptical said...

"The interesting part for ID is that ID is a meta-theory"

Bullshit. ID is not a theory about theory. It is pseudoscience in that it claims to be science but it isn't.

Metatheory - "(Philosophy) philosophical discussion of the foundations, structure, or results of some theory, such as metamathematics"

William said...

Skep, I think you don't know what I mean by meta-theory.

Here is an assertion that can be seen as one of intelligent design:


Certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.



Why is this a meta-theory? Because it can be applied to lots of different fields. Trivially, for example, to radio signals in the earth's vicinity.

I hypothesize: Certain radio signals in the earth's vicinity, I hypothesize, "are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection."

Of course. But here we applied the meta-theory to radio, not to, for example, speciation in biology.

William said...

Here's a more formal meta-theory of ID:

When we create theories or hypotheses, some hypotheses will be more likely to be true if they assume that many phenomena have been influenced in their history by intelligent beings.

This meta-theory is in a sense behind, for example, global warming theories (since people are more or less intelligent).

William said...

Continuing: So the issue is not whether intelligent design is a factor in our theories. It is, in theories about climate change, clearly.

The problem is in the claim that God is a historically specifically relevant agent in certain details of pre-human biology. So stated, that is indeed a hypothesis, not a metatheory.

As a hypothesis, it is not pseudoscience, though many of its supporters are pseudo-scientific in their approach, which is mostly a looking for flaws in biology, as if that would justify what is not justified by flaws in the data alone.

Steve Lovell said...

Well of course what I'm doing isn't science. But then nor is what you're doing. We're posting on a blog.

Presumably that isn't what you meant.

I deliberately put the hypothesis and experiments in completely generic terms, since any specific content wouldn't matter.

Take any hypothesis you like. If the process for confirming it is science, but it turns out that we disconfirm it instead by the same experiment we hoped would confirm it, then we've still done science. And it doesn't matter what the hypothesis is, or what the experiment is.

As for ID's predictions, I'm not in a position to comment. Does "anti-ID" make predictions? If so, then ID-ists can use those. Or, if anti-ID doesn't make predictions, then does that mean it isn't science?

Feels like I'm banging my head against a wall. But from your tone it seems like you feel the same.

im-skeptical said...

"Does "anti-ID" make predictions?"

No, because it is not a hypothesis. It's not an explanation of anything. Evolution by natural selection was a hypothesis. It explained what was observed. There is no better explanation for what we observe. It has withstood all tests. That's why it is now a theory.

Papalinton said...

There are two explanatory models about the cosmos, the world, about us - the Christian theological model based solely on and guided by the interpretation of a single text, and the other, a model founded on first principles, the investigation of the natural world.

It simply cannot be clearer, more blindingly obvious the Christian theological model is but one of countless competing and fundamentally incompatible or disparate theological models that have been peddled and pedaled since the dawn of recorded history. It is simply one of innumerable reconstituted varieties that have been conjured from the grab-bag of supernaturalism. And despite this utterly inescapable fact Christian supernaturalists obdurately persist and despairingly cling to their particular brand of tribally enculturated superstition.
As Professor David Eller astutely and eloquently observes, "If there is an Intelligent Designer, scientists only have to revise their science books. If there is no Intelligent Designer, Christians have to throw out their Christian book. Science could live with a Designer. Christianity would die without one. That is why Christians fight so hard for what it claims is a scientific idea."

But IDiots trying so hard to inveigle their religious premise into the scientific paradigm is a measure of the highly problematic nature of religion as an explanatory tool. A reading through the comments on this thread, and of the OP particularly, is indeed a lesson in itself on the misfit between science and religion. On the one hand IDists purport to use the methodology of science to claim, say, 'irreducible complexity' as a scientific proposition while concurrently reflecting a deeply inculcated suspicion and mistrust of science, most particularly the fact of biological evolution. This distrust is most assuredly the result of science's unbounded capacity to inflict actual and potential damage to religious claims as it is unerringly apt to continually mete out where it bumps into and uncompromisingly rasps against the fabric of religious belief. Victor, It is not a case of refusing to allow a Divine Foot in the door. It is a case of which of the countless collection of Divine Feet extant does one choose to represent the case for supernaturalism in its bid to ajar the door into science?
CONT.

Papalinton said...

Cont:

As history shows, not only do Christians fight so hard to peg science to the level of just another so-so explanatory tool [and then only equivalent to, if not subsumed within, theology] rather than acknowledging its enormous and unparalleled power as an explanatory tool, they wage a perpetual crusade, an existential battle against their fellow supernaturalists to subjugate every counter or contradictory claim from the multitude of competing religious traditions that do not subscribe to the persnickety Christian flavour. Reasons? Because other religions represent alternatives to one's own religion; because the diversity of religions forces us [at least those of us with a discerning intellect] to see that religion is a wholly culturally-derived and culturally relative phenomenon; and finally, because awareness of other religions reduces the truth-probability of one's own. As an example, if one assumes there are say, 1,000 religions in the world, each with an equal chance of being true, and all at least to some degree mutually exclusive, then each religion has a 1/1,000 chance of being true, and a 999/1,000 chance of being false. As Eller notes, whatever you believed before the comparison, there is only a 0.1% chance of being correct and a 99,9% chance of being incorrect. And it is not by any means resolved which religion is the correct one. Wars and skirmishes, both literal and figurative, are fought on this very day over the conflictive and disparate nature of these very claims. If that is not upsetting to religious credulity, I don't know what is.

Victor, your use of Lewontin as some sort of foil in science thought demonstrates a particular and rather perverse penchant for selecting outliers in the science world as if they represent a legitimate dialogue in science. You will be found out every time. Read the Lewontin's Fallacy to appreciate how this low brow intellectual attempt simply does you no good.

Steve Lovell said...

Skep,

I'm inclined to agree with your last response, but then I your interaction with William starts to look relevant again.

The fact that an unvarnished ID might not make specific predictions doesn't mean that those working within an ID paradigm aren't doing science.

Why would it hurt so much to accept this? I'm not even arguing that ID inspired science is any good. I'm just saying that it could in principle count as science. In fact, I'm not evening saying that, but merely that if ID could be disconfirmed scientifically then it could - in principle - be confirmed scientifically.

David Brightly said...

Im reacted badly to William's comment at 11:05 that ID is a metatheory [for neo-Darwinism], and I confess I haven't understood William's subsequent comments, but I think we can justify this claim to an extent. Judging by some of the things he says
here, Behe is trying to sketch out the boundaries of what mutation and natural selection can achieve (with reasonable probability and in reasonable time, pace Crude). Specifically, the claim is that neo-Darwinism is limited in the complexity of the structures it can produce, yet such structures (flagellum, clotting cascade, etc) exist. This strikes me as a perfectly sensible thing to try to do, and Behe's religious motivations are irrelevant. Ideally Behe would like a kind of Incompleteness theorem, analogous to Gödel's incompleteness theorems for arithmetic. If this were to be worked out in detail it would make sense to describe it as neo-Darwinian metatheory. But it looks an extremely difficult project. As far as I can see Behe appeals to our incredulity that such structures could ever have evolved. He seems to have struck a chord with Tom Nagel. On the other hand, neo-Darwinism rather appeals to our credulity that they could. Absent detailed historical accounts from the neo-Darwinists, and detailed mathematics from the IDists, we have a philosophical stalemate. We may have to live with this for some time.

im-skeptical said...

Steve,

"Why would it hurt so much to accept this? I'm not even arguing that ID inspired science is any good. I'm just saying that it could in principle count as science."

I agree. If they actually followed scientific method, then ID could, in principle be science. But they don't. That's the point. Show me where the principle of CSI has ever been used to formulate predictions, and then tested by some rigorous process designed to disprove it if the hypothesis doesn't hold up? Just show me how they are actually following scientific process (and that included scrutiny and review by the scientific community).

im-skeptical said...

David,

"On the other hand, neo-Darwinism rather appeals to our credulity that they could. Absent detailed historical accounts from the neo-Darwinists, and detailed mathematics from the IDists, we have a philosophical stalemate."

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1046/j.1538-7836.2003.00062.x/full

http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=SVb7Q1gd3ZgC&oi=fnd&pg=PA72&dq=flagellum+evolution&ots=U1P65b2Yy4&sig=re5d2cp--Bx7PhUPCh5WQJyuLuo#v=onepage&q=flagellum%20evolution&f=false

I don't think there's any stalemate at all. Behe can have his incredulity if he chooses to ignore research that has been done in the field. But scientists have no need to be credulous. Even if they haven't observed the actual evolutionary progression of the systems in question, there's ample reason to conclude that they are just as much the result of evolutionary processes as any other biological structures.

David Brightly said...

Thanks, Im, that's really impressive. It's amazing how much is known about such tiny things. A couple of quotes:

The answer, which Dembski has missed, is that the flagellum arises in stages. Rather than (as he implies) a number of subsystems (his 'molecular machines') coming together all at once to make a flagellum, a few subsystems came together to make slightly more complex but functional intermediate systems, to which other subsystems were added to make an even more complex but functional intermediate, until finally a primitive motility system that could evolve into the modern flagellum was produced. As we have seen for the archaebacterial flagellum, a swimming flagellum is not suddenly assembled in one go from a secretory system and other bits lying around. The archaebacterial flagellum passed from being a secretory structure, to a gliding motility system, to a rotatory swimming system. At each point, there was time for substructures to adapt to each other before the next stage.

Given that it has taken nearly 200 years to even begin to understand motility in bacteria, it is amusing that Dembski can declare evolutionary description of the eubacterial flagellum to be a failed project because it has not provided an account that he regards as sufficiently detailed in a mere six years, especially when he is unaware of key knowledge.

With microbiology filling in the gaps at this rate how long will we have to wait for ID to become degenerative, I wonder?

Crude said...

David,

With microbiology filling in the gaps at this rate how long will we have to wait for ID to become degenerative, I wonder?

A few things to keep in mind.

First, the bacterial flagellum having ancestors/precursors is, on one point, largely irrelevant. That's not an issue you yourself made much about, but there's a common idea that ID is against evolution, full stop, such that if you can at least show that (say) the bacterial flagellum likely had ancestors, well, problem solved - descent with variation can be inferred to have been involved, that is evolution, ID is done with. But Behe doesn't have descent with variation in his sights - just descent with variation by exclusively Darwinian mechanisms. He will grant that descent with variation can produce even IC structures - if there is a guiding mind involved, proximate or remote.

Second, there's a problem with the section that you quote in particular. Musgrave sketches out a hypothetical scenario where various parts of the bacterial flagellum come together that have nothing to do with motility at that moment, but instead are serving other functions. (Put aside, for the moment, whether those other functions are themselves possibly IC - not a concern here.) Here's a quote right from the book linked:

When viewed as a swimming structure, the flagellum is IC. Remove the motor, and it stops functioning; remove the hook (universal joint), and it stops functioning; remove the filament and it stops functioning (although in some bacteria removal of the filament results in weak motility). Viewing the flagellum as an outboard motor - and an IC motor at that - provides no insight into the origin or functioning of this structure.

I think the last is a bit odd (You really get no insight into the BF by viewing it as a motor?), but the key is that Musgrave goes on to say that if you view the BF as a secretory structure, it's no longer IC. The problem is - we're interested in that motor. Grant, for the sake of argument, that 'all the parts for the motor' are there by happenstance - they're being used for some other purpose at the moment.

Okay - now, how do you get those parts together, assembled and functioning? Remember: Musgrave himself says insofar as it's considered as a swimming structure, the flagellum is IC.

Crude said...

By the way.

It's always worth repeating - I don't think ID is science. And I think there is something deeply problematic about the point of view from which Behe and Dembski both work from (and, coincidentally, the point of view their opponents work from too) that kicks the table over on the questions they ask and how they're considering it.

im-skeptical said...

crude,

The view of irreducible complexity you are pushing is so watered down from its original conception that it is utterly indistinguishable from Darwinian evolution. The only difference that remains is the assertion that God did it rather than natural selection. Evolutionists don't maintain that structures must have a function that exists throughout the development. In fact, natural selection often takes advantage of existing structures for a different functional role. If this is what you see as IC, then the term has lost any meaning it might once have had, and it has become devoid of any possible merit for consideration by the scientific community.

Crude said...

Skep,

The view of irreducible complexity you are pushing is so watered down from its original conception that it is utterly indistinguishable from Darwinian evolution. The only difference that remains is the assertion that God did it rather than natural selection.

"Watered down from its original conception"?

I should add that, even if one does think the designer is God, subscribing to a theory of intelligent design does not necessarily commit one to “miracles.” At least no more than thinking that the laws of nature were designed by God--a view, as we’ve seen, condoned by the National Academy of Sciences (National Academy of Sciences 1999). In either case one could hold that the information for the subsequent unfolding of life was present at the very start of the universe, with no subsequent “intervention” required from outside of nature. In one case, the information is present just in general laws. In the other case, in addition to general laws, information is present in other factors too. The difference might boil down simply to the question of whether there was more or less explicit design information present at the beginning--hardly a point of principle.

This comes from Beheway back in 2000.

I said that irreducible complexity is not disproved by the mere existence of ancestral precursors, nor the fact of descent with modification - because 'descent with modification' is broad enough that it also includes artificial selection.

You played this game last time, and it didn't work out well. Once again: put up or shut up. Produce a quote by Behe saying that IC structures could not have ancestral precursors, or could not be produced even by artificial selection, or don't expect further responses from me. Even in the petty world of comments-section arguments, I have bigger fish to fry.

Crude said...

Oh, one last thing.

If this is what you see as IC, then the term has lost any meaning it might once have had, and it has become devoid of any possible merit for consideration by the scientific community.

A) I don't care what the 'scientific community' has to say when it comes to an issue like this. I, and others, can, will and should make up their minds based on investigating the question for ourselves and making sense of the arguments and data. If I disagree with the scientific community, so be it.

B) I already said I don't think ID is science, so once again, references to it not being science is moot as far as I'm concerned. But more than that...

C) You don't speak for the "scientific community", and you never will. You're not their diplomat or representative - you're some wag in a comment box. That community regularly considers all kinds of inane propositions, and as of late has some actual scientists who aren't even too hot on things like 'falsifiability', which was originally supposed to be one of the arrows in the anti-ID quiver.

You're not the Voice of Science. You're a wannabe who doesn't even understand most science, and is hostile to it when it doesn't give you what you want.

Now give me the quote, or yap at someone else if you want a response.

Ilíon said...

Oh, my! What a "toxic personality" in display in this thread.

Wait! My bad, it's just hypocrisy.

David Brightly said...

Hi Crude,
The paragraph you find a bit odd makes good sense in the context of the flanking paragraphs:

Dembski has said that the specification for the eubacterial flagellum is an outboard motor, but as we can see, the flagellum is, at the same time, a bilge pump and an anchor (to continue the nautical theme). If we view this organelle simply as an outboard motor, we have a distorted view of what it is and what it does.

When viewed as a swimming structure, the flagellum is IC. Remove the motor, and it stops functioning; remove the hook (universal joint), and it stops functioning; remove the filament and it stops functioning (although in some bacteria removal of the filament results in weak motility). Viewing the flagellum as an outboard motor - and an IC motor at that - provides no insight into the origin or functioning of this structure.

But view it as a secretory structure and it is not IC. Remove the filament, and it still works; remove the hook, and it still works; remove the motor, and it still works===not as well as with the motor, but it still works. But which, in Dembski's terms is the original function? Secretion plays a crucial role in this organelle, and you can't make flagella without secretion, so secretion must be the original function.


Musgrave quotes Dembski asking: But that then raises the question how these several molecular machines can come together so that proteins from one molecular machine adapt to proteins from another molecular machine to form an integrated functional system.

This is just your final query---how do you get those parts together?---I think. Musgrave's reply to Dembski is his very next paragraph, the one I quoted first of all.

That the flagellum has a precursor function as a secretory mechanism makes all the difference.

Crude said...

David,

This is just your final query---how do you get those parts together?---I think. Musgrave's reply to Dembski is his very next paragraph, the one I quoted first of all.

That the flagellum has a precursor function as a secretory mechanism makes all the difference.


The problem is that this isn't an answer to the question, at least as near as I can tell. Musgrave is explaining how he thinks some of the individual parts arose which turn out to be key components in the motor portion of a bacterial flagellum. Now, it may well be a situation where even the TTSS itself is IC - but I said for the sake of argument we're granting that this happened. Here are all these parts, even linked together and operating - but for a different function.

You can't select for motility until the entire apparatus is in fact mobile already, unless you're dealing with a mind - that's a given. The motility function of the flagellum is IC - Musgrave grants this. Now, what is the likelihood that, even if you start with those parts present, random variation is going to put them all in place in such a way to grant motility?

David Brightly said...

Can't motility gradually emerge? The hollow collar and motor are present as a secretory mechanism and hence there is a way of building structure outside the cell wall. A rotatable pilus is then possible which provides an anchoring function. If the pilus proteins mutate to assemble helically we have a screw. So we get to the flagellum by a series of small enhancing changes. No saltation required.

Crude said...

David,

Can't motility gradually emerge? The hollow collar and motor are present as a secretory mechanism and hence there is a way of building structure outside the cell wall. A rotatable pilus is then possible which provides an anchoring function. If the pilus proteins mutate to assemble helically we have a screw. So we get to the flagellum by a series of small enhancing changes. No saltation required.

What you're telling me is, 'If all these changes just so happened to take place, then wouldn't we have motility?' But the point here is that motility can't be selected for until the entire structure is, well... mobile. So you're talking about 'a series of small enhancing changes' that selection can't target - at least, not for motility.

It's not advancing your case if you mentally divvy up the changes necessary to go from one state to the other into a series of small, gradual steps, if those small, gradual steps must entirely or almost entirely proceed by chance. (Before someone cries 'But natural selection doesn't proceed entirely by chance!', I understand that. But selection can't select a series of gradual steps towards a final goal unless those steps themselves have some net survival value to them.)

Crude said...

Let me put it to you another way.

Imagine you had a biological organism go from point A to point B in 50 small, gradual steps. But A) these steps needed to take place in order and/or obtain all at once and B) all of them had either a neutral or negative effect on the organism. The fact that every change was small and gradual wouldn't mean a thing - you'd still have a problem on your hands, in terms of Darwinism.

David Brightly said...

Surely the claim has to be that each small change is indeed fitness enhancing? A short anchoring pilus is better than no pilus, and a longer one is better still. A short rotating helical pilus confers a little motility which is better than none, and a longer one confers greater motility. None of these changes reduces the fitness of the device as a secretory mechanism, or if it does, this is outweighed by the advantage in motility.

im-skeptical said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Crude said...

David,

Surely the claim has to be that each small change is indeed fitness enhancing? A short anchoring pilus is better than no pilus, and a longer one is better still. A short rotating helical pilus confers a little motility which is better than none, and a longer one confers greater motility.

For one thing, going from 'no pilus' to 'short, anchoring pilus' isn't exactly gradual.

But more than that - you're saying 'a little motility, which is better than none'. But you need more for motility than just a helical pilus - you need various other factors in place, in advance, and arranged for motility, period, and you need the helical pilus in the right place, in the right position, large or small.

I'm granting that Musgrave's example gets various parts for motility present, but not arranged for motility - and I'm putting aside the question that what it IS arranged for isn't itself an IC apparatus itself. But now you need those parts arranged properly. Just existing won't do the trick.

Again, hypothetically, take 50 steps to get from point A to point B, and point B is 'any motility at all', and the 49 steps prior give you no motility. Yes, 1 or 3 or 5 or 25 of those changes, in the right order, are getting you towards motility, and that's great - from the perspective of a designer. But nature has no such perspective, and it can't select for motility in advance of motility. If every one of those steps is neutral or negative, you have a problem on your hands.

None of these changes reduces the fitness of the device as a secretory mechanism, or if it does, this is outweighed by the advantage in motility.

As I said, 'advantage in motility' can only kick in if motility is granted by that singular, tiny change. If it's not - if it's merely a step towards motility - then it's moot. Natural selection won't be a factor in that case. Now, artificial selection can kick in, but as I said, then you're going afield of Darwinism anyway.

You can imagine anything given structure as being made in a successive move of tiny steps - imagine a car being built atom by atom if you want. But you need more than the gradual, small steps to get there by Darwinism alone.

Crude said...

If it's not - if it's merely a step towards motility - then it's moot. Natural selection won't be a factor in that case

I want to point out - obviously the step can be beneficial on ANOTHER measure. But you've got your work cut out for you if you want to say (again, speaking wholly hypothetically here) that every step, or even most of the steps of the 50 are beneficial for reasons completely unrelated to the motility. Claim that, and I'm going to ask to see it - not hypothetically, but in a real world example.

Of course, I think that opens an even bigger problem up, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

David Brightly said...

As I said, 'advantage in motility' can only kick in if motility is granted by that singular, tiny change. If it's not - if it's merely a step towards motility - then it's moot.

Can't a small change that enhances secretion also just happen to be a step on the way to motility? It doesn't have to be either/or. It could be both.

Crude said...

David,

Can't a small change that enhances secretion also just happen to be a step on the way to motility? It doesn't have to be either/or. It could be both.

I think if you're saying 'can a singular step be in common between both' you're on reasonable ground, but once you're imagining that all or even most of the steps have that happy coincidence in common, now I'm going to ask to see that rather than it to be just a pure hypothetical. I don't think even Musgrave is going that far, and he's assuming a lot in the hypotheticals he's throwing out to begin with.

By the way, via the wiki page for evolutionary origin of the bacterial flagellum:

The hypothesis that the flagellum evolved from the type three secretory system has been challenged by recent phylogenetic research that strongly suggests the type three secretory system evolved from the flagellum through a series of gene deletions.

That doesn't close the book on anything, but that puts one hell of an interesting spin on things.

im-skeptical said...

crude,

Regardless of the exact order of development of the components of the flagellum, it's clear that there are evolutionary paths that could result in motility. We may never know exactly what path was taken. But you need to understand that evolution doesn't have a "final goal" such as motility. If that were the case, then these processes would certainly be quite improbable. But each evolutionary change merely confers *some* slight survival advantage, and events along the way could take it in a completely different direction. It just happens, due to the course of events, that we now see this flagellum as a kind of motor.

On a related note, here's a comment on Dembski's CSI as a scientific measure.

http://www.skepticink.com/backgroundprobability/2014/03/03/complex-specified-information/

Crude said...

Regardless of the exact order of development of the components of the flagellum, it's clear that there are evolutionary paths that could result in motility. We may never know exactly what path was taken.

Oh, that's fine. Just show me one of the hypothetical paths to motility. Step by step, complete with the corresponding positive selection aspect. We saw that the Musgrave example not only didn't do the trick but actually wasn't borne out by actual research - still, you're so confident, clearly you have one of those demonstrations onhand.

Of course, if you can't, you're going right back to being ignored. Still waiting for you to provide the Behe quote too, but then we both know that's not coming, don't we?

im-skeptical said...

Your silly demands aside, what has been demonstrated is that this example of so-called "irreducible complexity" is in fact reducible by purely natural evolutionary processes, just like every example that Behe has proposed.

Crude said...

Your silly demands aside, what has been demonstrated is that this example of so-called "irreducible complexity" is in fact reducible by purely natural evolutionary processes,

Oh sure. It's been demonstrated, with those research papers you just lost and can't provide. Just like you couldn't provide any evidence of a change re: IC on Behe's part.

Back to being ignored you go, oh science-hating rube.

im-skeptical said...

For what it's worth, I have no intention of engaging in a discussion with the likes of crude, or acceding to his stupid demands. However, I realize that there may be readers who would would be interested in the truth about Behe's evolving ideas of intelligent design. It's too involved for a combox, but I'll provide a brief outline.

In the early days of neo-creationism, the prevailing theory was "abrupt appearance" of species and/or biological functional structures. This was the theory expounded in "Of Pandas and People", to which Behe was both a critical reviewer and contributing author in 1993. This is is where he laid out the principles of irreducible complexity with his blood clotting example - in the context of the "abrupt appearance" theory, which was a denial of evolution.

In "Darwin's Black Box", the concept of irreducible complexity had been considerably refined. The clotting system as a whole was reduced to four core factors (apparently he realized how untenable the original version was), and the concept of irreducible complexity had morphed into something that was now compatible with common descent. The implication of this is that evolution was no longer denied, but irreducibly complex things had to come about through the guidance of a designer.

I know this story has been thoroughly spun by DI, and Behe has contradicted himself on the matter, but those are the basic facts.

And regarding actual demonstration in the lab - real scientists (Richard Lenski et al) have in fact demonstrated the actual evolution of a functional capability (metabolizing citrate) in e coli bacteria that meets the definition of irreducible complexity, as specified by Behe and Dembski). This is also disputed by DI - naturally. As science progresses, the pseudo-scientific theories of the DI folks must co-evolve.

David Brightly said...

Hi Crude, Yes it seems to take us back to the status quo ante.

Crude said...

Skep,

For what it's worth, I have no intention of engaging in a discussion with the likes of crude, or acceding to his stupid demands.

Ladies and gentlemen, note two things.

When Skep made claims, my 'demand' was that he back them up with evidence.

Skep balked, multiple times.

You know why he's not providing the evidence I've asked for? Not because gosh, it's a combox, how can he do that? (Hint: It's called 'linking' and 'quoting'.)

It's because he doesn't have it. He never did. And he never will.

He's a liar, but you don't need me to tell you that - he's also not exactly swift, so it's pretty easy to catch him in his lies.

Cultists of Gnu are not pro-science. They are pro-scientific-authority, and then, only when it says what they like. In that way, they are little different from young earth creationists - except at least the YECs tend to sincerely believe what they're arguing.

Papalinton said...

Crude, you wouldn't know evidence if it came up and bit you on the arse.

You fool nobody.