Ken Miller's Guest Post, Part Two

By Carl Zimmer | January 3, 2009 7:32 am

miller-220.jpgAs promised, here’s Ken Miller’s second post on intelligent design, following on yesterday’s introduction. [And here's the third and final post.]

In Part 1, I showed that Casey Luskin’s charges with respect to my testimony in Kitzmiller v. Dover were completely false.  Michael Behe did indeed argue, throughout his 1996 book, Darwin’s Black Box [DBB], that the “entire blood-clotting system” was “irreducibly complex,” and I cited examples from that book to prove it.  Therefore, the existence of a living organism missing so much as a single part of that system was indeed a falsification of ID’s blood-clotting argument. Given that we now have examples of organisms (jawless fish) missing at least 5 components of that “irreducibly complex” system (see Doolittle et al, 2008), it’s perfectly obvious that Luskin’s attempts to rehabilitate that argument are hopeless.

Ever the optimist, Part 2 of Luskin’s end-of-year project is to salvage Of Pandas and People, the creationist-turned-ID textbook that was at the heart of the Dover trial.  Incredibly, in trying to accomplish this feat, he fails to understand the very argument he’s trying to prop up.  What Luskin does not seem comprehend is that irreducible complexity is not an argument for design — it is an argument against evolution.  Simply stated, when a system is labeled as “irreducibly complex,” the ID proponent is making a claim for the unevolvability of that system.  The reason that such systems are said to be unevolvable is because their individual parts are supposedly nonfunctional until they are all combined into a single, working system. As Behe has said and written, “any irreducibly complex system that is missing a part is by definition nonfunctional” [DBB, p. 39].  As Behe further points out, since those parts are nonfunctional on their own, they could not have been assembled by evolution, because “…natural selection can only choose systems that are already working…” [DBB, p. 39].

That would be a powerful argument against evolution — if it were true.  Unfortunately, it’s not, and the Dover trial demonstrated that for at least three of ID’s favorite systems, blood-clotting, the bacterial flagellum, and the immune system.  By pointing out, in court, that individual parts of each of these systems do indeed have perfectly functional roles, we showed that Behe’s claim of unevolvability was false. (For details on the flagellum see Pallen & Matzke, 2006; the immune system, Bottaro et al, 2006; Jiang & Doolittle, 2003 present an evolutionary pathway for the blood-clotting system).

Luskin, however, ignores Behe’s own logic and pretends that irreducible complexity is really an argument about whether parts of an established system are superfluous.  In other words, to Luskin, the only way to show that a system is irreducibly complex would be to take a couple of parts out and see if it keeps working.  That stunning error of logic is why he actually believes that pulling a wheel off my Trek road bike would demonstrate the irreducible complexity of the bicycle’s design.  It’s also why he argues that it doesn’t matter that whales are missing one part of the clotting system, bony fish are missing three, and lampreys are missing (although he doesn’t seem to know this) five.

As a result, the only evidence he says he’d accept for evolution would be a knockout experiment “that removed certain components from the blood-clotting cascade, and found that the blood still clotted properly.”  But all that would actually show, of course, is that the system had superfluous parts.  Luskin would then take a tiny step back and claim that what was left behind was still irreducibly complex.

Incidentally, Luskin suggests that the lack of Factor XII in dolphins is the result of a “functional constraint” associated with the design of vertebrates living in water.  That, he presumes, is why dolphins and jawed fish both lack Factor XII.  In his view, “Darwinists” (like me) may believe that “dolphins are supposedly descended from land-dwelling vertebrates,” but that issue “will require further research to sort out.”  Really, Casey?  As I pointed out in my testimony at the Dover trial, the key reason why evolution is science is that it is testable.  If dolphins and other cetaceans are indeed descended from land-dwelling mammals, their ancestors should have had the genes for Factor XII in their genomes.  During the transition to water, those genes should have been deleted or inactivated, perhaps as an adaptation to deep sea diving, and today their traces might still be present in the cetacean genome, if only we care to look.

Would you like to take a look and place a bet on the results of that “further research,” Casey?  As much as I’d like to win a few bucks from my friends at the Discovery Institute, it wouldn’t be sporting, since such research was actually done more than a decade ago [Semba et al, 1998].  Whales possess a Factor XII pseudogene, an inactivated version of the very same gene carried by land-dwelling mammals.  That pseudogene is a direct mark of their common ancestry with other mammals, and disproves any suggestion that constraints on cetacean “design” required the absence of Factor XII.  Rather, ordinary genetic processes knocked out the gene, and today the pseudogene remains merely as evidence of their evolutionary ancestry.

Like just about everything that comes out of the Discovery Institute, Luskin’s idea of evidence isn’t intended to advance scientific understanding — it’s only designed to score debating points.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t do that, either.  What Mr. Luskin clearly does not understand is that irreducible complexity is really an argument about how a system came to be, not whether it contains dispensable parts.  And the argument, so clearly stated by Michael Behe in both of the books in question (Pandas and DBB) is that the whole system has to be assembled at once, in “one fell swoop,” because partial assemblies, containing just a few parts, are “by definition nonfunctional.”  How do you test that assertion?  By looking around in nature and seeing if partial assemblies of the more complex system do exist and are indeed functional.

What happens when you do that?  You already know the answer.  From the bacterial Type III secretory system to the simplified clotting system of the lamprey, each of the favorite examples of the ID movement have collapsed under the weight of scientific evidence.  Once you discover that the parts of the system do indeed have functions of their own, even in different contexts, you’ve answered the challenge from ID. As Behe pointed out, “…natural selection can only choose systems that are already working..”  Yup.  And that’s why once you’ve demonstrated that the parts of the system do indeed work just fine in other contexts, you’re answered the ID challenge fully and completely. Case closed.  Three years ago, in fact.  Case closed, and ID lost.

Casey, if you really want to defend Michael Behe, a good place to start would be by reading him.

Coming next: From reliving the past to the future of creationism.

References:

Pallen MJ, Matzke NJ. (2006). “From The Origin of Species to the origin of bacterial flagella.” Nature Reviews Microbiology, 4: 784-790.

Bottaro A, Inlay MA, Matzke NJ (2006) “Immunology in the spotlight at the Dover ‘Intelligent Design’ trial.”  Nature Immunology 7: 433 – 435.

Doolittle RF, Jiang Y, Nand J. (2008) “Genomic evidence for a simpler clotting scheme in jawless vertebrates.”  J. Mol. Evol. 66:185-96.

Jiang Y, Doolittle RF (2003) “The evolution of vertebrate blood coagulation as viewed from a comparison of puffer fish and sea squirt genomes.” PNAS 100: 7527-7532

Semba U, Shibuya Y, Okabe H, Yamamoto T (1998) Whale Hageman factor (factor XII): prevented production due to pseudogene conversion. Thromb. Res. 90: 31–37.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Evolution

Comments (48)

  1. PP

    Excellent posts, I can’t wait till tomorrow :)

  2. Frank J

    Dr. Miller,

    Thanks for another excellent take-down. Of course, as you know, your work is far from done, because Luskin is targeting a different audience, one that will make excuses, not only for ID’s steadfast avoidance of testing its own ideas, but of its downplaying of irreconcilable internal disagreements regarding what the designer did when. Thus he is not worried that it’s not just “Darwinists” who think that “dolphins are supposedly descended from land-dwelling vertebrates,” but Behe himself. If Behe’s average reader can paper over that, so can Luskin’s.

  3. Dear Frank J,

    Thanks for the compliment. As you will see in the third part, which Carl will post tomorrow, my intended audience is not the cast of true-believers who are regular fans of Casey Luskin. The folks I want to reach – the people I think we all need to reach – are the open-minded ones who simply wonder if there is anything to this ID stuff. These are the vast majority of Americans, and their opinions ultimately make the difference. I want to expose, for the record, the reasons why Luskin’s revisionist analysis of the Dover trial is incorrect, and to make sure that his distortions don’t lay the groundwork for a new assault on science education. (Ken)

  4. Bravo. Well written Dr. Miller. I anxiously await Dr. Behe’s detailed response. Perhaps as a comment to this blog?

    Ahem.

    Hello?

    Anybody there?

  5. John Kwok

    Ken,

    The term “functional constraint” is of course nonsensical to any evolutionary morphologist. Would be as ludicrous a comment as insisting that the Earth’s tectonic plates are incapable of motion.

    IMHO you ought to repost this at your website, http://www.millerandlevine.com.

    Appreciatively yours,

    John

  6. MrMarkAZ

    Dr. Miller,

    I doubt that Casey Luskin has any appreciation for irony, which explains why he used the metaphor of “smoke and mirrors” to misdirect and confuse his captive audience regarding your testimony at the Dover trial, and why I suspect he will not respond to your columns here and beat a hasty retreat into his hidey-hole, like any sensible mouse would.

    After reading your first two columns, I purchased a copy of your book, “Finding Darwin’s God…” from Amazon. I look forward to reading it, as I am to tomorrow’s posting. Thank you for this cogent refutation of his arguments.

    Mark

  7. I don’t think that this is completely off target, and I think that it’s important enough to speak-up, so here goes:

    Ken, you were interviewed by Science Daily back in February of 08 for the article; There Is ‘Design’ In Nature, Biologist Argues,where you made the following statement:

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080217143838.htm
    “The idea that there is ‘design’ in nature is very appealing,” Miller said. “People want to believe that life isn’t purposeless and random. That’s why the intelligent design movement wins the emotional battle for adherents despite its utter lack of scientific support”.

    You need to know that this is a huge mistake, since it has been long known by physicists that the physics that defines the anthropic principle *can* mean that there is a higher purpose in nature that brings us into existence for some good physical reason.

    http://zebu.uoregon.edu/~imamura/209/mar31/anthropic.html

    Agnostic, Paul Davies thinks that there is a “life principle” in effect, and that certainly does define higher purpose in nature.

    http://www.newscientist.com/channel/opinion/mg18825305.800.html
    Strong atheist, Leonard Susskind thinks that this evidence is so strong that we will be in a very awkward position, (if his speculative and unobservable multiverse hypothesis fails). Without any explanation of nature’s fine-tunings we will be hard pressed to answer the ID critics.

    http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/editorials/archives/2004/09/30/2003204990
    These atheist scientists think that the second law of thermodynamics drives evolution to higher levels of complexity — for the sole purpose of disseminating energy gradients.

    http://www.edge.org/q2006/q06_3.html
    As does he chief curator for the Utah Museum of Natural History, and Associate Professor Department of Geology and Geophysics at the University of Utah as well as, the host of the Dinosaur Planet TV series, Scott Sampson:

    The purpose of life is to disperse energy.

    As did the now deceased environmental biologist, James Kay.

    What about Lovelock and Margulis?

    Then there was Einstein… and quite to the contrary of what anybody on the cutting edge might tell you, this has not been refuted beyond any shadow of doubt.

    Not to mention myself.

    So the very best that you can hope for is a disagreement about this among agnostic and atheist scientists, but that is light years away from an “utter lack of scientific support”, so you would lose this argument in court and that would make you look just as foolish as Casey Luskin.

    PS: You took the title of that article from the name of my blog… ;)

    http://evolutionarydesign.blogspot.com/

    You want to take “design” back from creationists?… then quit denying plausible science just for the sake of arguing with IDists, because that does nothing more than to expose your underlying ideological motivations, while pitching the integrity of your profession right out the window.

  8. The notion of intelligent design has been hijacked by those with a religious agenda to promote. Almost all proponents of ID do in fact have a religious agenda and they must be stopped from disseminating their ideology in public schools. The trick is to separate legitimate scientific investigation of intelligent design from religious creationism. As it stands now, most scientists are afraid to even talk about the subject for fear of being misquoted or having their own words used as religious propaganda. This has had a chilling effect on legitimate science that may take decades to repair. Ideology has no place in any public school science classroom and it must be stopped wherever it occurs. But one must also recognize that there have also been zealots on the evolutionist side who want to teach mechanisms of evolution that have no empirical support. The answer is simple and clear. Religious creationism must be eliminated from school curriculums and darwinian evolution must be taught not as fact, but in it’s historical context. There is enough factual science, from anatomy to zoology to fill any school’s scientific curriculum with non-controversial, factual science. Any teaching of darwinian evolution or creationism or “the controversy” is nothing more than a waste of time that could be better spent on real science.

    Only a fool would deny the fact of evolution
    Only a greater fool would embrace darwinism as the mechanism

    Click HERE for entire article :
    http://tinyurl.com/89348w

  9. The notion of intelligent design has been hijacked by those with a religious agenda to promote. Almost all proponents of ID do in fact have a religious agenda and they must be stopped from disseminating their ideology in public schools. The trick is to separate legitimate scientific investigation of intelligent design from religious creationism. As it stands now, most scientists are afraid to even talk about the subject for fear of being misquoted or having their own words used as religious propaganda. This has had a chilling effect on legitimate science that may take decades to repair. Ideology has no place in any public school science classroom and it must be stopped wherever it occurs. But one must also recognize that there have also been zealots on the evolutionist side who want to teach mechanisms of evolution that have no empirical support. The answer is simple and clear. Religious creationism must be eliminated from school curriculums and darwinian evolution must be taught not as fact, but in it’s historical context. There is enough factual science, from anatomy to zoology to fill any school’s scientific curriculum with non-controversial, factual science. Any teaching of darwinian evolution or creationism or “the controversy” is nothing more than a waste of time that could be better spent on real science.

    Only s fool would deny the fact of evolution.
    Only a greater fool would embrace darwinism as the mechanism.

    Click HERE for entire article

    http://tinyurl.com/89348w

  10. Carl, I have a post in moderation that is full of supporting links that probably caused it.

  11. Part2

    My dissatisfaction with current evolutionary models is not widely appreciated, but I’m used to holding a minority opinion and I would have to say that any of the so-called “experts” who claim that these models are anything more than mere speculation are misguided. I am familiar with many of the examples that have been proposed. I can say with great assurance that all are highly speculative with no empirical evidence to support them. They are nothing more than just-so stories. Anyone who claims to understand the evolution of the immune system, flagella or blood clotting system is being at the very least disingenuous.

    In addition, let me caution you that I am NOT defending irreducible complexity and/or intelligent design creationism so spare me the references to the Discovery Institute and it’s members.

    The simple fact is that evolutionary biologists have never been able to establish a nexus between random mutations and changes in gene frequency in populations due to natural selection (both supportable claims) and the emergence of highly organized structures and processes such as are found in living organisms. Natural selection acts only on existing variation. The adaptations have to come into existence *before* natural selection can act on them so it is fair to say that only random processes are available to produce this variation.

    Take a specific example, such as the eye. It is made up of many various structures and processes and all of these structures and processes are integrated in such a way so as to enable vision. Each structure and each process has its own specific function, which acts in support of the other functions and contributes to the overall function of the eye, to allow vision. In addition, this structure itself is integrated into the overall structure of the body and contributes to the maintenance of the living state.

    It is my contention that the organization of these structures and processes and their assembly into a functional system required insight, and could not have been accomplished by random, accidental fortuitous occurrences. In order for your evolutionary view to prevail, you must somehow demonstrate that evolution has the power vested in it by you and you must demonstrate that random, non-directed processes such as mutation have the power to organize and assemble highly integrated systems in which means are adapted to ends. Until then, it’s just a story, although I will admit, a pretty good story. After all, it’s lasted for 150 years. But then again, Christianity was a pretty good story too, and it’s lasted over 2000 years. I guess truthfulness is not a necessary requirement for longevity in the fairy tale business.

  12. How should you determine whether something is irreducibly complex? Behe explains on page 42:

    We must ask how we can recognize an irreducible complex system. …
    The first step in determining irreducible complexity is to specify both the function of the system and all system components. An irreducibly complex object will be composed of several parts, all of which contribute to the function. To avoid the problems encountered with extremely complex objects (such as eyes, beetles or other multicellular biological systems) I will begin with a simple mechanical example: the humble mousetrap.

    The function of a mousetrap is to immobilize a mouse ….

    Behe then goes on to list the five parts, adding parenthetically that there are also assorted staples to hold the system together. Then:

    The second step in determining if a system is irreducible complex is to ask if all the components are required for the function. In this example the answer is clearly yes.

    And justification of this completes page 42. So Luskin is right: the way the check if something is IC is to systematically check whether it still works with any one of its parts missing.

    But now let’s look at page 43. First there is a drawing of a mousetrap, and then:

    To feel the full force of the conclusion that a system is irreducible complex and therefore has no functional precursors, we need to distinguish between a physical precursor and a conceptual precursor. The trap described above is not the only system that can immobilize a mouse. On other occasions my family has used a glue trap. In theory, at least, one can use a box propped open with a stick that could be tripped. Or one can simply shoot the mouse with a BB gun. These are not physical precursors to the standard mousetrap, however, since they cannot be transformed, step by Darwinian step, into a trap with a base, hammer, spring, catch and holding bar.

    Note that a functional or physical precursor means an evolutionary precursor. The whole mystique of IC is the constant bogus conflation of “all parts required” and “couldn’t have evolved.”

    By the way, Behe never carries out step two for his biological examples. He should, since it’s his rule. Miller does not need to because he understands that IC (all parts required) does not come close to meaning unevolvable. On the contrary, it would be hard for evolution not to produce co-adapted parts. Then for suitably specified function, system and parts, all parts are required for the specified function. QED.

    If you want to argue that something could not have evolved, you need a better reason than IC.

  13. Adrian

    Thank you Dr Miller.

    I haven’t read Dembski or Behe directly but something has always bothered me about their summaries. It seems to me that a perfectly reasonable explanation of an IC system, should they ever find one, is that it was once more elaborate and complicated and has since had extraneous bits removed. The example I’ve seen is of a rock arch which cannot have any more pieces removed or it will collapse yet no one imagines it was designed.

    I think it’s a strong point that their examples have been such failures but what happens when they find something which, for whatever reason, can not or has not yet been rebutted? It would be interesting to see a discussion of IC that deals with the theory and not just with their shoddy examples.

  14. Dave Wisker

    I have never understood how removing parts from an existing system can say anything definitive about how that system actually came about.

  15. I notice some guy with no name of his own compensating by name dropping on hyperdrive. Anthropic argument discussed here. His mention of thermodynamics is incoherent and irrelevant.

  16. Adrian, you’re right that simplification, also known as scaffolding in reference to how the arch is built, is one way to arrive at IC. But it’s far from the only way or the most common.

    Ken Miller shows how cascades could evolve here, and some basics are found here.

  17. 'Tis Himself

    Dr. Miller wrote: “What Luskin does not seem comprehend is that irreducible complexity is not an argument for design — it is an argument against evolution. ”

    The creationists/IDers appear to believe that science is a zero-sum game. If evolution is disproved, then their pet theory is automatically proven. This false dichotomy can be expressed as a boolean operation “IF 1 then NOT 0.” While boolean operations are useful for describing electronic circuits, they do not describe the scientific method well. Evolution could be disproved today but that would not help creationism/ID in the least. Any theory needs evidence to support it. Creationism/ID lacks credible evidence.

  18. amphiox

    ‘Tis Himself: “Evolution could be disproved today but that would not help creationism/ID in the least.”

    And I would also point out that the reverse is true, we could find irrefutable proof of ID tomorrow, and evolution theory would hardly blink.
    Examples:
    Some scientist constructs a lifeform in his lab, patents the idea, and becomes a multimillionaire selling custom made organisms on the world market.
    We find evidence for an ETI coming to earth x million years ago and doing some biogenetic tinkering with some obscure lineage of bacteria. (Or alternately, we find evidence of an intelligent terrestrial species predating humans that did the same thing, may be a species of diapsid circa 65 mya that had a biotech industry but no space program)
    We discover machine ETI out in space somewhere.

    Evolution allows for the appearance of intelligent designers (we’re here, right?) so evidence for ID would only add one extra mechanism of evolutionary change to all the others we already have.

  19. I am having an absolute ball wathing Dr. Miller tear apart Luskin. It’s a great joy to me that we have logical people like Miller.

  20. Wheels

    Dr. Miller : “The folks I want to reach – the people I think we all need to reach – are the open-minded ones who simply wonder if there is anything to this ID stuff. These are the vast majority of Americans, and their opinions ultimately make the difference.”

    Hmm, but would your approach differ if, instead, you were addressing people who are wondering if there is anything to this evolution stuff?

  21. John Kwok

    Dear Ken,

    We should ask ID advocates like Luskin exactly how Intelligent Design offers testable hypotheses – which if validated by field observations and experimentation – might do a better job in explaining the origins, history and complexity of Planet Earth’s biodiversity.

    As a former marine invertebrate paleobiologist, I would love to see Luskin, Dembski, Behe, Nelson, Wells and the rest of their pathetic, intellectually-challenged, ilk explain how:

    1) Intelligent Design explains the so-called “Cambrian Explosion” (which doesn’t really exist, but is a mere artifact due to the fact that this seventy to eighty million year interval represents the time span in which the first skeletonized metazoans appear in the marine invertebrate fossil record).

    2) Intelligent Design explains the persistence of taxa and entire ecosystems through time (the twin phenomena of morphological stasis and some kind of ecological niche stasis – of the kinds stated recently by eminent evolutionary biologist Douglas Futuyma in a talk I had heard this fall sponsored by the Linnean Society of New York.).

    3) Intelligent Design explains the appearance of “escalation” – as dubbed by noted marine ecologist and paleobiologist Geerat Vermeij – in the fossil record, which underscores a succession of coevolutionary arms races between predators and their prey.

    4) Intelligent Design explains extinction, especially that most curious phenomenon, mass extinction.

    5) Intelligent Design explain the recovery of ecosystems in the aftermath of an extinction as devastating as the terminal Cretaceous one.

    I could go on, but these remain some of the most interesting problems being pursued now by paleobiologists. I have yet to see any Intelligent Design “scientist” attempt to grapple with these issues.

    Regards,

    John

  22. @Wheel:

    “addressing people who are wondering if there is anything to this evolution stuff?”

    Answer in this post and the previous one!

    Bertrand Russell must be trying to feed poor Luskin the wrong examples to pick up next time, right? Surely even ID-ists would see the eye is a trap.

    I’m green with envy, Italian creationists are far less entertaining. Sigh

  23. Adrian

    Pete Dunkelberg, thanks for the links. I especially appreciate the second one which tackles the issue of IC directly without using examples. I understand that the work with blood clotting is important and it’s a great illustration of how the IDists can not only reach badly wrong conclusions using their methodology but how they cling to the results even after evidence has proved them wrong. It’s also a fun and powerful way of making a point with the public.

    I guess I prefer dealing with theory, and the second link (http://www.talkdesign.org/cs/ic_demystified) does that very well. Thanks again.

  24. Zach

    Bertrand: Find a book on the evolution of the molluscan eye. In many ways it’s better than that of a human eye, and we have many intermediate stages of its evolution that we can observe, from a simple photo-sensitive bundle of cells to the highly elaborate eyes seen in cephalopods.

  25. doppelganger

    Island,

    Nobody cares whether egomaniacs are convinced of anything. Especially ones who “moderate” comments at their own blogs.

    http://all-too-common-dissent.blogspot.com/2007/08/another-arrogant-egomaniac-island.html

  26. kalyani

    Hi Dr. Miller,

    Nice detailed explanation. On your note about appealing to those open-minded to see validity of ID. I would like to say that in the current US the open minded people(citizens) are from different (backgrounds/religions) regions of the world, including from the east.

    Your suggestion in your book “finding darwin’s god” that god some how helped the abhrahamic people(muslims/christins and jews) with scientific discovery and that other might not be that smart, is not only incorrect but also will alienate the people from non-abrahamic background.

    Also your argument that none of the scientific theories necessarily rule out christianity, in the second half of the book may be used against the arguments in the first half. None of the evidence provided necessarily implies evolution is necessarily a fact. To avoid the conflict you say that you do not believe in a deceiving god. That means you are using faith to refute arguments that may provide alternative to evolution(like god put those fossils in that place).

    I know this might not be the ideal place to discuss this, but I though I might get your attention here.

  27. David Harmer

    I’m really completely baffled as to why there is any discussion at all as to “Intelligent Design” being a scientific theory. Any and all scientific theories must contain a condition under which they may be proven false. It doesn’t make any difference whose theory it is: Einstein’s, Newton’s, Darwin’s or Joe Smuck’s.

    The problem with the theory of an Intelligent Designer is that it is not a theory at all. It is a philosophical idea like philosophy, ethics, religion, government, etc. Why, because no one can ever prove that an intelligent designer exists. Science demands critical, verifiable, repeatable evidence. Just because someone thinks that some laboritory experiment is irreducibly complex does not make it so. It only indicates that they are incapable of finding a solution. It is impossible for the IDer crowd to provide that an Intelligent designer exists. Call him what you may: he, she or it is only a figment of the imagination, an excuse as it were, and that is not what science is about. Darwin’s theory, on the other hand does provide the evidence and it is what modern medicine, biology (to name a few sciences) is based upon. Does it have all the answers? Not at the moment because we are just beginning to find answers through good scientific research going on around the world using Darwin’s ideas. ID is a handicapped idea, not a theory, and those who promote are even more so.

  28. Vanamali

    To understand this issue a bit better one must use some common sense. Thousands of years ago a clever man came up with an idea of “god” in the image of a king. Kings quickly embraced it since they saw in this new “god” a reflection of themselves. Easier to rule a populace who debase themselves as sinners, with guess-who holding the key to their salvation. Kings pass laws, commands and judgements. Loyalty is the most prized attribute, entrance to heaven restricted to these loyalists. Disloyal people, good they may be, get tortured. What a hoax passed down thru generations, with supposedly superior intelligent people of today falling for this hoax. The people who serve this king (most of the kings in those days were men, hence “god” must be a man) lower themselves as slaves, servants or subjects. Unfortunately these type of people will fight for their king against all evidence to the contrary.

  29. John A. Davison

    David Harmer.

    It is a mistake to assume that every hypothesis must be subject to being proved false. That was an invention of the mind of Karl Popper. Hypotheses need only be proven true at which time they become instantly elevated to the status of theory.

    The Darwinian model assumes that it cannot be proven to be either true or false because it makes no predictions. An hypothesis that makes no predictions is not an hypothesis. It is pure fantasy. Even if one grants Darwinism the status of hypothesis, which I am not prepared to do, its central core of natural selection still fails the acid test of true speciation or of any other taxonomic hurdle evidenced in the real world.

    Darwinism remains what it was at its inception, the product of the imagination of a couple of Victorian naturalists, Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace, the latter who abandoned it completely later in life. Consider the complete title of Wallace’s last book (1911)-

    “The World of Life: A Manifestation of Creative Power, Directive Mind and Ultimate Purpose.”

    “An hypothesis does not cease being an hypothesis when a lot of people believe it.”
    Boris Ephrussi

    jadavison.wordpress.com

  30. Katydid

    Kudos Dr. Miller. You hit the nail on the head, Casey has not read Behe’s works in their entirety, either he is too lazy or too illiterate.

    The man will not even read that with which he supposedly agrees with let alone that with which he does not agree.

    “If you resist reading what you disagree with, how will you ever acquire deeper insights into what you believe? The things most worth reading are precisely those that challenge our convictions.” Oliver Wendell Holmes

  31. You say:

    to Luskin, the only way to show that a system is irreducibly complex would be to take a couple of parts out and see if it keeps working. That stunning error of logic is why he actually believes that pulling a wheel off my Trek road bike would demonstrate the irreducible complexity of the bicycle’s design.

    Yo, dingaling–

    YOUR BIKE WAS DESIGNED! IT DIDN’T EVOLVE! DUHHH!

  32. EvoClast

    This response to Dr. Miller’s “part 2″ blog concerning Casey Luskin and Intelligent Design awaited the general theme of respondants before venturing a reply that decidedly flows against the the overall view expressed by the respondants. When one finds himself/herself in an “odd-man-out” interpretation of the subject addressed by Dr. Miller it is time for introspection of self.

    In Dr. Miller’s critique of Casey Luskin’s views involving Intelligent Design, Dr Miller makes the following comment:

    “In other words, to Luskin, the only way to show that a system is irreducibly complex would be to take a couple of parts out and see if it keeps working.”

    It is my interpretation that Luskin was referring to the functioning of the system. Dr. Miller then continues:

    “That stunning error of logic is why he actually believes that pulling a wheel off my Trek road bike would demonstrate the irreducible complexity of the bicycle’s design.”

    It is my interpretation that Dr. Miller has switched the focus of the argument from “function” to “design.” The bike without a wheel certainly does not “function” as it did when it had the wheel. This seems to support Luskin’s general theme. The bike without a wheel might be used for stationary exercise but its function is different than the fully operational bike. Dr. Miller is a highly credentialed scientist but my interpretation is that it is he that has committed a “stunning error of logic.” What am I unable to grasp in Dr. Miller’s statement?

    Dr. Miller also takes Luskin to task with the following:

    “What Mr. Luskin clearly does not understand is that irreducible complexity is really an argument about how a system came to be, not whether it contains dispensable parts. And the argument, so clearly stated by Michael Behe—is that the whole system has to be assembled at once, in “one fell swoop.” because partial assemblies, containing just a few parts, are “by definition nonfunctional.”

    Dr. MIller then answers this question with the following:

    “How do you test that assertion? By looking around in nature and seeing if partial assemblies of the more complex systems do exist and are indeed functional.”

    My interpretation: Dr. Miller’s explanation does not connect to his claim that the argument is about “how a system came to be.” Viewing other “partial assemblies of more complex systems” does not reflect or explain how such less complex systems “came to be.” Likewise, other less complex systems probably have a different function than the more complex system which would seem to make the analogy invalid. Again, what am I missing in Dr. Miller’s logic?

    A confused EvoClast.

  33. CarmineFragione

    Dear sir, It is troubling that at the moment of confidence required to

    accept your theory on the “fusion” of #2 chromo, you drop in the fact
    you are Catholic. I sensed that it was the innapropiate moment, a dishonest
    moment of inflicting faith into your opinion.

    Now can you do “fusion” as you say by technology to effect the cloning
    of a chimpanzee into anything resembling humans ? You said “I think
    it’s true” Did you mean to refer to your faith in that declaration
    or to the data of your science ? “I think it’s true.” ???

    They thought the theory of gravity to be true and Einstein said otherwise,
    and now they say again, more theory. So what is wrong with pure skepticism
    until you can actually demonstrate the fact by technology . Of course that
    would constitute “Artificial Selection” not “Natural Selection” but it
    would show that is might have been so. Do you understand the meaning
    of the future perfect tense ? Show me, don’t tell me what to believe.

    And If you say the data had two outcomes and you own the data and the
    other guy is ignorant, what does that prove ? It only proves the other
    guy is ignorant of your research . Is that something to be proud of ?

    If you came out and said ” I know it’s true” instead of “I think it’s
    true” the declaration would surpass the idea of “Faith” into Fact.

    Best wishes, anyway.

  34. hm

    Miller wrote:

    “What Luskin does not seem comprehend is that irreducible complexity is not an argument for design — it is an argument against evolution. ”

    and

    “By pointing out, in court, that individual parts of each of these systems do indeed have perfectly functional roles, we showed that Behe’s claim of unevolvability was false.”

    The problem here is that Behe didn’t claim that IC means unevolvability, but he presented IC as an argument against natural selection as the main explanation for the structure. Behe pointed out it in both Darwin’s Black Box and in Court that IC is compatible with evolutionary scenario. It is fully compatible with teleological evolution and common descent, but perhaps not with blind evolution thesis. That’s why the notion of common structures and descent are not argument against IC, if it is understood as Behe has defined the term. IC may yet be indicator of design. Why Miller continues arguing against straw man (claiming that Behe had claimed unevolvability)?

    I don’t know. Perhaps it is good business.

  35. August 9, 2009 by Mad We have a winner! ,

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The Loom

A blog about life, past and future. Written by DISCOVER contributing editor and columnist Carl Zimmer.

About Carl Zimmer

Carl Zimmer writes about science regularly for The New York Times and magazines such as DISCOVER, which also hosts his blog, The LoomHe is the author of 12 books, the most recent of which is Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed.

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