Gary Trudeau Also Has Something To Say About Creationism by Tim F| December 18, 20057:25 pm| 51 CommentsThis post is in: HumorousFacebookTweetEmailFunny. This thread is now open.
Yeah, I enjoyed that one this morning. =)
I promise not to queer this thread. I want all of you to have an honest, thought-provoking discussion of creationism.
Is that the Ozymandias, King of Kings? I have looked upon your work, and I have despaired!
Anyway, back on topic (sort of), did anyone else notice the President of Iran invoking Intelligent Design’s defense for Holocaust deniers?
i.e. “Teach the debate!”
As well you should.
Though it feels like something is missing…
Since this is an open thread, does anyone feel like making any predictions about the President’s speech tonight? Here are mine:
He will deliver the most compelling speech uttered by a statesman, ever. The speech will be so compelling that only President Bush can top it.
He will outline our plan for victory in Iraq.
He will discuss the grave threat posed by terrorists that wish to attack the Brooklyn Bridge with blowtorches.
He will point out that his powers as CinC allow him to do whatever he needs to prosecute the WoT, asap, omgwtfbbq, roflcopter.
He will roundhouse kick the entire Democratic caucus in the face.
I hope he challenges Harry Reid to a duel.
This is pretty interesting: Darrell is now posting fake Democrat rants under the name Cloudy at Protein Wisdom. I could be wrong — it could be Mac. The name is clearly an homage to Stormy.
Reading these really makes me realize how good I am at what I do.
Since I am known as the “ID Person” around here, I might as well comment. I think cartoons like this, while funny, still illustrate the basic ignorance that most people have about ID. They still pronounce it directly religion and creationism. The questions becomes, at what point are ideas religion? And at what point are they instead scientifically relevant? I have recently read some articles on ID. This article is a shorter version of Behe’s thinking, who received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Pennsylvania This article is a rebuttal in American Scientist. by Robert Dorit. Feel free to read them for yourselves.
In contrast to the the claim of “religion” about Behe thinking, as he is a biochemist, I think he is rightfully amazed at the complexity of biology and wants an explantion, not just broad principles anymore. Although his conclusions about ‘design’ may not be grounded, at least he is attempting to point out and examine the unsolved cellular mysteries, in contrast to many of his peers apparently, and for that I believe he has the spirit of science.
I think it’s Mac Buckets now that I think about it.
Thank God you’re here, scs. I was going to have to create another identity and argue the ID position again.
I agree Doug. You’re fake personas are rocking my world! Are you married or do you have a girlfriend? I would sure like to get to know you better, and see for myself where this creative genius springs from!
Hey it’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it.
DougJ, I am a fan! How do you do it?
After skimming through cloudy’s stuff, I think he may just be a garden-variety excitable twit. His netiquette borders on bannable, and I doubt that T-Dave, Darrell or Mac would invite that kind of trouble just for a giggle.
I don’t know about anybody else, but I’ve seen this kind of explosive logorrhea plenty often on both sides of the fence. Some discussion boards you just have to abandon for the sake of your scroll wheel.
Mac became fascinated with the idea of doing a left-wing me after I showed him my attempts at doing the same at Washington Monthly. And I haven’t seen him since.
You’re right, though, he also does sound like a garden-variety twit.
I have read Behe’s book and given it a thorough review. Adjectives that come immediately to mind are fatuous, poorly-thought-out and self-aggrandizing. He declares gaps in the knowledge that do not in fact exist, as I found with a quick search through PubMed and other publication databases. The fundamental point of his argument, that things that we don’t understand must be things that we will never understand, is flat ridiculous. It’s as though he thinks that scientific progress will stop at the time that he writes his book, so that his ‘mysteries’ won’t seem laughably dated fifteen years from now.
I study the membrane transport pathway. The guy down the hall did impressive work on the Chlamydomonas flagellum. There is nothing uniquely mysterious about these things, except that they involve biochemical complexes that are hard to purify. Since they’re hard to purify, reconstruct using x-ray crystallography and characterize in terms of protein and lipid makeup other aspects of biology will be understood better first. That doesn’t mean that these things are not understandable, it means that it will take more time.
At its heart Behe’s ‘argument,’ if you want to call shoulder-shrugging an argument, is an utter abnegation of the scientific process. If you take any time point in scientific history, nearly every insurmountable ‘gap’ becomes easily surmountable at some point in the future. One will always be right to point out gaps, to declare those gaps permanent will always be wrong.
To me, Behe summarized his entire book in a single quote:
Small mind in a big head.
Other things that are very hard to study: ribosomes, the centrosome and the nuclear translocon. Over the past week I saw some spectacular talks by folks who proved emphatically how the unknowable becomes knowable when you throw together hot technology and bright minds.
Well he did get his doctorate in biochmistry at U Penn. Maybe you should write his advisors and complain. And I didn’t read his whole book, but I did read his article I excerpted and “The fundamental point of his argument, that things that we don’t understand must be things that we will never understand, is flat ridiculous.”, I think is not his main argument. Anyone who asserts that is dishonest.
This is what Behe writes in the article:
Doesn’t sound like he wants to throw up his hands.
This is what Dorit writes:
Tim, where on earth did he imply that? Anybody who implies that is dishonest
Sorry to split up my replies, but I think, unlike 99% of his peers, Behe is trying to investigate the exact mechanism of evolution on a cellular level, and he is no longer satisfied with the broad brush of “umm, well, it just evolved that way”. He wants to see HOW it evolved that way. Apparently he doesn’t get there, but at least he tries. As to “small mind in a big head” he did get a PhD in biochemistry at U Penn. Maybe you should write his professors and complain about his degree.
Tim, I noticed that when you are challenged you bring up archane technical terms and stress your scientific background. I, too,have known many PhDs in my life and have learned that although they might be a good scientists, that does not necessarily relate to them being good philosophers. So bringing all that stuff up will not help you “win” debate- I suggest you just stick to the facts at hand.
Okay, can’t sleep, might as well reply again.
Don’t forget Tim, Behe’s book was written in 1996, which is a long time in terms of DNA research. As Behe wrote in 1997 in his article:
The other writer Dorit kind of confirmed the lack of papers in his article. Now in the last, almost 10 years, I’m sure lots of things have become clearer, but I’m guessing in 1996, there were many more gaps.
The gist of his argument is “We don’t know, therefore God.” Otherwise, why leap directly to an untestable hypothesis as Behe has done? That is bad science, and he is a bad scientist for not only doing it, but trying to prompt others to do it through his books and paid lectures(and making scads of money in the process). His theoretical arguments about irreducible complexity have been addressed at the level of theory (both using computational models and using partial empirical data to formulate rational hypotheses). He has brought up several different systems that he claims could have no precursor (e.g. the eye, the immune complement system). When it is empirically shown that each of his examples are NOT irreducibly complex (i.e. they exist in partial forms with partial or full function elsewhere in nature), does he think “Hmmmm, maybe this ‘God-dit-it’ hypothesis is wrong…” No! He just tries to find some other system that he can then claim is irreducibly complex (or he keeps on repeating the same refuted claim over and over, and hopes that his audience doesn’t notice).
Bull. Shit. If he were truly interested in figuring out the evolutionary intermediates in a particular system, he would seek out and characterize other members of that system in evolutionarily-related organisms, and try to generate a hypothesis about a common molecular ancestor. Some people have done that. You can publish doing that. There’s not a lot of money in it, but it can be done. Behe has not published any experimental molecular evolutionary science that I know of since his conversion to non-science. And there’s a good reason for that. He’s not doing any experiments. You know why? Because he chose a “hypothesis” that cannot be tested, and he is unwilling to derail this gravy train by seriously examining rational, testable hypotheses. Rather, he will sit on the sidelines and try to snipe at all of the progress that is being made.
See, science requires a certain amount of background knowledge and, yes, specialized terminology to discuss in any detail. So what you have noticed is that, when a scientist is discussing complex scientific issues, he will point out that he is qualified to speak on those issues, and will then proceed to use the correct terminology in discussing those issues. Damn you, TimF, for being an expert! (Full disclaimer–I am a research-active PhD analytical biochemist working in protein structure, so I may also use big words. Cope.)
And here is the root of the problem–we are arguing science, and you are trying to argue philosophy. Look, if you find ID aesthetically appealing as a philosopher, fine. I don’t care. But it’s not good science. Hell, it’s not science at all, unless astrology and all that other crap is science (something Behe himself agreed with in the Dover trial). And the only debate going on is between those educated in the topic, and those who are uneducated in the topic trying to weigh in on something they are not qualified to understand (if you don’t believe me, check out Project Steve). The only meaningful debates going on now are about the niggling details–how fast is evolution, how important are different mechanisms to the process of evolution, etc.
The hypothesis of “God did it” cannot be disproven, because there are no limits to what God can do in this hypothesis. So, he can always hang out at the edges of doubt and reason, claiming each and every gap in our knowledge as his own. God doesn’t enter the picture in science, as we do not have a God-reactive dye. If this changes, the people involved in such a study will be sure to let you know.
Want to argue your point with those that can easily answer your challenges? Go to Panda’s Thumb and have a go at it, scs. See, this is a political blog, here we discuss the political side of ID. Politically, you have the religious right supporting a theory that attempts to put God into science. They approve of the method of “stop when it gets too hard and claim its God”. They don’t need to know the evolution of prion chains, they don’t care. They just want God in the classroom, again. This is just the tiny little crack that their hammers against secularism have opened up, and their clawlike appendages are digging at that crack, attempting to insert their poisonous idea into the public arena again.
Baloney. I did my search in 1998, when I wrote my review of Behe’s book, and the papers I found hadn’t all appeared in the previous two years. Behe simply fabricated gaps that didn’t in fact exist.
I did. He essentially declared that certain things that we don’t know are unknowable and therefore the action of a higher power. Not necessarily ‘God,’ nudge nudge wink wink, but some higher power with a skill set not dissimilar from God.
You would answer your own question if you were honest enough to answer the “elephant in the room” question: who/what is the intelligent designer that is referred to?
It sounds like you have to make up your mind, scs, about whether we’re discussing science or philosophy. I enjoyed my philosophy education immensely, but for some strange reason I had the idea that the ID question involved science. To quote you,
It’s fine if you want to change track and talk about philosophy. Behe makes a good number of logical fallacies on the way to making his specious point about the unknowable.
Yep. When it comes to science you have to meet the scientists halfway. Some things can’t be explained in monosyllables.
I just wanted to say that I had never encountered the word ‘abnegation’ before. It’s an excellent word, and I shall try to use it some time this week.
Jason Van Steenwyk
The newer drugs may be intelligently designed – this cartoon is not.
Rather, it raises a straw man argument and belies a fundamental ignorance of the position of creationists and ID.
Neither deny the possibility of genetic mutation and natural selection, which are both readily and directly observable phenomena in experiment, and easily reproducible on a limited scale in labs.
Creationism and materialist Darwinism don’t come into conflict, really, until you start talking about the evolution of whole new species, or the evolution of irreducably complex organs – neither of which is at issue in the context of the cartoon.
Basically, Trudeau’s having fun at the expense of an ignorant stereotype.
Yeah, the stereotype of people that can’t do math.
I gotta say, DougJ, you’re doing some quality work over at B4B, my preferred source for right-wing insanity.
gary Trudeau is a jackass we all know what a liberal idiot he is just look at the way he tried to trash RONALD REAGAN is his crappy DOONSBURY strip
It’s not astrology. It’s intelligent astronomy. How many times do those poor IA proponents have to tell you that before you accept it? Sheesh.
Shygetz, I think that may be a problem actually. It’s all about time and place. First of all, if you are all smart enough to be highly educated scientists, you should be smart enough to realize that most people are NOT highly educated scientists. That does not mean necessarily that they are any less intelligent than you. Since we are here in a NON-scientific blog talking to mostly NON-scientists, it does no good to further the debate to bring up highly specialized scientific terms that aren’t really germane to the debate at hand. It’s trying to grab an unfair advantage. If you are smart enough to know the specialized terms, you are also smart enough to take a few extra words and translate them into terms that others will understand. If you don’t want to do that, then I’m sure there are plenty of science blogs where you can all speak all you want to other scientists in as many specialized terms as you desire. But on here, I say stick to the logic, and not the terms.
Tim see above. Ditto. You know, I have won many arguments in my personal life, but no wins have given me more pleasure than the ones I win with people who try to win the arguments by saying they are “specialists” or an “authority” on the subject.
Just for fun, I will refer to a few to illustrate – a simple math word problem dealing with averages that I won with my professor and two math PHd students telling me they knew better than me, but in fact they didn’t comprehend the actual question as written. Factors in the meaning of art with my philsophy professor who wrote the book. The name of the first novel ever written with a masters student in literature who said “he did this for a living”. The correct way to cut some crown moulding with a contractor. The correct use of antibiotics for prevention of a potentially harmful condition with my doctor. I’m sure there are more but I can’t think of them now.
Anyway, with all of these arguments, all of these people were practically screaming at me that they knew better, they were experts and I should just listen to them. They were all sheepish when I proved them wrong. None gave me an apology though. I’m not trying to claim some great talent. I just think the “experts” got themselves into trouble because of arrogance. They didn’t even bother to actually comprehend the problem at hand or actually just look up the answer, just assuming that of course, that they knew better than me and they were right and I was wrong. From the total of these experiences, I have learned that the time when someone says, “I’m an expert, trust me” is the time to start running to the encyclopedia to get the real answer.
You are all barking up the wrong tree. I have said a LOOOONG time ago that I believed ID was not good science. Yet you all seem to keep missing my point- you are not getting the Kerry nuance of what I am trying to say here.
First of all, if you read Behe paper I referred to above, it seems obvious to me what he wrote IS mostly a philosophy paper, not really a science paper. He uses his ‘logic’, not any particular natural observations, to come to his conclusions. Still, I believe his ideas have some merit to the discussion of science, as being thought provoking. That is my main point. Obviously if they weren’t somewhat interesting, we all wouldn’t be talking about it so much, all over the country for so many years now.
As Dorit says in the article I referenced above:
I think ID was thought provoking to non-scientists like me, because I had previously assumed that scientists had the evolution thing pretty much all figured out. But after reading about ID and then reading some more on evolution, I see now that it ISN’T all figured out. There is still much more to learn. Just how DID cells mutate into light sensitivity? How did cells build up all the myriad of proteins and functions that they have? The controversy over ID helped illustrate what we know and what we don’t know to the public, and for that I feel it earns some merit, and not just ridicule as “religion”.
Tell me which words got your panties in a bunch, and I’ll try to simplify them for you. But you must realize, science cannot be properly discussed using simple words. If you wanted me to describe in simple words to a complete layman what a ribosome was, it would take a large pamphlet (at least). That’s why we have experts in these things–they are too complex for the layman to understand without investing significant time and effort. It’s not that the laymen are stupid, it’s that they are ignorant on this topic (just as I am ignorant about, say, injection molding).
Ok, to use one of your examples–say you had a doctor tell you about the correct course of antibiotics for a particular infection. And you disagreed with him. So he brought in a colleague who told you the same thing. And you disagreed with both of them. So they brought in the Infectious Disease department from the local hospital, who all agreed with him. And you still disagreed. So they got a statement from the American Medical Assosication that agreed with their position. And you still disagreed with them. So you went and looked it up in the Physician’s Desk Reference. And it agreed with all of the doctors. And you still said they were wrong.
Who is being arrogant in this situation?
It’s not just me, and it’s not just me and TimF, and it’s not just me and TimF and the journals, textbooks, and encyclopedias, it’s me, TimF, the journals, the textbooks, the encyclopedias, the professional organizations, the educational organizations, and 99.9% (or more) of scientists who work directly with evolutionary prinicples. All arguing with people using a complete lack of expertise and information coupled with egregious logical fallacies (which I will get into below).
Since you used logic in the quote-marks, I guess I can’t take issue with that. However, his arguments about the nature of science are essentially a rehash of an ancient philosophical argument now perjoritively called the god of the gaps argument. Basically, it stems from two logical fallacies (not scientific fallacies, but logical fallacies). The first is the fallacy of assuming that the default “truth” is that God (or gods) did everything until it is proven otherwise. This is found in his false dichotomy logical fallacy of believing that simply by proving that evolution could not have done it, he has asserted evidence for creationism. The second is the fallacy of arguing from incredulity; saying that he cannot envision how evolution of a certain system could be done, so therefore it could not be done. Regardless of the quality of his scientific evidence, these logical fallacies render his argument moot from a rationalist standpoint. The only logical basis for this argument is one from a postmodernist standpoint where all “truths” are of equal absolute value, as nothing can be known definitively. However, as Behe is attempting to insert ID into the scientific debate, he is inherently accepting the rationalist model as opposed to the (completely non-productive) postmodernist model, and therefore must stand and fall by the logical fallacies inherent in his argument. Which makes his argument uninteresting from a philosophical standpoint.
People are talking about it (in the general sense) because they think it gives creationism, a group of theologies with a broad and vocal following here in America, an opening to be viewed as science. Scientists realize this, and therefore dismiss it. But that doesn’t stop the non-scientists from passing the pipe around.
Of course it isn’t all figured out. If it were, there would be no scientists studying evolutionary biology. However, the debate is no longer about “Did evolution occur?” We have enough conclusive evidence (from molecular biology, paleantology, geology, zoology/botany, biochemistry, etc.) to state that evolution is the driving force behind the diversity in life. We have worked out the probable courses of evolution for many important biological systems, but we are still discovering biological systems! How could we have perfect models of the evolution of systems we don’t even know about yet? We do know the general mechanisms of how the molecular diversity of life arose (gene duplication, genetic “shiffling” (especially during sexual reproduction), spontaneous mutation, gene transfer between organisms, etc. all coupled with natural selection and random changes in the genetic population), but there is still a good deal of debate on how big a role each element plays in evolution, and how fast natural selection and random genetic drift can act on a population. Behe’s arguments do not point any of this out, but rather state that, since we do not have the information on such-and-such system now, it must be God. In addition to being wrong from a rationalist philosophical standpoint AND a scientific standpoint, it is also uninteresting (and indeed, not anything new, as creationists have been doing this for centuries).
Well jesus, you could have asked. Let me tell you a brief story. I had the pleasure of working with a Taiwanese guy some years back, a global specialist on the humble E. coli bacterium. My lab at the time brought him on to figure out how to get E. coli to grow hemoglobin in a test tube, a task that seemed practically insurmountable at the time. He told me that when he was a grad student, in the 60’s a committee member warned him against studying bacteria. People knew practically everything there is to know about bacteria, he said, so there wouldn’t be anything left to study. Needless to say my friend had no problem finding a long and productive career. Se we knew far from everything about bacteria in the 60’s, and in fact we knew even less than we thought we did at the time because of old ideas that have since gone out of vogue. Does that mean that bacteria were designed? No.
Similarly, it seems like you misunderstand the nature of knowledge and lack thereof in other branches of biology, inlcuding evolution. The five theories of evolution, which collectively add up to the Darwinian theory as you understand it, face continual challenge and revision from within the scientific community. None of those challenges involve ‘design’ because ‘ID’ challenges don’t come from the scientific community. They come from interested religionists who want to pervert science for their own purposes. So far I have seen no reason whatsoever to take their efforts seriously, and this is after a thorough reading of Behe’s writings and having met many leading ‘ID’ advocates in person.
Shygetz, I don’t get what you’re saying in this situation here. The point of the story about my doctor was that I was right. For a little more background, I told him about things I had read about on the internet in medical sites and he pooh poohed that as fluff and then eventually got kind of hostile with me when I brought it up the next time, asserting that he knew better. So, I went to the library and looked up what I had seen online in bona fide medical journals, finding it as a study from the American Heart Association and published in several reputable journals such as Pediatrics I photocopied the articles and gave it to him and he sheepishly agreed I was right. No apologies though.
So, if I had just accepted his knowledge as an “expert”, I might have potentially put myself in danger that I didn’t have to be in. Not only that, I helped the other patients whom he said had the same conditions from the same lack of treatment. And I was paying THAT guy to treat me? He could have looked it up himself but he was too arrogant to do it. Anyway, the point is you just can’t always take the word of one person who claims to be an expert. They are human and make mistakes. And sometimes you can’t even take the word of a whole bunch of experts, like you refer to above. Remember the whole controversy over bacteria causing ulcers not so long ago? All the experts thought the guy who proclaimed that was crazy. But he was right, and he stuck to his guns. So you have to go where the knowledge and the logic takes you and think for yourself sometimes.
Okay Shygetz, you act like that above is so definitive, so I will get into the science with you as I see it, since this thread is dead ended to the others by now so few people will hopefully see this so they won’t get bored.
I would place what you said into two groups:
1. (gene duplication, genetic “shiffling” (especially during sexual reproduction), , gene transfer between organisms, etc. all coupled with natural selection and random changes in the genetic population
2. spontaneous mutation
I think perhaps it’s (2.) that Behe and I have a problem with and that I confess I personally can’t comprehend that well. I’ll illustrate why.
You have some matter, elements- water, carbon and some minerals. They get grouped into some cellular organism. These cells are mostly standard from cell to cell, and from member of a species to member of a species. Somehow, one day you have the first cell that has a screw up in its genetic code and decides to up and mutate itself into light sensitivity.
Okay what are the chances that a cell would randomly do that? To go outside of its regular very standard functions and branch off into such a different direction because of a spontaneous fluke that results into such a revolutionary and complex feature as light sensitivity? And then what are the chances that this first fluke light sensitive cell is healthy enough to replicate and survive in the system of the organism when most cells that are mutant are immediately killed by the system? What are the chances that the light sensitive cells multiply in one organism, and crowd out the standard cells, enough to become a noticeable physical feature of an organism BEFORE it has any advantage to the organism through natural selection? Because, in order for the natural selection to do its job in nature, the mutation has to thrive and establish itself throughout the body first for no reason. Why? What are the chances that once the mutation becomes a noticeable physical feature, the organism is adept enough to process and integrate this new feature with other existing functions that have NO history of working with this new feature, enough so that it can take advantage of it sufficiently to use it to survive better? What are the chances that the emergence of this new random mutation are beneficial enough to result in a direct advantage to survival and not as a hindrance or a non-factor? What are the chances that this random fluke in DNA from a few cells will promptly directly translate to changing the nature of the gamete. How does it do this? What are the chances it will replicate and continue to become a permanent feature of the gamete once an organism breeds with another organism and will override the existing standard DNA of the other organism it breeds with? What are the chances that this new feature confers the same advantages to the next organism that it did to the first organism, which might have lived in a different environment, enough to help the next organism also survive better, and to continue this advantage enough to spread to a whole species?
To sum up, that’s a hell of a lot of chance there, from start to finish. It obviously happens of course. But it seems amazing to me. The thing is, this mutation has to survive in the body of the organism and thrive BEFORE it confers a propagation advantage, BEFORE natural selection can take advantage of it. Why does it do this? And then, to further survive, the organism has to somehow miraculously transfer this mutation from a few fluke cells somewhere in the body into the same exact recipe in the genetic code of the sperm or egg. And, if DNA were SO RANDOM to branch off in so many random directions to create this vast array of radical and handy mutations, then why are different members of the same species so similar? Why are different members of different species so similar. After all, we are supposed to share about 99% of our DNA with apes, aren’t we? We even share a large portion with mice I heard. IF DNA was so darn random, to up and create all this variety, why don’t we see MORE variety? Why is there so LITTLE variety in reality? It just doesn’t make sense to me yet.
It still seems something is missing in the explanation. And I agree with Behe that so far, that genetic drift and natural selection and all the other things mentioned so far just isn’t cutting it and they still have a loooong way to go.
Okay, both of you guys are not getting my main point. Perhaps I am not expressing it well. I will try again.
I do not doubt that evolution occurred(s). However, I think Behe was valuable to illustrate to the public the very, very rudimentary level of research and knowledge on a cellular level that we have about evolution. That does not mean that I feel that I agree with all, or anything, that he says, so it’s moot for you all to argue the substance of his theory with me. I think just it has merit for bringing up a little known fact by the public that there IS a long way to go in evolution theory. In other words, I like it more as kind of a Public Service Announcement that you see on TV from time to time. I like it for the PR value, not necessarily the theory itself.
As Shygetz said, ID “is also uninteresting (and indeed, not anything new, as creationists have been doing this for centuries).” The difference is, today the pendulum has swung the other way, and I feel the public perceives an impression from mainstream science that “all is solved” in evolution. Behe is interesting today, because he is one of the few public voices proclaiming otherwise. And in that broad sense, he is not all wrong.
You ask why something would have evolved such a revolutionary and complex function as light sensitivity? That’s a fair question. The answer is, light sensitivity is neither complex nor revolutionary. There are many proteins that react to light by chainging their electronic structure. Many that change their electronic structure then change their shape. Nevermind the ability of photons to form protein-based free radicals, which can occur on almost any protein. So, one potential way in which a light-sensing protein could occur is thus:
1.) You have some photosynthetic, mobile bacterium. A gene that encoded for a protein with some other function underwent a duplication event (this is a fairly common theme in the evolution of new capabilities, as this gives you a gene that can mutate out of its old function without a severe effect to the host). This protein was part of a signal-transduction pathway for some other purpose (for the purposes of this hypothetical example, we’ll say it senses some necessary nutrient).
2.) This gene was mutated in such a way that the protein was now altered by intense light exposure so as to mimic the activated form of the original protein (not perfectly, but well enough to transduce a signal with, say, 1% efficiency). This activated the already-present signal transduction pathway, causing the organism to move towards what it thinks is a nutrient source. This allows the organism to have increased access to light, which increases its ability to reproduce relative to those without this mutation. Maybe this happened once, maybe it happened a thousand times. Regardless, at least one was able to reproduce and pass this mutated pathway on.
3.) Now that this new function has formed, evolution begins to work on refining it. Mutated light-sensing proteins that can react to lower levels of light are selected for. Proteins that can better transduce its signal after activation would be selected for. One organism accidentally splices a DNA sequence that is activated by this pathway in front of the genes for photosynthetic machinery, causing this bacterium to not only move towards light, but make more photosynthetic centers as it moves.
As evolution proceeds past single-celled organisms, multi-cellular organisms inheret this gene. But they don’t really need their entire bodies to be light reactive, so eventually the gene is shut off in cells where it is not needed. The gene is duplicated again, with different proteins fine-tuned for different colors of light. The signal transduction pathway is also fine-tuned so that pattern-recognition and color differentiation is possible (say, a photosynthetic organism would be able to better detect light that activates its photocenters, since that is what would give it the best selective advantage). However, throughout all of this, the basic struture of the protein is similar to the original signal-transducing gene.
I’m not saying this is how it happened (I am not an expert on eye evolution, and I do not have the time to become one). But this is how it could have happened. The chances of it happening are 100%–because we know it did. We do not have the proper knowledge to accurately calculate the likelihood of it happening as it did a priori, because we don’t know any of the variables (how many organisms were there, what was the gene duplication/mutation rate then, how large was the selective advanatge, etc.) But we can look at the sequence and shape of the proteins as they are now and say that they are related evolutionarily. We can say which proteins they are related to, and how related they are.
As for evolution in a multi-cellular organism, that’s when we get into the topic of evo-devo (developmental evolution). Most large-scale differences in, say, mammals occur during development, when the mutation of just one or two regulatory genes can drastically alter the shape and function of the animal. That’s why, if you look at the embryo development of pretty much any mammal, they all look the same up to a certain point of development, then they start to diverge to specialized functions. It’s not that a whale had no whale genes, then the mutation gave them whale genes. Rather, it’s that the pre-whale had a mutation that made it born with, say, flippers instead of feet. This allowed it to fill a niche in the coastal waters as a land-and-sea creature. The competition was not as fierce in the sea, so mutations which made the animal more efficient at sea were advantageous. The legs shrunk, as it was spending less time on land, and it became more aquatic (where the living was easier). Eventually, it lost all land characteristics during development. But, during it’s time as an embryo, most whales develop leg buds, only to lose them at a later stage in embryology. And many whales still have leg bones even as adults, tucked up inside their musculature. Whale evolution
There are a few answers to your qeustion. The main one is, in comparing humans, chimps, and mice, you are looking at three organisms that have evolved from a common ancestor relatively recently. There hasn’t been time for sufficient change. If you go back further in evolutionary time and compare humans to, say, plants, you are looking at ~25% similarity (not identity, but just proteins with vaguely similar sequences). Also, you don’t see more variety because of competition. In all evolutionary niches, there is a range of potential fitnesses (successful reproduction rates). If multiple species try to fill the same niche, they will compete. And the loser will eventually go extinct or change to fill another niche. The same is true with genes. Say I have a gene that makes an essential amino acid, and I recieve another gene that does the same thing, only more efficiently. If I have two genes that do the same thing in the same organism with different efficiencies (and if there is no benefit to redundancy), then the host organism is suffering a penalty for having to reproduce those genes constantly, and for having the less efficient protein competing with the more efficient protein to do the same job (only worse). It is usually a pretty low penalty, which is why gene duplications can often stick around so long, but it is a penalty still. So, if an organism spontaneously gets rid of the less efficient gene (through mutation or deletion) or mutates it to have a different beneficial function, then it is now a more efficient organism, and can successfully reproduce at a higher rate.
As I said before, if evolution is solved, there would be no evolutionary biologists. The mainstream gets many odd ideas in their head without any help from scientists. As far as I know, no scientist has ever said that the mechanism of evolution is completely, mathematically modeled. What we do know, though, is what we have been saying–it is the cause of the diversity we see in life now. If all Behe was saying was that there was more work to be done, no one would be arguing. But that is not what he says, and that is not what you were defending. You are defending Intelligent Design, which does not simply say that evolution has not been completely mathematically modeled. And in doing so, you place yourself outside all scientific evidence and thought, and into a post-modernist, religion-based view of science that is contrary to rationalist thought.
And you were right not because you had personal research experience or some divine knowledge, but because you had checked with other authorities first. It is not an applicable analogy because you are not just arguing against my views, or against my and TimF’s views when you support ID. You are arguing against all scientific evidence and authority–in that analogy, you are either the incorrect arrogant doctor, or you are the excited faith healer who refuses to enter the building. TimF and I are the internet site and medical journals.
I would encourage you not to take my word for the evidence for evolution (or TimF’s) if you are willing to put in the time and effort to look at even a part of the research. But sure as hell don’t take Behe’s word for it, either! He has done zero research on this subject. Not one experiment. His only publication was using a computational model that he admited was insufficient to model biological populations. So, he wrote a program that he admited did not accurately model biological systems, and he found that there was no evolution (surprise). But there has been not one experiment, despite money being set aside solely to fund research programs on the question (money that has gone unclaimed due to the fact that no one has a testable hypothesis). So, you have no logical reason to question the conclusions of the entire field. It’s not a question of being elitist–I welcome you to join the field of experts, if you so desire. But before you question the theory, learn about the evidence. http://www.talkorigins.org is a great place for a layman to start, and they source their material very well if you want to move to the primary references or the more technical books.
You know why that guy came up with that theory? Because he did experiments that found that bacteria were intimately associated with most ulcers. ID has no experimental evidence. Zero. If it did, then it would be taken seriously. ID started with the premise that God did it, and they have built their theory from there. Every scientist knows that starting with a preconceived notion of what you will find, and then looking for evidence for that, is a bad way to do science. They have unsuccessfully tried to debunk evolution with irreducible complexity and pseudo-information theory, all of which has been shown to be based on factually-incorrect material and/or based on faulty or meaningless premises. We have not ignored it…there are more published refutations of ID nonsense than there are ID publications. It’s simply that we have measured it and found it seriously wanting, so we are now through with it. If any additional evidence is found, then it will be re-approached. However, ID advocates are poisoning the well by using dishonest scholarship and PR campaigns to try to do an end-run around peer review.
Okay, thanks Shygetz, that was a pretty good explanation. I especially like the info on how mammals are very similar at the beginning of the embryo state and then diverge later. Never knew whales still had little internal leg bones.
So, to sum up, if I take away some insights from your post, it’s the following. I think irreducible complexity, as Behe like to call it, can best be explained by ‘layering’, or ‘co-opting’ if you will . In theory, Behe is right that having one part of system spontaneously mutate somehow, without having the whole system to go with it, would not incur any evolutionary advantage, because without a system, having one feature alone won’t do anything. And having a whole system mutate at the same time would be near impossible. But, what seems to happen is a new feature takes advantage of an already existing system. For instance, your example of some light proteins evolving – the light sensitive cells can use a system already in place used for other nutrients, to confer some advantage. So lots of layering there. The new system can build from an existing system. Never really saw anyone explain it like that, but if you think about it that way, it makes sense.
I suppose some questions still remain. What are the chances that a new cell will have radically new features and still be able to take the advantage of the old system? Also, even though you said it wasn’t all that complicated for a cell to become light sensitive, still, that does seem kind of leap to me to just all of a sudden happen. If it is so easy for a cell to mutate into light sensitivity, then why aren’t they still doing it and why aren’t cells all over our body randomly mutating into light sensitivity whenever they “feel” like it, so to speak. Are they perhaps, and they are just being killed by the immune system as mutant cells, so we never even notice it? I know you said that the body would have no advantage to keep light sensitivity all over, so natural selection selects out for that eventually. But that would take time. If it were so easy for some cells to just spontaneously mutate into light sensitivity, wouldn’t we see some animals with varying stages of light sensitive cells on or in their bodies, besides the eyes, that were spontaneously mutated there and not yet weeded out by natural selection? Why don’t we see this? In other words, we should be just as likely to see variety as variety is to be weeded out- it should be an equal balance, no? ( Wait, I will break this into two posts…).
…The other question I have is, I don’t understand how this mutation gets passed on. Do mutations occur only when the egg and sperm meet and the zygote is formed? Or can the mutation occur in one cell to start with after the animal is formed and then get passed on somehow? (Well I know cancer is a cell mutation after birth.) If these mutations occur after birth, how does that mutation somewhere in the body, get transferred into the egg or sperm? Aren’t all egg and sperm cells present from birth? I sure there already is a simple answer for this, I just don’t know it.
And finally Shygetz, again, I have said not that I don’t believe in evolution, even though you all keep saying that. I have said from the beginning I believe in evolution. I just said I didn’t get how certain things happened through evolution. And I was defending ID, not because I think it’s good science, but because it brought to popular attention certain issues about evolution that I, too, thought needed to be explained more. And as to your second post, I see your point. Still, I submit you still have to think for yourself. I mean how wrong were the “experts” throughout history about science and medicine.? Remember all the quack cures that were popular 150 years ago or so? So you have to take what the ‘experts” say to you and decide for yourself if it makes sense. You have to get a general idea of why they think what they do. Not perhaps in great detail, but an outline, and see it the broad principles make sense and if they have some evidence to support their ideas, and ask for that evidence as best you can understand it.
By the way, I just thought of another expert I didn’t listen to. About 5 years ago, I had gotten some money and was thinking of putting it in stocks. I went to my local Meryl Lynch and asked a stock broker where I should put it. He said, “go with tech stocks, they’re a bargain now”. That was just when they had first started to go down, before the bubble burst. I asked him why and what he knew, and decided he didn’t know what he was talking about. Luckily I didn’t listen to him, because if I did, I would have lost most of it. So again, moral of the story, think for yourself! If an expert is right, he will have the facts and the logic to back it up, like you just did with your explanation above. And don’t be afraid to ask, because if you do, probably the main effect of asking is that you will just end up wiser!
scs–The chances that a new feature will be able to take advantage of an existing system are pretty good. There is no protein that I know of that operates independently; if a protein is mutated into a different function, chances are very good that it will affect some other system in the body. Figuring out these protein interaction systems is one of the hot fields in biochemistry right now.
You also have to take into account that fact that selective pressure isn’t the same at all times. I’ll give you a modern-day example. I am severely near-sighted, as are many people now. If I had been born prior to the invention of corrective lenses, my fitness would be very low. But, mankind has found a way to relieve the selective pressure on good eyesight, allowing eyes (and other things) to mutate at a large rate without lowering the fitness of the organism too much (i.e. I can reproduce almost as well as a person with perfect eyesight). While most of these eye mutations are detrimental, the fact that they can accumulate without killing me and my offspring indicates that, depending on the selective pressure at the time, detrimental mutations can accumulate in a population. Now, someone with bad near-sightedness may develop a new ability through mutation of their deformed eye–even though the initial mutation was detrimental, the selective pressure was low enough at the time to allow this mutation to persist in the population. Now, if an apocalypse were to come and glasses were no longer available, my near-sightedness would probably doom me and most of my offspring. But for now, we are able to thrive, and our eyesight genes can evolve despite the current disadvantage they give us.
In order for a mutation to really be important, it has to happen in a reproductive cell (generally, either a stem cell that produces sperm or eggs, or the sperm/egg itself). Say you have a single heart muscle cell evolve light sensitivity. Well, it will be the only cell there that has it, and it will not be able to pass it on to any other cells, so it is a dead-end mutation. It may have some effect on the body, especially if it is something like a neuron (we still don’t know what causes many maladies, and there are some unique diseases that are only seen one or a small handful of times that are a complete mystery), but the cause would be undetectable. We have no idea how often this happens; our only indication is looking at the rate of cancer (a mutation in a non-reproducing cell that can have a noticable effect). And you may indeed have cells that have mutated into light sensitivity; these cells probably do something when exposed to light, but that something is unnoticable at the level of the entire organism. You may have a single cell in your body now that is immune to cyanide poisoning–but it won’t do you any good, because the rest of your cells will die. It has to be what’s known as a germ line cell to be passed on.
Finally, I commend you not wanting to take experts word for things. I would merely suggest that, before you publically criticize an idea (or support someone who is criticizing it), you learn what the experts know, and then enter the debate fully armed.
Well that was pretty well said Shygetz. Mutations that matter aren’t just some random cell somewhere in the body but in the egg/sperm. I guess mostly in that small moment when the two combine. Ok, explains that. I should send you a check for all this private tutoring. It’s in the mail. (yeah right) Life sure is a fascinating thing, ain’t it? By the way, if I think of any other questions, I’ll ask you in the new ID thread.