Friday, August 11, 2006

Picking on IDolators

A while back I pointed out a Dembski post about the Wedge, in which he dismissed it as old news. To my great surprise, my comment there wasn't instantly deleted, and an IDolator tried to address it. Hilarity ensued.

My question had been about the scientific content of ID, whether anyone could defend the claim that (in the Wedge's terms) it was "without solid scholarship, research and argument" and the project had become "just another attempt to indoctrinate instead of persuade." Scott, a moderator on Billy's forums, wouldn't have admitted such a thing, but I think improvius got it. Scott tried to dodge the question by arguing about what evolutionary predictions are. I offered a suggestion, and Scott's rambling lead him to slip up. Lest this dialog disappear, I will immortalize it here:
My favorite parts of the Wedge Document are the parts where (7 years ago) the authors explained that “Without solid scholarship, research and argument, the project would be just another attempt to indoctrinate instead of persuade.” They then set 5 year objectives: “Thirty published books on design and its cultural implications (sex, gender issues, medicine, law, and religion); One hundred scientific, academic and technical articles by our fellows;An active design movement in Israel, the UK and other influential countries outside the US; Ten CRSC Fellows teaching at major universities; Two universities where design theory has become the dominant view; Design becomes a key concept in the social sciences”

How’s that all going?

Comment by jgrr — August 7, 2006 @ 10:32 am

Not sure since ID proponents never recognized the Wedge document as the gospel. Despite what anti-ID\’ers have tried to make it. But hey, \”any port in a storm\” eh?
Unrelated note: How\’s the evidence going which supports the Darwinian claim that NS + RM can produce novel cell, tissue, or body plans?

You want 7 years to answer that? I should probably give you more time.

Comment by Scott — August 7, 2006 @ 12:50 pm

Well, Scott, I guess you weren’t who I was asking then. Since the author of this blog is mentioned in the Wedge Document as an author and key component of the strategy, I’m curious about his assessment. Especially since “behind the times” is his own critique of anyone referring to the Wedge.

As for a new cell type, check out the work of Lynn Margulis in the ’70s and ’80s on the endosymbiotic hypothesis, and various examples of endosymbiosis at work. I suppose it really isn’t RM or NS, but it sure is within the mainstream of evolutionary biology.

Comment by jgrr — August 7, 2006 @ 5:13 pm

"As for a new cell type, check out the work of Lynn Margulis in the ’70s and ’80s on the endosymbiotic hypothesis, and various examples of endosymbiosis at work. I suppose it really isn’t RM or NS, but it sure is within the mainstream of evolutionary biology."

*BUZZ* wrong. Want to try again by providing a paper which details confirmed evidence of how non-teleological Darwinian mechanisms have produced novel cells, tissue or body plans?

Think before you answer, or it will likely be your last answer at this blog.

Comment by Scott — August 7, 2006 @ 7:59 pm

Are you saying that a cell with mitochondria wasn’t novel? The endosymbiotic origin of mitochondria is well documented and if you don’t think that qualifies as a “non-teleological Darwinian mechanism” then it falls on you to explain why. The link I provided shows that the mechanism operates in the wild in a way that appears to be non-teleological, and is consistent with what I and Lynn Margulis understand as “Darwinian.”

Or are you saying that a Hatena with an eyespot (inherited from an endosymbiotic Nephroselmis) isn’t novel? Or just denying the link to the origins of mitochondria and the eukaryotes (a “novel cell type” if ever there was one)? Can we compromise and call it a novel body plan at least?

On the other hand, 7 [actually 10, 7 since the document leaked] years ago the DI promised 100 publications and 30 books. Surely one of those 130 books and papers has a credible ID explanation for the origins of “novel cell types,” etc. Perhaps you could point me toward the ID experiments that have tested an ID hypothesis about that explanation. Not just what it isn’t, but what it is, please.

Comment by jgrr — August 7, 2006 @ 9:22 pm

jgrr: The core argument for the endosymbiotic origin of mitochondria is that mitochondria look like they share a common ancestor with bacteria [Standard Darwinian reasoning there]. You’ll be interested to know that this is hardly a Darwinian prediction: “Evolution was supposed to proceed in small steps, not in symbiotic leaps. Just as neo-Darwinianists originally resisted lateral gene transfer, they also recoiled from endosymbiosis.” Some things to note: endosymbiosis currently accounts for the origin of mitochondria and chloroplasts, not eukarya. Also, mitochondria of higher organisms may appear similar in shape and size to bacteria, this is often not true among protozoa. I believe it’s clear that mitochondria are derived prokaryotic systems, but the issues is with the mechanism for said derivation. The mechanism must account for two important facts:

1. Mitochondria are monophyletic. In other words, the mitochondria from various protozoa, plants, animals, and fungi are all derived from the same stem population of mitochondria that were once free-living bacteria. The significance of this is that explanations that paint with a broad brush are suspect. Citing a laundry list of common cellular and molecular events (phagocytosis, modern examples of endosymbiosis between protozoa and bacteria, mechanisms of gene transfer, etc.) left to themselves would lead us to expect a polyphyletic origin of mitochondria. The monophyletic nature of mitochondria suggest there was something unusual about the transformation.

2. Mitochondria are not just similar to bacteria, they nest with a bacterial crown group - the Rickettsia type alpha-Proteobacteria. Since alpha-proteobacteria branch late in bacterial phylogeny, and Rickettsia are one of the twigs in this late-branching group, it stands to reason that extensive bacterial evolution and divergence occurred prior to the endosymbiotic event. Since the endosymbiotic event likely occurred long after the last universal common ancestor, this raises the specter of bringing together two very different genetic control systems. How one would subsume much of the other is a challenging line of thinking.

Finally, there is another twist to the story. The standard story has some primitive eukaryote engulfing a Rickettsia-like bacteria, spawning cells with mitochondria. Since mitochondria are widespread among eukarya, this is thought to have happened first. Then some eukaryotes with mitochondria engulfed cyanobacteria to form the chloroplasts. It would be nice if this scenario matched bacterial phylogeny. But cyanobacteria were around long before alpha-proteobacteria appeared. What’s more, cyanobacteria even carry out aerobic respiration. So what’s so special about Rickettsia-like alpha-proteobacteria? The standard endosymbiotic theory would be much more strongly supported if mitochondria and chloroplasts nested together and diverged very early off the bacterial tree.

So, you have hardly demonstrated incontrovertible evidence that Darwinian mechanisms have driven endosymbiotic change. My question was very specific. And it remains a more feasible explanation that quantum level programming by a designing intelligence unfolds biological novelty at given intervals [which may or may not be taking cues from the environment for the unfolding]. No primitive notions about natural mechanisms which are based on the pressuposition that the cell is a useless blob of protoplasm, are going to be accepted by me.

The DI promised 100 publications and 30 books? Hmmm. Here is one fantastic book which presents a hypothesis for the origins for novel cell types: [link to Behe's Darwin's Black Box]

Some peer-reviewed papers:

Enjoy and learn.

Now, want to try at producing papers featuring tested NeoDarwinian hypotheses which demonstrate how it was blind natural mechanisms [NS + RM] which produced sufficient CSI to generate biological novelty, sans any intelligent programming? Wishful speculation, unwarranted extrapolations, & hand-waving Just-So stories will not be accepted.

Please don’t make me hold my breath on this one.

Comment by Scott — August 8, 2006 @ 8:24 am

Actually, Behe is pretty clear in saying that he doesn’t propose a mechanism, so that’s probably not a good example.

Comment by improvius — August 8, 2006 @ 8:46 am
At least someone gets it.

My final comment, which asked for a page reference where Behe offered a mechanism for the origin of eukaryotes never appeared. My request for a peer-reviewed paper describing how "quantum level programming by a designing intelligence" could produce endosymbiosis was also, alas left on the cutting room floor. As did my pointing out that it's entirely unsurprising in evolutionary terms that mitochondria are monophyletic as are chloroplasts. I understand that it seems silly from a design perspective that two oxygen handling organelles don't share their "designs," but that's hardly my problem. And given that eukaryotes emerged relatively recently in the history of life, it isn't at all problematic for the ancestor of mitochondria to come from a derived bacterium, rather than a more basal clade.

But the fine sycophants in Dembski-land will never hear that side, because they choose not to listen.

This is why ID doesn't belong in science classes. It isn't in labs yet, and it isn't in labs yet because there isn't even a prediction to test or a hypothesis to work with. It's all rhetoric, "an attempt to indoctrinate, rather than persuade."