Re: ORIGINS: testing design

Allan Harvey (
Mon, 25 Nov 1996 13:20:18 -0700

David Campbell wrote:
>>Russ Maatman has issued the appropriate critical test:
>>"The test will be the response to the challenge I and others make: Get a
>>proposed gradualistic mechanism for one of Behe's systems past the referees
>>and editors of the Journal of Molecular Evolution, or some other journal, and
>>then let all of us take a look."
>>I add a further requirement, that a selective mechanism also be specified.
>>Who's willing to take up the challenge?
>This tests whether anyone thinks up a mechanism, but does not test whether
>one exists. Perhaps we're just not clever enough to figure out how God
>caused the system to evolve. If no explantion is forthcoming, the gap is
>merely filled by philosophical preconceptions, e.g., "It was designed", "It
>evolved somehow", or "I don't know how God did it". I think the third
>option is the safest assertion.

That last paragraph may be the wisest thing anybody has said on this so far.
Proving the absence of a mechanism is nearly impossible. Behe and others
may think the evidence strongly support absence of a mechnaism, but other
knowledgable people like Terry Gray (I don't have the knowledge to judge the
arguments, nor I suspect do most who have been contributing to this thread)

But there is a related issue concerning lack of explanations that requires
quoting a recent message from Bob Dehaan:

>Behe devotes all of chapter 8 in his book to his search of the literature for
>evolutionary explanations of irreducible complexity in biochemical studies.
> His conclusion is that "Despite comparing sequences and mathematical
>modeling, molecular evolution has never addressed the question of how complex
>structures came to be." His exhaustive search would indicate his openness to
>evolutionary explanations of irreducible biochemical complexity, and his
>conclusion is that he found none, not even attempts to explain it.

We shouldn't jump from this observation to the conclusion that no
explanations could ever be found. Why are researchers doing very little in
the way of coming up with "evolutionary explanations"?

1) It is comparatively difficult to figure such things out. In most
biochemical work, you are just working with some existing system, not trying
to reconstruct past systems from evidence that must by its nature be indirect.

2) Will anybody fund such work? These days, very little science gets done
without grant money of some sort, and most granting agencies are more
interested in current human applications than in figuring out the past.
Suppose a biochemist has a choice between a project to try and construct an
evolutionary explanation for blood clotting, or a project to study the
existing blood clotting mechanism to develop a new treatment for
hemophiliacs? Which project is NIH more likely to fund? No contest.

I guess my point is to propose that one (and maybe the main) reason so few
"evolutionary explanations" for these systems exist is that the scientists
who might come up with such explanations are too busy doing more fruitful
and fundable projects.

| Dr. Allan H. Harvey | |
| Physical and Chemical Properties Division | Phone: (303)497-3555 |
| National Institute of Standards & Technology | Fax: (303)497-5224 |
| 325 Broadway, Boulder, CO 80303 | |
| "Don't blame the government for what I say, or vice versa." |