Re: Critique of ID & No Free Lunch

From: Josh Bembenek (
Date: Wed Sep 11 2002 - 15:26:55 EDT

  • Next message: Howard J. Van Till: "Re: Critique of ID & No Free Lunch"


    "Yes. I remember that this system was used for illustrating the concept of
    irreducible complexity. But as a test case for determining whether IC
    systems can evolve it has some problems."

    --I agree that the problems you have defined are worth consideration,
    however I don't believe that the flagella is a poor test case (eveb in light
    of your considerations) because of the primary fact that it is such a clear
    example of what can be considered to be irreducible complexity. It is a
    well-defined system with a well-defined role. Things like cascades and
    metabolic pathways may not be so easily defined as is a mechanical machine
    devoted to swimming (and the ability to perform protein trafficking in some

    "The first is that the organism or class of organisms which later gave rise
    to bacteria with flagella is not well defined. So knowing what components
    were around in the immediate pre-flagellar progenitor is extremely difficult
    to determine (actually it's currently impossible). Second, the acquisition
    of the flagellum likely happened roughly two billion years ago, which
    seriously reduces the odds that any sequence homologies will survive (It can
    happen but it's probably extremely rare). The effects of time in conjunction
    with strong, optimizing selection adds to the difficulty. Basically, as a
    means of directly addressing the question of whether IC systems are
    accessible to evolution, the bacterial flagellum does not strike me as an
    experimentally resolvable system."

    --This discussion assumes that the flagella evolved, and that the only way
    to test it truly is to uncover the way it evolved. If we can establish that
    the current structure that exists today could not have evolved for some
    reason, we need not worry about evidence for its evolution. Are you
    suggesting that ID purposely chooses examples that have no evidence to deny
    their claims? I would tend to think that they have chosen a clearly defined
    system that exemplifies the qualities of IC as a beginning. Later their
    efforts can be diversified to other systems. In the end, if they
    hypothetically proved beyond doubt that the flagella could not evolve, then
    the evidence you want has never existed for the flagella and your
    considerations are a diversion. Of course this may not necessarily happen
    without further data, however I think that would be their goal.

    "Cilia could be interesting from the perspective that they do exist in
    different forms in different species and therefore it may be possible to
    examine a relatively "new" structure with regard to possible pre- and
    post-emergent states. That is, in some cases it may be possible to determine
    what components were available in the ancestral state and compare this to an
    organism carrying a newer version of the system. Components of cilia (and
    their closely related proteins) and differences in how they operate in other
    cell functions might also be an interesting study."

    --Which seems like a more interesting study for someone trying to negate the
    notion of IC and ID. If ID wants to get off the ground they have to choose
    an example and make their case with it. Then they can move on to others
    systems and on to the difficult task of determining what constitutes minimal
    complexity and added complexity built off of a minimal- functioning system,
    systems built through evolution, systems not able to be built by
    evolutionary mechanisms, etc.

    "I believe it is best to study a system in which the pre- and post-IC
    emergence data is most readily available."

    --I don't know that such a system is readily identified, I feel that you
    would have rattled off a few if that were the case. Do you think the
    blood-clotting system, despite its "more recent appearance in evolution",
    fits this category? I think that within the next ten years, this type of
    data will be much more available as more and more genomes are sequenced,
    until then I don't think any system IC or not has enough pre- and post-
    emergence data to carefully argue as to its evolution. This is why the
    entire controversy exists in the first place, because the data you want them
    to have before they carry out their analysis is largely unavailable for any
    system. Most research focuses on trying to discover the entire repertoire
    involved with system X in the first place, not to mention discovering every
    interaction and function and then analyzing those in systems other organisms
    and how they are related in function and components, etc. You have jumped
    several decades or more ahead of what science has discovered in many areas.
    (I work on the cell cycle and the systems controlling mitotic exit between
    s. cerevisiae and s. pombe appear to be quite different between extremely
    related organisms. Imagining how they relate evolutionarily at this point
    is quite premature in my book because we haven't clearly determined exactly
    how the system works in the first place, in terms of all components involved
    and function of each and relationship to other proteins in other organisms.)
       I think it is unfair to ask for the problem to be resolved empirically
    before we theorize about what happened with biology through evolution or

    "If any mathematical evaluation of evolutionary probabilities is likely to
    succeed, it can only be done on the most recently emerged systems, not ones
    billions of years old."

    --Unless the mathematical argument can be conclusive enough to inform us
    that IC systems could not have been derived through evolution, and thus
    waiting for systems with sufficient precursors is waiting for nothing. I
    would guess that within the next ten to twenty years we will have a much
    better answer for these questions, however with current data I see no great
    problem with looking at the flagellum. In the end, even if they chose a
    more recent example of IC, they would be looking at the core IC structure,
    not all the variants or how the system has been modified. This would mean
    that they would perform the same calculations and get the same answers for
    the core of the IC structure despite however it is changed or adapted in
    various organisms. I believe it is the job of those opposed to these ideas
    to provide a system that has evidence that you are looking for and provide a
    detailed explanation for the emergence of IC, not the reverse. If such a
    system fitting your criteria were readily identifiable, I would think that
    someone would have already pointed it out to Dembski, Behe et al., and the
    argument would quickly pass away.

    Josh Bembenek

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