From: Sarah Berel-Harrop (
Date: Sat Sep 27 2003 - 19:49:10 EDT

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    Re: RFEP & IDHoward, I wish you would turn off the HTML.
    Also I hope a Real Biologist will join in here at
    some point.

    I am not sure if this is the right conclusion, for the
    following reasons.

    1) Hunter never mentions the disagreement. There
    is in fact disagreement between "neutralists" and
    "selectionists"; it is a disagreement regarding the
    relative significance of various processes. However
    virtually ALL AGREE that ALL the processes occur.
    So in that sense, there is no disagreement. Although
    what may happen is disagreement over what's going
    on in a particular case. But you probably knew that.
    So whether there is a disagreement in the case he
    cites would have to be researched. He's stating
    there is none, that "evolutionists" jump to the
    conclusion of vestigial or neutral causation.

    Note, here, the profoundly different character of
    a "vestigial" thing and the product of "neutral"
    evolution. A vestigial thing is presumed to have
    had a function sometime in the past that it no longer
    performs. A neutral thing performs no function and
    never has. This stuff doesn't pass the smell test
    to me because it just seems to be confused and
    conflating things that don't really have anything to
    do with one another. In other words, I just don't
    get the impression he knows what he's talking about.

    2) You are partly correct in that he appears to be
    taking a side, that is, the selectionist side. He's just
    positing a mechanism other than natural selection,
    the Intelligent Designer. (Well and good, find this
    Designer and it will be enshrined in evolutionary
    biology textbooks along with Kimura's neutral theory.
    Allan Orr makes a similar point in his review of
    Darwin's Black Box)

    3) Why doesn't he mention Ohta's nearly-neutral
    theory as an example of an alternative view regarding
    "neutral" evolution. The statement that "evolutionists"
    immediately jump to the side of non-functionality is not
    universally true! I am beginning to think that the
    classic accounting answer, "It Depends" is quite
    relevant as well in biology. The problem with ID'rs
    is they don't like that answer, and think that answer
    points to some kind of weakness in biology.

    4) Note as well, what I think is a perverse rhetorical
    strategy. The sheer volume of variation is noteworthy,
    as I previously posted. It is really hard to be aware of
    this volume of variation and not come to the conclusion
    that some of it is random, or better yet, call it
    unexplained, "noise". Then as measurement techniques
    or whatever get better you may identify other causes.
    But to say it is unfair for biologists not to be actively
    looking for function in all these cases is unreasonable.
    Why does he say there are many varieties but doesn't
    give the number that have been identified? Is it
    because it would make his case that the numerous
    variations of hemoglobin are like the 86 so-called
    vestigial organs (which are not basically repeats of each
    other, and so are not analagous to the hemoglobin
    situation) look, well, a little silly?

    This critique of evolution is novel in the sense that
    virtually everything that's been done so far is a
    critique of Dawkins. Behe says now he is going
    to research gene duplication so that is a little different,
    but I don't think he's outlined what he plans to do.

    I am thinking that if you haven't read Ridley's
    _evolution_, which is a collection of essays and
    extracts from books organized by theme, eg,
    adaptation, neutral evolution, etc, you might
    wish to read that.

    ----- Original Message -----
    From: Howard J. Van Till
    To: Sarah Berel-Harrop ; asa list
    Sent: Saturday, September 27, 2003 10:28 AM
    Subject: Re: RFEP & ID


    Thanks for the instructive comments. It now looks to me as if Hunter, in the
    excerpt provided by Jack Haas, is taking an active disagreement within
    biology and crediting ID with being the insightful critic of evolutionary
    biology from the outside with a novel paradigm (look for function, based on
    knowing how an unknown Intelligent Designer would have done things) not
    generally found within biology itself. Do I have it right?

    Howard Van Till

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