Re: [asa] Four myths about I.D.; four myths about T.E.

From: Collin Brendemuehl <collinb@brendemuehl.net>
Date: Wed Jul 02 2008 - 09:59:48 EDT

-----Original Message-----
From: Rich Blinne [mailto:rich.blinne@gmail.com]
Sent: Wednesday, July 2, 2008 09:12 AM
To: 'PvM'
Cc: 'Collin Brendemuehl', 'ASA'
Subject: Re: [asa] Four myths about I.D.; four myths about T.E.

On Jul 2, 2008, at 1:52 AM, PvM wrote:

The closest ID comes to a scientific claim is stating that 'x' cannot
yet be explained by science. The rest is based on poor logic at best.
No. ID acts as a falsifier for Darwinism and some claims of evolutionary
biology.
For those who claim to depend upon some form of empiricism a falsifier
should be welcome.

so show me that ID has anything relevant to contribute to science. So
far you have provided no evidence. I am not surprised

It's worse than that. Not only does ID does not provide evidence, it ignores it, and even dissuades any research that to do so "Sisyphus himself would pity us". This is what critics of ID mean by being a "science stopper". It is a well known fact that researchers such as Behe's and Gonzalez' scientific output comes to a screeching halt when they are involved with ID. Scott Minnich admitted on the stand in Dover that he did not take any class in evolution because ISU didn't "make him". This keeps him from being involved with important new items in his specialty of plague research, e.g. the evolving of the ability to produce biofilms (Experimental evidence for negative selection in the evolution of a Yersinia pestis pseudogene. PNAS Vol. 105, pp. 8097-8101). It has been said ID is to promote a "God of the gaps" approach. Most researchers look at the "gaps" as research opportunities. But, ID is curiously incurious because if Goddidit there is no reason to research the evolutionary mechanisms, no? This is not merely hypothetical. Note the following example, specifically how many references were ignored below, from Chapter 3 of Ken Miller's new book, Only a Theory:

In essence the [immune] system has three basic parts. In addition to the right DNA sequences, which contain the blueprints for the antibody molecule itself, the cell also needs a molecular machine that cuts and recombines the pieces of DNA during the shuffling process. And finally it needs to have a set of signals built into the DNA telling that machine where to cut and paste during the shuffling process. This multipart system is another example of the type of process that ID advocates claim could not have evolved, and therefore must be further evidence for design, because the individual parts are useless without one another. Michael Behe pointed out this problem for evolution in 1996:

In the absence of the machine, the parts never get cut out and joined. In the absence of the signals, it’s like expecting a machine that’s randomly cutting paper to make a paper doll. And, of course, in the absence of the message for the antibody itself, the other components would be pointless.[17]

Behe, of course, was aware of an interesting suggestion made several years earlier by Nobel laureate David Baltimore as to how this system may have come about. Like other scientists, Baltimore noticed that the gene-shuffling system in the immune system has a striking resemblance to a class of DNA molecules known as transposons, or transposable genetic elements. Behe, however, ridiculed this suggestion, comparing it to a fanciful ride in a magic box by cartoon characters Calvin and Hobbes. In fact, he told researchers that there was simply no point in doing research into the evolution of this system:

As scientists, we yearn to understand how this magnificent mechanism came to be, but the complexity of the system dooms all Darwinian explanations to frustration. Sisyphus himself would pity us.[18]

Fortunately scientists in the field paid no attention to this advice and continued to investigate Baltimore’s idea. In 1996 they noticed strong biochemical similarities between antibody gene shuffling and the ways in which transposons move from point to point in the genome. Labs around the world followed this lead, and one step at a time they confirmed each and every element of the transposon hypothesis. These studies reached their climax in 2005, when the exact transposon from which the immune system machinery evolved was conclusively identified.[19]

How did the ID community respond to this work? Michael Behe was systematically presented with the results of the studies while on the stand at the Dover trial. Judge John E. Jones III first noted the amount of evidence arrayed before him:

Between 1996 and 2002, various studies confirmed each element of the evolutionary hypothesis explaining the origin of the immune system. [2:31 (Miller)] In fact, on cross-examination, Professor Behe was questioned concerning his 1996 claim that science would never find an evolutionary explanation for the immune system. He was presented with fifty-eight peer-reviewed publications, nine books, and several immunology textbook chapters about the evolution of the immune system.[20]

He then remarked on Behe’s reaction to the pile of research papers and books contradicting his assertion of unevolvability:

However, he simply insisted that this was still not sufficient evidence of evolution, and that it was not “good enough.” [23:19 (Behe)][21]

The judge understood that merely shaking your head to reject a substantial body of research places a “scientifically unreasonable” burden of proof on those who have elucidated the evolution of this key part of the immune system. The lesson from this part of the Dover trial was clear to everyone in the courtroom: Even when presented with every opportunity to make their case, the defenders of design resorted to little more than saying “It’s not good enough for me” in the face of overwhelming evidence for evolution.

[17] Michael J. Behe, Darwin’s Black Box (New York: The Free Press, 1996), 130.

[18] Ibid., 139.

[19] Vladimir V. Kapitonov and Jerzy Jurka, “RAG1 Core and V(D)J Recombination Signal Sequences Were Derived from Transib Transposons,” Public Library of Science, Biology 3 (2005): e181.

[20] This case is formally known as Kitzmiller v. Dover. Its detailed legal reference is Federal Case 4:04-cv-02688-JEJ Document 342, filed Dec. 20, 2005. This quotation comes from Kitzmiller v. Dover decision, 78.

Rich Blinne
Member ASA

"Science stopper"?
I wonder if it is any more a science stopper than today's deterministic materialism?
My thought is that it does not carry any more metaphysical baggage than the "science" of the New Atheists.
I'm not an ID proponent. I have some serious concerns about ID. But I think this criticism is not realistic.
I think a better criticism is that it may be a mal-formed theory and requires some revision.

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Received on Wed Jul 2 10:00:06 2008

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