Re: [asa] Artificial molecule evolves in the lab

From: Jim Armstrong <>
Date: Sun Jan 11 2009 - 01:21:42 EST
Others have made this argument, but Behe seems to be troubled with the idea that a just-pre-mousetrap configuration for any of the 20 parts could have existed - because he presumes that a position holder in the evolutionary path must be on a mousetrap configuration trajectory .

A standard argument, well put forth by others in specific analogous bio-examples give credibility to the notion that those parts in that state of evolution need not have arrived in that configuration by selection for their suitability for service in a mousetrap.

Nor is the evolutionary path required or even likely to have progressed by any steady course of progress toward the requisite end configuration for the mousetrap. Instead, they were open to selection influenced by any of an unknown number of other criteria which may or may not have any relevance at all to the mousetrap functionality.

But a more serious presumption is that the mousetrap configuration is THE "final" and "desired" assemblage configuration. In fact, we know the particulars of neither the creative intent (is it indeed trapping mice?), nor the critical selection pressures in play (is this the only required/desired/preferred configuration?). Perhaps 20 parts are not necessary, and/or perhaps the mousetrap is a precursor configuration to yet another device that is more nearly reflective of the creative objective. The man-troubling reality is that evolutionary opportunities and factors are still alive and operative even though Creation's presumed crowning achievement is present and accounted for (though for some elusive reason, not situated at the center of Creation). This and other considerations has drawn me toward some sense of process theology.

Time to pull the prattle-generator plug and get some shut-eye.

JimA [Friend of ASA]

David Clounch wrote:

On Fri, Jan 9, 2009 at 12:44 PM, Jim Armstrong <> wrote:
Perhaps overclaiming, but still not without implication I think, even though it is basically a subset of an RNA or RNA-like structure, as I understand it. I first heard of this yesterday on NPR (All Things Considered - listen at   ). You can hear a little more of the sense of what happened in the interview.
I wish I had a computer that has audio. Sadly, I havent installed linux drivers for audio. 

In the mention of complexity, I was simply alluding to the entropy argument often advanced broadly by the creationist community.
I sort of suspected that. And you may be correct that the creationists think complexity is an anti-evolutionist argument. But that misunderstanding of theirs has nothing to do with Dembski or Behe or any of the IDT thinkers who never said any such thing.

>When folks talk so simply about the vector space, those discussions often seem so incomplete to me, apparently ignoring the various mechanisms of selection that are operative in the real case.

I know. I  dont know how to describe it any better.  Here's  how I think.  I had in mind a state space that includes the possible states of all particles.  The space is partially populated with real particles with real states, but they are always changing of course. 

If we were describing this in a computer (if it were possible to do so) then we could take a snapshot of all the particles at time t.  The snapshot would contain all the actual particles at that time.   At time t-1  the previous snaphot would contain  almost the same population. But if it did not contain certain molecules it would contain the precursor molecules.  (Which are most likely reactants?)  So if we had enough snapshots we could play a movie of how chemicals form other chemicals.  Thats the way I think of  a liquid soup of molecules or a gas of molecules.  But thats the actual population. There's also  the states that aren't occupied, but  that could become populated. We could make  movies of that too! 

 This has nothing per se to do with selection. To select  something the thing being selected must first exist. 

>The mutations are only one necessary half of the evolutionary process. The other is the complementary part that "challenges" the mutational products with respect to robustness or functionality or???

I wouldnt disagree.

What Behe was trying to point out, as I think of his book (and I could be wrong),  is that if to meet a selection rule you need 20 parts, then indeed  all 20 parts must be present.  And if just one is missing the rule isn't invoked.  Now why would analyisis of complexity come into it?  Well, one could postulate that only 19 parts are actually needed. But that would be a different rule.  I think whats being proposed there by Behe's objectors is that Rule #1 with 19 parts easily leads to Rule #2  with 20 parts.  Behe's argument isnt that  the combination of Rule #1 followed by Rule #2  is  too complex. Although one could look at that, and it needs to be calculated.
His argument is the entire population containing Rule #1 died before Rule #2 could be concatenated/combined  with Rule #1.
To disprove  Behe's hypothesis what one is supposed to do is show that Rule #2, which requires all 20 parts, is not fatal to the organism. That supposedly ought to be easy to do.  But instead what we usually  hear is that Behe is merely saying   the 20 parts are too complex, and he is thus  making a complexity argument.  And,  that Behe is thus presenting an inherently false hypothesis. But that wasn't his argument!    His argument was that the 20 parts were necessary.  I don't see why that makes him evil, even if creationists do misunderstand him.  The man believes in common descent. That makes him anaethema to anti-evolutionists.  So I see the mud slinging that his hypothesis is some form of creationism as extraordinarily unfair and suspect.

>And just repeat an earlier question that I have posed from time to time, without much in the way of response, ...what might be the most simple explanation we can think of to explain the enormity of Creation other than to render more probable, or give greater opportunity to the unlikely??

On the enormity of creation:

Remember Carl Sagan's  movie  with Jodie Foster?  I remember the repeated remarks about "there is all that stuff out there".  Meaning we humans are totally insignificant and irrelevant. I cringed because it is sooooo stupid. In reality there isnt all that much stuff out there. But there is a lot, and some physicists (whose names I wont mention)  have tried to show that one needs at least that much material in order to have even a tiny finite probability of having even one earth-like planet.  If thats true, then, for me, it all fits.  if I were building a universe I'd do pretty much the same thing as what has happened. Wouldn't you? Even God would!   So cosmological evolution doesn't argue against Christianity. And never did so.  The fact that Sagans followers and the YECers happen to agree on some fantasy view of a fake Christianity....? Well, what are we to do with them? Like contractors, they are too big to lob into a dumpster. (To quote Dilbert). :)

May I ask, do I sound like some kind of creationist?  

-Dave C


David Clounch wrote:

You seem to be saying this report has implications.  If so, I think you are over-claiming.

Can you point to someone who made the argument about complexity that you claim to refute? It wasn't Behe's argument, for example.   Might have been someone else's.  But who?  You are probably correct that someone out there does make such a claim but why does that matter?  I'd be willing to bet that it isn't anti-evolutionists who make this claim about complexity, but the anti-anti-evolutionists (who arent the same thing as pro-evolutionists, whatever that might be) who are putting words into  the mouths of anti-evolutionists.  

This  is why it is important to put the report, and it's implications, if there are any,  in the context of an actual claim about the  phenomena of complexity when one uses it. 

I don't think the report has any implications that can be applied to the claims of groups. It's a real stretch.

Am I making any sense?

Now, down to what I think of the report. I think the approach of  Mike Gene is correct. A bunch of engineers came up with a mechanism that might or might not occur in nature all on its own. So engineering principles were applied. 

I also think of it mathematically. The reported mechanism is a vector in a space consisting of all possible mechanisms. The engineers populated part of that space that previously was empty.  To me, thats all normal.  It doesn't address the question asked by Behe.  The question asked by Behe has to do with whether a set of curved lines  in that space are all likely to intersect at a certain point. Is there a solution?  Might be. But Behe never claimed the math proves there is no solution. He merely said it is not likely for there to be a natural process that produces the solution. So it is reasonable to believe that it  takes engineering to create the intersection.  To refute this, and show that it is not reasonable to believe there must be engineering,  one has to show either that the solution is necessary, or  that it is likely in the absence of engineering.
The report has nothing to do with either. If anything, the report  supports Mike Gene's assertions about engineering. (but I already said that above, didn't I?).



On Sat, Jan 10, 2009 at 9:38 AM, Jim Armstrong <> wrote:
This has the apparent effect of conclusively negating a pivotal anti-evolutionist argument to the effect that more complex entities cannot evolve from less complex - JimA [Friend of ASA]

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