Re: [asa] ID/Miracles/Design (Behe vs. Behe)

From: Preston Garrison <>
Date: Mon Apr 27 2009 - 22:19:28 EDT

>Hi all,
>If I may interject, I'd like to offer the observation that that
>asking whether a particular mutation can be the product of chance
>and divine guidance is - in respects of evolution - perhaps the
>wrong question to ask.
>The question should be, in my opinion, whether humans can be the
>determined outcome of the PROCESS of evolution involving many
>thousands (millions?) of mutations despite the individual mutations
>in that process being randomly determined.
>And to my mind, the answer to that question is definitely "yes".
>What is required is simply that the number of individual random
>mutations be large enough that the probability of obtaining any
>particular mutation tends toward unity.

This isn't the case. There are effectively an infinite number of
possible mutations. I think people who haven't worked in genetics
tend to think in terms only of point mutations and it may be true
that something like all possible point mutations are sampled in a
large enough population. I don't know that I've ever seen the
question dealt with. There is a large difference in the rate at which
particular point mutations occur at particular positions, so I doubt
that even all possible point mutations are sampled, except possibly
in large microbial populations. When you consider that there are 3
billion positions in the human genome and for most of our history the
population was much less than that, and that the number of new
mutations per individual is not that high, it is clear that all the
possible point mutations can only be sampled over a fairly long
period of time.

But when you consider all the possible insertions or deletions,
inversions of large or small segments, rearrangements, transposition
of the whole sequence or a fragment of any of the thousands of
transposable elements to any position in the genome, sometimes
carrying pieces of flanking DNA with them, insertion of virus DNA,
occassional insertion of bits of other foreign DNA, etc., etc, etc, I
would say that there is no doubt that nothing approaching saturation
of "all possible mutations" occurs. Reality is that countless complex
mutations occur, many of which are unique - they will never occur
again. And, perhaps counterintuitively, many of these complex
mutations are not selected against, because we see evidence of large
numbers of them in the genome. Every one of the millions of
transposon and virus relics in the human genome is a record of a
complex mutation that got fixed in the population.

Put on top of this that what happens to a particular mutation is
dependent on its context - what is the seqence of the rest of the
genome? Whether a particular mutation encounters positive, negative
or no selective pressure depends on the state of other genes in
genome, the immediate environment of the individual in which it
occurs and the contingent events that the individual encounters. If
you get hit by a bus when you are 3, it doesn't matter that you had a
mutation that would have made you the next Einstein. It also depends
on what genomes the mutation gets assorted and recombined into
in subsequent matings.

This is why I say that we need to think about how we know that any
event is a matter of "chance," particularly unique events, because
genetics and evolution are full of them. With quantum level events in
the simple systems that physicists study, you can repeat the
experiment a large number of times and characterize the statistics
carefully and after decades of argument and increasingly
sophisticated experiments make a case that there are no hidden
variables that determined what happened and that something has
happened by pure "chance," but even then I don't see how you can rule
out or in that God has simply detemined directly what a particular
electron did.

So how do you determine that for a mutation? We can look at the whole
process and say intuitively that since it gave rise to something as
weird and wonderful as us, it must not have been chance. But that
isn't science, it's philosophy or theology or faith. And if someone
else says that they have the opposite intuition about it, that
chance and recombination and differential reproduction are enough, I
doubt that an argument is what will get them to see it our way. It
takes something deeper than argument.

>If this is allowed, then there is certainly no need to argue that
>that God cannot use randomness to achieve a pre-determined outcome.
>By analogy, it's a bit like acknowledging that even though there is
>a meagre chance of any particular ticket winning a lottery,
>nevertheless one can still state with some certainty that the
>organizers of the lottery do, indeed, intend the lottery to be won.
>There is, as I said, no contradiction between the concepts of
>"chance" and "purpose".
>Cameron Wybrow wrote:
>>1. If you understand the meaning of the word "chance" as it is
>>used in both everyday speech and in the classical philosophical
>>tradition, you know that chance events are always unguided, by
>>definition. It is implicit in the definition of the word.
>>Possibly you mean not all events which *appear* to be chance events
>>are unguided. Well, of course, if they are only *apparently*
>>chance events, but not really chance events, then they may well be
>>guided (or they may be due to some natural necessity, as George
>>Murphy has pointed out). But then you're equivocating, and you'd
>>be better off using a different word
>>altogether, so as not to confuse people.
>>If I bang into an old friend at the store, that is a chance event.
>>If a cosmic ray strikes a sleeping lioness and causes a mutation in
>>her offspring, that is a chance event. (The lioness no more had to
>>be sleeping on that spot at that moment than on any other spot, and
>>had she been anywhere else the cosmic ray would have missed.)
>>Proponents of neo-Darwinism (Mayr, Dawkins, Gaylord Simpson,
>>Dobzhansky, Sagan, Gould, etc.) understand "chance" as I have used
>>the word. If TEs wish to use the word "chance" in their own
>>idiosyncratic way, that is up to them, but then, since both ID and
>>traditional neo-Darwinism mean the same thing by "chance", TE will
>>be the odd man out, and the obscuring of communication will rest on
>>TE's shoulders.
>>2. I did not say that a theistic evolutionist bars a Creator from
>>controlling the universe. If I were a theistic evolutionist --
>>which actually I may well be, but not at all of the variety
>>typically represented on this list -- I would *certainly* believe
>>that the Creator controls the universe. I would also believe that
>>the Creator directly guided the mutations to produce the various
>>species, including man. And I would say so, with much less
>>vagueness about God's role than is typically expressed by some of
>>the TEs on this list and elsewhere.
>>3. Only a quasi-Gnostic would refer to nature as the "mask" of
>>God, as if nature *hides* God rather than reveals him. When Luther
>>said this, he obviously had forgotten that "the heavens declare the
>>glory of God". The idea that God is completely "hidden" in
>>relation to nature is Manichean, not Christian. Of course nature
>>does not show us God directly, but it expresses something of the
>>mind of God. Classical Christianity affirmed the goodness, beauty
>>and wisdom of creation, and its evident connection with its divine
>>source. Read Genesis 1. Read the Psalms. Read Romans. Read the
>>Greek Fathers. Read Thomas Aquinas. Read Paley. Read just about
>>every English theologian and poet from 1600 onward. (I can't speak
>>for what the gloomy Teutonic theologians across the channel
>>believed; nor do I care.)
>>4. ID does not say that we can "tear off the mask of God". Many
>>ID proponents are very conservative Calvinists who would very much
>>insist on the inscrutability of God -- more so than many TEs, who
>>seem sure that they know what kind of miracles God would or would
>>not perform, how God would or would not create, etc. Please stop
>>attributing notions to ID that are your interpretations, rather
>>than what ID has to say for itself. Your rage cannot be taken
>>seriously when it is based on a caricature.
>>5. Finally, I note that you tried to finesse my question with a
>>counter-question, but I'm wily to such devices, and realize that
>>you are just plain ducking. So I'll rephrase: Do you believe that
>>chance mechanisms of the sort proposed by neo-Darwinism can account
>>for evolution, *without adding in the guidance of God*? All ID
>>people answer with a clear "No". All atheist Darwinists answer
>>with clear "Yes". Most TEs answer incomprehensibly. You can break
>>the pattern, and answer clearly. Here's a golden opportunity for
>>your side.
>>----- Original Message ----- From: "D. F. Siemens, Jr."
>>To: <>
>>Cc: <>
>>Sent: Friday, April 24, 2009 11:41 PM
>>Subject: Re: [asa] ID/Miracles/Design (Behe vs. Behe)
>>>Where do you get the idea that chance is purely unguided? The May
>>>/Scientific American/ has an article on the difference the 1% makes
>>>between chimps and humans, with a discussion of the areas of accelerated
>>>change in the human genome. We may not know which environmental factors
>>>and which genomic ones produce what seem to be unidirectional change, but
>>>we observe what seems to be accelerated inline alteration. Can you
>>>explain to me how a theistic evolutionist bars the Creator from
>>>controlling the universe? Luther's comment that natural laws are the
>>>masks of God makes good sense. God is there all the time. But ID insists
>>>that we can tear the masks off. Bunk!
>>>Dave (ASA)
>>>On Fri, 24 Apr 2009 20:36:57 -0400 "Cameron Wybrow"
>>><> writes:
>>>>Your objection regarding the term "Darwinian" is a verbal
>>>>Dave; my point remains the same if you change it to "neo-Darwinian
>>>>or if you add in any number of newer "mechanisms" which are
>>>>currently mooted
>>>>around (drift, etc.), and call it "neo-neo-Darwinian means". All of
>>>>are chance mechanisms, ultimately, when all the fancy language is
>>>>away. The task of neo-neo-Darwinism, then, is to prove that chance
>>>>produce integrated complex systems. Behe's argument is that it
>>>>can't. He
>>>>may be right, or he may be wrong, but there is no point in
>>>>obfuscating the
>>>>issue. The choice is, and always has been (since the days of the
>>>>Greeks) "by design or by chance".
>>>>The problem with TE (at least in most of its formulations) is that
>>>>it is
>>>>simply unclear about the extent of the complexity-building powers it
>>>>to chance. To read TE writers, the cause of mutations etc. is sort
>>>>chance, and sort of God's action, and sort of neither, and sort of
>>>>both --
>>>>that's what TE sounds like, to an outsider seeking theoretical
>>>>clarity. It
>>>>sounds vague.
>>>>ID, on the other hand, is razor-sharp in clarity on that point. It
>>>>draws a
>>>>line in the sand. It says that chance is simply not sufficient. It
>>>>that there must be an input of intelligence. The input might be
>>>>before the
>>>>Big Bang, with no further inputs necessary (front-loaded
>>>>evolution). It might be at one or more points after that
>>>>quantum-concealed or otherwise). ID does not specify. But it says
>>>>that the
>>>>input is necessary.
>>>>Tell me, Dave: do you believe that chance mechanisms -- include the
>>>>passel of them if you want -- could, *utterly unguided by God or
>>>>some other
>>>>intelligence*, turn atoms into Adam, molecules into Mendel, bacteria
>>>>Bohr? And if you do believe that, why do you bring God into the
>>>>picture at
>>>>all? And if you don't believe that, how does your view differ
>>>>from Behe's, except in jargon?
>>>>----- Original Message ----- From: "D. F. Siemens, Jr."
>>>>To: <>
>>>>Cc: <>
>>>>Sent: Friday, April 24, 2009 7:30 PM
>>>>Subject: Re: [asa] ID/Miracles/Design (Behe vs. Behe)
>>>>> But "purely Darwinian means" are no longer relevant in biology,
>>>>> one desires to be anachronistic. Darwin, for example, had no
>>>>> understanding of genetics, and even the rediscovery of Mendel's
>>>>work is
>>>>> now vastly superceded. I have read numerous references to
>>>>> complexity, but they seem to represent /ipse dixit/, with various
>>>>> experiments indicating that the complexity can be produced by
>>>>> processes. Indeed, from what I've encountered, "irreducible
>>>>> seems closely equivalent to "God of the gaps."
>>>>> Dave (ASA)
>>>>> On Fri, 24 Apr 2009 18:24:04 -0400 "Cameron Wybrow"
>>>>> <> writes:
>>>>>> Uhhh, Bernie ...
>>>>>> This is not an accurate representation of Behe's thought.
>>>>>> Let me modify your words to make them correct:
>>>>>> > Behe 1: "I have no problem with biological evolution of humans
>>>>>> from
>>>>>> > apelike creatures, *or with biological evolution generally*."
>>>> >> >
>>>>>> > Behe 2: "Evolution *by purely Darwinian means* is impossible
>>>>>> because of
>>>>>> > irreducible complexity."
>>>>>> Note that Behe 1 is entirely compatible with Behe 2.
>>>>>> If I may add a general remark, addressed not just to Bernie but
>>>>>> everyone
>>>>>> here: why are ID proponents' arguments so often misrepresented
>>>>>> mischaracterized here? A couple of months ago someone
>>>>>> mischaracterized
>>>>>> Behe, and Ted Davis had to jump in to correct the person, with
>>>>>> exact
>>>>>> quotation from Behe. And over the last several months I've
>>>>>> several
>>>>>> remarks which suggest to me that some people here are not
>>>>>> the actual
>>>>>> works of Behe, Dembski, and other ID theorists, but are
>>>>>> them
>>>>>> based on hearsay. I find this disturbing, especially since a
>>>>>> of
>>>>>> people here have Ph.D.s. Is it not part of doctoral-level
>>>>>> to
>>>>>> acquire the habit of reading sources carefully before one
>>>>>> them?
>>>>>> Cameron.
>>>>>> ----- Original Message ----- >> From: "Dehler, Bernie"
>>>>>> Cc: <>
>>>>>> Sent: Friday, April 24, 2009 4:59 PM
>>>>>> Subject: RE: [asa] ID/Miracles/Design (Behe vs. Behe)
>>>>>> > Hi Ted-
>>>>>> >
>>>>>> > Gregory is pointing out the confusion in ID circles. Did
>>>>>> evolution happen
>>>>>> > or not? I suppose Behe could host a debate featuring two
>>>>>> opponents:
>>>>>> > himself vs. himself.
>>>>>> >
>>>>>> > Behe 1: "I have no problem with biological evolution of humans
>>>>>> from
>>>>>> > apelike creatures."
>>>>>> >
>>>>>> > Behe 2: "Evolution is impossible because of irreducible
>>>>>> complexity."
>>>>>> >
>>>>>> > ...Bernie
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Received on Mon Apr 27 22:20:12 2009

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