Joined: Oct. 2006
|Quote (Jim_Wynne @ May 27 2007,09:52)|
|I agree with the consensus here that direct engagement is probably futile, but if there's a group involved, sometimes there will be collateral influence. Here in the Series of Tubes, for every person who posts in a place like this there might be hundreds of lurkers, and many of those people can be influenced. The same applies to face-to-face conversations; if there is a group of people, most of whom are just listening, there could be some influence even if the person you're speaking to directly is impervious to reason.|
I have a born-again sister-in-law, and I had a brief conversation on the subject of evolution with her a while back, but it ended, predictably, in her saying, "Well, we look at the same evidence, but just interpret it differently." I was content to let it go at that in the interest of family harmony, and the subject was never brought up again, and we've lived happily ever after.
I have two born again sibs, who have born again spouses (as well as two once-born sibs, and their once-born better valves). We've learned not to go there. Just not worth it.
Maybe this will be interesting to some: a conversation by email I had with my born-again brother eight years ago. It began with his reference to a an article referencing "Darwin's Black Box." I hope you can feel the restraint imposed by the fact that we both share the larger goal of maintaining a relationship. That restrain is usually absent in intertube contests with anonymous others. Sib is identified as “Brother John,” not his real name.
|Here's an article I stumbled across I'd like you to read. You'll like the references to Carl Sagan's "Contact". I read the other book he references, "Darwin's Black Box", a couple of years ago (as well as "The Blind Watchmaker", as you know). The article's author makes a better argument then I could ever hope to. To me "irreducible complexity" is the most compelling argument for the design of life that one can find. As I quipped to you and Marcia not too long ago, completely out of context I think, "It's in the details". What I was really saying was, "He's in the details." The mechanisms of Microbiology to be exact.|
|Hi John, |
Thanks for the article - very interesting. I had only recently heard of Behe's book, which I gather has caused a considerable stir, in part owing to his sound credentials in biochemistry and the tight reasoning of his book. One of my favorite writers in the field is the philosopher Daniel Dennett (author of "Darwin's Dangerous Idea"), who described Behe's thesis as "unignorable."
The reply of the biological community to Behe's argument regarding irreducible complexity goes as follows:
"Irreducible complexity" as Behe describes it is real. In fact, one need not go to the intracellular/biochemical level to find it; the human heart is another example. The heart consists of a pump and valves - remove either and you're toast. And there is no way you can evolve a heart by starting with a pump, then adding valves, or starting with valves and adding a pump. He is also correct in saying that you can't build a complex biochemical machine of irreducible complexity piece by piece by simply adding parts, regardless how small the steps. Like his mousetrap, or the heart, the intermediate stages will not function. He is right about all of that.
Natural selection can, nevertheless, build objects that appear to display irreducible complexity. One pathway looks something like this:
A biochemical adaptation may have Part A, which serves a function (perhaps not very well). Eventually Part B (say, an enzyme) is added, enhancing the efficiency of Part A. At this stage, Part B may be removed, after which Part A will continue to function, just less efficiently (so far, this complexity is not "irreducible" in Behe's sense.)
Some time later, however, *Part A* changes in a way that renders Part B *essential*. The Part A/Part B assembly is now an irreducibly complex unit that evolved naturally. And, indeed, it is true that you cannot remove Part B and get anything that functions (because A has now changed to depend on B), and that there is no way that the assembly of Parts A and B could have evolved simply by adding Part B.
Further parts may be folded into the assembly the same way. Part C evolves, enabling the Part A/B assembly to perform more efficiently. C can be removed with some loss of efficiency - so far, the addition of C did not add further irreducible complexity. Later, however, the unit A/B changes in a way that renders C essential (a change that may well have been made possible owing to the presence of C). And so forth.
What Behe's mousetrap analogy misses is the fact that natural selection does not simply add new parts in small steps - rather, it constantly, everywhere and always scrutinizes the parts *already in place* and favors improvements. Hence parts already in place may change - rendering newer parts essential, resulting in interdependent assemblies of irreducible complexity. Retracing the historical steps of the process does not involve the removal of parts: in essence, one must *first* undo the change in A that rendered B essential, *then* remove B. Practically speaking, however, it is often impossible to determine which changes were the most recent.
Thats how the reply goes, FWIW.
By the way, no one denies the awesome, breathtaking complexity of intracellular functioning, a great deal of which remains to be understood. In fact, the evolution of the modern cell was a process that required thirty million centuries - far longer than the period required to go from single celled creatures to human beings. The standard interpretation of that fact is that it is much more difficult to evolve a cell than a human being (once you have that cell.)
I agree that it is often difficult to believe that such complexity could have arisen in an unguided fashion. But that disbelief underestimates the sheer power of selectionist causation, the discovery of which is probably the most significant human intellectual attainment of recent centuries. It is *not* a random process - simply an unguided one.
The best treatment of this topic is Daniel Dennett's book, "Darwin's Dangerous Idea."
(Sorry to be so predictable.)
|Sorry, but I just don't have enough faith to believe the ABC-type explanations. |
|Well, your reply seems intense and a wee bit sarcastic, and I guess I've sort of lost my stomach for debate that I know from the outset is unlikely to get the participants anything but hard feelings. |
I've attached a lengthy (and often sympathetic) review of Behe's book for another perspective.
I spent several hours yesterday reading various articles and responses to those aritcles re' Behe's book, including those at the Boston Review's site, and have saved many of them in a folder for future reference. I also don't have much stomach for the debate between ourselves, which is why I didn't mention the book 2 years ago. I'll let those who really know the field continue the debate, and maybe occasionally listen in.
|One thing that has surprised me about all this is Behe's apparent endorsement of many conventional facets of evolution: he apparently embraces an earth that is billions of years old, accepts the evolutionary significance of the fossil record, acknowledges the efficacy of natural selection in at least some spheres, acknowledges the common ancestry of species (hence descent with modification), etc.|
Do you share these views? If not, where and how do you draw the line *within* his argument?
One of several passages I encountered: “Perhaps the single most stunning thing about Darwin's Black Box, Michael Behe's "biochemical challenge to evolution," is the amount of territory that its author concedes to Darwinism. As tempted as they might be to pick up this book in their own defense, "scientific creationists" should think twice about enlisting an ally who has concluded that the earth is several billion years old, that evolutionary biology has had "much success in accounting for the patterns of life we see around us" (p.4), that evolution accounts for the appearance of new organisms including antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and who is convinced that all organisms share a "common ancestor." In plain language, this means that Michael Behe and I share an evolutionary view of the natural history of the earth and the meaning of the fossil record; namely, that present-day organisms have been produced by a process of descent with modification from their ancient ancestors. Behe is clear, firm, and consistent on this point. For example, when he and I engaged in debate at the 1995 meeting of the American Scientific Affiliation, I argued that the 100% match of DNA sequences in the pseudogene region of beta-globin was proof that humans and gorillas shared a recent common ancestor. To my surprise, Behe said that he shared that view and had no problem with the notion of common ancestry. Creationists who believe that Behe is on their side should proceed with caution: he states very clearly that evolution can produce new species and that human beings are one of those species.”
I agree more with the views of Christian Astronomer Hugh Ross. (http://www.reasons.org/aboutRTB/staff/ross.html -for his C.V.)
I have read 4 of his 5 books. 3 of those discuss the universe and evidence for its creation (& design). In "The Fingerprint Of God" and "Creation And Time" he also discusses his views about the Earth's age (he's an old earth creationist, and rather unpopular among young earth creationists), and the creation of life. Basically, he finds the scientific evidence, and Scripture, consistent with creation of life occurring over millions of years in 6 stages (or, billions of years if you start from the Big Bang), by God, and not by (macro) evolution. He runs a web site that explores all of these issues, and more at:
(This is as far is it went. Best to leave well enough alone.)
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