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Date: 2005/11/14 20:55:32, Link
Author: Tim Hague
How long would it take for a genetically engineered 'bioweapon' virus or bacteria to start showing diversity once it's released?  Not long, I would think.  

Also, someone engineering bioweapons would probably create more than one similar strain, specifically to avoid a single vaccine being effective.

Date: 2005/11/14 21:41:30, Link
Author: Tim Hague
A lack of similar enough ancestors. (too big an evolutionary jump for to few generations)

The problem with that is that big changes sometimes do happen - particularly with transposons or retrotransposons.  Or frame shift mutations.  Or even symbiogenesis.  

I think overall there is a problem with detecting design.  This is the same problem encountered by the ID proponents - their 'design detection mechanisms' have been shown to be useless over and over again.

I realise that what they are trying to show is 'supernatural' design, but I think the same problems occur when trying to demonstrate human design as well.  

This was one of the points I was making on the original thread - if hypothetically some (well funded) IDist splices a whale gene into a bacterium and claims it was found in the wild (therefore 'blowing evolution out of the water' yadda yadda) - how do you show it was designed - and specifically how do you show it was designed by a human and not some unspecified supernatural designer?

Date: 2005/11/16 22:16:07, Link
Author: Tim Hague
ooh ooh ooh! can I play?

1. What sequence of pi could not be explained by known genetic events? None, of course.  

You are wrong unfortunately.  

Assuming some standard of coding was agreed on there is no particular reason why a human scientist couldn't manufacture a DNA sequence representing pi and splice it into a living organism.  

Which would class as a known genetic event.

Date: 2005/12/12 21:40:24, Link
Author: Tim Hague
What's a 'lemma' anyway?  It is some kind of text-speak for dilemma?

Date: 2005/12/12 21:53:07, Link
Author: Tim Hague
Quote (The Ghost of Paley @ Dec. 12 2005,10:48)
Likewise, scientists deride the credentials and reputation of ID folk, but this doesn't mitigate the quality of ID argumentation.

Mitigate - "to make something less harmful, unpleasant or bad".  From the Cambridge Dictionary.

I'm not sure your sentence means what you intended, but I agree that there is not much we can do to mitigate the quality of the ID argumentation.  

I also agree with the overall impression that it's the ID folk who do most of the ad-hominems against the credentials and reputations of the evolution supporters, not the other way round (Salvador vs Flank being another prime example on this board).

Date: 2006/01/10 21:59:20, Link
Author: Tim Hague
We could just start up a blog specifically for debating the ID and creationist types.  

Only rules:
No-one gets kicked off - ever.  
Posts may get edited for bad language but that's it.  

We could call it 'evolutionflamewars' or something like that ;)

Then we just invite interested parties to come and play...

Date: 2006/01/10 22:07:14, Link
Author: Tim Hague
The problem is that doing PR properly takes money.  And time.  And effort.  

Is there anyone out there who will be willing to sponser a PR initiative for 'real' science?  

Are there any scientists who be willing to give up their day jobs in order to do science PR full time?

Date: 2006/01/17 21:31:05, Link
Author: Tim Hague
Hello Larry.  Welcome to After the Bar Closes.  

If I don't believe a theory is useful, why would I use it?  I would say that using a theory implies some kind of acceptance that the theory may be useful.  

You must also be careful not to fall into the 'evolution is just a theory' trap, because evolution is a theory in the same way that gravity is a theory.

Date: 2006/01/18 21:48:51, Link
Author: Tim Hague
I have to admit, I haven't read much of Davidson's stuff before.  

It seems bizarre to see his stuff on UD, because a lot of it contradicts the ID position, as well at itself.  Just a quick example:

JAD: "I also have never questioned Intelligent Design. Quite the contrary, I always regarded it as self-evident and a mandatory starting point from which to examine the two great mysteries of ontogeny and phylogeny which are simply two aspects of the same reproductive continuum."

OK, so 'self-evidently' something is involved in doing design.  

JAD: "Darwinism is a gigantic illusion based on the unwarranted assumption that evolution has and had an exogenous identifiable cause. Such a cause has never been identified and every attempt to simulate it has failed."

This is just bizarre.  JAD is stating that there is an external identifiable cause behind evolution (and thus 'Darwinism' ) , which is the exact opposite of what evolution states.

If he replaced the word Darwinism with ID I might understand and agree with his argument!  My version:  

ID is a gigantic illusion based on the unwarranted assumption that evolution has and had an exogenous identifiable cause. Such a cause has never been identified and as far as I know there have been no attempts to simulate it.

Date: 2006/01/19 22:04:57, Link
Author: Tim Hague
Keiths, Sir_Toejam,

thanks for the responses.  

I'm just having a think about where down the line a heritable mutation might occur, and I'm concentrating on sexual reproduction.  

I'm using the definition of mutation from talk origins - mutation is a change in a gene.  I'm looking at the types of mutation as well and thinking about which types are most likely to result in a heritable mutation.  

If anyone knows of any studies comparing the likelihood of various types of mutation and can point me in that direction I'd be grateful.

Date: 2006/01/25 07:40:42, Link
Author: Tim Hague
Is anyone taking bets on the odds of thordaddy actually turning up?

Date: 2006/01/25 10:03:50, Link
Author: Tim Hague
Cranks do have their uses.  Some of the more interesting threads you will see will be 'crank inspired'.  

I have to admit I only got into the whole ID vs. evolution debate last year, and it was completely due to a crank on a football (soccer) forum I was on, who utterly refused to acknowledge logic.  Due to him, I ended up researching all over the web, and found Panda's Thumb among other excellent sites.  

The whole debate has reignited my interest to the point where I am seriously thinking about getting back in to proper science again - the last time I did any was towards the end of my Genetics degree 12 years ago.  I'm thinking about doing a masters in Bioinformatics, and possibly leaving IT to do science again full time.  

All inspired by a single crank.

Date: 2006/01/25 21:09:40, Link
Author: Tim Hague
"I believe it because it's true.
It's true because I believe it."

If you can't persuade someone that this is circular logic then you're wasting your time.

Date: 2006/01/27 02:49:09, Link
Author: Tim Hague
Quote (PuckSR @ Jan. 26 2006,20:13)
The hallmark of design is simplicity.

As someone who has designed a lot of software, I have to disagree with that.  

The hallmark of good design is often simplicity, however the only hallmark that really applies for design is - does the designed object actually do what it's designed to do, and do it efficiently enough to be useful.  

The simplest design is not always the best design.  All good designs involve a compromise between the ideal (simplicity) and the pragmatic (reality).

Date: 2006/02/01 23:46:07, Link
Author: Tim Hague
Quote (stevestory @ Feb. 01 2006,10:38)
Lol. They're talking now, at Uncommon Pissant, about how so many people there are engineers. Much better suited to understand biology, don't you know.

Not all engineers are ignorant of biology... some of us software engineers have degrees in both genetics and design and have no problems whatsoever in spotting the 'breathtaking inanity' of ID ;)

Date: 2006/02/08 06:08:51, Link
Author: Tim Hague
What it all boils down to is evidence.  

Avocationist keeps banging on about ID explaining the 'facts' and the 'details' being with ID.  

Well, what facts?  What details?  I have never seen any positive evidence for ID.  All I've seen from the ID community is negative arguments against evolution, which - even if true (and they're not) - would not prove design.  

So where is the positive evidence?

The only thing that comes close to a positive argument is that 'it sure looks designed to me'.  Well, it looks designed to me as well.  But then, from my perspective the sun moves through the sky every day.  And from my perspective the continents are in no way moving around.  

What's wrong with my perspective?  It's a human one, that's what is wrong with it.  Human's have an inherent (dare I say evolved? ;) ) difficulty in imagining things beyond the range of their sight, and things that take longer to happen than their lifespans.  That's why we need to exercise our imaginations.  

Are we ever going to see the earth revolving round the sun?  This one's a bit more possible.  Technically speaking I could build a space ship, park it somewhere at right angles to the earths orbit and sit there for a year, watching it happening.    

We can take the geologicial evidence and we can imagine the continents moving around.  Are we ever going to actually see it happening?  No way.  Not unless we crack the 70ish year life span we currently have.  Do we need an intelligent designer theory to show that continents can't move by themselves?  Not so far.  

Humans have major difficulties dealing with geological time spans.  I have major problems trying to imagine what a million years would be like.  If I live until 70 it will seem to me to be one #### of a long subjective time - twice as long as I've been around so far.  I'd have to live 14000 times longer than that to get anywhere near a million.  14000 long life spans.  And that's just a million years.  Don't get me started on a billion years.  

Evolution may be slow, and random mutation may appear to give only tiny weeny changes one at time, but when you're talking about bacteria that reproduce once every 20 minutes you're talking about incredibly vast populations of fast breeding organisms where small mutations will be happening literally every single second world wide - every second of every hour of every day, every year, for billions of years!

Now tell me again how improbable evolution is...

Date: 2006/03/17 03:33:38, Link
Author: Tim Hague
Quote (stevestory @ Mar. 17 2006,08:47)
This thread is going to go on forever. The Uncommonly Dense crowd will never stop saying absurd things:

March 16, 2006
Biologists Are Not Design Experts

Biologists are not design experts. In fact no scientists are design experts. Engineers are design experts. The crew at Panda’s Thumb ought to follow their own advice and step aside where they have no expertise. Complex specified information is digitally encoded along the spine of the DNA molecule. Are biologists information experts? Nope. Information science is a branch of mathematics. Evolutionary biologists should stick to putting the phylogenetic tree in the proper order. Lord knows they still have their work cut out for them with just that.
Filed under: Intelligent Design — DaveScot @ 10:52 pm

Some of us biologists are design experts anyway - I've a bio sciences background and design software for a living.

Date: 2006/04/04 21:36:08, Link
Author: Tim Hague
Quote (argystokes @ April 05 2006,02:04)
On topic, from Michaels7 in the ACLU thread:
Not familiar with constitutional law, but could any of you tell me what specific ‘constitutional right’ is being protected or enforced? Is this the establishment clause? And thus ID = religion meme?

In reality, the only way it could be against the constitution even with the prior false ruling of establishment clause to the contrary is if a “teacher” specifically states while teaching ID, that the Designer is God, Allah, Bhudda, or any one of 3000 Hindu Gods. I’m not sure how this case was lost unless the judge had intent to squash it all along or the ID lawyers could not make this point of distinction stick clearly.

I think the next case should be brought up by a teacher who challenges with ID as scientific, utilizing IRC and CSI.

Yeah, if Behe had been on the stand to defend irreducible complexity, there's no way ID would have lost!

That's along the lines of "no-one believes us when we refuse to identify the designer, and it's just not fair!"  

As the Judge rightly points out, even a school kid can see through such a transparent attempt to get round the establishment clause.

Date: 2006/04/06 01:17:07, Link
Author: Tim Hague
Quote (J. G. Cox @ April 05 2006,13:32)
In summary, the presence of alleles which promote homosexuality would not constitue a 'problem for evolution' for two reasons. First, modern evolutionary theory predicts the presence of some deleterious alleles within a population. Second, we have no idea if such alleles are actually deleterious.

Interesting analysis J. G.

There is one additional factor that might be worth having a look at - is the human race currently under selection pressure?  In certain parts of the world it is, however in increasingly large parts of the world I would argue that millions of humans are not under any particular pressure to survive at all.  

When a species is not under selection pressure, and with technology providing the vast majority of us the ability to survive, then deleterious traits would be able to spread (not being selected against).  If there are genetic influences on sexual preference, then they would not currently be affecting the survival of the species as a whole.  

There's also nothing to stop a homosexual man popping down to the sperm bank to make a donation, and - for a double whammy - a homosexual woman deciding to have a baby and popping down to the same sperm bank.

Date: 2006/04/06 03:29:24, Link
Author: Tim Hague
Renier - it's called scope.  You can show either a positive or negative statement to be true or false if the scope is small enough.  

For example - the statement 'God is currently sitting in my closet in the form of a kindly old man' is disprovable by opening my closet and finding a lack of a kindly old man.  Narrow scope.  Note I can do the reverse and say 'God is not sitting etc' and open my closet and prove that negative assertion (I just checked. :p No kindly old man.).  

Saying something like 'the weak nuclear force applies everywhere in the universe' is clearly much larger scope and is impossible to prove without visiting everywhere in the universe and measuring the weak nulcear force - a practical impossibility.

Date: 2006/04/07 04:24:36, Link
Author: Tim Hague
The first rule of the CBEBs club is - don't talk about the CBEBs club. ;)

Possible club motto: CBEBs give IDiots the heeby geebies.  

The designtologists are convinced that there is a 'global conspiracy' of scientists - are we starting one?  :p  Or is it just that no-one has invited me yet  :0  :angry:  ;)

Date: 2006/05/26 03:28:14, Link
Author: Tim Hague
Quote (guthrie @ May 26 2006,06:08)
Cant some of you engineers come up with fuses for ironymeters?

We did.  

Unfortunately the mere human designers responsible for the 'intelligent' design of irony meters had no way of knowning the levels of irony that would be produced by UD.  

Years of observation of all available evidence provided robust irony fuses that could stand many megademskis of irony, several time the amount that had ever been recorded previously anywhere in the natural world.  

The gigadembskis of irony produced by UD are beyond anything we could ever have imagined.  An overload of irony of that extent causes the irony fuse to get sucked into an alternate reality where logic no longer exists, permanently destoying the irony meter.  

These unforseen circumstances are also not covered by warranty.  Sorry about that.

Date: 2006/05/27 07:53:27, Link
Author: Tim Hague
Quote (guthrie @ May 26 2006,08:48)
I like the idea of gigadembskis.  We need a proper scientific chart, with proper rankings and explanatory notes like with the Richter scale, e.g.

Maybe we should just use the Richter scale for our irony measurements.  We could call it the Springer Scale and the units can be dembskis.  

So a 1 or 2 dembski event on the Springer scale would be pretty much undetectable without sensitive instruments.  A 3 or a 4 would be detectable by most normal people (maybe not Americans ;) ).  A 5 would be ten times stronger than a four and would certainly rattle your teeth a bit.  6 and 7 are major irony events with large amounts of furniture moving around and put your irony meters in jeopardy.  And a 9 is an apocolyptic level of irony that - so far - has only ever been detected on UD.

Date: 2006/06/29 08:55:47, Link
Author: Tim Hague
Quote (Richardthughes @ June 29 2006,13:29)

I’ve always thought it would be worthwhile for biologists (or biology students) to have some sort of engineering apprenticeship. By spending time with a design engineer (be it software, mechanical, electrical, or any other discipline), they would see first hand just what it takes to end up with a tightly integrated, functional system on the back end.

Yet here I am, a software engineer and architect and I have no problems whatsoever with the evolution of complex biologicial structures.  


You'd think that software design was some kind of magic trick the way Dave describes it - i.e. we sit down, design a perfect system, write the code and it works perfectly first time.  

The reality of course if very different.  We usually start by borrowing someone else's design in the first place (we even have whole books full of design patterns).  We frequently get small or large parts of our design wrong.  We have to make compromises in our designs because all the disparate bits don't fit well together.  When we build it we introduce many errors which then need to be fixed.  And when we've finished it doesn't actually match the original requirements specified (usually poorly) by the customer.  

That's software engineering.  And it's actually pretty similar to the way evolution does it - lots of iterations with incremental small improvements.  

The only thing we can do that evolution can't is 'refactoring' where we can go back and fundamentally redesign bits of the system which don't work well (usually because of bad design in the first place).

Date: 2006/06/29 09:21:26, Link
Author: Tim Hague
Quote (stevestory @ June 29 2006,14:00)
If the Intelligent Design nitwits seriously believed themselves, they'd be out looking for a Code Rewrite bunny, or alligator, or polar bear. But they aren't. Wonder why...

I'm sure they'll trot out the Thylacine soon.

Date: 2006/07/07 05:45:28, Link
Author: Tim Hague
There was a horrendous remake a few years ago, wasn't there?  With Joey from Friends in it.  

Unless it was just a horrible nightmare I had...

Date: 2006/07/27 06:55:43, Link
Author: Tim Hague
I got a bit stuck on the poll.  Agnostic and atheist are not mutually exclusive you know.  One is statement of knowledge, the other is a statement of belief.  

As such, I am an agnostic (weak) atheist.  

I don't do strong atheism because I don't think it's scientifically tenable.

Date: 2006/08/07 02:40:29, Link
Author: Tim Hague
Quote (stevestory @ July 29 2006,14:16)
how one views atheism vs agnosticism has to do with the philosophy of knowledge. What's the default position on a question where there's no evidence? The agnostics say, on the issue of god, that the default position should be 'I don't know'. I think their reasoning is wrong, and they're giving god an unfair break, one they would not extend to Santa Claus or Bigfoot or El Chupacabre, or any other organism whose existence is disputed.

I think the default position on everything lacking evidence should be "we don't know".  It's a big old universe out there, and we've only (partly) explored an incredibly tiny bit of it, so who's to say what might be out there?  I'm not ruling out fluffy pink unicorns at this stage.  

The problem - as it often is - is one of scope.  We're fairly sure that Santa Claus does not live at the North Pole.  But that's only because we've limited the scope of where Santa Claus could live.  If the claim was that 'Santa Claus exists somewhere out there in the universe, and might be invisible/undetectable' then there really is no way to falsify that claim - the scope is simply too large.

I can say - "God in the form of an old bearded man is not currently sitting in my closet".  And I can open my closet and confirm the lack of bearded old men.  Small scope, confirming my hypothesis.  But to say that "no God exists anywhere" is too large a scope to be realistically testable.  I can't demonstrate my hypothesis, so I can't say for certain either way, just as I can't say for certain that there is no such thing as fluffy pink unicorns.

Date: 2006/08/07 02:47:39, Link
Author: Tim Hague
From that article about fisking:

Irish journalist Eoghan Harris had earlier used the term "fisking" with a different meaning - "To fisk is not to face the facts for as long as possible and, when found out, to divert the public from your mistake by spinning shiny stories in the air." (Sunday Times, June 13, 1999). No-one else appears to have used the term in this sense, and Harris later remarked that he had "lost a coinage".

Although Harris lost out in calling his concept 'fisking' I do think the phenomenon: "...not to face the facts for as long as possible and, when found out, to divert the public from your mistake by spinning shiny stories in the air." is particularly relevent to the anti-evoluton debate as it appear to describe the likes of Behe and Dembski to a tee.

Shall we come up with another term for it?

Date: 2006/10/18 10:08:19, Link
Author: Tim Hague
Quote (Mr_Christopher @ Oct. 18 2006,14:23)
Can someone translate for me:

Who is Allen MacNeill?

Why is he posting on UD?

Amazing.  This guy has brought more biology to light over there in a few posts than Dembski and his wall of mindless zombies have in two years.  Amazingly several folks there seem eager to hear what he has to say.

You asking seriously?

Allen is the guy who ran the 'Evolution and Design seminar' at Cornell during the summer.  

You can read all about it: