Why I remain a Darwin Skeptic

Totally! That’s why I always say purple is only ten penguins long!

Then why don’t you pick just one example and carefully explain to us exactly why he is wrong? Or you can just appeal to your authority and issue a blanket statement that the entire field of biology is wrong.

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@T_aquaticus this study indicates nothing of the kind. The researchers made a 10^9 library of short sequences to see which would bind to a beta-lactamase. They clearly did not evolve a beta-lactamase from random sequences!

I don’t recall seeing you make this kind of blunder, so I wanted to cut you some slack. But then I looked at your second link,

The paper makes no such claim! From the abstract: “the two previously identified mutations in ebgA are the only ones that can lead to enzyme with sufficient activity on lactose to permit growth.” They started with beta-galactosidase and studied it, they didn’t evolve it!

The complete last paper is here https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4476321/ where they created some random sequences to find ones that bind to ATP, as you said. Even in the study they call this “an arbitrary specific function.” So random polypeptides can have binding sites to ATP. Of course they do, and once you know the sequences of the binding sites, you can calculate the probability, and would find that the molecules obeyed statistical laws.

Well we certainly wouldn’t know that from the links you posted! Up until today you and I have traded ideas on these forums with some respect. I’m taken aback by you posting links and making invalid claims about them.

Given your fairness here I’m game to engage again. The snowflake / incredulity argument seems common among internet atheists, and I did not know where you stand. You have updated me a bit on that.

Your abiogenesis question seems odd to me. “how does polypeptide shape matter?” Its shape has huge significance determining if it has enzymatic function.

But I’m not clear on what 22^50 would mean: is it 22 amino acid types and a polypeptide 50 AAs long? And also, if I’m reading you right, I’m doubtful that the early Earth rainfall “foamed” with much of anything biologically useful!

Are we getting on the same page here?

Yes! Great turning of the tables. Very Christlike (a sincere compliment).

So, right now I am reading one of the last chapters of TBW where Dawkins is contrasting Darwinism with all the pretender contenders. Right now he discusses mutationism, which is the view mutation drives evolution by species searching out the right niche for the latest mutation. Dawkins correctly point out the combinatorics makes the argument absurd, but then turns right around and insists the same defeater does not defeat Darwinism because natural selection prunes the tree of combinatorial explosion. He does not seem to realize that response does nothing to solve the problem because the fundamental extraordinary claim in the first place is that any piecewise path exists in combinatorial space. There are just too many possible paths, the vast majority of which are not piecewise. They cannot all, or even most of them, exist. So why make the extremely (a huge understatement) improbable assumption that the piecewise path exists?

To put this another way, if evolution does in fact work, it is such a mathematical marvel it is a literal miracle, the belief in which would make creationists atheists by comparison.

I personally lean more towards atheism than faith, so find myself more likely to believe in special creation these days.

Quite. It is absurd to do so. Evolution works forwards in time to no end.

We’re getting there Marty! I know that shape determines function, but how they both get there is deterministic.

22 proteinogenic amino acid types to the 50th power gives us ballpark possible polypeptides does it not? As these arbitrary figures go.

The first rains would have contained all the gases and particulates of the reduction atmosphere before they hit the ground. All ultimately biologically useful. Especially the amino acids, alcohols, every up to 100-odd g/mol organic compound you can think of from the Solar nebula. In less than a billion years, Earth lab, with its black smokers, night and day, UV, temperature gradients, ice, delivered. We’ll never be able to reproduce that of course. But it is a rational fact. A 100% certainty. The alternative is what? For Earth and the other minimally 10 easily ten million rainy life worlds in our practically infinitesimal galaxy of practically infinite in our truly infinitesimal universe of truly infinite from eternity. Magic?

And what have combinatorics projected in reverse on abiogenesis got to do with Darwin and the subsequent genetic synthesis?

Having watched you attempt both of these things at great length on another forum, I can assure you that your statement here is objectively false.

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That’s because it is absolutely ludicrous. Your ‘professor’ was a professor of what? At which American university? His ignorance is breathtaking. No professor at any European university in any discipline, no biology teacher in any European high school could say such garbage.

Where was his ‘significant work’ published?

And what is the connection with Darwin?

I’m willing to listen to what your area of expertise is and how you came by it. Not how you fallaciously extrapolate from it.

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Hi Daniel! Replies to some of your points below :slight_smile:

But that’s just the thing, isn’t it? How do we know when something is impossible? I guess the difference between you and me is I think there is reasonably an answer on the horizon, but you’ve given up hope that such an answer exists. I tend to assume that my limited understanding of a matter does not preclude the possibility that such a thing could be true, especially when a particular model (evolution, in this case) has provided good answers to other questions thus far.

As an analogy, I’m guessing you’re a Christian, and as a Christian I assume your faith has brought you a lot of answers to questions you’ve asked in your life, but there are probably some big issues that you haven’t resolved (perhaps of the “why is there suffering” or “is Hell eternal” variety). You probably reason, “my faith has brought me this far, so I’m assuming it will give me answers to those difficult questions eventually. Even if it doesn’t, I’m convinced enough that it must be true.”

“It is argued here on these pages so often that this is the only “scientific” way forward; I dispute that, but this is more a matter of semantics.”

What is a different scientific way forward?

But bottom line, I am more interested in the question of what is true . This remains my core philosophical objection"

I think the vast majority of scientists are also concerned ultimately with what is true, as well. We also tend to think that science is the best way we know of that can point us to objective truth, whereas ideas like creationism and intelligent design do not seem to fit the criteria for science. Young Earth Creationism seems to fit the data very poorly, but Intelligent Design could certainly be true in some fashion. The problem is: how do you test it? How do you discern it from naturalistic causes? If the answer is, “When you can’t give an explanation for a phenomenon, it must be from an Intelligent Designer”, then you’re essentially saying that our failure to explain something must point to another untestable, unverifiable cause. And then after 100 years of assuming that ID is the only possible explanation, we find data that removes the need for the Creator, then from where comes the evidence for Intelligent Design? It’s a difficult conundrum.

Philosophically speaking - may I kindly ask… could you, would you, might you, consider it a legitimate scientific possible conclusion for a scientist to examine some biological data, some biological systems, and legitimately come to the conclusion (even if a tentative conclusion or working hypothesis)… would it be legitimate to consider the possibility that evolution, in fact, could not come up with such?

Absolutely! I have no stakes in evolution being true. I started off believing in ID, and had an incentive to do so, but came over to the dark side after they tempted me with cookies. :slight_smile: But yeah, not only would I welcome a legitimate scientific conclusion that pointed to something outside of evolution, I would love to spearhead the advance. The only downside is all the hate mail I’d get and death threats; but how exciting would that be?

This I ran into all the time in my undergrad religious studies. For me, who wanted to explore and discuss the real question of whether Christ indeed had made real predictions, or who worked real miracles, I found it terribly frustrating to have people dismiss the discussion with the hand wave Lewis describes above. Thus the feeding of the multitudes was explained by everyone bringing out their hidden food from their backpacks once they were shown up by the gratitude of the young boy; the resurrection the wish-fulfillment hallucinations of the distraught apostles, etc. But these were the foregone conclusions that resulted from the presuppositions they brought to the texts, they came not from their study of it, as Lewis so sagely observed.

Yup, I agree. Are we looking for truth or are we fitting data to our assumptions?

When someone utilizes a naturalistic method, which is guaranteed to arrive at a naturalistic conclusion, the fact that they claimed to carefully examine the evidence and arrived at a naturalistic conclusion is singularly uninteresting to me.

Well, I can tell you that for the questions I study, as you might imagine, I study them thoroughly. It’s not a casual looking at of the data; I’m really in it. I have yet to find anything in my research that naturalistic explanations don’t seem to work really well for.

But to your point: the origin of life is something I find completely bewildering. I’m decently aware of the data, but if I was studying that, I don’t think I’d be very thoroughly convinced by anything. That’s certainly one of those examples where, like my mom in the cathedral, I think to myself, “How the hell can natural processes lead to this?” But, to be fair, I’m not studying it in detail. Perhaps those that are studying it are coming to naturalistic conclusions due to their a priori assumptions, or maybe they really feel like they’re on the verge of it.

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Just to poke my nose in where I am not wanted some more, this is not the explanatory filter. The filter infers design after identifying extreme improbability AND being specified by an independent pattern. The second condition is to avoid the sharpshooter fallacy, since highly improbable events occur all the time.

As an extreme example, let’s say we found a raven that naturally printed the entire King James bible on its feathers. We would be quite justified in concluding something other than random variation and natural selection was at play.

Specified complexity. Yeah - finding a King James text somewhere - we know it wasn’t randomly arrived at. But we already had the King James Bible … so it is indeed now an already given bulls-eye at which no random process (without a lot of help) could ever arrive at.

The challenge here remains as to how such complexity as biological features can be seen as “pre-specified”. It’s still an “after-the-fact” observation that we already have Ravens’ feathers or eyes or bacterial flagella. We have no idea what the “possible domain space” of possibility is for life and the various kinds of functional mechanisms that could be enlisted as cellular equipment. Without knowing how many poker hands are pretty good, or even just adequate, there is no way to calculate such probabilities up front - all we know is it was 1 in 52! that we got the hand we did. It looks to me like the sharpshooter fallacy is quite difficult (or actually impossible) to escape here.

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??

…so you’re saying that if you found a copy of a perfectly coherent novel, in English, that you had never read before… you wouldn’t be able to recognize that as “specified complexity” or the work of an intelligent agent…?

(Or it doesn’t have to be a long book… even take this current post I’m composing… I think it a safe assumption that these words have never been so arranged in the entire history of the world… but somehow I’m guessing that you and everyone else that reads them can recognize them as “specified complexity” or the work of a (somewhat) intelligent agent.)

Maybe you want to further clarify your illustration here…?

No - I’m with you. There would be no doubt about intelligent origins of any novels, books, bibles … even if I had never heard of those particular works. But that would only be because I already have experience with novels, books, bibles, etc.

If I found a shiny round object laying on the ground, and it was some alien’s reading device that they had special sensory something or other to extract information that had been recorded in that ball somehow, I would have no way of knowing that it was anything special or designed - so far as I’m concerned it might looks like a shiny spherical nodule that might have formed naturally somehow. And if we transported a KJV bible to another planet where the intelligent aliens had nothing resembling our books, then they might find the sheafs of flat leaves with curious regular markings on them to be curious - but they may just think they are cool patterns much like we admire the honey combs of bees - it would mean nothing to them like it does to you and me.

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So if aliens with absolutely no experience of human technology found a car or computer while exploring other galaxies, they would be justified in assuming some obscure combination of planetary processes created weird rock formations?

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They might. It’s hard to say since we would know nothing of how they think. What would a human who had never ever seen a vehicle of any kind (either transported to today from several thousand years ago, or perhaps found from some still-remote-today jungle tribe) - what would they think if they suddenly ran across a car parked in the forest? They would think it a mighty strange spectacle, but they would have no reference with which to think: “aha! -a transport device!” And that would be human beings that we at least can think back in our own history about how they must have thought. I.e. - it would be “their kind” that would eventually come up with such a thing, so the caveman would probably have infinitely better chance of figuring out this is some special engineered thing, than would life from some other planet with no knowledge of earth whatsoever.

Another problem is that you are imagining aliens that share some basic intelligence patterned after what we humans already have defined as intelligence. We imagine them in possession of rocket ships, because, like us, they are curious and navigate between planetary systems if they can. Like us, we imagine them territorial explorers expanding their domain - and so we imagine they already have a category for “surface transport device” where they immediately think: “ahh - a car!” But all of that is just our unrealistic imagination … sorta like star trek engineers stepping onto some never-before-seen alien ship, taking a few glances at the control panels (which of course make total sense to them … because, you know, all ship-designing cultures across the universe all must use about the same ship designs, right?) … and a few moments later the genius human engineers are fixing or flying the thing. As necessary as it is to develop most sci-fi plots, we know how utterly unrealistic it all is. Not only will they not speak English, they may not “speak” anything at all and use communication modes that press beyond visual or aural modes.

I guess all that is a long speculative answer toward thinking; “big shiny red rock!” But we just don’t know.

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What has any of this got to do with being and remaining a Darwin Skeptic? Rationally? Let alone faithfully.

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I think the gist of it is this: On the ID reading of things there are genetic features of living organisms that cannot be arrived at by the mechanism of chance. So they read this as evidence of some necessary intelligence (ID) making its deliberate design infusion into the system to explain particular said feature. They are simply using “Darwin” or “Darwinism” as the colloquial (far outdated, actually) phrase representing “blind chance + natural selection = only two mechanisms in operation that must explain everything if it is to be successful”.

@Daniel_Fisher or @EricMH, please correct me if I misrepresent you.

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