Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Origin of Life: A Scientific or Philosophical Issue?

A divergence of views illustrated by a partial snippet of an article, which can be viewed at the indicated URL, provides an occasion for commentary on a familiar theme. month=05&year=2006#2309

'Letter to First Things'

>"A month ago I sent a letter to the journal First Things in response to an opinion piece by Robert T. Miller on why Intelligent Design should not be taught in public schools. Unfortunately, access to First Things is by subscription and his column is too lengthy to copy here. In any event, the recent issue has a very truncated version of my letter along with the submissions of others, including Michael Behe, to which Mr. Miller responds. My letter, slightly shortened, follows. The portions run by FT are italicized. I will post Mr. Miller's response tomorrow:"

>"Robert T. Miller asserts in his article Darwin in Dover, PA (April 2006) that ID "is not science but neither is it religion." He explains that it's not science, at least in the strong sense, because a designer does not operate by law-like necessity."

[Bradford]: That's a distinguishing feature of intelligence. Outcomes resulting from reason and choice are the conceptual opposite of outcomes determined by the necessity of natural forces. Or to put it differently, a prerequisite to an intelligent inference is data indicating that an outcome did not result from law-like necessity. For example, a hypothesis that a series of chemical reactions led to a living, self-replicating cell presumably would be falsifiable. Falsification could take the form of evidence that an essential property of life would not arise from unguided chemical reactions.

The coding conventions by which nucleic acids function would not result from a series of prebiotic chemical reactions. Any chemical process generating encoded nucleic acids must be one whose sequential nucleotide order already functions according to pre-established encoding conventions. A preordained functional link between codons and amino acids is found not in philosophy but rather the nature of nucleic acids themselves. Without a linkage information about functional amino acid sequences can neither be stored nor passed on to descendents. Without the functional requirement there is no selection basis. An encoded convention and sequences ordered according to it by intelligent manipulation circumvents the conundrum.

>"ID, he concludes, is metaphysics, a branch of philosophy, and thus does not belong in a science classroom."

[Bradford]: Is the belief that life was generated by a process devoid of intelligent guidance grounded in science or philosophy? It is the latter. The belief that life arose that way is unsupported by the evidence. The argument for the insufficiency of the evidence is empirical. It has nothing to do with philosophy. The belief that ID is metaphysical and prevailing theories of origin are not is self-deception.

Monday, May 29, 2006


The following referenced article contains some revealing comments by Judge Jones of Dover school district fame. My comments are interspersed and identified.

'Judge in 'intelligent design' case reflects
Monday, May 22, 2006'

The Associated Press

"CARLISLE, Pa. -- A federal judge who outlawed the teaching of "intelligent design" in science class told graduates at Dickinson College that the nation's founders saw religion as the result of personal inquiry, not church doctrine.

U.S. District Judge John E. Jones gave the commencement address yesterday to 500 graduates at Dickinson College, his alma mater.

"The founders believed that true religion was not something handed down by a church or contained in a Bible, but was to be found through free, rational inquiry," said Judge Jones, who was thrust into the national spotlight by last year's court fight over the teaching of evolution in the Dover school district."

[Bradford]: There was a variety of views among the founding fathers as to what constituted "true religion." Acknowledging this is an essential step in avoiding the type of self-serving doctrinaire pronouncements that frequently accompany constitutional rulings about the "establishment clause." While the founding fathers clearly favored the freedom to choose one's own religious conviction, one man's view as to what is rational is another's view of the irrational and the founding fathers were aware of this.

"The founding fathers -- from school namesake John Dickinson to Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson -- were products of the Enlightenment, Judge Jones said.

"They possessed a great confidence in an individual's ability to understand the world and its most fundamental laws through the exercise of his or her reason," he said.

"This core set of beliefs led the founders, who constantly engaged and questioned things, to secure their idea of religious freedom by barring any alliance between church and state."

[Bradford]: The concern among the founding fathers was that the government not favor one religious sect at the expense of others. The experience of Oliver Cromwell in England was influential. What Jones and his admirers have done is to take this to a level never conceived by the founding fathers. Inferring intelligent causality from nature has nothing to do with favoring any particular religion. The link between intelligence and God is a secondary inference and not one particularly favorable to Islam as opposed to Christianity or Judaism or Hinduism...

Following a six-week trial last year that explored concepts in biology, theology and paleontology, Judge Jones concluded that the Dover Board of Education had violated the separation between church and state.

Intelligent design holds that living organisms are so complex they must have been created by some kind of higher being.

[Bradford]: This has become a trite cliche favored by opponents of ID. Most IDers argue that intelligence better explains both the origin and diversity of both life and the universe it is found in than standard theories.

"In his ruling, Judge Jones called it "an old religious argument for the existence of God" and accused the school board of "breathtaking inanity" in trying to teach it."

[Bradford]: It can be used to argue for the existence of God just as evolution and abiogenesis have been used by prominent atheists since Darwin to argue that God does not exist. The comment is irrelevant.

The school board had argued that it hoped to expose students to alternatives to Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.

The case cost the district more than $1 million in legal fees -- and cost school board members, who were turned out in November's election, their seats.

Judge Jones credited his liberal arts education at Dickinson, more than his law school years, for preparing him for what he called his "Dover moment."

"It was my liberal arts education ... that provided me with the best ability to handle the rather monumental task of deciding the Dover case," he said.

[Bradford]: I note he did not credit his scientific expertise.

Monday, May 22, 2006

How do Irreducibly Complex Structures Evolve? Part Two

More of David Horton's article and my comments on it. The article can be accessed at:

David Horton:
Nor does the concept of 'irreducible complexity'. Complexity is always being reduced, modified, converted to a different kind of complexity, lost completely, made over again from a new starting point, throughout evolutionary history. The human body (and that of chimps, sheep ...) isn't an example of a perfectly designed machine, but a grab bag of bits and pieces put together over a long time. It far more resembles a sculpture made from junk than a Swiss watch.

[Bradford]: This is a story not an exposition explaining the evolution of irreducibly complex systems. Biochemical interactions are more intricate and precise than the Swiss watch. Proteins are molecular machines. Their amino acid components are encoded precisely by their genes both as to identity and sequence. Their expression is dependent on other proteins and DNA sequence patterns to ensure that expression is both timely and adaquate in quantity. Such proteins in turn have their own encoding genes. Yet protein synthesis would be impossible despite this level of organization were it not for dozens of different tRNAs, aminoacyl synthetases with multiple active sites, properly sequenced mRNAs, robosomes and timely infused energy in the form of ATP. Some effective antibiotics are based on the idea of disabling one of the the multiple components of this system. Proteins are not synthesized without this breathtakingly precise apparatus. These are precsion parts not a grab bag of junk. Horton, like others who make the same arguments, does not bother to account for how such an irreducibly complex system arose from a precellular environment. And for good reason. There is no evidence that it would.

If you take any organ in the body. ANY organ. And trace it back through evolutionary history you will see how it has evolved through more and sometimes less complex stages, ultimately back to the first multicellular species.

[Bradford]: Correction. You will not see how it evolved. Instead you will be shown other species in what is believed to be the same line of descent. You can then view the differences in an organ. No process of change is on display.

In many ways the big evolutionary jump was not from simple animals to complex ones but from single celled to multi-celled species (although even that may not have been such a big deal at the time - two cells which have failed to separate fully after division can potentially swim faster than any one cell, and so on).

[Bradford]: More stories which get less entertaining as we go on. The differences between prokaryotic cells and eukaryotic cells are enormous. One can start with the basics and compare their genomes to illustrate the point. References to two cells swimming together is a childish bedtime story not a scientific explanation.

Once you have a body with many cells, then the challenges of preventing water loss, moving, taking in oxygen, absorbing nutrients, getting rid off excess fluids and waste products, circulating oxygen and nutrients, responding to stimuli from outside the body, reproducing, can all be done in many different ways and combinations. And initially some of those ways will be quite simple - for example a straight gut with little difference from front to back, and later that gut will become longer and more coiled and with different functions along its length - more complex if you like. Both guts will function very well, and so will the intermediate stages. And this is not theory, we can see all those different ways in both the modern species and in the fossil record.

[Bradford]: Of course we see a variety of phenotype. What Horton and others avoid is pinning down evolutionary causes that can be traced to genetics. For example, where are explanations describing the evolution of nucleosomes and histone acetylation and deacetylation mechanisms? Then we might tie this in with timely transcription before proclaiming the evolution of eukaryotes a done deal.

And, finally, of course complex structures are made up of simple parts. The bodies of all multi cellular animals are made of many cells. All organs are made up of cells, in various combinations and functionalities. All cells are fundamentally the same, but can become specialised, and the combinations of specialised cells are what make up complex organs.

[Bradford]: Cellular differentiation illustrates more not less difficulties with standard evolutionary explanations.

All of that makes sense when evolution is the result of natural selection operating on mutations in a varied and changing environment.

[Bradford]: Another assertion without merit. Natural selection does not explain why or how the different components of the protein synthesis function would evolve nor how that would be related to environmental factors.

What doesn't make sense is that an intelligent designer would come up with a middle ear made from what were originally jaw bones, or an appendix, or an upright species with a back originally evolved for walking on all fours.

[Bradford]: Misconceptions getting in the way of good theology.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

How do Irreducibly Complex Structures Evolve? Part One

David Horton puts on a show in an effort to convince the reader that he is answering a question posed by one of his readers. He is not. Instead we see an obfuscation tactic frequently in evidence when critics confront the issue of irreducible complexity. Comments follow the referenced URL.

"Two great questions about evolution in recent posts in response to my evolution blogs, and here is the second one. One of my readers asks 'How does an irreducibly complex structure appear in the first place? It can't evolve up from from something simple, right? How does a functioning whole come into being from parts?

Aren't even the simplest building blocks complex structures? How did the first one come into being?'

This is another one of those cases where you read something and a light bulb goes off and you think, ah, that's the problem, that's the reason for the lack of comprehension. And then you think, yes, and this lack of comprehension is why children all over the world are being taught 'intelligent design' in the year 2006, a concept so simple minded that it was discredited 150 years ago."

[Bradford]: This is the first indication that something is seriously amiss in this analysis. Behe, who coined the phrase irreducible complexity, applied it to different biomolecular complexes that were not even dreamed of 150 years ago. Darwin and his contemporaries had no clue as to the make up of cells to say nothing of proteins and their encoding genes. Irreducible complexity is a descriptive term describing biochemical systems consisting of multiple proteins. Let's continue and find the real simple mindedness on display in this paper.

"Is the human body 'complex'? You betcha (but no more 'complex' than the bodies of gorillas and chimps and whales and sheep and bears and kangaroos and mice, and arguably less complex, in some ways, than the bodies of birds and snakes and fish). Did the 'complex' bodies of humans (and all other modern animal species) evolve directly from the 'primeval slime'? Of course not. Did they evolve from it indirectly over a long period of time? Of course."

[Bradford]: We are treated to the standard argument by assertion. Horton is holding a gun filled with blanks. Noone is contending that animals evolved from primeval slime. But Horton does not treat us to an explanation as to how a single cell did evolve in a prebiotic environment. Not surprising. Horton doesn't have a clue. To be fair neither does anyone else. But then why are we told that indirect evolution of course occurred. Horton is hoping for simple minded readers who do not pose questions he cannot answer.

"One big problem is the word 'complex'. Evolution doesn't work to make bodies more complex but more functional. Sometimes this might result in increased complexity, sometimes in increased simplicity. If by complexity people mean bodies with a lot of different organs then a human body is less complex than sheep or cattle which have very complex 'stomachs' or rabbits which have a functional caecum where we only have the remains of a non-functioning reduced caecum (an appendix). Birds have arms modified for flight, and bones modified to be light, fish have swim bladders instead of lungs, and so on. Fish can also analyse pressure variations in water, and some can analyse electrical signals, bats can send and receive very high frequency sounds in a process like radar, snakes can taste the air and receive vibrations through the ground, we can't do any of that stuff. The complexity concept makes no sense at all."

[Bradford]: What drivel. The author is saying nothing that has any relevance to points made by Behe or the questions posed by the reader. Evolutionists like to make the point that evolution has no direction. This fits in with their no intelligent causality position. But in fact the natural history of life on earth (the only planet known to have life) would entail a history of increasing complexity from organic chemicals to unicelluar organisms to eukaryotic organisms. Any legitimate model should explain events that actually took place. In this case increasing complexity would be an observable phenomenon in need of explaining. It makes no sense only to ideologically blinded Darwinists.

DNA Repair: Part two

More about the article entitled 'Life without DNA Repair' by David M. Wilson III and Larry H. Thompson which can be accessed at the following address.

Some snippets from the article and related comments follow. The article focuses on a deficiency in a base excision repair (BER) component, AAG, a DNA glycosylase that excises damaged DNA bases.

"DNA glycosylases can be separated into two groups: those that possess only an N-glycosidic cleaving activity, and those that possess both an activity to remove substrate bases and an activity to incise the phosphodiester backbone immediately 3 of the resulting AP site via a -lyase mechanism (reviewed in ref. 9). The biological significance of the AP lyase activity, which produces a normal 5-phosphate and an obstructive 3-end (i.e., a 3-deoxyribose moiety or a 3-phosphate), is currently unclear. Furthermore, how, if at all, the type of initiating DNA glycosylase dictates downstream events during BER is unknown. It seems likely, however, that any glycosylase-initiated repair event would proceed through the short-patch pathway in which APE would act as the 3-repair diesterase to remove the abnormal AP lyase-generated 3-terminus before gap filling and ligation."

[Bradford]: This reminds us how many parts there are to the base excision repair mechanism. Not only are there multiple proteins, but there can be multiple active sites too.

"Engelward, Weeda, and colleagues (8) have genetically engineered animals deficient in AAG, a DNA glycosylase that removes a broad spectrum of base damages, including, but likely not limited to, 3MeA, 3-methylguanine, 7-methylguanine, 1,N6-ethenoadenine, hypoxanthine, and 8-oxo-7,8-dihydroguanine; AAG does not possess an AP lyase activity. It is worth mentioning that the mouse and human AAG proteins are only moderately conserved (80% identity at the amino acid level) and display some differences in their substrate preferences (32). Given this fact and considering the notable disparities that have been observed between certain repair-deficient mice and their counterpart human subjects, we must proceed with caution when interpreting data gathered from animal models. However, this caveat does not diminish the incredible wealth of information that is being obtained from these models (1).

The First Glycosylase-Deficient Animal Model

Protein extracts from tissues of AAG (/) animals display essentially no detectable repair activity for 3MeA, 1,N6-ethenoadenine, and hypoxanthine base modifications, although a hint of a minor lung-specific glycosylase activity for 1,N6-ethenoadenine lesions was reported (8). Furthermore, the knockout embryonic stem cells show hypersensitivity to a variety of alkylating agents and, surprisingly, to mitomycin C (33). Thus, AAG likely represents the major repair glycosylase for alkylation base damages, whereas its role in protection against mitomycin C is unclear. The finding that AAG-deficient animals survive embryogenesis raises several issues, particularly in light of the embryonic lethality of the other BER knockouts (Table 1)."

[Bradford]: We see that AAG is likely the glycosylase repairing alkylation base damages but that AAG deficiency is not lethal during embryogenesis in contrast to other BER components. Next we find speculation as to the reason.

"The fifth, and perhaps most likely, explanation for the survival of these animals is that one or more of the other DNA repair systems substitutes for AAG in its absence. There may, in fact, be a minor DNA glycosylase activity that can cope with the normal level of alkylation base damage, but that goes undetected in the repair assays used. The ability to cross different genetically engineered repair-defective backgrounds may uncover any potential overlap of the various corrective systems. For instance, if two repair systems possess redundancy for a common cytotoxic lesion, then breeding the appropriate repair-deficient animals would lead to embryonic lethality of the double knockout. Measuring the distribution of the repair patch lengths in AAG (/) also may provide clues as to which pathway is adopted."

[Bradford]: The fifth possibility is thought to be perhaps the most likely. There may be functional redundancy that allows for other repair components to take up the AAG role. The DNA repair function is clearly a critical one and deserving of more attention from biology's natural historians.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Distinguishing Between Historical Facts and Revisionist Lies

If a judge is to use history to justify a judicial decision the judge should at least get the history right. Viewing the film 'Inherit the Wind', a slanted, fictionalized version of history, to familiarize himself with "historical context" would be comical if Judge Jones were bantering on stage rather than issuing judicial fiats. It is apparent that the judge had his mind made up in advance of the trial and was selectively searching for historical data to support a preconception. These comments appear at the following blog which incidentally is one of the more thought provoking ones on the web.

Partisan History of Intelligent Design

Below are the notes for my comments at the Traipsing into Evolution book party held at Discovery Institute yesterday. There the four authors discussed Judge Jones’ lengthy opinion in the Dover intelligent design trial, and touched on some of the highlights from the book, which was our response to his opinion.
My primary contribution to the book was comparing Judge Jones’ history of intelligent design with the true history of it I discovered in my research.

For instance, Jones suggests that the design argument began with St. Thomas in the Middle Ages. This was part of the judge’s attempt to depict intelligent design as fundamentally Christian. The problem is that the design argument dates back much further, to the pagan philosophers Socrates and Plato.

Jones also appears unaware of the modern design argument’s rich history in the 20th century, stretching back to discoveries by Albert Einstein and Edwin Hubble. This isn’t surprising since Judge Jones told the media that he planned to watch an old Hollywood film, Inherit the Wind, for “historical context.” Inherit the Wind is a thinly veiled account of the 1925 Scopes Monkey trial, where a man was tried for teaching evolution. Taken as history, the film grossly misrepresents the actual trial, a fact well attested to even by historians of science favorably predisposed to Darwinism.

The film’s central trope turns out to be Judge Jones’ central trope: Anyone who questions Darwinism is a dangerous creationist driven by Christian fundamentalist impulses.

In keeping with that trope, Jones suggests that intelligent design is just biblical creationism repackaged after a 1987 Supreme Court decision against biblical creationism.* If Jones had read key briefs submitted to him, he would know that the intelligent design arguments in biology pre-date that Supreme Court decision by several years, drawing on developments in information theory in the ‘50s and the information revolution in biology in the ‘50s and ‘60s.

One of the first to describe the significance of these discoveries was chemist and philosopher Michael Polanyi. In the late ‘60s, in essays published in the journal Science and in Chemical and Engineering News, he argued that DNA isn’t reducible to physics and chemistry any more than the sentences in a newspaper are reducible to ink and paper.

Polanyi’s work influenced the seminal 1984 book The Mystery of Life’s Origin. In the book that launched the contemporary theory of intelligent design, Charles Thaxton and his co-authors argued that some features of the biological world could only “be accomplished through what Michael Polanyi has called ‘a profoundly informative intervention.’”

Who published the book? The Philosophical Library of New York, a publisher of more than twenty Nobel Laureates. When it appeared, the book was praised by several leading origin-of-life researchers as well as leading British philosopher Antony Flew, at the time an atheist.

These events never make it into the judge’s official history. Jones also ignores discoveries in physics and cosmology that began to reinvigorate the design argument as early as the 1920s.

These culminated in a growing body of evidence suggesting that the universe was fine tuned for life, a point attested to even by prominent scientists outside the intelligent design community. For instance, in 1982 prominent theoretical physicist Paul Davies described this growing evidence for fine tuning as “the most compelling evidence for an element of cosmic design.”[i] Physicist and agnostic Fred Hoyle and Nobel Laureate Arno Penzias made similar statements. Did Judge Jones dismiss their arguments as creationist drivel? Actually, Jones never addresses these matters because he’s apparently unaware of them. They didn’t fit his Inherit the Wind rubric, and so for him they don’t exist.

DNA Repair: Part One

An excellent article entitled 'Life without DNA Repair' by David M. Wilson III and Larry H. Thompson can be accessed at the following address.

Some snippets from the article and related comments follow.

"The advent of gene targeting techniques has permitted the construction of specific genetic deficiencies to evaluate the biological contribution(s) of an individual protein. Mice lacking a precise DNA repair activity have been generated, and these mutants show various combinations of defective embryogenesis, tissue-specific dysfunction, hypersensitivity to DNA-damaging agents, premature senescence, genetic instability, and elevated cancer rates (1). That repair-deficient animals display such abnormalities underscores the fundamental importance of DNA repair in protecting against the mutagenic and cytotoxic effects of DNA damage."

[Bradford]: There is much evidence indicating that in the absence of DNA repair mechanisms genomes become corrupted in short order. This brings up a historic question. How would that first putative genome avoid the natural tendency to lose genetic information which occurs without a built in self-correction mechanism? In addition what evidence is there that a prebiotic environment would generate genetic information much less accumulation of such information at a pace that exceeds the information lost?

"Proteins participating in base excision repair (BER) cope with chromosomal damages that arise as spontaneous decomposition products or from reactions with metabolically or environmentally derived reactive chemicals (2)namely oxygen free radicals and alkylating agents."

[Bradford]: This brings up another point. Evolutionists have explained that as we look back in time to eras in which living organisms lacked biological capacities found in presently existing organisms, such organisms would have faced less competition because competing organisms also were less developed. Enhanced capacities are correlated to keener competition. However one type of challenge should have existed throughout history. Challenges to life based on environmental factors specifically, chemical reactions, should have existed at the outset as they exist today. General examples are cited by the authors. Nucleic acids are vulnerable to environmentally generated damaging reactions. Why would this not necessitate encoded self-correcting mechanisms at the origin of life? How do they fit Darwinian models?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Exaggerated Claims

An article at the referenced URL contains comments that are typical of exaggerated claims for evolution. A part of the article appears below along with my comments.

"This is like teaching chemistry and skipping (the) periodic table," she said. "Evolution is the idea that living things had common ancestors, and common ancestry of living things is what explains why biological phenomena are the way they are."

[Bradford]: Is that so? What is really amazing is how little is explained by evolution. How does evolution explain metabolic pathways? How does evolution explain how the transcription and translation functions evolved? How does evolution account for an initial replicating genome? Error detection and correction mechanisms that maintain genomic integrity? The evolution of a mechanism designed to cope with supercoiling?

"I go to church every Sunday," said panelist Joseph Travis, dean of FSU's College of Arts and Sciences and a biology professor who's taught evolution. Believing in evolution and God is not contradictory for many people, Travis said. Whether Darwin's theory of evolution explains everything already is questioned in science classes, he said. What concerns Travis is the view that understanding evolution is optional for students.

"The classic example are things like pathogens," he said. "They use methods from evolutionary biology to discern what strain of influenza to use to develop next year's vaccine. That affects a lot of people."

[Bradford]: Evolutionists like to hijack credit from disciplines like virology, molecular biology and more where the real action takes place.

Evolution "determines how we teach critical thinking, how we go about thinking what science is and how science is to be taught," said Frank Stephenson, editor of FSU's Research and Review magazine that is sponsoring the forum.

[Bradford]: Critical thinking is restricted to outcomes favorable to Darwinism.

Said Michigan State University philosophy of science professor Robert Pennock, who will be on the panel: "The Dover trial really was the test case for intelligent design. Creationists had lost in the courts in the 1980s and had to retool their position. Hopefully this will help teachers who want to teach good science to do that without worrying."

[Bradford]: Good science entails teaching students that the most basic biological systems and biochemical pathways are unexplained by Darwinian paradigms.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Winning a Race Without Getting Out of the Starting Blocks

The following quoted paragraph is found in an article appearing in the referenced URL. It reflects a common practice of ignoring a glaring weakness of currently accepted biological paradigms that are said to account for the "diversity and complexity of life." The paragraph is broken into parts to allow for my comments.

>"The biologist, Randy Olson, accepts that there is no credible scientific challenge to the theory of evolution as an explanation for the diversity and complexity of life on earth."

[Bradford]: Evolution does not explain either. Evidence for adaptation by means of its random mutation, natural selection model is variation within species. Examples cited are generally rapidly reproducing unicellular organisms or insects which revert to prior allele frequency when the environment changes.

Nor does it explain the origin of life. If evolution begins with a living cell then we are left without an adaquate scientific explanation as to how life came about in the first place. Evolutionists can point out that this is within the parameter of abiogenesis, not evolution, but the impotency of scientific claims about life's origins is telling given the lack of meaningful explanations provided by origin of life proponents.

As long as advocates of evolution are able to assert that chemical reactions generated a minimal functioning genome in prebiotic conditions without having to explain what those reactions were, then they have effectively immunized their theory from competition. Generation of a genetic code, which is distinct from the matter associated with its manifestation, is assumed to arise without intelligence despite the lack of evidence that it does so. The objection that secondary inferences about the "supernatural" can be made from intelligent causality enables evolutionists to eliminate the possibility of challenges a priori.

>"He agrees that intelligent design's embrace of a supernatural "agent" puts it outside the realm of science."

[Bradford]: Why not squarely face the issue of how genetic information is generated through precellular chemical reactions while leaving the supernatural arguments to theology? How is the foregoing accomplished without intelligence?

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Facial Clues

Here is a human interest story with an evolutionary twist to it.

'Women Get Paternal Clues in Men's Faces'

By DON BABWIN, Associated Press Writer
Wed May 10, 7:19 PM ET

CHICAGO - Women looking for a long-term relationship like men who like children — and they can tell which guys might be interested in becoming fathers just by looking at their faces. Those are among the findings of a study of college students published Wednesday in a British scientific journal.

"This study suggests that women are picking up on facial cues that are perhaps related to paternal qualities," said James Roney, a University of California at Santa Barbara psychologist and lead author of the study. "The more they perceived the men as liking kids, the more likely they could see having a longer-term relationship."

"Experts said evolution has apparently programmed women to recognize men who might be interested in propagating the species by raising a family."

[Bradford]: It was evolution huh? How do random mutations program this? Let's see.

"The study wasn't all bad news for men not interested in settling down. It found that women can look at men's faces and figure out which of them have the highest testosterone levels. Those men — rated the most masculine by the women — turn out to be just the kind of guys they would want for a fling."

[Bradford]: You need a sense of humor at times like this. Evolution is credited with the "programming' needed to enable "women to recognize men who might be interested in propagating the species by raising a family" and also presumably for the capacity to figure out who the men are with the highest testosterone levels who "turn out to be just the kind of guys they would want for a fling." Now envision your putative cave woman having her fling and then getting pregnant with a child having the macho man's genes. The more sensitive fatherly type then cares for the child and ensures the survival of macho man's genes. These stories are priceless.

"Women make very good use of any information they get from a man's face," said co-author Dario Maestripieri, an associate professor of comparative human development at the University of Chicago. "Depending on what they want and where they are in their lives, they use this information differently."

"In the study, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, researchers looked at a group of 39 men, ages 18 to 33, at the University of Chicago. Each man was shown 10 pairs of photographs and silhouettes, one of an adult and the other of an infant, and asked to rate their preferences. Meanwhile, their saliva was tested to determine testosterone levels.

Photographs of the men's faces were then shown to 29 women, ages 18 to 20, at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

The women were asked to rate the men on four qualities: "likes children," "masculine," "physically attractive" and "kind." Then they were asked to rate how attractive they found each man for short-term and long-term romance.

The study found women did well at rating men on their interest in babies, and those they rated masculine generally had higher testosterone levels than the others.

For example, the men who indicated they liked children the most were rated as above average in liking children by 20 of the 29 women. The men who showed no interest in children were correctly rated as below average in that category by 19 of the women.

The higher the women rated the men for masculinity, the higher they were rated as potential short-term romantic partners. The higher they rated men for their interest in children, the higher they were rated for long-term romance.

The features that research has suggested denote high testosterone levels include a prominent jaw and a heavy beard.

The findings came as no surprise to those in the business of studying human behavior — and love.

"What this study illustrates is that there are genetic programs that increase survival of the species because there are hormones in women that are cuing their reactions to the hormones of the men," said Dr. Daniel Alkon, scientific director of the Blanchette Rockefeller Neurosciences Institute in Morgantown, W.Va., and Washington.

Or as Kristin Kelly, a spokeswoman for the online dating service, put it: "They call it `love at first sight' for a reason. They don't say `love at first sentence,' `love at first word.'"

It is unclear just what about the men's faces tipped the women off about their interest in children. While Maestripieri guessed it might have something to do with "a more rounded face, a gentler face," Roney said the answer might be found in the expressions on the men's faces.

He explained that after the study was completed, five graduate students were asked to rate on a scale of 1 to 7 whether the men looked angry or happy. Though the men were instructed to have a neutral look on their faces when photographed, some apparently looked happier than others.

"It seemed that the men who picked more infants in that test had a happier or more content look on their face," he said."

An Intelligent Design Forum

Excerpts from the article at the referenced web site discuss a familiar topic- where and if intelligent design should be discussed. My comments are included.

"If any ideas evolved at a forum on intelligent design at Palisades High School on Tuesday, it was that public schools should offer philosophy classes where questions about human origins could be discussed.

[Bradford]: I take it then that OOL or abiogenesis issues are also to be discussed in philosophy classes. If not why?

Sharon Mendelson, one of about 80 people who attended the panel discussion, said the science classroom is the wrong place to discuss whether a higher intelligence has had a role in life. A philosophy class is the better venue, she said, winning applause from audience members at the forum sponsored by the high school's Students for Social Change club."

[Bradford]: Do philosophy classes now accomodate questions related to the origin of the genetic code? If the study of organic chemistry yields no evidence favoring the view that the code was the result of unguided natural forces then why would a discussion of such be suitable in a philosophy class as opposed to a class in biology, genetics, chemistry...?

"Two science teachers, including Palisades biology teacher Pat Raynock, disagreed that intelligent design should be discussed in the classroom. “We look for evidence, testable evidence, not revelation,” Raynock said."

[Bradford]: In that case why not hypothesize as to what the precursor of a minimal genome was and subject whatever that is to selective pressure in a prebiotic environment and observe what natural forces produce? At what point does it become obvious that unguided natural forces are not up to the task at hand?

"Lehigh University biology teacher Steven Krawiec, who noted his church membership, also said that evolutionists are not focusing on the origin of life. Instead, they focus on the changes in species over time, something that can be demonstrated."

[Bradford]: Genetic change is not controversial. The type of change needed to produce a eukaryotic organism from a prokaryote is but, this type of change is exactly what is not demonstrated.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Rejecting ID on Unscientific Grounds

A common objection to intelligent design is the claim that it is unscientific. Those advancing this objection can hope to project that fabled attitude of scientific objectivity. The claim rings hollow for many. Now they can cite students who are at least frank enough to acknowledge their real reasons. This blog entry from Telic Thoughts reveals the objection by association phenomenon. This occurring at one of our Ivy League schools where one might expect a rejection based on evidence. Alas this is not to be.

Students reject ID over motives, not science? Oh, the humanity!

Posted in Intelligent Design, School on May 9th, 2006 by Krauze

"Uncommon Descent calls attention to a new book on intelligent design, Intelligent Thought: Science Versus the Intelligent Design Movement (three guesses as to what position it’ll take). It has its own publication page, featuring an e-mail from a “post-doc in the Physics Department of Columbia University” as “a stark reminder of why this book is necessary”:

I have been teaching a new course on the frontiers of science, required for all freshmen at Columbia. These students are mostly sharp, capable, and open-minded. Still, many of them think that intelligent design should be studied in the interest of being fair and balanced. What’s troubling is that even those who accept evolution often treat it as a matter of belief, of political persuasion, as if it were akin to being for or against free trade. And if they reject intelligence design it’s often not because they can see its vacuousness as a scientific theory, but merely because the religious and conservative stripes of ID can sometimes look a little uncool. As for science, reason, evidence — what’s that? Students rejecting intelligent design, not because of any knowledge of science, but because they associate it with that “uncool” religious right? Sounds like they’ve been listening to Peter Ward."

Sunday, May 07, 2006

An Information Source

A review of "Information Theory and Molecular Biology" by Hubert Yockey located at the referenced website contains the following remarks.

"The information in DNA is transmitted to the information in proteins. DNA is encoded information. Proteins are decoded information. tRNA is the decoder or translator. Noise in the engineering system equals mutation in the biological system. Indeed both systems look much the same. On an abstract level, they are the same. However what is not clear from this picture and Yockey's text is that the analogy breaks down at two points:

Contrary to engineering systems, there is no encoding process in the biological world. There is neither a Master Mind encoding information in DNA nor a natural process encoding information (from proteins or whatever source) into DNA. DNA is only decoded. In artificial systems, decoding implies encoding. Not so in genetic systems. Therefore, the encoding part of the 'information metaphor' is misleading."

[Bradford]: The author's conclusion reveals a philosophical bias. Since we are focused on a biological system we are to assume that genetic information is encoded in the absence of intelligence. This is both counter-intuitive and contrary to experience. Why refer to this as a "metaphor" while holding onto the remainder of the analogy? Why do so when no laws of chemistry are shown to predict that genetic information is generated from organic molecules under specified conditions?

Dissent from Darwinism

Academic freedom is indeed no longer assured. It has become license for some. For others, whose views lie outside academic political norms, denial of tenure is a reality in spite of "academic freedom." Physicians are in a unique position to observe real effects of mutations. They are associated with disease and dysfunction in the real world. They are not observed leading to the formation of new functions composed of multiple novel proteins. The following statement can be found at the referenced URL.


"As medical doctors we are skeptical of the claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the origination and complexity of life and we therefore dissent from Darwinian macroevolution as a viable theory. This does not imply the endorsement of any alternative theory.

Sadly, academic freedom is no longer assured in America and other countries. This is especially true when it involves espousing views contrary to the theory of Darwinian macroevolution. Numerous instances have been documented where scientists and teachers have been censored and even removed from their positions for facilitating open discussion of the empirical problems of the dominant theory. In fact, one scientist who simply followed procedures in allowing a controversial article to be peer-reviewed and then published in the journal he edited, was publicly vilified and relentlessly persecuted.[1]

As academia has suppressed freedom of speech in this area, another avenue needs to be available to promote accurate knowledge and the free exchange of ideas concerning the debate over Darwinism and alternative theories on origins. To accomplish that goal, Physicians and Surgeons for Scientific Integrity (PSSI) has been established. PSSI is a means for physicians and surgeons to be counted among those skeptical of nature-driven Darwinian macroevolution. PSSI members agree to a “Physicians and Surgeons’ Statement of Dissent” which states “We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the origination and complexity of life and we therefore dissent from Darwinian macroevolution as a viable theory. This does not imply the endorsement of any alternative theory.” This statement is similar to that signed by over 500 scientists worldwide and posted by Discovery Institute at the web site

Allowing physicians and surgeons to speak on this subject with a united voice in significant numbers is one of the best ways to let the scientific facts be known, and to dispel falsehoods, innuendoes, fantasies, and distortions that recently have been flooding the media.

Any person with an M.D., D. O., D.D.S., D.M.D., D.V.M. or equivalent may become a member of PSSI. There is no cost to become a member, and agnostics or members of any religious faith are welcome. Information provided to PSSI by its members beyond their name, medical specialty and city of residence will be kept strictly confidential. To join PSSI, click here and complete the simple application. You will be notified via e-mail of your inclusion on the members’ list.

Each new member will be provided, at no cost, a copy of the superb video, Unlocking the Mystery of Life [2] (UMOL). UMOL has been shown nationally in the United States by the Public Broadcasting System and is being translated into numerous languages, many of which are completed, including Bulgarian, Burmese, Cantonese, Catalan, Czech, Japanese, Khmer, Mandarin, Spanish and Russian.

PSSI will be involved in activities and events to educate the public on this critical subject. These include the distribution of the UMOL DVD to high school and college students, teachers and professors, and sponsoring educational conferences, seminars and debates in the United States and internationally.

As PSSI International, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, contributions by PSSI members to the cost of the DVD distribution or other activities and events will be tax deductible. Our goal is to hold these educational events with a minimal admission fee, or no admission fee at all, to maximize attendance."

Extraterrestrial Life

This article contains an interesting inference about the presence of nitrogen on another planet. It should not be there, at least not in abundance, argues Professor Kenneth Nealson. He explains that "substantial organic nitrogen deposits found in the soil of Mars, or of another planet, likely would have resulted from biological activity." Nealson's point is related to another unspoken assumption about life's origins. It is assumed to result from a series of chemical interactions that led to a cell. If this were so and the natural laws describing chemistry are the same throughout the universe then one would expect to find life under suitable conditions.

There is a missing factor though namely, intelligence. Life's information rich nucleic acids contain encoding properties enabling the synthesis of proteins as long as there is a cellular synthesis mechanism in place. The right conditions might make the formation of RNA possible outside a cellular environment. But nothing we know about organic chemistry predicts that a specified protein encoding sequence of nucleotides would be found in such nucleic acids. That is, not in the absence of intelligent guidance.

Follow the Nitrogen to Extraterrestrial Life
The narrow search for water can miss important clues, say USC geobiologists.
By Carl Marziali

“If you found nitrogen in abundance on Mars, you would get extremely excited because it shouldn’t be there,” said USC College professor Kenneth Nealson.

The great search for extraterrestrial life has focused on water at the expense of a crucial element, say USC geobiologists.

Writing in the Perspectives section of the May 5 issue of Science, four USC researchers propose searching for organic nitrogen as a direct indicator of the presence of life. Nitrogen is essential to the chemistry of living organisms.

Even if NASA were to find water on Mars, its presence only would indicate the possibility of life, said Kenneth Nealson, Wrigley Professor of earth sciences in USC College.

“It’s hard to imagine life without water, but it’s easy to imagine water without life,” Nealson said.

The discovery of nitrogen on the Red Planet would be a different story.

“If you found nitrogen in abundance on Mars, you would get extremely excited because it shouldn’t be there,” Nealson said.

The reason has to do with the difference between nitrogen and carbon, the other indispensable organic element.

Unlike carbon, nitrogen is not a major component of rocks and minerals. This means that any substantial organic nitrogen deposits found in the soil of Mars, or of another planet, likely would have resulted from biological activity.

Dimming the hopes of life-on-Mars believers is the makeup of the planet’s atmosphere. The abundant nitrogen in Earth’s atmosphere is constantly replenished through biological activity. Without the ongoing contribution of living systems, the atmosphere slowly would lose its nitrogen.

The extremely low nitrogen content in the Martian atmosphere suggests that biological nitrogen production is close to zero.

However, the authors write, it is possible that life existed on Mars at some hypothetical time when nitrogen filled the atmosphere.

Co-author Douglas Capone, Wrigley Professor of environmental biology in USC College, said NASA should establish a nitrogen detection program alongside its water-seeking effort. He noted that next-generation spacecraft will have advanced sampling capabilities.

“What we’re suggesting here is basically drilling down into geological strata, which they’re going to be doing for water anyway,” Capone said.

“The real smoking gun would be organic nitrogen.”

Said Nealson: “If your goal is to search for life, it would be wise to include nitrogen.”

In their acknowledgments, the authors thanked the students of the Spring 2004 Geobiology & Astrobiology course at USC, with whom Nealson and Capone began their discussion on how to search for life outside earth.

“That’s really what stimulated this [paper],” Nealson said.

The authors also thanked NASA, the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation for their financial support.

Along with Nealson and Capone, USC graduate student Beverly Flood and former USC research professor Radu Popa (now a professor of biology at Portland State University) contributed to the Perspectives paper.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

New Species

Surprisingly reports of new species appear regularly in the news. This story cites finds of zooplankton in the depths of the Atlantic Ocean. The find is related to gauging global warming. New biological findings have the potential to impact theories of origins and evolution- at least in theory. At times they do lead to revision of theory but rarely in a way that affects the debate between evolutionists and IDers. For IDers the strongest evidence for intelligent causality may be in the generation of the genetic code found expressed in the nucleic acids of new species. For Darwinists an evolutionary path to a species's existence is also a foregone conclusion. From the cited article:

Scientists find new species in Atlantic By Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent
Thu May 4, 11:50 AM ET

OSLO (Reuters) - Scientists have found about 10-20 new species of tiny creatures in the depths of the Atlantic in a survey that will gauge whether global warming may harm life in the oceans, an international report said on Thursday.

The survey, of tropical waters between the eastern United States and the mid-Atlantic ridge, used special nets to catch fragile zooplankton -- animals such as shrimp, jellyfish and swimming worms -- at lightless depths of 1-5 km (0.6-3 miles).

"This was a voyage of exploration ... the deepest parts of the oceans are hardly ever sampled," said Peter Wiebe, the cruise's scientific leader and senior scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in the United States.

"We found perhaps 10-20 new species of zooplankton," he said of the 20-day voyage by 28 scientists from 14 nations in April.

Most life, including commercial fish stocks, is in the top 1 km of water, but the scientists said the survey showed a surprising abundance even in the depths. The survey will provide a benchmark to judge future changes to the oceans.

New finds among thousands of zooplankton species caught included six types of ostracods, a shrimp-like creature, and other species of zooplankton such as swimming snails and worms.

Zooplankton are animals swept by ocean currents, mostly millimeters-long but ranging up to jellyfish trailing long tails.

Among 120 types of fish caught, the scientists found what may be a new type of black dragonfish, with fang-like teeth, growing up to about 40 cm (15 inches), and a 20-cm-long great swallower, with wide jaws and a light-producing organ to attract prey.

"By 2010, the research ... will provide a baseline against which future generations can measure changes to the zooplankton and their provinces, caused by pollution, over-fishing, climate change, and other shifting environmental conditions," said Ann Bucklin, lead scientist for the zooplankton census project at the University of Connecticut.


Most scientists believe the planet is warming because of a build-up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, mainly from human burning of fossil fuels in power plants, vehicles and factories since the Industrial Revolution.

The oceans absorb vast amounts of carbon dioxide but the process raises levels of carbonic acid in the seas. That build-up could threaten marine life, for instance by making it harder for crabs or oysters to build shells.

Zooplankton are a key to transporting carbon dioxide to the depths because they can swim 500 meters (yards) up and down daily. Many species eat their own weight every day in plant phytoplankton species near the surface.

By one estimate, 10,000 kg (22,000 lb) of plant phytoplankton is needed to feed 1,000 kg of small zooplankton.

The expedition was funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and used NOAA ship Ronald H. Brown. The findings are also part of a wider Census of Marine Life trying to map the oceans.

Scientists from Argentina, Australia, Britain, Canada, China, Germany, India, Japan, Mexico, Norway, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey and the United States took part.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Gene Expression in Prokaryotes

Evolution proposes that an accumulation of gradual changes favored by natural selection produced the biological systems found among living organisms. It's a logical argument. But what do favorable changes "look like" and how do they produce biological systems? The focus of this post will be a particular system known as the lac operon; extensively studied in a prokaryotic organism known as E coli. Evolution is frequently spoken of in abstract terms but some general approaches to evolution on a molecular level can be gleaned from the study of the lac operon.

The lac operon consists of genes that encode for enzymes ß-galactosidase and ß-galactoside permease (lac Z and lac Y). These enzymes enable the lac operon to perform its function of metabolizing lactose to galactose and glucose. Permease is involved in transporting lactose into the cell where ß-galactosidase enables its conversion to galactose and glucose. In addition there are a number of regulatory sites which include a promotor where RNA polymerase binds to initiate transcription and an operator involved in the repression of transcription. Michael Behe describes the lac operon as follows:

"The lac operon of E. coli contains genes coding for several proteins which are involved in metabolism of the disaccharide lactose. One protein of the lac operon, called a permease, imports lactose through the otherwise-impermeable cell membrane. Another protein is an enzyme called β-galactosidase, which can hydrolyze the disaccharide to its two constituent monosaccharides, galactose and glucose, which the cell can then process further. Because lactose is rarely available in the environment, the bacterial cell switches off synthesis of the permease and β-galactosidase to conserve energy until lactose is available. The switch is controlled by another protein called a repressor, whose gene is located next to the operon. Ordinarily the repressor binds to the lac operon, shutting it off by physically interfering with expression of the operon. In the presence of the natural "inducer" allolactose (a by-product of lac β-galactosidase activity) or the artificial chemical inducer isopropylthiogalactoside (IPTG), however, the repressor binds to the inducer and releases the operon, allowing the lac operon enzymes to be synthesized by the cell."1

Evolution has been described as a change in allele frequency but a description of evolution more consistent with what would have actually occurred on earth is: a process wherein genes, associated with a specified biological system produced proteins with new functions whose utility is measured in connection with their interaction with other proteins. All such genes acquired selectivity through coordinated integration of their encoded proteins within a system. Accordingly evidence of evolution on this level requires not only identifying potential precursor proteins but also showing how a sequential integration of them within a system took place. This in turn entails showing how the system retained function while evolving incrementally. Behe's critics have made clumsy attempts at this in their efforts to show how the irreducibly complex examples Behe cited could have evolved. They have identified proteins whose amino acid sequences are similar enough to some of the proteins found in Behe's examples to be considered precursor candidates however, their efforts to document a detailed sequential integration process have fallen far short of the mark. When the lac operon is analyzed in accord with a more realistic description of molecular evolution natural questions arise such as:

1. Is lac function possible without both ß-galactosidase and ß-galactoside permease? If not how was were they integrated into the operon and what was the sequence of events? Does permease have selective value in the absence of a means to metabolize lactose and would a gene encoding ß-galactosidase be selected if permease could not be synthesized?

2. How would the promotor, operator and repressor protein integrate themselves into the regulatory process? What was the sequence of events?

Similar questions arise when examining other biological complexes and the number increases in proportion to the complexity of the systems. Most are more complex than the lac operon. Defenders of evolution often argue that if they can envision or imagine pathways and intermediate functions then Behe's point about irreducible complexity has been adaquately addressed. However Behe's real point is an empirical one. Pathways to irreducibly complex systems are theoretical not observed. As long as this is so Behe's point remains unrefuted.

1. 'A Response to Critics of Darwin's Black Box'; Michael J. Behe

Other references and internet sites for those interested in the lac operon include the following:

Monday, May 01, 2006

Natural Selection on Center Stage: Part Three

Here is more of Princeton University President Shirley M. Tilghman's George Romanes Lecture at Oxford University on 12/1/05. The speech entitled 'Strange Bedfellows: Science, Politics and Religion' is referenced at the following URL:

"A common weapon that is used to advance the "theory" of intelligent design is to posit that evolutionary biology cannot explain everything — that there remains uncertainty in the fossil record and that there is as yet no consensus on the origin or nature of the first self-replicating organisms. This, too, reflects a basic misunderstanding about how science works, for, in fact, all scientific theories, even those that are approaching 150 years of age, are works in progress."

[Bradford]: More accurately, advances in scientific knowledge are a continuing work in progress. Such advances can lend credence to a theory or detract from its credibility. The assumption that future knowledge favors a predetermined outcome indicates that objectivity has been compromised.

"Scientists live with uncertainty all the time and are not just reconciled to it but understand that it is an integral part of scientific progress. We know that for every question we answer, there is a new one to be posed. Indeed, the very word, "theory," is misunderstood by many who take it to mean an "idea" that has no greater or lesser merit than any other idea. The fact that Darwin's "ideas" on natural selection have stood the test of time through keen experimental challenge does not give his theory special status in their eyes."

[Bradford]: That lethal genetic changes are selected against is not in dispute. But where is experimental support for the concept that life arose through selected chemical outcomes or that universal metabolic pathways evolved through a selection process? How was a minimal genome selected and where is experimental support for the contention that the irreducibly complex translation function evolved? Add hundreds of other irreducibly complex biological systems to that list.

"There are also those who exploit the fact that scientists often disagree over the interpretation of specific findings or the design of experiments to argue that nothing is settled and thus anything is possible. The fact of the matter is that fierce disagreement is the stuff of scientific inquiry, and the constant give-and-take is needed to test the mettle of our ideas and sharpen our thinking. It is not, as many would claim, prima facie evidence for deep fissures in the central tenets of natural selection.

Of course, the real test of whether intelligent design is a scientific theory, comparable to Darwin's theory of natural selection and worthy of equal consideration in the biology classroom, is whether it poses testable hypotheses. Here the answer is self-evident — it does not — and therefore it has no place in the science curriculum of America's public schools, which rest on the premise that the state has no constitutional authority to impart supernatural truths."

[Bradford]: Let's take the last part first. What supernatural truth is revealed in the contention that the sequential order of nucleotides in nucleic acids, rather than their chemical composition, imparts their selective value? How is the position that this is relevant to whether a minimal genome would arise in a prebiotic environment, without intelligent input, a supernatural truth? There is nothing supernatural about DNA with encoding properties. There is however something amiss in assuming that on a planet devoid of both life and nucleic acids, an unspecifed series of chemical interactions not only led to the formation of nucleic acids but also to at least one with both encoding properties and a biochemical means to translate and replicate the same.

It is by no means "self-evident" that no testable hypothesis can be consistent with an intelligent design paradigm. One can devise counter hypotheses related to an identical biological system. An irreducibly complex system would consist of interacting proteins and their corresponding encoding genes. It could also be accompanied by a hypothesis as to how the component proteins sequentially evolved. Knock out encoding genes in a way consistent with their hypothesized evolution and place the organism (one with a high reproductive rate) in an environment conducive to the application of selective pressure for sufficient time. Observe the system evolve- or not do so. Back to the Tilghman speech-

"Rather than searching for explanations for the complexity that is surely present in each living organism, intelligent design accepts that this complexity is beyond human understanding because it is the work of a higher intelligence, leading logically to the conclusion that experimentation — the tried and true basis for scientific progress — is pointless. The result is an intellectual dead end."

[Bradford]: Baloney. ID does not claim that biological systems are beyond human understanding because they are the work of a higher intelligence as alleged. This kind of straw man promotes intellectual dishonesty. Who made this claim? Dembski? Behe? Stephen Meyer? IDers are as curious as anyone to uncover the unknown and are not excoriated because they differ as to the components of a biochemical pathway, the nature of a cellular system or anything of scientific significance. They are criticized for believing intelligence better explains the origin of particular biological systems. The impact of this is felt more in the realm of the philospophical than in science. Antagonism toward ID can also be traced to extra-scientific motives.

"In fact, because there is no prediction that can be tested, the future of intelligent design is dependent on the failure of experiments designed to test other hypotheses."

[Bradford]: Another misconception. If data is capable of supporting a paradigm that is dependent on the adaquacy of biological mechanisms to generate sufficient selected changes over long time eras then data that contravenes this is data that can be used to support an alternative paradigm.

Stephen Meyer cited numerous studies in his paper 'Intelligent Design: The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories'1 to butress his points that proteins and their encoding genes are highly specified to their functional roles and correspondingly sensitive to loss of function caused by sequence alterations. Limitations on amino acid residue variation when combined with mutation rate data and evolutionary time frames can suggest that a design paradigm is more consistent with what we know. Meyer cited one study indicating loss of protein function invariably occured in cases involving multiple amino acid substitutions. Tilghman may claim such references illustrate a dependency on "failure of experiments" but the concern is not a failure of science to advance in knowledge but rather evidence of concern for a "failure" of data to support a preferred outcome.

More recently other papers have been published indicating data that supports an ID point of view. Richard Robinson's 'Mutations Change the Boolean Logic of Gene Regulation' (PLOS Biology) is an example.2 So is a steady stream of new discoveries related to "junk DNA." Junk DNA was a prediction formed from evolutionary expectations and based solidly on our ignorance rather than our knowledge. Back to Tilghman-

"It is ironic that intelligent design's reliance on negative proof exacerbates what religious historians have called the "shrinking God" problem. Each time a natural phenomenon that has been attributed to divine inspiration is explained by scientific exploration, the role for an intelligent designer is diminished. In other words, they are setting up God to fail."

[Bradford]: Now we are treated to the author's theological concern. It is also another straw man; a variation of the God of the gaps charge. Lack of knowledge as to how x occurs is the basis for a belief in a divine cause or so it goes. Actually most IDers, be they Christian Muslims or Jews, believe the universe functions in an orderly manner that was preordained by God. The implication being natural phenomenon operate this way independently of our knowledge. Attribution of divine causality is not dependent on scientific developments. That is not the same as saying that intelligence is indetectable. That's Ken Miller's position and he is entilted to his theology. What he and others are not entitled to is maintaining that scientific evidence precludes intelligence as a causal component of biological origins.

The "shrinking God" argument is a strange one. It's indicative of motive and a hidden one at that. If Darwinists wish to make the argument that either there is no God or that it is impossible to link natural phenomenon to intelligent causality then let them not hide behind science in doing so.