Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Last Word

The exchanges involving Aleph Wilton, John Rennie and me have come to an end with a decision by Rennie to terminate further comments. He gets the last word in the forum he controls. Further comments by me are addressed to Rennie's last post to which Aleph was unable to reply. As always my comments are clearly delineated from the initial post. In addition, for the sake of clarity, parentheses are used to indicate names and information apart from the original text.

Comment from: John Rennie [Member]
Sorry, you're right, you didn't ask the following as a question. It was just a flatly misleading remark.

(Aleph): Darwinism, despite its 150-year headstart, has yet to "tell" us anything, one single thing, about the origin of life....

(Rennie): Hence my reply.

(Rennie): Evolution hasn't produced a lot of answers about the origin of life because (do I hear an echo?) evolutionary theory isn't primarily about the origin of life.

[Bradford]: But debunking ID (which Rennie spends much time attempting to do) necessarily entails the issue of abiogenesis.

(Rennie): You keep trying to use unsolved mysteries about the origin of life as a club to beat up evolution, and I keep pointing out that this is like criticizing a BMW for being an awkward paperweight.

[Bradford]: They are unsolved mysteries only in the minds of dedicated Darwinists like Rennie. Scientific evidence, about which we presume Mr. Rennie has some concern, indicates that living cells come only from other cells. Criticizing abiogenesis on scientific grounds is legitimate and laudable. Why equate questions about the validity of an origin of life hypothesis with questioning evolution.

(Aleph): For one thing, the theory of evolution is hardly the central principle of contemporary biology. That description must surely be reserved for the thesis that all of life is to be understood in terms of the "coordinative interaction of large and small molecules" (James Watson, The Molecular Biology of the Gene).

"[Evolution] is a general postulate to which all theories, all hypotheses, all systems must hence forward bow and which they must satisfy in order to be thinkable and true." (The first part of Dobzhansky's quote continued below)

[Bradford]: Bowing before postulates is an updated version of idolotry.

"Evolution is a light which illuminates all facts, a trajectory which all lines of thought must follow — this is what evolution is." From the essay Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution, by the pioneering geneticist and evolutionary biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky (1973).

[Bradford]: The trouble is evolution does not illuminate key issues. The evolution of prokaryotes to eukaryotes is argued largely based on endosymbiosis, which even if assumed, does nothing to explain notable phenotypic differences unrelated to organelles. These differences lack a theoretical explanation much less one supported by empirical evidence. A mutation mechanism is fraught with difficulties and natural selection is primarily a logically argued concept rather than one sustained by experimental data.

(Rennie): Dueling quotes aside, doesn't it strike you that this "central principle of contemporary biology" is a tad broad as it stands, and would include much of chemistry? And do you really want to imply that Jim Watson doesn't think evolution is central to biology? The same James Watson who wrote (in "Why Darwin is Still a Scientific Hotshot," in the Los Angeles Times):

[Bradford]: Biology does include chemistry. Why not then depict enzymes, described as conserved, by a term referring to the chemical affinity between active sites and substrates as this would convey more useful information and be more precise than an evolutionary hypothesis? Watson is of course a proponent of evolution but he is accurate in pointing out the importance of understanding the "coordinative interaction of large and small molecules." Such an understanding has immediate scientific applicability. Suppositions about natural history do not.

(Rennie): Let us not beat about the bush — the common assumption that evolution through natural selection is a "theory" in the same way as string theory is a theory is wrong. Evolution is a law (with several components) that is as well substantiated as any other natural law, whether the law of gravity, the laws of motion or Avogadro's law. Evolution is a fact, disputed only by those who choose to ignore the evidence, put their common sense on hold and believe instead that unchanging knowledge and wisdom can be reached only by revelation.

[Bradford]: This is scientific lunacy. Laws pertaining to motion, gravity and chemistry are mathematically definable indicating a precision that has been repeatedly verified experimentally. Evolution is not a law. You do not get useful predictive results from applying evolutionary principles. What you do get are general statements accompanied by frequent adjustments for results not conforming to expectations. You get extrapolations that greatly exceed what evidence points to and much speculation about events in natural history for which evidence is either unavailable or has been erased with time.

(Rennie):In answer to my request for an experiment for testing I.D., you wrote:

(Aleph): Have ID proponents claimed that they can "test between two extremely different conceptions of how a designing intelligence created life?" Why should ID's leading proponents propose such a scientific test? Because you bang your spoon on your high-chair tray?

Rennie: No, don't do it for my sake. Do it because it's one of the minimal requirements that an idea should meet to qualify as a scientific theory.

And so on. You say I'm mischaracterizing your remarks, but from here it seems like you're just reluctant to explore what your ideas actually mean (or fail to mean).

[Bradford]: You can apply a test that is applicable to both the concept of selective changes and ID. Knock out a gene required for the function of a critical system. There are many posibilites. Try one related to a growth factor required for cellular replication. Place organisms so afflicted in a suitable environment and observe the evolution or non-evolution of the required function. This general approach should yield results one way or another.

(Rennie): You keep reiterating your dismissal of the criticism of Nelson's remarks, but you won't actually say where or how that criticism is factually baseless.

Anyway, enough of all this. If life in New York teaches us anything, it's that if you spend all your time yelling back at the crazy people who scream on streetcorners, then you have become one of those crazy people. And I do have more constructive things to do with my time then continue this.

[Bradford]: Anyone who disagrees with you must be crazy right John?

So with that in mind, it's time to bring the ridiculous exchanges in this comment thread to an end. Aleph, it's clear that you've already made whatever point you're willing and able to make. Intelligent readers should have a pretty good idea of who is representing a reasonable scientific argument and who is not.
June 18, 2006 @ 12:49

[Bradford]: I've read a series of posts by Rennie in this thread that have a common theme. There is much claimed both for standard theories and in opposition to ID and little scientific data offered in support of the claims. Don't restrict yourself to this one post. Take in a few of them at this address:

http://tinyurl.com/rbeh9

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