Friday, June 30, 2006

The World Cup

The tension mounts.

The France vs Brazil match is less than a day away. Many local bars have set up large screen TV for the occasion. Then England vs Portugal. I don't think France have a chance against Brazil but if they win and England beat Portugal....

Don't look for posts from me for a day or two.

Elliot Sober

Thanks to Tim Hague for suggesting this thread topic, and slightly reducing the many things of which I am ignorant. Elliot Sober has written several papers on ID and evolutionary theory. One that caught my eye immediately was "Intelligent Design and the Supernatural -- the 'God or Extraterrestrials' Reply."

As science is the method for studying, observing and measuring the natural world, and the supernatural by definition lies outside the scope of science, I (as did Judge Jones) find it difficult to understand how anyone can honestly suggest ID "theory" is, or can ever be, science. Unless, of course science is redefined.

Professor Davison's Creed

John Davison contributes to a thread at EvC in a Showcase forum. This is for bloggers with a history to enable them to participate in a thread without invading and derailing other threads. One downside is that that blogger can demand the exclusion of any other participant. In John's case, this is pretty much everyone. Then he complains he doesn't get much feedback! So to help John's ideas reach a wider audience (not by much, I admit) I am pasting below John's list of his convictions.

Maybe this will stimulate some sort of response. I am now convinced of the following:

1. Evolution, including true speciation and the formation of any of the higher categories, is a thing of the past.

2. Sexual reproduction is incompetent as a progressive evolutionary device. It is much too conservative to ever produce anything very different from what it already is and always was. It has been demonstrated only to be able to produce varieties and that only in certain forms. None of those varieties are incipient species.

3. Population genetics never had anything to do with evolution beyond the distribution of Mendelian alleles in sexually reproducing populations, populations which can only undergo subspeciation. Subspecies are not incipient species either.

4. Allelic mutations have played no role in creative evolution but have probably played a role in some but not all extinctions.

5. Phylogeny, exactly like ontogeny, has been driven entirely from within with no role for the environment beyond that of acting as a stimulus or releaser of latent front-loaded specific information.

6. The entire Darwinian model is an illusion based on the assumption that phylogeny HAD an extrinsic cause. Such cause cannot be demonstrated because it never existed.

7. There has never been a role for chance in either ontogeny or phylogeny.

8. The number of times and the locations in the geological column when life was created are unknown as are the number of creators and their nature.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Blipey's questions for ID theorists.

Chris Hyland sparks Blipey into proposing some questions that he thinks might be a way forward for ID.

Blipey writes:

I think this would be a fabulous discussion. Here are a few specific questions. Speculations don't even have to be fully formed IMO. It would be informative if IDers could enlighten us as to what we should be looking for in light of their supposition that we can't make any suppositions.

1. Not knowing anything about the designer's purpose, do we know if we are a final product? How?

1b. If we are not a final product, how do we know? Does this imply that we are evolving? How do we know?

2. Not knowing anything about the designer's origins, where did he get the raw material to design us? Was it already here? How do we know?

2b. Did the designer also design the raw material we come from? How do we know?

2c. If he used extant material, how did he alter it so that we can tell?

2d. If he created the raw material, how did he leave his imprint so that we can investigate his workings?

Is Dawkins right to insinuate that religion is The Root Of All Evil?'

asks fellow blogger Tim Hague. Thanks for your suggestions, Tim. I never intended this blog to be full of my unworthy opinions, so any more ideas for threads will be gratefully accepted (especially if I can just copy and paste from a post on the suggestions thread.)

I have all Dawkins' books. "The Extended Phenotype" was a struggle but worth it, and "The Ancestor's Tale" is a masterpiece, with a usable index, and a proper reference section. It is recent enough for me to use as an initial reference for all things evolutionary. I don't find his atheism intrudes, and the little creationist bashing he indulges in is passing and peripheral to the main thrust of the book.

His recent venture into TV punditry, "The Root of All Evil" seems to have offended fundamentalists. (I suspect almost anything would offend that creepy Southern Baptist minister. Is he typical?) But Dawkins is expressing a personal view. He is not proselytizing for the atheist religion.

Are there parallels with PZ Myers recent "we should be proud to be atheists" outburst and spat with Lenny Flank? PZ did not cover himself with glory, not because of his views, but in calling for an argument then banning Lenny from his thread. I never expected to see such unfairness from PZ, whose site is a wonderful source of information on evo/devo. I can't imagine Dawkins acting in such a way. His stance of refusing to debate with creationists seems so much more sensible.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Second second thoughts.

One reason I set up this blog was to see if the sky would fall in if there was no real moderation. My supposition was that, perhaps, if you give people free rein and let posts stand, the excuse to escape from a losing argument by being banned is no longer available. Hoping that the blog might be thus almost self-sustaining I asked for ideas for thread topics because I am well aware that others are much more well versed in the ID/evo debate than me, and are better qualified, having much better grasp of scientific issues. Whilst I was very pleased to receive the suggestions I did, interest seems to be waning a little, and I am finding it very time consuming to maintain my current level of input (not that it is huge, now but I have to work), and was wondering if it was worth keeping going.

But there was a subtext. Certain particular members of the blogging community (you may be able to guess who I am thinking about) are well known for their inability to "play nicely". I hoped they might be persuaded to visit, and see how things would develop in an open forum. I wondered how they would cope when no-one can either ban or delete others comments or claim martyrdom by being banned. I think the results have been quite telling.

I would be interested in hearing others comments.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

What would make ID scientific.

Judge Jones was very clear.ID is not science. Where is the research, where are the testable hypotheses? My view is that claiming to be able to detect the effects of the supernatural is an inherently bogus approach, and supernatural science is an oxymoron.

Am I wrong? Is there ID research, planned or happening. Does anyone plan to test an ID hypothesis, if such a concept exists. Call it my challenge to Intelligent Design. Show me the Emperor is really wearing clothes.

Perhaps Not such a Good Idea

I have found trying to run a blog is very time-consuming, and there are other calls on my time. I think it has been demonstrated that if enough people are unable to self-moderate, the nuggets of interest are swamped by the rubbish. Sadly I agree with Mark Frank's assessment. I had hoped more thread topics would be proposed nothing has been suggested by anyone for a while.

My personal view is that, considering DaveScot's generally perceived blog persona, I have to admit that he hasn't been (on this site) quite the unmitigated disaster predicted. John Davison, on the other hand has conformed perfectly to predictions, which is a shame, but his choice.

I am happy to let things run for a while, but would like to hear from anyone who has a suggestion for a thread topic. Post here or in the suggestions thread

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Specification or Liklihood by Mark Frank

Specification or Likelihood

I have just written an essay about it, simply because it interested me so much and put it here.

My main point is that the Explanatory Filter relies on rejecting chance hypotheses because they are both complex and specified. Dembski has now defined specified in terms of conforming to a simple pattern. He goes to considerable lengths to try to define simplicity and specification rigorously but never explains why conforming to a simple pattern should cause us to reject a hypothesis. Meanwhile there is a perfectly good basis for rejecting or accepting hypotheses based on the comparison of likelihoods which has a justification and is conceptually straightforward. The problem for ID is that this requires explaining not just why an outcome is improbable according to a chance hypothesis but also showing it is more improbable according to a design hypothesis. This of course implies getting into an level of detail about the design hypothesis which the ID community find unacceptable.

Is an open forum a good idea?

I am fairly new to blogging. I posted my first comment in a forum not much more than a year ago, not even on any kind of scientific forum, but a chance encounter there with an ID supporter led me to discover the ideas of Dembski and Behe (this same supporter also linked mehere!).

Having lurked and blogged a fair amount since, especially being fascinated with the Dover trial, (and learning a huge amount of science and other stuff on the way) I gained a perception that discussion was not always free and fair. ID sites, especially (to me, at least, as a church-burning atheist) seemed not to welcome scepticism or criticism, as the frequency with which I was banned from Uncommon Descent confirms.

So, I naively thought, let's see what happens if you start a blog with no restrictions. I still think the biggest sanction on any poster is for their comment to be ignored, and that is a huge incentive, (certainly for me) to attempt to be succinct, lucid and relevant to the issue of the moment. It is easy to scroll past posts that are repetitive or content-free, and no-one was ever injured by flying pixels. So far, I see little evidence of flame-out, but a few ideas for new topics would be welcome.

I confess that, with the Kitzmiller decision, I reckon ID is a spent force as a political movement, and I am curious to hear from anyone who still wishes to justify the concept of ID as a genuine philosophy.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Mycelial Colonies are collections of individual single celled organisms (by DaveScot)

DaveScot asks:

"Could you start a thread for Bob OH and I to continue arguing about whether mycelial colonies are, in the context of evolution, single multi-celled organisms or collections of individual single celled organisms. My position is that they are the latter and that evolution can take place within a single colony via various mechanisms including gene induction.

"I bring this up because I have resumed experimenting with a volvariella volvacea colony which had apparently (barring experimental error on my part) acquired the ability to break down high concentrations of hydrogen peroxide. I hypothesized that the ability was due to gene induction whereby (probably through methylation) a peroxide decomposing enzyme was inducted. I further hypothesized that the induction would be sticky and would persist across generations of mycelia even in the absence of high peroxide concentrations.

"After a long distraction I just recently recultured the h2o2 resistant colony. It has been living in a more or less dormant state on a non-peroxide agar plate (several plates actually) for about 7 weeks now. I recultured it onto fresh non-peroxide agar yesterday and it is already showing new growth so it's still a vibrant, normal colony on its usual PDA medium. I have also prepared agar plates with various concentrations of peroxide to reculture these onto as soon as they grow out (4-5 days). The original colony took 2 weeks to adapt to the peroxide. If my hypothesis is correct the colony I'm growing out now shouldn't have any lag time when recultured onto the new peroxide plates."

From JGuy:: "The Degenerating Genome".

"Nearly all mutations (greater than 99.9% of them) are neutral and slightly deleterious. Therefore effectively all of these mutations are completely unselectable by natural selection. There are greater than 100 (an very conservative minimum) actual mutations entering the human genome per person per generation. Since they are unselectable, they will be passed on to the next generation where just as many will be added by the next generation (the cycle continues). Just the present generation will add 600 billion new mutations... more than 200 times the information content of one humans genetic material. The human genome is inevitably doomed to degenerate. It can not be stopped. It can not be selected away. No questions asked.

Since degeneration is occuring, and not forward evolution. We are all then, in effect, modern types of inbreeds of historically accumulated, then recessive, mutations. It is the sad reality.

Since we are degenerating, the human genome must have been better in the past. This explains why, for example, the Neanderthals (humans of the past) had superior jaw structure than us..why they did not have molar/teeth alignment problems.. why they had better enzymes in their saliva.. why there is the appearance that they aged much much slower and lived very long lives compared to us in modern times (this is all based on their cranial & dental found from Neanderthal skulls in museums around the globe). The degeration also explains why, while we have organs of extreme perfection such as the eye, we still have many relatively simple genetic diseases that should have been "selected out" (if selection was responsible for those organs of perfection in the first place). We are worse off today than even our so called Neanderthal relatives (who I argue are simply longer lived and better developed humans) because as stated, we are degenerating. The math doesn't lie...and the evidence supports this.

Logically, going into the past we would find a more perfected human genome. The then obvious question is..where did the original and more perfected genome of the past originate from? ... the answer is that since mutation and natural selection are already shown to be incapable of even PRESERVING the genome, then the same process obviously could not build up the genome. The best answer for the origin of the original genome is that it is from an original intelligent cause."

Friday, June 23, 2006

Sunset in Languedoc

Just to show there is more to life than blogging!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Is ID science?

Of course not. Science is a method to study the natural world. ID does not study anything scientifically, and science excludes the supernatural. How can anyone honestly claim otherwise?

John Davison's challenges to Darwinian evolution

1. Name any two species, living or fossil, and present convincing evidence that one is ancestral to the other.

2. Name a younger mammal than Homo sapiens. Incidentally, for the Fundamentalists, Homo sapiens is definitely a mammal and he did have animal ancestors, despite the "inferences" suggested by the title of Dembski's forum - "Uncommon Descent."

3. Name a new genus of plant or animal that can be proven to have originated in the last two million years.

4. Present evidence that any organism "gradually" evolved into a new member of the same genus or of any other taxonomic category.

"Gravity, the strongest force in the universe?"

GCT from After the Bar Closes proposes this subject.