Friday, December 12, 2008

Jesus Magic

I argue and discuss this stuff for a living (what a cool job!). And the way I think of it often is that what the arguments I present do, if they are good ones, is force someone to make some choices about what their view about X is. What the Salem Witch Trials argument does, and does well, is force the Christian who thinks that we should believe that Jesus REALLY did perform magic on the basis of the Gospels to take one of two positions. They can argue that it is not reasonable to think that the women accused at Salem really were performing magic themselves on the basis of that evidence, but on the basis of the Gospel evidence it is reasonable to think that Jesus performed magic. Or they can bite the other bullet and agree that their standard of proof requires them to admit that both Jesus and the witches REALLY did perform magic. As I see it, both of these positions are really embarrassing to any smart person who thinks about it—but the prevalent acceptance of the Jesus miracles as real seems to have diminished the extent to which people are embarrassed by it who should be.

If you argue that the women in Salem weren’t really performing magic, even though we have a truckload of evidence comparable to the Jesus evidence that they did, then you have to argue that the Jesus case is somehow different. These attempts quickly appear to be ad hoc, special pleading, or otherwise inconsistent. But people will rarely admit being inconsistent straight out, especially when they get mad. If the believer takes the other route and argues that they were all performing real magic, then at least that position has the virtue of some consistency and it isn’t so flagrantly ad hoc. The embarrassing part is that this person has said something that the vast majority of thoughtful, educated adults find utterly ridiculous, namely that those women really were performing magic. The Salem Witch Trials, in the minds of the vast majority of thoughtful people, are the consummate example of just how far astray human enthusiasm and fear can take even large groups of people into irrationality. Indeed, the reasons historians are so interested in the case is that we're all sure that they weren't witches, but all of those otherwise normal, reasonable people got themselves convinced that they were. What's remarkable is that so many people could talk themselves into something that was so clearly false.

And by "really performed magic, we don’t mean they had some books or they merely did some rituals, but that they actually summoned some supernatural, miraculous forces and caused events to happen outside the ordinary course of nature. If a person in the 21st century who has a decent education and can read the newspaper and otherwise think for themselves is willing to stand up in public and say, “Yes, it is reasonable to believe on the basis of the witch trial evidence that Sarah Goode and Rebbecca Nurse and the rest actually were witches,” then I confess I don’t know what else to say. II take that admission to be a flat out reductio of their view about the authenticity of the Jesus magic stories. I think the discussion at this point has probably reached the end of any constructive use. That strikes me as so childish and irresponsible that I just can’t be charitable with the reasons I am hearing any more and I have to conclude that the person in question is simply too deep in the grips of an ideology to be reasoned with. I know that this sounds ad hominem, but at some point, I am just not willing to keep chasing down the issues and arguing vigorously for points that I take to be plainly obvious and common sense. Arguments have to come to rest on some common foundations. We often run into this problem when we try to deal with someone who is deeply wrapped up in a conspiracy theory. Ultimately, there's just no reasoning with them because obvious absurdities don't bother them. This position is akin to taking the view that astrological forecasts really do work. The only sort of person who really insists on that is someone who just hasn’t thought about it very much, or someone who just doesn’t know very much, or who is so enamored of the idea that they just can’t see straight any more. While I do think it is very important to have open, constructive talks about God beliefs so that we can try to sort the question out, some people just aren’t going to relent because they have too much invested in the God worldview’s being right. And that investment will force them in the end to not be reasonable.

36 comments:

steve martin said...

Then you believe that something...came from ...nothing?

Talk about being deep in an ideology or belief system!

You've got more 'faith' than I'll ever have.

Life came from...stones?! Ha Ha Ha... stop it...you're killing me!!!

jamie said...

Matt,

So then you don't believe in anything supernatural?

Eric Sotnak said...

steve martin wrote:
"Then you believe that something...came from ...nothing?"

Don't theists also accept this? They just say that this is possible if there is a God, but impossible if there is no God. But why? Suppose it is LOGICALLY impossible for something to come from nothing. Then not even God can create something from nothing.

Some theists ridicule the idea of getting something from nothing as incoherent, but seem to think that adding God to the equation makes it all make sense. But how? No one knows HOW God creates something from nothing. That's one of those mysteries that we have to chalk up to God's being beyond human comprehension. "God wills a universe into being, and *poof* there it is." In other words, God creates the universe by magic.

And this is supposed to be a more rationally satisfying explanation of the universe's existence than ANY non-theistic explanation?

steve martin also wrote:

"Life came from...stones?! Ha Ha Ha... stop it...you're killing me!!!"

Life is chemistry. What is the difference between organic and inorganic chemistry? Surely you don't propose the answer is that organic chemistry is inorganic chemistry plus soul/life-force/...?

So the theistic answer is: "once upon a time there were only inorganic chemical structures. Then, God magically arranged some of these together into organic compounds, and *poof*, there was life!" In other words, God created life by magic.

I detect a theme here.

Reginald Selkirk said...

This position is akin to taking the view that astrological forecasts really do work. The only sort of person who really insists on that is someone who just hasn’t thought about it very much, or someone who just doesn’t know very much, or who is so enamored of the idea that they just can’t see straight any more.

Oh yeah? Then how come all the famous people were born on Mondays?

Bror Erickson said...

Matt,
So why are the historians so convinced that they didn't do magic?
You see I admit ignorance to the Salem witch trials. I know of them, but do not know the details. It really isn't my cup of tea.
However, your argument falls on its face with a Christian believer, because being a Christian actually does require us to acknowledge a supernatural world in which these things are possible. We tend to believe it is the work of demons etc. But a Christian who believes Jesus and what he says, also acknowledges the O.T. and the New, both of which record the works of Magi, witches, and pagan priests. Pharaoh's pagan priests for instance were able to match Moses in his court. Whether or not the Salem "witches" were able to do the same I honestly don't know. But what exactly is the evidence that is sighted to say they didn't? Is that based on a rational conclusion from evidence, or is it based on a former rejection that it is impossible.
If so your argument may serve to cement a person in their materialistic atheism, but it will fail to argue a person out of the Christian faith. If it is based on a rational conclusion from the evidence, than the evidence for the resurrection has to be examined also.
That said Christians know there are charlatans, and tend to be as skeptical as the next guy when it comes to reports of magic, all the while maintaining that it is possible. Most of the time though we just don't care if it works or not because our allegiance is elsewhere. I really don't care to go into the gypsy's storefront to find out if she can or can't do what she says she can.

Brigitte said...

Eric: it does not say on your profile what your background in learning is.

However, there is a huge difference between organic and inorganic chemistry. Carbon based organic chemistry quickly leads to an irreducible complexity that is required for life to exist. Have you every stood before a model of a protein molecule and been completely blown away?

And that's just one protein.

Reginald Selkirk said...

However, there is a huge difference between organic and inorganic chemistry. Carbon based organic chemistry quickly leads to an irreducible complexity that is required for life to exist.

That is Creationist nonsense. Most scientists reject the notion of "irreducible complexity," and a federal judge was underwhelmed by it as well.

Reginald Selkirk said...

That said Christians know there are charlatans, and tend to be as skeptical as the next guy...

Christians are famous for their gullibility, and have been at least since the time of Lucian.

Brigitte said...

I see Reginald does not know biochemistry, nor has stood in front of a protein molecule model either, to make up his own "reasonable mind"!

Reginald Selkirk said...

I see Reginald does not know biochemistry, nor has stood in front of a protein molecule model either, to make up his own "reasonable mind"!

I have made up my own mind, based on available evidence. I happen to agree with the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science and 68 national academies of science that Intelligent Design, including the notion of irreducible complexity, is bogus.

Matt McCormick said...

The question at issue is whether or not a reasonable, educated person in the 21st century should believe that the various magical events described in the Bible are true, and then on that basis come to the conclusion that Jesus was the son of God, or that God exists.

The answer we're getting very often is flagrantly circular:

"However, your argument falls on its face with a Christian believer, because being a Christian actually does require us to acknowledge a supernatural world in which these things are possible. We tend to believe it is the work of demons etc."

So the reason that we should accept that the magic described in the Bible is real is because being a Christian requires it. And the reason we should be a Christian is because the magical claims in the Bible are real.

Of course lots of Christians do believe in magic, and of course that's "required" of the Christian. But the question is whether or not reasonable person should conclude that what's required of Christians remotely resembles what's true or justified on any grounds other than that Christianity requires it. Membership in the Nazi party required that one swear an oath of allegiance, afterall.

MM

Eric Sotnak said...

Brigitte said:
"However, there is a huge difference between organic and inorganic chemistry. Carbon based organic chemistry quickly leads to an irreducible complexity that is required for life to exist. Have you every stood before a model of a protein molecule and been completely blown away?"

So the difference is one of complexity, and not that organic chemistry needs to posit souls or vital forces and such, right?

Great. Let's suppose that "complexity" is well-defined and understood (I'm not convinced that this should be granted, but nevermind that for now). Now the question is how did this increase in complexity come about? Defenders of intelligent design propose that we should treat as respectable the answer, "God brought it about by magic". Is this really an improvement over ANY proposed naturalistic explanations?

Brigitte said...

How about, Reginald, you tell me in your own words what "irreducible complexity" means and why it is bogus. I wonder if you can.

And again, do tell me, have you ever spent time looking even at one three dimensional model of a protein?

I have also gone to school, I have written exams on cell biology, inorganic and organic chemistry, genetics, philosophy of science... I know what is taught by professors and I know what the subject matter itself teaches me. It matters not whom you cite. One can always cite someone.

Perhaps macro-evolution itself is the best example of "magic" testified to by all kinds of "witnesses" in spite of lack of evidence. Does the analogy hold Matt?

Bror Erickson said...

Matt McCormic,
"Of course lots of Christians do believe in magic, and of course that's "required" of the Christian. But the question is whether or not reasonable person should conclude that what's required of Christians remotely resembles what's true or justified on any grounds other than that Christianity requires it. Membership in the Nazi party required that one swear an oath of allegiance, afterall."
And on what rational or reasonable basis do you determine that there is no such thing as magic? It has become quite common place to accept that there is nothing but the material and what you can see in a microscope but I have not seen any convincing rational to believe that that is all there is. So call me irrational if you want. But first prove that Christ didn't rise from the grave on the third day.

Reginald Selkirk said...

How about, Reginald, you tell me in your own words what "irreducible complexity" means and why it is bogus. I wonder if you can.

Brigitte, The term "irreducible complexity" has been popularized by Michael Behe, the author of Darwin's Black Box. I presume that if you are tossing that term around in this day and age, that you are familiar with Behe's usage of it, and support the "Intelligent Design" rebranding of Creationism being led by the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, of which Behe is a Senior Fellow.

Here is a definition by Behe, from chapter 2 of that work (p. 39 in the edition I own)

By irreducibly complex I mean a single system composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning. An irreducibly complex system cannot be produced directly (that is, by continuously improving the initial function, which continues to work by the same mechanism) by slight, successive modifications of a precursor system, because any precursor to an irreducibly complex system that is missing a part is by definition nonfunctional.

I should point out that Behe's definition has shifted over time, as both the general concept and the specific examples put forward by Behe have fared poorly in the scientific marketplace. The last few years, Behe has switched to a different pet phrase, "purposeful arrangement of parts."

Irreducible complexity fails as science for several reasons. One of the more commonly cited reasons is the failure to acknowledge the phenomenon of exaption (also known as cooption or preadaptation) in which a part or a system which has evolved to fill one role may be converted for use in another role. I.e. the evolution it has undergone need not be for the role it is converted to fill. Another objection: parts which were necessary for the development of a system may be made unnecessary in later versions, e.g. scaffolding.

For a fairly short write-up on problems with "irreducible complexity" see EvoWiki. There are other good articles out there, including some by Ken Miller, but I am going to limit the number of links in this post so as not to run up against any filters which may be in place.

And again, do tell me, have you ever spent time looking even at one three dimensional model of a protein?

I have also gone to school, I have written exams on cell biology, inorganic and organic chemistry, genetics, philosophy of science... I know what is taught by professors and I know what the subject matter itself teaches me. It matters not whom you cite. One can always cite someone.


Brigitte, the argument from authority is only a fallacy when the authority cited is inappropriate; e.g. the person cited is an authority, but in a different subject, such as actor speaking out against vaccines; or the topic under discussion has no legitimate substance in which there is any agreed authority, e.g. astrology.

None of these objections apply to the current situation. There is a real body of expertise in relevant fields of biology, these scientific fields achieve actual undisputed results, there are persons and collections of persons who are acknowledged to hold considerable expertise in these fields, and the overwhelming majority of those holding expertise in genetics, biochemistry, molecular biology, and other relevant fields agree that Creationism, Intelligent Design, and Irreducible Complexity are not valid science.

I post here pseudonymously, so it would be pointless for me to state (truthfully) that I have a Ph.D. in molecular biology, and that I have probably spent more time constructing models of proteins than you have spent looking at them. I recommend you drop the condescending tone, pronto.

Matt McCormick said...

Bror, you're just being stubborn now. An argument that Jesus did not rise from the grave is precisely what I've been presenting here for weeks.

1. If we accept that Jesus was resurrected, then we must accept that the women accused in Salem were witches.
2. But the women in Salem were not witches.
3. Therefore, we should not accept that Jesus was resurrected.

Your responses have varied: one thread is to change the topic to whether some people think or act like witches. One response has been to repeatedly try to shift the burden of proof--Until someone can prove me wrong in my Iron Age superstition, I am entitled to believe that it is true. One response has been to insist that the miracles of Jesus are a different, independent matter from the witchcraft in Salem. We've all been trying to explain why none of these answers are adequate to the central question.

It won't help, but one more time:
By any reasonable measure, the evidence that the women in Salem performed magic is orders of magnitude better in quantity and quality than the evidence we have that Jesus performed magic. Yet the widespread and obviously reasonable view is that the women in Salem didn't really perform magic. Theories vary--rotten rye grain, mass hysteria, enthusiasm, social and political infighting, misogyny, group think, and so on. One important point is that we don't need to prove which non-magical explanation is true in order to be justified in thinking it wasn't magic. Just like we don't need to be able to "prove" it in order to be reasonable in concluding that Paris Hilton will never be elected president.

One of the consistently bad argument moves that the critics of atheism make is to unilaterally elevate the standards of proof on the atheist: "You can't PROVE that, so you're unreasonable," or "Until you can show me absolute proof, I will continue believing." So evidently someone who disagrees with you must meet this perfect, deductive standard of proof in order to be justified, while it's sufficient for you to default to your superstitions without answering any of the hard challenges that have been put to you.


Reginald: that's some tight ass shit--keep it up.

MM

Brigitte said...

"I post here pseudonymously, so it would be pointless for me to state (truthfully) that I have a Ph.D. in molecular biology, and that I have probably spent more time constructing models of proteins than you have spent looking at them. I recommend you drop the condescending tone, pronto."

Well, nice to finally meet you. I shall forthwith bend much lower before your unbeknown authority.

All right, then, what is an actual argument you would subscribe to, against irreducible complexity? How will you just get one protein that works, without a laboratory, a scientist, or a functioning living organism?

Matt McCormick said...

Look, Brigitte, think this through. Suppose you're right. Suppose that we don't have a detailed account of the evolutionary mechanism whereby some physical structures in organisms came about so that those structures appear to be inexplicable or irreducible. What would follow from that? A really conservative scientific attitude would be to just keep plugging away with hypotheses and experiments until someone clever figures it out. We don't look at something that we find overwhelming and just throw up our hands, as you seem to have done, and conclude that it's an insoluble mystery. Imagine if star struck scientists had done that about the composition of air, or the existence of X rays, or about the components of the standard model, or about a cure for polio. "Oh, I can't fathom how this can mystery can be understood! It must be irreducible. It must BE GOD!!!!"

A thoughtful person doesn't encounter something that they don't understand and then leap to the conclusion that some invisible, supernatural being from another dimension must have done it. Worse still, we certainly wouldn't be justified in leaping to the conclusion that it was the Christian supernatural being from another dimension or the Hindu one or the one that Zoroastrians believe in. No such far flung, detailed conclusion would be justified merely by finding some puzzle that we don't currently understand.

The other problem is that you have got the entire population of the best and smartest biologists and chemists disagreeing with you. For a long list of the current set of hypotheses that are being considered to explain your unexplainable complexity see:

http://atheismblog.blogspot.com/2008/09/current-theories-of-abiogenesis.html

MM

Brigitte said...

Look, Matt. People here, for some reason most of them without a profile, first say that inorganic and organic chemistry is practically the same thing, then tell me irreducible complexity is non-sense as per such and such authorities, then tell me that it is "bogus", and now that, yes we don't have an answer, but we'll find it.

There is a difference also between finding the composition of air (pretty simple stuff by comparison and by the way inorganic), and finding highly complex systems, that need incredibly complicated mechanisms operating in perfect sequence and timing to build something useful. And these useful items in nature tend to be incredibly beautiful, lavish and exquisite. No blundering there.

When you have found something, that you yourself, or "Reginald" find credible, let me know.

Meanwhile, I will have a look at
the
current-theories-of-abiogenesis.html
However, I do expect to be underwhelmed. I know you will find that closed-minded.

Player Piano said...

Brigitte,

Suppose there is a god who designed all the systems of nature. Then wouldn't you also hold him or her responsible for all the things that aren't "beautiful", "lavish", or "exquisite"? What about malaria? AIDs? pneumonia?

Do you think those had a designer? Do you believe that any all-loving god would design such terrible plagues upon us? Or do you think a natural explanation is more reasonable than the machinations of a vengeful god?

Reginald Selkirk said...

Well, nice to finally meet you. I shall forthwith bend much lower before your unbeknown authority.

Brigitte, you are the one who turned this into what is colloquially termed a "dick-measuring contest," so you ought to behave better when you lose by your own rules.

-

All right, then, what is an actual argument you would subscribe to, against irreducible complexity?

I already provided two arguments against irreducible complexity. Maybe you weren't paying attention. Here's another: The "irreducible complexity" argument is nothing but an argument from ignorance. It says "we don't currently understand how X could come about naturally, therefore God must have done it." I.e. Behe offers no evidence whatsoever for how the unnamed for legal reasons Intelligent Designer designed (and implemented!) anything; by what mechanism, at what time, etc. He expects to win by default due to a lack of evidence for other theories. Unfortunately for Behe a) this is logically fallacious and b) evidence has accrued for other explanations since (and some even before, of which he was apparently unaware) his book was published. Take for example the evidence that the vertebrate adaptive immune system evolved from transposons.

-

How will you just get one protein that works, without a laboratory, a scientist, or a functioning living organism?

I, along with most biologists working today, subscribe to the "RNA World Theory," which suggests that our current DNA-RNA-Protein world was preceded by an era in which RNA strands duplicated themselves. Therefore I believe that proteins as we now know them were "invented" by RNA. I'm sure you know all about the RNA World theory, since you present yourself as being so well-educated in biology.

Reginald Selkirk said...

Look, Matt. People here, for some reason most of them without a profile, first say that inorganic and organic chemistry is practically the same thing, then tell me irreducible complexity is non-sense as per such and such authorities, then tell me that it is "bogus", and now that, yes we don't have an answer, but we'll find it.

Well Brigitte, I read your profile, but since you don't provide a complete name, or an exact location, I can't verify that you do indeed miseducate Canadian children in the name of someone famous for calling reason "the Devil's greatest whore." BTW, Erik Sotnak is the one who made the original reference to inorganic vs. organic chemistry, which I agree was rather garbled (although I agree with his basic point that organic chemistry does not require a supernatural component). I am the one who stated that "irreducible complexity" is nonsense and bogus. And I have backed up those statements, whereas you have not backed up anything and have displayed a very poor understanding of basic reasoning.


Here are the legal records for the 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover trial of Intelligent Design in Pennsylvania, USA. "Irreducible complexity" proponent Behe had some great moments under cross-examination. For example, he said he doesn't like the definition of "theory" provided by the National Academy of Sciences. He said that under his own looser definition, Intelligent Design does indeed qualify as a "theory," and so does astrology.

Reginald Selkirk said...

and finding highly complex systems, that need incredibly complicated mechanisms operating in perfect sequence and timing to build something useful.

Perfect? Hardly. The overwhelming majority of biologists know that the biological systems we see in nature are not perfect. They are "good enough to get by." Or perhaps Brigitte doesn't know anyone who uses vision correction because their eyesight is not perfect. Perhaps she doesn't know anyone who suffers from back pain because our spines were only recently adapted from arboreal quadripeds. Perhaps she doesn't know of anyone who has choked because our breathing tube and our eating tube are the same. Perhaps she doesn't know of any people with Down's Syndrome, who suffer because of a chromosomal abnormality, or any other persons who suffer from genetic or developmental birth defects. If the biological world Brigitte sees appears perfect, it is only because she has blinders on.

Brigitte said...

Reginald:

I had written a longish response to you, but did not post it properly. Now it's gone and I am out of time. Give me some time. Especially, the "whore of reason" needs a response.

Eric Sotnak said...

First off, the remarks I made regarding organic and inorganic chemistry were meant to counter the suggestion that life needs a supernatural explanation. Here is a very nice (and brief) discussion of the sort of point I had in mind: http://www.scienceclarified.com/Oi-Ph/Organic-Chemistry.html

Second, I think my main point still stands. Let me restate it. Suppose we grant that there are some structures in nature that are extraordinarily complex. Suppose we want to explain these things. I do not think it really counts as an EXPLANATION to say that God brought them about by magic. And that is exactly what the creationist or ID proponent maintains. When the ID proponent says structure B could not have come from structure A by natural means, the claim here means that God brought about structure b by magic.

Third, if it really matters what my background is, I am a professor of philosophy at the University of Akron. With a weird name like mine, I'm really easy to Google.

Player Piano said...

Have we ever found a supernatural explanation for anything...have we ever replaced a natural explanation with a supernatural one? Yet countless times we've replaced a supernatural explanation with a natural one. We still have yet to uncover a supernatural explanation. Until then, why shouldn't I believe that there are natural explanations, especially when we have so much evidence?

I have absolutely no authority in science or anything else really; I just think about morality and religion and these types of things a lot as an inquisitive college student.

Eric Sotnak has a great point when he identifies the lack of valid explanations for phenomena from ID proponents.

Here's a great question for ID proponents: if your god designed the way the universe works, why did churches that refused to install lightning rods get struck by lightning? Seriously, why would a church ever get struck by lightning if there's some supernatural deity with a divine plan? Maybe you just have the wrong one? That's another problem with ID -- it can't actually tell you what god or deity could've been a designer; just most IDists happen to be Christians. I wonder how many ID proponents ever considered whether ID could point to Allah or Vishnu? Maybe there is a god, but it's not the one worshipped by ID proponents - that'd be a good explanation. Or maybe there just isn't a designer at all.

Reginald Selkirk said...

The world might be a better place if Martin Luther had been an expert in the RNA World Theory rather than an obsessive compulsive renegade monk. As such, he presumably would have known where proteins come from today: they are, with few exceptions, synthesized by ribosomes. And what are ribosomes? They are a complex cellular structure consisting of dozens of individual subunits of both protein and RNA. It was not clearly known until the turn of the century (the most recent one), when the X-ray crystal structure of ribosomes was solved, that the catalytic core of a ribosome is an RNA enzyme. This is the capstone of current evidence for the RNA World Theory, which anyone who considers themselves justified in bragging about their biochemical prowess on Teh Intertubes ought to know.

Reginald Selkirk said...

Perhaps macro-evolution itself is the best example of "magic" testified to by all kinds of "witnesses" in spite of lack of evidence.

You should take your students to the Royal Tyrrell Museum and let them stare the evidence for "macro-evolution" in the face.

Reginald Selkirk said...

The Great Mutator
Jerry Coyne reviews The Edge of Evolution by Michael Behe

God as Genetic Engineer
Sean B. Carroll reviews The Edge of Evolution by Michael Behe

A list of other reviews

Since Brigitte is so well versed in biology, I'm sure she will understand the multitudinous serious criticisms respected biologists have levied at Behe's latest book, which she lists as one of her favorites.

The whole Intelligent Design thing has been done elsewhere in great depth, so it seems a shame to clog up Prof. McCormick's blog with this stuff.

Reginald Selkirk said...

Irreducible complexity in the Kitzmiller v. Dover decision
See pages 71-79 (too lengthy to reproduce here in its entirety)

Here's a few brief excerpts:
Professor Behe admitted in “Reply to My Critics” that there was a defect in his view of irreducible complexity because, while it purports to be a challenge to natural selection, it does not actually address “the task facing natural selection.” (P-718 at 695). Professor Behe specifically explained that “[t]he current definition puts the focus on removing a part from an already-functioning system,” but “[t]he difficult task facing Darwinian evolution, however, would not be to remove parts from sophisticated pre-existing systems; it would be
to bring together components to make a new system in the first place.” Id. In that article, Professor Behe wrote that he hoped to “repair this defect in future work;" however, he has failed to do so even four years after elucidating his defect. Id.; 22:61-65 (Behe).
...
We therefore find that Professor Behe’s claim for irreducible complexity has been refuted in peer-reviewed research papers and has been rejected by the scientific community at large. (17:45-46 (Padian); 3:99 (Miller)). Additionally, even if irreducible complexity had not been rejected, it still does not support ID as it is merely a test for evolution, not design. (2:15, 2:35-40 (Miller); 28:63-66 (Fuller)).

Matt McCormick said...

Wow, Reginald. The references are great. And that quote from the Dover Trial is just amazing. It's so rare that you get such a clear and decisive rejection of the creationist/I.D. nonsense, and from a non-academic, non-scientist judge, no less. How humiliating.

The thing is, the point about the evolution of complex systems and how they come about through small gradual steps has been made again and again. Dawkins explains it better than anyone in The Blind Watchmaker. But consistently, the I.D. people always cast it as a matter of taking a fully formed, complex system and then removing a part, then--surprise, surprise, the system doesn't work anymore. And the suggestion is that when evolution assembled the system it did it in fully formed, concrete steps that are the opposite of removing the lens of the eye, or whatever. I have to think that for most people, just getting a decent high school biology education would solve a lot of this time wasting and prattling on.

MM

Brigitte said...

"The whole Intelligent Design thing has been done elsewhere in great depth, so it seems a shame to clog up Prof. McCormick's blog with this stuff."

The whole thing could be a little bit shorter if you left out some of your insults.

I will look up your links and references, probably after Christmas, as I would like to read them.

As to the "whore of reason", this does not apply to the area of science or medicine, etc. There, the use of reason is completely appropriate. The reformation greatly changed the world for greater education, possibilities for protest, dissemination of information, encouragement of reading for understanding by people of all stations, etc.

I'm done here for now. On my blog I've printed out a couple of quote of Luther on his understanding of the use of reason, to clarify the distinctions he makes.

In the meantime, merry Christmas or happy holidays, as you prefer.

Reginald Selkirk said...

The whole thing could be a little bit shorter if you left out some of your insults.

The whole thing could have been much, much shorter if you hadn't inserted ideas that have been discredited for a decade, and challenged other people's standing to appreciate them.

In the meantime, merry Christmas or happy holidays, as you prefer.

Happy whatever to you too. I'm interested in Hannukah, I hear they get eight days of gifts.

Reginald Selkirk said...

Other evidence for the RNA World Theory:

RNA is capable of storing information and transmitting it via a double helix, as DNA does, but it is more chemically reactive and can also catalyze chemical reactions. Therefore, of the three major linear biopolymers, it is the best candidate for origin of life scenarios.

Discovery of actual RNA enzymes from living organisms in the 1980s rewarded by Nobel prize to Sidney Altman and Thomas Cech in 1989.

Deoxyribonucleotides, the raw ingredients for DNA, are made in vivo by the modification of Ribonucleotides, the ingredients for RNA. I.e. this is consistent with RNA having been here first, with DNA being a later add-on.

Versions of ribonucleotide reductase, the enzyme that performs the above-mentioned modification, seem to be homologous in all known organisms. I.e. the RNA-DNA shift happened only once, and spread from a common origin. (BTW, this would indicate that gene-encoded proteins came into biological existence before the switch to DNA)

As mentioned in a previous post, the X-ray structure of ribosomes reveals that their catalytic core is an RNA enzyme.

It is quite possible that there are other key pieces of evidence which I am not recalling at present.

This still leaves many questions: What was the nature of the RNA World: what, where and when, etc. What came before it? How did we get from there to where we are now? The existence of unanswered questions is not a reason to give up and praise God, it is a reason to do more science!

Here is a fascinating article from 2005:
The two ages of the RNA world, and the transition to the DNA world: a story of viruses and cells.
Patrick Forterre, Biochimie 2005 Sep-Oct;87(9-10):793-803.

Reginald Selkirk said...

One of Behe's examples of "Irreducible Complexity," blood clotting, takes a thorough thrashing:

Some background information on the relevant topic from biochemistry professor and textbook author Larry Moran:
How Does Your Blood Clot?

Biology professor and textbook author Ken Miller takes apart recent efforts to defend Behe's position by Discovery Institute apologist Casey Luskin, hosted by science writer Carl Zimmer at his blog, The Loom:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Additional commentary by Nick Matzke at The Panda's Thumb:
God of the Gaps…in your own knowledge. Luskin, Behe, & blood-clotting

Additional commentary by Ian Musgrave at The Panda's Thumb:
While we are piling on Casey Luskin…
"In fact I issued a challenge to the ID proponents, the Amphioxus genome had just been published at http://genome.jgi-psf.org/Brafl1/Brafl1.home.html. Amphioxus is a primitive chordate, more primitive than lampreys, that clot their haemolymph. I challenged the ID proponents to predict which coagulation factors are present in Amphioxus, search the Amphioxus genome database and report on whether the genes found match their predictions.
Since then, silence. I can tell you one thing for sure. The Amphioxus has no gene for fibrinogen, the final step in the modern clotting cascade, yet it still clots its haemolymph. So the very basis of the “Irreducible Core” that Casey goes on about is absent in these animals, and one of Behe’s iconic pathways is exposed as reducible.
"

Cubist said...

One thing I sometimes remind IDiots of, when they make noise about 'irreducible complexity', is that Behe's IC isn't the only game in town. Dr. Dr. Dembski himself came up with a different definition for 'irreducible complexity'. According to the good Doctor Doctor, a given System X is 'irreducibly complex' if there's no system simpler than System X which performs whatever function System X performs. I don't know why the good Doctor Doctor's version of IC tends to be overlooked, and Behe's version of IC gets all the publicity...

Apart from that, it's worth noting that Behe's "IC can't evolve" argument is just plain wrong on its own terms. Behe's argument is as follows:
An IC system needs all its parts in order to perform its function. Since the immediate evolutionary precursor to an IC system would lack at least one of those parts, that immediate evolutionary precursor would necessarily be nonfunctional. But evolution requires that an evolved system be functional at all stages of its evolutionary development! Therefore, evolution cannot produce an IC system.
Where Behe's argument goes wrong: Said argument implicitly assumes that there is only 1 (one) general class of evolutionary change, namely, 'add a new part to a system'. In reality, there are two other general classes of evolutionary change; one is 'modify one of the existing parts of a system', and the other is 'remove one of the existing parts of a system'. To be sure, Behe's argument applies to any sequence of evolutionary changes whose final step is 'add a new part', because the penultimate stage of any such sequence of evolutionary changes would be 'IC system with one missing part', which is nonfunctional be definition.
Okay... but what about a sequence of evolutionary changes whose final step is 'remove a part'? In that case, the penultimate stage would be 'IC system plus an extra part'. For Behe's argument to apply here, IC systems must necessarily stop working, not just in all cases when a part is removed, but also in all cases when a part is added.
And to complete the 'trinity', consider a sequence of evolutionary changes whose final step is 'modify a part'. Must an IC system stop working absolutely any time one of its parts is modified? Of course not, so Behe's argument doesn't apply here, either.
In short: Behe's evolution-can't-produce-IC-systems argument ignores two of the three general classes of evolutionary change. Thus, Behe's argument crashes and burns.