Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The evolution of clots #1

The evolution of clots, Daily Telegraph, April 4, 2006 Intelligent Design is the logic of ignorance - complex life, such as the machinery of blood clotting, can be explained by Darwinism, says Steve Jones [Wow! I thought my namesake was going to actually explain the origin of the vertebrate blood-clotting cascade by "Darwinism", i.e. the natural selection of random micromutations, and deal a mortal blow to ID. But as we shall see, he is like his master, Darwin, all rhetoric (not to mention ad hominems, straw men, and falsehoods) at the crucial points!]

As I sat down to write this piece, I put on my glasses. They were designed by an intelligent optician to correct my eyesight, which, acute as it once was, is now - like that of most elderly academics - blurred at best. The lens has become less elastic with time and no longer focuses properly. My specs help, but soon I will need a stronger pair. [And who designed the "intelligent optician"? An Intelligent Designer or a Blind Watchmaker?]

Blood test: the apparatus of clotting was formed from random bits, not intelligent design [That is a mere assertion. What Jones needs to do is show how "the apparatus of clotting was formed" from "random bits" by the natural selection of random micromutations. Then he will have falsified a major component of ID's irreducible complexity argument. But he won't do it by bluff and bluster. That just further supports ID's claim that "the machinery of blood clotting" cannot plausibly "be explained by Darwinism"!]Well, as we evolutionists say, that's life. Or, to be brutally frank, that's a hint of impending death, for in the good old days of nuts, berries, and sabre-toothed tigers, I would have starved or been eaten by now. It makes perfect sense: evolution cares only about the next generation; I am too old to pass on genes to that unborn tribe and my failing eyesight is hence of no interest to the Darwinian machine. [Which itself is an argument against "the Darwinian machine" being an adequate explanation of human beings! How could (and why would) a "machine" that "cares only about the next generation" (in fact it doesn't even care about that) produce man who cares far beyond "the next generation"? And indeed, as we shall see in part #2, produced a molecular machine that "cared" about generations for the next ~670 million years!]

That thought is not of much comfort, but at least I have nobody to blame for my plight. But what about advocates of Intelligent Design, the notion that the eye is so complicated that it needed a Designer (quite who is best not to inquire) to do the job? [This implication that IDists dishonestly really mean that "Designer" is God but for tactical reasons deny it, is either due to Jones' ignorance of ID or is itself dishonest. IDists who are Christians, like Phil Johnson, Mike Behe, Bill Dembski (and me) have always made make it quite clear that we personally believe the Designer is the Christian God. But that is not something that can be proved from nature alone:

"Q. [Mr Muise] Now does the conclusion that something was designed, does that require knowledge of a designer?
A. [Prof. Behe] No, it doesn't. .... I discussed that in Darwin's Black Box in Chapter 9, the chapter entitled Intelligent Design. Let me quote from it. Quote, The conclusion that something was designed can be made quite independently of knowledge of the designer. As a matter of procedure, the design must first be apprehended before there can be any further question about the designer. The inference to design can be held with all the firmness that is possible in this world, without knowing anything about the designer.
Q. So is it accurate for people to claim or to represent that intelligent design holds that the designer was God?
A. No, that is completely inaccurate.
Q. Well, people have asked you your opinion as to who you believe the designer is, is that correct?
A. That is right.
Q. Has science answered that question?
A. No, science has not done so.
Q. And I believe you have answered on occasion that you believe the designer is God, is that correct?
A. Yes, that's correct.
Q. Are you making a scientific claim with that answer?
A. No, I conclude that based on theological and philosophical and historical factors."
(Behe M.J., "Tammy Kitzmiller, et al. v. Dover Area School District, et al.," Transcript, October 17, 2005, Morning session)]

Some of them wear glasses. Do they never have doubts about their astral engineer, who could surely have given them a BMW of a visual organ rather than the Austin Allegro they are stuck with? [This is an absurd false dilemma argument that either the Designer must design perfect eyes (and perfect everything else) or the Blind Watchmaker did it.]

Intelligent design, or ID, began as an attempt to promote creationism without breaking American laws that keep religion out of schools. [This oft-repeated falsehood has prompted me to start a new section of my "Problems of Evolution" book outline, PE 2.9. "Falsehoods used to support evolution", where (due to lack of time) I briefly state:

9. Falsehoods used to support evolution

1. Intelligent design began as an attempt to promote creationism without breaking American laws that keep religion out of schools."

"Intelligent design, or ID, began as an attempt to promote creationism without breaking American laws that keep religion out of schools." (Jones S., "The evolution of clots," Daily Telegraph, April 4, 2006)
Even if this were true, so what? As Chicago University Law Professor Al Alschuler observes, "It seems odd to characterize the desire to go far as the law allows as an unlawful motive. People who try to stay within the law although they would prefer something else are good citizens." (Alschuler A., "The Dover Intelligent Design Decision, Part I: Of Motive, Effect, and History," The Faculty Blog, December 21, 2005). But in fact it is not true that ID began (and still is) as an attempt by creationists to get around the US Supreme Court's rulings ( Arkansas, 1982 and Louisiana , 1987) that Biblical creationism breached the US Constitution's First Amendment. The fact is that ID began in 1984 with the publication of Thaxton, Bradley and Olsen's "Mystery of Life's Origin," and the founders of ID (e.g. Phillip E. Johnson, Michael Behe and Bill Dembski) were not involved in the misguided attempts to mandate the teachings of creationism or "creation-science" which was what those trials were about. See also Evolutionist misquotes

In spite of the eloquent concern of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who feels that the idea demeans not science but faith, it is spreading in Britain. [The atheist Jones' concern that teaching in schools that God created "demeans ... faith" is indeed touching! See my post Archbishop of Canterbury backs evolution for what I think of this representative of modern Laodicean churchianity being more concerned about creation being taught in schools than atheistic evolution!]

I know that only too well, for I often speak to schools and nowadays, in almost every one, I come across creationists, sometimes on the staff. [That's encouraging (even if - indeed because - Jones and the Archbishop of Canterbury don't like it)!]

The notion turns on the claim that certain parts of the body are "irreducibly complex"; that - like a BMW - they will not work unless the important bits are already in place. [That is a misleading example of a car, since the majority of its components are not irreducibly complex. That is a part can be removed (e.g. a spark plug) and the motor will still function. It is noteworthy that Jones did not mention Behe's example of a mousetrap (see also `tagline' quote below). ID knows its has the Darwinists rattled when they have to set up straw man example to more easily knock down than the actual example that ID uses!]

[To be continued in part #2]

Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol).
"Problems of Evolution"

"The first step in determining irreducible complexity is to specify both the function of the system and all system components. An irreducibly complex object will be composed of several parts, all of which contribute to the function. To avoid the problems encountered with extremely complex objects (such as eyes, beetles, or other multicellular biological systems) I will begin with a simple mechanical example: the humble mousetrap. The function of a mousetrap is to immobilize a mouse so that it can't perform such unfriendly acts as chewing through sacks of flour or electrical cords, or leaving little reminders of its presence in unswept comers. The mousetraps that my family uses consist of a number of parts (Figure 2-2): (1) a flat wooden platform to act as a base; (2) a metal hammer, which does the actual job of crushing the little mouse; (3) a spring with extended ends to press against the platform and the hammer when the trap is charged; (4) a sensitive catch that releases when slight pressure is applied, and (5) a metal bar that connects to the catch and holds the hammer back when the trap is charged. (There are also assorted staples to hold the system together.) The second step in determining if a system is irreducibly complex is to ask if all the components are required for the function. In this example, the answer is clearly yes. Suppose that while reading one evening, you hear the patter of little feet in the pantry, and you go to the utility drawer to get a mousetrap. Unfortunately, due to faulty manufacture, the trap is missing one of the parts listed above. Which part could be missing and still allow you to catch a mouse? If the wooden base were gone, there would be no platform for attaching the other components. If the hammer were gone, the mouse could dance all night on the platform without becoming pinned to the wooden base. If there were no spring, the hammer and platform would jangle loosely, and again the rodent would be unimpeded. If there were no catch or metal holding bar, then the spring would snap the hammer shut as soon as you let go of it; in order to use a trap like that you would have to chase the mouse around while holding the trap open." (Behe M.J., "Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution," Free Press: New York NY, 1996, p.42)

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