Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The evolution of clots #6

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 [Again, not me but University College London, genetics professor, J. Steve Jones.

Graphic: Rube Goldberg Machines.

Continued from part#4 and part #5.]

... and DNA shows that - like the eye - the rickety apparatus that stops us from bleeding was assembled from random bits that just happened to be hanging around. [That's funny, I thought Prof. Jones was going to show how "the machinery of blood clotting, can be explained by Darwinism,"i.e. by the natural selection of random micromutations.

So how did the `blind watchmaker' "assemble from random bits that just happened to be hanging around," step-by-tiny step, such that each tiny step had a selective advantage over the previous step? And what was the `blind watchmaker' doing, allowing "random bits" to be "just hanging around"?

Bearing in mind that natural selection is supposed to have been "daily and hourly scrutinising, throughout the world, the slightest variations; rejecting those that are bad, preserving and adding up all that are good; silently and insensibly working, whenever and wherever opportunity offers":

"It may metaphorically be said that natural selection is daily and hourly scrutinising, throughout the world, the slightest variations; rejecting those that are bad, preserving and adding up all that are good; silently and insensibly working, whenever and wherever opportunity offers, at the improvement of each organic being in relation to its organic and inorganic conditions of life. We see nothing of these slow changes in progress, until the hand of time has marked the lapse of ages, and then so imperfect is our view into long-past geological ages, that we see only that the forms of life are now different from what they formerly were." (Darwin C.R., "The Origin of Species By Means of Natural Selection," 1872, Sixth edition, Senate: London, 1994, pp.64-65)

and "any variation in the least degree injurious would be rigidly destroyed":

"Can it, then, be thought improbable, seeing that variations useful to man have undoubtedly occurred, that other variations useful in some way to each being in the great and complex battle of life, should occur in the course of many successive generations? If such do occur, can we doubt (remembering that many more individuals are born than can possibly survive) that individuals having any advantage, however slight, over others, would have the best chance of surviving and of procreating their kind? On the other hand, we may feel sure that any variation in the least degree injurious would be rigidly destroyed. This preservation of favourable individual differences and variations, and the destruction of those which are injurious, I have called Natural Selection, or the Survival of the Fittest." (Darwin, ibid., pp.62-63)

An Intelligent Designer could assemble a system from "bits that just happened to be hanging around" (having with foresight allowed, or caused, those bits to be "be hanging around" for the future purpose of assembling them together into a vertebrate blood-clotting system, necessary for the higher blood-pressures of future higher metabolic rate mammals and birds). But Jones does not explain how a "blind, unconscious, automatic process which has no purpose in mind. ... no mind and no mind's eye. ... does not plan for the future. ... has no vision, no foresight, no sight at all":

"Natural selection, the blind, unconscious, automatic process which Darwin discovered, and which we now know is the explanation for the existence and apparently purposeful form of all life, has no purpose in mind. It has no mind and no mind's eye. It does not plan for the future. It has no vision, no foresight, no sight at all. If it can be said to play the role of watchmaker in nature, it is the blind watchmaker." (Dawkins R., "The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design," W.W Norton & Co: New York NY, 1986, p.5. Emphasis original)

could, would or did, do it.

Bearing in mind that a `blind watchmaker' "cannot hoard innovations" because they would "come in handy in the" future:

"No one was more sensitive to the weaknesses of Darwinian theory than Darwin himself. As an example of trouble, Darwin volunteered the astounding multifaceted sophistication of the human eye. (Every critic of Darwin since has also used his example.) The exquisite design of interacting lens, iris, retina, etc., seems to defy the plausibility of Darwin's `slight, incremental' chance improvements. As Darwin wrote to his American friend Asa Gray, `About the weak points I agree. The eye to this day gives me a cold shudder.' The difficulty Gray had was imagining how any portion of an unfinished eye, a retina without lens or vice versa, would be useful to its possessor. Since nature cannot hoard innovations (`Hey, this will come in handy in the Cretaceous!'), every stage in development must be immediately useful and viable. Breakthroughs have to work the first time. Even clever humans can't design in such a consistently demanding manner. Therefore nature appears superhuman in its ability to create." (Kelly, K., "Out of Control: The New Biology of Machines", [1994], Fourth Estate: London, 1995, reprint, pp.472-473)

In fact Dembski, following Paley:

"One question may possibly have dwelt in the reader's mind during the perusal of these observations, namely, Why should not the Deity have given to the animal the faculty of vision at once? Why this circuitous perception; the ministry of so many means? an element provided for the purpose; reflected from opaque substances, refracted through transparent ones; and both according to precise laws: then, a complex organ, an intricate and artificial apparatus, in order, by the operation of this element, and in conformity with the restrictions of these laws, to produce an image upon a membrane communicating with the brains. Wherefore all this? Why make the difficulty in order only to surmount it? If to perceive objects by some other mode than that of touch, or objects which lay out of the reach of that sense, were the thing purposed, could not a simple volition of the Creator have communicated the capacity? Why resort to contrivance, where power is omnipotent? Contrivance, by its very definition and nature, is the refuge of imperfection. To have recourse to expedients, implies difficulty, impediment, restraint, defect of power. This question belongs to the other senses, as well as to sight; to the general functions of animal life, as nutrition, secretion, respiration; to the economy of vegetables; and indeed to almost all the operations of nature. The question therefore is of very wide extent; and, amongst other answers which may be given to it, beside reasons of which probably we are ignorant, one answer is this. It is only by the display of contrivance, that the existence, the agency, the wisdom of the Deity, could be testified to his rational creatures. This is the scale by which we ascend to all the knowledge of our Creator which we possess, so far as it depends upon the phenomena, or the works of nature. Take away this, and you take await from us every subject of observation, and ground of reasoning; I mean as our rational faculties are formed at present. Whatever is done, God could have done, without the intervention of instruments or means: but it is in the construction of instruments, in the choice and adaptation of means, that a creative intelligence is seen. It is this which constitutes the order and beauty of the universe. God, therefore, has been pleased to prescribe limits to his own power, and to work his ends within those limits." (Paley W., "Natural Theology: or, Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity, Collected from the Appearances of Nature," [1802], St. Thomas Press: Houston TX, 1972, reprint, pp.28-29. Emphasis original)

argues (and I enthusiastically agree) that it is precisely the contrivances:

"Underlying British natural theology from its inception was the fundamental intuition that the order of the universe is inexplicable apart from a designing intelligence. Now order is a slippery concept. Order can signify marks of intelligence as epitomized in contrivances. But order can also signify the systematic outworking of lawlike regularities. For instance, the watchmaker analogy for which William Paley is so famous conceives of the order in nature in terms of contrivance. The watchmaker analogy was common coin among eighteenth-century natural theologians. William Derham popularized it in his Boyle Lectures of 1711-1712, and it was known to Robert Boyle even before that. According to Paley, if we find a watch in a field, the watch's adaptation of parts to telling time ensures that it is the product of an intelligence. So too, the marvelous adaptations of means to ends in organisms ensure that organisms are the product of an intelligence. Thus from its inception British natural theology conceived of order in terms of contrivance. But order can also be conceived in terms of lawlike regularities. The laws of nature, and in particular Newton's laws, could as well be regarded as instances of order in the world. From its inception British natural theology therefore also conceived of order in terms of natural law. These dual notions of contrivance and natural law were to have an uneasy alliance within British natural theology, with natural law in the end swallowing up contrivance. Even in the watchmaker analogy we see the seeds for a conflict between contrivance and natural law. Once a watch is manufactured and set in operation, natural laws govern its behavior. The structure of the watch is a matter of contrivance. But once that structure is in place, the dynamics of the watch are controlled by natural laws. But take this reasoning a step further. The structure of the watch itself is attributable to the dynamics of certain watchmakers, watchmakers busily at work putting their watches together. What is to prevent the dynamics of those watchmakers in turn from being characterized by natural laws? Short of things just popping into existence, anything that has a history within the nexus of cause and effect presumably operates in accord with natural laws. Now if the putative contrivances of nature could themselves be explained in terms of natural laws, then the only instance of order for which British natural theology would need to invoke a designer is the natural laws themselves. But then the watchmaker analogy falls flat, for natural laws are not themselves contrivances. What's more, it is no longer clear what need there is for a designer since designers by definition design artifacts/contrivances, not abstracted lawlike regularities. A designer who is merely a law-giver always ends up being dispensable, for the laws of nature always have an integrity of their own and can thus just as well be treated as brute facts (as opposed to edicts o. a clandestine law-giver). Here we see the course by which British natural theology died. When during the heyday of British natural theology in the late eighteenth century William Paley and Thomas Reid fashioned their design arguments in terms of contrivance, their arguments fell on eager ears. By the time the authors of the Bridgewater treatises recycled the same arguments for their readers in the 1830s and `played endlessly on the theme of God's wisdom and goodness deduced from nature,' their arguments fell on deaf ears. By the 1830s the action in natural theology among the British Intelligentsia was no longer in contrivance but in natural law. It's therefore not surprising that the eight Bridgewater treatises should quickly be dubbed the `Bilgewater treatises.'" (Dembski W.A., "Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science and Theology," InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, 1999, pp.74-76. Emphasis original)

the "Rube Goldberg systems," which are constructed of "bits that just happened to be hanging around":

"Rube Goldberg systems always get a good laugh; the audience enjoys watching the contraption work and appreciates the humor in applying great gobs of ingenuity to a silly purpose. But sometimes a complicated system is used for a serious purpose. In this case the humor fades, but admiration for the delicate interactions of the component remains. Modern biochemists have discovered a number of Rube Goldberg-like systems as they probe the workings of life on the molecular scale. In the biochemical systems the string, stick, ball, seesaw, rock, sandpaper, match, fuse, cannon, cannonball, funnel, saw, rope, and telephone pole of the cartoon are replaced by proteins with eyeglazing names such as `plasma thromboplastin antecedent' or `high-molecular-weight kininogen.' The inner balance and crisp functioning, however, are the same. ... Like some ultimate Rube Goldberg machine, the clotting cascade is a breathtaking balancing act in which a menagerie of biochemicals sporting various decorations and rearrangements conferred by modifying enzymes-bounce off one another at precise angles in a meticulously ordered sequence until, at the denouement, Foghorn Leghorn pushes off the telephone pole and gets up from the ground, the bleeding from his wounds stopped. The audience rises to its feet in sustained applause." (Behe, M.J., "Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution," Free Press: New York NY, 1996, pp.77,97)

which, paradoxically, are the strongest evidence for design!]

[To be continued in part#7]

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

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