Further to my interim message: "As is my normal practice,
I will respond in due course to your private message on my blog CreationEvolutionDesign, after removing your personal identifying information," here now is the first part of my multi-part response.
----- Original Message -----
To: Stephen E. Jones
Sent: Sunday, March 18, 2007 2:04 PM
Subject: Carnivorous plants as "Behe's mousetrap"
>Hi Mr. Jones,
>As an amateur collector of carnivorous plants, I was very curious as to the origin and lineage of the Nepenthes pitcher plants. If you have not seen a Nepenthes pitcher plant, a minute's perusal on Google image search is well worth your time, they're spectacular.
I cannot recall if I have ever seen a pitcher plant `in the flesh', but I probably have, e.g. in Singapore's botanic gardens. But I agree that they are spectacular (see above). I definitely have seen a Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) because several years ago I bought one in a pot, but it died!
>Your site was the first link I found when searching for information on this topic:
>"I would like to see a detailed, step-by-step, Darwinian explanation of how the natural selection of random micromutations produced the elaborate traps of carnivorous plants, like the pitcher plant and the Venus flytrap. But I suspect there are none, because if there were, the Darwinists would not waste there time on peppered moths and finch beaks! Like Behe's mousetrap, all these parts are needed to be working together simultaneously as a coordinated system to catch insects."
>While I fully admit my ignorance on the origin of Nepenthes pitcher plants (hence my search!), I thought I'd give you a tour of how Venus Flytraps came about and do not, in fact, constitute an "unevolvable" Behe's mousetrap.
Professor Michael Behe, as far as I am aware, does not claim that anything is "unevolvable." He is in fact on record as stating that his position is "evolution occurred, but was guided by God" (my emphasis):
"[Eugenie] Scott refers to me as an intelligent design `creationist,' even though I clearly write in my book `Darwin's Black Box' (which Scott cites) that I am not a creationist and have no reason to doubt common descent. In fact, my own views fit quite comfortably with the 40% of scientists that Scott acknowledges think `evolution occurred, but was guided by God.' Where I and others run afoul of Scott and the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) is simply in arguing that intelligent design in biology is not invisible, it is empirically detectable. The biological literature is replete with statements like David DeRosier's in the journal `Cell': `More so than other motors, the flagellum resembles a machine designed by a human' [DeRosier D.J., "The Turn of the Screw: The Bacterial Flagellar Motor," Cell, Vol. 93, 1998, p.17]. Exactly why is it a thought-crime to make the case that such observations may be on to something objectively correct?" (Behe M.J., "Intelligent Design Is Not Creationism," Science, dEbate, 7 July 2000 ).
Therefore, in that sense, Behe would presumably accept that everything biological, including "Carnivorous plants" such as "Nepenthes pitcher plants" and "Venus Flytraps," are "evolvable".
Behe's claim is that "some biochemical systems, such as the blood clotting cascade or bacterial flagellum, are resistant to Darwinian explanation because they are irreducibly complex, i.e. are "a single system which is composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, and where the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning" (my emphasis):
In Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution (Behe 1996) I argued that some biochemical systems, such as the blood clotting cascade or bacterial flagellum, are resistant to Darwinian explanation because they are irreducibly complex. I defined irreducible complexity as a single system which is composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, and where the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning. (1996, 39) The difficulty for Darwinian theory is that 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. (1996, 39) To illustrate the concept with a familiar example for a general readership, I pointed to a simple mechanical mousetrap, composed of several parts such as the base, hammer, spring and so on, and noted that the absence of any of the parts destroys the mouse-catching ability of the trap. Darwin's vision of natural selection gradually improving function in `numerous, successive, slight modifications' (Darwin 1859) appears not to fit well with such systems. I went on to argue that, since intelligent agents are the only entities known to be able to construct irreducibly complex systems, the biochemical systems are better explained as the result of deliberate intelligent design." (Behe, M.J.*, "Self-Organization and Irreducibly Complex Systems: A Reply to Shanks and Joplin," Philosophy of Science, Vol. 67, No. 1, March 2000), pp. 55-162)
Therefore, since Behe has confined his claim for irreducible complexity to "biochemical systems" he would not (and as far as I am aware has not) claimed that either the pitcher plant or the Venus flytrap are "unevolvable", in the sense that they are irreducibly complex.
It was my claim that, "Like Behe's mousetrap, all these parts are needed to be working together simultaneously as a coordinated system to catch insects" and therefore they are possibly irreducibly complex in the sense of my definition of "irreducible complexity":
"Any complex biological system which could not plausibly have been formed by numerous successive slight modifications."
Therefore if my organism-level "mousetrap" arguments in this post fail, that does not mean that Behe's molecular-level "mousetrap" arguments fail. The latter stand or fall separately on their own merits.
>Trichomes are tiny hairs on plants. They can block UV light, secrete stinging material (as in nettles), or secrete sticky stuff. Petunias, potatoes, and other such plants produce sticky-tipped trichomes to keep tiny bugs away! Here's a couple close-up shots of defensive trichomes, one of a petunia and one of a verbena:
>But, as it turns out, aside from protecting themselves from would-be pests, these plants put themselves in an interesting position. When such a plant is in a low-nutrient, high-sun, high-moisture environment like a swamp, the selective pressure to make any use of the buffet at their fingertips is enormous.
While I am sceptical of Darwinian (i.e. natural selection of random micromutations) explanations for complex systems (including "the elaborate traps of carnivorous plants, like the pitcher plant and the Venus flytrap), I do not rule them out, and I would have no major problem if they were proved to be true. As I have mentioned in previous posts [09-Jan-07 & 04-Nov-06], since 2003 (with minor variations), I have stated on my testimony page that "I would have no problem even if Darwinian evolution was proved to be 100% true":
"I would have no problem even if Darwinian evolution was proved to be 100% true (i.e. its facts, not its philosophy), because the God of the Bible is fully in control of all events, even those that seem random to man (Prov. 16:33; 1Kings 22:34). Jesus said that not even one sparrow will die unless God wills it (Mat. 10:29-30), which means that God is fully in control of natural selection. But if the Biblical God really exists there is no good reason to assume in advance that Darwinian (or any form of) naturalistic evolution is true!"
I don't buy the endlessly regurgitated but fallacious Darwinian propaganda (which I presume, like the `blind leading the blind' (Mt 15:14) they actually believe) that just by showing how the design was implemented, and Darwin didn't even do that-just how it might have been!:
Darwinism. The theory of how EVOLUTION might have come about which constitutes the great contribution to science made by Charles Darwin (1809-82). Darwin saw the evolutionary process as a series of adaptations: plants and animals differ one from another in their hereditary endowments, and those variants which equip an organism specially well to cope with the exigencies of the ENVIRONMENT will be preserved in the 'struggle for existence' and will thus become the prevailing type. Darwin used the term NATURAL SELECTION for this process of discrimination, mainly to avoid the lengthy periphrases that would be necessary to avoid its animistic overtones (see ANIMISM), of which he was fully aware. At the turn of the century Darwinism was seriously faulted for its explanatory glibness: 'the natural selection of favourable variations' was a formula that fitted all phenomena too well. In due course Darwinism had to be reformulated in the new language of Mendelian (see MENDELISM) GENETICS, and this revised doctrine, the prevailing one today, is called neo-Darwinism." (Medawar, P.B., "Darwinism," in Bullock, A. & Trombley, I., eds., "The Fontana Dictionary of Modern Thought," , Fontana Press: London, Revised Edition, 1988, p.200. Emphases original)
that thereby shows there was no design, e.g. "Darwin pointed out that no supernatural designer was needed; since natural selection could account for any known form of life":
"Darwinism removed the whole idea of God as the creator of organisms from the sphere of rational discussion. Before Darwin, people like Paley with his famous Evidences could point to the human hand or eye and say: `This organ is beautifully adapted; it has obviously been designed for its purpose; design means a designer; and therefore there must have been a supernatural designer.' Darwin pointed out that no supernatural designer was needed; since natural selection could account for any known form of life, there was no room for a supernatural agency in its evolution." (Huxley, J.S., "`At Random': A Television Preview," in Tax, S. & Callender, C., eds., "Evolution After Darwin: Issues in Evolution," University of Chicago Press: Chicago IL, Vol. III, 1960, pp.45-46)
But as the late great Princeton theologian Benjamin B. Warfield pointed out almost a century ago, "Some lack of general philosophical acumen must be suspected when it is not fully understood that ... Every teleological system implies a complete causo-mechanical explanation as its instrument":
"The antiteleological zeal of Mr. Darwin is well known. the vigor with which-as, for instance, in his correspondence with Asa Gray-he repelled the intrusion of teleology into his system betrays his fundamental thought. The antiteleological implication of Darwinism taken in its strictness when it becomes a system of pure accidentalism-is obvious. But it could have been hoped that by now we had got well beyond all that. Some lack of general philosophical acumen must be suspected when it is not fully understood that teleology is in no way inconsistent with-is, rather, necessarily involved in-a complete system of natural causation. Every teleological system implies a complete causo-mechanical explanation as its instrument. Why, then, should the investigators of the causo-mechanical explanation array themselves in polemic opposition to the very conception of governing purpose? Above all, why should they make their recognition or nonrecognition of teleological factors the test of the acceptability of theories? This gives the disagreeable appearance to the trend of biological speculation-we do not say of biological investigation-that it is less interested in science for science's sake, that is, in the increase of knowledge, than it is in the validation of a naturalistic worldview; that it is dominated, in a word, by philosophical conceptions not derived from science, but imposed on science from without." (Warfield, B.B., "Review of Vernon L. Kellogg, `Darwinism Today: A Discussion of Present-Day Scientific Criticism of the Darwinian Selection Theories, together with a Brief Account of the Principal and Other Proposed Auxiliary and Alternative Theories of Species-Forming' (New York: Henry Holt, 1907)," Princeton Theological Review, Vol. 6, October 1908, pp.640-50, in Noll M.A. & Livingstone D.N., eds, "B.B. Warfield: Evolution, Science and Scripture: Selected Writings," Baker: Grand Rapids MI, 2000, p.250)
Having said that, like most Darwinist explanations I have encountered, your argument is already fallacious. It is not "these plants," i.e. these present-day plants" that require explanation. They are indeed (like all plants and animals) adapted to their current environment, as Harvard geneticist Richard Lewontin pointed out, "all organisms are already adapted" (otherwise they would be extinct):
"If ecological niches can be specified only by the organisms that occupy them, evolution cannot be described as a process of adaptation because all organisms are already adapted. Then what is happening in evolution? One solution to this paradox is the Red Queen hypothesis, named by Leigh Van Valen of the University of Chicago for the character in Through the Looking Glass who had to keep running just to stay in the same place. Van Valen's theory is that the environment is constantly decaying with respect to existing organisms, so that natural selection operates essentially to enable the organisms to maintain their state of adaptation rather than to improve it. Evidence for the Red Queen hypothesis comes from an examination of extinction rates in a large number of evolutionary lines. If natural selection were actually improving the fit of organisms to their environments, then we might expect the probability that a species will become extinct in the next time period to be less for species that have already been in existence for a long time, since the long-lived species are presumably the ones that have been improved by natural selection. The data show, however, that the probability of extinction of a species appears to be a constant, characteristic of the group to which it belongs but independent of whether the species has been in existence for a long time or a short one. In other words, natural selection over the long run does not seem to improve a species' chance of survival but simply enables it to `track,' or keep up with, the constantly changing environment. " (Lewontin R.C., "Adaptation," Scientific American, Vol. 239, No. 3, September 1978, pp.157-169, p.159)
What requires explanation is how they originated, presumably millions of years ago, by "a detailed, step-by-step, Darwinian explanation of how the natural selection of random micromutations" or other mechanism.
Now although I mentioned "the pitcher plant" in that web page of mine you cited, my main interest is in the Venus flytrap, and so to simplify what would otherwise be a too long and complex response (it is already going to be multi-part), from now on I am only going to comment on the Venus flytrap, which you say above is your main interest too.
I look forward to your "tour of how Venus Flytraps came about" with "a detailed, step-by-step, Darwinian explanation of how the natural selection of random micromutations produced the elaborate traps of carnivorous plants, like the ... Venus flytrap" (my emphasis)!
To be continued in part #2.
Exodus 9:8-12. 8Then the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, "Take handfuls of soot from a furnace and have Moses toss it into the air in the presence of Pharaoh. 9It will become fine dust over the whole land of Egypt, and festering boils will break out on men and animals throughout the land." 10So they took soot from a furnace and stood before Pharaoh. Moses tossed it into the air, and festering boils broke out on men and animals. 11The magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils that were on them and on all the Egyptians. 12But the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart and he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the LORD had said to Moses.