Arguing with IDers

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Arguing with IDers

Postby Atheoscanadensis » Sun Sep 08, 2013 2:07 am

So I've been debating with this ID proponent who of course claims that punctuated equilibrium is an ad hoc attempt to salvage a failing theory. He does the regular Gould and Eldredge quote mine, of course, and waves away their clarifications on the issue. While he accepts that they specify that it is only at the species level where the gaps occur, he says that that's the level at which we should most expect to see the smooth transitions Darwin anticipated and so any perceived transitions at higher taxonomic levels are suspect.

This is irritating, as you can imagine. Now to me, given the small probability of fossilization (let alone collection) combined with the often geologically brief duration of species as well as their spacial variability (which diminishes the likelihood of observing continuous change within a fossil population), it seems reasonable that we shouldn't find much in the way of gradual change at the species level (though I'm sure there are examples of such changes). He will doubtlessly say my credulity stems from indoctrination so I was wondering whether anyone here has a somewhat more robust explanation for why species-level gradual evolution is not necessarily likely to be seen in the fossil record.

Plus there's a fellow who's fond of analogies. His argument for why natural selection can't produce the sort of drastic change between, say, reptiles and mammals, is that between two disparate forms the probability of there being an unbroken series of function intermediate configurations is impossibly small. He says this is analogous to the way that one can't change the word "dog" to "mongoose" without losing meaning (i.e. function) along the way. The obvious problem with this seems to be that meaning is the only function of words and meaning is a very limited concept function. In biological systems function can be a great variety of things, so his analogy seems so limited as to not be analogous at all. This is however is part of his main argument for why a continuous series of functional intermediates is impossible and thus evolution is impossible.

Thoughts, anyone? I apologize if I'm misusing this board.
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Re: Arguing with IDers

Postby psiloiordinary » Sun Sep 08, 2013 9:36 am

Founder effect, genetic drift and the way refugia come and go with changing climate and geology. Have a google.

All these factors lead us to expect speciation to occur more rapidly in small population fragments. You only have to look around you now to see established species disappearing in a geological eyeblink. For a variety of reasons. Replacement by expansion/invasion of the successor species in a few decades centuries millennia ec will look like instant speciation in the fossil record.
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Re: Arguing with IDers

Postby cathy » Sun Sep 08, 2013 2:50 pm

He says this is analogous to the way that one can't change the word "dog" to "mongoose" without losing meaning (i.e. function) along the way. The obvious problem with this seems to be that meaning is the only function of words and meaning is a very limited concept function.

Spurious argument as that isn't the way things happen. But - Dog, log, long (DNA addition error), gong, going (additonal addition error), goin' (meaning same, resort to teenage grammar form) goon, goos (allowed in scrabble), goose (another addition error). Followed by endosymbiosys with a mon to get mongoose.

Sorry brain not working but can get from dog to goose quite easily without losing meaning at all if take into account language also evolves and can become sloppy whilst retaining meaning and full function!!! Someone with brain could probably do it far better, but at each stage only functional changes (ie with some meaning) retained, others that are as likely to happen eg xog, are not functional and don't survive to move on.

And still crap argument off your friend as isn't the way things happen.

But he seems to be using the irreducible complexity argument. Loss of function. However you can change things from one to another slowly with each stage being functional and this has been done for many things. The bacterial flaggellum for example can be traced from small pit in surface of cell with each step not just being functional but conferring a small advanatage.

While he accepts that they specify that it is only at the species level where the gaps occur, he says that that's the level at which we should most expect to see the smooth transitions Darwin anticipated and so any perceived transitions at higher taxonomic levels are suspect.

What is his explanation for this? Why would we, given at the species level it would be way harder to see transitions without a lot more than a fossil to go on? the bones of horses slowly getting higher to become hooves over 500 years way less obvious than comparison between today and 100,000 years ago. Change in muscle preceding changes in bone even more so. At higher taxonomic levels changes a transition would be far more obvious,horse today, horse part way between foot and hoof and precursor of horse with just foot, fairly obvious to compare similarities and see the change over time. So why are they suspect? What is his explanation for apparent transitions in terms of his theory?

Small imperceptable changes can get us from water in solid form (ice) to gaseous form (steam) yet heat ice and take the temperature every second along the way and you'd get no perceptable change at all. You'd be hard pressed given two temperature readings relatively close together to see what was going on or notice a smooth transition. The further apart the readings were the easier it would be to ascertain the water was heating. I can't see why speciation would be so different if slow and the difference imperceptable over short times. Plus as Psi says more geographically distinct in small ways.

Get his explanation for this. Detailed if poss.

His argument for why natural selection can't produce the sort of drastic change between, say, reptiles and mammals, is that between two disparate forms the probability of there being an unbroken series of function intermediate configurations is impossibly small.

Except the series exists doesn't it - admittedly a broken series, but like a jigsaw with missing pieces it gives a fairly undeniable picture. With the obvious gaps of course, but we have fossils for example showing the small movements of the multi boned jaw of reptile toward the ear. Eventually forming the inner ear and leaving the single boned jaw of mammals. Not only that but the changes are accompanied along the way by other small changes (with gaps of course) in other features that move from reptilian to mammal.

Now it isn't unbroken but the liklihood it would be is very small given the difficulty of fossilisation and the long periods of time. But there is enough to give a clear picture of change that fits evolution but cannot be explained at all by creationism/ID. Can you ask your ID friend to explain that particular sequence fully including all the changes.- in terms of ID/creationism? Why so many inbetweeners that seem to be neither one thing nor another yet show subtle move from one thing to another in the predicted rock sequence? How improbable are those apparent transitions and the fact that they are found roughly in the expected evolutionary order? Get him to calculate the probability of that if ID correct.

Plus what evidence is he providing for ID and how is it tested. Improbability of evolution not really proof of ID is it.
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Re: Arguing with IDers

Postby Atheoscanadensis » Sun Sep 08, 2013 6:05 pm

Thanks for the replies, you two. Nice work on dog to mongoose transition, Cathy. Your brain works just fine!

I'll try to get solid answers out of him with regards to how he knows that gradual change should be most apparent at the species level and how any of the patterns square with ID. Don't hold your breath though. I've been trying for weeks. He seems to be the sort of ID proponent who doesn't want to talk about ID, which is strange. I put the following questions to him:

"As a non-creationist you presumably accept deep time and thus will be aware that the Cambrian "explosion" occurred over the course of 80-100 million years and and hundreds of billions of years after the first fossil evidence of life. Does this not rather undercut your argument about the "lightning fast" nature of the change? 100 million years is fast compared to 300 million years, but hardly lightning fast. And why would an IDer to whom you ascribe the power to manipulate life on a sub-genetic, even atomic level create things so slowly? You assign to the IDer such a fine-tuned control of genetics that it could produce any organism it desired in a single generation, so why does it take tens of millions of years to effect this change?"

His first response was silence. After some light taunting he replied with something like "I need to focus on building the ID community and you mean Darwinists [yes, he insists on using the word Darwinist] wouldn't believe me anyway". After some more light to moderate taunting he came back with "I will only tell you if you say that I'm right and evolution is false and unsupported by any evidence, plus I don't even care what you think". So you can see he's a bit of a baby and probably has no answers at all beyond "that's just how it is". I'll keep you posted though, if you're interested.
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Re: Arguing with IDers

Postby cathy » Mon Sep 09, 2013 4:11 pm

Please do. But he needs to be aware that getting rid of evolution is insufficient. He needs to prove, show evidence for or even a method of testing for design. Irreducible complexity comes down to god of gaps and gaps are closing around him. Specified design comes down to looking at what we have and saying there each part has a specified thing to do, therefore couldn't have evolved when in fact it could. And the maths they use is spurious and ignores the very strong role of natural selection - which is the bedrock of evolution. Plus - yet again it tends not to be so much for design as against evolution. In short God of gaps and going to the edge of our knowledge and saying look we don't know that therefore god must have done it is NOT really science.

Darwinists wouldn't believe me is a bit of a cop out. What wouldn't they believe for starters? And what are Darwinists? Fans of his beard, lovers of pigeon breeding or worms? Acceptors of evolution is covered by scientists, sane people and anyone with an IQ in double figures so they can't count as Darwinists per se.

I'll hazard a guess that whomever they are they wouldn't believe him because of the
a) 'philosohical implicatons' ie it would allow a god into the process,
and
b)because of some kind of atheist hidden conspiracy
and
c) I'd guess he'll use the proper noun Dawkins if really pushed.

If so
a) ask why they accepted big bang theory over steady state when that had huge philosophical implications and scientists got embarrassed by how thrilled the RCC was with it. Why not just continue with steady state conspiracy.
b) Why would scientists be concerned with religious beliefs when most don't give two hoots and some, including the killer of the irreducibly complex bacterial flagellum, are believers themselves.
c) And as for Dawkins, proper nouns are not explanations and Dawkins is one person not the scientific community nor a representative and is in fact an anti theist rather than atheist.

As for the lack of evidence for evolution whaaaaaaat? Is he for real? Does he live in a vacuum? Ask him what the problems are with it are? In sufficient scientific detail to convince a scientist?
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Re: Arguing with IDers

Postby a_haworthroberts » Tue Sep 10, 2013 9:03 pm

I've just added a comment under this blog post (an ID proponent has challenged the post though with very limited success):
http://theness.com/neurologicablog/inde ... ment-58704
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Re: Arguing with IDers

Postby Atheoscanadensis » Wed Sep 11, 2013 2:40 am

Please do


No luck yet, all I've manged is to get another analogy. He seems stuck on the notion of proof by analogy. Brace yourself.
He argues that, between two disparate morphological configurations, there are more non-functional than functional configurations to bridge the gap and that the more disparate the configurations the greater the proportion of non-functional to functional configurations would be. Basically going for the "it's improbable" argument.

When it was pointed out that the reverse could be said, i.e. that the less disparate the two configurations the greater the proportion of functional to non-functional becomes until functional intermediates are fairly probable the analogy bomb was dropped. He argues that the further you go in any one direction from any pub, the less likely it is that the next one will be within a mile's distance and that the further apart two pubs are, the more sparsely distributed any pubs lying on the line that separates them, will be. He goes on to say that the converse is not true, i.e. that pubs will not be more densely distributed the closer they are together until it's solid pubs all along the way.

He says this is analogous to the claim that claim that the further apart two functional configurations in ‘design space’ are, the more they will be separated by proportionally more non-functional configurations than functional ones. So he's saying that because it is an observable fact that relatively close-together pubs are not connected by solid lines of pubs that he has refuted the (he assumes) analogous claim that the less disparate two configurations are the more likely they are to have relatively densely distributed intermediates.

Now I've tried to point out that the physical distribution of pubs (or stars or anything really) is governed by considerations that don't apply to biological systems, i.e. there is nothing to prevent the "design space" between two configuration from being filled with functional intermediate configurations. But he keeps returning by saying that the analogy was only to refute the criticism based on the implication of the converse of his argument about the probability of functional intermediates between disparate forms. In other words he's saying that it doesn't matter that physical distribution of pubs and functional intermediates aren't governed by the same constraints because the analogy is only meant to address the criticism of his theory. Does this make sense to anybody? If his analogy doesn't, as he insists to the issue of whether more similar forms will have more densely distributed intermediates, how can it be refuting the argument that such is the case?

Sorry for the length of this post, it's just hard to come to grips with what he's saying.
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Re: Arguing with IDers

Postby Brian Jordan » Wed Sep 11, 2013 10:27 am

Atheoscanadensis wrote:Sorry for the length of this post, it's just hard to come to grips with what he's saying.
It certainly is! Actually, the pubs would be a better analogy for magnetism - town centres are North poles attracting pubs, but pubs, which need their own customers and are in competition, are South poles which repel each other. Which, of course, has nothing to do with the case, or even the price of fish.
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Re: Arguing with IDers

Postby cathy » Wed Sep 11, 2013 12:57 pm

He argues that, between two disparate morphological configurations, there are more non-functional than functional configurations to bridge the gap and that the more disparate the configurations the greater the proportion of non-functional to functional configurations would be.

Ah well, two words here that he seems to be lacking. Natural and Selection. Non functional configurations don't survive, functional ones conferring even a tiny advantage not only survive but proliferate. And in 3.8 billion years they have time aplenty to do so.

He argues that the further you go in any one direction from any pub, the less likely it is that the next one will be within a mile's distance and that the further apart two pubs are, the more sparsely distributed any pubs lying on the line that separates them, will be.

Now that is what I call an analogy of the absurd. But lets figure, I travel greater than one mile from, say a town centre pub, along an increasingly uninhabited route out of town and beyond and, well blow me down - he is correct. The pubs become more sparsely distributed.

But then my lonely parched path takes me towards the next town and suddenly as I approach the suburbs - still increasing my distance from my original pub along a sparsely pub endowed road - the density of pubs starts to increase. Until I hit the centre of town and suddenly there is a pub on nearly every corner. Not only that I find that as they are all largely run by Weatherspoons, like my original town centre pub, the liklihood is their decor and other important features (clientale) suddenly revert back to being identical to the ones I left many miles behind in my lonely route down the dual carriageway where pubs were sparse and decor often tacky and unappealing.

As you so rightly say the distribution of pubs has little to do with biological systems at all. But even as an dopey analogy it doesn't really work cos it doesn't seem to be right.

Sorry for the length of this post, it's just hard to come to grips with what he's saying.
I think its miraculous that you've managed. I'm still struggling and will have to get back to you on that one. But I have to say your friend has come up with the first genuine example of irreducible complexity!! An argument so tangled and full of holes that truly no functional intermediates could predede it. By jove he may just have found an analogy.
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Re: Arguing with IDers

Postby Atheoscanadensis » Wed Sep 11, 2013 1:20 pm

But even as an dopey analogy it doesn't really work cos it doesn't seem to be right.


Well that's how I feel too, and perhaps I should have started by pointing that out. Instead I started by trying to explain that it wasn't even analogous. Loath as I am to descend into the tangled mess of his analogy once more, it may be necessary.

But I have to say your friend has come up with the first genuine example of irreducible complexity!!


Irreducible complexity or irreducible absurdity?

Which, of course, has nothing to do with the case


That's the irritating part. He claims the analogy holds for other clustering things like stars or planets or mountains or trees (though I would argue that for trees and mountains the closer two are together the more likely they are to have a solid line of trees or mountains between them), declaring that these "concrete,real-world examples" refute the criticism of his argument. I've tried to explain as you've pointed out that the factors governing pub (or planet) distribution are completely different from those governing the presence of functional intermediates between disparate forms and thus his analogy (while convincingly refuting the criticism if it were in the context of pubs or planets) doesn't address a criticism that is specifically talking about functional intermediates. All he'll say is that the analogy was only meant to refute the logic of the criticism that the less far apart the two forms are, the less sparsely distributed intermediates will probably be and so the gaps are all filled in and that "the fact that different clustered things have different causes for their clusteredness is irrelevant".

How to make him understand that, if different factors influence their distribution, pointing out that more closely-spaced pubs will not have a solid mass of pubs between them doesn't say anything about whether there can be a continuous series of functional intermediates between biological forms? He seems to want to attack the logic of the criticism in generalized form and so avoid engaging with the criticism as it specifically applies to the debate in general. Is that a reasonable thing to do?
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