Archive for Thursday, September 22, 2005

Evolution teaching debate makes its way into Kansas history museums

September 22, 2005


About once a month, Jerry Choate says, workers at the Sternberg Museum of Natural History in Hays find brochures in the restrooms promoting creationism over evolution.

And increasingly, Choate said, Sternberg guides find themselves face-to-face with patrons angry that the museum's exhibits use evolution to explain the history of dinosaurs and fossils.

"It's happening more than it used to," said Choate, the museum's director. "A person or group will come in and confront one of the guides with rapid-fire questions for which the person is not qualified to respond."

Quietly, the war over the teaching of evolution has spilled out of the Kansas State Board of Education and into other areas. John Calvert, a leader of forces asking the board to require criticism of evolution in the classroom, said the museum encounters are part of a rising tide of criticism against Darwin's theory.

"There's no (organized) effort to do that," Calvert said. "But I think you're finding that wherever there's a discussion of evolution going on, you'll find people raising their questions."

The questioning could become more intense. Choate said the Sternberg plans to unveil a new evolution exhibit next year. And the Kansas University Museum of Natural History in November will open "Explore Evolution," a traveling exhibit that examines how evolution influences ongoing scientific research.

Hot issue

Jordan Yochim, the assistant director at KU's museum, said the exhibit isn't intended as commentary about the state's ongoing debate.

"It really is just coincidental that we have an exhibit when the issue here is hot in Kansas," Yochim said.

But it's been a while since the issue has cooled.

In 1999, conservatives on the State Board of Education adopted science standards for public school students that de-emphasized evolution. Those standards were reversed when moderates regained control of the board.

More recently, with conservatives holding a 6-4 majority, the board adopted standards that include criticism of evolution. Those standards - which come up for a final vote next month - were promoted by Calvert and other proponents of intelligent design, which claims a master planner developed life.

Officials at Kansas museums say the controversy hasn't changed the way they present information about the state's natural history.

But they've noticed that more visitors arrive ready to criticize what they see.

"We get groups in quite frequently - they're mainly interested in the dinosaur floor - to tell a different kind of story," Yochim said.

Choate said his museum has offered more training to gallery guides to handle such situations.

"We're having training sessions to help them deal with the situations," Choate said. "If a person is not receptive to what you have say, you don't need to talk to them."

Indoctrination or education?

That approach irritates Calvert, who said evolution proponents are avoiding legitimate criticisms.

"Museums aren't focused on education," he said. "They're focused on indoctrination."

"Explore Evolution," the new KU exhibit, will look at how evolutionary theory is used in current scientific research - to explain changes in HIV, the adaptation of Galapagos finches and genetic ties between humans and chimpanzees. KU is one of six museums across the Midwest that helped sponsor the project.

The museum will also offer visitors a handout explaining how evolution differs from creationism and religion.

"These exhibits are not going to work," Calvert said. "People are going to wind up laughing at them."

KU officials acknowledge that the exhibit may draw some heat, given the state's political climate. But they say they're not spoiling for a fight.

"It's like with any information," Yochim said. "It's up to a well-educated citizenry to make good use for it, and museums are no different. We can't force visitors to think a certain way."


spikey_mcmarbles 12 years, 8 months ago

What kind of a person would take a road trip to a museum so they can get into arguments with the staff over the exhibits? These folks could use some help in finding more constructive ways to use their free time.

bjohanning 12 years, 8 months ago

Creationist have been defeat by the Intelligent Design (ID). By supporting ID they (the Creationist) are acknowledging that the evidence to support evolution is so overwhelming that evolution can not be ignored. ID is an attempt to justify/ to preserve their views of how life started and to continue pushing their beliefs upon society.

Brian Sandefur 12 years, 8 months ago

bjohanning, I think you have some fundamental misunderstandings of what ID is, and why/how it arose.

christie 12 years, 8 months ago

Of course everyone knows that dinosaur bones were implanted by the DEVIL to create this controversy. The Earth is only 10,000 years old. Dinosaurs never existed. There can be no integration of Divine Creationism and eventual Evolution. It's impossible. Man was made in Gods image and Women were created from a mans rib. The Bible says so. It's comforting to know that I was created from a mans rib.

Shardwurm 12 years, 8 months ago

I don't know what you were created from Christie but whatever it was it appears that tolerance for the beliefs of others wasn't in the recipe.

Brian Sandefur 12 years, 8 months ago

wendt, thank you for your profound lesson in theology, but this has nothing to do with Christianity, or any other religion (at least in regards to ID). You're creating a connection in your mind that doesn't exist.

I tried explaining to you in detail the other day why "creationism" and ID are different, and your insistence on rehashing the same stuff over and over - despite your self-proclaimed intellect - makes me think you're a troll.

Brian Sandefur 12 years, 8 months ago

wendt, in your reply to Shwardwurm, you are again erroneously conflating ID with Biblical creationism. But in any case, let's do some online peer review here. Rather than bashing someone's education or beliefs, let's discuss some science.

I had to leave early the other day, and our discussion of irreducibly complex biochemical systems was cut short. I'd enjoy picking that back up, and discussing such systems' challenges to evolutionary explanations. Shall we "review" those evolutionary proposals?

Brian Sandefur 12 years, 8 months ago

wendt, I repeat myself over and over with you. I'll emphasize this time - NO ONE IS TRYING TO "PROVE" GOD OR A DESIGNER. Indeed, because the origin of all biological systems ocurred in the past, and is unrepeatable and unobservable, no knowledge of their origin can be attained to the certainty of proof - whether we're talking ID or evolution. Proof, in this instance, is impossible. Do you agree?

I'll respond to your points in numbered order.

1) Substantiate that claim, and define "complex" if you would please. Let me once again define irreducible for you. It refers specifically to a system that cannot function when any parts are removed (proteins or gene products in the case of biological systems). A mousetrap is irreducible because you can't remove the base, and still maintain function (or any other part). Same goes for the flagellum.

2) We're not discussing the way a flagellum "operates", we're discussing how the first flagellum arose.

3) Again, the issue is not how the flagellum "works", but how it originated. But, I would like you refer me somewhere to read about this "finer study".

4) See introductory comment above. Removing a protein, and ending up with a non-functional system has severe implications for Darwinian explanations, since Darwinian evolution's main engine is to gradually improve existing systems incrementally one step at a time. The absence of "incremental steps" (as demonstrated by knock-out experiments), poses a great challenge to material mechanisms.

Densmore 12 years, 8 months ago

Here is a possible reconciliation:

Let us assume that there is scientific evidence in support of ID and that this evidence is more persuasive than the evidence in support of evolution. In fact, lets assume that there is conclusive evidence in support of ID and that the evidence clearly demonstrates that the Designer was not supernatural but from a distant planet. Included in that evidence was a conclusive showing that the Designer evolved on the distant planet. This scenario, or something similar, is the only way that ID can be distinguished from creationism and advanced as science. Otherwise, ID is dependent upon the supernatural and is therefore, by definition, outside of the realm of science.

Brian Sandefur 12 years, 8 months ago

Densmore, you seem to be saying that any theory that has religious or theological IMPLICATIONS is, by definition, not science. I totally disagree. Creationism is a deduction from religious doctrine. It begins with God as a premise. ID is an inference from data. It makes no assumptions regarding a designer or a God, and certainly is not derived from any religious text or dogma.

Big bang cosmology, by your description, would also be outside of science since it implies a discreet beginning to the universe - implying something beyond the universe initiating events.

Detecting the action of intelligence is done all the time in other sciences - forensics, archaeology, cryptanlaysis, SETI - why not apply it to biology?

Brian Sandefur 12 years, 8 months ago

By the way Densmore, the possibility that life on Earth was designed elsewhere in the universe by natural beings is certainly a logical and real one within ID. The data simply don't provide any indications as such however.

Densmore 12 years, 8 months ago


Excellent point. Creationism is a deduction from a supernatural premise. ID theory, hopefully, arises from a process of induction.

As you know, any process of induction arrives at a general rule based on the observation of specifics. I have no problem with a process that concludes that ID is the general rule and is responsible for the specific observations that are made, provided that the evidence is highly persuasive. However, if the evidence suggests that ID is responsible for our existence, the conclusion is meaningless unless we explore the Designer and how the Designer came to be. If we conclude that the Designer arose through a natural process, we are still within the purview of science. If through a supernatural process, however, we depart from science, by definition.

Brian Sandefur 12 years, 8 months ago

wendt, stop assuming I'm uneducated. I've taken biology classes, so perhaps you can put that ridiculous comment to rest now.

You seem to have missed my point about "proof". Neither explanation, evolution or ID, can be proven, so I'm not sure how that is a strong argument against ID. In an instance like this, all we can do is make an inference to the best explanation, based on the data we have available. Perhaps you should take a philosophy of science class.

1) I know what complex means. I wanted to see what you said. I was thinking your definition of "complex" might be structured so that "complex" could be measured. For example defining complexity as the inverse of probability.

Then you said:

"You can reduce a flagellum to it's constituent parts and study those parts. You can reduce a mousetrap to it's constituent parts and manufacture them."

But you can't reduce a flagellum and still have a flagellum that functions. Studying the constituent parts individually provides no insight on how the system could have originated. You're completely missing my point.

2) We know what comprises the extant flagellum, it had to have emerged somehow. Knock-out experiments on it's current genetic structure show that it is irreducible - i.e. it does not function if any proteins are missing. Whether this represents the first flagellum or not, it still requires an explanation, and a gradual one at that if you want to stick to evolutionary mechanisms.

3) No, I'd prefer something I can read online today. Seems, based on your comments, that you could point me to a paper rather easily. Nice comment about Bob Jones too - I see you're still trying to fit me into your preconceived little box. You should rethink that.

4) Of course DNA disruption is included in evolution. My point is that unguided DNA "disruption" is not going to evolve a flagellum. Can you cite something that suggests it could? I'll just help you out here. If you want to see the latest and greatest arguments on the evolution of the flagellum, google Ken Miller, or just vist That'll get you up to speed.

Brian Sandefur 12 years, 8 months ago

wendt, I'm done responding to all of your comments that amount to ad hominem attacks and vague general attacks like "sophistry". If you post something constructive relative to the creative ability of evolutionary mechanisms, I'd be happy to re-engage. Otherwise, I'm done.

Brian Sandefur 12 years, 8 months ago

Densmore, I disagree that if we infer, or conclude, that design was in fact an actual causal force in the history (or origin) of life on Earth, that that inference is meaningless absent more information regarding the designer. That inference still would be the best explanation for system X, and shouldn't be marginalized simply because it raises another question - specifically, who/what is the designer?

ID, in its current form, is not about ultimate explanations. It is concerned with evaluating biological systems, and determining what causes are capable of producing them. Chance? Necessity? Intelligent agency? Some combination?

FastEddie 12 years, 8 months ago

For ID to be scientific, it simply has to be testible. As soon as people can make a test for it, it will become science (but not until then). It is not a difficult concept to grasp.

b_asinbeer 12 years, 8 months ago


"but this has nothing to do with Christianity, or any other religion (at least in regards to ID). You're creating a connection in your mind that doesn't exist"

Umm....yeah.....Intelligent Design stems from christian beliefs. Don't tell me that Muslims or Jews started this movement.....Please don't tell me you're that ignorant. And please don't tell me that muslims, jews, buddhists, etc. support this, because they don't. It's just another agenda by the extreme right to get state and religion involved. I say keep religion where they, church, mosques, synagogues, etc.

"Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job." 9/2/2005

Brian Sandefur 12 years, 8 months ago

FastEddie, one of the core claims of ID is that material mechanisms cannot produce a biochemical system that is irreducibly complex. This is a testable claim. If one could produce an irreducibly complex system in a lab via unguided, material mechanisms alone, ID would be falisified.

Brian Sandefur 12 years, 8 months ago

b_asinbeer, scientists and academics started this movement (google Pajaro Dunes and ID for a brief history).

David Berlinski - Jewish Jeffery Schwartz - Buddhist Mustafa Akyol - Muslim Michael Denton - he's subscribes to some obscure philosphy, can't recall at the moment.

This is just a short list. ID does not derive from any religious premise. Read up.

nomorebobsplease 12 years, 8 months ago

Wendt...thank you for your intelligent and considered posts. I enjoyed the other day and am enjoying reading todays discussion immensely. Ulitmate175, it looks like you are trying hard...but.... Keep it up, guys, you're educating some of us....

Brian Sandefur 12 years, 8 months ago

nomorebobsplease, but what? If you have any specific questions or points I'd love to hear them.

dotteboy 12 years, 8 months ago

I believe in ID. Aliens, I think Coneheads, developed humans in their labs on planet Conehead as food for the garthoks. And, if a human successfully narfalled a garthok, it was placed upon earth as a reward of freedom.

dotteboy 12 years, 8 months ago

About once a month, Jerry Choate says, workers at the Sternberg Museum of Natural History in Hays find brochures in the restrooms promoting a ban for talking on a cell phone while driving in Lawrence.

Densmore 12 years, 8 months ago


I think that you have a genuine interest in this topic and I don't believe that you are arguing for argument's sake. You are getting roughed up and seem to be on the ropes, given the strength of wendt's arguments, 38 nobel laureates, the established scientific community, etc. I admire your stamina.

For reasons that I've mentioned in this blog and others, I believe that a conclusion of ID ultimately requires an answer to the next question: how did the Designer come about? There are only two possibilities that I know of: 1) Supernatural creation of the Designer, or 2) Natural development of the Designer.

So, lets again assume that we have conclusive evidence of ID on earth. The bigger question remains and we are not any closer to understanding the beginning of life in general, ID of life on earth notwithstanding.

It is not as if supernatural ID is not worth contemplating-it is a genuinely important matter. But it is not, and cannot by definition, be within the realm of science. ID as a byproduct of natural selection, i.e. evolved Designers, is the only plausible discussion of ID within the realm of science. Therefore, ID has no place in science classes, science museums and so forth, unless it is stipulated that Designers must result from natural processes. It is not a biological issue. It is a matter of definition and logic. Again, I am not saying that supernatural ID is impossible-I don't know. But it is clearly within the realm of theology and not science.

Now, I am going to put you on the spot and test your ability to analyze evidence. If we had conclusive evidence of ID on earth, and no conclusive evidence of who/what made the designs, what would the weight of the existing circumstantial evidence suggest with regard to the identity of the Designer? Is there more or less circumstantial evidence of design by natural nonearthly beings or design by a supernatural power?

b_asinbeer 12 years, 8 months ago


I am sorry, but Muslims in developed countries (Turkey, for example) do not believe in ID the way that Christians do. Current explanations of evolution and science can be easily seen and found in the Koran. Things like the Big Bang and Evolution are mentioned in the Koran. (have you read it by any chance lately?) So, do you propose to study the Koran for a whole semester for an explanation of how God/Allah had a hand in things? I don't think the conservative christians on the BOE would like that idea...

So until you read the Koran, do not talk to me about how Muslims would embrace the idea of ID.

Have a great day. :o)

"Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job" 9/2/2005

Brian Sandefur 12 years, 8 months ago

Densmore, first, I think wendt's arguments have completely missed the target. How hard is it to have a discussion of possible evolutionary pathways to something like the flagellum? All he/she did was say that scientists have completed a "finer study" of the flagellum, and I should simply go to a local university biology department to see for myself. I know better.

Regarding the 38 Nobel Laureates, some them weren't even in science. It also makes me wonder why they chose to write a vague, unsubstantive response to the proposals on the table in Kansas, rather than providing a real critique of those proposals. A blanket statement like theirs shouldn't hold water just because they are Nobel laureates.

Incidentally, Richard Smalley shared the Nobel with Curl and Kroto (2 signers of the letter) in Chemistry in 1996. Smalley has been explicit in his skepticism of evolutionary mechanisms, but I suppose that Nobel Laureate's opinion doesn't count.

You said:

"So, lets again assume that we have conclusive evidence of ID on earth. The bigger question remains and we are not any closer to understanding the beginning of life in general, ID of life on earth notwithstanding."

Once again, ID as a research program is examining causes of life on Earth - that's it (at least biologically). Of course a bigger question remains - i.e. who/what is the designer? However, the fact that this question arises does not negate the inferences of design that have been made to that point, nor is the who/what question necessarily answerable by science. However, detecting the action of intelligent agency IS within science. And by the way, I think a third option is that the designer is uncreated, i.e. an eternal God.

Also, intelligent agency is fundamentally different from natural selection. In other words, ID is not a by product of natural selection - they are totally different animals. I'm not sure if you were arguing that or not, I just noticed a quick reference to something like that in one sentence above. I may have misread you.

Regarding the conjectures we could make about the identity of the designer if conclusive evidence for one's action was found, I have no idea. To date, there is no data that sheds light on who/what it might be. Intelligence is intelligence, and to date we have no way of distinguishing between different forms. If a SETI researcher discovers a designed radio signal from deep space, will they then have insight into the identity of the sender? No. For all they know it could embodied, disembodied, green, white or brown, carbon based or not. They just wouldn't know. They would, however, know that the signal received had an intelligent source. The question of who sent it could be addressed separately, if it could be addressed at all scientifically.

Brian Sandefur 12 years, 8 months ago

b_asinbeer, first you said that Muslims, Jews, Buddhists don't support this. Then I gave you a short list of those that did. Now, evidently, you only meant that Muslims living in developed countries don't support this. I see now.

FYI...Mustafa Akyol lives in Turkey (but probably not the right part of Turkey).

Claire 12 years, 8 months ago


Buddhists care not a wit about the creation of the world.

The founder of the Buddhist religion was quite specific on that point. He felt it was irrelevant to the problem of suffering.



We will not tolerate another breakdown in protocol.

You are to say "We are from France". You have been told to use no other explanation for our presence here on Earth. Return to your shelter unit and consume mass quantities.

Do not mention the Garthoks again.

Brian Sandefur 12 years, 8 months ago

Claire, I didn't say Buddhists "cared a wit" about the creation of the world. b-asinbeer said no buddhist supports ID. I simply listed one - a scientist - who thinks there's something to it - as a scientific explanation for certain biological features.

Brian Sandefur 12 years, 8 months ago

Well in a sense you are right, there is no ecumenical component of ID. Rather than being ecumenical, ID is rather indifferent to religion.

Brian Sandefur 12 years, 8 months ago

Irreducible complexity, "active information", "functional complexity", "complex specified information" are all pieces of empirical, measurable data. Intelligent action is posited precisely because these "characteristcs" are observed - empirically, and because intelligent causation is the only known cause capable of producing them.

SETI researchers don't posit intelligent causation because they saw an alien push the send button. They infer intelligent causation because the signal they recieve, the system they observe, bears the marks of intelligent causation (listed above), not material causation.

Biochemists infer intelligent causation the same way - i.e. the presence of irreducibly complex systems is a reliable indicator of intelligent action. We know of no material mechanism capable of producing it, and indeed conceptually there is strong reason to doubt one will ever be found.

Brian Sandefur 12 years, 8 months ago

By the way, if you posited the existence of the Easter Bunny, I would respond by asking why. You would presumably say that you found Easter eggs in your yard on Sunday morning, and they weren't there Saturday night. Therefore, you infer that the Easter Bunny must have visited.

However, I postulate another scenario. I say to you that I think your parents hid the eggs in the yard after you went to bed.

Now, let's assume your parents would never admit to this (wanting to keep you a child as long as possible). Neither of us can prove our explanation. Neither of us were up Saturday night observing what actually happened. Therefore we must make an inference to the best explanation.

I proceed to round up a number of other parents who confess to hiding eggs for Easter, thereby demonstrating that my explanation is at least causally adequate - i.e. the explanation that parents hid the eggs has been demonstrated to be sufficient to account for hidden eggs. It is also a simpler explanation than yours, and is therefore the better one.

Now tying this in to biology, ID points to a variety of things (like irreducibly complex systems), and postulates design as a better explanation than material mechanisms based on empirical observations. We know from experience that intelligent agents are capable of producing IC systems - i.e. causally adequate. Evolutionary theorists counter that material mechanisms can explain IC systems, but they cannot point to any data that supports the claim - i.e. it appears that material mechanisms are not adequate.

Anyway, you can connect the dots. I started thinking out loud here and probably got way off track. Sorry about that - but you started it with the Easter Bunny stuff. Kidding.

b_asinbeer 12 years, 8 months ago


The reason I did not elaborate the Jews and Buddhists and the flying spaghetti monster on this is to get my point across. I talked about Muslims, because they are the only example that I know well enough to debate you on. Clearly, I was pretty successful in the argument that Muslims do not believe in the same ID that Christians do, as you have not refuted it. Score one for me.

I don't think muslim communities in Kansas would be happy with their kids having christian ideals taught to them in school. That's why I say, keep religion and state separate.

Second, please tell me you have read the Koran before assuming and believing that Mustafa Akyol is right. So, unless you have read the Koran, do not assume and wrongfully argue that the Muslim population of America will like this idea.

"Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job." 9/2/2005

Brian Sandefur 12 years, 8 months ago

b_asinbeer, I'd like you to show everyone where I said "the Muslim population of America will like this idea". And I didn't say Mustafa was right, I said he supports ID, after you said no Muslim does. ID is neither a Christian ideal, nor is it being proposed to be taught in Kansas schools. So it looks like your kids are OK on both counts.

Brian Sandefur 12 years, 8 months ago

I'm not espousing active information nor functional complexity. I was pointing out that those are empirical concepts from the quote you gave.

You've explained nothing in regards to irreducible complexity - you're hung up on terminology. Let's get hung up on the concept, and you can call it whatever you want. There exist systems (i.e. the flagellum), that do not function without all constituent proteins. The flagellum contains approximately 40, and doesn't function with less - not 39, not 35, not 20, not 10, not 1. The question then arises, how could evolutionary processes produce such a system?

The emergence of a system containing all 40 proteins at once via material mechanisms is clearly not plausible, and yet there is no gradual pathway to that system either (because any system on it's way to the flagellum with 40 - x proteins doesn't function, and therefore is not visible to natural selection). So how does evolution account for it? What would your proposed pathway be?

Now, for a good intro. to specified complexity (complex specified information), I encourage you to read this:

It describes in detail what "information" is.

wendt said:

"The presence of the watch tells us nothing of the watchmaker. We have no sense data of the watchmaker. The fallacy of the watch / watchmaker analogy is that it implies that everything in the universe is ordered and has a purpose.

There are many processes in the universe that are not ordered for a purpose and, if intelligently designed by a Creator / Intelligent Designer, would suggest that entity was either cruel or had a strange sense of humor."

ID does not claim that everything in the universe is ordered and has a purpose. I think you're confusing it with creationism.

And I don't speak for biochemists. I know biochemists as well - some of whom do infer intelligent causation for the origin of some biochemical systems. It's not arrogance, it's a statement of fact.

avhjmlk 12 years, 8 months ago

Back to the flagellum point, and, you may correct me if I'm wrong and your information is right:

Isn't another facet of evolution that evolution is also brought about when a protein, gene, or another component unit of life mutates? If so, though a flagellum won't continue to function with a protein missing, is it not plausible that it might continue to function, though differently, if we were able to revert back to a prior mutation of one of its component proteins?

avhjmlk 12 years, 8 months ago

Additionally, I would like to point out that I am a Catholic. I fully believe in Evolution on a scientific level. That does not prevent me from believing that God got it started.

hobb2264 12 years, 8 months ago


the question isn't whether you believe in is whether you believe in unguided natural processes that result in evolution. By saying you believe that God "got it started", you are putting yourself in the ID camp.

Brian Sandefur 12 years, 8 months ago

avhjmlk, you seem to be proposing what is called the co-option argument. In essence, it says that the function evolves along with the system. So with the flagellum, when there are 39 proteins, it has some non-motility function, 38 proteins - some other function, etc.

First, there is no evidence that this happens. Second, the flagellum has been described as the "most efficient machine in the universe". It is literally a nano-engineering marvel, and I don't mean that metaphorically. Therefore, to postulate that moving from 39 to 40 proteins changes function, and the new function happens to be this marvel of nano-technology is not the most plausible of explanations.

Third, it appears that the cell contains an abundant amount of irreducibly complex (or whatever wendt chooses to call them) systems. In other words, the flagellum is not a unique system in that regard. Thus I don't think co-option would be a good general solution to this problem for evolution, even if there were evidence that it occurs on the scale needed.

Brian Sandefur 12 years, 8 months ago

wendt, I'm finished discussing this with you. Information cannot be reduced to mass, length and time (go ask Shannon). Dembski is fully qualified to give an account of what information is.

Your lack of philosophical sophistication is a bit surprising. Maybe it's just a result of a lack of knowledge about what ID really is (i.e. you think ID is "anti-evolution"). You fail to recognize the difference between religious implications and religious assumptions/commitments. You still conflate ID with creationism (even after posting yourself a quote from Dembski which states ID is theologically minimalist, making no presuppositions about any gods). Etc.

Good day.

Brian Sandefur 12 years, 8 months ago

wendt, perhaps a better way to say that is that we're talking past each other, and our discussion is not productive in the least. I'd rather spend my time discussing things like the co-option proposal with avhjmlk, or potential evolutionary precursors to the flagellum (the TTSS for example), etc. Much more profitable.

hobb2264 12 years, 8 months ago

wendt and ultimate175-

You are both obviously two very intelligent individuals when it comes to biology. I (as well as others, I'm sure) have watched this same debate in two separate instances. However, the debate seems to get stuck at the same point - this issue of flagellum and "irreducably complex" systems.

I feel like I've read ultimate175's position very clearly. My question is, how does evolutionary theory explain the gradual random evolution of the flagellum? It appears (based on ultimate175's posts) that ID scientists are saying that it would not exist if any one of these proteins is missing. That implies an all or nothing scenario rather than a gradual random scenario. Help me to understand...

Brian Sandefur 12 years, 8 months ago

hobb, great point. To expand on that, it would be more precise to ask whether or not one thinks unguided natural processes resulted in the evolution of EVERYTHING biological. It certainly accounts for some things. The question is can it account for everything.

Brian Sandefur 12 years, 8 months ago

hobb, I think your understanding of what is required for the flagellum to function is right on.

Brian Sandefur 12 years, 8 months ago

The function of the flagellum is bacterial motility. The rigorous determination of irreducible complexity is done at the protein/gene level. When any protein, or gene product is missing, the flagellum fails to fulfil it's function (a selectable function no less), which is to move the bacterium around. Knock-out experiments - purely empirical, are used to make this determination. I can't state it any clearer.

avhjmlk 12 years, 8 months ago

If you read my comment to mean that I think a flagellum changed from having 38 to 39 proteins, that's not what I said. What I said was, and I was asking a question, is it possible that, through evolution, the 39th protein changed through random mutation. And, through that random mutation, the new protein structure/function made the flagellum more successful as an organism?

Secondly, my belief in God doesn't put me in the ID camp. I never said that I think God is telling the organisms how to evolve, for the same reason that I believe God does not make choices for us, and also allows us to make the choices we make without stopping us from making poor or destructive choices. Saying that I believe that God knew what was going to happen does not equate with saying God made all those things happen throug affirmative direction on His part. That's the great thing about omniscience and omnipotence. You can see and know things that other people/beings/whoever can't see or know. Knowing is not the same thing as forcing.

Brian Sandefur 12 years, 8 months ago

avhjmlk, the flagellum is part of an organism, not an organism itself. The point is that there wouldn't be a pre-flagellar conglomeration of 39 proteins, because those 39 proteins would have no function, and provide no benefit to survival/reproduction.

If a flagellum did function with 39 proteins, then yes, it would be conceivable that a mutation could fold in a 40th protein, and make it more efficient/successful, etc. However I don't even know if I'd call that scenario "plausible", considering the marvelous construction of the flagellum.

For those that don't know, it is a literal motor. It has a rotor, stator, drive shaft, u-joint, propeller, feedback loop. Turns at 100,000 rpm, can reverse direction in a 1/4 turn. Amazing machine.

hobb2264 12 years, 8 months ago


But you said "God got it started"....please explain what you meant by that. That implies creation and / or design in my mind.

b_asinbeer 12 years, 8 months ago


Intelligent Design that is being debated IS a christian ideal....please do not try to sell it like it's not one. Or are you telling me that ID will be covered from all the angles? How about the angle of the Buddhists? How about the way the Koran says it? What about the Shinto Gods in Japan? After all, according to Shinto tradition, the numerous islands of Japan were created when one of the Gods sneezed (look it up if you don't believe me). Unless ID will cover all the bases....quite a number of groups in Kansas will be unhappy.

"ID is neither a Christian ideal, nor is it being proposed to be taught in Kansas schools." So, if Intelligent Design is not being proposed to be taught in schools across Kansas, why is it that our BOE is discussing it? Were they bored? Did they have nothing better to do?

By the way, you never did answer....did you read the Koran? Yes or no, please. Answer that, then we'll talk.

"Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job." 9/2/2005

MoreThanUltimate 12 years, 8 months ago


Your Peer Paper on ID as critiqued by

Link to entire article at the botom of this post.

This is the opening paragraph, I invite you to read it. This is one of many critiques on the peer paper you cited several days ago.

Review of Meyer, Stephen C. 2004. The origin of biological information and the higher taxonomic categories. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 117(2):213-239.

by Alan Gishlick, Nick Matzke, and Wesley R. Elsberry

[The views and statements expressed here are our own and not necessarily those of NCSE or its supporters.]

"Intelligent design" (ID) advocate Stephen C. Meyer has produced a "review article" that folds the various lines of "intelligent design" antievolutionary argumentation into one lump. The article is published in the journal Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. We congratulate ID on finally getting an article in a peer-reviewed biology journal, a mere fifteen years after the publication of the 1989 ID textbook Of Pandas and People, a textbook aimed at inserting ID into public schools. It is gratifying to see the ID movement finally attempt to make their case to the only scientifically relevant group, professional biologists. This is therefore the beginning (not the end) of the review process for ID. Perhaps one day the scientific community will be convinced that ID is worthwhile. Only through this route - convincing the scientific community, a route already taken by plate tectonics, endosymbiosis, and other revolutionary scientific ideas - can ID earn a legitimate place in textbooks.

Unfortunately, the ID movement will likely ignore the above considerations about how scientific review actually works, and instead trumpet the paper from coast to coast as proving the scientific legitimacy of ID. Therefore, we would like to do our part in the review process by providing a preliminary evaluation of the claims made in Meyer's paper. Given the scientific stakes, we may assume that Meyer, Program Director of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, the major organization promoting ID, has put forward the best case that ID has to offer. Discouragingly, it appears that ID's best case is not very good. We cannot review every problem with Meyer's article in this initial post, but we would like to highlight some of the most serious mistakes. These include errors in facts and reasoning. Even more seriously, Meyer's paper omits discussion or even citation of vast amounts of directly relevant work available in the scientific literature.

I point you to: to finish the article.

scottjp 12 years, 8 months ago

ultimate175: "Removing a protein, and ending up with a non-functional system has severe implications for Darwinian explanations, since Darwinian evolution's main engine is to gradually improve existing systems incrementally one step at a time."

Actually, Darwin's theories do not really state that evolution happens to gradually improve existing systems one step at a time. Rather, the theory states that changes happen, and the changes that help an organism survive better will be more likely to reproduce and survive in the future. The changes that do not promote this tend to die or become sterile in some cases, therefore, not reproducing as much/as well, and the change/characteristic does not present itself in the future. In short, there are not only 'good' changes.

I also do not see why the idea of flagella is being used so much. Having my degree in biology, I know the specifics of flagella. But...there is one more thing I know, and that is where I came from; my father's sperm (which I'm glad had a flagellum), and my mother's egg. These are the only two places in which I came from (two haploid cells coming together) not by a designer. Maybe I'm at a disadvantage because other people in the world were designed, I don't know.

avhjmlk 12 years, 8 months ago

Sorry for the delay.

Yes, I believe that God could create a process like evolution. ID'ers do not believe, from what I understand, that evolution as it is currently understood/structured is correct. I believe that, from what we currently understand, evolution is the best and most reasoned explanation. That does not prevent me from believing that God would allow the universe's organisms to develop and change through the process we know as evolution. Who BUT God is "smart enough" to come up with a process like evolution? Whatever gaps there are in evolution's chain of events are gaps that we just aren't capable of understanding in our human imperfection. Those gaps do not prove that evolution, as we understand it, is incorrect or misguided.

I believe in evolution because I believe in science and the scientific method. I believe in evolution the same way I believe in free will. God knows what we are going to do, but He still lets us choose that path. He knows what's going to happen, but that doesn't mean he came up with every step of that path.

MoreThanUltimate 12 years, 8 months ago

*Posted by ultimate175 (anonymous) on August 24, 2005 at 4:02 p.m. (Suggest removal)

"Regarding peer review, I can think of three ID articles that have been published in the last few months - one in the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, one in Rivista de Biologia (Italian biology journal), and one in Protein Science. If you're interested in them, I'll post links. Let me know."

Well Ultimate175 Guess you can't respond to my earlier post showing your first of three "peer" papers to be junk... Way to go! If you would like I can point you to the laughability of your other two "peer" papers you think are held in high regard.

Let this be a lesson to all that read this. Ultimate175 is a fraud, just like the ID theory; twisted logic, omission of proven scientific theory and no scientific validity of ID theory. Guess the National Science Foundation and the other 100 science organizations (in the U.S.) and 38 Nobels have got it all wrong...


Wendt: You rule, baby!

Brian Sandefur 12 years, 8 months ago

morethanultimate, I pointed people to panda's thumb many posts up this thread myself. Do you think I haven't read the critiques of ID there? For several responses to Matzke and Ellsberry regarding Meyer's paper, see here:

This paper was reviewed by three evolutionary biologists prior to publication. The fact that other scientists don't like doesn't mean it wasn't meritorious. Also, the fact that there is a "response" at panda's thumb doesn't mean the response is sufficient.

Brian Sandefur 12 years, 8 months ago

wendt, nice description of the evolutionary process:

"A good question. Science / evolution does not make a statement regarding the ultimate (beginning of time) origin of where a flagellum (or any other organ) comes from.

What science says is that there is this process, called evolution, we noticed happens in species over generations.

The offspring of creature change from their parents. They are different.

What causes these changes can be external and/or internal factors. Most of the time, it's both.

These changes can determine if the changes are passed (or not passed on) to the next generation. If the change helps the species to survive, then the species will have an advantage in passing it's genetic information on to the next generation.

Or not. A change that has no effect one way or another will get passed on if the gene is expressed in the next generation. It will not if the gene is not expressed in the next generation. I'm referring to dominant / recessive traits here."

What you have just described has been demonstrated to produce nothing but rather trivial changes in genomes and organisms. Extrapolating this data to support the claim that these same processes are capable of producing everything in biology is irresponsible, and it where ID parts ways with standard evolutionary theory. You mentioned in an earlier post that there is no conjecture in evolution. Hardly.

Finch beak variation, bacterial resistance to antibiotics, and children looking different than their parents are not exactly persuasive examples of the creative power of evolutionary processes.

Brian Sandefur 12 years, 8 months ago

wendt said:

"Again you bounce between levels of structure when pressed. Is the irreducibility at the level of the functional flagellum or at a finer level?


Your argument for the protein level:

from Posted by ultimate175 (anonymous) on September 22, 2005 at 4:56 p.m.

"The rigorous determination of irreducible complexity is done at the protein/gene level."


Your argument for the organ level:

Posted by ultimate175 (anonymous) on September 22, 2005 at 9:53 a.m.

"A mousetrap is irreducible because you can't remove the base, and still maintain function (or any other part). Same goes for the flagellum.""

Well this is a toughy. I have no idea why this analogy was lost on you, but the levels of structure are identical - i.e. at the level of functional flagellum, using it's constituent proteins (i.e. it's parts) in the evaluation. Likewise, the moustrap analogy was another discreet, well defined system, evaluated at it's functional level (catching mice), using it's "parts" in the evaluation (base, catch, spring, latch, etc.).

Brian Sandefur 12 years, 8 months ago


I understand full well the process of evolution. I know "changes happen". I know that beneficial mutations (i.e. those that provide an advantage in reproduction) have a better chance of spreading through a population, and I also know that neutral mutations can also be preserved. However, by it's nature, evolution is still a gradual process. Darwin made this clear in "Origin", and it has been well accepted within evolutionary theory since (with perhaps the exception of punctuated equilibrium). Consider this statement from Darwin (I'm paraphrasing as I don't have the book in front of me at the moment):

"If it could be demonstrated that any organ or structure could not have been formed by numerous, slight, successive modifications, my theory would absolutely break down."

In fact, those biologists who have proposed large scale changes in quick steps have been scolded and ridiculed (see Goldschmidt).

But the question remains, given the nature of the flagellum, and your knowledge of biology, how would evolutionary processes be able to produce it?

Also, it is obvious extant flagella, bacteria, dogs, and you and me are produced each generation via reproduction of the genetic code. No one is saying each instance is a specific instance of a designer intervening. The point is explaining the origin of the code, and the parts (flagella, bacteria, dogs, you and me) it produces. Not sure what your point is, because evolutionary theory does the same thing - explaining the origins.

Brian Sandefur 12 years, 8 months ago

wendt's comments in quotes:

"I don't mind that you don't believe in evolution. What I mind is your disingenuous dancing / backpedeling when someone shows you that you are wrong. It shows that you are not sincere about learning."

First, I do "believe" in evolution. Mutations happen, some are preserved and passed along, others are not. However I also "believe" that evolution is limited in it's creative abilities. I see no data indicating that it can produce anything but relatively trivial changes within genomes. So my problem is not evolution, my problem is extrapolating that data to support the claim that evolutionary processes can produce it all. There is no justfication - from data - to do so.

Please provide a specific instance where I have back pedaled on something.

"Your boy Dembski is making a career out of getting kicked out of prestigious schools. First Notre Dame, then Baylor. (And Baylor is a very conservative christian school too!!!)"

This is a classic ad hominem for all to see. The appropriate way to attack Dembski would be to engage his ideas, not his resume. By the way, your description of his job history is "simplistic" at best.

"It's also indicative of your skills in logic that you imply that Intelligent Design is not at odds with Evolution."

See my comment above in this post. Evolutionary processes certainly operate. ID is perfectly willing to accept, and even postulate, evolutionary explanations where the data warrant it. This is easily discovered by reading Behe (gives an account of systems he thinks evolution could produce in Darwin's Black Box), Dembski (discusses in detail the shuffling around of complex, specified information that evolutionary processes can handle in No Free Lunch and The Design Inference), and many others.

"Yup, I'm silly enough to think that the Intelligent Design movement is trying to get the teaching of Evolution out of schools."

Well then perhaps you'd like to substantiate that thought with some examples of where that's happening. And before you cite Kansas, make sure you do your due diligence. The fact is that nowhere is anyone associated with ID advocating removing evolution from schools.

Brian Sandefur 12 years, 8 months ago

morethanultimate said:

"Well Ultimate175 Guess you can't respond to my earlier post showing your first of three "peer" papers to be junk... Way to go! If you would like I can point you to the laughability of your other two "peer" papers you think are held in high regard."

Please do.

Brian Sandefur 12 years, 8 months ago

wendt said:

"What an interesting statement!!!! Ultimate175 is now saying that "Intelligent Design" made a universe that has no order and does not have a purpose.

Or there are parts of the universe that are designed and there are parts that are not designed?"

First, it should be noted that my arguments for ID have been limited to biology, and I have not made any points relative to cosmology or astronomy.

Second, in my previous posts I've been clear that evolutionary processes are real processes that operate, and they can account for some things. Therefore, I have been consistent in my position, and saying that some things have been designed while others have not is not contradictory in the least.

wendt's position seems to be one, once again, lacking any philosphical sophistication, because he/she has dichotomized explanations - it's either all evolution, or it's all design. I suspect this comes from her conflation of ID with creationism, which essentially holds that everything in this world was created by the Judeo Christian God. A basic study of this debate will show that such a dichotomization is not appropriate.

Brian Sandefur 12 years, 8 months ago

To anyone reading that is truly interested in learning more about this debate, and moving beyond stereotypes:

Normally I would leave it to you to make your judgement without my input, however in this instance I'd like to point out, as I did a few days ago in the last discussion, the tone of argument.

I have probably been defensive in many instances, but I think ad hominem attacks and other fallacious arguments (i.e. equating ID with creationism so that religious rebuttals can still be used) have been avoided on my part. I've tried to stick to relevant scientific points where I think evolutionary explanations fail, and I've tried to be specific as to why.

With the exception of suggesting wendt take a philosphy of science class (primarily because of his/her continual conflation of ID and creationism, and his/her repeated use of the word "prove"), I've also tried not to make disparaging remarks about his/her eductation, intellect, etc. Nor have I made disparaging remarks about the theory (evolution) he/she is advocating, but only given valid reasons why I think it's explanatory scope is limited.

Contrast this with wendt's arguments. He/she belittles my intellect, my education (which by the way he/she makes way too many assumptions about), my logic, my integrity, my willingness and desire to learn, my disenginuity, my argumentative skills, etc. He/she also refers to ID as "bullsh*t" explanations, followed by eloquent "HAHAHAHAHAHA"'s. He/she even claimed that he/she was my "better".

Now, I don't point this out because it bothers me. I point it out because it is fairly standard fare in this business. Ad hominem attacks, straw man fallacies, condescension - all are typical rhetorical tools used to argue against ID. You may also find ID proponents engaging in this fallacious argumentation as well, but not nearly as much.

I encourage everyone genuinely interested and reading to consider this sort of thing - and why these tactics would be used - when evaluating ID and evolution.

Brian Sandefur 12 years, 8 months ago

wendt says:

"You have to be rigorous when describing a flagellum. Which species does the flagellum come from? Is the flagellum a better, more capable cilia? Is a flagella a rudimentary tail?"

E. coli is the most recognizable species with the flagellum, but there are other species as well.

No, the flagellum is not a "more capable cilia".

And no, it is not a rudimentary tail. If you'd like to know more about the flagellum, see here (not an ID site):

Densmore 12 years, 8 months ago


You've made an earnest effort to explain your views and although I don't see things your way, I appreciate the robust discussion and have learned many things. Now, here's some friendly advice: give it a rest. This has turned into an arm-wrestling contest between you and wendt. Call a cease-fire and have a conflict-free weekend. Seriously.

Best Wishes, Densmore

Brian Sandefur 12 years, 8 months ago

Thanks Densmore. I was planning on giving it rest after 5 pm. yesterday when I signed off and said good bye.

But then I came in to work today, and wendt had sent me 2 emails overnight. I thought they deserved a response (at least some parts of them), and decided to respond to other worthwhile comments while I was here.

Thanks again for the civil discussion..

MoreThanUltimate 12 years, 8 months ago


On Rivista de Biologia:

Also from for peer papers on ID see paragraph:

Additional criticisms of ID

Scientific peer review

Have others too, but you get the pont I'm sure...

Brian Sandefur 12 years, 8 months ago

Did you read these two links?

First of all they link to a blog, not any formal review paper. The first one isn't about Wells' paper at all, but attacks the publishing journal. I suppose we could call that an institutional case of ad hominem fallacy.

The second one doesn't dispute any of the material in Wells' paper, but only notes - as a blogger - that he doesn't find the paper all that interesting for ID.

MoreThanUltimate 12 years, 8 months ago


Did you read them either? Duhhh...

Didn't comment about the first link which completely blows holes in that paper...

Didn't look at the third link that firmly describes the peer papers currently presented as bogus at best.

Also try the National Science Foundation website... Or are they also wrong?

Backpeddling again I see. Typical ID style.

Face it, the overwhelming majority of the science community agree that ID is NOT science. It won't be even close until ID is supported by actual, real scientific method which it still has not shown or proven by any accepted standard.

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