Eddie and ID books

I gave the latter a try and largely devoid of content. Your mileage may vary.

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No, it wasn’t. Your initial offer was to discuss any flaws in the Book.

A charitable interpretation would be that you forgot what you had written, and didn’t see it quoted at the top of the thread.

You could instead give people an excuse for reading it, by highlighting any good points.

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That’s consistent with my impressions from the dust jacket-level description online. It doesn’t help that I think vitalism is goofy. And it’s interesting to see that this kind of conversation has already happened, 2 years ago. This suggests that @Eddie isn’t quite right about our community’s interest in reading ID work. But my interest remains in that second book of Turner’s and I’m still up for a book clubby thing as long as I get some reassurance that the book doesn’t turn out to be as vacuous as that vitalism one seems to be.

Speaking of what it means for a book to be vacuous, one ID tome I read and reviewed was Nature’s Destiny by Michael Denton. Loudly and triumphantly trumpeted as a history-making world-changing scholarly achievement, it is in fact vacuous and has had exactly the scholarly impact that we should expect from a stack of reheated leftovers from a tedious meal of Platonism served a century before. It’s the kind of ID book that is not dishonest but is also not worthy of a detailed consideration. Its take-home message is straightforward and IMO uninteresting. If Turner’s arguments are similar, then reading his book won’t be an infuriating slog through toxic bullshit, but it also won’t be a thought-provoking exploration of ideas about design. I’m staying optimistic, but I hope I’m making my expectations somewhat clear.

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You beg the question by presuming it has any good points worth discussing. While, at the same time, providing yourself with a ready excuse to weasel out of your previous offer.

Nothing more to see here.

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I did remember that Glipsnort was the only person willing to try to read at least part of Turner’s book, instead of simply denouncing it as wrong or not worth reading based on hearsay. I give him points for at least trying, though his comments, if I recall, were wholly negative, and the book, while far from perfect, deserved some credit for raising some interesting questions on the borders of philosophy and biology. I got the feeling at the time from Glipsnort’s remarks that he not only thought the book contained technical errors but that even the broader issues and questions raised in the book weren’t worth raising. That part of his reaction I found more disappointing than any actual technical criticisms. But it’s almost uniformly the reaction that I’ve seen to “big picture” books from those whose main interest in evolutionary theory is population genetics. On the other hand, paleontologists, such as Gould or Conway Morris, often seem more interested in the bigger questions. (When I was in high school and first year of university, deciding on a major, paleontology and animal classification were two of my big interests, but the vast majority of biology and biochemistry majors that I rubbed shoulders with for four years of undergrad (they remained my social circle even after I switched to humanities stuff) were uninterested in things like that.

Turner’s book did not defend classical vitalism, but only vitalism in a modified sense. I myself found the line of thought questionable at points, but at least the book was interesting to people interested in wider questions raised by evolutionary biology. That’s more than can be said for a good number of books and articles written about evolution, which are clearly in-house specialist shop talk only. And this is a general discussion group, including many from sciences outside of biology and many from outside the natural sciences altogether, e.g., people in computer science, people with degrees in Classics, business, psychology, philosophy, theology, etc. So books or articles that bridge fields are potentially useful.

As for Denton, I don’t think he was trying for “scholarly impact.” He was writing a book for a general audience – albeit a general audience with some scientific education. But he did make a good case for the existence of fine-tuning (a notion he has developed in more details in four more books since), and he did show that one could argue for design in nature without arguing for miraculous intervention. You know, Carl Sagan wasn’t trying for “scholarly impact” when he produced Intelligent Life in the Universe (with Shklovskii), but that doesn’t mean that the book was not worth reading back in its day. Sagan’s book, with its Big Bang-to-Man perspective, was (along with Robert Jastrow’s writing) my Bible back in those days. (My high school days.) I would reread such things again and again, the way a fundamentalist would reread Genesis, or The Genesis Flood. (In fact, whenever I could find fundamentalists to debate with, I would hit them with Sagan or Jastrow or Asimov.)

The general literate public is always going to be more interested in books about evolution that give evolution some broader significance, as opposed to books that do nothing but talk about mechanisms at the minute, technical level.

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I don’t actually care whether nor anyone here reads it. If you recall, it came into the discussion when some people here pretended that it was just the Pandas book with a minor facelift; my main point was that it was almost a totally new book, even though also published (initially) by FTE. And in that new form, it was definitely an ID book, not a creationist book. Anyone who takes the time to read it will see that, though I doubt any here will do so.

And yes, I did say initially that I would discuss flaws, but later added context to that, indicating that I would consider flaws after being convinced that people had a good idea of the overall argument of the book. You know, it’s a complete waste of time discussing Meyer’s Signature in the Cell with Mercer, because the only topic he wants to discuss in the book is whether or not Meyer misnamed a molecule on one page of the 500 pages in the book. Similarly, it would be a waste of time to discuss the alleged “error” that Puck thinks he has found in two paragraphs of the Dembski-Wells book, without first trying to assess whether the book overall has any merits. And to do the latter, one has to read the book, not just “erroneous” passages cherry-picked by known-to-be-hostile reviewers like Puck.

Wow. That is a truly spectacular misrepresentation, Eddie.

Meyer misrepresented the strongest evidence for the RNA World hypothesis, to which he devoted an entire chapter of his book. They (and you) cannot come up with an ID explanation for that relic. Dembski and Wells made the same misrepresentation in the book you’re recommending.

The demonstration that the core of the ribosome is entirely RNA won the Nobel Prize in 2009 for its evolutionary and biomedical importance.

And your description of the ribosome as “a molecule” is objectively false. Do you really not know that ribosomes are composed of rRNAs and more than 80 proteins? If not, you’ve established that you have a less-than-Wikipedia understanding of the ribosome.

That suggests a lot about the accuracy and quality of books you’re recommending.

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Puck had nothing good to say about the book. To someone with @Eddie’s mentality, that is prima facie evidence of bias. Eddie will not consider the possibility that the book might actually just be that awful.

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No merits? The Mendelssohn review refuted every single point made in the book?

I was not referring to the ribosome as a totality, but to peptidyl transferase, which you went on and on about. It’s an enzyme (an aminoacyltransferase enzyme to be exact), and enzymes are proteins, and proteins are biomolecules or macromolecules. My terminology was correct. It’s bad enough that you are a pedant who tries to catch people out on tiny “errors”, but a least you could be an accurate pedant.

Even if Meyer’s alleged “error” regarding this molecule destroyed the entire argument of its chapter – which it didn’t – it didn’t destroy the entire argument of his book – a fact which you have routinely evaded. In fact, I can’t recall anything, in the thousands of words your wrote against Meyer’s book on BioLogos or here, about any flaw in his book other than this one. This is why it could never be profitable to discuss books with you. You simply seem to be unaware of how scholars discuss and review books. They don’t seize on one error and say, “Therefore this book is worthless.” They don’t just go through books looking for flaws in hopes of being able to dismiss everything an author says or argues. They read with open minds and bend over backwards to make sure they are giving the author a fair chance to make his case. Only when this scrupulous fairness is observed can the motivations of the reviewer be trusted.

Lack of good points in The Design of Life noted.

So, Amazon will now publish as reviews 1000-page tomes?

When @Puck_Mendelssohn says “no merits”, I am happy to grant that he has considered every single point, and provided an accurate summary of his evaluations. @Eddie, if you beg to differ, then maybe you could provide @Puck_Mendelssohn with an aspect of the book that has merit.

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I do encounter that quite often. But it does raise the question: what should one say when a book truly is horrendous? Do horrendous books have a kind of immunity from criticism: that nobody can say they are horrendous because to say so is to betray fatal bias? I can’t think that that makes a great deal of sense.

And publications by the DI’s principal authors really do fall in that category, again and again. It needn’t be so. For example, if Stephen Meyer had wanted to write an educational book about the Cambrian explosion, AND include his bizarre take on the explosion therein, one could praise the educational content and pan the pseudoscientific garbage. But when the presentation on the Cambrian explosion is so highly dishonest as it is in Darwin’s Doubt, surely the fact that some isolated sentences in the book here and there make true, and genuinely educational, statements about the Cambrian explosion is no vindication of the book in general. Nobody who would like to know anything about the CE would be well advised to read Meyer, when other works are available.

One could sort of reverse-nit-pick a book like The Design of Life, isolating small portions of it which are not wholly false. But what would be the point? If one is assessing the book as a whole, one cannot do that – the book can do no good for anyone except for a student of the rhetorical tactics of pseudoscience, and it is not a lack of objectivity to point that out.

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Peptidyl transferase is the core function of the organelle named the ribosome. You’re still spectacularly wrong and digging yourself deeper in a hole.

You’re also demonstrating why one should not get one’s information from ID books.

Yes, but so what?

Wrong. This enzyme is a ribozyme, not a protein. That’s the whole point, man.

It’s not a protein. The ribosome is not a molecule.

The whole point of this is that it is consistent with being a relic from an RNA World, as predicted. Despite all of the proteins framing it, the entire active site is RNA. It demonstrates how evolution is highly constrained in ways that no omnipotent designer ever could be. It can’t just replace essential functions with better designs.

No, it was not. It is, however, entertaining.

Hilarious.

Wait. Are you saying that the anonymous EN&V author who described it as an error was lying?

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This is just not a reasonable way to counter the critique of the book. I am just one of many (most? nearly all?) here in this conversation who believes that an author can discredit themselves with dishonesty or oblivious ignorance (just two examples of how to do that) and who believes that a book can become worthless by revealing itself to be riddled with falsehood. Your rebuttals now look like pleas for critics to acknowledge the inclusion of complete sentences, and unfortunately your rebuttals lack any content of their own.

Even if Puck is–as I suspect–overstating the degree of awfulness of The Design of Life, he has dealt it a crippling if not fatal blow by quoting a passage that illustrates falsehood so egregious that critics on this thread are struggling to describe how it even came to be. @Eddie, this is really important: falsehoods like that do discredit books, and their authors, and at some point, they discredit people who defend the work. If The Design of Life includes more examples of shit like that, then it is a book that should be exposed as worse than worthless.

Your plea by itself–to give credit where it is due–is not unreasonable. My reviews of ID books have always pointed out things that the authors did well and got right. Maybe there are some good sections in The Design of Life, and maybe there are even some pages that contain interesting explanation or theorizing. That doesn’t mean the book is redeemable. And no one should have to explain that to you.

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The same goes for knowing anything about the RNA World hypothesis, when both books are false on the strongest evidence favoring it.

I’m sure that there are a few passages that we would not find to be misleading! The question is, can Eddie find any?

For Meyer (which I’ve read, @Eddie), we’d find that those parts are sophomoric at best. I’d bet that The Design of Life would be more of the same.

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I stand corrected on that point. Enzymes have generally been classed as proteins, but the ribozyme would be an exception to that. And yes, I do understand that the whole point of the RNA world hypothesis is that RNA can in some cases have some catalytic ability.

But it’s my understanding that peptidyl transferase is essentially a stretch of RNA within the ribosome. Is that correct? And RNA is considered a macromolecule. So it’s not wrong to call it a molecule, and that’s what I was originally defending – my use of the term “molecule.” Of course, if you want to go pedantic again, and say that within the ribosome it’s not called a “molecule” but a “moiety”, well, have it your way.

I didn’t say that it was. I understand it to be an organelle, composed of more than one kind of molecule.

I read that column, long ago. Give me the link to it again. The author did admit that Meyer made a slip, but did the author agree that the slip invalidated Meyer’s entire book? Or even the entire chapter? I have my doubts. But give me the link, and I’ll review it.

My additional point is that reading those books completely misinformed you about a fact that is so important that it won the Nobel Prize.

No, you don’t understand the point in the slightest.

The whole point of the hypothesis is that life was entirely based on RNA catalysis before any protein catalysis arose. That’s why it predicts that we will find incredibly important functions, like the meat of protein synthesis, will still be handled by ribozymes. There’s no reason why an Intelligent Designer would choose a ribozyme for something so important, but evolution can’t replace it. That’s why there is nothing pedantic about my point.

Another question: why are the adapters in protein synthesis RNAs (tRNAs) and not proteins?

You’re moving the goalposts. You are also claiming that this is not important and that peptidyl transferase is a protein. You’ve only retracted one of those false claims.

Neither they nor Meyer put out this falsehood in passing. They base arguments on the false claim.

So, back to the OP, here is the argument they make:

“It follows that without some catalyst that promotes peptide bonds (for amino-acid sequences) or 3-5 phosphodiester linkages (for nucleotide sequences), there can be no materialistic route to proteins, DNA, and RNA.”

The current catalyst does precisely that. It is a ribozyme. Therefore, that “materialistic” route clearly exists.

“But the only catalysts we know capable of handling this task are enzymes and other protein-based products (e.g., the ribosome)”

This was known to be false 7 years before this was published.

You have now admitted that the ribosome is a ribozyme, so this challenge has been met in spades. Will they admit it? Will YOU admit it?

Calling the ribosome “protein-based” is like calling the Mona Lisa “wood-based” because it has a wood frame, while claiming that no one has shown that it is an oil painting. It also suggests deliberate deception to me.

“… and these in turn presuppose the entire DNA-RNA-protein machinery. This machinery, however, is precisely what origin-of-life research may not presuppose but rather must explain.”

And the fact that the ribosome is a ribozyme, with proteins as mere decorations around TWO rRNA cores (one for each subunit), explains that very well. That’s why it’s so important.

So, what’s your ID explanation for this relic?

No, let’s discuss the book whose flaws you said you were more than willing to address instead.

Nice try, but I’m not saying that. I’m saying that it is representative of ID scholarship–when you can’t explain the facts, hide them or blatantly misrepresent them.

Yes, I would say that ignoring the most important evidence necessarily invalidates any chapter claiming to address the RNA World hypothesis.

But then, unlike you, I’ve known that the ribosome is a ribozyme for 20 years, and we suspected it many years before that:

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Yes, I understand it exactly.

Which is exactly the understanding of the RNA world theory that I have, and which I understood from reading Meyer and many other ID writers, as well as non-ID writers.

So you know how such a being would think? Another example of evolutionary thought being based on tacit theological premises.

Only a limited catalytic capacity has been demonstrated for RNA. It’s a long, long way from being established that RNA catalysis explains origins. But then, speculation beyond the data has been evolutionary theory’s stock-in-trade since Darwin, who didn’t even know what the insides of a cell looked like or how inheritance worked, but was certain of his conclusions.

So, you won’t provide the reference that would enable me to answer your question whether the writer of the Discovery column was “lying”?

Interesting. So if you weren’t saying that, why didn’t you clarify that you weren’t saying that when you were asked the question (whether Meyer’s error invalidated more than a few pages of the book) about ten times over about a three-year period on BioLogos? Just being difficult for the sake of being difficult?

That’s not what you wrote.

Because RNA is an inferior catalyst.

False. It literally assembles every protein in your body!

Nice straw man! That suggests that you don’t understand the RNA World hypothesis, then.

Here, we are discussing how ID proponents, whom you claim to be great thinkers, conceal evidence from their readers. It worked very well on you.

I prefer to discuss the glaring flaws of the book mentioned in the title. You said that you were “more than willing” to discuss the flaws IIRC. Shall we?

How many pages was the RNA World chapter, Eddie?

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