Intelligent Design and Common Descent


(Dan Eastwood) #101

4 posts were merged into an existing topic: Greg on the Forum

(Timothy Horton) #102

(facepalm) First you claimed there no objective evidence for evolution. When we point out this is just wrong and there is plenty of empirical evidence you move the goal posts to “empirical evidence doesn’t give the philosophical basis for the changes”.

The way ID is presented now it does. ID is a completely negative argument based on ignorance i.e. “science can’t explain this in sufficient detail for me therefore My DESIGNER did it!”. That’s called the God-Of-The-Gaps argument and was rejected by science over 300 years ago.

(Bill Cole) #103

What is the scientific explanation for life’s diversity? Universal common descent?

(Timothy Horton) #104

We have a HUGE amount of evidence for evolution beyond universal common descent. We have plenty of evidence for just common descent between various taxa. We have the mechanisms, we have the timelines, we have the genetic and morphological evidence. For some reason you reject all of that evidence.

Why are so reluctant to tell us if you think tigers and house cats share a common ancestor and why you have the opinion you do?

(Bill Cole) #105

State the hypothesis clearly and show how you can demonstrate this to a high confidence level. You say you have lots of evidence. Demonstrate you have it and understand it.

(Timothy Horton) #106

I asked you Bill. IN YOUR OPINION do tigers and housecats share a common ancestor, and what scientific reasons do you have for your answer.

The more you evade the simple question the weaker your anti-evolution claims look.

(Timothy Horton) #108

That is due to you lack of scientific understanding, not a lack of the overwhelming amount of objective scientific evidence for common descent.

(Retired Minister) #111

Science (outside of the field of mathematics) does NOT involve proof and doesn’t measure “100 percent truth”!

You should know this, Greg, as a scientist involved in cancer research.

(Ann Gauger) #112


George, you continue to put words into my mouth. Everything in brackets you inserted in the above "quote"is definitely a complete misunderstanding and misrepresentation of what I am saying.

I have not seen the Behe video you reference so I can’t say what position he expressed. He has previously said that something like front-loading might be possible, but i don’t know that he has ever said that “is” the way it happened.
I don’t think front-loading is possible. So now you have it.

But as for the rest:
When I say I do not know the proportion that various scenarios played in the course of evolution (meaning change over time in life’s history) I meant that I genuinely do not know whether shared sequence between organisms of related lineages is due to common descent (a shared genetic history) or common design (common functional requirements). I do not know how much apparent relatedness in protein families, for example, is genuinely explainable by mutation, selection, and drift, and how much had to be guided. What is within reach of purely material processes, and what is not.

My thinking on this topic has evolved over the last several years. ID needs answers to similarity of sequence where there is no common function. I am being very honest here. I have argued that pseudo genes are the same between species because they have a common function, but we have only a few examples of where that is known to be true and thousands (millions?) of shared pseudogenes. ERVs the same. New insertions of Alus in primates that are shared etc. I have claimed it could all be due to common function. That could be true. But that was putting a great deal of weight on little evidence.

I began to rethink this with the vitellogenin pseudogene story. There is very little sequence similarity between chicken vitellogenin gene and the same stretch of DNA in humans. EXCEPT there are a few patches with significant similarity, significantly more than would be predicted by chance. Unless there are functions for those patches, there is no reason other than common descent for that similarity to be there. Believe me, I am not comfortable with this, but I can’t ignore it. I have to be able to explain all the evidence, or at least admit there are some things I can’t account for.

I have said here, I believe, that four neutral mutations before reaching a novel function is beyond reach of evolutionary processes (meaning mutation, selection, and drift). That is true if it had to be those four mutations in combination. But of course the response is, why should it have to be those four? That is an interesting question. An argument could be made that we see lots of cases where the same mutations occur independently in response to the same challenge, as if there was only one way to solve the problem. This is an important question and should not be ignored. If there are only a few paths forward, that reduces the probability of finding the right path.

Excuse me? See above.

George, I have run into this with you before. You twist yourself into a knot by imputing things to me that aren’t so. I said I don’t know. And you say I deny existing academic evidence. It is precisely because of the evidence that I don’t know. You owe me an apology.

(Ann Gauger) #113


Can you point me to where you said it, or repeat it? Following all these threads gets me snarled sometimes.

Best to you too.

(Ann Gauger) #114


Thanks for the thoughtful comment. I think we can make an argument for design rather than naturalistic evolution (reserving the term evolution to mean change over time by any means) by at least one means.

Based on population genetics in bacteria like E coli, which is pretty near a best case scenario due to population size, mutation rate and generation time, getting four neutral mutations before reaching a novel function is beyond reach of evolutionary processes (meaning mutation, selection, and drift). That is true if it had to be those four mutations in combination. But of course the response is, why should it have to be those four? That is an interesting question. An argument could be made that we see lots of cases where the same mutations occur independently in response to the same challenge, as if there was only one way to solve the problem. This is an important question and should not be ignored. If there are only a few paths forward, that reduces the probability of finding the right path.

(Ann Gauger) #115

I am working on a response to this.

(Edward Robinson) #116

@george brooks

This is a good reply by Ann Gauger to George Brooks.

Generally speaking, when Person A doesn’t understand Person B, the best approach is to ask Person B specific questions about Person B’s views on specific points, rather than to impute views to Person B that put Person B into the position of having to say, “No, I didn’t say that, and I didn’t mean that.” Thus, “How do your views on common descent differ from Michael Behe’s?” would be a more constructive line of approach than, “You appear to argue for view X, but that would be against all scientific evidence.”

Beyond that general comment, I add this to Dr. Gauger’s remarks:

Yes, this is exactly how I have always understood Behe’s remarks along this line: as the entertainment of a logical possibility rather than an advocacy of that particular suggestion. An omnipotent, all-wise Designer could have made a universe such that it had to produce a set of inevitable results via an evolutionary process. In such a case, all evolutionary outcomes would be designed outcomes, and there would be no conflict between “evolution” and “design”. Behe allows that such could be the case. And something along this line is put forward in Nature’s Destiny by Michael Denton.

Against this view – and this is not a theological but an empirical objection – is the view that in nature as we have it (not as it might have been constructed), there is much indeterminacy, too much indeterminacy for any initial position of matter and energy to infallibly determine all future evolutionary outcomes. In other words, God could have made a rigorously deterministic universe, but it appears based on evidence that he didn’t. Thus, the idea of a perfect pool shot, which sinks all the balls in perfect order, i.e., produces exactly the set of species we have now based on the initial configuration of forces in the Big Bang, must be ruled out on empirical grounds.

It may be – though Dr. Gauger would have to speak for herself – that this is the difficulty she has in mind when she writes “I don’t think front-loading is possible.”

Of course, one can modify the pool-shot analogy a bit, to try to bring it more into conformity with the indeterminism of nature. (And I’m not speaking only of quantum indeterminism, though that, too, would be included.) For example, one could argue that no pool shot could guarantee exactly the species we have on the earth, emerging at exactly the time they did in the universe’s history, but that the general tendencies of the laws of physics, chemistry, geology, etc. is to produce a large number of planets capable of sustaining life, and that sooner or later, on one of those planets, a primate something very much like man would arise. So the inevitability would be something more general, rather than calculated to the precise details of time, place, coloration of feathers, height of various primates, etc.

It may be that Denis Lamoureux and Conway Morris understand evolution in this sense, i.e., as a process which involved no divine interventions, but is still intelligently designed to produce, by a combination of natural laws and probability, certain general outcomes. (Even Denton’s account doesn’t demand a rigid determinism of time, place, and detail.) If we are willing to relax the Laplacean determinism implied in the pool-shot analogy, then a “front-loaded” scenario might still be possible. This is probably why Behe is unwilling to entirely rule out front-loading; he probably doesn’t want to dogmatize.

As for the rest of Dr. Gauger’s post, I find it admirable. She admits what she does not know, and she admits that there is evidence that could count against the idea of design as well as evidence that could count for it. I wish that those on the materialist/atheist side of these debates would more often show a similar intellectual balance. Complaints have been made here and elsewhere that Evolution News and Views columns on Discovery are partisan and lack balance; but the columns that most lack balance are most often those written by non-scientists. Here we have Dr. Gauger admitting to possible weaknesses in ID. I believe that Dr. Gauger is showing us ID done with proper intent: an effort to discern whether there is design in nature, how much design is in nature, etc., based always on empirical evidence. I think that the better ID writings have always tried to do this, even if some of the “institutional” writing we see on Discovery or on Uncommon Descent tends more to culture war style than the style of scientific inquiry.

And to be fair, the “institutional” style of writing we see in Evolution News and Views is not unique to Discovery; all advocacy organizations have developed analogous styles of writing, including BioLogos, the NCSE, etc. The detachment of genuine investigation of nature tends to get lost when the debate is between advocacy groups and cultural camps, rather than between thoughtful and open-minded individuals who are just trying to understand what nature is telling us.

(Blogging Graduate Student) #117

If you cover it, I’d be especially interested in your thoughts on the properties of orphan genes, and what they might tell us about their origin. Things like the fact that they’re generally shorter and more disordered than shared genes.

(Ann Gauger) #118

I wasn’t planning on going into their characteristics, but rather into why ID scientists think they are important. But if you could give some references I would be grateful.



(George) #119


I would answer the 101st time you’ve said this same meaningless thing… but you really shouldnt even be on this blog without moderation and i have you on my Do Not Disturb list.

(George) #120

I can apologize if you better explain what Im apologizing for: you say it is because of the evidence that you dont know.

Which evidence makes it difficult to determine a rough proportion of the Miraculous-Only vs. Miraculous-but-Still-Just-Natural ?

@swamidass has access to the same evidence and he concludes that the proportion is: de novo Adam/Eve vs. Evolution of the rest of humanity and all other non-human life forms.

So, if you tell me what evidence makes you choose differently than Dr Behe (who does NOT affirm de novo Adam), OR differently than Dr Swamidass (who does), I will know why I am apologizing. Thanks!

(George) #122

You must be confusing my posts with someone else. Quote me where i said that, or whatever comes the closest!

(Retired Minister) #123

I thought Dr. Swmidass’ position is that he allows for de novo Adam/Eve (as a legitimate position of others) but does not claim that the scientific evidence or the scriptural evidence demand it. I thought his main point was that nothing in science rules out de novo Adam/Eve.

Am I wrong?

(Blogging Graduate Student) #124

These 4 are good IMO.

  • Wilson, B. A., Foy, S. G., Neme, R., & Masel, J. (2017). Young genes are highly disordered as predicted by the preadaptation hypothesis of de novo gene birth. Nature Ecology & Evolution, 1(6), 0146.
  • Tretyachenko, V., Vymětal, J., Bednárová, L., Kopecký, V., Hofbauerová, K., Jindrová, H., … Hlouchová, K. (2017). Random protein sequences can form defined secondary structures and are well-tolerated in vivo. Scientific Reports, 7(1).
  • Schmitz, J. F., Ullrich, K. K., & Bornberg-Bauer, E. (2018). Incipient de novo genes can evolve from frozen accidents that escaped rapid transcript turnover. Nature Ecology and Evolution, 2, 1626–1632.
  • Vakirlis, N., Hebert, A. S., Opulente, D. A., Achaz, G., Hittinger, C. T., Fischer, G., … Lafontaine, I. (2018). A molecular portrait of de novo genes in yeasts. Molecular Biology and Evolution, 35(3), 631–645.