Mount Everest and Evolution

Previous topic was locked and I was otherwise occupied, so I’ll continue here:

Eddie Edward Robinson :
Here is why the Mt. Everest analogy doesn’t apply: Everyone agrees that when one mass of matter pushes underneath another mass of matter, the lower mass can push the upper mass upwards. Thus, the formation of mountain ranges via such geological processes is not intrinsically improbable. That’s why no one demands step-by-step detail for a particular mountain, such as Everest; they are content with the general explanation of mountain-range building.

First of all I’m not sure what you mean by “intrinsically improbable”. The Mt Everest is a very specific and particular mountain. There are probably no other mountains exactly like it in the entire observable universe. It is too improbable. There are too many atoms, assuming the universe doesn’t undergo heat-death the forces that would have shaped the Mt Everest exactly like they did will probably not repeat again for an incomprehensible period of time.

But that is exactly why my analogy applies. The underlying principle is the same here. There is nothing in the evolution of molecular complexity that invokes something unusual. The mechanisms are observed and well established: Mutations such as gene duplications, insertions, transpositions, shufflings and so on, all being subject to natural selection.

That “not everyone agrees” is exactly why I bring in the analogy, to argue that you should agree, because in fact they are similar situations, that there is no difference in principle. We know of the kinds of mechanisms that can cause molecular complexity in general. Just like we know of the kinds of mechanisms that can cause mountain ranges in general. So we invoke those mechanisms as the explanation for particular examples. The mechanisms of plate tectonics, erosion and so on in the case of the particular and specific mountain we call the Mt Everest, and the mechanisms of mutation and natural selection for the particular and specific molecular complex we call the bacterial flagellum.

The flagellum’s evolution is not requiring any unobserved or hypothetical mechanism that run contrary to our understanding of molecular biology or evolution. The sorts of mutations that would cause the flagellum to evolve are all observed to happen. Mutations such as gene duplications, substitutions, insertions/deletions, transpositions, shufflings and so on. Exaptation between distinct genomic entities have been observed to happen, to create functional associations between previously disparate genetic elements. And finally natural selection is an empirical reality.

But not everyone agrees that complex, integrated, self-regulating biological systems can arise due to random mutations and natural selection. So naturally, when someone says that a marvelous machine like the flagellum arose due to blind searches for function, a proposal for a stepwise account will be demanded.

And such accounts have been suggested, and they draw on inferences from observed mechanisms in the same way that a demand for a detailed account for the specific structure we call the Mt Everest would have to.

That said, I give Matzke points for courage and for better logic than most Darwinists. He realizes that if Darwinian theory is to be taken seriously, it ought to try to provide at least hypothetical stepwise selectable pathways. He at least tried to meet the challenge posed by ID people. The rest of the biologists haven’t even tried. There is no other such article in any peer-reviewed literature on the planet, 22 years after Behe posted his challenge.

For the flagellum, perhaps not. But I think biologists simply don’t care to try to convince creationists with science. To them the matter has been settled for a century, life evolved, and because a die-hard religious community refuses to accept it probably just make them roll their eyes.

Presumably you wouldn’t consider such a publication to settle the matter to your satisfaction in any case. Do you think Matzke’s does? Apparently not. I think biologists think of it sort of like beating a dead horse.

I am not saying that the flagellum didn’t evolve, or couldn’t have evolved, via Darwinian means. I’m saying I will withhold consent to that proposition until I see a proposal I consider convincing.

How would that look? And why do you find the mechanisms inferred to have created the Mt Everest convincing? Think about it. Think about how many atoms Mt. Everest is made of, how they are all arranged exactly the way they are into the shape it has. All it’s cracks, faults, peaks, valleys, whatever countless miniscule surface features, texture, hardness etc. etc. Every cubic millimetre of that entire mountain from it’s core and foundation to it’s surface and peak. Made of rock, which consists of atoms, incomprehensible number of atoms arranged into it’s particular shape and structure. Any one particular atom could be in a different place. Any imaginable different place. But they aren’t, they’re part of the Mt. Everest, and not just arbitrarily, but they each have some particular and exact position. Litterally unique.

Yet you’re saying you’re fine with an inference that plate tectonics made the Mt Everest. But it is unacceptably implausible that mutations and selection have created the flagellum?


The Mt. Everest analogy is very appropriate and does a perfectly fine job highlighting the hypocrisy of hyper-skeptical ID-Creationist position. Hyper-skepticism has been a primary tool in the ID-Creationist rhetorical tool set for decades. The idea is to demand ridiculous levels of detail from your opponent while providing no details at all on your own position. The severe double standard applied by science-bashers has been discussed at length on many other venues, like here at Larry Moran’s Sandwalk blog back in 2014.

How to use selective hyperskepticism to debate Darwinists

The previous thread was closed down for cause. Let’s not repeat that episode, or this one will close fast too. Remember, Santa Claus is watching!


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What a weirdo


Mea Culpa :wink:

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There is also the question of available evidence. We simply will never have details on the mutation-by-mutation evolution of bacterial systems that evolved hundreds of millions of years ago. That evidence is gone. There is no reason to waste time trying to find this evidence. It’s a bit like demanding the life history of a fossil found in the limestone deposits in Mt. Everest.

As the old saying goes, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Arguments from ignorance don’t get far in science because they really can’t tell us anything. This is why many ID/creationist arguments are not taken seriously.


I think you meant arguments from incredulity, which means that even in possession of all the same evidence, a particular thesis to explain that evidence seems unwarranted, on the basis of the evidence, to one observer or the other. This is the stalemate behind the worldview conflicts. We have to be willing to at least entertain each other’s theses to move forward in dialogue, and understand one another better.
What is laudatory is the ostensible motive of each observer; to help each other understand their respective theses better.

ID arguments usually focus on discrediting evolution, and in the claimed absence of an explanation it is suggested that intelligent design must then be true. This is the type of argument I am referring to. For example, Behe will demand a highly detailed explanation for the evolution of the bacterial flagellum, but Behe never offers the same detailed explanation for intelligent design. Behe will also claim that since we don’t have an known evolutionary pathway for the bacterial flagellum that this is then evidence for intelligent design.

No, it’s just that the arguments from statistical unlikelihood and other kinds of ID arguments are rejected as unpersuasive for one reason or another. Like I said.
What if the argument is not about whether evolutionary processes are at work, but about whether they’re ADEQUATE to explain the outcomes being examind?
That is not discrediting evolution, just questioning its all-sufficiency.

That’s because the probability calculations are done incorrectly.

If it were based on something objective and scientific I think that would be a step in the right direction. Subjective opinions don’t work well in this situation.

I suspect you yourself know it’s not adequate, since your own scenario starts out with God designing and implementing the first RNA replicator system. But hey, I’ve been wrong before. But what if?

No one is saying that evolutionary mechanisms are adequate for explaining the origin of life. What we are saying is that evolutionary mechanisms are adequate for explaining the emergence of adaptations and other biological features after life first emerged.


I’ve not examined all of the ID Theory arguments from “statistical unlikelihood” but the ones I’ve seen were quite unpersuasive and seemed to suggest a poor grasp of the proper application of statistical methodologies. If you can recommend what you consider the very best paper on this topic, I will put it on my reading list.

On that topic also I’d be interested in any ID papers which quantified the adequacy standard being applied.

Better yet, I’ll give you the link to an article which shows lively areas of agreement and disagreement with aspects of the ID “paradigm,” and that the jury is still out on origins of first life, but that evolutionary processes themselves are indeed inadequate, at least in the view that the author cites.

That’s an example of the bad math we have been talking about. Even worse, I have yet to see anyone apply those concepts to real genomes. For example, of the genetic differences that separate humans and chimps, which of those difference can not be explained by the observed processes of mutagenesis? I have yet to see an ID supporter answer this very simple and fundamental question.

Like I said, unpersuasive to some, but not thereby invalidated.

That would be shifting the burden of proof. It is up to ID supporters to validate their models, which they have yet to do.

Guy, both sides are NOT working from the same evidence. Period. That is demonstrated here virtually every day in a different way.

No, the stalemate is that one side does science and works from all the evidence, while the other pretends to do science and ignores most of the evidence.

The dialog needs to focus on the evidence.

The author is ignoring most of the evidence. It’s really that simple.

Nope. Denial gets neither side anywhere.
Are you saying you have a persuasive, evidential case for abiogenesis?