18 April, 2009

Casey Luskin email debate

Over a year ago I decided to contact the Discovery Institute to ask them a very simple question. I wanted to know what scientific data there was to support intelligent design. I had never heard of Casey Luskin before but within a few weeks I received a very polite reply from him ensuring me that there was indeed scientific data to support ID. Naturally, I disagreed with him. Over the next month or two we engaged in an email debate, until Casey withdrew. I thought I would post the whole debate unedited below the fold. I'm sure Casey won't mind... (Edit: he did)

From: rhiggs
Sent: Tuesday, January 22, 2008 9:31 AM
To: Mollie Tschida
Subject: ID research


Hello,

I am aware of the multitude of publications on ID and related topics. However, on reading these I haven't found any direct research which has provided positive evidence of ID. It seems to be more philosophy-based. Surely someone has done some actual experiments to verify the claims of the ID community as opposed to simply casting doubt on other theories. I would be interested in reading about them. Could you please direct me to the appropriate sources?

Many thanks,

Rhiggs




Subject: RE: ID research

Date: Sat, 9 Feb 2008 11:42:35 -0800
From:
cluskin@discovery.org
To:
rhiggs



Dear Rhiggs,

Geretings and thanks for your e-mail. I'm sorry that it took a couple weeks to get back to you. In fact, there is much positive, research-based evidence for ID, and ID is not merely "philosophy-based." I would refer you to the following sources:

(1) An explanation of the "positive case for design":

http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/filesDB-download.php?command=download&id=546

(2) An explanation of how ID uses the scientific method, a positive method of making scientific claims:

http://www.ideacenter.org/contentmgr/showdetails.php/id/1154

(3) A listing of much peer-reviewed research supporting ID, presenting much data that represents research done by ID proponents supporting ID's claims:

http://www.discovery.org/a/2640

(4) Some of the pro-ID experimental research is specifically discussed at places such as:

http://www.evolutionnews.org/2007/01/journal_of_molecular_biology_a.html

http://www.evolutionaryinformatics.org/

http://www.evolutionnews.org/2006/10/response_to_barbara_forrests_k_7.html

It's worth noting that ID proponents cite innumerable research studies, even when done by pro-Darwin scientists, as presenting research that predicts intelligent design. As one example, Michael Behe discusses MUCH research by other scientists in Darwin's Black Box that show that various systems are irreducibly complex and support intelligent design.

In this regard, while ID proponents themselves are doing much research, there is nothing wrong with expounding a theory that can explain and predict the results of other scientists. In fact, if you read Darwin's Origin of Species, you'll find that this is EXACTLY what Darwin commonly did: he presented a new theory and found that it explained the results of other scientists. Thus, in science, it is considered good practice to propose positive new theories that explain and predict the data that has been uncovered by other scientists. This is how "positive" scientific theories are commonly argued for in the scientific community. Darwinists do it all the time, and there's nothing wrong when ID proponents do it as well. Thanks again for your e-mail and take care.

Sincerely,

Casey Luskin


From: rhiggs

Sent: Mon 2/11/2008 6:56 AM
To: Casey Luskin
Subject: RE: ID research



Dear Mr. Luskin,

Thank you for the reply. I have gone to the links you sent me and despite your claim that "there is much positive, research-based evidence for ID", I have failed to find any. The link you sent me to "peer-reviewed research supporting ID, presenting much data that represents research done by ID proponents supporting ID's claims" DOES NOT present much data. It predominantly presents essays from ID proponents in which they 'argue' for a central ID idea, although they never seem to 'show' that this idea is correct, thus they cannot and should not 'conclude' that ID is the best explanation.

It is the experimental evidence for ID that I am interested in. From what I read in the links there seems to be only two real attempts to use scientific experimentation to test ID. These are a) Douglas Axe's papers and b) Scott Minnich's flagellum experiments. However, both of these examples fail to provide evidence for ID for the same reason: They only test for a specific function, penicillin resistance in Axe's case and bacterial motility in Minnich's case.

Both sets of experiments essentially take a protein or protein complex with known function, remove or mutate specific residues and test for the same function. When the functionality is lost, Minnich claims that this proves irreducible complexity (Axe does not go this far). But it is fundamentally wrong to conclude this without testing the mutated protein for other functions. Obviously, this would entail much more laboratory time and would be a very difficult task, but nevertheless, it cannot be termed irreducibly complex unless the mutated forms are proven to have absolutely no function. To do so is BAD science and why Minnich's testimony did not convince credible scientists or Judge Jones.

I am a molecular biologist and have done some work on protein structure-function relationships in avian antimicrobial peptides. We showed a loss of function by mutating single amino acids from a functional peptide, similarly to Minnich, however the mutated peptides still had plenty of other biological activity, including chemotactic and immunostimulatory functions. These secondary functions are proof against irreducible complexity, and the 'mutated flagellums' in Minnich's experiments were not tested for secondary functions, hence cannot be called irreducibly complex.

I have read that you are a lawyer with some qualifications in geology. Perhaps you do not realise that there are many many proteins that we know to exist in cells but we do not know what their functions are (this is why people like me have jobs!). Also, there are many many proteins which have several distinct functions, including my example of antimicrobial peptides above. Because of this, irreducible complexity is BAD science. We still have a lot to learn and shouldn't jump to unscientific conclusions.

As an aside, I read your personal website in which you quote Michael Behe:

"I myself do believe in a benevolent God … But a scientific argument for design in biology does not reach that far. This while I argue for design, the question of the identity of the designer is left open. Possible candidates for the role of designer include: the God of Christianity; an angel--fallen or not; Plato's demi-urge; some mystical new age force; space aliens from Alpha Centauri; time travelers; or some utterly unknown intelligent being. … [A]s regards the identity of the designer, modern ID theory happily echoes Isaac Newton's phrase hypothesis non fingo.” (Behe, 2001)

If you believe that ID does not appeal to the supernatural, I assume that you agree with the above quote by Behe. If it is possible that a number of intelligent sources could be responsible, then I don't understand why 'the question of the identity of the designer is left open'. If indeed it is space aliens or time travellers then it is not supernatural at all and there may be physical evidence that could be open to scientific investigation. In this case, it is strange that ID proponents do not want to look into it, and instead leave the question open, as it would certainly help to prove their case.

It seems more likely that all ID proponents believe that 'the God of Christianity' is the designer, but as this cannot be tested scientifically, the ID stance is that they are not concerned with the identity of the designer. You may disagree, but this an unscientific stance, and appears to the majority of the scientific community as a 'cover-up' to get religion into the science class.

I look forward to hearing your comments. Also, I would be interested in hearing what you have to say about PZ Myers' blog in which he points out the basic flaws in your rebuttal of Ken Miller's testimony. I admit that I have not read your rebuttal (please link it to me if possible), but if the quotes attributed to you are correct, then you really don't understand genetics and you are in no position to argue Miller's testimony...

http://pharyngula.org/index/weblog/comments/luskins_ludicrous_genetics/

Kind regards,

Rhiggs



From: Casey Luskin (cluskin@discovery.org)
Sent: 13 February 2008 22:06:31
To: Rhiggs
Subject: ID research



Dear Rhiggs,

Greetings and thank you for your kind reply. At first approximation, I am puzzled by your reply. You stated "I have failed to find any" research supporting ID. But then you stated that the pages "DOES NOT present much data," and it seemed like you were saying that there is some, but not "much." I just wanted to clarify and allow you to explain what you are trying to say: are you saying there is "not any" research, or potentially "some" research supporting ID?

That is just a point of clarification, however, and I'm happy to discuss with you some of your other comments. I pointed you to much research supporting ID and it seems clear to me that it exists, thus satisfying your original request for information. Now, will the goal-posts shift?

In my previous e-mail to you, I prefaced the discussion by explaining how we detect design, giving you a link explaining the positive case for design. I presume that you read this article, and if you did then you would have seen that the very first table gives various quotes from ID proponents explaining the positive case for design:

Agents can arrange matter with distant goals in mind. In their use of language, they routinely ‘find’ highly isolated and improbable functional sequences amid vast spaces of combinatorial possibilities.” (Stephen C. Meyer, “The Cambrian Information Explosion,” in Debating Design, pg. 388 (William A. Dembski and Michael W. Ruse eds., Cambridge University Press, 2004).)

[W]e have repeated experience of rational and conscious agents-in particular ourselves-generating or causing increases in complex specified information, both in the form of sequence-specific lines of code and in the form of hierarchically arranged systems of parts. … Our experience-based knowledge of information-flow confirms that systems with large amounts of specified complexity (especially codes and languages) invariably originate from an intelligent source from a mind or personal agent.” (Stephen C. Meyer, “The origin of biological information and the higher taxonomic categories,” Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, 117(2):213-239 (2004).)

Both of these articles are peer-reviewed articles listed on the page I sent you. While Meyer's work here are admittedly review papers, he does discuss experimental evidence, and he explains why it supports ID using the positive arguments given above. Thus, I believe that your statement "they never seem to 'show' that this idea is correct, thus they cannot and should not 'conclude' that ID is the best explanation," is simply wrong.

Meyer gives extensive discussion regarding why ID is the best explanation for the origin of large amounts of specified complexity. I think you would find it helpful to re-read Dr. Meyer's article in Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington at http://www.discovery.org/a/2177 to understand the positive argument for design.

Also, you raised some good points about irreducible complexity, however I think they are ultimately flawed. First, however, I want to address you wrote: "Perhaps you do not realise that there are many many proteins that we know to exist in cells but we do not know what their functions are (this is why people like me have jobs!). Also, there are many many proteins which have several distinct functions, including my example of antimicrobial peptides above. Because of this, irreducible complexity is BAD science. We still have a lot to learn and shouldn't jump to unscientific conclusions."

I reply: I agree that we "shouldn't jump to unscientific conclusions." In that spirit, I’d like to propose that we take some historical perspective here: It is the neo-Darwinian-side that has long been making the grand claim that all of the complexity of life can be explained by a process of blind natural selection acting upon random mutations. Great claims require sufficient evidence. We "shouldn't jump to unscientific conclusions" and we should NOT engage if "evolution-of-the-gaps" reasoning.

But that’s precisely what seems to typically be done by neo-Darwinists.

And I would respectfully say to you that your e-mail engages in "evolution-of-the-gaps" reasoning.

For example, you wrote, that there are many proteins in a cell "but we do not know what their functions are". If that’s the case, how do we know that such complexity can evolve in a step-by-step neo-Darwinian fashion? Take ID out of the equation here, and you have an entire field that operates under the grand assumption that all proteins and pathways and systems in a cell both can and did evolve via a step-by-step neo-Darwinian process.

I don’t make this argument to claim that we should reject neo-Darwinian evolution out of our ignorance. Hardly. My criticisms of evolution are based upon what we do know, not what we don’t know. Rather, my argument is that we should also be careful not to accept evolution out of our ignorance as well. It’s OK for a scientist to say, “We don’t know, but we’re working on it.”

Furthermore, you made the bold claim:

"Obviously, this would entail much more laboratory time and would be a very difficult task, but nevertheless, it cannot be termed irreducibly complex unless the mutated forms are proven to have absolutely no function.

I reply: This expects people to do an impossible experiment because you can’t prove an absolute negative, so you’ve set up an impossibly high standard. And this is why it’s clear that this kind of neo-Darwinism is based upon “evolution-of-the-gaps” reasoning—it’s based upon the fundamental presumption that intermediate states DO EXIST, even if they are not found.

Additionally, you wrote, “it cannot be termed irreducibly complex unless the mutated forms are proven to have absolutely no function.” That statement misunderstands the definition of irreducible complexity. This is how Behe defines irreducible complexity:

In The Origin of Species Darwin stated: 'If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.' A system which meets Darwin's criterion is one which exhibits irreducible complexity. By irreducible complexity I mean a single system composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning.” (Michael Behe, Darwin's Black Box, pg. 39 (Free Press, 1996).)

Thus, I wrote at http://www.iscid.org/papers/Luskin_EngineLugnuts_042706.pdf ...

evolution requires that a system, or its sub-parts, be functional along each small step of their evolution to the final system. Yet one could find a sub-part that could be useful outside of the final system, and yet the total system would still face many points along an "evolutionary pathway" where it could not remain functional along "numerous, successive, slight modifications" that would be necessary for its gradual evolution. Thus, [Ken] Miller mischaracterizes Behe's argument as one which focuses on the non-functionality of subparts, when in fact, Behe’s argument actually focuses on the ability of the entire system to assemble, even if sub-parts can have functions outside of the final system.

Therein lies the rub: ID proponents find it implausible that a sub-system (or multiple sub-systems) of flagella could be transformed and simultaneously brought together so as to spontaneously form a functional flagellum. Such models of co-option seem highly implausible, and most certainly do not represent “slight modifications” required by neo-Darwinian evolution. Such transformation would require great modifications to effect the required change to produce the systems we observe.

Similarly, Michael Behe wrote in a response titled, “Irreducible Complexity is an Obstacle to Darwinism Even if Parts of a System have other Functions”:

[O]pponents of design want to assert that if the individual parts of a putatively IC structure can be used for anything at all other than their role in the system under consideration, then the system itself is not IC. So, for example, Kenneth Miller has seriously argued that a part of a mousetrap could be used as a paperweight, so not even a mousetrap is IC. Now, anything that has mass could be used as a paperweight. Thus by Miller’s tendentious reasoning any part of any system at all has a separate “function”. Presto! There is no such thing as irreducible complexity …

I never wrote that individual parts of an IC system couldn’t be used for any other purpose. (That would be silly--who would ever claim that a part of a mousetrap couldn’t be used as a paperweight, or a decoration, or a blunt weapon?) Quite the opposite, I clearly wrote in Darwin’s Black Box that even if the individual parts had their own functions, that still does not account for the irreducible complexity of the system. In fact, it would most likely exacerbate the problem, as I stated when considering whether parts lying around a garage could be used to make a mousetrap without intelligent intervention.

In order to catch a mouse, a mousetrap needs a platform, spring, hammer, holding bar, and catch. Now, suppose you wanted to make a mousetrap. In your garage you might have a piece of wood from an old Popsicle stick (for the platform), a spring from an old wind-up clock, a piece of metal (for the hammer) in the form of a crowbar, a darning needle for the holding bar, and a bottle cap that you fancy to use as a catch. But these pieces, even though they have some vague similarity to the pieces of a working mousetrap, in fact are not matched to each other and couldn’t form a functioning mousetrap without extensive modification. All the while the modification was going on, they would be unable to work as a mousetrap. The fact that they were used in other roles (as a crowbar, in a clock, etc.) does not help them to be part of a mousetrap. As a matter of fact, their previous functions make them ill-suited for virtually any new role as part of a complex system. (Darwin’s Black Box, page 66)

Miller’s argument is that since a subset of the proteins of the flagellum can have a function of their own, then the flagellum is not IC and Darwinian evolution could produce it. That’s it! He doesn’t show how natural selection could do so; he doesn’t cite experiments showing that such a thing is possible; he doesn’t give a theoretical model. He just points to the greater-than-expected complexity of the flagellum (which Darwinists did not predict or expect) and declares that Darwinian processes could produce it. This is clearly not a fellow who wants to look into the topic too closely.” (http://www.discovery.org/a/1831)

Does the same logic hold true for individual protein evolution? You wrote: “We showed a loss of function by mutating single amino acids from a functional peptide, similarly to Minnich, however the mutated peptides still had plenty of other biological activity, including chemotactic and immunostimulatory functions

This does not rise to the level of complexity studied in Axe’s research. Axe’s work tried to determine the likelihood of finding functional protein folds. Peptides are extremely short chains and they don’t fold into folded structures like longer proteins, and thus they don’t fold tertiary folded structures like real proteins and they can’t perform the complicated structures that enzymes can do. Short peptides can have all kinds of biological activities but they can’t function the way a folded protein can—they can’t do what enzymes normally do. Ultimately, you have to answer the question, how did life get the larger folded protein structures? Axe’s work dealt with protein folds and enzyme function, so I’m skeptical that your work explains away his data. Some of his other work has even showed that short peptides (20 amino acids or less) can have multiple functions.

I’ve seen other papers that slightly tweak fully-functional proteins to perform a highly similar function and then over-extrapolate from the results. Such studies never address how any function is acquired in the first place, and they represent trivial changes in function. To give an analogy, these kinds of studies don’t show how evolution scales mountains, it simply shows that neo-Darwinism can get you the last 10 yards after you’ve already spent 10 hours hiking.

In the end, I’d love to see your papers—if you have published this material—would you mind sharing the work? I ask because I’m interested to learn if the other activity it retained was upon targets that were highly similar to the original activity. I’m also interested in the overall length and complexity of the peptides. Regardless, I’ll gladly admit that if you can mutate one amino acid that causes loss-of-original function, and still find other functions, that this could represent the kind of “slight-modification” required for protein evolution. But this is a far cry from what is required for neo-Darwinism to meet its required burden of proof, and it doesn’t show that folded enzymes can arise in a step-by-step fashion.

You wrote: “To do so is BAD science and why Minnich's testimony did not convince credible scientists or Judge Jones."

I reply: Are you suggesting that neither Scott Minnich nor any other pro-ID scientists who hold these views are credible scientists? Also, I must note that while Judge Jones was surely convinced of his views, he simply copied the vast majority of his section on whether ID is science from an ACLU brief (please see http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/filesDB-download.php?command=download&id=1186 for details). I don’t consider judge’s opinions to be authoritative on scientific issues, and I’m sure you feel the same as I do.

Finally, regarding the identity of the designer, you asked some questions:

If it is possible that a number of intelligent sources could be responsible, then I don't understand why 'the question of the identity of the designer is left open'. If indeed it is space aliens or time travellers then it is not supernatural at all and there may be physical evidence that could be open to scientific investigation. In this case, it is strange that ID proponents do not want to look into it, and instead leave the question open, as it would certainly help to prove their case.

Intelligent design is not so much focused on studying the designer as it is on studying natural objects to determine if they have the type of informational signature that in our experience comes only from intelligence. The ground-rule that you must keep in mind here always is that ID is takes a strictly scientific approach, and does not make claims that go beyond the data. ID is not inherently opposed to studying the designer. But right now, absent a time-machine, we don’t know how. I’ll briefly explain why:

“Thomas Woodward clearly explains the principled reasons why the biological evidence for ID may not allow us to identify the designer:

‘There is no ‘Made by Yahweh’ engraved on the side of the bacterial rotary motor—the flagellum. In order to find out what or who its designer is, one must go outside the narrow discipline of biology. Cross-disciplinary dialogue must begin with the fields of philosophy, sociology, history, anthropology, and theology. Design itself, however, is a direct scientific inference; it does not depend on a single religious premise for its conclusions. ‘ (Thomas Woodward, Darwin Strikes Back: Defending the Science of Intelligent Design, pg. 15 (Baker Books, 2006).)

In other words, the flagellar machine itself indicates that it did not arise by a random and unguided process like Darwinian evolution, but rather arose by a non-random and intelligently directed process such as intelligent design. However, while biological structures may be scientifically explained via intelligent design, the structures themselves have no way of directly telling us whether the designer is Yahweh, Buddha, Yoda, or some other type of intelligent agency.” (http://www.discovery.org/a/4306)

Thus, while the DNA encoding the irreducibly complex flagellum might indicate an intelligent cause origin, I don’t know how to use that DNA evidence to determine whether the designer is natural or supernatural. If you have any ideas how to do that, I’m all ears. Until you explain to me how I could look at the DNA in the flagellum to determine the identity of the designer, then you have no basis for telling me that I should be trying to make such a study, because I can’t think of a way. Thus, the interface between ID and the identity of the designer presently stands as follows:

ID does·not address religious questions about the identity of the designer, and in fact ID proponents have diverse views about the identity of the designer; ID proponents give principled reasons why ID does not identify the designer, stemming from ID’s intent to respect the limits of science and not attempt to address religious questions that go beyond what can be scientifically inferred from the empirical data;

Whether traditional theists or not, ID proponents are entirely open about their views on the identity of the designer; ID proponents make it clear that their views about the identity of the designer are their personal religious views, and not conclusions of ID.” (http://www.discovery.org/a/4306)

…perhaps someday we will be able to scientifically study the identity of the designer, but I can’t think of how to do that right now using scientific methods. Unless you can tell me how I can look at the information in DNA and determine the identity of the designer, I’m not sure what else to say here on this topic. It’s not central to ID.

In any case, I think that’s enough material for now. If you want to talk about other subjects, I’m happy to do that. But let’s finish our conversation about the relevant topics at-hand before we jump to other topics.

Thanks again for your e-mail and your civil reply—and happy Darwin day!

Sincerely,

Casey


From: rhiggs
Sent: Friday, February 15, 2008 15:57
To: Casey Luskin (cluskin@discovery.org)
Subject: ID research



Dear Mr. Luskin,

Thank you again for your reply. Let me first clear up the confusion over whether I think there is NO or SOME evidence for ID. Having read the link you sent me in your original email that you described as containing…

“…peer-reviewed research supporting ID, presenting much data that represents research done by ID proponents supporting ID's claims”

…I did not find any data that provides positive evidence for ID, thus I worded my response that this link ‘DOES NOT present much data’ because this is what YOU claimed (see the bold letters in your original sentence). My position is that there is definitely NO evidence. You may disagree, but in my opinion, review-type articles which discuss others work and make new arguments are NOT evidence of the arguments in their own right. These arguments need to be validated by experimentation. Otherwise they are simply interesting ideas and hypotheses.

You wrote…

“I pointed you to much research supporting ID and it seems clear to me that it exists, thus satisfying your original request for information. Now, will the goal-posts shift?”

Please explain to me in your own words (without linking or quoting) all of the direct experiments that have been performed by pro-ID scientists which provide the much evidence that you continually claim exists…..I ask this because I’m not sure if you realise how little supposed direct experimental evidence there actually is (although I don’t consider any of it to be evidence of ID)

You use this quote from Meyer – “Agents can arrange matter with distant goals in mind. In their use of language, they routinely ‘find’ highly isolated and improbable functional sequences amid vast spaces of combinatorial possibilities.”……..

The appearance of design or improbable functional sequences are not empirical evidence of ID, they are what you might call philosophical evidence. Furthermore, they are improbable sequences when you predict the probability of the entire sequence assembling spontaneously, but this is actually what ID proposes, not neo-Darwinism. ID is simply an easy answer which does not attempt to explain these things scientifically. There may be sub-sections of ID theory that can claim to be scientific, but the whole idea is based on an unscientific premise, an intelligent designer who is beyond scientific testing.

As Douglas Theobald writes on http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/

“Scientific theories are validated by empirical testing against physical observations. Theories are not judged simply by their logical compatibility with the available data. Independent empirical testability is the hallmark of science—in science, an explanation must not only be compatible with the observed data, it must also be testable. By "testable" we mean that the hypothesis makes predictions about what observable evidence would be consistent and what would be incompatible with the hypothesis. Simple compatibility, in itself, is insufficient as scientific evidence, because all physical observations are consistent with an infinite number of unscientific conjectures. Furthermore, a scientific explanation must make risky predictions— the predictions should be necessary if the theory is correct, and few other theories should make the same necessary predictions.”

In this same article, Theobald explains 30 different predictions based on evolution and common descent that have been upheld by experimentation. He states that…

“No alternate explanations compete scientifically with common descent, primarily for four main reasons: (1) so many of the predictions of common descent have been confirmed from independent areas of science, (2) no significant contradictory evidence has yet been found, (3) competing possibilities have been contradicted by enormous amounts of scientific data, and (4) many other explanations are untestable, though they may be trivially consistent with biological data.”

I believe point 4 in the above quote applies to ID.

You wrote…

“While Meyer's work here are admittedly review papers, he does discuss experimental evidence, and he explains why it supports ID using the positive arguments given above.”

Just because Meyer discusses experimental evidence performed by others that he claims supports ID, this does not provide evidence for ID. This can only be provided by direct experimentation using a testable hypothesis, not retrospectively reinterpreting another’s results.

When I suggested you need to test the mutated flagella for other functions, you wrote…

“This expects people to do an impossible experiment because you can’t prove an absolute negative, so you’ve set up an impossibly high standard. And this is why it’s clear that this kind of neo-Darwinism is based upon “evolution-of-the-gaps” reasoning—it’s based upon the fundamental presumption that intermediate states DO EXIST, even if they are not found.”

I agree that it is impossible to test for every possible function, but for the same reason it is equally as impossible to thus term something irreducibly complex, because you are claiming to know that it has no other function through which it could have evolved. You seem to agree that subparts of an apparently irreducibley complex structure can have other functions, but you still strangely claim that the initial structure is irreducibly complex. Incidentally, you refer to my “evolution-of -the-gaps” reasoning, which is fair enough, but at least scientists are trying to fill in those gaps using proper experimental methods. ID proponents, on the other hand, use “God-of-the-gaps” reasoning, cleverly disguised as “designer-of-the-gaps” reasoning, which is also based on a fundamental presumption which cannot be tested and so will NEVER be found, hence NEVER proved wrong. How convenient!

Perhaps, as you say, I don’t understand the concept of irreducible complexity, so I will take Behe’s definition. If irreducible complexity is to be defined as Behe states…

“By irreducible complexity I mean a single system composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning”

…then of course irreducible complexity DOES exist. It fact, it exists everywhere. It has been shown in labs many times that removing “parts” of “systems” results in loss of function. But, crucially, this does not strengthen the ID argument, because these ‘irreducibly complex’ systems CAN evolve through step-by-step neo-Darwinian evolution. Herman Muller described the process back in 1918. For example, take a relatively complex system that performs a function. Next, gradually make that system more efficient and sophisticated by step-by-step addition of new “parts”. Then, remove some of the earlier redundant “parts” (as happens in evolution) thus increasing efficiency. You now have a more complex system than the previous one, however, if you were to artificially remove a “part” of this new system, it would cease to function. As you should be able to see, this does not mean that it couldn’t have evolved.

I may not have explained that very well. Here is a well known analogy that you may be familiar with. Imagine a river with three stepping stones forming a rudimentary bridge. The stones constitute a system with a function. If you add a long piece of wood across all three stones it is now a slightly more complex system, still with the same function. The middle stone can now be removed without loss of function, and this newer (slightly) more complex system is more efficient in that you can walk across it rather than hopping from stone to stone. If you now remove any of the other parts of this system, ie the wood or the two outer stones, it will lose its function, and thus the bridge can be termed irreducibly complex. However, it came about in a step-by-step fashion (which includes removal of redundant parts) without loss of function.

You wrote…

“…the flagellar machine itself indicates that it did not arise by a random and unguided process like Darwinian evolution, but rather arose by a non-random and intelligently directed process such as intelligent design.”

This is wrong as I have explained. You assume that the “flagellar machine” is an example of ID because it is irreducibly complex, but irreducible complexity is everywhere in nature and does not have any bearing on neo-Darwinism. Behe is fundamentally wrong because he assumes that evolution is only an additive process.

Behe and the ID community ignore the fact that there is more than one way for a complex structure to evolve. The actual precursor may have had more parts, not fewer. Or, if the individual parts evolve, the precursor may have had the same number of parts, not yet codependent. Take the common mouse-trap analogy. I am sure that prior to the common-day mousetrap, there were other less efficient systems, which used many more parts in order to catch a mouse. These systems may have been refined over time, with unnecessary parts removed until we arrived at the mouse-trap as we know it today. This does not mean it didn’t undergo slight modifications during its ‘evolution’.

Now, based on this, it seems obvious to me that irreducible complexity is a real thing, but it does not debunk neo-Darwinian evolution, in fact it is an effect of neo-Darwinian evolution. More to the point, it says ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about ID. If you understand science at all, the presence of irreducibly complex structures DOES NOT indicate design no matter how much you want it to, so should not be used as positive evidence of ID.

When I described my research on antimicrobial peptides, in which a mutated protein still has secondary functions, you wrote…

“I’ve seen other papers that slightly tweak fully-functional proteins to perform a highly similar function and then over-extrapolate from the results. Such studies never address how any function is acquired in the first place, and they represent trivial changes in function. To give an analogy, these kinds of studies don’t show how evolution scales mountains, it simply shows that neo-Darwinism can get you the last 10 yards after you’ve already spent 10 hours hiking.”

On the contrary, using irreducible complexity as evidence for ID is most certainly “over-extrapolating from the results”. ID does not address how any function is acquired, it just assumes that a designer did it all, but conveniently shies away from explaining it in any more detail. To give the same analogy, ID simply states that we arrived on the top of the mountain but does not explain how we got there scientifically. If, as you implied, neo-Darwinism has shown how we arrived from 10 yards away, then this is 10 yards better than ID is doing. By simple inductive thought, if we know how we arrived from 10 yards away, then it is logical to think that in the past we arrived in that spot from 20 yards away, and so on…

If you accept the 10 yards of Neo-Darwinism, why are you unable to suppose that it might go further than that? Excuse the crude analogy, but 1,000,000 – 10 = 999,990, therefore 1,000,000 – 10 -10 -10 -10 -10 -10, etc……= an ancestral species. Given many millions of years to act, I think this is a reasonable hypothesis. Much more likely than just appearing out of thin air due to the handiwork of a designer, of whom we know nothing about and there is no evidence of at all.

Also, neo-Darwinism does not suggest that any individuals climbed a mountain. Just that a population of individuals made a “10-yard” journey, and that those better equipped to successfully make the journey are the ones who successfully completed it. The population then reproduced and a new population with slightly better “mountain-climbing” properties engaged on the next “10-yard” journey, before reproducing again. And so on, until we arrive at the modern day and we look to the base of the mountain and see that our distant relatives look nothing at all like us. Then we wonder how we made the journey?? You presume that a designer had to intervene at some stage or at many stages, with no evidence, and expect biologists to explain the full journey step-by-step…

No one expects to do one set of experiments to show exactly step-by-step how we got from a single-celled organism to a human being. This is akin to me asking you to describe in a step-by-step way how a designer made every living thing and what exact mechanisms were used to do so. We have to start by describing one step at a time. Neo-Darwinism is doing this, as you admitted yourself, but ID jumps straight to the whole answer at once without considering the steps at all.

In terms of my research I described, the work is still ongoing and not yet published, however I can direct you to several other papers which discuss how antimicrobial peptides (called peptides but are really short proteins, generally over 40-50 amino acids), which directly kill pathogens, also have other functions, including acting as chemokines, wound healing and immunomodulatory. These ‘secondary’ functions were discovered long after the ‘primary’ antimicrobial function was established.

Immunomodulatory properties of defensins and cathelicidins. Curr Top Microbiol Immunol. 2006;306:27-66

A re-evaluation of the role of host defence peptides in mammalian immunity Curr Protein Pept Sci. 2005 Feb;6(1):35-51.

Mammalian defensins in immunity: more than just microbicidal. Trends Immunol. 2002 Jun;23(6):291-6

It may be the case that many proteins have other functions we don’t know about yet, thus filling up the intermediate evolutionary stages that ID proponents claim are non-functional. The answer to this question should be lets do the research and find out, NOT lets assume a designer made it because we haven’t yet shown how it happened. That is unscientific.

Concerning the identity of the designer, you wrote…

“ ID does not address religious questions about the identity of the designer”

and

“But right now, absent a time-machine, we don’t know how.”

By saying that ID is not concerned with finding out who the designer is simply renders the whole hypothesis as unscientific. It would be like the pro-Darwin community claiming that it is not concerned with the origin of life because it is “absent a time-machine”. It is an easy way out and constitutes BAD scientific morals as it just stunts progress. Thankfully, for the majority this is not the case and many groups are doing actual experiments to try and determine how life arose on this planet, unlike the ID community, who strangely claim that they are not concerned with the answer, as if this is a scientifically valid position. In fact, I believe that the only reason ID distances itself from the identity of the designer is because, as God is the obvious candidate, this would diminish their much sought-after scientific credentials.

You wrote…

“ Whether traditional theists or not, ID proponents are entirely open about their views on the identity of the designer”

If so, then what are your personal views on this question? I assume you believe the designer is God. Are there other possibilities apart from God? If so, what are they and who believes in them? This must mean that there are some possible designers that are not part of the supernatural realm. Therefore, there might be physical evidence out there. Why not look for it?

“…I don’t know how to use that DNA evidence to determine whether the designer is natural or supernatural. If you have any ideas how to do that, I’m all ears.”

I’m not talking about only biochemical evidence. Why doesn’t ID branch out into archaeology and look for any signs of greater than normal intelligence in the past. Surely someone intelligent enough to create flagella and eyes and immune systems would have left some non-biological signs of their presence.

I think this is a reasonable request of the ID community, go and look for non-biological evidence of the designer, there simply must be some out there. An archaeologist doesn’t just find an ancient relic and then declare ‘I have no interest in researching who made this’. If IDists are unwilling to do this, then they are essentially admitting that the designer is in the supernatural realm, which has the knock-on effect on the whole hypothesis as being unscientific. If ID wants to be respected by the scientific community, it cannot make a claim, and then stick its head in the sand when asked about a direct prerequisite for that claim.

To summarise there are two positions you can take:

1. The designer is God or some other supernatural being

2. The designer is not supernatural and is a physical being

If you believe #1 then your whole hypothesis is not scientific and will never be accepted as such. In fact, it is becoming a form of creationism, irrespective of the fact that you claim ID is about the design and not the designer.

If you believe #2 then branch into archaeology and look for some non-biological evidence to back up your claim. At least make an effort to do so. Your apparent lack of interest makes it look as though you already know there is no evidence out there.

What happens though is that IDists adopt an ambiguous stance where either #1 or #2 is possible. Thus, this means that option #1 is possible and by default this means that ID is based on an unscientific premise.

To conclude, if a person who was scientifically minded but knew nothing much about evolution or ID and was impartial to religion was to hear the arguments for both and see
the evidence for both, I strongly believe that person would deduce that evolution was the only plausible explanation for complex life. In fact, that is what happened at Dover. Both sides had their expert witnesses and both sides had a fair chance to argue their case. I have read the court transcripts and Behe was on the stand for a few days backing up his claims but still didn’t make a convincing argument and even had to admit that technically ID was akin to astrology. The fact that Judge Jones may have plagiarised sections of his decision is not acceptable, I agree with you there, but I am quite sure this was a simple case of laziness. Do you think he had a differing opinion on the case and at the last minute decided against it and instead opted to just copy someone else’s opinion? No, of course not. He was quite sure of his ruling but stupidly plagiarised some of it.

I think Mr Rothschild summed it up nicely in his closing comments…

“The board's behaviour mimics the intelligent design movement at large. The Dover board discussed teaching creationism, switched to the term "intelligent design" to carry out the same objective, and then pretended they had never talked about creationism. As we learned from Dr. Forrest's testimony, the intelligent design movement used the same sleight of hand in creating the Pandas textbook. They wrote it as a creationist book and then, after the Edwards decision outlawed teaching creationism, simply inserted the term "intelligent design" where "creationism" had been before.”

You may say that ID has nothing to do with creationism, but creationists don’t agree with you and love to use ID as a central piece of their ‘evidence’. ID supposes the presence of an intelligent designer, the most obvious candidate being God, a fact that I’m sure you yourself believe, thus ID and creationism are not mutually exclusive.

Anyway, that’s enough for now. I look forward to your comments,

Kind Regards

Rhiggs



From: Rhiggs
Sent: 12 March 2008 11:48:17
To: Casey Luskin (cluskin@discovery.org)
Subject: ID research



Dear Mr. Luskin,

As I did not get a reply to my last email, I thought I would send it to you again (see below). I appreciate that you may have been busy however I hope that you aren't simply ignoring my arguments. You clearly stated in your last email that...


"If you want to talk about other subjects, I’m happy to do that. But let’s finish our conversation about the relevant topics at-hand before we jump to other topics."

...so it seemed to me that you were keen to continue our discussion, as am I.


I hope to hear from you at your earliest convenience,


Regards,


Rhiggs



From: Casey Luskin (cluskin@discovery.org)
Sent: 12 March 2008 13:39:14
To: Rhiggs
Subject: ID research



Dear Rhiggs,

Hi again—thanks for your kind reply. I assure you that I don’t ignore arguments. You don’t know me and I am not that kind of person. In fact, I’ve been traveling a lot for work lately, but in the last week over the course of 2 long plane flights I’ve managed to find time to work on replying to you. I’m nearly done with the reply and I hope to finish it on another flight I have later this week. FYI, my reply is already over 5000 words, and it begins by saying, “Greetings after an undesired delay on my part. I appreciate the time you took in your extensive reply. Because you put in so much time, you deserve a reply. I apologize that it took a while to reply--I've been busy a lot over the past couple weeks, including much traveling, and in fact I'm finally getting some free time now that I'm on a flight.” Thanks again—I hope you will hear from me soon.

Sincerely,

Casey




Its been 13 months since then so Casey must be writing one hell of a long reply...



35 comments:

rhiggs said...

Ooops...

I somehow managed to delete the comments that were left here (I'm still getting used to this blogging thing). I have them on my email though so I'll paste them in below.

rhiggs said...

Anonymous said...

Hi rhiggs,

Interesting dialog. Two things you might find interesting:

1. A judge taking parts of a Plaintiffs' brief and putting them into an opinion isn't plagiarism, it is common procedure. Courts *require* both sides in a case to sum up their positions in documents called "Proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law." These "Proposed Findings" are written by the lawyers *in the voice of the court* so that the Court can adopt them as it sees fit. The Proposed Findings are online here:
http://www.google.com/search?q=proposed+findings+kitzmiller&sourceid=navclient-ff&ie=UTF-8&rlz=1B3GGGL_enUS239US239

2. If you're an immunologist, you will find this interesting if you haven't already read it:

Immunology in the spotlight at the Dover 'Intelligent Design' trial
http://www.nature.com/ni/journal/v7/n5/abs/ni0506-433.html

April 17, 2009 9:25 PM

rhiggs said...

ERV said...

OMFG I love Caseys writing style!!!!

Thank you so much for new Caseyisms!

Just to warn you, youre going to get an email from Casey soon, now:
DEAR RHIGGS. I DID NOT SAY YOU COULD POST MY EMAILS ONLINE. IF YOU DID I WOULD HAVE SAID NO, BUT YOU POSTED THEM SO YOU DID NOT ASK ME. I DO NOT KNOW WHY YOU ARE SO MEAN. I AM NOT MEAN. I AM NICE. I VOLUNTEER AT SOUP KITCHENS. THATS WHY I HAVE NOT REPLIED. I HAVE BEEN BUSY TRAVELING AND VOLUNTEERING AT SOUP KITCHENS. I AM NICE TO EVERYONE. I AM ON AN AIRPLANE.

Sincerely,
Casey

April 17, 2009 11:18 PM

rhiggs said...

NaonTiotami said...

That is brilliant, some of the best ID-attack I've ever read. Very nice work slaughtering ID - no wonder he didn't respond! There's no coming back from that! :D

I very much enjoyed reading this. Thank you so much.

April 17, 2009 11:29 PM

rhiggs said...

bobxxxx said...

Casey Luskin and the other retards of the Discovery Institute make a living from trying to destroy America's science education. They're no better than terrorists and they should be treated like terrorists.

April 18, 2009 12:21 AM

rhiggs said...

Doc Bill said...

Great exchange with the DI's Attack Gerbil. I've heard Luskin speak and he repeats himself just like in his responses to you. I've heard Luskin speak and he repeats himself just like in his responses to you. I've heard Luskin speak and he repeats himself just like in his responses to you.

Typical of creationists, Luskin tries to divert you with a bunch of links and references. Of course, you'll come up empty following those. They the creationist will pick at your words and ask you to define "is" hoping you'll give up. If you don't give up then, oops, it's hair washing night, C U L8R.

Been there, my friend, but thanks for Class A entertainment at the Gerbil's expense.

April 18, 2009 1:18 AM

rhiggs said...

Dan Gilbert said...

Wow. Nice work. Thanks for taking the time to research and respond to Luskin's shenanigans. For me, as someone who's trying to learn and absorb as much as he can about evolution and biology, you've done me the great service of providing another rung on my educational ladder. :-)

Cheers!

April 18, 2009 1:22 AM

rhiggs said...

Aaron said...

That is AWESOME.

I agree with Abbie -- he's probably been busy serving soup, saving the earth from an impending meteor strike, and stopping Lex Luthor from unleashing his evil plan on humanity.

April 18, 2009 1:33 AM

ERV said...

lol!

Oh just wait-- the second you figure Blogger out, Google deletes your blog.

No joke.

http://endogenousretrovirus.blogspot.com/2008/04/erv-has-moved.html

hehehe!

rhiggs said...

ERV,

Wow! Big brother-esque...


BTW, I got the email from Casey about 20 mins after you predicted it. He wasn't happy but he said he forgives me. He's so darn polite even when he's angry!!

He also sent his 'work in progress' response to my last email in which he accuses me of not emailing in a 'nice tone' and not asking questions in 'good faith'.

He also informed me that he does not want any further correspondence with me :(

deadman_932 said...

I clicked, I read. In the end, many lulz were found.

Kudos.

DavidK said...

DavidK:
Rhiggs - nice discussion! However, watch out for Luskin, he's a shifty character (and his geology credentials are flimsy and inflated).

Luskin said: "In the end, I’d love to see your papers—if you have published this material—would you mind sharing the work? yadda, yadda.
Luskin has every intention of distorting and quote mining such papers to his advantage. That's the M.O. of the Dishonesty Institute.

RBH said...

A remark on the plagiarism charge with respect to Judge Jones. That's a flat out misrepresentation of what happens in such cases. Luskin wrote "...he simply copied the vast majority of his section on whether ID is science from an ACLU brief,...".

That's false. At the end of the trial each side submitted a Proposed Findings of Fact, what they thought the evidence showed. In such a trial the judge is free to use however much of whichever side's Proposed Findings of Fact that he wishes. In fact, it is considered an honor to have one's Proposed Findings of Fact adopted verbatim by a judge. It's noteworthy that Luskin, a lawyer, misrepresents the legal process in the process of misrepresenting the scientific process. :)

Had the ID side won the case and had their Proposed Findings of Fact been adopted more or less verbatim by the judge they would have been crowing about it for years.

You can find the relevant Proposed Findings of Fact for the Kitzmiller case here. Notice that both sides submitted one with supporting documents.

FrodoSaves said...

That was a long read but I'm glad I persevered. You really turned it on in the last couple of paragraphs, especially with the damning critique of their professed apathy as to the identity of the designer. Well done!

rhiggs said...

Just to follow up on Casey's reply to this post:

Casey emailed me last night to say that he wasn't happy about me posting his emails and that he wants no futher correspondence with me.....a bit rich coming from the guy since he hasn't got back to me in over a year!

He also said that my original email to him was not in 'good faith' because I wasn't open minded about considering evidence of ID, hence he is implying that I was masquerading as a potential ID supporter. This is not true at all. My original email was as follows:

Hello,

I am aware of the multitude of publications on ID and related topics. However, on reading these I haven't found any direct research which has provided positive evidence of ID. It seems to be more philosophy-based. Surely someone has done some actual experiments to verify the claims of the ID community as opposed to simply casting doubt on other theories. I would be interested in reading about them. Could you please direct me to the appropriate sources?

Many thanks,

Rhiggs
I admit that I was already skeptical of ID, but I did not lie or mislead him in any way. I asked for the experimental evidence and I wasn't satisfied with what he provided. So I believe I am vindicated in my approach. Anyway, it seems strange that he would accuse me of a lack of 'good faith' when his bestest buddy Ben Stein duped so many of his interviewees during the filming of Expelled. Does he not hold Ben up to the same standards he accuses me of breaching?

(I've also posted this comment over at SMRT)

Anonymous said...

It was publicized last year that the genetic changes between ourselves and other living creatures is NOT so much a difference in DNA material; but rather a difference in what genes are turned OFF or ON.

Therefore, it is obvious that the genetic makeup was there all along: What makes us different species is merely what genes are turned OFF or ON. (For example, the similarity between our DNA and a fruit fly's. It's what genes are turned on or off that count.)

To prove evolution,one would have to show a path of adding (and subtracting) genetic material. We found out last year that it is not an addition or subtraction of genetic material that matters: Most living things have quite similar DNA - it is merely which genes are "TURNED OFF" or "TURNED ON" that distinguishes the differences in living beings, for the most part.

Andrew said...

No, no, no, Anonymous.

One easy to understand example can show why this analysis is bogus.

Humans have 46 chromosomes (those are like big grouping of DNA). Our closest relative, chimpanzees, have 48. That is a difference which cannot be reduced to simply some genes being turned on or off. There is no gene for merging chromosomes in one species and not merging them in another.

Your example of the fruit fly's DNA compared with ours is even worse. We have 46. They have 8.

Try again.

By the way, evolution does explain adding an subtracting genetic material. Check out:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chimpanzee_Genome_Project#Genes_of_the_Chromosome_2_fusion_site

and

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Endogenous_retrovirus

and

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gene_duplication

FrodoSaves said...

Rhiggs,

Sounds like he was trying to find a way to wiggle out of an awkward position. After failing to respond for so long he probably saw his chance to take what looked like moral high ground to him, so that he could escape with a shred of dignity and argument in tatters.

ERV said...

BTW, I got the email from Casey about 20 mins after you predicted it. He wasn't happy but he said he forgives me. He's so darn polite even when he's angry!!

He also sent his 'work in progress' response to my last email in which he accuses me of not emailing in a 'nice tone' and not asking questions in 'good faith'.

He also informed me that he does not want any further correspondence with me :(
AAAAAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHA!

AAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHA!

Call me Annie said...

So what does his "work in progress" response say????

rhiggs said...

Call me Annie,

I'm not going to post his response as he explicitly asked me not to.

But essentially he accused me of not understanding anything about ID and being dishonest and nasty. Oh and he said I didn't read any of his links, I used double standards throughout the debate and that my tone was 'derogatory'.

So, in summary, he made a lot of noise about being unfairly treated but addressed nothing of any substance. I guess you could say his arguments represent the ID community...

Anonymous said...

My impression:

Your tone was extremely polite. The substance addresses facts and arguments with a sense of respect and honest inquiry. I would challenge anyone to find a way to phrase your notes more politely while remaining true to the scientific substance.

It is regrettable that someone who cannot substantiate his own excessive claims should respond with a complaint against the person with whom he is conversing. This is, nevertheless, a very common human reaction -- not only from people who are deliberately mendacious, but also from those who are completely sincere (albeit mistaken in one or more vital points that they may not wish to examine too closely).

Of course the tone is not what matters in science. You could have been the nastiest, most sarcastic person in the world, and it would make no difference with regard to the facts or the analytical reasoning offered. Still, such a thing can be distracting (even if some are entertained by it), and I applaud your focus on sticking to the subject in such a positive manner. May your clear and effective efforts serve as an example to others for the patiently respectful attitude in which it was conveyed.

That makes a good social difference, even if it matters not at all to the scientific aspect.

rhiggs said...

Anon,

Thanks for the comment. I thought I had maintained a pleasant tone throughout the exchange, even though I completely disagreed with most of what Luskin said. It'a a pity that Luskin decided to use about 95% of his recent response to complain about being unfairly treated.

Rhiggs

dogmeatib said...

Rhiggs,

While I fear you wasted your time, the reading was quite interesting. It is a pretty standard tactic of the anti-science folks. Present a lot of "evidence" which really doesn't support their position, evade and/or nitpick when you point out the flaws in their argument, avoid or delay replying, then attack you for being, dishonest, insulting, etc. when they realize that they don't have a reply. The final step is usually to declare "victory" in the debate or argument despite the fact that any objective observer would agree their arguments were utterly crushed.

The truly sad thing is, as has been pointed out, Luskin is an attorney. For him to misrepresent the judge's opinion in the Dover case cannot be considered anything but flat out lying. With the rest of his support for ID, his statements, etc., you could give him the benefit of the doubt and argue that he's a clueless but well intended advocate for a "scientific theory" that he honestly believes better represents reality. With the addition of his statements about Dover though, any attempt to give him the benefit of the doubt goes right out the window.

ERV said...

I'm not going to post his response as he explicitly asked me not to.You know you dont have to waste good manners on the Luskin, right?

Mike said...

I don't think its nitpicking, it may be a bit of semantics, but it would be best not to refer to creation science as "bad science". There's a huge difference between "bad science" and pseudoscience. Its not science at all. Bad science is where I make a conclusion based on an artifact. Turns out, there's alot of bad science in science. Scientific creationism, which includes ID, needs to be identified as pseudoscience since it doesn't use the scientific method, doesn't represent the work of any faction of the scientific community, and is promoted with dishonest propaganda.

rhiggs said...

Mike,

Good point. I'm surprised Luskin didn't jump all over that one and declare that I thought ID *is* science, but just bad.

.

Anonymous said...

I've never understood the whole "irreducible complexity" argument as reflecting intelligent design. If irreducible complexity could be found, it would reflect idiotic design, wouldn't it? I mean a good design would make use of mass produced, easily available parts from an intelligently-managed supply chain.

freelunch said...

Poor Casey Luskin, too bad none of us will believe his lies just because he's really well-intended.

Sorry, Casey, but you are a flat-out jerk, a con-man, a fool, the kind of nasty person that Professor Harold Hill would stay away from, but would recognize immediately and warn the whole town against. What a tool.

tragedyoftheage said...

Fascinating read.

Anonymous said...

I dont get the fuss. If someone is so obviously wrong why bother arguing the toss with him?

Surely you'd be just as well off arguing with David Icke about the existence of jewish flesh eating lizards?

Seems like a bit of a waste of time, no?

rhiggs said...

Anon,

It may seem like a waste of time to you, but the fact remains that Luskin and his buddies are actively travelling around the US trying to change science standards in order to insert this psuedoscience into the classroom.

It's not like they just have their wacky ideas and can't do any harm with them. What they want, and are pursuing, is for kids all over the US to be directly or indirectly taught this stuff.

I think it's worth pinning these guys down and exposing their incompetence and dishonesty. If no one did, they might just get their way. If so, it's the next generation of kids that will suffer.

Rhiggs

Anonymous said...

I find it hard to imagine that there is any real jeopardy caused by these groups. I believe these guys are a minority of fundamentalist christians. Given the scale of the United States there are always gonna be a few loonies looking to add this or that to the school syllabus.

I have no proof but I daresay that there is most likely a similar movement by right-wing elements in certain US states, to have the validity of the holocaust open to debate on school curricula- Im sure that this is just as unlikely to become a part of mainstream education across the United States.

I believe the threat is minimal especially given the new science/research-centric America promised under Barack Obama.

I just feel that you have entered into dialogue with Mr. Luskin purely because it was an arguement you could not lose. I doubt you expected to encounter any information which would alter your stance on the issue; especially since, from what I can gather, Mr. Luskin believes in a fundementally un-provable God-like creator.

As a crusade it appears to be a futile endeavor, because you have as much hope of altering Mr. Luskins mind, as he has of convincing you to abandon Darwinism for his beliefs. As such he will continue to lobby as he has previously.

Unfortunately people like Mr. Luskin and his cohorts will always have a voice and a constitutional right to lobby in support of it. Given the intrinsically un-scientific nature of their beliefs I dont imagine those people pre-disposed to follow their cause will be discouraged no matter how well you tie him up in his own meanderings.

It just seems time would be better spent in debate on something such as climate change where the science is somewhat less clear and public opinion somewhat more divided.

Of course as in all things I stand to be corrected on the above.

rhiggs said...

Anon,

Thanks for the comment. I hope you are right when you say that the threat is minimal. To be honest I am in a weak position to evaluate it as I live in Ireland.

Even so, it is still important to highlight the unscientific nonsense that Luskin and co want to insert into the classroom. Similarly, if holocaust-deniers want a voice in the school system, it's not enough to say 'the threat is minimal', even though it might be. Ignoring a minor threat is a recipe for disaster. It needs to be scrutinized and torn apart before it gathers any momentum in public thinking.

Thats really the point here. The DI don't care so much about ID being seen as science anymore. They are just being as vocal as possible to try and convince the scientifically-naive public that there is a conspiracy to keep ID out of schools. From the stats, it seems they are actually doing a pretty good job too.

Thus, it's vital that an equally vocal criticism of ID is brought to the general public. It is not people already pre-disposed to ID that we need to convince. It is the people in the middle, the 50-50s, that are more important.

Plus, it's a topic I'm interested in so I devoted some of my time to it. I have no expertise in the area of climate change, so it would be pointless for me to engage someone on this topic at present. Plenty of others do though.Rhiggs

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