April 27th, 2013
The following is the abstract from a recent paper (“Life Before Earth,” 28 March 2013) published in arXiv by Alexei A. Sharov, Ph.D. (Staff Scientist, Laboratory of Genetics) and Richard Gordon, Ph.D. (Theoretical Biologist, Embryogenesis Center). What’s quite startling and significant about this paper is that it compares to the complexity found in biology and compares it to Moore’s Law, which is a computer/computational complexity. What’s important is not the mere issue of complexity but the specific coding elements required for specific function in conjunction with complexity. Thus, the information content is very complex, robust, and specified.
An extrapolation of the genetic complexity of organisms to earlier times suggests that life began before the Earth was formed. Life may have started from systems with single heritable elements that are functionally equivalent to a nucleotide. The genetic complexity, roughly measured by the number of non-redundant functional nucleotides, is expected to have grown exponentially due to several positive feedback factors: (1) gene cooperation, (2) duplication of genes with their subsequent specialization (e.g., via expanding differentiation trees in multicellular organisms), and (3) emergence of novel functional niches associated with existing genes. Linear regression of genetic complexity (on a log scale) extrapolated back to just one base pair suggests the time of the origin of life = 9.7 ± 2.5 billion years ago.
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April 26th, 2013
Any type of efficient causality is typically associated with being an unscientific explanation—explanations nonetheless but unscientific. It is believed that if biology, chemistry, physics, etc. rested explanations in final causation then it would be a science stopper. This is where the distinction between Duhemian science and Augustinian science must be made. I would deny the use of Duhemian science. This method, or philosophy, has a goal of stripping science from all metaphysical imports. Augustinian science is open to metaphysical presuppositions with science. Francis Bacon and Descartes used and allowed for formal and final causation in scientific explanation. Newton entered science and postulated that the universe was entirely mechanistic, which was a denial of Baconian and Cartesian science (at least their versions of scientific explanation) but offered no explanation for the appearance of final causation and efficient causation. Darwin came along and provided a plausible material mechanism for the appearance of final and efficient causation (at least for the special science of biology).
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March 20th, 2013
I attended the Discovery Institute’s Summer Seminar on Intelligent Design (Social Science) in 2010. My thoughts and comments will be general since we were asked not release specifics concerning information being shared (some of it was yet-to-be published and I don’t know if it has been published yet so I’ll remain silent) and I do not want to “out” any other attendees in their academic endeavors. Once you’re labeled as an ID proponent your academic career is potentially slowed down or halted. I’ve already outed myself and I’m pretty vocal about my advocacy of design (I’m a philosopher so it’s not as academically persecuted).
I have no negative comments concerning the DI’s seminar. In fact, I have more respect for the institute and fellows. There were two concurrent seminars (natural and social sciences) that interacted with each other on a regular basis and combined on many occasions. I participated in the social science seminar and being philosophy graduate student I’m not as adept in biology, chemistry, and physics as many others are. I certainly received a welcoming abundance of science in presentations, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Some of the lecturers included Stephen Meyer, Michael Behe, William Dembski, Doug Axe, Jay Richards, Jonathan Wells, Richard Sternberg, Ann Gauger, Bruce Gordon, Jonathan Witt, John West, and Casey Luskin.
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March 16th, 2013
Reblogged from Jonathan M. at Evolution News and Views…
I’ve been reading the recently published book Microbes and Evolution: The World that Darwin Never Saw, which combines my two primary areas of interest: microbiology and evolution. Chapter 38 of the book is written by Kelly Hughes and David Blair of the University of Utah, two of the world’s leading experts on bacterial flagellar assembly. Having followed the work of Kelly Hughes and his colleagues for a few years, I hold their work in the highest regard. I myself have a deep fascination with the subject of bacterial gene expression. I was intrigued, therefore, when I discovered the title of Hughes and Blair’s chapter: “Irreducible Complexity? Not!”
Following a very basic overview of flagellar structure and function (also described in my own detailed review of the subject), Hughes and Blair ask, “Is the flagellum irreducibly complex, or just complex?” They write,
It is clear that the flagellum is a complex structure and that its assembly and operation depend upon many interdependent components and processes. This complexity has been suggested to pose problems for the theory of evolution; specifically, it has been suggested that the ancestral flagellum could not have provided a significant advantage unless all of the parts were generated simultaneously. Hence, the flagellum has been described as “irreducibly complex,” implying that it is impossible or at least very difficult to envision a much simpler, but still useful, ancestral form that would have been the raw material for evolution.
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February 27th, 2013
Reblogged from David Klinghoffer.
Congratulations are in order. Columnist Mark Vernon in The Guardian has honored Thomas Nagel’s Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False with his annual Most Despised Science Book award. By that, Vernon means the book that most attracted the ire of the scientifically orthodox by violating cherished taboos — a good thing, in other words:
Steven Pinker damned it with faint praise when he described it in a tweet as “the shoddy reasoning of a once-great thinker.” Jerry Coyne blogged: “Nagel goes the way of Alvin Plantinga,” which is like being compared to Nick Clegg. All in all, Nagel’s gadfly stung and whipped them into a fury.Disparagement is particularly unfair, though, because the book is a model of carefulness, sobriety and reason. If reading Sheldrake feels daring, Tallis thrilling and Fodor worthwhile but hard work, reading Nagel feels like opening the door on to a tidy, sunny room that you didn’t know existed.
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October 3rd, 2012
Original post by William Dembski.
In December 1994, I was in the middle of writing my philosophy dissertation for the University of Illinois at Chicago while also working on a masters of divinity degree at Princeton Theological Seminary. Visiting my parents in the Tucson area for the Christmas break, I was pondering what title to put on my dissertation. The dissertation focused on small-probability events used in chance-elimination arguments. Although the dissertation addressed some long-standing questions in the foundations of statistical reasoning, I also had my eye on bigger fish. Two years earlier, in the summer of 1992, I had spent several weeks with Stephen Meyer and Paul Nelson in Cambridge, England, to explore how to revive design as a scientific concept, using it to elucidate biological origins as well as to refute the dominant materialistic understanding of evolution (i.e., neo-Darwinism).
Such a project, if it were to be successful, clearly could not merely give a facelift to existing design arguments for the existence of God. Indeed, any designer that would be the conclusion of such statistical reasoning would have to be far more generic than any God of ethical monotheism. At the same time, the actual logic for dealing with small probabilities seemed less to directly implicate a designing intelligence than to sweep the field clear of chance alternatives. The underlying logic therefore was not a direct argument for design but an indirect circumstantial argument that implicated design by eliminating what it was not.
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August 3rd, 2012
Darwinism is a multipart theory. Some parts may be right, others may be wrong. It’s important to distinguish what is right and what is wrong.
- Common descent (interesting, but trivial)
- Natural selection (interesting, but trivial)
- Random mutation
- The critical claim of Darwinism is the sufficiency of random mutation
The problem of rugged evolutionary fitness landscape
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June 29th, 2012
Evolution has many meanings.
- Change over time
- Evolution of the cosmos
- Evolution of living things
- Evolution of culture, technology, etc.
- Changes within existing species
- Morphological (anatomical)
- Genetic (change in gene frequencies)
- Common ancestry
- Within a species
- Descent of all species from a common ancestor
- Darwinian evolution
Darwinism: Descent with modification through unguided processes
- Descent: “I view all beings not as special creations, but as the lineal descendants of some few beings which lived long ago.”
- Modification: “The preservation of favorable individual differences of variations, and the destruction of those which are injurious (natural selection).”
- Unguided processes: “There seems to be no more design in the variability of organic beings, and in the action of natural selection, than in the course which the wind blows. So I am inclined to look at everything as resulting from designed laws, with the details, whether good or bad, left to the working out of chance.”
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