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Re: Dembski's reply to WSJ article `flaws in intelligent design'

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  • Stephen E. Jones
    Group Here, as posted on another list, is Dembski s response to the WSJ article, which AFAIK is not yet webbed: Of course there s no strict logical
    Message 1 of 3 , Feb 16, 2004
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      Group

      Here, as posted on another list, is Dembski's response to the WSJ article,
      which AFAIK is not yet webbed:

      "Of course there's no strict logical impossibility for a microsyringe
      being an evolutionary precursor to the bacterial flagellum. But what
      exactly had to happen to that microsyringe to transform it into a
      flagellum? We're dealing here with molecular machines that are
      every bit as much machines as any humanly engineered machines.
      To see what's at stake, consider what exactly has to happen to a
      motor to transform it into a motorcycle? Sure, there are a number of
      steps that can transform a motor into a motorcycle. And there
      probably are a number of steps that can transform a microsyringe
      into a flagellum (though in fact the best molecular evidence these
      days points to the microsyringe evolving from the flagellum rather
      than into it). But what are those steps? How small can they be
      made? And is it reasonable to think that those steps could be taken
      apart from design? If evolutionists really had an answer to the origin
      of the bacterial flagellum in purely materialistic terms (i.e., invoking
      only material mechanisms like natural selection and random
      variation), they would merely need to state the answer and
      intelligent design would be dead in the water."

      It seems Darwinists like Miller are satisfied with what Neo-Darwinism's
      co-founder Julian Huxley, to his credit, criticised his fellow Darwinists
      for, in regarding a mere "paper demonstration that such and such a character
      was or might be adaptive was regarded ... as sufficient proof that it must owe
      its origin to Natural Selection" (see tagline)!

      Steve

      ==========================================================================
      http://online.wsj.com/article_email/0,,SB107656106762928092-IFjg4Nglah3nJyvZ3uHbqiHm4,00.html

      To Whom It May Concern:

      Sharon Begley's article regarding "flaws in intelligent design" misrepresents
      the current state of the debate. Design theorists have known all along about
      microsyringes and other supposed evolutionary precursors to irreducibly
      complex systems like the bacterial flagellum. The challenge for
      evolutionary theory is not to find components of such systems that are grist
      of natural selection's mill, but to provide detailed, testable, step-by-step
      scenarios whereby such components could have coherently aggregated and
      eventually formed the marvels of nano-engineering that we find in systems
      like the flagellum.

      The problem that design theorists are pointing to has been inherent in
      evolutionary theory since Darwin wrote his Origin of Species. In that book
      Darwin remarked, "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.
      But I can find out no such case."

      Of course Darwin was unable to find any such case. As my colleague
      Robert Koons has pointed out in an essay for a book I've edited, "How
      could it be proved that something could not possibly have been formed by a
      process specified no more fully than as a process of 'numerous, successive,
      slight modifications'? And why should the critic [of Darwin's theory] have
      to prove any such thing? The burden is on Darwin and his defenders to
      demonstrate that at least some complex organs we find in nature really can
      possibly be formed in this way, that is, by some specific, fully articulated
      series of slight modifications."

      Koons's point applies to microsyringes and the co-option arguments of
      Kenneth Miller. Of course there's no strict logical impossibility for a
      microsyringe being an evolutionary precursor to the bacterial flagellum. But
      what exactly had to happen to that microsyringe to transform it into a
      flagellum? We're dealing here with molecular machines that are every bit as
      much machines as any humanly engineered machines. To see what's at
      stake, consider what exactly has to happen to a motor to transform it into a
      motorcycle? Sure, there are a number of steps that can transform a motor
      into a motorcycle. And there probably are a number of steps that can
      transform a microsyringe into a flagellum (though in fact the best molecular
      evidence these days points to the microsyringe evolving from the flagellum
      rather than into it). But what are those steps? How small can they be made?
      And is it reasonable to think that those steps could be taken apart from
      design?

      If evolutionists really had an answer to the origin of the bacterial flagellum
      in purely materialistic terms (i.e., invoking only material mechanisms like
      natural selection and random variation), they would merely need to state the
      answer and intelligent design would be dead in the water. The very fact that
      these issues are being discussed in the Wall Street Journal indicates that the
      debate is far from over. For an accurate representation of the current debate
      about microsyringes, bacterial flagella, and irreducibly complex systems
      generally, see my article "Irreducible Complexity Revisited" at
      http://www.designinference.com/documents/2004.01.Irred_Compl_Revisit
      ed.pdf.

      William A. Dembski
      Associate Research Professor
      Conceptual Foundations of Science
      Baylor University
      ==========================================================================


      --------------------------------------------------------------------------
      "And finally Darwinism itself grew more and more theoretical. The paper
      demonstration that such and such a character was or might be adaptive was
      regarded by many writers as sufficient proof that it must owe its origin to
      Natural Selection. Evolutionary studies became more and more merely
      case-books of real or supposed adaptations. Late nineteenth-century
      Darwinism came to resemble the early nineteenth-century school of
      Natural Theology. Paley redivivus, one might say, but philosophically
      upside down, with Natural Selection instead of a Divine Artificer as the
      Deus ex machina. There was little contact of evolutionary speculation with
      the concrete facts of cytology and heredity, or with actual
      experimentation." (Huxley J., "Evolution: The Modern Synthesis," [1942],
      George Allen & Unwin: London, 1945, reprint, p.23)
      Stephen E. Jones http://members.iinet.net.au/~sejones
      Moderator: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CreationEvolutionDesign
      --------------------------------------------------------------------------
    • Cliff Lundberg
      From: Stephen E. Jones ... WSJ article, ... microsyringe ... be ... taken ... Why is the flagellum such an icon? It s basically
      Message 2 of 3 , Feb 16, 2004
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        From: "Stephen E. Jones" <sejones@...>
        > Here, as posted on another list, is Dembski's response to the
        WSJ article,

        > "...probably are a number of steps that can transform a
        microsyringe
        > into a flagellum... But what are those steps? How small can they
        be
        > made? And is it reasonable to think that those steps could be
        taken
        > apart from design?

        Why is the flagellum such an icon? It's basically something that
        wiggles.
        That's all it does. Why is it such a great trick to evolve
        something that
        wiggles? (And then improve it).

        Cliff
      • pimvanmeurs
        ... wrote: Quoting Dembski: Of course there s no strict logical impossibility for a microsyringe being an evolutionary precursor to the
        Message 3 of 3 , Feb 16, 2004
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          --- In CreationEvolutionDesign@yahoogroups.com, "Stephen E. Jones"
          <sejones@i...> wrote:
          Quoting Dembski:
          "Of course there's no strict logical impossibility for a microsyringe
          being an evolutionary precursor to the bacterial flagellum. But what
          exactly had to happen to that microsyringe to transform it into a
          flagellum?"

          Let's stop here and realize that Dembski's design inference is a
          logic inference based on the impossibility of regularity and chance.
          While Dembski is correct that we may not have all the details
          necessary to describe the Darwinian pathway in all details, it
          should also be clear that any design inference based on the
          flagellum will fail when a logical possibility has to be
          acknowledged.

          William Dembski all but seems to have conceded that the design
          inference may be irrelevant to detecting (novel) design in nature.
          Which is the conclusion reached by Del Ratzsch in the appendix of
          his latest book.

          Dembski may object to the details of the pathways and we may thus
          have to admit that we don't know all the details but the logical
          possibility admitted to here also has undermined any hope for a
          design inference.

          Dembski:

          "And is it reasonable to think that those steps could be
          taken apart from design?"

          Without further data one has to infer 'we don't know'. Certainly any
          design inference has to be rejected as long as a logical possibility
          is admitted. Remember once again that the design inference is a
          logical argument. In addition, even when admitting design, it would
          seem self evident that a natural designer like selection and
          variation could not be eliminated. Science is progressing in its
          understanding of the flagellum and some viable pathways have been
          provided. While one can always object to the scale of the steps,
          such objections do little to support any design inference.
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