What to show someone who believes in “Intelligent” Design.

So, the redundancy of the appendix, the fact that men get swollen prostates in old age, the existence of bacteria, viruses (including the worst and deadly kinds), earthquakes, volcanoes and the biological pathology of cancer don’t persuade the “Intelligent” Design crowd that the world was not created by anyone who knew what the hell they were doing. And even less so by anyone with humankind’s best interest at heart. So what do you tell these people?

Well, there are two alternatives. One is that the person you’re dealing with, this ID-er, is interested in evidence but temporarily misguided – perhaps the unwitting dupe of creationist propaganda. For such a one there is hope since appeals to his intelligence are not altogether ruled out. People of religious faith, including ID, who are recalcitrant to such inconveniences as reality and fact, are, I fear, most likely to be stuck permanently in the no-hope zone. The following video is unlikely to move them. In either case, I challenge any “Intelligent” Design advocate to refute this:

The evidence presented above was published in Nature in 2004. The man speaking is Professor Kenneth Miller – a determined opponent of “Intelligent” Design idiocy and the author of the highly recommended book Finding Darwin’s God. The trial he was talking about was Kitzmiller vs The Dover Area School District (2005). The lecture in its entirety is available here.

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7 Responses to “What to show someone who believes in “Intelligent” Design.”

  1. Ross Says:

    I just wanted to summarise this man’s logic. He said that because he found that one of our chromosomes appears to be the fusion of two that we originally had two more chromosomes or another pair. He then says that this would give us 48 and make us have the same number as the three primate species listed. I agree that the Creationist could claim that God made things that way from the beginning and I don’t have enough information to make a comment on that. But I have to actually point out a flaw in his logic. The fact that we may have meant to have 48 chromosomes does not in any way require that we share common ancestry with apes. We could all have been created 24 pairs and at some point the human ones paired. I think that this ‘test’ as he puts it was only ever threatening the validity of Evolution never going to prove it. Similarly there are tests that can be devised to discredit Creationism based on its projections.

  2. bluerat Says:

    What do you mean “the fact that we were MEANT to have 48 chromosomes…”? There’s nothing MEANT about it. We have 23 pairs (46 chromosomes). Whose “meant” do you mean?

    From a very slack hypothetical perspective it IS possible that all species were created as they are. In fact it is possible that aliens did this last Tuesday, and implanted all our memories to be the way they are so that we don’t suspect a thing. But if you’re going to be rational and systematic about interpreting data, rather than invoking unobservable causes, you have to follow, in the primate case, which primates predate humans, and how the genome develops. We share 98% of our genome with the chimps; we are biologically related. The move from primates to human involved a fusion of chromosomes somewhere along the way. Having noted that this is so, the theory makes a completely testable prediction: can we observe that this fusion occurred and where it occurred? And the answer is: yes we can. The chromosome telomers show us this exactly, the data is reliable, repeatable and has been published in peer-reviewed journals. It supports evolutionary theory, and does not oppose it. It opposes Intelligent Design because ID proponents argue that macroevolution does not happen. Manifestly, that is untrue.

    If God created humans with 24 pairs (48 chromosomes) where are these people? If then the chromosomes fused, then evolution happens after God’s creation. This makes no sense, since you can move back in time and say this for any species.

  3. dangoldfinch Says:

    Rat,

    It’s a pretty good argument. I like it! What I wonder, however, is how these two chromosomes ‘knew’ that they had to ‘fuse’? Now, I am not saying they didn’t. I’m asking why they did, when they did, how they did, and how they ‘knew’ to do so? Oh, and also, what event was the catalyst of the ‘fusion’? At what point did apes decide they no longer wanted to be apes?

    Why didn’t this happen for all ape species? That is, why are there still apes on earth? Why haven’t they all fused their chromosomes and become like you, and me?

    Again, I’m not saying that they didn’t. But, what prompted them to do so?

    BTW, those two chromosomes made one hell of a difference, didn’t they?

    (For the record, when you begin with evidence, and develop a premise around it, that’s not really good science. It almost sounds like he needed an explanation for the 23 chromosomes and found one! But I’m no scientist, so I can’t say for sure.)

    So, I’ll check back on those questions I posed above. Listen, hear me well, I’m not saying it isn’t true. It sounds reasonable to me. So, let’s assume that Professor Miller is right. OK, now, answer those questions I posed above. (PS–I’m Believe in Genesis 1. I don’t ‘need’ ID to justify my belief.)

    Now, I’m being friendly about this because I’m at your blog. I’ll sit back and wait for the answers to those questions. I am genuinely interested in the answers.

    respectfully,
    jerry (from Life Under the Blue Sky, I’ll only post my link with your permission)

  4. bluerat Says:

    Hi Jerry,

    Nice to see you here.

    You raise a lot of questions, but I’m afraid some of them do show that you seem to have some misunderstandings about evolution. The first of these is the idea that chromosomes “knew” that they should fuse. At the molecular level it makes no sense to say that there is “knowledge” involved for a chemical reaction to happen (I’m a chemist by the way) and the fusion of chromosomes is essentially a chemical reaction between macromolecules. (Incidentally, this isn’t Miller’s research, but it was evidence from studies published in Nature which he presented in the Kitzmiller vs Dover School District Trial in 2005.) There are volumes and volumes of similar evidence – try and read some peer-reviewed journals to convince yourself.
    The fusion of chromosomes is not done because they “knew” to fuse. That is meaningless in science. If you ask a question like “how did they know to fuse?” you’re implying that knowledge on the chromosome’s behalf is required and where did this come from but God? But the truth is that knowledge is not required. Molecules behave according to principles on the quantum and thermodynamic level. The fusion found in Chromosome #2 is probably a random mutation that happened to be favourable to its inheritor. Most mutations in nature happen to be unfavourable (i.e. detrimental to the creature’s welfare). The creatures that survive, the species that we see around us and that are found in fossils are examples of species for whom the mutations were not deleterious and who at least for some time found their way in the surrounding environment.
    The next thing to note is that the fused chromosome is not the only difference between humans and their primate ancestors. The difference between the chimp and human’s genome is around 98%. The difference between a human and a banana on the genetic level is around 50%. A small difference in percentage terms on the genetic level has profound implications for the way the animal looks and what characteristics it possesses.
    You ask what the “catalyst” for the fusion of the chromosomes is. There is no catalyst necessarily in the chemical sense (I actually am doing a PhD at the moment in catalysis – a catalyst being a chemical compound that alters the thermodynamic pathway of a reaction and thereby speeds it up but the catalyst remains unchanged after the reaction is finished). So I don’t think you mean that kind of catalyst. I think you probably mean why did the fusion happen, or what led to it. The answer to that is random mutation. Nature contains literally millions of examples of random mutation all the time. Genes become mutated for a large number of reasons. One example is cancer: when DNA in your body is altered (for example because ultra-violet light from the sun has changed its structure a little) you might get cancer. Cancerous cells in your body are mutated – their ability to die when they should is diminished. Either that, or the rate at which they divide is much faster than it should be. It’s likely that cancer will kill you eventually if it’s untreated. But you wouldn’t ask “how did those cells “know” to become cancerous?” The DNA mutation happened for one or more of a variety of reasons.
    Another example of mutation is bacterial resistance to antibiotics. Bacteria divide very quickly and so within hours they might go through several hundred or thousand generations, each susceptible to mutation. If you treat an infection with antibiotics you might be unlucky enough that some of the bacteria will develop a mutation in their genetic information that will by chance give them a resistance to antibiotics. All the other bacteria will die, but the ones that don’t will continue to divide and eventually you’ll have an entirely new strain that is resistant. (MRSA is a recent example of this.)

    Intelligent Design is a movement that seeks to reintroduce creationism into the schools by muddying the water and trying to persuade people that there some sort of controversy within science about evolution or how species come about. The problem is that it offers not evidence, no peer reviewed literature and no scientific understanding at all. Saying “god did it” is no kind of answer, it does nothing to advance our understanding of how nature works and would mean we couldn’t do such things as find out new ways of curing disease. I appreciate you say you don’t need ID, but presumably, if you believe God created the world, you believe that he designed the different species himself. And yet the design is poor. We have bad eyesight, we have appendix infections, we have prostate trouble, women get fistulas after birth, and so do other animals. God also must have put viruses on the planet and bacteria which give us disease (and not just us – other animals have diseases, so do trees.) Evolution explains where species come from, is supported by ample evidence, which is repeatable, testable and leads to further testable hypotheses. Saying “God did it” does not.
    You expressed a general interest to find out about evolution in your comment above. I’m very glad that you have. There are some excellent books about how it works which are aimed at a general audience. One you might like is called The Blind Watchmaker. You can even get a primer on it called Evolution – A Very Short Introduction. Have a look around.

  5. bluerat Says:

    Just a correction: I said the difference between the human and the chimp genome is 98%. That’s not correct. What I meant is that they are 98% SIMILAR. The difference is 2% (as you’d expect). I just wrote the sentence badly above. Sorry.

  6. dangoldfinch Says:

    Blue,

    I can’t read it all right now, but here’s what I’ll say at the outset: That 2% made/makes one hell of a difference, didn’t it? And the 98% we have in common, does not prove common ancestry. The 2% we have different, demonstrates that we’re not the same. For example, if our common ancestor started out with 48 pairs, and we are the result of a fusing of 2 resulting in our 46, so what? What happens if I add 2 more to a ‘normal’ human being and give them 48 again? Will they turn back into an ape? What happens if I take away two from a ‘normal’ human and leave them with 44? My point is this: if you take away chromosomes from a human you end up with something less than a ‘normal’ human. Why should I think it would be any different if I took away chromosomes from a ‘normal’ ape? What would an ape, born with 46 chromosomes instead of 48 be? It would be less of an ape, but it would not be human. So, to continue the point: Have you ever heard of Down’s Syndrome? I think the information at wikipediea is accurate:

    Trisomy 21 (47,XX,+21) is caused by a meiotic nondisjunction event. With nondisjunction, a gamete (i.e., a sperm or egg cell) is produced with an extra copy of chromosome 21; the gamete thus has 24 chromosomes. When combined with a normal gamete from the other parent, the embryo now has 47 chromosomes, with three copies of chromosome 21. Trisomy 21 is the cause of approximately 95% of observed Down syndromes, with 88% coming from nondisjunction in the maternal gamete and 8% coming from nondisjunction in the paternal gamete. (wikipedia)

    Now if that’s what happens with 47 chromosomes, what would it be with 48? With 44? With 45? But, if 46 is ‘perfect’, then why did nature need to adjust anything? Would a person with 48 chromosomes be an ape? I don’t think this example that the professor gave works well when the implications are thought out carefully. Rather, it makes just as much sense to assume that I have been made just the way I am and that I evolved from nothing. Adding or subtracting chromosomes results in less than ‘perfect’ species. So, show me one species where the addition or subtraction of chromosomes is beneficial (and the above example from the prof. doesn’t count for the reasons I have articulated).

    Now, if you expect me to continue this ‘conversation’, please stop informing that I have a misunderstanding of evolution. I know exactly what it is. I graduated Magna Cum Laude from college, I suscribe to several different academic journals (which I read), and I read on average 40 books a year (on all subjects including science, history, fiction, theology, and so on). I am conversant on any number of subjects (including astronomy, biology, history, and so on). I hate to have to lay out my credentials, but I’m rather tired of you and your friends telling me what I don’t understand. If I don’t understand it, that should be obvious without having to be told.

    Present the facts and I’ll read them. I’ll respond to them when I can, and ask more questions when I can’t. If you can work within this framework, I’ll continue this conversation. If you cannot, then we should part ways. I’m more than humble enough to admit what I don’t understand. I don’t need help? Agreed?

    If you do, I’ll read your above post tomorrow, and we can proceed.

    jerry

  7. bluerat Says:

    Jerry,

    I’ve been away, I’m sorry. I’m uncertain whether you meant you’ll read the whole of what I wrote first, or if you’re expecting a reply first. As you’ve not written for a while, I think you’re expecting me to respond, so here it is:

    The first paragraph you wrote in your last remark seems to speculate on some rather weird calculus of chromosomes. It is NOT their sheer number that counts. What is significant in the discovery of the fusion of chromosome #2 is that the genome is transmitted from more primitive ancestors to its inheritors in an altered form. The question of whether “adding” an additional chromosome or two is spurious, since those chromosomes you’re adding would have to contain genetic information of their own. The answer therefore is that yes, you’d end up with a different species if you could do such a weird thing, but it wouldn’t be a human or any other primate, given the additional genetic information. So it’s not just a case of adding and subtracting. It’s a case of following the information. So the answer to your questions is “no, a person with 48 chromosomes would NOT be an ape.”

    Another perfectly spurious effect in your argument is to say that 46 pairs is “perfect”. Perfect for what? Humans are not the end of the evolutionary chain and there is no perfect adaptation to environmental situations. Evolution theory does not claim perfection – that is a religious doctrine (God is perfect, his design/creation is perfect…) Biology neither implies nor entails any perfection.

    Nor, importantly, can we infer any “intention”. Science does not rely on nature having any intentions towards effecting any one end or another. This is the implication from what you say when, in your first comment, you ask how chromosomes “knew” to fuse? They didn’t know. Chemicals don’t know things. They are not conscious, nor even living. To say that such things “know” what to do is to disregard thermodynamics, entropy and instead import consciousness and intention where there clearly is none. The profit from this for those who believe in God’s creation is clear: if chromosomes “knew”, who told them, right? It must have been God. That is plain wrong.

    I’m sorry you feel offended by being told that your understanding of evolution is mistaken, but frankly, it is. Now, don’t go taking offence at this, there are plenty of things plenty of people are mistaken about, including me. I have the humility to admit it. I hope you do too. But what am I supposed to say when the other person clearly doesn’t understand? Pretend it isn’t happening? We would all like to write our own reviews and mark our own work in school, and never have to rely on others to point out our errors. When you imply intention, knowledge, or the arithmetic of chromosomes you invoke in your previous comment, it is plain that you do not understand the mechanism by which evolution takes place, nor even by which the natural sciences operate. Again, don’t take offence, just reconsider what you know about how science investigates nature, and the fact that consciousness is not necessary. In fact, they lead to category errors like “how did this molecule know how to react with the other one?” How, tell me, does an atom of magnesium “know” to react with hydrochloric acid to produce hydrogen gas? The answer is there is no knowledge, it is a blind process. And evolution is the same, particularly on the molecular level where genetic alterations take place. That is all genes are: big segments of molecule.

    Neither intention, nor consciousness nor knowledge are required. They don’t even feature in the way the inanimate world works, neither on the micro or macro levels.

    Does that answer your questions?


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