Saturday, May 2, 2009

Macro-Redherring

So called “macroevolution” seems to be an elusive term. I have found myself chasing a circle of articles refuting macroevolution, especially ones referring to Michael Behe’s book, “Darwin’s Black Box,” and even Michael Behe himself. On the opposite side of the spectrum, I found myself reading evolutionary articles implying that macroevolution is the large-scale changes in various species over time--which I had long since thought was evolution. Still, I have religious and nonreligious articles referring to macroevolution as a switch from one animal to a completely different animal without the benefit of time. I can only conclude I am crazy or conclude that everyone is as confused on what macroevolution is exactly.

Fortunately, on Nova’s website I found a question and answer article with Dr. Kenneth Miller (a professor at Brown University and author of the textbook Biology), “In Defense of Evolution,” in reference to, “Intelligent Design on Trial.” Contained within his answers he states:

“The people who say that macroevolution, by which they mean really big evolution, has never been observed, inevitably cannot give you a strict and rigorous definition of what macroevolution is. They'll simply say it's the formation of new categories or evolutionary novelties. They're loath to put specifics on that idea, to tell you what percentage of the genes or how many base pairs of DNA have to change, because I think they know very well that once they make specific what they mean by macroevolution, some darn biologist is going to go out into the field or into the lab and follow exactly that rate of change and show that macroevolution really does occur.”

For me to come to a conclusion of whether macroevolution is true or not, I would need a confirmed definition. Can anyone possibly provide this?

In terms of Intelligent Design, the whole concept leaves a lot to be desired to be proclaimed a workable scientific theory. ID appears only a mere objection to evolution, not a testable and/or workable scientific theory. Nothing about it has withstood miniscule scientific testing much less rigorous ones. As a matter of fact, Michael Behe’s infamous prototype to his notion of irreducible complexity, the bacterial flagellum, has long since been proven impossible…and of all things proven impossible in a courtroom.
To be sure (and for time’s sake), I suggest watching, “Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial.” You can find this for free online on the PBS/Nova website.

I mention my objection to Intelligent Design above because the term, “Macroevolution,” appears to be tossed around a lot among its advocators and appears to leave evolutionary biologists guessing as to what it is or what Behe means.

If Behe implies that macroevolution is evolution and microevolution is random mutation, then why doesn’t he just say so? My thought is that speaking real science might make his already disproven hypothesis of irreducible complexity clearly shown to everyone (I also have wondered what Behe is paid by his employer).

Frustratingly, I just cannot logically grasp how Behe can lecture for 20 minutes about a mousetrap, an analogy for irreducible complexity. If Behe can make sense of what irreducible complexity is by demonstrating that any one part of a mousetrap that goes missing loses its mousetrapness then fine. However, continuously defending his analogy as a good one will never prove irreducible complexity. Behe either misses the point of random mutation and natural selection (and therefore obviously doesn’t understand evolution) or purposefully is inserting a red herring. What I mean to say, his point is mute and irrelevant.

In conclusion, could Behe disprove evolution by disproving Darwin when he said:

“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 breakdown.”

he is still faced with proving ID. All he has presented is a false dichotomy, not a scientific theory.


Here are the discussions:

Question for me:

Where do you land? It seems that you do not answer the question that the assignment is asking.

Where do I land? The question is a trick question. The whole point of the question, “Is macroevolution true,” is to shine a light on the word, macroevolution.

Macroevolution is a term that is not used by any biologist to describe anything about evolution though Intelligent Design proponents use it as if they are critiquing a real scientific claim. Further more, macroevolution in and of itself is not a scientific claim or theory. It’s not even a term that describes any part or parts that characterizes any scientific claim or theory. Even Intelligent Design’s own researchers use the term inconsistently that its meaning cannot be deduced to anything consistent. Intelligent Design proponents don’t even have an established definition of its meaning. Using the term gives way to confusion for scientists and laymen alike trying to understand the ID argument.

Philosophically, it is a fallacious argument of ambiguity: equivocation. All this really means is that it is an informal argument that bases a position on ambiguous evidence and the meaning of a term or phrase changes in the course of an argument making it a big ol’ fat red herring.

Perhaps now you see why you were confused on where I land on the assignments question. If I “land” on a definite answer of yes or no to this question, I cannot possibly give a logical response because the term, “Macroevolution,” has no true consistent definition. Many unqualitfied person’s or laymen have postulated on what it means. Indeed, every student has landed on one side or the other but no one can give a consistent definition and there papers inevitably fall short of anything sufficient. Why do you think that is?

Asking this question is like asking someone to lace up and tie a Velcro shoe. They think it is a direct question. If the person assumes that it can be done they’ll just keep at it until infinity. Holding to this assumption, the person will have to hold that their logic is confused and not the assumption’s—their assumption which claims that a Velcro shoe can be tied.

In the case of a student who never chooses to abandon their assumption that macroevolution is a real term., they will inevitably be lead to have to make a yes or no stance. After all, X either is true or is not true. No matter how many hours one spends researching macroevolution, I’ll bet they’ll never come to a clear understanding of what macroevolution is exactly and have to rely and base their argument on unqualified authorities to create their argument for them (and to note, sense there is no established definition for macroevolution there is no qualified authority). It’s like chasing a rabbit down a rabbit hole.

In answering your question, I think it is illogical for me to take on stand on the truth of so-called macroevolution.

I go on to refute ID (we had to read and watch a bunch of debates on ID vs evolution to answer the macroevolution question) because ID proponents are the ones that keep using the word to refute evolution in which evolution make no macroevolutionary claims. It is true that IDers could just be using the word macroevolution synonymously with something else that is a scientific claim but the IDers never specify which claim…even when asked.

My theory is that if Behe cleared up the muddle here he wouldn’t have a salary anymore…that’s where I rest =P

On your alternative theory notion: If Behe is, like you suggest, not arguing for the "theory" of intelligent design, then I am confused. Or am I?

Michael Behe is stating: 1) irreducible complexity is fact 2) the bacteria flagellum rotor is too complex to be irreducible 3) therefore evolution is false. If he just stopped there I might buy that he is just desperately trying to disprove evolution on what he thinks is a good argument. Unfortunately, he doesn't stop there.

Michael Behe goes on to state that the evidence from his “hypothesis” not only necessitates the theory of evolution wrong but also a designer! You cannot say that Behe is not suggesting an alternative theory to evolution with that statement. Even Behe will tell you that his theory would win by sheer default to evolution.

I might add, that all the evidence Behe has, has already been rendered emphatically and resoundingly false. The bacteria flagellum HAS been reduced to the bacteria blamed for the Bubonic plaque, and even the reference Behe uses (which he only used one) to back up his claim that the flagellum’s rotor is irreducible, was a guy who has studied the flagellum’s rotor for years and was interviewed in a scientific journal and on contemplation on the motors remarkable nature the scientist remarked, “It looks design.” The scientist himself said he did not literally mean it was designed.

So what about the other “facts” Behe suggests? There are no more facts. That’s it for Behe’s supposed workable refutation of evolution and replacement theory of ID.

I would show the other discussions but only the questions are authored by me and I do not have permission, as of yet, to post them. Hope all of you out in inter-space are doing well. Ta-ta for now

12 comments:

Lee said...

"Is Macro-Evolution True?"

I reject the question straight away... (as your title states you have also)

It would be debating with one arm behind your back and with the other side changing the meaning and definitions as they saw fit - moving the goal posts at every turn.

Not read your response yet – will do in time, I am running out of internet time tonight – soon the wife will be shouting at me.

So my first thought is this…

What is the difference between micro-evolution and macro-evolution that made someone thought it fit to insert a meaningless prefix to evolution?

The question falls at this point for me.

There is no difference... it is a redherring :-)

Have to go, take care

Lee

Mark_W said...

I am sure that Socrates was wisest to use questioning as his weapon against unthinking. .

Yes, absolutely, and I agree with you and Lee about the red-herring thing, in that there is no need to add prefixes to "evolution"...

Having said that, I’m certainly not an expert on this sort of thing, and kudos to you for the amount of Behe’s blathering you’ve gone through (and the fact that he seems to recently have moved on from nonsense like (as you rightly point out) the irreducible complexity/bacterial flagellum stuff, to trying to argue (in The Edge of Evolution) in favour of some mad theory that there simply isn’t enough time for mutation to work) suggests even he realizes that he’s swimming on shifting sands (as it were).

Regarding macro-evolution, I stopped worrying about this when I got to The Host’s Return chapter of The Ancestor’s Tale, where Dawkins says:

"My own view is that macroevolution (evolution on the grand scale of millions of years) is simply what you get when microevolution (evolution on the scale of individual lifetimes) is allowed to go on for millions of years."

Mind you, I’ve never had to justify myself, as you have, on this, and Dawkins does admit that the contrary view, that "macroevolution is something qualitatively different from microevolution" isn’t "self-evidently silly" – but that it "depends on what you mean."

Which, I think, in my layman’s way, is the whole point, and a point you’ve dealt with very well...

Interesting stuff!

Mark_W

Mark_W said...

Also, I like that one of the (splendidly comprehensive -- I can much as ever remember to even put in one) labels to this post is "Liars". I was glad I'd put my teacup down of I'd need a new keyboard...

:-)

Mark_W said...

Oh, and I'm sure you'll rock (as I believe the kids say these days!) but the very best of luck in your exams too...

Mark_W

Billy said...

The problem with Behe et al is that their position is not one they can prove anyway. I is a lazy attempt to insert god for their personal ignorance. There is a good working model for the evolution of the flagellum. People have even been able to make mouse traps with bits missing. Even a hooked piece of wire on its own has the potential to snag a mouse.

Have you read this concerning Behe? http://www.lehigh.edu/~inbios/news/evolution.htm

Lee said...

Have you read this concerning Behe?Not for a while, but I never get tired of reading it :-)

Susie Q said...

Lee,

I liked the way you said,

"It would be debating with one arm behind your back and with the other side changing the meaning and definitions as they saw fit - moving the goal posts at every turn."

I was trying to say this very thing and you say it so much better!

Take your time reading the question and the response to my response. They'll make you want bust a computer screen!

Mark_W

Howdy there. I feel I haven't talked to you in forever and I discovered I miss it!

I've never read, "Ancestors Tale," thanks for the excerpt!.

...oh yeah, and the liars tag I did for my pure own guilty pleasure ;P. Upon contemplation, it still pleasurable!

Billy,

Thanks for the link. I have never seen it but it will keep a place in my heart, forever. LOL thanks!

Mark_W said...

Susie,

Heavens, bless you...And likewise!

(And, yes, "Liars" is still funny...)

:-)

It occurred to me today (as things like this are wont to do, sometimes) that I don't know how Michael Behe pronounces his surname, but I really hope it's "bee-hee", since that lends itself well to making up silly Clerihews:
.

Michael Behe.
Promoted irreducible complexity.
When told it was an abomination.
He prattled on about the speed of mutation..

Well, it amused me for a bit today...

:-)

Mark_W

Jonathan said...

Mark-

I googled for videos with him in it, his surname is indeed pronounced "bee-hee". Let the silly rhyming etc commence!

Mark_W said...

Jonathan,

Marvellous. And hooray for people with computers that do sound!

There is some sort of cosmic justice, I think, that Behe's name is an apt one for rhymically taking the mickey out of him...

Mark_W

Samuel said...

Great post. My sentiments exactly. As for why people cannot see the inconsistency in their own thoughts and beliefs - I do not know. It's as if we voluntarily put on blinders.

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