Talk:Question Evolution! - CMI's Rebuttals to General Objections to the 15 Questions

From RationalWiki
Jump to: navigation, search

I'm reading through this now. I can help with rewriting stuff but not creating the rebuttal from scratch; I don't know enough about the relevant sciences. It may be worth noting in objection #2 that they use Gerald Kerkut's definition of evolution, which is definitely questionable. Kerkut defines microevolution and macroevolution (into which he inexplicably lumped abiogenesis) separately, which no reputable evolutionary scientist does today. Star of David.png Radioactive afikomen Please ignore all my awful pre-2014 comments. 05:38, 13 March 2013 (UTC)

I did some digging... Kerkut's statement was taken from The Implications of Evolution, published in 1960. Nothing against the guy, he was a very well respected scientist, but as Stabby says, that was 53 years ago and long superceded by current thinking. VOXHUMANA 05:45, 13 March 2013 (UTC)

Objection #5 defends their quoting of Ernst Haeckel's racist ideas, neglecting to mention that he died in freaking 1919 — one of the most important contexts there is is the date. People change and science develops and revises, especially over 94 years. Star of David.png Radioactive afikomen Please ignore all my awful pre-2014 comments. 06:00, 13 March 2013 (UTC)

Counter to Rebuttal #1[edit]

OK, here goes at a counter-rebuttal... VOXHUMANA 06:24, 13 March 2013 (UTC)

  • Point A: "But if science has not yet advanced, then how could materialistic scientists possibly know what can be answered in the future?"
  • All science proceeds on the basis that it WILL eventually unravel whatever problem it is trying to solve. Thus far science has proved to be pretty good at this, having investigated and eventually solved the one-time mysteries of lightning, fire, sunlight, gravity, the tides, the plague, earthquakes, volcanos, etc. For those currently unresolved questions in science (such as how life originated), people are, of course, free to assert that science will never find an answer. Only time will tell.
  • Implicit in this statement is the belief that science can never answer this question. In fact, the textbook of Intelligent Design "Of Pandas and People" is quite explicit on this point: "On its own science cannot answer this question. It must leave it to religion and philosophy."(ref - Page 7, 2nd Ed, 1993)
  • Point B: "They tend to discount predictive prophecy, at least when it’s in the Bible."
  • From a scientific perspective there are no known cases of "predictive prophecy", in the Bible or anywhere else. A "prediction" in scientific terms, is a statement about what will happen if a certain observation or repeatable process is undertaken. Accurate predictions then shape the body of theory in a topic. Famous examples are Einstein's prediction that gravity bends light, and Wegener's prediction that the continents will be found to drift. Of the numerous statements in the Bible, none have led to any scientific discoveries or advanced scientific thought. There have been many attempts to back-interpret statements in the Bible as being prescient of current modern scientific thought. This may or may not be true, but none of these are "predictions" in the scientific sense, they had no impact on the path followed by successful research, they made no testable predictions, and they are typically couched in metaphor or other literary devices which render their technical meaning ambiguous.
  • Another key point here is that this is a discussion about science and the behavior of scientists, hence it is obligatory to use terminology in the scientific sense. The words "prophecy" and "prediction" may have a variety of meanings on other contexts, but that is irrelevant to science - scientists can only use "predictions" which accord to the scientific usage of the word. This applies to all scientific terminology - a common tactic of creationists is to equivocate the lay meaning of the word "theory" with the scientific meaning (typically by dismissing evolution as "just a theory"), although they are quite different. A scientific "theory" is not idle speculation, but a large body of knowledge for which there is broad consensus and agreement. Likewise, there are numerous usages of the word "energy" across various contexts, but science has a rigid definition of the term, and it would be meaningless to ask a physicist to discuss energy in the same context that a "spiritual healer" might use the word.
  • A final point is that this statement seems inherently opposed to methodological naturalism, and thus, is inherently anti-science. Science does not permit supernatural explanations. This is not to say it denies them either, they are simply not open for consideration, positively or negatively. It is a publicly acknowledged objective of some pro-creationist groups such as the Discovery Institute to "change the ground rules of science to allow supernatural causation of the natural world"(ref = [1]). If that were to happen, then science would cease to be science. Any individual is free to reject science outright. But to claim to fully accept science, while openly seeking to change its fundamental nature is self-contradictory, and essentially a canard.
  • Point C: "If more questions about evolution were answered by scientific advance, the skeptics may have a point. But exactly the opposite has been true in the past. The more our biological knowledge expands, the more problems evolution has. For example, Darwin’s friend Haeckel thought that the cell was just a blob of goo; now we know it is a miniature city with advanced nanotechnology, including machines and factories such as ATP synthase and kinesin."
  • This appears to be stating "the cell is more complicated that people thought in 1870, therefore evolution has problems" and that "science has been unable to progress very far in understanding this complexity". It is certainly true that the cell is far more complicated than anyone prior to 1900 would have imagined. What is not true is the assertion of ignorance, the cell is also incredibly well understood. The unresolved issues in modern biology are all of the form "did X evolve this way or that way?", and not of the form "is evolution in doubt?". Any discovery which even slightly weakened the consensus on evolution would be an enormous discovery that would reverberate through the entire academic world, and would surely attract major media attention.
  • There are many known mechanisms which explain the seemingly enormous level of complexity of the cell, such as molecular self-assembly.
  • To address this point any further, some actual identification of these "problems" would need to be made, otherwise it is little more than hand-waving.
Fellow citizens, I'd also like to add that as technology has advanced and as we've gained a grasp for the concept of genetics (including the ability to decode the genome) our understanding of evolution and proof thereof has only been enhanced. Naturally, this has led to more questions, but those questions are mostly a natural consequence of getting answers and wanting to learn more. Robot Opera Singer Who Fights Crime (talk) 06:18, 13 March 2013 (UTC)

Counter to Rebuttal #2[edit]

Evolution is often used to describe anything from the slight change of a species over time (for instance, changes in finch beak size) to molecules-to-man evolution. If evolution is just changes in allele frequency, then CMI would be an evolutionary organization! Our detractors are committing the logical fallacy of equivocation, also known as bait-and-switch.


CMI’s definition of evolution for the purposes of this pamphlet is the 'General Theory of Evolution' (GTE). The evolutionist Gerald Kerkut defined this as 'the theory that all the living forms in the world have arisen from a single source which itself came from an inorganic form.'[1]

CMI itself pulls a "bait-and-switch" by claiming to engage the scientific definition of evolution, while in actuality cherry-picking a particular incorrect misconception of evolution where it suits them.

A more truthful definition of evolution would be "[the] changes in the heritable traits of a population of organisms as successive generations replace one another" (as used by the National Academy of Sciences) or "heritable changes in a population spread over many generations" (TalkOrigins). Star of David.png Radioactive afikomen Please ignore all my awful pre-2014 comments. 07:00, 13 March 2013 (UTC)

  1. Kerkut, G.A., Implications of Evolution, Pergamon, Oxford, UK, p. 157, 1960. He continued: "the evidence which supports this is not sufficiently strong to allow us to consider it as anything more than a working hypothesis."

Awesome. Thanks guys. I'm formatting the rest of the rebuttals right now. Nutty Roux100x100 anarchy symbol.svg (formerly Ghostface Editah) 15:24, 13 March 2013 (UTC)

  • I would also say that CMI can't ever seem to be able to define macroevolution, nor can they seem to differentiate microevolution and macroevolution and that's more clearly equivocation. If anything, it's CMI promoting a false dichotomy. steriletalk 17:55, 13 March 2013 (UTC)

No citing TO. It's facile out of date garbage. Nutty Roux100x100 anarchy symbol.svg (formerly Ghostface Editah) 22:14, 13 March 2013 (UTC)

Counter to Rebuttal #4[edit]

CMI's response is a bit bizarre, as improbably things do happen ala Littlewood's law, and also that they just link to a page of links which is not an argument. (There is little argument in the paragraph itself.) The only "factual" assessment of probability is in the last link:

  • 20 amino acids
  • 387 proteins for the simplest possible life
  • 10 conserved amino acids on average
  • ∴ chance is 20–3870 = 10–3870.log20 = 10–5035
This is one chance in one followed by over 5000 zeroes. So it would be harder than guessing a correct 5000-digit PIN on the first go!"

There are a couple problems here. Cumulative selection is different than the creationist's chance. There is an element of certainty to natural selection, even though it is occurring in an environment with a lot of noise. It has the previous generation to work with. A trait that provides any advantage for survival vs. another that provides a disadvantage will be taken up, and hence it's not chance. It's also clear that amino acids are not formed by taking them out of a bin one at a time. Hence, you are asking about a type of conditional probability in which the previous generation is taken into account which leads to a higher probability than randomly selecting amino acids.

In addition, it's the creationists who assume that life started with a fully functioning organism, and all of the abiogenesis scenarios start with self-replicating molecular system. It's hard to evaluate the actual probability without knowing exactly what you are evaluating. Under certain conditions, replication occurs with near certainty, and certainly it's not hard to come up with scenarios with selection. And then you have billions of years of single cell organisms to work with. (And then do we assess the probability of God poofing all of life into existence? How do we do that?) steriletalk 18:13, 13 March 2013 (UTC)

The maths is based on some critically wrong assumptions, ie. we must go from random amino acids to 387 proteins as a single, continuous process, and that at the outset, all possibilities are equally likely. There are numerous, identified, physical and chemical processes at work which influence the final outcome. Molecular self-assembly research indicates that many critical precursors for proteins (dipeptides, polypeptides) form naturally. These precursors that form are those that are useful to protein assembly (the "why" is complicated, involves chirality and other technical things), and precursors which are not useful to proteins tend not to occur. (There is no real surprise to this, logic suggests that proteins evolved from the precursors which occurred spontaneously.) VOXHUMANA 22:46, 13 March 2013 (UTC)

Criticism for Rebuttal #5[edit]

It's difficult to evaluate this claim without knowing what was being quote mined, as the content may be relevant. steriletalk 21:37, 13 March 2013 (UTC)

That's true. As I go over every word of this stuff it strikes me that these people are incredibly petty and insecure in their faith. And just plain dishonest. Nutty Roux100x100 anarchy symbol.svg (formerly Ghostface Editah) 22:13, 13 March 2013 (UTC)

I can't wait[edit]

I can't wait to see their rejoinders to our doubts about their rebuttals to our objections to their questions. SophieWilder 17:55, 16 March 2013 (UTC)

A simple question[edit]

Out of curiosity, who is the intended audience for this rebuttal to the rebuttal to the 15 questions? I think we should make that clear from the start. Is this for the folk at CMI? Creationists? Other rationalists? Who? The answer should guide the tone and track these rebuttals will take. --Inquisitor (talk) 18:13, 16 March 2013 (UTC)

I didn't write with any audience in mind, just to present the truth as I understood it. (Of course, that was presumably how the first round of rebuttals was written). As I explored the first set of their points, I found myself constantly running into the "anti-science" element. So I responded by constantly pointing out how their position reflects that. VOXHUMANA 02:29, 17 March 2013 (UTC)
yeah, it's a mess, and a bit too incoherent for my tastes. Reflists in the first sections? Probably one of our worst side-by-sides so far. But surely it can be saved. First nail the left side quotes. Then write really good right side rebuttals. ħumanUser talk:Human 03:06, 15 May 2014 (UTC)

Anyone else find it difficult to read the top orange box?[edit]

I am having slight difficulty in reading the white text on that orange box at the top, and I probably would expect others may have similar difficulty in varying degrees. Anyone have other colour suggestions? ThiehMonitoring virgin birth experiment 01:37, 9 June 2014 (UTC)