Argument in Absentia

If one has been involved in discussions on the ‘net long enough, and presumably had some impact on those discussions one can run into a strange phenomena whereby people will continue to discuss one’s points and arguments long after one has ceased being involved with that particular site or blog. Viewing such discussions has the feeling of viewing one’s own wake; you find out what people really thought about you and your ideas, and you realize how badly any legacy you had will be mangled by those who remain.

Some background; I was involved for several years at Crosswalk forums, posting primarily in the ‘Science and Origins’ portion of the board. I was banned rather abruptly after years of fruitful discussion for reasons that were never fully explained. In fact they were never partially explained. Nonetheless, I bear no ill will to the administrators because I have always contended that as a private site of which I was a guest they have the right to do whatever they choose, and they gave me much leeway while I was there. That being said I took that as a sign I had exhausted my stay and it was time to take a break and attend to my much neglected blog, which has over the last year or so been a welcome means of expressing ideas and developing writing skills.

As I said though, discussions continue, and my name is dropped there and claims are made about what I said on a particular subject. Generally I am ignorant or indifferent to these discussions, but someone alerted me to one recently that I think bears a response if only because the claims made are so obviously untrue, and fundamentally misconstrue things I have said or believe.

The offending statement recently occurred in the 4th page of the Are the vast majority scientists really wrong? thread in the Science and Origins discussion board. As is usual, it started out somewhat on topic, and then quickly digressed into a back and forth on the authority of Scripture, Creationism, and ID with a few ad homs and strawman arguments thrown in for good measure. In short, the same discussion that is had on every single thread on the Crosswalk Science and Origins board. On this page a longtime anonymous poster ‘Embedded’ makes this claim about a discussion we supposedly had:

Some years ago Jack made the standard ID-creationist argument or TARD* (The Argument Regarding Design) that it was impossible for evolution via its various mechanisms to produce (or create) new and novel “information.”** (Neb)

To counter this claim I mentioned the example of nylon eating bacteria.

IIRC, Jacks response was along the lines of ‘Thanks, I will look in to it.’

IIRC, in subsequent discussions over the years whenever it got around to novel “information”** in the genome, I would bring up the Neb and Jack would not address that point. I can only guess that since it was central to TARD Jack did not like conceding the point.

I will note here, as I did back then, that TARD has a much harder time for making scientific claims against evolution. A major part of that problem is ‘claims against evolution’ is the only “method” that is has. There are no positive scientific hypotheses for TARD. The basic central claim of TARD is that evolution is impossible and therefore TARD.* Not only that it is impossible but it also claims that it didn’t happen in the past, can’t happen now, and will never happen in the future. The problem with making claims of absolute impossibility of a process or event occurring is that all scientists have to do to refute that claim is show that a process or event does actually happen. In many cases it is even easier for science because often we can show that it is, in fact, possible. From the possibility of the process and the evidence that we have we can infer that it actually did happen.

The mere possibility of a process or even occurring is not proof that it did or would occur. The mere possibility is enough to show that it could occur. Often this is where the science vs. TARD discussion gets bogged down… yet… remember, the claim was that it is impossible. (Of course when I am talking about scientific possibilities I mean that they are possible via natural processes that we observe happening now and that we can reasonably infer happened in the past based on the evidence that we have.)

Some will claim the above is still not “PROOF” or “PROVEN” (in some absolute sense) and that is correct. Science does not do absolute proofs. In the case of Neb, what we have done is to dis-prove the claim that chance mutation(s) and natural selection can not produce novel, advantageous, and heritable changes in the genome. Not only has it happened ‘in the wild’ but it has also been reproduced in the lab, in vitro.

Some will claim that, well, it hasn’t be absolutely dis-proven that an ‘intelligent designer’ didn’t somehow magically nudge those mutations into place and this is also correct. But then that also means that it may be impossible to tell if between ‘intelligent designer’ processes and natural processes. It appears to scientists that if natural processes are observed then that is sufficient. It is up to the ID-creationists to demonstrate otherwise.

Some will claim that, well, it is still a bacterium it didn’t turn in to a horse or a dog or whatever… and this is also correct. But then evolution does not claim that it did or would. Remember, Ned dis-proves the TARD claim.

Anyhow… this is a getting to be a long winded digression. My main point is that the Ned is an example where Jack was really very wrong and had no answer to it. None that I saw anyways.

And with that Embedded neatly wins the debate by never having to actually engage the person he is debating. Nonetheless, as I am not dead yet, I will respond to a few things.

The first is that I don’t believe I ever said, “it was impossible for evolution via its various mechanisms to produce (or create) new and novel “information.” I find it somewhat telling that he made no attempt to actually cite a place where I said that, or quote me directly. I don’t believe Embedded was being intentionally dishonest; however I think he conveniently remembered something in a way that made it easy for him to respond. We all remember events in a way that makes us look good, so this doesn’t surprise me. I am however fairly certain I wouldn’t have said such a thing for two reasons – the first being that I don’t believe that statement to be true, and secondly, as a fairly ardent advocate of ID, it is not something ID claims.

With regard to information, ID considers a particular kind of information, namely specified complex information – that is information that has a pattern for a purpose, like computer codes or a genome. ID makes the claim that there is a relationship between the specific complexity of an information and the likelihood that it can be generated by unguided forces. The more specifically complex something is, the less likely it could arise by chance until that probability is essentially zero. So the claim is never made that new information can’t be created, and I don’t believe that to be true. In fact, ‘new’ information is easy to create – I can do it by randomly pounding on my keyboard like so:


Of course, this information isn’t particularly useful, and though it is complex, it serves no specific purpose. The reality is we don’t observe large amounts of complex specified information being generated in nature – and when we do observe such patterns, like hieroglyphics, or flakes on a stone, or arrangements of material on archeological sites (like Stonehenge) we infer intelligence. Of course, the genome is magnitudes more complex and specified than those structures and systems.

That brings us to Embedded’s specific example, the ‘nylon eating bacteria’. He offers it as an example of evolution producing information. I will assume for the purposes of this discussion he thinks it is an example of the generation of specified complex information, or information which informs the development of some novel structure or system (i.e. exists for a purpose). To know what we are talking about here, we need some background; from the wiki article Embedded himself linked:

In 1975 a team of Japanese scientists discovered a strain of Flavobacterium, living in ponds containing waste water from a nylon factory, that was capable of digesting certain byproducts of nylon 6 manufacture, such as the linear dimer of 6-aminohexanoate, even though those substances are not known to have existed before the invention of nylon in 1935. Further study revealed that the three enzymes the bacteria were using to digest the byproducts were significantly different from any other enzymes produced by other Flavobacterium strains (or any other bacteria for that matter), and not effective on any material other than the manmade nylon byproducts.

So far so good; an organism apparently evolves a new capability in response to an environmental change. So far this is notable, but not particularly significant in the debate unless it can be shown that the new information is specified, complex, and exists in sufficient quantities to diminish the idea that such information can’t arise by chance. Of course, this is rarely discussed, mainly because for a long time no one knew for certain what information changes controlled this seemingly new capability; Embedded certainly didn’t know when we had the discussion, so his claim that it proved a particular thing was spurious at best. There were some ideas and claims – the primary one being that it was the result of a gene duplication coupled with a frame shift mutation – that is multiple simultaneous modifications arising by chance that produced a useful new capability. If such a thing is true, then it would seem to support the idea such complex specified information can arise through chance event. Interestingly though, this idea is not the current idea about how the modification arose – if Embedded read his own links he would know this. From the Wiki article, citing this recent paper:

A series of recent studies by a team led by Seiji Negoro of the University of Hyogo, Japan, suggest that in fact no frameshift mutation was involved in the evolution of the 6-aminohexanoic acid hydrolase.

And as the article concludes:

There is scientific consensus that the capacity to synthesize nylonase most probably developed as a single-step mutation that survived because it improved the fitness of the bacteria possessing the mutation.

So rather than representing a significant increase in specified complexity, the change actually appears to be a very simple, unspecific modification. This is comports with the claims Michael Behe details at length in his book The Edge of Evolution, such changes are not unexpected in large populations – particularly when such changes occur in extreme circumstance where the reduction of overall fitness is sacrificed for immediate survival, often called ‘break it to save it’. There is much more I could say on the issue, but I think this is sufficient to counter Embedded’s claims, and I have already probably bored most readers.

With all this being said, I think there are much bigger issues that ID explains which evolution cannot – that being the growing realization that genetic information of the most complex and complete sort is very ancient and arose rather suddenly contrary to evolutionary expectation. The fact that evolutionist camp on something like the Nylon eating bacteria when the whole of life appeared in manner completely contrary to the major premises of their theory belies its overall weakness .

So no Embedded, the point is not, “central to ‘TARD”, and I haven’t avoided responding to it – so perhaps you could avoid speaking for me in the future, now that you know where I am?


9 Responses to Argument in Absentia

  1. cow451 says:

    Jack: Were your cookies burning? You should feel honored that the S&O forum has not evolved in your absence. I seldom post there anymore because it’s SOSO. There still isn’t much intelligent discussion of ID. Anyway, good to know you’re still out there cyber-agitating.

  2. jackhudson says:

    Yeah, I check in occasionally to make sure they are keeping you in line; of course, they are failing miserably. 🙂

    Hope all is well.

  3. Bettawrekonize says:

    “I don’t believe Embedded was being intentionally dishonest”

    I do. I’ve debated evolutionists long enough and you and I both know that some of them are intentionally dishonest and Embedded is no exception. His argument in no way even remotely resembles the debate, it’s such a strawman, either he suffers sever mental retardation issues (I doubt that, he seems intelligent) or he is being intellectually dishonest.

  4. Bettawrekonize says:

    Also, regarding crosswalk, see if you can get yourself back. Talk to the administrators, I’m sure they’ll forgive you for whatever it was you allegedly did wrong by now. I would like to see you back there, or at least find another populated forum where people can see thorough reviewed and scrutinized by many people.

  5. Bettawrekonize says:

    can see posts thoroughly reviewed and scrutinized by many people *

  6. Bettawrekonize says:

    I don’t know if you save any of the crosswalk threads but I saved a couple, some of which even have you in them. Not sure if you would be interested.

    The ones I saved were

    RE: Mosaic disprove Common ancestry?

    Nested Hierarchy violations?

    RE: Stasis as criticism of evolution

    RE: “Where is your evidence?”

    Documented evolution of new functions and behaviors in bacteria

    (I have every page saved from each of these)

    Those are about the only ones I have that it looks like you might be interested in. They don’t take up much hard disk, especially if I compress them. Not sure if you want to archive any of them.

  7. Bettawrekonize says:

    (actually on my other hard drive I might have some others as well but I don’t want to search for them now)

  8. jackhudson says:

    You know, one of the frustrations of posting there was that much of what I wrote was lost after awhile; I would be interested in seeing them. What format are they in?

  9. Dan says:

    I downloaded and saved a couple, too. They’re .htm Firefox documents:
    ID is not science
    More transitional features of Tiktaalik
    Peacocks – Evolution prediction and long-held belief may fail
    Recent Fossil Record
    Stasis as a Critisism of Evolution
    The solar system is special

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