Wednesday, February 13, 2008



They say "Nothing succeeds like excess," so you can stand some more about Darwin, right? Brian Switek, in a fine Darwin Day article (that I had only a minor quibble with), brought up this quote from Darwin in Animals and Plants Under Domestication:

Some authors have declared that natural selection explains nothing, unless the precise cause of each slight individual difference be made clear. If it were explained to a savage utterly ignorant of the art of building, how the edifice had been raised stone upon stone, and why wedge-formed fragments were used for the arches, flat-stones for the roof, &c.; and if the use of each part and of the whole building were pointed out, it would be unreasonable if he declared that nothing had been made clear to him, because the precise cause of the shape of each fragment could not be told. But this is a nearly parallel case with the objection that selection explains nothing, because we know not the cause of each individual difference in the structure of each being.
Now, where have I heard such an "objection" before?

Q. And I'm correct when I asked you, you would need to see a step-by-step description of how the immune system, vertebrate immune system developed?

A. Not only would I need a step-by-step, mutation by mutation analysis, I would also want to see relevant information such as what is the population size of the organism in which these mutations are occurring, what is the selective value for the mutation, are there any detrimental effects of the mutation, and many other such questions.

- Michael Behe, testifying at the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District case
The truly disingenuous part of Behe's evasion, when presented with massive amounts of scientific work on the evolution of the immune system, resides in the fact that none of the ID advocates, including Behe, will (except in friendly religious settings) even venture a guess at the identity of the supposed "Designer," much less suggest a step-by-step explanation of how he, she or it created the system and inserted it in some early form. In short, they demand not just unreasonable detail, as Darwin pointed out, they apply a double standard when it comes to the level of evidence they themselves have to produce.

As always, Darwin was way ahead of the creationists.

"In short, they demand not just unreasonable detail, as Darwin pointed out, they apply a double standard when it comes to the level of evidence they themselves have to produce."

Dr. Dembski, of course, famously articulated this point with his oft-quoted "pathetic level of detail" remark:

"As for your example, I’m not going to take the bait. You’re asking me to play a game: “Provide as much detail in terms of possible causal mechanisms for your ID position as I do for my Darwinian position.” ID is not a mechanistic theory, and it’s not ID’s task to match your pathetic level of detail in telling mechanistic stories. If ID is correct and an intelligence is responsible and indispensable for certain structures, then it makes no sense to try to ape your method of connecting the dots. True, there may be dots to be connected. But there may also be fundamental discontinuities, and with IC systems that is what ID is discovering."

[quoted at Panda's Thumb, 6/5/05,]

Chris Rohrer
Yes. Another word for "fundamental discontinuities" is, of course, "gaps." These are famously the home of many small gods.
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