…oh, Pastafarianism…

So, Dr. Zassenhaus is teaching right now in my lecture class about basic Mendelian genetics. He told us earlier this week that he was making a presentation today in reference to Intelligent Design and Evolution, so I’ve been looking forward to this all week because I haven’t heard much discussion amongst Ph.D. scientists that I know and the sources I’ve read through discussing the subject rarely consult pure molecular biologists and biochemists…and I came away from the presentation with a few interesting points…

First of all, Zassenhaus began the discussion talking about the Kreb’s Cycle. For those who don’t remember, this is a pathway in mitochondria (an organelle in our cells) that converts relatively simple carbon chains into other forms, generating ATP, which is the “currency” that creates energy in our bodies. Since it is a cycle, the products begin in one state, are converted to another state, and are then returned to their original state to start the cycle once again. One of the classic Intelligent Design arguments is that this process is not reducible; one cannot remove a part of this cycle and still have it function, leading them to suppose that an intelligent creator must have created this pathway. The process couldn’t have simply “appeared” on its own, already functioning.

The problem with this assumption, as Zassenhaus further enumerated, is in the fundamental argument for Intelligent Design: that life is too complex to have just happened. The argument, as he states, is the classic “Watchmaker Analogy,” such that if you are walking in a field and see a watch, you know that it didn’t simply appear, but that someone had to make it. The problem is that all of Intelligent Design arguments stem from that one analogy. There is no evidence besides it. The one scientific study he could find that tried finding true evidence was carried out by a mathmetician (Dembski) who said that the chances of such a thing appearing is something like 10^-170 (that’s one time in 1,000,000[continue to 169 “0”s…]), which is unbelievably small…bordering on impossible…

As Zassenhaus concluded, these probabilities outline a huge flaw in the thinking: where Intelligent Design advocates believe such a pathway just sprung into existence, and was created by someone else, biologists for years have viewed the formation of proteins/enzymes/etc. differently, as individual subunits that are added on and removed to provide a different function that wasn’t there originally. Therefore, those statistics don’t apply to the way we know biology to work. Sure, it says that such a thing as the Kreb’s Cycle appearing out of a soup of random amino acids is really small…but the chances of a different protein forming out of that soup is very possible, and then that protein adding on other parts of different proteins is also possible…slowly adding together to form the pathway we know as the Kreb’s Cycle.

In short (’cause I wasn’t, overall…), the moral is: Intelligent Design advocates have yet to produce true, testable, scientific evidence beyond the flawed probability studies. Is Intelligent Design still possible? Of course it is! But, as Zassenhaus said, teaching it alongside Evolution on equal footing as a viable scientific theory is, quite simply, nuts. In that room of 20+ Ph.Ds., there were none that defended Intelligent Design in the way it has been portrayed as a science. They all believe it should be relegated to a philosophy class, not the science classroom. Unfortunately, the “powers that be” refuse to listen to the scientific community on what should be taught and what shouldn’t be.

Figures…

So, in that vein, can anyone give me evidence to the contrary that isn’t based on “evidence by analogy?” I know that Andy S. already gave me information on another theory…hehehehe…

8 Replies to “…oh, Pastafarianism…”

  1. I believe it’s 10^150.. It’s supposed to correlate to the number of seconds the universe has been around, something like allowing a chance every tenth of a second… it’s really crazy. An atronomer came and talked yesterday, and he was really good. He talked about how ID is raped by creationists, and how it is usually shot down because of the metaphysics it implies and not because of its science. The Irreducibly complex thing he spoke of was Flagella on Bacteria, which is different than the Kreb Cycle… but he said something like it was specified complexity… you’ll have to look it up.
    Back to Dembski… that guy made a really good argument, and used emperical evidence… He made a filter that is really hard to slip past..
    You said you didn’t like analagies.. but this one is based on emperical evidence, so it shouldn’t be that bad for you…
    …..they were saying that the odds of any form of life, regardless of the complexity (you could add litterally orders for that).. and regardless of the cosmic time (meaning that we wouldn’t be able to live should the universe be slightly younger or older)… is something similar to the odds that one bird would drop seeds for a single kind of plant that would arrange themselves in such logical english sentences that when grown would write the entire encyclopedia britanica twice over, word for word, from canada to mexico, in the time that one year on earth has passed. He talked about how we’ve never seen anything like this, not even a single word,,,, and how if we did see one word we would scientifically feel that it was designed. He then went on to say that in science we use probabilities much less than that to “proove” things… you know,,, P values and what not… and he talked about how as objective as his fellow scientists feel he thinks they aren’t giving it thought simply because of implication, much like darwinism when it first came out… or the earth not being the center of the universe… He was very compelling, and I enjoyed how he made a laugh at crazies who thought it was the same as Creationism.
    He also said it shouldn’t be taught in a science classroom yet, as he felt its place is in the university setting, much like other higher order and contraversial science… and that it really had very little conflict with darwinism.. as many would have you believe…
    overall- I liked his talk. There were things I disagreed with, and things that seemed to work…

  2. I can go with that, for the most part… Zassenhaus mentioned that Dembske did his work on the flagellum, but Zassenhaus “adapted” it to the Kreb’s Cycle model, assuming that the flagellum had to get proteins/enzymes made for its function and so did the Kreb’s Cycle…

    I would agree with the “scientists feel they aren’t giving it much thought because of implication, much like Darwinism when it first came out” part, but at the same time, Darwin had a decent amount of evidence at his disposal. The evidence that I’ve seen thus far has been the statistical liklihood…that’s, frankly, it.

    Two more things:

    a). I don’t mind analogies…I was just making reference to the fact that the analogies brought up by the ID folks are always, essentially, the same one…dressed up in different clothes…

    b). One of the nifty things Zassenhaus mentioned early on is that you can’t prove a hypothesis, you can only disprove… In saying that, keep in mind that I’m not saying one is right or not…it is quite hard to get past that incredibly small probability of such things happening… I’m just saying that the “evidence” being presented to the public is faulty, to my knowledge, yet the public still accepts it as “science.” It’s being used to push an agenda that shouldn’t be pushed…but that’s another discussion entirely… 😛

  3. yeah- I think there is a lot to be thought about, and I feel like the non-scientific public/ politicians are who are driving this thing, and frankly they are driving a God centered Creationism, and not a scientific idea such that ID is SUPPOSED to be. I feel like all the ID scientists are being alienated (then there are the crazies… *caugh*KANGAS*caugh* who have phd’s and contribute to CRAP)

  4. Yeah, I can definitely agree with that… The creationists are hiding behind ID in an effort to get creationism put into public schools, since it failed years ago in the Scopes Trial… ID’s claims are valid themselves and it seeks a perfectly reasonable answer, yet it’s being thrust and taught in such a way that makes it seem less credible…which is almost entirely the creationist/Republican’s fault…

  5. Nathan,

    First of all, let me say that I am not a scientist, biology major/phd/etc. My knowledge of science is limited to a few scattered science classes in high school and college (most of which I chose, and were therefore easy).

    Having said that, taking your analogy as truth doesn’t really impact me in the slightest. In my opinion, even if the chances of evolution are supportable by the smallest possible odds on the planet, scientifically, they are still better than the odds of a deity creating everything. There isn’t one piece of scientific evidence that supports that conclusion other than the lack of evidence supporting any other conclusion – and that clearly isn’t actual evidence. Basically, in my mind, the scientific odds of an intelligent designer creating everything are the same odds that the following events all happening to me yesterday – I grew wings, flew around like a bird, pooped mushrooms that exploded into fire when they landed, created a guitar out of thin air and played Zeppelin riffs, all while sipping on a latte and killing people with laser beams shot out of my eyes.

    Seriously, I don’t understand how a scientific search for a creator can exist, even if we do discount the fact that we formed a conclusion without scientific evidence.

    I don’t presume to know how the earth came into being. I hope scientists keep gathering what evidence then can and providing what support they can. I see science as the search for truth, and I see ID as people presuming to know the truth because they think the search is too difficult. Even if we only know .0000000000000000001% truth, that is better in my mind than making up truth.

  6. I agree.. I think science cannot search out a creator. However, I am all the while scientifically bound to wonder about such odds… I cannot discount something because of its implications, as you seem to propose.
    I don’t yet know what I think about ID as a scientist.. as a Christian I feel like God absolutely had something to do with me being here… but I assure you I do my best to not have bias, and forcing myself to see things through the lens of emperical data will aboslutely assure that my bias does not show through, and if it does, it can be rightfully destroyed.

  7. I understand your position completely. After reading my response I want to make it clear that I am not trying to push atheism or anything else on anyone. I believe that faith and philosophy can push you to believe in God as a creator (even though that has not happened for me), I just don’t believe that science should be manipulated in order to clear up cognitive dissonance. My arguments relate only to the classroom. I think Nathan understood that, I just didn’t want to risk alienating a bunch of Andy’s friends that I don’t know. Cheers!

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