Monday, September 21, 2015

Anyone else remember the name Emile Zuckerkandl? A reminder from Larry Moran

Larry Moran has a great post over on Sandwalk, "Emile Zuckerkandl and the 50th anniversary of the birth of molecular evolution".  He tells a little of the story of Emile Zuckerkandl, a name I had heard of many years ago but unlike one of his publishing partners, Linus Pauling, his wasn't a name I had heard of much at all.  Luckily for me, Larry not only reminded me of the name, but some of the things Zuckerkandl did, especially when it came to Intelligent Design.

Yes, I am sure folks at the Discovery Institute didn't like anything he said, but to me it was a nice lesson.  Thanks Larry!

Here's a few quotes, but I really recommend you head over and read the whole post.  [I added a little]

  • "To give themselves an edge, the “creationists"—the dominant stripe of anti-evolutionists in the United States—have decided some years ago (Pennock, 2003) to dress up in academic gear and to present themselves as scholars who rise in defense of a legitimate alternative scientific theory, intelligent design. "  [I usually refer to their 'gear' as an ill-fitting lab coat.]
  • "The two biased characterizations [Evolution is just a theory and equating the theory of evolution as nothing but a philosophy, an 'ism'] are cherished by nearly every proponent of intelligent design, because desirably one of the points, evolution as a theory, reduces science to incertitude, and the other, evolution as an "ism," reduces it in practice to an unscientific belief. " [Love it]
  • "The basis of an established scientific field is not questionable: too many competent, critically minded people working in a number of subfields and analyzing phenomena at a number of levels have contributed to it, with their results supporting one another within a large body of scientific knowledge. A field would have collapsed long since, were it not based on extant phenomena. The flood of creationist references to a particular scientist rather than to a field of science conveniently tends to hide this fact from view. "  [How many times, especially recently, have we been subjected to posts that attempt to denigrate Darwin and his accomplishments.  Here are a few: DI's Denyse O'Leary sounds puzzled!, Discovery Institute upset that Darwin didn't have a Crystal Ball, and Sorry Darwin, it isn't your Evolution anymore? Are you kidding?.]
The one quote you really need to read take a different view of Intelligent Design vs Natural processes, and it deals with complexity.  One of the issues frequently raised when anyone objectively looks at ID is the fact the so-called designer was pretty bad at his job.  Seriously, look at the human body, tell me how that is optimal?  We can barely stand upright and anyone who gets back pain knows what I mean.  How about the number one source of germs (the nose) positioned right above the main air intake (the mouth), or one poster put rather indelicately, the playground located between two sewers (think about it :-)) It's not just humans, but life in general, how many different flight mechanisms exist in nature?   Three that I know of: birds, bats, and insects . . . why?  Why would a 'designer' need three different mechanisms to perform the same task?

Zuckerkandl raised an interesting point.  When you look at things actually intelligently designed, you know the type of things folks at the DI like to point to an say "See, we can recognize design, so biology must be designed."  Simplicity is the hallmark of design, not complexity.  Think about it, the best design is usually the simplest design.  Over time simplicity increases, not complexity.  But what do we find in nature?  Increases in complexity over and over again.  Here is the quote:

"Consider something designed by an intelligence: what would its general distinctive character be, as contrasted with products of nature? Would it be increased complexity? No, it would on the contrary be increased simplicity! This pertinent remark, made and discussed by Glenn Ross (2005), removes a basic misunderstanding that is traditionally cultivated by creationists and intelligent designers. Though relative simplicity does occur in nature at certain levels (e.g., in crystals)—if we consider the hierarchical plane of phenomena encountered in every day life it is simplicity that is much of the time a hallmark of actual intelligent design....What should surprise us is not the universally present complexity of natural structures and processes; it is the fact that the human mind can cut through extremely high interaction complexities by showing that they conform to relatively simple relationships, which the connoisseurs experience as “beautiful”."
Can't argue much with that.  Like I said earlier, I am sure the folks at the DI don't like any of this, but then they don't like much of anything that doesn't start and end with an appropriate 'deitification'.

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