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Debating Intelligent Design

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So, I've been debating with someone over the existence of god, and we eventually reached the subject of intelligent design. This is his argument:

 

 

Reputation has absolutely nothing to do with how useful, accurate or reasonable a theory is. Just ask Galileo. (If you think about this, it's actually hilarious for me, since it was uninformed and unreasonable christians who disreputed a scientist. How the tables have turned.)

 

Here's a few starter points. Note that I haven't actually made all that much of a developed premise for Intelligent Design: this is because it doesn't have much of one yet. Right now it's still just trying to muscle in some serious consideration so that it can get more developed. To get more serous consideration, ID as a theory so far has depended on fair critique of Neo-Darwinian Evolutionary theory.

 

  • Natural selection working on random genetic mutations does not adequately explain all or most of the adaptive complexity we observe in biological organisms.
  • There is little evidence that random genetic mutations, however significant, can produce major, new functional biological structures.
  • Some, if not most, of the popular evidence cited in favor of Darwinian evolution dissipates on closer inspection (e.g., vertebrate embryo diargrams, peppered moths, Darwin's finches).
  • Some, if not much, of the (valid) evidence cited in favor of Darwinian evolution establishes a much more modest proposition than a theory itself. For example, antibiotic resistance in bacteria at best illustrates that natural selection can work within an individual population of a single species in an artificial selective environment.
  • There are a number of strong philosophical objections to scientific and philosophical naturalism. (One of which you've already conceded, the possibility Kalam's argument.)

 

You may say what you like in giving a single variable for life forming on a planet. But the number becomes irrational to face when one actually accounts for what that life-spawn constitutes.

 

Proteins are the building blocks of life; certain combinations are what form DNA, and from those come ordered organic structures which we call life. (This is not a rigorous definition of the word life but it suits for this purpose.) In order for a protein to form, molecules must collide with a certain geometry. In order to operate as an organic agent, the protein must be made of only molecules of one kind of geometry, such as only left-handed or right-handed amino acid.

 

A favorable collision to form part of a protein is not unlike the probability of flipping a coin and expecting a heads-side up result.

Flip 1 coin:

0.5 = 1 outcome in 2.

 

Flip 2 coins and expect both to be heads:

0.52 = 0.25 = 1 outcome in 4

 

Flip 5 coins and expect them all to be heads.

0.55 = 0.031125 = 1 outcome in 32

 

Proteins can have almost any number of nucleotides or other monomers , but it's common for them to have somewhere between 50 and 300. Let's just say our hypothetical protein has 100, and each chemical collision still has the uniform probability of flipping a coin.

 

0.5100 = about 1 in 1030. That's the probability of a single protein. Doesn't look exactly probable.

 

Biologists agree that the minimum number of proteins required for a cell to be able to self-replicate is 387. Let's be generous and round that down to 300.

 

1 in 1030*300 = 1 in 109000 ow. Those are some slim odds that the protein would ever come to be. That's made even more remote considering the limited number of places on which they could ever develop (wherever organic chemical compounds already existed on a planet).

 

Let's try to solve this. Obviously somebody along the line hit that winning lottery number and formed into a living cell. We'll pretend we have the biggest possible sampling system. Pretend every single atom in the Universe had its own little lottery machine designed to try and form this arrangement of proteins, so that life could occur due to random collisions, every one of them filled with organic compounds and in ideal temperatures. Each atom has a big lottery machine, so each will get a billion collisions every second.

 

1084 atoms

109 collisions per second

((13.9*109)* 365 * 24 * 60 * 60) number of seconds in the experiment

10-9000 probability of one successful protein formation

 

1084 * 109 * ((13.9*109)* 365 * 24 * 60 * 60) * 10-9000 = 10–8,893

 

Whoops. It looks like that protein's practically never going to form, even if the Universe was a quadrillion times larger, a hundred times older and entirely made of primordial soup.

 

It is not logical to assume life could form on its own.

 

Being someone who has no special interest in biology, I don't know how to refute this. What do you guys think?

 

In order to prevent redundancy, I'll type down the arguments I've made so far:

 

I've shown him Niel deGrasse Tyson's video on stupid design and Richard Dawkin's video on a nerve in a giraffe to show that a competent engineer (an intelligent designer) would never have created nature the way it is.

 

I've also used Richard Dawkin's video (specific time here) to show how evolution can explain what intelligent design can't.

 

I've given Bill Nye's example of a fossil prediction to show that evolution is accepted not because of dogma, but because it's reliable.

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Well, first off, the guy you are debating is commiting a fallacy known as a red herring i.e. he is trying to argue about the chances of abiogenesis occuring, which does not have any real bearing on the validity of natural selection as a mechanism (or for that matter, has very little to do with evolution in general). What he's trying to do is argue about the chances of abiogenesis occuring (or rather, the chances that a group of molecules will spontaneously generate a living organism), and thus distracting you (or the audience) from the subject of natural selection and evolution more generally. In short, abiogenesis and evolution are two different things.

 

Secondly, even if the subject of abiogensis was being talked about, its clear that this guy does not have a clue about abiogenesis and protein formation anyway. If you really want to go the full mile take and that crutch away from this person, you can direct him (or her) to TalkOrigins, which has a short article about the actual science of abiogenesis: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/abioprob/abioprob.html

 

If you want something more recent, you can also direct him to the work of Jack Szostak, who I think actually won the Nobel Prize recently for his work on abiogenesis (in particular protocell formation). A link to his work is here: http://molbio.mgh.harvard.edu/szostakweb/

 

In a nutshell, no one is arguing that a large group of atoms will spontaneously generate a living cell. There is an entire process that creationists seem to gloss over when going from a collection of inanimate atoms or molecules to the emergence of self-replicating molecules, and then further down the line, life itself. All of which is explained in the link provided.

 

What your opponent just provided was just a standard, and probably scripted, response to your arguments over natural selection. A rather standard tactic BTW, and one that you should be prepared for if you plan on debating more creationists in the future. The sooner you know the typical responses, the easier it will be to quickly and successfully counter them.

 

 

Third, are you debating this guy online? If so, then also be aware of the Backfire Effect, which is the tendency for people to stick more strongly to their original beliefs when presented with contrary evidence. The only way to counter this effect is to immediately call them out on it when it occurs. Try not to be dismissive or resort to name calling, as that only guarantees that you trigger it more strongly. A debate is as much a psychological battle as it is a battle of facts, so you want to also aim at breaking his/her will to fight, as well as convince them the fallacy of their beliefs.

Edited by 2501

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Natural selection working on random genetic mutations does not adequately explain all or most of the adaptive complexity we observe in biological organisms.

 

This is an unsupported assertion and can therefore be simply rejected as such. But, of course, evolutionary theory does explain the complexity we observe (this claim is backed by a mountain of evidence and so cannot be dismissed).

 

He is also relying on the dependence on "mutation" as the driver of evolution. That is not really the critical factor; population diversity is more important (mutation is one factor in that).

 

There is little evidence that random genetic mutations, however significant, can produce major, new functional biological structures.

 

Again, no support for this claim is provided. However, we can see the evolution of new structures in the fossil record and in the genetic record.

 

Some, if not most, of the popular evidence cited in favor of Darwinian evolution dissipates on closer inspection (e.g., vertebrate embryo diargrams, peppered moths, Darwin's finches).

 

Not enough detail to answer this (there might be something on the links below). Of course, one can always pick some examples where the original evidence was wrong or misunderstood. Some of the conclusions that Darwin came to were incorrect (but remember he knew nothing about genes at the time) but that doesn't invalidate the theory.

 

Some, if not much, of the (valid) evidence cited in favor of Darwinian evolution establishes a much more modest proposition than a theory itself. For example, antibiotic resistance in bacteria at best illustrates that natural selection can work within an individual population of a single species in an artificial selective environment.

 

This seems to be some sort of "no real Scotsman" fallacy: conceding that there might be some evolution but not "real" evolution.

 

However, you are wasting you time arguing with someone like this. It is also quite dangerous if you are not very confident about the arguments you make as it is easy to be led into making a false argument.

 

But you might like to point out (perhaps for the benefit of anyone else reading, rather than you opponent, who won't change his mind) that there are many observed instances of new species being formed:

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-speciation.html

 

Also see: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/

 

In fact that is good site for counter arguments to most cretionist claims:

http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/

 

See also: http://www2.talkdesign.org/cs/

Edited by Strange

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The main driver for evolution is that you with all your capabilities and traits has a chance of getting laid and have survivable offspring. If you did not get laid, then there is a high chance that your traits and capabilities were less favorable than those of the creature that did get laid.

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I got this far:

 

Reputation has absolutely nothing to do with how useful, accurate or reasonable a theory is. Just ask Galileo. (If you think about this, it's actually hilarious for me, since it was uninformed and unreasonable christians who disreputed a scientist. How the tables have turned.)

before my mental alarm bells blew my brains out the back of my skull and I was unfortunately unable to continue.

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I skipped the "probability of creating a protein" bit on first reading. Anyone who is that dishonest (or ignorant) is not worth arguing with.

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I actually made it through the whole thing! Does that mean I win anything?

Edited by 2501

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The main driver for evolution is that you with all your capabilities and traits has a chance of getting laid and have survivable offspring. If you did not get laid, then there is a high chance that your traits and capabilities were less favorable than those of the creature that did get laid.

It's the evolutionary principle of more more: There tend to be more of the things that make more of themselves more often.

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I actually made it through the whole thing! Does that mean I win anything?

 

I have a chiropractor coupon for your back and a 2-for-1 deal on detached retinas from Designer Eyeballs.

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I have a chiropractor coupon for your back and a 2-for-1 deal on detached retinas from Designer Eyeballs.

 

YAY!

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  • Natural selection working on random genetic mutations does not adequately explain all or most of the adaptive complexity we observe in biological organisms.

This is just argument from incredulity.

 

  • There is little evidence that random genetic mutations, however significant, can produce major, new functional biological structures.

False. There's tonnes of direct evidence, particularly in microbes of novel trait development for e.g. the evolution of citrate metabolism in E coli. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E._coli_long-term_evolution_experiment#Evolution_of_aerobic_citrate_usage_in_one_population Obviously, it's harder to directly observe in vertebrates due to the time scale involved. However, there's an increasing understanding of the genetic underpinnings of novel trait emergence through the modification of regulatory pathways and tranposable elements. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0960982209019459

  • Some, if not most, of the popular evidence cited in favor of Darwinian evolution dissipates on closer inspection (e.g., vertebrate embryo diargrams, peppered moths, Darwin's finches).

Again, this appears to be argument from incredulity, but I'm not even sure what "dissipates" means in this context. The evidence "goes away"? Because that's not true... of when you shift the goalposts/strawman (i.e. a moth didn't turn into an elephant or some such argument) the evidence doesn't "prove" something it was never posited to?

  • Some, if not much, of the (valid) evidence cited in favor of Darwinian evolution establishes a much more modest proposition than a theory itself. For example, antibiotic resistance in bacteria at best illustrates that natural selection can work within an individual population of a single species in an artificial selective environment.Again, false.

The example is flawed for many reasons: a) bacteria don't fit into a species concept. b) antibiotic resistance arose in natural environments. c) antibiotic resistance has been around for millions of years. Antibiotic compounds, and associated resistance to them have existed in nature for an extremely long time. Humans didn't invent them, they discovered them. Antibiotic resistance is simply an exponential speed up of a long existent arms race that was occurring in nature long before humans ever used antibiotics.

  • There are a number of strong philosophical objections to scientific and philosophical naturalism. (One of which you've already conceded, the possibility Kalam's argument.)

A "philosophical objection" without observational data is of limited worth.

 

A favorable collision to form part of a protein is not unlike the probability of flipping a coin and expecting a heads-side up result.

The crucial flaw in this argument is that EVERY combination is at an equally low probability. Flip a coin 5 times and the probability of getting a given outcome is 1/32 - regardless of what it is. So looking back, after you've gotten a particular combination and citing it's low probability as a reason it couldn't happen by chance is illogical. EVERY combination of events has a low probability, not just the one you happened to arrive at. Applies to all maths in the post.

 

Proteins can have almost any number of nucleotides or other monomers , but it's common for them to have somewhere between 50 and 300. Let's just say our hypothetical protein has 100,

Why would you assume the number of nucleotides (I actually think the author is referring to codon, as 300bp would be a short gene) was common for proto-life? Seems like a baseless assumption.

 

Biologists agree that the minimum number of proteins required for a cell to be able to self-replicate is 387. Let's be generous and round that down to 300.

They do? Citation needed. Also, why would you assume the first self replicating molecule was a cell?

Edited by Arete

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I always thought the whole argument for Intelligent design was that the universe is too complex to have originated by chance.

There must have been a guiding 'intelligence' to design it.

 

The best argument against it is that the 'designer' must have been even even more complex to be able to do this.

So who designed 'Him' ???

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Don't forget "directed evolution". Tons of NIH papers on it. You just keep mutating a protein while selecting the ones that perform their function the best. The result is a better adapted protein that we couldn't have designed manually.

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Don't forget "directed evolution". Tons of NIH papers on it. You just keep mutating a protein while selecting the ones that perform their function the best. The result is a better adapted protein that we couldn't have designed manually.

Are you talking living systems or in vitro experiments?

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in vitro I think

Can ribosomes function in vitro?

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