Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Dembski vs Masked Man

This is it. This made the evening worth while. Pandas Thumb shall love this Q&A, which is good because Im going to need their help to link to posts on the evolution of the bacterial flagellum :) Alas, it was hard to hear the questioners anyway, as their mics werent very loud, and there was much hooting/applause/heckling in this Q&A, so I missed some words in Dr. Klebbas great comments. Sorry for the (??), and maybe some of you can fill the gaps for us :) But dont worry-- Dembskis mic was turned all the way up!


Dembski-- YOUVE GOT ONE QUESTION AND A FOLLOW UP!

Masked Man-- First Id like to say I appreciate this discussion, and Im glad you came and spoke to us...

Dembski-- DID YOU SIGN THIS?? Were you one of the 180 that signed here??? *holds up paper, maybe a campus petition against ID, maybe a Chinese take-out menu*

MM-- *totally confused as to why Dembski is waving paper at him* No... I did not...

Dembski-- *silent* Okay.

MM-- I enjoyed this discussion. Now my question to you-- "If I explain to you the evolution of the bacterial flagellum, will you repudiate this theory of Intelligent Design?"

(audience laughs)

Dembski, in a voice like a little asshole-- Why dont you go... write it up.. (blithers for a minute or two) Im not going to go through the time here...

MM-- It will only take a minute.

(audience: "LET HIM DO IT!!! DO IT!! DO IT!! RIGHT NOW!")

(Ian "Whats this guys name?" Me "Im sure Logan asked." Logan didnt ask. But he made up for it with his Q later :P )

Dembski-- *flips through his slides to a pic of the flagellum* THIS'L WORK FOR YOU?

MM-- The problem is, that human intelligence has a limited ability to understand complexity, and it must go through the steps. The evolution of this system, bacterial flagellum, came in four different steps. (explains three steps, including one not visible on Dembskis slide, but I can barely make him out-- Ill post some links to the evolution of the bacterial flagellum here)

Dembski-- And you have a way of taking ATP synthase and turning it into the bacterial flagellum motor?

MM-- Yes...

Dembski-- And you have every change that would be required to do that.

MM-- There is one fourth stage, which is the evolution of (?????). This is research that has just come to our understanding in the past year or two. Another rotatory motor that (???). You see these four components together, and the step-wise progression of an organelle which can recruit from the cell, and rotate through proton motor force. And thats exactly what happened with the bacterial flagellum.

Dembski-- Well Im sorry, but that is exact? You KNOW this? I mean this is is is is your your your your absolutely your your...

MM-- The steps are clear.

Dembski-- The steps ARE clear. Can you show me what genetic changes would have had to happen, how probable they were... If you have broken it down into four steps, why not two more?

(audience murmurs with disapproval)

Dembski literally breaks down into nonsense at this point-- I mean this is this is this has to happen at a genetic yur neodarwinism level yur yur systems that are out homologues protein folding... (for a while. it was strange.)

Young gentleman at the other mic interrupts his meltdown, so calmly it was hysterical-- How many steps would be sufficient to prove that?

Dembski, back on planet Earth-- Im sorry?

Young gentleman-- How many steps... (cant hear the rest, audience clapping and hooting too loudly)

Dembski-- I mean I want it detailed...

(audience breaks into chaos and laughter because Dembski wont answer)

MM brings calm to the audience like only an experienced teacher can-- ... What is the function of each of the individual adaptations. The first one is the adherence to surfaces. The second one is the ability to secrete (proteins?/protons?). The third one is the ability to rotate. The fourth is essentially the combination of all of those into a motility device. So these are...

Dembski-- Its its a great just so story!

(audience goes into chaos again)

Dembski-- YOU GOT THE PILLI! Now show me show me how you get from that to the next step! Youve got another one there-- another system along the way! Step by step, do the genetic changes, and make it work! You dont haaaaaaaaaaaaaaave that!

MM-- Yes we do. One thing you dont show here is...

Dembski-- BASICALLY what youve done is youve taken, youve added two more steps! And by the way, those steps, you arent getting them, they arent embedded in the flagellum at this point!

MM-- Oh yes they are...

(audience totally tweaks out)

MM-- The proteins that make the bacteria flagellum are so closely related genetically, to those that make up the secretory complex and bacterial pilli-- the genetic sequences are virtually identical. So they are just components of different systems that have been adapted for an alternate function.

Dembski-- *silent*

Dembski-- *dead silent*

Dembski-- Yeah.

MM-- Youre obviously a very intelligent man. You have multiple degrees from many different fields. But if youre gonna lecture on this particular subject, then I suggest you take an advanced degree in biochemistry.

(audience goes wild again)

Dembski, oozing condescension-- (something about soooooooo intelligent) biologists can confidently say Im not a biologist. Im not a biologist. Write this up. Ill run it by my people...

(audience laughs sommore)

Dembski-- But it sounds like to me a just so story. You put in two more points. You havent told me what happens genetically. This system of the pilli, okay, how close it it? How many changes are required to turn it into this? I DONT KNOW! He hasnt quantified anything!

MM-- This is a just so story just as all biological systems are. They are perfectly adapted to the functions they perform. Thats why theyre just so stories.

Dembski-- Theres a history there. If it happened the way you say it happened, there is a series of genetic changes thats quantifiable, you havent given me ANYTHING! And I dont think its unreasonable! (goes ON AND ON-- intermediates, quantifiable, steps, intermediates, show, steps, happened, functions, genetic, intermediates) When you go from this to this, how many changes? How many functional changes? How many structural changes? I think we need to stop this. I mean write this up. You could be a POSTER CHILD for RICHARD DAWKINS for bringing down ID!

MM-- I have no desire to do that. In fact, Ive answered my own questions, so Id just like to thank you for coming. I enjoyed hearing your talk. Ive had my question answered.

Dembski-- *tries to get the last word, audience is clapping too loud for it to matter*
-----------------
  1. Ian coined the term 'Who was that Masked Man!', and I insisted on keeping it, as there is a retarded heading in 'Edge of Evolution' that is 'WHO WAS THAT MASKED MAN?' so I thought it would be funny. But no one read 'Edge of Evolution' to get the joke. Oh well :P
  2. I hope the Pandas Thumb crew stops by to give us some good links to learn about the evolution of the bacterial flagellum, hint hint :)
  3. What was the deal with "DID YOU SIGN THIS???" Was Dembski going to use that as an excuse not to answer Dr. Klebbas Q?
  4. Dembskis meltdowns into gibberish were disturbing in person, and disturbing again when I re-listened to it. I wonder if he always does that? Was he just shocked? Was he on acid? It went in phases-- freak out-->recoup to be an asshole-->freak out--> asshole....... Weird.
  5. Dembski totally ran for cover in safe, warm, YEC territory-- "You made two more steps!
  6. JUST SO STORY!
  7. Dont be stupid, Dembski. You know who the poster child is going to be for bringing down ID, and its not Dr. Klebba.
  8. Everyone get this straight-- IDCs dont have to attain our 'pathetic level of detail':
Dembski-- 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.”
but we have to provide mutation by mutation, protein fold by protein fold, accounts to 'disprove' them. But they havent done anything. Lazy little bastards.


    So in summary--
    "If I explain to you the evolution of the bacterial flagellum, will you repudiate this theory of Intelligent Design?" Answer? "No." And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why Creationists are not scientists, and why Creationism will never be science.

    33 comments:

    P said...

    Ian Musgrave

    Flagellum evolution in Nature Reviews Microbiology

    Evolution in (Brownian) space: a model for the origin of the bacterial flagellum Nick Matzke

    G said...

    A new typical ID cut-and-paste argument: ZENO'S PARADOX!!!!

    Add it to the list with PARADIGM!!! and JUST SO STORY!!!

    Ian said...

    Based on my frantic scribbling I have something like

    1. Pili
    2. Needle system
    3. ATP synthase [...?...]
    4. [...]-dependent transport system

    which mostly says something about how long it has been since I used to take notes in class.

    Dan Cardinale said...

    Thanks for the write-up, that's a great exchange, extremely enlightening. This whole series of posts have been, laying out Dembski's responses or non-responses to a host of questions.

    Bill said...

    And after all this time Dembski hasn't even acknowledged that he went to Oklahoma.

    What a nimrod.

    truth machine said...

    Religion rots the mind.

    Logan said...

    I've come to think that "just-so story" is the new creationist slang that replaces "theory" in their terms.

    I haven't read the Panda's Thumb entry on it yet though.

    But, really, I would think that, to equal "the story of how feature x evolved", the IDists must AT LEAST have "the story of how feature x was intelligently created". But even if they did make up a story, the evo "just so story" would win via Occam's Razor everytime.

    Physicalist said...

    From the post: "The second one is the ability to secrete (proteins?/protons?)."

    I guarantee you it's not protons (no biological mechanism involves nuclear reactions). Go with proteins as a first best guess.

    physicalist said...

    Great posts. Thanks for all your work!

    Nick said...

    1st, the Physicalist is probably right. The system MM's talking about secretes proteins if I'm remembering it correctly and the same thing occurs with how the separate components of the flagellum are excreted.

    Bloody awesome

    2ndly, I was in stitches laughing at your write up. It's a joy to see him get so utterly demolished.

    Thanks!

    Chris Noble said...

    I guarantee you it's not protons (no biological mechanism involves nuclear reactions). Go with proteins as a first best guess.

    A lot of biological mechanisms involve protonation and deprotonation. It isn't a nuclear reaction.

    Anonymous said...

    Dembskis meltdowns into gibberish were disturbing in person, and disturbing again when I re-listened to it. I wonder if he always does that?

    yes, he does. Just ask Wes Elseberry.

    Anonymous said...

    I think you'll find it's 'proton', not 'protein' ... see for example

    http://www.health.adelaide.edu.au/Pharm/Musgrave/essays/flagella.htm

    Proton pumps are standard biological components.

    Dan said...

    I'm telling you, cognitive dissonance. He's actually trying, really hard, to believe his own nonsense, and all of this comes close to shattering his world view. Repeatedly.

    It happens to small children when you try to make them admit they're wrong, sometimes. You know? First someone's confronted him for being a censorious jerk, and now his faith in his own correctness. And like a little kid, he's going "No, I'm right!" repeatedly.

    And, as a last resort, after much babbling, he gets his brain away from scientific thoughts and into conspiracy theories. Science is us versus them! These people are Dawkins' lackeys! My being factually right or wrong has no relation to whether or not I will be accepted!

    Torbjörn Larsson said...
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    Torbjörn Larsson said...

    It may feel unusual that hydrogen may dissociate in solutions as electrons usually are so easily grabbed in solid state physics and so energetically costly to dissociate in plasmas compared to the band gaps in solids.

    But it happens in chemistry, for example in acid-base reactions AFAIU. And it really happens at low energies, like those band gaps energies that are enough to ionize dopants.

    That it really is relevant to consider nude protons is to me as non-chemist illustrated by fuel cells. The electrons are visibly taking an external path while the hydrogen ions travels through a semipermeable membrane to react with oxygen and recombine.

    Seems biology thrives [sic!] on electrochemical processes over molecules (pigments in photosynthesis and vision et cetera) and membranes (electron transport chains and ion pumps).

    Torbjörn Larsson said...

    I've come to think that "just-so story" is the new creationist slang that replaces "theory" in their terms.

    The PT post takes that tack. But in general it seems that a "just so story" means different things to different people, just as the related an "ad hoc story" does.

    Parsing "ad hoc story", the widest definition is custom designed explanation. For example, a model that isn't based on a fundamental theory. But people sometimes seem to use it when they mean a circular definition, and consider it a problem.

    Neither of those cases are problems as such, models are circular when they describe the data they are formulated for. (Or conversely, they aren't if you consider data as imported or "lifted" into the model.) It is just that a model non-connected with remaining theory is less valuable and often wrong when more data is collected.

    Parsing "just so story", the widest definition is unfalsifiable explanation. But people sometimes seem to use it when they mean currently untestable or untested explanation, again considering it a problem.

    IMHO adaptionist explanations should not be problems as such, it is as always the unfalsifiable that is. Historical hypotheses that has little hope of finding a test today may still be valuable if they support a coherent model.

    I'm reminded of Joe Polchinski that IIRC observed that contrary to mathematicians expectations that a theorem is only as strong as its weakest support, in physics an explanation is as strong as its strongest support due to the physical (ie theoretical) context. For all I know biology may be more of the former, as the adaptionists steps Klebbas described may be a looser connected narrative. But it may still be the current best explanation.

    I can't see that the epithet "just so" is deserved here, or for adaptions as a testable prediction in general.

    And in any case, nothing deserves Dembski. Except ID creationism.

    J-Dog said...

    Beautiful Post! Thank you for all the hard work listening, and then transcribing Dembski. Err, Hmmm, umm, err, ehh, err, clearly then, err from your report, this could not have been easy.

    You should put "Dembksi De-Pantser" on your business cards.

    Reginal Selkirk said...

    Dembski's demand for a "pathetic level of detail" is entirely irrational. Dembski and pals claim that X is impossible. The refutation of that is not the proof that X actually happened, but that X is not impossible. I.e. a plausible account of how it might have happened is sufficent to refute Demski's position.

    The Factician said...

    You should put a link to this post in your sidebar. It's destined to be a classic.

    Anonymous said...

    I would encourage you to post either audio or video of this debate as the source of your transcript.

    It's not that I don't believe you, it is just that

    1) It would be damn entertaining.

    2) I've seen video of Dembski debating before. He usually comes off as calm and reasoned, but with bad arguments. I am a little surprised as to this level of a meltdown. It'd be great to see it though.

    Brian

    Sven said...

    I guarantee you it's not protons (no biological mechanism involves nuclear reactions). Go with proteins as a first best guess.

    Hydrogen ions (H+) are essentially protons. No nuclear reaction needed at all.

    Anonymous said...

    There are about 20+ proteins are that are essential in the flagellum, and exist in every flagellum across lineages, if that came about in four steps, you're not talking about gradual evolution you're talking about an airplane being built by a tornado.

    Thats why you need the details.

    Dan said...

    Leaving aside that the airplane-assembling tornado is a poor analogy founded upon basic misunderstanding of evolution, you're basically flat-out ignoring what's just been said about the flagellum, as has been done for years ever since Dover.

    "Four steps" means there are four reducibly complex and adaptive features which make the transition to the flagellum reducibly complex when already in place. The "masked man" explained it reasonably well; if you want ridiculous levels of detail instead of simple avowal that it is possible, check the Panda's Thumb for today.

    Don't know why I'm bothering, you'll probably ignore this argument entirely and return to repeating yourself as if it never happened like Behe.

    scripto said...

    Jeez, probably won't see him at any major university for awhile. Does he always get his ass handed to him when he ventures out in public? Maybe if he brought Coulter along to ride shotgun he would have acquitted himself better. Once Casey cleans the stains out of Bill's shorts, he'll be able to put a positive spin on this whole sorry affair on the next episode of ID the Future. I can hardly wait.

    386sx said...

    Now show me show me how you get from that to the next step!

    Simple... the designer did it. Every time scientist do the work and find something, then the ID people can do the ID thingy and say the Designer did that one too.

    I don't see what the problem is.

    Unless... the problem is that IDers don't want the scientists to do more work finding stuff. Nah...

    Anonymous said...

    ""Four steps" means there are four reducibly complex and adaptive features which make the transition to the flagellum reducibly complex when already in place."

    This is not unlike Orr's objection, where multipart machines get recombined to make a new machine, it isn't evolution.

    Reginal Selkirk said...

    Once Casey cleans the stains out of Bill's shorts, he'll be able to put a positive spin on this whole sorry affair on the next episode of ID the Future. I can hardly wait.

    Everything has a positive spin! If Dembski has a good outing, it's because his evidence is so solid. If he does poorly, it's because he's being persecuted. It's win-win.

    Dan said...

    Yes, it is. When favorable mutations accrue through natural selection, it is called 'evolution'. When a given favorable mutation is other, older mutations working together in new ways ... it's still called evolution. The principle is exactly the same.

    Trying to say "those parts working together, although an adaptive change which could occur through slight genetic modification and natural selection, is not evolution!" is a ridiculous non-argument. The pathway is a little less intuitive to us than the development of a brain or a muscle with the help of the circulatory system, but that's to be expected when dealing with bacteria too small to see with the naked eye.

    What I've read of Orr is terrible science, by the way, and this is not removing the impression.

    vhut said...

    The paper Dembski was waving was a copy of the full page ad published in the student newspaper the morning before the lecture. The ad was a strong anti-Dembski, anti-ID statement signed by 180+ faculty, staff and grad students.

    The ad had a major influence on Dembski, who took up the first 5 or 10 minutes of his talk trying to defend himself and ID. The result of that departure from his planned talk resulted in his having to skip quite a few of his slides, mainly those on his claim to fame - the explanatory filter.

    windy said...

    "This is not unlike Orr's objection, where multipart machines get recombined to make a new machine, it isn't evolution."

    What's "Orr's objection"?

    Physicalist said...

    I stand (sit) corrected. Silly me forgot about hydrogen ions; been thinking too much in nuclear and subnuclear terms lately. (I guess that shows what my guarantees are worth . . .)

    slybird said...

    So is this the last Dembski post? They were great!