Monday, August 22, 2005

contamination? I think not

So the NY Times published the second in a series of articles on Intelligent Design. I think they did a decent job in that they simply provided the biologist's answers to ID criticisms. Very straight forward. Except of course they do the whole 'teach the controversy' thing, but oh well. We can't have everything even if PZ Myers thinks we can. I think Myers wants every piece about ID to simply be a tirade against it. Clearly we need to explain what it is before we tear it down.

Also, it seems like maybe the more mainstream press this stuff gets, the more the mainstream press will cut it down. I hope.

Anyway, one of the more exciting parts of the article was the brief discussion of Rich Lenski's long term experimental evolution work with E. Coli. I got to meet Prof. Lenski at a meeting once and have him shoot down all my great ideas. I also worked briefly with one of his ex post docs, Cliff Zeyl, who is pretty much the fucking man. Anyway, the E. coli experiment has got to be around 30,000 generations now, and not like we need more fruit from this study, particularly to combat stupid ID, but Lenski claims there have been some 'irreducibly complex traits' evolved in the populations, something that the ID people will not like. But the best part of the aritcle was probably the last line from Lenski:

"If anyone is resting his or her faith in God on the outcome that our experiment will not produce some major biological innovation, then I humbly suggest they should rethink the distinction between science and religion."

Damn straight dude.

Anyway, Billy 'god did it' Dembski wrote on his blog that one could claim 'contamination' to explain the new trait. Here's the comment I posted in response, I wonder how long it will take him erase it?

"Actually, contamination isn't a very good ad hoc explanation of some new 'machine' being observed in the E. coli work. Not only are there control cultures, but because every 100 or so generations, cells are frozen. Therefore you can 'resurrect' (no pun intended) ancestors and see if they were indeed the ancestors of the new 'machine'.

Also, why praise this article? Eventhough it plays the ID game of 'teach the controversy', it seems that every response biology gives to ID objection in the article is quite reasonable. I thought the discussion of clotting was particularly well done. And the MtRushmore bit. If we found a cell with the faces of four presidents on it, then biologists should certainly start looking for a designer. Or at least some schmuck on Ebay who would by the cell for thousands of dollars kind of like that tortilla with the image of Jesus on it."


PZ Myers said...

Not so! I don't want a tirade, but I do want an article that clearly uses the evidence to knock down every falsehood the ID creationists bring up. This one failed.

Matthew D Dunn said...

I know, you're right that the article could be much better, I just thought that you were too hard on it. I think it's pretty clear from the piece that evolutionary biologists have simple, well understood responses for the ID critique.