We need to blow it off its feet

Biologist PZ Myers sets out to prove that there is no purpose associated with evolution.

He writes:

I decided that what I wanted to make clear is that the origin of many fundamental traits of the nervous system is by way of chance and historical constraints

And

The word “purpose” is entirely inappropriate. Richard Dawkins has tried to deal with it by inventing a new term for the kind of purpose you’re talking about, but I think we’re better served by trying to cut that misconception off at the knees. No, ankles. No…we need to blow it off its feet and scour the footprints from the floorboards.

So how does Myers take teleology and “blow it off its feet and scour the footprints from the floorboards?”

He points to three places where exaptation played a key role in the evolution of neurons.  Exaptation?  Y’know, the term that was designed to replace the term…. preadaptation.

In other words, Myers “blows” away teleology by providing three features of the eukaryotic cell plan that facilitated the emergence of neurons.  Apparently, he believes that if there was any purpose associated with evolution, it would be devoid of preadaptations that might facilitate subsequent evolution.

Er, I think not…..

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17 responses to “We need to blow it off its feet

  1. I believe this line of argument is only going to grow. This is because if I wanted to argue away purpose, then I would need to get people to believe that there is no cell norm that carries on through the past, and this is a real threat with the new world creationist and the ill informed. I hope science doesn’t start forgetting the past otherwise purpose will truly die.

  2. “…the new world creationist”?

    Is that a creationist from the western hemisphere?

  3. Well, that’s the weakest argument I’ve seen lately. Myer’s “evolution can’t be purposive, because hey, preadaptations!” makes me smile.

    If this is an example of some anti-ID fanatic doing his damndest to prove evolution is not purposeful or teleological, man. Are they in trouble.

  4. Are they in trouble.

    Until someone comes up with a better theory, no.

    Arguments from incredulity add nothing to human knowledge. Coming up with a better theory, one that makes testable predictions, would be a start.

    Paul Nelson has not , as far as I am aware, not changed his mind since saying:

    Easily the biggest challenge facing the ID community is to develop a full-fledged theory of biological design. We don’t have such a theory right now, and that’s a real problem. Without a theory, it’s very hard to know where to direct your research focus. Right now, we’ve got a bag of powerful intuitions, and a handful of notions such as “irreducible complexity” and “specified complexity”—but, as yet, no general theory of biological design.

    I note David Berlinski seems to concur in his recent interview with Stephen Meyer.

    Frankly, I don’t understand the problem. Theistic evolutionists like Miller have no problem reconciling their faith with reality. There is plenty of room beyond scientific reality for faith and imagination.

  5. Wet electricity- the nervous system uses it- came about by chance and historical constraints?

    And it just happened to place pumps along the neuron to keep the curent flowing.

    Just how can we test that?

    It is amazing what people will say to avoid the design inference.

  6. Alan Fox:

    Until someone comes up with a better theory, no.

    Better theory?

    PZ Meyers and crew don’t have a theory about the nervous system.

    As for thestic evolutionists there isn’t any difference bewteen ther “god” and no “god” at all.

    IOW all Miller is is a mental contortionist and a clueless one at that.

  7. I made no argument from incredulity, Alan. Nor did I cite Paul Nelson or the DI. I responded to Mike pointing out the absurdity of someone trying to show that evolution is ultimately blind or lacking purpose by way of citing pre-adaptations. It’s a silly, bad argument.

    I have disagreements with ID proponents, TEs, and probably even Mike on various issues. But PZ’s floundering really is a sight to behold.

  8. Better Theory?

    Well, any ID theory at all would be good.

    Remember you claim there is scientific evidence of a designer or designers that is available for scrutiny. I would really like to see this evidence. Where can I find it? Or are you making stuff up, like when you claimed that Doug Axe had managed to apply Dembski’s explanatory filter to a real biological example.

    See this ARN thread

    (Scroll down to last comment)

  9. Well, any ID theory at all would be good.

    You need to focus on your position Alan.

    Ya see your position doesn’t have a theory- you can’t even muster a testable hypothesis based on an accumulation of genetic accidents.

    Remember you claim there is scientific evidence of a designer or designers that is available for scrutiny.

    I have already presented it to you.

    You choked on it.

  10. I made no argument from incredulity, Alan.

    I just think you are wrong about the theory of evolution being in trouble and I don’t see any rival scientific theory.

    ID proponents seem to spend all their time claiming evolutionary theory is inadequate to explain…(as per Behe’s “Edge of Evolution” for example) and no time at all explaining what ID theory is and how it is a better theory than the current ToE.

    As I said above, I don’t understand the Christian/atheist culture war that rages in the US, probably because I have no first-hand experience of US culture.Here in France, asking about someone’s religious affiliations and beliefs is as impertinent as asking how much money someone has in the bank.

    I think PZ should have two blogs: one for presenting his scientific explanations (much of his presentations on embryology and evo-devo are excellent) and another for his promoting the right for anyone in the US to be an unashamed atheist. It is incomprehensible to me the right to think for oneself is not considered a universal and desirable goal in the US. But PZ maybe falls into a trap by allowing himself to be drawn into conflating religion and scientific endeavour.

    Gould and his NOMA seems a sensble approach.

  11. PS

    PZ’s popularity as an outspoken atheist seems to indicate that there is a demand in the US that someone take on this rôle.

  12. Alan Fox:

    Coming up with a better theory, one that makes testable predictions, would be a start.

    What predictions can be made from an accumulation of genetic accidents-ie the proposed mecahnisms of the “theory” of evolution?

    You and others have aptly demonstrated that you cannot even muster a testable hypothesis based on that.

  13. Alan and Joe,

    I’ve been considerate enough to allow you two to go after each other for some time now, but frankly, I have no interest in your arguments (which have now spilled over into this thread from another one). If there is a lurker out there who is enjoying your debates, please email me. If I get no such email, that means you two are the only ones following your arguments and thus I feel no need to host them on my blog.

  14. Nullasalus,

    “Well, that’s the weakest argument I’ve seen lately. Myer’s “evolution can’t be purposive, because hey, preadaptations!” makes me smile.”

    I’m glad to see someone else notices the delicious irony.

  15. Nullasus: “If this is an example of some anti-ID fanatic doing his damndest to prove evolution is not purposeful or teleological, man. Are they in trouble.”

    Alan Fox: “Until someone comes up with a better theory, no.

    Arguments from incredulity add nothing to human knowledge. Coming up with a better theory, one that makes testable predictions, would be a start.”

    Sorry Alan, but you are not following the argument. Dr. Myers set out on the quest to banish purpose from biology. He even speaks with triumphant, violent metaphors. The result? Epic fail. The reason Myers fails is that he equates evolution with non-teleology, a myopic view that is facilitated by constantly arguing with creationists and IDers who think alike in that regard.

  16. Sorry Alan, but you are not following the argument.

    Probably not. I am not really interested in the arguments, as such, more the science, evidence, personalities and the background of cultural, political and religious influences.

    I have been following the comments at First Things to which, I note, you have contributed. Almost a microcosm of the state of play over the validity of ID.

    I don’t think PZ has or claims any great influence over whether teleology will ever gain any credence in the biological sciences. Teleology will stand or fall on its own merits.

    PS I am assuming that addressing a comment to me is an invitation to continue posting. Rest assured I will make no further response to JoeG. It is a pointless exercise.

  17. Mike: “Sorry Alan, but you are not following the argument.

    Alan: “Probably not. I am not really interested in the arguments,…

    Sigh. 🙄

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