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Here is a quote from Richard Dawkins: “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” {Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker, 1996, p. 1}

He even uses the word "overwhelming": “Natural selection is the blind watchmaker, blind because it does not see ahead, does not plan consequences, has no purpose in view. Yet the living results of natural selection overwhelmingly impress us with the illusion of design and planning.” {Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker, 1996, p. 21.}

Your attempt to get me to do your research for you is noted. The fact that I got voted down for expressing my (perfectly valid) opinion is also noted. This is why I do not like atheist/religious debates on HN. It's not the right forum for it. If I wanted my religious views attacked I'd be subscribed to talk.origins. This is a tech aggregator, not a forum for atheists and Christians to battle it out.




Thanks for sharing the opinion of one person. But opinions aren't proof of anything. Stating something is not an argument.

Sorry that you feel your beliefs are under attack. I was addressing the way you were describing the beliefs of others.


It was clumsily worded, for which I apologise. What I meant to be saying is that many atheists do not dispute the appearance of design, and even some scientists who are atheists do not dispute it.

I once sat with a large group of scientists at a certain institution and I heard the following words, "and no matter how much it appears things have been designed, we must resist the temptation to see design in complex systems" (statement was in the context of a discussion of complex biological systems). This became the topic of conversation, and there was broad agreement with this statement.

Even if you, and many like you, do not personally believe that there is an appearance of design, that would not change the fact that it is in fact a very common position. Many atheists agree with Dawkins on this. My use of the word "many" should of course not be construed to mean "most". That was not my argument. Nor should it be construed to mean that I believe their position is that these things are designed. That should be clear from the quotation from Dawkins. Despite the fact that on this occasion I was careless with my wording, I do not, in general, use the word "many" to mean "most". I mean that it is not a position held by only a handful of individuals on the fringe. In speaking with many atheists, I conclude that it is in fact quite a common conception.

Incidentally, whilst it is very much a minority opinion (here I do mean only a handful of credentialled individuals), there are atheists who do believe that many complex biological systems were intelligently designed. And I am not referring to people who believe life on earth was designed by extraterrestrials (in the little green men sense), which I feel is usually (maybe even always) not a scientific position.

What is more common is academics such as myself who accept that evolution happens, but who also believe in a designer. And again, I do not mean to imply that this is any kind of majority opinion or concensus. I mean that relative to fringe technical opinions, belief in a designer is common. But I shouldn't need to qualify every single word I use, should I.

So, getting back to the article, although I did not articulate it well, my point is that the article not only simplifies the science, but it grossly oversimplifies the diversity of opinion that exists not only amongst atheists and people who believe in intelligent design of some kind, but of scientists in general. To my taste, and this is nothing more than a personal opinion, I found the article to be greatly oversimplified. Moreover, as I pointed out in a post above, the argument it makes is not a new one, but a recycled one from at least ten years ago. As such, I felt that it very directly conflicted with the injunction on the HN faq to not introduce classic flamewar topics unless there is something genuinely new to say.

Certainly it should be expected that there are going to be dissenting opinions when an article of this nature is presented. Again, this is only my personal opinion, but I felt that the article stuck out like a sore thumb on HN, not because it was about the design issue per se, but because of the way it attempted to deal with this controversial issue. I feel that a scientific approach to the issue would encourage a careful examination of the data and of various hypotheses on their merits. The thing that initially bothered me is that the article did not even attempt to examine why this gross inefficiency was preserved by evolution. To me this is always a clue that there is something further to be understood, and more science to be done. I am not a biologist, but I am a professional academic with a science degree. I expect more from articles such as this and am prepared to say so, and defend my opinion.


The way the nerve is wrapped around other structures is totally consistent with what the fossil record says about how life evolved.

The gross inefficiency was retained because it is more difficult or unlikely that one structure can be moved past another. It could be that if someone were born with a nerve that long and it doesn't loop around a structure, it might not work properly or get pinched very easily or flop around.

There are plenty of possible explanations for what we find in nature. And just because we haven't figured things out doesn't mean supernatural forces are responsible.


"There are plenty of possible explanations for what we find in nature. And just because we haven't figured things out doesn't mean supernatural forces are responsible."

I'm sure I don't need to point out on HN that this is a tautology. If we haven't figured something out, it doesn't imply anything at all.

We may only infer (in scientific terms) that a supernatural explanation is necessary when it can be shown that a natural explanation is impossible (by the law of the excluded middle).

I knew an atheist (dead now) who believed that a friend of his had levitated in full view of approximately 50 people at his father's funeral (the father of the guy who levitated). He believed that it was not a trick pulled by either his friend or any of the attendees at the funeral but that science would eventually explain this in a perfectly naturalistic way.

I also know a Christian who says he saw an amputee grow a new leg instantaneously when some friends of his prayed for the guy. He does not believe this was a trick pulled by either the friends of his or the amputee. He believes it was a supernatural miracle.

I do not believe either story on their say so. Either could in theory be lying to me. And I have no direct evidence to support their stories.

However, if I had had the experience of the atheist, then absent any evidence of a trick or circumstances which might suggest an alternative explanation, I would have supposed a supernatural explanation. And similarly if I had the experience of the Christian. However, I guess that the atheist would suppose a naturalistic explanation in both cases (I cannot ask him, as he is dead). In either case we have a predilection which is likely to influence our conclusion.

I don't think science enters into the picture in either case. Science is a process by which we discover the laws of nature and apply them. Science does not care what I believe. Its conclusions will be the same regardless of what I believe. Whether or nor science changes your beliefs may depend on how well you understand science, but it may also depend on your beliefs and the experiences you have had.

One should never eschew good science because of a commitment to either a religious or an atheistic perspective. All knowledge is subject to review and revision. What we believe however, is personal. And the two should not interfere.


See above discussion it is also explainable by other things ( like embryo development ) wich are not what you call "supernatural". by saying "evolution did it" you are dismissing all other valid explanations. and limiting yourself. evolution theory is also not well understood so by using it to explain things you are just passing hot potato to someone else. This exactly the same thing that creationist are doing. they will say Creator did it! but what? and how? it remains unanswered.

if it was understood we would now be able to induce it on living organisms ( things like grow wings on giraffe and such ). and i don't mean by classic genetic engineering, but by using different environmental parameters we would be able produce desired mutations.


I heartily agree with your first paragraph. It is precisely the same logical fallacy as a "god of the gaps" argument that we need to watch out for here, but in the guise of a "naturalistic theory of origins of the gaps" argument. We don't know how to explain something so we resort to our pet "explain all", rather than continue doing good science.

On your second paragraph, I am not sure I agree. If evolution happened as posited by the "concensus" view then it happened over many, many generations. I don't think growing wings on a giraffe is possible in reproducible experiments that anyone could feasibly carry out. Also, are mutations always caused by environmental parameters? I guess radiation may be an example where they are. But I don't know if it has been established that they always are. Sometimes mutations seem to be encouraged by the very mechanisms of the cell itself, within certain parameters.

So I would have to differ with you on your second statement. I think it is in general very hard to establish what the restrictions are on systems that evolve. In rapidly reproducing species, such as fruit flies or certain bacterial colonies it is much easier to test the boundaries, and in fact this has been done.


apropos second paragraph , at this point i believe that there are more than one way to evolve some organism or many ways to do the same desired mutation. like for example grow wings on giraffe, for example if i just control environmental parameters it could maybe be possible, but nature does it in many ways. (like viruses that inject DNA and what not.)

let us just take mutation by chromosomes (as in Down syndrom and others..), like chromosome deletion, insertion, and other known operations, i believe that by only this mechanism alone its enough power to change any part of DNA desired. (if artificially induced by controlling environmental parameters)but i may be wrong.

what mechanism is most common and most likely to occur in evolution i would like to know.


Down Syndrome itself is the duplication of all or part of chromosome 21, usually due to improper separation of chromosome pairs during meiosis. I kind of think of this like going around a factory and turning up every 23rd valve.

Gene duplication seems less severe. I agree it is not known how to make wings on a giraffe by manipulating the environment so as to control or "benefit" from gene duplication.

Your attempts to study this in nature might be frustrated by the difficulty in identifying paralogs vs orthologs, the fact that gene duplications are often not preserved between generations and the fact that many gene duplications are deleterious.

It's also the case that it is not yet fully understood how gene expression regulates the development and structure of body layouts. New body parts like wings are complex biological structures and do not usually just appear due to a change in genes. At least when I last left the debate conditions in the womb, fetal orientation, rna from the mother, "junk" dna and many other things were being examined for their role in the development of body layouts.

As you are probably aware, research has been done that shows duplication and deletion of body parts due to genetic abnormality. But this is usually not a good way to make an organism survive. How many people missing a leg or who have an extra arm do you know of who find life easier?

Anyhow, my point regarding the giraffes was merely that it is going to take very many generations of giraffes before anything at all happens. You and your great grandchildren will be long dead before then. In that sense I don't think it can be held against science that we haven't been able to demonstrate evolution of wings on a giraffe.

I personally don't hold out much hope for it either. The changes that must occur in a giraffe for it to support wings as a viable organism may be so great that it is no longer anything like a giraffe any more. So the entire concept of wings on a giraffe might just be a natural impossibility.




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