Monday, May 12, 2008

Richard Dawkins' Inbox

Feeling lazy, so here's some satire that I didn't write.

----
To: Dr. Richard Dawkins
Subject: Panspermia and exogenesis

Dear Dr. Dawkins,

I must begin my letter to you expressing how you are such a great encouragement to myself and many other intellectuals out here living in an irrational, superstitious world. You have demonstrated outstanding courage as a beacon of reason and logic in a society whose citizens are beholden to tribal deities and witchcraft. Your example only moves me to being a more aggressive "evangelist" for the atheist "gospel."

I recently returned from a showing of that movie Expelled. I only went because I wanted to be able to refute the non-nonsensical propaganda that belches forth from the sewage container dishonestly called "the Intelligent Design" movement. Ben Stein is a let down which is to be expected from a creationist goon like himself.

I must say, however, that your interview with him was a breath of fresh air in an otherwise odious film. It was alone the price of admission. You could tell he didn't know how to respond to your brilliant answers, and when you suggested to him that the first self-replicating molecule could have very well been brought to our planet by extra-terrestrial, intelligent life, the look of incredulity on his face just showed me what a moron Ben Stein truly is. Has he never heard of exogenesis before? Or panspermia? It is probably one of the most legitimate theories to explain the origins of life on our planet! He seemed to carry on as if he had never heard of it before. Has Stein never heard of Dr. Fred Hoyle or Dr. Francis Crick or Richard C. Hoagland? I mean, almost every night a person can hear leading experts on the subject talk about panspermia for a couple of hours on Coast to Coast AM.


Well, the theory of panspermia sirred up a question in my mind I wanted to ask you, Dr. Dawkins. Do you think the aliens who seeded are planet billions of years ago expects anything from us? I mean, they are in a sense our alien overlords, those who "created" us, as it were. Perhaps they want us as humanity to be living at a particular standard of conduct. Of course, our first inclination is to think they would want us to be striving for world peace, but I remember seeing this Twilight Zone episode - from the newer series in the 80s - where these aliens had sped up evolution so the human race would strive - not for peace - but for making better weapons. Who saw that one coming!? And imagine if the only reason aliens seeded our planet was to turn us all into a big human processing plant to cook us up in alien TV dinners!

These are just things we need to keep in mind as we consider the theory of panspermia. It may even be helpful when we are forced to debate these ID yahoos.

Thanks Dr. Dawkins,
Keep up the good work.

Ryan Harris

19 comments:

Rintintin said...

You certainly like your Dawkins mockery huh Rho :-D

I had a quick browse over that chap's blog too (well the evolution/ID section at least) - one thing I notice more and more these days is that 'Darwinism' is essentially a convenient blanket term for 'anything I don't agree with'

On a side note, didn't Crick give up on the idea of panspermia once catalytic RNA was discovered?

John Morales said...

A quick search shows the issue has been already addressed by RD, back in March.

Toward the end of his interview with me, Stein asked whether I could think of any circumstances whatsoever under which intelligent design might have occurred. It's the kind of challenge I relish, and I set myself the task of imagining the most plausible scenario I could. I wanted to give ID its best shot, however poor that best shot might be. I must have been feeling magnanimous that day, because I was aware that the leading advocates of Intelligent Design are very fond of protesting that they are not talking about God as the designer, but about some unnamed and unspecified intelligence, which might even be an alien from another planet. Indeed, this is the only way they differentiate themselves from fundamentalist creationists, and they do it only when they need to, in order to weasel their way around church/state separation laws. So, bending over backwards to accommodate the IDiots ("oh NOOOOO, of course we aren't talking about God, this is SCIENCE") and bending over backwards to make the best case I could for intelligent design, I constructed a science fiction scenario. Like Michael Ruse (as I surmise) I still hadn't rumbled Stein, and I was charitable enough to think he was an honestly stupid man, sincerely seeking enlightenment from a scientist. I patiently explained to him that life could conceivably have been seeded on Earth by an alien intelligence from another planet (Francis Crick and Leslie Orgel suggested something similar -- semi tongue-in-cheek).

Rhology said...

You certainly like your Dawkins mockery huh Rho

Well, it's just so easy...
Maybe it's a sign of laziness that I go after easy targets like him. OTOH, if so many people weren't so enamored with the guy, I'd ignore him, like I ignore some others.


'Darwinism' is essentially a convenient blanket term for 'anything I don't agree with'

You mean like "speaking in tongues", "Arminian theology", "Jehovah's Witness theology", things like that?
If not, isn't this thoughtless and kinda mean hyperbole? Maybe the man has a reason for calling what he calls Darwinian Darwinian. Do you have an example?


didn't Crick give up on the idea of panspermia once catalytic RNA was discovered?

So much the worse for Dick Dawk, then, huh?


Dick Dawk said:
I must have been feeling magnanimous that day,

Oh yes, no WAY you're trying to cover your rear end here.

Indeed, this is the only way they differentiate themselves from fundamentalist creationists,

Willful ignorance. Strawman. Again. Does this guy ever quit?

I constructed a science fiction scenario

Which you said was possible. I love how he's trying to lay everythg at the ID-ers' feet.
This is just standard MO from Dick Dawk.

I patiently explained to him that life could conceivably have been seeded on Earth by an alien intelligence from another planet

If you didn't think it was possible, why bring it up? Why not be honest-er and say you don't know? Or fwd the ridiculous notion that Ruse did - that it piggybacked on crystals?
Sheesh. This guy is a sadly hilarious case.

Peace,
Rhology

Rintintin said...

Well, it's just so easy...
Maybe it's a sign of laziness that I go after easy targets like him. OTOH, if so many people weren't so enamored with the guy, I'd ignore him, like I ignore some others.


I'm fairly indifferent to the guy to be honest - I only ever read one of his books and that was only for a psychology exam question back in my youth :)

You mean like "speaking in tongues", "Arminian theology", "Jehovah's Witness theology", things like that?
If not, isn't this thoughtless and kinda mean hyperbole? Maybe the man has a reason for calling what he calls Darwinian Darwinian. Do you have an example?


Haha, I wasn't meaning literally everything, it was slightly tongue-in-cheek - just references to 'Darwinists' as atheists, communists, (modern) liberals, as well as the insinuation of fascism a la Ben Stein amongst other things. It's quite the hydra I'm sure you'll agree.

Rhology said...

O I C.
Well, "Darwinian" can be nuanced, but I think it could stick.

Rintintin said...

If you didn't think it was possible, why bring it up? Why not be honest-er and say you don't know? Or fwd the ridiculous notion that Ruse did - that it piggybacked on crystals?
Sheesh. This guy is a sadly hilarious case.


As ridiculous as it is, these ideas will have to be taught (and anything else people can dream up) if ID gets into school science classes since they are unwilling to attempt to identify the designer. Since, lets face it, the first thing any kid is going to want to know is who is doing the designing.

Rhology said...

See, there you go.

Why not just say, "We don't know. Why don't you grow up to be a scientist or engineer and help figure it out?"

Not. That. Hard.

G-man said...

Why not just say, "We don't know. Why don't you grow up to be a scientist or engineer and help figure it out?"

Yeah, or just be a pastor, kiddo. After all, God performs miracles that are readily apparent as demonstrations of His existence. It's silly to think anyone doesn't know Who's doing the designing.

Rintintin said...

See, there you go.

Why not just say, "We don't know. Why don't you grow up to be a scientist or engineer and help figure it out?"

Not. That. Hard.


But wouldn't the next obvious question a kid would ask be 'so if we don't know who the designer is, how do we know things are designed in the first place?' - would the problems with IC, the explanatory filter, making incorrect use of small probabilities etc for inferring design be open for discussion during this?

Rhology said...

Yes, open for discussion like they're NOT right now.

Now, if I were to act like the current Darwinian establishment, I'd say NO WAY and use every available means to silence you.

Rintintin said...

OK, so when the glaring flaws are pointed out with the likes of IC etc and the therefore the 'evidence' for ID disappears in a puff of smoke (since they have very, very few ideas relating to design beyond the ones I listed), do we then have to drop it from the classes again? After all what would be the point in keeping it in there after that?

John Morales said...

RD had (dishonestly*) been told he's being interviewed for crossroads, a documentary on the intersection of science and religion.

He answered the question as a scientist, and provided a science fiction scenario, constrasting with the fantasy fiction that creationism provides.

That the IDiots claim that RD believes his SF scenario is what's funny.

* the expelled domain had already been registered.

------

RD: ...I constructed a science fiction scenario

Rh: Which you said was possible.

Well, he said plausible, but yes, that's what science fiction should be, as opposed to fantasy fiction.

Furthermore, it should be clear RD is speaking about the origin of life on Earth, not the origin of "life".

Your dislike of RD is noted, Rhology, but, as you try to try to ridicule, it backfires when you misunderstand and misrepresent his claims and intent.

Rintintin said...

Yes, open for discussion like they're NOT right now.

Now, if I were to act like the current Darwinian establishment, I'd say NO WAY and use every available means to silence you.


Actually, it might be worth remembering (we've gone over it numerous times now) - they have a journal. They have books galore filled to the brim with negative arguments against evolution. They have the financial resources of a small country. Now let's see some positive predictions and data - there's no barrier whatsoever to them producing this...apart from ID's own deficiencies perhaps?

Rhology said...

RTT said:
when the glaring flaws are pointed out with the likes of IC etc and the therefore the 'evidence' for ID disappears in a puff of smoke (since they have very, very few ideas relating to design beyond the ones I listed), do we then have to drop it from the classes again?

that's not what we see in general from the Darwinian establishment. It doesn't even get that far.
It's as if Darwinians are afraid of the competition.
You talk a good game over a keyboard, on a blog, but won't put your cards on the table.

They have the financial resources of a small country.

Who? The Discovery Institute? Do you have facts to back that up? I've not heard that, but I'm open to a mind-change.



John Morales,

OK.

Rintintin said...

Who? The Discovery Institute? Do you have facts to back that up? I've not heard that, but I'm open to a mind-change.

the IRS 990 forms for 02-04 are at the following links

http://www.discord.org/
%7Elippard/DI-2002-Form990.pdf

http://www.discord.org/
%7Elippard/DI-2003-Form990.pdf

http://www.discord.org/
%7Elippard/DI-2004-Form990.pdf

adding to a total of nearly $10m


http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?
title=Discovery_Institute#Funding

according to their IRS forms their revenue was ~$2.6m in '05

http://www.charitynavigator.org/
index.cfm?bay=search.summary&
orgid=9757

in '06 it was ~$4.2m according to their IRS forms

(apparently AIG are the dominant group in this market, taking in about $9m/year)

and the DI is a registered charity to boot, which I believe gets them all this tax-free

So there's not a shortage of resources by anyone's standards there (assuming you're not Bill Gates of course!).

that's not what we see in general from the Darwinian establishment. It doesn't even get that far.
It's as if Darwinians are afraid of the competition.
You talk a good game over a keyboard, on a blog, but won't put your cards on the table.


But science is not a case of 'come up with an idea and we can teach it in class'.

The hypotheses and theories have to stand up to repeated testing, and to be able to continually make accurate predictions (like my favourite examples of Tiktaalik or the discovery of DNA being cases in point).

Anyone with a spare afternoon and access to journals via pubmed.com can disprove any of Behe's ideas. In fact, anyone with a decent imagination can disprove IC in principle, which is a problem for ID since Behe said that even in principle there is no route to IC systems.

So if they've yet to propose any positive tests in 20 years or so, and their negative arguments against evolution such as IC can be disproven with a minimum of effort, is it any wonder mainstream science has little or no interest in them?

Rhology said...

$10 million is a lot of money? Suuuurrrrreeee.

I've read some rebuttals to IC and found them wholly unimpressive. Notably Ken Miller's, but anyway.

Rintintin said...

$10 million is a lot of money? Suuuurrrrreeee.

$3.5m per year is serious wedge in science - most labs don't get anything near that. Most labs, however, on a lower budget manage to produce some data each year then publish it. So I'll ask again, why aren't ID able to do this on a bigger budget then publish it in their own journal?

Unless you want to buy a Large Hadron Collider or something, that'll allow you to do a lot of experiments, especially if you already had access to a lab and shared facilities like one M.Behe does as a tenured professor.

Interestingly, Panda's Thumb had a recent post saying that the ID crowd could have tested IC by searching genome databases of various organisms for the presence or absence of the components of the various "IC" systems. These databases are all accessible from the comfort of one's own home, and for free. Did they do this? No, of course not. Now why were they unwilling to do a test that didn't even cost them any money?

I've read some rebuttals to IC and found them wholly unimpressive. Notably Ken Miller's, but anyway.

OK

"By irreducibly complex I mean a single system composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning. An irreducibly complex system cannot be produced directly (that is, by continuously improving the initial function, which continues to work by the same mechanism) by slight, successive modifications of a precursor system, because any precursor to an irreducibly complex system that is missing a part is by definition nonfunctional. An irreducibly complex biological system, if there is such a thing, would be a powerful challenge to Darwinian evolution." (Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution pg. 39)


So there's Behe's definition of IC, and the human blood clotting cascade is billed as IC by Behe. So, if a part is missing, then clotting shouldn't be possible, right?

But...dolphins, whales and porpoises are missing Hageman factor (XII). Their blood can still clot. Claim falsified. In fact, even the human cascade isn't IC, since you can remove factor XII and all that happens is blood clots more slowly. Jawed fish have fewer parts than mammals, and jawless fish even fewer parts than that.

The other claims don't fare any better when subjected to even this minimal level of scrutiny (such as the flagellum, as we've discussed in the past).

Rhology said...

$3.5m is serious? When 100s of university labs are ranged against the DI?
Seriously. Please.


shared facilities like one M.Behe does as a tenured professor.

Congratulations! You pointed out ***ONE*** tenured prof.
Your side's whiny claims that "few scientists believe ID" has you against the wall on this question. You can't have both.


Did they do this? No, of course not. Now why were they unwilling to do a test that didn't even cost them any money?

Oh, you KNOW they didn't do it, do you? You're on the board of directors at DI? You have ESP?

dolphins, whales and porpoises are missing Hageman factor (XII). Their blood can still clot.

And his claim is that those animals' blood clotting cascade is IC?

the flagellum

Yes, it was VERY convincing.

Peace,
Rhology

Rintintin said...

$3.5m is serious? When 100s of university labs are ranged against the DI?
Seriously. Please.


I'm sorry, you're just clutching at straws since you have no real argument any more- they clearly have enough income to conduct at least some experiments. Presumably they'd be working with things like bacterial flagellae - cultures are not expensive. I can also think of plenty of molecular biology/biochem techniques that they'd be able to easily afford (eg real time PCR, Western Blotting etc).

On a similar budget ICR managed to at least do some experiments (as flawed as their methods were) - what's the DI's excuse? Link

All I am asking for is one solitary ID hypothesis, experiment and dataset. Just one. Universities and academics keep ASKING them to offer up and test hypotheses, not telling them not to - this is the whole complaint! If they were testing hypotheses they'd be DOING science like people keep asking them to. This exactly what we want them to do! And even if the data got refused by mainstream journals - THEY HAVE THEIR OWN JOURNAL! How can a anyone stop them publishing data in this?!

Labs are not 'ranged against the DI', they are there to conduct experiments. Labs have existed since well before the DI did. There are no weekly meetings on the latest techniques in DI-thwarting. It's also funny how the DI always seems able pay for DI fellowships (what are all these people actually doing if they arent doing experiments?), travel costs etc for public speaking engagements (never mind the sizeable fees they command for this and book tours etc)


Congratulations! You pointed out ***ONE*** tenured prof.
Your side's whiny claims that "few scientists believe ID" has you against the wall on this question. You can't have both.


Few do accept ID (it's hardly a whine, unless established fact = whine), but there are enough that do to have facilities, since eg Gonzalez and Minnich also both have university posts. Behe will have not only access to his own lab, but all the shared facilities with the more expensive equipment, just like any tenured Prof. does. All he has to do is propose, testand provide data from a single hypothesis and everyone will shut up. He has no excuses whatsoever since he has the lab, facilities and financial backing.


Frankly, it appears all they have at this stage is excuses rather than anything else.


Oh, you KNOW they didn't do it, do you? You're on the board of directors at DI? You have ESP?

1. great - if they did it, when will they be publishing it?
2. if they did do it and it showed what they wanted, dont you think theyd be shouting it from the rooftops by now?


And his claim is that those animals' blood clotting cascade is IC?

the claims seem to vary as to which parts are the sole IC core, from the human/mammalian cascade generally (which isn't IC since simpler versions exist and can act as clotting systems just fine, and even then a component can be removed from the human one without preventing clotting as I pointed out), while he's also referenced the 'core' 4 components as IC in DBB (fibrin(ogen), (pro)thrombin, accelerin and Stewart factor) - as well as saying this in DBB: “…none of the cascade proteins are used for anything other than the formation of a blood clot”.(p86)

1. sea squirts have thrombin-like molecules that can cut fibrinogen, but these animals don't possess fibrinogen Link Link
2. even if you object to the term 'thrombin-like', this still refutes IC since it means other molecules apart from the core 4 can act as part of the cascade
3. Amphioxus has no fibrinogen either, but also possesses a thrombin like molecule that can clot mammalian plasma
4. thrombin has other functions such as angiogenesis independent of activating fibrinogen - Link
5. fibrinogen is involved in embryogenesis independently of its actions in blood clotting - Abstract
6. deletion of fibrinogen, or plasminogen and fibrinogen still produces viable mice that can clot, although they are slightly compromised - however remeber Behe's defintion of IC? well, there are no degrees of functionality. it either works or it is completely broken. In this case it is not completely broken since the mice survive.



Yes, it was VERY convincing.

again, straw clutching - we've been over it countless times. I only need to show that one component can go missing or one simpler system exists and the argument is refuted. I'm not going to waste much more time on this, since evidence apparently has no effect on what you want to believe, but it may be of interest to anyone reading this.

1. there are thousands of non-identical bacterial flagella - why design all these different ones when one would suffice?
2. there are many proteins that are absent from one/many bacteria with flagellae, or that are homologues of other non flagellar proteins and therefore not unique to the flagellum Visit Our Site