The Fine-Tuning Argument (index)

by Luke Muehlhauser on November 29, 2010 in Design Argument,Indexes

Here is an index for my series on the fine-tuning argument:

  1. Al Moritz on the Fine-Tuning Argument
  2. The Fine-Tuning Argument, Generalized
  3. Was Our Universe Fine-Tuned for iPads?
  4. Fine-Tuning and Intrinsic Value

(more to come)

Also see these podcast episodes:

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{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

Steven November 29, 2010 at 4:44 pm

Thanks for all of these indexes. Helps navigate the site, which is full of great content.

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Nathan Schneider January 19, 2011 at 7:20 am

Perhaps also worth including the Lydia McGrew podcast here?

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Kyle Foley July 2, 2011 at 8:17 am

claim:
fine-tuning itself does not imply a person who did the fine-tuning. That is the most tempting explanation to human intuition, but these intuitions have turned out to be wrong time and time again. The orbits of the planets are not fine-tuned ellipses because of gods, but because of physics. Humans are not fine-tuned for their qualities because Yahweh crafted man from dust and woman from man’s rib, but because of the extraordinary power of natural selection and other evolutionary pressures. And as Moritz agrees, it appears that primitive biological systems need not have been fine-tuned for replication and evolution by a deity – instead, their properties emerged from chemistry.
All of this is mere begging the question. You don’t provide any evidence or reasons why it is logical that:
1. physical laws can fine-tune
2. evolution can fine-tune
3. Moritz assessment of the origins of life is correct.
All you’re doing is stating a thesis. I, on the other hand, can state many reasons why those assertions are false.
1. Laws cannot fine tune. Laws treat identical objects identically. Fine-tuning requires treating identical objects differently. Fine-tuning requires that you treat each unit as unique in a very “fine-tuned”, or precise manner. The numerous constants of our universe were tuned with knowledge of where the other constants would be set.
2. Evolution cannot fine-tune. Natural Selection destroys what does not work. It’s a tautology, it says what does not work, does not work. Natural Selection cannot plan. You need planning in order to coordinate 100 trillion cells into 250 cell types into 700 muscles, 200 bones and 100 organs.
3. Moritz’s assessment of the origins of life is not correct. Most proteins for simple bacteria, the odds of them forming spontaneously and all working together are easily beyond 1 in 10^30,000.

Claim:
If this happened, you would be right to look at me quizzically. What’s so special about the hand that I drew? I had to draw some hand of 5 cards, and every possible 5-card draw from a 52-card deck has a 1 in 2,598,960 chance of being drawn. So what’s the big deal? Likewise, we might ask: What’s all the fuss over cosmic fine-tuning? All these parameters had to take some values. Of course, given random chance, the chances they would take the values they do is extremely small. But then, the same would be true if the parameters had taken some other set of values, too! So why should we feel the need to explain why the parameters took this particular set of values rather than some other? Of course, it would be interesting if I had predicted ahead of time that I would be dealt precisely the 3 of clubs, the jack of hearts, the 9 of clubs, the 5 of diamonds, and the 5 of clubs on the next round. Then you would eye me suspiciously, and quite rightly conclude that somebody had probably monkeyed with the deck. But I didn’t predict my exact hand ahead of time, so my particular hand isn’t that amazing. Likewise, nobody predicted the values of the parameters of our universe ahead of time. We are like the poker player who has decided only after drawing his cards that his particular hand of cards is special and in need of explanation. Why, then, do defenders of the fine-tuning argument think that the fine-tuning of our universe for life requires some other explanation than mere chance? …
This fallacy can be called confusing complexity for specified complexity. Even Richard Dawkins understands this distinction which he outlined in the Blind Watchmaker. Mont Blanc is extremely complex and extremely improbable, but so is everything else. However, if you prespecify a pattern and demand chance to replicate it, or hit the target, chance will never do it. Take a thousand airplane parts, throw them on the floor and that particular arrangement is enormously improbable and will never happen again, but it doesn’t matter because the parts had to fall somewhere. Now, throw the parts and try to do it such that a functioning airplane will arise, it will never happen. It’s the same with the physical laws. Once the first law is written, every physical law thereafter has to be precisely specified in accordance with that law in order for life to arise.

But why not be surprised that the universe is fine-tuned for stars? If the parameters of our universe were much different, stars could not have evolved. Why do defenders of the fine-tuning argument not argue from the unlikelihood of stars? Or consider the iPad. Even if we take human life for granted, it’s still true that a great many factors had to be fine-tuned in order for the iPad to exist. What if humans had never developed agriculture, writing, or the microchip? What if we had evolved to interact more with smell and hearing than with sight and touch? If these results and many more had not been fine-tuned for, the iPad would not exist. Is the universe fine-tuned for iPads?

This is called the “life is not special fallacy, or there is no fundamental difference between life and non-life fallacy.” This is a flawed argument for two reasons. One, if the universe were the result of a fluke, then what we would expect is a gradual continuum between all things. Each growing more and more in complexity, or each thing as just as complex as the next thing. Instead what we fine is a huge gulf between life and non-life. Non-life has one set of properties and life has a completely different set of properties. To give an analogy, life is as different from non-life as a 1000 foot rocket ship is from a 1000 foot block of pure iron. This requires an explanation. Therefore, we are forced to posit another entity because the entities we have, chance, does not explain it. If the universe were the result of chance then there wouldn’t be a gulf between life and non-life, nothing would be fine-tuned for a specific bizarre function that nothing else has. Second, life can create, non-life cannot create. It should not be surprising that the creator of the universe likes to create, otherwise we would not be here. Since the creator enjoys creating, it stands to reason that the creator would create something that can also create.

As for your ipad example, it is a classic missing point the fallacy. Your ipad example proves that the ipad require fine-tuning to be created, not that the universe is the result of chance.

Claim:
Here’s the point. The universe had to be highly fine-tuned merely to produce stars. Would any universe containing stars (but no life) be evidence that that universe was fine-tuned by a Designer who really liked stars?
Let’s assume that the logical conclusion is yes, that in itself does not prove that we are here by chance. Let’s assume that the most reasonable answer is no, that also doesn’t prove that we are here by chance.

Claim:
What evidence is there that life is intrinsically valuable? What evidence is there that even if nobody cared about life, it would still have value, because it has value within itself? The only evidence I have ever seen presented for this astonishing claim is that it just feels or seems like it does.
Number One, any theist who simply asserts that they feel life has value is wrong. Number two, let me explain the problem of value more clearly. You’ve probably heard it before but you did not understand it, on the other hand, I’m the only one I’ve seen who explains value this way. The fact is if life did not have intrinsic value then we wouldn’t be here. Imagine a complex animal that had no values at all. Life and death had no value, pleasure and pain had no value, reproduction had no value, eating had no value. Value helps the animal organize its decisions so that it can survive. Every animal thinks about all the decisions it can do, then classifies those decisions into valuable or invaluable, or good and bad, and then it does what it thinks is valuable or good. Of course, the animal may be wrong. For example, if I think drinking a certain liquid is valuable but it turns out to be a poison then I have made a false value judgment. Now answer this question: if an animal had no values whatsoever, if it could in no way predict what actions would lead to life and what actions would lead to death, then it could never reproduce. Value is a life requirement. Value must exist if life is to exist. Third point, if we humans wanted to create a species of intelligent robots it would be obligatory to program into it an understanding of value, otherwise it couldn’t function.
I didn’t find a part 5 to this series, so I’m assuming it doesn’t exist. Let me address the fallacy from possibility which you did not explicitly commit but all atheists commit it so I’m sure you do too. It goes like this:
1. event A is more probable than event B
2. I enjoy event b more
3. B is possible, therefore it happened

It could also be summed up like this
1. I use analogous reasoning all the time
2. If I use analogous reasoning then it will imply God
3. Therefore, I will make an exception in this case and not use analogous reasoning

Analogous reasoning is the most standard form of human reasoning. Hurley describes it like this:

Analogical reasoning may be the most fundamental and the most common of all rational processes. It stands at the basis of many ordinary decisions in life. For example, a woman wanting to buy a can of soup might deliberate between Campbell’s and Brand X and, after recalling that other varieties of Campbell’s were good, decide in favor of that brand. A man contemplating a haircut might recall that a friend got an especially good cut at the Golden Touch and as a result decide to go there himself. A woman selecting a plant for her garden might observe that gardenias grow well at the house next door and conclude that gardenias would grow well at her house, too. A man thinking of reading a novel by Stephen King might recall that King’s last three novels were thrilling and conclude that his latest novel is also thrilling. Analogical reasoning is reasoning that depends on a comparison of instances. If the instances are sufficiently similar, the decision reached in the end is usually a good one; but if they are not sufficiently similar, the decision may not be good.

1. Either the universe is the result of chance or it is not
2. If it’s not then it’s the result of intention
3. The universe is fine-tuned
4. Chance has never fine-tuned anything
5. If something’s fine-tuned, then it’s the result of intention
6. The Universe exists
7. Therefore, it’s the result of intention
8. The name for that intention we call God

1. C v ~C
2. ~C ⊃ I
3. U ⊃ F
4. C ⊃ ~F
5. F ⊃ I
6. U
7. I 3,5 MP
8. I = G

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Reginald Selkirk July 2, 2011 at 2:02 pm

Kyle Foley wrote: Most proteins for simple bacteria, the odds of them forming spontaneously and all working together are easily beyond 1 in 10^30,000.

Who claims that proteins form spontaneously? In biology, they are mostly made by ribosomes. You are apparently too ignorant to even be in the conversation until you get yourself some remedial education. Read up on the RNA World Theory.

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kyle foley July 2, 2011 at 5:27 pm

Reginald,

Spontaneously means without the aid of intelligence. All atheists believe that proteins form spontaneously, the only other option is theism. If proteins use ribosome to form, then the ribosomes have to form spontaneously too. Plus ribosomes are made of proteins.

“You are apparently too ignorant to even be in the conversation until you get yourself some remedial education. ”

That statement above demonstrates that you have no respect for reason, therefore, I won’t be debating with you in the future.

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Reginald Selkirk July 3, 2011 at 11:17 am

If proteins use ribosome to form, then the ribosomes have to form spontaneously too.

Which voids your probabilistic argument against the spontaneous formation of proteins, which was based on a simplistic assumption of N amino acids suddenly joining themselves unaided into a protein strand. Even if it happened to be a useful protein, it would have no means of replicating itself.

Kyle Foley: Plus ribosomes are made of proteins.

You have proven your ignorance and your need for remedial education. Ribosomes are large complexes of RNA and protein. The catalytic core of the ribosome consists of RNA. Really, go find a reliable source and read up on the RNA World Theory before you embarrass yourself further. There is a considerable body of scientific literature on the RNA World Theory, the evolution of ribosomes and the evolution of the genetic code. You clearly have not read any of that literature, nor even good popular accounts of it, but somehow think that your uninformed babble on related topics qualifies as “reason.” While I respect reason, I do not respect your shadow puppet mimicry of it.

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Kyle Foley July 3, 2011 at 4:31 pm

basically your argument amounts to: “go read a bio textbook” which is not a rational argument. Moreover, you leave about 95% of my unanswered. So it’s clear to me that you’re not worthy of my time.

As for RNA in Ribosomes, what, do you expect to describe every scientific entity down to the nearest detail? Showing that RNA is found in Ribosomes in no way proves that ribosomes can form without intelligence. You have committed the fallacy of missing the point.

Instead of proving the ribosomes have an rna component, why don’t you try proving that the fallacy of intelligent design.

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Reginald Selkirk July 4, 2011 at 12:14 pm

Kyle Foley: basically your argument amounts to: “go read a bio textbook” which is not a rational argument.

I claimed you were ignorant of a topic under discussion, and you have proven your ignorance. You cannot make reasonable criticism of something you do not understand. so stop trying until you remedy your ignorance.

Kyle Foley: As for RNA in Ribosomes, what, do you expect to describe every scientific entity down to the nearest detail? Showing that RNA is found in Ribosomes in no way proves that ribosomes can form without intelligence.

As I mentioned previously, ribosomes not only contain RNA, but their catalytic core consists of RNA. That one flew right over your head, so now I am suspecting that you are not only ignorant but stupid.

That fact points to an obvious possible evolutionary path in which the earliest ribosomes, or proto-ribosomes, consisted of RNA and the protein bits were added later. In other words, it points to the freakin’ RNA World Theory which you still do not understand and thus cannot intelligently criticise.

Having firmly established that you – quite literally – do not know what you are talking about, I have nothing further to prove.

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Kyle Foley July 5, 2011 at 3:04 pm

Reginald,
Number one, you have no respect for logic, seeing as you constantly employ ad hominem arguments.

If you want to understand RNA, then read Stephen Meyer’s Signature in the Cell, unless of course you refuse to read books by authors that disagree with you. If that’s the case, then you have no respect for the truth.

You have committed the fallacy of missing the point again. What you have proved is that Ribosomes have an RNA catalytic core, not that life arose spontaneously. In order for the first cell to get up and running you need about 300 genes and that’s an extremely ludicrous scenario because such a cell could hardly survive anywhere other than a petri dish.

Also, you sort of ignored the other 95% of my arguments. If you can’t develop an intelligent response to them, then you need help.

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Reginald Selkirk July 6, 2011 at 7:42 am

Kyle Foley: Number one, you have no respect for logic, seeing as you constantly employ ad hominem arguments.

I don’t know to what you are referring. You are ignorant of topics you have introduced to the discussion. This is not ad hominem invective, it is a demonstrated fact.

If you want to understand RNA, then read Stephen Meyer’s Signature in the Cell, unless of course you refuse to read books by authors that disagree with you. If that’s the case, then you have no respect for the truth.

If I want to understand RNA more than I already do (I haven’t mentioned it, but I have a Ph.D. in molecular biology), I would read books books by experts in the field. That does not include Stephen Meyer. Presuming you have read that book yourself, it does not seem to have taught you anything about the RNA World Theory or the constitution and evolution of ribosomes.

Here is a review of Signature In The Cell by Francis Ayala, who knows quite a bit about evolutionary genetics:
On Reading the Cell’s Signature

The keystone argument of Signature of the Cell is that chance, by itself, cannot account for the genetic information found in the genomes of organisms. I agree. And so does every evolutionary scientist, I presume…

That is leading to your step #4, but I’ll leave that for later.

Here’s some comments by Arthur Hunt:
Signature in the Cell?

Long though the book is, it is built around one central theme – the idea that the genetic code harbors evidence for design. Indeed, the genetic code – the triplet-amino acid correspondence that is seen in life – is the “Signature in the Cell”. Meyer contends that the genetic code cannot have originated without the intervention of intelligence, that physics and chemistry cannot on their own accords account for the origin of the code…

He goes on to discuss a peer-reviewed paper which falsifies Meyer’s central thesis, and presents work on the evolution of the genetic code.

I do read books by authors with whom I disagree. Can you say the same? I have a shelf full of books by Creationists. That particular books is not (yet) among them. I buy Creationist books at used book sales, so that none of my money goes to support the authors or publishers.

You have committed the fallacy of missing the point again. What you have proved is that Ribosomes have an RNA catalytic core, not that life arose spontaneously.

I have established that the argument you put forward about life arising spontaneously was poorly informed by the relevant science, and therefore wrong. The fact that ribosomes have a catalytic core wipes out your probabilistic claim about the origin of proteins, as well asyour claim that ribosomes are proteins. Does this mean you are finally conceding on those points?

Kyle Foley: In order for the first cell to get up and running you need about 300 genes and that’s an extremely ludicrous scenario because such a cell could hardly survive anywhere other than a petri dish.

You are making some bad assumptions.

One of them is this claim of 300 genes as a minimum for a living cell. Such claims are always based on assumptions about context: what the environment of that cell will be, and what the cell will have to do. Consider for example, the possibility that a cell had a genome of RNA rather than DNA. Suddenly, the number of genes dedicated to replicating DNA and transcribing DNA to RNA could be reduced, along with the enzymes for making deoxyribonucleotides from ribonucleotides. (That’s right, cells make the building blocks for DNA from the building blocks for RNA. More evidence for the RNA World Theory.) Also, what anabolic substrates will the cell have to manufacture, vs. what can it import intact from the environment?

But there is a deeper wrong assumption you are making. It is that life started as an intact functioning cell coming together randomly. This is not the currently accepted explanation, so you’re attack of it is a straw man fallacy. The currently accepted explanation is that cells evolved from earlier proto-cells, which evolved from replicating molecules.Once again, we are back to the RNA World Theory, and your criticisms are off-target because you do not understand it. In effect, your claim is analogous to insisting that since a modern automobile with a fuel-injected gasoline engine could not assemble itself randomly, that cave men could not have invented the wheelbarrow.

Kyle Foley: Also, you sort of ignored the other 95% of my arguments. If you can’t develop an intelligent response to them, then you need help.

You have supplied a chain of logic. I do not have to attack every single link in the chain to void your argument. And your response to the criticisms I have made does not put you in a good light. You have consistently failed to admit the weaknesses of your argument, and now have taken to moving the goalposts (sliding from claims about proteins assembling randomly to claims about the constitution of ribosomes to claims about an entire cell assembling randomly, for example) to disguise your failures.

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Reginald Selkirk July 6, 2011 at 8:02 am

Kyle Foley:
4. Chance has never fine-tuned anything
5. If something’s fine-tuned, then it’s the result of intention

As noted by Francisco Ayala, no competent biologist accepts the characterization of evolution as being purely chance. Evolution operates through random mutations and genetic shufflings coupled with selection. Selection is most definitely not random. It is pretty much the opposite of random.

Consider drug-resistant HIV. The accepted biological explanation is that the Human Immunodeficiency Virus makes copying errors, and that some of the copies are more resistant to drugs used to control the virus, and thus the resistant copies survive better and reproduce better and come to predominate in the population of HIV viruses. In other words, the virus evolves to become drug-resistant. I should think this would qualify as “fine-tuning,” but does not seem to require intention. Thus your dichotomy of pure chance vs. intention seems to be false.

Biologist Jacques Monod once published a book with the title Chance and Necessity. I’m guessing you have never heard of the book, nor of Monod. He was a lot more famous and more of an expert on biology than Stephen Meyer. At any rate, you do not seem familiar with the concepts discussed in that book, which is now over 40 years old.

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Kyle Foley July 6, 2011 at 3:14 pm

[ You are ignorant of topics you have introduced to the discussion. This is not ad hominem invective, it is a demonstrated fact.]
there you’re just begging the question that I’m ignorant of biology, again, no respect or understanding for logic on your part.

[If I want to understand RNA more than I already do (I haven’t mentioned it, but I have a Ph.D. in molecular biology), I would read books books by experts in the field. That does not include Stephen Meyer. Presuming you have read that book yourself, it does not seem to have taught you anything about the RNA World Theory or the constitution and evolution of ribosomes.
Here is a review of Signature In The Cell by Francis Ayala, who knows quite a bit about evolutionary genetics:
On Reading the Cell’s Signature
The keystone argument of Signature of the Cell is that chance, by itself, cannot account for the genetic information found in the genomes of organisms. I agree. And so does every evolutionary scientist, I presume…]
i read that review by ayala, and it’s clear from the review that he didn’t even read the book as you haven’t either. ayala didn’t even quote from the book. he just assumed what was in there and started his premises from there. moreover, it does you no good to simply read reviews about books by people who disagree with you. if you keep doing that you’ll get nowhere and it demonstrates that you’re not really even interested in learning the truth.

[He goes on to discuss a peer-reviewed paper which falsifies Meyer’s central thesis, and presents work on the evolution of the genetic code.]
let me give you a clue: x falsified y’s argument is not a logical argument, in fact, it’s just begging the question. Prove that Meyer was refuted.

[I do read books by authors with whom I disagree. Can you say the same?]
of course, dennett, dawkins, coyne, sean carroll, maynard smith, i’ve read them all. I actually enjoy reading books by atheists and materialists because it makes me confident that they’re wrong.

[The fact that ribosomes have a catalytic core wipes out your probabilistic claim about the origin of proteins, as well asyour claim that ribosomes are proteins. ]
You haven’t. You still need to explain how all the proteins of the subunits, about 50, depending on the creature, could arise spontaneously. You can’t just expect to get a functioning ribosome with a hand-full of rna. plus, you also need about 300 other genes in order to get a cell up and running.

[You are making some bad assumptions.
One of them is this claim of 300 genes as a minimum for a living cell. Such claims are always based on assumptions about context: what the environment of that cell will be, and what the cell will have to do. Consider for example, the possibility that a cell had a genome of RNA rather than DNA. Suddenly, the number of genes dedicated to replicating DNA and transcribing DNA to RNA could be reduced, along with the enzymes for making deoxyribonucleotides from ribonucleotides.]
you’re using imaginary evidence to support your claims. you can’t do that. the scenario you’ve outlined has never been accomplished, and therefore is not evidence. what you’re saying is:
1. it’s possible
2. therefore, it happened
You can’t reason like that because technically anything is possible. if you want to appeal to imaginary evidence, then i can do that too easily.

[But there is a deeper wrong assumption you are making. It is that life started as an intact functioning cell coming together randomly. This is not the currently accepted explanation, so you’re attack of it is a straw man fallacy. The currently accepted explanation is that cells evolved from earlier proto-cells, which evolved from replicating molecules.]
again you’re appealing to imaginary evidence and also an appeal to popularity. If it’s never been demonstrated, then it is irresponsible to believe in it. If you’re going to believe in things that have not been demonstrated, then you have to believe in everything which has not been demonstrated. you can’t just pick and choose what undemonstrated things you want to believe. you’re just believing in undemonstrated things because you want to.

[Once again, we are back to the RNA World Theory, and your criticisms are off-target because you do not understand it. In effect, your claim is analogous to insisting that since a modern automobile with a fuel-injected gasoline engine could not assemble itself randomly, that cave men could not have invented the wheelbarrow.]
you’ve just committed Berra’s Blunder. It took intelligence for cavemen to build a wheelbarrow. what you’re saying is:
1. intelligence built something simple
2. intelligence built something complex
3. therefore, mindlessness can build something.

[ And your response to the criticisms I have made does not put you in a good light. You have consistently failed to admit the weaknesses of your argument, ]
more begging the question. do you even know what a logical argument is?

[and now have taken to moving the goalposts (sliding from claims about proteins assembling randomly to claims about the constitution of ribosomes to claims about an entire cell assembling randomly, for example) ]
not true. i just pointed out that even if what you say is proven, and it’s not, that even that wouldn’t prove anything because you would just be proving something irrelevant.

[As noted by Francisco Ayala, no competent biologist accepts the characterization of evolution as being purely chance. Evolution operates through random mutations and genetic shufflings coupled with selection. Selection is most definitely not random. It is pretty much the opposite of random.]
there’s randomness without natural law, and there is randomness with natural law. both are random, meaning there is no planning. You need planning in order to build an organism. just try assembling 100 trillion cells into 250 cell types, 600 muscles, 200 bones and 22 internal organs without planning and tell me if it works. for example, here’s random letters generated by ms word

aihgmarxzpqftnkvqzmljyebkxtmsjeerrzxygxopircxfvshgcvwhonfxrnuzby
hesgwkywynstebpvukfoezwbuujifamoursuwlmoiznjgvdxbdltsnuwurneinad
mzwzxbhfptblqwpgfsstbstpoztxwmiduzwdxupruhbahhkylqgddlhksdjwtqsc
rnvifwoliupaypkoqheppaqelbaxegpsdwwfqvfwruvbvhobotoonfzkwiezhiss
nixzlffhlriyfsnmtrgpsibgxcphgqrubzqgvqpxtnpitrfcnimgaidcsczwdsgj
josyfidpgbzfkccsqlnyupsxchmxhzdrsjogfsdggaxohzekjzpwtkonbczagwnv
aumeemiveqcfkmnjgumkiakqelxfqywgsncxnkwqrgihaimnqreiilohobxdibhu
syqlhosryhovnkrrqsobjidsuqonzayecddquksbiyqfeueeyvcjzbjxeapoenuv
jtjjnqdjrudwblgiwrpkwabkeiauddabzbnirgullkkiggtstvlxvyokhhudemaw

now if we use law and pick out only the words that exist in the english language (which is quite ludicrous because selection pressure is far far from perfect), you still get randomness, i.e., no planning:
marx jeer who by uk our pay on pit aid up jog on aim sob maw

Natural Selection is a mere tautology. it states: those who survive will survive, or those who are fit to reproduce will reproduce. Natural Selection in no way proves that mutations are random. Mutations are not random. You can’t say: those who survive will survive: therefore mutations are random.

[Consider drug-resistant HIV. The accepted biological explanation is that the Human Immunodeficiency Virus makes copying errors, and that some of the copies are more resistant to drugs used to control the virus, and thus the resistant copies survive better and reproduce better and come to predominate in the population of HIV viruses. In other words, the virus evolves to become drug-resistant. I should think this would qualify as “fine-tuning,” but does not seem to require intention. Thus your dichotomy of pure chance vs. intention seems to be false.]
HIV does not evolve at all. What it does is merely break genes so that the drugs are no longer effective against it. HIV mutates at a rate 10,000 times faster than humans and just look at how many new protein machines or new genes have been built since we knew about it: zero. It amazes me that biologists cannot understand that fact. You need to build genes, in order to get from a single cell to a human, not break genes that already exist.

[Biologist Jacques Monod once published a book with the title Chance and Necessity. I’m guessing you have never heard of the book, nor of Monod. He was a lot more famous and more of an expert on biology than Stephen Meyer. At any rate, you do not seem familiar with the concepts discussed in that book, which is now over 40 years old.]
I’m very familiar with Monod. He was a french biologist and I’m very familiar with his book, though i have not yet read it, but in fact it is very high on my reading list. actually i did page through the first pages of the book 3 weeks ago. he actually sort of came up with the idea of specified complexity but he never coined the term, but according to the great william dembski, monod is the first one to have really understood that proteins are built FOR other proteins.

i’d like an answer to the following questions:
1) how does a cell know how many of a certain protein it is supposed to produce
2) how does it know where to put the proteins in the cell once they are manufactured
3) how does a cell know which of 250 cell types it is
4) how is the body plan of the organism built
If all this information is in the DNA then it must be written in the four letter code in a language that we cannot understand, in other words, the cell must be INTELLIGENT to understand the code, read it, and follow the instructions.

Second, if everything is due to chance or necessity, then how do you account for human language. Do we just get lucky when we speak all of these word? If it’s the result of law, then why is it that language keeps changing.

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Reginald Selkirk July 6, 2011 at 3:25 pm

Kyle Foley: there you’re just begging the question that I’m ignorant of biology, again, no respect or understanding for logic on your part.

What does my noting your ignorance of a field under discussion have to do with whether I respect or understand logic? You’re not making sense here.

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Reginald Selkirk July 7, 2011 at 5:25 am

Kyle Foley, who claims to understand and respect logic: you’re using imaginary evidence to support your claims. you can’t do that. the scenario you’ve outlined has never been accomplished, and therefore is not evidence. what you’re saying is:
1. it’s possible
2. therefore, it happened
You can’t reason like that because technically anything is possible. if you want to appeal to imaginary evidence, then i can do that too easily.

You claim that A is impossible. What is the refutation of that,
1) that A has actually happened
or
2) that A is not impossible?

Kyle Foley, who is ignorant of biology: i’d like an answer to the following questions:
1) how does a cell know how many of a certain protein it is supposed to produce
2) how does it know where to put the proteins in the cell once they are manufactured
3) how does a cell know which of 250 cell types it is
4) how is the body plan of the organism built
If all this information is in the DNA then it must be written in the four letter code in a language that we cannot understand, in other words, the cell must be INTELLIGENT to understand the code, read it, and follow the instructions.

You want those answers, but you can’t be bothered to do any homework. FAIL.

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Reginald Selkirk July 7, 2011 at 6:33 am

Stephen Meyer’s Bogus Information Theory
by Jeffrey Shallit

Both Shannon’s and Kolmogorov’s theories are well-grounded mathematically, and there are thousands of papers explaining them and their consequences. Shannon and Kolmogorov information obey certain well-understood laws, and the proofs are not in doubt.

Creationist information, as discussed by Meyer, is an incoherent mess. One version of it has been introduced by William Dembski, and criticized in detail by Mark Perakh, Richard Wein, and many others (including me). Intelligent design creationists love to call it “specified information” or “specified complexity” and imply that it is widely accepted by the scientific community, but this is not the case. There is no paper in the scientific literature that gives a rigorous and coherent definition of creationist information; nor is it used in scientific or mathematical investigations.

Critics know that “specified information” is a charade, a term chosen to sound important, with no rigorous coherent definition or agreed-upon way to measure it. Critics know that information routinely comes from other sources, such as random processes. Mutation and selection do just fine.

In summary, Meyer’s claims about information are incoherent in places and wildly wrong in others. The people who have endorsed this book, from Thomas Nagel to Philip Skell to J. Scott Turner, uncritically accepting Meyer’s claims about information and not even hinting that he might be wrong, should be ashamed.

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More on Signature in the Cell
by Jeffrey Shallit

Yesterday, I showed how the treatment of information in Stephen Meyer’s book, Signature in the Cell, contains many misunderstandings and unjustified claims.

Today, I want to focus on what I call the “dishonesty factor” of the book: claims that are misleading or just plain false.

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Credential Inflation: A Favorite Tactic of Denialists
by Jeffrey Shallit

One of the favorite dishonest tactics of denialists of all stripes is credential inflation. Credential inflation is the process by which those with little proficiency or knowledge of an area, or people with marginal credentials, are touted as experts. In this way, denialists can argue from authority, hoping that no one will challenge the credentials of their spokesmen.

And thus we see Kyle Foley present Stephen Meyer as an expert on RNA, and refer to William Dembski as “great,” although the scientific contributions of both are quite modest.

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Reginald Selkirk July 7, 2011 at 6:36 am

Kyle Foley: of course, dennett, dawkins, coyne, sean carroll, maynard smith, i’ve read them all.

This is hard to reconcile with your demonstrated ignorance of biology.

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Reginald Selkirk July 7, 2011 at 6:39 am

Kyle Foley: You haven’t. You still need to explain how all the proteins of the subunits, about 50, depending on the creature, could arise spontaneously. You can’t just expect to get a functioning ribosome with a hand-full of rna.

I have shown that your arguments were wrong, and given you enough info and key words to go out and learn about the prevailing scientific explanation, which is the RNA World Theory. Your response is to demand that I jump through more hoops. Yes, I can expect that something complex could have evolved from something simpler.

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Reginald Selkirk July 7, 2011 at 6:41 am

Kyle Foley: again you’re appealing to imaginary evidence and also an appeal to popularity. If it’s never been demonstrated, then it is irresponsible to believe in it. If you’re going to believe in things that have not been demonstrated, then you have to believe in everything which has not been demonstrated. you can’t just pick and choose what undemonstrated things you want to believe. you’re just believing in undemonstrated things because you want to.

So everything you believe in has been demonstrated? Be careful where you step.

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Reginald Selkirk July 7, 2011 at 6:45 am

you’ve just committed Berra’s Blunder.

You’ve just committed the fallacy of stretching an analogy too far. That’s a sad thing for someone who claims such respect for logic.

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Reginald Selkirk July 7, 2011 at 6:48 am

You need planning in order to build an organism.

naturally, since you believe that I expect that it has been demonstrated.

Return to the description of drug resistance in HIV presented above. Did the HIV “plan” to become resistant to the drug?

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Reginald Selkirk July 7, 2011 at 6:52 am

Kyle Foley: Natural Selection is a mere tautology. it states: those who survive will survive, or those who are fit to reproduce will reproduce.

And your problem with that is…?

Natural Selection in no way proves that mutations are random.

Who claims otherwise?

Mutations are not random.

Since you believe that, I expect is has been demonstrated.

You can’t say: those who survive will survive: therefore mutations are random.

Did I say that?

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Reginald Selkirk July 7, 2011 at 6:59 am

HIV does not evolve at all. What it does is merely break genes so that the drugs are no longer effective against it. HIV mutates at a rate 10,000 times faster than humans and just look at how many new protein machines or new genes have been built since we knew about it: zero. It amazes me that biologists cannot understand that fact. You need to build genes, in order to get from a single cell to a human, not break genes that already exist.

ERV & HIV versus Behe. Behe loses.

by Abbie Smith

Vpu is, in fact, a new gene…

Dumb fuck.

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Reginald Selkirk July 7, 2011 at 7:03 am

Kyle Foley: Second, if everything is due to chance or necessity, then how do you account for human language. Do we just get lucky when we speak all of these word? If it’s the result of law, then why is it that language keeps changing.

1) I did not claim that “everything is due to chance or necessity.” That is you making shit up and pretending that I said it. What I have said is that your characterization of evolution as pure chance is incorrect, and that your dichotomy between pure chance and intention is false.

2) The evolution of human language is an interesting topic, and it is often used as an analogy to biological evolution. Beyond that, I have no idea what you are trying to claim about it.

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Kyle Foley July 7, 2011 at 3:17 pm

Reginald,
in your last post you at least attempted to provide some positive evidence for Darwinism, namely antibiotic resistance, but in this post you provided nothing in the way of positive evidence to support your theory. Let’s be very clear: how many organs anywhere in the animal kingdom have the darwinists been able to explain as arising from NS + RM? Zero. Darwinism has proven absolutely nothing.

Kyle Foley: there you’re just begging the question that I’m ignorant of biology, again, no respect or understanding for logic on your part.
[What does my noting your ignorance of a field under discussion have to do with whether I respect or understand logic? You’re not making sense here.]
You can’t just say someone is ignorant, you’ve got to prove it. Since the proof lies in the discussion of facts, then there is no point in calling someone ignorant, arguing the facts will do just fine. It’s elementary logic, that calling someone names is not an argument.

Kyle Foley, who claims to understand and respect logic: you’re using imaginary evidence to support your claims. you can’t do that. the scenario you’ve outlined has never been accomplished, and therefore is not evidence. what you’re saying is:
1. it’s possible
2. therefore, it happened
You can’t reason like that because technically anything is possible. if you want to appeal to imaginary evidence, then i can do that too easily.

[You claim that A is impossible. What is the refutation of that,
1) that A has actually happened
or
2) that A is not impossible?]
If the odds of something happening are beyond then 10^150 then it is rational to believe that it cannot happen by chance.

[Kyle Foley, who is ignorant of biology: ]
when are you going to learn that ad hominem attacks prove nothing.

[i’d like an answer to the following questions:
1) how does a cell know how many of a certain protein it is supposed to produce
2) how does it know where to put the proteins in the cell once they are manufactured
3) how does a cell know which of 250 cell types it is
4) how is the body plan of the organism built
If all this information is in the DNA then it must be written in the four letter code in a language that we cannot understand, in other words, the cell must be INTELLIGENT to understand the code, read it, and follow the instructions.
You want those answers, but you can’t be bothered to do any homework. FAIL.]
You expect me to be persuaded by darwinism when you can’t even answer basic questions?

[There is no paper in the scientific literature that gives a rigorous and coherent definition of creationist information; nor is it used in scientific or mathematical investigations.
… Critics know that “specified information” is a charade, a term chosen to sound important, with no rigorous coherent definition or agreed-upon way to measure it.]
Dennett, Dawkins and Monod all referred to something that is now called CSI. Then when the IDers started using the term, now suddenly the atheists don’t know what the term is any more. The materialists understand that if they agree that CSI exists then it become very difficult to continue to be a materialist. Therefore, they pretend to not understand what it is. So here i will explain it in a manner that no rational person can pretend to not understand. Take a look at these two pictures. Both are highly complex, and both could have come into being due to randomness. They are not specified to anything. Picture 3 however, is specified to the edges of shape 1, and could not have been produced by randomness. Picture 3 has CSI. It’s the same with proteins, proteins are designed for other proteins to work in teams of about 10.
[IMG]http://i87.photobucket.com/albums/k137/kylefoley76/Screenshot2011-06-16at70750PM.png[/IMG]
[IMG]http://i87.photobucket.com/albums/k137/kylefoley76/Screenshot2011-06-16at71822PM.png[/IMG]
[IMG]http://i87.photobucket.com/albums/k137/kylefoley76/Screenshot2011-06-16at71428PM.png[/IMG]

[Critics know that information routinely comes from other sources, such as random processes. Mutation and selection do just fine.]
Critics confuse data with information. It’s true that the public use data and information quite informally and sometimes interchangeably. But there is a distinct difference. Data can be produced by nature, for example, noting down the daily temperature, information, such as instructions for how to build a house, cannot be produced by nature, but require an intelligence to understand them and produce them. You can call these entities anything you like but the fact is they exist, they need a name, and data and information are the best words for them.

[In summary, Meyer’s claims about information are incoherent in places and wildly wrong in others. The people who have endorsed this book, from Thomas Nagel to Philip Skell to J. Scott Turner, uncritically accepting Meyer’s claims about information and not even hinting that he might be wrong, should be ashamed.]
This is just begging the question. When are you ever going to understand that begging the question is not logical argument?

[One of the favorite dishonest tactics of denialists of all stripes is credential inflation. Credential inflation is the process by which those with little proficiency or knowledge of an area, or people with marginal credentials, are touted as experts. In this way, denialists can argue from authority, hoping that no one will challenge the credentials of their spokesmen.
And thus we see Kyle Foley present Stephen Meyer as an expert on RNA, and refer to William Dembski as “great,” although the scientific contributions of both are quite modest.]
Are you every going to present positive evidence in favor of Darwinism?

[Kyle Foley: You haven’t. You still need to explain how all the proteins of the subunits, about 50, depending on the creature, could arise spontaneously. You can’t just expect to get a functioning ribosome with a hand-full of rna.
I have shown that your arguments were wrong, and given you enough info and key words to go out and learn about the prevailing scientific explanation, which is the RNA World Theory. Your response is to demand that I jump through more hoops.]
You haven’t proven anything. The only thing you’ve pointed out is something I already knew: that ribosomes have an RNA catalytic core.

[Yes, I can expect that something complex could have evolved from something simpler.]
This is just a mere assertion. Moreover,
1. I expect something
2. Therefore, it happened
Is not a logical argument.

[you’ve just committed Berra’s Blunder.
You’ve just committed the fallacy of stretching an analogy too far. That’s a sad thing for someone who claims such respect for logic.]
You were the one who came up with analogy in the first place. You’re analogy was basically:
1. minds can turn the simple into something complex
2. therefore, mindlessness can do the same thing.

[You need planning in order to build an organism.
naturally, since you believe that I expect that it has been demonstrated.]
You think a 100 trillion cells group themselves into 250 cell types at random? If so you have a strange idea of randomness. Just take a look at the pores in the nucleus. Those pores had to have been built with the knowledge that the mRNA would eventually float through them, that’s planning. Just look at the 10 or 12 editing systems that fix bad DNA. They were built with the knowledge of what they would eventually do. Planning. You haven’t even presented positive evidence that organs can evolve without planning.

[Return to the description of drug resistance in HIV presented above. Did the HIV “plan” to become resistant to the drug?]
It doesn’t take planning to break a gene. Just mutate any of a whole number of nucleotides, and that is enough to break them. Things get broken without planning all the time.
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[Reginald Selkirk July 7, 2011 at 6:52 am
Kyle Foley: Natural Selection is a mere tautology. it states: those who survive will survive, or those who are fit to reproduce will reproduce.
And your problem with that is…?]
So do you admit that NS is a tautology? Tautologies don’t tell us anything new. It will rain or not rain. That’s a tautology, they don’t provide us with any new information. Darwin’s theory provided nothing. If anything it was Robert Fischer’s theory. He’s the one we should really be discussing. All’s Darwin said was: those who survive will survive. Darwin didn’t present any positive evidence that organs could be built by random process.

[Natural Selection in no way proves that mutations are random.
Who claims otherwise?]
Hello? If mutations are not random, then they’re designed.

[Mutations are not random.
Since you believe that, I expect is has been demonstrated.]
Take a look at the Hox genes. Sean Carroll has this to say in Endless Forms most beautiful:
http://esrcgenomicsforum.blogspot.com/2011/06/genes-forever.html
Sean Carroll talks mostly in “Endless Forms Most Beautiful” about ten or so “Hox” genes…which biologists have been rather flabbergasted to discover are shared by ALL animals…everything…from flatworms to Simon Cowell. What all these animals sharing the same essential body building tool kit means…from an evolutionary point of view…is that the common ancestor of all these bodies…phenotypes…already HAD many of the essential ingredients all animal life would ever need…genotypes…long before they were actually needed. That is, before the Cambrian Explosion 550 million years ago, when complex animal forms suddenly appear in the fossil record…many of the essential genes that make the amino acids that make the proteins that make the eyes and scales and legs and teeth and kidneys were already kicking about in the biomass – which till then consisted almost exclusively of the kind of blue green slime you clean off an old toilet…

[You can’t say: those who survive will survive: therefore mutations are random.
Did I say that?]
Do you believe mutations are random or not? If they’re not random then they’re designed.

[Reginald Selkirk July 7, 2011 at 6:59 am
HIV does not evolve at all. What it does is merely break genes so that the drugs are no longer effective against it. HIV mutates at a rate 10,000 times faster than humans and just look at how many new protein machines or new genes have been built since we knew about it: zero. It amazes me that biologists cannot understand that fact. You need to build genes, in order to get from a single cell to a human, not break genes that already exist.
ERV & HIV versus Behe. Behe loses.
by Abbie Smith
…
Vpu is, in fact, a new gene…
Dumb fuck.]

it would be nice if you would learn to formulate your own arguments rather than parrot others. The VPU is merely a gene that exists in HIV-1 but not HIV-2. It’s not like HIV-1 developed the gene as a new weapon against drugs, the gene had already existed before it began to infect humans. There is nothing in the Strebel paper to suggest that HIV evolved the gene in response to drugs.

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Luke Muehlhauser July 7, 2011 at 11:59 pm

Reginald,

Good links, thanks.

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Reginald Selkirk July 8, 2011 at 7:03 am

Kyle Foley the Ignorant: You can’t just say someone is ignorant, you’ve got to prove it. Since the proof lies in the discussion of facts, then there is no point in calling someone ignorant, arguing the facts will do just fine. It’s elementary logic, that calling someone names is not an argument.

I didn’t prove you were ignorant, you did. And since it is an established fact, there is no reason I should not point it out, particularly since it is relevant to the ongoing discussion. And you are correct, calling someone names it not an argument, so stop confusing it with the arguments I have made. I throw that in for no extra charge.

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Reginald Selkirk July 8, 2011 at 7:08 am

Kyle Foley, wrong on the facts again: Let’s be very clear: how many organs anywhere in the animal kingdom have the darwinists been able to explain as arising from NS + RM? Zero.

Wrong.Biology has managed to explain a great deal. Kyle Foley makes up an arbitrary standard (why is ‘organs’ the standard?) and then when examples are offered, he will demand more and more detail in the explanation; detail which he and his Creationist pals have never met themselves in their own ‘explanations.’

Swim bladder

The swim bladder is evolutionarily homologous to the lungs, and Charles Darwin himself remarked upon this in On the Origin of Species.

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Reginald Selkirk July 8, 2011 at 7:16 am

Kyle Foley, who is ignorant of mathematics: If the odds of something happening are beyond then 10^150 then it is rational to believe that it cannot happen by chance.

If you don’t understand the processes, you cannot properly calculate the probabilities. Given 50 coins, and granted that every coin flip is truly random, what are the odds of having all 50 turn up heads? How long would you expect it to take for that to occur?

Well, it depends a lot on the procedure. Consider and compare the following scenarios:

1) Flip all 50 coins. If they do not all come up heads, flip them all again.

2) Flip a coin. If it is not heads, flip it again. Repeat until it is heads, then move on to the next coin and repeat the procedure for it.

Procedure 1 will have a very low probability, and will probably take a very long time. Procedure 2 has a very high probability of success, and shouldn’t take long at all. So the probabilities you calculate, and the time you estimate, should take into account such differences. Kyle Foley cannot make relevant calculations because he is not aware of the best scientific explanations about how things might have occurred.

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Reginald Selkirk July 8, 2011 at 7:28 am

Kyle Foley tells a story: Dennett, Dawkins and Monod all referred to something that is now called CSI. Then when the IDers started using the term, now suddenly the atheists don’t know what the term is any more…

Do cdesign proponentsists understand what “complex specified information” is? Has the great Dembski himself offered up a solid definition, or has he changed it over time (evolved) when errors were pointed out?

Nobody – Even Creationists – Seems to Know How To Calculate Dembski’s “CSI”

by Jeffrey Shallit

Back in 2001, when I was on sabbatical in Tucson, Arizona, I decided to spend some time trying to understand Dembski’s “complex specified information” (CSI) to see if there was anything to it. The result was my long paper with Elsberry, where we concluded that CSI was a hopeless, incoherent mess that didn’t have the properties Dembski claimed. A shorter version of the paper has recently appeared in Synthese.

Now, over on Uncommon Descent, there is an amusing thread which demonstrates our conclusion. Nobody, not even the creationists, can seemingly agree on the most simple assertions about CSI. That’s because it’s a hopeless, incoherent mess.

(See the original for links to a discussion on Uncommon Descent, an ID blog, about how to calculate CSI)

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Reginald Selkirk July 8, 2011 at 7:31 am

Kyle Foley, earlier in the thread: Plus ribosomes are made of proteins.

Kyle Foley tells a lie: You haven’t proven anything. The only thing you’ve pointed out is something I already knew: that ribosomes have an RNA catalytic core.

That’s the problem with lying, you have to keep track of all the lies you tell or you end up contradicting yourself.

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Reginald Selkirk July 8, 2011 at 7:37 am

[Return to the description of drug resistance in HIV presented above. Did the HIV “plan” to become resistant to the drug?]
Kyle Foley: It doesn’t take planning to break a gene.

You insist that the mutated HIV is “broken.” And yet it is better at surviving and reproducing in its environment than a similar virus with an “unbroken” gene.

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Reginald Selkirk July 8, 2011 at 7:40 am

Kyle Foley: Take a look at the Hox genes…

Please do. They are used throughout the animal kingdom, but is it the same genes? Presuming you have read Carroll’s book, you know that the basic hox genes have been duplicated throughout the history of life, and applied to various different purposes. And yet you continue your fatuous stance that genes can only be “broken.”

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Reginald Selkirk July 8, 2011 at 7:43 am

Kyle Foley: it would be nice if you would learn to formulate your own arguments rather than parrot others.

WTF? You are insane. You said that HIV has not evolved and has no new genes. I provided the disproof.

Kyle Foley: The VPU is merely a gene that exists in HIV-1 but not HIV-2. It’s not like HIV-1 developed the gene as a new weapon against drugs, the gene had already existed before it began to infect humans. There is nothing in the Strebel paper to suggest that HIV evolved the gene in response to drugs.

So? Did I claim that vpu was a drug resistance gene or that it evolved in response to drugs? No, I did not. I merely refuted your claim that HIV has not evolved any new genes. That is you attempting to move the goal posts once again.

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Don’t expect Luke to waste any of his time on you. He has already figured out that you are a dumb fuck.

Goodbye.

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Andy November 6, 2011 at 8:40 am

I hope you don’t forget about this section, I’d like to see the rest of the series of posts

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