Edward Max's Fifth Rebuttal to the Fifth Critique
For Dr. Max's Original Article, click HERE.
For A Paper Distributed at Dr. Max 2/22/01 Debate with Duane Gish, click HERE.
For An Introduction To Answering Dr. Edward Max's Challenge, click HERE.
For Ross Olson's First Critique, click HERE.
For Dr. Max's Rebuttal, click HERE.
For Ross Olson's Second Critique, click HERE.
For Dr. Max's Second Rebuttal to the Second Critique, click HERE.
For Ross Olson's Third Critique, click HERE.
For Dr. Max's Third Rebuttal to the Third Critique, click HERE.
For Olson's Critique Number Four, click HERE.
For Dr. Max's Fourth Rebuttal to the Fourth Critique, click HERE.
For Olson's Critique Number Five, click HERE.
For Dr. Max's Fifth Rebuttal to the Fifth Critique (and the summary linked below), click HERE.
For a summary of these interactions, click HERE.
From: Max, Edward
Sent: Monday, May 20, 2002 12:56 PM
To: 'Ross Olson'
Subject: our correspondence
I agree that it is appropriate to wind down our correspondence and take
stock of what - if anything - it has accomplished. You suggest that it
would be reasonable for me "to walk away feeling that you have won the very
limited objectives to which you have pulled back." My own view is that I
have not "pulled back" at all, but perhaps have succeeded in clarifying for
you that I never held the more extreme positions that you attributed to me.
(In other cases I can't seem to shake your overinterpretation of what I have
1. Antibody mutations. In my Web essay about mutations and selection in
the antibody gene system, I quite explicitly stated "This evidence alone
does not prove that life evolved as Darwin suggested" but you overlooked
this qualification and suggested that I claimed that the antibody mutation
argument "proves evolution." You now seem to recognize better my narrower
objective. My essay shows that random mutations can be beneficial, as you
have stated in your summary of our correspondence
(/debate.html#gish-max). Although you omit this
from your summary, my essay also provides a counter-example refuting the
creationist claim (based on faulty statistics and information theory
arguments) that random mutation cannot be the source of improved "fitness."
I guess I have not convinced you completely of this second point, because
you continue to argue that the antibody system is able to benefit from the
mutations only because the system is "elaborate" and "looks designed." All
I can say is that the creationist proponents of these statistical or
information theory claims don't say that their theoretical arguments hold
only for "simple" systems. (If they did restrict their claims in this way,
then these claims could no longer be used to argue against evolution of
humans from bacteria, since bacteria are certainly not "simple.")
2. Thermodynamics. On thermodynamics, you seem to understand a little
better the narrow claim I made, but you still misstate my position. You
imply that I claim that the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics "allows evolution." I
do not make any such claim, and never have; you are again extrapolating to
an extreme position I never supported. My claim at the debate with Dr. Gish
was simply that HIS argument - that evolution would violate the 2nd Law -
was pseudoscience, because Gish had not shown with scientific rigor that
evolution was associated with a net decrease in entropy. As I stated in
earlier correspondence, creationists like Dr. Gish are trading on the good
name of the 2nd Law by morphing it into a "creationist version" of the 2nd
Law, vaguely admixed with information theory, a version that has no standing
in the scientific community. From your answers to my questions from my last
rebuttal, I think you finally understand that a "narrow" scientific analysis
of the thermodynamics of the biosphere cannot neglect the sun's energy and
the dissipation of solar energy into space. (For "narrow" read
scientifically rigorous, i.e. not pseudoscience.) Creationists like Dr. Gish
or Dr. Blick have not done such an analysis, so their vague claims mixing
information theory and classical thermodynamics are incomplete at best. You
say I should admit "to the presence of a parallel principle of decay," and
you mention that the thermodynamics expert Dr. Harvey admits that "there may
be something to the information argument." I also accept the theoretical
possibility that some valid arguments might be made along these lines, but
the burden of making such arguments lies with creationists who want to argue
on thermodynamics grounds that naturalistic evolution is impossible; and
they have not as yet taken up that burden. There is no burden on me to
"provide examples of spontaneous ordering" as you request, since I'm not
arguing that evolution is consistent with the 2nd Law (I wouldn't even know
how to go about a quantitative assessment of the entropy of life); I say
only that creationists haven't adequately supported their claim that
evolution is inconsistent with the 2nd Law.
3. Apes to graduate students. Our discussion on this topic stemmed from
your challenge to me to explain why selection in the laboratory has not
shown examples of major phenotypic changes, like bacteria "going macro." I
explained that the short timeframes of laboratory observation compared with
the long timeframes of evolution can account for the limited change
observed, and I offered an example of rather impressive phenotypic changes
in dogs that occurred by random mutation and selection over about 10,000
years of domestication by humans. I would classify the differences between
a greyhound and a bulldog as reflecting large phenotypic changes from a
common ancestor. You argue (1) that dogs and other species should have
become more intelligent than they have done, (2) that our natural breeds
would not survive in the wild, (3) that they are all still dogs, and (4)
that the changes can be accounted for by shuffling of original genes and not
by new mutations. Your first three arguments are entirely irrelevant to the
question of whether large phenotypic changes can derive from random mutation
and selection. Your fourth argument is a relevant claim, but I don't know
of any evidence that supports it. I'd appreciate it if you could send me
references that show that the differences of dog breeds do not derive from
4. Behe's work and "faith" in evolution. Your arguments on this topic
include examples of your overinterpretation of what I have said. I never
said that I have "faith in the power of science to answer all questions."
Indeed I specifically indicated the very opposite in the words you quoted -
namely, that many questions of evolution and abiogenesis "may remain unknown
for the foreseeable future." I will not, as you say "continue to wait," if
you mean that I am sitting on my hands doing nothing; I'm working in my lab
trying to advance science, reading the literature to follow the discoveries
of others, and trying to further science education. There is no pressing
need to rush to a judgment on scientific questions like abiogenesis that are
not presently clarified by sufficient evidence.
Your next comment, that I "reject the very possibility of a
supernatural solution," deserves your thoughtful consideration. You
remarked that you are interested in the psychology of thinking on these
issues, and I highly recommend that you think carefully about your own
psychology to understand why you continue to misinterpret my position about
the supernatural. At the debate I stated that I respect, not reject,
religious views of creation; I held up a Bible and recommended it to the
faithful. In almost every one of my exchanges with you I have repeatedly
stated that I do not reject the possibility of supernatural explanations
being true. Yet you continue to misstate my position on this. I'm baffled
why I have been unable to make a dent in your preconception despite various
rephrasings and repetitions of my position. I hereby give up. Perhaps some
soul-searching on your personal psychology will come up with some
explanation for your consistent misinterpretation of my clear statements.
5. Intelligent Design hypothesis. You claim that the Intelligent Design
hypothesis is scientific because it predicts "irreducibly complex" systems.
I have already explained why this is a bogus argument: it is a prediction
that we will NOT find something - namely, a detailed evolutionary
explanation for an adaptation - when the absence of that explanation is
entirely explainable by technical limitations of scientific evidence
gathering: fossilization doesn't preserve biochemical structures. A
testable prediction says that we WILL find something, not that we WON'T find
something. Indeed, you mention a new prediction that is testable: you say
evolution predicts "hybrid molecules," proteins caught in the act of "taking
on new functions while still being selected for their original function."
In contrast to many "predictions of evolution" made by creationists (which
are grotesque straw men arguments that no evolutionist would accept), I
agree that this is a reasonable expectation of evolution. Here are some
examples I have found that fulfill your prediction. (Let me know if you have
trouble finding any references for these.)
a. Cytochrome c, the key metabolic protein, also has an
important role in triggering apoptosis of mammalian cells.
b. Aconitase, the Krebs cycle protein, serves as an RNA
binding protein to regulate the expression of several proteins important in
controlling intestinal absorption and storage of iron
c. Beta-catenin, a component of cell membrane adherence
complexes, also serves in the nucleus as a transcriptional activator
d. Calreticulin, a calcium binding protein of sarcoplasmic
reticulum has many other functions, including as a molecular chaperone, and
various functions at the cell surface; and a fragment of the molecule acts
on endothelial cells as an anti-angiogenic factor
e. A laminin receptor originated from a ribosomal protein
that acquired a dual function
f. A component of the phenylalanine hydroxylase system known
as 4a-carbinolamiine dehydratase (which I studied as one of my first forays
into biochemical research) turns out to be identical to DCoH, a nuclear
transcriptional regulator of homeodomain proteins
g. Many metabolic enzymes have been co-opted to serve in the
vertebrate eye as lens crystallins
h. An antifreeze glycoprotein from cold-water-adapted fish
was "caught in the act" of evolving from trypsinogen
What we see here is a reasonable prediction of evolution (one you
made yourself) fulfilled by scientific evidence. These examples of
scientific evidence supporting evolution - like the many examples I
presented at my debate with Dr. Gish - explain why this theory is so well
accepted by the professional scientific community.
6. Young earth arguments. You are correct that I did not read the
article you recommended about ocean salt content; I never said that I did
read it. This article is outside my area of expertise (and I suspect that
it is outside yours as well). I only offered general criticisms that I have
heard about young earth arguments based on ocean solute concentrations.
While your responses totally miss my points, I don't have time to debate
topics so far out of my field. You seem quite happy to challenge experts in
fields you have no training in (like Dr. Harvey on thermodynamics), so if
you want to debate this topic perhaps you can challenge the authors of the
Websites I referred you to in our last exchange.
In response to the last comments in your critique, let me reiterate that I
agree that there are quite reasonable Scriptural reasons for rejecting
evolution. As for scientific reasons, I agree that there could
theoretically be good scientific reasons for rejecting evolution, and I hope
you agree that in principle it is possible for some anti-evolution arguments
to be invalid. The scientific merits of arguments that purport to be
scientific rest on their scientific scholarship, not on their conclusion. I
have merely been pointing out flaws in many anti-evolution arguments,
without addressing whether the ultimate truth is closer to evolution or
creation (e.g. I have never claimed that evolution is a "fact"). Naturally,
I am not pleased at your implication that my position is "wicked," or
reflects "spiritual blindness."
Best wishes and farewell,