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

Dear Ross,

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 claimed.)

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 genetic mutations.

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,