Thursday, April 19, 2007

Haldane's Dilemma

This is very interesting. Dembski has teamed up with Walter ReMine, demonstrating once again that the old addage "opposites attract" does not apply to kooks.

ReMine has an article on Uncommon Descent where he pushes his usual whine about evil scientists and how their world-wide conspiracy has kept him from revealing the fatal flaw in evolution [Evolutionist withholds evidence on Haldane’s Dilemma]. I can see how similar this is to Intelligent Design Creationism.

Some of you may not be familiar with the so-called "dilemma" of Haldane. Fortunately, ReMine provides a nice short summary.
For many years I have publicly claimed Haldane’s Dilemma is a major unsolved problem for evolution. A problem so severe it threatens macroevolution as a “fact” and evolutionary genetics as an empirical science. The problem, briefly, is that evolutionary geneticist, J.B.S. Haldane (1957), discovered an important argument that limits the speed of evolution. Under his calculations, an ape-human-like population, given a generous ten million years, could substitute no more than 1,667 beneficial mutations — which, according to evolutionary geneticists, are each typically a single nucleotide. All the human adaptations within that time would have to be explained with this small number of substitutions. For more information, see here: Haldane's Dilemma.
That's it. Fifty years ago J.B.S. Haldane did a quick calculation suggesting that if you make certain assumptions (now shown to be inaccurate) then you could only fix 1,667 beneficial human mutations in 10 million years. Apparently ReMine thinks this is way too little evolving, even if all it has to do is produce the likes of him and Dembski.

We don't need to thrash out why ReMine is wrong. That's been done many times. What's interesting about this is the Wikipedia article that ReMine wrote. Go there right now and take a look because it won't look like that for long now that ReMine has let the cat out of the bag. Oops! It's not on Wikipedia it's on another Wiki called ResearchID.org. My goof—thanks to Torbjörn Larsson for pointing this out. The real Wikipedia article [Haldane's dilemma] is pretty good. So now the only reason for taking note of this is the fact that ReMine is being promoted by Dembski. That's hardly news. Move along. There's nothing to see here.

For all you talk.origins fans, I found a little bit of history when I did the research for this article. Follow this link to a message from Saint Andrew (you know who that is). It's about a 1995 post from Ted Holden (yes, the famous Ted Holden who coined the term "Howler monkeys") defending Walter ReMine. Proving once again that kooks will recognize each other.

The picture of ReMine is from the video of a lecture on his book The Biotic Message. You can only watch a few minutes but that's enough. He does a fine job of spining "framing" his message for an audience of true believers.

[If you mention his name, he will come.]

19 comments:

  1. Nitpick: ReMine's article is on a wiki called ResearchID.org, not Wikipedia. (And the Wikipedia article looks fine to me.)

    Since the data on sequencing humans and other primates becomes better, I look forward to see if specific models can be made.

    But I see from the Wikipedia article that modern general simulations (Nunney) already predict a much higher fixation rate. Looking at Nunney's paper, he predicts several orders of magnitudes lower minimum interval between allelic substitutions consistent with population persistence, for normal (large) populations and hard selection.

    And the answer from ReMine, self-professed modeler, is that since he can only get hold of Nunney's paper he can't repeat the calculations. Hmm.

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  2. If you mention his name, he will come.

    You mean ReMine is really Peter N**k*s?

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  3. Yeah right! ReMine has stumbled on an evilutionist conspiracy the documents on which are stroed in the same secret facility that keeps the blueprint for that car that can run 50 km/litre on water; a spacecraft that can be launched using a peashooter and can circle the earth; and a the real secret of Area 51!

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  4. It's good to see the old Talk.Origins material is still useful.

    But . . . 1995?! Has it been 12 years already? . . . Seems like it was just yesterday . . .

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  5. ReMine....
    A broken reccord repeating the words:
    "- You are misrepresenting me... You are misrepresenting me... You are misrepresenting me..."

    Is he still anonymously referring to himself in the third person?

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  6. Chris Nedin says,

    But . . . 1995?! Has it been 12 years already? . . . Seems like it was just yesterday . . .

    I think I can did up things you said that are older that that! Want me to post them?

    BTW, there's an article in this week's NewScientist on Ediacarans: the "long fuse" of the Cambrian explosion?. What do you think? Is it accurate?

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  7. "the old Talk.Origins material is still useful."

    Well, yes and no. ReMine has updated his web page since the latest TO edition. (CB121 - but you probably mean some other material since it was created 2001?!) Last time there was a PT discussion, it didn't do much. Actually, were where some criticism of the CC claim from various commenters. (Which, of course, are not guaranteed to be biologists.)

    Of course it will always be an uphill struggle against kooks. As it is said that TO is currently frozen due to hacker activity, it isn't very urgent. But it seems to me the Wikipedia article (Nunney's work) may be more relevant at this point. Perhaps it is time to start pointing from the CC list to Wikipedia?

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  8. As it is said that TO is currently frozen due to hacker activity, it isn't very urgent.

    What does that mean? The server is just outside my office door. I don't know anything about it being down. It looks fine to me.

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  9. "Notice: TalkOrigins Archive Under Attack

    2006/12/07: Sometime in mid-November, 2006, a cracker started exploiting the TalkOrigins Archive. The cracker managed to get the TOA de-indexed by Google, and when the TOA was re-indexed on 2006/12/05, the cracker stepped up his efforts to direct webspam to the Google-bot. In order to take back our site, we have taken the step of removing all the scripts on our site. We will restore static content as quickly as possible. We will restore other features, such as feedback, once we write secure scripts to handle those features. We apologize for the inconvenience. It may be some time before we can offer the features that have been script-based."

    http://www.talkorigins.org/

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  10. I can add that I assumed the work on scripts was more urgent than updating the static content. (Which later may all be restored, for all I know.)

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  11. Now I understand. You're talking about the Talk.Origins Archive and not the talk.origins newsgroup.

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  12. Larry, you can be excused for thinking that Remine authored the Wikipedia article, as the edit history shows his name has been associated with it on and off for some time now. I suspect that many of the edits were made by Remine himself. See for eg.
    this edit
    from January.

    In fact, "mdunford' (presumably Mike D.) seems at present to be having a bit of an edit war with "Kornbelt", whom I suspect is yet another Remine alias.

    Walter looks much younger in that picture than I thought he was. I had this mental image of him as an elderly crank -- sort of like Thorax, but without the harmless charm or earthy wisdom.

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  13. "You're talking about the Talk.Origins Archive and not the talk.origins newsgroup."

    My bad. Perhaps Nedin was referencing the NG and the FAQ I assume is available there. That would probably explain the old date.

    (Btw, an FAQ for blogs where creationists and other kooks drop in would be a great idea...)

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  14. Torbjörn Larsson wrote:
    My bad. Perhaps Nedin was referencing the NG and the FAQ I assume is available there. That would probably explain the old date.

    Yes I was talking about the talk.origins newsgroup. A lot of good material appeared in that group which didn't make it into the archive, the ReMine/Holden quote mine fiasco, that Larry linked to, being an example.

    Larry wrote:

    I think I can did up things you said that are older that that! Want me to post them?

    The oldest I can find is May 1993, but my association with t.o goes back further than that. I think that's the Google groups archive limit

    Larry also wrote:

    BTW, there's an article in this week's NewScientist on Ediacarans: the "long fuse" of the Cambrian explosion?. What do you think? Is it accurate?

    Typical northern hemisphere-centric piece. There are some problems with it. The main one I have is that the story takes two fossil assemblages from two completely different ecosystems (deep water versus shallow water) and separated by 15 million years and, quel suprise! They are different. Then it looks at the relatively adjacent Cambrian explosion, which is a shallow water phenomenon (or, at least our view of it is biased towards shallow water ecosystems) and, quel suprise! There are some similarities! Stopper les pressez!

    Some other problems:

    ". . . just 5 million years before rangeamorphs appear, Earth emerged from the last major ice age of the Precambrian. The Gaskiers Glaciation, which ended 580 million years ago, closed a period known as snowball earth . . ."

    Oh no it didn't. The base (oldest part) of the new Ediacaran Period is marked by the cap carbonate that marks the end of "Snowball Earth", and is dated to around 640 miliion years ago. It must exist because Wilkins has sat on it! The northern hemisphere (Newfoundland) Gaskiers Glaciation post-dates Snowball Earth by over 50 million years. There's nothing wrong with the suggestion that an increase in deep sea oxygen levels at the end of a glacial episode was a causal factor in the evolution of the Ediacaran organisms. The REAL question is why didn't it occur after the end of Snowball Earth 50 million years earlier? Why wait until the end of the last post-snowball earth glacial episode, one which had only a marginal effect on Australia and South China. The connection between the end of ice ages and deep sea oxygen levels is that ice melts to produce cold water. Cold water can hold more dissolved oxygen than warm water. Cold water is also more dense than warmer water and so sinks and flows along the bottom of the shallow polar seas to deeper water, pumping oxygen into the deep oceans.

    "The most spectacular shallow-water Ediacarans come from the White-Sea region of Russia and the Ediacaran Hills of Australia, and are collectively known as the White Sea Assemblage"

    Bollocks they are! That's like saying 'there are two NHL teams, the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Ottawa Senators, collectively known as the Toronto Maple Leafs.' Oh yeah?! The Ediacaran fossils are collectively known as the Ediacaran Assemblage - actually the Ediacaran fauna, we don't use the term 'Assemblage' any more. There are similarities between the two faunas, but there are also differences. Anyway, if we were to amalgamate them, they would be collectively known as the Ediacaran fauna - we have priority! Besides, the Australian localities are much more accessible than the northern hemisphere White Sea location (I'd rate the accessibility at a 4 on the Wilkins scale - uncomfortable but accessible (1 being devoid of Wilkins, and 10 being located next to a pub).

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  15. Thanks Chris. I'm becoming very suspicious of almost everything that's written in the popular science magazines. It all seems to be dumbed down to the point where it's actually misleading. I don't know why this is happening.

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  16. Oh, I almost forgot. Who are the "Ottawa Senators"? There's only one good team in Ontario that I know of and there's only one important city in Canada.

    I'm told this is true in Australia as well. There's Sydney and then there are a bunch of small places that want to be like Sydney.

    [For the benefit of lurkers, Chris Nedin is originally from Adelaide Australia. I think he now works in Canberra. He has done a lot of work on the Ediacaran fossils in Austraila.]

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  17. Larry wrote:
    I'm becoming very suspicious of almost everything that's written in the popular science magazines. It all seems to be dumbed down to the point where it's actually misleading. I don't know why this is happening.

    There are a number of reasons. Firstly jounalists usually have the story angle worked out prior to talking to scientists, they may even have pitched the story to an editor beforehand (lets face it it's rare for a journalist to knock on your door and ask if you have a story!) After that they try and mold the interview responses around the predetermined story angle.

    Secondly when scientists talk to journalists they try and talk in terms that they think the journalist will understand. The journalist then takes what he or she thinks the scientists meant and recasts it in terms the journalist thinks the reader will understand, often with significant losses in translation.

    Thirdly the journalist is no expert in the particular subject (no fault of the journalist) and are often working on multiple stories, and so can get confused - the White Sea/Ediacaran Asemblage and Snowball Earth/ Gaskiers gaffes above are probably examples of this. Certainly Guy and Jim would not have told the reporter those things, he probably got confused.

    Fourthly, you rarely get a chance to see the story before it's published these days.

    Larry also wrote:
    [For the benefit of lurkers, Chris Nedin is originally from Adelaide Australia. I think he now works in Canberra. He has done a lot of work on the Ediacaran fossils in Austraila.]

    I'm actually from the UK. I lived in Adelade for some time and worked on Ediacaran and Early Cambrian faunas. But my REAL claim to fame is that I've met Larry, . . . twice! :-)

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  18. "He has done a lot of work on the Ediacaran fossils in Austraila."

    Thank you, but the pub based ranking scale was a dead give away of Australian predilection. The only reason that Australians don't all are pub sitting theoreticians is that field work makes a great thirst. Or so I hear.

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  19. Has anyone read the discussion page for the wiki Haldane entry?

    ReMine writes about himself in the third person yet signs the enties.

    I find that very... creepy.

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