Coyne's review of Behe's new book on Darwinism

Intelligent design v Devolution

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Re: Coyne's review of Behe's new book on Darwinism

#21  Postby Rumraket » Apr 15, 2019 12:09 am

Wortfish wrote:
Rumraket wrote:Coyne is right and Behe is wrong. There's like 20 different debunkings of Behe online now all over the place. One of the big problems with Behe's thesis is that it basically ignores constructive neutral evolution as an explanation for increased molecular complexity. Behe exclusively focuses on adaptive+"constructive" or "degenerative" molecular evolution, but most constructive molecular evolution is actually neutral and compensatory. This deceptively makes it appear as if natural selection is impotent(or unimportant) in explaining complex adaptations (such as eyes, organs, limb shape changes, and so on), but that is false, because Behe does not focus at the phenotypic level. It's a very clever sleight of hand.

That allows Behe to speciously argue that since adaptive molecular evolution is often times "degenerative", as excessive duplicate genes (of which many acquire new promoters) often times are lost or decrease in function, this leads to the misapprehension that functional complexity as a whole should decrease under evolution. But if most genes are duplicated several times and diverge, that easily counteracts the degenerative effects of adaptive molecular evolution.


Behe's focus is about Darwinian mechanism, natural selection, and not about neutral evolutionary mechanisms.

I know, and that's one of the problems with his idea as I explain.
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Re: Coyne's review of Behe's new book on Darwinism

#22  Postby Wortfish » Apr 15, 2019 12:26 am

Rumraket wrote:
Wortfish wrote:
Rumraket wrote:Coyne is right and Behe is wrong. There's like 20 different debunkings of Behe online now all over the place. One of the big problems with Behe's thesis is that it basically ignores constructive neutral evolution as an explanation for increased molecular complexity. Behe exclusively focuses on adaptive+"constructive" or "degenerative" molecular evolution, but most constructive molecular evolution is actually neutral and compensatory. This deceptively makes it appear as if natural selection is impotent(or unimportant) in explaining complex adaptations (such as eyes, organs, limb shape changes, and so on), but that is false, because Behe does not focus at the phenotypic level. It's a very clever sleight of hand.

That allows Behe to speciously argue that since adaptive molecular evolution is often times "degenerative", as excessive duplicate genes (of which many acquire new promoters) often times are lost or decrease in function, this leads to the misapprehension that functional complexity as a whole should decrease under evolution. But if most genes are duplicated several times and diverge, that easily counteracts the degenerative effects of adaptive molecular evolution.


Behe's focus is about Darwinian mechanism, natural selection, and not about neutral evolutionary mechanisms.

I know, and that's one of the problems with his idea as I explain.


Yeah, but most evolutionary biologists would admit that drift and molecular drive are insufficient to explain adaptation.
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Re: Coyne's review of Behe's new book on Darwinism

#23  Postby Spearthrower » Apr 15, 2019 12:31 am

Wortfish wrote:
Yeah, but most evolutionary biologists would admit that drift and molecular drive are insufficient to explain adaptation.



Citation, please.
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Re: Coyne's review of Behe's new book on Darwinism

#24  Postby Thomas Eshuis » Apr 15, 2019 9:53 am

Spearthrower wrote:
Wortfish wrote:
Yeah, but most evolutionary biologists would admit that drift and molecular drive are insufficient to explain adaptation.



Citation, please.

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Re: Coyne's review of Behe's new book on Darwinism

#25  Postby Svartalf » Apr 15, 2019 2:06 pm

Spearthrower wrote:
Svartalf wrote:
Calilasseia wrote:
Hermann Joseph Müller destroyed Behe's pseudo-argument six decades before Behe was born.


is this the Müller who invented the Mullerian type of camouflage for butterflies?


The former is Hermann Joseph Muller, the latter is Fritz Müller

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hermann_Joseph_Muller

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fritz_M%C3%BCller

thanks for correcting me, I've been listening to radio programs about butterfly mimicry of late, and picked up MÜller's name there, but missed the first name.
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Re: Coyne's review of Behe's new book on Darwinism

#26  Postby Spearthrower » Apr 15, 2019 10:02 pm

Svartalf wrote:
thanks for correcting me, I've been listening to radio programs about butterfly mimicry of late, and picked up MÜller's name there, but missed the first name.


They're both incredible biologists who made significant discoveries, both of which are connected to Darwin's theories, and both of which cause trouble for Creationists attempting to deny evolution.

Any which way, it's all good! I learned of Muller through Cali maaaany years ago (the Mullerian 2 step destroys I.D.), and while I knew of Fritz Müller from my undergraduate course, it was actually a Creationist first on RDF and then here who instigated me to learn a lot more about him and his work on mimicry.
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Re: Coyne's review of Behe's new book on Darwinism

#27  Postby Wortfish » Apr 16, 2019 12:07 am

Spearthrower wrote:
Wortfish wrote:
Yeah, but most evolutionary biologists would admit that drift and molecular drive are insufficient to explain adaptation.



Citation, please.

Go read any book authored by Richard Dawkins.
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Re: Coyne's review of Behe's new book on Darwinism

#28  Postby Spearthrower » Apr 16, 2019 12:41 am

Wortfish wrote:
Spearthrower wrote:
Wortfish wrote:

Yeah, but most evolutionary biologists would admit that drift and molecular drive are insufficient to explain adaptation.



Citation, please.


Go read any book authored by Richard Dawkins.



That's not a citation.

Can you cite something, or not? If not, do feel free to modify your claim to align with what can be honestly drawn from facts.

Also, even were I to assume that Richard Dawkins 'would admit' what you said. Richard Dawkins is not 'most evolutionary biologists' being just a single person.

Your claim entails a number of suspect components.

First and foremost: where is the poll or survey you've seen to make assertions about the proportions of evolutionary biologists who do subscribe to the position that "drift and molecular drive are insufficient to explain adaptation"?

Please cite it.

If you can't cite it, then perhaps you'd like to explain why it is you made such a confident proclamation when you can't show it to be true.
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Re: Coyne's review of Behe's new book on Darwinism

#29  Postby Mr. Skeptic » May 05, 2019 5:27 pm

Wortfish wrote:Jerry Coyne has reviewed Mike Behe's latest book, "Darwin Devolves", in the Washington Post (content below):

The notion of “intelligent design” arose after opponents of evolution repeatedly failed on First Amendment grounds to get Bible-based creationism taught in the public schools. Their solution: Take God out of the mix and replace him with an unspecified “intelligent designer.” They added some irrelevant mathematics and fancy biochemical jargon, and lo: intelligent design, which scientists have dubbed “creationism in a cheap tuxedo.”

But the tuxedo is fraying, for intelligent design has been rejected not just by biologists but also by judges who recognize it as poorly disguised religion. Nevertheless, its advocates persist. Among the most vocal is Michael J. Behe, a biology professor at Lehigh University whose previous books, despite withering criticism from scientists, have sold well in a country where 76 percent of us think God had some role in human evolution.

Behe does not rely on the Bible as a science textbook. Rather, he admits that evolution occurs by natural selection sifting new mutations and that all species are related via common ancestors. Where he parts company with other biologists is in his claim that the important mutations producing new types of organisms are not random accidents but are deliberately installed by a designer with a plan. A pious Catholic, Behe sees the designer as the Christian God but concedes that there could be other mutation-makers. These designed mutations solve what he sees as a problem for natural selection: the origin of some complex biochemical features. Such features appear to defy Darwinian explanation because, claims Behe, they can’t function until all the parts are in place. (Unguided natural selection requires that every step in the evolution of a complex feature must enhance an organism’s fitness.) Ergo, these “irreducibly complex” systems must have been forged by a designer who made simultaneous changes in several genes.

Scientists, however, were quick to spot the obvious errors in this argument. First, they pointed out numerous scenarios in which a system fitting Behe’s definition of “irreducible complexity” could evolve in a step-by-step manner (one is the hormone pathway studied by my Chicago colleague Joe Thornton). They then adduced clear evidence from many complex biochemical systems that these scenarios had actually occurred. Indeed, the uniform experience of scientists who work on these systems is that they embody an absurd, Rube Goldberg-like complexity that makes no sense as the handiwork of an engineer but makes perfect sense as a product of a long and unguided historical process.

Further, Behe’s rationale for designed mutations is circular. He claims that biochemical pathways are designed rather than evolved because they’re based on the “purposeful arrangement of parts.” But which arrangements are those designed with a purpose? They’re simply the pathways that Behe sees as too complex to have evolved. This is a classic example of begging the question: assuming what you’re supposed to prove (purposefulness). Yet the history of science is replete with natural phenomena like electricity and infectious disease that were once imputed to God simply because we didn’t understand them. The lesson that Behe and his intelligent-design supporters should learn is that in the face of scientific ignorance, it’s more productive to keep working than to punt to God as the solution.

Perhaps Behe’s most ludicrous claim is this: Evolution within the lowest levels of biological classification — genera and species — might be purely Darwinian, but the origin of higher-level groups — families, orders and so on — requires designed mutations. Yet as every biologist knows, groupings above the level of species are purely subjective. That is, whether you call a group a family or a genus is arbitrary, depending on the tastes of the scientists who work on that group. For example, a given difference in a trait like color or size might help define a new family of birds but only a new genus of frogs (ornithologists tend to be “splitters” while herpetologists are often “lumpers”). This arbitrariness means there’s no reason to suppose that the bird mutations are designed while the frog ones are natural and random. To make things worse, Behe gives not a single example of a family-level mutation that he thinks required the help of a creator.

Behe’s third attack on evolution is that, even at lower levels, it’s “self-limiting.” That is, two features of evolution — its reliance on random mutations and on natural selection — make the process eventually wind down, preventing further change and requiring the designer to step in. Both of these claims are wrong.

Mutation supposedly acts as a brake on evolution because, argues Behe, most genes that fuel adaptation have been irreparably broken and inactivated by mutations (a gene that doesn’t do anything can still be better than one making an unneeded product). And a dead gene, because it tends to degrade further, can’t easily be reactivated. Evolution, then, must eventually grind to a halt.

Behe selectively gives a handful of examples in which mutations have produced broken genes that are nevertheless useful, but he simply ignores the large number of adaptive mutations that do not inactivate genes. These include duplications, in which a gene is accidentally copied twice, with the copies diverging in useful ways (this is how primates acquired our three-color vision, as well as different forms of hemoglobin); changes not in gene function but in how and when a gene is turned on and off, like mutations producing lactose tolerance in milk-drinking human populations; the repurposing of ancient genes acquired from viruses (one source of the mammalian placenta); “chimeric genes” cobbled together from odd bits of DNA (e.g., genes producing antifreeze proteins in fish blood ); and simple changes in DNA sequence that alter proteins without breaking them (tolerance of low oxygen levels in high-flying geese). As long as a substantial number of genetic mutations don’t break genes, which seems to be the case, evolution can work just fine.

Behe also argues that evolution is self-limiting because natural selection “adjust[s] a biological system to its current function” and thus “works to block the system from taking up a significantly different function.” But environments change and current functions become outmoded, prompting new evolution. And new adaptations can fortuitously create new niches: Think of how feathers, which probably evolved to conserve body heat in dinosaurs, opened up the possibility of flight — leading to all the diverse birds on Earth.

Like his creationist kin, Behe devotes his time not to giving evidence for intelligent design but to attacking evolutionary biology. As Herbert Spencer said, “Those who cavalierly reject the Theory of Evolution, as not adequately supported by facts, seem quite to forget that their own theory is supported by no facts at all.” But Behe’s theory, promulgated by the Discovery Institute, Seattle’s intelligent-design organization, does demand support. Who, exactly, is the designer, and what evidence is there that this designer makes nonrandom mutations? Is the designer an immaterial god, in which case we need to know how this god violates the laws of physics by causing mutations, or is the designer material, like a space alien, in which case we must understand the physical methods whereby aliens change our DNA?

And what is an example of a designed mutation? (Behe is silent here.) Since humans are placed in the same family as other great apes (Hominidae), Behe’s theory predicts that we arose without a designer’s intervention. But here he backpedals, asserting that there are “excellent reasons to suspect those differences [between humans and other apes] are well beyond Darwinian processes.” Sadly, he doesn’t give these reasons, but I’d guess they stem from the Christian belief that Homo sapiens is a special creation of God. Such ad hoc claims, derived from religion, explain why intelligent design has been deemed by the courts as “a mere re-labeling of creationism, and not a scientific theory.”

In 1998, the Discovery Institute drafted the “Wedge Document,” a secret plan (leaked in 1999) to spread Christianity in America by teaching intelligent design and fighting materialism. One of the plan’s 20-year goals was “to see intelligent design theory as the dominant perspective in science.” Well, now it’s 20 years on, and despite the efforts of Behe and other neo-creationists, intelligent design has been discredited as science and outed as disguised religion. It’s no surprise, then, that “Darwin Devolves” was published by HarperOne, the religious, spiritual and self-help division of HarperCollins.


Behe has responded to Coyne's unflattering review: https://evolutionnews.org/2019/03/bulle ... rry-coyne/



The fact that we don't find life as we know it on Mars, or any place else that that could not support living organisms, is strong evidence against any sort of supernatural force behind life.
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Re: Coyne's review of Behe's new book on Darwinism

#30  Postby Spearthrower » May 05, 2019 6:29 pm

Mr. Skeptic wrote:The fact that we don't find life as we know it on Mars, or any place else that that could not support living organisms, is strong evidence against any sort of supernatural force behind life.


I'm not really sure how so.

Are you saying because a god wouldn't be limited to following natural laws in the creation of life?

Would finding life on Mars then challenge that position?

As we've already found life in places that we had thought previously could not support life, it seems a bit of a moving target and susceptible to being shown wrong the moment a scrap of new evidence comes in.

For me, the theist response is easy: God created life to fit the biomes she created. I can't see how it challenges theism, and certainly can't grasp any notion of strong evidence of non-existence.
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Re: Coyne's review of Behe's new book on Darwinism

#31  Postby laklak » May 05, 2019 9:36 pm

He's a tricksy cunt, this Intelligent Designer. He purposely designs things to look exactly like they evolved through random mutation and natural selection. He even makes things like the recurrent laryngeal nerve to really fuck with us. He designed smallpox, and bubonic plague, and dental caries, and cancer, and a host of other things that would, to the uninitiated, be proof that none of it was actually designed! A Mighty Designer is our Designer!

Think about how smart he has to be to hide his work like this. It's like singing off-key, it's really, really hard to do if you can actually sing.
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Re: Coyne's review of Behe's new book on Darwinism

#32  Postby Mr. Skeptic » May 05, 2019 11:59 pm

Spearthrower wrote:
Mr. Skeptic wrote:The fact that we don't find life as we know it on Mars, or any place else that that could not support living organisms, is strong evidence against any sort of supernatural force behind life.


I'm not really sure how so.

Are you saying because a god wouldn't be limited to following natural laws in the creation of life?

Would finding life on Mars then challenge that position?

As we've already found life in places that we had thought previously could not support life, it seems a bit of a moving target and susceptible to being shown wrong the moment a scrap of new evidence comes in.

For me, the theist response is easy: God created life to fit the biomes she created. I can't see how it challenges theism, and certainly can't grasp any notion of strong evidence of non-existence.


Creationists generally don't pose restrictions on their gods, so it must follow that this diety if it created life, created it to be indistinguishable from the fact that there was no teleology involved. The fine-tuning argument only makes sense under Naturalism, not ID. The turd-tuning argument, however, makes perfect sense if there was something supernatural behind the creation of life. This not even getting into how wasteful such a design is, with its "dumbplextiy". In short, space whales would disprove the Naturalist explanation for life. Find those, and I'll change my mind.
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Re: Coyne's review of Behe's new book on Darwinism

#33  Postby laklak » May 06, 2019 3:22 am

Fossil space whales in the Post-Anthropocine.
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Re: Coyne's review of Behe's new book on Darwinism

#34  Postby Fenrir » May 06, 2019 3:44 am

"Oh no, not again".
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Re: Coyne's review of Behe's new book on Darwinism

#35  Postby Spearthrower » May 06, 2019 6:23 am

Mr. Skeptic wrote:
Creationists generally don't pose restrictions on their gods, so it must follow that this diety if it created life, created it to be indistinguishable from the fact that there was no teleology involved.


In my experience, they don't place restrictions onto their god until they need to, then they do. Only, they won't call it a restriction, they'll call it a design motif, a consistency of principles, intelligence, then the wagons will have recircled and they'll be using it as evidence for whatever it was they were first arguing, or as with JJ simply spin off onto a new argument-within-an-argument that has no coherent relationship to the prior one.

Teleology is easy to argue - humans are prone to it, after all. All they need do is say that there's a common designer, so the designer made those biomes on purpose for the life she intended them to inhabit, thus naturally they fit.


Mr. Skeptic wrote:The fine-tuning argument only makes sense under Naturalism, not ID.


Again, I'd suggest caution there: it depends on which fine-tuning argument you mean. If it's a dials-of-the-universe argument, then it is fundamentally teleological, intentional, purposeful. A weak anthropocentric appreciation removes any top-down contention because anything that evolved within it and ends up recognizing, discussing and attempting to explain these elements of suitability of the universe for life must necessarily have evolved to fit those constraints. But most teleological theists aren't thinking about that when they talk fine-tuning.


Mr. Skeptic wrote:This not even getting into how wasteful such a design is, with its "dumbplextiy". In short, space whales would disprove the Naturalist explanation for life. Find those, and I'll change my mind.


But would it really? If we found an organism that could live in space, would it necessarily violate naturalistic principles?
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Re: Coyne's review of Behe's new book on Darwinism

#36  Postby Mr. Skeptic » May 06, 2019 11:23 am

Spearthrower wrote:
Mr. Skeptic wrote:
Creationists generally don't pose restrictions on their gods, so it must follow that this diety if it created life, created it to be indistinguishable from the fact that there was no teleology involved.


Teleology is easy to argue - humans are prone to it, after all. All they need do is say that there's a common designer, so the designer made those biomes on purpose for the life she intended them to inhabit, thus naturally they fit.


Mr. Skeptic wrote:This not even getting into how wasteful such a design is, with its "dumbplextiy". In short, space whales would disprove the Naturalist explanation for life. Find those, and I'll change my mind.


But would it really? If we found an organism that could live in space, would it necessarily violate naturalistic principles?


The problem is that the common designer in question (if it's teleologic), is then no more compent or even less so than any mortal enginner. Not to mention if creationists would be arguing for that the designer "made biomes on purpose for the life it intended them to inhabit, thus naturally they fit", would make unfalsifiable and thus useless to us, as true and false exist intertwined with each other logically. It would make no better than teleonomy, which is what I believe is the real designer.

Space, the vacuum anyway, has no known way to support life as we know it. While some organisms can survive for short periods of time in space, they cannot continue homeostasis in such conditions. This is especially true for multicellular life. The only way that could be possible is that a supernatural designer was behind it, as he could create such things.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teleonomy
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Re: Coyne's review of Behe's new book on Darwinism

#37  Postby Spearthrower » May 06, 2019 1:04 pm

Mr. Skeptic wrote:
The problem is that the common designer in question (if it's teleologic), is then no more compent or even less so than any mortal enginner.


Again, and please do bear in mind that I am not arguing for any theist position here, but I am not sure that holds water. Humans can't design biomes from scratch and engineer species to fit them. So a proposed entity doing this is actually vastly more competent notionally than any human being's capacity.

I don't think these comparisons are good arguments; better to ask how one would be able to tell what was intentionally designed and what was not - what metric one could employ to test designedness. This also has the benefit of not taking on the burden of proof but asking for claims to be exemplified.


Mr. Skeptic wrote: Not to mention if creationists would be arguing for that the designer "made biomes on purpose for the life it intended them to inhabit, thus naturally they fit", would make unfalsifiable and thus useless to us, as true and false exist intertwined with each other logically.


I think it's taken as granted that claims made by theists are intrinsically unfalsifiable, and whenever they stick their necks out a little too far into the realms of falsifiability, they feel perfectly happy to retreat into the unknowable again to preserve their belief. They're, by and large, not restricted by the decrees of scientific legitimacy, even if they seek to garner a veneer of it to bolster the impression of their beliefs.

I guess the question here is whether you're looking to convince the given theist their arguments don't work, or just defeat their argument for an audience.


Mr. Skeptic wrote: It would make no better than teleonomy, which is what I believe is the real designer.


I'd say you could go quite a bit further with this. It's not just 'no better' - it's vastly worse. What would we expect from an infinitely powerful, all-knowing designer compared to a blind process operating only on present benefits favouring iterative survival? There are numerous features of life which make no sense whatsoever from the former - even defeat it, but in light of the latter are much more readily understood.


Mr. Skeptic wrote:Space, the vacuum anyway, has no known way to support life as we know it.


Again, just to speculate though: no known way is not to say 'there is no way'. If we were to find an organism that could not just survive, but actively exploit space, then I don't see why it would automatically defeat naturalistic arguments. It would just be an example of life evolving the ability to exploit resources in a different biome: extremophiles spring to mind whenever I think about alleged impossibilities for life.


Mr. Skeptic wrote:While some organisms can survive for short periods of time in space, they cannot continue homeostasis in such conditions. This is especially true for multicellular life. The only way that could be possible is that a supernatural designer was behind it, as he could create such things.


I strongly disagree and can find no purchase on your argument at all. While I think it unlikely living organisms anywhere in the universe actually have evolved to exploit space, I don't think the discovery of such life would implicate a supernatural designer in any respect. A non-permeable bag of anti-freeze may be able to maintain homeostasis sufficiently to effect internal chemical interactions, and there may be ways far queerer than we can speculate, given the limited suite of examples we've so far been presented with sharing common descent on Earth, for life to be. There are unarguably limitations, but I expect a thorough survey of even our galaxy would make a lot of our current definitions of life become untenable.
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Re: Coyne's review of Behe's new book on Darwinism

#38  Postby Mr. Skeptic » May 06, 2019 3:50 pm

Thanks for the clarification, Spearthrower. I guess I was dealing with a rather tunnel scoped definition of life, as in earth life. The argument I was dealing with was likely irreverent to the thread; the fine-tuning argument.
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Re: Coyne's review of Behe's new book on Darwinism

#39  Postby Spearthrower » May 06, 2019 5:20 pm

Mr. Skeptic wrote:Thanks for the clarification, Spearthrower. I guess I was dealing with a rather tunnel scoped definition of life, as in earth life. The argument I was dealing with was likely irreverent to the thread; the fine-tuning argument.


No problem, it's still an interesting discussion. I predicted long ago - maybe even on RDF - that eventually Creationists would give up on the evolution argument when they became ever more isolated from the general public and would instead turn to physics, particularly fine-tuning.

There have been some involving threads on this issue here. There used to be a Creationist called Foxy-something-or-other here who was all about fine-tuning, and he followed true Creationist form, cherry-picking, quote-mining, misrepresenting physicists who, when he could no longer pretend agreed with him, immediately discounted the very authority he'd been leaning on.

Unfortunately, searching my posts for 'fine tuning' turns up 95 (!) pages of results, so I might not be able to find any of the more interesting discussions we've had here over the years.

However, I think you're right to make it a headline topic - it's going to be a battle-ground for anti-science Creationists eventually.
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