David Klinghoffer thoroughly misunderstands science

One problem with theistic evolution is that natural laws are predictable whereas Darwinian evolution, according to its own theorists, is entirely unpredictable. Think of those laws that govern weather patterns or the formation of geological features. Not so with Darwinian evolution, which can take any of countless very different directions. How could such a purposeless process reflect divine purpose?  Jerusalem Post

The excerpt above is also at the DI’s blog, which is why I am commenting on it.  I had seen the article previous to their post.

The man clearly knows nothing about logic, or he is deliberately conflating two different issues.  For, all of the laws behind evolution are the same laws behind all of science, including geology and meteorology.  Like any other complex system, evolution cannot be predicted very far out, which is certainly true of meteorology, and even many geological events (predict the timing of the next large California earthquake).  That’s what is wonderful about evolution as science, it brought life into the same scientific sphere as meteorology, geology, and ballistics.

Klinghoffer is clearly equivocating regarding the laws behind weather, which are quite stable, and the fact that the complex process of evolution itself is unpredictable in many of its aspects.  Of course he is just plain wrong when he claims that evolution “is entirely unpredictable,” since it would be in the same meaningless pit of baseless assertion that ID is in if that were the case.  The cladistic branchings in evolution are a firm prediction for any evolution involving primarily vertical transmission of genetic information, and any deviation from that must have a good explanation compatible with nature’s laws (as is the case with retroelements in eukaryotic genomes which came from viruses).

Related to the above prediction, but getting into some of the specifics, there can be no “common authorship” of modifications between lineages which have split from each other in “Darwinian evolution,” and indeed that is the case.  Also, complex working “machinery” of the cells is not going to arise de novo, but must have precursors.  This is almost certainly the case even with biochemical pathways which may conceivably (according to some) have arisen through processes other than “Darwinian processes,” for even “self-organization,” or some such thing, can hardly begin without complex precursors.  And again, these are the sorts of things we see in life, notably in the evolution of the two types of adaptive immunity, for once the two lines of immune evolution had split off from each other, no “common authorship” is visible, and both lines have crucial precursors existing in related related organisms which are without adaptive immunity.

Klinghoffer has long been a critic of evolution, but apparently has not even learned the solid predictions of “Darwinian evolution.”  He instead favors a “design process” which is truly without any constraints of “natural law” or of probabilistic processes.  So he criticizes evolution for being like his own mindless and undetectable “process,” which isn’t at all what evolution is about, while preferring exactly such meaningless tripe over the evolutionary theory which in fact brought life under the same causal understanding as Newton’s physics.

This all reminds me of when Paul Nelson was at Panda’s Thumb, complaining that evolution wasn’t predictable while other scientifically-understood processes were. So I asked him to join me in a thunderstorm and to tell me then (not days beforehand) where the next lightning strike would take place. Well, of course Nelson didn’t answer me, nor does he ever engage honestly and forthrightly with the difficulties raised by any of us. 

And to be really equal, I probably should have asked him to predict where the next lightning strike would occur well before the thunderstorm took place, since they’re asking for completely ridiculous predictions and impossible (due to lack of full information) explanations regarding evolution.  But I didn’t need to do so, because it is well beyond our present powers to predict where the next lightning strike will take place even a minute ahead during a thunderstorm.

So as usual, they completely fail to understand science, evolution, to engage honestly with us the few times when they’ll even meet us on an uncensored (at least not much censored) forum, or to meet any of the demands that they try to impose upon our science.  Unfortunately, almost to a person, the proponents of this pseudoscience fail as much through a lack of morality as they do through their large lacunae in knowledge of science and of philosophy.

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4 Comments on “David Klinghoffer thoroughly misunderstands science”

  1. stavros Says:

    “Behe Fails”? Quite amusing blog title.

    Regarding your post:”complaining that evolution wasn’t predictable while other scientifically-understood processes were”. The theory might not be 100% predictable (deterministic?) -you cannot always predict which way evolution will go, what species will arise. But it makes very good predictions on the current state. For example, when genetics were on the rise, evolution made some very accurate predictions on the general structure of genetic information of related species. It’s a fine line, but the distinction is there, don’t you think?


  2. You got it right the first time: Klinghoffer isn’t bound by logic. He forces us to ask the hard question: How bound by logic would we be if we could make a nice income through illogic? Having written a book attacking Klinghoffer (How Would God REALLY Vote: A Jewish Rebuttal to David Klinghoffer’s Conservative Polemic), I feel qualified to state that Klinghoffer’s apparent ignorance of science, meteorology, and evolution, are matched by his ignorance of theology, Judaism, political science, and any other field in which he dabbles.

  3. glen1davidson Says:

    “But it makes very good predictions on the current state. For example, when genetics were on the rise, evolution made some very accurate predictions on the general structure of genetic information of related species. It’s a fine line, but the distinction is there, don’t you think?”

    Oh yes, I mentioned some of the predictions of evolution, but I didn’t intend for it to be an exhaustive list, merely two or three predictions that sink Klinghoffer’s claims by themselves.

    Whether it is the relatednes of DNA, or important aspects of DNA understood prior to knowledge of the structure of DNA, or the fact that earth has to be old (almost certainly older than Lord Kelvin allowed) evolution has been predictive. While I haven’t actually pinned down the specifics, it apparently was predicted of the genetic material of organisms that it would have to be both quite conservatively passed on, but also capable of mutating to provide the information for evolutionary change. DNA fit the bill admirably, although repair mechanisms turned out to be crucial for the conservative nature of heredity.

  4. glen1davidson Says:

    Nicely put, Larry Yudelson.

    Klinghoffer has apparently done what many IDists do, merely asserted the superiority of ignorance over the knowledge that he has refused to acquire.

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