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Darwin’s memory deserves better than today’s typical Darwinist

Evolution News and Views

In “Darwin’s Cowards” (Evolution News & Views, May 20, 2012), David Klinghoffer shows a certain amount of impatience with Russell “Reach out to defend evolution” Garwood, (whose Nature column of that name we discussed here.) Klinghoffer notes that Darwin deserves better defenders than him and his ilk, even if he was wrong:

In Coyne and Garwood’s presentation, all criticisms of Darwinian theory are “creationism.” Any genuinely scientific alternative to Darwinism that is emphatically not creationism, such as intelligent design, they still misrepresent as “creationism.”

There is something deeply dishonest about this. Can their readers and their students really be so foolish as to fail to understand that they are being hoodwinked? Let Garwood or Coyne forthrightly acknowledge the existence of ID and confront its arguments head on, tell us why we are wrong, with all the daring they display in opposing the national biology curriculum of Pakistan. Stop beating the drum against Harun Yahya, and pick on someone capable of taking you on and replying in kind.

Tell us what you find wanting in the evidence for design on offer from Stephen Meyer, Doug Axe, Richard Sternberg, Ann Gauger, Jonathan Wells, Robert Marks, Michael Behe, and others. Stop trawling the Internet for silly stuff from Pakistan or Turkey, when you’ve got a very different and serious intellectual and scientific challenge waiting outside your front door.

There are two reasons why they don’t do that. Not only because it is a lot of work but because the work is both unnecessary and undesirable.

Unnecessary because Darwin’s current lot of lecture room bores is not asking for responsible researchers to come forward to defend his theory’s reputation against challenges in the literature. At present, it is safe for them to just go on asserting the theory monotonously and vilifying all skeptics, claiming there are no serious challenges.

Undesirable because inevitably, when a number of challenges arise – and one could mention here James Shapiro and the Altenberg 16 as well – many challenges will be difficult and they will be seen to lose. That means it is okay to bring forward evidence against Darwinism.

Really, their only defense is to pretend that all doubts about Darwin are a form of creationism.

By now everyone is on to this.

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Joe, Well, I should think that is a line of inquiry that could be pursued. Have you checked to see if anyone is looking into that? The name of the lab associated with the Discovery Institute escapes me at the moment but have you floated the idea past them? I find that usually the best place to start is first finding out what other people in the field think of your idea. Get some feedback, make some changes if necessary and try and pursue things. I not trying to be a big negative nay-sayer. I encourage all ID proponents to support and, when possible, to engage in coming up with hypothesis and checking them out. I can understand the frustration with the perceived situation but surely there is support and money enough for serious ID researchers to work on at least some of the ideas? Jerad
It could just reside in the cytoplasm or the cell wall or both. Joe
Joe, Really interesting. I can't imagine where the programming would reside or how it propagates throughout cell differentiation as the lifeform grows and different tissues grow. It does seem like a systematic knock-out approach would answer the question. Jerad
The programming was received in the beginning, when the designer(s) implemented the design. I am just not sure exactly where it resides in the cell. Venter synthesized DNA and the cell worked, so I infer the programming/ software is not in the DNA. So the next step would to be keep synthesizing parts and see if the cell is still viable. How is it downloaded into the cell? Well to know that would be to know the design and that is what science is for. Joe
Joe, Interesting. How is that information/programming received and from whence does it issue? How is it . . . manifested? I'm intrigued. More details?? Jerad
What Lenski did and is doing demonstrates limits to accumulations of mutations. This is what I think Jerad- what an organism is- human, dog, fish- is determined, not by genetics but by some programming, ie immaterial information. I think each form has some degree of phenotypic plasticity influenced by genetics and epigenetics, but neither determine the final form. Joe
Joe, I'm hoping someone is attempting the kind of experiment you are suggesting with fish. Or whatever. Kind of like what Lenski did but with a 'higher' form. I am curious, what level and frequency of intervention do you think occurred? What do you think the boundaries of common descent with modification are? Jerad
Yup and dogs are still dogs. For all their phenotypic plasticity they are still dogs with the same body plan all dogs have. There isn't anything we can extrapolate from that to say we would ever get something other than a dog. As I said if you were right we should be able to take fish embryos, for example, subject them to targeted mutagenesis, and via artificial selection breed a fish-a-pod. And no I do not, and neither does YEC BTW, think that all species had to be separately designed. What I am saying is that we first need some genetic data to support the transformation scenario. But obviously no one knows where to look. Joe
Joe, We're never going to agree on what is and what is not science so probably best to leave it. I would say that the development of the varieties of brassicas show that selection acting on a stream of mutations can produce a wide variety of morphological changes in only 100s of years. Same with the dog breeds. To me there is no problem logically extending that over millions of years and thereby getting much greater variation and change. But you don't see it that way. I guess you're thinking that all those different species that no long grace us with their prescence were designed by some intelligence that left no other traces of their existence. And didn't seem to be able to make a leap to what we consider later forms. But you haven't really said. I wish you would. Jerad
David, The design inference is based on our knowledge of cause and effect relationships. We can test design mechanisms. We cannot test for accumulations of genetic accidents constructing new, useful multi-protein configurations. That said, as with archaeology and forensics, ID says that when agencies act they usually leave traces of their involvement behind. And we can detect that traces. Now, as with any and all design inferences, all someone has to do to refute any given design inference is demonstrate matter, energy, necessity and chance are all that is required to produce it. Good luck with that as you would first need to produce a testable hypothesis. Can you do that or are flawed analogies the best you have? Joe
Jerad, My apologies for wanting some science to go along with your speculations. I do not say you cannot speculate. I am saying just don't call it science and do not teach it to unsuspecting students. That said your "explanations" are as valid as some 5th grader's explanation for why she didn't finish her homework. That means I want an explanation that is more than some "just-so" story. Joe
Joe here consistently argues that our knowledge of how people move from place to place is much too circumstantial to be acceptable.
Nope, not even close. Your "analogy" is seriously flawed. Joe
Joe & Collin, I certainly agree that Dr Behe is the most honorable member of the ID community. Not only does he put his reputation on the line frequently but he went to court in Pennsylvania to present his view. I've got lots of time for Dr Behe, partly because he he getting specific about his criticisms. Not just saying, you're inferring too much or I don't believe that. You have the right to criticise of course. But unless you have an alternative that is specific and addresses all the evidence and isn't just a case of special pleading or hypothesising a designer for which there is no independent evidence for then, I'm afraid, people aren't going to take you seriously and will question your real motives for doubting. "Tiktaalik is a creature that once existing" isn't explaining anything. "The sky is blue." So what? The physics of why the sky appears blue is interesting and explanatory. Jerad
Mr. Gibson, I have a degree in psychology, and in one of my college classes, a teacher was presenting his alternative to a popular current theory. The next class period was taught by his graduate student while the prof was not there. He confessed something to us. He said that he thought that the professor's criticism of the prevailing theory was devastating and very effective. But when someone asked what he thought of the professors alternative, he said he would give it a D minus. This seem analogous to the situation we have here. But I would give Behe and Dempski a better score, maybe a C. And I would give them an A for effort and 10 A's for courage. Behe, especially, has really put his career on the line for his controversial ideas. His successes and failures, I believe, will be praised at a later date when it is understood that he did the difficult ground work for others to build on in the face of a hostile environment. Collin
Mr. Gibson, I don't know what is in the mind of Joe, but I think he has the right to be as critical as he wants without providing an alternative hypothesis. It may be annoying, but if he thinks you are trying to get him to ride a banana to the moon, he has the right to complain even if he has no rocket. I think that is what he is saying in another thread that the explanation for fossils is fossils. In other words, he is saying that that is all you really can show. I'm not saying I agree, I'm just pointing out that he doesn't have to show how they got there to have a license to be critical. I think that you over estimate the case for transitional fossils. Whale evolution, for example, once touted to be very well represented, turns out to be fitting square pegs into round holes. http://vimeo.com/30921402 Collin
Collin, This is a difficult bet to hedge in that way. We can (at least to the satisfaction of those who have devoted their lives to appropriate study) pretty well identify and test mechanisms which explain what we see. The problem with an intelligent designer working in untestable ways is, there is no way to either dismiss or verify that notion. All we can ever say is it might be true, it might not. I think it's a good analogy to say, we have historical records (photographs, etc.) that some individual was in Houston. We have current observation that he's now in Dallas (there he is!). We know this person drives a car and takes airplane flights. Is it more reasonable to say that he most probably drove or flew from Houston, or to say that since nobody actually saw him in transit, we have NO CLUE how it may have happened, and therefore no speculation is supportable? Joe here consistently argues that our knowledge of how people move from place to place is much too circumstantial to be acceptable. Yes, we can watch cars going by on the highway, we can find indications that people change locations, but we lack the ability to actually trace, in detail, a single journey anyone makes. Joe insists that because we lack that knowledge, we lack ALL knowledge and are not justified in extrapolating ANYTHING from what we know, however relevant. I think this sets the bar unreasonably high. We can SEE the bone connections in the foot. How much more substance could anyone really ask for? In fact, the circumstantial evidence is, in the words of Gould, so strong that "it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent." It is probably a point worth raising, to wonder why someone faced with a clearly and fully sufficient mechanism, would wish to reject it in favor of, well, at best a "mechanism" that can't even be described, much less tested, UNLESS whoever rejects it has some other unstated mechanism in mind. It's discouraging that people like Joe, who may after all be correct, never seem to propose any intersubjectively validated test in support of their alternative, or sometimes even admit that they HAVE an alternative. David W. Gibson
Jerad, My explanation for Tiktaalik is that it is an organism that once existed. As I said before I am looking for biological evidence- for example say we figure out that no amount of mutational accumulation can turn a fish into a fish-a-pod. What do we do about the fossils then? I understand the common descent narrative. It isn't that I don't like your case. To me it is as convincing as "the toe bone is connected to the foot bone the foot bone is connected to the ankle bone", there is no substance behind it. As I said before we should be able to use targted mutagenesis to move evolution along. Otherwise theoretical musings about untestable past events, while fine and dandy, should never be mistaken for science. Joe
Collin, Thanks for that. I know opinions vary in the ID community which is part of the reason the folks on the 'outside' have trouble knowing exactly what is being proposed. Hopefully, someday, there will be more of a consensus view within ID. And I see your point. It doesn't explain why the designer chose to produce a transitional form but it does create more common ground for sure. I find ID somewhat shadowy and hard to define when it comes to particulars. But that's why I'm here, on this blog, asking questions. And hopeful being fairly respectful doing so. If not please let me know. Hey, I remembered to answer the math question before clicking the 'Post Comment' button this time. Yeah!! Jerad
Jerad, Just fyi, some of us are willing to accept that Tiktaalik are transitional forms. But we believe that there is evidence for some design in nature. Personally, I believe that Tiktaalik was a transitional form that a designer created from an earlier species. In other words, calling it a transitional form does not say by what mechanism it evolved from one form to the next. Collin
Joe, Hybrid of fish and tetrapods? The designer created tetrapods and some of them bred with fish and formed hybrids like Tiktaalik? I'm here on UD to find out what an alternative paradigm is. What is your explanation of Tiktaalik? You don't like my case, fair enough. Make yours. Let me try and argue against it. I think that would be very interesting. And help me to understand how you are looking at the evidence. Seriously. If 'transitional form' mean no more than 'it looks like a transitional form to me' then why are so many people asking for them? You want to hear the 'Darwinists' justifications for their 'beliefs' and then you decry them as just being impressions. What kind of 'transitional form' is wanted? Jerad
H-y-b-r-i-d-> meaning we cannot tell if Tiktaalik is a transitional, a hybrid, or a stand-alone population. And again "transitional form" is no more than "it looks like a transitional to me". Joe
OK he did it just exactly as described, bracketed the dates. However his dates were wrong, which means he did not find evidence for the transition, which occurred many millions of years earlier.
Okay, so he found a critter partway between fish and tetrapods. Maybe not during the time of the 'transition' but possibly a descendent of species formed during the transition. It still seems to me that the existence of a transitional form was borne out. Clearly fish did not disappear. Some fish stayed fish. Over time a new general form formed, the tetrapods. This took 10s of millions of years. Some of the transitional forms survived for a while 'cause they were pretty successful. And some of them were still around after the tetrapods were up and running . . . so to speak. Successful descendents of a transitional form ARE evidence of a transitional form existing by the date examined. Why would they have disappeared after the tetrapods had arrived? Eventually they were out competed but that would take some time surely. And if it's not evidence and you're right then you've got a very big question to answer. I concede the date issue, partly. But there is no reason why a transitional form wouldn't survive for a while, leave descendents and provide evidence of their having existed. Again, particular guess partly wrong but no contradiction to the bigger paradigm of descent with modification. And, with the new dates people will be searching for earlier transitional forms. When they are found then what will you say?? Jerad
First, the set-up:
"In a nutshell, the 'fish–tetrapod transition' usually refers to the origin, from their fishy ancestors, of creatures with four legs bearing digits (fingers and toes), and with joints that permit the animals to walk on land. This event took place between about 385 and 360 million years ago toward the end of the period of time known as the Devonian. The Devonian is often referred to as the 'Age of Fishes,' as fish form the bulk of the vertebrate fossil record for this time."- Jennifer Clack, The Fish–Tetrapod Transition: New Fossils and Interpretations; "Evolution: Education and Outreach", 2009, Volume 2, Number 2, Pages 213-223
Got that- "the transition" refers to an event, a specific event that occurred between two specified time periods, a time when there were fish and no tetrapods and the time when there were fish and tetrapods. With that now established we go to "Your Inner Fish" chapter 1 where Shubin discusses what he was looking for- hint: evidence for the transition, ie the event:
Let's return to our problem of how to find relatives of the first fish to walk on land. In our grouping scheme, these creatures are somewhere between the "Everythings" and the "Everythings with limbs". Map this to what we know of the rocks, and there is strong geological evidence that the period from 380 million to 365 million years ago is the critical time. The younger rocks in that range, those about 360 million years old, include diverse kinds of fossilized animals that we would recognize as amphibians or reptiles. My colleague Jenny Clark at Cambridge University and others have uncovered amphibians from rocks in Greenland that are about 365 million years old. With their necks, their ears, and their four legs, they do not look like fish. But in rocks that are about 385 million years old, we find whole fish that look like, well, fish. They have fins. conical heads, and scales; and they have no necks. Given this, it is probably no great surprise that we should focus on rocks about 375 million years old to find evidence of the transition between fish and land-living animals.- Neil Subin pages 9-10 (bold and italics added)
OK he did it just exactly as described, bracketed the dates. However his dates were wrong, which means he did not find evidence for the transition, which occurred many millions of years earlier. In order to find what he was looking for, evidence of the transition, he needed to focus on rocks 400 million years old, as the new data puts terapods in existence about 395 million years ago. Tetrapod trackways from the early Middle Devonian period of Poland Joe
innunison, I like the way the story changes- at first it was smaller fish left the water because they were driven via predation- flee or die, but Tiktaalik was a big fish-> 3-9 ft. So now either that was driven out of its shallow streams by a bigger fish or left to chase the insects that just happened to be fluttering and scampering about. And those insects were busy with the plants that luckily provided both oxygen and a food source. So, yes, it would be easy to adjust the imagination and keep the story going... Joe
Do you think all the transitional species had to exist before the tracks were found then?
No. However, "transitional species" boils down to "it looks like a transitional to me". Joe
Joe, Interesting. Do you think all the transitional species had to exist before the tracks were found then? Jerad
Joe, The concept of ‘missing links’ has a powerful grasp on the imagination of a committed Darwinist. Therefore the only reason why you cannot see Tiktaalik as the obvious proof of Darwinian evolution is your lack of imagination. No wait, where did I hear that one before? inunison
Wikipedia is wrong. In order to find what he was looking for, evidence of the transition, he needed to focus on rocks 400 million years old, as the new data puts terapods in existence about 395 million years ago: Tetrapod trackways from the early Middle Devonian period of Poland Joe
From the Wikipedia article on tiktaalik:
Tiktaalik lived approximately 375 million years ago. Paleontologists suggest that it is representative of the transition between non-tetrapod vertebrates ("fish") such as Panderichthys, known from fossils 380 million years old, and early tetrapods such as Acanthostega and Ichthyostega, known from fossils about 365 million years old. Its mixture of primitive "fish" and derived tetrapod characteristics led one of its discoverers, Neil Shubin, to characterize Tiktaalik as a "fishapod".
Tiktaalik doesn’t contradict the modern evolutionary synthesis and fills in another gap.
Tiktaalik doesn't support the modern synthesis and was found in the wrong "gap". Its finding now has the fossil record showing the following sequence: fish->tetrapods-> fishapods As for being evidence, what is it evidence for? I say that such an organism once existed and nothing more. Joe

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