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Barry Arrington’s chapter by chapter review of Denton at your fingertips

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Barry Arrington

On Michael Denton’s Evolution: Still a Theory in Crisis (2016):


The structuralist view, of course, has the advantage of being consistent with the fossil record. That record does not show, as Darwin suggested, a finely graduated organic chain between major Types. Instead, it shows abrupt appearance of various Types followed by stasis. Again, using the pentadactyl limb as an example, Denton has no doubt that the limb evolved from the fins of fish. Yet the fossil record simply does not support the view that the evolution of the limb from the fin occurred gradually over eons of time. The fossil record is instead conspicuous for the absence of transitional forms from fish fin to pentadactyl limb. This means one of two things if a purely naturalist account of evolution is true: (1) all of the evidence for the gradual evolution from fish fin to pentadactyl limb has been swallowed up by time, and we have to take the Darwinian account on faith in the teeth of the evidence; or (2) the Darwinian (i.e., functionalist) account is false and something like the structuralist account is true.

Michael Denton 2
Michael Denton

Part 2

Denton writes that this “need for adaptive continuums brings us to the nub of the problem, the core contention of Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, and the major point defended here: Practically all the novel, taxa-defining homologs of all the main taxa are not led up to via adaptive continuums. Moreover, as argued later in this book, many of these novel Bauplans do not convey any obvious impression of being adaptive . . .”

Part 3

Foaming at the mouth Darwinian cladists like Nick Matzke unwittingly support the structuralist paradigm over the Darwinian functionalist paradigm by the very nature of what they do. Denton writes:

The cladistics enterprise would be impossible if different groups were not unambiguously defined by synapomorphies (homologs unique to those particular groups). Indeed, current evolutionary literature is replete with thousands of cladograms to illustrate the phylogeny of various groups of organisms and the sequence in which the various defining traits of the subgroups were acquired.

Which brings us back to where we began. Denton is not a creationist. He is not even an ID proponent, if ID is defined in a narrowly interventionist way. He firmly believes in the tree of life and common descent. If Denton does not believe the “types” arose though Darwinian processes and he does not believe they arose through interventionist acts of a designer, what does he believe? He believes the types were “prefigured into the order of things from the beginning.” From this I surmise he is a front-loading ID proponent.

More to come.

See also: Michael Denton: The laws of nature are uniquely fine-tuned

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