In the comments of this UD post from yesterday, (comment #21) I referred to Nick Matzke’s rant over at the Panda’s Thumb yesterday as yet another illustration of the double standard’s Matzke’s has when it comes to his critiques of anyone who dares challenge Darwinian Orthodoxy. In my comments yesterday, I gave an example of Matzke being guilty of the very same thing he (falsely)accuses Meyer of doing. Today, I want to call out Matzke on another of his famous ploys: the bluff! In earlier days, before he gained his current status among the defenders of the Darwinian Faith, Matzke posted and commented on various ID sites under various pseudonyms. His favorite ploy was to use what we came to refer to as the “literature bluff”, wherein he would post long lists of references to research studies that were supposedly definitive refutations of some point being made by someone questioning evolution or promoting ID. To someone unfamiliar with the literature, it could easily appear as if Matzke gained the upper hand and that the poor critic of evolution was just too uninformed. However, when anyone took the time and trouble to actually peruse his lists looking for articles addressing whatever matter was under discussion it became immediately clear that hardly if ever at all did any of the citations have anything whatsoever to do with the point at issue. It was all a bluff.
Well, sad to say, Matzke is still master of the bluff…only now in addition to the literature bluff, he’s moved to the diagram bluff. In the rant referenced above, Matzke whines that Meyer is guilty of over-simplification because he opted to use simple, hand drawn diagrams to illustrate his point that the there simply are no evident ancestral organisms anywhere to be found in pre-Cambrian strata.
A. THE “EXPLOSION” TOOK AT LEAST 30 MILLION YEARS, AND WAS NOT REALLY “INSTANTANEOUS” NOR PARTICULARLY “SUDDEN”
Darwin’s Doubt is festooned with illustrations, mostly redrawn from other sources in a rather strange cartoon-like format also found in other recent ID books. However, there is never an illustration like these:
Instead, we are treated to ultrasimple figures of the times of origin of “phyla”, which date back at least to the 1970s, although they’ve been endlessly copied by creationists/ID proponents and remain current in those circles because they convey the impression of “sudden” origin. Figures resembling this:
These diagrams (the 2 bottom one’s above) are in Chapter 2 (page 35 figure 2.7 ) of Meyer’s book. The context is that Meyer, correctly notes the following in a section entitled “The Missing Tree”:
Figures 2.7 and 2.8 [not shown here] illustrate the difficulty posed by the first two of these features sudden appearance and missing intermediates. These diagrams graph morphological change over time. The first shows the Darwinian expectation that changes in morphology should arise only as tiny changes accumulate. This Darwinian commitment to gradual change through microevolutionary variations produces the classic representation of evolutionary history as a branching tree.
Now compare this branching tree pattern with the pattern in the fossil record. The bottom of figure 2.7…show that the pre-Cambrian strata do not document the expected transitional intermediates between Cambrian and Precambrian fauna. Instead, the Precambrian-Cambrian fossil record, especially in light of the Burgess Shale after Walcott, points to the geologically sudden appearance of complex and novel body plans.
Matzke will have none of it. First he complains that the two diagrams are just too simple, even though Meyer makes it quite clear that they represent the “classic” (read – often used, widely known) representation of what one would expect to find if Darwin’s hypothesis was correct. The second illustrates what we actually find in the fossil record – a fact no one actually disputes – and remains stylistically like the first. Matzke’s real complaint is that Meyer should have used something like the diagram he includes in his rant which I cited above. This diagram comes from this 2004 study in PNAS by K.J. Peterson, et al. on page 6539 as part of the “Discussion” section. Here’s what the authors say:
Rate Heterogeneity Between Vertebrates and InvertebratesOur data suggest that, inconsistent with most molecular clock estimates but consistent with paleontological predictions…bilaterans do not have a significant precambrian evolutionary history. [emphasis mine]
Note that Peterson et.al.‘s point is exactly the point that Meyer is making with the diagrams he used. The bilateran body plans found in the Cambrian fossils appear to have no evolutionary history. That is Meyer’s main point in this section of the book. So all of Matzke’s moaning about Meyer’s “oversimplified” diagram is just bluffing on his part. Somehow he thinks that the fancier more detailed diagrams refute Meyer, I guess, when in fact, they’re making the exact same point.
Even worse for Matzke’s whining is the fact that the Peterson et.al. study from which he borrowed the diagrams is an article using a refined technique for getting better results using molecular clocks. The article is entitled “Estimating Metazoan Divergence Times With a Molecular Clock” The first sentence reads, “Accurately dating when the first bilaterally symmetrical animals arose is crucial to our understanding of early animal evolution.” In other words, the study is a primary example the very thing that Meyer talks about later in the book of evolutionary biologists just assuming evolution so there just has to be nodes on the tree to date!
Now let’s look at the other diagram of Matzke’s bluff, the top one above. Notice that the precambrian Ediacaran biota line leads to precisely nothing in the Cambrian above it. Again, this is exactly Meyer’s point. Notice the blue dotted lines as well in the precambrian area where it says “Phylogentic uncertainty of many taxa makes counting number of classes genera difficult”, which is a fancy way of saying “there ain’t nothing down here we can actually count!” Meyer made this abundantly clear in his discussion using the two “oversimplified” diagrams. Meyer didn’t need to color plates and fancy charts because they added nothing to nor took anything away from his main point!
But for Matzke, using these charts to try to say that Meyer is just too, well, “simple” in his approach…in other words, doesn’t really have an in depth knowledge of what he’s writing about…is just a complete bluff because neither one refutes anything Meyer wrote and both support what he actually said! Matke’s bluff is complete! Needless to say, the rest of his rant is of the same cloth. He comes across like Oz the Great and Terrible, but he’s just the little man behind the curtain!