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Evolution undoes itself? So then how do we know it occurred?

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Just wondering. From The Smithsonian:

The 19th-century biologist Louis Dollo taught that evolution is irreversible; once a structure is lost, that pathway is closed forever. It’s a principle now known as Dollo’s law. But in analyzing the development of the ulnare, Vargas showed that it is, in fact, the re-emergence of the pisiform. “While the physical expression of a gene may be suppressed, it doesn’t mean the possibility of generating that structure has disappeared,” says Luis Chiappe, director of the Dinosaur Institute at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. “The gene is still there, it’s just dormant.”

This isn’t the first time Dollo’s law has been challenged. Some mites have returned to their free-roaming ways after countless millennia living on animal hosts. And a tree frog from South America lost its lower teeth only to re-evolve them after 200 million years. Within the human embryo, there is similar potential. Perhaps the very bone you are sitting on, your coccyx, is ready to re-evolve a tail at some future moment when humans might need it again to hang from trees.
More.

Dollo’s “law” is nonsense. But here’s the main problem: Assuming that all this is correct (and it isn’t my purpose to cast doubt on it), unless we have a complete, detailed history of every facet of evolution, how would we know that any evolution occurred?

That is, we cannot then use patterns based on laws, because they apparently don’t exist. So to be sure that any evolution occurred, we would need the same sort of documentary historical evidence that we would need for a historic battle. Thoughts? – O’Leary for News

O’Leary for News

21 Replies to “Evolution undoes itself? So then how do we know it occurred?

  1. 1
    ppolish says:

    “Perhaps the very bone you are sitting on, your coccyx, is ready to re-evolve a tail at some future moment when humans might need it again to hang from trees.”

    Who wants to hang from trees. Blood rushing to your head and getting all dizzy. I want to evolve me a tail so I could wag it when I’m happy:)

  2. 2
    Petrushka says:

    Nice thing about ID is that it doesn’t require any pathetic detail.

    Anyway, “laws” of nature are just codified — sometimes in equations — observations. There’s nothing magic about them. They just describe the way to bet.

  3. 3
    ppolish says:

    I bet way back when as humans were slowly but surely losing their tails, and they became shorter and shorter – we used to wag them. Evolution isn’t all dog eat dog. Happy evolution happens too. I bet we used to wag our tails. Way back when.

  4. 4
    Petrushka says:

    Dollo’s law simply observes that any specified series of mutations is vanishingly unlikely to occur. It is not far from Behe’s claim that the current state of genetic sequences was ordained, and therefore impossible to reach.

    A random walk can be characterized as likely to move away from its starting position — on average — but cannot predict the direction. Dollo simply says that random walks are unlikely to return to the starting position.

    One can easily simulate this in software.

  5. 5

    Actually, Dollo’s Law is a statement of Intelligent Design. Because if Evolution could find the feature in the first place, and then loses it, it could refind it again, perhaps in less time. But if the feature was designed, and then lost, it could not be refound by chance, it would have to be re-designed. Thus Dollo’s Law is a restatement of the conservation of information, or possibly the 2nd law of thermodynamics (that you can always lose things, but never find them.)

    Dollo should be awarded the ID “sleep-walker” prize for making such a profound contribution to information theory.

  6. 6
    Petrushka says:

    Because if Evolution could find the feature in the first place, and then loses it, it could refind it again, perhaps in less time.

    I think you missed something in the discussion.

  7. 7
    News says:

    To me, everyone missed something in the discussion.

    If “evolution” means that absolutely anything can happen, then disappear, then happen again, in the absence of a detailed documentary history, how would we know it had ever occurred?

  8. 8
    Petrushka says:

    Evolution does not imply that anything can happen.

    Just out of curiosity, do you believe that the inability to predict the future means that anything can happen?

    For example, does a traffic accident that delays your getting somewhere mean that anything can happen. Does the fact that you ca’t predict the exact date and time of rainfall mean that anything can happen?

  9. 9
    Silver Asiatic says:

    To me, everyone missed something in the discussion.

    If “evolution” means that absolutely anything can happen, then disappear, then happen again, in the absence of a detailed documentary history, how would we know it had ever occurred?

    I’m glad you posted this because I didn’t get your point at first.

    Yes, evolution means that anything that is physically possible can happen. But I’m not sure how the happen-disappear-happen again scenario would affect the claimed-evolutionary history of a particular organism, for example.

  10. 10
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Evolution does not imply that anything can happen.

    Evolution implies that anything that is physically possible can happen.

  11. 11
    mahuna says:

    Apparently, ANYTHING that happens can be explained by Evolution, but at the same time Evolution cannot predict that anything specific will happen. So you just do some research and then declare that whatever you find “supports Evolution”.

    A Law in Science (e.g., The Law of Gravity) is NOT just some equation you plug into a computer model. A Law says something fundamental about the real world. Darwin made VERY few claims about The Theory of Evolution, and in fact only described it in very vague terms. Every attempt since Darwin to make a sensible statement about Evolution has turned to mush because regardless of the number of failures of reality to conform to what Evolution should mean, The Theory of Evolution is constantly declared to be true even when the evidence demonstrates that it isn’t true and doesn’t work. Excepting of course for the “Survival of the Fittest” nonsense, which always turns out to mean “Survival of the Survivors”, with “fitness” being defined after the fact.

  12. 12
    Petrushka says:

    What, in the mainstream version of the history of living things, violates physics or chemistry?
    Behe spoke of quinine resistance in malaria as skirting the edg of what unguided evolution can accomplish, but his assumptions about the possible paths were incorrect.

  13. 13
    Mung says:

    Petrushka:

    What, in the mainstream version of the history of living things, violates physics or chemistry?

    Who knows? How would you tell?

    What does it even mean to say that ‘x’ violates physics or that ‘y’ violates chemistry or that ‘z’ violates physics or chemistry?

  14. 14
    Petrushka says:

    I assume that’s a rhetorical question, indicating you aren’t really interested in the answer. Which is odd, because ID has typically argued, as Behe does, that some evolutionary change is impossible, or vanishingly improbable.

  15. 15
    Robert Byers says:

    Good thrread and bang on point.
    IF evolution can do anything then it could do a hundred rotations on any physical item and one never be able to document what evolved when.
    how does anything we find in biology get proved to have got there by evolving if it could of got there twenty times and evolved away just as many.
    It makes all confidence in evolutionary claims for how this or that evolved to bE UNFOUNDED and founded on sand.

  16. 16

    To me, everyone missed something in the discussion.

    If “evolution” means that absolutely anything can happen, then disappear, then happen again, in the absence of a detailed documentary history, how would we know it had ever occurred?

    Whether a feature came back again or not does not matter to the operational definition for “evolution”. In either case there was still some change over time.

  17. 17
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Petrushka

    Which is odd, because ID has typically argued, as Behe does, that some evolutionary change is impossible, or vanishingly improbable.

    You’re supporting Behe here. That’s good. Few evolutionists will do that. If you disagree about where Behe places the Edge, where do you place it? That’s another question that gets ignored by Behe’s critics.

    But I think you misunderstood anyway. Note Denyse’s comment:

    If “evolution” means that absolutely anything can happen …

    We say that because that the Darwinian-story not because it’s what ID would say.

  18. 18
    Silver Asiatic says:

    RB 15

    IF evolution can do anything then it could do a hundred rotations on any physical item and one never be able to document what evolved when.
    how does anything we find in biology get proved to have got there by evolving if it could of got there twenty times and evolved away just as many.
    It makes all confidence in evolutionary claims for how this or that evolved to bE UNFOUNDED and founded on sand.

    I’m not challenging this at all but just wondering what it would look like in a hypothetical case. Like whale evolution. There was a small rodent. Then it evolved to get bigger. Then it reversed and got smaller. Then it went into the water. Then it reversed and came out of the water. Then it went back to the water and grew fins and a breathing spout on its head. Then it reversed and lost that. Etc.

    In the end though, wouldn’t the evolutionary story remain the same. The rodent went back and forth but eventually became a whale? Where does this become a major problem for the theory?

  19. 19

    mahuna:

    Darwin made VERY few claims about The Theory of Evolution, and in fact only described it in very vague terms.

    Science and technology of the 1800’s only allowed very vague terms to be explained.

    mahuna:

    Every attempt since Darwin to make a sensible statement about Evolution has turned to mush because regardless of the number of failures of reality to conform to what Evolution should mean, The Theory of Evolution is constantly declared to be true even when the evidence demonstrates that it isn’t true and doesn’t work.

    The terms were so vague that any change over time in a changing environment that ultimately led to a speciation event proves the Mutation+Selection Darwinian theory true.

    The theory that is called “The Theory of Evolution” is also another name for whatever gets taught in schools in regards to origin of species, which could one day be more ruled by a Theory of Intelligent Design.

  20. 20
    Robert Byers says:

    Silver Asiatic
    This YEC does think marine mammals were first land livers.
    anyways.
    My point is that if a hundred rotations took place then one couldn’t tell by studing some creature.
    so the evidence for it is hidden or unsure. SO when evolutionists say this evolved from that , and its an option for endless rotations, then their evidence for the evolution is not there. The inaccuracy of the hundred rotations nullifies any accuracy claim for evolution.
    So it didn’t evolve . or rather there is not good evidence.
    Its all a criticism of the surety of evolutionists in proclaiming their evolution stories for particular creatures.
    The option for endless back and forth undermines any confidence in their conclusions.
    They can’t just say WELL it did evolve if they missed a hundred rotations.

  21. 21
    Silver Asiatic says:

    RB

    Its all a criticism of the surety of evolutionists in proclaiming their evolution stories for particular creatures.
    The option for endless back and forth undermines any confidence in their conclusions.
    They can’t just say WELL it did evolve if they missed a hundred rotations.

    I can see that. I was hoping it would be even worse, but it does undermine confidence. In the end, if creatures rotated they could still be considered evolved – more like a spiral. Two steps towards, one step back.

    I think the biggest problem is this:

    If new traits can be lost and the old features restored – this makes it much more difficult for new features to be retained.

    The old feature worked well enough under some conditions. Then new conditions appear to evolve a new feature. But it’s highly probable that the old conditions will return – thus the old feature should return. It’s like Darwin’s finches.

    It actually supports the idea that organisms have some plasticicty (microevolutionary adaptions) but they only show variance around a mean. They always return to an original form.

    So these rotating organisms make speciation almost impossible. A new species appears, unable to reproduce with it’s older form. But then it returns to the old form and can reproduce with itself.

    It definitely confuses the evolutionary story even beyond how confused it already is.

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