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Sixth mass extinction, but no news on defining “species”?


From Phoebe Weston at the Daily Mail, who offers a convenient bullet point format:

Revealed: The worrying state of Earth’s species in numbers as scientists warn the sixth mass extinction is here and wildlife is in a ‘global crisis’

Two species of vertebrate, animals with a backbone, have gone extinct each year

Currently more than a quarter of mammals are threatened with extinction

There are an estimated 8.7 million plant and animal species on our planet

About 86% of land species and 91% of sea species remain undiscovered

Starting Saturday, a comprehensive, global appraisal of the damage, and what can be done to reverse it, will be conducted in Colombia More.

The problem is, if we takes ecology seriously, how do we know?

Here are some questions one might ask:

Revealed: The worrying state of Earth’s species in numbers as scientists warn the sixth mass extinction is here and wildlife is in a ‘global crisis’ Why does this “global crisis” stuff remind me (b 1950) of the Cold War?

Two species of vertebrate, animals with a backbone, have gone extinct each year The whole business of speciation is a scandalous mess that won’t be addressed any time soon because frite lit is politically useful, especially for fundraising. Who decided that these life forms were species? What does that mean, exactly? When we say that they have “gone extinct,” how do we know that they have not simply mingled with a larger population with which they could hybridize and later separate from? I’m not trying to minimize the problem, just asking what, exactly, we are talking about?

Currently more than a quarter of mammals are threatened with extinction But again, what does “threatened” mean? At one time, beavers were threatened in Canada, now not much, apparently.

There are an estimated 8.7 million plant and animal species on our planet But how was this figure determined? By the random assignment of “lumpers” and “splitters” to the job, long before genome mapping became a tool? And if genome mapping is a tool, what are the cutoffs? How are they made? Are they applied across the board?

About 86% of land species and 91% of sea species remain undiscovered  How do we know that these are correct numbers? They sound precise but what really underlies them? The situation could be much worse, or better, but who knows?

Starting Saturday, a comprehensive, global appraisal of the damage, and what can be done to reverse it, will be conducted in Colombia Well, it’s nice to see people assessing the problem but what tools are they using? Will this be real information or just more fundraising letters about situations that may or may not be the most serious ones?

See also: First mass extinction “engineered” by animals?

Lazarus species: animals listed as extinct that turned up again.

Nothing says “Darwin snob” like indifference to the mess that the entire concept of speciation is in

AK @ 12: Could as easily be expected if species are stable expressions of an adaptable code. If an alien civilization 1,000 years in the future had to figure out how many versions of Windows were released purely from the final working state of pre-installs (and somehow never figuring out they could check the version number under "about"; (maybe they "evolve" their software, having fully realized the power of Darwinian principles to build things beyond their understanding?)), how messy would that be? The major version differences would probably land into some larger category hierarchy; but they'd be pretty clueless with all the apparently random app installs (lateral gene transfer) and user settings (epigenetic feedback). Especially if they approached it as if it hadn't been designed. LocalMinimum
Allan Keith:
As would be expected if evolution were true.
Seeing that Intelligent Design is NOT anti-evolution, what does that mean? ET
Well GUN, While genetics can be useful for paternity tests, validating genetic entropy, and such as that, it is also, in the hands of Darwinists, severely ripe for abuse. In order to supposedly validate common descent patterns, (patterns that exist only in the imaginations of Darwinists), Darwinists cherry pick sequences that align with their presuppositions and ignore sequences that do not align with their presuppositions.
Richard Dawkins: How Could Anyone “Possibly Doubt the Fact of Evolution” – Cornelius Hunter – February 27, 2014 Excerpt: Not surprisingly evolutionists carefully prefilter their data. As one paper explained, “data are routinely filtered in order to satisfy stringent criteria so as to eliminate the possibility of incongruence.” http://darwins-god.blogspot.com/2014/02/richard-dawkins-how-could-anyone.html Darwin’s Tree of Life is a Tangled Bramble Bush – May 15, 2013 Excerpt: ,,, One whole subsection in the paper is titled, “All gene trees differ from species phylogeny.” Another is titled, “Standard practices do not reduce incongruence.” A third, “Standard practices can mislead.” One of their major findings was “extensive conflict in certain internodes.” The authors not only advised throwing out some standard practices of tree-building, but (amazingly) proposed evolutionists throw out the “uninformative” conflicting data and only use data that seems to support the Darwinian tree: “the subset of genes with strong phylogenetic signal is more informative than the full set of genes, suggesting that phylogenomic analyses using conditional combination approaches, rather than approaches based on total evidence, may be more powerful.”,,, ,,,tossing out “uninformative” data sets and only using data that appear to support their foreordained conclusion. Were you told this in biology class? Did your textbook mention this? http://crev.info/2013/05/darwins-tree-of-life-is-a-tangled-bramble-bush/ That Yeast Study is a Good Example of How Evolutionary Theory Works – Cornelius Hunter – June 2013 Excerpt:,,, The evolutionists tried to fix the problem with all kinds of strategies. They removed parts of genes from the analysis, they removed a few genes that might have been outliers, they removed a few of the yeast species, they restricted the analysis to certain genes that agreed on parts of the evolutionary tree, they restricted the analysis to only those genes thought to be slowly evolving, and they tried restricting the gene comparisons to only certain parts of the gene. These various strategies each have their own rationale. That rationale may be dubious, but at least there is some underlying reasoning. Yet none of these strategies worked. In fact they sometimes exacerbated the incongruence problem. What the evolutionists finally had to do, simply put, was to select the subset of the genes or of the problem that gave the right evolutionary answer. They described those genes as having “strong phylogenetic signal.” And how do we know that these genes have strong phylogenetic signal. Because they give the right (preferred) answer. This is an example of a classic tendency in science known as confirmation bias.,,, http://darwins-god.blogspot.com/2013/06/that-yeast-study-is-good-example-of-how.html “The computer programs that analyze the sequence similarities, or differences, are programmed in advance to generate a tree-like pattern. In other words, the assumption of a common ancestor is built into the way in which the analysis is performed. So there is no way you would get anything other than the conclusion,,, It’s a question begging assumption.” Stephen Meyer – on the Cambrian Explosion – podcast (15:25 minute mark) http://intelligentdesign.podomatic.com/entry/2014-05-30T17_33_15-07_00 Genome-Wide DNA Alignment Similarity (Identity) for 40,000 Chimpanzee DNA Sequences Queried against the Human Genome is 86–89% – Jeffrey P. Tomkins – December 28, 2011 Excerpt: A common claim that is propagated through obfuscated research publications and popular evolutionary science authors is that the DNA of chimpanzees or chimps (Pan troglodytes) and humans (Homo sapiens) is about 98–99% similar. A major problem with nearly all past human-chimp comparative DNA studies is that data often goes through several levels of pre-screening, filtering and selection before being aligned, summarized, and discussed. Non-alignable regions are typically omitted and gaps in alignments are often discarded or obfuscated. In an upcoming paper, Tomkins and Bergman (2012) discuss most of the key human-chimp DNA similarity research papers on a case-by-case basis and show that the inclusion of discarded data (when provided) actually suggests a DNA similarity for humans and chimps not greater than 80–87% and quite possibly even less. http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/arj/v4/n1/blastin
Darwinian theory is never allowed to be falsified by countervailing evidence. You may think this is all fine and well for Darwinism since it supports your atheistic druthers, but I consider it to be reprehensible science. My point about the basic form of an Organism being irreducible to DNA is, contrary to you playing it off on Denyse, devastating to Darwinian presuppositions. Your failure to honestly acknowledge this devastating fact is par for the course for Darwinists. It never is about the science for Darwinists, it is about defending their atheistic worldview no matter what the evidence says to the contrary. And all for what??? God existing it is the greatest thing that could possibly happen for mankind, and yet Darwinists choose a hopeless nihilism over God. Which is, IMHO, pathetic and insane! bornagain77
You may as well use the quote to question the validity of paternity tests.
I don’t care what the paternity tests say. I am not BA77’s father. :) Allan Keith
goodusername, before trying to (ab)use “genomics-based criteria” to try to determine what a species is, don’t you think it might be wise for Darwinists to first try to prove that ‘genetic reductionism’ is true?
First, it's Denyse that keeps demanding for genomics to be used for determining species. Second, the quote from Meyer has nothing to do with the validity of using genomics to determine if populations inter-breed. You may as well use the quote to question the validity of paternity tests. goodusername
In other words, goodusername at 5, it’s a freaking mess.
As would be expected if evolution were true. Allan Keith
goodusername, before trying to (ab)use "genomics-based criteria" to try to determine what a species is, don't you think it might be wise for Darwinists to first try to prove that 'genetic reductionism' is true?
Darwinism vs Biological Form - video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JyNzNPgjM4w ‘Now one more problem as far as the generation of information. It turns out that you don’t only need information to build genes and proteins, it turns out to build Body-Plans you need higher levels of information; Higher order assembly instructions. DNA codes for the building of proteins, but proteins must be arranged into distinctive circuitry to form distinctive cell types. Cell types have to be arranged into tissues. Tissues have to be arranged into organs. Organs and tissues must be specifically arranged to generate whole new Body-Plans, distinctive arrangements of those body parts. We now know that DNA alone is not responsible for those higher orders of organization. DNA codes for proteins, but by itself it does not insure that proteins, cell types, tissues, organs, will all be arranged in the body-plan. And what that means is that the Body-Plan morphogenesis, as it is called, depends upon information that is not encoded on DNA. Which means you can mutate DNA indefinitely. 80 million years, 100 million years, til the cows come home. It doesn’t matter, because in the best case you are just going to find a new protein some place out there in that vast combinatorial sequence space. You are not, by mutating DNA alone, going to generate higher order structures that are necessary to building a body plan. So what we can conclude from that is that the neo-Darwinian mechanism is grossly inadequate to explain the origin of information necessary to build new genes and proteins, and it is also grossly inadequate to explain the origination of novel biological form.’ - Stephen Meyer - Functional Proteins and Information for Body Plans – video – 5:55 minute mark https://youtu.be/hs4y4XLGQ-Y?t=354
,,, In other words, the specific 'Biological form' that any particular organism may take is found to forever be beyond the grasp of reductive materialistic explanations, and as such, since Darwinism is based on reductive materialism, any Darwinian explanation of what constitutes a species will forever be based on a false premise. Not that the science ever really mattered to Darwinists in the first place, but I would hold that the inability to explain the basic 'biological form' of any particular organism to be a fairly major roadblock for Darwinian explanations seeking to explain 'transformation of forms' i.e. speciation. GUN,,, You are basically putting the cart way before the horse as far as the science itself is concerned. bornagain77
In other words, goodusername at 5, it’s a freaking mess.
If it's a mess, it's because nature is messy.
It would be nice if nothing depended on the utter breakdown.
I'm guessing that this is a reference to preservation. I think you may be putting too much importance on having an agreed upon definition of species when it comes to preservation efforts. Even if biologists the world over came up with an agreed upon single definition of species, it may not actually help that much (if at all) in making preservation decisions. What is it that we're actually trying to preserve? I would say it's "variety" more than just a species count. For instance: If all dogs except for a single breed were to die out, has nothing been lost since the species still exists? Many species have sub-populations with a remarkable amount of variety, and which biologists may have categorized as separate species in the past, only to later find out that the populations often inter-breed. That doesn't necessarily mean that the sub-populations shouldn't be protected though, if we're trying to preserve variety. The reverse also happens, where it's discovered that two or more populations turn out to not readily interbreed, even though biologists have trouble telling the populations apart. Should that influence preservation decisions? For instance, these marmosets: https://uncommondesc.wpengine.com/intelligent-design/once-again-the-pygmy-marmoset-is-two-species/
What some of us would like to see is a specific set of genomics-based criteria.
The common working-definition of species now is when you have two populations that don't tend to inter-breed despite the opportunity to do so. That is using genomics-based criteria. For instance, these giraffes: https://uncommondesc.wpengine.com/speciation/dna-giraffes-are-four-separate-species/
And no one wants to take responsibility.
Well, who do you think should take the blame for it not being clear whether those marmosets are one or two species? goodusername
goodusername @5 It would be great if all Darwinists acknowledged the problems with "species" and "speciation" and stopped making unsupported claims. But they won't because this would further weaken Darwin's already crumbling sand castle. Nonlin.org
"I don’t think the current view of “species” would be much different (if any different) if Darwinism had never appeared." I beg to differ. Seeing as the hypothetical 'transitional fossils' of Darwinists are STILL, 150 plus years hence, few and far between, then the 'kinds' mentioned in Genesis still seems to be holding up quite well. For example, despite tremendous variety everybody knows a dog when they see a dog.
The Dog Delusion - October 30, 2014 Excerpt: In his latest book, geneticist Wolf-Ekkehard Lönnig of the Max Planck Institutes in Germany takes on the widespread view that dog breeds prove macroevolution.,,, He shows in great detail that the incredible variety of dog breeds, going back in origin several thousand years ago but especially to the last few centuries, represents no increase in information but rather a decrease or loss of function on the genetic and anatomical levels. Michael Behe writes: "Dr. Lönnig shows forcefully that one of the chief examples Darwinists rely on to convince the public of macroevolution -- the enormous variation in dogs -- actually shows the opposite. Extremes in size and anatomy come at the cost of broken genes and poor health. Even several gene duplications were found to interfere strongly with normal growth and development as is also often the case in humans. So where is the evidence for Darwinian evolution now?" The science here is indeed solid. Intriguingly, Lönnig's prediction from 2013 on starch digestion in wolves has already been confirmed in a study published this year.,,, http://www.evolutionnews.org/2014/10/the_dog_delusio090751.html
Same for 'kinds' of fish:
"For all the diversity of species, I found the cichlids to be an unmistakably natural group, a created kind. The more I worked with these fish the clearer my recognition of “cichlidness” became and the more distinct they seemed from all the “similar” fishes I studied. Conversations at conferences and literature searches confirmed that this was the common experience of experts in every area of systematic biology. Distinct kinds really are there and the experts know it to be so. – On a wider canvas, fossils provided no comfort to evolutionists. All fish, living and fossil, belong to distinct kinds; “links” are decidedly missing." Dr. Arthur Jones - did his Ph.D. thesis in biology on cichlids - Fish, Fossils and Evolution - Cichlids at 29:00 minute mark (many examples of repeated morphology in cichlids) - video http://edinburghcreationgroup.org/video/14
Same for etc.. etc.. etc.. ,, The only thing that is decidedly missing, and the thing that is the primary source for such confusion on what a species exactly is, are the imaginary transitional fossils of Darwinists,,,
Erwin and Valentine's The Cambrian Explosion Affirms Major Points in Darwin's Doubt: The Cambrian Enigma Is "Unresolved" - June 26, 2013 Excerpt: "In other words, the morphological distances -- gaps -- between body plans of crown phyla were present when body fossils first appeared during the explosion and have been with us ever since. The morphological disparity is so great between most phyla that the homologous reference points or landmarks required for quantitative studies of morphology are absent." Erwin and Valentine (p. 340) http://www.evolutionnews.org/2013/06/erwin_valentine_cambrian_explosion073671.html "Over the past 150 years or so, paleontologists have found many representatives of the phyla that were well-known in Darwin’s time (by analogy, the equivalent of the three primary colors) and a few completely new forms altogether (by analogy, some other distinct colors such as green and orange, perhaps). And, of course, within these phyla, there is a great deal of variety. Nevertheless, the analogy holds at least insofar as the differences in form between any member of one phylum and any member of another phylum are vast, and paleontologists have utterly failed to find forms that would fill these yawning chasms in what biotechnologists call “morphological space.” In other words, they have failed to find the paleolontogical equivalent of the numerous finely graded intermediate colors (Oedleton blue, dusty rose, gun barrel gray, magenta, etc.) that interior designers covet. Instead, extensive sampling of the fossil record has confirmed a strikingly discontinuous pattern in which representatives of the major phyla stand in stark isolation from members of other phyla, without intermediate forms filling the intervening morphological space." Stephen Meyer - Darwin’s Doubt (p. 70) Scientific study turns understanding about evolution on its head - July 30, 2013 Excerpt: evolutionary biologists,,, looked at nearly one hundred fossil groups to test the notion that it takes groups of animals many millions of years to reach their maximum diversity of form. Contrary to popular belief, not all animal groups continued to evolve fundamentally new morphologies through time. The majority actually achieved their greatest diversity of form (disparity) relatively early in their histories. ,,,Dr Matthew Wills said: "This pattern, known as 'early high disparity', turns the traditional V-shaped cone model of evolution on its head. What is equally surprising in our findings is that groups of animals are likely to show early-high disparity regardless of when they originated over the last half a billion years. This isn't a phenomenon particularly associated with the first radiation of animals (in the Cambrian Explosion), or periods in the immediate wake of mass extinctions.",,, Author Martin Hughes, continued: "Our work implies that there must be constraints on the range of forms within animal groups, and that these limits are often hit relatively early on. Co-author Dr Sylvain Gerber, added: "A key question now is what prevents groups from generating fundamentally new forms later on in their evolution.,,, http://phys.org/news/2013-07-scientific-evolution.html “It is a feature of the known fossil record that most taxa appear abruptly. They are not, as a rule, led up to by a sequence of almost imperceptibly changing forerunners such as Darwin believed should be usual in evolution…This phenomenon becomes more universal and more intense as the hierarchy of categories is ascended. Gaps among known species are sporadic and often small. Gaps among known orders, classes and phyla are systematic and almost always large.” G.G.Simpson - one of the most influential American Paleontologist of the 20th century "A major problem in proving the theory has been the fossil record; the imprints of vanished species preserved in the Earth's geological formations. This record has never revealed traces of Darwin's hypothetical intermediate variants - instead species appear and disappear abruptly, and this anomaly has fueled the creationist argument that each species was created by God." Paleontologist, Mark Czarnecki "There is no need to apologize any longer for the poverty of the fossil record. In some ways, it has become almost unmanageably rich and discovery is outpacing integration. The fossil record nevertheless continues to be composed mainly of gaps." T. Neville George - Professor of paleontology - Glasgow University, "Evolution requires intermediate forms between species and paleontology does not provide them." David Kitts - Paleontologist - D.B. Kitts, Paleontology and Evolutionary Theory (1974), p. 467. "The long-term stasis, following a geologically abrupt origin, of most fossil morphospecies, has always been recognized by professional paleontologists" – Stephen Jay Gould - Harvard "The sweep of anatomical diversity reached a maximum right after the initial diversification of multicellular animals. The later history of life proceeded by elimination not expansion." Stephen J. Gould, Harvard, Wonderful Life, 1989, p.46 Given the fact of evolution, one would expect the fossils to document gradual steady change from ancestral forms to the descendants. But this is not what the paleontologist finds. Instead, he or she finds gaps in just about every phyletic series. New types often appear quite suddenly, and their intermediate ancestors are absent in the earlier geologic strata. The discovery of unbroken series of species changing gradually into descending species is very rare. Indeed the fossil record is one of discontinuities, seemingly documenting jumps (saltations) from one type of organism to a different type. This raises a puzzling question: Why does the fossil record fail to reflect the gradual change one would expect from evolution? Ernst Mayr, What Evolution Is (New York: Basic Books, 2001), 14 - Professor Emeritus, Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University "What is missing are the many intermediate forms hypothesized by Darwin, and the continual divergence of major lineages into the morphospace between distinct adaptive types." Robert L Carroll (born 1938) - vertebrate paleontologist who specialises in Paleozoic and Mesozoic amphibians "In virtually all cases a new taxon appears for the first time in the fossil record with most definitive features already present, and practically no known stem-group forms." Tom S. Kemp, Fossils and Evolution (New York; Oxford University Press, 1999), 246. - Curator of Zoological Collections "Every paleontologist knows that most new species, genera, and families, and that nearly all categories above the level of family appear in the record suddenly and are not led up to by known, gradual, completely continuous transitional sequences.” George Gaylord Simpson (evolutionist), The Major Features of Evolution, New York, Columbia University Press, 1953 p. 360. “The record certainly did not reveal gradual transformations of structure in the course of time. On the contrary, it showed that species generally remained constant throughout their history and were replaced quite suddenly by significantly different forms. New types or classes seemed to appear fully formed, with no sign of an evolutionary trend by which they could have emerged from an earlier type.” Peter Bowler, Evolution: The History of an Idea (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1984), 187.
What some of us would like to see is a specific set of genomics-based criteria.
How do you imagine this would work? You have the complete genome of, say, a Southern and a Northern white rhino. How do you decide if they're different species? I appreciate you won't be able to provide a technical answer, but how to you think "species-ness" is encoded in the genome? cornu
In other words, goodusername at 5, it's a freaking mess. "It has been redefined – many times. That’s why there are so many different definitions floating around to choose from." And no one wants to take responsibility. It would be nice if nothing depended on the utter breakdown. Stop trying so hard. News
Nonlin.org, It has been redefined - many times. That’s why there are so many different definitions floating around to choose from. The reason that the concept isn’t discarded is because I think we all know - regardless of one’s belief as to how they originated - that something like “species” exists. I don’t think the current view of “species” would be much different (if any different) if Darwinism had never appeared. Incidentally, I’ve been seeing suggestions lately that biologists have become increasingly “splitters” due to Darwinism. Historically, however, biologists generally leaned much more towards being “splitters” prior to Darwinism. There’s been a move towards “lumping” for the past century. Darwin was relatively a lumper for his time. And his anti-evolutionary chief arch-nemesis, Louis Agassiz, is widely considered to have been the all-time king of the splitters. goodusername
What some of us would like to see is a specific set of genomics-based criteria. So we know what we are discussing when we are asked to set aside funds for conservation. Funds for running around and shrieking about the end of life as we know it should, in my view, be raised privately. News
http://nonlin.org/speciation-problems/ 2. Why keep “species” or why not redefine the concept if failed? Redefining would likely have been done long time ago if better criteria were available, while discarding the concept of “species” is opposed by those fond of Darwin’s “Origin of Species”. Those that believe the “reproductive isolation” story point to minor adaptations, which they call “speciation” (implying stability) and then ask us to extrapolate these small changes into the dramatic transmutations imagined yet never observed by Darwin or his followers. This is a classic trick - employed extensively by magicians, cinematographers and con artists among others - where one thing is shown and the brain then “sees” another that is not there. Nonlin.org
if we take ecology seriously
This is the big IF these days. There are a lot of people running around yelling SCIENCE! who, after you get past the initial bluff, do not take the subject seriously. They haven't really got their own thoughts in order about it, they just are Pop Media Science fans. Oh well. Andrew asauber
If they knew precisely which species haven't been discovered, then they would cease to not be discovered. Such figures must be a guess, but the problem is how it's calculated. Every time a new "species is found, it has become discovered. One may speculate that the rate of of discovery can be used to calculate how many are left undiscovered, but making a purely linear calculation to estimate such figures would probably give you such large figures. The problem is that experience indicates that the discovery of new species, however they are defined, would most likely follow the law of diminishing returns and could not follow a linear calculation ad infinitum. It's like children hunting for Easter eggs. The first 90 are easy. The last 10 are hard. But just because you find the first 90 at such a consistent rate does not mean that 86% or 91% are still undiscovered. Some were just easier to find. outside_observer

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