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Darwin, ID, and wiggling ears

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A classic in the state of pop science writing today, from Yahoo News:

Un-intelligent Design: No Purpose for Vestigial Ear-Wiggling Reflex

Around the human ear are tiny, weak muscles that once would have let evolutionary ancestors pivot their ears to and fro. Today, the muscles aren’t capable of moving much — but their reflex action still exists.

These muscles are vestigial, meaning they’re remnants of evolution that once had a purpose but no longer do. However, humans may be able to repurpose these useless muscles for their own uses, according to Steven Hackley, a psychologist at the University of Missouri and author of a new review of research on the forgotten muscles in the journal Psychophysiology. For one, these muscles activate in response to positive emotions, for reasons nobody truly understands. This odd fact creates a handy tool for psychologists seeking an objective way to measure emotion.

Well, obviously, if the muscles can be repurposed, they may well have a function in the future.

And then there are the educational implications: This muscle reflex is new evidence against the notion of creationism or intelligent design, Hackley said.

How? Vestigial elements are common in intelligently designed systems. Often, cost-benefit analysis in a real situation, subject to actual constraints, shows that eliminating them is impractical. Especially if they might prove useful later.

It gets better: Hackley waxes eloquent on religion:

“According to intelligent design and creationism, our body was designed by a being with perfect intelligence,” he said. “If that were the case, why would he put circuits in our brains that don’t work? More.

Why? See above.

For one thing, any living system must operate within the constraints of space and time, whether or not the designer is perfect and timeless. It must incorporate flexibility over time, for example. That means that there will always be systems that appear vestigial.

See, for example: Thoughts on “junk DNA,” which might just as easily apply to claims about vestigial organs:

==========================================================

Think about your own closet, a designed system (if you are not an utter slob), and you will see what I mean:

Possible classifications of junk that is not trash:

1. I will need it later, but it seems like junk now (snow shovel).

2. I may need it later, and it seems like junk now (snorkel).

3. I will likely never need it but the by-laws require me to have one (2 50 litre bottles of water).

4. I can’t imagine needing this but you never know (hibachi and charcoal bricks).

5. I don’t need it but it is too much trouble/expense to get rid of (awkward shelves built into the wall).

6. I used to need it but can’t make up my mind to get rid of it yet (clothes from younger days).

7. I don’t need it but it has intrinsic value. (The bread machine my sister left here when she moved.)

8. Stuff you are planning to give to the Sally Ann, in a bag, but they haven’t called by yet.

9. Trash. (Candy wrappers on the floor, the pink second copies of the dry cleaner’s invoices (never detached), dead house fly.)

So far, the volume of trash in a reasonably well-organized person’s closet is comparatively small, by mass.

(Note: For these purposes, if your attachment to any object is sentimental, we will assume you do need it, so it doesn’t count as junk even if no one else can figure out its function. But we aren’t likely to find that in the genome, so we will drop it from consideration.) More.

================================================================

Darwin followers’ claims about vestigial organs have a long history, mainly of motivated nonsense. See, for example, misrepresentation of the appendix, and the recent attempt to rework the very meaning of the term vestigial, to take all eyes off the embarrassment.

There is a world of information in life forms and we have hardly begun to explore it.

See also: A look at information theory.

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15 Replies to “Darwin, ID, and wiggling ears

  1. 1
    daveS says:

    the recent attempt to rework the very meaning of the term vestigial, to take all eyes off the embarrassment.

    The only definition I’m familiar with is essentially the one Myers gives. What is the correct definition?

  2. 2
    bornagain says:

    Of related note: Evolutionists try to have their cake and eat it too with their definition of the word vestigial:

    From Jerry Coyne, “Evolution-of-the-Gaps” and Other Fallacies – Jonathan M. – December 5, 2012
    Excerpt: Coyne anticipates the typical response to the argument from vestigiality:
    “Opponents of evolution always raise the same argument when vestigial traits are cited as evidence for evolution. “The features are not useless,” they say. “They are either useful for something, or we haven’t yet discovered what they’re for.” They claim, in other words, that a trait can’t be vestigial if it still has a function, or a function yet to be found.
    But this rejoinder misses the point. Evolutionary theory doesn’t say that vestigial characters have no function. A trait can be vestigial and functional at the same time. It is vestigial not because it’s functionless, but because it no longer performs the function for which it evolved. (p. 58)”
    But surely, by Coyne’s reckoning, this loose definition of “vestigiality” would entail that every organ and structure is vestigial, since, in Coyne’s view, all traits have evolved from something else. As Jonathan Wells explains in his own review of the book,
    “If the human arm evolved from the leg of a four-footed mammal (as Darwinists claim), then the human arm is vestigial. And if (as Coyne argues) the wings of flying birds evolved from feathered forelimbs of dinosaurs that used them for other purposes, then the wings of flying birds are vestigial. This is the opposite of what most people mean by “vestigial.”
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....67091.html

    Now It’s Whale Hips: Another Icon of Darwinian Evolution, Vestigial Structures, Takes a Hit – September 15, 2014
    Excerpt: You see the problem. Whale hips are “vestigial” yet still extremely important. Comments our colleague Michael Behe, “So doesn’t that make everything a vestigial structure from a Darwinian viewpoint? And if so, of what use is the word?”
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....89811.html

    It turns out that vestigial organs do prove one thing for certain though. It turns out that a cornerstone of the supposed evidence for Darwinian evolution is ignorance itself:

    “There are, according to Wiedersheim, no less than 180 vestigial structures in the human body, sufficient to make of a man a veritable walking museum of antiquities.”
    -evidence submitted to the Scopes trial

    “The thyroid gland, pituitary gland, thymus, pineal gland, and coccyx, … once considered useless by evolutionists, are now known to have important functions. The list of 180 “vestigial” structures is practically down to zero. Unfortunately, earlier Darwinists assumed that if they were ignorant of an organ’s function, then it had no function.”
    “Tornado in a Junkyard” – book – by former atheist James Perloff

    Vestigial Organs: Comparing ID and Darwinian Approaches – July 20, 2012
    Excerpt: A favorite criticisms of ID is that it is a science stopper. The opposite is true. The Live Science article shows that the “vestigial organs” argument has not changed for over a century, since Wiedersheim coined the term and listed over a hundred examples (in 1893). Evolutionary theory, in fact, has been worse than a science stopper: its predictions have been flat out wrong. Only a handful of alleged vestigial organs remains from Wiedersheim’s original list, and each of those is questionable.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....62281.html

  3. 3
    Vy says:

    Around the human ear are tiny, weak muscles that once would have let evolutionary ancestors pivot their ears to and fro. Today, the muscles aren’t capable of moving much — but their reflex action still exists

    And these evodelusionary “dogcestors” are where exactly? Apparently, these delusional individuals think that ear muscles, and muscles in general, are single-purpose organs.

    These muscles are vestigial, meaning they’re remnants of evolution that once had a purpose but no longer do.

    Harebrained assertion that subtly contradicts . . .

    For one, these muscles activate in response to positive emotions, for reasons nobody truly understands

    . . . which clearly shows the claim that these ear muscles are vestigial is purely an argument from ignorance.

    And then there are the educational implications: This muscle reflex is new evidence against the notion of creationism or intelligent design, Hackley said.

    This is the type of nonsensical blabber that presents itself when you spend too much time watching and promoting fiction.

    Creationists have known about these ear muscles for at least 25 years so it’s not “new” by any stretch of the imagination (except of course you spend 95% of your time in your imagination):

    The mistake is in assuming that the muscle is only for moving the ears, like dogs do. “Muscle is more than simply a contractile organ,” he quotes Howitt saying in 1947. “It serves as a storehouse for glycogen and is actively concerned in metabolism. Without some musculature in its structure the nutrition of the outer ear might be seriously impaired.” The muscles are also useful in “providing facilities for increased blood supply to the organ, thereby diminishing the danger of freezing.” If you’ve had cold ears skiing, be glad some warmth is provided by those “vestigial” muscles.

    More:

    “One of the problems with the whole concept of vestigial or functionless muscles is the well-known fact that unused muscles quickly degenerate. People ranging from astronauts exposed to a prolonged weightless environment, to those confined to long bed rest, lose a significant amount of muscle mass in only a few months. In short, muscle mass is a matter of ‘use it or lose it’. It is unlikely that any muscle that was virtually unused for the lifetime of an individual (to say nothing of generations of individuals over millions of years) would remain as healthy muscle tissue. It seems overwhelmingly likely that any muscle in the body that actually exists in the present, serves some function.
    It is in principle not possible to prove that an organ is useless, because there is always the possibility that a use may be discovered in the future.

    A CMI biologist suggested that one function of ear muscles could be to help remove wax from the ears. When a person is chewing, or smiling, etc. the ear muscles move the ears. This gradually moves the wax outwards, cleaning the ears.. But there could be other functions also.

  4. 4
    daveS says:

    “Tornado in a Junkyard” – book – by former atheist James Perloff

    Good stuff. I also recommend this blog post he wrote in April:

    Aliens/UFOs, Fallen Angels, Nephilim, the Flood, the Bible, Transhumanism, and the Illuminati. Yes, They All Tie Together.

  5. 5
    bornagain says:

    daveS, apparently the healing for the mental damage of being a atheist for so long takes a while:

    Look Who’s Irrational Now – 2008
    Excerpt: “What Americans Really Believe,” a comprehensive new study released by Baylor University yesterday, shows that traditional Christian religion greatly decreases belief in everything from the efficacy of palm readers to the usefulness of astrology. It also shows that the irreligious and the members of more liberal Protestant denominations, far from being resistant to superstition, tend to be much more likely to believe in the paranormal and in pseudoscience than evangelical Christians.
    http://online.wsj.com/article/.....54585.html

    Atheists embarrassed: study proves atheism uses less brain function – Oct 26, 2015 by Dr. Joel McDurmon
    Excerpt: This has to be embarrassing . . . if you’re an atheist. A new study performed at the University of York used targeted magnetism to shut down part of the brain. The result: belief in God disappeared among more than 30 percent of participants.
    That in itself may not seem so embarrassing, but consider that the specific part of the brain they frazzled was the posterior medial frontal cortex—the part associated with detecting and solving problems, i.e., reasoning and logic.
    In other words, when you shut down the part of the brain most associated with logic and reasoning, greater levels of atheism result.
    You’ve heard the phrase, “I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist”? Apparently we can now also say, “I have too many brains to be an atheist.”
    For a group that makes so much noise vaunting its superior prowess with logic and reasoning, this study has got to be quite a deflator. For a group that claims to be rooted primarily in logic and reason, and to exist for little reason other than that they have used logic and reason to free themselves from belief in God and, as they allege, superstition and fairy tales, this study is the equivalent of a public depanting­—i.e., the would-be emperor’s got no clothes.
    http://americanvision.org/1263.....-function/

    Are atheists mentally ill? – August 14th, 2013 – Sean Thomas
    Excerpt: “Let’s dispense with the crude metric of IQ and look at the actual lives led by atheists, and believers, and see how they measure up. In other words: let’s see who is living more intelligently. And guess what: it’s the believers. A vast body of research, amassed over recent decades, shows that religious belief is physically and psychologically beneficial – to a remarkable degree.,,,
    [I hope this next part doesn’t upset too many people, but…] the evidence today implies that atheism is a form of mental illness. And this is because science is showing that the human mind is hard-wired for faith… religious people have all their faculties intact, they are fully functioning humans. Therefore, being an atheist – lacking the vital faculty of faith – should be seen as an affliction, and a tragic deficiency: something akin to blindness. Which makes Richard Dawkins the intellectual equivalent of an amputee, furiously waving his stumps in the air, boasting that he has no hands.”
    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/n.....tally-ill/

    When Atheists Are Angry at God – 2011
    Excerpt: I’ve never been angry at unicorns. It’s unlikely you’ve ever been angry at unicorns either.,, The one social group that takes exception to this rule is atheists. They claim to believe that God does not exist and yet, according to empirical studies, tend to be the people most angry at him.
    http://www.firstthings.com/ont.....gry-at-god

    Study explores whether atheism is rooted in reason or emotion – Jan. 2015
    Excerpt: “A new set of studies in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology finds that atheists and agnostics report anger toward God either in the past or anger focused on a hypothetical image of what they imagine God must be like. Julie Exline, a psychologist at Case Western Reserve University and the lead author of this recent study, has examined other data on this subject with identical results. Exline explains that her interest was first piqued when an early study of anger toward God revealed a counterintuitive finding: Those who reported no belief in God reported more grudges toward him than believers.”
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....r-emotion/

    Romans 1:28
    Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.

  6. 6
    daveS says:

    daveS, apparently the healing for the mental damage of being a atheist for so long takes a while:

    Well, I’m not going to claim he’s legit mentally ill, but it’s clear he’s somewhere on the crackpot spectrum. 9/11 Truther even.

    On a positive note, he claims that Tornado was praised by Jack Lemmon:

    “My congratulations to Mr. Perloff for an outstanding piece of work.” — Actor Jack Lemmon, who played Clarence Darrow in the 1999 film version of Inherit the Wind

  7. 7
    bornagain says:

    daveS, this is my last response to you since you and I have a long history.

    i.e. ‘talk to the hand’

    But you are a pot calling the kettle black in this instance of pointing out his eccentricities. In fact, I hold more so.

    In your denial of God, your worldview becomes an epistemological madhouse. Indeed, you yourself, given atheistic premises, become an illusion. I can think of nothing more insane than for a supposedly rational person to declare for all the world to hear that he does not really exist as a real person.

    The Confidence of Jerry Coyne – Ross Douthat – January 6, 2014
    Excerpt: then halfway through this peroration, we have as an aside the confession that yes, okay, it’s quite possible given materialist premises that “our sense of self is a neuronal illusion.” At which point the entire edifice suddenly looks terribly wobbly — because who, exactly, is doing all of this forging and shaping and purpose-creating if Jerry Coyne, as I understand him (and I assume he understands himself) quite possibly does not actually exist at all? The theme of his argument is the crucial importance of human agency under eliminative materialism, but if under materialist premises the actual agent is quite possibly a fiction, then who exactly is this I who “reads” and “learns” and “teaches,” and why in the universe’s name should my illusory self believe Coyne’s bold proclamation that his illusory self’s purposes are somehow “real” and worthy of devotion and pursuit? (Let alone that they’re morally significant:,,) Read more here:
    http://douthat.blogs.nytimes.c.....oyne/?_r=0

    “What you’re doing is simply instantiating a self: the program run by your neurons which you feel is “you.””
    Jerry Coyne
    https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2015/04/04/eagleton-on-baggini-on-free-will/

    Who wrote Richard Dawkins’s new book? – October 28, 2006
    Excerpt:
    Dawkins: What I do know is that what it feels like to me, and I think to all of us, we don’t feel determined. We feel like blaming people for what they do or giving people the credit for what they do. We feel like admiring people for what they do.,,,
    Manzari: But do you personally see that as an inconsistency in your views?
    Dawkins: I sort of do. Yes. But it is an inconsistency that we sort of have to live with otherwise life would be intolerable.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....02783.html

  8. 8
    Robert Byers says:

    Once again the COOL thing is how even this obscure thing brings out the need to fight modern creationism. These folks can’t focus on their work but that fighting ID/YEC is brought up. Unless that is their real work!
    If they are so motivated/biased to see creationism as not a option then its our right to say their investigation of wiggle ears is compromised. A blur has been put over them eh.
    Who can dent ID/yec impact on all origin science these days . Well done to us.
    They fear us I think.

    If evolution was true then vestigial remains should be the norm and not the rare.
    Where are they?
    If our body is a copy of the ape and it is THEN we have the same ability to wiggle ears as the ape does. SIMPLE.
    Why should God give us the ape body but hold the wiggles.

  9. 9
    daveS says:

    BA77,

    I don’t have much else to say except that I don’t hold many of the beliefs you attribute to me.

    Nor do I believe that the destruction of the Hindenburg was one of a “long list of Illuminati false flags intended to provoke war”.

  10. 10
    bornagain says:

    daveS, yes I’ve noticed that you are a pick and choose smorgasbord atheist. i.e. Holding some beliefs which you like, while denying the other beliefs that refute your atheism.

    Yet, contrary to what you claim to personally believe, what you personally believe has no bearing on what the actual ramifications of atheism are.

    Under atheism agent causality, i.e. ‘you’ as a real person, becomes a fiction. Period!

    It does not matter one iota if you personally believe you are an actual agent, i.e. a ‘real’ person, and are offended, as ‘you’ rightly should be, with the belief that you are merely a neuronal illusion. Under atheism there simply is no such thing as an actual agent, i.e. a ‘real’ person.

    Your refusal to deal honestly with the insane ramifications that are inherent in your atheistic worldview is in fact a sign of mental illness that is common among drug addicts and alcoholics.

    Namely, your refusal to deal honestly with reality on realities own terms is called ‘denialism’.

    And, as has been my experience with drug addicts and alcoholics, until you are willing to become rigorously honest with yourself and with others, and adopt a ‘spiritual life’, there is little hope of you making a recovery from your present delusions.

    The Heretic – Who is Thomas Nagel and why are so many of his fellow academics condemning him? – March 25, 2013
    Excerpt: ,,Fortunately, materialism is never translated into life as it’s lived. As colleagues and friends, husbands and mothers, wives and fathers, sons and daughters, materialists never put their money where their mouth is. Nobody thinks his daughter is just molecules in motion and nothing but; nobody thinks the Holocaust was evil, but only in a relative, provisional sense. A materialist who lived his life according to his professed convictions—understanding himself to have no moral agency at all, seeing his friends and enemies and family as genetically determined robots—wouldn’t just be a materialist: He’d be a psychopath.
    http://www.weeklystandard.com/.....tml?page=3

    Darwin’s Robots: When Evolutionary Materialists Admit that Their Own Worldview Fails – Nancy Pearcey – April 23, 2015
    Excerpt: Even materialists often admit that, in practice, it is impossible for humans to live any other way. One philosopher jokes that if people deny free will, then when ordering at a restaurant they should say, “Just bring me whatever the laws of nature have determined I will get.”
    An especially clear example is Galen Strawson, a philosopher who states with great bravado, “The impossibility of free will … can be proved with complete certainty.” Yet in an interview, Strawson admits that, in practice, no one accepts his deterministic view. “To be honest, I can’t really accept it myself,” he says. “I can’t really live with this fact from day to day. Can you, really?”,,,
    In What Science Offers the Humanities, Edward Slingerland, identifies himself as an unabashed materialist and reductionist. Slingerland argues that Darwinian materialism leads logically to the conclusion that humans are robots — that our sense of having a will or self or consciousness is an illusion. Yet, he admits, it is an illusion we find impossible to shake. No one “can help acting like and at some level really feeling that he or she is free.” We are “constitutionally incapable of experiencing ourselves and other conspecifics [humans] as robots.”
    One section in his book is even titled “We Are Robots Designed Not to Believe That We Are Robots.”,,,
    When I teach these concepts in the classroom, an example my students find especially poignant is Flesh and Machines by Rodney Brooks, professor emeritus at MIT. Brooks writes that a human being is nothing but a machine — a “big bag of skin full of biomolecules” interacting by the laws of physics and chemistry. In ordinary life, of course, it is difficult to actually see people that way. But, he says, “When I look at my children, I can, when I force myself, … see that they are machines.”
    Is that how he treats them, though? Of course not: “That is not how I treat them…. I interact with them on an entirely different level. They have my unconditional love, the furthest one might be able to get from rational analysis.” Certainly if what counts as “rational” is a materialist worldview in which humans are machines, then loving your children is irrational. It has no basis
    within Brooks’s worldview. It sticks out of his box.
    How does he reconcile such a heart-wrenching cognitive dissonance? He doesn’t. Brooks ends by saying, “I maintain two sets of inconsistent beliefs.” He has given up on any attempt to reconcile his theory with his experience. He has abandoned all hope for a unified, logically consistent worldview.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....95451.html

    [Nancy Pearcey] When Reality Clashes with Your Atheistic Worldview – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C0Kpn3HBMiQ

    podcast – Are Humans Simply Robots? Nancy Pearcey on the “Free Will Illusion”
    http://www.discovery.org/multi.....more-30001

    Existential Argument against Atheism – November 1, 2013 by Jason Petersen
    1. If a worldview is true then you should be able to live consistently with that worldview.
    2. Atheists are unable to live consistently with their worldview.
    3. If you can’t live consistently with an atheist worldview then the worldview does not reflect reality.
    4. If a worldview does not reflect reality then that worldview is a delusion.
    5. If atheism is a delusion then atheism cannot be true.
    Conclusion: Atheism is false.
    http://answersforhope.com/exis.....t-atheism/

    Moreover, this psychopathic characteristic inherent to the atheistic philosophy is born out empirically, in that people who do not believe in a soul tend to be more psychopathic than the majority of normal people in America who do believe in a soul. You can pick that psychopathic study of atheists around the 14:30 minute mark of this following video:

    Anthony Jack, Why Don’t Psychopaths Believe in Dualism? – video – 14:30 minute mark
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?l.....zOk#t=862s

  11. 11
    daveS says:

    Speaking of beliefs I don’t hold:

    Evolutionary materialis[m]

    Darwinian materialism

    The impossibility of free will … can be proved with complete certainty

    A human being is nothing but a machine

    I don’t believe any of these follow from atheism, despite what you or your copypasta say.

    I humbly suggest you focus on the science of ID (which you clearly know quite a bit about), rather than railing against atheists as you do here:

    Your refusal to deal honestly with the insane ramifications that are inherent in your atheistic worldview is in fact a sign of mental illness that is common among drug addicts and alcoholics.

  12. 12
    bornagain says:

    And there you go folks. Denialism in all its full glory.

    I rest my case!

  13. 13
    Mapou says:

    Why would natural selection decide (assuming such a thing is possible) that perfectly good movable ears are no longer necessary?

    In other words, why is having elf ears considered such a survival-threatening condition for early humans that natural selection would decide to actively select against it?

    When will the lies stop?

  14. 14
    Jon Garvey says:

    My late father could waggle his ears most efficiently – it was very popular with both us and his grandchildren, and no doubt caused a chuckle at the office as well.

    That may be a minimal function, but it was minimal waggling.

    Who’s to dictate what proportion of people need to have a function to make the circuitry worthwhile? Good musicians are a small minority of the population, but one assumes all the relevant “circuitry” is in place in even the tone-deaf.

    The skeptic can say that music has no evolutionary value, and that musicianship is a vestige from some hypothetical times when we needed to mimic predators, or something. But it’s an entirely arbitrary judgement, and in real life Bach and the Beatles are more than evolutionary leftovers.

  15. 15
    mike1962 says:

    “Un-intelligent Design: No Purpose for Vestigial Ear-Wiggling Reflex “

    I used to be quite amused at my uncle when he would wiggle his ears when I was a kid. When I became a father I wiggled my ears for my own kids and they were amused. Maybe the designer put/kept that ability in humans for our amusement.

    Darbots have no sense of humor.

    And no imagination. Except when it suits their purpose.

    P.S. apply the above to curling the tongue and flaring the nostrils

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