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Darwin’s Doubt, reprinted, still #1 in paleontology

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Darwin's Doubt As of 9:00 am EST:

Many are getting the picture: The problem of accounting for the Cambrian in neo-Darwinian terms is insurmountable. In evolutionary terms, maybe. In Darwinian terms (whatever variety), no.

Gosh, if it weren’t for wrecking careers and campaigning against freedom to discuss problems with Darwinian evolution in educational settings, one wonders, what would Darwin’s followers have left?

Oh wait, they still have endangered bookstore Barnes & Noble, that persistently misshelves Steve Meyer’s Darwin’s Doubt.

Here’s an excerpt, to help clarify what the fuss is about:

Cambrian explosion: Those gaps, they just keep getting filled in, right?

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 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 a the differences in form between ay 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 biologists call “morphological space.” In other words, they have failed to find the paleontological equivalent of the numerous finely graded intermediate colors (Pendleton 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 ofthe major phyla stand in stark isolation from members of other phyla, without intermediate forms filling the intervening morphological space.

Foote’s statistical analysis of this pattern documented by an ever-increasing number of paleontological investigations demonstrates just how improbable it is that there ever existed a myriad of as yet undiscovered intermediate forms of animal life–forms that could close the morphological distance between the Cambrian phyla one tiny evolutionary step at a time.

In effect, Foote’s analysis suggests that since paleontologists have reached repeatedly into the proverbial barrel, sampled it from one end to the other, and found only representatives of various radically distinct phyla but no rainbow of intermediates, we should’t hold our breath expecting such intermediates to eventually emerge. He asks, “whether we have a representative sample of morphological diversity and therefore can rely on patterns documented in the fossil record.” The answer, he says, is yes.

By this affirmation, he doesn’t mean that there are no biological forms left to discover. He means, rather, that we have good reason to conclude that such discoveries will not alter the largely discontinuous pattern that has emerged. “Although we have much to learn about the evolution of form,” he writes, the statistical pattern created by our existing fossil data demonstrates that “in many respects our view of the history of biological diversity is mature. (pp. 70–71)

Foote?:

Morphological analysis of four higher taxa of fossil marine invertebrates shows that, over the history of paleontology, there is no general tendency for morphologically extreme or modal species and genera to be described preferentially early or late. Reconstructing the expected evolutionary sequences of morphological disparity that would have been estimated at various times during the past century and a half reveals features that are sensitive to sampling (for example, peak trilobite disparity in the Ordovician, peak of post-Paleozoic crinoid disparity in the Triassic, and peak blastoid disparity in the Permian), as well as more robust features (for example, increase in trilobite disparity from the Cambrian to the Ordovician, continued increase in trilobite disparity despite a drop in taxonomic diversity after the Early Ordovician, decrease in blastoid disparity from the Devonian to the Carboniferous, and increase in crinoid disparity from the Jurassic to the Cretaceous followed by decline during the Cretaceous). Although we still have much to learn about the evolution of form, in many respects our view of the history of biological diversity is mature.

Sampling, taxonomic description, and our evolving knowledge of morphological diversity. Paleobiology, 23: 181–206. Foote, M. 1997c.

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48 Replies to “Darwin’s Doubt, reprinted, still #1 in paleontology

  1. 1
    Axel says:

    Strange, isn’t it? All the controversy… and that alone definitively ‘knocks’ neo-Darwinism ‘on the head’.

    You can see how logically ‘challenged’ the secular ‘fundies’ are.

  2. 2
    CHartsil says:

    Yet not one creationist can tell me how there only having been small marine organisms 550ma ago presents a problem to theory that says at one point there would have been nothing but marine organisms.

  3. 3
    CHartsil says:

    Meyer is sure showing us with all those peer reviewed articles.

    Oh wait, he himself admits that there’s not even so much as a single mechanism for ID

  4. 4
    kairosfocus says:

    CH,

    if you are looking for the views of Creationists, I suggest you go to Creation Ministries International. As they respond to correspondents, you may have some luck there.

    If you are wondering about “mechanisms” of design, you are labouring under deep conceptual confusion.

    Design, is intelligently, volitionally, purposefully directed configuration, first in thought then in physical realisation.

    Blind mechanical GIGO-constrained processing in neural networks or microprocessors or even Thomson ball and disk integrators etc, is not to be equated to conscious, rational contemplative thought; no more than the grinding of wheels in a mill as Leibniz long ago noted in Monadology.

    Indeed the two are so categorically distinct that the leading evolutionary thinker J B S Haldane noted as follows:

    “It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. For if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true. They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically. And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms. In order to escape from this necessity of sawing away the branch on which I am sitting, so to speak, I am compelled to believe that mind is not wholly conditioned by matter.” [[“When I am dead,” in Possible Worlds: And Other Essays [1927], Chatto and Windus: London, 1932, reprint, p.209.]

    If you want to understand how designs are made, ponder how you composed and gave effect to your comments. Assuming, you don’t hold them to be meaningless random bits spewed into cyberspace and of no relevance to anything.

    Thought is not mechanism, it is intelligent reasoning as we all are familiar with from our own inner lives.

    From that, we may then contemplate the very familiar processes of designing and making things that we see all around us. And go ask Mr Venter how he does what he does — intelligently directed configuration of micro-organisms and multi-cellular life forms is a fact, not speculation. So much so, there is the usual protest movement against it.

    Trying to get north by insistently heading due west is utterly self-defeating.

    KF

  5. 5
    Box says:

    KF #4,

    The Haldane quote is insightful. However Haldane omits to involve the “I” in the materialist narrative. If “mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms” there can be no longer an independent “I”. There is no independent “I” who has reasons, believes and so forth – the entire stage is just for “motions of atoms”.
    There is no “I” that is not determined by and reducible to blind unreasonable unconscious particles in motion. There is no incorrupt island of reason and consciousness, it’s all engulfed by an ocean of blind unfeeling meaningless chemistry.

    IOW it is impossible to reflect on the consequences of materialism for ourselves from the perspective of materialism. Probably the only thing we can say is: if materialism is true then there can be no mind, no reason and so forth – light goes out. If there are just particles in motion, then they are the ones behind the steering wheel and there is nothing about them that can cause mental processes, because there is no particle in the universe that gives a hoot about any of that stuff.

  6. 6
  7. 7
    CHartsil says:

    kairos, don’t kid yourself. ID has been exposed as a wedge strategy for creationism so blatantly that most ID creationists don’t even try to use that canard anymore. You go on Meyer’s FB page and every other post is talk of god.

    You have the claim of intelligence, that’s still not a mechanism.

    IE, the mechanisms for designing a car are stamping, welding, riveting etc. If someone asked you how a car is made, you wouldn’t just say ‘intelligence’

  8. 8
    JWTruthInLove says:

    @CHartsil:

    Oh wait, he himself admits that there’s not even so much as a single mechanism for ID

    Engineers employ design mechanisms all the time.

  9. 9
    Joe says:

    CH:

    IE, the mechanisms for designing a car are stamping, welding, riveting etc. If someone asked you how a car is made, you wouldn’t just say ‘intelligence’

    You would if you didn’t know the how. Say some Amazon tribe who had never seen a car came across one while hunting. Would they know how it was made? No, but I am sure they would recognize it as artificial.

    As for ID and mechanisms- duh- ID is not about the specific mechanism used but design is a mechanism. Intelligent agency manipulating the environment fr a purpose is a mechanism.

    Evolutionary and genetic algorithms prove the power of intelligent design evolution. Oops, more design mechanisms.

  10. 10
    CHartsil says:

    “Engineers employ design mechanisms all the time”

    Yeah, and you can actually name them. No such nameable mechanisms exist for ID

    Joe, we’re not talking about back woods tribesmen. We’re talking about the leading experts on ID. Even they will admit that there’s no testable model for it

  11. 11
    JWTruthInLove says:

    @CHartsil:

    Yeah, and you can actually name them. No such nameable mechanisms exist for ID

    First of all, no one has any idea how life was created. So in case your’re talking about a specific design mechanism concerning the creation of life: I don’t know any.
    If you’re talking about ID mechanisms in general: there are tons of books available.

  12. 12
    CHartsil says:

    It’s not true that we have no idea. RNA/viroid world has its pros, namely that we already know ribonucleotides can form naturally.

    As far as books containing ID mechanisms, it’s actually in one of Meyer’s books that he admits there’s no mechanism for ID. Yet he still calls it a theory, which is either dishonest or ignorance of what a scientific theory actually is.

  13. 13
    Box says:

    CHartsil,

    Sure, let’s talk about dishonesty and ignorance of what a scientific theory actually is.

    Isaac Newton formulated his theory of universal gravitation described mathematically, but did NOT explain in a mechanistic way, the gravitational attraction between planetary bodies—bodies separated from each other by miles of empty space with no means of mechanical interaction with each other whatsoever.

  14. 14
    kairosfocus says:

    CH,

    I know you would like to turn the discussion into ideological politics. I just suggest to you that the NCSE-Wiki etc talking points are a classic agit-prop smear based on wrenching a document out of context to feed a well known polarisation by smear agenda that’s been going on since Mencken’s shennanigans in the 1920’s, complete with a fictional movie too often presented as historically accurate, Inherit the Wind.

    But, nope, you won’t get that.

    As I just pointed to you in the other thread, the design inference stands or falls with the empirical warrant for FSCO/I as a sign of design:

    The relevant falsifiability point for design theory lies in what you have been led not to see, as you have obviously swallowed the NCSE talking point about natural vs supernatural cause, compounded by some mis-perceptions about what God could or would do.

    The design context of thought from Plato’s day to now has contrasted the natural (blind chance and/or mechanical necessity) with the ART-ificial, i.e. intelligently directed configuration, AKA design. Without regard to debates on agents being within or beyond the observed cosmos, it has looked at a key empirical issue: can we find empirical traces that help us detect if design was involved?

    To this, one answer has been functionally specific complex wiring diagram nodes-arcs organisation and associated information. In a simple case observe text S-T-R-I-N-G-S, beyond 500 – 1,000 bits of info capacity. It is inductively generalised and backed up on a solar system or cosmos scale blind needle in haystack search analysis, that such should reliably come from design.

    This can in principle be readily tested and even falsified empirically. Just provide reliable observation of such FSCO/I coming about by blind chance and/or mechanical necessity. As a simple case try random text generation . . . so far up to 20 – 24 ASCII characters worth of coherent English, or a factor of about 1 in 10^100 short of the low end threshold scale of config space.

    This has of course been pointed out over and over and over again, but the indoctrination not to see this seems to close minds from recognising it.

    Let’s just say, over the years in and around UD some dozens of attempts were made all failed. Evo algors turn out to feed off active info and depend on intelligently fine tuned parameters acting within islands of function. And the like.

    That seems to be why we now tend to see really strange rhetorical gambits.

    So, nope the notion that the design inference is not open to empirical test and potential falsification, is a misrepresentation.

    Just, it keeps passing such tests with flying colours.

    Indeed every post in this thread is another case in point on the source of FSCO/I, design.

    Provide a sound case of FSCO/I arising per observation from blind chance and mechanical necessity and design theory would collapse in one go.

    The problem for objectors, though, is that after dozens of tries, the failure is so clear that the strength of FSCO/I as a sign of design keeps being reinforced.

    And every post in this thread including your own, shows why.

    So, when it comes to assessing causal factors responsible for traces from the unobservable past of origins, we are fully entitled to apply the vera causa principle and conclude on FSCO/I that the cell based life forms in view were plainly designed.

    When you can show us a case of FSCO/I coming about through blind chance and mechanical necessity in our observation, we will change that view.

    And to stand on a solidly empirically supported finding until and unless shown otherwise is not ideology it is inductive reasoning.

    KF

  15. 15
    kairosfocus says:

    Box, in fact Newton was criticised as he was putting up action at a distance without a mechanism, laying out a strictly inductive inference. KF

  16. 16
    kairosfocus says:

    CH, you want to talk about mechanisms, I just point to the significance of the von Neumann kinematic self replicator which is code using, FSCO/I rich and irreducibly complex. Which, we have conceptual designs for but have not been able to build. The living cell of course implements the substantial equivalent, using molecular nanotech. And this sort of issue was put on the table over 200 years ago. KF

  17. 17
    CHartsil says:

    Box, that’s why it’s referred to as the law of universal gravitation. A law is a description of a natural phenomenon, a theory is an explanation. Einstein did that with relativity.

    KF, you’re shifting the burden. You have yet to evidence that a living system is the result of design. Saying a system which is claimed to be designed is a mechanism for design is like saying a car is a mechanism for building a car. You still fail to understand my objection here.

  18. 18
    Box says:

    CHartsil, so non-mechanistic concepts like ID and universal gravity are scientific, but for some reason you insist on calling them “laws” instead of “theory”? Is that the point of your objection?

  19. 19
    CHartsil says:

    ID is neither a theory nor a law, it remains an assertion at this point and there’s no indication that it’ll graduate from that any time soon.

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/IntelligentDesignOfficialPage/

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/CreationEvolutionDebate/

  20. 20
    Box says:

    CHartsil,

    Any cooked up reason for ID not being science also goes for blind watchmaker evolution. So let’s keep it simple:

    Blindwatchmaker evolution is neither a theory nor a law, it remains an assertion at this point and there’s no indication that it’ll graduate from that any time soon.

  21. 21
    kairosfocus says:

    CH,

    bad news, the vera causa principle is a reasonable and longstanding key control on smuggling in empirically unsupported guesses into explanation of the unobservable past of origins.

    FSCO/I is both real and relevant to cell based life, including the self-replication facility.

    There is but one empirically warranted source for it, and it is backed up by the implications of a config space for at least 500 – 1,000 bits, vs the maximum scope of blind, needle in haystack search feasible on solar system or observed cosmos atomic resources. Namely, we start at sampling the equivalent of 1 straw from a cubical haystack as thick as our galaxy, then go steeply up from there.

    That’s why islands of function will credibly be maximally implausible to be found on blind search. Just as no one reasonably expects to correctly assemble a 6500 fishing reel by shaking up its parts in a bag. The challenge to do so for components of a living cell in a warm pond or the like will be far worse.

    And, as was pointed out the von Neumann self replicating facility, its use of algorithms and codes — thus LANGUAGE and GOAL ORIENTED STEPWISE INTEGRATED PROCESSES — has to be accounted for.

    Dessign, intelligently and purposefully directed configuration, is the only credible and empirically warranted causal factor for such.

    If you disagree, simply provide a case in point per actual observation.

    Which, patently neither you nor your fellow objectors can.

    Or it would be trumpeted from the housetops and the Nobel Prize would be on the way.

    So, what is really going on is ideological, lab coat clad a priori evolutionary materialism and scientism demanding to censor how we think about origins in light of what the actual evidence we have tells us.

    Sorry, we don’t buy that line of talking points any more.

    Show us or acknowledge that you camnnot pass the vera causa test.

    As for provide MECHANISMS, design is a creative intellectual process that may use technologies, skills, knowledge, materials etc, but is essentially an abstract process. We do see designs being created all around us and we ourselves are designers so it is not some weird suspect notion.

    I have already pointed to you that Venter et al show us what can be done with molecular nanotech, so such design of life forms is already something we are beginning to do.

    Game over.

    KF

  22. 22
    CHartsil says:

    “Any cooked up reason for ID not being science also goes for blind watchmaker evolution. So let’s keep it simple:”

    No, it really doesn’t. That’s a horribly ignorant false equivocation. Evolution works by testable mechanisms and can be falsified. ID does not and is not.

    KF, you’re still trying to shift the burden of proof. It’s your burden to show that it was designed in the first place.

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/IntelligentDesignOfficialPage/

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/CreationEvolutionDebate/

  23. 23
    Upright BiPed says:

    Chart,

    You don’t seem to understand ID at all. ID and life’s ability to change and adapt over time are not in conflict with one another. Try to remember that.

  24. 24
    CHartsil says:

    It had better not be, ID has enough problems as it is. Namely, that no one can seem to move it beyond bare assertion.

    ID is the notion that some indeterminate time ago, some agent, had something to do with designing some degree of life with some unknown mechanism.

  25. 25
    Joe says:

    Evolutionism’s mechanisms have been tested and shown to be impotent with respect to universal common descent. Heck they can’t even get beyond populations of prokaryotes given starting populations of prokaryotes.

    So we can say that evolutionism is the notion that some indeterminate time ago, something, had something to do with some degree of life with some unknown mechanism.

  26. 26
    Upright BiPed says:

    Ahhh, I was correct. You haven’t a clue what you are talking about.

    No wonder you are so certain of yourself.

  27. 27
    CHartsil says:

    Joe: ERVs alone put it beyond any reasonable doubt.

    UB: Then correct me. Who or what is the designer? What mechanisms did they use? When? What level or degree of life did they design? How did you determine any of this?

  28. 28
    Joe says:

    Just because Intelligent Design is NOT about the mechanism (beyond design/ intelligent agency activity) does NOT mean ID does not have a mechanism.

  29. 29
    Joe says:

    No CH, ERVs are your wishful thinking. “They look like ERVs” is not an argument

  30. 30
    Hangonasec says:

    Joe,

    ERVs are your wishful thinking.

    is not an argument either.

  31. 31
  32. 32
    kairosfocus says:

    CH, drumbeat repetition. It still remains that FSCO/I is a reliable signature of design as cause; even your posts are inadvertent evidence on the point, as opposed touhji6isdfuhdfdyhg or tttttttttttttt etc. KF

    PS: Folks isn’t it ironic that objectors are forced to exemplify FSCO/I as designed to object, and to infer from the text of posts that their FSCO/I indicates their source in intelligently directed configuration. One of those little ironies.

  33. 33
    Upright BiPed says:

    Forgive the delay CH, I keep forgetting I’m in the conversation, and as it turns out, you are significantly down on my list of priorities. No offense intended.

    May I ask, are you suggesting that you are purely agnostic on the notion that there is evidence of design in biology?

  34. 34
    CHartsil says:

    Joe, then what’s the mechanism? They don’t just look like ERVs, they are ERVs. We know that because of GAG POL and ENV.

    Hang, of course they are. Evolution is the only thing that explains the distribution of ERVs with testable mechanisms.

    KF, I’m having to repeat it because you keep trying to shift the burden of proof

    UB, I’ve seen no such evidence thus far. Just assertion based on invalid inferences and analogies.

  35. 35
  36. 36
    Upright BiPed says:

    Chart,

    Well, if you are going to ask me for the designer’s shoe size and hair color, then I will want to know what evidence you’ve seen that phenomena such as semiotic systems can spring from inanimate matter. I am trying to establish if you are agnostic on the issue of design or if you are just another irrational materialist who demands everything from design theory while having squat to show for the beliefs he holds so dearly (as to go out and attack those who happen to think otherwise).

    And weren’t you here just a day or so ago talking up falsifiablity? So what is your evidence that supports the conclusion that semiosis is derived from matter and how can we falsify your conclusions if they are wrong.

  37. 37
    Daniel King says:

    Major progress in the Design Debate:

    Well, if you are going to ask me for the designer’s shoe size and hair color…

    We have now been informed that The Designer has feet and hair.

  38. 38
    Upright BiPed says:

    Chart,

    Do you have something more than DK?

    He’s given all he has to give.

  39. 39
    Me_Think says:

    All that Darwin’s Doubt establishes is that Meyer is a better author than Dembski.

  40. 40
    CHartsil says:

    UP, you’re shifting the burden of proof and I don’t really need any more than that video and corresponding sources as it completely rebuts your ENV page.

  41. 41
    Upright BiPed says:

    Chart,

    1. I think it is clear from your answer that you do not have the supporting evidence. Likewise, you have no way to falsify your position, even as you demand the same from ID. In any case, I’m completely capable of defending my position.

    2. As for the rest of your comment, I have no idea what you are talking about.

  42. 42
    CHartsil says:

    Once again, you’re shifting the burden of proof. You’re asking for me to prove something wrong that you’ve never shown to be true.

    As for the rest of my comment, Shane does a great job in explaining why there are ERVs homologous between humans and gorillas

  43. 43
    Upright BiPed says:

    You’re asking for me to prove something wrong that you’ve never shown to be true.

    You’ve apparently lost your place.

    You are here to belittle ID proponents. As a part of your attack, you asked me to answer the who what when and where of a one-time event that happened several hundred million years ago in the deep unobservable past. I am prepared to offer an answer for each of your questions, but that is not the issue where you are concerned. I am asking the person on the attack if he can meet his own standards. I already know that you can’t. I am merely demonstrating that fact for the readers.

  44. 44
    CHartsil says:

    You’re now projecting your inability to defend your own position. This is merely deflection.

  45. 45
    Upright BiPed says:

    Yes, I’m sure you are right.

  46. 46
    Joe says:

    CH:

    Joe, then what’s the mechanism? They don’t just look like ERVs, they are ERVs.

    There isn’t any way to test the claim that universal common descent is the only way to explain the pattern of what you think are ERVs. And no, no one knows they are ERVs- they just look like they are- and that is a fact.

    We don’t even know if universal common descent can explain it- no way to test the claim.

  47. 47
    Joe says:

    Hangonasec@ 30 I invoke Hitchens- That which can be declared without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.

  48. 48
    CHartsil says:

    “There isn’t any way to test the claim that universal common descent is the only way to explain the pattern of what you think are ERVs. And no, no one knows they are ERVs- they just look like they are- and that is a fact.”

    We can predict what we should and should not find if common descent is true. There’s nothing that can’t be ‘explained’ (read: non-answered) by invoking an unknown designer.

    As I’ve said before, I work in cell & molecular biology. Yes, we know that they’re retroviral in nature.

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