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Debate!: Tree of life? Forest of life? What about matchwood?

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What do I hear for matchwood?

This Saturday in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, Center for Science & Culture Fellow Paul Nelson will debate Texas Tech philosopher of biology Joel Velasco on the question of universal common ancestry — sometimes referred to as Darwin’s Tree of Life (TOL). If you don’t happen to be in the area, you can also watch online. That’s March 29, at 3 pm in the auditorium of Penn Highlands Community College.

Several aspects of this debate make it unique. Both Velasco and Nelson wrote their PhD dissertations on the topic of the TOL and common ancestry: Velasco at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Nelson at the University of Chicago. Velasco was mentored at UW-Madison by leading philosopher of biology Elliott Sober, who has cited Nelson’s work in his scholarly publications (see here for instance). Both Nelson and Velasco will argue that intelligent design does NOT require endorsing separate ancestry — the Forest of Life. In fact, some ID advocates stand on Velasco’s side of the aisle on this. With the usual debate categories thus scrambled, the interchange promises to be very interesting.

Have they all taken to calling that “kumbayah” circle a “forest of life” now, as in “These results support the concept of the Tree of Life (TOL) as a central evolutionary trend in the FOL as opposed to the traditional view of the TOL as a ‘species tree.’”? That’s one for the Dictionary of Euphemisms (mostly a work in progress, we suspect, with Darwinism deserving its own large section).

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I recently watched "Widespread ORFan Genes Challenge Common Descent" (Cited above in BornAgain77's comment) As with any good student, I went off exploring the literature (google) to validate Dr. Nelson's position. I found a great paper: http://elife.elifesciences.org/content/3/e01311 It is very easy to read, and does a great job of presenting the data -- all from an evolutionist's perspective. Some quotes: "In total, we identified 1152 orphans, corresponding to 7% of all the D. pseudoobscura genes." Now I will give that his definition of orphan includes those which originated through gene duplication and exaptation, but according to the paper "many" are de novo. De novo genes simply should not happen in the neo-Darwinian context. Never? Well, once in a deep blue moon maybe. But 7% of one species' genes is unique to that species. This is so not predicted by the theory. "we also find that orphan genes are shorter (median length for orphans = 344 bp" He may call that shorter (compared to 1470 bp for "old genes") But really, 4^344 is something massively huge, isn't it? Oh I know, multiple varions would have the same or similar net effect, but how many ways wouldn't work? We need to look at a gene as a paragraph of text, of machine building instructions. 344bp represents 114 letters (344 / 3), or about 19 words (5 letter words + space). Those monkeys have to be typing awfully fast to produce at all coherent machines from this size of instructions. Dr. Nelson is correct. De novo is an evolution killer. Moose Dr
No problem Moose Dr :) Glad you enjoy them! bornagain77
Bornagain77, thanks for the links to Dr. Nelson's videos. I am enjoying him very much. Moose Dr
You make a Tree of Life out of any collection of objects. For example, open your fridge. Notice that some of the megacells' epithelia are composed of matted cellulose suffused with a pigment and covered with a waxy protective coat, while others primarily consist of silicon dioxide with only a thin, partial covering of matted cellulose infused with a pigment but lacking any waxy coating. Because the silicon dioxide megacells are typically found behind the cellulose megacells in the fridge, it's clear that they are part of an earlier evolutionary branch. Several different megacells with silicon dioxide epithelia were found on shelves in the door of a refrigerator, but these are considered living fossils. A recent discovery in an old, rusty fridge yielded their most recent common ancestor, which was composed of silicon dioxide, but at the mouth of its somewhat narrowed neck, a membrane was found that was composed of matted cellulose and a waxy coat. Researchers are still looking for the intermediate stages but are confident that eventually they will be found. ;-) -Q Querius
I'm really looking forward to this debate. My respect for Dr. Nelson has grown over the years I've watched him break down complex subjects in an easy to understand manner for the lay audience. (and the fact that he has ruffled PZ Myers and Jerry Coyne's feathers on a few occasions doesn't hurt his reputation in my book either :) ) Here are a few videos and articles from him:
Darwin or Design? - Paul Nelson at Saddleback Church - Nov. 2012 - ontogenetic depth (excellent update) - video Text from one of the Saddleback slides: 1. Animal body plans are built in each generation by a stepwise process, from the fertilized egg to the many cells of the adult. The earliest stages in this process determine what follows. 2. Thus, to change -- that is, to evolve -- any body plan, mutations expressed early in development must occur, be viable, and be stably transmitted to offspring. 3. But such early-acting mutations of global effect are those least likely to be tolerated by the embryo. Losses of structures are the only exception to this otherwise universal generalization about animal development and evolution. Many species will tolerate phenotypic losses if their local (environmental) circumstances are favorable. Hence island or cave fauna often lose (for instance) wings or eyes. http://www.saddleback.com/mc/m/7ece8/ Mutations expressed early in embryonic development are the least likely to be tolerated by organisms – Paul Nelson – video http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5548184/ Understanding Ontogenetic Depth, Part II: Natural Selection Is a Harsh Mistress - Paul Nelson - April 7, 2011 Excerpt: The problem may be summarized as follows: -- There are striking differences in the early (embryonic) development in animals, even within classes and orders. -- Assuming that these animals are descended from a common ancestor, these divergences suggest that early development evolves relatively easily. -- Evolution by natural selection requires heritable variation. -- But heritable variations in early development, in major features such as cleavage patterns, are not observed. http://www.evolutionnews.org/2011/04/understanding_ontogenetic_dept_1045581.html The Miracle of Development Part 1 - Origins with Dr. Paul A. Nelson - video - April 2013 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JD9qMvz6T90 The Miracle of Development Part 2 - Origins with Dr. Paul A. Nelson - video - April 2013 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vz12PI3BkQ4 Widespread ORFan Genes Challenge Common Descent – Paul Nelson – video with references http://www.vimeo.com/17135166
At the 12:40 minute mark of the following 'The Dictionary of Life' video, Dr. Nelson describes the breaking point for Darwinian scenarios from the genetic evidence for ORFan genes:
The Dictionary of Life | Origins with Dr. Paul A. Nelson - video http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=zJaetK9gvCo#t=760s
Here is Dr. Nelson's semi-complete list of articles from ENV:

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